Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations


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Conventional, Hybrid and Electrical Vehicles: What’s the Difference?

hybrid cars

Hybrid cars are better for our environmentl

“Things are slowly changing and, as our power grid across the U.S. changes, so will the energy available to the cars.”

By Linn Smith

September 6, 2017—-I drive a hybrid car and have been asked many times if I have to put gas in it. The answer is yes. The term, hybrid, has gotten more complicated in the past several years, as now there are hybrid gas-electric no plug-ins, gas-electric plug-ins and all electric vehicles. Conventional cars, which burn gas and diesel, release toxic fumes into our atmosphere, exacerbating illnesses such as asthma.
Though hybrids may still leave a carbon footprint in the manufacturing process, and with the source of electricity used to energize the electric engine, they still have a future of burning clean. As solar replaces the conventional sources of power in the production of these vehicles and clean energy is produced for our power plants, the carbon footprint decreases.

Hybrid cars

Hybrid vs Electric

Types of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles

Here is the breakdown in types of hybrids and electrical cars:

1. Conventional Vehicles: Use gas or diesel fuel.

2. Hybrid no plug-in vehicles: A hybrid is a car that draws energy from 2 or more sources. These cars have a regular combustion engine and battery just like a conventional car, but they also have an electric motor and battery. They are never plugged in to outlets. According to itstillruns.com, “The Prius uses an advanced charging system that allows the battery to tap into power from the Prius’ gasoline engine while using kinetic force from braking to generate additional electricity.” The electrical engine is powered by the gas engine, plus the braking system, and kicks in when driving slowly or idling, which makes it fuel efficient and reduces emissions. These cars aren’t considered electric cars, as they rely on gas for their energy. I average about 48 mpg with mine.

3. Plug-in hybrids: These cars are considered electric hybrid cars, as they rely on a conventional outlet for power plus gas. They combine a gas engine with an electric motor and a plugin rechargeable battery. They can be plugged in to a regular 12 volt outlet, allowing then to drive miles on the energy from that outlet. When the electric battery is depleted then the conventional engine kicks in, operating on gas.

Tesla Model X

Tesla All Electric cars

4. All Electric vehicles: The batteries of these cars are charged using grid electricity. They can use a 12 volt outlet or a charging unit, like the units Tesla has installed across the U.S. They are powered entirely by electricity. The gasoline engine is replaced by an electric motor which gets its power from a controller which is powered by the rechargeable battery. The controller takes in 300 volts DC and converts it into a maximum of 240 volts AC to send to the motor.

The Environmental Impact of Cars

Many people will argue that electric cars are beneficial to the environment only if the electrical source is from renewable energy. This is true, but things are slowly changing and, as our power grid across the U.S. changes, so will the energy available to the cars. Keep fossil fuels in the ground!

Hybrids and Electric Cars

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Another Pragmatic Use for Solar–The Solar Bus!

The solar bus!

A prototype of what is to come in Uganda–the solar bus!

“It’s environmentally friendly, green and clean—the solar bus!”

By Linn Smith

July 3, 2016—In February of this year, Africa’s first solar bus, a prototype, hit its highways thanks to engineer, Paul Isaac Musasizi, CEO of Kiira Motors. The Kayoola Bus, as it is called in Africa, is an environmentally friendly, green and clean, 34 seat alternative to current buses. The system consists of two batteries charged by solar panels on the roof.

Creating Jobs for Uganda

When manufacturing of the bus is in place the company hopes to create 7,000 jobs, and by 2039, be able to manufacture all the parts for the bus in Uganda. Pricing the bus at $58,000, Musaisizi currently has some government funding, but is still looking for investors to get his project off the ground.

The solar bus

The Solar Bus–ride free!

Australia’s Tindo

Uganda does not boast the first solar bus. Australia has what they call the Tindo, powered 100% by solar! The Tindo was created by a New Zealand company called Designline International which “leads the world in vehicle design, hybrid propulsion systems and electric drive systems,” striving to keep New Zealand green through being environmentally conscious. The batteries of the Tindo are charged by a solar system on the roof at the city bus station instead of panels on top of the bus. This bus has been in operation since 2007 and accommodates 40 passengers–and cost to ride? Totally free!

