Site Assessments: The Alternative Energy Potential of Homesteads

An in-depth look at the alternative energy potential of homesteads, including site assessments of renewable energy on land such as solar, wind, natural factors and harvesting advice.

| November/December 1985

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    Good solar or wind potential can return thousands of dollars per year in energy savings—or even in income from power sold to your area utility—and can offer your family security in a future of uncertain energy availability.
    PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Photovoltaic panels, which directly convert sunlight to electricity, should be placed in an unshaded location and oriented for maximum annual power production.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Siting passive solar buildings may involve compromises between wintertime solar heating and summertime cooling when shading and orientation are considered.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Figure 1: Solar diagram.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Figure 2: Solar diagram.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Figure 3: Solar diagram.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Accurate assessment of wind energy potential is a chancy proposition. One approach is to build an inexpensive machine—such as MOTHER's design shown here—to test the resource.
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    Figure 6: Solar diagram.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Figure 5: Solar diagram.
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    Figure 7: Solar diagram.
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    Figure 4: Solar diagram.
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    Figure 10: Solar diagram.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Figure 9: Solar diagram.
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    Wind metric measurements table.
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    Figure 8: Solar diagram.
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    Figure 1: Wind diagram.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Wind power formula for calculating increase in power.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Figure 2: Wind diagram.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Figure 4: Wind diagram.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Figure 3: Wind diagram.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Figure 5: Wind diagram.
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    Figure 6: Wind diagram.
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    Figure 8: Wind diagram.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

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  • Solar figure 8 site assessment
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Learn about site assessments for the alternative energy potential of homesteads, including renewable energy areas of solar, wind, natural factors and advice on harvesting. 

Whether you already own property or are simply in the market for it, the alternative-energy potential of a particular piece of turf ought to be as much a part of your thoughts as are access, flooding, septic-field percolation, the soil's bearing capacity, and the view. Good solar or wind potential can return thousands of dollars per year in energy savings—or even in income from power sold to your area utility—and can offer your family security in a future of uncertain energy availability.

In the simplest sense, an energy site assessment to evaluate the alternative energy potential of homesteads is just a matter of figuring out how much, when, and where. As you'll see over the next few pages, the first part of the question is a straightforward matter of measurement, whether you perform it yourself or consult tables prepared by someone else. Determining at any given instant the amount of power available isn't difficult, when compared to figuring "when" and "where."

Predicting performance at some point in the future ("when") is much more difficult because solar energy—and wind is essentially a solar-driven phenomenon—is by its nature variable.



Likewise, "where" can introduce large uncertainties into the estimation of energy potential, particularly with the more ephemeral sources, solar and wind.

Thus a useful alternative-energy site assessment should be composed about equally of' careful measurement and an understanding of the limitations on accuracy. Do your best, but don't overestimate the reliability of your best. And when you use the numbers, err on the side that will keep your lights lit and your house warm (or cool).






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