2007 High Country tour of sustainable Living

Hi all. So here I am on fall break. Two days of not going to classes. I decided to tell ya'll (I'm in the south, I'm allowed to say that) about this weekend.

This weekend was a big weekend up here in the mountains, and ASU's Homecoming eclipsed some great stuff, let me tell ya'. Instead of going to the game I decided to go on the 2007 High Country Tour of Sustainable Living. It was amazing! let me fill you in on some of what happened.

Friday evening I found out about this and decided I couldn't miss it. So I got up bright and early Saturday morning, put on my robot t-shirt, and headed out. People started arriving around 8 AM and kept coming until 8:45 when we were finishing up breakfast . We all piled onto a biodiesel fueled bus and started for our first destination. I had had my coffee so I was up for talking at 8:45 on a Saturday morning. Right away I met some neat people, and we talked about bio-fuel in general, Who Killed The Electric Car, and the Appropriate technologies department at the university.

We pulled up to a farm to be greeted by Ned Trivette and a 65' tall wind turbine, back dropped by the beautiful mountain scenery. Grid-tied and nearly maintenance free, this turbine provides about about 10% of Ned's household power usage.

After talking about wind power and how Ned's setup works we loaded up again and headed to the Kennedy residence out in Vilas. We made it as far as the road that turns off to go to their house. There was no way that bus was going to make it up the hill to the house, so we all got out and the few cars that were there started shuttling people up while others of us walked. I walked, and let me tell you, that hill is STEEP.

We got to the house without any mishaps and learned about this high efficiency house. It was facing south so it can soak up the sun in the winter months and had deep overhangs to shade the house in the summer months. By far the coolest (pun intended) part of this house was the thermal radiant heating system. Panels on the roof heated the 750 gallon Carolina water stove, and from there the water was pumped throughout the house to the radiant heating system in all the floors. Highly efficient and fascinating.

After this we headed off once again. Here's where our schedule got interesting, and everyone was helpfully flexible. We apparently decided to take a "short cut." Someone thought we could make it on this steep dirt road that we took. We did make it, but not before getting stuck a few times and running over a rock. pieces of the bus were falling off and smoke from the tires was going everywhere! Once we finally made it over the hill we didn't have much more trouble.

Instead of going to lunch, like we were supposed to do, we went to the ASU Biodiesel research facility. This was the highlight of the tour for me. I learned so much related to my latest endeavor, biodiesel. (for some reason spell check doesn't like that word.)

We met Jeremy Ferrell, the guy in charge of all of it. He showed us the process they use to make it, and discussed all the latest research. This facility is amazing! It's completely sustainable. They have solar panels so they're making as much power as they're using, and in their passive solar greenhouse they have a "living machine" to recycle their gray water. There were things (algae and the like) growing everywhere, and the same solar thermal system that we had seen earlier, to heat water. I'm actually going back there sometime in the next few weeks to pick Jeremy's brain about biodiesel "stuff."
ASU Collaborative BioDiesel project

After this was over and I was dragged back onto the bus we finally went to get some lunch. We were starving.
We went to the Hill/Mitchell Residence for lunch. This house was awesome. It was only about 1600 square feet and had a concrete slab between the two floors, to retain heat. They had the radiant heating as well. I didn't get any pictures of the inside of the house but it was at least as cool as the outside. They also had a great garden going. Over lunch we had a speaker who talked about green building, and a lot of what goes into it. (I don't remember his name, sorry!)

Our last destination was the Marland residence. It stands up on a hill above the university, in direct sunlight. This house is incredibly energy efficient and quite pleasing to the eye. (it was purple). With very few electric lights in the house that need to be on in the daytime, most of the windows face the sun, with overhangs on the roof for shade in the summer. It also had a tank-less hot water heater, which I had never seen before. It's apparently very energy efficient.

So that was this years tour! (or the good parts, at least.) apparently it happens every year, so I plan on going in the future. Let me know if you guys have any questions or comments, in case I got any of the info wrong or left some out. (a lot of this is from memory and the handout we got)
Thanks for reading,

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ewilhelm10 years ago
Nice write up! What's the power rating on the wind turbine?
Q5Quint ewilhelm10 years ago
Pretty sure it is a whisper 200~ power output 1000wats on the fact sheet

drinkmorecoffee (author)  ewilhelm10 years ago
Thanks! I'm not sure what it is. I'm looking over my notes and I guess I failed to write that down. 1000 watts maybe? I'm really not sure.
Well. I'm afraid you'll have to go back there next year.

You're definitively not a good industrial spy .... ;-)

Your mission, should you choose to accept it ... blabla photos bablabla plans blablabla data blablabla coffee blablabla make instructables blabla ... This message will auto destruct your computer in five seconds !
drinkmorecoffee (author)  chooseausername10 years ago
Lol. Actually I think I'm not too bad. My focus was just on the biodiesel this year. (instructables coming as soon as I get far enough to make them) :-D
Cool ! I can't wait for it ! =o)
DMC - Please use two carriage returns between paragraphs. Sounds like a cool trip.
drinkmorecoffee (author)  fungus amungus10 years ago
Oops, meant to do that before I hit go. Better now?
Yes ... But it's too late for me ... I guzzled down the entire (and only) paragraph all in once ... Well, anyway, it sound like a very interesting trip. You told us what you talked about, but what did you learn from all of that ? Also, usually, when you talk with an environmentalist who plugged solar panels and windy stuff everywhere in his/her house, s/he will never talk about any problem. When you listen at them, it's always "great", works "perfectly" and provides "as much energy as they consume" (they can't consume more, anyway). Did you ask question about problem ? Could a modern and civilized human (washing machine, microwave oven, a larger than 14" TV set, a computer you can play recent video games with, etc) actually lives in a such house ? Or is it reserved to environmentalists only ?
drinkmorecoffee (author)  chooseausername10 years ago
Well, I learned *about* all of this. I learned about how the whole solar thermal heating thing works, and how the wind power I described in here works. As well as most of everything else I mentioned. I've never really had a chance to learn about how this stuff works.
And yes, they did talk about the problems. Some of these home owners talked about their problems in great detail. For example, some of them were unhappy with what types of windows they used in parts of the house. there were other problems, but that's not what I focused on I guess. Sorry if I painted a picture of perfectly working houses, they're not perfect, just better than my house.
To answer your other question: modern, normal, civilized people live in these houses with computers, washing machines, TV's, etc. That's part of what got me so interested, because they're not all environmentalists. They can still use all of their modern conveniences without consuming as much, and without as much waste etc.