The 10 Best Ways to Generate Electricity for Survival

by Tommy Grant

Electricity is one of those things you take for granted until you are in a situation where you don’t have it. It can be extremely difficult to come by if you are not prepared for a widespread power outage or SHTF scenario.

Storing energy has become much more effective with huge advancements over the years in battery technology, but even then you still need to generate electricity. Some methods are more efficient than others, and some are more practical. Either way, knowing the many ways to move electrons around can help you in disasters and emergencies.

10. Biomass Stove

Using heat to generate electricity just makes sense for emergencies. Unlike propane stoves where the fuel is in limited supply, wood can almost always be found to burn in this stove. The Biolite Stove converts the heat to energy to charge small devices such as cell phones. This unique capability allows the stove to be a triple threat.

You can generate heat for warmth, use it to cook with the optional grill attachment, and charge your small electronics- all at once. The BioLite stove weighs just two pounds and is as small as a 1-liter bottle, so it packs quite the functionality punch for its size. As electricity-generating gadgets go, this is about as versatile as they get.

The downside is that it outputs very little power. With a peak of 3 Watts, this is similar in efficiency to a crank flashlight.

9. Wind Turbine

Wind turbines start with modestly sized 400W models and climb all the way up to the Goldwind 16MW giants in the sea. The Pikasola turbine kit is a practical option for off-grid or emergency and is relatively easy to set up.

But, just like solar, it relies on consistent weather conditions to perform. This makes it less ideal as a primary power source, but wind turbines can work well as secondary power sources.

8. Hydroelectric Generator

Water and gravity can be one of the most consistent power sources you can find. Hydroelectric generators aren’t common, but you can make them at home with traditional alternators and some know-how.

You’ll need to hunt down a water source with a differential in elevation generating kinetic energy like a fast-moving river, a waterfall, or a dam.

7. Steam Engine

Steam engines changed the world in the 18th century, and they work just as well today. They aren’t exactly sold at the hardware store, so it is more of a knowledge set if you are interested in using this as your power option.

You can find plenty of videos of small car engines or two-stroke engines being converted into steam engines online:

6. Diesel Generator

Diesel generators typically cost more and are heavier than gas generators but they typically use less fuel for the same energy output. They are much less common though due to the cost difference.

Diesel motors are prevalent though, with 72% of trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating being diesel. Less than 3% of passenger vehicles are diesel, so it falls off quickly when power efficiency isn’t needed.

Some standby generators run on diesel, but they are more common in commercial and industrial settings.

5. Vegetable Oil Generator

The original design from Rudolph Diesel used vegetable oil, which could be an alternative fuel with less demand during emergencies and survival situations. Most cooking oil is a byproduct, so having a generator option using vegetable oil brings an element of versatility and resourcefulness to the table.

4. Natural Gas & LP Generators

Propane and natural gas are usually used for heat and cooking, so you’ll often see them relegated to second-duty in portable dual-fuel generators. But, they are also the leading pick for home standby generators.

Natural gas tends to be less prone to outages during emergencies (compared to electricity) and propane is usually stored on-site in tanks. These can work for short-term emergencies and natural disasters but lose viability if supply chain difficulties become permanent. With large tanks, you can store a large amount of fuel but you will want to follow the half-tank rule to maximize your preparedness.

3. Crank Generator

Hand crank flashlights developed by the Russians have come a long way. Crank flashlights are now a staple with emergency radios since they draw very little power.

They can also be very inexpensive, with our starter pick shown coming in at around $10 when we reviewed emergency weather radios not long ago.

The crank function won’t be generating many watt-hours but it could be enough to make sure a critical text gets through.

K-Tor also makes a pedaling crank generator if you are looking to crank more watt-hours out with human power. It is roughly 40 times as effective and can generate a decent amount of energy for storage or immediate use.

2. Gasoline Generator

Gas generators are still one of the most popular options for emergencies and power outages. Gasoline isn’t the most stable fuel, so you’ll need to have good gas storage and fuel stabilizer to keep it ready for when you need it.

We’ve reviewed portable gas generators, and those are the most common emergency power sources by far.

1. Solar Power

In most situations- even disasters and emergencies, the sun will still shine. It gives our planet warmth and sustains life, so if for some reason the sun isn’t giving us solar energy- we have a bigger problem.

Getting set up with solar can be intimidating at first, but it’s becoming cheaper all the time and sometimes the government offers incentives. There are many parts to a solar setup, but City Prepper (you may recognize the name from our Top 10 Prepper YouTube Channels) does an excellent job of showing how easy it is to set up a simple home system.

The Final Word

As our dependency on power grows, so do the options to generate it. We don’t have to rely on grid power for modern preparedness solutions and we’re better off planning several ways to generate electricity.

Here are some other guides our subscribers have found helpful:

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.

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