Standby Lighting

Two large carbon fibre batteries in my workshop are used to provide standby AC and DC lighting for the house. The Elecsol 270 AH 12 volt is a carbon fibre type from 12voltz.com and weighs 62 kg and measures 51 x 27 x 24 cms. It is designed for marine and leisure use and can survive many deep charge/discharge cycles, unlike a car battery.

The battery provides emergency 12v DC lighting and also 230 volt AC lighting via a 450 watt sine wave 12 volt inverter. The inverter normally feeds part of the downstairs AC lighting circuit via a changeover relay.

We have several 12 volt fluorescent lamps around the house for those nights when Suffolk has no power! The system can also supply most of the downstairs 230 volt mains lighting circuit using the TBS Powersine 12/450 sine wave 450 watt invertor. The invertor has a 13 A mains socket outlet which can also feed other mains appliances as required. Check eBay auctions for a mains inverter

I have only recently added the second battery, so we should now have several days storage capacity for lighting and office use, in the event of power cuts. I have also been investigating 12 volt lighting to find something that is really bright. This eBay trader in Germany has just the thing. A 12 volt energy saving fluorescent bulb with a built-in inverter, brilliant!

Woodburning Book

Edited extracts from the 1977 by kind permission of David Thear of Broad Leys Publishing

Wood As Fuel

Inflation, particularly the rise in the prices of fuels, has caused all of us to look carefully at our costs and what we are buying. Is there some way in which it is possible to heat our homes in winter, or heat our water at a lower cost? Perhaps there is. Using wood as an alternative or supplementary fuel may save a great deal.

Wood has half the calorific value of coal, and at the current bulk purchase price in country areas of £50/ton, is well worth considering as fuel. However, to make it worthwhile, it is necessary to use it wisely and to extract the maximum heat from it. There are two essential ways to achieve this, by burning only seasoned wood and by utilising an efficient woodstove.

In Britain we have traditionally burnt togs in the home in an open fireplace. This is extremely attractive but very wasteful, as 80% of the heat disappears up the chimney. Furthermore, the higher you stoke the fire, the more oxygen it demands, and the greater those spine chilling draughts. Indeed, in a centrally heated house, an open fireplace can draw valuable heat up the chimney and away.

Slow Combustion Woodstove

The most efficient type of woodstove is basically a metal box which stands clear of the wall and is connected to the chimney by a short flue pipe. This box, if constructed well, with primary and secondary air inlets, burns wood completely to fine ash. It can be regulated to do so slowly and to give off an even temperature for the whole burning cycle of the wood. Thus, instead of obtaining heat from only two logs out of ten put on the open fire, in a good woodstove we can obtain the heat from at least five, and maybe as many as eight out of ten.

When wood burns, first the absorbed water is driven off. After about 300°F Our wood begins to break down chemically, giving off volatiles such as carbon monoxide and sulphur. To burn these, extra oxygen is needed and this is provided by a secondary air inlet.

A good Scandinavian woodstove like the Jotul 118 burns logs from end to end like a cigar, and forces the air inside the stove into an S-shaped pattern, thus ensuring complete combustion. It achieves this at a near constant temperature throughout the burning cycle. Some Scandinavian woodstoves are constructed of cast iron, instead of the sheet steel used elsewhere. The Scandinavians have a long experience in this field, and claim that iron retains heat longer and distributes it more evenly than steel. Further, that it will last better.

A poorly made woodstove, which is not precision built to be completely airtight, will not achieve the very slow combustion necessary to extract the maximum heat and return it to the room. It will produce the required heat at the expense of using far more wood and, if not robustly constructed, will deteriorate rapidly in is few years.

The efficiency of a woodburning stove is rated by the amount of heat from the combustion that is returned to the room. Similarly with a boiler, how much heat is transferred to the water.

It is not possible to make precise statements about different stoves because their performance depends on too many factors. For example, the type of wood, how much moisture it includes, how closely it is packed in the burner, the type of chimney, how dry it is and whether gales are causing downdraughts, and so on. However, anyone considering purchasing a woodstove can try to assess its capability and whether it is good value for money by checking the following points:

  1. How long has the manufacturer been producing woodstoves? What is their reputation?
  2. Is it built to last? What metal is it? How thick is the metal? How are the joints sealed and are the doors ground to fit precisely so that the stove is completely airtight?
  3. How long are the logs it will accept? This can save much sawing in a year. How often does it need reloading and how long can it keep in on a full load when turned down? What is its claimed output?
  4. Obtain the names of other customers in your area and ask them for their findings. Does the stove give out as much heat as claimed? Check the kind of fuel used and whether it is seasoned.
  5. Does the performance vary at different times? If you can, check with more than one customer, as it would be a shame to judge a woodstove adversely if one person has a problem chimney.

