Friday, December 4, 2009

The Climate Solutions Road Tour video snapshot

Thomas Henry Culhane James Dean Conklin and Elisa Zazzera (and all of Solar Punch and the IYCN and the solutions-oriented-citizens of India and their international guests!) have put together one of the finest, rockin'est, most moving music-video tributes to Climate Solutions I have ever seen! This is really worth sharing with all your friends and associates. Pssst, we can change the future; pass it on! Bravo James and Elisa! I salute you!

A video salute to the Indian Youth Climate Network & the Climate Solutions Road Tour in hope and respect for the upcoming Copenhagen Climate Conference. (videography by Elisa Zazzera & james dean / edited by james dean / music by Solar Punch)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Solar CITIES Urban Eco Tour, Cairo, Egypt, +2 012 182 7315

Thanks to Nick Rowlands for publishing this great article on our Solar CITIES Urban Eco Tour and linking it to the article in the Daily News on Hanna and Sabah and our work! Hope all of you will go on the tour when you come to Egypt, help out and get involved!
Since 2005, the Solar CITIES project has been helping poor communities in Darb al-Ahmar and Manshiyat Nasser (“Garbage City”) to build solar water heaters and biogas gene...

Daily News Profile on Hanna and Sabah and our Solar CITIES work

A beautiful article, a profile on Hanna and Sabah and our Solar CITIES work to meet Copenhagen goals household by household in Egypt. Thanks to Heba El-Sherif for writing this with such compelling detail. We would love to come to Copenhagen to share ideas and experiences; if anybody has a venue we can attend where we can present or mingle let us know!


Monday, November 30, 2009

Difficulties faced by cold region biodigesters

This article, Bulletin # 5 from Al Rutan talks all about the difficulties faced by cold region biodigesters and the critical need to insulate them. Required reading for our National Geographic Emerging Explorers Innovations Grant Team and associates!


Why septic tanks generally don't produce adequate methane

This article by Al Rutan "The Methane Man" helps explain why septic tanks generally don't produce adequate methane (a question I often get). Thermal shock from cold toilet water, a lack of constant nutrients, poisons (bleach etc) in the water and short retention time inhibit production. Septic tanks COULD be repurposed as IDEAL biodigesters if insinkerator kitchen waste disposals were rerouted to join the toilet effluent, if solar heated water were added to the septic tank (or routed to a heating envelope), if the tanks were insulated, etc. If you have a septic system we'd love to hear your ideas.


Alternative Energy Goes Mainstream in Egypt

"Alternative Energy Goes Mainstream in Egypt" -- A very important little article from Business Today Egypt that talks about the government's new policy of phasing out subsidies for energy producers while continuing to help the poor and domestic consumers, making renewables competitive and giving Egypt a comparative advantage in the world market. Finally! Bravo Egypt!

Friday, November 6, 2009

A low-cost solar heater using ubiquitous black polyethylene irrigation pipes? Why didn't I think of that?!

 An effective solar hot water system that can be made using some cheap plastic  irrigation tube, scissors, hose clamps and a screw driver. Nothing could be simpler.

Why didn't you think of that?
Actually you probably did!
And no doubt you've had many many different thoughts about how to innovate our way out of this mess of climate change, pollution, poverty, injustice and discomfort.
The real question we often ask ourselves at Solar CITIES is "why didn't we implement it?"
And when we reach that point, that half-way place between vision and reality, particularly when it comes to simple, obvious ideas, we feel a sudden urge to get empirical, and DO something.

This month, in Cairo, we stuck ourselves with the task of creating a cheap solar hot water system to improve our biogas digester's performance in the winter months (the mesophilic bacteria we use don't like temperatures below 20 C and all but shut down at 15 C).
At home in Germany we built a solar hot water system for our biogas digester out of an old steel radiator (painted black in a wooden box covered with glass) but these radiators, ubiquitous in Europe, don't exist in Egypt.  And the normal Solar CITIES solar hot water systems we build in Cairo cost a lot because of the huge expense and difficulty of copper pipes (both the raw material and the welding).  The marginal benefits of laying out a few thousand Egyptian pounds to heat the bacteria so they would increase their output seemed to outweigh the costs and impose  an acceptance barrier for most Egyptian families who can't even afford solar hot water for their own bathing.

Was there a way to radically reduce the costs without sacrificing performance?

Photo: The basic parts of this inexpensive but effective do-it-yourself solar hot water system: cheap rolls of 1/2 inch black polyethylene irrigation pipe (thin-walled, 80 LE for 400 meters) and plastic  T's, plumbing adaptors and hose clamps.

Photo: To cut the plastic pipe, which has a tendency to curl, to uniform length, we use a piece of aluminum window frame.

In California we are very familiar with black plastic heat-exchangers used for solar heating swimming pools; in the summer everything black gets hot, and water flowing through black plastic pipes is no exception.  But these solar pool heaters are specialty products, factory molded to provide the maximum surface area, are far too expensive for the average Egyptian, and in any event do not work in the winter when exposure to the cold air and wind quickly removes all the heat.   What we needed was something that would heat up quickly during the short winter days when the sun was out and transfer that heat to the water in an insulated tank to then flow into the heat exchanger around the biogas system.  And it had to be cheap.

