Resilient Home Energy: Source, Storage, and Flexibility

I want a supply of energy that can work when the grid is down.

Source: Solar Panels with Micro Inverters

Here’s an interesting possibility from Spinray.

You buy their solar panels and plug the electrical male plug into an outlet and it feeds power to the grid, reducing your utility bill.

DeckPower120/240™ supplemental energy saving solar appliance with everything you need to start receiving free supplimental home solar energy:

240 watt high efficiency mono-crystalline solar panel listed to UL 1703

120 or 240 volt 60hz AC Grid-Tied micro-inverter listed to UL 1741 (outdoor/waterproof)

Aluminum deck mount bracket complete with easy to assemble stainless steel hardware (1) 12 foot long 120 or 240 volt moulded outdoor male plug

Storage: Grid and Off-Grid

With the solar panel and micro inverter combination, the power goes to the grid. But if the grid goes down, what happens?

You need a storage device like the Humless Sentinal.

The Humless Sentinel is a silent, clean, safe, and portable lithium based silent generator that can be charged from a regular AC wall outlet, or, it can capture and store energy from solar panels, a hand crank, windmill or almost any other 12VDC power source. The Humless Sentinel stores the captured power in a state of the art Lithium Battery pack that can be taken with you and used whenever or where ever you might need it. The Humless Sentinel has two 110VAC outlets, two 12VDC outlets and four USB outlets to allow you to easily power whatever appliances you need without the need for any inverters or adapters. Whether you need to power a fridge, laptop computer, lights during an emergency or power outage, or whether you want to watch TV in the woods, the Humless Sentinel will give you the power when you need it. With the whole package weighing in at 40 lbs, it’s portable enough to take wherever you want to go. Without any noise, gas or harmful emissions, the Humless Sentinel provides power on demand that is quiet and safe enough to use inside your home, car or even your tent. Capturing power with or using power from your Humless Sentinel couldn’t be easier- just plug it in and switch it on! With a 10 year battery shelf life and a rating of over 2,000 charges and a lithium battery pack that can sit for over a year without needing to be charged (we recommend charging once every 6 months), the Humless Sentinel will store well in a closet and always be ready to power appliances.

Flexibility: Multiple Sources of Power

My sister, who lives in Richmond, recently had their power knocked out for 7 days from a hurricane (downed power lines from falling trees). In this scenario, they would use the Humless Sentinel (fully charged from being plugged into the grid) to power the most important appliances (perhaps a freezer full of food) until it ran out of power. Then they would plug the power cord from the solar panels into the Humless Sentinel to recharge. With some cooperation from the sun, perhaps they could keep their freezer from defrosting for many days.

Strategic Obstacles:

The Spinray solar panels cost $1000 each. My nephew James (an engineer) estimated that it would take about 7 years for the solar panels to pay to break even at $1000 each, at today’s energy prices. (Hopefully, solar panels and micro-inverters can see that same kind of increase in power and decrease in cost that have boosted personal computer technology over the last 30 years.)

Some sun must shine for solar panels to work.

Natural gas could reduce electricity costs, making solar power less cost effective.



Wolverine: The Toughest Critter on Earth?

Program: Nature

Episode: Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom

While legend paints the wolverine as a solitary, blood-thirsty killer, there is another, more complex image of the wolverine that is just beginning to emerge.


Watch the full episode. See more Nature.

Watch the full episode. See more Nature.

Watch the full episode. See more Nature.

Watch the full episode. See more Nature.

Watch the full episode. See more Nature.

Watch the full episode. See more Nature.

Watch the full episode. See more Nature.

How Our Perception of Time Affects Our Reality

A great presentation of interesting content that covers an amazing range of issues in a short video.

Watch this video in full screen mode.

Professor Philip Zimbardo conveys how our individual perspectives of time affect our work, health and well-being. Time influences who we are as a person, how we view relationships and how we act in the world. View the full video of Professor Philip Zimbardo’s talk at the RSA.

Long Meadow Ranch in the Mayacamas Mountains in Napa County, California

We saw a documentary of this 650-acre ranch on Green TV. Amazing - I'd love to visit the place.