Dry Wood

The wood you use in your stove should be thoroughly seasoned. Fresh cut timber is called green and can be more than 50% water. Drying out the wood by storing can reduce this to about 20%. The best time to cut wood is in the Summer when much of the sap is drawn out in the leaves. Cut and stack it in dry and airy conditions for at least 6 months before burning, and preferably a year.

The drier the wood you burn and the more efficient the combustion in your woodstove, the less tar deposits you will get in your chimney. However, you will still get some, and the chimney should be swept twice a year.

With a box stove fitted into a closed fireplace by a short flue pipe, it is a good idea to cut a soot cleaning hole with a well fitted door above the fireplace, for the sweep to gain access with a vacuum cleaner. You can hang a picture over this door when it is not being used.

Sources of Wood

  1. There is much dead wood already available in the countryside, often just left to rot. Many stretches of woodland, particularly private woodland, are full of trees carrying dead wood and in need of pruning. Often the dead branches have already fallen and are littering the forest floor. In fact many stretches of private woodland are downright dangerous places to be in.
  2. On common land it is permissible to collect fallen, dead wood.
  3. Many farms have old gates, fencing and posts, and timber from demolished barns.
  4. Many trees are felled annually for road and building development. Ask the foreman what the fate of the trees is likely to be.
  5. In towns, demolition sites always produce timber which is often burnt on site.
  6. Local Authority Parks Departments too are pruning and taking out trees. These are usually burnt at some central point and are worthy of investigation.
  7. Sawmills often sell off-cuts which make excellent fuel, particularly as no sawing is required.
  8. Tree surgeons, loppers and contract gardeners are worth approaching; their addresses will be in the Yellow Pages Guide.

It is in the search for wood that a car trailer comes into its own. Here, some sort of bartering arrangement between friends, can be beneficial. The authors of this book do not have a trailer, but have the use of one in exchange for the loan of their grain grinder, used for the preparation of poultry food.

Newspaper Logs

Newspaper is, after all, processed wood, and there’s an awful lot of newspaper lying around.

Old newspapers and magazines can quite easily be converted into ‘logs’ by rolling up as tightly as possible and securing with some bits of old wire. If these are tossed into a container with a few inches of waste oil and left for a few days, the absorbed oil will ensure a thorough burning. Leave to ‘dry’ before putting them in the burner where they will last for a couple of hours.

The secret is in rolling them really tightly, and if you don’t have the muscle power, there is a piece of equipment called the Logrol which will do this for you.

Buying Wood

You can of course buy wood in bulk either by volume or by the ton. Volume is measured in cubic feet. If you are offered wood by other terms, conversion is as follows:

1 Board foot or foot board measure (fbm) = 1/12 cubic ft.

1 Cord foot = 16 cubic ft.

1 Cord = 128 cubic ft or 8 cord ft.

If you are buying wood green the weight equivalents given by the FAO are:

Coniferous Wood 39 lbs/cubic foot.

Deciduous Wood 47 lbs/cubic foot.

General Wood   45 lbs/cubic foot.

Therefore roughly for green wood

Coniferous – 60 cubic feet = 1 ton.

Deciduous – 50 cubic feet = 1 ton.

Mixed   – 55 cubic feet = 1 ton.

Storing Wood

If the wood you collect or buy has not dried out or ‘seasoned’ it will need to be stacked out for the sun and the air to evaporate much of the moisture.

The ideal place would be open to fresh air but out of the rain. For some this may not be possible, so choose a hard dry surface that doesn’t become waterlogged and drive in stakes for each end of your woodpile. Make sure air can circulate through the stack and that it isn’t under trees. You can then stack your cut logs, remembering if possible, to cover them in winter.

 It must be emphasised that these measurements are only rough. The weight of a volume of timber varies with its density and thickness of the logs and how much water it is carrying.

When buying wood we have to take what is available, but it is useful to know what woods have been good for burning on an open fire. As a generalisation the hardwoods are denser contain less moisture and are favoured.

Elm wood was plentiful because of the ravages of Dutch Elm disease. There were originally about 23 million trees in the risk area of the South, East and Midlands of England, and about half of these were lost by 1980. Unfortunately, the area of the disease has spread, and another 5 million trees may be lost in the North and East. Elm logs should be left to dry for a full year and then they burn very well in a box stove.

Tools

How much preparation you will need to undertake with wood will depend on the form in which you obtain it. If you are lucky enough to have logs delivered in quantity, the right size and thickness for your woodstove, you will save yourself a good deal of work. If not you’ll need a few tools.

For cutting and splitting small logs you will need a hand axe and bowsaw. Buy the biggest bowsaw that you can use comfortably. For heavier work you will need a tree axe, a sledge hammer and two steel wedges. You can now buy plastic wedges to keep the split open, or you could make your own hardwood wedges. You will also need a saw horse.

If you are cutting a great deal of timber a chain saw is worth considering. Your bow saw will cut through wood up to 6 inches diameter and your hand axe can be used to split these down to thinner pieces if needed. You can cut larger logs up to a foot thick with your bowsaw but it is hard work if you have a lot to do.

The hammer and wedges are essential for splitting thick logs and, with practice, splitting along the line of the grain and avoiding knots, it can be a very satisfying job. However, wedges can be dangerous if they splinter and fly out, so if you want to be really safe, wear a hard hat or crash helmet with an eye shield and use a non metal hammer.

If you decide that you have enough work to justify £200 – £250 on a chainsaw, then go to your local dealer, explaining your requirements, and listen carefully to his advice. Great care is needed in the handling of this tool and it should only be used with the utmost care. It is a useful idea to get some practice with one, either with a friend who has one, or with the supplier who will gladly demonstrate and show you how to use and maintain it properly. With continual use the chains lose their sharpness quickly so it is useful to have a spare chain. With a file and a guide it is not too difficult to sharpen a chain yourself.

Felling Trees

With a chain saw you can undertake the cutting up of trees and the felling of small ones. Large trees or dead trees are a job for experts and should be left to them.

To cut down a tree, first have a clear idea where it is to land and how much space it will take up when it is down. Make two cuts to form a notch about a third of the way into the tree so that the line of fall is in the centre of the notch. Make a third cut as shown, leaving a small amount in the middle. The tree should then fall, turning first on the centre part as a hinge. With a heavy tree this may break, so watch out for the trunk to kick back over the stump.

Felling trees requires a licence from the Forestry Commission. The exceptions, for trees on your own land, are as follows:

  1. Fruit trees past their prime.
  2. Trees in your garden, providing they do not have a preservation order on them.
  3. Trees with a trunk diameter of less than 3 inches, 6 inches in a coppice.
  4. Trees in a woodland up to a volume of 325 cubic inches in any quarter, in order to improve the growth of other trees.

On common land you can collect dead wood.

Managing Your Own Woodlot 

If you are fortunate enough to have land, it may be worthwhile having your own woodlot. If the land is level and fertile, you may decide that it is more profitable to give it over to hay and use the income from that to buy in wood. If, however, the terrain is steep and poor, and unsuitable for anything else, then it is definitely a worthwhile proposition.

There is also the long-term environmental aspect that if one is burning trees, one has the responsibility for replacing them, not only for oneself, but for future generations, and for the well-being of the planet.

Tree Planting 

The time to plant trees is in the dormant stage, between October and March, ensuring that the ground is frost-free. Specimen trees should be at least 10′ apart, but for coppicing, 6″ is adequate.

Dig a hole deep enough to house the roots and base comfortably, then break up the remaining soil in the hole. Insert the young tree and spread the roots out, then return the soil around the roots. Make sure that the soil does not exceed the original ‘collar’ or soil mark, then firm the earth by treading.

In exposed areas, staking may be necessary, and a good tie is made from old nylon stockings. Wire should never be used as it causes bark damage.

If there is the likelihood of rabbit damage, protect the saplings with a wire-mesh sleeve, dug into the ground.

Tree Nursery 

If you have a sheltered spot with ready access to water, it may be worth having your own small tree nursery for replacement stock. You will obviously have to wait several decades before coppicing some of them, but it is a good plan to have a few seedlings available to fill a vacant spot. Each one is, at least, a future replacement for another tree felled.

The name of Johny Appleseed, who planted apple pips on his journeys across pioneer America, is still revered.

Soak the seeds for 24 hours in cold water prior to sowing: this helps to break the dormancy cycle. Sow in a 50/50 peat/sharp sand mixture, in Spring or early Summer.

Polythene pots are ideal, and if these are stood in a bed of sand in the shade, less frequent watering is necessary.

Barely cover the seed and ensure that the sowing medium never dries out. Be patient, for you may have to wait several months for some species to germinate.

Acorns and conkers are particularly popular with children.

Some of the faster growing species will be ready to plant out in November.

Harvesting Wood

Old established trees will need pruning excess, dead or diseased branches. Unless the tree is being felled the cuts should be painted with bitumen to prevent disease. Other trees in the woodlot can either be felled completely, and saplings planted in the vacant spot, or felled for coppicing.

The former involves felling alternate trees in a close-planted copse, to allow the remainder to spread. The latter method involves cutting the tree and leaving a stump which subsequently throws out new shoots. Willow readily responds to this treatment, as well as the fast-growing Eucalyptus. A certain proportion of these off-shoots are then harvested on a regular basis.