Some great papers by Iranian and Kuwaiti researchers in Tehran suggested that black polypropylene did in fact have good heat transfer properties and would be suitable for solar hot water systems, but we couldn't find a description of how to make it, and we found little published on the use of polyethylene. (See "An experimental evaluation of copper, steel and polypropylene tubes in solar water heaters with thermosyphonic flow" by M. R. RiaziContact Information, J. Razavi2, A. Sadeghi2 and A. Javaheri in Applied Solar Energy Volume 45, Number 1 / March, 2009).  In any case, in Cairo we couldn't find suitable thin walled polypropylene. But we could find polyethylene drip irrigation pipe everywhere.

Bolstered by the graphs and data in Riazi et al., our decision was thus to try to simply get out and do something -- to go into the field and build a collector by hand, replacing the copper pipes in our normal Solar CITIES solar hot water system with the cheapest black polyethylene irrigation tubes we could find but otherwise keep the design exactly the same as we have always done things.  This way, if the experiment failed, we could always salvage all the other parts (the galvanized box, the aluminum heat absorber, the glass, the polypropylene plumbing and fitting and the recycled plastic water tanks and float valves) and throw in the copper pipes and still have a solar hot water system (albeit a more expensive one).

This is part of the nature of the Solar CITIES ethos: when experimenting, try to make everything modular and re-usable (re-purposable) so that if one idea fails the net loss is low.  Since we are very poor relative to Western Standards (yet relatively wealthy by the standards of the Egyptain poor) we are learning to understand how those less wealthy in this world think while having the flexibility to do experimentation.

 Photo:  Instead of being imprisoned by the old way of thinking, we've now learned that we can radically cut costs by replacing the expense and labor of using welded copper with plastic irrigation hose.

 Photo: The Culhane's cousin Heni, visiting from Germany, shows how lightweight the new plastic heat exchanger is.

What we learned this month in Cairo is that a solar collector made from black polyethylene irrigation pipe inside the glass topped box instead of copper works very well indeed, producing hot water over 45 degrees Celsius even on cold (but bright sunny) days.

Photo: Comparison of a copper heat exchanger with a same sized polyethylene heat exchanger. The one on the left costs about 500 LE, the one on the right about 30 LE.

Photo: Two people can assemble the heat exchanger in less than an hour with scissors and screw drivers. No welding required!

Even better, such a system can be made by children, since it involves no welding.  Instead the heat exchanger "shabaka" (matrix) can be made with scissors and a screw driver and hose clamps and plastic T's.   This way, the students at the Sekem Environmental Science Center (with whom we are partnering) can learn how to build fully functional solar hot water systems that they can take home to their families, and, in the future, if they want to learn welding and go to the extra expense of buying copper, can simply replace the plastic shabaka with a copper one for improved performance and durability. In this way school kids can learn real skills without having to always build "toys" or "little models" that have no immediate practical value.



Photo: To get the galvanized steel for the box on the micro-buses from Cairo to Bilbaes, we had to cut it into four pieces and reassemble in the field with rivets.

Photo: Sekem students assemble a do-it-yourself portable solar hot water system in the field.

The experiments in Egypt this month were generously sponsored by the Julius-Stursberg-Gymnasium in Germany.

It is true that the plastic heat exchanger is relatively delicate and  is prone to springing tiny leaks if not constructed properly (i.e. if the hose clamps aren't tightened properly and one isn't careful about putting stress on it during assembly).  But the total cost of the plastic heat exchanger is merely 30 LE for each box, as opposed to 500 to 600 LE for the copper (425 for the copper itself, about 100 or more for the drilling and welding, to say nothing of the difficulty), and broken plastic T's can be fairly easily replaced.  In any event, if it does leak a little it has no effect on the collector -- plastic doesn't rust or create a galvanic response that would degrade the aluminum absorber so no permanent damage is done while waiting for a repair.  And when using the panel to heat a biogas digester, slight water dripping and lowered performance isn't a disaster.

Photo: Solar CITIES Egypt Director Hanna Fathy and Sekem vocational student Salah put the glass on the box containing the polyethylene heat exchanger. 

The neat thing is that we've found this low-cost do-it-yourself solar heater works just fine for domestic water heating too -- a good entry level solar hot water system for those who want to get into the game and understand how to build and use solar energy infrastructure.

Photo: As is typical for developing countries, the glass, delivered in three pieces, supposedly 60cm by 80 cm,  for easy transport, was not properly cut, so Hanna and Salah have to carefully chip it to the right size with pliers before assembling the box.

Photo: Veteren Sekem teacher Yvonne Floride and Renewable Energy project manager Martin Haagen observe Culhane, Fathy and the students constructing the low-cost plastic solar hot water and biogas systems.

Photo: Hanna checks for leaks while a proud Salah poses in front of the completed system.

I know you've probably thought about doing this too -- building stuff out of the cheapest materials around that your intuition tells you will probably work, to help solve global problems on the local level.  The question is "what are you going to do about it?" May we suggest you jump into the game, and as the Nike commercial says, "Just do it?" The devil is in the details, but in this case we've found a relatively simple success! Give it a try!

Photo: Solar CITIES Egypt Director Hanna Fathy and Solar CITIES co-founder T.H. Culhane stand in front of their irrigation-pipe solar heater and solar heated cold-season biogas digester system.

Photo: Fathy and Culhane assemble a traditional copper heat-exchanger next to the polyethylene system for comparison and performance testing. The goal is to see if we can abandon using copper altogether and still get good efficiencies during the winter months with a system that uses plastic pipes and plastic storage tanks.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The do-it-yourself endless hot shower: never have to fight over water again

 Low-flow shower heads?  Nice idea, old paradigm.

