Distributed Energy Manifesto

It all started during a stormy winter in 2011 when my power was out for 4 days. I was thinking: if I only had some independent power source available. Maybe I would not have lost all my food in the fridge.

See my story in 30 seconds…. “On Fridge Off the Grid“:

This clip is meant as a teaser and will be followed by a video showing what you need to do to participate and make this idea become reality.

3rd Industrial Revolution

But there is a more important aspect to the project. Please watch this video from Jeremy Rifkin on Distributed Energy and you will see what I am trying to accomplish with this:

There are 5 pillars in his model which all together will bring our civilization past the carbon era. I want to start with the first three pillars and my goal is to replace one centralized power plant by pulling one million fridges partially off the power grid.

Details of my Project

In the past 2 years I developed a small generator and assembled a shopping list so people can build DIY a solar micro grid. There is a separate page about all technical specs. All parts together costs less then $900 and you can build a solar powered uninterruptible power supply (UPS) that generates you daily 1kWh or more – and it will all fit in a shoebox.

I think Everyone can find one big item in the household that is “always on” like a refrigerator or computer/modem/etc. and pull it off the grid during day time. Just the refrigerator alone consumes between 40W – 160W on average. This adds up to 500kWh per year!

See my poster on the CO2 impact that this project can have if we move in the right direction.

Since this system is modular it is compatible with many different battery technologies. In the future I want to be able to use hydrogen batteries to fulfill the requirement for the next pillar of energy revolution.

The current state

I have a produced a small batch of the PCB prototype using the Arduino platform which enables transfer switching between the solar powered inverter and main utility power to optimize battery life and maximize solar energy usage. I have teamed up with the experts of Athens Consulting to create a schematic and a PCB layout.

Als soon as that is done I am hoping to get crowd funding for a larger batch of boards to drop the production cost. I am currently thinking of Kickstarter as the crowd funding platform.

I am also looking for beta testers (send email) who already own the parts from the shopping list and who will get the first PCBs for testing. Here is a list of items I have used in my prototype.

Go green, reduce your energy footprint and spread the idea of distributed energy production!

Recommended also: Save 10 billion pounds of CO2Hybrid EnergyProject Video,  solar UPS schema, Project milestone, technical Specs

13 comments for “Distributed Energy Manifesto

  1. September 19, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    I love the whole idea. It not only serves the practical function of saving a little money on the electric bill, but moves us forward toward sustainability and the notion that we personally are an integral part of this very necessary movement.

    • Markus Loeffler
      October 16, 2013 at 8:53 am

      Thank you, we share the same visions. Sustainability must become the driving force behind new ideas and developments.

  2. yeahwolf
    October 14, 2013 at 12:27 am

    great page and Rifkin awesome as he always is.

    • Markus Loeffler
      October 16, 2013 at 8:50 am

      Thanks for the feedback. Yes Rifkin is awesome and the 5 pillar concept has really convinced me.

  3. October 15, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    I spoke with you and your wife at the Westchester fair. First about the hydrogen battery. One mole (2 gms) of H2 at room temp & pressure contains about 70 watt-hours of energy and occupies 22 liters. So for a reasonable sized battery, say 2 liters, the H2 would have to be at 11 atm pressure. So you can see that it would require significant compression to store a reasonable about of energy and compressors take energy.
    Second, you explained to me about how you have put a wire through your home with outlets because your setup cannot be connected to the house electrical system on the output. I think this is a very significant disadvantage. It is possible to run a separate, second electrical system through a home; but that is something that most folks would not want to do. You said that it was impossible to plug the output of your system into the house system. I hope you can think of a way around that.
    In any case I think your idea is brilliant.

    • Markus Loeffler
      October 15, 2013 at 8:34 pm


      thank you for all the questions at the fair and the detailed feedback!
      I went thru your Hydrogen numbers but I get different results (post about energy density http://solar-trap.com/?p=196). This is my calculation:
      Hydrogen density at 690 bar is 4.5MJ/L – conversion ratio 1.0 MJ/L = 277.8 W/h. Therefore 2L = 2.5kW/h but I don’t know how heavy a container needs to be to withstand 690 bar. That is the reason why they are not around yet I guess. I can only hope people are working on a solution.

      About the house electrical system connect:
      You could install this unit in the main fuse box to get maybe all sockets in one room like the living room, kitchen, or office hooked up. But I don’t know if that is by the code. And remember my unit will be rated for 120V/10A.
      It is impossible to plug the output of my system into the house system. You can only do this with “grid-tie” inverter. But they need to be approved and inspected by the energy company.


  4. November 17, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Hi Markus! Great to meet you at the Repair Café. We do need energy repair!! Thanks for the brilliant idea. We look forward to hearing more. The 30 second video is not available here or on Youtube at the moment but we enjoyed the Just Doing Stuff Fair video. Good Luck!

  5. Markus Loeffler
    November 24, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    It was nice talking with you and I like the idea of “energy repair”. I hope you were able to watch the video.

  6. May 10, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    Hi Markus,
    I’d love to be included in the beta test. I have everything on the shopping list except the batteries, and I’ll get those when it’s time.
    Thanks for doing this! I’ve been looking for info on how to do this for quite a while, but I didn’t have the technical skills to figure it out.

  7. Eric Bookstrom
    February 19, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Hi Markus,
    I am building a “Solar Houseboat” it will have one pair of Sunpower E20 panels to keep the 72V electric propulsion system charged, I also have a pair of 250W panels that I will be using to keep the “house” battery charged as a separate system. I will eventually have the boat in a Marina which will enable me to plug into “shore-power” while I am at the dock. I have everything on your “shopping list” and would be very interested in helping you to explore/beta test your prototype, I would like to pay for the parts since I know how difficult it can be to start something like this. Thanks, Eric Bookstrom

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