In designing an energy system, it is important to understand the needs of a community, as well as their capacity to implement and maintain technology. Furthermore, a variety of energy alternatives should be considered to provide backup in the event of technical or resource problems. Therefore, the Center demonstrates a range of alternative forms of energy production, which may be appropriate in different settings and serve the needs of different communities.
The majority of the Center's energy production comes from various solar technologies. The Center operates an Amonix Solar Concentrator unit. This unit tracks the sun throughout the day, and is capable of generating up to 12.8 kWH on a summer day. This scale of technology is appropriate for communities with large energy demand and adequate resources to routinely provide maintenance.
The center also has a number of smaller fixed and tracking photovoltaic panels throughout the site, a portable solar energy cart, and solar thermal panels on the rooftops of both dormitory buildings. Fixed panels, while not quite as efficient as tracking concentrators, reliably produce power throughout the day.
Another solar alternative on display at the Center are solar shingles, located on the roof of the straw-bale building. This technology, while less efficient than traditional photovoltaic panels, is a low-profile alternative for situations where the appearance of solar panels is not desired.
The Center operates one windmill, as part of a solar/wind hybrid system located on a hilltop. Local conditions at the Center are not conducive to high wind generation, so the hybrid system generates only about 5.5 kWH on windy days.
The Center is actively conducting research and outreach on bio-fuels, particularly bio-diesel, a substitute for petroleum-based diesel fuel made from vegetable oil. The Center uses bio-diesel to power its machinery, and conducts numerous workshops and demonstrations of the refining process for the community.