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.

Profile of an Energy Demand Management (EDM) company

EnerNOC Inc. is an excellent example of a company offering EDM services. The company is based in the USA. Each customer of EnerNOC has an EnerNOC Site Server (ESS) installed.

EDM requires measurement and control functionality at the customer site and the ESS implements this. Every ESS has a communications link back to a Network Operations Centre (NOC) that acts as a central control point. The name EnerNOC comes from a concatenation of Energy and NOC.

From the NOC, EDM can be implemented by either curtailing loads at the customer site or by starting diesel generators at the customer site. In either case load is removed from the grid, reestablishing stability.

EnerNOC is paid by the TSO for every MW of load removed from the grid. At times of grid instability the TSO is prepared to pay far more for load shedding than the normal cost of electricity. This money, paid by the TSO, is shared between EnerNOC and EnerNOCs customer.

Tim Healy is the CEO of EnerNOC. With a name like that there has got to be an Irish link there somewhere. Click on the following URL if you want to hear Tim talk some more about his company.


Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Ireland needs an EDM company with a business model similar to EnerNOC in order to further stabilise our grid so as to allow deeper penetration of wind power. In the Irish case we may also need to add load to the grid for stability to compensate at times that wind exceeds forecasted energy output. This could be done by using refrigeration or HVAC loads whose thermostat could be controlled. So, for example, a refrigeration plant normally run at -10C could go to -12C at times of surplus wind energy. Later when energy was scarce (and therefore more expensive) the thermostat could be reset to -10C.

It is my prime business objective to setup an Irish EDM company.

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.