Thursday, February 19, 2009

Day 24 - Solar Energy Intro

Today we began a new module. When I was looking at opportunities to take a few months to volunteer, work abroad, or do an internship, there were so many options. I was drawn to this program because of the variety. Sure, when I leave here I’ll need a bit more experience before I can start my own organic farm, but I will have some new perspective and skill over a wider spectrum of areas which I can decide to further pursue at a later date.

Sure, the agroecology unit that we just completed is key to learning how to farm in a sustainable manner, but also alternative energy is an important aspect to managing energy costs. Eventually getting off fossil fuels is an important part of sustainability, as is consciousness in consumption. The first step in designing any solar or alternative energy system is determining the need. I think we all would be a bit shocked if we really looked at where we waste energy.

For us, this was a good segue from the Ag Fair into the alternative energy unit because we had a clear demonstration of this useless excess.

The Ag Fair is a huge draw, it is estimated that 30,000 people come in from other islands. Some people coming in for Ag Fair decided to do a farm stay with us in the two open cabanas, tent camping in the field, and in the tree house. Some of the groups were more friendly and reached out to the community and some.. well.. Someone plugged in a curling iron and blew our whole system, leaving the 10 of us at cabana land plus the 8 guests in the dark for a day and a half. Now, was that really necessary? Luckily we have long, sunny days, a separate system for the community center, and electricians who can fix this stuff when it’s broken.

I have never been spectacular at math. However, I love science and if I have a calculator in front of me--and a good teacher--I can usually make sense of the material.

One good teacher is key, two is bonus. Don Young, electrical engineer and an all-around innovative thinker, is visiting from Georgia to teach us along with Dan Glenn, the director here on the farm. Combined, they make up just the type of teaching team that plays to the strengths of different students.

Do you remember high school circuits and basic engineering? No? Well, I have never enjoyed figuring equations like I enjoyed that class. I can’t wait to learn more.. It was an easy physical day but I'm mentally exhausted.


  1. Suggest you to provide link to

    and encourage your readers to use the Energy Environment Forum and get a link back !
    energyenvironmentforum at gmail dot com

  2. "The first step in designing any solar or alternative energy system is determining the need."

    Funny isn't it, that concept. Then you work deeper, established mainstream methods become obviously and worryingly unsustainable, and then it's not funny at all.

    On the same-ish topic, a show over here has a nice tabloidy angle for context: celebrities are interviewed about their lifestyle (how many flight hours did you spend on short haul flights in the last 12 months/long haul flights/what car do you drive/miles/how often do you change your mobile phone...etc etc etc), their results are fed into a computer and then a result is produced that tells them "If every person lived to your standard, we'd need <4.9> planet Earths.

    At which the celebrities either laugh dismissively, squirm guiltily, or make excuses for their lifestyle... apparently there are no poor people, only losers who should work harder... woop

  3. Thank you for the comments. I will definitely add a link to your site, energy environment forum.

    Jack, I love it. Need. Really, how do you define it? I haven't missed anything living in a cabana for the last two months, what do I have? I have a few AC chargers: my laptop (about 20watts), my camera battery (maybe once every 2 weeks), and my phone (about every other day). In addition to that, I have an overhead DC hallogen light, and one energy efficient desk lamp/reading light. I run my speakers off my computer power and haven't needed to charge my iPod because I play everything through pandora on my iPhone or my MacBook. It's primitive, but lot exactly low-tech.

    Also, as we discussed today, those same celebrities get tax incentives and rebates for putting solar power on their mansions. Who pays those rebates? Cutting their consumption would save more energy than putting the cost of their "green" home onto the average taxpayer. Love it.

    We should all work harder to subsidize their front-loading washers and energy efficient freezers while we're at it, I'm not rich so obviously I am a lazy loser!