Free Stuff


AppropediaFox is a free and open source Firefox plugin that helps make editing Appropedia fast and easy. Download AppropediaFox for free here. AppropediaFox was made to help our research group do open source research in applied sustainability. To learn more about how to use and install it go here.

AppropediaFox screenshot

Solar Photovoltaic LCOE Calculator

The levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) of solar photovoltaic technology is  the price at which solar electricity must be generated to break even with the conventional grid in a particular location. We provide a free simple open source calculator for finding the LCOE of a Solar PV system. The default scenario is for a system in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. The "assumptions and sources" section in the calculator gives guidelines on how to change inputs based on location.

Download the calculator formatted for Microsoft Excel:  here.

Download the calculator formatted for OpenOffice : here.

 For doing detailed calculations we recommend other free tools: RETScreen and NREL Solar Advisor Model (SAM) - for a full list of PV modeling tools see solar photovoltaic software.

Source: K. Branker, M.J.M. Pathak, J.M. Pearce, A Review of Solar Photovoltaic Levelized Cost of Electricity, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 15, pp.4470-4482 (2011). DOI and Open access

Solar PV LCOE screenshot

RecycleBot Designs

A RecycleBot is an open source machine that converts recyclable waste plastic to 3-D printer filament, which can be used in open source rapid prototypers like the RepRap.

Following an open source model, the RepRap, has made it feasible for 3D printing to be used as for small-scale manufacturing to aid sustainable developmentas discussed in 3-D Printing of Open Source Appropriate Technologies for Self-Directed Sustainable Development. The RepRap's plastic feedstock is one area where cost can still be reduced.

The full parts list and CADs for the metal components of v2.2 are available on Thingiverse and the electronics and all software for v2.3 are here.

Recyclebot v2.2

This two piece device allows you to get a firm hold on any type of textile without puncturing them. The first part of the device, which we will call the lock (shown in blue), fits closely into the base, which we will call the star because of its resemblance to a ninja throwing star (shown in red). This device has numerous useful applications  no matter where you live.

Textile Fastener (Ninjastar variety)

The project webpage is here. If you have a 3-D printer the STLs are here.

1. Stretcher – 6 fasteners, a blanket and 2 poles
2. Hammock - 2 fasteners and a blanket
3. Emergency Tent – 4 fasteners and a plastic sheet or tarp
4. Greenhouse or row guard – Use a number of fasteners and clear plastic to create a greenhouse
5. Food transport - Use some form of fabric and 4 fasteners to make flexible box for carrying things like vegetables
6. Improved Tarps:
  • You can use a fastener to fix a grommet that has popped out of a normal tarp.
  • You can also use a number of fasteners to join multiple tarps together into a bigger tarp
  • You can create a custom waterproof cover
  • You can use the fasteners to hold the tarp in a custom way for another function – such as rain water collection or roof leak or boat protector

Solar Hacking

This course provides a graduate level introduction to solar photovoltaic materials, the device physics of photovoltaic cells, and practical solar electric systems engineering applications. First this course will focus on semiconductor materials for photovoltaic devices, including effects of microstructure, band theory, opto-electronics, and charge transport. Then the device physics of solar photovoltaic cells will be reviewed including semiconductor junctions, principles of operation, structures, fabrication, and manufacturing of conventional, thin film, dye sensitized, and other “3rd generation” solar cells. Finally solar photovoltaic systems engineering will be covered in detail - including topics of: the solar resource, systems modeling/software, power conditioning equipment and system integration techniques, mechanical elements (frames, supports, orientation mechanisms, and tracking), and energy storage. Finally, solar energy systems engineering economics will be reviewed along with solar energy policy including implications of high solar penetration levels and a shift to distributed generation.

The course is meant for graduate students in Materials Science & Engineering, and Electrical & Computer Engineering, while graduate students in other areas of engineering or physics with a strong interest in this topic are also welcomed.

The reading, assignments, syllabus etc. are all open and available here.

Open-Source Lab, 1st Ed.

How to Build Your Own Hardware and Reduce Research Costs Joshua M. Pearce

  Elsevier, 2014
ISBN: 9780124104624

This guide details the development of the free and open-source hardware revolution and provides you with step-by-step instructions on building your own laboratory hardware.

In the first two chapters displayed here, Professor Pearce defines the basic terms of open-source software and discusses the rise of the open-source hardware revolution and how it impacts science before exploring five pragmatic advantages to joining the open-source scientific community for both your research in general, and most importantly, your equipment and instrumentation.


Free E-book Download here.
Convergence: Philosophies and Pedagogies for Developing the Next Generation of Humanitarian Engineers and Social Entrepreneurs

Solar Photovoltaic Open Lectures

This is a series of five fully annotated Power Point presentations created for the solar energy community to assist in the dissemination of information about solar photovoltaic (PV) cells in 2006. They have been updated by students in MECH820, a graduate engineering course in photovoltaic materials, devices, and systems in 2010. In order to make these presentations more accessible the updates have been transformed to odp, an Open Office format. You can download Open Office for free here.

  • The first presentation "Solar Photovoltaic Physics" Solar1 (ppt), which is the most technical, covers the science behind PV. Solar1.pdf, odp
  • The second presentation "Engineering Photovoltaic Systems I" Solar2 (ppt) is about the basic engineering of photovoltaic systems. Update: Solar2-2010.pdf, odp
  • The third presentation "Engineering Photovoltaic Systems II" Solar3 (ppt) is meant to underscore the flexibility of solar photovoltaic modules to provide clean renewable energy for a number of applications. Update: Solar3-2010.pdf, odp
  • The fourth presentation "Economics of Photovoltaic Systems" Solar4 (ppt) discusses the economic impacts of solar photovoltaic cells – from the cost to install a system to their effects on energy related employment and the national economy. Update: Solar4-2010.pdf, odp
  • The fifth presentation "Environmental and Social Impact of Solar Photovoltaics", Solar5 (ppt) covers the environmental impacts of solar photovoltaic cells and compares them to some of the impacts from conventional fossil-fuel derived energy. Update: File:Solar5-2010.ppt, Solar5-2010.pdf, odp


Please feel free to use all or parts of this presentation for your own classes. College and University professors can use the presentations as they stand or expand on the introductory material covered here. Those teaching high school or grade school can borrow the slides that fit your curriculum and remove those that are too advanced for your students. Please share any corrections, modifications or additions that you make with the solar community as well.

Open Solar Outdoors Test Field (OSOTF)

The OSOTF is a fully grid-connected test system, which continuously monitors the output of ~100 photovoltaic modules and correlates their performance to a long list of highly accurate meteorological readings. The teamwork of more than 20 companies and university collaborators has resulted in one of the largest systems in the world for this detailed level of analysis, and can provide valuable information on the actual performance of photovoltaic modules in real-world conditions. Unlike many other projects, the OSOTF is organized under open source principles. For details see Appropedia source documents here

Live video for the test field is openly available online. The second test field is located on a flat rooftop at St.Lawrence College and consists of two commercial flat roof ballasted systems. Live video of this test field is also available online. Full data access will be made available here.

Why did we build it?

Joshua M. Pearce, Adegboyega Babasola, Rob Andrews, “Open Solar Photovoltaic Systems OptimizationProceedings of the 16th Annual National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance Conference, Open 2012, pp. 1-7.

Joshua M. Pearce (CC-BY-SA) MTU MSE ECE