Welcome to the Farm! Examine our proposed systems, structures, and research and application strategies. Learn about renewable energy. Take a virtual tour.

Systems

The following methods of power generation shall be implemented at the Energy Farm.

Photovoltaic

The initial deployment of photovoltaic panels at the Energy Farm will consist of 84 Kyocera 120-watt panels on Zomeworks passive tracking mounts, configured for 48 volts. Peak output is 10 kW. This current is delivered to the Power Center where it is processed into 208-volt 3-phase AC for net metering with the local utility.

Photovoltaic output will be metered in real time, logged for comparative study, and the information made available to the public through the Solar Server. Photovoltaic systems and equipment will be tested and compared, and consumer reports and advisories made available to the public through the Solar Server.

Hydroelectric

The initial deployment of hydroelectric power at the Energy Farm will consist of a single Harris four-nozzle Pelton-style microturbine adjoined to a Ford 80-amp alternator and configured for 48 volts. This system produces a constant output of 3.8 kW which is directed to the Power Center and processed into 240-volt single-phase AC for use by the Energy Farm. Surplus kW-hours are directed to the local utility for net metering.

Hydroelectric output will be metered in real time, logged for comparative study, and the information made available to the public through the Solar Server. Microhydroelectric systems and equipment will be tested and compared, and consumer reports and advisories made available to the public through the Solar Server.

Wind

Initial deployment will consist of Southwest Air 400-watt wind turbines, pole-mounted on each of our major structures. These are consigned to offset losses to the solar farm during stormy conditions. Site-specific wind conditions will dictate the Energy Farm’s ultimate deployment of wind turbines. Ideally a nearby hill or mountain ridge will allow generous expansion of wind-generated output.

Wind-generated power will be metered in real time, logged for comparative study, and the information made available to the public through the Solar Server. Wind turbines will be tested and compared, and consumer reports and advisories made available to the public through the Solar Server.

Biomass

The Energy Farm will conduct small-scale experiments in biomass efficacy to promote such breakthrough technologies as biodiesel and anaerobic gasification. Emphasis is on diversification of U.S. biomass crops and the search for previously unconsidered possibilities for biomass energy that may one day serve as practical sources of renewable energy.

Biomass experiments will be carefully documented, analyzed for cost effectiveness and environmental impact, and the information made available to the public through the Solar Server. The Energy Farm’s Agridome, a large industrial greenhouse, will allow year-round cultivation of biomass and ethanol crops for experimental purposes.

Biofuels

The Energy Farm will demonstrate the efficacy of biofuel technology on scales applicable to the American small farmer. A micro-distillation facility allows the production of modest amounts of liquid biofuels for use with internal combustion engines on site. Crops with renewable energy potential will be examined and experimental fuels produced and applied in the field.

Biofuel experiments will be carefully documented, analyzed for cost effectiveness and environmental impact, and the information made available to the public through the Solar Server.

Water Heating

The Energy Farm will explore new ways of heating water for domestic and industrial uses. Two unique examples are given below:

Solar Surface Water Heating

A shallow pond is lined with black plastic, and a network of pipes is laid out across the bottom. The pond is filled with salt water until the pipes are covered. The pond is then topped off with fresh water. During the day, solar radiation penetrates the fresh water layer and is absorbed by the salt water layer in contact with the black plastic liner. The fresh water layer acts as an insulator at night, preventing the captured heat from escaping. Temperature rise is cumulative over days. The network of pipes removes the thermal energy stored in the salt water layer. An experimental system of this type in Israel reached sufficient temperatures to run a steam turbine.

Biothermal Water Heating

Energy Farm Original Experiment: Hot Water from Life. The center of an active compost pile can reach 160 degrees F. We are designing a composting silo that will function as an on-demand water heater. The silo contains coils of tubing with a standing capacity of 30 gallons. Composting material is piled into the silo, encasing the tubing. The natural action of composting bacteria heats the core of the silo to ~160 F. This heat is transferred through the walls of the tubing and into the potable water supply, and the heated potable water is available on demand. When hot water is drawn from the bottom of the silo, unheated water flows into the top from a freshwater source. When the heating cycle is completed, the finished compost is removed from the silo and applied to standing biomass crops.

Water heating experiments will be carefully documented, analyzed for cost effectiveness and environmental impact, and the information made available to the public through the Solar Server.

Structures

A sustainable energy future calls not only for increased production of renewable energy, but also for increased efficiency in the home and office. The prototype Energy Farm facility will require several standing structures, and these offer a splendid opportunity to apply and study emergent technologies in residential and commercial energy efficiency. From compact fluorescent lighting to passive solar heating, from minimal-materials design to maximum-efficiency heating and cooling, our structures will model the state-of-the art in energy-efficient living.

Mother

Mother is central structure of the Energy Farm. This is our “farmhouse,” the place where staff and guests eat meals and gather for classes, meetings and seminars. This will be the first structure raised, and will act as a nucleus for an expandable research community.

SPECS: Mother consists of a 48 ft diameter (24.5 ft high) geodesic dome on a 4 ft riser wall. Dome geometry is a 3/8 sphere of a three-frequency icosahedron, Class I Method I. Interior floor space: Ground level: 1695 sq ft, including restrooms, laundry, a large open meeting area, and generous kitchen facilities to accommodate staff, scientists, and seasonal visitors. Second floor: 1278 sq ft, devoted initially to residency and adaptable as office space. Third floor loft: 170 sq ft serving as a meditation area.

Buckminster Fuller Library

The Energy Farm will host a library and archives, with the goal of establishing the largest repository of renewable and alternative energy information in the Eastern United States. This database will become the definitive resource for the application of alternative energy technologies, and shall also encompass information on energy efficient design and construction of dwellings, methods for increasing the efficiency of existent dwellings, and emerging technologies that reduce household and industrial energy consumption.

