Monday, December 31, 2007

Ring in the New Year: The Nanosolar Revolution


I've been waiting for months to hear this good news. The thin-film panels this outfit produces will eventually revolutionize the way we use solar photovoltaic power, and probably even save the planet from dangerous climate change. I'm not kidding around here. This is not hyperbole. As a renewable energy and climate change policy guy, I seriously expect to spend the next twenty years of my professional life dealing with what we might one day call the "Nanosolar Revolution."

This revolution will take some time to develop, but it seems reasonable to expect it now, at least to me and from where I sit (in the middle of the sustainability education fray!). Cheap thin film solar is a total godsend. We can easily make 40-50 percent of household and industrial electrical power with this equipment, possibly more, with computer control of production and aggregation. We can run lithium-ion, battery-electric or plug-in hybrid cars with it, and we can also heat our homes with it, even in the snowy north, thanks to the work of other leading-edge companies like Maine's very own Hallowell heat pump manufacturer.

The key to rapid deployment of this technology, however, will be in wider dissemination of solar power knowledge. In particular, we will need more knowledgeable and creative financing on the parts of banks and other sources of consumer credit and training of personnel in organization and installation, which is where Unity College comes in.

The Nanosolar Revolution will be a major jobs scheme and could even pull us out of our current economic recession. Because, despite the company's current focus on power stations in the desert, by far the best place for cheap solar is likely to be the rooftop of the house or commercial or office building, which is where we use most of the power we need. And the huge, and hugely decentralized, project of getting all that capacity installed and coordinated will bring jobs to millions of people, eventually. Putting panels on the roof of the home or business, like Jimmy Carter did at the White House all those years ago, will save on transmission costs and losses as well as on the cost of frames and other support structures. And, since most photovoltaic arrays are waterproof, you can even substitute panels for roofing material.

But there are hurdles. Your new roof-top PV system has to be seen as part of the house or business, something you buy on long-term credit, like the current roofing, which is part of the mortgage or home equity payment or business loan or stock offer or any other instrument of long term credit/investment that buys building capital. That's the first hurdle. So we need to explain this notion thoroughly to bankers, brokers, and other finance types, and we need to train the corporate managers, sustainability officers, and other professionals who will lead this process by ordering up the installations and finding out how to pay for them. This last item will not be hard to do. Solar arrays, especially if they are also roofing, will not leave the building once installed. they are a fixed asset, and so can be the subject of long-term finance. Since they can be repossessed with the building, the lender's or investor's money is better protected than with other investments.

The second hurdle is training installers, which won't be too difficult. If you were already a skilled electrical tradesman with a master electrician license, I could train you to design and install a household or business scale array in less than a week. But you'd need that week in order not to screw something up. Designing and installing a localized PV system requires some engineering thought that is currently outside the usual training and disposition for an electrician, particularly in terms of the placing, solar aspect and angle of the array itself, but also in terms of wiring for the energy produced. Most household and even industrial electricians never have to wire for a source of energy -- we only wire for sinks, such as appliances, not sources. And we rarely wire for 12, 24, or 48 volt DC, which are the usual voltages of solar arrays. Can anyone spell "inverter?" If you can, and know what one does, and can strip wire and read an engineering table, you may be in line for a new job.

A third hurdle will be the entrenched attitude of the power companies, whose financial interest is challenged by decentralized power production. Few really want to have to come to terms with the logistical problem of decentralized power production, aggregation, and transmission. They will have to do so now, of course. It's a matter of national security. The ground for this revolution was prepared by electrical industry deregulation years ago, which is why so many states and electrical regions already allow grid-tie systems, and so obviously the problems can be solved, and eventually all companies will all eventually be forced to buy power from household producers and to learn how to predict and aggregate and re-sell that power at a profit. Computers will help. New programs will need to be written and new computer models designed and tested -- more jobs. There's even a job for a weather modeler in there somewhere, too, helping power companies predict where power will be produced each day.

These three obstacles would be the main reasons why Nanosolar can and should sell all the panels they can make, for the immediate future, to power stations and other non-household users, or even to build their own power stations, as the article below describes.

