Episode-840- Steven Harris on Alternative Energy Technologies Part 1

Steven Harris - CEO of Knowledge Publications

Steven Harris returns to TSP for his 6th visit.  Today he joins us to discuss various alternative energy technologies including, solar, wind, biofuel, wood gasification and more.

Steven Harris is a consultant and expert in the field of energy. He is the founder and CEO of Knowledge Publications, the largest energy only publishing company in the USA.

Mr. Harris came to his current position to do full time work on the development and implementation of hydrogen, biomass and solar related energy systems after spending 10 years in the Aero-Thermal Dynamics department of the Scientific Labs of Chrysler Corporation.

Steve is always full of great ideas, knowledge and projects we can use to improve our personal energy independence and today is no exception.

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40 Responses to Episode-840- Steven Harris on Alternative Energy Technologies Part 1

  1. Went to 2 different starbucks one in the AM one in the afternoon. I got blank looks followed by never heard about it. It seemed they didn’t care. One young gal said “cool people need to get a grip and not be so worried about others business. What do I care if you carry a gun. Or what do I care if you are gay. Some things you can just never change. You can’t make all guns disappear and you can’t make people not gay. But I have not heard about any of this. People are so irritating”

    Had also been a few days prior days and spread the word about it coming on Feb 14. Not one person had heard about it and all said “what ever” one said “can’t believe how many people will protest stupid stuff. Most are just looking for a way to complain about stuff because they have no life”

    I live in SW Washington. Starbuck on every corner. 2 in our small town but only one dentist no doctors office.

  2. Girl behind the counter was very friendly. When I went to pay with 2 dollar bills, she just said, ‘oh, wow. 2 dollar bills’ I explained the whole thing to her and although she didn’t know about it, she seemed genuinely interested about it and thanked me for coming in.
    As I was leaving, I think I saw her taking singles dollars out of her bag and taking my 2 dollar bills for herself. lol

  3. Hey Jack, I was wandering in my local wine/beer shop where I buy my kits and they sell the Mr. distiller here for about $300, so I may pick up one. And since I have deep cycle batteries that require distilled water I can use it for that and…

    Well, you know…

  4. Hi Jack,
    Thank you so much for talking a little about energy from moving water. I don’t know how many request’s you had from other listeners on this subject, but I am one of them. I was wondering if the next time you have Steven on you could get a little more in depth on the subject, I think if you have moving water on your property it is THE best and easiest way of creating power. My big idea that I am looking to confirm is a paddle wheel that turns a series of gears ending in a fast turning shaft that would act as the P.T.O. to run a P.T.O. generator. Thanx again
    Gordon Adams

  5. Great Show Jack! So Steven will be on tommorow? Next week?

  6. Modern Survival

    @matthew in Gooseneck Ga

    No man sorry going to be around April 4th. March is heavily booked as is Steven’s schedule.

  7. Great show thanks Steven. I understand his position on solar PV, and I know he likes solar thermal air, but what about solar thermal hot water? My house has a boiler with basboard radiators. This solution seems like it might be a good fit.

    • I don’t understand his position on pv. It’s bad because it costs $30k, takes energy input to make and requires the extra expense of batteries and inverters, but a genset that costs $30k is ok. Didn’t the genset take a lot of energy input to make and it still requires batteries and an inverter if you are not going to run it around the clock. It also requires constant feeding, tune ups, oil change etc.
      You can get pv panels for about a buck a watt. Sure, they probably are seconds or overstock, like he mentioned. They still require shipping or pick up, but it tilts the table a bit when you can cut the price by a 1/2 or 2/3′s. Here’s a link to one place that has affordable pv (I have nothing to do with them, just pointing out was available)
      http://www.sunelec.com/
      They don’t have everything, but they have plenty for a small to mid size set up.
      Anyhow, I love Steve’s info, his products have pried plenty of money from my stingy fingers and I’m not trying to beat up on him. I just have a different outlook. I don’t see the difference between a genset w/ batts and inverter or pv w/ batts and inverter. I think a good set up for most people would be a combo of the two. I’d rather spend my $26k on as much pv I can afford since I still need batteries and an inverter. If I use 12v batteries I can charge them with a vehicle like Steve does in his bread from gas vid. Or I can add a small honda genset to top off the pv runs low.
      Thanks for another great show, looking forward to part 2. Mike

      • Modern Survival

        @Mike from NJ

        It is hard for me to understand how further explanation is needed but I will do my best.

