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Recycled Solar: Double-Glazed Solar Hot Cap Cloche

by: gmoke

Wed Apr 29, 2015 at 13:31:17 PM EDT

I was cleaning out my storeroom the other day and came across another recycled solar device that I was fooling with a few years ago.  A one liter clear plastic bottle makes a good hot cap or cloche when you cut the bottom off it.  Plant a seedling, pop the bottomless clear cap over it, and you protect  the seedling from the cold.  It probably adds between 5 and 10 degrees F over the outside temperature by protecting the seedling from the wind and by capturing sunlight in a small, closed space.  My twist on this idea was to find different sizes of clear plastic bottles which could nest one inside the other making a double-glazed hot cap cloche.  A double-glazed hot cap cloche might be able to protect the seedlings even better, keeping that small, closed space even warmer than the outside air.

This afternoon, I planted two tomato seedlings in my garden using this device.  We'll see whether it works.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Getting to Net Zero: Cambridge, MA

by: gmoke

Thu Mar 26, 2015 at 16:15:46 PM EDT

( - promoted by eli_beckerman)

For the past year, the Cambridge, MA city government has had a Getting to Net Zero Task Force studying the implications of a net zero energy building requirement.  They  finished the draft report on March 16, 2015 and will have an open forum to introduce the study to the public on Wednesday, April 8.

The Task Force defined net zero as "an annual balance of zero greenhouse gas emissions from building operations citywide, achieved through improved energy efficiency and carbon-free energy production," applying it to the net zero target at the community level (citywide).

Net zero new construction (at the building level as opposed to citywide) is defined as "developments that achieve net zero emissions from their operations, through energy efficient design, onsite renewable energy, renewable energy infrastructure such as district energy, and, if appropriate, the limited purchase of RECs [Renewable Energy Credits] and GHG [Greenhouse Gas] offsets."

The objectives for the proposed actions from 2015 to 2035 and beyond include

(a)  ...target of Net Zero Emissions for new construction: New buildings should achieve net zero beginning in 2020, starting with municipal buildings and phasing in the requirement for other building types between 2022-2030.
(b)  targeted improvements to existing buildings: The Building Energy Use and Disclosure Ordinance (BEUDO) will provide the information necessary to target energy retrofit activity, including, over the long term, the regulation of energy efficiency retrofits at time of renovation and/or sale of property.
(c)  proliferation of renewable energy: Increase renewable energy generation, beginning with requiring solar-ready new construction and support for community solar projects, evolving to a minimum requirement for onsite renewable energy generation.
(d)  coordinated communications and engagement: Support from residents and key stakeholders is imperative to the success of the initiative.

You can read the full report at http://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD...
and access other information about the Task Force at http://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD...

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Solar Microgrids and Water Biomonitoring for Christmas

by: gmoke

Wed Dec 17, 2014 at 23:33:43 PM EST

Solar Microgrids in Tanzania:
Maasai Stoves & Solar Project
International Collaborative
81 Kirkland Street, Unit 2, Cambridge, MA 02138


Water biomonitoring in Costa Rica:
ANAI, Inc.,
1120 Meadows Road, Franklin, North Carolina 28734


More about these programs below.

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Thrive Solar®

by: gmoke

Wed Nov 19, 2014 at 13:28:26 PM EST

On Friday 11/14/14, Ranganayakulu Bodavula Ph D, Chairman and Managing Director of Thrive® Solar Energy Pvt Ltd (http://www.thriveenergy.co.in), spoke at Harvard's Center for Population Studies (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/population-development/).  On Monday 11/17/14, he spoke to the MIT student group, e4Dev [Energy for Development] (http://e4dev.tumblr.com).  

Thrive Solar Energy Pvt Ltd is a leading solar powered LED lighting solutions provider from India, offering

"14 types of solar powered LED lights that cater to the lighting needs of children, women, households and villages. Its lights are used by tea estate workers, farmers, weavers, vendors, dairy and any other village level vocation that is in need of a clean, safe and reliable light. Thrive Solar partners with NGOs, women Self Help Groups (SHGs), Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs), funding agencies, banks, donors, educational institutions and businesses to promote and distribute its lighting products to bottom of the pyramid (BOP) communities, located in off-grid and intermittently grid connected geographies."

