Would you be interested in ‘Test Diving’ the Greeny Flat?
Cintia and I will be away between July 18th and September 1st so we’re thinking about making the Greeny Flat available for people to ‘Test Drive’ while we’re away. We could either put it on AirBnB so that anyone can come and stay for a few nights or, if someone wanted to rent it for the whole six weeks we’d be happy to consider that option too.
If you’ve wondered what it might be like to live in a small, energy positive home where you can walk or ride bikes to virtually everything you need, this might be your chance to find out. The Greeny Flat is set in a charming neighbourhood just one block from a park with a playground and wonderful bushwalks and just three blocks from the main street of Mittagong with lots of restaurants, coffee shops, antique stores, etc. We can easily accommodate four people in two bedrooms and there is a sunny patio, internet access, books to read, a fully-stocked kitchen and plenty of information about how the Greeny Flat works. This would be a great opportunity to experience the benefits of living in a small, low-maintenance, low-running-cost and accessible home.
If you might be interested in renting the Greeny Flat for the whole time we are away please let us know as soon as possible. This would be the simplest arrangement for us as we would not have to deal with the complications of short-term stays. As a special deal for a lucky Newsletter reader, we could rent the whole place, fully-furnished for $350/week for six weeks. Please send us a message via our Contact Page if you would like to discuss this option further.
If no-one is willing or able to take up that offer we will list the Greeny Flat on AirBnB. We would like to make the opportunity available to readers of our Newsletter first (and for the very special price of $100/night) so if you think you might be interested, or know someone else who might be, please let us know what dates you would like us to reserve for you. Please send us a message via our Contact Page and we will respond with more information as we figure out the details.
Winter Solstice Next Sunday
The Winter Solstice is when the noon sun is lowest in the sky in its annual cycle. This is an important date for anyone who owns a house or is thinking about buying, building or renovating one and wants to incorpoerate passive solar design to improve energy efficiency (or add solar panels for electricity or hot water). If you own a home or a piece of land, or if you have your eye on one, it’s a great opportunity to observe where the sun rises and sets and how long the shadows from trees and other buildings will be at their longest in the year. I recommend that everyone take some time next Sunday to observe and record where the sun and shadows are at dawn, 10am, noon, 2pm, and sunset. The simplest way to do this is to take photos but you could also place stakes in the ground to mark key points or take measurements and draw the key features on a site plan of your land. This is very useful information to have if you ever want to make use of the sun to warm your home in winter, heat you water or make electricity. It’s a good idea to repeat the process at one of the Equinoxes (either March 21st or September 21st) and again at the Summer Solstice (when the noon sun is highest in the sky) so you have a complete understand of where the sun and shadows will be on your land throughout the year.
Fiddling While Rome Burns
Climate Change is a horrible subject to think about which is why I generally try to focus on positive things that give me hope that the human race might voluntarily remedy the situation, rather than all the things that are wrong in the world. Observing the ineffective and often retrograde actions of our political and business leaders in the face of the overwhelming scientific evidence sometimes makes me want to ignore the whole mess because it seems too big and too hopeless to solve.
Spanish artist, Isaac Cordal, takes a different approach, he uses humour to highlight the absurdity of the current situation and the reckless inactions of our leaders. Taking particular aim at businessmen and politicians he uses tiny sculptures to ‘capture his skepticism of authority… needlessly trapping themselves in unpleasant situations… Cordal warns onlookers of the dangers in blindly following the wills of the rich and powerful. Like miniature clones, the identical statues were created in the likeness of middle-aged, white collar, white men, each desperately clutching a briefcase as they huddle together or drown to death in a mindless mass.’
It’s not exactly positive but at least it gives us the opportunity to laugh and remember that our inactions can be just as destructive as our actions. So we can have a giggle and then get back to doing something positive about climate change.
