Energy infrastructure and conservation methods are foundational to the creation of self-sufficient and self-propagating teacher/demonstration communities, villages, and cities to be built around the world. This page is an open source and free-shared guide to the setup and expansion of net-zero (100% sustainable) energy infrastructure during the construction of teacher/demonstration hub food infrastructure, village models, the Duplicable City Center, and beyond. Once on the property, we will further evolve the Highest Good energy® foundations and open source resources with additional implementation and research results of an even broader diversity of energy-saving strategies and alternative energy infrastructure methodologies.
This page contains the following sections related to Highest Good Energy:
One Community defines Highest Good energy as renewable and conscientious of the air, water, and land that we all share. It is also an active approach to energy saving strategies that we are implementing including semi-subterranean building, shared social spaces, passive heating, cooling, and lighting, maximally efficient hot water heating, water saving shower heads, energy saving lighting plans, and more. One Community’s Highest Good energy rollout is detailed below assuming zero initial energy infrastructure and starting with traditional generators, grid tying, and then building a comprehensive solar micro-grid capable of producing sufficient energy surplus in the summer to equal or surpass our supplemental energy purchased in the winter. This will make our energy production sustainably net-zero or net-positive. From there we will continue to expand the energy infrastructure with more solar, wind, or any newer technologies that become available and can be determined to be superior to other alternatives.
The current global approach to energy is not sustainable. One Community sees open source sharing 100% sustainable/net-zero energy setup and expansion as part of the solution. We are doing this as energy infrastructure for newly-beginning teacher/demonstration hubs through well-established hubs of 400+ people. Our goal is to promote conservation, all sustainable energy providers and technologies, and the viability of complete energy sustainability. We see making small-to-large group energy self-sufficiency easier, more affordable, and more attractive as part of our comprehensive approach to evolving sustainability that will positively and permanently transform the world for everyone.
We are beginning with open source and free-sharing comprehensive strategies for energy setup and conservation through semi-subterranean building, shared social spaces, passive heating, cooling, and lighting, maximally efficient hot water heating, water saving shower heads, energy saving lighting plans, and the detailed energy infrastructure rollout and establishment plan outlined on this page. As we complete them, the open source resources list below will continue to expand with tools, tutorials, and DIY resources for duplication of all aspects of One Community’s energy infrastructure:
|What we’re working on now|
|Energy self-sufficiency phase-in for 20-400+ people|
|Solar energy research, cost analysis, implementation, and maintenance details|
|Wind energy research, cost analysis, implementation, and maintenance details|
|Hydro energy research, cost analysis, implementation, and maintenance details|
|Sustainable water heating open source hub|
|Hydronic systems setup and development for 20-100+ people|
|Highest Good lifestyle considerations and conservation strategies|
|Energy conservation strategies and results data|
|Water-saving shower head research and comparisons|
|Water-saving faucets research and comparisons|
|Water-saving toilets research and comparisons|
|How to make your build easier than ours and how to solve any problems we encountered in our build|
|Complete and on-going maintenance and upkeep details per our experience with all energy infrastructure components|
|Archive and database of others building similar structures including their experiences, adaptations, etc.|
|Resource-saving and efficient Duplicable City Center|
|Ultra-affordable, sustainable, space efficient, and replicable Earthbag Village|
|City Center heating and cooling research, designs, plans, and adaptations|
|Automation, monitoring, and control systems design, setup, and data gathering and sharing|
|Water and energy-saving eco-laundry research and design|
|Duplicable City Center Eco-lighting Planning and Design Details|
|Detailed Earthbag Village heating and cooling research, plans, and adaptations|
|Shower Energy-Saving Measures: Thermostatic Mixing Valves|
Before One Community (or any off-grid teacher/demonstration community, village, or city) can begin construction of its primary structures, an initial team will need to move to the property to survey the land and begin food infrastructure preparation, finalize development plans, and create the “pre-infrastructure” that needs to exist to support the construction of the first phase of the One Community infrastructure. This group will need access to electrical power before much else can be done and we’ve determined that temporary mobile diesel generators are the best choice for this initial power. From that point forward, more extensive and permanent infrastructure will be built including a connection to the grid, battery storage, and solar and wind as the primary power sources. The generators will then serve as standby emergency backup supply.
