Wed Feb 26th, 2014 at 02:35:48 PM EST
Peter Wilson (in a Cambridgewickedlocal with news from the Chronicle and Tab LtE http://cambridge.wickedlocal.com/article/20140220/NEWS/140229717/2014/OPINION) wrote that "Net zero is not a practical goal in New England" and that may or may not be true. There are a number of net zero energy single and two family buildings in NE, including in colder climates than Cambridge, MA like Vermont, although the experience with larger and high rise net zero energy buildings is just beginning. However, there are a few examples that approach net zero, including one in Vienna, Austria, the Raffeisens Bank, a 21 story building built to PassivHaus standards (http://www.viennareview.net/news/ideas-and-trends/raiffeisens-upward-sustainability).
Whether or not net zero is a practical goal, it is an essential thought experiment we need to run. By viewing net zero energy as an approachable goal, the way statistical quality control views zero defects on a production line under Total Quality Management, we will assuredly come across many different ways we can reduce our energy needs, perhaps significantly.
I say we are not going far enough. We should be thinking not only about net zero energy but also zero emissions throughout our infrastructure. We know that pollution causes problems, that pollution is waste, and should be smart enough, wise enough to think about reducing the waste we generate to as close to zero as possible. I like the motto of Zero Waste Europe (http://www.zerowasteeurope.eu), "If you are not for zero waste, how much waste are you for?"
If you are not for net zero energy, how much wasted energy are you for?
However, even if we mandate that all new buildings achieve net zero energy, we still have to fix our existing buildings and probably have to start developing district heating and cooling to become a net zero energy community. This is a hard problem and requires concentrated efforts. Net zero energy for new buildings, if it is achievable (and I believe it is), is still only a start.
Thanks for your time and your work.
Sat Jan 18th, 2014 at 06:49:59 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.
Sat Jan 11th, 2014 at 09:10:11 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.html
I consider myself immensely privileged to know all three of these remarkable and remarkably effective people.
Mon Jan 6th, 2014 at 07:36:15 PM EST
I'd like to participate in an ongoing on and off line brainstorm using Buckminster Fuller's World Game design criteria, "How can we make the world work for 100 percent of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological damage or disadvantage to anyone?" and one of Bill McDonough's Ecological Design Principles, "Use only available solar income."
Here are some free resources that are edging, gingerly, towards that possibility.
"Age of Sustainable Development (https:/www.coursera.org/course/susdev) gives students an understanding of the key challenges and pathways to sustainable development - that is, economic development that is also socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable."
free 14 week course taught by Jeffrey Sachs
starting January 21
Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided (https:/www.coursera.org/course/warmerworld )
"It is now becoming clear that without necessary climate action, the world may become 4°C warmer by the end of this century. As this threatens to roll back decades of development progress, this is a `make or break' point. This course presents the most recent scientific evidence as well as some of the opportunities for urgent action."
free World Bank MOOC [Massive Open Online Course] on climate change
starting January 27
Thu Dec 19th, 2013 at 07:14:46 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
Sun Dec 8th, 2013 at 06:46:48 PM EST
One of the sites I regularly visit is http://www.americablog.com and today they included a video about Alice Herz-Sommer the 110-year-old woman who is both the oldest living Holocaust survivor and oldest living pianist. There is a new documentary about her called "The Lady in Number 6."
You can find out more and buy a DVD of or stream the whole documentary at http://nickreedent.com
There is also a book about her, A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World's Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor by Caroline Stoessinger
(NY: Spiegel & Grau, 2012 ISBN 978-0-8129-9281-6) which I read last Spring after finding it in the new books section of my local library. My notes follow with page numbers in parentheses (), although I did leave out her recipes for chicken soup and apple cake.
Tue Nov 19th, 2013 at 02:54:44 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/~/media/Files/CDD/ZoningDevel/Amendments/2013/Connolly/zngamend_connolly_
As the national Ecodistrict Summit was in town recently, the Community Development Department and Sustainable Performance Institute (http://www.sustainable-performance.org) 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.
Thu Oct 31st, 2013 at 03:47:41 PM EST
Here are my rough notes (slightly polished) from three recent events I attended at Tufts, MIT, and online. My comments are within [brackets].
