renewable energy

  • 2020 - 2021
  • While we lived disconnected from the grid in a luscious forest in North Carolina...

    ...we had to power all of our laptops, power tools, lights, and a fridge with renewable energy. During COVID, we decided to live with permaculture farmers who previously did not have the infrastructure to host 15 students. So we went on an adventure to co-design and upgrade the farm's renewable infrastructure. This was a community project as well as a technical project.

    Visit the original website of this experience

    All of our renewable energy projects
    in a nutshell

    Sun-tracking pan-tilt mechanism for a five solar panel array

    We bought additional solar panels with money from a fundraiser early on. However, the conditions in the valley were challenging. We needed to max out the amount of sun. Intimidated at first, we (Odalys and I) built a large mechanism to move the solar panels with the sun.

    Development of a wireless battery protection system

    With 17 people using the energy system, we had to ensure that the batteries would never be drained too low to be damaged. I developed a radio system that would turn off the fridge when the batteries were too low to run it. I further installed a glowing crystal light in the living room that signaled when students could use heavy appliances.

    Maintenance of a micro-hydro system (water turbine energy)

    Not only did we take showers in a beautiful creek close by. It was also an essential source of electricity for us. While the water turbine itself only outputted a small amount of energy (70 W), it was a crucial component as it charged the batteries over night when the solar panels were offline.

    Siting study and prototyping for a vertical axis wind turbine

    Lots of land meant that we could not run electricity to all places. We had been gifted a generator and electrical equipment to install a wind turbine on the land. Jasmine Kamdar and I built a measurement tool to explore various installation areas, took a course on wind turbine design, built a turbine tower on a barn, and prototyped blade designs.

    Designing for future use & maintenance

    While building renewable energy systems was a great way to put our engineering know-how into pratice, we needed to keep in mind that other people with less technical experience would eventually have to maintain the systems. To ease future maintenance and communication, I developed a Wiki platform to document work and guidelines, and we put great effort into creating ledigble graphics to ensure longevity and actual community impact beyond our time at the farm.

    A recap of our largest project: the solar tracker

    Visit Odaly's report on her website