Wood Gas – The Other Solar Energy

  1. Offgrid48
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    We are all familiar with Solar Energy (Photovoltaic - PV) for generation of electrical power. In fact, solar energy has become so well-known and utilized that it will soon surpass fossil fuel as the most economical energy source within the next decade. That is good news, but what about when there is no sunlight? Up here in the Northwest (and many other places), there are long periods when there is limited sunlight. Ask any solar power user, and they will tell you that when there is no sunlight for any extended period, they turn on the generator to keep their battery bank charged. Even those who have a complimentary system like a wind turbine will find times when there is no sunlight and no wind. So, on goes the generator, but those generators can consume a lot of fuel whether it be gasoline, diesel, natural gas, or propane. That fuel cost can add up quickly depending upon your geography and number of hours needed to run to make up the difference in the lack of sunlight or wind.

    What if we could power those generators with a biofuel that we could create on demand? Well with a wood gas generator, we can do exactly that, create our own fuel. If we have sufficient access and availability to a biofuel such as wood chips and utilize a process called gasification.

    Gasification - A little history

    Gasification is a process that has been used for several hundred years. Going back to the 1800's gasification was used commercially for industrial and residential heating and lighting. Street lights were powered by gas from gasification. Gasification was again used during WWII when there were severe fuel shortages. Car engines, tractors, and other engines were converted to run a wood gas. It seems that gasification is a technology that gets lost and then rediscovered during times of fuel shortages and high prices. Today we are experiencing a renewed interest in gasification using cleaner, safer and more efficient designs to generate clean gas for fuel and heating applications.

    Gasification - The Process

    Gasification is a process that coverts organic or fossil fuel based materials into carbon monoxide, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide gases. This combination gas is often referred to as Syngas (Synthetic Gas) as it is not pure natural gas. This gas is created in a process called Pyrolysis, which is the thermo chemical decomposition of these organic materials in a high temperature, oxygen limited environment. When created property by using extremely high temperatures, any residue tars are burned and created into gas. The gas is additionally filtered to ensure it is suitable to be used as a fuel to an internal combustion engine.

    The other solar energy

    You can think of organic materials as storage of solar energy. Sunlight was crucial to the growth these materials and the gasification and pyrolysis process releases this stored energy and converts the material back to its basic elements. The gasification process allows it to retrieve this stored energy as Syngas. We can use both the heat generated by the pyrolysis process of the gasification and the resulting gas (Syngas). We can burn the gas for heating applications, or we can use it as a fuel for our engines and generators. When you think about it, Wood Gasification is a perfect complement to any existing solar, wind or another alternative energy system. Gasification is also a highly efficient process. For example, when we burn wood in a fire or wood stove, we get only a small portion of the energy as fire and heat. Most of the energy is 'up in smoke', which is the unconverted gases of the material. This smoke is also an environmental hazard and breathing hazard. The gasification process burns up all the material at much higher temperatures, so there is little to no smoke to release in the atmosphere and is a far more efficient process. Additionally, the gasification residue, also known as biochar, is mostly carbon and provides a host of uses including a soil additive.

    Today's Wood Gas - Generate your own fuel

    Today we are rediscovering the benefits of wood gasification for home power generation. Wood gas generations are built on proven designs with better materials and provide a cost effective means to generate wood gas for power generation or heating applications, whether combined with an internal combustion engine, external combustion engine or even a Stirling engine. Whether you are an existing solar user, wind turbine or another alternative energy user, or you are interested in learning how wood gas can be a part of your energy solution, you should explore the benefits of wood gas generation.

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    I would be glad to answer any questions you may have on wood gas generators or be of any assistance in your renewable energy needs

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  1. Oologahan
    You can also breakdown wood chips, leaves, grass, paper using a distilling process with the appropriate enzyme and make actual liquid fuel with the left over by product being compost, cheaper and more efficient, and a great residual product as a bonus
      melli likes this.
  2. melli
    Would be nice to have a link of a gasifier, of how it actually works, cost, etc.
    thx
    1. Offgrid48
      The design I use is based on Ben Peterson's design (http://www.woodgasifierplans.com/ ), which is a proven design that will produce high quality gas for power generation applications. I use this design to offer full gasifier builds on a cost+ basis or DIY parts kits.There are also many other Internet and YouTube videos different gasifiers and designs.
      melli likes this.