2006 - [Sustainable Concepts] Switchgrass and Earthship
2006, vol. 41
Welcome to the August 2006 newsletter from Design Forward.
Please take some time to enjoy this month's features.
Quote of the Month: "A house is a machine for living in."
Lisa A. Swan
Earthship is a structure that is self-sufficient. It
is a building that provides it's own heat, cooling,
water, electricity and sewage treatment. In addition
it is built with reused or otherwise environmentally
sensitive materials, that are relatively cheap, readily
available, and easy to use. Used automobile tires meet
all of these criteria and make the basic building block
for an Earthship."
This owner-builder project was built in El Paso, Texas
beginning in 1999. The project includes cisterns, a
non-conventional grey and black water treatment system,
solar panels, adobe plaster, and of course typical of
an earthship home, tires. This project has also incorporated
Arizona Iced Tea bottles and aluminum cans into the
wall systems. The owners have taken strides to stay
within the sustainable realm of building, incorporating
as many green elements as possible. Some other design
elements are the waterless toilets and the use of a
design that does not require a concrete foundation.
Article © Lisa A. Swan, Design Forward. Picture © earthpower1.com
Grass Could Be Cheap Fuel For Farmers
A common grass that needs no fertilizer and grows up
to 7 feet tall could provide Maryland farmers with a
cheap source of fuel, a university researcher says.
Switchgrass, scientific name Panicum virgatum, is a
dense, tasseled grass that grows easily in Maryland.
Used mostly as a buffer or for ground cover, University
of Maryland biosystems engineer Ken Staver says switchgrass
could be an energy boon for state farmers.
Staver has installed a straw-burning boiler at the university's
Wye Research and Education Center, where he burns switchgrass
to save 700 to 800 gallons of fuel oil each winter -
worth $1,700 to $2,000.
The engineer thinks switchgrass could easily be used
by farmers as supplemental fuel. Staver said a 4-acre
plot could provide $4,900 worth of fuel.
"If energy prices go up, all of a sudden you don't have
to think of it strictly as a buffer," Staver told The
(Baltimore) Sun. "It has economic value."
Staver isn't the only one taking a new look at the grass
common to American prairies. President Bush mentioned
it in his 2006 State of the Union address and included
switchgrass-to-energy research in his $289 million Advanced
Switchgrass converts and stores more solar energy per
acre than any of the grain crops being used to produce
ethanol for fuel, according to Canadian researchers.
It holds 66 percent more potential energy than corn,
the most efficient agricultural source of ethanol, according
to Roger Conway, director of energy policy at the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.
Some scientists are working to turn switchgrass into
ethanol fuel. Staver has a simpler idea - just cut it
and burn it.
Article © The Associated Press.
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