Mar 1, 2015: Some Fun Stuff

With everything here progressing smoothly towards an overwhelmingly successful completion to our first year of living and monitoring the performance of the Greeny Flat (see last week’s post for news on our latest results) I thought I might share a few fun things that I’ve come across in the last week or so.

World’s Smallest Folding Bike


The Helix Bike - folded and unfolded

The Helix Bike – folded and unfolded

Apart from being on the lookout for an electric car, bike or scooter that we could charge during the day from our solar panels, I’m also in the market for a really good folding bike that I could easily take on public transport for use at my destination. The Helix folding bike looks like the best prospect I’ve seen so far. It’s still in development and will be running a Kickstarter campaign soon to raise money to go into production. I’m seriously considering parting with the US$1200 to help get it off the ground and get myself one of their bikes. Click here to read an article about the bike and see a video of how it works.

The amazing world of Elon Musk

Most people have heard of the Tesla electric car developed by billionaire Elon Musk and perhaps most people already know about some of the other astounding things that he is involved with. I am really just starting to learn more about him and his innovations. All I knew until recently was that he was into space exploration and high-priced electric sports cars so I, incorrectly, assumed that he wasn’t interested in the social or environmental consequences of his profit-making ventures. What first caught my attention was when ‘Musk announced in a press release, conference call and blog post[59] on June 12, 2014 that the company (Tesla Motors) will allow its technology patents for use by anyone in good faith in a bid to entice automobile manufacturers to speed up development of electric cars.’ In other words he’s giving the technology to anyone who wants to use it which I find immensely admirable. Since then I’ve become more interested in what he’s doing including:

Plans for an astonishing 1000km/h rapid-transit system called the Hyperloop. A prototype Hyperloop system is planned to be built in California with the goal of building a complete system to get passengers from LA to San Francisco in 35 minutes. Whether or not that actually happens will be interesting to watch meanwhile, if you’re interested in how things work, the technology involved in the Hyperloop is fascinating. Click here to read about how the Hyperloop works.

Elon Musk's Hyperloop approaching reality

Elon Musk’s Hyperloop approaching reality

Musk is also the chairman of SolarCity, the No.2 installer of solar power systems in the US. ‘Among SolarCity’s more well-known financing partnerships was a $280 million fund created with Google to finance residential solar installations in June 2011. The Google Fund was the largest fund of its kind in the U.S., and Google’s largest investment in clean energy.[36]

It seems I was very wrong in my assumptions about Elon Musk’s motivations. ‘In April 2012, Musk joined The Giving Pledge, committing to donate the bulk of his fortune to philanthropic causes.[79] and I recently read that ‘The underlying motivation for funding both SolarCity and Tesla is to help combat global warming.[63]‘ 

‘Musk is chairman of the Musk Foundation, which focuses its philanthropic efforts on science education, paediatric health, and clean energy. In 2010, the foundation created a program focused on donating solar-power systems for critical needs in disaster areas.’

Meanwhile, Tesla Motors is in the process of building a network of solar-powered, fast-charging stations across the US for their electric vehicles and preparing to go into production of a reasonably priced electric family car. ”The Supercharger is a proprietary direct current (DC) fast-charging station that provides up to 135 kW of power, depending upon location, giving the 85 kWh Model S an additional 150 miles (240 km) of range in about 20 minutes, or 200 miles (320 km) of range in about 30 minutes. The electricity used by the Supercharger in the West Coast corridor comes from a solar carport system provided by SolarCity. Eventually, all Supercharger stations are to be supplied by solar power. The network is exclusive to compatible Model S sedans. Supercharging hardware is standard on Model S vehicles equipped with an 85 kWh battery and optional (with a one-time payment of $2,000) on Model S vehicles equipped with a 60 kWh battery. The Roadster is not equipped to charge from the Superchargers, but according to the automaker, all future Tesla models will be.[208][209][210]According to Musk, “…we expect all of the United States to be covered by the end of next year [2013]”. He also said that Tesla owners’ use of the network would be free forever.[211‘ Free charging forever! Now that would be an incentive to buy one of their cars!

‘In 2012, Musk announced that SolarCity and Tesla Motors are collaborating to use electric vehicle batteries to smooth the impact of rooftop solar on the power grid, with the program going live in 2013.[64]

In short, Elon Musk sounds like an incredible individual who is doing some great things. It will be fascinating to watch where he goes from here.

Josh Byre’s House

Since we don’t have a television I was not aware of Josh Byrne. Apparently he’s a regular presenter on the ABC’s Gardening Australia show. More interesting for me is the fact that he has a project going called Josh’s House with the aim of ‘showcasing the benefits of Sustainable Housing to the community through demonstration and inspiration’. As part of the project Josh has designed and built two 10-star homes in Fremantle for his family.

‘Tired of hearing that sustainable construction has to cost more, Josh and his colleagues set out to prove that resource efficient homes can be built at a comparable cost and timeframe to regular houses. The homes are thermally comfortable year round, without the need for air conditioning or additional heating. They generate more electricity than they use, and will harvest and recycle water.’ Sounds a lot like the Greeny Flat to me except that he, no doubt, has a lot more people paying attention to what he’s doing. Click here to visit the Josh’s House website or Click here to see a video about the project.

Greens Launch Plan for 100% Renewable NSW

I tend to avoid politics like the plague but it’s worth noting that the Green Party has finally come up with a bold and ambitious proposal to actually do something significant about climate change. It’s not quite what it claims to be (but then what is when it comes from politicians) as it is not actually a plan to move NSW to 100% renewable energy but rather a plan to make the electricity sector in NSW 100% renewable. So all the energy that is consumed in the form of gas and petrol would still be fossil fuelled. Nevertheless, as a counter-point to the Abbott Government’s policies which seem intended to make climate change significantly worse, this proposal has the potential to make a very positive difference. It’s a relief to see something worthwhile and purposeful from the Greens and it will, hopefully, prove to be a smart political move for them as more and more people become disgusted with Abbott’s distain for the environment and for the potential economic, social and environmental benefits of moving to a renewable future. Click here to learn more about the 100% Renewable NSW plan.

And Australia has a new Renewable Energy Party

Still on my least favourite topic, politics, I read recently that Peter Breen (former member of the NSW parliament) has recently launched a new national political party called the Renewable Energy Party ‘committed to an Australia powered by 100% renewable energy by 2050 and to scrutinising the fossil fuel industry’s gravy train of subsidies.’ Click here for more information about the party…. sounds like a good idea to me.

Meanwhile we’re planning a party of our own so don’t forget to mark your calendar for the

Greeny Flat Earth Day Party, April 22, 3-7pm

All welcome, snacks and drinks will be provided.

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