Energizing Sustainable Cities: Findings from the Global Energy Assessment
with Arnulf Grubler, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and Yale University
Thursday, October 24, 2013
(a light lunch will be served - no RSVP, first-come first-served)
[university lectures are often a violation of the second law of thermodynamics, "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch" or TANSTAAFL by offering free lunches]
Tufts, Cabot 703, The Fletcher School, 160 Packard Avenue, Medford, MA
Energizing Sustainable Cities: Assessing Urban Energy
Book of the same title as the talk, Energizing Sustainable Cities
New report includes a chapter on urban energy assessments, chapter 18 (http://www.globalenergyassessment.org). No business as usual scenario.
3/4 of all final energy is urban
World rural population likely to peak at 3.5 billion and decline after 2020
Cities are 0.2- 2.7% of world landmass
96% Internet routers are urban
Small cities, less than 100,000 population, are where most people live and are not studied enough [neighborhood and village scale]
City dwellers have lower energy and carbon footprints
Lack urban energy and carbon accounting for embodied energy, import/export balance
Annex 1 [industrialized] cities are generally lower than average per capita energy use but cities in Annex 2 countries approach Annex 1 levels of consumption while paying a higher relative price.
Most of the urban energy flow is in embodied energy, goods and services
City density enables demand/supply management and calls for low waste/zero impact systems - density demands zero emissions or zero impact - high levels of pollution happening in high population density areas is not good
Vienna which has had municipal utilities and services for a hundred years. In first law analysis, it is 50% efficient and with second law analysis it is 83% exegetic, has the ability to do useful work. You can increase energy efficiency by a factor of five without violating physical laws. [Raiffeisen Bank building in Vienna, 21 stories, 20,000-square-metre building or 65,000 sq ft, PassivHaus standard]
Vast improvement possibilities but they require integration and management of the urban form and systemic change
The largest leverage from systemic change but requires overcoming fragmentation (zero emissions as an approachable goal, statistical quality control)
Focus on the midpoints: efficiency of end use in buildings, processes, vehicles, appliances; land use; urban form (transportation, housing)
Syncity simulations work on these midpoints [Synthetic city simulations scaling up to world (peace) games as MOOs]
Q: Cambridge is planning on becoming a zero net emissions city. Any suggestions?
Partner with similar scale cities in becoming a zero emissions city to discover useful commonalities
1 Bryant Place in NYC claims to be the most efficient building of 51 stories [http://www.durst.org/properties/one-bryant-park]
Biggest district heating grid in the world is ConEd in Manhattan
Zero emissions at point of consumption - electricity and hydrogen. Hydrogen introduced on the model of town gas or natural gas infrastructure [natural gas/methane is not going away]
Exergy as optionality, the higher the exergy the more possibilities
Switzerland as a model of microgrids based on civil defense CT's microgrid program:
In developing world, concentrate first on squatter settlements bare minimum to bare maximum, solar swadeshi:
Thu Oct 24th, 2013 at 04:44:54 PM EST
The second largest utility in Germany, RWE, says, "...we will position ourselves as a project enabler and operator, and system integrator of renewables."
RWE is based in Essen, Germany and provides 50,000 MW of electricity generated from coal, oil, and gas-fired plants to 24 million customers throughout Europe.
"The guiding principle is `from volume to value' with technologies ranging from large-scale offshore wind and hydro to onshore wind or photovoltaic. But we will no longer pursue volume- or percentage- targets in renewables (x TWh/y % in 2025). We will rather leverage our skills set by taking a `capital light' approach. Based on funds sourced largely from third parties, we will position ourselves as a project enabler, operator and system integrator of renewables."
They are also one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases in Europe.
Mon Oct 21st, 2013 at 07:13:02 PM EST
I publish a weekly listing of Energy (and Other) Events at the colleges, universities, and in the community around Cambridge, MA (http://hubevents.blogspot.com) and have been doing it consistently since the end of January, 2010 (http://hubevents.blogspot.com/2010/01/events-january-25-2010.html). This is the second iteration of the idea as I published a similar listings service plus reviews and articles from February, 1995 to February, 1998, "A List of Environmental and Telecommunications Events and Issues" or "AList...." for short (http://world.std.com/~gmoke/AList.html) [The issues from April 1997 to February 1998 are available at http://world.std.com/~gmoke/AList.index.html but you have to click on the weekly issue heading first before you can read any of the articles.]
My original idea was to have a searchable calendar of all the public lecture information at all the colleges and universities around the Boston area, something like 70 of them, so that anyone could take the opportunity to gather in all the free learning they want. Imagine the resource for anyone from high school kids to retired people. I'd been availing myself of the privilege for a number of years already, meeting in small seminar rooms with distinguished experts and famous names that normally you'd only see on TV. And I even got to ask them questions. What a gift! As an experienced autodidact, I took notes at the events I went to, when something of actual note occurred, and thought that the next step would be to invite others to contribute their notes from the events they went to that I couldn't attend so that all that wealth of information could be captured, a community commonplace book.
Sun Sep 29th, 2013 at 05:49:05 PM EST
Recently, I've noticed there has been a shift from talking about mitigation to adaptation to resilience when dealing with climate change. From my perspective, this is not a bad development as resilience focuses on practical preparedness for immediate hazards. This can partition change into small increments that are readily understandable and remove the polarized politics of climate change from the discussion. If you're talking about measures to prevent system failure because of a weather emergency, it tends not to matter what your position is on greenhouse gases because everybody remembers the last hurricane, flood, or blizzard. In addition, resilience measures can also be adaptation and, even in some cases, mitigation strategies for climate change as well. At least, this is what I'm observing here in the Boston area and what I've heard out of post-Sandy New York and other areas.
This week I attended a discussion at the Boston Society of Architects about a new report, Building Resilience in Boston
pdf alert: http://www.greenribboncommission.org/downloads/Building_Resilience_in_Boston_SML.pdf)
Before the meeting, I spent some time scanning the document and found it to be superlative work, a great introduction to the concepts of urban design for resilience and emergency preparedness and, most especially, a fine literature search of the state of the art all around the world. If you want to begin the process in your own city or town, this document will give you plenty of useful ideas and show you where to get more. It is useful not only for cities like Boston, London, and New York but also towns like Chula Vista, CA and Keene, NH.
Another indication of growing seriousness on these issues I noticed is that the dangers from temperature extremes are entering the picture, especially since there has been a 2,300% increase in casualties from heat waves and 189% increase from cold snaps in the 2001 to 2010 decade (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/07/16/1224282/-World-Meteorological-Organization-Heatwave-Decade).
According to Christina Figueres of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, whom I also saw this week, there are over 300 cities around the world which are actively working on mitigation, adaptation, and resilience in the face of climate change. So while international organizations are struggling to find actionable agreements and individual countries are fighting to avoid responsibility, municipalities around the world are taking practical steps.
Sun Sep 22nd, 2013 at 02:21:51 PM EST
There's a great exhibition at the Boston Society of Architects down by South Station called "Reprogramming the City" (http://bsaspace.org/exhibitions/reprogramming-the-city/). It is all about small but significant design tweaks for urban infrastructures, imaginative and enlivening, from all over the world. There are lamp-posts that include deployable umbrellas for shelter during rain and snow, bus stop walls that light up during the darkness of winter to prevent seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and billboards that become bamboo forests to clean the air or have small apartments attached to their back sides or that gather and store potable water.
My favorite is the Dutch Goedzak:
Meaning both "good bag" and "do-gooder" in Dutch, Goedzak is a bag for Amsterdam residents to use when packaging their trash for pickup, ideal for items that are still useable for others, and just in need of a new home.
Goedzak is, says Waarmakers [the designers], "a friendly way to offer products a second chance and stimulate sustainable behavior."
The exhibition closes on September 29, 2013 and, if you are in Boston, it's a fine way to stimulate your urban dreaming.
Tue Sep 10th, 2013 at 03:07:42 PM EST
For the last few years, I've been publishing a weekly listing service on Energy (and Other) Events (http://hubevents.blogspot.com) that happen around Cambridge, MA in the colleges, universities, and the community. This week, I noticed that there is a lot of practical activity around energy and the churches. From now until Thanksgiving, there will be three energy upgrade parties at three different churches in three different neighborhoods of Boston and two "sustainable house of worship" workshops, one in the suburbs and one in the city.
The energy upgrade parties are organized by the Home Energy Efficiency Team or HEET (http://www.heetma.com/) which for years now has been teaching volunteers hands-on skills in lowering their energy bills and carbon emissions while making the building they're in more energy efficient.
The workshops are organized by Massachusetts Interfaith Power & Light (http://www.mipandl.org) which has been helping houses of worship reduce energy costs through energy efficiency and a heating oil buying club through MA Energy Consumers Alliance. One of the workshops will be happening in conjunction with a HEET energy upgrade party.
