Cramped quarters offer couple freedom of the sea

Many people in Southwest Florida live in homes that have more than 2,000 square feet, but Dita and Roger Wisard live in about 32 feet of space with only the sea breeze to cool them.

For the past two years the couple has lived on Zephyr, their sailboat that is now anchored just inside Matanzas Pass by Fort Myers Beach. It’s not the first time they have lived aboard a sailboat, and their experience helps them make the most of their cramped space.

Little cubbies are everywhere, behind every seat, under every seat, under the bed, and tucked in corners of the boat. Each cubby only holds a few items so the Wisards have a seven-page list that shows where each item is.

“We used to know we had something and didn’t know where it was,” Dita Wisard said. “With this we just look up where things are and how much we have.”

Zephyr is a 32-foot-long sailboat with a small cabin that includes one queen bed for sleeping and two small beds for storage. There is a sitting area, kitchen and small bathroom.

wind generator

“What I like is the layout,” Dita Wisard said. “I can close off the front to make it more homey.”

The boat holds 60 gallons of water and 60 gallons of fuel. It has a 30 horsepower diesel engine. Zephyr has a deep freezer, a freezer, refrigerator, stove, and a foot pump for water. They wash their dishes with saltwater and rinse with freshwater.

The boat uses many aspects of natural energy. A wind generator charges the batteries. Solar panels in the back give them some power and a water catcher is used to fill the solar shower pillow.

“It’s a primitive life, but it’s a good life,” Dita Wisard said. “It amazes me all the time how without much you can still have a good life. It’s a simple life and a good quality life.”

The couple likes the freedom of sailing, the friends they meet along the way and the adventures they have when they are at sea and in port.

“When you are sailing you meet other sailors and you come together and one brings the guitar and one brings the harmonica, and you have a good time and then next day everybody departs again,” Roger Wisard said.

The couple has sailed all around the Caribbean and Central America. They enjoyed the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, the Mississippi River and the Virgin Islands.

“There is the freedom of traveling. It’s very healthy living. It’s very primitive, but healthy. You meet so many people and everyone helps each other,” Roger Wisard said.

One of their favorite ports is in Georgetown in the Exumas where they dock and spend their days at a port that has a variety of activities including yoga, water walking, basket weaving, volleyball, seminars, restaurants, bonfires and dances.”

“We also liked Rum Key in the Bahamas,” Roger Wisard said. “Every day we had a potluck. It was amazing.”

Roger Wisard built his first boat more than two decades ago. The family lived on it when his daughter was a baby. By the time she was 18 months old, life on board with an active toddler was too tough and the boat became more of a vacation place than a permanent home. The family tried living aboard the boat again when their son was born about six years later, and stayed aboard until his toddler years. Back then, they lived even more primitively.


Germany Opens Another Hybrid Wind Power Plant

From this tweet by the always excellent Energiewende Germany I learned about an article titled “Hydrogen plant starts storing wind energy in Germany“.

As is clear from the title, this is another project to use wind energy in times where demand can’t keep up with supply to make some hydrogen from water. That is the future for storage of surplus renewable energy, since the existing infrastructure can store massive amounts of hydrogen gas.

The German existing gas infrastructure could handle storage of up to 200 TWh, which is much more than the about 30 TWh an electricity system of 100% renewable would need. But to get that capacity, people need to start building these kind of plants that store electricity from wind or solar as hydrogen. We still have a decade or two to go until renewable gets to 100%, but it is still a good idea to start early.

Enertrag has opened the first plant like this in 2011. At the time with a capacity of only 500 kW. The new plant reported on in that article has 2 MW. And it is operated by E.ON, one of the “big four” German utilities that used to show no interest in renewable energy and leave the investment in the sector to citizen projects.

As the article notes, only about 50% of the energy from the surplus electricity can be stored in hydrogen.

But that is of course not a problem. In the many time slots where demand can’t keep up even now, the electricity would be wasted anyway. And in the few time slots without wind and solar available (the occasional cold November night) that stored energy will have a very high value on the market.

Over this weekend, many countries in Europe saw negative electricity prices, with France and its inflexible nuclear plants reaching minus 4 cent per kWh. People were paid good money if they used electricity, helping to reduce the supply overload. In such a time slot it doesn’t matter that only 50% of the energy will be stored. There is too much available in the first place.

And while the technology for making hydrogen may still be somewhat expensive (that 2 MW plant cost around $2 million), there is only a need to store around 5% of yearly demand. Spread that cost over all electricity over a feed-in tariff or some such policy, and it won’t matter much. Let’s also note that gas plant capacity is by far the cheapest to build of all power plants at only about EUR400 a kW, which helps save money on the cost of the whole system as well.

The idea involves flying a turbine in circles 800-1,950 feet up in the air, where winds are steadier and stronger than on the ground. Because most of the power in a traditional turbine is generated at the tips, these new generators would consist of a pair of such tips mounted to a wing. The wing flies in vertical circles, attached to the ground by a tether, which both carries the traction force of the wing, and transmits the electricity generated to the ground. A computer uses the flaps on the wing to control the flight.

It will also be possible to use similar wings in offshore areas, where the wing would be stowed atop a buoy until wind conditions are favorable. Then, the wing would take off like a helicopter, fly up to 1,300 feet high, generate electricity and then land once more on the buoy. Click on their website for more information.

Wind farms are a ‘complete scam’

Wind farms have been branded a ‘complete scam’ by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, reigniting coalition battle over green power.

As the government unveiled new powers for local residents to block turbines blighting their villages, Mr Paterson condemned many planned schemes as ‘deeply unpopular’ and causing ‘huge unhappiness’ across the country.

The outspoken remarks from a senior Tory minister in charge of environmental policy risks a furious reaction from Liberal Democrats pushing for more renewable power projects.

The Conservatives have taken a tougher line on wind farms in recent months, and this week unveiled plans to give communities a powerful ‘veto’ over controversial new onshore developments.

Schemes will have to gain local residents’ consent before a planning application can even be made, effectively handing them the power to prevent turbines being erected.

Planning rules are also to be changed so that the drive for renewable energy can no longer be used as a reason for overriding environmental and other concerns.

Mr Paterson signalled that plans for wind farms will have to take into account the impact on the countryside and views as well as the desire to save the planet.

In an extraordinary intervention at the Royal Cornwall Show yesterday, the Tory Cabinet minister said: ‘Turbines are regarded as a complete scam, but as of today we have given power to local communities to decide.

‘The criteria is now that environment and landscape will have to be taken into consideration as well as the national energy requirement.’

Under the new rules councils must look at the cumulative impact of wind turbines and reflect the effect on landscape and local facilities.

There is also a major increase promised in the amount developers pay local communities to win them over,  including long-term electricity bill discounts of up to 20 per cent.

However, Mr Paterson suggested anger with many schemes would not be overcome by additional bribes.

He added:’I know there is huge unhappiness with some of these projects, both from what I hear nationally and from my own constituency in Shropshire.

‘There are places where these projects are well prepared, the community wants it and it will be worthwhile. But in inland areas they are very often deeply unpopular,’ the Western Morning News reported.

Leila Deen, Greenpeace energy campaigner, said: ‘Wind farms may seem like a scam to a Government minister who questions the science of climate change and who’s pushing for his Shropshire constituency to be fracked for shale gas.

‘The public disagrees – two thirds of people would rather have a wind turbine near their home than a fracking site.

‘Onshore wind powered almost 2.5 million homes in 2011, is falling in cost and will play a key role in our future energy mix.’

Mr Paterson’s appointment to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs last September was controversial, with allies forced to deny he was a climate change denier.

In 2007, he  described wind farms as ridiculous, claiming they ‘demand vast amounts of public subsidy and do not work’.

Great Gabbard offshore wind turbine dispute settled

The wrangle saw the energy providers’ joint venture company Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Ltd caught up in a long-running stand-off with Fluor of Texas over the quality of turbine construction at the windfarm off the Suffolk coast.

GGOWL had complained about the standard of build relating to 52 upper and 35 lower foundations at the 140-turbine array, while Fluor had sought compensation for schedule and cost impacts arising from delays, disruption and productivity issues it attributed to its client and other third parties.

The situation was taken to an arbitration panel last year which found against Fluor. At that time, Fluor warned shareholders it expected to be hit with a pre-tax charge of $400 million as a result of the arbitration panel’s decision.

However, negotiations have since continued and both parties yesterday said the dispute had now been resolved.
No financial information relating to the final resolution has been disclosed publicly.

In a statement to the markets yesterday, SSE said GGOWL was now confident about the long-term structural integrity of the disputed wind turbine foundations at the 504MW capacity windfarm.

“The agreement between GGOWL and Fluor is a positive development, bringing to an end the contractual dispute between the two parties,” GGOWL general manager Iwan Tukalo said.

“It is also encouraging that the windfarm has performed well since it was energised and our focus remains on ensuring it is a safe, efficient asset that makes a significant contribution to achieving the UK’s targets for renewable energy.”

All 140 turbines at the array have been operational since September, and in the six months to March the windfarm managed to generate electricity for 87% of the time. It is forecast that figure will rise to in excess of 90% in this financial year.

Fluor chairman and chief executive officer David Seaton said the resolution of the dispute brought an end to Fluor’s involvement with the project, adding that there was no “material financial impact” to the company as a result of the settlement.

Mr Seaton said: “Fluor designed and built a safe, fit-for-purpose facility, and we are pleased that the operating windfarm is meeting the owner’s operating expectations.”

The Obama administration is perpetuating a pernicious legal double standard with regard to federal wildlife laws. It prosecutes industries that produce “dirty” energy and exempts those that claim to produce “clean” energy. Furthermore, it’s giving the wind industry a get-out-of-jail-free card so that if it kills some of our most-endangered species, such as the California condor, it will not face prosecution.

The wind industry is further expanding its operations onto public land in both California and Wyoming. And the American Wind Energy Association has recently said that its main goal is to obtain a multi-year extension of the production tax credit, the lucrative subsidy that was extended for one year back in January. In other words, despite some two decades of subsidies, the wind lobby claims it still needs public money to be viable.

Thus, the wind industry wants to use more public land — and of course, more public money — so that it can continue killing the public’s wildlife with impunity. But since the wind industry can claim that it is doing something — no matter how insignificant — with regard to carbon dioxide emissions, the Obama administration is willing to go along, and even help the industry hide the extent of its bird kills.

Robotic insects take to the skies

Half the size of a paperclip, weighing less than a tenth of a gram, it leaps a few inches, hovers for a moment on fragile, flapping wings, and then speeds along a preset route through the air.

The demonstration of the first controlled flight of an insect-sized robot is the culmination of more than a decade’s work, led by researchers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard, said Pakpong Chirarattananon, co-lead author of a paper published this week in Science.

“This is what I have been trying to do for literally the last 12 years,” explained Robert J. Wood, Charles River Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at SEAS, Wyss Core Faculty Member, and principal investigator of the National Science Foundation-supported RoboBee project.

“It’s really only because of this lab’s recent breakthroughs in manufacturing, materials, and design that we have even been able to try this. And it just worked, spectacularly well.”

Inspired by the biology of a fly, with submillimeter-scale anatomy and two wafer-thin wings that flap almost invisibly, 120 times per second, the tiny device not only represents the absolute cutting edge of micromanufacturing and control systems; it is an aspiration that has impelled innovation in these fields by dozens of researchers across Harvard for years.

“We had to develop solutions from scratch, for everything,” explains Wood. “We would get one component working, but when we moved onto the next, five new problems would arise. It was a moving target.”

“Large robots can run on electromagnetic motors, but at this small scale you have to come up with an alternative, and there wasn’t one,” says co-lead author Kevin Y. Ma, a graduate student at SEAS.

The tiny robot flaps its wings with piezoelectric actuators—strips of ceramic that expand and contract when an electric field is applied. Thin hinges of plastic embedded within the carbon fiber body frame serve as joints, and a delicately balanced control system commands the rotational motions in the flapping-wing robot, with each wing controlled independently in real-time.

At tiny scales, small changes in airflow can have an outsized effect on flight dynamics, and the control system has to react that much faster to remain stable.

The robotic insects also take advantage of an ingenious pop-up manufacturing technique that was developed by Wood’s team in 2011. Sheets of various laser-cut materials are layered and sandwiched together into a thin, flat plate that folds up like a child’s pop-up book into the complete electromechanical structure.

The quick, step-by-step process replaces what used to be a painstaking manual art and allows Wood’s team to use more robust materials in new combinations, while improving the overall precision of each device.

“We can now very rapidly build reliable prototypes, which allows us to be more aggressive in how we test them,” says Ma, adding that the team has gone through 20 prototypes in just the past six months.

Applications of the RoboBee project could include distributed environmental monitoring, search-and-rescue operations, or assistance with crop pollination, but the materials, fabrication techniques, and components that emerge along the way might prove to be even more significant. For example, the pop-up manufacturing process could enable a new class of complex medical devices. Harvard’s Office of Technology Development, in collaboration with Harvard SEAS and the Wyss Institute, is already in the process of commercializing some of the underlying technologies.

Lobbyist for wind power apologizes

A lobbyist for an industry group supporting wind power apologized to a Vermont Senate committee on Wednesday after a witness she brought in called health concerns connected with wind power “hoo-hah,” nonsense and propaganda.

Gabrielle Stebbins, executive director of Renewable Energy Vermont, called the remarks of acoustics expert Geoff Levanthall unhelpful and offered an apology to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee after Leventhall testified at the hearing by phone from England.

“There’s no scientific evidence behind what they (critics of wind power) say,” Leventhall said. “It’s all made-up, make-believe, trying to find something to object to, and trying to find something that will be difficult to disprove. It’s a technique, a propaganda technique, and they’ve been very, very effective.”

Afterward, Stebbins said she regretted Leventhall’s comments. “I don’t think that’s helpful for the debate and, for the record, I do apologize for that.”

Stebbins’ comments came at the end of the hearing in which two Vermont doctors — one of them critical of a wind power project near his home in Ira and of the industry generally — testified about what they said were ill health effects connected with wind power among people living near the turbines.

Leventhall did describe for the committee low-frequency, inaudible “infrasound,” that some blame on problems connected with wind turbines but that he said have less of an impact on people than sounds generated within the body, like the heartbeat.

The committee also heard from Luann Therrien, a Sheffield resident who said she and her husband have suffered severe sleep loss leading to depression since 16 turbines operated by First Wind began operating within about two miles of their home, with the closest being about a half mile away.

“We did not oppose the project, not until it was up and running and creating noise,” Therrien said. “I have constant ringing in my ears that can be very distracting. My husband has been feeling so bad that he is currently unable to work. His doctor has pulled him from his job.”

Discussion centered on sleep loss due to audible sounds from the turbines and on infrasound, the low-frequency noise inaudible to human ears but which some doctors have linked to ill health effects — sometimes called wind turbine syndrome.

Dr. Sandy Reider, a primary care provider practicing in Lyndonville, told the committee he had seen “a half dozen or so patients who are suffering from living in proximity to these turbines.” He told of one particularly tough case of a 33-year-old, healthy man who developed problems after a wind turbine began operation on Burke Mountain near his home.

The man “began to experience increasingly severe insomnia, waking multiple times at night with severe anxiety and heart palpitations, and experiencing during the daytime pressure headaches, nausea, ringing in his ears and difficulty concentrating,” Reider said.

Residents in Wrightington set to fight 90m wind turbine plans

The application to build the development on land near Toogood Lane, Wrightington, was submitted to West Lancashire council earlier this month and has already attracted concern from people living nearby who claim the turbine will have a detrimental effect on the area’s green belt landscape.

Karen Collins, a member of the Wrat Pack (Wrightington Residents Against Turbines), said that residents were worried that they would have to live with the effects of the development for years to come.

She said: “At 90m – almost 300ft – the turbine will be twice the height of the Mormon church spire in Chorley. It will have significant impact on the landscape character.

“The size and scale of this wind turbine is totally inappropriate for a small village. This is commercialisation of the country’s green belt.”

The council’s policy on renewable energy supports the installation of renewable schemes providing there is no negative effect to the local area.

The policy also states that planning permission on green belt land would only be granted in very special circumstances and a planning statement from Freshfields explains that “consideration should be given to the whether the development constitutes” this.

Janet Watt, who has lived in Church Lane, for more than 25 years, is just one of the residents who has objected to the plans.

Among her concerns were the impact of the turbine on the visual amenity for residents and visitors, noise and vibration disturbance, the flicker shadow – the flicker effect from the sunlight shining through the moving blades – and the effect the development could have on the area’s wildlife.

An environment report from the applicant, Freshfield, stated that there are no records of protected or notable species held within the survey area. It also said that although the turbine will be a noticeable feature it is not considered to be out of scale in relation to its surroundings.

If you’ve driven by the University of Guam campus recently, you may have noticed a new feature at Dean’s Circle. UOG director of integrated marketing communications Jonas Macapinlac says the college’s first wind turbine has been up and running since March.

“It is a 65′ tower and a one-kilowatt wind turbine and it’s at Dean’s Circle House 32, the Center for Island Sustainability Model Home, and within the next couple of weeks as we make sure all the settings are correct and the calibrations are correct then we’re going to start collecting data” he said.

The turbine will be used to charge an electric car as well as pump water from water encatchments to the site’s sustainable garden. Macapinlac adds that this turbine complies with requests from the Guam Land Use Commission as neighbors expressed concerns about a 100′ tower’s effects, including noise pollution and how it would fall in the event of a typhoon.