China's hybrid bus

China’s hybrid bus–keeping in green!

China’s Hybrid Buses

China put solar hybrid buses into operation in 2012. These buses have solar panels installed on the roof which power lithium-ion batteries.

Solar Bus

Austria’s Solar Bus

And Solar for Austria

In Austria the first solar bus was put into operation in 2011. This is a bus developed to transport students between the university campuses.

“Solar buses—solar energy applied in another pragmatic way!”


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Fun in the Sun: Camping with Renewables

Earth Day

Clean Energy: Make It a Priority!

“These are just a very few of the many renewable accessories available for camping–and you can’t beat a free charge using the sun!”

By Linn Smith

June 3, 2016—-Now that nice weather is upon us, many think about taking tents and equipment into the peacefulness of the wilderness, sitting by a stream with a fishing pole, hiking the path along the scenic terrain and getting out of the city into nature.

Replace Those Batteries with Sun Power!

Have you thought about replacing those battery driven gadgets used for camping with solar ones? There are many products now on the market that are environmentally friendly, many using the free energy of the sun! I have had the same solar flashlight for about 10 years–and it never fails me, even if it has been in the glove compartment for weeks! We have had solar panels for our travel trailer for about 5 years–which keep our DC lights lighting up just fine! (In the article, “Solar Powering Your RV” on our Planet Earth Weekly website, I covered how to set up your RV using Solar.)

Renewable Camping

Every year there are more solar and renewable camping accessories to choose from. Here are just a few that are on the market:

Solar Radio

Know the weather when your camping.

1. Eton Scorpion Multi-Purpose Solar Powered Digital Weather Radio–It retails for about $70. It’s a flashlight, radio, USB cell phone charger, and gives you weather alerts. Reviews say it’s good for short interval uses.

Biolite kettle Charger

Charge phone as you boil water.

2. Biolite KettleCharger–This gadget charges your phone or tablet while you boil water. It retails for about $150 from http://www.BioLite.com and provides 10W On-Demand power, with a charge the strength of a wall outlet. It also stores power for “a quick recharge with no heat or water.” This gadget packs flat, creating power while you boil water for cooking, drinking or cleaning. You can use it on your camp stove, boiling water as your battery stores power. This has excellent reviews.

LuminaAid

Solar Lantern that is waterproof.

3. LuminaAid Packlight Spectra–This is a color changing solar light that inflates into a handy lantern and retails at Luminaid.com for about $25. It recharges in about 7 hours direct sunlight and gives 12 hours of LED light. It weights about 3.5 oz and is waterproof up to 1 meter deep and can float. This has excellent reviews.

GoSun camping stove.

Cook with Solar!

4. GoSun Stove–This retails for about $280. It’s a portable stove that cooks a meal in less than 20 minutes and uses no fuel, only the sun! It weighs about 3.5 pds (1.5 kg), but will cook up to 31 lbs of food at a time. It retains about 80% of it’s sun intake, can bake, boil or fry and collapses to carry. This has excellent reviews.

Yeti Solar Generator

Camp with a Solar Generator

5. Goal Zero Yeti 150 Solar Generator–Available at http://www.REI.com for about $230. It’s gas free and fume free, cranking out portable power from sunlight to power lights, phones and laptops. It’s quiet and lasts about 7 hrs on a full charge. The output is 12V, AC, and USB. It weighs about 12 lbs and is rechargeable by solar, AC or 12V. It can be plugged into a Boulder 30 panel for recharging.

scrubbabag: Clothes washing for camping trips

Wash your clothes when camping!

6. Scrubba Wash Bag–Pick it up at REI for around $50. It weighs less than 5 oz, volume of the bag is about 3 gallons. You fill it with water, clothes and soap, your rub it with your hands to wash. Inside it has hundreds of internal Scrubba nodules that clean your clothes quickly and it folds down to pocket size. It has a transparent window so you can see the dirt escaping your clothes! And you can just keep dirty clothes in it until your ready to do your wash. This has very good reviews.

These are just a very few of the many renewable accessories available for camping–and you can’t beat a free charge using the sun! Have a fun summer! And remember—do what you can, when you can, where you can to create a healthier planet!

Clean It and Green It


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Energy Sage: The Expedia of Solar Installation

Solar comparisons

Compare your options in solar.