What follows is the specific plan for this energy rollout starting with the initial survey team of 10-20 people through our first 400. As part of our open source goals, this rollout is designed and described in detail to help those interested in duplication. Additional details will be added as we complete them. We discuss the complete energy infrastructure implementation plan with the following sections:
The primary focus for the initial people to move onto the property must be providing electricity as quickly as possible. There is also a need for flexibility of the generated power in order to provide the group with access wherever we need it. This will be accomplished initially with two 100 kW diesel generators and a battery energy storage system. Installation of the solar array will begin in the second month, as part of the next phase.
Here is the cost analysis for this phase:
* Cost as of 2/18.
Note: Eventually the generators will either be mounted permanently on slabs or just serve as mobile sources of construction power when required. As more permanent sources of electricity (grid connection, solar, wind) and storage are set-up, these generators will be disconnected to serve as backup for critical systems in case of a grid-tie emergency like a cut power line. At some point we hope to phase them out completely.
The action items for this stage of the energy infrastructure rollout are as follows:
In the beginning, the objective is to satisfy the energy needs of the initial construction camp, transition kitchen and food self-sufficiency plan while beginning construction of the Earthbag Village, Duplicable City Center, food infrastructure, and Ultimate Classroom. The generators are sized for these requirements.
The reasoning behind having two 100 kW generators first is that they will provide intermittent and mobile power for use on miscellaneous work sites throughout the property. As part of generator add-ons, a sound enclosure and a 250-gallon sub-base fuel tank is attached to both generators to provide enough fuel for about 3 days. This is because the per-day fuel use for the landing party is estimated to be about 69 gallons, as explained in the following sections. Generator 1, to enable mobility, must be attached with a double-axle trailer which can be towed as a mobile generator unit to miscellaneous work sites. Generator 2 acts as a stationary backup supply and the battery pack acts as the stationary active supply. Extra fuel would be stored in a fuel bladder with a 2000 gallon capacity, enough for up to 28 days, after which it would need to be refilled from the closest gas station.
To appropriately size these generators, the complete power needs for the “Landing Party” have been analyzed. The total power and energy use at this stage is covered in detail in this spreadsheet. It includes the following key areas:
The peak power load is identified to be during the evening at 171.8 kW (click for spreadsheet). Accounting for additional needs, and considering that this generator system will later serve as an emergency backup for the Earthbag Village (Pod 1) and Duplicable City Center, we multiply by a safety factor of 1.15 to arrive at a final estimated required capacity of 200 kW.
For easy fuel storage, a trailer would provide mobility for frequent refueling at a biodiesel fueling station or delivery service. For more permanent storage a bladder might be the best and lowest-cost solution.
Note: Fuel consumption per generated kW varies with electrical load when using a generator. The chart below shows average fuel consumption in relation to % output (load). Since this chart is for a 100 kW unit, the % load is equal to the kilowatt output (50% = 50 kW).
A look at the bi-hourly energy breakdown shows that the second generator’s capacity is not used optimally, since it sits idle over most the day. Also, since the generator does not operate at full load most of the time, a loss of efficiency takes place, which increases the fuel costs significantly. This also supports the rationale for 2 generators versus 1, because just using 1 large generator would mean even more frequent use of that one generator at less than 100% efficiency. More specifically, looking at the bottom of the energy use breakdown spreadsheet, you can see that the efficiency of 2 generators working as needed to supply power provides a 35-cents per kWh yield, compared to regular household electricity costs of ~0.12 cents per kWh.
An alternative, efficient, and environmentally conscious way to satisfy the energy needs would be to use a battery energy storage system along with an energy management system. Such a system would ideally run the generator at 100% capacity for a particular number of hours, which would be divided between powering the daily needs and charging the battery. During times of the day when the battery storage is enough to power all needs, the generator could be turned off and the battery could be discharged. Another important note is that the power needs of the camp, at this stage, would be fluctuating as the various tools and appliances are plugged into and out of the system. Batteries, as a flexible power source, are better suited to serve these demand intermittencies compared to direct generator supply.
A forecast, such as the one demonstrated in the energy use breakdown spreadsheet, can be generated by the energy management system every day to anticipate the energy needs of the camp and plan the optimum sources for providing power at all times.
