Renewable Energy

It's all about energy, from renewable sources to energy-efficient usage.

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8/11/2014

Switchgrass Growing in the Field

Farmers and landowners want to lower fuel and feed costs, explore feed and fertilizer co-products, be more self-sufficient, and rely less of fossil fuels. Biomass grass crops can be established on marginal lands and processed as a fuel replacement for heating oil or propane, or as an addition to wood chips or pellets.

There are four main models for implementing grass energy on a farm. The models differ from each other in where the grass is grown and processed. Two are closed-loop models, in which the grass is grown and processed on-site, and the others are variations of processing the grass in a central facility and distributing production of the feedstock among regional farms.

Grass fuel can occur as bales that get chopped just prior to combustion or densified fuels like pellets, cubes, or briquettes. The densified fuels are made using machinery that applies high temperature and pressure to the chopped feedstock, pressing it into the desired shape. A series of dies and knives are responsible for cutting the fuel into its desired shape. Each of the four grass energy models, described below, produce one or two of these types of fuel.

Switchgrass Growing at University of Vermont
Switchgrass growing at the University of Vermont Horticulture Farm in South Burlington, Vermont. Credit: Vermont Bioenergy Initiative 

Closed Loop-No Processing: Grass fuel is grown on-site where it will be processed for heating fuel. The grass is harvested as usual, and stored and burned as bales. This requires a specific heating appliance designed to burn whole bales and significant storage space for the bales. While it is not economical to transport bales over great distances, this model can work among neighbors. For example, a school or prison with this heating system can contract with a neighboring farmer to produce the fuel bales. 

Small-scale On-Farm Processing: Grass is grown on-site where it will be processed. Stored bales are chopped in a hammermill and the grass is put through a small pelletizer or briquetter. The processing equipment can be stationary on the farm or mobile, moving between multiple farms. The pellet or briquette fuel can be used on the farm, such as in a biomass-heated greenhouse or chicken house, or it can be sold to neighboring users. The fuel produced is only suitable for commercial and industrial applications, and will not work well in residential heating appliances.

Regional Processing: Grass is grown within a 50-mile radius of a central processing facility that converts bales of grass from multiple farmers into briquettes. The processing facility should be co-located with a large heat load, such as a medium to large school or hospital, or even several buildings that will all be using grass fuel. 

Consumer Pellet Market: Grass is grown by contracted farmers within a 50-mile radius of the pellet mill. The mill produces standard pellets for the residential and small commercial markets.

From the farmer’s perspective, all four models described above involve growing the grass. The difference lies in whether the farmer will be contracting with a centralized processor or doing their own processing, and in the latter case, whether they plan to use the fuel on-site or market it to other customers. The key to success for these models is to match the fuel produced to the needs of the user. For example, Vermont Technical College in Randolph, Vermont, heats part of the campus with a pellet boiler, so the school’s farm operation uses a mobile pelletizer to process grass from their fields into pellet fuel.   

Much is known in the northeast Unites States about growing grass and a number of variety trials conducted around the region have pointed to certain species, like switchgrass, giant miscanthus and reed canary grass, as options that are highly productive and do well in this region. Grass stands are currently planted at the University of Vermont Horticulture Farm in Burlington and Vermont Technical College, and on several private farms like Borderview Farm in Alburgh and Meach Cove Farms in Shelburne. A collection of reports and guidelines for growing grass in the northeast is provided by the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative.    

A key aspect of grass energy development is to install grass-fueled heating appliances on farms and in schools or other municipal buildings, institutions and commercial settings while also producing grass fuel. For these institutional and small commercial heating systems, grass pellets, briquettes, and whole bales could be used for fuel. Depending on the type of system installed, the processing equipment should produce whole bales, pellets or briquettes to match the fuel needs. Mobile pelletizers and briquetters, like the one in development by Shelburne, Vermont-based Renewable Energy Resources, could be a good match, or in the case of whole bales, standard grass harvesting equipment would be used to produce fuel.

