We find ourselves searching for titles such as Alternative Energy for Dummies because there is so much to learn about different forms of energy that at times can seem somewhat confusing. At times we need to orient ourselves to get a better idea as to what this is all about and to find out how we can use it to our advantage.
So what is it all about? Basically it is about using renewable energy instead of energy that is produced from limited planetary resources. Renewable energy is energy that uses replenish-able sources and that has little or no environmental impact. One of the main types of energy we rely upon today is of course electricity so just to make this a true guide to alternative energy for dummies I will be discussing the various methods of alternative production of this.
The two main alternative sources for producing electricity are the Sun and the wind. It is becoming quite common place to see solar panels on building and even street signs. The large wind turbines in the form of windmills are also now not so foreign to us as they were a couple of years ago.
On using the sun to produce our electricity we need to use solar panels that are made up of many small photovoltaic cells. These cells convert the suns rays into an electrical current. The theory is that if you put enough of these cells together then the amount of electricity generated can be substantial. Electricity companies through out the world are beginning to use energy sent to them from huge fields of solar panels but generally they only provide enough electricity to supplement what they are already generating by other means.
Solar panels can also be installed on a property or a business. The electricity generated from these normally goes into banks of special gel batteries which store what is being generated. The electricity is then fed through a current inverter to change the batteries’ DC current into useable AC electricity.
To set this up can be very expensive with the inverter the batteries and the panels each costing more or less the same as each other. It requires a huge amount of panels and batteries to be installed in order be able to generate enough electricity to run a small household entirely and to have a couple of days of autonomy in case it rains. The solar panel can however supplement a domestic supply and drastically reduce the monthly bills.
Another form of alternate energy is wind power. You have probably seen in the countryside and on mountains huge wind farms cropping up. These giant windmill or wind turbines as they are called are generating huge amounts of electricity which is being fed into the supply grid. Just as with solar energy, although the typical wind farm will produce enough electricity to provide for a small village it can only really be used as a supplement.
Wind turbines can be installed domestically but on their on are not very efficient. They are most commonly used domestically in conjunction with a solar panel installation where the batteries and the inverters are already in place and the wind turbine simply serves as a boost to the energy productions when there is wind and no sun.
There are several projects and plans on how to build your own solar panels and wind generators that can be found on the Internet. If you are considering doing this then this really is where you will need some sort of alternative energy for dummies guide to help you.
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To answer the question how does alternative energy work we have to establish what we really mean when we say alternative energy. I think what most people consider to be alternative energy is any sort of energy that is renewable and that doesn’t rely at all on the planet’s limited resources.
There are many types of energy that we have become accustomed to using as a civilization. Now, maybe a little too late, we are just beginning to look into alternative way to provide that energy without damaging our environment. The main energy we use is electricity which up until recently has been generated mostly by coal fired generators. These obviously rely on a world resource that is limited which will one day run out and on top of that the generation process produces copious amounts of noxious gases further endangering the planet. It is time to think about other ways to provide this energy so we really do need to discover how does alternative energy work for us.
So what are the most common types o alternative energy?
The most obvious source of energy that we can use without depleting it is of course the sun. From the sun we can produce electricity and we can capture and amplify its heat for our water. A lot of countries now are investing in large fields of solar panels to supply the national grid. Governments are giving incentives to farmers and land owners who are installing solar farms in many places. The electricity generated is directed straight to the local electric companies who use it to supplement their supply which means that we are still reliant on the traditional electricity generating methods for the most part of the energy we use.
Some home owners have taken the incentive to install solar panels on their property but just as with the electric companies themselves they usually are unable to generate enough energy to completely sustain themselves and have to rely on electricity from the grid as well.
So how does alternative energy work with other sources of energy? Other forms of generating electricity are by using the elements, the wind, the water, and the tides. Wind farms consisting of large wind turbines are cropping up all over the countryside which can produce enough electricity for a small village. The sheer number of these is definitely going to make a dent in the amount of electricity that is generated using renewable sources.
An other major form of electricity generation has been with us for a long time is of course hydro electric systems where dams are built to be able to harness the power of the water. This system does have an impact on the environment but is not as destructive as other methods of energy creation.
When we ask ourselves how does alternative energy work it seems like the trick to really making it work for us is to concentrate on developing more efficient ways to use the electricity and energy that we do produce.
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There are many different forms of green or renewable energy available but when it comes to DIY alternative energy that you can build yourself there are three main options that immediately spiring to mind. These are wind turbines, solar panels for generating electricity and solar panels for heating up water. I’m going to discuss all three of these and some of the ins and outs of setting them up for yourself.
– Photovoltaic Solar Panels
These are the type of solar panels that generate electrical current. They consist of a large frame covered with glass. Inside this frame there are many small 4 inch square photovoltaic cells. These are the cells which when exposed to the sun will give off a small DC electrical current. When you construct your own solar panel you will need to purchase these cells. You can however get hold of slightly damaged cells which might have a slight chip in one corner but have been rejected by the solar panel makers. These ‘factory seconds’ are just as efficient as the originals but can be bought for a fraction of the price.
There is a special way to wire up all of the cells in series to take advantage of their combined electrical charge. With some rudimentary carpentry skills and knowledge of how to solder you will be able to construct your own solar panels saving you hundreds if not thousands.
– Solar Hot Water Panels
This is probably the most cost effective and efficient DIY alternative energy form. The theory is simple. You need a hot water tank, you can use any old domestic hot water tank, it doesn’t to have the heating element working. Cold water is taken from the tank and circulated through a maze of thin copper piping. This copper piping is snaked around within a wooden frame which is the solar panel itself. The piping completely fills the area of the frame. The frame has a glass cover and once in place, a small water pump very slowly circulates the water through the piping which gets heated underneath the glass. At the end of the piping the water is returned to the hot water tank piping hot and the cycle continues throughout the day.
This method might not seem very effective but believe me it is deceptively simple, it heats up the water to a great extent… even on dull days and it will save you huge amounts on your energy bills.
It is easy to construct your own with a little DIY experience, some wood, some copper piping, a piece of glass and a small water pump.
– Wind Turbines
These can be built in many imaginative ways quite simply. You can have a traditional tower with the windmill type blades, you can mount a twin blade turbine on a pole on top of your property or you could have a selection of small standalone cylindrical spinners like the spinning advertisement modules you sometimes see outside shops.
To build your own is easy. The blades can be crafted by cutting plastic tubing in a certain lengthways manner. You then mount these blades on to a metal flywheel which in turn can be fitted to an old car’s alternator. This will generate electricity as it spins which can be stored one or more car batteries. An inverter can then be hooked up to convert the DC voltage into AC current for domestic use.
So as you can see, it is totally possible to build your own energy generating system at home. There are plenty of plans and blueprints available to download on the Internet making DIY alternative energy a real possibility.
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