Friday, August 7, 2009

SEG : Smart Energy Group

I recently had the opportunity to attend a wonderful celebration hosted by the T'Sou-ke Nation on the South end of Vancouver Island. This celebration marked the completion of their 75 KW solar photo-voltaic and solar hot water installations. It was a beautiful sunny day and you could actually watch the electric meters spinning backwards as the tribe sold clean, renewable electrical power to BC Hydro for the rest of us to use. In addition to a tour of the solar installations, the T'Sou-ke band provided visitors with a feast of salmon from their native fishery and vegetables from their organic farm.

From project conception to completion took less than 1 year. To put this in perspective, it has taken me 8 months to connect our first solar panel and a community group in Duncan has been working for 2 years on a project that would provide solar hot water for 25 households. Currently they are still in negotiations and no systems have been installed. Members of the T'Sou-ke nation were trained in the installation and operation of the alternative energy systems and they performed most of the installations. This included all the band offices and more than half (over 40 homes if I remember correctly) of the houses in the community. The other half should be completed soon. They have now formed the Smart Energy Group to provide assistance and education on issues related to energy conservation, energy security and alternative energy to other native bands - and to the rest of us.

All in all, it is an amazing success story. Clean energy, energy security, green-collar employment, economic development, income from power sales and so on.

As the free Smart Energy Group T-shirts remind us, the T'Sou-ke people have been "Providing Environmental Education to Southern Vancouver Island since 10,000 BCE.

First Solar-Powered blog update

Finally getting around to some long-delayed projects.

Last February we ordered a solar panel kit from our Visa card points catalogue and when it arrived I promptly placed it in a storage shed. There it has set, right where I put it, until yesterday. Finally I made the time to unpack the kit, read the scanty installation guide and set the panel up.

Our EnerG+ 43 Watt solar power kit came complete with a solar panel, overcharge protector, deep cycle battery and an inverter. The most difficult part of the installation was finding a stand for the panel - I chose and old stationary bicycle stand - and deciding where to set things up. Then it was a simple matter of connecting a few cables to get the whole thing running.

I suppose it's fair but after enjoying weeks of bright sunshine, today turned out to be cloudy and cool. Nevertheless, the panel is still producing current. This has given me the opportunity to run an extension cord into the house and use the "free" electricity. So far, I have connected a power bar that supports my desktop computer, LCD monitor, a laptop computer and a few accessories. In spite of the cloudy weather, I have been running for 3 hours or so and the battery is maintaining its' charge.

While a 43 watt panel will not do much to offset our total electricity consumption, it does give us a good opportunity to experiment with solar power. By monitoring power usage at various points in the house, we should learn alot about our overall power usage and find the most effective way to utilize solar power. The construction of our log house also provides us with a great deal of flexibility in running solar power from outside the house to various points inside. If things continue to go well, I expect we will invest in additional panels and batteries to power strategic points around the house.

In addition to this, solar panel kits are a cost effective way to bring electricity to our "off-grid" workshop. and solar power provides us with some additional energy security for the power disruptions that commonly occur on Vancouver Island in the Winter.

All those concrete benefits AND I can honestly say that this blog update is completely carbon- free.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Feasting from the Garden

We visited the eco-village on Thursday and Kailee gave us a wonderful complement. She was chatting with her team-mates from the garden crew and she told them that we have a small garden, but it's so full that it's like a jungle. It is a pretty accurate description.

Not only are we over-run with vines and leaves from all the squash, zuchinni, cukes, peas, beans and tomatoes, - the garden is actually producing food at an amazing rate. We had our first ripe tomatoes about a week ago. Now we are harvesting about 12 ripe tomatoes a day. Zuchinni, cukes and squash seem to appear out of no-where in the oddest places. Peas and salad greens are always in need of harvesting.

Our last 3 meals have been directly from the garden. Squash, beets, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes and zuchinni in various combinations and recipes.

We are truly enjoying the benefits of the 100 meter diet.