No more "low flow" shower heads for this bad boy! No more 5 minute showers! I just took a 10 minute hot shower at a delivery rate of 3 gallons per minute and used only 5 gallons for the whole shower. What?!! That's 18 liters, less than the average for the Cairo poor who heat a 20 liter bastila on the stove and must pour it over themselves in less than 3 minutes. Do the math: with a federally recommended low flow shower head delivering 2.2 gpm you would use 22 gallons for a 10 minute shower. The best available low flow shower head delivers 1.5 gpm, which would use 15 gallons (56 l). The ultra ultra efficient low flow heads deliver 0.8 gpm and that measly shower still uses 8 gal (30 l) in 10 minutes. By using my water recycling pump I used only 5 gal , with a normal shower head that has three settings -- massage, pulse and flow. Try that with a low flow shower head! Annual US family of 4 H2O cost for 5 minute showers w/1.5 gpm head is $44. Ours: $14, and we get 10 minutes! 

What we're interested in at Solar CITIES is providing "the other 90%" (the have nots) with the same luxuries the 10% haves have, WITHOUT increasing our ecological footprint, without using substantially more energy or water or other resources than the world's "poor" already use. The idea is to raise the standard of living world-wide, not lower it.

How do we do it?  Read on below! 



The Flex Your Power website is a comprehensive statewide resource for energy efficiency, providing information and tools to help California consumers and businesses save energy and money.

Cost-Effectiveness Example
Performance Base Modela Recommended Level Best Available
Water Use Only
Gallons per minute/cycle 2.5 gpm 2.2 gpm 1.5 gpm
Annual Water Use 18.250 gallons 16,060 gallons 10,950 gallons
Annual Water Cost $73 $64 $44
Lifetime Water Cost $590 $520 $350
Electric Water Heating
Annual Energy Use 2,370 kWh 2,120 kWh 1,540 kWh
Annual Energy Cost $142 $127 $92
Lifetime Energy Costb $1,070 $960 $690
Lifetime Energy and Water Cost Savings - $200 $600
Gas Water Heating
Annual Energy Use 131 therms 120 therms 94 therms
Annual Energy Cost $53 $48 $38
Lifetime Energy and Water Cost Savings - $100 $350
aThe flow rate of the base model just meets the current Federal standards for showerheads.
bLifetime energy cost is the sum of the discounted value of annual energy or water costs, based on average usage and an assumed showerhead life of 10 years. Future energy price trends and a discount rate of 4.1% are based on Federal guidelines (effective from April, 1998 to March, 1999). Future water and wastewater treatment costs are conservatively assumed to increase only at the rate of inflation.
Note: Metric Conversions: 1 gallon = 3.8 liters By reducing the demand for hot water, a household reduces the amount of energy needed to heat the water. In this way, a low-flow showerhead helps to cut the emission of 376 pounds of climate-changing carbon dioxide each year and a faucet aerator helps to prevent the release of 83 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. 

In Germany we pay 3 Euro for every cubic meter of water, about 4 times more than Americans. And our energy costs are 4 times higher too.  But this doesn't stop us from living a quality life style and paying LESS for each "unit of satisfaction". The trick is always to "do more with less".  The idea is to achieve high efficiencies and Pareto optimality wherever possible.

The Culhane Endless Shower:

I've finally created an easy easy easy way to take almost "endless" hot showers using hardly any water or energy.  Recycling 25  liters (6 gal) to 50 liters (12 gallons) of solar or biogas heated bath water is enough to luxuriate in  a half an hour long shower using a simple 12 volt RV water pump and a 12 volt 7 amp hour hobbyist battery. Imagine never having anybody tell you to "get out of the shower -- you are going to cost us an arm and a leg" or "you are using all the hot water, get out so someone else can take a shower" again.  Imagine if we could stop the regional and international conflicts over water! The 12 volt Flojet (or Surflo) 3.5 gallons per minute water pump is run by a 12v battery charged by a 200 dollar 55 watt solar panel each day for over an hour of showering.  When I finish the housing the unit will be portable and can be taken to countries that experience water stress and life-threatening water wars to supplement our Solar CITIES Solar and Biogas water heating  systems.  As for me, I'll never go back to using a regular shower again...

Back when I was a kid in the  late 1960s and early 70s, before the OPEC Oil embargo, we didn't think much  about water and energy costs (they were heavily subsidized and thus appeared cheap), but that doesn't mean we weren't conservative.  My grandmother, Isabel Culhane, who raised our parents during the depression and the rationing of World War II, was a paragon of recycling, victory gardening, second hand shopping, do-it-yourself pride and conservation.

Every summer  Grammie would hold a "grandchildren's camp" at "the house that Jack Built" on Montague Road amidst the cornfields of rural Rockford Illinois.  She would invite her 16 grandchildren to fly, drive or bus in to her midwest country abode  from all over the U.S. (as far away as New York and San Francisco) where she would instill in us frontier survival values and the American can-do ethic.  We would visit Maury Patrick's farm and  spend two or three months learning how to sheer sheep, card and spin their wool, gather berries and bark and make our own dyes  and pies, and learn weaving, wood carving and other pioneer day skills.  Occassionally a mid-west storm would knock out the electricity and we'd be forced to "rough it"; like my hero, naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc Buffon (1707-1788) ,  I used to gather lightening bugs ("fireflies") in mason jars to make my own disaster proof lanterns to read by under the covers. We thought it was grand fun.

What we didn't like, however, was the limited amount of hot water.  Imagine: 16 grandchildren, a grandmother, and a guitar playing, prank playing and  sometimes irascible Uncle Mark all sharing ONE bathroom for an entire summer, every summer for years, and a mere 80 gallon hot water tank for all those guests. The rule of the house was "you must take short showers and use as little hot water as possible".  Otherwise -- no hot water for anybody.

It never occured to us in those days to build a solar hot water heater.  It never occurred to us to install a tankless hot water heater (instant on-instant on-demand).  America didn't offer up such consumer goods in those days (it would take 40 years and the end of a series of  oil administrations before we would see these things become marginally common place in the good old U.S.A).  Instead we would fight.

Uncle Mark would boom to my brother (who had a penchant then, and still does, for languid daydreaming in the shower) "Michael, get the hell out of the shower, your time is up!".  Grammie would intone "girls, please take shorter showers so the boys can get in" (girls got first dibs of the hot water tank at grandchildren's camp -- common courtesy, women and the little children first).

I remember vowing that one day, "when I grow up -- I'm going to be able to take endless hot showers. Nobody will EVER tell me to cut my shower short again."

Fast forward to Egypt in 2005 when Sybille and I moved in to an unfurnished apartment in  Cairo, and found that we could not afford to put in the four electric hot water heaters that the plumbing of the building demanded.  We spent a miserable  month heating water on the stove and pouring it in the bath until we learned enough and were able to use social capital to construct a solar hot water system.  Once that was done the rest of our time was quite enjoyable, providing we stayed within the limits of the 200 liters (55 gallons) of hot water that we could heat each day.

We went on to form Solar CITIES and build and install three dozen solar hot water systems and 5 urban biogas systems  in poor communities in Cairo, a feat that earned us a National Geographic Emerging Explorer Award in 2009. You would think we had the hot shower thing licked.

But for all our success in do-it-yourself hot water goodness, two things kept gnawing at me. 1) The idea that when taking a hot shower, all the heat you have expended so much money, time and effort capturing falls on your body for mere seconds before tumbling down the drain -- a huge and unconscionable waste that belies our efforts to help "the other 90%". 2) the sheer amount of water used, hot or cold, just to stand there and feel a waterfall on your body can not be justified in an era when fresh water is in short supply and people are fighting water wars in India and other nations that are claiming lives.

How to construct an endless hot shower that allows the luxury we crave without the resource wastage we decry?

I had done some experiments on the subject when I was a resident of the Los Angeles Eco-Village from 1999 to 2003, but hadn't put them into long-term effect.  In Germany, where water costs over 3 Euro per cubic meter (the most expensive in the world), even though we have a fancy vacuum tube solar hot water heater, I was feeling miserable because of the sheer amount of water we were wasting every day (we could see it because we collect all of our gray water in a tank outside the bathroom window to flush the toilet and irrigate the rooftop garden).  Between me and my wife and our baby son we were using up 1000 liters every two days.  The water bill at the end of the month was a shocker. So it was back to taking short showers, solar heater or no.

Tonight I decided enough is enough.   Frank DiMassa and I drove to RV specialists in Santa Rosa (on Yolanda) where Curtis, the owner, sold me a Flojet Premium Quiet Quad  Model 4406-143 Type IV 12 Volt self-priming RV water pump (3.2 gallons per minute, consuming 3.3 amps). It cost $95 dollars. I also bought an in-line filter for it.  The rational (which I used when I took my L.A. Eco-Village apartment off-grid for three years):  Imagine your home to be a mobile-home without wheels.  An RV that you use for living instead of recreation (an LV?).

By outfitting my static  home with solar panels and a 12 volt water pump run off of a 12 volt 7 amp-hour sealed hobbiest battery (you can find them at Home Depot for security gates), just like you would in a mobile home, I have finally achieved the holy grail of an endless hot shower.

Well, not quite endless, but at least a half an hour to 40 minutes of hot water, without using more than 50 liters (13 gallons) per shower. I can even get it down to 25 liters if I want to, and still get about 30 minutes out of it.  I've found that after 30 minutes I'm sick of being in the shower anyway. So for my purposes, the shower is endless.  25 liters can be recycled through a slow sand filter water purifier and used again the next day, so it is in some sense endless if you use recycled water.

The set-up is very very simple (see picture).  The pump (which is very very quiet) sits on a table in the bathroom. it is connected to a little 12 volt battery which will be recharged by the solar panel.  It has an on off switch and a 10 amp fuse in line with the positive wire.  The water intake is fitted with a 1/2 inch hose adapter and 10 feet of hose. At the end of the hose is the in-line water filter that Flojet makes for the pump. This prevents hair from getting into the pump.   The water outflow is a 1/2 " thread connector connected to two flexible shower hose for length (joined by a male-male 1/2 " nipple).  Before the shower head itself I put a fixture that lets me turn the water on or off; this also turns on and shuts off the pump automatically without having to get out of the tub to flick the switch on the battery until I'm nice and dry (the pump senses a lack of water flow and shuts off by itself).

And that is it.  Now I fill the bathtub with just enough hot water to cover the in-line filter (which sits at the bottom of the tub where the soap bubbles don't hang out) and then start showering. Since the pump is self-priming I don't have to do anything. The water stays warm far longer than I care to stay in, and I can just forget myself, daydreaming, shampooing, shaving, massaging sore muscles.  Nobody can EVER yell "get out of the shower, you are using too much water" or "too much electricity" or "too much gas"  or "you are using up all the hot water, leave some for somebody else." That 25 to 50 liters is MINE to use for as long as it stays warm.  And you can actually get two or three showers out of it if you keep each shower to 15 minutes or less.

