Solar vs Wind

Solar vs Wind

SolarvsWind

I guess it depends on who’s asking, both solar and wind have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. For me, the key is the reference point and the end goal in mind.

Solar energy systems are generally more affordable and straightforward if you are looking to generate power for your own home. Some of the advantages here are that you can start out small and add on panels as you have the finances, the ease of installation of additional solar panels once the main system is up and running makes it perfect for someone that doesn’t necessarily have the capital to make a total switch at once. Aftermarket maintenance is limited as most solar panels have a life span of 20 years.

A solar panel system usually consist of the panels itself, which collect the sun’s rays and turn them into electricity, a battery system that stores the incoming DC currents, and an inverter that converts the DC signals into AC power, which is what we would generally receive from the grid. I came across an amazing website, SOLARNATION that explains the whole process in detail.

Solar panels are ideal for urban areas where space is limited; panels are installed on rooftops, which means no extra ground space is needed. For a household of two adults and two children it would cost between R70 000 and R100 000 to make a total switch to solar power.

Wind energy systems are generally more suited for larger commercial systems, where power is generated for small towns or to supplement the existing grid. These systems work well in a network, were a “wind farm” can be established. This means that a lot of space will have to be available not to mention the massive start-up capital. These systems are generally not used for the generation of personal power, and private people don’t often opt for this option.

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Having said that, the progress in terms of research and technology for home wind turbines have grown leaps and bounds in the last 5 to 8 years and there are quite a few options on the market for wind turbines that are more suited for use in urban areas, but you would still need about an acre of space if your goal is to switch a 100% to wind power. Kestrel is a renewable energy company that focusses on wind energy systems for urban customers. Other companies that can assist in home wind power systems include The Green Connexion and Ecotech Energy. A reasonable price, for a wind turbine system that generates about 3.5KW/h, is in the area of R85 000. A turbine system with this kind of capacity should be able to produce enough electricity to power between 60 – 100% of your household’s electrical demand; this of course would depend on a number of variables. Maintenance for wind turbines are limited once they are set up and they rarely need servicing at all.

So, to put it all into perspective for you and to help you with the decision making process, an average South African household with two adults and two small children uses between 550 and 750KW per month. This figure will vary of course depending on any number of factors such as appliances used, energy saving habits, and the time of year. So if you take into consideration your budget, energy demand and space available you should be able to work out the best option for your situation.

 

Consequences of our Acidic Oceans

Consequences of our Acidic Oceans

Consequences of our Acidic Oceans

As we all know there’s been a rapid increase in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere as a direct consequence of our way of life, burning fossil fuels for our primary source of electricity. This has had many negative effects on the earth and all environments around us. Trees are a great roll player in the photosynthesis process whereby they turn the CO2 in the air into breathable oxygen for all living creatures, and while the recent drives to plant trees and stop deforestation are great and should be continued, it is should not be our only concern in searching for a solution for the quest to decrease CO2. The ocean absorbs about a quarter of the CO2 we release into the atmosphere every year.

The ocean is absorbing about half of the man-made CO2 that is in the air.  Carbonic acid is what is formed when CO2 is absorbed in the ocean, thus resulting in Ocean Acidification.

The acidification of the ocean has many effects, not only on the ocean species but on a global scale as well. Did you know that the zooplankton in the ocean is responsible for producing most of the earth’s oxygen?

Coral reefs are also an integral part of the ocean’s balance, not only do they provide shelter for millions of little creatures but they also provide food for many of them. The increase in the acid levels is significantly reducing the ability of reef-building corals to produce their skeletons.

Have you ever heard of Pteropods? Better known as the sea’s butterflies, they are also a major food source for many different species underwater, but most importantly to the North Pacific juvenile salmon. By 2100 these Pteropods will have literally slowly dissolved, if the acidity level keeps rising at the current rate.

It is also affecting shelled organisms, and as a result the entire underwater food web. The fact is that there are limited information and research available on this topic, but scientists all agree on one thing, and that is that the changes in the chemistry of the ocean can only lead to catastrophe, and we need to act as fast as possible if we want to prevent it from happening.

Globally over a billion people depend directly or indirectly on the ocean for their primary source of subsidence. Do you know that burning 1 ton of coal emits 2.86 tonnes of CO2, it is estimated that in 2011 the U.S alone emitted about 1.87 billion tonnes of CO2.

Now is the time to seriously consider renewably energy sources like wind and solar. The prices of renewable energy solutions are currently at an all-time low and it is more affordable now than ever before. It is time that the countries that signed the Paris agreement all stand together and reach realistic ways in which to reach their goals, I believe the answer is in government funded renewable energy plants, instead of building new coal plants, yes a wind or solar energy plant may be more expensive initially, but if the running costs were to be considered, they quickly seem more and more viable. There is no coal to mine, or buy, minimal waste and footprint on its environment.

What is your standpoint on coal vs renewable energy?

How to be more sustainable

How to be more sustainable

What does it being sustainable really mean- (1)

Now that it is a little clearer on what it takes to live a sustainable life. I will share some of my tips and tricks on exactly how you can decrease your carbon footprint, conserve energy, water and other resources, and be more self-sustaining.

Conserve energy

There are many ways in which to achieve this, and it can be applied in all aspects of your life. Inside the house you can use energy efficient appliances, switch off lights that are not in use, make use of energy saver light bulbs, insulate your house and limit air conditioning (heating or cooling). For more tips on how to save energy in the house read: Five ways to save electricity this winter

Reduce your carbon footprint

This entails much more than just carpooling to work, or buying an electric car; if the electricity that you use to charge your car comes from coal based energy then it isn’t reducing your carbon footprint at all. In order to reduce your carbon footprint you need to make informed choices. You need to know the process that is required to produce a certain product; there are some solar panels that will not be able to recover the amount of energy that was used to produce them in their lifetime.

Be more self-sustaining

This is something more personal, and it will change from one person to the next, but I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that your contribution should consist of something that you enjoy and might see yourself doing for the rest of your life, something that could very easily become a habit or even a hobby for you.

Making your own compost, and using it in your own vegetable garden is a great way to be more sustainable, but if you do not have sufficient space it will not be practical, nor when it is not something that you could see yourself doing.

Re-use

Re-using is often much better than recycling because recycling actually uses a lot of energy. Re-using and re-applying something that you would normally throw out saves the time and energy that it requires to take that item to the landfill when it’s thrown out, as well as the time and energy to sort and recycle the recyclables.

There are, however, certain things that should be recycled, even if it is for the simple fact that the more of it gets recycled the less will hopefully be newly produced, like plastics, and aluminium products.

Certain glass product  are good examples of things that can be re-used, for example, a used glass bottle to keep water in the fridge, or re-using glass jars if you make your own jams, jellies and chutneys, or rather re-using a glass container in the kitchen instead of buying and using plastic containers.

Be water wise

Water can actually also be re-used, we re-use our shower, sink and washing water (from the dishwasher and washing machine) in the garden, you would be surprised at how much water is generated by the above mentioned activities, if you are interested in saving water in and around the house, you could read: 5 Ways to save water every day.

You could actually also design your garden itself to be more water efficient, by planting your flowers, fruits, and veggies in boxes or pots the amount of soil that needs to be watered is less and the area to where the water could possibly spread to is smaller, so it is applied to a more concentrated area, using only what the plant needs. You can read more on how to save water in your veggie garden here: Sustainable living: vegetable gardening.

Get with the BUZZ

It can be argued that bees form part of the backbone of the finely balanced equilibrium of all ecosystems, by pollinating millions of flowers each year they provide food and substance for the masses. They also have lots of other by-products that we humans use in our everyday life.

If you are not able or willing to have your own beehive, there are other options, like the ‘adopt-a-hive’ initiative. Read all about the Busy Busy Bees from this link.

Spread the word

Never underestimate the power of word of mouth, people tend to listen more to their friends and family than they do a stranger in an article. There are still too many people that think conservation and environmental issues are just hot air. What we need is as many people as possible to do their small part and the results could be huge.

What does it take to live a sustainable life?

What does it take to live a sustainable life?

What does it being sustainable really mean- (2)

Sustainable, green living and clean energy are all words that are trending right now, but what do they really mean? Truly living in a sustainable way is much more than just installing a solar geyser, which is still a great idea by the way. Green living requires a shift in mind set, habits, and perspective. Truly understanding why it is important is the first step, and probably the most important.

We as humans have, for many decades, over indulged in all that mother nature has to offer, we have driven species to extinction, set off a ripple effect starting with greenhouse gasses and globing warming, and taken earth’s ability to ‘bounce back’ for granted. But it is not too late for us to right our wrongs, and people need to realise that the sooner we start the better.

The first step in making a lifestyle shift to one that is more eco-friendly and sustainable is to realise that there are many luxuries that we can do without. Once we realise that we do not need to water our lawns and gardens every single day, for example, or that we do not need to heat the whole house in winter time, but rather just the rooms we are using at the moment, we will start to see how we have lived wastefully.

Step two is just as important, it is where we must realise the full extent of the effects that our way of life has on our environment. Many people are in denial over global warming and its effects, what makes it worse is that people of influence that feel they should express their uninformed opinions publically. Ignoring and denying it will not make it go away, people need to realise this is a real issue, and that our own quality of life will get a lot worse if we do not act now.

Lastly it is crucial that we act on it right away, the sooner we start making changes to decrease our carbon footprint and the effect on nature, the better our chances are to turn this runaway bus around. Making sustainable life choices means that we are ensuring a future for many generations to come; we are saving and re-using our resources, protecting and conserving all life forms (fauna, flora, oceans, and humanity).

For me the goal has always been to not live wastefully, to use only what I absolutely need and leave the rest for the next person, the future. Over the years I have picked up some skills from experience, and learned some tricks from others. Follow the link for my post on how to be more sustainable.