“Daylight Drive” DC Solar Power at the Living Energy Farm

Reader Goran Christiansson sends us a link to Living Energy Farm, a research and community project in Virginia, USA. Most notable is their use of “Daylight Drive” DC solar power without batteries for workshop tools — reminiscent of the ideas outlined in How to run the economy on the weather. Also of note is their choice for less efficient but more durable Nickel Iron batteries for lighting.

Below is an excerpt from the introduction page:

“The vision of Living Energy Farm (LEF) is envisioned to be a community that is food and energy self-sufficient. We are off-grid, and we are putting together the means to run our farm without fossil fuel. Our intent is for Living Energy Farm to operate on a modest, globally applicable, renewable energy budget. We have found that this global perspective differentiates us from most other projects working on sustainable technologies.”

All of LEF’s DC shop tools and most of our appliances run “daylight drive” straight from the solar electric (PV) panels. We run high-voltage industrial DC motors with no batteries, no inverters, no costly or fragile electronics whatsoever. This is a MUCH cheaper, simpler, and more durable way of utilizing solar energy.

“In starting Living Energy Farm, our plan was to pull together renewable energy technologies already in existence rather than “re-inventing the wheel.” We have found that we cannot buy a lot of what we need, and thus we are having to build some of the tools and machines we need. We live, day by day, off-grid and (mostly) without fossil fuel. We experience the benefits and limitations of our own ideas every day.”

“We have assembled a set of documents to explain how our unique, off-grid systems operate. We suggest you review “Longterm Integrated Village Energy (LIVE) — community energy systems that make centralized power grids unnecessary” before proceeding to the other documents. That will give you an overview of the design process at LEF.”

At Living Energy Farm, our conservationist design means we need very little stored electricity. We store electricity with nickel iron (NiFe) batteries, a very old, very durable battery technology. Nickel iron batteries tolerate tremedous swings of voltage input and discharge rates that would destroy any other kind of battery.

“We have been pleasantly surprised by how well our DC Microgrid has worked. We have found a much, much better way to live off-grid. The widespread adoption of the tools developed at LEF could widen access to energy services for people all over the world while radically decreasing our environmental footprint. We are trying to spread these tools far and wide, and looking for support in that work.”

Living Energy Farm. Overview of all technologies (pdf).