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Make Your Own

Table of Contents:

Overview: On Making Your Own Electricity.

Bike: Pedal Power

Low RPM: How to make low RPM generators!

Lawnmower: Turn your lawnmower into a generator

Wind: If you have a good windy location.

Waterpower: You should be so lucky

Motors: Running it backwards

Diesel: Lets not forget the big guys.

Batteries: Saving energy for future use.

Making Your Own Electricity
The Relative Efficiency
of Methods
What Watts?

One measure that you want to have clearly in your mind when you start considering electrical generating systems is that of watts. Just take a few minutes to this through if it is not something with which you are already familiar.

It is easiest to think in terms of light bulbs. A one hundred watt light bulb uses uses 100 watts of electricty per hour. A thousand watt generator would puts out a thousand watts in an hour and would therefore light 10 of these light bulbs. A four thousand (which is to say a 4K) generator would light 40 of them. Keep that in mind as you read through the following descriptions.

Alternative Sources of Electricity

There are numbers of ways of building your own electrical generators.

Let me explain briefly my concepts about power generation, in order of effiiciency.

a. The most efficient way to get electric power, is to buy it from the power company. Economies of scale make them by far the lowest cost source. The only reasons to have your own power generation are (1) you are too far from the grid (2) you need a back-up in case the grid is down (3) you are very dedicated to some other purpose such as survival, conservation, or innovation. These latter are definitely going to cost you money.

b. The second most efficient way to get electric power, for most people, will likely be to have a diesel or gasoline generator. A diesel combined with a battery storage unit can be relatively efficient in providing reliable power but it takes considerably more commitment than simply paying a bill to the electric company each month. The cost of putting in a substantial system for full off grid use will run between 20K and 40K. We have two diesel generators at the Ark. One is a 75KW and the other a 25KW. With the cost of diesel fuel and maintenace it costs about ten times as much to generate power with them as to buy it from the power company. Still they are main emergency mainstay. The 75KW will light about 750 (100 watt) light bulbs. Do the math. 75KW means 75,000 watts which divided by 100 watts per bulb gives us 750 bulbs which can be lit. In practice, we of course do lots of other things other than light bulbs. We run water and sewage pumps, big air fans, stoves and microwaves, and charge batteries, whenever we are running it.

c. The third most efficient way is with water power. In fact this might be the preferred way but most people will not have an adequate water source. The operative words are HEAD and FLOW. Head is the height that the water falls from and 100 feet is considered reasonable. The higher the better. Flow, the amount of water, is the other factor. Low head systems have been problematical but some people feel they have found a solution. I am no exception. I think the solution is low RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) generators with nozzles on the driving waterwheel to efficiently direct the water force. Unfortunately, the government won't let me try out my theory - but I have everything together ready to try when circumstances change. A useful system for complete household use is probably going to cost over 40K to install. A system on our big falls might produce 40KW and this would be 24 hours per day - without any additional cost of fuel. So yes, because we have such an excellent water source, it would pay for itself. However, when you add in the cost of trying to battle the government to put it in - then in becomes useless.

d. The fourth most efficient way to generate electricity is with wind. Wind is much less efficient than water because in most places it does not blow that constantly. Our little wind generators will produce about 400+ watts each (think in terms of four 100 watt bulbs) and since I am planning to put up 8 of them I will get in the neighborhood of what we would get from our one little 5KW gasoline generator. Most people would not have room for such a windmill farm such as we do, and fortuitously located on the highest hill around. Still the installation of the eight windmills will be around 15K to 20K. You can buy a good 5KW generator for one tenth the price - so you can see what I mean by putting this down as the fourth most (actually less) efficient way of generating electricity. But if the power company isn't working and you can't get gasoline then this may be the way to go.

e. The fifth most efficient way is with solar cells. This technology has come a long, long way in the last few years but still remains so inefficient that it would take over 100 years for a system to pay for itself, and in fact it undoubtedly never would if you included what the investment would earn elsewhere in interest and take into consideration that the system will physically depreciate before that length of time. One great draw back to solar cells is that the sun only shines half the day, and because of annual position of the earth and blockage by clouds, in many places your are lucky to get power 20% of the time. Unless you are out in space with sunlight 24/7 or have some very low power need at a remote location - forget it.

f. There are a great many other ways to generate electricity. Waves, thermal heat, animal power (the bicycles), chemical methods, nuclear, hydrogen generators, steam boilers, a great variety of fuels and so on and on. But none of these, and most of the above, are not practical for most individuals. Completely forget the many cons that are going around about getting free electricity from machines being suppressed by the oil companies, the government, and giant corporations. I have looked into these extensively for many years - and there is nothing to them as great as the stories sound. If there were a cheaper way to generate electricity the Japanese or the Russians or the Chinese would do it and no US companies would be able to stop them. Engineers in other countries are not dummies and would greatly love to have the electrical power in order to keep up with American productivity.

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