Link: Long Meadow Ranch – About The Ranch

The rammed-earth constructed winery and olive oil facilityLong Meadow Ranch is a 650-acre historic ranch nestled high atop the Mayacamas Mountains above the Napa Valley. Here they produce award-winning wines and handcrafted extra virgin olive oils – as well as grass-fed beef, eggs, and heirloom fruits and vegetables. Their extraordinary food products have been featured by America's top chefs.

Long Meadow Ranch has re-established vineyards first planted on the ranch in the 1870s and they have resumed producing estate-bottled wine from the ranch's distinctive mountain "terroir."

LMR Bear Canyon Vineyard at 1200' elevation as seen from LMR's upper pastures at 1675' The owner's vision is to make wines as food – to create world class wines that truly complement a meal – using sustainable, organic farming methods.

However, their integrated organic farming system is built not only around wine making, but also includes world class estate-produced olive oil, a substantial herd of grass-fed Highland cattle, an organic vegetable garden, and an egg-producing poultry flock. They even breed and work their own Appaloosa and POA horses.

They are creating a modern, commercially successful, version of the family farm – one that is widely acknowledged as a purveyor of fine food. All of the crops are organically produced and are certified by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). Their wines, oils, beef, and vegetables have been featured by America's top chefs.

Our horses in Long Meadow, from which the ranch derives its nameThe award-winning, earth-formed, wine and olive oil facility and the adjacent moist, cool caves allow them to produce handcrafted wines and olive oils entirely on our own estate under carefully controlled conditions. Led by winemaker, Ashley Heisey, the staff is committed to pioneering modern approaches to their centuries-old crafts.

Long Meadow Ranch's solar panel arrays generate enough electricity to supply their energy needs and they employ biodiesel fuels in all of the farm equipment. Protected by easements granted to the Napa Valley Land Trust, the land and that of the neighbors will continue to provide a unique rural environment rich with wildlife for future generations.

Fence post sign at main gate of Long Meadow RanchTheir web site has a virtual tour of this very special place. See how Appaloosa horse breeding, organic vegetable gardening, and waste composting help set new standards for environmental stewardship while producing challengers to the world's finest wines and olive oils.

LMR CompostLong Meadow Ranch set out to prove that they could produce world class wine using sustainable, organic farming methods. Among the pioneers in establishing an organically farmed vineyard in the Mayacamas Mountains, Long Meadow Ranch is still one of less than thirty organically certified vineyards in the County of Napa.

They are not former hippies in tie-dyed T-shirts. They do not make eclectic slightly "off-quality" products that you have to "believe-in" to value. They are committed to proving that world class quality and responsible farming go hand-in-hand.

They do not approach organic farming theologically. They do not have a belief system they are trying to evangelize. Instead, they have learned that organic farming methods produce higher quality at lower cost, with real consumer benefit. Every farming practice they have adopted at Long Meadow Ranch is grounded in scientific first principle and they hold a well-developed point of view why it works. They are committed to the highest quality and organic farming is the mechanism that allows us to achieve extraordinary results.

Napa Valley's Oldest Olive OrchardsInstead of the "mono-culture" that has emerged in the Napa Valley, at Long Meadow Ranch they have developed an integrated farming system that relies on each part of the Ranch contributing to the health of the whole. Vineyards and wine making, olive orchards and olive oil making, and horse breeding all work together in complementary fashion (not to mention the egg-laying poultry flock and the organic vegetable gardens).

They make their own fertilizers on the Ranch through an extensive composting operation that relies on organic material from each segment of the Ranch. Soil erosion is controlled and new soils are built through the extensive use of permanent cover crops made up of carefully selected grasses, clovers, and legumes.

The poultry flock located at LMR Rutherford Gardens helps illustrate one of the central concepts of farming at Long Meadow Ranch – the notion of "integrated" farming or beneficial inter-related "loops" As described by owner, Ted Hall: "As we raise the many varieties of rare heirloom tomatoes, the finest, most uniform fruit is sold to fine restaurants. One of our best accounts in the Napa Valley is Auberge du Soleil. The chef there will buy the tomatoes. If they aren't first quality, we'll sell them at their roadside stand or at the farmers' market. Our third-quality tomatoes are sold to a great little drive-in restaurant, where they're made into gazpacho."

