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Tribes make Solar Posted at 01/19/10 - 05:35 AM

New Mexico's Jemez Pueblo tribe is working a deal to use their land for solar energy production. They will be the first Native American tribe to use solar energy as a way to make revenue.  The 3,000 members of the tribe are working to harness the energy from their 30-acre site. They plan on setting up over 14,000 solar panels. A plan is now in the works to sell electricity to outsiders from their four-megawatt plant. The completed plant would be able to power about 600 homes.

Author: Greg

Recent studies suggest that technological progress has reduced payback times to 1.5 to 3.5 years for crystalline silicon PV systems.




DIY Solar Food Dryers

If you have either fruit trees or live near a market that sells fruit & veg, you an take advantage of cheap fruit and store it. Once a necessity for homesteaders, country folk and "hippies", there is no reason not to be a little thrifty and give the kids something to do and - reap the benefits of cheap, healthy dried fruit & veg for snacks & cooking. Eat local and eat healthier by preserving the goodness of your favourite seasonal foods, garden veggies, fruits and herbs to enjoy all year long. big bills Many home gardens fruit trees and it all seems to ripen all at once. If you dont have a garden with fruit trees or a veggie patch, check out the local fruit growers markets. Often at the end of the day or close of market, cases of fruit & veg will go out at super cheap rates. The trick is - what to do to store and use it all. Preserving by bottling is often put forward as a solution to this problem. Freezing the excess fruit is another option. However, both these methods, while satisfying can sometimes be too much work for a busy family, let alone energy intensive. As far as cheap and easy, the method of preserving which wins hands down is sun drying. A DIY solar food dryer works well and the capital cost is virtually zero (make out of scrap materials), and the running costs are basically nil. Dried fruit needs no special storage requirements and is always to hand. The kids will snack on healthier dried fruit popped into lunch boxes, camping / hiking / boating / bicycle bags or snacks for car trips. - Be green, Live Green

What's the best fruit to Dry?

Apples, apricots, peaches, plums, cherries, bananas, strawberries, pears, mangoes, kiwis, pineapple, melons, tomatoes, capsicum, chillies, corn. When in doubt, experiment or ask a local health food shop or hit the internet for ideas.

How does a Solar Food Dryer Work?

There's no rules on size, materials or shape to build your drier. Our suggestion is just one that worked for us. The way the dryer works is simple - the heat coming through the glass cover is absorbed by the black interior surfaces. The closed box gets hotter as the heat energy is "trapped", heating the air inside. The hot air inside rises and passes out of the upper set of holes by natural convection. The rising and escaping hot air, draws in fresh air from outside via the holes in the base of the dryer. This gives a continuous flow of warm air around and over the fruit, which removes the moisture and dries the fruit.

Building your Solar Dryer

The number and position of the holes will determine the "climate" in the dryer.The more holes you have, the greater the airflow, but the lower the temperature inside the box. solar drier Ideally, you need enough airflow to just avoid condensation forming. Have a look at the diagram to get an idea of how to build your solar box. Don't worry about the design, make it to suite your "window frame" with room for your drying racks. If you are lucky, a local house rennovation may have an intact window you can "liberate", while that "sets" the size of the box, it will save you a few dollars. Make the length of the dryer at least three times the width, for instance, use an old 1 by 0.3 meter window frame and glass. Build a ply box to support the window and hinge it along the upper edge. Since most fruits are in abundance in the summer, the back wall needs to be high enough to set your window at about 25% to horizontal to maximise the entry of the summer sun.

Build your "box" with enough room for up to 3 stacked racks sitting on the floor, separated with spacers. Paint the inside of the drier with black non-toxic paint (eg Kids Craft Paint, or, black motor engine paint but allow it to dry really well first and outgas before drying your fruit).
Drill about 15 holes just beneath the upper top edge and about 8 beneath both side edges, these are the "escape holes". In the ply Base, drill 5 rows of 15 holes, these will allow the air to enter and pass over your drying fruit. You can experiment with extra holes and simply plugging them with a cork or shapped dowel "plug" to regulate the heat & airflow. Your fruit trays can be made from recycled aluminium fly screens cut down to size.

Drying the fruit

In the early stages, you may have to wipe away condensation especially from fruit with lots of juice. Drying time will also depend on the amount of moisture in the fruit. For moist fruit you can try opening some plugged holes, but remember, this lowers the box temperature, its simpler to wipe condensation off the inside of the glass at this stage. You will find also that juicey fruits will drip and that the juice can even caramelise, simply wash your screens with hot soapy water. To dry fruits available in the shops during winter, such as apples and pears, you will need to set or tilt the box at a steeper angle to catch the lower sun (about 55-60 degrees).
Make the most of the long hot summer by drying your excess fruit and vegetable crops.Sunshine, drying is free and easy. It is easy to do and you will find the end product so much tastier than the bought variety. You will also know that no chemicals or preservatives have been used in its preparation.

>>For more ideas on putting solar energy to use - Click here <<

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