Improvements:  I will build a nice water-tight, vibration proof housing for the pump and the battery with the switch on the outside so it can be easily carried to any bathroom anywhere and instantly set up, and will make it a portable endless hot shower to be taken to arid countries where people are fighting wars for a resource that should never be in short supply.

We live on a water planet. As Silvia Earle said, "we should call this the planet Ocean, the planet Water".  There is so much of it!
Wouldn't it be nice if we no longer had to fight to use it?

Kabir liked this on facebook.

Culhane replies:
Thanks for liking, Kabir. I was galvanized into action when IYCN (was it you?) posted the link about the water wars in India that were claiming so many lives. I can't any longer take long showers without thinking about all the people who not only "have not" but are dying in the struggle to have very little. This is National Geographic's Water Focus year. So between the Shmutzdecke slow sand water purifier we built on our porch and this little water recycler we have new projects to bring to Cairo this October and hopefully around the world. Try this out -- it really is simple and effective. Cheers, T

Mustafa liked this on facebook.

Culhane replies:
Thanks for liking Mustafa -- I will hope to bring a working model to Cairo in October. Meantime, check and see what the price of a 12 volt water pump is in Egypt. What is happening with your house that collapsed? Are you moved into your new place in Darb Al Ahmar? Have you been able to put up the solar hot water system? How is your family? What a  tragedy you faced! If you get in touch with Omar Nagi and Hanna Fathy (who is about to have a baby) and with Hussein Al Farag this week you might be able to connect with Kimberly from National Public Radio who is there looking at Solar Hot water and biogas and the Solar CITIES initiative. It would be great for you to connect with everyone! I will facebook friend suggest them to you.

Elisa commented:
5 minutes is plenty of time for a shower - why should anybody take a longer shower unless it is a medical/life sustaining measure. great for large families where 5 minutes of hot water per person may be a luxury - to the others of us who want to 'luxuriate' under hot running water i say 'suck it up'. get clean & get out:-)

Culhane replied:
Good point Elisa, but old paradigm. Since my energy costs are nil to null (solar heating and PV for the 12v battery) and my water use over 10 minutes is lower than the lowest ultra low-flow shower-head using 5 minute shower taker (i.e. about half of what the miser would use), what would the objection be? Everyone else is simply throwing water and heat down the drain that only passed over their body for mere seconds. That is the travesty. With my recycling shower the same water and heat is used over and over again until the heat is gone. And then the water is used to irrigate the garden and flush the toilet.

Amanda liked the link on Facebook.

Culhane replied:
Thanks for liking Amanda! One thing I neglected to mention is that if the bathroom is well insulated (double pane glass windows etc.) the same 5 gallons can last even longer than 10 minutes -- it is all about delta T -- the temp difference between the water and the air.  If the bathroom (or shower stall) is warm and steamy the hot water just cycles around and around and around without losing heat to the air. So a 10 minute shower can turn into a 20 minute shower without using any more water or heat energy (and just about 30 watts for the pump, easily supplied by solar).

Sybille liked the link on Facebook.

Culhane replied:
Thanks for liking the link Sybille. We should be able to cut our expensive German water bill (where water costs us 3 euro every 1000 liters, which is currently every couple of days, the most expensive water in the world!) down to a fraction of what we are now spending. I know that our greywater is recycled into the rooftop garden and the downstairs garden and flushes our toilet, so we don't waste it, but now imagine that a 10 minute shower won't use more water than two toilet flushes! That is gong to be amazing, huh? The idea for our Solar CITIES project should be to provide the same luxuries to the 'have nots' that the 'haves' have, WITHOUT raising the ecological footprint at all! I think it is achievable if we rethink the way we do things.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Landfills? Let them eat cake...

Food waste from 2,300 restaurants is collected and taken to the East Bay Municipal Utility District's wastewater facility. The food decomposes in a digestive tank for 20 days, and the resulting methane gas is harvested and converted into energy. (Peter DaSilva / For The Times / August 19, 2009)
I knew we were in a progressive area working in Northern California! Many thanks to Oscar Chavez of Community Action Partnership for passing this our way -- as the Bay Area utilities increasingly implement successful biomethane models it should becom...e easier and easier for us to get acceptance for our home scale biomethane solutions -- after all, the act of collecting and transporting the food scraps consumes energy (often fossil fuel derived) decreasing your net gains. "Methanogising" (I just made that word up!) on site (in situ gasification) will increase yields. And what should we do with all the landfills you ask? Let them eat cake.