"If the tomatoes aren't good enough for that, they'll be fed to their organic chickens. Because they eat fabulous tomatoes and veggies, the chickens lay spectacular eggs with yolks almost neon-like in their color. We then get to sell the eggs back to Auberge du Soleil! There are even more efficiencies here. Since we raise the poultry near the vegetable production, we have no cost of poultry feed because we're feeding them their leftover vegetables. When we're done with the crop season, we have all the organic matter – old pumpkin vines, dead tomato plants – that then goes into a nearby compost pile. This time we use the chicken manure as the source of essential nitrogen. And, by spring the compost is ready to go back on the field as fertilizer. The cycle begins again."

They do not use herbicides or pesticides and all crops are certified by California Certified Organic Farmers.

The Simple Life

I want to simplify my life. My work is complex enough; I don't need by non-work life to be complex. Zen Habits has some ideas for simple living. Now I need to make time and to try some of these ideas.

Link: Simple Living Manifesto: 72 Ideas to Simplify Your Life

The Short List
For the cynics who say that the list below is too long, there are really only two steps to simplifying:

  1. Identify what’s most important to you.
  2. Eliminate everything else.

Of course, that’s not terribly useful unless you can see how to apply that to different areas of your life, so I present to you the Long List.

The Long List
There can be no step-by-step guide to simplifying your life, but I’ve compiled an incomplete list of ideas that should help anyone trying to find the simple life. Not every tip will work for you — choose the ones that appeal and apply to your life.

One important note: this list will be criticized for being too complicated, especially as it provides a bunch of links. Don’t stress out about all of that. Just choose one at a time, and focus on that. When you’re done with that, focus on the next thing.

  1. Make a list of your top 4-5 important things. What’s most important to you? What do you value most? What 4-5 things do you most want to do in your life? Simplifying starts with these priorities, as you are trying to make room in your life so you have more time for these things.
  2. Evaluate your commitments. Look at everything you’ve got going on in your life. Everything, from work to home to civic to kids’ activities to hobbies to side businesses to other projects. Think about which of these really gives you value, which ones you love doing. Which of these are in line with the 4-5 most important things you listed above? Drop those that aren’t in line with those things. Article here.
  3. Evaluate your time. How do you spend your day? What things do you do, from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep? Make a list, and evaluate whether they’re in line with your priorities. If not, eliminate the things that aren’t, and focus on what’s important. Redesign your day.
  4. Simplify work tasks. Our work day is made up of an endless list of work tasks. If you simply try to knock off all the tasks on your to-do list, you’ll never get everything done, and worse yet, you’ll never get the important stuff done. Focus on the essential tasks and eliminate the rest. Read more.
  5. Simplify home tasks. In that vein, think about all the stuff you do at home. Sometimes our home task list is just as long as our work list. And we’ll never get that done either. So focus on the most important, and try to find ways to eliminate the other tasks (automate, eliminate, delegate, or hire help).
  6. Learn to say no. This is actually one of the key habits for those trying to simplify their lives. If you can’t say no, you will take on too much. Article here.
  7. Limit your communications. Our lives these days are filled with a vast flow of communications: email, IM, cell phones, paper mail, Skype, Twitter, forums, and more. It can take up your whole day if you let it. Instead, put a limit on your communications: only do email at certain times of the day, for a certain number of minutes (I recommend twice a day, but do what works for you). Only do IM once a day, for a limited amount of time. Limit phone calls to certain times too. Same with any other communications. Set a schedule and stick to it.
  8. Limit your media consumption. This tip won’t be for everyone, so if media consumption is important to you, please skip it (as with any of the other tips). However, I believe that the media in our lives — TV, radio, Internet, magazines, etc. — can come to dominate our lives. Don’t let it. Simplify your life and your information consumption by limiting it. Try a media fast.
  9. Purge your stuff. If you can devote a weekend to purging the stuff you don’t want, it feels seriously terrific. Get boxes and trash bags for the stuff you want to donate or toss. Here’s my guide on decluttering. Here’s a post on starting small. More on purging below.
  10. Get rid of the big items. There’s tons of little clutter in our lives, but if you start with the big items, you’ll simplify your life quickly and in a big way. Read more.

11 – 72: Visit Zen Habits at Simple Living Manifesto: 72 Ideas to Simplify Your Life.