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Category Archives: energy

Modern Brickies are ‘Taking the Pee’

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‘Liquid gold’: students make world’s first brick out of human urine.

The bio-brick created by students in Cape Town mixes urine with sand and bacteria, which they say is a world first. Article from The Guardian newspaper.

Urine bricks created by students at the University of Cape Town.

Creating a truly sustainable construction material is now a possibility

Vukheta Mukhari

“Students in South Africa have created the world’s first brick made from human urine.

The bio-brick was produced by students from Cape Town, who collected urine from specially designed male urinals at the university’s engineering building and mixed it with sand and bacteria.”

More from the article … “Bio-bricks are created through a natural process called microbial carbonate precipitation, said Randall, similar to the way seashells are formed. Loose sand, which has been colonised with bacteria that produces urease, is mixed with the urine. Urease breaks down the urea in the urine, producing calcium carbonate, which cements the sand into shape.

While regular bricks are kiln-fired at temperatures of 1,400C and produce large amounts of carbon dioxide, the bio-bricks do not require heat.”

Original article: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development

Some great ‘frugal ideas’ from Treehugger.

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Here it is again: Saving oneself a load of cash is somehow less daunting than striving for environmental virtuousness, but the end result is the same.

A whole lot of recipes that do not include meat.

17 recipes for an unforgettable vegan barbecue

Frugality is environmentalism

Earth warming – some thoughts

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Signs of a Changing Climate – ‘Science has spoken’

FAQ2.2 figure2

The aims of the IPCC are to assess scientific information relevant to:

  1. Human-induced climate change,
  2. The impacts of human-induced climate change,
  3. Options for adaptation and mitigation.

See: http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Intergovernmental+Panel+on+Climate+Change

Hamburg’s Green-Living House.

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I wrote Green-Living because this IS in many ways a ‘living house – run by green-power.

Hamburg Now Has an Algae-Powered Building

by Mark Hay September 23, 2014.
Photo by NordNordWest/Wikimedia Commons

Last spring, Arup, the design and engineering firm that brought the world the Centre Pompidou and the Sydney Opera House, unveiled their latest hypermodern architectural creation in Hamburg. From the outside, the surface of the 15-unit apartment building just looks like a bubbling green lava lamp stretched over an entire building. But those moving bubbles serve a function: they help to feed and order the living algae embedded within the Bio Intelligent Quotient (BIQ) building’s exterior skin. In turn, the 8-foot by 2-foot glass panels of green scuzz—the building’s $6.58 million bioreactor façade—power the entire structure, making it the world’s first algae-powered and theoretically fully self-sufficient building ever.

Conceived in 2009 as part of Hamburg’s International Building Exhibition, Arup’s BIQ building is part of a European movement to design carbon neutral, self-sustaining, and renewably powered structures. (Germany, for example, is pushing to achieve 35 percent national energy reliance on renewables by 2020.) Alongside a series of houses demonstrating solid timber carbon-locking constructions and greywater recycling systems, the BIQ was funded in large part by the German government as a means to incentivize the development of new adaptive,smart construction materials. Of all the technologies on display, though, algae power has perhaps the finest pedigree and greatest potential.

Research on the energy potential of algae, once just considered a slimy pond nuisance, began in earnest during the gas crisis of the 1970s at America’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Producing about five times as much biomass per square foot as soil grown plants, and thriving on carbon dioxide, algae have the potential to grow almost limitlessly and produce oily lipids and gases that can be transformed into relatively clean energy. But official research largely ended in the 1990s as scientists concluded that the benefits of feeding, fostering, and harvesting algae were not yet competitive with then-low oil prices. Still, many independent research groups kept the dream of algae power alive over the next couple of decades, slowly improving the efficiency and cost effectiveness of proposed systems. From 2009 onwards, at least a few plans for algae bioreactors have floated around the design community and academic circles, although few very have become reality.

Photo courtesy of IBA Hamburg

The BIQ is the first residential structure to fully realize the dreams of algae power advocates. The building is coated on its two sun-facing sides with glass-plated tanks of suspended algae. Pressurized air is pumped into the system, feeding the organisms carbon dioxide and nutrients while moving them about—creating the lava lamp effect—to keep them from settling on the glass and rotting. Scrubbers clean off any sticking biomass, freeing up more sunlight for the remaining algae to perform photosynthesis. Periodically, algae are culled, mashed into biofuel, and burned in a local generator to produce power. Excess can be sold off for food supplements, methane generation to external power providers, or stored for future use. The result is a building shaded from summer heat by algae foliage, insulated from street noise, and potentially self-generating the power to sustain its own harvesters, heat, and electricity.

Critics of the design and of algae power in general argue that transforming algae into biofuel requires energy, as does manufacturing and pumping in nutrients. They also take issue with the fact that the BIQ is not totally self-sufficient and that algae technology is more expensive than solar power. They claim that these points make the technology more of a novelty than a useful solution—or at least that its potential has been over hyped.