Switchgrass Harvest
Switchgrass being harvested at Meach Cove Farm in Shelburne, Vermont. Credit: Vermont Bioenergy Initiative

While growing the crop and producing the fuel can be relatively straightforward, there are not currently extensive markets for the fuel. This presents a chicken-and-egg problem for the farmer and their potential customers. Farmers are hesitant to grow a crop with an uncertain market, and building owners and municipalities are not likely to install a heating system for which they can’t find a reliable fuel source. Close cooperation between fuel suppliers and customers is important, and long-term contracts can help build confidence between partners. 

There are also alternative markets for grass crops that can be used in the interim while a fuel market is established. These alternatives include fiber for paper products, animal bedding, compost for mushroom growers, resin in particle board, absorbents for environmental clean-up, and dairy rations. Additionally, the fields themselves have value as wildlife habitat and stream buffers that prevent erosion and remove nitrogen and phosphorous from farm run-off. These alternative uses for grass are discussed in more detail in the report, “Grass Energy in Vermont and Northeast.”

Miscanthus Second Year Growth
Miscanthus in its second year at Meach Cove Farm in Shelburne, Vermont. Credit: Vermont Bioenergy Initiative

An important consideration for growers is the economic feasibility of growing grass for fuel or alternative markets. Dr. Sid Bosworth, researcher and professor at the University of Vermont School of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has developed a grass energy cost estimator to determine the per-ton cost of production, located on his website. By comparing the cost of production to market prices, a grower can determine whether producing and selling grass fuel makes financial sense.

Considering additional benefits to the farm can be helpful, too. For example, using grass to help clean up runoff from the farm, thereby helping to clean up local waterways, can be a valuable marketing asset. Improving wildlife habitat with grass crops, conserving open land, and utilizing marginal soils are additional benefits. It’s hard to put a dollar value on land stewardship, but these are services to both the longevity of a farming operation and to the greater community.

Photo by Fotolia/nspooner



7/28/2014

We finally witness a piece of legislation that makes it through Congress, which was not only agreed upon by both parties, but was also applauded by our president; and it might actually turn out to be effective. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act is an amendment and re-authorization of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which supported the nation’s primary programs and investments in employment services, workforce development, adult education and vocational rehabilitation activities. The new legislation is the product of a bipartisan, bicameral negotiation between the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and House Committee.

Bogged down by bureaucracy and innumerable, confusing programs, the previous federal job training system attempted to help individuals learn the skills needed to make themselves more viable on the job market, but it was clearly not working very well; every year $18 Billion tax dollars were spent on job-training programs, but only a fraction of the workers completing the training obtained jobs and barely 50% of the people who went through the federal job training programs completed with the actual skills they needed for the jobs they were seeking. Since 2003 attempts to reauthorize the legislation were undertaken in both the House and Senate, which culminated to an act which should help fix our broken job-training system.

The Job Crisis

High-Tech Manufacturing

Why is it broken, you may ask? Well, despite college enrollments increasing by 11% over the last decade, secondary education tuition costs have skyrocketed, landing the 2 million students who graduate every year an average $26,000 in debt. Federal loans now total $1.2 trillion, which is even higher than credit card debt. And each year, tuition prices sneak upwards.

So now we have massively indebted college graduates also desperately searching for a job along with the other 9.5 million Americans out of work. Currently the unemployment rate stands at 6.1% and more than 20 million Americans have been either out of work or underemployed since 2009.

However, we have 4.6 million job openings that are not being filled. In manufacturing alone, the backbone of middle-class opportunity, as many as 600,000 jobs are going unfilled. These “blue collar” jobs, now called “blue tech” jobs, can earn you $60,000 a year or more! From 2016 to 2002, job openings in manufacturing, production, installation, maintenance and repair are projected to outstrip the supply of available workers three-to-one. Despite all this incentive, the Wall Street Journal reports that 33% of small-business owners and chief executives could not find qualified applicants and therefore had unfilled job openings in June.

And the cause of the symptomatic unemployment and underemployment is found in the infamous skills gap. While these numbers may quantify the issue, they fail to capture the frustration of millions of Americans, many of them armed with multiple diplomas, failing to achieve that steady paycheck or make ends meet.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act: A Solution?

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act takes many provisions to streamline and modernize the maze that was federal job-training programs so that workers can access the right training, immediately. These include:

Ensuring pragmatic accessibility of one-stop centers and training providers
Enhancing the flexibility of funds
Setting common performance indicators for all core programs under the bill.

In addition, the act eliminates 15 ineffective programs and prevents the creation of more bureaucracy or useless duplicative programs. It supports transitions to postsecondary education, training or employment and requires evaluation and research into adult education activities.

Next, as Georgetown University’s 2013 report on college majors insightfully put it, not all college degrees are created equal. In fact, recent college graduates bear the greatest unemployment risk at an overall 7.9% unemployment rate. More than 36% of college graduates are not working in their chosen profession and many of them have been forced to accept minimum wage jobs. But the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act is a way to provide funding for skills training and help relieve the over-saturation of certain job markets.

President Obama applauded the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity act and said he was thrilled by the vote that would “help ensure that our workers can earn the skills employers are looking for right now and that American businesses have the talent pool it takes to compete and win in our global economy.”

What We Still Need to Work On

Solar Panel Worker

The Act should help Americans tap into the millions of unfilled jobs, especially in the manufacturing industry. However, the Act appears to be overlooking a huge job market: the sustainable job market. In June the EPA proposed the Clean Power Plan, which could provide some serious stimulus for our stalling economy. The solar industry alone is expected to create 22,000 jobs while the hydroelectric industry requires 700,000 jobs to reach a new capacity of 23,000 -60,000 MW. Furthermore, 8 million jobs in the construction, manufacturing and natural resources industries will be created by 2018. They will require workers having basic math skills and computer abilities and eventually having received various forms of vocational training such as solar training or technical training.

Finally, through this act we are witnessing greater public encouragement of skill training as well an expansion of funding for college aid and vocational training. But as Mike Rowe, host of Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” said, “Many of the best opportunities that exist today require a skill, not a diploma”. To fill the skills gap we will also need to remove the stigma surrounding vocational education and understand that real, well-paid, skill specific jobs are out there for the taking; all we need is a qualified workforce.



7/22/2014

Finally, a piece of legislation both parties agreed upon; and it’s a bonus that it actually promises to be effective. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity act is an amendment and reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which supported the nation’s primary programs and investments in employment services, workforce development, adult education and vocational rehabilitation activities. The new legislation is the product of a bipartisan, bicameral negotiation between the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and House Committee.

Why Change It?

Manufacturing

First of all, the authorization for the statute expired in 2003; since then, attempts to reauthorize the legislation were undertaken in both the House and Senate which culminated in the act that was passed last month.

Next we can talk numbers. We hear about the 6.1% unemployment rate, which represents 9.5 million Americans out of work. More than 20 million Americans have been either out of work or underemployed since 2009. Simultaneously we have 4.6 million job openings that are not being filled. In manufacturing alone, the backbone of middleclass opportunity, as many as 600,000 jobs are going unfilled. These “blue collar” jobs should now be called “blue tech” jobs and can earn you $60,000 a year or more! The Wall Street Journal reports that 33% of small-business owners and chief executives could not find qualified applicants and therefore had unfilled job openings in June. 

Unemployment, underemployment, unstable or temporary employment and limited advancement for minimum-skilled workers are all symptoms of the job crisis. But at its heart lies the infamous skills gap.

Bogged down by bureaucracy and innumerable, confusing programs, the previous federal job training system attempted to help individuals learn the skills needed to make themselves more viable on the job market, but as the numbers listed above demonstrate, it was not working very well. Every year $18 Billion tax dollars were spent on job-training programs, but only a fraction of the workers completing the training obtained jobs and barely 50% of the people who went through the federal job training programs completed with the actual skills they needed for the jobs they were seeking.

These numbers only quantify the issue. They fail to capture the frustration of millions of Americans searching for that steady paycheck, trying to provide for their families and make ends meet.

How Is It Going to Help?

A few provisions taken by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act include:

• ensuring pragmatic accessibility of one-stop centers and training providers

• enhancing the flexibility of funds, and

• setting common performance indicators for all core programs under the bill.

In addition, the act eliminates 15 ineffective programs and prevents the creation of more bureaucracy or useless duplicative programs. It supports transitions to postsecondary education, training or employment and requires evaluation and research into adult education activities. Other amendments include better alignment of disability programs, State and local plans to include advanced manufacturing workforce development strategies and provisions to support professional development for employment services staff.