Sonoma County Water Agency RGEEP Educational Video Script Transcription

This is the script for the 10 minute version of the Regional Geo-Thermal Exchange Energy Program Video created by T.H. Culhane and Frank DiMassa at Utility Consulting Multimedia Productions.
SCWA Video Transcription
Time is displayed in minutes:seconds:frames
The video is 10:25:00 long (10 minutes, 25 seconds, 00 frames)
(note: There are 30 frames in one second (but 60 seconds in each minute))
Chapter 1:Intro video (Russian River, SCWA logo with hand page turn) (14 seconds)
Title “Regional Geoexchange Energy Efficiency Program (water agency logo upper left)
00:00:00 to 00:14:14
Chapter 2: Paul Kelley, Sonoma County Supervisor, with 404 entrance and oak tree background
(25 seconds)
Medium shot Paul
00:14:14 to 00: 39:02
Sonoma County is on the leading edge of energy independence, energy efficiency and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and our carbon footprint.
That's why we're able to attract grant fundings both in the state level but also on the federal level and we're going to be competitive now and into the future
bringing in those resources to make these projects a reality for our community.
Chapter 3: A Radical Idea (1 minute 2 seconds)
00:24:20 to 00:42:13
Larry Wassem, Medium shot , Airport Business Park (geese pond willow tree background)
00:42:13 to 01:26:18
Airport Business Center originally started working with the Sonoma County Water Agency talking about doing some kind of geo-thermal heating and cooling system, um.
.. geo-thermal heating and cooling is old technology, very efficient technology but old technology
but the truly radical idea, the one that the water agency invented, was using secondary treated waste water as the basic heating and cooling unit. It otherwise sits there without being used. And now we've got a real possibility of taking a valuable commodity in its own right and doubling its use as a heating and cooling source.
Chapter 4: Building a zero-net-energy community (38 seconds)
01:26:18 to 01:29:26
Medium shot Amy Christopherson Bolten. Sonoma County Water Agency (RGEEP google earth background)
01:29:26 to 2:04:12
The regional geo-exchange project is a project that was conceived around the idea of building zero net energy communities that can be replicated all throughout the united states and preferably the world. The backbone is a geothermal loop system that runs through the community that can pipe waste water,
(Insert 8 second animation of RGEEP loop at 01:46:10)
which can act as a heating and cooling sink, to lower the energy needs of the buildings to the point where the balance can be made up through a combination of
(back to Amy at 01:53:19)
energy efficiency measures, to bring down the energy use of the building and then that remainder
(insert graphic of pond and PV at 1:58:25)
can be brought up using renewable energy such as solar and wind power.
Chapter 5: Where to Start (51 seconds)
02:04:12 to 02:07:05
Amy medium shot (404 graphic background)
02:07:05 to 02:55:05)
Well we knew we had to start somewhere. So we decided to take this building 404 Aviation Boulevard
(insert graphic 404 Aviation at 02:12:21)
and make it a test case for the energy project as a whole.
(back to Amy at 02:17:08)
We had already reduced our energy use down using efficiency measures with a combination of lighting retrofits throughout the building, and solar.
(insert graphic aerial of 404 roof at 02:25:08)
We have half a megawatt of solar facilities on our building; that pretty much takes our
(insert graphic PV parking canopy at 02:30:00)
electricity use to zero.
(back to Amy at 02:32:23)
Now we have to address heating and cooling. So in order to emulate what we are trying to build out there, we went and drilled our own
(insert graphics, parking lot shots with plug in hybrids at 02:37:16)
geothermal system out in the parking lot,
and we are going to hook it up to the building using heat pumps,
exactly like we plan to do throughout the whole business park.
(back to Amy at 02:46:07)
Once we do that we'll have our lessons learned and we'll be able to take those lessons and make very smart decisions economically about how we approach the community project.
Chapter 6: How it Works (58 seconds)
SCWA card hand turns
02:55:05 to 03:00:06
Lisa Meline, Geothermal Engineer, Medium shot (heating loop schematic background)
03:00:06 to 03:53:29
The existing equipment here at 404 aviation boulevard is all rooftop equipment. So we have airconditioners, we have boilers;
(insert graphics: AC and boilers on roof at 03:09:27)
they are all up on the roof, they are exposed to the elements, when it is hot in the summertime
(back to Lisa at 03:13:19)
the heat is pounding down on that equipment, um, and in the winter time when it is cold the same thing ; the difference is with this system we are bringing everything within the building or under... ground;
(insert graphic heat pump schematic at 03:25:21)
all of the heat pumps are going to go up in the cieling space... it's within the conditioned space essentially of the building...
(back to Lisa at 03:31:10)
which is going to ... um... help with the lifetime of that equipment but more than that
(insert animation of ground loop Summer 65 degrees at 03:36:19)
we're actually coupled to the ground heat exchanger... all that pipe out under the parking lot ... that, um,
(insert animation of ground loop Winter 65 degrees at 03:45:22)
provides us that constant tempered water source for operating those heat pumps. So the result is energy efficiency and longer lifetime of that equipment...
Chapter 7: James Bond Interlude with Lisa Meline (22 second animation)
(03:54:09 to 04:16:00)
Chapter 8: ...and another thing... (26 seconds)
(04:16:00 to 04:42:07)
Medium shot Lisa (water treatment pump room background)
...another benefit that I particularly like is that the controls for these systems can be very simple ...
(insert thermostat graphic and schematic at 04:25:04)
you just need a thermostat on the wall to control the therm... the heat pump when it should come on or off, and that's all there is to it;
(insert graphic of Dale at control computer at 04:30 :14)
you don't have to measure pressure differences and temperature differences and flow rates ...
(back to Lisa at 04:34:23)
it's on or it's off! And that is not just easy for the users but easy for the people have to maintain those systems.
Chapter 9: Broadening the vision (2 minutes 20 seconds)
04:42:07 to 04:44:27
Dale Roberts, Project Engineer SCWA, Medium shot (404 building entrance with tree background):
04:44:27 to 05:29:07
We're taking the renewable energy technique for heating and cooling this building at 404 Aviation and broadening that technology to the entire business park .
(Insert graphics of Waste Treatment plant and filtration at 04:55:25)
At our Airport-Larkfield-Wickiup Santitation Zone Wastewater treatment plant we process 1 million gallons a day of tertiary treated micro-filtered water. That water is stored in two one hundred million gallon storage ponds.
(Back to Dale at 05:11:12)
We're going to take that water, pump it throughout the business park,
(Insert graphic of close up of schematic at 05:14:02)
the buildings within the business park could tie into that loop and use that water to heat and cool their buildings
(back to Dale at 05:20:07)
they could also use that recycled water to
(insert graphic close up of color drawing of irrigation and non-potable use at 05:23:08)
irrigate their landscapes and for... non-potable uses within their building such as for toilet water.
Chapter 10: AB 811 the sonoma county energy independence program (27 seconds )
05:29:07 to 05:33:20
Larry, close up shot (HVAC background)
05:33:20 to 05:56:13
“...the county's AB 811 program
(Insert graphic Energy Indpendence fair 05:36:18)
could very easily help existing owners and tenants
(back to Larry with changing HVAC backgrounds, 05:41:18)
replace their outdated air conditioning systems with modern heat pumps that use this projects' water to heat and cool their buildings. It could be a very valuable program to make that transition much more painless for a lot of the owners.
Chapter 11: The distribution system (47 seconds)
Dale, medium shot, treatment plant pumps background.
05:56:13 to 06:41:10
Typical district energy systems have heating and cooling machines back at the central energy plant; we'll use our wastewater treatment plant as the energy plant. The typical system has four insulated pipes, two for chilled water, two for hot water.
(insert video at 06:12:14: engineers hands on RGEEP loop document,
We'll only need two pipes and those pipes will not need to be insulated.
(insert video at 06:17:07) engineers discuss plans)
It should save a lot of materials and construction costs and should be much less capital cost to construct.
(insert 8 second animation of color loop diagram at 06:20:21)
One of the pipes will distribute recycled water into the business park the other pipe will return the recycled water back to the treatment plant.
(Insert video of storage ponds at 06:28:18)
that energy can then be dissipated into the earth on the banks and on the floor of the storage pond, and the mass of water within the storage pond
(back to Dale with aerial shot of storage pond in background at 06:38:13)
provides additional attenuation of that heating and cooling from the business park.
Chapter 12: Diversity is the key (39 seconds)
06:41:10 to 06:44:17
Amy, medium shot, Airport Business Park sign in background
06:44:17 to 07:20:18
The airport business center has been developed over the past 20 years out here in the north end of Sonoma County. It's kind of geographically isolated which makes it actually a really good test location to try these new technologies. It has approximately 82 buildings; we have a mix of large office buildings, we have industrial uses, we have laser factories, tortilla factories,
(insert graphics of airport, winery, movie theatre, health club, bank and school at 07:09:15)
we have an airport, we have wine facilities, gas stations, movie theatres, we've got it all out here...
...It is the great diversity of building types that we have out here
(back to Amy at 07:18:10)
that make it such a great test case for the entire world.
Chapter 13: think globally, act locally (31seconds)
07:20:18 to 07:23:10

