Generating electricity for a cooler planet

Micro-generating of electric power by various means though primarily wind and a change of the voltage that we use may be the answer.

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Our current problem is – and please excuse the pun – the current, that is to the the 240 Volt AC in UK, 220 V AC in many EU countries and 117 V AC in the USA and the fact that our power stations are huge and in locations faqr away from the consumer of the energy.

We must reconsider first of all and foremost the voltage that we use in our homes, offices and elsewhere. Today's electrical and electronic appliances, bar the large ones like fridges, freezers, washing machines and such, no longer need the 240 V AC (or whichever other high mains voltage) but the majority runs of a voltage of 12 volts DC (automobile battery voltage) and often lower still. I will make here once again the point for a dual electrical circuit in our homes and offices, for starters; one for 12 Volt DC, generated by micro-generation on the building, and another one, if need, for appliances such as white goods, that is to say, fridges, freezers, power tools, etc.

The problem that we are talking in generating Gigawatts and such by power stations – and the aim is to reach such also in wind turbines – and the high voltage of several tens of kilovolts even that the current leaves in when leaving the power plant is only due to the fact that the generating plants, the power stations, are soo far away from the places where the power is actually use.

The reason for the tens of thousands of volt AC that the current is “transmitted” down the line in is that by the time it reaches the final stations were it is turned into usable electrical power, the voltage is down from several tens of thousands of volts to less than a thousand and will then be transformed down to 450 V AC and finally to 240 V AC, which is the UK standard current.

Would the power be generated locally, where building, city block, street, or even neighborhood, the voltages would need to be not very much higher than the voltage one would like to use could be a much lower one, lower that thirty volt DC even. In this way a lighting and light appliance circuit can be crated in homes and offices that will be able to power anything up to TVs and such, as all just need a little adjusting, for lack of a better word, as they all have power supplies built in or external than reduce mains voltage to 12 volt DC or lower still.

Lighting could be LEDs and the savings of using such low power and low power consuming lights would really be a great thing.

If the power is produced by micro-generation on the premises, so to speak, whether b y small wind, solar, methane gas, or other such, then the current needs to be just that – that is to say the voltage – of a motorcar, e.g. a nominal 13.5 volt DC, which, in reality, equates to 12 volts direct current.

In order to be able to run a building with this the power must and can, as opposed to alternate current (mains voltage) be stored in batteries such as marine deep cycle, as those that used to be use in diesel-powered submarines.

While I am not electrician nor electrical engineer I do know that it can be done and that it works and I have played around with such ideas before, and not just theoretically.

Not only that; there are actually enough people living off-grid who are doing just that. They use small wind, solar, water, and other means, generate the automobile voltage and then store the power in banks of batteries. They also invert this voltage to mains if and when needed. While that, however, is good and fine on a homestead somewhere more or less in the boonies it would be a little different in house in town or different still in an apartment in the city, I should think.

Currently, in most countries, the power is generated far too far away from the consumer and hence, by needs, is in the range of several tens of kilovolts, requiring huge machines to produce it, whether steam turbines, wind turbines or whatever.

Nearly all of that voltage is lost in transmission over the long distances that the electricity has to travel to the converter stations and ultimately to the consumer.

If, on the other hand, we would produce the power local, real local, then neither the huge turbines and such are needed, and neither the high voltage. A lot of the current infrastructure would not be needed either, such as the transformer stations, the transmission lines, etc.

It is true that this would put come people out of jobs and some companies out of business, unless they would change what they do, but it would certainly be better for the planet and all of us.

Another advantage is that lower voltage – such as automobile voltage – does not carry the electrocution risks as does high voltage and in addition to that the possibility of cancers caused by the high voltage power lines that carry the electricity from one end of the country to the other would diminish. Studies have shown that cows are not very healthy when grazing under such power lines.

If that is what that does to cows I hate to think what it would do to people who, and many do, live under such high power transmission lines.

For that reason too, plus all the other possible, and even impossible, ones we must reconsider how we generate electricity and where and in what voltage.

© 2009