Laws of energy –
Energy cannot be created or destroyed – only changed from one form to another.
When energy is changed it is less usable
The more energy used the more we move towards entropy
Fossil fuels – petrol, diesel, gas ect are dwindling fast and are not an option for the future
These fuels are stored “sun” energy from billions of years ago
All the energy we need comes to us from the sun and will be coming to the planet for billions of years to come.
Here at Corga da Pereira all our energy comes from the sun, photovoltaic cells provide 12 volt electricity
Solar collectors provide hot water for inside and outside showers, and taps, and backed up by the “dragon” a wood fired burner/boiler when the sun doesn’t shine, this is still indirect solar power as wood is produced by photosynthesis and is carbon neutral.
Our electric system enables us to have all the lighting we “need”, we have used 12 volt l.e.d. bulbs which draw very little power.
For music we use a radio which is 9 volt and wired directly to the battery compartment, 12 volt mp3 players store all our music and plays through the radio,mp3 s having no moving parts (as in cd and tape players, as motors ) also use very little power and we have music playing almost all the time, in summer we have more electric than we need and need to use some up as we have too much ,this is of course an opportunity to charge another battery so lap tops, phones, cameras ect can be “topped up” as batteries like to work ie be charged and discharged, this increases their life, batteries are not the ideal energy storage as they have manufacturing and disposal problems,but for now they are still the best solution for most off grid applications so far, a better solution would be oil heated in pipes which can then cook, then run a sterling engine which could then produce electricity, this is being done in Temara in central Portugal, but for modest budgets 12 volt solar is still a good option.
We are also able to run a cd player which also reads cards these are easily available in 12 volt and enables us to watch films,documentary’s ect.
A recent addition is the twin tub washing machine which can be run from a small inverter turning 12 volt s into 240, we only run this on sunny days and it runs pretty much directly from the sun, sunny days of course also being the best for drying clothes, we have found behavioural strategies like this to be paramount to living with low voltage energy supply.
Generally in the western world especially we use far more energy than we actually need, this also includes our human energy in practices such as –
Planting our food gardens too far from the kitchen
Driving to work, when we could walk or work from home
Carrying fire wood uphill, or too far
The solar oven is another under used technology that can be very easily made and save huge amounts of energy, Portugal has the most solar gain in Europe and there is rightly a growing interest in solar cooking we have been asked recently to make and demonstrate a solar oven in 3 local schools and are in the design process to build one onto the south facing wall of the kitchen so it can be accessed for inside