Category Archives: renewable energy

Ghost Town Ecoaldeas

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91pBFyLWIx4&[/youtube]

It’s a utopian fantasy- discover a ghost town and rebuild it in line with your ideals-, but in Spain where there are nearly 3000 abandoned villages (most dating back to the Middle Ages), some big dreamers have spent the past 3 decades doing just that.

There are now a few dozen “ecoaldeas” – ecovillages – in Spain, most build from the ashes of former Medieval towns. One of the first towns to be rediscovered was a tiny hamlet in the mountains of northern Navarra.

It was rediscovered in 1980 by a group of people living nearby who had lost their goats and “when they found their goats, they found Lakabe”, explains Mauge Cañada, one of the early pioneers in the repopulation of the town.

The new inhabitants were all urbanites with no knowledge of country life so no one expected them to stay long. At first, the homes weren’t habitable so they lived 14 in a large room. Slowly they began to rebuild the homes and the gardens.

When they first began to rebuild, there was no road up to the town so horses were used to carry construction materials up the mountain. There was no electricity either so they lived with candles and oil lamps.

After a few years, they erected a windmill by hand, carrying the iron structure up the hill themselves. “Even though it seems tough and in some ways it was, but you realize you’re not as limited as you think,” says Mauge. “There are a lot of things people think they can’t do without a lot of money and there’s never been money here.”

In the early years, they generated income by selling some of their harvest and working odd jobs like using their newfound construction experience to rebuild roofs outside town. Later they rebuilt the village bakery and sold bread to the outside world.

Their organic sourdough breads now sell so well that today they can get by without looking for work outside town, but it helps that they keep their costs at a minimum as a way of life. “There’s an austerity that’s part of the desire of people who come here,” explains Mauge. “There’s not a desire for consumption to consume. We try to live with what there is.”

Today, the town generates all its own energy with the windmill, solar panels and a water turbine. It also has a wait list of people who’d like to move in, but Mauge says the answer is not for people to join what they have created, but to try to emulate them somewhere else.

“If you set your mind to it and there’s a group of people who want to do it, physically they can do it, economically they can do it. What right now is more difficult is being willing to suffer hardship or difficulties or… these days people have a lot of trouble living in situations of shortage or what is seen as shortage but it isn’t.” (Source)

The East African Solar Entrepreneurs

A couple hours drive on a dusty road outside of the southern town of Masaka, Uganda, you’ll find Musubiro Village. Miles from the closest electricity grid, there is little hope of government power coming this way anytime soon.

In Musubiro, like so many other villages across Africa, the main source of light is kerosene- which is not only expensive, but has a myriad of negative health side affects, and the risk that always comes when you mix open flames and straw thatched roof dwellings. Typically, the day’s chores are done, children’s studying is over, and small shops are closed when the sun goes down at 7:30 p.m.

Not anymore.

Barefoot Power, a for-profit social enterprise operating across East Africa, has built a network of “Solar Entrepreneurs” who are responsible for bringing solar lighting to towns and villages like Musubiro all across Uganda. Their products, ranging from the extremely popular “Firefly Mobile”, a small 1.5 watt panel with 12 small LED lights and a phone charger, or their full “Village Kits” that can provide lighting to an entire house, are making solar power affordable and accessible to those at the base of the economic pyramid. The small solar panels are portable and once charged, act like a battery.

Barefoot Power currently has 160 Solar Entrepreneurs operating all over Uganda, and an extensive distribution network which makes its products available to customers across Kenya, Tanzania, India, and several other parts of the world. (Source)

Solar Hair Panels from Nepal

A schoolboy from Nepal has come up with a recession-busting new solar panel which replaces the silicon component with human hair. Milan Karki, an 18-year-old student from the region of Khotang, devised the idea after discovering that hair pigment Melanin acts as an energy converter.

Each panel, which is around 15 inches square, produces 9 Volts (18 Watts) of energy, and costs $38 to make. This, it has to be said, is mainly due to the price of the raw materials: half a kilo of human hair costs around 25¢ in Nepal. Karki is hoping to commercialize his invention, which can charge a cellphone or power batteries to provide an evening’s worth of light, and eventually mass produce it.

“First I wanted to provide electricity for my home, then my village,” says Karki, who was inspired by British physicist Stephen Hawking. “Now I am thinking for the whole world. We have begun the long walk to save the planet.” (Source)

Desert Manufacturing

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/25401444[/vimeo]

Solar-sintering aims to raise questions about the future of manufacturing and triggers dreams of the full utilisation of the production potential of the world’s most efficient energy resource – the sun. Whilst not providing definitive answers, this experiment aims to provide a point of departure for fresh thinking. :Read on: