Alternative Energy Resources Goffstown NH
Geothermal, Geoexchange, Solar Thermal
Concord , NH
Solar PV Installations, service and maintenance
Concord , NH
Solar PV Installations, service and maintenance
Geothermal, Geoexchange, Solar Thermal
Bryan Beaulieu's home in Scottsdale, Ariz., is a living laboratory. The 6,000-square-foot residence is the first home in the United States to be powered by hydrogen, a clean, renewable fuel. When everything is up and running, the home will serve as a prototype, enabling its designers to evaluate equipment and materials, and explore ways to make the concept of residential hydrogen power cost-effective and viable for large-scale use.
A mechanical engineer and inventor, Beaulieu built his $2 million home over a period of three years with the help of a team of scientists headed by Roy McAlister, president of the American Hydrogen Association and author of the book The Solar Hydrogen Civilization. In building the home, Beaulieu and McAlister set out to demonstrate that the first step toward a solution to the worlds energy and environmental problems starts in our own homes.
Our current fossil-fuel-based economy can be restructured into a hydrogen-based economy without pollution, says McAlister, an advocate of hydrogen energy. This will progressively reverse many of the environmental hardships caused by the fossil age and save civilization from a looming collapse.
Power From Water
Although that's an ambitious goal, the original purpose for building the home was something much simpler" to provide a nontoxic environment for Beaulieu's family, especially for his wife, Yvette, who is sensitive to many allergens.
As a result, when designing the home, Beaulieu specified the use of nontoxic, environmentally friendly building methods and materials throughout. But as the design evolved, the project took on a life of its own. The only thing we knew when we started out was that we wanted a home without pollutants, without electromagnetic fields and without conventional air conditioning, Beaulieu says.
The residence is made up of five hexagonal buildings that hug the side of Troon Mountain just outside of Phoenix. One of the structures houses the family's bedrooms; in a second are the kitchen, great room and carport, with a large cistern and waterfall. The rest of the buildings accommodate a laboratory, a presentation room for the public, an equipment room, an office, and a playroom for the couple's two sons, 12-year-old Cameron and seven-year-old Carter.
The home, which is nearing completion, is a testament to state-of-the-art smart building practices. Geothermal heating and cooling, natural ventilation, and wastewater recycling are all part of the energy-efficient, eco-friendly design. But the focus of the home is its solar-hydrogen energy system.
Although hydrogen is the planet's third most abundant element, it does not occur naturally as a gas on Earth, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, but instead is combined with other elements, such as the hydrocarbons that make up gasoline, natural gas and propane. Through the application of heat, hydrogen can be separated from a material -- water, for example -- and then stored, transported and used as a fuel, much like natural gas.
What makes hydrogen attractive as a fuel is that it is nonpolluting and can be generated using renewable resources, such as solar, wind or water power.
Energy from any of the renewable resources can be readily used to generate hydrogen from plentiful supplies of water and biomass wastes, McAlister says in his book. With the development of specific technologies to produce hydrogen from renewable resources, store it safely and use it in critical applications, we have opened the door to unlimited supplies of clean energy.
He adds, Hydrogen can be cost-competitive with gasoline. This achievement is based on the use of solar thermal energy to generate hydrogen, mass production of the necessary equipment and subsidies equivalent to those provided to the oil, coal and utilities industries.
Until government-funded subsidies and the mass production of equipment are in place, though, projects like the Beaulieu Hydrogen House have to rely on ingenuity and money, in the form of investments in equipment such as a hydrogen generator, hydrogen storage tanks, solar cells, fuel cells and solar panels.
Our goal was to use as little electricity as possible for cooling and heating, which meant we had to invest in all the necessary equipment up front, Beaulieu explains. It also meant we had to use unconventional building materials and techniques.
At the Beaulieu home, hydrogen is created through a process known as electrolysis, a method of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen via an electrical current that passes between positive and negative electrodes, such as the positive and negative poles of a battery. Power derived from a 9,000-watt (9-kw) solar array, consisting of about 30 2-by-4-foot photovoltaic panels, is sent through a hydrogen generator, which is about the size of a washing machine. The resulting hydrogen is stored in high-pressure steel or carbon-fiber tanks. When needed, it is fed into a fuel cell that generates electricity.
Although the home could function perfectly well on solar energy, turning the solar power into hydrogen allows Beaulieu to store larger quantities of energy than he could in batteries.
Batteries are expensive, and you have to replace them every five years, he says. When we store the energy in the form of hydrogen, we can keep it forever. We'll use some of it to power all the appliances that would normally run on natural and propane gas. We'll also burn it in our fireplaces. When you burn hydrogen, you clean the air and you get clean, distilled water. Any excess hydrogen gas will be used to power one of the family cars.
Beaulieu expects the solar collectors to generate enough electricity during the day to power the home. At night, should we run short, we'll use the electricity collected in our backup batteries, or we can run the hydrogen through a gas engine generator and get electricity back, he says.
Beyond the solar hydrogen energy system, the Beaulieu home is a showcase for alternative building techniques and systems. For instance, Beaulieu says, in a traditional home, the air is cooling the house, but we wanted the materials to cool the air instead.
The residence's five buildings have pyramid-shaped roofs covered with concrete and a 2-foot layer of soil planted with desert vegetation. The lower part of each building's walls is made from concrete as well; the walls are surrounded by an envelope of rusted corrugated steel that absorbs heat and keeps it from direct contact with the concrete.
Double-paned windows containing a heat-mirror film make up the upper two-thirds of each wall. Trellis overhangs covered with vines shade the windows during the day.
All five structures were built with a cooling system based on ventilation, convection and evaporation. Ventilation comes from motorized windows, temperature-controlled ceiling fans and a central opening on top of the roofs.