By Linn Smith

“This method makes it easy for every homeowner to afford solar!”

May 19, 2016—-Have you decided to go solar? What is your next step when you’ve finally made that decision? There are many solar companies out there. How will you choose? Now there’s a website that will make it easy for you–Energy Sage!

You Have Options in Solar

Solar companies and installers will often push one package towards you, not revealing the fact that there are more options. If you get all your information about solar installation from one company, you most likely will not be getting the best deal!

Expedia: Comparison shopping for Solar

Solar Options

Energy Sage can Save You Thousands

Energy Sage (www.energysage.com) is a site like Expedia, but instead of flights, hotels and car rental quotes, this site will give you multiple solar quotes, from over 300 pre-screened solar installers, to make sure you get the best deal. Energy Sage isn’t affiliated with a manufacturer, installer or finance company—which may end up saving you thousands on solar installation for your home or business!

Here’s how this website works: 1) You register to get quotes 2) Pre-screened installers will submit quotes to you, and 3) You, the buyer, can then compare quotes online.

Energy Sage Solar Comparisons

Compare prices in Solar before you Buy!

Understanding Loans, Leases and PPA’s

EnergySage helps you understand your options and the pros and cons of various solar financing methods, providing information on solar loans, solar leases and solar PPAs (Power Purchase Agreements). A PPA may be the best option for those with little upfront capital. This is a “financial agreement where a developer arranges for the installation, financing, ect., at little or no cost to the home owner.” The developer sells the power generated back to the customer at a fixed rate that will be lower than the local utility’s rate, while the developer gets the income from the sale of electricity, plus all of the tax credits, ect. This method makes it easy for every homeowner to afford solar!

If you can afford electricity you can afford solar. You can obtain financing without putting any money down. Solar leases and PPA’s allow you to save on your electric bill without purchasing solar panels.

Understanding All the Options

Go to the Energy Sage website, put in your information and ask yourself, do I want to rent or own a solar system? Would a solar system increase the value of my home? You can do comparisons. Choose the one that best meets your needs and financial situation.

Energy Sage will include some variables to consider. These options include whether your home is suitable for solar. Is the weather in your area suitable? Will there be applicable rebates and tax credits in your state? Is your roof in a position to generate solar electricity?

Energy Sage won’t ask your personal data because it doesn’t want to sell your information to companies or organizations. EnergySage.com is purely for your information and education on solarizing your home.

What’s new in Solar? Comparison Shopping!


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The Solar Airplane

Solar airplane

Powered only by solar energy.

“Clean Technology can accomplish amazing things!”

By Linn Smith

April 26, 2016: Following is an article I wrote in 2013 about the solar airplane and the Solar Impulse. The Solar Impulse 2 is on its around-the-world flight and just finished its 10th leg of its tour, landing in California. It started in Abu Dhubi, in the United Arab Emirates, where it will also end, taking 2 years to complete. It will travel a distance of 35,000 miles on solar only, with cruising speeds between 28mph-56mph.

June 21, 2013—–Photovoltaic (PV) technology, or the solar cell, is a power supply that produces electricity from the sun’s rays. In 1954, Bell Telephone Labs developed the first Photovoltaic Cell capable of powering everyday electrical equipment, but with only 4% efficiency. The solar cell has quickly achieved greater efficiency over the decades, as people seek free energy from the sun and express their concern about CO2 and global warming.

When a solar cell is exposed to light, it can generate an electrical current without being attached to a voltage source. Photovoltaic–the term “photo” is derived from the greek word meaning “light” and “Volt” is from Alessandro Volta, inventor of first battery in 1800. Therefore, photovoltaic cells produce energy from light, which is a sustainable energy source. If something is “sustainable” it has been “developed to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” Sustainability also meets the needs of our planet, maintaining a healthy environment in which life can survive and flourish.

Project Sunrise, 1974

The first solar airplane to fly was an unmanned craft , Project Sunrise, in 1974 by Roland Boucher, an engineer for Hughes Aircraft. Boucher developed an aircraft powered only by solar panels on its wings. The Sunrise had a total weight of 22 lbs., could soar to a height of 8,000 ft., and made 28 flights before being destroyed in turbulant weather. Boucher’s invention had enough success to “demonstrate the feasibility of solar powered flight at extreme altitudes,” and opened the door for solar innovators to take to the sky!

