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SG-W:/ Sustainable Community Project
The Sustainable Community
The power problems in
California and the forecasted increases in gas prices here are just indications
of the general energy problem which will come back again and again. No new
invention, fusion, nuclear energy, hydrogen, solar cells, fuel cells, hybrid
cars, windmills, biomass, or any other possible source or device can replace
fossil fuels in the quantities we are using now. The events of the next 30 years
will change our economy and culture forever. There is a war going on between us
and those little children we pretend to love and the children are losing. Our
attachment to houses and cars is going to kill them. It is difficult to get the
average citizen to understand how this problem will devastate the lives of the
small children of today and their progeny. The only way our society can survive
is by conserving energy, fertilizer, land, and raw materials to the utmost. A
simplistic formula for survival for say 200 years would be to cut consumption by
70% and then get 10% each from solar, wind, and biomass.
Planned Communities that integrate conservation,
agriculture, manufacturing, and eliminate the need for cars are the only way
that humans will be able to survive. It is important to start cooperatives so
that these communities can be financed and built. The community must be formed
of large buildings such as apartments which use shared walls and ceilings to
save heating energy. Farming, dwelling, schools, jobs, and manufacturing must be
integrated so that most transportation is by foot or bicycle. The use of solar,
wind, and biomass energy must be used to the fullest extent in the buildings.
Even in the present ostrich culture, there is one
project that is small enough that with just a little public support could really
happen. This is a research oriented Sustainable Community built around a single
condominium, which I call an Ecomindium. This project could be helped by a gift
from the city of about ten acres for the project at the landfill site on
Ellsworth road. One arrangement for the building would be four apartments on
each floor arranged in a square, two or three stories, eight or twelve
apartments, and a full basement used as communal space. A separate underground
room would serve as a powerhouse and workshop. I would estimate that the
building could be easily financed if each apartment were sold at $150,000. In
addition to the basic building there would have to be many experimental features
that would be built as individually financed projects. The objective would be to
ultimately enable the building to stand alone on energy and resources derived
from the 10 acres. In supplying utilities all systems would rely on both
experimental and conventional means so that service could be maintained even
with a failure.
All processing of sewage should take
place on site. This permits the sewage to be used for making biogas for energy,
fertilizer, irrigation, and recycled water. No water or sewage lines would be
needed for the building. Septic tanks, digestion tanks, filters, and plant bed
filters would all be parts of the system. Water input to the system would be
from wells, a cistern, and from recycled water. All outputted water would be
used for agriculture. All sewage solids and ashes would be used for animal feed
and for fertilizer. All soaps and detergents used must be
The two processes, Combined Heat, and
Power (CHP), and Combined Heat and Manufacturing (CHM) are essential to survival
in winter in a cold climate. Conversion of grain to ethanol can be made energy
effective by doing the process only in winter as a CHM process. Grain to alcohol
could then become a possible means of obtaining tractor fuel. It is essential to
use heat more than once. The ordinary furnace is totally inefficient. One
objective of the project should be to develop as many CHM processes as
Although wind velocity in this area is not
high enough for cost effectiveness there should be experiments on windmills. One
objective should be to pump or compress rather than to generate electricity.
This increases the cost effectiveness of the mill because the mill is cheaper
and because the work is done more directly.
would be solar electric panels and a battery set up to furnish emergency
lighting. Also solar heat panels would furnish about 25% of the heat in winter
and some of the hot water for most of the year.
most important energy project would be a boiler heated by focused solar energy.
The boiler might be located on the roof of a building while the focused solar
mirror might be some distance away. The boiler would drive a steam
engine-alternator combination. Such an arrangement has the possibility of
creating electricity, air conditioning, hot water, and winter heat. The mirror
set up could also provide heat for biomass processing experiments.
An obvious fact is that solar and wind energy work
only part of the time. This means that biomass must fill in most of the gaps.
Therefore there is essential link between energy and agriculture. Every bit of
the biomass waste grown on the allotted space must be made into energy. Also
crops must be planted which have both good food and good energy value. If there
is an initial shortage of biomass then the city could furnish biomass in the
form of wood chips, wood chunks, leaves, grass clippings, and sorted waste paper
to the project. Pollution should be carefully monitored and designed for. Biogas
from the sewage system and synthesis gas from the gasification of wood and other
biomass would provide gas to an engine generator. This system would provide
electric power and heat in winter. There would also be experiments to convert
biomass to methanol (fuel for plowing) in a small installation.
If this project were to obtain the support of the
various educational institutions such as U of M, EMU, MSU, WCC, Wayne State, and
the various high schools then the experimental projects could be funded by
proposals to the government. Students would work on the projects and get class
credit for them. Each project might form the basis of a marketable device and
could start job making essential industries. This would greatly increase the
prestige of local universities. The project would also assist the city in
finding uses for solid and liquid waste.
Without projects like this one there can be no bearable life for our progeny.
There will never be a replacement for fossil fuels in the quantity that we have
now. The energy cost of transportation will make local manufacturing, schools,
employment, and farming essential. Please help me make this happen so my
grandchildren can survive.