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Modern Metal Adventure starts HERE!

6 Jun

It’s just madness, I tell you.

Everyone and their brother is starting their ISBU builds.

And that means that between emails, phones, messages and messenger, we’re getting pounded. LOL!

I’m working on a new project that may be of interest to small families or people looking to build a remote cabin  or waterfront getaway.

I was originally contacted by a Development team in Idaho who wants to build a MODERN destination resort in Colorado. Perched in the mountains overlooking lakes and wildlife, they wanted  to expand on a single ISBU cabin idea that they’d seen in Russia. They supplied us a photograph of that 40′ ISBU cabin. We don’t know anything about it’s origins and we’re doing research now to determine who designed and built this first unit. Whoever they are, they provided us with awe and inspiration! As a single ISBU cabin design, it is a wonderful thing to behold.

We’ve taken that idea and run with it. Add another container alongside the first and you get a really nice 16’x40′ 600+ square foot cabin. By insulating on the exterior and flooring (under the crawlspace)  using SPF, installing high efficiency windows and glazing and using SIPs (structural insulated panels) on the roof, you get a highly efficient structure capable of withstanding both high heat and low cold temperatures. BY adding a photovoltaic farm to the roof (as well as rainwater harvesting) these cabins will operate off-grid.Water is supplied via well and the septic is actually above ground, installed in a 20′ ISBU container that will handle four cabins each.

Here’s a rough render of what I think our Colorado project could look like:

We’re at the very beginning of development but here’s what I want you to consider;

This rental cabin could also make a wonderful 2 bdrm home in the mountains or meadows of America. It would be easily accomplished and the  views could be spectacular. Surrounded by a deck system, the cabin would appear to float on the edge of the meadow. I can imagine how wonderful it’d look perched alongside a beachfront area looking out at magnificent sunsets!

Note that  these two containers are carried by three “Sonotube” type pilings and a concrete foundation in the  rear. (In this case there’s a sub-grade storage access area plus a ramp system for the disabled so concrete walls and footings are being used to carry the ISBUs so that they will form the roof of that structure.)

It should be noted that this foundation system is easily “family built”. You can “sweat equity” this  foundation without a hitch at relatively low costs.

Here’s how it’s done;

These pilings are constructed by digging a hole (usually with an auger) and then dropping round construction forms into them that look like the form depicted here.  A “bell” is usually placed on the bottom of these forms to give the piling a better base. These bases come in several shapes  and sizes and you can find them at the same construction supply store you buy your forms from. The bell shaped base snaps on the bottom of the tube (you usually apply screws to hold it into place) and then you insert the “based piling tube” into your hole.  We add rebar to the pilings to reinforce them and you should consult your structural engineer for the specs.

The containers don’t simply “rest” on top of the pilings. We also insert large J-bolts into the top of the piling so that we can add a steel plate to the top of it. This steel plate, attached to the concrete piling is the base that your ISBU will be welded to to secure it to the foundation. Concrete is poured into the piling and it fills the base at the bottom as well.  Like any concrete component, you’re better off waiting for the concrete to cure. Nobody likes to set containers on “green” (uncured)  pilings! 30 days should do it!

You could just as easily carry this entire structure using pilings and concrete pads. It’d be pretty simple. Because very little site prep is required (as you sit OVER the land and not ON it) it’s an inexpensive solution that eliminates a lot of heavy equipment costs usually associated with construction.

Normally, we’re not big fans of cantilevered containers. The reason is that they’re “harder to fly” without that support. But what you don’t see here is the steel cradle that  carries the front of the containers all the way back to those pilings and foundations. The cantilevered deck is carried by steel cables. No “hanging from thin air” here.

Sitting on the deck, you’re high enough to observe Mother Nature without having to worry about wildlife trying to eat your meals or bother your decking plants. LOL!

A lot of people ask us if we’re doing a lot with Tesla Solar Roof systems now that they’re available to the public. The simple answer is; “No.”

While we love them (and the concept of them in general) I’m still not a big fan of Tesla Solar Roofs simply due to the costs involved in building them into your project.  With Photovoltaic Panels operating at high efficiency for less than a $1 a watt, spending $8 a square foot (or more) for a beautiful Tesla Solar Roof is simply beyond the reach of most building families.

Forbes Magazine recently published this:

The average home in the United States is 2,467 square feet. According to Tesla’s handy solar calculator, the new system will set an average homeowner back $51,200 for a 70% solar roof. The company also recommends purchasing the additional, but optional, Powerwall battery to store all that new energy at $7,000, bringing the grand total of installation to $58,200.

 The percentage of solar paneling is an important metric when deciding if you really want to buy the system. It all depends on a homeowner’s energy needs, if the roof is partly shaded or sunny and how much he or she already spends on electricity each month. When all these things are considered, the ratio of solar paneling and non-solar paneling can greatly vary, as well as the price. For example, if the typical American home only purchases 40% solar tiles the price drops to $36,700, plus the $7,000 battery, totaling $43,700. And that 40% may be all you need. As Tesla noted on its site, “If you choose to increase the portion of your roof covered with solar tiles, your home may generate more electricity than it needs. In this case, you may not realize the full value of energy your Solar Roof produces.”