Larry, medium shot, solar canopy Prius charging in background.
07:23:25 to 07:51:25
Airport Business Center is obviously in the real estate development business, but in the real estate development business it's very competitive; we compete with all sectors of the country and frankly most every part of the country is cheaper than here. So for airport business center to compete effectively, we have to provide something to our customers that not everybody else has.
(insert video: beauty shot of ducks in pond with fountain and mountain at 07:45:11)
And one of those things is a sustainable green unique environment. And that's truly one of the reasons we're very excited about this.
Chapter 14: hooking up to stub outs (41 seconds)
Dale, Medium shot, water treatment rows in background
07:53:16 to 08:34:10
As a business owner in the area, and your business has been
(insert video, Dale at old HVAC system, rooftop old HVAC systems at 07:56:29)
10 or 15 years and you're HVAC equipment is ready to be retrofitted, its... you've got your money's worth out of it, you're a good candidate to hook up to
(back to Dale at 08:05:25)
our recycled water system and our geoexchange system;
(Dissolve to Dale at 08:08:26)
In the recycled water distribution loops we would have stub-outs to every single building so every building would have
(insert graphic, schematic of the loopfield from 99% at 08:17:11)
the opportunity to hook up;
… they'll realize the energy savings on site, they don't have to dig up their parking lot,
(insert graphic treatment pond at 08:21:28)
they don't have to put a pond in to dissipate that heat...
(back to Dale at 08:25:17)
they can stay in business and just hook up, save months of time and months of capital costs. They'll buy into the communal heat sink which is at the treatment plant.
Chapter 15: The big picture (34 seconds)
08:34:10 to 08:36:23
Dale, medium shot, solar field as background
(08:36:23 to 09:08:22)
The bigger picture is we're looking to have this whole business park be net-zero energy
(Insert graphic of “We're solar powered” at 08:41:25)
we lower our energy demand with ground source heat pumps
(back to Dale at 08:44:17)
primarily which is
(insert graphic roof HVAC system at 08:47:03)
typically 50% of a buildings energy use
(back to Dale at 08:48:24)
the rest of the energy demand which will always be there, we want to meet that with renewables.
(insert video of 404 roof solar panels at 08:52:14)
we have a lot of roof area... a lot of flat buildings in this area...
(insert graphic, aerial shot of rooftop of 404 Aviation at 08:58:25)
perfect for solar, they get a lot of sunlight
(insert video of roof panels at 08:59:25)
If we can meet that with renewables then in the business park we hope to be the first business park in the U.S.,
(back to Dale at 09:05:14)
certainly in Sonoma County, to be net zero energy.
Chapter 16: Green economics (18 seconds)
09:08:22 to 09:10:03
Larry, close up, Sonoma County valley and mountains in background
09:14:11 to 09:26:21
...we believe all of these programs that are kind of under this, uh, umbrella of sustainability... will not only lower our costs but will also attract new businesses and... for us yes it nice to help the environment, but bottom line you've got to make money doing it; we think this will do that.

