Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Solar snacks

Sun Chips. They are one of my favorites among the snacks isle at the local grocery store. Not only they are delicious and healthier than other chips, but every bag of Sun Chips (made by Frito Lays) is green. No I'm not talking about the color of the bag, but clean to the environment. They leave a 0% carbon foot print. They stay true to their name in every sense.

The people at Sun Chips take "going green" to every level of their management, starting at the corporate level down to the production line of every bag. It was someone's ingenious idea to power up a Sun Chips plant in Modesto, California using Concentrated Solar Power (CSP).
Built in 2008, the Sun Chips plant has been making greener and cleaner chips in every bag. This plant spreads over four acres of  land and produces enough power from the sun for almost all of the plant's operations. They constructed it with the support of National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL)

So just how much chips do they produce you ask? The solar energy that they collect makes it possible for them to produce 145,000 bags of snacks per day. According to Sun Chips the idea of using solar energy is natural as they produce Sun Chips branded snacks. Although solar energy is not used in any of their other factories, it is likely to be converted to solar in the near future. Moreover, producing snacks that is good for you should also be good for the Earth. (Source)

How do they do it? Well to find that out, lets look at how the CSP actually works. As i always say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so lets look at the illustration below. (Source)

Basically it has huge arrays of concave mirrors. These mirrors have a sun tracker which tracks the sun to make sure it gets the maximum amount of sunlight. The mirrors then focus all the sun's energy on a black tube that runs along the focal point of the array. This black tube is surrounded by a second glass tube that protects it from the air, allowing it to absorb solar energy more effectively. This super heated water passes through the black tube, the solar energy heats it up even more toan incredible 450 degrees F. This water then runs through a boiler system that uses its heat to generate steam,which helps to cook the wheat and heat the cooking oil used in the Sun Chips manufacturing process. Cooled water then flows back through the tube to the solar concentrator field to repeat the process. (Source)

Here is an actual picture of the Sun Chips power plant and their beautiful concave mirrors. (Source)

My Opinion: So as you can see, Sun Chips is committed to their product. Not only they are they healthier for you when you feel like snacking on something but also good for the earth. Its a goal of Frito Lays to convert the rest of their production plants into pure sun powered green facilities. Just thought I would share it with you, so that next time you walk down that snacks isle at your local grocery store, you will have a green spark of thought and do a little good to our Earth.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Austin City Limits

My first experience in ACL (Austin City Limits) music festival was amazing and i cannot wait till i go to it next year as well. First thing i noticed entering the park was this huge solar panel displayed inside the park.

Glad to see that ACL was doing its part for green energy. The display was to advertise Texas Solar Power company in Austin. They are installers of solar panels in and around Austin, Houston, and couple of other states. It was set up with an inverter and a huge battery pack to show that all that energy can be stored and reused during night. They were actually powering some of the medical equipments and some lights at night. Just wanted to share this with everyone.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Off the grid

There has always been a question in my mind about this. After watching videos like Homegrown Revolution

and movies like Food Inc.

I started to wonder, what if you can produce your own electricity and go completely "off the grid" and have that freedom? Is it even possible? Can a family living in an average sized house produce enough energy to not depend on the big energy companies for their daily energy needs? Is it possible TODAY? Well lets take a look.

First things first, WHAT is going off grid mean?
It means that you produce your own energy to provide to all your daily needs. Your house is self sustained, and it provides its own energy by means of natural sources like sun, wind, flowing water, etc and man made clean energy sources like hydrogen fuel cells, batteries, turbines etc. Your house is not connected to any power lines, it is not connected to any grid system, and it is certainly not leaving a carbon footprint.

Why go off the grid?
There are many reasons to go off the grid. We are depleting our coal resources every single day. As we use up all our resources, the price will inevitable go up for the scarce commodity. Therefore, the energy cost will go high as well. Generating electricity using your own small renewable energy system fits the circumstances and values of some home and small-business owners. Basically you are buying a lifetime of energy, NOW, and be free of rising energy cost. Its a freedom worth investing in. Although it takes time and money to research, buy, and maintain a system, many people enjoy the independence they gain and the knowledge that their actions are helping the environment. You will be one more person not polluting the only planet we have.
Its good to go off the grid just so that we wouldnt have to live like this in the near future....

How can you go off the grid?
There are many ways you can produce your own energy, sun, wind, flowing water etc. Of course, if you live in a big city, flowing water might not be the practical way to go. However, sun and wind are available no matter where you live. Installing a 4 to 5 kW solar panel system on your rooftop would be sufficient to power all the appliances that you need during the daytime. At night you can have batteries, wind turbines and hydrogen fuel cells providing all the power you need. Below is a model home which is off the grid. The only connection it has to the electric grid is for backup, and it doesn't use any electricity from the grid.

The image above shows all the different ways of going off the grid. Just as an example you can see there are several ways to have the energy freedom.

Here is another simple example of electrical connection for going off the grid
My Opinion: All the technologies to go off the grid already exists today. It is absolutely possible to go off the grid. If you think of them as an investment for a lifetime, then you will realize it is very lucid to invest in renewable energy, not to mention it increases the resale value of your house. I think the first step is to get rid of the HOAs*, because i can promise you that they will restrict everything you do! If you cant, then write to your state representative about the HOA* problems, because the state can always trump any HOA*. If you are the first in your neighborhood to go green, I can guarantee that your neighbors will follow suit after you show them how much money you are saving.

*HOA - Home Owners Association