Last night I was able to see the latest in small, remote heating stoves. Take a look at his 56 lbs. unit: http://www.unforgettablefirellc.com/products/off-grid-living/ (OK, ‘unforgettable fire’ as a corporate name may be over the top but the stove itself is worth a view). Joining the Wood Stove Decathlon in Wash. D.C. slated for November, this unit is a finalist in the Next Generation Wood Stove Design Challenge competition. With a 22 page manual that has specs for both the US and Canada, it seems to have thought out well in design and also assistance means. It can burn pellets, whole log wood, barley/grains, coal etc… I’m told and with a 3 inch flue has the flexibility to be mounted on a boat, an RV, into a masonry smoke stack in a cabin, or out of the roof of a home with traditional smoke stack. The claim is that it will heat up to 1500 sq. feet. It is impressive and efficient at first glance; so, it will be interesting to follow and see what the performance comes out as!
A retired Colorado/Kansas farmer came in the office last week to talk about unexplained ice dams he’s had (and to ask questions on replacing resulting wet insulation). He still has the farm, but moved up here several years ago and bought a ‘project house’ not far from UAF. Traditionally, that country has been wheat, yet in talking of his farm days he mentioned that they irrigated hard for growing corn while he was working his land and that they would get complaints (the watershed council I imagine) from down by Amarillo, Texas due to their use (note it was the very NW corner of CO) dropping the table in Texas….
Do water and oil mix? Well, maybe figuratively as similar to oil, water is a precious commodity that our own former governor at one time looked into exporting by pipe. (See WATER BOONDOGGLES-The biggest little water plan in Texas at http://www.edwardsaquifer.net/pdf/waterplan.pdf for a hoot).
A New York Times cover story this morning (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/20/us/high-plains-aquifer-dwindles-hurting-farmers.html?hp) makes the Great Plains (right up to the Front Range) look somewhat like a possible repeat of 1929…. At the cusp of the stock market crash, farmers also had over invested in capital machinery/land, over produced relative to the grain market demand, and ecologically drained their production base -soil- by pulling up the century’s old ground cover to PLANT MORE. Drought exasperated the torn open dirt and blew it away. While new tillage and plowing techniques mitigated the redistribution of precious topsoil, the bulk water irrigation age was about to begin that would drain another ecologically ‘non-renewable’ resource- groundwater. This isn’t the only growing problem with ag business and water reserves, as up in the Midwest the drive to use more nitrates for boosting (often corn) crop yields has pushed green growth into the Mississippi which in turn has greatly reduced its drainage (especially at the Louisiana Delta).
Thus big pivot irrigation=>bulk water drained=>Free market failure (due to negative externality costs of ‘water’ not being internalized into the overhead of corn bushel and other crop prices on the commodity market). At first glance, ethanol as a biofuel looks comparably competitive to oil, but ground water is relatively a ‘non-renewable’ resource as it takes hundreds or thousands of years to recharge the aquifers. Simple free market (which I dearly love) failure.Market and labor readjustments, very painfully, will happen. Non-intensive water uses will utilize the land…… YET, Alaska may be poised well relative of other Southwest and Great Plains states as water is currently plentiful, and aquifers haven’t been extracted at corporate levels. And water may- in some parts of the country- be as valuable a commodity as BTU laden oil.
In Southeast Alaska the winter temperatures often hover around freezing, which is warm enough to extract heat out of the ambient outdoor air and rotate that heat into a home through the same process refrigerators use. Cold coolant runs through tubes outside the home, is compressed so as to increase the heat present, and it then runs into the home and ‘drops the heat off’ through a heat exchanger. The coolant then consolidates and makes the loop again. Houses that have a warm utility closet can take that heat into other rooms within the house. Read more about what the Cold Climate Housing Resource Center found about performance of these devices at: http://cchrc.org/docs/reports/ASHP_final.pdf. While this is a thick piece, it does well at explaining the process!
Well, here in my native state of Colorado at the National Extension Energy Summit we are having a great May blizzard. (http://m.accuweather.com/en/weather-video/video-breaking-weather-snow-coming-soon-to-denver/1670024770). On the heels of a great Rural Energy Conference by Alaska Center for Energy and Power I flew the red-eye down to share about the Remote Camp Energy workshop that is offered in Alaska. This workshop was originally co-taught with Walter Rose, Energy Specialist at Kawerak in Nome as an answer to folks wanting heat and power at fish camp in the summer, as well as in mining camps. With Dave PM, Rural Energy Coordinator at Tanana Chiefs Conference, I have refined the workshop as other inventors of devices keep giving us more material to let others know about! (Lord willing, if I get back to AK by Friday from this snowzilla, an abbreviated version of the workshop will kick off the Kenai Sportsman Show at 1:30-3:00pm!). If you are interested learning about remote camp energy, contact our administrative assistant Carmen (474-5854) and let her know where (what community) you would like to see this workshop or any of our other 5 (one to three hour) workshops offered!
Waves are the big thing here- surfing by the big mountains, whales running around out in the bay, tall (old growth) trees, etc… People from all over the country have met for a couple days for the Yakutat Energy Fair and it looks as though wave power is the big talk. Lots of biomass and even some solar people also are attending from lower 48, Hawaii and in-state.
CES has had a presence with a table attended by Sarah Lewis (Juneau agent) and myself. A highlight was to spend quite a bit of booth time with the AK Education Commissioner about the energy efficiency of schools statewide. ACEP also had a booth, and there were about a half a dozen Fairbanksians attended and presented various workshops. (From there on to Cordova for a stop over to present biofuel and remote camp energy workshops).
When you are in a session co-titling itself ‘from cow piles to biomass’, you know you are in for some excitement before the next break (happening to be lunch….). Anyway, one and half hour sessions are pretty impressive with 4 experts to a panel (being one yesterday, there were some gasps of impression when showing a 10 minute film about Tok Schools concept to completion heat and electricity facility). The session above was about a dairy digester facility where energy was reaped from the cow waste and using algae from ponds/trenches. Creative case studies and macro/meta views of govermental and public opinion manuvuering are covered- qute a range. Someone from the Biomass division of Alaska Energy Authority joined me to a booth for viewing a portable/modular electical biomass generator that uses 55 gallon drum, Die hard battery, GM Vortex engine and other common items- quite impressive, it can have biomass create 10, 20. 50 and 100kw!
Quite a day with seminars- but the most informative was the general session kicking off the morning with high powered CEO-Lawyer and think tank types from various Biomass entities. There has been much talk of European markets for Amercian biomass as the sensibility is that carbon to be counted with cutting down and burning of a tree is in a sense ‘wiped off the books’ due to regrowth (unlike fossil fuels which burn yet don’t resubmit function into the carbon cycle….). This makes biomass more attractive when comparing it to other fuels. Yet Amercian regulatory policy and legislation was characterized as somewhat hodge-podge and in transition; thus, biomass may not be comprehensively be categorized that way and thus industry and incentive providers are not sure with the current signals from the D.C. Administration how to go forward. When I mentioned after a couple hours of listening that Asia had not been mentioned (and that coming from a Pacific Rim facing state we often look to the East), it was mentioned that Korea and Japan have guides similar to the EU which they follow per biomass and carbon counting in their policies.
Two and a half hours was spent in St. Paul at the Garn testing facility. We witnessed a partial burn, instrumentation as well as a ‘thermal battery in a box’ which could be used to dump a load by attaching DC rectifier to 7 elements in the bottom of a very large poly reservoir of water. They have tested now for ~40 years, and explained earlier models of this novel gasification system which needs no flue and utilizes surrounding water as the heat medium.
Finally, the highlight of the day was picking up finger food sandwiches as well as exciting white papers such as “From Liquor to Sludge- Conversion of a Recovery Boiler to a Bubbling Fluid Bed”. (Oh boy).
Read this article (http://www.economist.com/news/business/21575771-environmental-lunacy-europe-fuel-future) in light of the fact that 4 voyages went over through Bering Straights via the Northern Passage to Europe in 2010. In 2012, 40 (forty) voyages went through. Alaskan entrepreneurs I’ve met are banking-literally to some degree- on the next Alaskan energy export boom to be value added (chipped, pelleted, bricked, torrefacted) wood. Tomorrow is the beginning of the International Biomass Conference and I bet there will be plenty of talk about new markets as climate changes in our frontier Arctic state and the waters/ice near!