The Fuller Library will house the Solar Server, our renewable-energy-powered Internet server and Web portal providing free, global access to the resources of the Energy Farm and the Fuller Library.

SPECS: The library consists of a 34 ft diameter (18.6 ft high) geodesic dome on a 4 ft riser wall. Ground floor: 853 sq ft, with stacks, tables, seating, multimedia equipment, and terminals for the Solar Server. Second floor: 571 sq ft, devoted entirely to the Solar Server, the Energy Farm LAN, supporting hardware and Web administration.

Power Center

This no-frills structure will house the Energy Farm’s power conditioning equipment: batteries, inverters, grid-tie transformers, etc. Centralizing the power handling equipment allows greater flexibility in configuration, improves safety, and simplifies the Farm’s goal of rigorously metering and documenting energy production and consumption onsite for research purposes.

The Power Center may double as shop space and utility storage.

SPECS: A 30 ft diameter (17 ft high) dome shell on a 4 ft riser wall. Interior is unfinished, floor is exposed slab. Grounding rods are imbedded through slab. No climate control. Main floor is 665 sq ft. A small isolation booth with positive ventilation holds vertical battery racks. Riser wall is designed with multiple weatherproof penetrations to accommodate underground power conduits for the collection of DC current from deployed renewable technologies and the redistribution of AC.

Agridome

This large insulated-glass or clear poly-vinyl greenhouse dome allows limited cultivation of ethanol and biomass plants year-round. Insulated ductwork allows air exchange with other structures to take advantage of seasonal passive solar heating.

SPECS: Stock 60 ft diameter greenhouse dome, exposed slab, minimal climate control.

Residences

Future residential structures may be based upon emerging energy-efficient and eco-friendly designs and technologies. We give emphasis to the advantages of geodesic domes, while other energy-efficient and materials-efficient designs may be constructed and tested.

The development of stand-alone residences serves multiple functions at the Energy Farm:

  • Consumer energy-efficiency research and application
  • Efficacy of renewable and synthetic building materials
  • Comparative study of passive solar heating techniques
  • Analysis of net-metered residential power systems

Experimental residences serve as on-site housing for:

  • Conference and workshop attendees
  • Scientists, grad students, interns
  • Earthwatch volunteers
  • Seasonal visitors
  • Energy Farm staff

The Potential for Growth

We at the Energy Farm believe (and many readers will take this to be self-evident) that the need for renewable energy know-how is not going to diminish; but will increase continually and aggressively as worldwide fossil fuel reserves dwindle. We foresee a time when pressure to curb oil imports and reduce carbon dioxide emissions will bring an immediate urgency to our mission.

By overbuilding initial infrastructure, we are preparing to support an active community of scientists and advocates through a flexible and expandable research campus. We anticipate brisk growth at the Energy Farm, both of our outreach programs and our net green energy output nationwide. Future construction will support evolving research and application of new energy technologies.

Renewable Energy Research and Application

Alternative energy technologies implemented at the Energy Farm shall meet the following criteria:

  • Resource must be renewable and sustainable
  • Exploitation must show zero net carbon emissions
  • Exploitation must show negligible impact on human health
  • Resource must be domestic to the continental United States

We intend to examine and experimentally apply any and all technologies meeting these criteria. The implementation of each renewable energy system at the Energy Farm will be carefully documented, analyzed for cost-effectiveness, environmental impact, and ease of use, and the information made available to the public free of charge through the Solar Server.

Consumer Efficiency Research and Application

  • Compact Fluorescent Lighting
  • High-Efficiency Appliances
  • Passive Solar Heating
  • Radiant Floor Heating
  • Insulation: Materials and Techniques
  • Solar Water Heating
  • On-Demand Water Heating
  • High-Efficiency Architecture
  • Flat Panel Computer Monitors
  • Hybrid Automobiles

The Energy Farm shall examine and compare methods of lowering individual and household energy consumption. The implementation of each energy-saving technology will be carefully documented, analyzed for cost-effectiveness, environmental impact, and ease of use, and the information made available to the public free of charge through the Solar Server.

The Energy Farm will track changes in the cost effectiveness of consumer energy-saving technologies, engender competition among manufacturers to encourage lower prices, and keep the public informed as to the state of the art.

The Energy Farm as Market Stimulus

The Energy Farm will track changes in the quality and cost effectiveness of consumer energy technologies to encourage competition among manufacturers and keep the public informed regarding the state-of-the-art. Our impartial comparisons of competitive products may then serve as a sort of “Consumer Report” for investors and purchasers of renewable energy products.

This places the Energy Farm in a position to engender feedback in the global renewable energy market, of the type that rewards genuine quality, efficiency and cost effectiveness with improved sales. The manufacturers of renewable energy hardware should welcome this opportunity to take on their competitors. The result will be to improve the overall quality of all renewable energy products in the emergent U.S. market.

The Energy Farm as a Standing Experiment

The Energy Farm will meter in detail energy production and consumption onsite, and these data will be made available to the public through the Solar Server. The confluence of all electrical systems at the Power Center greatly simplifies this task. A terminal in the Power Center will relay information to the Solar Server through the Energy Farm LAN.

Don’t let the name fool you. The Energy Farm is a hi-tech facility. We believe Americans can make the switch to renewable energy sources without drastically compromising our quality of life or reverting to pre-industrial living conditions.

With respectful apologies to the Amish, a return to pre-industrial society is not a viable option for the United States. If a sustainable energy future is to be viable, it must not drastically alter the American standard of living or hinder our steady integration of advancing technology.