The Solar Airplane

The Solar Airplane: 17,000 Solar Cells attached to the wing

Flying Around the World with Solar

Jump ahead to 2013, a solar airplane that can fly forever without landing, developed by a company called Solar Impulse which was founded by Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg. Piccard came up with the idea of flying a solar aircraft after circling the earth in a hot air balloon. He stated, “After using almost three tons of fuel during my balloon trip, I knew I wanted to try to create a cleaner way of traveling. The balloon trip was almost a failure due to the dependency on fuel. On that day, I made a promise that the next time I would fly around the world, it would be with no fuel at all.

The Solar Airplane

The Solar Airplane: Around-the-World-Tour.

The solar Impulse Company

“Our company, Solar Impulse, has a goal—to prove that progress is possible using clean forms of energy.” The Solar Impulse aircraft is a one man airplane, can fly night or day, uses 12,000 solar cells mounted on its wings and stores the sun’s power in batteries–no fuel used! It flies approximately 45mph, uses the latest technology in advanced batteries to store the power of the sun and enables the aircraft to fly round-the-clock. It has the wingspan equal to a 747 jet, but weighs no more than a car.

Piccard and Borschberg piloted the Solar Impulse aircraft, alternatively, beginning May 3, 2013, making city-to-city jaunts starting in San Francisco and landing in Washington D.C. 45 days later. This transcontinental flight has prepared the way for Solar Impulse’s second generation of aircraft which will fly around the world in 2015. The improved version will have a larger cockpit and everything necessary for the pilot to survive in the air for 5 or 6 days.

The Future of Solar Technology

Finally, I will leave you with a question asked to Piccard in the June issue of “Popular Mechanics” Magazine:

Question:”What are the future applications of solar airplane technology?”

Answer: “The technologies we carry on board Solar Impulse, if they were massively used everywhere in the world, would allow people to cut in half the energy consumption of our world and produce half of the rest with renewable sources. We have the best electrical engines, the best batteries, the lightest materials for our solar structure, the best insulation materials, the most efficient lighting system, and all this can be used to build houses and cars, and for lighting, cooling and heating systems everywhere. The problem is the resistance of people against changes. Too many people are afraid of losing their habits and beliefs, so the introduction of clean technologies on the consumer market is taking far too long.”


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Toyota Enviromental Challenge 2050: Eliminating the Carbon Footprint

Toyota: Creating Cleaner Cars

Toyota: 6 challenges to cutting CO2

Toyota is moving ahead of other auto manufacturers by taking responsibility as a global clean air leader.

By Linn Smith

January 20, 2016—Toyota, a Japanese auto company, passed Volkswagen as the top seller of cars during the last half of 2015. And, instead of dealing with an emissions scandal which intentionally violated the U.S. Clean Air Act as Volkswagen did, Toyota is moving ahead of other auto manufacturers by taking responsibility as a global clean air leader. They state on their website, “Extreme weather patterns worldwide have been provoking successive disasters. If current conditions continue and increased measures are not taken to reduce greenhouse gases, it is estimated that by 2100 the world’s average temperature will have risen by 3.7–4.8 degrees C. It is further estimated that, to hold the temperature rise since before the Industrial Revolution to “below 2 degrees C,” we will not only have to reduce additional CO2 emissions to zero, but will need to achieve an actual positive trend through absorption.”

Toyota: Cleaning up our environment

Toyota: The Environmental Challenge

Eliminating CO2 Emissions

In October 2015 Toyota presented a plan to remove their carbon footprint by challenging themselves to reduce vehicle CO2 emissions by 90% of their 2010 levels by 2050. The long term plan is to eliminate their carbon footprint in Toyota cars and auto production using the six stages of their Toyota Environmental Challenge plan.

The Challenges

The first challenge is the New Vehicle Zero CO2 Emissions Challenge. In this stage Toyota will develop and accelerate the production and sales of the next generation of cars with low or zero CO2 emissions. These include hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric and fuel cell cars. They also will provide support in developing an infrastructure to maintain and promote widespread adoption of these vehicles.

