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Posts Tagged ‘Puget Sound’

I was listening to my local Public Radio station, KUOW, and they had a story about the Waterpod. The Waterpod is a floating demonstration platform for self-sufficiency and resourcefulness and provide an alternative to current and future living spaces.

This sounds like a great idea. Of course I’d have to divest myself of most of my stuff and getting the permits is next to impossible. But I wondered… Instead of a floating home, how about a floating P-Patch?

Right now in Kenmore, Washington, we have a land shortage. Most of land is forested and there is a push to keep the remaining trees. Second, there is a need for land for youth sports: Baseball and Soccer. Basically, any piece of land that could be turned into a P-patch, can also be turned into a ball field or soccer field.

Second, that land, even in these economic times, is valuable. To get enough land to make a decent P-patch would cost a million dollars.

So what can we do?

The barge that's floating in Lake Washington in front of Kenmore WA.

The barge that is floating in Lake Washington

In Lake Washington, floating in front of Kenmore and Saint Edward Park is a large, 316′ x 60′ barge. It’s a fixture in Kenmore, you can see it from any view of Lake Washington. We use to light off fireworks during the 4th of July and on Kenmore’s anniversary.

There is enough room on the barge for about 170-180 10′ x 10′ P-patches. It gets plenty of sunlight, water is not an issue, and it puts to use something that’s an eyesore to many people.

There are problems with it.

It's a fair bit of distance to the barge from the marina.

It's a bit of a boat ride to get to it.

  • The barge can only be accessed by water. So a ferry would have to be set up for those P-patchers without a boat.
  • Which means you have to have classes for boat safety for all P-patchers.
  • Runoff from the barge would have to be monitored for pollution.
  • Getting the necessary permits from the State of Washington and King County for this project.
  • And the biggest one: Finding out who owns the barge.

But if we can overcome those obstacles, we have the potential for a P-patch that doesn’t use any land.

In the next installment: How to overcome those obstacles.

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In my previous article on this topic, Solar Power Northwest: Remodeling your home, I looked at the numbers behind solar power in the Northwest prompted by two articles in James Lupori’s Kenmore Undressed blog. Now we’re going to take a look at an actual home in the Brier neighborhood, via James’ latest article: Solar Energy – The Perfect Remodeling Project of the Future, Part 3.

Eric’s setup uses 18 panels that provide most of his daytime power needs. The article doesn’t mention if Eric uses Energy Star appliances, which would benefit him by letting him sell power back to the utilities reducing his total utility bill. That’s the smart way to go.

[Edit: In response to the question about how much this installation cost Eric, I don’t have hard numbers, but I estimate it was between $28,000 and $30,000.]

The next step in energy conservation would be Smart Grid aware appliances, heating systems and water heaters.

The Smart Grid, in a nutshell, turns power transmission and production from a centralized system to a distributed system that is self-aware and responds to the demands for power from homes and businesses. This is supported by Smart Grid-aware appliances and heating and cooling systems in your home. As demand spikes, your fridge goes to a longer cooling cycle to reduce it’s load on the grid, your water heater doesn’t reheat the water immediately , etcetera. Ideally, your home will be wired to manage its energy usage. Instead of a water heater, you’d have an on-demand tankless water heater so there’s no need to heat or even store 30+ gallons of water.

However, creating the Smart Grid will take time. Puget Sound Energy is looking into implementing Smart Grid Technology, but like most nascent technologies, there are multiple standards coalescing into a single one. Just another step towards our energy independence!

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Realtor James Lupori of the Kenmore Undressed blog has written two articles about the viability of solar power in the Northwest. He looks at the topic from the point of view of a remodeling project.

Based on his numbers, it will cost him approximately $1,600 to install one 13 square foot solar panel that will produce 205kw of power while the sun shines. This cost includes the actual installation of the panels. And that’s on the cheap end of installation. Normally the cost of installation ranges between $7/watt to $9/watt, so James is getting a good deal on installation.

Is it worth it? Well, yes.

Currently, solar power installations will payback their investment in about 20 years. The downside is that the average lifespan of current solar panels is only 25 years. Hopefully, when it comes time to replace them, the cost will have dropped significantly.

And as more and more units are installed, costs will drop. As newer solar cell technology is developed, the amount of power produced by solar panels will go up. Our current solar cell technology is only 17% to 20% efficient for most commercial solar panels. The highest efficiencies are around 40%, but at a much higher cost per panel.

So, how many square feet solar panels do you need to power your home? Take out your energy bills for the last twelve months and add together kWh on them for your yearly total. Then, divide your yearly kWh usage by 1.5. The resulting number will tell you how many square feet of solar panels you would need to power your home.