        30K worth of PV will run the lights, freezer and fridge and some other stuff for a conventional home. Not much more.

        The 30K for the wood gas generator would take scrap wood and provide enough electricity to run multiple homes all out.

        The time to repay the energy back on the PV panels would be about 30 years, the panels don’t last 30 years.

        The power needed to pay back the generator could be generated in a few months. It likely with maintenance would work for more than 30 years.

        It isn’t just energy and expense in it is also the energy output and payback. Understand the 20K model is a true 20K output not just a 20K peak generator set.

      • Steven defends the use of pv in some settings. He empasizes only that they are not useful for reducing the net consumption of energy from non-renewable sources. They can be useful to go off grid, but don’t use them to be “green”. I think a wood gas engine system is well suited for powering a small community including the provision of electricity and heat. Those 10 KW and 20 KW systems are nice, but overkill for a properly designed off grid home.

  8. Hi, Jack
    I went to Starbucks at noon yesterday. The lady behind the counter acted surprised when I told her about the why I was there. She expressed that she was the very surprised by her employers postion on the 2nd Amendment, but was familiar with the incident that occured two years ago that prompted this event. By the time I recieved my coffee and was leaving, she was commending me on my efforts and very pleased that people were taking a stand in support of the 2nd ammendment.

  9. hi jack
    went to starbucks yesterday, never been more out of place in my life. The first sign that I had arrived in snobville, was the range rover double parked in front of the doors, second was the line to the counter was out the door.
    As I stood in line I checked out my surroundings, never having been to the other side of the tracks before. I noticed I was the only blue collar guy in the place and therefore stood out like a sore thumb I can imagine they weren’t sure what to make of me either, as the only contact most these folks would have with a mechanic would be looking at me through the waiting room window.
    due to the volume of people in line, at the tables talking on there phones, or working on there novels on laptops, I could see no sign of the “boycott”. and upon paying for my order with my 2 dollar bills I saw the amazed look on the young lady’s face that “they still made 2 dollar bills”. so not a lot of support for either side here. I took a moment to explain the reason for my being there but as I stated the line was long and using my “situational awareness” I noted I was outnumbered 30 to 1 in favor of the yuppies.
    I wish you had hit the nail on the head when you said I wouldn’t have to listen to the odd coffie orders. I have no idea what the people in line ahead of me were ordering, because was thinking of something totally different every time I heard “gimme a double shot of….”

  10. Raymond "Shorty" Butler

    Bout 430p told the drive through clerk , that I was there to support Starbucks support of the Second Amendment. He replied that he had only just heard about it, but wasn’t sure what that meant. I explained that there was a group who called for a boycott on the 14th as Starbucks allowed legal concealed carry. He replied “Who would call for a boycott against a legal Constitutional act, of course if your legal you can carry here.” I gave him a handshake and a large tip.

    Shorty

  11. Bought a lot of Loompanic books before they were absorbed by Pallidin Press early in this century. This is how we got the specific information in the 20th century that we take for granted in the 21st (ie internet or podcast).

    mark

  12. Went to two different Starbucks yesterday. First stop at around 6:30 a.m., on the way to work. The barista knew what the $2 bills were about, but hadn’t seen any before mine. No surprise, given the early hour. Very pleasant encounter.

    Went to a different Starbuck’s just before lunch. Bought a pound of coffee & paid with $2′s. The barista commented that she’d seen a lot of $2 bills that morning, so I asked if she knew why. She didn’t, so I explained and she seemed okay with it. When I relayed this to my husband, his only comment was “Do you think she knows what the Second Amendment is?” I laughed, but the sad thing is I’m not really sure.

    I’m in Lincoln NE, BTW.

  13. ty for podcast.

    Revealed: How Syngenta Investigated the Press and Shaped the News About its Controversial Weed-Killer Atrazine

    http://www.alternet.org/environment/154046/revealed%3A_how_syngenta_investigated_the_press_and_shaped_the_news_about_its_controversial_weed-killer_atrazine

  14. Went to Starbucks Tues am about 6:45 am, the place was empty, just a few people at the drive up. Ordered 2 drinks, for my kid and I and pulled out 4 $2 bills to pay. ” I’m paying with 2 dollar bills,” “That’s ok” the kid behind the counter interupted. So I continued,” I’m paying with 2 dollar bills to thank Starbucks for supporting the second amendment by allowing concealed carry in their stores.”
    He smiled, and said thank you. Seemed like he maybe knew what was going on. I was really surprised at how empty the place was at that hour. Hope the other side’s efforts were not more affective than ours.

