I am woking on a startup (read: using my computer always). 80% of the time, I generate my own electricity with a petrol/gas generator.

On new years day, the Nigerian government increased the price of petrol/gas by 120%, instantly doubling the cost of my electricity in addition to other costs. Therefore, making it really hard to afford working with my computer as often.

What is needed

I would love suggestions on affordable alternatives for generating reliable renewable electricity. I am told solar is expensive, but I understand that is if you are trying to generate serious power.

Of course I could Google, but I wanted something that has actually been used by a member of this community. It will spare me the cost on taking gambles on what I see online.

  • How about a stationary bicycle used to turn a generator? This would allow you to power your computer, and get exercise at the same time. Come to think of it, this could be a solution to the obesity problem in the US. Some of us might lose weight, if we had to peddle to watch the Biggest Loser.
    – Tester101
    Jan 11 '12 at 16:04
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    Is this to power just a laptop? Where do you live? Is it windy? Sunny? Near water?
    – DA01
    Jan 11 '12 at 19:30
  • Where I live is more sunny than windy. @Tester101 Nice idea. However I am a skinny lad :). Anyway, i'd like to see an example of what you are talking about. Jan 13 '12 at 8:40

Good and affordable are both relative to many local factors. Your best bet is to look around you and see what fuel source is abundant. You'll also want to think about how often/long that resource is present during high power use periods as you'll need to store the power for later use which can rack up the price.

There are areas of Michigan that are some of the cloudiest around and so solar may not be a good choice for the amount of radiation present. Add in the shorter days in winter and you compound it. However other areas are close to wind tunnels during the day (lake air movement) and so wind could be a good solution since power use would be lower in the middle of the night when the winds die down, saving storage costs.

If you are surrounded by fast food joints changing your generator to run on frying oil or biodiesel may pay for itself quickly with the low cost fuel supply.

Once you decide on what is locally abundant, then turn to google (or this board) to see if there are low-cost DIY options or suppliers in your area. Importing equipment might wipe out any potential savings, though if you are doing this as a business expense you may be able to write off some things or look around for grants/rebates for "green businesses".

  • Sun is in Abundance here in Nigeria. We definitely do not have DIY options over here. I could Google but I am looking for a solution that has already worked for someone. If I were living in America, I could order stuff, if it does not work, return it. However, living thousands of miles away, I need to act solely based on reference. Jan 13 '12 at 8:45
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    Then your first step may be determining your power requirements. An energy meter may be a cheap option to see what your draw is for your computing. If it is small enough you may just be able to do it off a small bank of car batteries with cheap trickle chargers and an inverter. I've done similar when powering lights and a small appliance in a workshop.
    – eby
    Jan 13 '12 at 15:50

Another view on this.... Your cost of power has doubled so the easiest way to offset this would be to reduce your power consumption.

Newer CPU's consume significantly less power than CPU's of just a couple years ago. Monitors backlit via a LED are more efficient than monitors backlit via a CFL. SSD's use less power than traditional hard drives. Laptops typically utilize less power than desktop computers. Ensure your power plan in your operating system is ideally configured - you can shave a few watt hours just by having your computer go to sleep more aggressively.

You can apply this to pretty much everything in your house. Even if you do need to go to an alternative source, reducing your load will reduce the cost of the source (less solar panels, smaller windmill, less battery capacity, etc.)

  • 1
    My cost has doubled not from the Utility company, but based on the cost of fuel I buy to run my generator. Irrespective of what I connect to it, fuel consumption is the same. if my electricity had stored value, then reducing consumption would have an effect. Jan 13 '12 at 8:48

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