Even Arup will concede to most of these points, admitting that the BIQ has only achieved 50 percent energy independence thus far. However they believe that total independence is within reach, especially by integrating solar into the design. The costs—$2,500 per square meter for the bioreactor system alone—are astronomical, but the developers hope that as the technology evolves, prices will decrease, while the savings of fuel reduction will offset the remaining extra costs. They hope that soon high-energy consuming businesses like data centers will help pilot their tech in the search for grid independence, and that algae power can take off in residential homes within a decade.

The Arup team is made up of futurists. The same year that they unveiled the BIQ, they released the “It’s Alive” report, envisioning a 2050 with mega-skyscraper vertical farms, jet-powered maintenance robots, and photovoltaic paint, a classic wish list of quasi sci-fi tech. So it’s probably reasonable to question how realistic their optimism about algae power is. But they’re no longer the lone nuts on the road to mass algae power. Grow Energy of San Diego, founded in 2012, has produced two home algae bioreactors and hopes to be able to manufacture, deliver, and install its first systems—generating 35 percent of the average home’s energy with minimal maintenance—for $12,000 per system starting next year.

Meanwhile, in late 2013, scientists developed a very simple technique—basically a specialized pressure cooker—to turn algae into cheap, competitive, biodegradable, non-toxic, and relatively clean oil in just an hour, and believe they can mainstream the technology within 25 years. And just this year, the state of Alabama launched the world’s first algae-powered wastewater treatment plant in the town of Daphne, cleaning water, generating fuel, and serving as proof of concept that the technology is improving, gaining widespread support, and proving itself on larger and larger scales.

Although all of this means we’re likely to see a greater number of more efficient buildings like the BIQ in the next few years, we’re still many years off from an algae generator in every home. But given last month’s pledge by the International Union of Architects to end carbon emissions from buildings by 2050, and similar global initiatives in search of carbon-neutral, self-sufficient structures, the emerging tech is likely to find more champions.

It’s hard not to look at the BIQ, in spite of all its flaws, and see a system that fits the order of the day in every way: a carbon locking, self-sustaining, off the grid, neutral power system. If the only hitch is that, in early stages of development, it’s still a bit pricey and buggy, that’s hardly a death knell for an otherwise optimistic and inspiring tech.

Mini Bio-gas System – for homeowners

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Taken from the wonderful world of http://www.instructables.com

Sahas Chitlange, aging 14, from India. here is my homemade cheap and easy to build mini Biogas plant. It burns for approx. 20-30 mins on a bunsen burner. you can add anything from your kitchen waste ( Except Onion peels and eggshells). In 12 hours the Gas is ready for use. It is very easy and cost effective to build (only 2-3 dollars) and gives many useful products.

Biogas at home- Cheap and Easy  by Chitlange Sahas

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http://www.instructables.com/id/Biogas-at-home-Cheap-and-Easy/

the end products of this system are:
1) Methane : (Can be used as a fuel)
2) Slurry     : (the spent slurry is excellent manure)

The main components of this system are:

1)  Inlet pipe
2) digester tank
3) gas holder tank
4) slurry outlet pipe
5) gas outlet pipe

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You will have to choose a correct size container which will act as a digester tank. My one is 50 litres tank. I got it from scrap.

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Make holes in the tank for Inlet and outlet. For this I took a old iron rod and heated it to make holes. CAUTION: rod is really very hot.

Or use core-drill bit with e-drill.

Step 3: Fix the inlet and outlet pipes

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Glue the Inlet pipe and the Outlet pipe with any water proof adhesive.

Step 4: Making the Gas holder Tank

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I took a paint bucket of 20 lts for making a gas holder tank. This tank holds the gas produced. The tank is overturned and fixed with a valve used for plumbing purposes.

Step 5: Time to mix the cow dung !

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Mix the cow dung in proportion of 50/50. add 50% water and make a fine slurry. Now put the slurry in the digester tank.

Step 6: Almost finished!

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Put the gas holder tank overturned in the digester tank after adding the slurry . REMEMBER: open the valve while putting the gas holder tank. the mini plant takes 10-15 days for the first time to get output. For the first time, the gas in the tank wont burn as it contains Carbon Dioxide gas, if fortunately it burns then good or wait for the second time. You can detect how much gas is there in this system, the gas holder tank will rises up as the gas is produced.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Biogas-at-home-Cheap-and-Easy/

 

ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL – GET local.

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All for one and one for all

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

GET Local is a new platform to help small businesses tap into nearby resources, says Oliver Moore

By Oliver Moore

FOUR ‘green’ entrepreneurs are empowering communities racked by austerity to start new businesses. Their initiative is called ‘GET’Local (Generate Enterprise Together).

Launched last year, GETLocal has had an impact in Borrisokane and Lower Ormond, in Tipperary, with more places due soon. The idea is simple: provide a platform to help communities develop new local enterprises in crucial areas.

“Our mission is to reverse the outflow of wealth from the Irish economy, which will reduce energy, food and transport costs, and redirect spending power for the benefit of the local community,” they say.

GETLocal focuses on the localised, low-carbon economy. They aim to help unemployed people create their own enterprises, by sharing information, coaching, niche skills, start-up capital, back office services, and customers.

