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Archive for June, 2008

Home Energy PowerCost Monitor

The PowerCost monitor comes in two parts. The first, a sensor, is attached to your electricity meter. It works on all standard residential meters and is easily installed (no electrician required). The sensor sends a wireless signal to a small display unit. You can put this anywhere in the house.

The unit can be configured with your local electricity rates (it can even cope with differing billing systems, including tiered rate and peak/off-peak rates) to show you the amount of money your energy use is costing you at any one time. Watch it get cheaper as you turn off the unwanted items around the house…and that’s how you save.


Terra Blog


Smart Regulators For Car Alternators

Car alternators don’t typically make good battery chargers for off-grid homes. The deep cycle battery requires special charging to maintain a long life, as it gets discharged and recharged deeper, and more often than a car battery. There is hope, however, for the ubiquitous car alternator. By driving it with a small engine, and adding a smart regulator to vary it’s field coils, you now can build a high amperage portable battery charger, as we have outlined in our eBook at The Smart Regulator of choice is the Ample Power SARV3. It includes the ability to also charge a starting battery, control two alternator fields connected to the same engine, and offers battery temperature compensation. We highly recommend it.


What is Appropriate Technology?

Wikipedia defines Appropriate Technology as follows:

Appropriate technology (AT) is technology that is designed with special consideration to the environmental, ethical, cultural, social and economical aspects of the community it is intended for. With these goals in mind, AT typically requires fewer resources, is easier to maintain, has a lower overall cost and less of an impact on the environment.

Proponents use the term to describe technologies which they consider to be suitable for use in developing nations or underdeveloped rural areas of industrialized nations, which they feel cannot operate and maintain high technology. Appropriate Technology usually prefers labor-intensive solutions over capital-intensive ones, although labor-saving devices are also used where this does not mean high capital or maintenance cost.

In practice, it is often something that might be described as using the simplest level of technology that can effectively achieve the intended purpose in a particular location. However, the terminology is not very precise.

Come visit our Appropriate Technology Design group to discuss and develop Appropriate Technology Solutions. Discussion of what is appropriate technology, where it can be used, and how to build it is the focus of this group.



Making ethanol, and converting engines to run on it

There has been a high interest in the last few years in making your own fuel. This can range from converting diesels to run on used fryer oil, to making ethanol, and converting gasoline engines to run on it. We have also been converting gas engines to run on propane and methane. For information on how you can make and use your own fuels, see


Air / Water Generators

At the Enviro Week show in St. Maarten, we met Bruno Therond and his water makers. He kept us hydrated all weekend with these awesome machines:

The Air/Water Generator (AWG) Technology condenses moisture in the air “water from the atmosphere” and purify it into a superior grade of purified, potable water. While the principle & technology is well known as a refrigerated dehumidifier the application to AWGs are fairly new and the water collected is purified and stored instead of being disposed off.
The key challenge is to keep the clean drinking water purified until consumption.
The water produced remain purified through an elaborate system using 5 stages of filtration including ultra violet light to ensure complete sterilization of all water born bacteria.
These environmentally friendly, low voltage, chemical free, 100% independent automatic water supply can provide from 24 to 5000 liters of water per day for drinking water and additional purposes & water needs, (irrigation, cisterns, animals, etc.)
There is no connection to any water supply what so ever, no bottles to be delivered, no pipes.
The purified water quality is free of chemicals, chlorine, chalk or any other preservative agents.
It is a dehumidifier.
It also recycles and cleans the air you breathe.


St. Maarten “Today”, June 9th, Investing in Sun & Wind

GREAT BAY – We haven’t seen anything yet as far as the global energy crisis is concerned, says Steve Spence, director of New York-based Green Trust. “Gas at the pump is now around $4 a gallon in the States, but within three years I expect to see prices like $10 a gallon. We have to conserve; there is no other solution. Renewable fuels will not solve the problem, simply because we are unable to plant enough crops to produce a sufficient amount of bio-fuel.”



Keynote Speech at Enviroweek, St. Maarten

We just returned from keynoting Enviroweek. Our talks centered on Peak Oil, Alternative fuels, Wind, Solar, and Energy Conservation. I’ll be posting our Powerpoint presentations, pictures, and some of the more interesting products we saw at the show.

One of the most promising solutions was presented by West Indies Power (WIP), and centers on installing high voltage undersea power lines from nearby volcanic geothermal plants on Nevis and Saba. This electricity, provided to local power companies at $0.12 / kWh, is less expensive than the current $0.19 / kWh fuel component, which is expected to spike to astronomical levels, before becoming unavailable due to larger economies outbidding the islands to feed their burgeoning growth.


Chelsea Green Looking for Authors

Dear Steve,

I am the Web Editor at Chelsea Green Publishing. We’ve been publishing books about renewable energy technology and sustainable living since 1984, and we’re looking for new authors.

I’m trying to reach out to the green and technology blogging communities to get in touch with writers who are knowledgeable about the green movement, know the latest techniques and technologies for sustainable living, and would enjoy writing a book for us.

We welcome all submissions of course, but to encourage the growth of a community on our own newly launched web site and blog, we’re running a community proposal contest for our Green Guide series of books, which you can check out at the link below.

I’ve posted the contest guidelines on our blog. The best entries will win a publishing contract with Chelsea Green, and a $1000 advance on royalties.

I’m hoping that you, or someone you’re in contact with through your blog, will be interested in submitting a proposal. Please check out the contest guidelines, our new web site, and, if you wouldn’t mind helping us spread the word, reposting our guidelines post (see link below) on your blog.

Feel free to email me with any questions, though contest book proposals should go directly to our Editor-in-Chief, Joni Praded (see contest guidelines for contact info).

Thanks. I appreciate your time.

Chelsea Green:
Green Guides:
Contest Guidelines:


Jesse S. McDougall, Web Editor
Chelsea Green Publishing
tel: 802-295-6300 x112

Author of Start Your Own Blogging Business (Entrepreneur Press, 2007)

“We’ll never know the worth of water ’till the well go dry.” – Scottish Proverb


Off-Grid Emergency Communications

One of the problems at any remote location where radios are set up is the need for reliable power. If hams are deployed in response to an emergency such as a fire, flood or tornado, there is no guarantee the the power grid will be functioning, so the hams must provide their own power. As Larry tells students at license and EmComms classes, “You can’t count on the infrastructure being in place. So the safest way is to figure that if we don’t bring it with us, it doesn’t exist.”



The NY Times on Living Off-Grid

Contributers Nick Rosen, Alan Bridgewater, and our own Steve Spence chime in on what it takes to be disconnected from the power grid. Read more at the NY Times website or in the May 30th Escape section.

Steve is quoted as saying “You start adjusting your way of life around some of the natural rhythms of nature.”