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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 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
Cold Storage

The next step to achieve energy self sufficiency is to concentrate on maximizing your use of low tech solutions. Mixing the low tech with high tech can allow the strengths of each to compliment each other.

Drying Hay With Renewables
Wind Energy

It is critical to have a reliable method to generate and store energy on the farm in a form that can easily be utilized later. There are risks associated with total reliance on the electrical grid and commercial energy distribution systems.

Hydrogen / Methane Gas Engines
Hydrogen Complimentary Technology
Bike Car

Some technologies work better in warm weather. But sometimes they can have an effective short term niche such as summertime 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
Algae Bio-Fuel
Animal Fat as Diesel Fuel
Remaining Bio-Fuels

Green Housing:

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

In cool climates, thermal mass on inside; warm climates on the outside
The Natural Home - zero energy
Fine Home Building - foundation insulation comparison
DOE - foundation insulation
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
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

Cold Storage:

A large cold storage device is indispensable during harvest time. It allows you to store the harvest until you have time to get to the processing and drying.

Practical Farmers of Iowa 
Buying Guide 


1. Low tech and reliable

1. Deforestation

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.
Rocket Stove
Rocket Stove Temperatures

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

Wind Energy:

1. Can be used to make hydrogen.
2. Feed and sell energy back into the grid.
3. Usually available during the time of year when it is needed most.
4. Cold climate regions often have high wind speeds.
5. True cost of energy is being hidden. Once the true cost
   becomes clear, then this technology will be profitable.
6. Works well in rural areas.
Small Wind Physics

1. Small wind turbines are inefficient and immature.
Small Wind Certification
2. Scars the landscape and can be noisy if not properly maintained.
3. Summers are usually low wind periods.
4. Electrical field contamination.
5. Not very good for urban areas.
Urban Wind


H2 Energy Renaissance - electrolysis for hydrogen generation
Solvay - hydrogen storage of wind power
OMV - hydrogen gas generation and storage
German gas grid
Windmill Hydrogen Production

Hydrogen / Methane Gas Engines:

Electricity generated on the farm can be converted to hydrogen and then stored without batteries. Hydrogen is versatile enough that it can be used for all types of applications: tractors, generators, vehicles, rototillers, heating, etc.

By weight, hydrogen is the most energy rich fuel. Unfortunately, volume is a problem unless it is compressed. Instead, many farmers are using ammonia as a fuel because it contains twice the energy of liquid hydrogen.

Energy levels of fuels
Energy level of ammonia

Diesel engines can be converted to hydrogen. Since hydrogen does not easily self ignite under pressure like diesel, it will require glow plugs for ignition or a diesel fuel mixture.

Omnitek - Converting engines to hydrogen
Knowledge Publications - Order Roy McAlister diesel conversion DVD

Most engines that will burn CNG will burn hydrogen. A fuel blend may actually be the easiest way to transition to hydrogen. CNG engines will definitely be the solution offered by big oil. Once there is a CNG distribution system, it is just a small step away from compressed hydrogen distribution and HICE engines. Ceramic engines can probably withstand hydrogen best since hydrogen tends to make metal brittle.

Collier Technologies - Bi-fuel
Hydrogen / Methane blend
CNG Vehicles

Gasoline engines can be converted to run on hydrogen.

ICE converted to hydrogen
Roy McAlister - convert engines to run on hydrogen
Gasoline conversion

Generating pure hydrogen can be expensive and complex.

University of Miami - hydrogen uses

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 are some examples.

LiquidPiston - 75% thermal efficiency
Clean Green Engines - tractors, ammonia

Links to discussions of technical issues.