The focus has been on food, energy and transport. The GETLocal social franchise is the brainchild of Aidan O’Brien and Ross Rabette, who live in what is fast becoming Ireland’s eco-business hub, Cloughjordan.

Rabette, 37, wanted to set up bioenergy villages in Ireland. “I moved to Cloughjordan, knowing that I would meet like-minded people to work with there. Aidan O’Brien brought a distinct jobs focus.”

O’Brien specialises in construction with natural materials, and has built many of the houses in Cloughjordan’s eco-village. The two have been joined by Alice D’Arcy and Dave McDonnell. D’Arcy supports food enterprises, while McDonnell fund-raises.

D’Arcy has a PhD in environmental science, specialising in the environmental impact of food and farming.

“My work in ecology, environmental sustainability, and research made GETLocal attractive to me. I like the fact that it has joined up a lot of economic areas, and that empowering communities to run things themselves, using their own resources, is a key part of it. The ethos of collaboration is important,” she says.

McDonnell is fundraising in the US, capital which GETLocal will make available to new enterprises, in partnership with a lending institution. Rabette is a biosystems engineer, and has designed and installed district heating systems and renewable energy technologies.

Cloughjordan’s eco-village has a district heating system powered, each year, by 200 tonnes of woodchip, while eco-villagers and residents of Cloughjordan own and operate a community farm.

Rabette said of his experiences in Germany: “The bioenergy villages in Germany were certainly inspirational,” he says. “In Juhnde, for example, they use fermented energy crops and farm slurry for gas capture, which provides heat and electricity. The community ownership model is key to the success of over 50 bio-energy villages there.”

Rabette says there are sustainability issues with bioenergy villages — many plant and then cut the growth to generate energy. He says it’s possible to take the best of the energy-capture technology without destroying the locale. “With, for example, food waste composting for energy capture, or more sustainable woodland management practices, to thin, rather than clear-fell, the forests.”

Community ownership of resources is growing in Germany, where 50% of renewable energy is owned by individuals or communities. This provides one fifth of all of Germany’s electricity.

Rabette cites the sharing economy. How often does anyone use all their power tools? Pooling those tools into an easy-access library would be savvy.

Rabette says communities import massive amounts of energy through their food, transport and houses. Energy is money. “The average household consumes about 90,000kw hours of imported energy, and food is the biggest category of fossil-fuel dependence, at over 40,000. Transport is second, and in-house costs, such as heat and electricity, are third,” he says.

Borrisokane, a few miles from Cloughjordan, is the first town to which many of these eco-business ideas have diffused.

There was resistance to the idea initially. “Because of the potential green agenda. But most of the best business opportunities lie in the green economy anyway, so money talks.

“We mapped resources, found gaps, helped develop business models and sought out the right kind of people to deliver them. We put on collaborative start-your-own-business courses, which created lots of synergies”.

Rabette says people interested in retro-fitting can use materials sourced from the materials bank, to also make chicken coups, or wood-log stores. “So just by putting on these courses, we supported people, but they also supported each other.”

At the GETLocal office in the town, they have built back-of-house supports, including developing software systems for purchasing products and services, a database of customers, training, contracts, sites and innovative fundraising techniques.

The latter, spearheaded by McDonnell, is vital in an economy where banks are not lending significantly. These services are part of how GETLocal will generate its own income, after the start-up phase.

Concurrently, a range of connected, nascent businesses is developing. These include libraries — tools, arts and materials — and a community food compost service.

Is there space for such initiatives to blossom? Maybe it all comes back to the price of potatoes, as Rabette says. “Borrisokane is a big potato-growing area. Middle-men pay farmers here €200 a tonne. After the potatoes are driven to Belfast and then Dublin, for processing and packaging, the consumer, even in Borrisokane, pays €1,300 a tonne. Why not form a consumer hub and approach farmers with a price just over €200 a tonne? Or, approach a hub member to start growing potatoes for that price?”

D’Arcy says: “A lot of friends and colleagues have emigrated, there aren’t huge opportunities in my area. After my PhD, I was unemployed. I’m hoping to help create employment, to help people establish businesses, so people who don’t want to leave the country don’t have to.”

Home Thermostat – that learns your lifestyle.

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The reason we will put a pellet stove in our new home and not a traditional stove that burns wood, is simple.  It’s easier to use. We are fed up stoking the fire and cleaning the ashes from the grate – AND ashes from everwhere else in the room.

Most of that comes from the simple automation that is built into the stove.   Plus unlike a standard wood stove, a pellet stove allows one to set the temperature necessary to maintain comfort using a standard thermostat.

Using the stove means we use 1/2 tank LPG in 18 months.

There’s a company called Nest that has built a smart thermostat.  What makes it interesting is that it learns from how you use it.  Over time, it anticipates your needs (like turning down the temperature at 10 pm every night) and does it automatically.

Further, since it is Internet aware and wireless, you can control if from anywhere (i.e. from your smart phone).

Now, although this tech looks pretty simple, I suspect this device and others like it are the start of a big market for home automation. Essentially, smart systems connected to sensors around your home that makes running a home at peak efficiency, easier than ever.

Nest, with it’s ergonomic/simple approach to design, is certainly going to try to become a leader in this market.

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