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    I live far enough north that we get six months of mostly cloudy, cold weather. Solar simply is not an option even if I had the money to buy an extremely expensive solar power instalation.

    In my search for other ways to get power and low cost alternatives to the expensive options offered by the solar power guys I have found several interesting possibilities.

    Wood gassification stoves will provide plenty of heat for cooking and house heating or water heating compared to utility natural gas or relatively expensive propane. The gas product of a gassifier can be used as fuel in a vehicle or a power generator.

    I also explored the world of thermal electric generators, TEG for short.

    This is a way to generate enough power to recharge a cell phone or flashlight rom the heat of a stove. Here is one company manufacturing products you can usew in a variety of ways. In a previous post somewher I had commented on how solar this or that did not work so well after sundown or in winter.

    Dollar stores have always intrigued me because the same battery operated lights they sell for a buck or so sell in Wal-Mark ar $7.95 or even $9.95

    Who says Wal-Mart is cheap?

    The thing about battery operated LED lights is they do not run on 12V. Ploblem!!

    Almost all the batteries and solar chargers are geared to 12V powe.

    On a hunch I visited Value Village and in their bagged odds and sods department found a couple of the cell phone power adaptors that plug into the car 12V and output 4.5V to a cell phone. Perfect for powering some LED battery LRD lights. The charging circuit of a typical cell phone uses almost 10X ass much current as a typical LEd light fixture.

    If you have a house where a big inveter powers the house wiring for fridges and freezers with 120V AC get one of the power cube power packs for cell phome charging at home.

    Okay I realize this is not perfect but is a ready solution for those people who do not feel comfortable building their own electronic stuff from scratch.

    Remember 3 battery cells = 4.5V and 4 battery cells = 6.0V check the output of the adaptor to get the right one. with so many older units being junked I’m sue you will find something for free or only a buck.


    Does anyone have any experience with the GOAL ZERO battery/solar kits…they publicize some serious reviews from people on walkabout cross country…expeditions etc.???

    I guess I still wonder about the expense when mainly these kits seem to be used for cell phone, laptop and iPad charges…I just want solar to become a silver bullet and power everything which is wishful thinking…someday maybe.


    Dust of the Sun wrote: “I just want solar to become a silver bullet and power everything which is wishful thinking…”

    Marketing hype has led us to believe in silver bullets, a term I suspect is another marketing term.

    Those people with technical and engineering experience know better. When ever and where ever you convert one form of energy to another form there will be conversion losses.

    It is also a fact that the people who find alternative lifestyles appealing seldom have an inclination to be a realistic and pragmatic engineering type. Quite the opposite. Early adopters may have some nodding acquaintance with the technical aspects but they often attempt to implement technical solutions with issufficient knowledge.

    The Goal zero product line is very expensive per delivered watt. It has a certain appeal to camping type applications but the reality is when it comes to powering even a modest sized home it simply cannot deliver enough watts.

    The best solar PV panels only deliver about 24% efficiency. By comparison a solar thermal is 3X as effective in collecting energy frim the sun


    The Goal Zero products are expensive. More of a hobby toy for those with money to burn. In reality you can make equivalent products yourself for way less money. In previous posts I have mentioned where you can get FREE batteries. Instead of spending $30 for a LED light, the dollar store has something equivalent for a buck or two. Because the dollar store version is not 12V get a junked cell phone power adaptor for in-car use. I picked up a couple for a buck at Value Village. A pen knife dismantled the phone end connector exposing the two wires needed to solder into a battery perated LED light. Mind the po;arity. Red is usually positive.

    Many automotive store offer low cost solar panels suited to recharge the smaller 12V batteries. If you need a carry case look in the section for school supplies and accessories.

    You can put together something for under $10 but maybe that is not sexy enough because you did not get the designer label version. (sigh)

    Guess this only appeals to serious off-gridders


    Of course and area that gets 6 months of cold cloudy weather is not feasible for solar electric. Maybe wind power, if feasible. Most likely micro hydro is out where the running water freezes. If you are off grid and need power, and non-CO2 power is not an option, either it is some sort of combustion generator, or something like a bicycle type charger, human or animal powered.

    Many do with oil/kerosine lamps and wood heat.

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