Blog - page 7 of 10

Thornbill Eco Education - Community Workshops - 5/05/2010
Energised Homes is happy to promote 'Winter in the Organic Food Garden', which is a workshop put on by Portland Sustainability Group Vice-President Rebecca Phyland.

Winter in the Organic Food Garden
Learn through practical activities.
Learn how to create a no-dig garden.
Learn how to grow winter food crops.
Learn how to plant and care for fruit trees.
Learn how to attract natural predators to your garden.

When: Saturday 15 May 2010
Where: Thornbill Organic Farm
207 Blackers Road Narrawong Vic
Time: 10.00am – 3.30pm
Cost: $70 (includes lunch)

Enrol now

03 5529 5426
Thornbill Eco Education

Energised is building - 29/04/2010
We're about to start a dynamic and very energy efficient extension at 6 Laguna Crt, Portland. This is an 'Adaptable' house that we'd started in 2005. Photos will be posted as they become available.

The Adaptability is actually 'Stage 2' of the house that was built in 2005 by Energised. The owners have so far been living in a Stage 1 that consisted of two bedrooms and a single bathroom/toilet. This extension will complete the house using upgraded techniques and materials.

Actually, the Stage 2 has been completely redesigned from the 2005 original plan to reflect changes since then and now, which has made the 'staging' very worthwhile.
More info on adaptable houses

Warrnambool Presentation - 19/04/2010
Peter Reefman from Energised has recently presented at a Warrnambool Coty Council event titled "Energy Reduction Summer Cooling workshop".

The event was organised and funded by the Warrnambool City Council as a free event for Warrnambool residents. About 25 people attended to hear a presentation titled "Keeping you house cool this summer for Nix". The presentation provides suggestions to be more comfortable at home during extremely hot weather, through the three key areas of capital home improvements; behavioural change; and working with our own body's biological responses to heat.

The crowd were very receptive to the presentation, and many asked for it to be extended past the allocated 20 minutes. Peter was happy to oblige and spoke & took questions for 45 minutes.

Six months of zero heating/cooling at Energised House - 18/04/2010
It's now more than six months since the heater was last used for the 8 Aquarius Crt, Portland Victoria house.

The last time it was turned on was October 17th, 2009 when the outside temperature range was 9-14c and very cloudy.

Obviously the last six months was also the warm half of the year, so this isn't surprising given the 8 Star rating. What's also pleasing was that the house didn't need any kind of artificial cooling in that summer period, with the maximum indoor temp a comfortable 26c on the 11th of January while it was 41c outside.

We feel the house won't need any artificial heating/cooling until at least the end of April, and an average of once every three days from then till October again, which makes the house well on track to achieving a less than $20 per year heating/cooling bill.

MBAV awards - 30/03/2010
I'm currently getting the 8 Aquarius Crt house ready for the MBAV building awards as most sustainable residence for Southwest Victoria.

Judging for the house is on the 15th of April, and the goal is to at least complete all the decks before then.
MBAV website

Baseload solar thermal in the news - 21/03/2010
Two recent and exciting news releases about Solar Thermal electricity generation that can produce 24/7 have particular relevance to Portland's Aluminium smelter.

First, a Spanish company that's involved in building large-scale sodium solar thermal baseload power stations has announced that they'd like to build one in Australia. The size of the trial would be 250MW, which is more than a third of Portland Aluminium's power needs. Wow!
Full story

And secondly, Alcoa has recently announced a fantastic new product that it's producing in partnership with the US Government. Highly reflective aluminium mirrors to use for concentrating the Sun's heat for solar thermal power stations. The system being tested is showing promising signs that solar thermal power stations will be able to produce more energy with cheaper components. Wow x 2!!
Full story

Let's hope that these two exciting developments can somehow be married together all over the World, and in particular of course in the super-sunny Wimmera/Mallee region to feed clean renewable baseload energy to heavy industry like Portland Aluminium.

Home Energy Assessments to be funded for an extra 600,000 homes - 23/02/2010
Peter Garrett, who on Friday made some major reductions to Australia's Insulation, Solar Hot Water, and Green Loans rebate funding, has today apparently announced the extension of home sustainability assessments, giving funding for a further 600,000 homes to be assessed for free. Good news for assessors and home owners wanting to know where they can save money, not so good for people lookingat taking out a low interest $10,000 4 year loan to help improve the efficiency of their homes...

In my case it's very up in the air, as my assessor accreditation is still not approved, and part of the changes include reducing the amount of assessors from 10,000 to 5,000 - So I might not get a licence anyway. Fingers crossed and I'll keep trying so that the Portland region has someone who is licenced to conduct the free assessments.


Energised House details updated - 19/02/2010
We've just updated the details document of the Energised Home project.

Included now is Cost Effectiveness, Replicability, Occupier & Environmental benefits, Construction site & waste management, and Landscaping

Here's a small sample, from Occupier Benefits.

"Benefits to the house’s occupiers are many, and centre on financial, health, and satisfaction.

As set out in Cost Effectiveness, the financial outlay is more than compensated financially through savings payback and resale increases.

Health benefits are from spending indoor time in a far less toxic and carcinogenic environment, and also from the ability to eat the fresh organically grown produce from the house’s garden.

The satisfaction from living in a house like this cannot be overstated, especially for an occupier that is genuinely concerned about the environment and where we as a society of heading in our future. In short, there is an immense level of satisfaction fro being part of the solution rather than contributing to the problem.

To read more, click on the link below, then scroll down to "More details and analysis"
8 Aquarius Crt

Thursday. No sun but buckets of rain! - 12/02/2010
Thursday the 11th Feb gave us a couple of new records - We had our first day of NO energy exported to the grid, and we had our biggest dump of rain.

The solar system DID produce some energy despite thick cloud and rain all day. It generated 0.8kw/h. However this was consumed as it was created which gave us our zero-export result.

There was lots of rain all over Victoria, and we had 28mm which wasn't even as much as the 100mm in some places. However our roof still collected around 6,500 litres (or 28 days supply under our current use) which topped up our underground tanks and around two thirds into our above ground tank.

To be honest all of the water collected didn't get into the tanks, as when it came down it was such a wall of water that a reasonable percentage of it overflowed the gutter/downpipe system! Of the 6,500 I'd estimate we harvested around 4,500.
8 Aquarius Crt Charts

The gardening begins - 9/02/2010
Here's an early shot of the garden going in.

The garden is based on some strong Permaculture Principles. In fact the entire outdoors has been designed by Thornbill Eco-Education, a Permaculture education company.

First on the list of gardening is to get rid of any couch grass. The method we're using is elbow grease. No RoundUp in this soil! Couch is strong but does have weak points, and by exploiting those weaknesses it CAN be removed without too many problems.

The pile of soil in the forground of this shot is in fact compost! Our existing soil has degraded badly over the last 100 years since clearing, and this compost soil will help give some organic matter back. We got the compost from the Camperdown Composting Company, who make probably the best compostig soil in Victoria.

The compost is only part of the story however. Our strategy for repairing the soil is -
Dig out couch grass
Sprinkle surface with Gypsum
Apply 1-2 inch layer of Biochar (more on Biochar in other photos)
Apply 2 inch layer of compost soil
Install network of low-flow dripper hose
Apply 4-6 inch layer of mulch
Plant out where drippers are

We should then see some amazing things happen. Can't wait!

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