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The Basics of Renewable Energy

In your home, right now, you have electrical outlets which power your appliances with 120 volts AC (alternating current) electricity. For certain high-powered units (such as an electric water heater, electric range/oven, electric forced air heating/ cooling system, electric clothes dryer, etc.) 240 volts is supplied. But most appliances you use operate on 120 volts AC.    This electricity cannot be stored. You must be constantly connected to the power company’s power plant. If there is any interruption in that connection (i.e. a tree falls on the power lines) or if the power plant stops operating, you lose your power.

Your car, on the other hand, has its own miniature power system. Obviously, when the car is running, the “power plant” (i.e. the alternator) is producing electricity. But unlike the power in your home, when the car is turned off you can still listen to the radio or charge your cell phone. How does that work? The difference lies in the fact that your car’s power system is a low voltage DC (direct current) system. DC electricity, unlike AC, can be stored. That is why there is a battery under the hood of your car. There is no such thing as an AC battery. All batteries are utilizing DC electricity. And this is how most renewable energy (RE) systems are set up. They include:

  1. Any device that generates electricity
  2. Batteries to store the electricity. And since most of our appliances operate on AC electricity, we need some way to invert the DC electricity from our batteries into AC power. This is why most people also choose to include:
  3. Inverter

These three basic categories make up the skeleton of our renewable energy system.

Click here for a Renewable Energy System Overview.


  • Guest
    Linda Heling Tuesday, 25 February 2014

    Could you tell me? If you have a solar panel, which I do not have yet, and the electromagnetic pulse happens by natural causes or by an enemy, would a solar electric system stop working? I was listening to Rosco Bartlett from your newsletter and began to wonder about this. We planned to get a hand pump for our well and a wood cook stove, but we thought solar would work for awhile till some component gave out at the end of time. Then we would have to live without. If this pulse even ruins a cars electrical system why could it not ruin an off-grid solar or wind-turbine system?

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