Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Solar panel roof

In keeping with the tire theme of earthships, I've found a company that shreds used tires to create roof tiles, and then embeds solar panels in those tiles. Redwood Renewables gives homeowners the chance to have solar panels without the big panels themselves, and at, according to them, about half the cost of a standard solar installation.

Recycled, insulative materials? Check. Lower cost? Check. Definitely something worth keeping in mind.

Used solar panels

One big issue people have with using solar energy is the prohibitive cost of a new solar system. It can take many years to recoup the upfront cost.

According to an article on CleanTechnica.com, though, used solar panels are much less expensive, possibly even free. Michelle Bennett, the author of the above article, outlines a few steps for finding those inexpensive panels.

ExRo generators

Alternative energies research company ExRo Technologies Inc. has a new spin on a standard electrical generator. Standard generators, it seems, are most efficient at a single, predetermined speed and torque, according to ExRo. Their generator is built in such a way that when wind speed (or water current or whatever else) changes, the generator's innards change so that it harnesses the energy at the most efficient rate for the speed at the moment.

While it sounds good, time will tell how much of it is hype and how much of it is real.

Solarwind Turbine

An idea I've had floating around in my head for awhile has been to add solar panels to wind turbines. I hadn't done a lot of research into the idea, so I didn't know if there was some obvious flaw with it or not.

Apparently Bluenergy didn't think so. They have created an aesthetically pleasing wind turbine that includes solar panels on the fins. According to their figures, their invention generates electricity that costs, on average, $.13/kWhr, compared to an average $.23/kWhr for solar energy and $.19/kWhr for wind energy.

Welcome to Earthship Landing

In 1969, Michael Reynolds had an idea: houses that provide all the necessities for people living in them. Quite a novelty, I know.

The basic premise of Reynolds' idea is a structure that heats and cools itself with a combination of rammed-earth construction and passive solar heating. Over the years, he has incorporated many other modules into the overall earthship concept: potable roofing that enables an earthship to capture its own water; indoor wetlands and biocells that treat the water and allow graywater to be reused for flora (a source of food year-round) and flushing the toilet; and solar panels and wind turbines that provide for all of the energy needs of the home. As a bonus, they cost about as much as a normal house to build--potentially less, if you're willing to pound the tires yourself--but because earthships , as they are called, provide all their own utilities, they have minimal to zero utility bills.

Today, 39 years later, the earthship community has grown from one architect and his crew to hundreds of homeowners in all different climates all over the world. From Saskatchewan to Negril, Jamaica, earthships have been adapted for people to live in comfortably.

My purpose in writing this blog is manifold. First, I want to keep track of the many earthship projects going on around the world. Second, I'd like this to be a place where I can keep a list of the innovations I'd like to incorporate into my earthship when I build it, which means that, secondary to earthships, this will be a green building technology blog. Third, I hope that people who find this blog will look at the many sites I'll provide links to and see just how adaptable, sustainable, and workable these buildings are.

Here's to the future.

~ Watchtower