It’s Electric!

In a standard workday, we currently wake up at 5 amin the morning to the either terrifying sound of the Dogfather’s alarm or my more dulcet tones gently reminding me that it is a day of slave labor ahead.  I unplug my phone, take my smart watch off the charger and turn on the grow LED lights for our seedlings.  After navigating a slalom of puppies, I make my way into the bathroom and like any good millennial, check the events of the overnight while taking care of business.  After addressing the morning calls both physical and mental, we beckon for a report from our echo to tell us what to expect for the day and to entertain us while getting ready.  Once we are perfectly coiffed, we evict the pups from our bedroom and migrate downstairs.  After either loading or unloading the dishwasher, we take of sustenance out of the refrigerator and head out the door to work.  

May be an image of 1 person and indoor

Upon our return home, we enter and turn on the lights, feed puppies and start our own dinner, sometime on the stovetop and oven, sometimes the air fryer.  The TV is turned on for background noise and ipad, 3d printer or computer is used to play with.  Then, we retreat upstairs, turn on lights, shower and relax in bed while watching YouTube, movie or something on the bedroom TV.

Each of these tasks throughout the day utilize something that we will likely never have access to from a public utility standpoint-Electricity.  But we fortunately have a game plan for how we can address this along with other possible and unique options that we don’t intend to employ yet know are possibilities.

We’ll start with the golden standard of how electricity is obtained when it is not readily available and is also probably one of the more universally known methods of obtaining electricity-Solar power.

Solar power depending on where you are from potentially means different things.  It could be something already completely integrated into your life or something completely novel and new.  For us, I believe that we are somewhere between the two extremes.  We are familiar and we actually do utilize solar a little, but it certainly does not power our lives…yet…. The amount of integration we currently have is we have solar panels tied into our RV’s and we have investigated getting a little solar charger to keeping the battery topped off and alive in the hard winter we have been experiencing.  The panels that we have currently convert the solar energy into a DC electricity, certainly not AC though…that would quickly take us on a highway to hell.  That solar energy however flows through a regulator so as to not overcharge and destroy the battery the power is intended to charge and maintain.  Eventually the power from the DC battery can pass through an invert to convert the DC power to AC loads and then, are you ready?  We have power!  

There are so many types of solar cells and solar panels and while I am confident that each had their particular place and a reason why they exist, we personally are most familiar with the silicon version of the panels and a slight level of familiarity with the thin film cadmium telluride conductor.  Of the silicon solar panels, there are mono- and poly-crystalline cells.  There is a big and small difference between these two versions of silicon is that the monocrystalline cells are composed of a single larger crystal of silicon which will conduct the energy of the sun better than the polycrystalline structure.  The polycrystalline cells are comprised of lots of little crystal flakes rather than one single crystal.  The silicon crystals are layered into two different kinds of silicon p(ositive) and n(egative).  Essentially, these two types of silicon are treated with an additional chemical to alter the electron charge of each layer to an electron abundance (+) or an electron deficit (-).  By layering these two different types of silicon with the energy provided by the sunlight will excite the silicon layer with an abundance of electrons to transfer to the layer that has the electron deficit.  This electron migration generates what is colloquially referred to as holes and generates a flow of electricity.  

In the thin film solar cell, the premise is similar but the layers of semiconduction can be either an amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride or a new one learned from this website: of copper indium gallium selenide.  I am not going to try and explain this version of solar panels and will defer to the link above.

Another route that we are excited to employ out at the Prickly Peak in wind power.  Odds are if the sun ain’t shining, the wind for sure is blowing!  For a wind turbine to be practical and functional, the annual average wind speed should be at least 10 mph.  Per the local newspaper article, the Casper Star Tribune, Casper is the third highest wind speed in the state at an average wind speed of 12.9 mph (   Check on that.  

So how exactly does a wind turbine generate energy?  So the blades are shaped in such a manner to harness the prevailing wind to rotate the blades.  Inside the hub of the turbine are gears that turn and turn the mechanics to turn the rotors which power a generator.  From the generator just like the solar system, the power goes through a regulator to charge the battery storage.  Other issues that we need to address with a wind compared to a solar system.  Due to the height requirements, and additional grounding system is needed as we are placing essentially a giant lightening rod…on the high point…of the treeless prairie.  Ultimately this is a simple process to ensure that any intense surges are not going to impact our system.

So once we use either the solar or wind power passing through the regulator, all this power has to go somewhere and that somewhere is a battery bank.  Now there are some options from elaborate Tesla’s Powerwall to a simple chain of lead acid batteries.  Other battery systems also include lithium-ion batteries also and new systems seem to be identified all the time.  It will be very interesting to see the developments due to the new edicts regarding electric vehicles.  

So…what happens when Armageddon happens?  I mean when the wind doesn’t blow, and the sun doesn’t shine.  I know, never going to happen, but let’s also think about the situation that may be more practical that an issue crops up that the solar panels or tiles get dirty and the solar conversion is not as good as it could or should be or the wind blows so hard that the internal gears of the wind turbine break?  That’s where the intention of having a supplemental generator to run on propane would come into play.  The generator would use the internal combustion engine to power the rotation of the copper coils and magnets to generate electricity and that would in turn charge the batteries until we could figure out what is going on with our primary and secondary sources of power.  

There are other potential sources of electrical generation but they are either not possible or extremely impractical for our location.  These methods include but are not limited to geothermal, hydroelectric and bioenergy.  Geothermal and the hydroelectric utilize the power of water, either directly or heating of water into steam to turn turbines in the same way of the internal combustion engine rotating the copper wires and magnets to generate power.  The bioenergy is intended as a fossil fuel alternative such as ethanol, or again, using organic matter to heat water to turn turbines.  All of these are not the most feasible as we are high DESERT and the other options are just not as economical options for us.  

So there we go!  It’s a shorter post but also more precise than some of the all encompassing posts of the past.  If there is another electric power source that we don’t know about yet, we’d love to hear about it and educate ourselves on a potential solution to powering our lives and power tools to build the new homeless shelter.

Bye All Y’all!

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