In short, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act streamlines and modernizes the maze that was federal job-training programs so that workers can access the right training, immediately.

President Obama applauded the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity act and said he was thrilled by the vote that would “help ensure that our workers can earn the skills employers are looking for right now and that American businesses have the talent pool it takes to compete and win in our global economy.”

Impact

Solar Panel Worker

The Act should help Americans tap into the millions of unfilled jobs, especially in the manufacturing industry. However, the Act appears to be overlooking a huge job market: the sustainable job market. In June the EPA proposed the Clean Power Plan, which could provide some serious stimulus for our stalling economy. The solar industry alone is expected to create 22,000 jobs while the hydroelectric industry requires 700,000 jobs to reach a new capacity of 23,000 -60,000 MW. Furthermore, 8 million jobs in the construction, manufacturing and natural resources industries will be created by 2018. They will require workers having basic math skills and computer abilities and eventually having received various forms of vocational training such as solar training or technical training.

Finally, through this act we are witnessing greater public encouragement of skill training as well an expansion of funding for college aid and vocational training. But as Mike Rowe, host of Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” said, “Many of the best opportunities that exist today require a skill, not a diploma”. To fill the skills gap we will also need to remove the stigma surrounding vocational education and understand that real, well-paid, skill specific jobs are out there for the taking; all we need is a qualified workforce.



7/18/2014

energyThe electric and gas utility industries are facing substantial changes. For decades, rising sales have contributed to increasing revenues and profits, but the combination of improved energy efficiency with the growing use of solar electric systems and other forms of “distributed energy” has reduced growth rates, which could lead to small declines in future sales. But these potential small declines will not lead to the kind of “death spirals” claimed by some industry alarmists, as our new report, The Utility of the Future and the Role of Energy Efficiency, shows. Still, the industry and their regulators will need to make substantial changes in the next few years in order to continue providing quality service at a reasonable price, while providing utilities reasonable returns on their investments.

According to the alarmists, utility sales could plummet, requiring utilities to raise rates so they can recoup their fixed costs (such as the cost of the current distribution system), and these rising rates would drive additional customers to leave the system, a phenomenon they call a death spiral. Our study examines three potential sales scenarios, employing increasing levels of energy efficiency, solar electric power and electric vehicles. The most extreme scenario includes levels of energy efficiency now being achieved in only a few states plus the use of solar electric power that eventually uses nearly all available roof space. Under this extreme scenario, national electricity sales decline about 10% by 2040, an average reduction of 0.39% per year. Under a more likely mid-range case, sales grow 0.04% per year, while under the reference scenario, developed by the Energy Information Administration, sales grow 0.7% per year.

Creating Resilient Electric Utilities

In our view, a 10% sales decline over 25 years is far lower than what would be required to initiate a death spiral. Under the more likely scenario, sales are essentially flat. In such a scenario, utilities that have relied on rising sales to fuel profits will need to pursue new business models if they want to see profit growth. To address this finding, our report recommends that utilities offer optional energy-related services to their customers, including energy efficiency and technical help and financing for larger customers installing and operating high-efficiency combined heat and power systems. Such efforts can contribute to utility profits, reduce customer bills (since consumption is lower) and also provide services that customers value, positioning the utilities to offer additional services.

To support this effort, we also recommend that regulators

• adjust rates so that fixed costs are fully recovered as sales levels change,
• provide utilities financial incentives for meeting energy efficiency goals,
• reform ratemaking so that costs are fairly allocated and price signals encourage efficient use of energy, and
• develop rules to improve the ability of utilities to offer optional services in ways that provide a level playing field relative to non-utility providers.

Quite a few states have taken some of these steps, but only a few states have taken most of them. In addition, we recommend upgrading management of the electric grid to better handle increased amounts of variable and distributed generation.

What Utilities Shouldn't Do

Our research also identifies several things not to do. In our view, the ‘first rule of holes’ applies: When you’re in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging. If sales are level or declining, then utilities and regulators need to be careful of investing too much in new generation, transmission and distribution. Our report notes how Australian utilities invested so much in transmission and distribution that rates doubled, and how German utilities over-invested in generation, contributing to a steep drop in stock prices. While some investments in fast ramp-up generation, transmission to link control areas, grid hardening, and grid control will be needed, these should be prioritized so costs and rates are kept to reasonable levels.

