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Self Sufficient Energy Production

This web site is mainly focused on cold weather temperate climate zones. Even energy generation and utilization are affected by cold weather. Therefore, this section emphasizes the technologies and methods which work best in cold climates. Some warm climate strategies are discussed but only in general.

The definition of self sufficient has changed over the years. Extreme off grid self sufficiency has become far less prevalent. Net zero participation in the electrical grid is the new goal. The main concern now is the ability to function for short periods when the grid goes down or gas pipelines are interrupted.

The first and most important step to being energy self-sufficient is to require as little energy as possible.

Green Housing
Passive Cooling
Passive Solar Heating

The next step to achieve energy self sufficiency is to concentrate on maximizing your use of low tech solutions.

Drying Hay With Renewables

High tech solutions can be added with caution.

Wind Energy
Methane Generation Links

Some technologies work better in warm weather. But sometimes they can have an effective short term niche such as summertime water pumping usage.

Solar Energy

Some problems can only be solved by community level cooperation. Community self sufficiency is as important as individual self sufficiency.

Animal Fat and Offal as Feedstock for Gasification

Some methods are high risk or are not long term sustainable.

Animal Fat as Diesel Fuel
Algae Bio-Fuel
Remaining Bio-Fuels

The last step is to choose technologies which can best utilize a regionally abundant and/or renewable energy.

Multiple Fuel ICE Engines
Energy Complimentary Technology
Wood Gas Generator
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Green Housing:

The best way to be self sufficient is to require as little energy as possible.

Green Building Advisor - In cool climates, thermal mass on inside
University of Minnesota - Exterior insulation for foundations, crawl spaces, etc.
SARE - Thermal banking
Building Science - vented attics in cold climates
Building Science - insulation details
Green Home Institute - magnesium oxide
Rice University - warm climate green roofs
Conservation Technology - green roof
Stanford - Amory Lovins lectures on energy efficiency

Passive Cooling:

Absorption, evaporation, and thermal technology is getting better adapted for small scale home application. With outside window shutters in place, a double roof, foundation insulation, passive vents at the highest points to vent heat, passive coolers at living level, and ground heat exchange feeding into the coolers, a home can be kept fairly cool.

Absorption and thermal coolers
Absorption unit design
Evaporative and absorption coolers
Double roof for hot regions
Wikipedia - ground heat exchange
Zero Homes - ventilation

Passive Solar Heating:

With indoor night time window shutters and curtains, rocket stoves tied into indoor thermal mass, foundation insulation, ground cold exchange, thermal banking, and angled multi-pane windows, an airtight home can be kept fairly warm.

Passive Solar - east/west axis, thermal mass
Wikipedia - sun angle, shutters
Wikipedia - ground cold exchange
Zero Homes - ventilation
Thermal Banking


A wood burning stove is still the cheapest and most reliable source of energy. A rocket stove can even burn animal fat, nut shells, etc. An indoor and an outdoor stove will provide the capability to handle short term power outages.
Rocket Stove
Rocket Stove Temperatures
1. Low tech and reliable

1. Deforestation could be a problem, but a rocket stove can burn 
almost anything and is ultra-efficient.

Drying With Renewables:

Chopped Hay and Forage Harvester:

Hay was originally baled so it could be easily transported. If the hay is fed on farm, there is no reason to bale. A cheap pull type forage harvester can cut grass and blow it into a trailer. It can then be conveyed into the solar drying barn.

Forage Harvester
North Dakota State - chopped hay movement
History of hay drying
Chopped Hay Artificial Drying:
University of Florida - chopped hay drying
Drying Barn Research:

A simple sheet metal barn with installed fans can provide a very cheap drying environment for hay, fruit, food, etc.

Review of Solar Drying
Solar Energy Drying Systems - solar chimney

Solar Drying Barn
Solar Greenhouse
Drying barn - pulling and pushing air fans
Loose hay movement
DIY Solar Dehydrator

Summertime is the cheapest time to dry for hay and grain using mostly solar heat and some electricity. To dry fruit in the fall, use electricity for heat if available. Wind power usually picks up in the fall. As a last resort, place rocket stoves under the solar heating unit for efficient sustained heat generation during fall / winter when there is little solar energy available.

Solar and wood fuel hay drying


Perhaps the most efficient form of short distance transport.

Organic Transit bike car
Inner city car

Wind Energy:

1. Best to contract with a company to install and maintain large 
   wind turbines which are most efficient.
2. Feed and sell energy back into the grid.
Amory Lovins - the grid is the storage device
3. Works well in rural areas.

1. Small wind turbines are most appropriate for 
   extreme off grid sites. They can require substantial 
   expertise to maintain.
   Small Wind Physics
2. Not very good for urban areas.
Urban Wind
3. Be sure to harden your wind turbines against EMP.

Methane Generation Links:

Manufacturers have started generating methane from excess renewable energy. This energy storage medium can then be purchased by the farmer and stored on farm without batteries as a hedge against energy interruption.

Power to Gas example
Methane from excess renewable energy
1. Can be interfaced with existing methane infrastructure.  
2. Methane has fewer generation and transportation technical 
   hurdles than hydrogen or ammonia.
3. Provides intermediate step for transition to hydrogen. 

Hydrogen technology is not ready yet
Disadvantages 1. New developing technology.

Solar Energy:

1. Perfect in the desert or outer space where there is lots
   of room not better used for something else.
2. Small isolated agricultural applications often work well.
3. Works best in an urban environment.

1. Uses up valuable solar space on a farm.
2. In cold regions, the sun's rays may be too indirect to 
   be able to maximize efficiency during winter. 
3. Vulnerable to disruption. 
   Be sure to harden against EMP.

