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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! 🙂

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Say goodbye to cheap Solar Panels…

22 Dec

If you live in the USA, your Solar Panels just got more expensive.

Jennifer Runyon is chief editor of and Renewable Energy World magazine, coordinating, writing and/or editing columns, features, news stories and blogs for the publications. She also serves as conference chair of Renewable Energy World Conference and Expo, North America. She holds a Master’s Degree in English Education from Boston University and a BA in English from the University of Virginia.

This article content was originally published on

This is too important NOT to pass on:

Yesterday the U.S. Department of Commerce announced its final findings in the 3-year long trade war between the U.S. and China. Additional tariffs will be imposed on modules from China and Taiwan. Although this is good news for SolarWorld and other American solar PV manufacturers, many in the U.S. solar industry are not celebrating and the decision is expected to further divide an already shaken solar industry.

solarworld-solar-panels-lgSpecifically, Commerce determined that imports of certain crystalline silicon PV products from China have been sold in the U.S. at dumping margins ranging from 26.71 percent to 165.04 percent and that imports of certain crystalline silicon PV products from Taiwan have been sold in the U.S. at dumping margins ranging from 11.45 percent to 27.55 percent.  Finally, Commerce determined that imports of certain crystalline silicon PV products from China have received countervailable subsidies ranging from 27.64 percent to 49.79 percent.  Named in the suit, Trina Solar (TSL) and Renesola (SOL)/Jinko (JKS) received final dumping margins of 26.71 percent and 78.42 percent, respectively. Commerce also found that 43 other exporters qualified for a separate rate of 52.13 percent (PDF of fact sheet here lists all 43 exporters beginning on page 7.)

The China-wide entity received a whopping final dumping margin of 165.04 percent — this is for companies that did not cooperate with the investigation.

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

In the Taiwan AD (anti-dumping) investigation, mandatory respondents Gintech and Motech received final dumping margins of 27.55 percent and 11.45 percent, respectively. All other producers/exporters in Taiwan received a final dumping margin of 19.50 percent.

In the CVD (countervailing duty) investigation, Commerce calculated a final subsidy rate of 49.79 percent for mandatory respondent Trina Solar. Mandatory respondent Suntech and five of its affiliates (see final subsidy rates chart at the bottom of this article) received a final subsidy rate of 27.64 percent. All other producers/exporters in China have been assigned a final subsidy rate of 38.72 percent.

Next, U.S. Department of Commerce will investigate if the dumping injured U.S. manufacturing. If injury is found to have occurred, the tariffs will stay.  If no injury is determined, the investigation will be terminated. That decision will be made on or about January 29, 2015. However, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will immediately begin to collect cash deposits equal to the applicable weighted-average dumping margins. If injury is not found, the money collected will be refunded.

The solar petitioner in the case, SolarWorld (SRWRF), applauded the decision. The company said that by comprehensively addressing the unfair trade practices of China and Taiwan, Commerce has paved the way for expansion of solar manufacturing in U.S. market.  Makesh Dulani, U.S. President of SolarWorld Americas believes the tariffs set the stage for companies to create new jobs and build or expand factories in the U.S. Last month, SolarWorld announced that it was expanding its Oregon factory and adding about 200 jobs.

seia_logoRhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), said the ruling is “ill-advised” and feels that it will harm many and benefit few. “We remain steadfast in our opposition because of the adverse impact punitive tariffs will have on the future progress of America’s solar energy industry.  It’s time to end this costly dispute, and we’ll continue to do our part to help find a win-win solution,” he said.

The Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) thinks the decision will raise prices and kill jobs and believes the decision is in direct opposition to the pledges recently made by the U.S. and China to work together to curb global warming. “Hundreds of megawatts of solar projects remain unrealized due to deleterious solar trade barriers in the U.S., China, Europe and globally. Eliminating taxes in cleantech trade represents the lowest-hanging fruit in the global fight against climate change,” said Jigar Shah, President of CASM.

All of this contention comes at the heels of a recent announcement that the U.S. solar industry is on track to install 41 percent more solar in Q4 2014 than it did in 2013.  In total, the U.S. is expected to install 6.5 gigawatts of solar in 2014, a 36 percent increase over last year.

If you’re planning Solar Panel Power Options… you need to keep an eye on this.

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Ethiopia is “off-grid”, right?

22 Apr

Here at “Sustainability Central”, we “push purpose and technology” to document tools for sustainable families globally.

Our readers know that we spend a lot of time talking about sustainable, affordable, energy efficient homes that can be built BY FAMILIES,  FOR FAMILIES.

But it doesn’t stop there. Once you’re home is sustainable, you have the ability to embrace sustainable practices that will make you that much more self-responsible and self-reliant.

It’s about using your surroundings and environment to a positive benefit, by embracing technology and sustainability. If the Maker gives you sunshine to make electricity with…  with, why NOT use it to power your home or outbuildings?

But, it’s not just about making power. It’s about living life, 24/7. And that means… you gotta eat. Right?

We’ve talked about solar ovens before. I mean, if you have sunlight and flour… why not make bread, or even (gasp!) PIZZA?

In Ethiopia, they want to bake bread using sunshine, too.

I mean, who doesn’t?

But they’re stepping it up to the next level. You won’t need the sun, 24/7 in order to cook your meals if Asfafaw Tesfay has his way.

From The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)  – April 11th, 2014

Ethiopians may in the future be able to bake their own bread, the «injeras», with help from the sun.

Large parts of Ethiopia are today without access to electric power or firewood. The results of deforestation are severe. But what if people got the opportunity to make dinner without using coal, wood, oil or gas? This can become a reality if students at Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway succeed in commercializing an oven powered by the sun itself.

The oven has been developed at NTNU keeping the needs of people in Ethiopia in mind. Asfafaw Tesfay came from Ethiopia to Norway in 2008 to develop a system based on solar power for his home country. He is now very near his goal, which is constructing a solar powered oven which can bake at a temperature of 220⁰C (428⁰F) for 24 hours.

It is the first of its kind. The oven can reach a temperature of 250⁰C (482⁰F), which makes it well adapted to the country’s food traditions and resources.


– This oven has several advantages compared to other solar powered ovens on the market. The biggest difference is that it can reach a high temperature and store that high temperature over time, which makes it perfect for baking “injeras”, which most people in Ethiopia eat three times a day, explains student Even Sønnik Haug Larsen.

Basic food

He is now trying to commercialize the product together with his fellow students Mari Hæreid, Sebastian Vendrig and Dag Håkon Haneberg from NTNU School of Entrepreneurship.

For years scientists across the globe have tried to develop solar powered ovens with different qualities aimed at developing countries. The problem has been that these solutions have not been optimized with the needs of the users, for instance in Ethiopia, in mind. The ovens have not reached high enough temperatures to make injeras, and can’t store the heat so that it is possible to make food also in the evenings or at night.

– On these ovens you have only been able to boil rice or vegetables and such. But that is not what most Ethiopians eat. They eat injeras, a sort of flatbread which needs to be baked. For that you need a temperature of 200-250⁰C (392-482⁰F), Haug Larsen says.

He adds that he finds it rewarding in itself to make it possible for people in developing countries to make food in an efficient, safe and environmentally safe way any time of day.

– It is exciting to use our technology in practice and show that the product is useful to many people, Haug Larsen, who is also a teacher, says.

How it works

The solar powered oven is environmentally friendly. When exposed to sunlight the heat is transferred to a container with salt chemicals. There are two working prototypes, one at NTNU and the other in Ethiopia. The need for such an oven is huge, the students claim.


85 percent of the people in the country don’t have access to electric power. Due to the fact that they have used fire wood instead, there is only three percent forested areas left in the country, down from 35 percent in 2000.

– People hardly have any fire wood or electric power, but they don’t have a lack of sun, Haug Larsen says.

In Ethiopia

Together with fellow student Sebastian Vendrig he traveled to Ethiopia around mid-January to get in touch with customers and potential partners. At the same time they wanted to see if it was possible to produce the oven locally in Mekele, the home city of Asfafaw, the man behind the idea.

– As users and potential customers are in Ethiopia it is important for us to travel there to meet them and at the same time experience the culture and society. We also want to establish a viable business there and will at the same time look at possible production workshops, said Haug Larsen before they left.

The students have already been in touch with the Norwegian embassy in Addis Abeba, The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and several organizations willing to help the students.

The project received means from Norfund, Spark NTNU and Trønder Energi. The students are also cooperating with NTNU Technology Transfer (TTO).

Want to expand

The connection between Asfafaw and Ethiopia is the main reason why they are trying to establish the product here first. The students see a potential in organizations working in the country, and in schools, universities, hospitals, bakeries, restaurants and hotels.

– Later it might be possible to make the oven accessible also for private people, but as it is now they have limited funds and will not know how to use it, says Haug Larsen.

Together with the rest of the student group he hopes to start a business and work with the oven also after his studies.

– It would be fantastic if our product could improve the conditions in several developing countries and if we can be part of creating jobs locally, Haug Larsen says.

Pretty cool, huh?


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.



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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

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.

Fire up those PV’s, folks!

9 Jul

People, people, people…

Lately, while most of the country is on fire… my inbox is too.

MANY of you seem to think that using Photovoltaic panels  is just out of reach of the common family, those middle-class “movers and shakers” that are headed to the hills.


Sure, I drag every PV I can get my mitts on up here to set families up “off-grid”, but an enterprising soul can just start looking for deals. Used equipment is everywhere.

For the price of a cheap transportation car, you can gain your independence over the utility conglomerates that are picking your pocket, forever.

Here’s just one as an example (I found several in all parts of the US, in just a few minutes);

Outback VFX3524 inverter/power center.

Prewired for 24 volt DC input and 110 volt AC output. Single Inverter, controller and charger prewired on single panel – just bolt to the wall – connect solar array, and output to house main panel to complete.

(This “power center” is worth a few thousand bucks by itself, and it’s ready to go. No muss, no fuss.)

Includes 8 Kyrocera PV panels (4- 135 watt, 4- 205 watt). Inputs for aux generator, second solar array, and wind generator.

Batteries not included.


Call for more information. 406-490-XXXX.

Note: That price probably ain’t written in stone, folks, it’s the “asking” price. I bet if you used your wits, you could get this caliber of  system (or something very similar) for under $3,000.00. In fact, I found several.

PV panels are running at about a dollar a watt or less – brand new – if you shop smart.

And before you “poo-poo” it because this is a small system, know that I have families living off-grid, with LESS than this. Think CHEST refrigerators and “assisted” cross ventilation! You’d be surprised at where you can cut back you energy needs painlessly!

This guy is in Butte, MT.  But these deals are everywhere. Go out and buy a turnkey system and then reinstall it in a weekend. It really IS that easy.

(Yes, you need to make sure everything is working. And, you may even need an electrician to help you, if you don’t have the necessary skills. But for “chump change”, you CAN start taking steps toward self-reliance!)

And no. I’m not gonna come to your house and help you install it… so stop asking! 🙂

Image Credits to: Craigslist