Our call for increased utility investment in energy efficiency fits in well with proposed regulations on existing power plants published last week by the Environmental Protection Agency. The proposal calls for substantial cuts in carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector, but provides utilities and states with the flexibility to use energy efficiency programs and policies to help achieve those reductions. An earlier ACEEE report found that energy efficiency could achieve all of the needed reductions while also increasing GDP and employment.

In summary, if we can get the rules right and continue to develop the technologies and systems we will need, utilities can maintain profitability, customers can receive the services they need, bills can be kept to reasonable levels, and we will all enjoy a cleaner environment.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy acts as a catalyst to advance energy efficiency policies, programs, technologies, investments, and behaviors. For information about ACEEE and its programs, publications, and conferences, visit ACEEE.org

If you’d like to read more, check out Sierra Club’s article Throwing Shade



7/5/2014

Analysis of our current economic situation yields a gloomy outlook. The U.S. is currently experiencing an economic slowdown, $20 trillion of national debt, and an unnerving unemployment rate. However, a solution may be presenting itself in the form of an initial guideline to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, proposed on June 2, 2014, by the Environmental Protection Agency, under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. This plan is an opportunity to not only limit our carbon pollution but also to inject life back into our domestic workforce.

How the Clean Power Plan Creates JobsElectricity Grid Expansion

How can a plan that proposes to retire coal power plants create jobs? Here are the 8 answers to your question.

Back in 2009, The Union of Concerned Scientists estimated that a national renewable electricity standard seeking to cut 25% of carbon emissions by 2025 would generate 297,000 jobs, $263.4 billion in new capital investment and $95.5 billion in lower electricity by 2030. The potential economic benefits of expanding our renewable energy technologies are substantial. Renewable energy technologies are typically more labor-intensive than fossil fuel technologies which are intensely mechanized and capital intensive.

The Expansion of Solar Power

Solar panels will need to be manufactured, sold, installed and maintained. In 2011, the solar industry employed over 100,000 workers. Before the EPA ruling came out, solar jobs were expected to experience a growth rate of 24%, thereby creating 24,000 net new solar jobs the next year.  In fact, sales and distribution employed about 23,910 people in 2012 and installation employed 65,571 people. With respective growth rates of 22% and 35%,that’s an additional 5,260 and 22,950 jobs.

Wind Energy Expansion

Imagine the growth possible in the wind turbine manufacturing market when the amount of domestically manufactured equipment used in wind turbines jumped from 35% in 2006 to 70% in 2011 with 560 factories directly employing 75,000 full-time employees.

Hydroelectric Expansion

The hydroelectric power industry employed 250,000 people in 2009, and if the hydropower industry were to install a new capacity of 23,000 MW-60,000 MW by 2025, the total amount of jobs required to meet that target could generate as many as 700,000 jobs.

Geothermal Energy Expansion

In 2010, the geothermal industry directly employed 5,200 people. Now with approximately 248,672,710 acres of public lands in the Western US are areas identified with geothermal potential and a single geothermal plant generating about 860 jobs, the potential job market is huge!

Construction of New Natural Gas Plants

By 2030, the EPA projects natural gas to account for 32% of our electricity generation. The construction alone will require an additional 62,500 workers to meet this standard. This isn’t even accounting for the growing numbers of geoscientists, gas drillers and seismic crews, the plant operators, terminal operators, truckers and landsmen and all of the other 311,000 currently employed people needed to operate the US natural gas industry.

Construction Workers

The construction sector is expected to experience quite the growth. The implementation of new solar, wind or other renewable energy sources, besides needing construction workers to build those plants and factories and offices, will require the construction of more power lines. This is particularly necessary for states wishing to export their renewable power to other states. This represents massive construction job creation.

Workforce Training Providers

As renewable energies become more accessible, one can observe a parallel development of the energy efficiency education market. People need to be trained on how to make, install and maintain a solar panel, or build green buildings. We need clean-tech training providers in order to have a competent sustainable workforce.

Technology

Vast investments will be made to increase grid efficiency, and to store the energy collected from our various renewable sources. Every renewable project will necessitate a variety of engineers, technicians, computer programmers and mechanics in areas that range from electrical, civil, information technology, systems management, waste management, simulation modelling, operations, structural to energy analysis and the list goes on and on.

