We all gotta heat - or: Wind, Sun, Wood, Fermentation, Capture, Low Impact....Let me count the ways.
Candles, propane, oil lamps, matches and disposable batteries are what we started out with. It’s a wonder we’re not dead from fumes. We also tried olive oil lamps, but with little success. Everybody thinks candles are so wonderful and natural, but in some dictionaries paraffin and kerosene have the same definition. It’s just like the difference between the solid Crisco vegetable oil and the liquid vegetable oils. If you’ve got piles of money you could buy beeswax or bayberry wax candles to light your home, but a 35-year supply would break anybody’s bank account. You’d have to work just to buy candles. Clearly, we had to get some kind of electric system going for us.
Our electric system is what’s called a hybrid system because it integrates two sources of power: #1, wind and #2, solar. We’re just now taking a leap into a four-source system, and as time passes it can easily evolve into six. In my speculative imagination I see the possibility of eleven.
Source #3 is ethanol 190 proof, for internal combustion engines. The first engine I plan to convert is the 12 h.p. engine on my battery charging generator (full descriptions of the still and battery conversion are given below).
Source #4 is thermoelectricity. Ethanol, methane and wood are all members/candidates of the thermoelectric family for us, but you can generate electricity from any heat source. This uses the Peltier crystals described in chapter 9 of Off On Our Own
Source #5, methane, is now available here and is being developed. You can cook with it and also fire thermoelectricity. I have a 2KW generator that will run on it.
Source #6 is wood gasification, my favorite – capable of powering anything from huge, many-thousand h.p. engines, down to 5 h.p. engines. We’ve already had five test runs on our gasifier. In this chapter I’ll have a lot to say about wood gasification.
Source #7 is human power (a bike with a 12 volt alternator). Mother Earth News offered plans for one of these. It's basically comprised of a stripped-down 10-speed bike, a 35 amp car alternator and an old Type 1 VW (Beetle) flywheel. I believe the average person biking it in 5th gear can produce 5 amps 12 volt at a comfortable pace, and 20 amps at a heart pumping sprint. My Indian friend Michael has built generator bikes using rare earth magnetic charging technology.
Source #8 is a hydrogen cell. Depending on finances, I’d like to develop this form of power one day. It’s a battery that when charged (in my case by wind and sun) breaks down water into hydrogen and oxygen. You may have done that experiment in high school chemistry class. Methane is said to be the cleanest burning of the organically formed gasses, but hydrogen is probably cleaner if you don't consider what's involved developing it (building solar panels, windmills and the hydrogen cell itself). Hydrogen's nowhere near as caustic as methane, so I can compress and store it without worrying about the compressor and storage tanks oxidizing (rusting out).
Source #9 is a steam generation. Years back, a place called The Steam Outlet offered plans for a 5 h.p. steam generator you could actually install on your wood stove. I've tried to locate those plans for years but so far haven't. I do know that the actual generator is made from a particular automobile pollution control pump and so many feet of half-inch bendable copper pipe coil inside your stove pipe. It also drives a car alternator.
Source #10, hydropower, wouldn't work up here because we have no mountain stream, but it would down at my dad's because his place sits beside one. I picked up two boat propellers specifically for the purpose in case I do get to it, and a while back rummaging through a barn sale I found an ancient "water motor." It's really well built and has common hose fittings on it. I tried it on my dad's pressurized outside garden hose and it spun with frightening speed.
Source #11, is biodeisel. I can definitely see #11 taking place within a few years. My buddy Mike gave me his old biodiesel plant, so all we’d need to do is buy a new, high quality, single cylinder diesel AC generator, build it a house and be done with it. If it really got hot out and I really wanted to air condition a tiny room 24/7 that's what I'd use for sure. A good diesel engine properly maintained can do that.