Appropriate Technology

Sunseed is off grid and we meet the majority of our energy needs from solar power. Our landline and our Internet access works via radio connections. This means we are relatively independent and have few bills to pay. On the other hand, we have to design, install and maintain our energy and water infrastructure – which is the main responsibility of the Appropriate Technology Department.

Click here to read possible projects for a placement in the the Appropriate Technology department.

Watch a video made by the Appropriate Technology department: click here

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 people while Sunseed uses 1.5kWh for 20 people – 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 was built and installed during a five-day course in 2009 by the AT department built using mostly reclaimed and recycled materials, hand- tools or power-tools 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 back-boiler as well for cloudy winter days.

The only fossil fuels we use directly at Sunseed are diesel for running our van and bottled propane gas for cooking. We aim to reduce the amount of the latter by using a variety of solar cookers and a wood-fired gasification stove. 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 Appropriate Technology 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 1,000 years ago. The run-off from the ram pump feeds the Acequia which provides water for the irrigation of the Sunseed Gardens.

The Appropriate Technology 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 a few weeks up to 6 months. 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 Appropriate Technology 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. There are a variety of options to get your educational volunteering financed. Contact us to find out more!

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 Appropriate Technology 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.