To help combat the sticker shock, Tesla also noted the tax credits associated with buying solar. For the 70% solar roof, homeowners may be looking at a tax credit of $15,900, while a 40% solar home can expect a $10,000 credit. The company also explained that over 30 years, a 70% solar roof will generate $73,500, meaning a homeowner could net profit $31,200 over 30 years.

But still, the price is a tremendous leap from traditional roofing. According to the calculator provided by Roofing Calculator, to completely replace the average home’s roof with traditional shingles will only set owners back between $9,000- $14,000.

Another added cost is a home’s tax estimates. As senior technology editor at Ars Technica Lee Hutchinson shared on Twitter TWTR -3.62%, “My 2600sqft **HOUSE** only cost $200k. My property taxes would explode w/adding another 50% onto the home’s appraised value.”

Musk immediately, and honestly replied, “This is true. The economics are not yet compelling where housing and utility costs are low and property taxes are high.”

Would I put that really expensive Tesla Solar Roof on my own home in the mountains of Montana? Yes. I’d probably consider it. Combined with the Powerwall battery storage system, I think it’s an incredible solution to explore and before I’d use it on your home, I’d really like to live with it on mine to insure it works without a flaw. Now, also consider that my home includes a design studio and a music studio, so I will be able  to justify the expense of all that power production. I won’t waste any of it with “too many tiles and not enough demand”.

WILL I include it in my own building budget?

It will depend on final pricing and installation costs. I suspect that in all honesty, I’ll probably wait for the second generation of the roof tiles and Powerwall units and that commensurate price drop that will come as production costs begin to decrease. I will have several other structures on the property (including guest houses) that require power and we’ll more than likely select one or more of those structures to experiment with.

Stay tuned to learn more about this project. If current responses are any indicator, it’s going to inspire a lot of cabin and remote builds in the future.

EV – come home!

10 Jan

Here at RR…

Many of us strive for “lives lived sustainably” while deep in the bowels of our garages, we harbor lusty thoughts about Harley’s, Hot Rods and other acts of “motorized mayhem”.

If you’ve read my books on sustainability and alternative housing, you know that I’m on record as saying that “if you have a Tesla Roadster in your garage… I’m probably not the guy you want to talk to about building your sustainable home…”

I mean, a Tesla Roadster never saved anybody any money and it’s not exactly spewing carbon credits out of it’s “mock exhausts”. It’s anything but “sustainable” right?

TeslaRoadster-frontWell, after Tesla announced that they were migrating their new battery technology as upgrades to the Roadster (an EV – electric vehicle – that they no longer even produce) the Tesla Roadster became capable of trips from Los Angeles to San Francisco, nonstop. That’s 400 miles, folks.

Now… I have to eat my words. Elan Musk has officially bitten me on my big Corten butt…

After five years of poking fun at Tesla, I’m eating a little EV crow. I’ve found that if you put enough ketchup on it, you can gag down almost anything…

(I said “almost”… some things remain unpalatable… like McMansions and McDonalds Jalapeno Cheeseburgers… for instance!) LOL!

It’s a sad day, folks…

It’s time I started getting my young son ready for a world where vehicles carry him to and from at high speed – without that throaty exhaust that gave us goosebumps and made us giggle with delight…

Behold, the Broon F8 EV (electric vehicle)!

Broon F8 Electric Car for kidsThe Broon F8 is a “child -sized” masterpiece of sports car engineering and features all the things that you’d expect from a modern day sports car.

The Broon F8 sports slick design, a top-of-the-line power-train complete with an optional dual-motor all-wheel drive, Bluetooth compatibility and a touchscreen tablet control panel. According to CES rumblings, I hear that there are plans to allow you to get it with SIRIUS Satellite Radio. I bet that you can plug your flash drive or iPod into it, too!

I’m also told that the Broon F8 has a governor that limits speed to just under 10mph.

(I’m guessing that a little bit of tinkering will change that to a more suitable speed, as you chase your kid down from behind on your bicycle, or heaven forbid, your Nike’s…) 🙂

Now, I have a little bit of experience with an earlier evolution of child-sized EVs. Back in the day, when my daughter was little, We cannibalized a pair of those kid’s (mostly plastic) electric trucks you can buy at Walmart and turned a “Barbie Hauler” (custom painted bright pink metallic, mind you) into a 4wd electric hot rod capable of chasing me around the block as I went on morning runs. The local thrift store has gotten a pair of them and we scooped them up, thinking that we’d play “Mad Mr Tesla”… many years before Elan’s time…

It took us about two days to figure it out.

Living next door to an Air Force base had it’s advantages, Our rural neighborhood was filled with AF geeks who, when they weren’t manning underground bunkers defending our freedom… were some diabolical SOBs intent on watching little kids teach their dear ole’ Jarhead dads a lesson or six about playing with voltage.

The AF had spent millions of dollars teaching those geeks to “twist” tech into stuff that would make MacGiver look like a simpleton…

Jarheads are always taught to realize the potential of their assets and then “go where no fool has brazenly gone  before…” so we just figured out what kind of beer those geeks drank and the rest was history, as they say…

In fact, we convinced our kid’s moms that we were doing ti to honor automotive history.

