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Alternative Energy Systems

Solar Electricity

Although tied to the grid, Middle Earth generates most of it’s electricity through the use of solar photovoltaic panels. There are 2 systems in use at Middle Earth.


The greenhouses are powered by a 24 volt solar system with battery backup. This system also powers a solar pump to send water to a cistern uphill for gravity feed irrigation to the greenhouses.


The house system is a 48 volt system with battery backup 950 amp hour capabilities. A Generac generator is also part of the charging system. It is a 6kw 240 volt propane generator with a 500 gal propane tank as it’s supply. The generator powers a 60 amp battery charger that charges the battery bank if needed during grid disruption or extensive cloudy days.


The systems for the greenhouses and the house are grid tied with battery backup for power outages, and send excess power back to Alabama Power Company. For demonstration purposes, as part of the workshops we have offered, the solar panels are mounted in three different ways; roof mount, pole mount and ground mount.

Installation of solar panels
Roof Mount Pole Mount
House system roof mount Pole mount
Pole Mount
Greenhouse system ground mount
with batteries in building behind
House battery bank for backup

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Installation of house hot water panelsSolar Hot Water

Installation of house hot water panels.

 

 

There are two solar hot water systems at Middle Earth.


The house system (called a drain back system) has three 4x6 roof mounted panels by which the sun heats the water. The hot water is stored in an 80 gallon insulated tank. The system provides 95% of household hot water at least 8 months of the year, and 80% during colder months. An on-demand water heater works in conjunction with the SHW panels as back up water heating if needed.


The solar hot water system for the greenhouses uses three 4x10 roof mounted panels and a 500 gallon insulated water holding tank. This system provides some heating for the North greenhouse by use of pex tubing run through the bottom of three raised beds. During cold weather, the hot water, directed by several valves, flows through the pex, heating the soil and adding some heat to the air in the greenhouse.

Raised beds with buried pex tubing Solar hot water panels for greenhouse system
Insulated holding tank

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Geothermal Heating and Cooling

Water Furnace for houseThe house and the yurt classroom are heated and cooled by a ground source system, also known as a geothermal system. At the house, the 4 ton system has four, 8 inch diameter holes bored to 240 feet in the earth through which water circulates in ¾ inch polyethylene piping. The tubing from the bore holes is joined together in a manifold. From the manifold, 1¼ polyethylene piping is sent to the house and connected to a small pump. This small pump recirculates the water in this closed system, through the Water Furnace heat exchanger, and then back through the ground piping. The Ground source Heat Pumps have become one of the most energy efficient technologies for heating and cooling. The GSHP used at the yurt is a 2 ton system and utilizes a hotel room style unit.

 

Water furnace for house

 

Installation
Yurt Unit

 

   
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