The second challenge is the Lifecycle Zero CO2 Emissions Challenge. In this stage Toyota will reduce CO2 emissions in the materials used to produce their autos, in the actual production process of the cars and they will also produce Toyotas which emit less CO2 when driven.

In the third stage, the Plant Zero CO2 Emissions Challenge, Toyota will adopt renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, improve manufacturing technology and reduce the time it takes in the production of vehicles.

Toyota: Creating a Clean Environment

Toyota: Ever-better manufacturing

Challenge four is Minimizing and Optimizing Water Usage. In this stage less water will be used in auto production. They will also implement a rainwater collection system, re-use wastewater through recycling and set up a system to purify the water used and return it to the environment.

Challenge five will Establish a Recycling-based Society and Systems and will consist of four key areas: (1) utilization of eco-friendly materials; (2) making use of parts longer; (3) development of recycling technology; and (4) making vehicles from the materials of end-of-life vehicles.

Challenge six will Establish a Future Society in Harmony with Nature. Toyota will engage in planting trees, environmental conservation around their manufacturing facilities and take part in environmental education programs.

A Challenge to All Industry: Save Our Planet

Toyota states that these goals are to challenge themselves in creating a healthier planet. It’s time all manufacturing industries took up this challenge and helped in the effort to save our planet!

Clean up our planet by slashing CO2!


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The Solar Watering Station

Solar watering stations for livestock

Solar was placed on this old structure containing the well.

Solar watering stations require little maintenance and less expense.

By Linn Smith

January 5, 2016—While spending time in the Southwest riding horses in the back country, we came across many cattle along the trails on BLM land. One has to wonder what these cattle eat and drink, but on further investigation there were small patches here and there of native grasses and shrubs –and the cattle were healthy!

Solar watering station

Solar provides water for cattle in this remote area.

Solar Wells are Ideal in Remote Areas

Where do the cattle get water in the high desert? Riding further along the trail, we came upon a solar water station where we watered our horses before continuing our ride. The solar station is in a very remote area, with only a dry riverbed some distance away. Pumping up water for livestock using solar or wind from wells is a necessity in areas where electricity is not an option. And that creates the question, solar pump systems or windmills? Solar wells are ideal for this part of the country as the sun shines nearly 300 days of the year.

Solar Watering Station

Solar water station provides water for livestock

Solar Watering Stations vs. Windmills

Are solar water stations replacing the windmill in the Southwest United States? Around 1870, the development of the steel blade made windmills more efficient, as the blades were lighter than the traditional wooden blades and steel was cheap. Windmills worked so well in some places that a slowdown gear had to be added to keep the blades at the required speed. We didn’t have a windmill on our farm where I grew up, but they were scattered over the countryside of the Midwest, and I can still hear the sound of the blades turning gently, creaking slightly while pumping up water for the cattle.

According to the article, “Solar Wells Displacing Windmills On Ranches In The West” by Matt Joyce, solar watering wells are replacing windmills in remote areas mainly because solar stations require little maintenance and less expense—and when windmills break down in these areas it means no water for livestock where water sources can be few and summers can be scorching. Also, in many areas the sun shines more than the wind blows, making solar a more practical solution. So when the windmills break down, the ranchers, instead of fixing them, are often replacing them with solar stations.

Solar water pump for livestock

The well and the water pump controls.

Submersible or Surface Water Pump

There are 2 kinds of solar water pumps that work to pump up well water. The submersible pump and the surface pump. Surface pumps work if the well is less than 20 feet deep and are less expensive.(Although there were some advertised on eBay for a little over $100). Submersible pumps will work at any depth. Most pumps will also require a Pump Controller (about $145 at Northern Arizona Wind and Sun, a reputable company). The Pump Controller will keep the pump from burning out as the pump will try to start and restart in low light. Arizona Sun and Wind states, “Although it is possible to connect the pump leads directly to the output terminals of the solar panel, a controller provides much better pump performance and start/stop control. It will avoid trying to operate the pump in a stalled condition when solar output is too low.”

Solar watering station

Another watering station several miles from the first.