But if Google's founders and other financiers of this company really wanted to save humanity from climate change, and this is absolutely within their grasp to do, they would franchise their technology to other companies so we can get these things made faster. And we'd put them on rooftops right away.

This revolution won't take too long to get going. Economists say people don't leave hundred dollar bills on the ground for very long.

I have a fifty dollar bill lying on the ground each month waiting to be picked up by Nanosolar or some derivative start-up company. This would be the banknote I send to the power company every month for my Maine-made green power purchase. Fifty dollars, at the proper long-term interest rate and 20-year payback, would finance five thousand dollars of thin-film solar photovoltaic array. At Nanosolar's stated target price of 99 cents an installed watt (did they get the 99 cent idea from Walmart?), that's 5KW per hour of power production capacity, on my roof, which in Maine (at 4.5 hours sunlight per day on average) is 22.5 KW per day, when we never use more than 600 KW per month, or 20 KW per day at this old house. My wife and I have good credit. If we could buy this equipment today, and finance it long term, and economically grid tie-it, the day it was hooked up, we would begin to save money on our power bill. No-brainer. The only question I have is whether "my" Nanosolar panels would be better installed on my house, or in the desert. The answer to that question lies in calculating the cost of transmission, including cables and pylons, the cost of support structures (I already have a 45 degree, south-facing roof Nanosolar could have for free), and the cost of transmission heat losses.

My bet is on the roof.

But there's more! The extra KW the Womerlippis would have left over from that Nanosolar PV array could easily go into charging a battery-electric or plug-in hybrid car. Bye-bye middle east oil! Eat *&%$, oil-tyrants everywhere!

We've been holding out buying that "new" secondhand car because we wanted a hybrid and couldn't quite make the numbers work for us, even with the gas savings. It was very close -- we could keep running our 28 mpg Nissan pick-up, or buy a secondhand Prius, for almost the same price, considering those gas savings. The secondhand Prius was only $30 a week more. Had a secondhand plug-in Prius been available, for say $20K, the numbers would certainly have crunched favorably because of the additional gas savings. MPKW's are ten times cheaper than MPG's.

So again, there's three or four $100 bills lying on the ground outside our garage every month for the company who can make a decent, production model, family electric or plug-in hybrid-electric car for around $20K, suitable for a Maine winter, and sell it to us so we can charge it with our current green power or, later when it becomes widely available, Nanosolar. That $400 would be the presumed total of the payment on the new car, plus the gas to run it (that we'd no longer need to buy). Today's technology, folks! A plug-in, flex-fuel Prius or similar, using Maine-made cellulosic ethanol for long trips, and Nanosolar for short daily trips, with four snow tires for winter, that'd do nicely, thank you.

So who do you think will see the light and step up to the plate? Will it be Detroit? GM and Ford execs and investors? Are their sons and daughters serving in Iraq too? Or will it be Toyota again? Hopefully, an American company will get off it's iron butt and make this vehicle. Plaster it with Nanosolar film -- it'll look just like like a Delorian!

Someone will see the light. The new 21st century economy just opened up. A Nanosolar array is the Edison light bulb, the Model T Ford, the 1981 Apple IIe, of our times, a user-friendly, easily-financed source of energy savings and better living. It's just too obvious now. Our lives are going to change dramatically, and for the better. Only a matter of time.

Yeah Nanosolar! Well done. Well done indeed.

Solar energy 'revolution' brings green power closer
Panels start solar power 'revolution'

John Vidal, environment editor
The Guardian,
Saturday December 29 2007
The holy grail of renewable energy came a step closer yesterday as thousands of mass-produced wafer-thin solar cells printed on aluminium film rolled off a production line in California, heralding what British scientists called "a revolution" in generating electricity.

Friday, December 28, 2007

UN 2007 climate rescue efforts

Global warming brings busy year for UN disaster teams

Jo Tuckman in Mexico City
Thursday December 27, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

The United Nations office that sends expert teams around the world to help governments deal with natural disasters was busier than ever in Latin America this year, a fact it at least partially blames on climate change.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Climate news from the yUKe

Wilder parks can tame climate change threat
Huge tracts of Britain's landscape should be reclaimed from farming and go back to nature to lock up carbon dioxide and counter global warming, says a government ecology expert


Dear Prime Minister:

Letter from Jim Hansen to Gordon Brown

Friday, December 21, 2007

Sara and the Saga of the Chicken Tractor

Unity graduating senior Sara wanted to bring her home chickens to campus and keep them close to the Eco-Cottage, where she hangs out, so she could keep an eye on them. She designed a full program of chicken care, based around a chicken tractor, which she designed and built herself. We displayed the tractor at the MOFGA Common Ground Fair, where it got a lot of attention, including interest from the editor of Organic Gardening magazine, who later wrote and asked us for a picture. Jake took a great one that didn't make it in the magazine, but here it is.

Sara just wrote, "A couple photos of the chicken tractor made it into the Dec-Feb MOFGA newspaper, with mention of the College!"

"People can't get enough..."

Definitely. I agree. Everyone should get one for Christmas.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Living Green Maine

Our local newspaper group, Courier Publications, has decided to post a link to this blog at the foot of their Living Green Maine on-line section. Courier owns the Bar Harbor Times, Camden Herald, Capital Weekly, Courier-Gazette, Republican Journal and Waldo Independent, and their Maine Coast Now web page is an extensive news resource, so this is the "big time" for Unity College Sustainability Activities.

Thanks, Courier. We hope that we'll live up to your expectations and become a good place to go for news and views on sustainability and climate mitigation.

Look to the left of this section for a permanent link to Living Green Maine.

Heat Geeks:

Guardian picture of the results of an infra-red camera survey. This is a good way to find poorly insulated and leaking places in your home. Infra-red cameras are expensive, though. A simple laser thermometer, for about $40, will give you the same data, only more slowly.

Fresh from another round of household energy improvements myself, this article resonated. (I keep finding new places to add insulation to our old farmhouse.) Graduates of our proposed new degree program would be qualified to do this work in their third year. This would be the kind of summer work or internship we would help them at that point, perhaps doing energy audits for our own Maine Housing energy efficiency programs. Of course, as liberal studies degree holders, with writing, organizing, and other leadership skills, they'd be qualified for much more, particularly to design, plan, fund, implement and supervise these kinds of programs, after completion of the bachelor's degree, and after a few year's experience in the profession. Write me at for more information, or click on the program link to the left of the blog.

Cold comfort
A new service aims to make reducing heat loss in your home an almost effortless experience. Esther Addley invites a 'green concierge' to inspect her draughts

Esther Addley
The Guardian,
Thursday December 20 2007
It was after dreaming about my family dying of exposure in an Alaska snowdrift that I decided my insulation really needed attention. I've recentl moved to a house I am very happy with in every aspect apart from one: it' cold. And I mean, very cold. It is fantastically cold, in fact, the kind of cold tha creeps up your neck and hurts your scalp, requiring hot water bottles and wooll hats and multiple cardigans just to get through the evening

Saturday, December 15, 2007

In the deep midwinter...

I always loved that ancient carol when I was a kid. We just had two weeks of on-again, off-again snow, and it looks like we'll get some more, at least another week of it. The map-reading finals for Intro to CLE were interesting as a result, and I got to wear my new Duofold for more days than was healthy or smelled good.

But school is out (yippee) and so Aimee and I are hunkering down at the Womerlippi Farm. The best thing to do with snow is hunker down, and hunkering properly, with wood stoves and bean soups and so on, is actually one of the benefits of living in New England. These are last year's shots of the winter farm, with some of the old trucks that we inherited from generations of Great Farm folks, now recycled.

The Womerlippi Farm is actually a 15.5 acre (3.5 acres owned, 12 leased) fragment of the ancient 2,000 acre Great Farm of Jackson, founded 1806. That's old for these parts. Jackson was a howling wilderness in 1806, populated primarily by Moose and occasional Abenaki Indians. There was no great fish river like the Penobscot, so the Abenaki had no permanent settlements here, but there would have been winter moose camps in the area.