All of these numbers barely scratch the surface of the economic benefits of an expansion of renewable energy sources as they do not take into account the jobs and capital investment that would be generated by indirect and induced employment.



7/3/2014

We the people, in order to form a more perfect world, do hereby declare that we will free ourselves from the tyranny of Fossil Fuels.

Wind Powered Gas Station in Lawrence Kansas

We know that nothing lasts forever. If we do not use the fossil fuel energy we have available to us now to build a way of life based on renewable energy then we will be choosing life in a pre-industrial society.

We recognize that fossil fuels separate the haves from the have-nots. They are the cause of massive conflicts from the Vietnam era oil fields of the Mekong delta and the South China Sea to wars in the deserts of Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. Their extraction has caused environmental devastation and social injustice from Appalachia to Australia.

Production and distribution of our food requires 10 calories of energy from fossil fuels for every calorie of food produced. We therefore resolve to produce our food locally as it was done by our forefathers before it was controlled by multinational corporations who supply the petroleum based herbicides and pesticides that have poisoned the food, soil, water, and air, resulting in untold numbers of cancers, birth defects and diseases.

Knowing that doubling an ingredient in any recipe can lead to a disaster in the kitchen or in a chemistry lab, we recognize that the delicate balance of the web of life can be drastically altered. Using fossil fuels we have released 200 million years of stored carbon into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide from burning coal, natural gas and petroleum creating an imbalance on Mother Earth which has already led to desertification, environmental refugees, sea level rise, and threatens to make life miserable for billions of this planets inhabitants.

Photo, above: A wind powered Gas Station in Lawrence, Kansas, across the street from the Local, Organic Food Co-op, The Merc.

Demand Energy Independence

To an Empire, a Declaration of Independence is a Declaration of intent to be free. We demand freedom from dependence on an energy source controlled by the few at the expense and ruination of the many.

We hereby issue a Proclamation of Emancipation from the slavery of fossil fuel and state that from henceforward we shall not rest until our world is free from the tyranny imposed by the control of energy.

We will work towards this goal until,

In the Future,

we will sit on our front porches,

with our family, friends and neighbors,

singing and playing acoustic music,

until the stars come out and shine down upon us,

undimmed by the fires of fossil fuels.

How do we do this? One Wind Powered Gas Station at a Time!!

References and Inspiration

We Are United; War is Not the Way – It’s What’s Going On. [Video] Playing for Change, YouTube.

Don’t You Worry [Video], Dailymotion.

The Paiute, Wovoka [Video], YouTube.

Don’t worry in the End, everything will be OK and if it’s not OK it’s not the End



7/3/2014

 DIY Wind Generator

Are you headed for the beach or going camping in the mountains? Maybe you live on a boat, visit a remote cabin or you're living off-grid. Electricity is yours for the taking as long as the wind is blowing... And you can get it on the CHEAP with an easy homemade wind generator. Light up that storeroom, barn or use the generator to keep all your vehicle batteries charged too.

My off-grid cabin's electricity comes from solar and wind power, stored in 6-Volt golf cart batteries. A charge controller and battery minder keeps my system from under-and over charging. The whole shebang cost me less than $1000 and I have lights, fans, TV and stereo, refrigeration, and a disco ball that goes up for special occasions.

If you can turn a wrench and operate an electric drill, you can build this simple generator in two days: one day of chasing down parts and one day assembling the components. The FOUR basic components include a GM pickup truck alternator ($40 new), a GM fan-clutch assembly ($35 used), the bracket for mounting the generator on a tower or pole ($25 galvanized pipe and fittings version), and a tower or pole ($20 for 15 feet of 2" tubing, used). If you're a Ford guy or a MOPAR gal that's fine, just make sure the alternator has a built-in voltage regulator. You'll also need some electric cable or wires to hook it up to your storage battery. I used 8 gauge, three-strand copper wire pilfered from the oil patch. (And they said the transition from fossil fuels to renewables would take years. Pfft!)

My Wind Generator Parts List

Car/Truck Alternator - GM 1988, 350 motor, alternator with built-in regulator (used in illustration). Almost any alternator with a regulator will work but use a new one. It should have a warranty. 