The Environmental Aspect 

Britain is one of the least wooded countries in Europe, with only 8% of the land covered by wood or forest. The Forestry Commission has done much to redress the balance (a 3% increase since the war) but as their main interest is in growing commercial timber, much of the planting is quick-growing conifer. All over the world the numbers of deciduous trees are falling, and Britain is no exception.

The situation in certain parts of the world, notably India, Central Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, is even more serious. Here, the daily search for firewood by a rapidly increasing population has resulted in the wholesale deforestation of huge tracts of land.

Our tree canopy plays an essential part in the ecological balance. Without trees and hedges, soil erosion occurs, the natural wildlife is dispersed and destroyed, and oil a larger scale the actual climatic conditions may become distorted.

Both central and local government could give a lead by education and encouragement, in the planting of trees. Some local authorities such as Truro in Cornwall, have set a praiseworthy example, by giving away free seeds of such species as Southern Beech and Monterey Pine to their residents, as well as providing encouragement and information.

Central Government however, with its plans for land nationalisation, has unwittingly drastically reduced the planting of trees on private estates, for the consensus of opinion amongst private landowners is ‘tree planting may be good for posterity but why should I do it for the state

12 Volt DC Lighting

Two large carbon fibre batteries in my workshop are used to provide standby AC and DC lighting for the house. The batteries are the huge Elecsol 270 AH carbon fibre types from 12voltz.com and these provide over 6 kWh of storage. They are charged from my wind turbine and PV solar panels and I am now in the habit of using power from them to power various twelve volt lights around the house for everyday use.

12voltlighting1

My Morningstar solar charge controller manages the battery condition for me and I have made a small 12v distribution panel which has safety fuses built-in. The total current consumption can be monitored on the Morningstar, as well as the state of charge of the battery bank.

12voltlighting2

The thing to remember about using a 12 volt lighting system, is that you must size the cables to carry the much higher currents involved at twelve volts. I have run hefty low voltage fused feeds to the upstairs and downstairs ceiling areas to enable me to provide lighting all over the house. This is handy when we have a power outage, but increasingly we are using the twelve volt system for normal use instead of mains power.

12voltlighting3

I have found several lights and fittings which provide a really decent light. Quite often you find that caravan type fittings are rather dim and unsuitable for regular use. The one I am using as I type this in my small office is an 18 watt PL fluorescent fitting made by Sollatek and called the Lumina 18. It has an efficient inverter and draws only 1.3 Amps.

12voltlighting4

In my workshop is a 2D fluorescent fitting made by Marlec and called the LL01 Leisurelight. This gives a nice warm light which might be better suited for a lounge area intended for relaxation. It is rated at 12 watts, so is not as bright as the Lumina 18 mentioned above.

12voltlighting5

I recently bought four 12 volt fluorescent energy saving bulbs similar to the ones from this eBay trader.  These have a clever built-in inverter in the bulb and are really bright. Mine only draw 1.5 Amps each making less than 20 watts consumption at twelve volts. They are the ES fitting type, which at least stops you accidentally plugging them into a UK BC type mains fitting! Sourcing ES lampholders is a bit tricky in the UK, but I found CPC Plc do stock several surface mounting types. I will buy some pendant types the next time we are in Europe.

 

Growing Wood for Fuel

I have given over part of the far corner of the garden to growing some trees to see if I can replenish some of the wood I use in the woodburner for biomass fuel. I do not have anywhere near enough land to be self sufficient in wood, but then again we only use the woodstove when the temperature outside drops really low, as we have gas central heating for daily use.

After some research into differing varieties to grow, I decided to plant some hybrid fast growing willow trees. These came as 1 metre rods and I planted them at 1 metre spacing in early February this year. The picture below shows the first shoots appearing after 2 months.

growingfoodforfuel1

The variety I chose was Dasyclados “Super Willow”, from The Willow Bank, which is very fast growing and can be coppiced and harvested for fuel after 3-4 years. They thrive in damp conditions and should grow 2-4 metres a year. I am hoping that the rabbits and deer do not pilfer the new shoots.

growingfoodforfuel2

I had to remove some old Morello cherry trees, which never bore any useable fruit, to make way for the willows, but they are now in the log pile for a year or two seasoning to air dry for the fire. The new willow will obviously require at least a year seasoning after cutting, but I hope to replant some of the cuttings to produce more new trees and of course the old ones will regrow after harvesting.

Woodburning as a source of home heat, has been around for many years. I bought a book back in 1977 which taught me a lot about woodstoves and wood burning. I have reproduced some highlights from The Woodburning Book for you to enjoy.

6 Steps to Keyword Success

6 Steps to Keyword SuccessIt is surprising how often keyword research is overlooked when people talk about optimizing their website, blog or other online assets for search engines.  The thinking often goes that when you come up some keywords that represent your product, and you optimize your online efforts around these keywords, your target market will find you.  There are several variations of this thinking.