This link goes to a history of "The Wrights of Jackson, Maine" by Robert Lindsey, with details of the Great Farm period I found on the web. You can also visit the site where we keep a farm diary here. Enjoy the snow, if you have it.

Trey and The Man

Unity Frosh Trey, who is 18 going on 35, ran into a slight problem with his group project for Interpretation class. For those of you who are not of the intiated, interpretation or interp is what museums and visitor centers do when they explain stuff to you with pictures and notices and displays. It's a required class for Parks, Recreation and Ecotourism majors, as well as for Environmental Education majors, and it double-counts as Oral Communications. Their teacher this time was Cindy Thomashow, our college president's wife, and a nationally famous environmental educator.

So far, so good. But Trey's group had the idea of turning our dinosaur Activities Building into a "Museum of Inefficiency." Told of this upfront, I thought, "no problem there -- it is a museum of inefficiency." I should know, because I keep the books on its heat fuel consumption. This building was built by people who thought that #2 heat oil would never cost more than a few cents a gallon.

The result of Trey's group's hard work, however, was a hilarious comedy of errors, involving the Maintenance Crew, the campus police, the President, Mitch, his wife Cindy, and associated stagehands. The museum went up, red carpet, velvet ropes and all, The Man found out, the museum came down, taken down bodily by the stagehands, only for The Man to discover that the President's wife had authorized it in the first place.

But who is The Man?

Trey's reflective homework is below. BTW, we just got the planning committee of the Board to recommend $150,000 of spending most of which will go to making this building climate neutral in the next two years, and less expensive to heat, so hopefully it won't be nearly as inefficient in the future. And we got its emissions and fuel use both down 34% by switching out the main boilers for new, efficient models two years ago, so things are not quite as bad as they might seem at "America's Environmental College." I still thought Trey's group had a point, and the did a great job with the "museum." But life wouldn't be fun without the occasional SNAFU.

Interp Gone Wrong, by Trey

As the final project in “Interpretation of Natural and Cultural Heritage” class this semester, Prof. Cindy Thomashow broke the class into small groups and asked each group to design and present an interpretive experience about carbon footprints. The group I was in, after much deliberation, chose to turn the Activities Building into the “Museum of Inefficiency.” This piece was to be a series of formal, museum-style displays, complete with frames, independent lighting, red carpets, and informational plaques. I put a great deal of work into this project. I researched which parts of the building to present, organized group meetings to put the plaques together, got permission and schedules from the people in the parts of the building to be presented, printed the plaques and laminated them and drove the group to Augusta to purchase all the supplies. Then I spent a few days down in the woodshop building frames, posts for the red ropes, painting the ropes and carpets red and finally, carefully stenciling and painting a 15 foot 1x12 sign that said “Museum Of Inefficiency.” The maintenance crew was very helpful, assisting me in every way I needed from providing paint and explaining the idiosyncrasies of their equipment to loaning me the work studies and a truck to cart the stuff up to activities. My group and I got everything put up in preparation for the big day, laying out the carpet and frames and lighting, and I scaled the front of the building holding the sign by a piece of bailing wire in my teeth to attach it 20 feet off the ground. The result was well worth it. Prez. Thomashow, a representative from the PR dpt., a few people from outside the school and a few more people from inside the school cane to see the presentations, and our went off splendidly. We led the group around from exhibit to exhibit, explaining how much heat was lost through the walls and ceilings, describing the windows and talking about the boilers. Then we finished off with a beautiful PowerPoint discussing the possible renewable technologies that could be put into place in the building and what the school was doing to move us in that direction. We felt really good about it, and the audience seemed to enjoy it as well.

Then, that afternoon I checked my e-mail, and I had received a rather scathing chastisement from Maintenance explaining how hard the school works on sustainability and how immature and rude it was of me to vandalize the activities building that way, how I had wasted their time and forced them to take down my stupid prank. I was honestly caught completely unaware. Though perhaps it should have, it had never occurred to me that anyone would take offence to this presentation, but they seemed quite personally offended. I suppose, given the attitudes that some students have, I can understand why, but I felt terrible. I wrote them a long apology and explained that it was part of a class project and that I had meant neither them nor anyone else any offence and that I was sorry for them feeling any responsibility for the situation. I also alerted Cindy. Maintenance wrote me back a rather succinct e-mail telling me that if I had communicated properly in the first place, these types of confusions could have been avoided. Cindy wrote to them as well claiming full responsibility and politely asking them to get their fact straight before making accusations, and I appreciated her support. I told maintenance that I would take care of the rest of the displays, but when I went to do so, they were gone.

Ah, well, life rolls on.

The HESA and I

I shouldn't take life so personally, Aimee is always telling me, but I feel vaguely guilty about the fact that this bill might pass. After years of struggling in the wilderness, it was (almost) a complete surprise to find my concerns and profession becoming so mainstream recently (I knew sort of theoretically that it had to happen eventually, but it was still a surprise), and so to get my very own US federal government boondoggle on top of that would almost be too much, even if I had to share it with growing hordes of brand spanking new sustainability professors. (Get in line, newbies!)

In reality, of course, this is just seed money, when considered in proportion to the vast problem of educating for climate change and sustainability, and it's time for me to get over the whole "voice in the wilderness" thing already. I think I can do that. I really do...

Update on the Higher Education Sustainability Act:

HESA (S.2444), which authorizes $50 million in funding for higher education sustainability programs, was introduced Tuesday morning in the Senate by Senator Patty Murray. HESA is co-sponsored by Senators Bingaman, Dodd, Kennedy, and Kerry, and supporters continue to look for Republican co-sponsorship to keep HESA as bi-partisan as possible. The House is expected to vote in mid-January on the College Opportunity and Affordability Act (HR 4137) that reauthorizes the Higher Education Act and also includes HESA. If it passes, then the conference between the House and Senate, which will decide if HESA makes it into the final bill, should occur shortly thereafter. Please endorse HESA and reach out to your Congressional delegation, if you haven’t already, and thank you for all you have done to help HESA get this far.

For more information contact Jim Elder:

Friday, December 14, 2007

Josiah's New Wheels

Famous UC CLE senior Josiah, whose other recent claim to fame was that he was this years TA for Introduction to Firearms, caused a stir on campus this year with his Model T pick-up truck. Josiah was hoping to find a local source of (legal) ethanol so he could run his truck on a biofuel, but struck out so far. Early American automobiles like this one were truly "dual fuel" as in some parts of the country during the early part of the century, moonshine or "corn squeezins" was more easily available, and cheaper, than refiner's gasoline. With low compression, adjustable mixture settings, easily adjustable spark advance and other low-tech solutions to combustion adjustment, it was relatively easy to run them on the highly variable octane ratings that were then the norm. This is an actual picture of Josiah's truck in period setting, not a file photo. He really did drive this vehicle to class all fall. Go Josh!

But did he try to pick up girls with it?

Josiah might be able to make his ethanol ambition come true soon, as the great State o' Maine begins to get into the production of cellulosic ethanol from Maine forest biomass. Cellulosic systems solve the EROI problem in liquid biofuels, as does algal production and waste oil recycling. See earlier post about Unity's grease cars. In the meantime, one Maine company, Safe Handling Inc. opened the first ethanol terminal in-state, using midwestern product.

Maybe they'll let Josh buy a couple barrels.

Friends Camp project

This project request below would make a very good hands-on final project for students next semester, especially those in Economics of Resource Conservation and Sustainability. See me for details.


Friends Camp, a small Quaker youth camp in South China, Maine, is looking
for one or two Unity College students to look at our energy needs and to
develop plans to reduce the camp‚s energy consumption. The camp is open
from May 1st to October 15th and has a very high people usage of 120
campers and staff members from June 20 to August 20th.

Friends Camp has three energy vendors: Central Maine Power (electricity)
Dead River Company (Propane) and Frontier Oil (Oil).

 Electricity needs are for: hot water for a dishwasher, three showers,
refrigeration, room fans, ceramics kilns, lights, and office equipment.

 Propane gas is use for cooking (One stove and one oven)

 Oil is use for heating hot water for 12 camper showers and 8 sinks.
(During some winter‚s we have used oil to heat one of our building‚s for
the use of a year around caretaker)

Current 12 month energy costs:

Oil $2,481
Propane $1,675
Electricity $5,534


What is the best option - solar electric or solar hot water system?

What are the up front costs for these systems?

What is the pay back period for the cost of these energy saving systems
(Using the State of Maine incentives)?

What other steps can help us reduce; propane, electric, and oil use?

Some ideas are:
 low energy bulbs
 energy efficient fans in our refrigeration units (we have 8
 motion sensor switches on lights
 new room fans
 new energy star equipment

Can you look at the costs of these ideas and offer additional ideas to save

If you are interested in this project please contact your professor and
call or e-mail Nat Shed at Friends Camp ˆ or
207-873-3499. Please see our web page for more information about Friends


Nat Shed
Friends Camp - Winter Address
25 Burleigh Street
Waterville, ME 04901
Phone/Fax 207-873-3499 -

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Shots for sheep...

Unity College's small farm includes a herd of Hampshire sheep. There are four bred ewes, or "yows" in Yorkshire dialect. They need vaccinations six to four weeks before birth against clostridium species bacteria. We used the opportunity to instruct students in the UC FFA Farm club and the Wildlife Care and Education Program in the proper procedure. The sheep are seated on the "small" of their back, if sheep have such a spot. They are then effectively immobilized, and hoof-trimming, dung-tagging, and shearing all use this position, which does not hurt the animal.

Weather disasters and climate change

From the Guardian, on the recent events in Bangladesh

The winds of climate change
Bangladesh has always suffered more than its share of natural disasters, but the recent cyclone is only part of worsening climatic instability that is threatening ordinary people's ability to survive. Annie Kelly reports
Annie Kelly
The Guardian,
Wednesday December 12 2007

Carbon myths

A good op-ed about some current enviromythology.

Ethical living
Carbon myths
Recycling and banning plastic bags are all very well, but they won't save the planet. Instead, we should fly less, go vegan and insulate the loft, says Chris Goodall

With a link to the author's own blog...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Super dooper pooper

We had a visitor to UC, yesterday, Idabelle, who is working on a distance learning course in composting toilets taken "at" Prescott College. Welcome, Idabelle.

Aimee and I built tried or three ad-hoc composting toilets at the Bale House before we came up with one that met my criteria of recycling human manure or humanure, while also meeting Aimee's criteria of looking and acting like a "proper" toilet. Most American folks, faced with this problem, buy an Ecolet or SunMar or similar model, a self-contained commercial compost toilet system. But these are expensive, generally costing upwards of $1,200. If we had an extra $1,200, we would have spent it on extra solar panels, not on sewage treatment. What are the alternative choices? Our Quaker friend Lucinda, who is in her eighties, still uses a bag of sawdust and a five gallon bucket. Lots of Unity College students live in cabins with traditional outhouses. But these can be a bit rugged, especially for visitors "from away."

We settled on a hybrid system. We used a holding tank in the crawl space, situated directly below an RV toilet that cost around $170. The low flush RV toilet created sewage too wet and lacking in organic matter to compost by itself, and so you emptied the holding tank (carefully!) every week onto sufficient other compost material ("greens and browns," for those of you who know how to layer compost), all of which was kept in an outside heap. The moisture, in Maine summers, was enough to cook the pile quickly, but not too much. In spring and winter, when things were wet, or frozen, we covered the pile with a scrap of plastic. We used a lot of straw (for a brown), and that helped with aeration and consistency. After we produced finished compost, or close to finished, we turned it, re-piled it, and left it completely alone for a further year. We thus used two piles, one in-use, one waiting out its year, piles we made with poles sticker-stacked, pretty much as was done by the Nearings at the Good Life Center and described in their books.

We never got to the point where we could have actually used this material -- we moved into the new house first, but the residents of the Bale House continue the system.

What surprised me the most about this system was how little waste was actually produced once the compost was made. Just a few buckets a year, a couple-three wheelbarrow loads, of finished compost were left. Most sewage is water. The other thing that I got out of this was that few of us ever really bother to think about sewage. We take flushing the toilet for granted. Emptying that holding tank for three years cured me of that.

Composting sewage is definitely an important solution to a couple of big problems, that of water quality and water conservation (although not so much the latter in Maine -- we have plenty of water, sometimes too much), and if we we could keep household chemicals out of it, then municipal sewage sludge and the sewage-made compost that is produced by tertiary waste water treatment facilities, would be a lot more wholesome agricultural or horticultural input than it is now. I recommend working with sewage and humanure on a small scale for anyone who wants to understand sewage disposal at any scale.

Idabelle is checking in if anyone has any information for her on compost toilets.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Wind turbine woes

The student-built wind turbine at Unity College has always been a bit of an engineering marvel. The technology is so low-tech, and the basic mechanism so robust, it's stood up to everything the weather could throw at it for over three years. Finally, it bit the dust, although not because of any mechanical failure. The hub had become bent when the device was transported to our Common Ground Fair display. The blades caught on the alternator, and the device stopped turning. In order to fix it, I took the guys off the tower and unsecured the ground bolts. As I was getting some helpers to lay it down slowly, the wind did the job for me, and broke two out of six blades.

I will have to order a new blade kit. For those of you who are interested in using these blades, you can buy the kits online at Hydrogen Appliances/Thermodyne Systems. In the meantime, Clay took these awesome pictures of the turbine, including two taken during a thunderstorm. Those are two of the best photos I've ever seen taken by a student at UC.


Update: The company that sells these carbon fiber blades in the US, which I recommend for college and high-school level wind turbine projects, just said they would donate a new blade kit to the college. Thank you very much, Hydrogen Appliances/Thermodyne Systems!

And if you want to download photographic instructions on how to make one of these small turbines, and how to use it to teach the science of wind power, you can go to the slideshow I made for Maine Envirothon here.

Businesses in UK run out of green power to buy

Because of carbon taxes. It's only really a matter of time before this happens in this country too.

Business runs out of green energy supply
Juliette Jowit, environment editor
The Observer,
Sunday December 9 2007

Sunday, December 9, 2007

My home town MP calls for civil defense

Your blogmeister grew up in Hallam Ward, Sheffield, England (cue Monty Python's old Yorkshireman sketch: "when ah were a lad we lived in a cardboard box in't middle o' t'road"), while Aimee grew up in an analogous American region close to Pittsberg PA. We both lived in a "two-up, two down" until we were about 11 years old, hers clapboard, mine Millstone Grit. This explains a lot of things, but particularly why we don't mind living in an old farmhouse miles away from nowhere with a bunch of sheep. It seems kind of luxurious to both of us.

Now my hometown MP, Nick Clegg, who also happens to be in line for the leadership of his party, the UK Libdems, has issued a call for a new civil defense structure for the UK. I've been saying for several years now, to whoever would listen, that the first effects of climate change we would see in much of the northern hemisphere will be increasing numbers of extreme weather events, and that community-based emergency response efforts would become more and more critical as years went by. For me personally, it's been deja vu all over again, as my former life as an SAR professional reunites with my current life as a climate mitigation specialist. Witness recent events in Washington State (floods), San Diego (fires), and Sheffield itself (floods). Never mind New Orleans. It's been both interesting and frustrating to watch these events unfold. As always, our leaders have feet of clay, and they fixate on the wrong thing, or miss the point.

Maine happens to be a place where civil emergencies go down quietly, if at all. As part of the SAR scene in this state (this note is crossed posted on my Maine SAR site and my sustainability site, I get to be at quite a lot of emergencies. We have a good head for these things in Maine. The officials are quietly competent, the volunteers generally well-trained or at least enthusiastic, and there are lots of good resources distributed widely around the state. Some of this is a credit to Unity College, of course, because we train a lot of the law enforcement types, particularly the Maine Wardens who are responsible for search and rescue, and not a few state officials and business leaders are also Unity grads or linked to the college in some way.

Mainers also tend to have lots of useful stuff in their heads (first aid, mechanics, common sense), their homes (wood stoves, oil lamps, generators, flashlights), and their trucks (four-wheel drive, snow plows, winches, jumper cables). In a word, a good ecological word, Maine is resilient. How you take a place like London or NYC and make it so, is another question. But an important one.

Read the whole article here:
A new civil defence force would defeat the politics of fear
Nick Clegg
Sunday December 9, 2007
The Observer

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Visit the Grease Car Clubhouse

A bunch of students, including Sara, Jake, Chris and Will, to name just the ones I know about, have grease vehicles that they design, build and maintain themselves. The college's waste grease bins don't get emptied by the recyclers anymore, but by the students. What happens to the bins, which I believe belong to the company, when the company figures this out, is a good question, but fortunately not my problem. Jake, Chris and Will recently got interviewed by the regional daily about their grease monkeying here. As soon as someone sends me a good grease car picture, I will post it for y'all.

BTW, Sara's former grease truck was used to transport one of our famous Jimmy Carter Solar Panels to the Carter Center and carter presidential Library in Atlanta GA, where it will be displayed as a memento of the Carter energy policy. Two Swiss videographers accompanied Sara and Jason who drove the grease truck down there, and made a movie about it which you can see here.

Inside the offset bubble..

Our policy at UC for several years has been to get our campus emissions down, for real, on site, by insulating old buildings, changing out inefficient equipment and building only green new buildings. Only recently has this policy begun to prove sounder (in the poorly educated public eye) than those of some of the other green colleges, who went "carbon neutral" by buying offsets. Being a relatively modest institution, we didn't have the money to do that, thankfully, nor would we have chosen to spend our students' tuition dollars that way, so we had to be "real" and actually get our emissions down without buying offsets. We have been very successful, and our per capita emissions are down 28% from 2001, while overall emissions are down 21% (Even though we built four new buildings in that time period and added forty new students). And students have been intimately involved in the process and learning as they go.

Especially upsetting to some of our students, after all their efforts, was the NYT article declaring one of these campuses the "world's greenest" college for buying offsets and becoming "carbon neutral." (I just learned last night that it was Unity College alums that designed and are installing their new solar power system. Go figure.) But our own State o' Maine government has noticed and figured out that we're in doing more exceptional things.

Offsets markets will settle down only slowly as the offset bubble deflates and wiser heads plan more sensible, better accounted schemes. Offset fans in the campus sustainability profession are suffering from "groupthink." Remember your economic history? The South Sea Bubble? Or Darien? We're working on this issue with our State government. Look for more posts ahead as we design a better, locally-based, properly verified, fully additional, carbon offset program. These things take time to do right, but we'll figure it out.

Here's another offset bubble article....

Shares in carbon offset business dive after collapse of crucial deal

Terry Macalister
The Guardian,
Tuesday December 4 2007
The fledgling carbon-offset market was undermined yesterday when AgCert International, a producer and seller of certified emission reductions (CERs), said a key deal had collapsed leaving it with an overhang of uncovered liabilities.

Guardian interview with wind power leader

For Chris and Dan and other students interested in renewable stocks:

The Friday interview: Ditlev Engel
Green boss can see which way the wind is blowing
Renewables must compete with a resurgent nuclear industry and this ex-jockey knows which horse to back

Friday, December 7, 2007

Wind assessment tower erected, just before the snow flies

NRG Sytems reps Phil and Wellie came over from Vermont and we were able to get the tower up. This is a stsndard NRG Tall tower that the company donated to the college for community wind assessment projects. The Mount View High School site will be the first one. Check out these great photos by Clayton. Students who helped were Holli, Sara, Clayton, Jake, Peter, and Chris.

Big hearty thanks to NRG and Phil and Wellie for helping us get it up, and to Steve and Coastal Enterprises Inc. for footing their bill for technical assistance.