Saturday, September 13, 2008

Energy Self-Reliance

Here is a picture of my "producer gas" set-up. This furnace pyrolyzes wood into a hydrogen and methane mixture, which will then run in an internal combustion engine at a 1 to 1 mixture with air. It is dirty, and a nuisance, but allows me to use the bio-mass my land produces and various cellulose wastes directly as fuel.

Producer gas is nothing I dreamed up, but is a century old technology that powered much of the early industrial world. Is it green? Well, making methane and smoke is hardly green, but it's greener than a lot of what is touted as such, and is probably the best of biofuels. Again, its not so much the technology but the level of consumption that makes it green. There's NOTHING green about those gigantic 30kw PV arrays you see shown off as something amazing. Is it sustainable? Yes, it is. . .20 lbs of dry biomass has the btu equivalency of one gallon of gasoline, and in this climate 10 tonnes an acre in biomass is achievable. The waste heat generated in the process can heat water or houses, or cook food. It is an technology that would allow me to produce all of my own energy needs wholly off my property with minimal technology. Many farms in the pre-WWII era did just that. It is a technology worth looking into, vastly greener and more cost effective than PV or wind power--and is an on demand technology.

I'll write an in depth account of how it works with schematics presently. This web page is a good place to start.


nen said...

Thanks for posting the link Jay, I have been looking for a good intro to this for a while.

BTW - I love what you are doing, this is an excellent blog! My original plan was to do something similar, but all my cash is tied up in studying post-crash skills and the little remaining is earmarked for a sailboat (the only "property" I am going to be able to afford...

Neil (from Oarclub board)

Ed Hoban said...

Hey Jay, nice blog, been wondering what became of you. Homesteader I see. This biogas thing is interesting, would like to see more, maybe I missed a link or something. I'm not to hip to the blogging thing yet. It seems that all the sailors are farmers now, my buddy dave with the pacific seacraft thirty seven sold up and bought a farm in Michigan. Even Rostron's yard is now largely vegetable plot. Anyway, gotta go sort through my 500 lb spud harvest and get rid of the rotten ones. Hasta Luego, Ed Hoban

jaywfitz said...

Hey Ed! Very nice to hear from you!

I haven't given up on sailing at all, I've a 28 foot outrigger canoe in the front yard that I intend to re-educated the local sailors what performance under sail is all about. Need to get the bugger finished!

So when are you coming to Hawaii? You ought to come with Mike near the end of October, if you can get away. You deserve it!

batter said...

Thanks for the informative blog. I just found it, and have been reading through the back posts. I am avidly interested in all the major topics you write about-- sustainable living, sailing, politics, etc-- and appreciate your efforts to put this kind of information out there in the world.

Have you seen the biomass gasification work that these guys are doing? They're pretty experimental/homebrewed at the moment, but seem to really be getting it together in a way that makes it easy for an interested individual to replicate effectively. They've been getting pretty good results with reducing the levels of particulate exhaust lately, as well.