Environmentally-friendly ideas

Here at Synergy Module, we are always looking for good ideas to help the environment. And one good idea that’s come across my desk recently is the building of a DIY home solar panel system by Greg Seaman in the US, who has set one up on his off-the-Grid home. Greg has found that his small system can power all his internet needs (with a router and aerial for wireless broadband), a electric refrigerator (the size of a chest freezer!), a sound system which he can also use to charge mobile devices, battery-powered power tools, and the system even has enough left in it to run a laptop all day. Obviously the great thing about this project is that all of these electrical devices are essentially powered by free energy that did not require any burning of fossil fuels nor release of greenhouse gases into the already over-burdened atmosphere. But other appealing things about the project is that the whole system was built for less than US $1000 or UK £750, is maintenance-free (so far for several years), and the whole system is tucked neatly away out of sight so that it’s not even a blight on the beautiful surrounding countryside.
So what do you need to build one for yourself? Well, I’ll leave the detailed explanations of the actual build to Greg at eartheasy.com, but to give you a quick starter, the main components needed to build a similar system are listed below:

  • Solar panel
  • Charge controller
  • Battery bank
  • Inverter

Of course, you are going to need an array of tools and accessories as well to actually build and fit the system. Some of these tools & accessories you might already have but if not, you will almost certainly have to acquire them. For tools you don’t already have, if you are like me, then you are going to need to do a little research on the right ones to get (which is easily done these days with all the information freely available on the internet). If you are the DIY-type of person, then you know that you are going to make use of building tools in countless other ways over your life time (and that of your kids probably), so it often worth buying the best up front (in my opinion). In any case, below is a list of recommended tools that you should have if you are going to attempt Greg’s home DIY solar panel build:
– power drill and power screwdriver (or drill-driver): probably the most important tool that you will need as you will need to drill lots of holes and use a plethora of screws for the project – read up on local power drill-drivers here.
– power jigsaw: great for all general purpose sawing of several diifferent materials – read some local jigsaw reviews here.
– wiring: needed for wiring between every component in the solar panel system as well as connecting electrical equipment either permanently (like Greg’s fridge) or via wired in power sockets – best value place for wiring in the UK is Toolstation.
– wire cutters and wire strippers: you will be working almost exclusively with electrical wire – for information of which one is the best see here.

Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation (TREC)

One of the problems with renewable energy is the inflexibility of supply. This inflexibility is the very feature that requires EDM which is the topic of this blog. EDM can only go so far in balancing the supply and demand of electricity. Another technique is to builld supergrids that link broad geographical areas so that meteorological variations can be averaged.

In 2003 the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation (TREC) was founded by the Club of Rome, the Hamburg Climate Protection Foundation and the National Energy Research Center of Jordan (NERC). TREC in cooperation with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) developed the DESERTEC Concept of linking African, Middle East, and Northern European states electrical grids into one supergrid using high voltage direct current (HVDC) interconnects.

This is a fantastic idea. I recommend you visit http://www.desertec.org to learn more and to register your approval for the project in their ‘Give TREC Your Voice’ campaign.

Google and Vehicle To Grid (V2G)

The work that Google are doing on solar energy and hybrid cars is fascinating. Reading the following blog from Google though adds a new element to the mix.


Google are growing a fleet of plug in hybrid cars. These are standard hybrid cars with larger batteries fitted and the ability to charge from the electricity grid. The blog also mentions vehicle to grid (V2G) technology. This allows the bidirectional transfer of electricity between the electricity grid and the plug in hybrid.

In the context of Ireland’s need to consume surplus wind generated electricity, electric vehicle or hybrid vehicle batteries would be an ideal candidate for energy storage where the stored energy replaced fossil fuels when consumed on the following day. According to the Irish Examiner (19 June 2007), Toyota are selling 400 Prius hybrid cars per annum in Ireland. Obviously the installed base would have to be much higher to have a significant impact on grid stability.