I mean, the US Automotive industry was started by electric cars. I’m not even kidding. Until Henry Ford perfected the assembly line, EVs were “the norm” and not “infernal combustion engines” powered by gas or kerosene… The first US auto race ever conducted was won by an EV.

Yes, it was. Look it up.

But I digress…

Rewrapped electric motors to provide a little extra “uumph!”, bumped batteries to feed the beast, a new wiring harness, some paint, leather and custom vinyl decals proclaiming the pink terror to be the fastest “Armed Barbie Truck” on the planet…

Yes, we’d “hood mounted” a paintball gun to it so she could fend off a pair of obnoxious farm dogs down the road (plus a roll cage in case she actually tried to flip the beast) and she was all set to terrorize the neighborhood.

We even let those geeks put their own special squadron insignia on the truck, just to give them a little bit of “street cred”…

By the time we were finished, the lil’ battery powered terror had cost us about $300 in recycled junk and scrap parts (and a case or five of “girly” imported beer consumed by those geeks as we tinkered with my daughter’s new ride). No, we didn’t share our Guinness with them. It would have been wasted on them. They didn’t drink “real” beer at “Aluminum University”.  I know it’s  true. I’ve been there…

Seeing as how the truck (storebought from the local Walmart) would have cost us about $300 new, we were pretty proud of ourselves – as idiot fathers often are.

My little one would rise at 0500 and don her firesuit (yep, we had her a padded driving suit custom made to match the truck complete with “Barbie” name tag as a concession to her angry mother, who knew where we slept and threatened to kill us in our sleep if her little baby got so much as a stone bruise) before she’d climb in, put on her helmet and safety belts and then throw dirt roostertails into my face for several blocks of mostly dirt roads as we ventured out into the countryside in the name of early morning PT sessions the neighbors quickly began referring to as “the silent death”…

We simply called it “chasing health”. 🙂

It was so efficient and so quick that I found I was often the one chasing HER down, all the while eating her dust as she giggled  with glee. I quickly figured out that the damned thing would do 20mph, flat out. I quickly abandoned trying to run her down on foot and switched to my mountain bike.

Luckily, it was so inefficient that it’d run out of power within a few miles and I’d limp into the garage behind her, spitting out mouthfuls of dust as she giggled wickedly at having avoided getting lapped by dear ole’ dad…

When she finally outgrew it, we sold it to a rich neighbor down the road (who should have known better) for a considerable profit.

I’d later heard that he had a heart attack while out jogging behind his grandkid a few years later… but luckily, I’d already moved out of the area, redeployed to “meaner pastures”.

I never liked the guy anyway He was a mean-spirited “smart-assed know-it-all AF corporate cowboy/desk jockey” who annoyed us on a regular basis – usually about the loud noises coming out of our garages as we started our Harleys to ride to work at 0630 each morning…

What? So I’m speaking ill of the dead. Big deal! It’s not like he’s gonna come back from Hell to try and whoop me in my front yard… and I never said I was “nice”… 😉

Fast forward a little more than a decade…

Enter the “new millennia” of pint-sized electric motors…

I give you the Broon F8.

Broon F8 Electric Car interiorOf course, as stated before though, it’s not a real car — it’s a toy for kids. And you better save your pennies as it’s for rich kids. It is quite expensive for a toy — with the laundry list of options putting the estimated price tag between $900 and $1,200 or more. It’s been pointed out that you could actually find a decent used, gas-powered car for that kind of cash.

Okay, so it’s not a $300 “father killer”, but it’s still pretty cool. In my part of Montana we’d have to at least throw some “camo paint” on it and add a brushguard in case the kiddo hits a deer in the driveway…

Now all I need to do is figure out how many more photovoltaic panels I have to add to my array to keep the damned thing running! 🙂

RR Avatar


Oh Magic 8-Ball – What will cities look like in the future?

2 Jan

Here on RR, we talk about “sustainability” a lot.

“Sustainability” is the act of  meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It’s a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony.

A blog contest asks what will occur due to changes in energy, transportation and water technologies, and how will they transform how you live?

What makes up a “sustainable” city exactly? How can a city provide for itself and its citizens in a sustainable matter? That is to say, in a way that doesn’t rapidly invalidate itself, through the exhaustion of the resources that it’s dependent upon.

sustainable city

That’s the question that was posed recently by the Masdar 2015 Engage Blogging Contest — and it’s one worth considering. Despite the outward language used by many in the renewable energy and “green” industries, the question of true “sustainability” is not one that’s often truly broached in any meaningful way (to my mind) by representatives and proponents of said industries.

As an example, while photovoltaics are certainly of great utility and no doubt have a place in the energy infrastructure of many regions/cities throughout the world, there’s no doubt that their manufacture and use depends heavily upon complex supply/trade chains, cheap international shipping, and relatively rare/expensive resources, amongst other things.

Wouldn’t true sustainability be based around simpler, easier-to-implement approaches/technologies — good passive solar building design for example — with more complex technologies perhaps as more of a complement than a foundation?

Read the rest of this great post, HERE.

Meet Corten Coca Cola!

17 Oct

While we scramble to keep things rolling (Vietnam ISBU based assets rolling at the Philippines – earthquake relief operations – and response gear headed for Nebraska and South Dakota – heavy weather rescue operations) we’re watching the news feeds while we put on our logistics hats and try to move mountains and the accompanying mountains of paperwork…

It was only a matter of time.

While some of us “ISBU Geeks” build water treatment facilities into 20′ High Cube ISBUs to allow clean water to be provided in emergency situations, we’ve wondered aloud about WHO would finally twist this and then distribute it to the masses “for a fee”…

Leave it to the Coca Cola people to figure out how to monetize it.

Ekocenter ISBUs

Ekocenter by Coca Cola

We’ve been hearing about this for a while. Finally, we’ve seen photographs of the prototype.

So without further adieu, here we go;

Coca Cola recently announced that they’ve partnered with Deka R&D (Dean Kamen is the driving force behind it, the guy who invented the Segway) to build and deploy something called “Ekocenter”… shipping containers that will be converted into water purification stations. They’re going to build 2,000 of these boxes and distribute them globally.

These water purification stations (powered by photovoltaic panels) will work using a process called “vapor compression distillation” to turn unsafe water into drinkable water.

Kamen calls this system “Slingshot”. Here’s what it looks like;

Slingshot System

Slingshot Water Purification Unit by Deka R&D

More importantly, here’s how it WORKS:

People at Coca Cola claim that each Ekocenter box (which uses about the same amount of electricity as a hand-held hair dryer) will produce 225 gallons of safe drinking water daily.

Okay, at 225 gallons per day, that means that several of these stations will be required “per village” to supply enough drinkable water to the local populations.

Note that we’re only talking about drinking water. No bathing, no washing of clothing, nada. This is strictly targeted at providing water for consumption. Note the output. We’re talking about the potential for providing a safe daily water supply for a small village/community of families.

I have a pal (named after a US President, right Madison?) who is building a small ISBU based Island Resort using 20′ ISBUs as structure, This kind of water purification would be ideal, if you could increase the output and then get the costs per unit down enough to make it affordable.

Here in “Container Junction” what we hope to see is some breakthrough in the costs of building the actual filtration systems. If you can build enough of these units, the price drops significantly, right? That means that at some point, families could actually own and operate these to insure that their families had clean drinkable water, almost anywhere on the planet. Using a 20′ ISBU as a platform means that they can then be hauled virtually anywhere using standards modes of transportation. Further, looking at WHERE Coca Cola (mostly 3rd World locations at first) will drop these, the filtration systems will probably be “canister based” and easily swapped out. That means virtually anyone will be able to handle the initial set up (the unit  is basically self-contained) and the “basic” maintenance required to keep it operating with safe margins.

Further, people at Coca Cola say that  they’ll utilize a “female entrepreneurial workforce” to staff these water boxes. Why do they specify this “target workforce?” Is it philanthropic? Are they focusing on a neglected workforce? Or…

As Coca Cola is notorious for their “promotions”, I can just imagine how this is going to play out.  Remember those brightly dressed girls at the food court bouncing up and down in those lemon-aid shops? I can just see it now… Oy. What a nightmare… I really hope I’m wrong. I want to be REALLY Wrong, here.

Coca Cola wants these boxes to serve as communal hubs, providing activities, charging opportunities for hand-held  devices, Internet access (wifi hot spots)  public education and even distribution of medical services through furnished refrigerators dedicated to task.

Coca Cola says they want to deploy enough of these boxes globally to provide 132 million gallons of clean water per year to the population by 2015.

While we applaud Coco Cola’s efforts, we’re wondering what they are going to charge these impoverished people for the “products”. Clearly, these boxes are “commerce models”.

Ekocenter GOODS

Ekocenter – Corten Coca Cola Commerce ISBU (try saying THAT three times fast!) – Globally distributed – Coming to a village near you!

Note the shelves stocked with food and beverages in the background of some of the photographs. While we hope it’s “predominantly humanitarian”  we also recognize the significant costs involved, seeing as how we’re doing similar things with water purification n a much smaller scale, ourselves.

We’re thinking that Coca Cola will deploy these as “for-profit franchises”. I can’t imagine what the unit maintenance costs will be like.

Will Coca Cola Corp subsidize the operations?

Are there going to be grants and endowments involved in these operations? Government subsidies, perhaps?

Are these boxes going to be permanently affixed to foundations? HOW do you secure a box that can be picked up and carried off by an average sized tractor??

So many questions…

Time will tell…

RR Avatar Want to help us reach out to families in need? Right now, we’re raising money to pay for the diesel fuel that will allow tractor trailers to move gear to places where it’s needed most. You can Paypal donations to “”  Please earmark your donations as “Fuel For Food”. We’ll see that the “Corten Cavalry” gets every penny.

Image Credits – Gizmag, Coca Cola Corporation and Deka R&D.

A friend in need…

28 Aug

A friend of RenaissanceRonin, Steve Spence (one of those “genius techie guru” types) sent me a message today to let me know that his wife got banged up in an accident and needs our help;

“Linda was rear ended today, necessitating a trip to the ER. Found out she has arthritis of the spine, which the accident aggravated. 3 days of bed rest and pain killers. Need to sell $60 worth of ebooks to cover prescriptions.

Can you help get the word out?”

Check out his treasure trove of self sufficiency and renewable energy ebooks here;

This guy really is a wealth of information. If you can, please check him out and help him and his family at the same time.



RR Avatar


Energy bills killing you? What does it cost to go Solar?

13 Feb

As we move forward into 2013, one of the big tasks ahead of us is actually building a large photovoltaic array to power our home and barns.

I was talking to a friend recently about panels and he send me this Infographic about Solar (Photovoltaic) Power.

I thought I’d share it with you.


I’d suggest that you use this a guideline. I’ve personally found prices to be significantly lower in Colorado and Montana.  Your mileage may vary.

If you’d like to find out more, you can contact the folks at “One Block Off The Grid” for more assistance;


The Renaissance Ronin

My favorite color isn’t even “GREEN”…

26 Jan

People give me grief because I illustrate my angst at “the  greenies” using Tesla.

I’m NOT talking about Nikola Tesla, either.

Let’s clear the air,  shall we?

I LOVE Tesla Roadsters. I love the look, I love the engineering and I love the vibe…

Seriously, what’s not to like?

But, these guys who buy them say things like;

“I cannot understand why anyone would want to go any faster than I can in my Tesla Roadster – which does not pollute the planet and is 100% recyclable. 0-60 in less than 4 secs and max 125 mph is enough for me – and driving has never felt safer or more fun.”

It’s nonsense.

While Teslas are cool rides… you can’t really call a Tesla a “TRULY GREEN” solution. A Tesla pollutes the planet just as much as any other  gas chugging vehicle on the road… as soon as they hit the recharging station.

Where does electricity come from? What gets dumped into the air by those power plants? Eh?

That’s right. Say my name…. baby… 🙂

The only way that a Tesla lives up to it’s name is if it’s being recharged by photovoltaic panels, hydroelectric or a wind turbine. How often does THAT actually happen? Less than 5% of the time, based on statistics.

So, realistically, you  might as well be driving a Bentley or a large SUV.

Does that mean that I think they should stop building them? Heaven’s no. I think that they should build MORE recharging stations that take the load OFF the grid, to support them. It’ll happen… someday.

A guy I know has an electric pickup truck sitting in his front yard. He actually found the truck on Craigslist. He’s halfway there. All he needs now is a dedicated recharger based on PVs… and he’ll get there, because HE gets it and he knows the magic word…. GEEKS. He’s got some crafty guys in his gallery…

I have a set of the electric motors and drive units that they put on those big “Aircraft trolleys”. Those puppies can pull around 747’s like they were toys.  This time next year, we’ll have a pair of trucks to use around the farm, charged by the Sun.

nikola tesla And, I always thought that the name “TESLA” was satire, because it kinda makes a mockery of the life that Nikola Tesla dedicated himself – to as he both invented and drove a car over 3,000 miles across the US in 1903 on electricity being harnessed from…  the ether/air…

In fact, the reason that Tesla isn’t a household word is that Nickola wanted to develop his electricity program and GIVE AWAY the electricity for free. His investors didn’t like the idea…  because they couldn’t make any money… 😦

Okay, I’m not gonna get any Christmas cards from the guys  at Tesla. I’m not looking to pick a fight with them, I just realize that the system  is “flawed”.

Beyond that, a lot of people who buy Tesla’s remind me of people who buy Prius cars. They seem to think that they are “different”.

I’m not looking for differences in people, folks. I’m looking for the things that they have in common.

We live in a “land divided”.

WE could use a little healing…

The Renaissance Ronin

Is RONIN going bye-bye?

3 Jan

Lately, people have been contacting us, concerned about WHERE “RR” is headed…

Here’s one of the latest emails;

“Dear Ronin,

You know we love you. You’re like the “Moses of Metal”. You’re leading many of our families thru the wilderness, toward what we all hope will be “The Promised Land”, that utopia where we are freed from the shackles and chains of mortgages as we try to survive oppression…

I saw a recent Television Interview that you did, where you talked about how a LOT of your current business is devoted to the “energy sector”.

We all know that you’re a huge proponent of Photovoltaic Power, but it was clear in the interview that you were heavily invested in relationships with oil/gas exploration groups.

Oil hasn’t moved around a lot since the Peak Oil days (’08) except DOWN…

Yet… you’ve moved a lot of your focus onto oil/gas housing projects and industrial buildings. I have to ask Why?


Worried about you”

I get a lot of these, frankly. People are concerned that our work in the oil fields of the United States, Canada, Mexico and even the Bering Sea have taken us away from our goals for housing families globally.

Relax. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Working with oil and gas groups PAYS our bills as we continue to keep helping families in need. If we had to rely on the proceeds from ISBU based family residential work, we’d have to close up shop and then get real jobs…

We’ve yet to break even on ONE family build. We’re not doing it to make money. We’re doing it to help families remain SAFE.

It could be said that our oil and gas work subsidizes our efforts to help strengthen families.