Origin Energy Plans to be Solar #1
Speaking of positive signs, in our Newsletter a couple of weeks ago I wrote about Saudi Arabia’s plans to shift to renewable energy and AGL’s plans to ‘decarbonise its portfolio’. This week there’s more good news with Origin Energy (one of Australia’s top ten climate polluters along with AGL) announcing that it plans to become the number one installer of solar power systems in Australia.
‘Origin Energy’s renewed focus on renewables comes on the back of AGL’s partnership with Panasonic to install battery storage systems in residences, and signals a growing trend among larger utilities in recognising the potential growth in renewables.’ Click here to read more from this article on the Ecogeneration Website dated June 11, 2015.
What’s Even More Ubiquitous Than Sunlight and Wind?
The answer, of course, is gravity!
The Gravity Light is an invention that uses gravity to power a small generator for operating an LED light. Designed for the poorer areas of Africa, it seeks to replace kerosene lamps as the preferred way to light homes at night. People who have no access to electricity currently use kerosene lamps that cost a lot to refill and give off toxic fumes. The Gravity Light solves this problem by using a simple weight hoisted up with a pulley system to power a light that is as bright as a kerosene lamp.
As the YouTuve video in this Gizmag article about the Gravity Light shows, it promises to be a simple and robust way to improve the lives of countless poor people in Africa.
I think it also opens up all sorts of other possibilities for using gravity as an energy storage system. Currently it is fairly common to use gravity to make power in the form of hydroelectricity. The force of gravity pulling water downhill is what drives a hydroelectric turbine. There are also systems in place that allow this to be utilised in a similar way to a battery. Solar or wind energy can be used to pump water uphill to a storage reservoir and from there it can be released back downhill through a turbine to made electricity when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. On a smaller and more economical scale, a similar system could be built that uses solar of wind power to hoist a weight into the air then allows gravity to generate power as the weight comes back down.
The current version of the Gravity Light uses human power to hoist the weight. If they can perfect the mechanism so that the conversion of work to potential energy (lifting the weight) and the subsequent conversion of potential energy to electricity (using gravity) is as efficient as possible then I think the concept holds great potential as a way to store solar and wind energy for later use as electricity in homes and businesses.
I can even imagine a time when we can jump on an exercise bike or treadmill for twenty minutes to hoist a weight heavy enough and high enough to provide sufficient electricity to power our lights and television sets for a whole evening. Energy storage with health benefits… how cool would that be!
Tesla Powerwall Upgraded Before it is Even Released
Responding to criticism that its ‘Powerwall’ product could not provide enough peak power to run a typical home, Elon Musk has announced that Tesla has upgraded their Home Energy Storage product from 2kW to 5kW steady and 7kW peak power. This will make the ‘Powerwall’ even more attractive to home and business owners who want to get the maximum benefit from their solar power systems both for reducing their electricity costs and providing backup power in the event of a blackout.
More Graphene Magic
Regular readers of this Newsletter will already know that graphene is a relatively new material that is proving to be incredibly promising in all sorts of applications. The latest news about Graphene is that it has been combined with diamond particles to create a substance that can almost totally eliminate friction. The implications for this are enormous as it could lead to huge improvements in the energy efficiency as well as reduction in the maintenance requirements of machines and systems that are currently hampered by losses due to friction.
Half the Bike, Twice the Fun!
The Ryno is a ‘self-balancing, single-wheeled transportation product’. Sort of a cross between a uni-cycle and a Segway and unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. It’s all electric, recharges from any household powerpoint, can be ridden almost anywhere a person can walk (I don’t think it can handle stairs), and takes 15 minutes to learn how to ride. It’s an amazing and beautifully designed piece of mechanical engineering that could change the way we get around.
All the technology (the battery, the motor, the gyroscopes, the control systems) are housed in its one big wheel which just has a seat, footrests and handlebars attached. Apparently it is effortless to ride and a lot of fun. It would certainly turn a lot of heads whizzing down the footpath.
It’s hard to describe how extraordinary this thing is… the best way to understand it is to watch this YouTube video on the Ryno Website.