Monday, June 24, 2013

Do you want solar with that?

Do you want solar with that?

HA! Sounds hilarious right? But it is not only possible, but easier than most people think.

Solar cells work by taking pure silicon, and infusing (doping) it with other materials like boron to create an atomic structure with too many electrons on one side, and not enough electrons on the other. Add sun and the electrons move through the silicon wafer to try to fill those holes. If you make a circuit, the electrons can flow in a way that we view as direct current electricity!

So it looks like all we need is some doped silicon and a way to transfer electrons and complete a circuit.

We work with upcycled solar cells (doped silicon) that were removed from broken panels. These cells still produce power, but they are not whole so they would bring down the voltage of a new panel. However if you make a panel with like sized pieces you can still get a perfectly functioning unit! This works great for our larger cells that can make a very high wattage panel from a few more cells than a new cell panel. But when you are talking about pieces that are one square inch in size, it gets harder to justify using the pieces to build a large panel and it is a TON of work.

There is hope though, this is where the pizza boxes come in. If you take these tiny pieces, you can still easily build up a 6v panel with a voltage regulator to charge USB devices. The most expensive part of a solar panel is the frame and the labor, if we made the frame from a used pizza box, and use the smaller cells to teach people how to build their own solar panels, we could educate a large mass of people for less and make it fun! Buy a pizza, buy the kit, watch the “how to” video and go for it!

Then, adults would know how, kids would know how, you can easily move up to the larger cells and build more powerful panels. Go for 15 volts and charge a battery, then run a gaming system or tv off of it!
“You can only play as long as you have power.” Want more time? Build a larger panel!

This way you grow up in the solar mentality, you learn to unplug and save electricity where you can, so you can use it when it counts.

Think sustainable. How is what you are doing going to affect the world you live in 20 years down the line? 100 years?

Plus, all the coolest people build their own solar panels.

Step 1 is to build a prototype solar panel. We have acquired some used pizza boxes courtesy of Stanley's Farmhouse Pizza. ( The best pizza in Austin Texas, hands down ) so....ON TO STEP 1!

I will leave you wonderful readers with a quote from the esteemed Tyrnan O'rourk:

If you don't build your own solar panels, you're a douche” -Tyrnan O'rourk

The focus

“I have more faith in our future now with people like you” -Several people

It is becoming increasingly regular for people that we talk to say that we have so many great ideas. Our problem is that we wanted to do too much! We wanted to teach how to:
Build your own solar panel
Build your own wind turbine.
Build your own parabolic heat generator.
Build a rocket mass heater.
Build several types of solar cookers.
Build a solar greywater recycling/reclimation system.
Build several sustainable toilets/waste disposal systems.
Build solar convection heaters/dehydrators.
Build a solar electric Hydroxy generator/torch/burner/grill/cooker/heater/etc...
Build a geothermal heating/cooling system.
Build a human powered generator
Build rammed earth structures
Build a portable eco-vacation home.
Build an off grid water system
Build an off grid electrical system.
Build a high efficiency refrigerator
Power the refrigerator on it's own array, removing it from the electricity draw.
Convert an engine to run on wood via gasification.
Convert a diesel engine to run on bio-oil.
Convert a car to run on electricity.
Cook with the sun.
Distill pure water.
Drive more fuel efficiently.
Generate electricity from heat.
Generate oil from plastic.
Generate heat from waste oil.
Generate ethanol fuel from decomposing fruits/vegetables.
Make your car more fuel efficient.
Make your own cheese.
Grow your own insulation from mushrooms.
Grow high efficiency, high density vertical gardens.
Grow natural aquaponics gardens for super crops.

Obviously for such a small operation, this was unattainable. We were trying to stretch our capacity doing everything at once and we went nowhere. Just a big pile of eco junk.

We want to be able to teach effectively, so we are focusing on just Sustainable Aquaponics. This will encompass the growing of the crops, vermicomposting to breed the worms to feed the fish that feed the crops, and the solar to supply electricity to move the water and ventilate our greenhouse.

Easy peasy! Right? Lets start on 1 July 2013. Start with solar, then bring in the worms, then full scale sustainable aquaponics.

We are currently looking for rear projection televisions, old empty propane tanks of all sizes, and food grade 55 gallon plastic drums.

If you live in the Austin area and have any of these items that you would like to donate. Please email us at