It’s a good start; however, this is only part of the equation.  A key factor is missing, which is how many internet searchers are typing those particular queries into search engines.  It is imperative that, before beginning any kind of search optimization, you find out what queries people are using to search for your type of product or service.

6 Steps to Keyword Success - keyword researchFor example, you may think that “keyword research” is a great keyword.  If you dig deeper, you would find that “keyword tool” and “google keyword” are relevant keywords which are actually searched more often in Google.  Depending on the context, these may be better keywords to optimize for.

It’s the small step of gathering that intelligence which will make all the difference to your search optimization.  It is surprisingly quick, easy and free to gather all of the information you need to make informed keyword selections.  Here are six steps to keyword success:

  • Brainstorm keyword ideas and themes: Use your knowledge of industry jargon and key terms to create a basic list. Include everything you can think of that is relevant to your product or service.
  • Use a keyword tool: Take brainstorming a step further and gather intelligence. To get expand reach and increase awareness for a brand, marketing agencies use a variety of marketing tools. You should do the same. The best keyword tool for every reputable marketing professional out there, without doubt, is the free Google Keyword Tool.  While other search engines exist, SEO efforts should be focused on Google search results.  Where better a place to gather keyword intelligence than Google itself?
  • Build out a list: Spend some time with the Google keyword tool and build a list of every conceivable keyword combination that has search volume.
  • Do a ranking scan: Find out how you are currently ranking in the Google SERP’s for the most relevant keywords in your keyword list.
  • Look at your analytics: Log in to your Google analytics account and take a close look at what keywords your organic search traffic is coming from currently. Watch the video below to learn more about Google Analytics.

  • Analyze your keywords: Once you’ve gathered intelligence on your keywords, sit back and look for opportunities. For example, is there a keyword in your list where you are currently ranked 15th, that is already bringing decent traffic to your website and has big search volume (i.e. big traffic potential)?  That’s probably a keyword you should target.

Keyword selection should be based on more than just what sounds good.  It should also be based on search volume (i.e. traffic potential), current rankings and current traffic volume.

Finally, of course, your keywords should always be as relevant as possible to the content of the page that you are optimizing.  For, all of the non-relevant traffic you can get will not bring you results of it does not convert. To allow yourself to focus more on other equally important aspects of your business, think about increasing your online visibility with the help of a firm that specializes in professional SEO services.The services provided are cost-efficient and convenient and can be customized according to your needs.

Keeping Your Eyes Healthy

Keeping your eyes healthy

The eye is one the most important organs in our body. While not necessary for life, our vision is integral to how we experience and relate to the world around us. It has been estimated that as much as 80% of our perception and comprehension of our surroundings comes through vision. In other words, while the other senses like touch, taste, hearing and smell are important to understand the things we come in contact with, they only contribute 20% of our knowledge, while sight makes up the other 80%!

We can understand why it is therefore so important to keep our eyes healthy. Despite this, there are a lot of people who will visit a dentist every year but will never go and see an optometrist because they think they don’t have to. They, therefore, have no idea how healthy their eyes are or what issues they have a higher risk of having to deal with as they get older.

What is this post about?

Let’s start by what it is not about. It is not about encouraging you not to have regular eye examinations with a qualified professional. Any advice you may get from this website will never be as good as someone actually looking at your eyes in detail.

So what is it about then? Our aim is to increase awareness about different eye and vision issues, to suggest possible treatments for common and straightforward problems that are easily and readily available and most importantly to help you get the best information about ensuring that your eyes stay healthy and feel great!

So many questions!

Keeping your eyes healthy - dry eyes

We get asked literally asked questions about different aspects of the eyes and vision and we can see that people are desperate for some direction in these areas. Just over the last couple of months we have been asked a whole variety of questions, including:

  • What causes dry eyes? What can you do about it?
  • What are the advantages of  water gradient contact lenses over ordinary ones?
  • Is an oral antihistamine good enough for the eyes during hay fever or do I need eye drops, too?
  • Do I have to have a cataract operation or can I just take drops?
  • Am I at risk for glaucoma? What is glaucoma?
  • My grandmother has macular degeneration, am I likely to get it too?’
  • What can I do about the bags under my eyes?
  • Is there cosmetic surgery for the eyes?
  • My glasses prescription keeps on getting worse, how can I slow it down?
  • How important are sunglasses or are they just a fashion item?

We hope to eventually cover all of these questions over the coming months and we will be regularly posting more, essential information so keep checking back to see what’s been added.

And if you have any questions about your eyes that you want us to address or would want to know about prescription eyewear particularly contact lenses that can be worn for a week, be sure to comment and we will either reply or set up a blog post to answer them the best way we can.