Chapter 17: Final words (48 seconds)
Shot of Russian river, music up, rushing water and bird sounds
09:26:21 to 09:32:22
Paul medium shot, oak trees and front of 404 aviation in background
09:32:22 to 10:14:04
The reason why we're committed to the geo-energy exchange program here locally, is that we know that this is something that can be replicated throughout the state, and throughout the country, and globally. One thing that's common in the United States...
(emotional music swells at 09:50:01)
and throughout the world, is that there are a lot of business parks and a lot of those business parks are big energy users and one of the things that we know is using recycled water , using solar and other kinds of projects locally, you can create zero net energy communities in all the businesses throughout the world. That is something that we're excited about and we know we can make it happen.
Chapter 18: SCWA logo cards, hands pull away, dissolve to web address.(7 seconds)
10:14:14 to 10:21:11
Fade to Black (10:25:00)

(R) Evolution, the television series

The Lil' Jams crew put this flattering piece together for a pitch to the Discovery Channel of our TV concept for (R) Evolution, a high concept travel show that takes viewers with me around the world seeing the fantastic hopeful technologies available to you and me and "the other 90%", turning "green" from a utopian fantasy fit only for the wealthy to something practical we can all do. We got to the final round though the project eventually got shelved. Thanks to Colin Filkow for working so hard to put us on the plate. Next time we're up at bat we're looking at a home run!
(PS, I'm not really "fluent" in six languages, as the trailer states, merely "conversant" (i.e. I can read and write at at least the 1st to 3rd grade level, reading popular magazines, comic books and watch movies and have street conversations in English, French, Spanish, German, Arabic and Indonesian; Sybille and I are also coming along in American Sign Language as we teach our German-American baby son Kilian enough ASL to have a common reference language word for things that he must learn in at least two spoken languages. Neither of us speak Elven or Klingon).

Extreme Efficiency in your Eco-Home

 which has a must-read article called

Extreme Efficiency

Originally published in Home Power #112
April & May 2006
Written by Larry Schlusser PhD, Owner of Sun Frost

As we continue to develop the 460 Lucas Santa Rosa foreclosure property as a a green-retrofit eco-home demonstration model for "Joe the Plumber" and the rest of us average Americans who believe green is the new red white and blue, it helps not have to re-invent the wheel (or the heliostat, or the macerating toilet or...). This site is excellent if you want to go for "extreme efficiency" (Pareto optimality in both engineering and economics) in you home.

Larry Schlusser lives not too far from Santa Rosa, so we hope we can get him down to the 460 Lucas green collar jobs training site eco-home and get his advice on how we might take things "to the next level", for the "other 90%".

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ground Loop Geo-Thermal Heat Pump

This is a concept drawing of the ground loop geo-thermal heat pump system being installed at the Sonoma County Water Agency at the Airport Business Park.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Do-it-yourself Teleprompters "for the other 90%".

In an effort to empower "the other 90%" (see Paul Polack et al.'s "Design for the Other 90% for other ideas about this!) Al Silva and I innovated this simple do-it-yourself teleprompter. Rather than spend over a thousand dollars on a teleprompter, this adjustable unit can be built for 40 dollars in lumber and screws, a 20 dollar computer table, a 3 dollar piece of glass and a used LCD monitor. The laptop running the software is the expensive part (but you can get them now for about 300 bucks) and the software is a free download from the internet. The idea is to allow the disenfranchised to speak with their authentic voice, without having to memorize or edit.

But what about out in the field, off the grid, in villages and urban slums and shanty towns. For this we need a "porta-prompter" that is battery powered. It turns out to be much much easier than you think:

This prototype of the Culhane "hand-held field prompter" or "porta-prompter" (TM) is probably the least expensive teleprompter money can't buy: An Acer One Mini Laptop ($339 after tax from Radio Shack), an 8 x 11 plexiglass angled picture frame from Office Depot ($6.95) and some black construction paper with a hole cut out at the top for the camera lens (5 cents?). The software is a freeware program called UltraPrompt off the web. Works great!

The advantage of the Culhane "portaprompter" is that you can shoot almost anywhere. The plexiglass will be velcro'd onto the computer. With this set up one can shoot indoors and follow the subject around the room. The next phase is to build a "black box" around the set up so that it can be used outside (otherwise sunlight makes the screen hard to read) and to make a shoulder mount so one can free up both hands. Stay tuned!

Frank DiMassa tries out the "anyone can make this" Culhane PortaPrompter, assessing it for the 460 Lucas Green Retrofit Training Videos we are making for the website that will help low to moderate income families learn how they too can "go green" and save the green paper in their wallets..

I will also figure out a good way to stick the camera to the plexiglass so it lines up with the hole perfectly, and make a way to mount the whole thing on a light tripod. Hope to have it all ready to work by the time we go to Cairo to make youtube and blog reports.