The obvious problem with solar power is that you only get power while the sun shines. So, if you really want to get off the grid, you’ll need to go multi-modal with your power generation. I’m a firm believer in multi-modal transportation and that applies to power generation as well.

In the Northwest we have a lot of wind, so wind turbines are a possibility. However, I strongly suggest that you seek out expert advice before going out a buying one. Some neighborhoods may ban them for the noise that they make. Also, you may not have enough wind in your area to for a turbine to work at all. But, if you’re lucky to live in a place where the wind blows consistently, it’s a worthwhile investment.

The Kenmore Undressed articles:

SOLAR ENERGY – The Perfect Remodeling Project of the Future, Part 1

SOLAR ENERGY – The Perfect Remodeling Project of the Future, Part 2

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So, what would happen if the City of Seattle where to tear down the Alaskan Way Viaduct and not replace it with anything?

According to most pundits: Gridlock!

But according to the Braess Paradox: Better traffic flow and less traffic.

This is the conundrum presented in the Infrastructurist post “Huh?! 4 Cases Of How Tearing Down A Highway Can Relieve Traffic Jams (And Save Your City)”, where four case studies are examined and show that removing roads can actually reduce traffic in a city.

(more…)

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Bastyr University’s 11th Annual Herb & Food Fair

When: Saturday, June 6, 2009
Time: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Where: Bastyr University Campus Grounds
Theme: “Sustainable Nutrition and Healing”
List of Events: Download the schedule of events.
Web Site:  Herb & Food Fair

Description: Bastyr University announces its 11th annual Herb & Food Fair- “Sustainable Nutrition and Healing”, to be held on Saturday, June 6, 2009, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Growing every year, this FREE annual event has educational and fun activities for the whole family. Healthy lifestyle vendors, public talks and lectures, cooking demonstrations, guided herb garden and reflexology path walks, live music and much more are scheduled throughout the day for all to enjoy.

Keynote speakers include Richo Cech, a village herbalist, plant explorer, author and owner of Horizon Herbs, which is “sowing seeds worldwide for the benefit of people, plants and the planet.” Richo is the author of the widely acclaimed and quoted Horizon Herbs Growing Guide and Catalog, as well as Making Plant Medicine, Growing At-Risk Medicinal Herbs, and The Medicinal Herb Grower. Karen Jurgensen is a chef instructor at both the Seattle Culinary Academy and the Quillisascut Farm School, as well as a mercenary cook and a restaurant consultant in Seattle. She founded the Seattle chapter of Chefs Collaborative (a.k.a FORKS) and is actively involved in local food politics, the regional Food Policy Council, Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, Les Dames d’Escoffier and Slow Food’s RAFT project.

Getting There: A free shuttle will run every 30 minutes from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. from the Kenmore park and ride, located at 7346 NE Bothell Way. Limited parking is available on campus for $5.

For more information: Call 425.602.3107. Bastyr’s whole foods cafeteria will be open for those who wish to purchase vegetarian treats and other food vendors will be available onsite at the fair.

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Today on KUOW, Steve Schere interviewed Bill McKibben, Jim Hanna, and Matt Cohen about the public hearing that the Environmental Protection Agency will hold tomorrow, May 21st, in Seattle on whether global warming pollution is a threat to public health and welfare. It was an interesting interview and lots of good information was discussed over the various issues we are facing here in America.

Weekday: Is Carbon Dioxide a Danger to Public Health?

Weekday High MP3

Weekday Low MP3

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On Thursday, May 21st, the EPA is holding the second of two hearings on the “Proposed endangerment and cause or contribute findings for greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act”. Primarily they will be determining the following:

The Administrator signed a proposal with two distinct findings regarding greenhouse gases under section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act:

  • The Administrator is proposing to find that the current and projected concentrations of the mix of six key greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)—in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations. This is referred to as the endangerment finding.
  • The Administrator is further proposing to find that the combined emissions of CO2, CH4, N2O, and HFCs from new motor vehicles and motor vehicle engines contribute to the atmospheric concentrations of these key greenhouse gases and hence to the threat of climate change. This is referred to as the cause or contribute finding.

This proposed action, as well as any final action in the future, would not itself impose any requirements on industry or other entities. An endangerment finding under one provision of the Clean Air Act would not by itself automatically trigger regulation under the entire Act.

What does this mean in English? 

  1. Do various gases emitted by autos and industry form a threat to us and our descendants in the form of global warming and other types of harm?
  2. Do cars contribute to global warming because of their emissions?
  3. And even if they do, the EPA won’t do squat about regulating them at this time.

You can register to speak on this subject at the EPA site. You can also attend a rally being planned at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center by several groups. For those of us in the North King County area, I suggest RSVPing at Northeast Seattle Neighbors’ Sustainability Network. Or you can register at 1Sky to attend the rally.

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