Tuesday, April 14, 2009

So how about renewable energy?

I am now just starting to read a new book by an author I have really appreciated over the last few years. The author is William Kemp and his new book is The Zero Carbon Car. I'm sure this book will be quite enlightening since that is the effect his other books had on me.

His first book was The Renewable Energy Handbook and it really opened up possibilities for me. The beauty of this particular book was that it was written in Ottawa. You see Mr Kemp and his family live in an off-grid home just south of Ottawa. This was the first renewable energy reference I ever found that was not only northern, but local! It was also during the reading of this book that I realised that all the other things I had read, I had classified as "would be nice, but not in this climate" without really realising it. From that book on, I started looking at renewable energy from a different angle: "now how would THIS work in a place like Ottawa?" He really had an impact on me as to actually thinking of adapting/applying these technologies to the north.

A few years later, he published a book for us city and suburban folk: $mart power. This book really took his first book, that had an off grid focus, and translated it to living lightly on the grid. That's when we changed all the light bulbs in our house to CFLs and plugged everything into power bars so we could turn them off easily. (did you know that many appliances are still "ON" when they are turned "OFF"? They continue to use up energy so the only way to make sure they are really off is to unplug them or to switch off the power bar they are plugged into)

His BIODIESEL book also made me think. This is a book where he explains how you can make your own diesel from used frying oil. I would LOVE to do this, but it's the set-up I find a bit intimidating. We might get into biodiesel at the new house if we need it. Right now, we have 2 cars, one is a new small SUV that can seat 7. The other is an 11 year old sporty car. I expect we will be changing that for a pick-up truck when we move to the country. Maybe if we get a diesel engin it would be worth making our own biodiesel. I'll keep you posted on that one (don't hold your breath, the follow-up might take a couple years to come)
So for us, William Kemp really was the springboard we needed to get seriously thinking about renewable energy. Now we are looking at our new land and trying to figure out what we can do. Solar water and space heating for sure, wood water and space heating as a back-up, some PV panels would be nice, maybe wind power, maybe even micro-hydro, and does anyone out there know if there is a way of generating power by burning wood? That would be nice since we have a 60 acre forest we can drag dead wood out of.

Well at the very least, our house will be ultra energy efficient because that is the main point I got out of these books. It costs way more to generate power than it does to save it.

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