I've always thought that this is how energy organizing should be done: practical efforts that increase end use efficiency, save people money while making them more comfortable in their own neighborhoods, and speed the transition to renewables. Solar barnraisings, energy upgrade work parties, we should be building our energy future now, as an act of protest against the status quo and a mechanism of liberation from it.
Power to the people, as an actual practice.
Tue Aug 20th, 2013 at 04:29:57 PM EST
This greenhouse at the former historic Fisherville Mill in South Grafton, Massachusetts, sits on the banks of a canal by the Blackstone River. It is cleaning stormwater runoff and water contaminated by #6 fuel oil, also known as Bunker C oil, which leaked from underground tanks. At the end of the process, 95% of the hydrocarbons are removed without the application of chemicals, using only ecological design.
The Blackstone River can rightfully claim to be the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in the USA as in 1790, Samuel Slater built the first water-powered spinning mill in America for Moses Brown, a founder of Brown University, in Pawtucket, RI using the Blackstone River as a power source. By October 7, 1828, the Blackstone Canal from Providence, RI to Worcester, MA was completed and became the original industrial corridor of the United States. Some say the Blackstone was the hardest working river of 19th century America with its water powering factories all along its length.
Perhaps now it will become an example of 21st century American technology that uses ecological systems thinking to clean up the wastes industrial development has left in its wake.
Sun Aug 11th, 2013 at 08:40:17 PM EST
I didn't want to read Jaron Lanier's Who Owns the Future? (NY: Simon and Schuster, 2013 ISBN 978-1-4516-5496-7) as I thought Lanier's writings as a virtual reality enthusiast back in the day were somewhat simplistic and naive and what I knew of his first book (I saw him speak on it a couple of years ago), You Are Not a Gadget, continued in that stream. However, I read an interview with Lanier in which he seemed to be approaching an idea about the unification of economics with information theory and thermodynamics, a subject that really interests me, so when I saw the book displayed in the library, I reluctantly picked it up and worked through it.
Lanier is still a simplistic and naive thinker in many ways but he also is addressing some serious issues, the future of the Internet economy and a secure middle class. His thoughts can serve as a jumping off point for deeper discussion, even if those jumps take us far away from Lanier's views and the neo-liberal canards he seems to have bought into.
Wed Jul 24th, 2013 at 10:53:05 PM EST
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:
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/2013/07/sixpack-of-solar-bottles-how-many-solar.html
Tue Jul 16th, 2013 at 11:15:46 PM EST
The World Meteorological Organization recently released their Global Climate Report: Decade of Extremes (pdf alert: http://library.wmo.int/pmb_ged/wmo_1119_en.pdf and video at http://youtu.be/qSz7U0C0bsY) looking at general weather patterns decade by decade from 1881 to 2010.
"...it is worth noting the very large increase (more than 2 000 per cent) in the loss of life from heatwaves, particularly during the unprecedented extreme heat events that affected Europe in the summer of 2003 and the Russian Federation in the summer of 2010. On the other hand, there were fewer deaths due to storms and floods in 2001-2010 compared to 1991-2000, with decreases of 16 per cent and 43 per cent, respectively, thanks, in good part, to better early warning systems and increased preparedness."
2,300% increase in casualties from heatwaves
189% increase from cold snaps
in the 2001 to 2010 decade.
Sun Jul 7th, 2013 at 02:19:51 PM EST
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.
Sat Jun 22nd, 2013 at 06:34:40 PM EST
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.
Sun Jun 2nd, 2013 at 03:35:51 PM EST
Read about this study from BU (http://www.bu.edu/news/2011/05/13/boston-greenhouse-gas-audit/) about the amazing amount of methane leaks in Boston and wondered if there was a way to enable citizens to crowdsource such leaks and report them to the authorities and utilities. Of course, our noses can be effective natural gas detectors and Smell Something, Say Something is crowdsourcing methane leaks based on smell:
Yet, a cell phone methane sniffer would be useful and it looks like it is coming, along with a battery of environmental sensors for cell phones. The age of cell phone enabled citizens' monitoring will be here directly.
Sensordrone, a fully funded Kickstarter device, may be able to sense methane (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/453951341/sensordrone-the-6th-sense-of-your-smartphoneand-be) and, after I asked them to, the Smart Citizen Kit, a Kickstarter that is still looking for funding (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/acrobotic/the-smart-citizen-kit-crowdsourced-environmental-m), may be expanding to include methane sensing as well.
Another cell phone biosensor device is coming out of the University of Illinois: