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Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Few Weeks!

The UMM Biomass Gasification Facility
A few images I took of the south end of the new building on October 3, 2008, the date of its official dedication.
So okay, it's been a few weeks since my last post; my apologies for that.

Things have once again been busy, and when I've had a few moments to write or whatnot, I've usually been so tired (and not in the rambling mood) to partake of the activity. It's certainly not for a lack of something about which to write.

At any rate, I've managed in the last few weeks to do several things. One weekend I assisted in canning something like 27 pints of tomatoes and pressing sixteen gallons worth of apple juice/cider. It took on the order of 8-10 bushels of apples to do so. Quite a task, but it really only took about five hours to complete.

So we have a lot of juice. :)

I've also managed to get all of the stopping points (short of gas fill-ups, which I didn't record) on the Google map for our epic journey. I haven't yet decided how I intend to mash all of these things together, but it's ready for that point. Also, I've made my way through about half of the days' worth (by number, it's more like a third) of geotagging photos on flickr (from the epic journey). That is generally much more time-intensive than the Google map, since each photo can have its own place. So I work on that in smaller bits as time allows.

Friday was the official dedication of the UMM Biomass Gasification Facility (shown in the picture). It was a quaint little ceremony with a few hundred people gathered to check it out. And we were actually gasifying corn stover as well (even better). So Friday was a very long day, but an eventful and important day. It's good to be a part of some big projects that really make a difference. :)

In other news, I had to replace the 70W HPS lamp in our yard light again. 24,000+ hours my ass, I might add.

A few weeks ago now, I'd noticed that the yard light was more sensitive to voltage fluctuations than normal (it was going out and re-striking more frequently), but I wrote it off as a power anomaly and not early signs of end-of-life behavior. Well, about a week ago now, it started repeatedly striking, warming up, and going out. Definitely end-of-life behavior for a lamp of that nature.

So I went and bought a replacement for $22 and installed it. Voila, it works nicely and has yet to go out in the night (to be re-struck again). I suspect the old lamp only lasted about half of its advertised life, but I also suspect that this was at least partially due to the beating it took (the lamp itself) when the diffuser/shade was blown off (wind ripped the aluminum around the screws holding the diffuser on to the fixture) and then hung perilously on the lamp. The lamp was quite scratched up and also had a rattle when I removed it.

So we'll hope that this sort of thing doesn't happen again (I suspect that the diffuser/shade shouldn't come off again, since I fixed the root problem or vulnerability that caused it to happen in the first place).

And speaking of power fluctuations...

I was sitting quietly at home on Friday night when the phone rang. it was an unfamiliar number/name combination, and being it's political season, I took the call (because I really love to mess with the survey folks when it comes to question wording). It turns out that it was a commissioned survey from my power company, Agralite Electric Cooperative.

I was thrilled to get this call, and I believe I told the representative that on several accounts.

Based upon the questions she asked, I gathered that they (Agralite) are surveying their members' feelings on rate increases and energy conservation measures (both as a consumer and as incentives provided by the cooperative). I was so happy to be able to take part in the survey, because I was finally able to provide input on a subject I've been pretty passionate about (energy conservation and my power company) over the last few months.

I fear, however, that my answers may be statistically different than the remainder of the populous, however, which may make my answers (when compiled) less striking. But that's not the point, really. I got to speak my mind. And I did.

My biggest gripe with their policies is not the rate increases and whatnot; I can accept stuff like that. It really comes down to how they treat conservation and usage. They encourage the load management programs when it's prudent to them (when loads are high and result in power cost adjustments from their wholesale supplier), but they fear renewable initiatives which may reduce volatility in the market (and price) in the future.

I understand, really. They're a power company. Money is made by selling power. Cheap power. Load management helps them spread out load and keep those pricey cost adjustments to a minimum, but those really only take place in the summertime. Load management [specifically, getting more people to participate] is less a concern of them when it doesn't always directly affect the wholesale cost of power. Similarly, renewable initiatives are not cheap. Margin is lower, therefore it's bad.

But what really gets my goat on this whole topic is that they charge a $2.50/month per sub-meter fee. This allows me to be on a load management program. So while I still save some money by participating (and it's the right thing to do anyway), I have to pay to participate in a program that helps everyone. No wonder they don't have more people involved...

So that's enough of that rant. :) On Saturday, I insulated the floor/ceiling spaces in the attics (crawlspaces behind the second floor kneewalls). I'd done a little work on the roof line insulation of those spaces a few years back, and two years ago I insulated the kneewalls themselves. This year it was time to complete the triangle by insulating the floor as well.

Work wise it wasn't terribly difficult. Worst part of it all was taking all of the stuff out of those spaces so I could pull up the floorboards and then lay down insulation. That said, it took about six hours for me to insulate just under 230 square feet of space (including time to clear and replace the stored material).

The worst part about the project was that I spent those six hours bent over and knee-walking across ceiling joists. Kneepads don't help much in that situation; I ended up with two bruised knees and a blister on my right knee. And I'm pretty sore today. But it's a good project to have completed, and when it's all said and done, the insulation will have only cost about $100. That's what happens when you buy it on sale and also get a rebate. :)

And so that's how I spent my weekend. And a portion of the weeks prior. Last week I borrowed a Kill-A-Watt from the campus sustainability coordinator (thanks, Troy!). I haven't yet used it at home, but I intend to do some surveying of power consumption for some of our stuff here at the house. Just to see what sort of usage there really is. The office is one location for monitoring, and the living room is another. But that will be a topic for another day.

So until next time...
"Try to learn something about everything and everything about something."
- Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895)


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