Hydrogen ICE technical issues
Roy McAlister - Hydrogen Fuel Engine Fundamentals
HICE requirements
OSTI - effect of hydrogen on engines
1. Hydrogen / methane fuel was used extensively during WW II, 
   so the technology has actually been around a long time. 
2. Long term renewable that can be generated and stored 
   on the farm.
3. Can mix to run with many fuels instead of only one fuel. 
   Versatility and adaptability may be more important than 
   efficiency in times of instability.
4. No need for constant renewal of membranes and batteries 
   made with rare expensive heavy metals.
   No disposal of toxic batteries into landfills 
   with environmental contamination.
   These rare minerals will not always be available 
   since they require very long supply chains.
5. Combustion engines provide torque that an electric motor 
   has difficulty providing.
6. Quick refueling.
7. Methane engines are coming to market that can be converted 
to hydrogen. 
8. Operates well in cold and hot climates.
9. Can be used to run electrical generators for when the 
   wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining and 
   the grid is down.
10. Hydrogen ICE not as vulnerable to EMP as an electric vehicle.
11. Does not require pure hydrogen so lends itself to farm / home production.
12. Cleans dirty intake air.
13. Adds buoyancy where that may be an advantage such as
planes, boats, etc.

1. Modern engines are more complex and may require advanced 
   technology to use a variable hydrogen / methane / diesel blend 
   and then transition to higher hydrogen usage.
2. CNG and hydrogen stations are still hard to find.
3. The technology is only just now starting to become 
   advanced enough to be efficient.
4. Hydrogen makes metal brittle. Will require ceramic and other 
   composite materials. 

Hydrogen 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 hydrogen technology.

H2 Energy Renaissance - electrolysis for hydrogen generation

HHO  - oxyhydrogen:
HHO generation

GEET Fuel Processor:
GEET fuel processor

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

The final step is to compress enough hydrogen to fill a tank and what kind of storage tank to use. It is important to use a storage technology that does not use rare, expensive, and toxic minerals.

RE Hydrogen - compression
ANL - Hydrogen storage comparison
Honda Solar Hydrogen Station

Bike Car:

Perhaps the most efficient form of short distance transport.

Organic Transit bike car
Rhoades Car

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. Feed and sell energy back into the grid.
4. Can be used to generate hydrogen.
5. Fills the gap in the summer when wind is low.
6. Works best in an urban environment.
7. True cost of energy is being hidden. Once the true cost
   becomes clear, then this technology will be profitable.

1. Uses up valuable solar space on a farm.
2. In cold regions, the sun's rays are too indirect to 
   be of much use during winter. 
3. The sun is often clouded when energy is needed the most.
4. Automatic tracking systems are more efficient but are  
   vulnerable to wind damage.
5. Cannot be converted to kinetic energy directly.
6. Converters and controllers must be protected from a solar storm or 
   electro-magnetic burst. Panels are mainly vulnerable to radiation.
7. Best placed in unused areas away from electromagnetic contamination of 
   inhabited areas.
8. Direct solar energy may be better used by a drying barn.
9. Batteries are not very efficient and are expensive.
10. Torque from electric engines is very difficult compared
    to combustion engines.
11. Magnetic pulse could disrupt.


Dow Powerhouse Roof Tiles

Thin film contains rare toxic heavy metals.

Energy Informative


Backwoods Home


SEIA - solar heating cooling - solar heating
Wikipedia - solar air conditioning


Build It Solar


H2 Energy Renaissance - electrolysis for hydrogen generation
UCSUSA - Solar energy and agriculture
Honda Solar Hydrogen Station

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 
   This cheap readily available source makes it economical.
2. Does not compete as a food source. 
3. Hydrogen / methane fuel used extensively during WW II
   so the technology has been around a long time.

1. Expensive initial investment.
2. Requires a large volume of cheap feed stock to be profitable.
   Best if many sources; municipal waste, abattoir waste, etc.
3. Complex technology requiring dedicated highly trained
3. Tar buildup can be a problem unless properly setup.

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

Algae Bio-Fuel:

1. Yield of fuel oil is many times higher than any other biological crop.
2. Can also produce hydrogen.
3. By-product can be used as animal feed.
4. Can be used to convert CO2 and/or sewage.
5. Can be grown in areas not suitable for traditional agriculture.

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


Wikipedia Algae Fuel
Algae Biodiesel

Animal Fat as Diesel Fuel:

1. Animal fat is easily obtained on the farm and does
   not compete as a food source. 
   This makes it economical.
2. Can be used to drive most old style diesel engines.
3. Relatively cheap and easy enough for small farmers.

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. New diesel engines may need to be modified. 

Sites for converting animal fat to biodiesel:

Convert animal fat to fuel with charcoal
Comparison of biodiesel methods

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.
3. Ethanol from grain fermentation is low energy.
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