Our society relies heavily on energy sources to operate effectively. In recognition of this fact, the government has invested heavily in an energy supply infrastructure to provide electricity for various uses. However, the electric grid infrastructure does not extend to all the areas in the country. Some rural areas do not have access to the electrical grid, and they have to rely on other sources to satisfy their power needs. This is the situation that I face back at home. My family has a farm that is located about one hour away from the city. Electricity is not provided in the farm area due to its distance from an urban centre.
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The lack of access to the electrical grid means that our farm does not have adequate power. A generator is used to provide power for most of the farming activities, including irrigation. The generator requires large amounts of diesel to operate each week. The fuel has to be bought from the fuel station and filled into the generator tank regularly. Xiarchos and Vick note that using diesel fuel to power generators presents problems such as cost of transporting fuel, high maintenance needs, unpredictable fuel costs, and the loses experienced when the fuel spills (1). Diesel fuel prices are volatile, and they have continued to rise over the past decade, making diesel purchases a significant expense to the farm.
Due to the frequent use of the generator, it requires regular maintenance to ensure that that it is operating efficiently. This makes using the generator an expensive and time-consuming activity. My family often has to turn off the generator in order to minimize the costs and ensure that a profit is obtained from the farming activities. Considering these problems, it is clear that a generator is not the most efficient power source for the farm.
After taking this class, I started deliberating on creative ways to solve the power problem that our farm faces. From the start, I recognized that using the diesel generator was not the most effective way to solve the power needs of the farm. I, therefore, set out to discover some solutions that could be used. I identified solar power as the best alternative source of power for our farm. The solar system will be a onetime cost on the farm, after which the farm will enjoy cheap energy.
While the initial cost of the solar energy system is higher than that of buying a generator, my family can afford it. After this, the farm will not have to rely on the generator for its energy needs. Significant savings will be made in the long run as the diesel needed to fuel the generator will be unnecessary. Xiarchos and Vick observe that once a farmer covers the initial cost of the system, the fuel for operating solar energy systems is free (1).
The solar system used by the farm will be able to harness the sun’s radiation and convert it into power to run the farm’s irrigation system. Solar energy is cost-effective since it does not have the high fuel and maintenance costs attributed to the diesel generator currently used at the farm. Since fuel costs will no longer be an issue, my family will be able to maximize the capacity of the irrigation pump.
The solar system generator was not the only available alternative solution that I identified in my investigations. A number of other solutions were recognized, but they proved not to be as efficient as the solar systems. One alternative solution is wind power, which makes use of wind turbines to generate electricity. To produce electricity, giant turbines are placed at strategic locations on the land, and they rotate when the wind blows, therefore, turning a generator to produce electricity.
The turbines are mounted on a tower to increase the amount of wind captured by the blades. Wind speeds are higher at high altitudes, and since the amount of electricity generated depends on the speed of the wind, taller towers for the turbines are desirable. A significant advantage of wind power is that it does not require any fuel costs since it relies on the freely available wind. Once the farm covers the initial cost, it would be able to benefit from free power.
However, wind power has some significant demerits that make it an inefficient solution. To begin with, installing a wind system is expensive and it requires large tracks of land. Using this power source would, therefore, cost my family valuable land that would have to be dedicated to wind power production. This power source is very unreliable since it depends on wind availability. For this power source to be efficient, adequate amounts of wind have to be blowing over an extended period of time. However, it is hard to predict wind movement at any given time. This makes wind power unpredictable since consistent power cannot be guaranteed. These setbacks make wind an inefficient alternative.
Another alternative energy source that I considered was biomass. Biomass refers to organic material that contains energy in the form of chemical compounds. In the farm, biomass energy can be obtained from the waste products of plants and animals. These can serve as biomass fuel used to produce electricity for farm use. The most significant merit of biomass is that it uses farm waste to produce power. Xiarchos and Vick declare that biomass facilities enable farmers to convert “trash to energy” (47).
The farm would, therefore, benefit from reduced fuel costs for energy production since waste products would be used to fuel the biomass system. In addition to this, the farm would benefit from increased fertilizer value of crop and animal byproducts. However, biomass suffers from the significant demerit of the high cost of construction of the biomass plant. Maehlum admits that the extraction of biomass is an expensive process that requires complex machines and large storage areas (par. 6). These additional costs and space requirements make biomass unattractive as an alternative energy source.
The farm could also make use a micro-hydroelectric system to generate power. This hydropower system makes use of flowing water to run a turbine and generate electricity. No fuel is needed to produce power since the system relies on running water. The cost of constructing the micro-hydropower system is fairly reduced since it does not need the large storage reservoirs used by large hydropower stations. The initial cost of constructing a micro-hydropower system is high. The US Department of Energy acknowledges that only a few companies make the turbines needed for these systems (par. 12). This power source requires flowing water to generate power. The stream flowing in our farm is seasonal and not strong enough to provide electricity. This alternative power source is, therefore, unfeasible for my family’s farm.