Keep well and stay healthy!

Green Energy and Oil

Renewable Energy Supplies About 7% of our Needs

What is the future of our energy landscape? Renewable energy has a long way to go, but there are need and opportunity.

Renewable energy supplies about 7% of all energy consumed in the United States, says the Energy Information Administration. More than 50% of renewable energy is used to generate electricity. China leads the world in total renewable energy consumption thanks to several large hydroelectric projects, but the U.S. is second in renewable electricity production. However, the U.S. is by far the largest consumer of non-renewable energy in the world.

Oil is Important but it is Not Renewable.

Though energy (including petroleum) consumption is down in this recessionary period, the annual U.S. per capita consumption is about 25 barrels of oil, as opposed to Japan at 14, Britain at 11, and China at 2 (and growing). As Peter Tertzakian’s book is titled, world oil consumption is “A Thousand Barrels a Second”. Oil is very ingrained in our society, supplying the fuel for our cars and planes, the means to heat and cool our homes, to fertilize lands and feed animals, to store and cook food, to transport goods nationally and internationally.

Petroleum-based products are as diverse as heart valves, aspirin, computer parts, footballs, and disposable diapers. Oil and natural gas provide 61% of our domestic energy needs, are powerful sources of energy and they are necessary. But, on the negative side, they are not renewable and supplies will one day start to recede (sooner or later). The U.S. imports about 65% of its oil needs, and though this number may have gone down over the last year due to the recession and lower consumption (some estimates are at 57 to 59%), relying on imports can be an issue for national security. And of course, oil is not friendly to the environment.

All Sources of Energy Need to be Developed

There is no question that oil is necessary, and that no other energy can meet its strength. However, it also seems clear (even to oil companies) that we need to develop all sources of energy. Indeed, renewable energy is expected to grow. The EIA projects the total American electricity generation from renewable energy may reach 16% by 2030. Wind power has made the largest strides among renewable energies recently, growing by 50% between 2007 and 2008 (yet still providing a minuscule percentage within the overall renewable energy category). Renewable energy has a long way to go.

Something that may help it along is state-mandated Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). RPS essentially requires a certain amount of electricity be generated (or acquired) from renewable sources. More than half of the U.S. states have RPS in place, but many have escape clauses if the costs go too high. Others have delayed implementation. The EIA, among others, tracks the states and their RPS policies.

Difficulties Facing Green Energy?

What can work against the development and implementation of renewables?

  • The new technologies are often capital-intensive, and these days the banks are not open to much financing and capital is not abundant. Consumers (whether they are residential consumers or commercial consumers) have to weigh the cost and immediate benefits.
  • To help offset the expense, tax credits or other federal or state incentives need to be in place for a long period of time, rather than short periods.
  • Some of the technologies are still being developed, and consumers may hesitate to buy, waiting for the next best version.
  • There is also some resistance to change and the unknown. And there can be other kinds of resistance, too. There are many stories of residential communities fighting against windmills in their “neighborhoods”, for instance.

Renewable energy has a long way to go, but the frontier is opening and many see it as full of opportunity.

Going Green with Geothermal

One small community battles the current economy to implement abundant geothermal resources in a one-of-a-kind greenhouse.

A Gardening Dream

The desire is obvious. “Going green” is catchy, and for many, the ideal way to fashion one’s life. People pride efforts when the sun is harvested with solar panels, when wind farms capture the wind’s energy, and applaud new approaches to fuel vehicles and industries working off renewable methods. The dilemma many encounter is the initial cost of the green technology. Yes, the renewable energy may eventually save money, but with the economy in recession, getting by the next month has interrupted future investments. The Geothermal Greenhouse Project is the grassroots effort of local citizens attempting to overcome the troubling economy in order to fulfill a dream, a hope of a greenhouse, powered by geothermal heat.

With dwindling construction jobs and scant real estate sales, Pagosa Springs, a town nestled in the San Juan Mountains in Southwest Colorado, has been as hard hit as like the rest of the nation. An abundance of mountain views offer seasonal tourism which, fortuitously, generated increased revenue for the past few years amongst the heart of the recession. Unfortunately, tourism is unable to recreate the profits from the industries of construction and real estate. The response, by a town of just over 3 thousand residents and only 13 thousand Archuleta County citizens, is a geothermal greenhouse.

The assortment of minerals—sodium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and sulfate (the cause for the unique smell) has coined the geothermal water as “healing waters.” These mineral springs have lured Native Americans like the Utes and other Southwestern tribes. Settlers also rested in the pools near the San Juan River. In the 1970’s, the use of the geothermal water as heat began to be a substitute for the increasing energy costs during that time. Investment in the geothermal water heats downtown businesses, public schools, government buildings, and some homes today. The heat is being proposed for the geothermal greenhouse.

