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Report on the Virtual Lab 08 31

Saving energy is important in any farm or enterprise. We have become accustomed to using power, particularly electricity, in excess, and I am surprised how few people have identified the need to save electricity as part of a larger energy conservation strategy. The Rocky Mountain Institute calls the savings that can be achieved by streamlining and rationalising your energy system the “negawatt”. This refers to the energy you save simply by creating savings in your energy system.

The realisation of a “negawatt” or savings in electricity and energy use is the most profitable investment that you can make in your energy system. This needs very little capital investment and often only very minimal new technology. The ability to save energy would stand anyone in good stead if they were to adopt a fancy and expensive renewable energy system, and it stands to reason that the benefit of a renewable system will be enhanced by first eliminating all waste and implementing savings in the system.

These savings would certainly start with the adoption of energy saving lightbulbs. Geysers, set to 60 degrees, insulated by a blanket is the next step. A geyser timer is also a great idea, as you only need the geyser to run for about one hour to have piping hot water for at least 2 days. We waste an awful amount of electricity with our geysers. A heat pump or a solar geyser is a much better idea. Many people have found it possible to build their own solar geysers and on YouTube there are ample examples.

We can also find savings by increasing circulation of air around the radiator of any fridge or freezer. Make sure air flows easily as this can incur some savings. A geyser and radiator is also a source of heat, and the siting of these could affect the way you plan for the production of chickens etc. This source of heat is often wasted and it can be put to good use. Why not place the geysers in a greenhouse so they heat it in winter?

Energy savings thus start with the way we plan our farms and enterprises. Siting all structures to they receive sunlight in winter (from the North in the Southern Hemisphere) is a good start. The sequence and arrangement amongst technologies is key here. Farmers who invest in solar voltaic, or any other technology that demands high structures, should think about converging many functions around these solar arrays. Sure, it is necessary to place them on top of a structure, but the point is this structure needs to double-up for another function. Farmers should consider blending their solar arrays with other infrastructure. A greenhouse can be constructed below these panels, and the understory can be created in such a way that some sunlight still enters the structure. This enables at least two functions to be performed by a single structure – generating electricity from the panels and growing crops below them. Note also that these panels will get dirty, mostly from highly fertile dust. Cleaning them can thus double up as an irrigation service. It is this convergence of technologies and functions that needs to be pursued in the development of sustainable and circular farms and enterprises. This will enable the farmer to build complex systems, including wind power, that will be robust. It is in blending diverse functions and technologies and infrastructure that savings and competitive advantages will be found.

Please see the presentations below:

Nxazonke Energy system
Download PPTX • 1.47MB

Energy Systems
Download PPTX • 17.04MB

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