Oasis Montana Inc.
Renewable Energy Supply and Design
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The Mirage of a Growing Fuel Supply
Mathematically, drilling more oil is a losing game.

Reprinted with permission, originally printed in the June 4th edition of the New York Times, written by Evar D. Nering, professor emeritus of mathematics at Arizona State University (A side note: it is generally considered that we have about 50 years of oil left, at the present rate of usage and current growth rate of 5%--and growing--per annum).

When I discussed the exponential function in the calculus classes I taught, I used consumption of a non-renewable natural resource as an example; since there is a national debate about energy policy, it may be useful to talk about the mathematics involved in making rational decisions about resource use.

Here’s the hypothetical situation: we have a 100 year supply of oil—that is, oil that would last 100 years if consumed at its current rate. But the oil is consumed at a rate that grows by 5% each year. How long will it last under these circumstances? It’s an easy calculation, about 36 years.

But let’s say we underestimated the supply, and we actually have a 1,000 year supply. At the same annual growth rate of 5%, how long will that last? The answer is about 79 years. Then let’s say we make a striking discovery of more oil—a bonanza—and now we have a 10,000 year supply. At the same rate of our growing use, how long would it last? Answer: 125 years. Estimates vary for how long currently known oil reserves will last, but all are considerably less than 100 years. But the point of this analysis is that it really doesn’t matter what the estimates are; there is no way that a supply-side attack on America’s energy problem can work.

Calculations also show that if consumption of an energy resource is allowed to grow at a steady 5% annual rate, a full doubling of the available supply will not be as effective as reducing that growth by half – to 2.5%. Doubling the size of the oil reserve will add at most 14 years to the life expectancy of the resource if we continue to use it at the currently increasing rate. On the other hand, halving the growth of consumption will almost double the life expectancy of the supply, no matter what it is. This math reality seems to have escaped the politicians pushing to solve the energy problem by simply increasing supply.

Building more power plants and drilling for more oil is exactly the wrong thing to do, because it will encourage more use. To avoid dire consequences, we need to find the political smarts and will to reduce the growth in energy consumption to zero—or even begin to consume less. I must emphasize that reducing the growth rate is not what most people are talking about when they advocate conservation; the steps they recommend are just Band-Aids. If we increase the gas mileage of our vehicles and then drive more miles, for example, that will not reduce the growth rate. Reducing the growth of consumption means living closer to where we work or play. It means telecommuting. It means controlling population growth. It means basic conservation techniques that work. It means shifting to renewable energy sources. It is not, perhaps, necessary to cut our use of oil, but it is essential we cut the rate of increase at which we consume it. To do otherwise is to leave our descendants in an impoverished world.

 —Mohandas Ghandi

Wind power — right for you?

There are several factors to determine the feasibility of wind generation at your site; the first is obviously a good average wind speed—at least 10 to 12 mph or better. Check with your local weather station or airports to help determine this. Zoning requirements are another consideration; will your community let you put up a tower?

Utilizing efficient appliances and lighting in your home will help make the system cost much less—every dollar spent on efficiency will save you three to five dollars in the cost of your power system, solar or wind.

To figure what components it would take for your system, we need to know 1) your power requirements in terms of watt-hours a day, or how much power you’d like to make with this system 2) the average wind speed 3) your peak loads (the total watts of all appliances, lights, etc., that might be running at one time—this is how we size the inverter) and 4) any special load considerations, like 240VAC loads, utility interactive or not, battery back-up or not.

Bergey Windpower Corporation now offers another option with their Excel 10 model: you can have your system hooked to utility power without batteries—a grid interactive system. When the wind blows, the power you make goes directly against your loads, and when you’re making more power than using, you can sell your power back to the utility. If you’re interested in this type of system, contact your local utility and ask what sort of net metering plan they offer.

Bergey Windpower has a great web site with state-by-state wind maps at www.bergey.com —if your zone rating is "3" or higher, you‘re likely in a very good site for wind generation. You can print pricing, spec sheets, installation manuals and tower options right off their site. For information on small wind gennies for remote cabins with modest power requirements, see

www.air403windgenerators.com/air_403.html —there are links at the bottom with more information on other components, basic wiring diagrams, etc.

Wind power is a vastly underdeveloped resource in this country; there’s enough viable wind power in eastern Montana and the Dakotas to supply the electrical needs of all of North America! But if you have a good site with consistent moderate to high winds, at least you can put it to work for you.

Bergey Windpower Corp’s XL.1 Wind Generator

This is the most technically advanced small wind turbine ever. It comes backed by a full five year warranty. The XL.1 is designed for high reliability, low maintenance, and automatic operation in adverse weather conditions. The unit comes with its own PowerCenter (controller) which includes the ability to add up to 30 amps of photovoltaic capacity. Owner installations are a snap with tilt-up tower options from 30 to 104 feet. . Units currently available are for 24V battery charging systems; the XL.1-S is in the forecast for next year, which will be a grid-interactive unit for batteryless systems! More voltage ranges are coming too.
* Five year warranty
* Maintenance-free design
* Nearly silent operation
*Good low wind performance
* Autofurl storm protection
* State of the art airfoil
* Direct-drive neodymium PM alternato

Bergey is swamped right now—lead time is 4 to 6 months for these popular units. Here’s data on the predicted energy production:

10.7 mph 12.1 mph 13.0 mph 13.9 mph 15.0 mph 18.8 mph
30 ft.
64 ft.
104 ft.

(above output is in Kilowatt Hours)

CONSERV Energy Efficient Refrigeration by Vestfrost

The ConServ refrigerator/freezers offer an AC alternative for efficient refrigeration. Available with stainless steel doors, and white exterior, their tall, slender design is a handsome addition to any kitchen, and their small "footprint" makes them desirable for apartment dwellers or for anyone with a small or galley-style kitchen.


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