Growing a Mountain Town

Mountain communities are not known for an extended growing period. The geothermal greenhouse is perceived as an ideal use of green energy to provide fruits and vegetables year-round.

The Geothermal Greenhouse Project representatives presented the latest findings at a public meeting on June 7. Kathy Keyes, a local business owner and a member of the grassroots Geothermal Greenhouse Project, explained, “This project will help the economy overall by utilizing our intrinsic resources, showing we can grab our own bootstraps while educating local children.

Three geodesic domes are proposed for the estimated $1.4 million project. One dome is planned to be for community gardeners. Another dome is to be a learning tool for local schools, reminding the students of the agricultural roots of the community. The third dome is idealized as a commercial dome, a way of branding Pagosa Springs products around the nation, even around the globe. Solar power is intended to provide lighting during the darker days of the Rocky Mountain winters.

Support by the Town of Pagosa Springs has been witnessed through a loan of land for $10 a year as well as 100 gallons per minute of the geothermal water effluent(heat) after it has gone through the local system, heating downtown communities. In-kind community donations continue to mount up as well. However community support has only gotten the project so far. Cash is needed. Financing green projects is no easy feat. Financing a green project in a recession is an even more formidable challenge.

Finding the Green

A request to Colorado Senator Michael Bennett as well as Congressman John Salazar for $1.2 million for federal appropriations stimulus monies is pending. The project is currently one of thirteen remaining projects out of 150 still being considered for the federal stimulus appropriations. Applications to the Colorado Governor Energy office as well as numerous granting agencies have also been requested.

Residents enjoy their open spaces. The construction of domes on a downtown park is not viewed favorably by all citizens in the community. One concern voiced at the meeting by residents is that the domes will be an unsightly invasion of public space on the donated Town of Pagosa Springs property, known to locals as Centennial Park. Michael Whiting, a member of the Geothermal Greenhouse Project, stated that landscaping outside the domes might be tended to by the local gardening club, and the trail, traversing through Centennial Park, would be repaired and would meander in the gardens surrounding the domes.

Whiting recognized that the two years plus of project planning already past appeared to be excruciatingly slow progress. He insisted the planning for the greenhouse needed to be as frugal with finances as possible, keeping in mind the necessity for the project to be as efficient as possible with all its resources.

The geothermal water has enticed many to soak in the “healing waters”. The citizens of Pagosa Springs hope the waters also heal the economy, by attracting travelers to soak in the green energy of a geothermal greenhouse.

Alternative Energy Sources: Wave Power

The oceans are a huge repository of the sun’s energy. There are at least three ways to recover this energy. This article looks at one – wave power.

Among many indicators of global warming is the fact that the amount of heat stored in the oceans is increasing. So it makes sense to use that heat to provide for mankind’s energy needs. The US Navy is among those developing ways of doing so. The other sources of energy from the sea are tidal power and wave power.

When the worldwide price of crude oil rocketed following the Middle East crisis of the early 1970’s and the subsequent formation of OPEC to control supplies there was an upsurge of interest in alternatives and ways of harnessing the power of the waves received significant volumes of government investment in the UK and elsewhere. Probably the best known of the devices that were developed during this period is the Salter Duck.

Europe’s Marine Energy Development Centred on Scotland

Further government funding was denied to this device in the 1980s when fears about future trends in crude oil prices had subsided. Professor Salter’s facility at the University of Edinburg remains in business however and continues to play a significant role in the testing and development of wave power devices.

Indeed, a significant proportion of the world’s wave power development is centred on Scotland, with the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) based at Stromness providing facilities for full scale testing of wave and tidal power devices in some of the most adverse conditions likely to be encountered anywhere in the world.

EMEC plays a leading role in assisting developers by creating standards and ensuring that environmental impacts are properly assessed as part of the design process. Devices currently or soon to be deployed at EMEC’s wave power testing facility include Pelamis 1 and 2, Oyster and Penguin.

Off-shore Energy on Ireland’s West Coast

Meanwhile Ocean Energy Limited (OE) of Cobh in County Cork, Ireland have developed a device which has been tested in Atlantic gales and, since February 2010, have been in partnership with US multinational Dresser-Rand Corporation. In addition their platform is being used in Galway Bay by Europe’s Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre (HMRC) as a testbed for peripheral devices such as control systems, telemetry and grid interface technology. All of these technologies are essential requirements for the efficient transfer of wave generated electricity into a nation’s power grid.

Elsewhere, Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) have deployed devices at test sites in Hawaii, Atlantic City and Spain as well as at the EMEC test site in Orkney. OPT also intend to deploy an array of their devices at Wave Hub off the Cornish coast. This is a similar facility to the one operated by EMEC. OPT are developing “wave parks” at Reedsport and Coos Bay, Oregon.