Water Storage Rather than Batteries

A solar water pump is able to be directly connected to the solar panels and solar controller without connecting to a battery because solar panels make DC energy and DC energy is what these pumps run on. At the website, Energybible.com it is stated, “Most solar pumping systems use water storage rather than batteries, for simplicity and economy. A float switch can turn the pump off when the water tank fills, to prevent overflow. Compared with windmills, solar pumps are less expensive, and much easier to install and maintain. They provide a more consistent supply of water. They can be installed in valleys and wooded areas where wind exposure is poor. Solar panels may be placed some distance away from the pump itself, even several hundred feet (100 m) away.”

More Information

Here are several websites with more information on creating your own solar pump watering stations:

1. http://www.solar-electric.com Northern Arizona Wind and Sun

2. http://www.backwoodshome.com by Jerry Yago /Book “Achieving Energy Independence:One step at a Time”

3. http://www.energybible.com

4. http://www.ranchtanks.com: This site has solar livestock tanks that keep the water from freezing.

So will solar replace windmills? “Not entirely,” states Peg Muller, owner of Muller Industries Inc of South Dakota. She says her windmill business has been going strong since 1979!

Solar Watering Stations: Using the Sun’s Energy!


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Wolfred Walter and The Solar Storage Unit: It Could Change the World!

Become independent from the power grid.

Help the energy revolution become reality.

“It’s my vision to make energy storage affordable for everyone and promote energy independence in as many households and small businesses as possible–that’s what drives me.”

By Linn Smith

November 12, 2015—-Wolfred Walter is a German man from the town of Umkirch who, at the age of 53, has greatly contributed to the health of our planet through his inventions. Here’s what he has done in his 53 years:

Founded a light aircraft school, training over 600 pilots, was named Germany’s light aircraft champion 3 times, invented a special instrument which can search for minerals from the air, turned his Porsche into an electric car, (fueling it with his own solar storage battery), and won the German award for Renewable Product of the Year in 2013–The Sonnenspeicher (Sun Storage) made by his company, ASD, or Automatic Storage Device.

His home-built electric Porsche.

He used his own smart storage battery for power.

A Smarter Solar Battery

`
Walter’s greatest contribution towards a healthier planet might be his solar storage unit and his continuing effort to make it available and affordable to the average person, promoting independence from the electrical grid. Instead of building just a better solar storage battery, he built a smarter storage battery.

Why a smarter storage battery? A few years ago he put solar panels on the roof of his aircraft hanger. He grew frustrated when he had to sell 3,600 watts of solar generated power back to the electrical grid during sunny hours, but in the evening, when the sun wasn’t shining or on a cloudy day, he had to buy at least 1000 watts of electricity back from the grid. So he solved his problem by building a smart solar storage battery.

The Automatic Storage Device

The most innovative storage system on the market.

Walter started with a regular lithium-iron-phosphate battery, which he says is the best one out there. He equipped it with software to maximize the battery’s efficiency, micromanaging the flow of electricity between the solar panels connected to the battery, and the power grid, allowing only a minimal amount of power to go back into the grid.

The storage battery system is about the size of a very small refrigerator and works round the clock like a small power plant. It takes only about an hour to install because, “Basically you just have to plug it in.” Customers consume up to 90% of the power generated by the solar panels.

The Automatic Storage Device

Mr. Walter founded his company, ADS or Automatic Storage Device in 2013, two years after he invented the Sonnenspeicher. His company is now selling hundreds to homes and small businesses around the world. He says the key to getting people to go solar is to make them aware they can save thousands of dollars, which will pay off the system in about 8 years, replacing fossil fuels. He doesn’t have to ask the important question, “Will you buy a storage system to help your children, grandchildren and the environment.” He just asks, “Do you want to save/earn money?”

He’s now working on a smaller, cheaper, more reliable storage battery that he thinks might change things in the solar industry. He says, “It’s my vision to make energy storage affordable to everyone and promote energy independence in as many households and small businesses as possible–that’s what drives me.”

Pretty impressive for something that started in his garage several years ago!


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Earthship Houses: Working for People and the Earth

Construction of an Earthship house is low tech and has been kept within most people’s skill level.

Earthship House

A sustainable dwelling that is environmentally friendly.

