Solutions for Self-Reliance

A Solar Energy System That You Can Put Together in Your Garage


Wouldn’t it be great if generating solar energy at home was:

  • A Do-it-Yourself project you could build using the tools in your garage
  • Built with inexpensive, commonly available materials
  • Modular like a LEGO block that you can snap in to lots of different places where you need it

It can be.

Here’s an example.  It’s called the Solar Flower.  It’s an open source hardware project that was built by Daniel Connell while in Spain.

What is the Solar Flower?  It’s a system that makes it easy to turn sunlight into heat.

Here’s what it looks like.

As you can see in the picture above, sunlight is captured by a U-shaped reflective surface (technically, a parabolic trough).    This reflected sunlight is then focused onto a black copper tube that runs along the length of the system.

Naturally, this makes the copper tube very hot, which in turn heats whatever liquid you want to run through it.

Of course, the Solar Flower only really works if it is facing the sun.

To do that, Daniel built an ingenious (which is often best measured by how simple the solution offered is) passive solar tracking system.  This system doesn’t use electric motors or sensors to track the sun.

To accomplish this, Daniel built a small solar oven that he filled with ethanol (it expands when heated).   Experiments showed that the sun would heat the ethanol enough to turn some gears that would rotate the main reflective surface.  So, Daniel placed the solar oven in a place where it would only “see” the sun just as it was just passing by the optimal angle for the main surface (angled slightly to the “west” of the angle the Flower was pointing).

That plus some simple modifications makes the Solar Flower a solar energy system that you can install and forget.   To make one of your own, Daniel has put together some excellent tutorials.

What do you Do with a Solar Flower?

Anything that involves heating fluids up.  That includes:

  • Heating hot water for your home.
  • Heating small spaces like a greenhouse.
  • Generating electricity from steam.
  • Purifying water.
  • Smokeless cooking.
  • Making biochar.

Basically, lots of great DiY and easy to assemble project modules that you can plug into it.

I’ll connect you with those modules as we press forward into resilience, abundance, and a better future.  Stay tuned.


Resiliently Yours,




PS:  Tomorrow, I’m off to Maine, to attend a little conference called Poptech.   The focus of this year’s conference is resilience, which is (of course) why I was asked to attend it.   It should be fun and I’ll definitely learn quite a bit.  While there, I’ll be on the lookout for the people who are important to our future — I’ll introduce you to them and write-up what they are working on in the second Resilient Strategies letter (the first one should be out soon).

PPS:  Here’s something to remember.  Resilience isn’t achieved by disconnecting yourself from the world.  It’s accomplished by reducing your dependencies, increasing your production, and connecting to the world on your own terms.


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