wouldn't you love it if . . .

you could get water out of thin air?

Now, someone has. In future, you will too.

An Australian designer from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne is the winner of the 2011 James Dyson Award for his “Airdrop” – a low-cost, low-maintenance technology for farming in arid areas.  (You may remember that, James Dyson revolutionized the vacuum cleaner with his stronger vacuum pump.) Both Linacre and Swinburne University of Technology received checks for  £10,000. Dyson, said Edward Linacre’s invention “shows how simple, natural principles such as the condensation of water can be applied to good effect through skilled design and robust engineering.”

Asked what inspired him to create water from air, Linacre said,

The effects of climate change on Australia are accelerating at an alarming rate. . .  the worst drought in a century, lasting 12 years and resulting in irreversible damage to ecosystems, widespread wildlife decline and catastrophic bushfire conditions. Agriculture suffered record losses. An alarming figure of 1 rancher/farmer a week was taking their own life, as years of drought resulted in failed crops, mounting debt and decaying towns. . . The southwest corner of the country has experienced its driest year to date. Scientific projections indicate as temperatures continue to increase so too will the severity, frequency and duration of droughts worldwide.


While there are various atmospheric water harvesting technologies that exist today, most are high-tech and expensive  – out of reach for most small farmers. And so, Linacre’s invention, which “is a low-tech, self sufficient solar powered solution; the pipe construction was born through investigations into the principles of air-flow. . . other elements include the turbine – designed to maximize air intake, to operate freely in high wind and switch to battery power in low wind.” So, farmers can use the Airdrop under almost any conditions, and without spending money for the energy to run it. The solar pump uses natural, free energy – the same energy used to grow the crops.

Linacre explained how it works on the Dyson Awards Winner Page,

Moisture is harvested out of the air to irrigate crops by an efficient system that produces large amounts of condensation. A turbine intake drives air underground through a network of piping that rapidly cools the air to the temperature of the soil where it reaches 100% humidity and produces water. The water is then stored in an underground tank and pumped through to the roots of crops via sub surface drip irrigation hosing. The Airdrop system also includes an LCD screen that displays tank water levels, pressure strength, solar battery life and system health.


For those like me who are low-tech ourselves, that means taking air and cooling it in pipe networks until the water comes out of it.Farmers can install and maintain the unit themselves. Linacre’s prototype, installed in his “mum’s backyard,” made about 1 liter of water each day. This proves that the concept works, and the award will hopefully allow creation of a commercial model for farm use, since that was Linacre’s goal. Could this finally be a way for farmers to have water for their crops without any boundary or waterway issues and without drought concerns?

All across Australia farmers are waiting with baited breath. And I am waiting, hoping for it to be available in drought stricken areas all over the world. Meanwhile, I say to Edward Linacre of Australia,

Rock on!

there were some way to make landfills less of a problem?

I mean, really.  They smell.  They take up lots of land.  Building a new one is always another game of NIMBY.  And, once they’re filled up and closed . . . well, then all they do is smell!

Most people don’t give much thought to the science behind landfills, but they’re a highly engineered environment, designed to safely contain decomposing waste and methane while keeping out the elements. Clean energy advocates have looked at landfills for years as a ideal location for solar power installations, but encountered problems because as waste breaks down over time, their shape can shift and damage solid structures. Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/13Jfx) And that’s where the Spectral Cap comes in. Using of a geomembrane (made of thermoplastic polyolefin) and flexible solar panels, the Spectral Cap covers thousands of acres of landfill, allowing the solar panels to collect energy. The landfill highlighted in the video below is one of only 3 such installations in the United States – New York, Texas, and the largest in Georgia is seen on the video.

The geomembrane is  interesting all by itself, made of a durable kind of plastic and easy to use alone or with other rolls – which can be attached by welding them together on site. But the thing that makes the Spectral Power Cap innovative is the7,000+  integrated flexible solar panels. Each Teflon-coated panel carries 144-watt and is “factory bonded” to the geomembrane, shipped to the landfill and unrolled on site. The PV panels are  durable enough to walk on, and connected by a million feet of wire to four inverters that sends the solar energy onto the grid. This grid has a total capacity of enough power to operate 224 homes! And, the owners of the landfill, Republic Services, have a deal to sell the power back to Georgia Power at wholesale prices, providing clean energy for their commercial customers.

So, all in all, this is a great way to convert all those old landfills we’ve got lying around the country into something wonderful! Unless you’d rather have another ski resort, like the one in Mt. Brighton, MI.

Rock on!

we all stopped using so much electricity?

Well, apparently it’s starting to happen!

This comes from statesman.com:

From 1980 to 2000, residential power demand grew by about 2.5 percent a year. From 2000 to 2010, the growth rate slowed to 2 percent. Over the next 10 years, demand is expected to decline by about 0.5 percent a year, according to the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit group funded by the utility industry.

So, right now, we’re buying more and more electronics, but the demand for power is not increasing as much as one would think to accommodate them. I am most encouraged by the line about the projection into the next decade, where we’re expected to demand less each year.

What can be the reasons for more stuff needing more power but less demand for power?

Well, first there’s the Energy Star program that involves collaboration between the government and manufacturers. The government sets the standards and ratings, the manufacturers produce electronics that use less energy via better conservation of the energy they do use and via things like automatic switch offs. It used to be that only large appliances carried this rating and certification, but I’ve recently seen it on laptop computers and even alarm clock radios!

Second, and to me more encouragingly, there’s the movement toward solar energy. In Southern Arizona, where I currently live, there’s no good reason not to go solar in my mind. I mean, really, what do we have more of than sun? So, if you’re in Southern Arizona and want to go solar, these guys are a good resource, and no this is not a paid endorsement. (If it were, I’d have to print their name!) Santa Rosa Junior College in Northern California that built their new library with recycled materials and so many solar panels that the college makes money from selling electricity to the utility company!  Now that’s using solar power.

Thirdly, some folks are simply abiding by the power companies’ advice on when to consume electric power. Some of the “off peak” times are so late (or early?) in the day that I’m sure it cuts people’s consumption. Most electric companies provide programs like this one at my local utility.

So, no matter whether we’re buying better electronics, using electricity more sparingly on off hours or selling power back from our solar panels, we’re moving in the right direction. Less power use equals smaller carbon footprint and lower bills. This is all to the good whether you are politically, socially or fiscally movtivated.

Rock on!