Living Sustainably

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Archive for July, 2005

Free CAD Software

Last week I received an offer of free mechanical CAD software, by a new company XCAD.

They are looking for 100,000 people to express a pre-interest in their new product, and will then give a free downloadable copy to all those that have pre-registered.

This seems a very charitable act, especially if you, like me, are in need of proper CAD software.

They are still looking for 37,000 interested parties, in just the next three weeks.

I am in no way connected with XCAD – I just think it is an opportunity not to be missed, particularly if you are working on a tight budget.

Follow this link to pre-register, and then pass on the link to your friends and engineering colleagues – especially if you happen to be at University!


Ken Boak


Off-Grid Radio Interview

We want to interview some of you for a Radio 4 report in July. We are looking for Brits living off-grid anywhere in the world, who are willing to let Radio 4 into your home or camper van, for a chat about why you do it, how you do it, and what you get out of it.

If you live off-grid, especially in the UK, please get in touch. Please send details about your off-grid life and situation, plus contact numbers to Nick Rosen,, or ring 07971 543703. Thanks!

Nick Rosen


Is Ethanol sustainable?

“There is just no energy benefit to using plant biomass for liquid fuel,” says David Pimentel, professor of ecology and agriculture at Cornell. “These strategies are not sustainable.”

David Pimentel has claimed the answer is no for years, and recently confirmed his findings again. But is he any more right today than he was was 10 years ago?

Apparently not:

Pimentel in bed with petroleum industry, research discredited!

Life Cycle Energy Efficiency


Technology Breakthrough Enables Biodiesel Production from Ethanol Plants

Ethanol and sustainable development

Is ethanol energy-efficient?

Critical study of biodiesel is flawed

David Blume Presentation: Alternative Fuels – Promise and Perils


The Off-Grid Home or RV battery bank

The heart of an off grid system is the battery bank. It needs to be sized properly to handle your expected electrical loads between recharge times. Green-Trust runs on a 675ah battery pack consisting of six Trojan T105’s, but for the budget minded, the Walmart Type 27 DeepCycle would also work. At $53 each for a 115ah 12v battery, 10 units would make a nice sized pack at 1150ah. This would give you a useful 575ah of power before needing to recharge. A good charger is critical to the health of your batteries, as well as not discharging more than 50%. One charger we recommend is the Vector 40amp charger. This is a bit undersized for our theoretical 1150ah pack, but is ideal for our 675ah pack. Since we run our VeggieGen more than 8 hours a day, it’s sufficient to do a full recharge of our batteries for overnight use. Our 90 watt PV array puts about 22ah’s daily into the pack as well.


Earth Day founder, Gaylord Nelson, passes away

In 1969, as a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson came up with one of the most powerful ideas of his time: Earth Day. Inspired by the teach-ins dealing with the Vietnam War, Earth Day was an instant success, drawing 20 million participants the first year (1970). American Heritage Magazine called the first Earth Day “one of the most remarkable happenings in the history of democracy.”

Nelson died at his home today in Kensington, Maryland, of cardiovascular failure, said Bill Christofferson, Nelson’s biographer and a family spokesman. He was 89.

“He died peacefully. His wife was with him,” Christofferson said.

Thirty-five years after the first Earth Day, April 22 is still a day on which many people plant trees, clean up trash and lobby for a clean environment.

A conservationist years before it became fashionable, Nelson was recognized as one of the world’s foremost environmental leaders. Then-President Clinton presented Nelson with a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995 for his environmental efforts.

“As the father of Earth Day, he is the grandfather of all that grew out of that event: the Environmental Protection Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act,” read the proclamation from Clinton.

Nelson entered public life in 1948 as a Wisconsin state senator from Dane County, a position he held for 10 years. In 1958, Nelson became only the second Democrat during the 20th century to be elected governor of Wisconsin.

I am aware of the controversy over two Earth Days, and two founders, so this is the “other” Earth Day …

For more background on the two Earth Days and their founders, read


Measuring Power Consumption

Living off-grid, either in an RV or a renewable energy powered home, there is a great need to be able to measure the power consumed by various devices. This is necessary in order to size your power generation devices, like PV Panels, your distribution devices, like inverters, and your storage batteries.

Even in an on-grid home, a Kill-A-Watt is good to help you conserve energy by comparing energy comnsumption of various appliances for purchasing decisions.

For 120vac devices, we use a Kill-A-Watt to monitor and predict daily power consumption. This unit monitors Volts, Amps, Watts, VA, HZ, PF, kWh, and hours used.

For DC devices, we use a “Watt’s Up” watt meter which replaces an ammeter, voltmeter, wattmeter, Amp-hour and Watt-hour meter:

Watt's Up Meter (Color: Blue, End Configuration: Powerpole Ends)