Alternative Energy - Essential Facts


    So you want to use alternative energy- there are some hard facts you MUST know before you get started!

    First of all, we are surrounded by energy all the time.  The problems are not where to get it but instead, how to manage it.  If you put in solar panels or windmills or geothermal or even a traditional backup generator, you will have to make some hard choices.  By that, I mean potentially expensive choices.

    Everyone is aware that solar has its drawbacks, and the greatest issue is that the sun only shines for half of the day.  Worse, it only works well for roughly eight hours out of twenty four.  If you need a total power of (for example) 24 kilowatt-hours per day, you don't use a one-kilowatt panel to gather it.

    You will need 3 TIMES what you expect and probably even more.  So what about wind?  That works at night, right?

    Oh, sure, but generally it is not consistent.  Only certain areas of the world have constant or very reliable wind.  Otherwise you are up against the same issues that solar has but you can't know when the wind will be there.  Is there anything else that can go wrong?

    Absolutely!  Even if you decide to install both solar and wind power systems, you have a couple of hurdles to get over.  Using both solar AND wind will greatly increase your ability to generate power, and in some cases you will have both systems running at once, creating more power than you can use.  But this too is a problem and you may now be seeing that the issue is not how to get power, but how to store it.




Getting Down to Basic Facts

    Let's list what you are going to need - no waffling, no options.  Keep in mind that solar panels, generators, micro-hydro, and windmills all make different voltages at different frequencies and current ranges.  It's because of their physics and the forces of nature.

    FIRST - you MUST have some sort of interface that converts your gathered power into a regulated and useful form.  This usually will be a charge converter or manager.  This is a sort of smart power converter that makes all the electrical power from solar panels, windmills, hydro, or whatever into a common "charging voltage".  This converts that raw, variable, unregulated power into a form that other devices can use without being damaged.

    SECOND - you must have a storage system.  This can get expensive.  Your storage system can generally take one of two forms.  The most common is being connected to the grid and selling your generated power back to the utility company.  This requires a device that converts your generated power into a solid, regulated AC form that is exactly in sync with and in specification for the utility company.  If you are completely off the grid, this will not matter.  Instead, you will have a battery bank where your power will be stored.

    THIRD - if you have a battery bank, you must have an inverter if you want to run AC appliances.  Those are devices you plug into a wall socket like lamps, microwaves, fans, televisions, and power tools.  Otherwise, you have DC battery power and it just won't run those devices you rely on every day.



What is the Answer?

    Simply put, consult an expert.  There are plenty of people out there who know exactly how to make these systems work.  Of course, you can learn how to do it yourself because it isn't hard, but you are likely to encounter some problems that will cost you a lot of time and money if you make a mistake.

    You may not like paying for expertise but the fact is, we all need it sometimes.  If you are knowledgeable enough to do the job yourself, I personally recommend Outback Power Systems for their excellent hardware.  I have had a good deal of experience with their systems and have nothing but good things to say about them.

    The simplest solution to the issues above can be their Inverter/Charger modules which are available in off-grid and grid-interactive versions.



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