Let’s talk, all or nothing

When you make the noble decision to switch over to near full self-sustainability there are some things to consider. Many things you can to do achieve self-sustainability have a symbiotic relationship with others. These relationships need to be understood and preserved to reap the full benefits of self-sustainability.

Many people are seeing the move by car manufacturers to provide plug-in hybrids or EV’s (Electric Vehicles) which are powered solely on an electric drive system). These seem like a great way to quickly step into a self-sustainable lifestyle. This is an amateur mistake. You will partly help reduce our dependency on oil, but will still require power from the grid, which sadly, uses fossil fuels to produce electricity. What you need to do is supply your own power to charge the car. You should already be working towards having your home and/or office building set up to produce it’s own electricity. When your building(s) create energy in an amount that will power themselves during peak use, they will be producing and storing surplus electricity. This surplus would be put to good use charging your plug-in hybrid or EV.

When it comes to producing power for your building(s) there are a couple symbiotic relationships to consider and preserve. Most areas of the world won’t support a single type of clean power harvesting system. For instance, I live in the northeast and solar is a decent option, but won’t fully supply a home without being largely oversized. Also we all know that not every day is bright and sunny. In order to produce sufficient power for your home you need to supplement with another clean power harvesting system. The next most logical system is a VAWT or Vertically Aligned Wind Turbine generator. These are said to be more efficient and practical on a residential level. They also can start at a lower wind speed and continue to function in higher wind speeds. Personally I find that most of the designs for VAWTs are more elegant than your typical wind turbine you are used to seeing. So this system will work alongside the solar array system and produce even when the sun is on vacation for a day or two. Another option in lieu of a VAWT is hydroelectric power, but it is much less likely you will have a location to support such a system. There are also many permits and such that would need to be acquired to install them.

Now let’s call your solar array and VAWT your power producing system. This system is well and good, but what happens when the sun and wind are both gone for a day or two?! This is solved by installing a power storage system. Really this is simply a battery bank located within your building(s). The most efficient batteries are lithium ion and the like. This bank will reserve surplus electricity produced in low use hours. When your power producing system is unable to create electricity, the storage system will supply power to the building.

A storage system is unlikely going to be large enough to supply electricity for extended periods of time. This brings me to my final symbiotic relationship for a self-sustainable building, the emergency back-up system. I would find it wise to account for emergencies. My choice would be an, on site, buried propane/ natural gas tank to power a typical back-up generator. This model will work for the average sized home.

All of these relationships are essential in reaping the full benefits of being self-sustainable. Without one the other will suffer.


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