Need to Lower Total Cost of Wave Energy

Critics of the current state of wave power development believe that there is a basic mistake being made in concentrating on areas where there are frequent high waves. In addition to the difficulty of designing equipment capable of surviving in such harsh conditions, such locations are often far from major centres of industry and population.

One such critic is Cliff Goudey, whose own wave energy company won an entrepreneurship competition in November 2010. In January 2011 he stated in a comment on the Renewable Energy World website, that developers need to “recognize that Kw/$ is what matters.” Generating a lot of power, most of which is lost in transmission, can be seen as wasteful. Accepting that lower outputs of energy at source makes sense if the cost of the equipment required to do so can be kept down and the transmission losses reduced because of the relative proximity of the generating devices to the point of use.

Solar Power for the Roofless: Off-site Solutions

Innovative Programs Offer Greater Accessibility To Clean Renewables

Novel models can overcome common solar qualification obstacles. There is hope for those with shade trees, divided roofs, poor roof pitch, orientation, or no roof at all.

Eighty five percent of Americans polled would rather have clean, renewable energy (Efrid, 2009). However, after nearly three decades of tax credits and rebates, only seven percent of the nation’s usage is clean, renewable energy; only one percent of the nation’s usage is solar (E.I.A., 2009).

Innovative solutions increasing accessibility to solar power have emerged. Among these and discussed this article are: Solar Shares, Solar Community Gardens, Forced Air Window Sill Solar Space Heaters, and Community Choice Aggregates.

Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) Solar Shares

Per the SMUD.org website SolarShares is a program that is the first of its kind begun by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), in Northern California. It is the largest in the nation serving between 800 and 1,000 customers that have purchased shares of its 1MW solar farm.

As the solar farm generates electricity, that amount of Kwh produced will pay out as a credit on the customer’s bill. The size of the credit will be deducted from a flat monthly upfront fee that is agreed upon during the signing of the agreement.

The program is best appreciated during Sacramento’s long hot summers. There are more customers than there are available shares, and so SMUD is expanding the program to accommodate demand.

Solar Community Gardens

Colorado State Representative Claire Levy (D-Boulder), has introduced HR 1342 that would create solar community gardens. Residents would buy into the off-site solar gardens like shareholders, and receive a portion of the energy produced.

Laura Snider (January, 18, 2010) of the Dailycamera interviewed Levy. “The intent of (the bill) is so people can have the benefit of what they would get if they had solar panels on their rooftops,” Levy said. “It’s for people who are renters, who live in condominium projects and don’t have rooftops, people whose lots are shaded, people whose houses aren’t the right orientation — a whole variety of things.”

Joy Hughes writes in a note posted on the Facebook page Solar Gardens “Solargardens.org has been organizing in counties around Colorado. Potential sites include a public library, a food co-op, a farm, a ranch, a church, an office building, and a land-based community energy group. Each of these community institutions could benefit financially from hosting solar panels.”

Forced Air Window Sill Solar Space Heater

Kevin Campbell tells Suite 101 that his first Window Sill Solar Space Heater was “just a cardboard box with tin foil, and some saran wrap with a computer fan.” That was many units ago. The Window Sill Solar Heater will fit comfortably into a window frame and heat a 600 square foot space he says. The panel collects heat from the sun. An automatic fan will turn on and off as is needed per the thermostat inside the panel.

Typically persons are discouraged from going solar with a lack of desired southern exposure. However, Kevin’s customers have told him they have been able to put the unit into an eastern facing window and migrate it to a western window in the afternoon, to track the winter sun. Customers buy the heaters for their cabins, houses, and businesses. Kevin thinks architects ought to make it a standard practice to design windows and homes to capture the heat of the sun.

During a sunny winter with little cloud cover, the unit has saved up to 30% on winter heating bills. As the standard heat he sells is roughly only $300.00, the cost is easily recovered within the year.

Community Choice Aggregates

Community Choice Aggregates (CCAs) are to energy reform what the public option is to health care. Cities form the equivalent of a buyer’s cooperative by purchasing bulk energy on the market to build local green-power facilities. That electricity is then re-sold to local residents and businesses using the distribution system built by the city’s current private electric service provider, PG&E.

Dan Walters (2010), reporter for the Sacramento Bee writes “Nearly a century later, PG&E is still resisting efforts to create publicly owned utilities.” The provider has recently collected enough signatures from paid gatherers to qualify as an initiative termed Proposition 16 New Two-Thirds Vote Requirement for Local Public Electricity Providers. Initiative Constitutional Amendment. Walters writes this will cost PG&E at least 25 million dollars to persuade voters to adopt the constitutional amendment.