February 18, 2005
Busy, Busy, Busy
Where does time go? I must apologize for my lack of journal writing as of late. February has been one crazy month for me—editing CoCoCo Papers, working on the NWS project, running for the local utility's board of directors position, answering emails and letters and just life in general. I guess I can't whine too much since they're all things I elected to do.
The CoCoCo papers are coming together rather nicely and it's been a great learning experience. I am amazed at how many different methods there are to build a cordwood house and how builders come up with new and different ways in which to build. One of my favorite conversations I have had was just the other evening with Alan Adolphsen who has been building a cordwood house in Maine. His house has been talked about numerous times on our forum. The house is simply stunning to say the least. One of the most interesting aspects of his house is that he really wasn't influenced by anyone else's cordwood work. In other words, he didn't use any of the cordwood books nor photographs of other homes to plan his house. He came up with his own ideas based on colonial-style homes in his area.
His arched windows and doorways are what really make his house spectacular. He individually cut and shaped blocks of wood to fit into the arches. Plus, his tightly mortared cordwood pieces make the house look exactly like a stone house. The advantage is that with cordwood, he was able to fill the gaps between the logs with foam insulation. Although his walls are rather meager at 14 inches (compared to other cordwood homes), the foam insulation does a great job bringing up the R-value of the wall and preventing air infiltration. I'm sure his cordwood walls are quite energy efficient.
Last Autumn I became an official co-op station for the National Weather Service. They were looking for someone in the area to take soil temperature readings and I volunteered. (Being a weather geek, it seemed like the fun thing to do.) After reviewing the analog, manual system that they were using, I suggested that a digital system might do a better job and relieve the co-op reader from manually writing down statistics at 7AM and 5PM, 365 days per year...or at least as close to that as possible. Norwegian bachelor farmers might be capable of such a feat, but not fitting the type-cast, this seemed like an unlikely scenario.
Well...as it ends up, the local NWS office was able to procure a grant for testing a new digital, ground sensor probe that would be automated. With that good bit of news, it looks like I will be busy working with their office on this project. There are really some quite amazing high-tech components available nowadays to automate the process. Plans are to build a temperature probe that can send its data to a PC and/or a data logging device that is capable of sending the data to a GOES weather satellite.
Local Utility Board of Director's Position
Our local utility has a couple of director seats available this year so I "elected" to toss my name into the hat. The criteria for running for this position does not require any prior experience as a director, so I did the best job I could explaining in the application as to why I thought I would be a good candidate for the job. I felt that my background and experience with renewable energy would be a benefit to the board.
The process for a selecting candidates to run for the position is determined by a committee of existing board members. Two candidates are chosen for each board seat and since there were two seats open with one incumbent, I had a chance of being one of three candidates.
Unfortunately, I was not one of the candidates chosen by the committee of existing board members. With that news handed to me, I could have pursued assembling a petition of 50 co-op member names that would have put me on the ballot. I would have had to act quickly since the petition would have to be submitted by March 9th. The rules state that I have 60 days, but by the time I got the letter stating that I had not been chosen, I really only had about 35 days to get the signatures.
I guess I could have gone door-to-door with all of my copious spare time and gotten the signatures. I thought long and hard about it, but with so many other projects going on right now, I elected not to pursue the petition.
Home Power Magazine - Issue #105
For those of you who may not be aware of it, our house made the front cover of Home Power Magazine! Home Power Magazine is one of my favorite magazines and I always look forward to articles written by those who have installed renewable energy systems in their homes. Elated with our own system, I decided to write an article for their publication. Low and behold, our house made the front cover.
For those of you who have already read the article, I have recently discovered something that isn't addressed—the price of solar panels has substantially increased over the past year. Just like anything else, solar panels are a commodity item and recent demand in Germany has driven the price up. Doing a search on the Internet, the lowest priced, 25-year warranty panels I could find priced out just under $4.00/watt. Considering that I was able to buy the Kyocera 158's at $3.10/watt, this makes a HUGE difference in the price of a 4kW system.
In my humble opinion, this is by far the best Home Power Magazine article ever written in the history of the magazine and I suggest you pick up a copy at your local book store. You can also read it on-line at Home Power's web site, but why not invest a few bucks a purchase a copy? It really is a great publication with a great, dedicated staff. Please support their magazine by purchasing a copy.
Minnesota State University - Mankato
Minnesota State University is conducting their second annual Environmental Sustainability Conference on February 28th and I will be giving a workshop on the topics of cordwood construction, energy conservation and renewable energy. It should be a fun event and I'm looking forward to it. If you happen to be in the area, please stop by!
That's about it for now.
Happiness is a snow-free lawn. Our recent thaw, has pretty much melted most of the snow and the deer have been feasting on the grass right outside our windows.