Thrive is making 2 million lights per year at a price as low as $2 per lamp and are projecting 4 million per year production soon.  They do not sell directly to consumers but through the different agencies with which they work.  Nearly half of India still uses 12 lumen candles and 40 lumen kerosene lamps which can be replaced with 60 lumen solar lights.  Currently, the Indian government subsidizes kerosene and paraffin prices by $6 billion per year.  Thrive says it can provide solar lights to every Indian family now for about $1 billion.  

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Caribbean Solar Sailboat Project

by: gmoke

Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 18:51:20 PM EST


Help empower coastal Caribbean communities with a solar sailboat that will provide workshops and materials for solar electric modules, solar cookers and phone chargers.  Campaign now going on at Indiegogo:  $18,000 over the next 40 days.

This is a project of Dr. Richard Komp, a solar scientist who has worked since 1977 empowering rural communities with solar energy projects around the world, providing both hands-on teaching and renewable resources.  

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Toilets, Stoves, and Solar

by: gmoke

Sat Jan 11, 2014 at 21:12:32 PM EST

Susan Murcott, Bob Lange, and Richard Komp are three grassroots environmental activists who are changing lives all around the world.  Susan is a water researcher whose work on simple water filters has benefitted the lives of hundreds of thousands of people from Guatemala to Ghana.  Her latest project is building a block of toilets for a school in a village in Ghana, the second project of this kind she has been involved with.  Bob is a physics professor who has been doing science education in Africa for many years, an activity that morphed into installing small solar systems for villages in Tanzania and now into designing, building, and installing efficient cookstoves with the Maasai people.  This year, his work is expanding into Uganda.  Richard is a solar expert who has worked on everything from the physics of solar electricity to building solar stoves from scrap.   He has been teaching people all around the world how to do solar as a cottage industry for about three decades now.  His latest idea is to outfit a sailboat as a floating solar workshop that can teach people throughout the Caribbean how to better their lives with simple solar technologies. You can read his reports on his international work at http://www.mainesolar.org/Komp...

I consider myself immensely privileged to know all three of these remarkable and remarkably effective people.

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Solar Christmas Present

by: gmoke

Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 19:14:16 PM EST

Wakawaka ( http://us.waka-waka.com ) makes a
super efficient, sustainable, lightweight, sturdy and compact solar phone charger and lamp. It enables you to charge virtually any type of (smart)phone or small electronic device within just a few hours and will provide you with up to 80 hours of safe light.

They are offering a buy one/give one program which provides their solar lights and chargers to Syrian refugees:

Perhaps a way to promote the Christmas spirit of peace on Earth and goodwill to all.  (Bah Humbug!)

hat tip to http://inhabitat.com

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Net Zero and Beyond

by: gmoke

Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 14:47:51 PM EST

Cambridge, MA has been debating a net zero energy and/or emissions standard ( http://www.netzerocambridge.org ) for new buildings over 25,000 square feet since the Spring of 2013, partially because of an ecodistrict plan with MIT and others on a large parcel in East Cambridge (a plan MIT refused to make net zero even though they are rumored to be building a net zero project with some of the same partners in Basel, Switzerland).

The City Manager (Cambridge has a city manager form of municipal government, along with proportionate representation so city politics get weird fast) has established a "Getting to Net Zero" Task Force to study the issue.  Cambridge Community Development Department produced a fine overview of the state of the art in larger buildings for zero net emissions at (pdf alert) http://www.cambridgema.gov/~/m...

As the national Ecodistrict Summit was in town recently, the Community Development Department and Sustainable Performance Institute ( http://www.sustainable-perform... ) hosted experts from Integral Group ( http://www.integralgroup.com/ ), a deep green engineering firm to present lessons from the more than 40 net zero buildings they've worked on.

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Sixpack of Solar: How Many Solar Devices Can You Make from a Plastic Bottle?

by: gmoke

Wed Jul 24, 2013 at 23:06:48 PM EDT

( - promoted by eli_beckerman)


How Many Solar Devices Can You Make from a Plastic Bottle?
A clear PET plastic bottle can help disinfect water.
6 hours of sunlight's UV-radiation kills diarrhoea-causing pathogens in water making it safer to drink.
A clear bottle full of water and a little bleach can become a solar skylight, providing the equivalent of a 50w incandescent light to a windowless shack.
Cut the bottom off a clear plastic bottle to make a mini-greenhouse, a hot cap, to protect seedlings from frost.
Surround that bottle hot cap with a circle of other bottles full of water for solar heat storage to extend the growing season.
Here's a bottle inside a bottle inside a bottle to heat water in the innermost bottle
and a variation of this design using a clear bottle, a dark can full of water, and a set of reflectors.
They illustrate the essentials of solar thermal energy:
light reflects
dark gets hot
clear keeps the wind out
With that knowledge you can move, concentrate, and store energy.
This clear plastic water heater is much larger and more practical for household use. It is made almost entirely from recycled packaging waste.
You can make a window out of plastic bottles, too,
and a south-facing window is already a solar collector.