Looking again at the bottom of the energy use breakdown, you can see that this addition of batteries and the added ability to run a single generator for all power needs (with the second generator now only needed for backup) provides a 22.6 cents per kWh yield, compared to 35 cents per kWh yield with generators running to supply power as needed, and regular household electricity costs of ~0.12 cents per kWh. These savings guided our decision to add in batteries.
Also, once the solar microgrid and wind infrastructure are set up, a battery energy storage system will become a necessity. Since the storage system is modular, it can be repurposed as per the requirements of the rest of this energy infrastructure rollout. This approach is further supported by the reality that the cost of battery energy storage systems continues to drop with increasing research and development in the field.
All this said, the ideal energy infrastructure at this stage would therefore include:
As previously stated, all of this infrastructure will also transfer over for backup use (generators) and integrated use (batteries) as we’re completing construction of the Duplicable City Center and Earthbag Village.
The rest of the Pioneer Team will move onto the property after the “landing party” has completed their site survey, identified the locations of all planned construction, begun working on the infrastructure, and completed and gained approval for all the initial building plans. At this point, grid connection will need to be established for power supply to support construction as well as operation of a large-scale sustainable water heating system and other systems which will be coming online. Also, enough planning will have been done to begin working on the long-term energy infrastructure while still allowing for flexible power generation for construction needs. This means beginning to build the solar microgrid that will service the Duplicable City Center and Earthbag Village (Pod 1).
The action items for this stage of the energy infrastructure rollout are as follows:
Note: Check THIS PAGE for a tutorial on 100% off-grid energy infrastructure.
Power production at this phase of construction will include implementation of the complete energy infrastructure needed for powering the Duplicable City Center and Earthbag Village (Pod 1). The portable generator and batteries will be used for tool and other remote power needs (and main-site needs) until grid connection is established and operating as the primary power supply. During this time, the solar micro-grid will also be installed and brought online.
First we will connect the grid supply and additional battery banks to the Energy Management System. We will then begin our transition to solar power by connecting the solar micro-grid to the system as quickly as possible to decrease use of the grid power and phase out the diesel generators.
Note: The battery bank does not need to be full-size yet, but must have the capability of increasing to that size in the future.
In order to size our solar array, and estimate the additional battery bank sizing and daily cost of electricity to operate, we estimated the power and energy needs for this first wave. The foundational data and estimates used for sizing are the same as that of the 10-20 initial survey team, but scaled up appropriately. Here’s what this looks like:
There will be additional power needs once the second group of 20-50 people arrive. They are included in the spreadsheet above and consist of the following areas:
Looking at these increased power requirements for the 20-50 people wave, you will notice that the energy infrastructure must be more than doubled to supply enough electricity and continue construction. This is why it makes economic sense at this stage to plan for the longer term and onwards by connecting to the grid. This will assure reliable connectivity all day long during this transition to a permanent, large-scale, and sustainable solar micro-grid energy infrastructure foundation.
By now, construction of the initial components of One Community are in full swing and we’re ready to bring on additional team members to accelerate the pace of progress. Along with population increases we will see the demand for electrical power and hot water increase. For instance, the Duplicable City Center kitchen and large-scale laundry facility will both become fully operational during this time and draw considerable electric power. Other structures coming online during this wave are two more Communal Eco-showers and both Vermiculture Eco-toilets. As the demand grows, we shall be taking advantage of the energy efficiencies that are associated with larger systems and implement additional energy reduction and conservation measures too.
The action items for this stage of the energy infrastructure rollout are as follows:
Related to the last bullet-point above, here are the viability projections for energy storage starting with small amounts of energy being stored for less than a day and progressing to megawatts being stored for a year or more. The red line is our power demand and what you see is that with storage capacity there is an amount of stored energy that can offset cost in the different mediums: batteries, compressed storage, etc. If we need to store power for 1 month, batteries are not a viable solution, but hydrogen storage would be once energy storage needs are sufficient to warrant the added expense of creating infrastructure like this.
