In Welcome to Newtopia, I introduced a rough outline of a plan for a self-sustaining community of 50 households. In this instalment we consider our energy needs. By energy, I mean the utiliies that we use in our everyday life. I will restrict this discussion to Electricity, water and fuel.
It goes without saying that heavy reliance will be placed on solar solutions. With more than 80% of days being sunny in South Africa, we would be foolish not to take advantage of this freely-available resource. Each household would provide all of their own electricty needs by solar power. Solar geyers for hot water and solar panels providing the remaining power needed for lighting and electronic equipment. As mentioned in the first instalment, our homes will be flexible and physically move to pick up the optimal suns rays. The roofs of the house will be literally tiled in solar panels each with a small, energy efficient photo-electric motor which will, by means of sensors, tilt and angle the panel towards the sun, much like the leaf on a tree.
No communal electricty generation will necessary, as each unit will be energy self-sufficient. That is the dairy, bakery, brewery etc. will each be designed with it’s own local energy source.
You will probably have noticed that I have not included cooking in the uses of our domestic electricity. That is because we will use gas exclusively for all domestic cooking. And where will this gas come from? Did you know, that as a family, whether you are a single person, or a husband and wife with 5 children, you produce enough waste to provide for all of your cooking requirements? Each household will have a biogas digester which provides an on-site water-borne sanitation system as well as a an integrated organic kitchen and garden waste recycling opportunity. Biogas digesters are airtight containers in which water, organic wastes and faeces are converted to methane by anaerobic bacteria. Another by-product of this process is carbon dioxide which we will have to deal with. A bio-digester is illustrated below.
Carbon emissions have to be dealt with at this stage. Our self-sustaining community (SSC) is planned for the Garden Route in South Africa, which fortunately still has some pristine virgin forest left. We need to leave most, if not all, of the existing trees on our property intact to mop up the carbon dioxide which we will, despite our best efforts, produce. We can supplement this natural scrubber by “artificial trees” or other means of removing from the atmosphere as much, if not more, of the carbon dioxide we produce. Each household should thus also have one of these “scrubbers” which uses Sodium Hyroxide to remove CO2.
Insofar as water is concerned, we are also fortunate here in that we have one of the highest annual rainfall figures in South Africa, and not one drop should go to waste. Each household will have a water catchment plan, collecting water from the roof top and other flat surfaces and channeling it to water tanks. Like electricty, each household must, of necessity, be totally independant insofar as water is concerned.
For farming and food production we also need a communal source of water. Any sloped piece of ground must be used for water collection and this might result in one big dam or many smaller ones. This water could be supplemented by boreholes which could be used in emergencies only, as the pumps consume energy and we lower the water table. Any pumps used here and on our fish farm should thus be solar powered.
Diesel motors should be kept to an absolute minimum and where deemed necessary, should only make use of bio-diesel which we produce on-site. Bio-diesel can be produced from many sources, but we must guard against using valuable farmland to produce crops such as soya, purely for bio-diesel. Rather bio-diesel should be a by-product of an existing activity. Take our fish farm as an example. We have to deal with waste. One solution would be to use our effluent as fertiliser for hydroponic greenhouse crops such as tomatoes. Even after this, we still have waste water which has to be treated futher before we can re-use it for our fish. One method is to run the water through an algael pond which cleans the water further. This algae can be regularly harvested and used for our bio-diesel production.
As you can see, these discussions are far from conclusive, and are presented merely to spark debate. PLEASE comment below.