Alum alt-tech tour 2015

The tour was a success! Thanks to all who helped and participated! Details of the tourSome photos of the tour (more coming soon)

A UK tour to spread ideas and techniques for energy autonomy

Alum alttech workshop and the authors of freenetworks wiki will make an educational tour in summer 2015 presenting talks, workshops and discussions on the theme of off-grid living and DIY small-scale renewable energy systems. On the tour we will demonstrate simple, low-cost wind and solar systems but with a particular focus on maintaining and rejuvinating batteries and ideas for new kinds of batteries better suited to our needs - small scale, low cost, long term, low voltage systems.

We want an end to nuclear power, to minimise our use of coal and gas, and to stop the construction of bigger, higher voltage powerlines. However, we believe energy autonomy is important not only from an environmental perspective but because it gives communities financial indepence and can make it possibile to live in more remote places, encouraging de-urbanisation and access to land. We want to move away from cities, closer to nature and to think long term!

Our tour will visit communities and farms across the UK who are using alternative energy, or would like to be. We will make our talks and workshops accessible to people of all ages and levels of knowledge, and will do childrens activites including alum crystal growing, to demonstrate how safe it compared to battery acid!

The tour will be an opportunity for the groups we are visiting to share information, as we will bring ideas and information from different groups together and create a mailing list to continue to share ideas and support each other after the tour.

We indend to build a permanent mobile workshop inside a vehicle for the tour, which will remain a community resource afterwards and be available for groups to use to build and maintain their own renewable energy systems.

Workshops and talks to include:

Checking battery voltage

  • Battery maintenance, rejuvination, recycling and salvage
    In our experience, buying and replacing batteries is undoubably the most environmentally damaging (and expensive!) aspect of off-grid living. Old batteries often become inefficient due to a build-up of sulphur on the lead plates. We show how to use pulse charing circuits to gradually desulphate batteries, bringing usuable batteries back to life, meaning we can use salvaged batteries, reducing waste and saving money. We will also look at general battery maintainance, measuring battery acidity and discuss where to find old batteries for free or cheap.

Bedini alum battery

  • Ideas for crystal and salt batteries
    Another problem with lead-acid batteries is that the lead plates corrode, giving a gradual build-up of lead deposits at the bottom of each cell. Eventually these deposits become so much that they short out the battery, making it useless. A more long term solution could be to use salts rather than acids in batteries. We have been experimenting with converting acid batteries to alum. Alum is the stuff deodorant crystals are made of. Alum batteries have a lower power density, meaning you need a heavier battery to give the same power as an acid battery. But they will never corrode. Which makes them a promising solution for long-term static off-grid systems. We believe such batteries are not available commercially simply because the industry favours products that will break and need replacing. We want to share ideas about these long term alternatives!

photovoltaic panel

  • Solar panel installation and maintenance
    including regulators and maximum power point tracking
  • DIY Wind turbines based on Hugh Piggott's design
  • Building pedal generators
    We will look at simple pedal generator designs, using DC motors and cycle training stands.
  • 12v lighting tips and tricks
    Getting LEDs cheaply, and reducing loss on larger systems by using short cable runs and thick cable.
  • 12v food blenders and other appliances
    Experimenting with old car windscreen wiper motors.
  • Soldering without mains electricity
    using gas or battery powered solding irons, and using tree sap as flux for soldering!
  • Desoldering and salvaging components
    Techniques for desoldering including using desoldering braid and solder suckers.

This solar dehydrator reduces the need for a refridgerator

  • Using less electricity rather than focusing on how to produce lots of power, we want to look at simple ways to reduce our consumption. We will look at ideas such as this solar dehydrator (pictured) which reduces the need for a refridgerator.
  • Childrens activites including alum crystal growing, to demonstrate how safe it is compared to battery acid!
  • Joule thief circuits

More information about all of these topics can be found on our Information and resources page

Where we will give workshops

Campaigns against the energy monster

High voltage lines are taking over

  • Stop Hinkley Campaign against two new nuclear reactors planned at Hinkley Point in Somerset
  • No Dash for Gas – Reclaim the Power against fracking and plans for 30 new gas fired powerstations in the UK.
  • Coal Action Scotland against new opencast coal mining in Scotland
  • Stop-THT against the contruction of 'Très Haute Tension' (very high voltage) lines across france and beyond.
  • No a la MAT against the construction of 'Muy Alta Tensión' (very high voltage) lines in Spain and beyond.

About our group

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