This construction period will be very energy-intensive and will require large amounts of power. As development continues, the hydronic systems become operational and the total load on the Energy Manager will increase. As energy-saving measures are added, the load will decrease. Overall though, our total demand for power, both hydronic and electrical, will increase. The Duplicable City Center radiant heating will be the largest consumer of power (both hydronic and electric). Therefore, it will be beneficial to have the core energy systems (all solar arrays, full-size battery storage, and grid connection) and some of the energy-reducing measures in place before the hydronic system is enabled. Further evaluation on the property will dictate the best size and placement of the wind microgrid.
Estimation of energy requirements for the construction and operation of the next set of structures, as well as the lifestyle for the increased number of people was done to account for daily operational costs.
The lighting, construction, computing loads can simply be doubled relative to the previous wave. With the eco-laundry coming online, 5 additional machines each for washing and drying, will be brought in which would increase the load due to laundry. Another major increase in energy use at this stage is the switch from the transition kitchen (which will now serve as a mobile kitchen for remote construction) to the Duplicable City Center kitchen. Both the eco-laundry and kitchen will be built on the foundational structure of Duplicable City Center, which would be ready by now.
Heating of this structure would be supported through electric boilers, facilitating radiant floor heating as per the hydronic systems plan. At this stage, some of the instantaneous water heaters may be used to provide point-of-use hot water at remote construction sites and the transition kitchen, and at the communal eco-showers. After adding 6 additional water heaters for this stage, the rest of these shall provide hot water for all daily needs at the Duplicable City Center and surrounding structures. The sustainable water heating page describes this entire system in greater detail. Energy-conserving measures like solar heat collectors and additional heat exchangers shall come online to improve the overall efficiency of this larger system.
Additionally, we will be bringing online the Wet Lab for the Earthbag Village Greywater recycling system. This will allow for safe processing and cleaning of greywater and reusing it for flushing toilets and agricultural purposes. Power needed for the lab equipment is also accounted for in the process of estimating total requirements of the energy infrastructure for this phase.
Throughout the first five years on the property, One Community will construct several key structures. These will include the Duplicable City Center, the Earthbag Village (Pod 1), Straw Bale Village (Pod 2), food greenhouses, and additional village models if possible. The expectation from residents working in these areas and visitors touring our community will be that the solutions we are testing and displaying are genuine and practical solutions. During this time the Phase I energy system (described above) will be completely developed and the new focus will be testing and monitoring this system, fine tuning and conservation strategies, and planning and implementation of next steps.
The action items for this stage of the energy infrastructure rollout are as follows:
As the entire Duplicable City Center structure comes online, the efficiency of radiant floor heating will only increase as the number of people reaping its benefits increase. The number of boilers that come online will be increased to full capacity in order to ensure enough hot water for the hydronic system. The communal eco-showers will still derive their hot water needs from instantaneous water heaters.
The transition kitchen, construction equipment, and power tools will draw power at remote locations through batteries, solar power, or backup generators. The Earthbag Village and Straw Bale Village will be phased in as their construction completes and then construction of the additional village models will begin. Lighting and other energy needs these structures will be scaled up as required based on previous estimates.
All remaining food infrastructure structures including the aquapinis, walipinis, hoop houses, and other aspects of the large-scale gardening will also need power for daily operation. Lighting, heating, and irrigation constitute the major energy consuming aspects for all food infrastructure. Lighting needs can be determined from this link, or estimated based on calculations for previous structures. Power drawn by irrigation systems, once set-up, will be negligible since the required water pressure would be standard. The heating and cooling of Aquapini and Walipinis is facilitated by the use of climate batteries.
This phase of development will be about monitoring all electrical energy being consumed and making expansion decisions based on needs and what we learn. The monitoring will be accomplished through meters for all individual living spaces and ammeters on any main power lines that would output the amps being used at that instant (see the Control Systems page for details). Since the voltage will be known, the power will then be a simple calculation done by either a designed system or one bought off the shelf. That power (in Watts or kW) will then be logged over time to get the amount of energy in kWh used during the course of the day.
The following picture illustrates this with each “A” representing a monitoring point that communicates with a power display feeding data to a central data analysis point:
Electrical Power Monitoring will have displays at the source and connections to a main power display that will monitor and control the electrical energy management sub-system.