By Linn Smith

May 22 ,2015—“An understanding of mechanical systems for most humans is limited to what is within reach of their fingertips. It is understood that when you flip on a switch, a light comes on, when you turn on the faucet, water comes out, when you pull the handle, the toilet flushes. Little thought is given to where the electricity comes from or what kind of nuclear waste was produced to generate it. How many of us even know where the power plant is that supplies our power? Few people ever wonder which water table is depleted to bring them water and what chemicals have been added to it. Where does the sewage go? And which rivers and lakes are polluted?” from the Earthship Biotecture brochure.

Earthship Biotecture

Adapting Our Living to the Needs of Ourselves and Our Planet


Water Conservation in Sustainable Living

Earth Machines working for the Environment

Michael Reynolds, Architect and Founder

For most of man’s existence on our planet, housing was built from material of the surrounding habitat, such as earth, rocks, and logs. The Earthship uses–yes,earth, plus they recycle our unwanted products–tires, plastic bottles, ect. An earthship is a type of solar house that is made from natural resouces and recycled materials. The recycled tires are filled with dirt to form earth blocks. Designed and marketed by Earthship Biotecture in Taos, New Mexico, they are a registered trademark of Michael Reynolds, architect and founder. When Mr. Reynolds graduated from college, he was unhappy with conventional architecture, and visualized buildings which were eco-friendly. He looked at the Embodied Energy of a structure.

The Planet Earth Weekly article entitled “Zero Net Energy and Rehabilitation of Exiting buildings” addressed Embodied Energy, “It is estimated that traditional buildings, commercial and residentual, consume up to 40% of the energy used in the U.S. for heating and approximately 70% are dependent on fossil fuels. To build an eco-friendly structure, Embodied Energy must be considered–which is the sum of all the energy required to produce the building–extraction of all materials, manufacturing, transportation, installation and the energy used to destroy and dispose of materials when the building is no longer in use. We must look at the entire environmental impact of construction. This is what Mr. Reynolds saw when he visualized the Earthship house.

Earthship Biotecture

Living to Meet Our Needs and the Needs of Our Planet

Earthships: Building in Harmony with our Environment

Mr Reynolds has been constructing buildings that are in harmony with their environment and promote sustainability through salvaging what would end up in our landfills. He discovered he could create buildings, that passed the building code using recycled materials, finding that many trash items can be durable when filled with—-yes,dirt–similar to adobe, the Spanish word for mud brick! The documentary “Garbage Warrior,” found on YouTube, describes his 30 some years of work, building houses that are made from recyclables. These houses are not connected to any outside sources and have gardens for growing food. A truly sustainable house/village is independent of the countries economy. These houses are not subject to changing prices in utilities, food, ect. The necessities are provided for, although most don’t grow all of their own food, much of it can be grown on the premises.

Earthship Biotecture offers blueprints for many different models of houses, including one called the Simple Survival Model. It’s an all season home that provides a person with little income the opportunity to get in a house as inexpensively as possible, with opportunities to build on the structure as income allows. This model starts at $2,000 for the blueprints and is catered toward the self-builder, although it can be built by Earthship Biotecture starting at around $50,000–building yourself would cost about half of this. This model contains everything, performs as well as any other model, but everthing is reduced in size. Also, anything can be customized.

Earthship Structure

The Earthship Houses include: A structure built from recycled materials, a sustainable heating, cooling and electrical system, a water harvest system, on site sewage treatment system and on-site food production. Water is caught and channeled into cisterns, then through filter panels which feed a DC pump by their gravity. It is then pushed into a pressure tank where it can be used as household water. The solar and wind electricity is stored in batteries and supplied to the houses electrical outlets, which is wired to code as if it’s connected to the grid—but, it’s not! Each house has a contained sewage treatment system which is cleaned and used in landscaping and gardening. Food production is provided through wetland planters. The planters can hold hundreds of gallons of water from sinks and showers.

Construction of an Earthship house is low tech and has been kept within most people’s skill level. Educational workshops are continuously offered in Taos, New Mexico to promote learning. An Earthship Biotecture Academy offers extensive training in design, construction and philosophy of the buildings. They are led by the originator, Michael Reynolds, and his staff of builders, electricians, plumbers, gardening specialists and educators.The tuition is several thousand dollars for the Academy, but when finished you will be a certified Earthship builder, eligible to hold workshops for others in your community. Many communities have Earthship workshops led by Earthship Acadamy students and graduates, which allow interested people to educate themselves by practicing construction. Reynolds states, “If the materials for easily obtainable housing are to be truly accessible to the common person they must be easy to learn how to assemble. The nature of the materials for building an Earthship must allow for assembling skills to be learned and mastered in a matter of hours–not years. These skills must be basic enough that no specific talent is not require to learn them.”

