Sunseed is off-the-grid and there are no power lines, water or gas pipes coming into our village Read more… Latest News: Click here for the latest news of the AT department. Project Packs: Click here to read possible projects for a placement in the the AT department. Alternative Technology Co-ordinator: Find our more information about the AT co-ordinator.
Sunseed is off-the-grid and there are no power lines, water or gas pipes coming into our village (also our landline is a radiophone and our Internet access is via a satellite connection). This means we are independent of giant energy companies and have no bills to pay. On the other hand, we have to design, install and maintain our whole energy and water infrastructure – which is the main responsibility of the Appropriate Technology Department.
Almost all our energy comes from renewable sources. We have three separate Photovoltaic (PV) Systems that provide all our electricity all year round for 4 houses, our office, and two workshops. As we are off-grid, our solar system incorporates a deep-cycle battery which allows us to keep on going even when the weather is cloudy for several days. However, as the daily amount of solar electricity generated is limited (unlike the energy that comes form sockets in the cities) we have to be really conscious about how we use it, how we share it and it also brings us a bit closer to natural cycles as we obviously have to plan according to annual and diurnal solar cycles and weather patterns.
To compare the amount of energy used at Sunseed with an average British household: the latter uses on average 15kWh a day for 4 persons while Sunseed uses 1.5kWh for 20 persons – 50 times less! To achieve this ultra-low energy use, we use only the most efficient lighting (good quality compact fluorescent and LED lights)and appliances (ENERGY STAR 5.0 rated laptops) we can afford. Also, we don’t have any white appliances (fridge, washing machine, dryer etc.) as we substitute them with low-tech low-impact or manual methods. We never use electricity for heating – neither for space heating nor for boiling a kettle.
In addition to the PV systems, Sunseed also has a Wind Turbine that generates clean and renewable electricity. It was built and installed during a five-day bilingual course in 2009 by the AT department built using mostly reclaimed/recycled materials, handtools or powertools running on solar power. This design is simple, robust and “open-source”: blueprints and detailed technical manuals are available online free of charge, based mostly on Scottish wind-power guru Hugh Piggott’s instructions that are easy to follow for the inexperienced.
Our hot water is provided by Solar Hot Water Panels which were also built during previous courses. The system incorporates a wood-fired backboiler as well for cloudy winter days.
The only fossil fuels we use directly at Sunseed are diesel for running our van and bottled propane for cooking. We aim to reduce the amount of the latter by using a variety of Solar Cookers. These are easy to build for anybody with basic DIY skills and help to significantly reduce gas consumption of cooked dishes, bread and cakes.
The whole village is supplied with water by the Ram Pump – maintained by the AT department. This ingenious and incredibly simple gravity pump requires no external energy to pump 500 litres of water per hour to a height of 40 metres and works 24/7. It is fed by the ancient Irrigation Line – a 2 km stretch of caves, open channels and underground pipes originally built by the Moors during their occupation of Spain about a 1000 years ago. The discharge of the ram pump is feeding the Acequia which provides water for the irrigation of the Sunseed Gardens.
The AT department also supports various Volunteer Projects ranging from making beautiful pita lampshades to designing a low-cost solar tracker for the photovoltaic array. Numerous volunteers join the department every year to gain an in-depth knowledge about a specific area they are interested in while helping us to continuously develop and maintain our systems. The duration of these projects range from 4 weeks up to 6 months and the current project pack can be accessed here. If you have a great idea that would be beneficial for Sunseed and you can’t find it in the project pack – get in touch with the AT Coordinator to discuss your proposal.
Internship and university placement applications are most welcome and individual applications will always be considered whether they are for a particular project or an apprenticeship.
Please note that if you would like to ensure your involvement in the department’s work, due to our workflow and essential planning, it is advised to contact the AT Coordinator before coming to Sunseed. However, if your plan is to explore Sunseed including each department and wouldn’t like to commit to do a project or to be involved with AT on a long-term basis, you will still have plenty of opportunities to learn a lot during our occasional daily jobs, our biweekly Appropriate Technology Tours and on different workshops.