Similarly, hot water used in showers, for domestic use, and the hydronic systems can be monitored by knowing the flow rate, temperature, and amount of time used. With instantaneous water heaters at points of service, the electrical energy draw from those units could also be used with the addition of the known hot-tank water temp and the flow rate of the use.
In short, hot water monitoring needs two pieces of data for each point: temperature and flow. For showers and the boiler, temperature can be replaced by an electrical power reading which will already be monitored by the electrical energy monitoring software and relayed to the Main Power Display. For everything else, temperature and flow monitors will do the job.
Specifically monitoring all of these things will allow us to fine tune our consumption patterns and open source share our results. Tracking these metrics for guests will also be a major benefit to the mission of One Community by giving the constant flow of temporary residents/visitors access to accurate (and anonymous) reports of their energy usage while staying. In so doing, we help to educate people and give them the opportunity to become more conscientious about their use.
This will also create ultra-accurate energy needs assessments to help us with our planning and construction of each additional open source village needed for expansion to host people beyond the initial 400.
Sustainable energy, and renewable energy abundance, is all about careful planning and system redundancy. We won’t be able to effectively plan our power needs beyond the Earthbag Village (Pod 1), Duplicable City Center, and Straw Bale Village (Pod 2) until all three of these components of our infrastructure are complete and we’ve gained the experience of using the systems designed above. While it is predictable that we will actually increase our energy efficiency over time due to increased conservation methods and “fine tuning” of our usage patterns, it is also predictable that we will have energy needs we haven’t accounted for.
Learning from experience, learning more about our specific property and how effective options like wind power may be, possible implementation of new energy technologies, and a better understanding of our specific needs will all be crucial to planning our power infrastructure for the other open source villages and beyond.
Completely off-grid energy production in remote locations requires planning and a detailed phase-in process if the goal is to build as effectively and efficiently as possible. One Community is open source sharing our design process and rational as a foundation of establishing self-sufficient and self-propagating teacher/demonstration communities, villages, and cities. We will evolve this page with more details as they develop. These details will eventually include complete installation tutorials, maintenance details, purchase order specifics, and more.
Q: How are the generators sized?
Generators are sized using the maximum continuous wattage (power) that they can reliably create. If, when every device is turned on and running at maximum, the power draw is 95 kW then we select a 100 kW generator. Most of the time the power draw on the generator will be much less than the maximum load.
Q: How is the system sized?
The energy system will always be designed for the worst-case, maximum load. This would include sizing wires, fuses, and busses to handle every possible device and appliance turned on at once. Even though this is a very unlikely scenario, it ensures that the system will always work within its safe limits.
Q: In what case would the generators activate?
In the beginning we will use the generators for many different activities, but as the project adds sustainable energy sources to the property, the generators will be phased-out in favor of the more sustainable options. However, we will keep the generators on site, in running order and fueled in case of a fault in any part of the energy management system that then requires their use as a backup power source.
Q: What happens in the case of a massive battery fault?
In this scenario the battery banks are damaged or in some way inhibited from providing the stored power back to the energy manager. As the energy manager senses the drop (or stop) of battery power it will send a “Start” command to the backup generators causing them to start, reach working RPM, and sync into the energy manager’s grid. During this time the total load of the project less the total amount being created by sustainable means at that instant would be placed on the generators. They would run until battery storage was back online or the sustainable systems were creating enough power to cover the current load.
Q: What happens when there is not enough power to charge the batteries? (Cloudy Week Scenario)
Sometimes there will be a deficit of energy created in the day (solar, wind, etc.) and the remaining energy needed will have to be “made up.” The energy manager will run one or more generators at the most fuel efficient load for as long as it takes to charge the system. Once charged, the energy manager will automatically shut down the generators. In times of low light due to atmospheric disturbances this could become a daily occurrence to meet the forecasted demands on the system.
An example would be the energy manager calculating the amount of energy in storage and if the stored power does not meet the energy needs of the system for the next 24 hours the generators would run after the solar cycle (evening) to “top off” the batteries for the following day.
Q: What happens in the case of an energy manager malfunction?
In the case that the energy manager fails to operate or detects a fault, the system would go under total generator control. Because improper battery management can cause catastrophic damage. It is safer to allow the generators to take on the entire load of the system and remain in that state until the energy manager fault is discovered and fixed.