But that's another story.

previously published at http://solarray.blogspot.com/2...

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Swiss Solar Boat (and French Polar Pod)

by: gmoke

Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 14:12:37 PM EDT

(cool stuff - promoted by eli_beckerman)

Solarboat1 photo GEDC0433solarboat_zpsccffba27.jpg

On June 25, the world's largest solar ship, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar (http://www.planetsolar.org), was docked in Boston and hosted a symposium on water and climate change, "From the Alps to the Atlantic." This 35 meter by 23 meter catamaran is currently on the DeepWater expedition, harvesting data from the Gulf Stream after a maiden voyage around the world on the equator.  From Boston she is bound for St John's, Newfoundland, Reykjavik, Iceland and finally Bergen, Norway.  After the transatlantic DeepWater expedition, the PlanetSolar will work with the Waste Free Oceans Foundation (http://www.wastefreeoceans.eu) to clean up European waters.  The research team from University of Geneva is headed by Professor Martin Beniston and consists of climatologists, physicists, and biologists.  

The PlanetSolar has 512m2 of PV cells and the largest civilian mobile battery in the world providing 20 kW of electricity, 17kW for two 60kW electric motors,  with 3 kW for life on board, for an average speed of 5 knots and a maximum speed of 14 knots.  The PlanetSolar is a traveling experiment laboratory and sampling station working on water issues around the world with room for a crew of nine.

The symposium included talks on the global water cycle including river systems (http://www.globalrivers.org), glaciers and mountain water resources (http://www.acqwa.ch), ocean ecology, acidification, phytoplankton and zooplankton biology, and other issues.

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Retiring NE's Coal and Oil Electric Plants

by: gmoke

Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 18:33:51 PM EDT

(We are so far from zero emissions that nothing short of a revolutionary paradigm shift will bring it about. - promoted by eli_beckerman)

The Restructuring Roundtable is a mostly monthly (it takes the summer months off) meeting of the energy sector in Boston that takes a morning to discuss energy issues in depth with the major players from all around NE. There is also much time allotted for networking.  The slides from the presentations are available online within a day or two and the video of the presentations comes a little later.  It is a great resource for anyone interested in these issues and the public is most definitely invited.

The Roundtable, for me, follows in the tradition of the NE-wide energy policy meetings the great Duane Day used to host at the Department of Energy starting back in the days before Reagan killed us.

The 6/14/13 Restructuring Roundtable was "ISO-NE's Generation Retirement Study & 2020 Resource Options for New England."  You can see the agenda and look at the slides here:
The video should be available in a few weeks.  ISO-NE manages the electricity market in New England and is thus the entity that is responsible for maintaining the flow of electrons from one utility to another when necessary.

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Occupy Sandy

by: gmoke

Sat Nov 03, 2012 at 16:53:29 PM EDT


A group of people from the Occupy Wall Street movement is collaborating with the climate change advocacy group 350.org and a new online toolkit for disaster recovery, recovers.org, to organize a grassroots relief effort in New York City.

Occupy Sandy:  http://occupywallst.org/articl...

Boston TEDX talk by Recovers.org http://www.ted.com/talks/caitr...

The combination of the jobs and economic focus of Occupy with the climate change and energy transition ideas of 350.org along with the disaster recovery systems of Recovers.org is a model that can build resilience and preparedness quickly if continued.  Add Solar IS Civil Defense, set the Maker Culture loose, and it just might shade over into Solar Swadeshi, Gandhian economics, a non-violent and restorative open source peer-to-peer economic system where we plan for 100% success for all humanity, to paraphrase R Buckminster Fuller.

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The Cambridge, MA Solar Tool

by: gmoke

Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 13:13:43 PM EDT

You can now estimate with great detail the solar electric potential of any roof in Cambridge, MA by just typing in an address on a webpage, the Cambridge Solar Tool
(http://cambridgema.gov/solar).  For instance, the double triple decker in which I live has six apartments and a total roof area of 2,781 square feet. 1,136 of those sq ft have high PV (photovoltaic) potential.  This could support an 18kW solar electric system providing 22,945 kWh per year, enough to power about a third of the electricity used by those six apartments, if each apartment uses the rough US average of around 11,000 kWh per year (my own annual electric use is around 1,600 kWh/yr).