The trigger for convection and evaporation is a combination of waterfalls and a network of plastic pipes embedded in the ceiling of each building that function as conduits for cold water. Basically, the waterfalls cool the water [through evaporation], Beaulieu explains. The water is then pumped into the pipes in the ceiling. As the water circulates, it cools the hot air on the ceiling and then returns to the waterfall. It's a closed system and our main [method] of cooling.
In addition, Beaulieu notes, the waterfalls create a microclimate for the gazebo, which is the Beaulieus outdoor living room. It's located between waterfalls at the pool and the Jacuzzi, so no matter which way the wind is blowing, it will always blow past the waterfalls and cool the passing air.
Heat From the Ground
Should the waterfalls not cool the house adequately, the Beaulieus can resort to geothermal and vacuum-tank cooling. A vacuum tank works on the premise that water doesn't remain in liquid form in a vacuum but turns into a vapor. When it emerges from the tank, it leaves behind heat. Although we don't use a complete vacuum, we lower the pressure to the point where the water reaches 40 degrees, [which we run] through the ceiling, Beaulieu explains.
Geothermal cooling and heating takes advantage of the constant temperature inside the mountain, via a pipe that sends water into the earth. Basically, if the temperature of the water you send into the mountain is warmer than the mountain, the water will come out cooler, and vice versa. Since the granite on our site was too hard to penetrate, we used coils of heat-exchanger tubes on the side of the mountain, which will work just as well.
The main source of heat for the home, however, will come from solar vacuum collector tubes. They work much like Thermos bottles. The rays of the sun pass through an outer tube that is made of glass, and they reach the chemical coating on the inner tube, which absorbs the radiation and heats the water flowing inside. A vacuum between the tubes prevents heat loss. The hot water is then distributed through a system of pipes embedded in the concrete flooring beneath limestone tiles, providing radiant heat.
Keeping It Clean
Since the original purpose of the home was to create a pollution-free indoor environment, all materials that emit fumes or are susceptible to mold, dust mites and other pollutants were avoided. They were replaced with natural materials, down to the vinegar and steel wool used to stain the home's walnut furniture. The Beaulieus replaced paint on the walls with pottery plaster, carpeting with limestone tiles on floors, and particleboard shelving with aluminum and steel.
One of Beaulieu's biggest concerns was electromagnetic radiation, especially in the bedrooms. Some electromagnetic fields of ordinary appliances resemble that of high-power lines, says Beaulieu, who uses a Gauss Master meter to measure the level of magnetic field radiation. He solved part of the electromagnetic problem by using 12-volt wiring for lamps and clocks in the bedrooms.
Another big part of the project involved recycling water and waste. Gray water, the water leftover from sinks and showers, will be used on the property's non-edible vegetation. Distilled water from burnt hydrogen will be used for a hydroponic vegetable garden.
Phase two of the project, which calls for human waste and vegetable roughage recycling, is still in the planning stages, pending approval from the city. The plan calls for the addition of aerobic bacteria to human waste; once broken down, it will be used as fertilizer for flower and rooftop gardens. Vegetable roughage flushed down the disposal will end up in an insulated tank with anaerobic bacteria that will break it down. The process will produce methane gas, which can be turned into hydrogen, soil nutrients and carbon.
s for Homeowners
While it may seem futuristic, the Beaulieu home is a showcase of techniques and technologies other homeowners can use. Although many of the elements that make up the home were designed strictly for a desert environment, homeowners in other parts of the country can start with solar energy for water heaters and swimming pools, or they can explore geothermal heating and cooling, Beaulieu says. They can use natural materials like stone and clay plaster and ceramic paint on roofs, and they can install energy-saving, on-demand water heaters. They can avoid magnetic fields simply by moving the bed away from walls that have wiring. There are all kinds of things they can do.
Beaulieu suggests the best way homeowners can find out what is possible is to look for greenbuilding seminars in their communities.
While the Beaulieu home, with its five separate structures, is hardly the answer for the average homeowner, Beaulieu's calculations show that it costs only about 20 to 30 percent more to build his home than an equivalent square-foot home in his neighborhood. In addition, he and McAlister are hopeful that the research they conduct will yield results that can be implemented on a large scale.
Right now, we are still experimenting with all kinds of things that eventually can be applied to the average home, Beaulieu says. When you set up an experiment like ours, you want to try out as many things as possible. This house is built to last a thousand years.
Based in Scottsdale, Ariz., Lydia Enderle Bell is a business writer for Scottsdale Airpark News, in which portions of this article appeared previously.
Renewable energy for your home
Ready to tap into clean, affordable, renewable energy sources to heat and cool your home? The Homeowner’s Guide to Renewable Energy, by Dan Chiras, will tell you how. Throughout the book, Chiras focuses on specific renewable energy strategies needed to replace specific fuels, and examines practical energy options available to homeowners, including solar electricity, solar hot water systems, wind-generated electricity, passive solar design, passive cooling, wood heat and emerging technologies such as micro-hydro systems, fuel cells and hydrogen energy.
The author presents detailed information without becoming too technical, and uses numerous photos and diagrams to illustrate the renewable energy resources he discusses. Overall, the book is designed to give homeowners the knowledge they need to hire and communicate effectively with contractors and installers. Here’s an excerpt:
“I run my entire house almost 100 percent off renewable energy — sunlight, wind and firewood — with only a small amount of natural gas for heating water and cooking meals. You can live independently too. Energy independence is almost always more easily attained by those building anew than when retrofitting a home for self-sufficiency. But like many readers you probably don’t have the luxury of starting from scratch. Don’t be discouraged, however. You can easily cut your energy demand by half, perhaps even more, with some simple, cost-effective measures that improve the energy efficiency of your home.” (New Society Publishers; $27.95)
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