While it’s quite true that 2013 will probably mark the end of triple-digit oil prices, the good news is that there’s a lot of oil to recover. Cheap oil isn’t “BAD” oil. Far from it…

Here’s just one example of what’s going on;


Looks like USO is getting pounded, doesn’t it? Despite the rallies, there’s another story to tell.

It’s admittedly bumpy out there. But what a lot of people are missing is that the Geopolitical climate and the tension it’s created have actually promoted a strong, vibrant oil industry in America.

Oil WILL drop below $90 a barrel. In fact, it will probably drop lower and it’ll continue to decline in the next few years.

Here’s why I think this will happen;

First, we’ve increased our domestic oil production in areas like the Bakken Fields and Eagle Ford. Folks, there’s more oil there than Carter has little green pills.  We’re talking HUGE reserves.

By 2015, industry analysts (Guys lie the National Assoc of Business Economists) expect domestic oil production in the United States to exceed    11 MILLION barrels of oil PER DAY.

By 2020, that number will rise to approach 14 million barrels daily.

This means that America will no longer be dependent on ANYONE other than itself for energy. We’re talking energy independence and I’m not kidding.

I read recently (I’ve been spending a lot of time in bed lately due to a health issue, so all I can do is read…) that according to the US Dept of Energy, we actually exported more oil than we imported in 2011. This hasn’t happened since 1949.

The days of U.S. dependence on “foreign oil” are just about over. And, it’s not without by-products (if we can keep those bozos on the Beltway from screwing it all up). We’ll see;

  1. lower energy prices,
  2. a stronger domestic economy (due to job creation and income infusions), and
  3. a more stable  geo-political climate.

Will the “environmentalists” stop this from happening?

No. Oil exploration and production will continue to grow in the country as the federal government devises new, farther expanding, more definitive energy policies over the next few years… if for no other reason so that the lobbies and PACs will continue to help them get re-elected… and so that THEY can personally reap the benefits that oil will create.

Anyone who thinks otherwise is frankly, naive.

Remember,  there’s no real “insider trading” morality or illegality in Congress or the Senate. They can act on what they hear, while they sculpt the policy defining it, at the same time as they legislate it.

How do you think all these politicians enter politics “poor like us” and then emerge several terms later with more gold than King Midas?

Doesn’t sound fair, doesn’t it? Hmmm? Don’t even get me started…  

Beyond that, one of the things that has hampered America’s Energy policy for years  is the dependence on “foreign oil”. Most of it flows through a place called the Persian Sea. America has tolerated Iran’s actions for a long time, due to the requirement of free-flowing oil through the Straits of Hormuz.

I’ve personally been there many, many times. It’s the ONLY open water source that connects the Persian Sea to the oceans that connects the rest of the world to that oil.

The knee bone’s connected to the shin bone… 🙂

But an expanded oil production capability in the US essentially renders Iran moot. Why do you think that there is so much hate and nonsense coming out if Iran? They KNOW that they are slowly being rendered “insignificant”. It’s now about “positioning”. They’re trying to get what they can, while they still have the leverage to get it.

IMHO – Iran can get as belligerent as it wants. Iran’s saber-rattling will have less value as more and more US oil comes from internal sources. Sooner or later, that “leisure suit wearing poltroon” will step over the line and when he does…

Can you say “airstrikes?” 

Okay, I’m gonna “wax political” here for just a second. Don’t like it? Cover your eyes…

Obama and Hillary may not have the stomach for a fight (IMHO – what happened in Bengazi is proof of that), but the Israeli’s? They are born and bred warriors who are more than willing to hand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad his butt…

“Political Rant” over. You can breathe now. 🙂

Germany is struggling. France is in recession. Greece, Ireland and Spain are all tearing themselves apart financially. That means that global demand for oil will drop.  That means more oil for us.  Or does it?

China is rapidly expanding their manufacturing and that will drive further requirements for petroleum by-products. If you have ANYTHING made of injection molded plastic in your house, it probably came from China.

They have to buy their oil somewhere. Canada does HUGE business with the Chinese by producing oil on the other side of the Bakken… Want to bet that we (US Oil/Gas Groups) do likewise? In fact, if something terrible was to happen in the US and the country fell apart (as some of the Doomsayers predict) , I bet the Canadians would be happy to buy oil from us.

The Energy Sector never sleeps folks. Someone always needs energy.

This means that American oil/gas companies will continue to fuel the nation and the economy. Here in Montana – where I live – 1 in 7 people actually work either IN the Bakken Fields or for a vendor /industry that supports it – commuting back and forth like salmon spawning upstream…

That means there’s plenty of demand for realistic, strong, sustainable housing… Housing that will subsidize our work helping families like yours and mine globally, as we build our own Corten Castles…

So while it’s ironic that a group that urges families to turn from “oil, nuke and coal” and install photovoltaics or wind turbines is being pushed forward by those oil guys…

We can assure you that we’re going to be around for a while, in part because of oil/gas company dependence on US to provide strong, durable housing for their workers.  In fact, I have 5 years worth of contracts piling up on my desk.

So, don’t you worry…

When you need us, we’ll be there. 🙂

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin

It’s the end of the world as we know it… and other historic “Nigerian Lottery Scams”

21 Dec

If  you can read this… then you’re probably gonna make it through the day, just fine.