GM Alternator

Car/Truck Fan Clutch Assembly - GM 1988, 350 motor -used

 GM Fan Clutch Assembly

Bracket Assembly for Mounting Alternator/Fan

If you have a welder, making a bracket is simple. I used 1" square tubing for all the bracket pieces and a 2-feet long piece of 1" pipe for the Rotating Stem that fits inside the pole. If you don't have a welder, fear not. The Bracket Assembly can be fitted up with 1/2" galvanized pipe and fittings. Here's a list of the pipe fittings you'll need:

1/2" Tee (5X)
1/2" Elbow (2X)
1/2" X 12" Nipple (2X)
1/2" X 6" Nipple (2X)
1/2" X 1-1/2" Nipple (2X)
1/2" X 2" Nipple (2X)
1/2" X Close (2X)
Galvanized Pipe Bracket

A tail fan to spin the generator around lining it up with the wind's direction must be attached to the 12" nipple at the back of the bracket. Cut a fan out of old tin siding or roofing with tin snips or a cutting torch. A right angle triangle shape works best. Drill three holes in the nipple. Use self-tapping screws (steel roofing screws work good) to affix the tail to the nipple.
(See photo)
 Tail

Tower/Pole - I used an old Television antenna tower 20' tall with a 2-1/2" diameter pipe top piece. You'll also need a Stop at the top of the tower which lines up with the Stop on your bracket assembly. This can be welded or bolted onto the tower. The Stops will only allow the generator to turn 360° clockwise and counterclockwise so your cable doesn't get twisted around and around the pole/tower.

A joint of 2-3/8" oil field tubing anywhere from 10' to 20' in length (height) attached to a building or bolted to your truck bumper makes a good tower. Make sure it is secure and you may need to use guy wires. If you aren't sure how to mount the generator, send me a message and I'll try to help.

Fan Clutch to Alternator Attachment:

The fan clutch hub can be welded directly to the alternator hub, just make certain the fan is perfectly straight in line with the alternator shaft. Make sure the alternator's built-in wire plug ins are located on what will be the bottom of the generator. If you don't have access to a welder, create a union from the 3" washer and four bolts, which will fasten the two major components together. Drill four holes to match the holes in the fan clutch. Use a 1/4" tap to cut threads in the holes. Unscrew the alternator pulley nut, remove the pulley and small fan. Slide the union over the alternator shaft---bolts pointing away from alternator, then reattach the alternator fan and nut onto the shaft (leave pulley off). The large nut will hold the union in place. Attach the fan clutch assembly to the bolts now protruding from the alternator. Tighten nuts with lock washers in place.
You'll need:

3" washer, 3/16" thick, 5/8" hole.
Electric drill
1/4" steel drill bit
1/4" thread tap
1/4" X 1-1/2" to 2-1/2" bolts (4) and lock washers (4)
Washer
(To determine length of bolts, stack the fan on top of the alternator with both shafts in line, fan pulley on alternator pulley. Measure length along the two shafts from back of alternator fan to back fan clutch hub. Use this length for the bolts.)

Tower of Power

Once you have all the generator components fastened together, mount it on your pole or tower. Insert the pipe on the generator inside the larger pole pipe (or the top of your tower). Use two steel washers together to create a bearing between the generator and tower for a smooth surface for the generator to pivot 360 degrees. Attach the positive and negative wires to the alternator and secure with zip ties, baling wire and/or duct tape on the bracket and along the tower. It isn't really homemade unless it has a little baling wire and duct tape on it somewhere, now is it?! You'll need assistance standing the tower and generator upright as it will be pretty heavy. Ropes and a come-along will help if you're going up fairly high. If it's always windy in your location, you only need to be high enough off the ground to keep the moving parts safely overhead. Securely fasten your tower in place. The wind can be deceptively strong so do not cut corners on this final assembly stage.

Now that you've erected the wind generator connect the wires to your battery(ies) with a charge controller in between to prevent over-under charging. Now you're ready to hit the lights, crank up the jams and bust out those old disco moves I know you've been saving up for an electric slide on the beach with your family and friends.

Build and use at your own risk. My generator works fine but you are responsible for your work. Good Luck and Power Up!









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Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.