  15. Went to a Starbucks here in KC around 6PM, and the barista was not aware of the $2 support for the 2nd Amendment. She seemed to be supportive of the idea and thanked us for supporting the 2nd Amendment as we left the counter.

  16. I don’t really understand why fuel from alchohol is so high up on Steven’s list of good things. It doesn’t seem sustainable to me. It might work on a small scale individual basis, but we can’t all run our vehicles on 2 day old doughnuts. I could see it being uselful as a backup in a disaster situation or as a supplement. I suppose there really isn’t any cost involved to the earth’s natural resources as long as your inputs would have just been wasted. Unlike solar PV which does have a cost to the environment just to manufacture the solar panels.

  17. Backwoods Engineer

    Question for Steven: would it be possible for you to put out Kindle versions of your books? My EMP-protected Kindle (and looking to get a backup one, too) is my survival library.

  18. Great show and I’m glad Steve is coming back for another show. I have two questions:

    1. On average, how much ash does the 10kw biomass power generator produce a day? Besides throwing the ash in the trash, can anything be done with it?

    2. In an emergency situation, could a person use a bottle of 190 proof Everclear as gas, or would they need to add the zeolite to it?

  19. Hey Jack. I wanted to now if you had any plans to install any of the plans Steven talks about, particularly the gasifiers or stills, at your place.

    Thanks

  20. hit a starbucks and after convincing the 18 year old in the rainbow colored unicorn tee that the crisp 2$ bills were actual money i explained to him why i was doing it. he then proceeded to roll his eyes and give me a “pssst, WHATEVER”. stay weird portland!!!

  21. Thought I’d pass this along http://www.victorygasworks.com This is where I first found out about gasification about 1 yr ago. This new site of theirs is very different than what it was. I haven’t looked it over yet. So you will have to evaluate it yourself.

  22. I stopped at a Starbuck’s in Arlington on 2/14 just before lunch, the place was almost empty an no one in line. I figure that had more to do with the hour than the boycott, seeing as I’m in Texas. The barista did a double take when I handed her a couple crisp 2′s. I asked if she had gotten any 2′s yet today, she laughed and said no, pretty sure she thought I was joking. I told her why I was there, she was surprised to hear about the boycott and counter-boycott support said that’s very interesting, didn’t seem to have negative thoughts about it or anything. I too wonder if she knew what I meant when I said 2nd amendment.

    I also took the opportunity to share about the event with my boss who has his CHL. And when a coworker asked if I wanted to buy one of his kid’s candy bars for school I said yes and handed him my last $2 bill and told him about the event, told him to swap it out with a couple ones and stop by Starbuck’s on the way home.

  23. I’m in Dallas and went into a Starbucks for the first time. I was torn between two coffee’s and the manager suggested I combine them, which I did. I told him why I was there and he said that since it was my first time in that my grande americano misto was on the house. I mildly protested and told him I wanted to pay with my two dollar bills to support the cause, and he told me I could put it in the tip jar where everyone could see it. So I did. While I was waiting for it to be made I told a young girl behind the counter why I was there, and she responded “oh yeah, we got a memo about that.” Overall they were very friendly, and it was a pretty good cup of java.

  24. Granville 'Grant' Hedrick

    Hey Jack, I went to one Starbucks in the evening in Blue Springs MO and told the girl behind the counter all about it as I bought my cup. She hadn’t heard of it but was thrilled. She tried to buy ME a cup of coffee! Told me she was getting her permit and her boss had no problem with her bringing it to work and leaving it in the back during her shift.

  25. I went into Starbucks with my two dollar bill amd thought they would have at least received more that day, they didnt by 11 am. The counter person didnt seem to even know what the second admendment was. I educated him but he seemed apathetic. I am going to ask next time i go in if they recieved more throughout the day. He seemed more excited to see a two dollar bill!

  26. The first of Steven’s appearances with Jack I heard was making you own (ethanol) gas. I was skeptical. The time inputs and cost inputs are horrendously inefficient. In fairness though he did include a disclaimer that the counter top still is more of an entry point and not an end state.

    Then I got heard the solar heating episode! Fantastic. Realistic and doable. As real as my car interior is hot on a sunny day.

    In this episode I liked how he broke down the many alternative technologies including the strengths, and the pitfalls. This show was packed with points need to set a alternate energy strategy. Again; well done.

    I am looking forward to part 2 and hearing Steven’s thoughts on fuel cells.

    I was also born and raised in Detroit and was in a big 3 family; I get Steven’s “Made in Detroit” attitude. And good on him that he is still there. I bailed 12 years ago.

  27. Brent in PEI here Jack. Here is my experience with photovoltaics over the last twelve years:

    Steven is right, it will never pay for itself. I have 1.6kw of solar, along with an Outback 2400 watt inverter and six surrette S530 batteries. I am about 20k CDN in so far. The insolation maps show PEI averaging 4 hrs a day. The short of it is I produce about $265 worth of electricity a year. So my payback is 75 years. But as Stevens says, the next most expensive form of electricity is no electricity. I have it mainly as a hobby. I have on demand propane hot water and a woodstove ( I heat exclusively with wood). I can run the house 100% off grid from May to October from approx 7am to 7pm. Another 15k may do it but , alas I am not going there. I want it as a backup and a toy at this point in my life.

  28. I just started listening to your podcast and generally like it. You sound like you need a better mike.

    The gassifyer Steve talked about jogged a memory. A Doug McClure movie called “The Longest Hundred Miles” made in 1967 had a homemade gassifyer running a bus to get a group away from the Japanese on an island in World War 2. I was just a kid but I remember asking my parents if they could really do that and they both remembered hearing of that powering some things in the war years.

  29. This episode with Steven Harris was once again very, very informational. I didn’t realize that their were 6-7 interviews. Does anyone know the exact episodes where jack held the interview? would be a good refresher.

  30. Great stuff guys. Listened to this episode a few days ago, and then again this morning. Packed full of so many great ideas.

    I began listening to this most interested in solar, when it ended I was much more interested in BG and gasifiers. Looking forward to digging in more!

  31. For Steven’s next show.

    He was mentioning diesel and Biodiesel. Along with these can you see if he can comment on waste motor oil? My research shows that if filtered and dry that WMO should run fine in a diesel engine.

    Thanks,
    Brian

    • Steven, are there any developed systems available for harnessing heat? It always seems as though heat is just a byproduct of a lot of these systems and it seems to me to be a waste. I heard you mention the need for a cooling system on the back of the advanced solar panels. I also remember you talking about all the heat that’s used with water in your window/door frame system. What about the heat that comes out of your tail pipe? Or your drier vent? Waste to me.

  32. Question/Comment for Steve.
    First, thanks for all the info you have given us both free and on your sites. I have heard you talk about heating but what about. cooling? I live in Florida and cooling is more important for us due to well it being Florida. High temps and high humidity make summer months a pain in wallet and fourth point of contact.

    Thanks again.

    Scott

  33. Steve’s a smart guy, but he leaves out a lot of key factors in his evaluation of PV systems. I’m considering a large PV installation at our studios in Nashville, and I’ve spent an absurd amount of time and energy trying to find honest financial breakdowns for investment/returns on PV. I finally had to create my own, and I’ll share it here. This is based on a 50,000w system, but the numbers will scale almost linearly down to about a 5,000w system. I would truly welcome any evaluations or insights into this breakdown, and I hope some of you find it useful…

    Return on a $125K active Solar Array investment on existing land in Middle Tennessee.
    Up front, here’s a few debatable assumptions regarding the financial viability of a PV Solar Array:
    1- You own least7000 sq ft of land available to set up the Array (1/6 acre)
    2- Electrical cost per Kw would continue to increase at 5% per year
    3- You could get the 50kW system installed for $15,000 or less in labor. That’s 500 hours @ $30/hr to install 167 panels, or 3 hours per panel, which is SLOW.
    4- You would have minimal repair costs on the PV gear, due to 20-30 year warranties
    5- You will have taxable income across the first 4-5 years after the installation, and thus could benefit from the significant Federal tax incentives.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++
    SOLAR PV investment of $125,000, assuming I already own the land needed (1/6 of an acre)
    $100, 000 for 50K PV solar system: including Panels, Mounts, Wiring, Inverters, Web based monitoring, and Grid tie in @ $2.00 per watt uninstalled. (Readily found at this rate or lower from several national distributors)
    $ 15,000 labor for a ground level installation of 167 300w Panels
    $ 10,000 improvements to site, such as fence, security alarm and monitoring
    $125,000 total (No sales tax on Solar in TN)

    OOP cost:
    25,000 down, and $100K financed for 10 years at 6% is $1,110/m
    Figure $1,250 month with insurance, maintenance and prop taxes.
    Over 10 years that’s 150,000 in monthly costs + 25,000 down =
    $175,000 total OOP cost over 10 years

    The Market and Pricing for the Electricity I Generate: $.23 per kWh in 2011
    TVA will sign a 10 year contract to buy all your “green power” for the current market rate, ($.11 here in Nashville) plus $. 12 per Kwh. So that’s $.23 per kwh guaranteed buy back for 10 years, and that number will rise as the current market price for electricity rises. This payment comes in the form of a credit against your electric bill. If your green power credit exceeds your electric bill, you will receive an annual check for the balance owed.

    My Electrical Power Production in Middle TN:
    1200 kw/hrs per year, per rated 1000w
    Per TVA’s own calculations, the average production in Middle TN is a little over 1200 kw/hrs per year. per 1000w of rated PV electric installation.

    My First year’s revenue from sales: $13,800 per year for a 50,000w system
    1200kw/hrs per year @ a current market price of $.23 =
    $276 per year income for a 1000w rated system
    $2,760 per year for a 10,000w system
    $13,800 per year for a 50,000w system

    Still not too attractive at this point, given that you are out $25,000 cash down, and have 9 more years of $1250 per month notes/insurance/taxes to pay. But there is more to the story: specifically, rising energy costs and federal tax benefits.

    With a 5% increase per year applied to the “current market price” portion of the TVA buy back contract, the 50,000w system would generate $157,310 in the first 10 years. This 5% increase per year number is consistent with the past 10 years in our state.
    But here’s the big one: The first year after you install the PV system, you can file for and receive a 30% Tax Credit for the installed price of the system, in this case, $125,000 x. 30% = $37,500. You have until at least 2016 to use the tax credits, and in the case of a small business installation, you can apply it BACKWARDS 1 year, or forward 20 years. Also, as a small business, you can depreciate the system, and you can deduct 50% of the cost of the installation the first year. This is what I plan to do, So, looking at my situation with all the pieces in place over 10 years:

    10 year gross revenue from $125k, 50,000w PV investment:

    $157,310 credit or cash from selling the Green Power of the 50kw system to TVA
    $ 37,500 federal Tax Credit the first year (30% of $125,000) usable over at least 4 years
    Tax Deductions:
    $ 33,200 interest
    $ 16,800 Insurance/maintenance/ property tax expenses
    $125,000 Fully depreciated asset
    = $175,000 total deductions, @ a 35% Tax rate = $61,250 actual savings
    $ 61,250
    $256,060 Total revenue and actual tax $$ savings over 10 years

    10 year net profits:
    $256,060 income
    $ 33,200 interest paid
    $ 16,800 Insurance/maintenance/ property tax expenses
    $125,000 cost of system
    - $175,000 = OOP expenses
    =$ 81,060 Positive Cash flow/profit at 10 years.

    So after 10 years you have $81,060 in your pocket, your PV system is paid for, and it still has 10-15 years of warranty and useful life.

    In the short term:

    Cash flow at 1 year with $125k PV Solar investment:
    - 25,000 Down payment,
    - 15,000 12 payments of $1,110 + 140/m Ins/maint/ property tax
    + 14,000 income from TVA,
    + 37,500 Federal Tax Credit @ 30% of $125K
    + 21,000 actual tax savings via accelerated depreciation of 50% yr 1
    = $32,500 Positive Cash flow at 1 year

    YMMV, but this seems to make a lot of sense for me. A comparison to a similar investment in residential rental real estate comes down clearly on the side of PV array, even at today’ s depressed home prices. And of course, the huge PV array, combined with a serious Battery Backup system and local inverter bought from the $81,060 in profits will be really handy when the Zombies rise…