Alex has been forced to take some time off.

Readers of the blog know that he recently tried to belch up his chest contents and blew his eyes out in the process. Too many hours, too much work, too little sleep and intake of food. You either do what needs to be done, or a mountain falls on you. So, while he gets some rest, we’re taking temporary control of the helm.

It’s a good thing that Alex takes extensive notes… We’re pillaging his notebook and ISBU journals as you read this.

We think this  “End of Times” myth pretty overrated…

… but there are those among us that will party today until their brain cells cry out in anguish, so that their owners can have one last “alcohol fueled fling” before the planet goes dark, or implodes, or does whatever planets do when they get sick and tired of the parasites that infest them… LOL!

But just in case the world doesn’t end… just in case the Mayan Calendar and it’s alleged “prophecies” was really just their version of a “Nigerian Lottery Letter” scam…

Alex talks a lot about “The Bottom Billion”.

It’s simply the “defining and then developing of processes and systems that help support people worldwide” – people that lack safe shelter, clean water, reliable electricity and good sanitation.

In our words, this also includes ANYWHERE on the planet immediately after a natural disaster.

  • Tsunamis.
  • Earthquakes.
  • Hurricanes.
  • Tornadoes.

Each of these naturally occurring events create an almost exact simulation of how MANY in the world live daily.

Much of what Alex does is targeted at insuring the provision of those conditions necessary to improve the standard of living for people scattered across the globe.

You’d be amazed at his phone log. One day he’s talking to guys hanging out on the beach in the Caribbean, the next he’s talking to “Heads of State” or   various foreign Government officials staffing UN Committees on “The Housing Crisis in the Third World”…

As we’ve talked about on-going projects (their numbers are legion and frankly, we’re exhausted…) we’ve been getting email from naysayers who cannot fathom HOW a family can “up and move into undeveloped areas… aka: “the boonies”.  

They cannot imagine how you could possibly consider moving from “Suburbia” to a place “less traveled” to gain a higher level of sustainability, responsibility and self-reliance.

We liken these people to ostriches, their heads stuck up… um… er… in the sand, or their lips firmly attached to the straws that deliver the “Kool-Aid Du Jur”… they number among those of us who regularly cut off their own noses to spite their faces…

Tanjung Batu Laut - trimmed
Those who cut off the branches of technology instead of embracing them…

Making life changing decisions is indeed “hard”. It’s a quest taken on by many that begins in those life-changing moments when they realize that the only real form of continued happiness for most rational people involves either;

  • a move to greener pastures several off-ramps from the nearest relatives…
  • better healthcare and stronger medication, or
  • a procedure called a “pre-frontal lobotomy”.

For the rest of us, those who have the inner strength and fortitude to saddle up and voyage to places less traveled, it’s just a matter of  lacing up our boots and then overcoming the obstacles.

And to those who think us crazy or (gasp!) “anti-social”… know that we’re just smart enough to build ladders to allow us to get to the fruit at the top of the tree that most of you lazy (expletive deleted) people miss! 🙂

Tanjung Batu Laut1

That leads us to today’s post;

(I bet you never thought we’d get here, hmmm?)

So, you want to live off-grid, but you’re afraid that “the obstacles” will stop you…

And, you’re not going to harness the mule to that Conestoga by your “onesies”. You’re also gonna haul your children, their families,  your mother in law and your idiot brother in law complete with his entire tribe of intellectually challenged, thumb-fingered, always arriving right as you’re sitting down to a nice home cooked meal, beer stealing… um… oh gawd… where did that come from? 🙂

Relax, you can do it…

The village of Tanjung Batu Laut seems to grow out of a mangrove swamp on an island off the coast of Malaysian Borneo. It’s a place that looks much like the mangrove-strangled beaches of the South Florida coast popular with so many Americans.

It’s about as remote as you could possibly imagine. We’re talking “third world” with several exclamation points. Zero Culture. Insects large enough to carry off your young! Little in the definition of “sophistication”…

And Tantung Batu Laut is pretty remote, too! 🙂

(Gawd, we’re gonna get “hate mail” from places like Naples and Ft Myers, FL… I can just see it now…) LOL!

The houses, propped up over the water on stilts, are cobbled together from old plywood, corrugated steel and rusted chicken wire.

If I didn’t know better, I’d venture that these homes were constructed after a vacation trip to America’s Louisiana Bayou, but I could be wrong… 🙂

But if you walk inland a little bit, daring gnats and mosquitoes who will certainly try to use you as a “fluid filled pin cushion”…

… you reach a small clearing covered with an array of a hundred solar panels mounted atop bright new metal frames. Caution will insist that you keep your eyes focused on your feet as thick cables transmit power from the panels into a sturdy building with brand new doors and energy efficient windows.

Beg entry, step inside, take a deep breath and you’ll discover that you’re in another world, a world where high humidity gives was to cool, dry air.

Welcome to the world of “Micro-Grids”.