Solar Water Heater:

Build It Solar

Animal Fat and Offal as Feedstock For Gasification:

1. Animal fat and waste is easily obtained from abattoirs
   for sale to gasifier facility to make hydrogen / methane 
2. Does not compete as a food source. 

1. Expensive initial investment.
2. Requires a large volume of cheap feed stock to be profitable.
   Best if there are many sources; municipal waste, abattoir waste, 
3. Complex technology requiring dedicated highly trained

Global gasification statistics
Gasification explanation
Penn State - gasification of animal rendering
All Power Labs - example in India
INTECH - hydrogen production with percentages
Biomass Technology Group - evaluation of success factors
University of Oulu Finland - review of technology
ICREPQ - hydrogen generation, temperature
American Hydrogen Association

Animal Fat as Diesel Fuel:

1. Animal fat is easily obtained on the farm and does
   not compete as a food source. 
2. Can be used to drive diesel engines.

1. Moderately technical and dangerous
2. Animal fat diesel has a filter plugging point that is high enough  
   for it to be difficult in diesel engines. Tanks, lines, valves,  
   and pumps must be heated in cold climates. The colder the climate, 
   the more difficult.
3. There is no stampede of B100 engines coming to market.
4. Can severely damage an engine if not done properly. 

Sites for converting animal fat to biodiesel:

Comparison of biodiesel methods
Convert animal fat to fuel with charcoal

Algae Bio-Fuel:

1. Yield of fuel oil is many times higher than any other biological crop.
2. By-product can be used as animal feed.
3. Can be used to convert CO2 and/or sewage.

1. Requires substantial infrastructure investment. 
2. May not be feasible on a small scale, but medium scale for 
   local community consumption might be possible.
3. More suitable in warm high sun light areas.
4. Contamination

Algae Links

The Future of Algae
Wikipedia Algae Fuel
Algae Biodiesel

Remaining Bio-Fuels:

1. Methane from manure is a profitable local alternative.

1. Manure is better used to increase land fertility.
2. Growing food crops specifically for fuel is often not a good long term 
   solution. It usually uses up agricultural resources which could be used 
   for food. And it increases soil erosion.
   Green America - bio-fuels are unsustainable
3. Ethanol from grain fermentation is low energy.
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Multiple Fuel ICE Engines:

Gas and liquid fuels can be used for all types of applications: tractors, generators, vehicles, rototillers, heating, etc. ICE power generators are an extremely important part of a plan to provide energy during times of disruption.

Energy levels of fuels
Advantages of ICE
1. ICE are not as vulnerable to disruption as an electric motor.
2. Versatility and adaptability may be more important than 
   efficiency in times of instability. 
   Multiple fuel engines are available or a conversion kit can be used. 
   Search Multiple Fuel Vehicles
   Find alternative fuel stations
   Multiple Fuel Conversion
   WE R CNG - conversion kits
   IMPCO - CNG Conversions
   NAT G - CNG Solution
3. ICE are an advantage because the fuel can be stored on the farm 
   without batteries.
4. Combustion engines provide high torque for heavy loads at low speeds. 
   Electric motors have difficulty matching this.
   Farmers Weekly
   The Guardian
5. Quick refueling.
6. Multiple regional sources of fuel provides some reliability.
7. Purity of fuel is not a requirement.

Disadvantages of ICE
1. Burning fuels in an ICE is often inefficient. 
   Inefficiency of direct CNG ICE

It is difficult to optimize piston engines for multiple fuels because of pre-ignition and built in inefficiencies. So, new ICE engines are being designed to handle multiple fuels and still be efficient. Listed below is an example.

LiquidPiston - 75% thermal efficiency
LiquidPiston - multiple fuel

Energy Complimentary Technology:

There are many complimentary technologies coming to market. It is difficult to predict which ones will make the greatest contributions to the future of energy.

HHO  - oxyhydrogen:
HHO generation
Hydrogen / Methane blend

GEET Fuel Processor:
GEET fuel processor

Ammonia is easier to transport than hydrogen and it contains twice the energy of hydrogen by volume. But it is still not cheaply produced yet. And pure ammonia needs another fuel to ignite it in an ICE. Also, ammonia is toxic.

Ammonia Energy Combustion Engines
Science Magazine
Agricultural Marketing Resource Center
NH3 Car
NH3 Fuel Association

Engines can be converted to hydrogen. But there are many complexities, from the generation of hydrogen to the long term effect hydrogen has on materials.

Omnitek - Converting engines to hydrogen
Knowledge Publications - Order Roy McAlister diesel conversion DVD
Collier Technologies - Bi-fuel
Hydrogen / Methane blend
ICE converted to hydrogen
University of Miami - hydrogen uses
Hydrogen ICE technical issues
Roy McAlister - Hydrogen Fuel Engine Fundamentals
HICE requirements
OSTI - effect of hydrogen on engines

Radio frequency:

Frequency resonance for hydrogen generation
Radio frequency hydrogen generation.

Water vapor technology:

Hydrogen / water engine

Jet fuel for the US Navy from seawater:

Detailed explanation of the chemistry

Wood Gas Generator:

Wood gas was used extensively during WWII. Not recommended as a permanent part of an energy system because it uses wood chips which are better used as mulch to increase soil fertility. But it does work in emergency situations very well. Can drive an electricity generator to keep refridgeration units going. It was even used to drive vehicles. It does require a fair amount of technical knowledge.

Wood Gasification at Scotston Farm
Wood Gasifier Plans
Renewable Alternative Energy Video
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