Helping People Help Themselves through Sustainable Housing

If governments all over the world subsidized these methods of living, people taking care of themselves in zero carbon habitats, instead of subsidized housing and welfare, then we would be giving the gift of life to many–teach a man/woman to fish and they will eat for a lifetime! When people depend on the government for food, we have poor nutrition. People have forgotten how to take care of themselves and to survive without a grocery store, public utilities, ect. How many people can’t pay their mortgages? What if you lose your job? How many people are homeless today? What if there were no grocery stores? I have often asked children this question in my educational curriculum. Most people depend on their government’s economy for existence!

We, as current occupants, are responsible for our planet. “If our lifestyles can conform more to the patterens of the planet than to our socioeconomic system, we can reduce the stress on both ourselves and the planet.” Earthship Biotecture

You don’t need the latest, up to datest–visit your local Habitat for Humanity Restore, look for places being torn down or your local used tire shop for building supplies–think reuse!

Earthship Houses: Providing Eco-Friendly, Self-Sustained Homes


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Looking Back at Renewable Energy in 2014

Turbines have increased in size.

Advancements in wind power have made energy less expensive.

The remaining solid waste will be used to make biofuels. They’re putting contaminated water in and taking out valuable metals, clean water and producing fuel.”

By Linn Smith

January 3, 2015—To start the new year off on a positive note, let’s look back at seven advancements in renewable energy in 2014:

1. Wind power capacity has increased. Wind turbines have become more powerful, more efficient and more affordable. The increased size of the rotors on the wind turbine has raised the turbine’s capacity to generate electricity. By increasing the area of the rotors, from 70 to 100 meters, they can generate more energy at lower wind speeds

2. New research in nanostructure-based technology will make it more efficient for energy conversion in photovoltaic solar cells. The nano materials will allow more light to be trapped for future energy.

3. Advancements in renewable energy storage using quinone molecules, as those found in rhubarb, can be used in flow batteries at 1/3 the cost. (See the Planet Earth Weekly article titled, “The Organic Megaflow Battery.”)

4. A company called Heliateck, based in Dresden, Germany, is a leading company in the production of organic solar film. They have developed tinted glass that can be used on car roofs to generate energy. Also, architectural glass panels and windows incorporating HeliaFilm enable electricity to be generated at very low light levels with a level of high efficiency. “At the moment, Heliatek is making the transition from pure technology development to industrial manufacturing….to bring mass-produced organic solar films.”

In the process, biofuel is made.

Researchers are using algae to clean up contaminated water.

5. A Cornish tin mine in Cornwall, England, which closed in 1992, is using algae to clean up the heavy metals in the toxic water from the mine, while at the same time producing biofuel. This is in the very early stage of development. Researchers are “Converting the algae into a solid form which heavy metals can be extracted and recycled for use in the electronics industry. The remaining solid waste will be used to make biofuels. They’re putting contaminated water in and taking out valuable metals, clean water and producing fuel.”

6. For a twenty-four hour period in 2014, Germany generated almost 75% of its electricity from renewables. Earlier in 2014, renewables produced 27% of the country’s electricity. “Energiewende” for Germany means energy transformation, which has a goal of powering Germany entirely by renewables by 2050. Even though the transition is met by many challenges, the majority of Germany’s population support the change to renewables.

7. Researchers have advanced in the technology of making biofuels from wet farm waste, including corn husks, tomato vines and manure. Dry farm waste, such as wood chips, is much easier to turn into biofuels, as it doesn’t break down on the way to transformation like wet waste. Researchers at the Bio-Renewable Innovation Lab (BRIL) say, “We are taking what is now a net-negative resource in farm waste, which farmers have to pay to remove, and providing an opportunity for them to make money and help the environment.” It’s a win-win partnership!

So, onward into 2015! Let’s see what it brings in advancements toward a cleaner planet!