The estimated savings per year for such a PV system are $9,081. The total cost  is $101,720.  With the Federal tax credit of $30,516 and a MA state tax credit of $1,000, the final cost to the owner would be $70,204.  In addition, the Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) of 27¢/kWh could produce $6,212 per year (at least that's my reading of the MA SREC program, but I could be wrong).  Such an investment would pay for itself in about 8 years with a return on investment (ROI) of 12.93%, a better return than gold (10.19%) or the stock market (Dow Jones average:  5.50%).  The solar electricity would replace other fuels that now spew 12 tons per year of carbon into the atmosphere.

If the owner did not want to put any money down, they could opt for a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), buying electricity from a third party which owns, installs, maintains, insures, and monitors a PV system on the roof of our double triple decker at a long term, generally 20 years, fixed and lower cost than what is paid now for power.

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Solar IS Civil Defense PSA

by: gmoke

Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 20:36:40 PM EDT

(and knowing is half the battle. - promoted by eli_beckerman)

Solar IS Civil Defense - what we are all supposed to have on hand in case of emergency - flashlight, cell phone, radio, extra set of batteries - can be powered by a few square inches of solar electric panel.  Add a hand crank or bicycle generator and you have a reliable source of survival level electricity, day or night, by sunlight or muscle power.

This is also entry level electrical power for the 1.5 billion people around the world who do not yet have access to electricity.  Civil defense at home and economic development abroad can be combined in a "buy one, give one" program like the Bogolight (http://www.bogolight.com) which is a solar LED light and AA battery charger.

Solar IS Civil Defense and could be much more.

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Occupy Green

by: gmoke

Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 22:33:40 PM EST

(I think the idea is right that these can be testbeds for new (or better) ways of living together, among other critical experiments.   - promoted by eli_beckerman)

This idea may be moot after all the forced evictions of the Occupations from public spaces but I thought I'd share it anyway.

I've visited the Occupations in Wall Street, Boston, and Providence, RI.  Every time I go to one of them, I try to connect with somebody about making the Occupation green with, as yet, little success.  In New York, I saw the greywater treatment system Mobile Research Labs set up and talked to a couple of people about using some simple solar techniques.  In Boston, I've tried to connect the winterization team with the student Energy Clubs at some of the local colleges and universities and alerted my own network of solar enthusiasts to Occupy Boston's  efforts.  I've also tried to do the same by contacting OWS's Sustainability Group.  In Providence, I talked with the only occupier I saw up and around early on a Sunday morning.  He was picking up trash around the park and was disappointed that the group hadn't organized themselves enough to do recycling.  I gave him my card and my elevator pitch for a green occupation and he said he'd pass it on.

I look at the Occupations and see economic refugee camps and a possible test-bed for emergency response and sustainable economic development around the world.  Some may say that's crazy but the links are there if you look.

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Finalist in MIT Climate CoLab Contest: I Solve Climate Change

by: gmoke

Mon Nov 07, 2011 at 19:11:27 PM EST

(Some good ideas, as usual. And I especially like what these guys are doing: http://opensourceecology.org - promoted by eli_beckerman)

The Climate CoLab is part of MIT's Center for Collective Intelligence.

In both 2010 and 2011, the primary activities have been a pair of online contests, where teams of community members are invited to propose actions to key aspects of climate change.

The 2011 contest poses the question:

How should the 21st century economy evolve bearing in mind the risks of climate change?

In the initial stages of a contest, teams develop proposals on what should be done. Expert judges assess and select finalists among these proposals.

In the final round, Climate CoLab members are invited to vote. Winners are chosen based on voting and on a second review by the judges. A group of policy makers are briefed on the winning proposals.

On the national level, my proposal made the final cut:
How to Change US Energy in One Growing Season

You can vote for it or other proposals in the contest until November 15 at the URLs above.  Please take a look.

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Trash Technology and Recycled Solar: Plastic Bottles

by: gmoke

Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 23:27:59 PM EDT

Solar water disinfection
A two liter plastic bottle can be made into a water treatment system simply by filling it with contaminated water and exposing it to the sun.  Sodis is an organization that promotes this technology around the world.  

The disinfection process can be speeded by turning aluminized mylar snack food bags inside out and making them into reflectors as two young students in Belo Horizonte, Brazil discovered:  http://calais.phase2technology...