Q: How does the system change in an emergency scenario?
As a fault is detected in the system the energy manager, programed in advance, will compensate by utilizing the different power storage and production equipment options that are connected to the system.
Normal management would be the phasing in and out of sustainable power sources as they come online. However, in the event that a subsystem fails in such a way that could be damaging the entire system, like a short circuit or an unexpected voltage spike, the manager will remove the offending device from the system and rely on other sources. Mechanical systems (fuses, breakers) will also be in place in the case of a very sudden change in voltages that could be too quick for the manager to compensate, such as a lightning strike or short.
Q: What are the fail-safe measures?
Whenever possible all parts of the system will be designed to fail in a way that provides the safest possible scenario for the rest of the system. Whenever possible the system will also continue to provide power. This said, there could still be times where a catastrophic failure fail-safe would be to cut power completely. The details of this system of fail-safes would depend on the environment in which the system is placed and it’s particular construction and components, so at this time there are no definitive plans.
Q: What systems would be active in a power emergency?
In a power emergency only essential systems should be left on. The following factors would determine which systems are essential:
To help put the energy needs of different systems in different situations into perspective, here is a chart showing how much specific components of One Community will contribute to peak wattage needs:
Now compare this to this chart that shows how much specific components of One Community will contribute to total energy needs:
The point of these two charts is to show that components like the heat pump, dryer, and water heaters draw the most power from the perspective of total daily needs because they will be running consistently. Individual heaters, the boiler/water heaters, dryer, and parabolic heaters are the top contributors to peak wattage (energy spikes) because they draw a lot of power at one time. The general trend is still that those items high on one chart are also high on the other chart, but the details will vary and this can be extremely helpful to understand and consider in emergency power situations. Also, to conserve power, the hot tub (a huge energy consumer) has been designated as an item to be used only when surplus energy is available (like in the summer months).
Q: How much bio-diesel will you need?
The per-day fuel use for the landing party is estimated to be about 69 gallons, as explained in the above sections. Generator 1, to enable mobility, must be attached with a double-axle trailer which can be towed as a mobile generator unit to miscellaneous work sites. Generator 2 acts as a stationary backup supply and the battery pack acts as the stationary active supply. Extra fuel would be stored in a fuel bladder with a 2000 gallon capacity, enough for up to 28 days, after which it would need to be refilled from the closest gas station.
Q: What are the benefits of bladder storage for fuel?
Storing fuel in a large bladder is by far the most economical way to store the biodiesel used by the generators. However, bladders are flimsy and easily punctured. They cannot be buried either, so they would have to sit on the ground somewhere protected from heat-sources, and sharp objects.
Q: What are the benefits of tank storage for fuel?
While Tanks are more expensive than bladders, they can be buried to keep them away from heat sources and punctures. Larger tanks would take a large piece of land-moving equipment to place underground.
Q: How long will the batteries take to drain?
Very simply, batteries are rated with their voltage (average) and Amp-Hours. A 50 A-hr 12-volt car battery will provide 1 amp at 12 volts for 50 hours, or 50 amps for 1 hour, or 25 amps for 2 hours, etc. This is the principle used to size the batteries needed on the property. Knowing that we need to provide a certain amount of power (lets say 5 kW) over a certain amount of time (2.5 days = 60 hours) we can start to calculate the batteries needed.
Typical high-voltage batteries can be around 48 volts. Knowing that Volts X Amps = Watts, we can determine the number of amp hours needed:
Since we need that over the course of 60 hours:
If the largest size of battery we can find is 1000 A-H, then we would have to buy 7 of them to cover this draw for 2.5 days.
As with all engineering calculations, the largest (predicted) average power drain will be taken into account to build in a buffer to our system.
Doug Pratt: Solar Systems Design Engineer
Falgun Patel: Mechanical Engineer
Lorenzo Zjalarre: Physicist and Energy Efficiency Expert
Ramya Vudi: Electrical Engineer
Robert Seton: Solar Design Engineer and Owner of Solar Hybrid Design
Ron Payne: HVAC/Thermal Designer and Mechanical Engineer
Satish Ravindran: Senior Mechanical and Industrial Engineer and LEED AP
Shubham Agrawal: Electrical Engineer