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SG-W:/ Sustainable Community Project

Suscomvp.201               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 fertilizers
     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 possible.
     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.
     There 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.
     The 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.
         Kermit Schlansker PE     971 5283    kssustain@provide.net