Solar bottle bulbs for daylighting

In 2002, during a long electrical shortage, at Uberaba, São Paulo, Brasil, Mr Alfredo Moser discovered a way to gather sun light in the house through plastic bottles hanging from the roof. First shown at the Globo Reporter in the 25th May 2007.
Alfredo Moser was pressed by a scarce electricity substitution and found out that he could light his house with a bottle of water filled with water and a protection cap made of camera film.

The bottle is just refracting sunlight very effectively and produces an equivalent light power compared to a 50/60W lamp. In a rainy day, even without much light and direct sun, one still have some light. Scientist have now visited Moser and are looking into ways to take this concept to maximize its potential.

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Solar PSA: A South-Facing Window Is Already a Solar Collector

by: gmoke

Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 14:19:42 PM EDT

(The problems are in our heads. Solutions abound. Economical use of simple solar can help move us out of the hole we're digging. - promoted by eli_beckerman)

Here's my latest Solar PSA on how a south-facing window is already a solar collector:

"Any window that sees direct sunlight is a solar collector.  You can learn how to use that free energy to make your home more comfortable and secure.  Caulk and seal the window against drafts.  Install storm windows on the exterior, interior, or both.  Cover the window at night with an insulating curtain to prevent conduction, convection, and radiative heat loss.  A valence above the window will stop night-time drafts and reduce condensation.  A sunny window can double as a greenhouse for starting seedlings or growing house plants.  Expand the solar space below, above, or beside the window with a windowbox solar air or water heater.    You can even design a living system to provide fresh vegetables and fish year round while producing space heat, cleaning the air, and reducing waste.  A south-facing window is already a solar collector.  Learn how to use it."

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Fully Renewable Grid

by: gmoke

Mon Jun 20, 2011 at 23:38:50 PM EDT

(Germany on its way to a better, brighter future. What about U S ?   - promoted by eli_beckerman)

A couple of years ago, Dr William Moomaw of Tufts mentioned a regional scale experiment with an all-renewable grid in Germany.  I've been curious about that project since then.  Today, I did a little googling and found a seven-minute youtube called "Fully renewable: biogas + wind + solar"

Dr Jurgen Schmid at the University of Kassel, Department of Efficient Energy Conversion is the spokesperson from this December 2007 video.  The system described is wind with pumped hydro storage and grid scale solar with methane from biomass (corn biofuels).  When the sun isn't out in the South, the wind may be blowing in the North.  When there's too much wind, it can be used to pump water into reservoirs that will provide hydroelectricity days or weeks later.  When the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing, biomass can be burned or converted to methane.  They say Germany can have a 100% renewable grid by 2050.  Dr Schmid, along with John Sievers, Stefan Faulstich, Mathias Puchta, Ingo Stadler, is the co-author of "Long-term perspectives for balancing fluctuating renewable energy sources" (pdf alert:  http://desire.iwes.fraunhofer.... details the steps necessary to get to a fully renewable grid.

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Trash Technology for Education and Survival

by: gmoke

Tue May 31, 2011 at 00:35:55 AM EDT

(Can the economic revolution precede the economic unraveling, or does it have to wait? - promoted by eli_beckerman)

Straw Centrifuge Pump

A lot of modern junk - plastic bottles, cups, refills, rubber slippers, pens etc can be reused in many creative ways to make joyous learning aids.  Children could make more than a dozen delightful pumps using all kinds of odd stuff.  For instance, push two film cans on the ends of a 15 cm piece of old bicycle tube to make an air pump.  The opening/closing valves are made using bits of sticky tape.  This high quality pump can easily inflate a balloon!  Or else make a scintillating sprinkler within a minute.  Poke a broom stick in the middle of a plastic straw.  Make two half cuts 2 cm away from the centre.  Bend the arms and secure them in place with some tape to make a triangle.  Twirl this triangle in water to make a most delightful centrifuge or sprinkler.

Arvind Gupta has been building science teaching toys from trash materials since 1978 and for the Children's Science Centre at Inter-University Centre for  Astronomy & Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune University, Pune 411007 Maharashtra India since October 2003.

On his website
you can find hundreds of toys children can make for themselves with easily available materials

He even has video demonstrations of many designs

"The best thing a child can do with a toy is break it !"

"And somewhere there are engineers
Helping others fly faster than sound.
But, where are the engineers
Helping those who must live on the ground?"

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