To help develop a better understanding of the potential benefits and risks of implementing a solar system generation on the farm, it would be necessary to carry out SWOT analysis. This analysis will help to highlight the strengths and weaknesses that solar power will bring to our farm. In addition to this, the analysis will identify the opportunities and threats presented when the new power source is implemented.
My family will be able to save significant money by using the solar system generator. The greatest expense when obtaining water for irrigation is the diesel cost. When using the solar system, no fuel expenses will be incurred since the generator will be powered by the sun. In addition to this, expenses will be saved due to the low maintenance cost of the solar systems compared to the diesel-powered generator. The farm will also benefit from the efficient utilization of the available power. With the solar-powered generator, power is only supplied to the appliances on-demand leading to high efficiency. Finally, the solar-powered generator will be beneficial to the environment since it has zero pollution. It produces clean energy using the sun, which is a renewable energy source.
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A significant weakness is in the reliance on sunlight to charge the generator batteries. This places the farm at risk of intermittent power supplies. If the farm experiences prolonged periods of no sunlight, the generator will not be able to operate. The amount of water obtained for irrigation will therefore not be as consistent as it was when using the diesel-powered generator. My family will initially have to invest some money in buying and installing the solar-powered system. The cash flow of the farm will, therefore, be reduced at the beginning.
Using the solar-powered generator presents an income generation opportunity for the family. Due to the decreased power costs, it will be possible to pump great quantities of water for irrigation. There will be surplus water after our farm has been adequately irrigated. This excess water can be sold to other farms that will be eager to buy water and save on the power costs associated with pumping water.
The most significant threat is that even slight damage to the generator might render it unusable. This will be a huge setback to the farm since the solar system has an initial high cost. While the solar-powered generator does not have many parts, damages to the system are not fixable. The reason for this is that solar systems are made from high technology components. Therefore, repairs to the system cannot be undertaken in the same way that the diesel generator is repaired by local mechanics whenever it breaks down.
This analysis demonstrates that the solar system generator will present important benefits to the family. Not only will the cost of running the farm reduce due to the elimination of fuel costs, but the family will generate new income from selling excess water to nearby farms. However, the new investment will present a major risk since damages to the new generator will be permanent. It will, therefore, be necessary to take measures to protect the generator from damage.
Learning efforts are most beneficial when they can be applied to solve real-world problems. Students should be able to use the skills and knowledge obtained in the class environment in the real world. I have had the opportunity to apply the problem and solution skills I have gained in class to address an issue experienced in my life. To begin with, I used the skills to identify an important problem. Care was taken to ensure that the problem chosen was one that had a feasible and realistic solution.
The solution I came up with was creative since it has not been tried by my family or any of the other farms in the area. Instead of trying to solve the power problem for themselves, people have been content to wait for the government to extend to the electrical grid to the area. I decided to look for a new solution that could help my family solve the power issue without having to wait for the main power grid to supply electricity to our farm at some distant time in future.
Completing this project required the careful application of analysis skills. I had to be able to identify the problem and properly communicate why this problem needed to be solved. Using analytical skills, I was able to identify information that was relevant to my problem and effectively evaluate the information. From my analysis, I realized that the problem could be assessed and solved in a number of ways. I, therefore, had to deliberate and make a decision on the most desirable course of action after reviewing a number of the available options. I then came to what I regard as the soundest solution to the problem.
A person uses his/her brain to solve any problem encountered. The brain contains two sides, and each side controls a certain body and thinking functions. The left side is in charge of analytical thinking or logic, while the right side operates in images and impressions. As a result of these differences, using the left side entails following well-ordered steps while using the right side leads to creativity and innovation. The best form of problem-solving requires a person to use both the right and left sides of his/her brain. Dandi declares that good problem solvers are able to draw on both sides of their brains (20).
I made use of both sides of my brain in solving the problem presented in this paper. By using the right side, I was able to come up with a creative solution that my family had not thought about previously. Using the left side, I engaged in the analytical thinking that helped me to choose the solar-powered generator over the other available options. Without employing both sides of my brain, I could not have managed to come up with a feasible solution that was both logical and creative. This
By using the problem-solving skills acquired in class and incorporating creative solutions, I have been able to solve the power issue that my family’s farm faces. The proposed solution is practical, and it can be implemented using the financial resources available to the family at present. Implementation of the proposed solution will have great benefits for my family, and it will also promote sustainability.
Dandi, Daley. Problem Solving. Infobase Publishing, 2009. Print.
Maehlum, Mathias. Biomass Energy Pros and Cons. 2013. Web.
US Department of Energy. Microhydropower Systems. 2012. Web.
Xiarchos, Irene and Brian Vick. Solar Energy Use in U.S. Agriculture Overview and Policy Issues. Washington, DC: United States Department of Agriculture, 2011. Print.