It’s reminiscent of a Sci-fi movie… one where a mad scientist lives in “isolation”, surrounded by a gaggle of local, exotic, curvaceous lovelies that assist him as he uses advanced science to interrupt Darwin’s plans for evolution by tinkering with the DNA of the local monkeys – to breed a new form of life, one that won’t drink all his beer, return his truck with an empty fuel tank,  or borrow his tools and never return them…

Wait… that’s not it… 🙂

You’ll actually see fluorescent lights illuminate a row of steel cabinets holding flashing lights and computer displays.

The building is the control center for a small, two-year-old power-generating facility that provides electricity to the approximately 200 people in the village.

Computers manage power coming from the photovoltaic (PV) panels (as well as an occasional assist from  diesel generators) storing some of the generated power in large lead-acid batteries while distributing most of the power out into a grid connecting a growing local populace. You should know that before this power station was built, the locals fortunate to be able to afford it relied on small diesel generators to make all their own power. The rest of the populace lived in the dark.


Much has changed with the introduction of the MPS (Microgrid Power Station). Many of the corrugated-steel roofs in the village sport small satellite TV dishes. Many of these modest homes – with sagging roofs and crude holes in the walls for windows – contain flat-screen televisions, ceiling fans, power-hungry appliances like irons and rice cookers, and devices that need to run day and night, like freezers.

Tanjung Batu LautOn any given Saturday afternoon in paradise, kids wander around sporting crocodile smiles shaped by cool wedges of watermelon they purchase locally from a small “grocery store” tucked neatly into  a tin-roofed shack complete with a refrigerator to keep “those most coveted of childhood treats” ice cold.

Just thinking about it makes me want to be a kid again.

Now all the residents of this little “semi- solated community” have virtually unlimited power 24 hours a day.

Folks, this isn’t “unreachable technology” targeted for “masses with millions” or for those backed by grants from the United Nations”.

The components for this life-changing event are available off the shelf. It’s not a “custom power application” designed by Rocket Scientists who demand that you pony up piles of gold bullion in exchange for them.

No roads lined with power poles?


Miles from the nearest power tower?


With Photovoltaic panels now easily obtainable for less than $1 a watt. systems can be built almost anywhere (above ground) that can provide power, refrigeration, conditioned air and even reliable commerce zones.

Sure, you can call it your own personal “Rural Electrification Program”if it makes you feel “special”… 🙂

Is it “expensive”?

Yes, taking the bull by the horns costs a little bit of money.

You’re going to have to sell off that third car in your driveway or wait until next year to buy that new BMW.

But, know also that your new freedom gained by this simple embrace of technology has about 1,357,228 fewer moving parts and requires literally almost ZERO maintenance – once properly implemented.

You won’t need a $100 an hour mechanic equipped with a rolling cabinet full of specialized tools to resolve issues. High School kids regularly put these systems together as class projects.  (Of COURSE they have proper supervision.)

PV (Photovoltaic) Power Systems are an integral part of what we do here at RR. 

WE often ship systems similar to this, housed in 20′ ISBUs that can be deployed in hours to begin making power…DURING the building process. Unpack the box, assemble the frames, mount the panels, connect the dots and then use the ISBU as a”Power Shed” that is secured and ready to run… regardless of the incoming weather.

And there are a LOT of other guys and gals looking hard at using this kind of power generation system to help get them out into “sustainable, affordable living”.

Heck, even guys like Steve Spence can do it… 🙂

(In fact, if you’re thinking about building your own Photovoltaic based power system, and you reside on the East Coast of the US,  – STEVE is a great place to start that planning.

The guy’s a treasure trove of information and he can guide you down the path to enlightenment without being forced to pull out his “big gun” vocabulary of three and four syllable words…

Now we suspect that the lack of big words comes from the fact that he hails from the “Carolina’s”… but he’ll probably tell you that his use of small words makes advanced concepts in power generation embraceable to”simpletons like us…” 

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. )  🙂

The point is… with some forethought, you can indeed move anywhere you can find clean water, IF you have the drive, the courage and the desire to get out there beyond “a 10 minute drive by your relatives”.

Now get out there and live the good life… in spite of those who would watch you fail.

:RR Staff

Have you heard about “Project SolarStrong”?

3 Dec

U.S. Army Housing to Get Solar Panel Makeover Courtesy Project SolarStrong

By Vince Font, Contributing Editor

Department of Defense Designates Fort Bliss a “Net Zero Installation”

Salt Lake City, UT — Having the stated objective of achieving 25 percent reliance on renewable energy by the year 2025, the Department of Defense is already off and running in pursuit of that goal. Thanks to the combined efforts of SolarCity and Balfour Beatty Communities, plans are currently in motion to install rooftop solar panels on 4,700 military homes at Fort Bliss, Texas and neighboring White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in New Mexico. The solar equipment that is set to generate up to 13.2 megawatts of capacity when completed will be leased to the Department of Defense by SolarCity, which will perform installation as well as maintenance.

Operating under the moniker SolarStrong, the project is the largest phase to date of SolarCity’s five-year plan to build more than $1 billion of solar projects for approximately 120,000 residential homes on military bases throughout the country…

[Editor’s note: I’m guessing that they’ll add an “extraction clause” to the contracts so that if Texas secedes from the Union, they can pull the power off the roofs… ] 🙂

Read the rest of this post, HERE.