Overlooked Carbon Sequestration Opportunity in Urban/Peri-Urban Locations

Image courtesy of http://naturecommode.com/

The San Francisco East Bay Area is in the throes of an #earthquake ‘drought’. Over the past several years, the following enquiry has been posed to local, regional and State of California officials:

72 hours post-earthquake, what are the citizenry to do when they can’t flush their toilets? 

Dry composting toilet and urine diversion systems are a decentralized and waterless form of ecological sanitation that can address all the post-earthquake sanitation concerns. They work by turning the human excreta into humus, and urine into a treated fertilizer. When well designed, these systems:

  • Exploit the nitrogen, and mineral, and organics nutrient flows.
  • Use no electrical power, drinking water, or fossil fuels.
  • Discharge no pollutants into the environment.
  • Have low capital and maintenance costs.
  • Are comparatively easy to maintain.
  • Can reliably destroy pathogens and can be a reliable way of breaking down excreted pharmaceutical residues.

Centralized sewer systems are also subject to catastrophic failure in a natural disaster, where sewer systems are expected to fail and be inoperable for a period of months, and possibly up to a year, with physical wastewater infrastructure damage amounting to between 75% to 100%. 

Oregon and New Zealand have studied container-based sanitation as a preparedness measure, planning for excreta to be segregated into urine and dry fecal-additive stores during the anticipated sewer failure, that can allow later composting and treatment of the materials so they can be recycled back to the environment.

Due to their improved carbon performance, composting toilet systems can help to promote climate stability. Carbon sequestered in soil makes up the bulk of the Earth’s non-oceanic carbon stores. And so, the creation of humus compost from composted excreta can help replenishment of the Earth’s topsoil, as well as be an important way to sequester carbon. After all, (wo)man’s poop is just anaerobically digested carbon…

#humanure #compost #excreta #carbon #sequestration #urban #peri-urban #earthquake


The Way We Hire Is All Wrong

It’s an abomination and a pity the way companies hire today.

I still think the best opportunity for a prospective candidate navigating the HR-gauntlet is via the face-to-face, informational interview—having a low-no risk conversation with a prospective hiring manager. I mean let’s be honest, if they are even crafted well, most job descriptions are just wish lists.

Rarely, if ever, in my tenure during the dot-com(edy) did a candidate I interview meet the 100% skills set wish list job description. And, everyone I eventually hired ended up being a worthwhile investment, because my staff and I would have conversations abundant with situational scenarios one might see on the job, allowing the candidate to be herself/hisself. 

Although this read is dated (2014), I think it’s timely, and I could not have said it better…


No matter how beautifully we may present ourselves, the current hiring process makes finding work a challenge. In 2005, a firm ran a “mystery shopper” experiment with more than 100 healthcare employers. Professionals posing as job candidates applied for work with tailored resumes showing skills that matched or exceeded the posted job requirements. Yet 88% of the candidates were rejected. Even perfect applicants don’t get interviews.

Flywheel Energy Store (FES) | Out thinking the box at it’s finest…

I have had touted since I first embarked on my pursuits in renewable energy systems technologies, that this industry needed a more sustainable, pragmatic, clean(er) and green(er) storage offering instead of the filthy, precious resource-intensive battery. To me batteries are sacrilegious, and are hardly clean(er) or green(er).

Abigail Carson, a female mechanical engineering student has used her prowess to come up with an improvement on the kinetic flywheel offering, she calls Flywheel Energy Store (FES). What’s interesting is she claims her design is small, portable, highly-efficient, and could be applied rather quickly for domestic applications.

Abigail Carson, 21, who has completed her third year studying Mechanical Engineering at Lancaster, has created a superfast design for a Flywheel Energy Store (FES). The design, which was a self-proposed project as part of her MEng degree course, could have a wide number of uses, most notably for the storage of electricity generated by renewable sources such as wind turbines or solar panels.


EVs vs ICEs (Internal Combustion Engines) in the 21st Century

It’s affirming when another reviewer understands that unless the electricity consumed by the electric car is completely clean(er) and green(er), all this hype is overstated, misplaced and simply cannot be afford on such a large scale if sustainability is the ultimate aim.

To me, all this hype around pushing EVs (electric vehicles) as a climate change solution is just not pragmatic or sustainable, at allwell, it’s possible if the aim is smaller vehicles in highly densely populated areas. Robust baseload power is needed. And until there is a MASSIVE deployment of renewables, I just can’t see this happening.

I have also wondered as more electric cars are deployed, where will the taxes come from to pay for maintenance of roads/highways and address congestion issues. I can, however, agree hybrid drive trains, like that of the Toyota Prius, are the stepping stone way to go.

But to me, the present, lowest hanging fruit in this sector in transition is behavior change. If vehicular traffic flow is smoothed out, the efficiency of a simple internal combustion engine (ICE) is attractive and won’t require additional costly elements such as hybridization. Traffic engineers just need to revisit and tune their linear algebra algorithms for stoplights at intersections–an easy, low-hanging behavior change opportunity.


[REPOST] Green Gone Wrong | Quiet Revolution VAWT Total Flop, Says German Paper

This article from my colleague Paul Gipe deserves a repost.

Quiet Revolution VAWT Total Flop, Says German Paper

I too knew years ago this well-intended Quiet Revolution technology was a flop. As a matter of fact, I knew five years ago, January 2011 to be exact. This is when a colleague who used to work for this company reached out to me regarding performance benchmarks, and to enquire about a tool/method to provide customers better information on small wind generators installed atop rooftops. Analyzing rooftop wind data from the Warwick Wind Trials, the first field trial investigating small wind turbine performance in the built environment, was the crux of my post-graduate research. Interesting, he left the company in 2013.

Here’s the rub on siting, VAWTs, HAWTs…


  • Location/Siting is PARAMOUNT.
  • VAWTs perform better if they too are mounted higher in smoothest, strongest wind, not near to the ground or close to the tops of buildings or other structures, natural canopies.
  • VAWTs blades are prone to fatigue created by centrifugal forces as the blades spin around the central axis >> they are less reliable  than HAWTs.
  • VAWTs require large bearings at the tower top to permit the shaft to rotate and thick steel cable to supper them >> more costly, especially when repairs and maintenance are needed.
  • VAWTs are less reliable and less efficient that HAWTs, and made worse if they are mounted at ground level or on top of buildings.
  • Raising a wind turbine, be it HAWT or VAWT,  into the smoothest, strongest wind ensures greater electrical production and longer machine life.

TWO | VAWT [Vertical Axis Wind Turbine]

  • Powered by wind coming from 360 degrees; does not need to be pointed into the wind; advantage where wind is highly variable.
  • Lower TSP [Tip Speed Ratio].
    Lower operating RPM (rotational speed) >> higher torque, requires a bigger, more massive generator + gear box (drive train) >> lowering efficiency.
  • Inherently lower Cp [Coefficient of Performance].
  • 360 degree rotation on aerofoil w/in wind flow each cycle >> high dynamic blade loading, pulsating torque on drive train, difficult to model wind flow accurately.
  • Drive train more accessible, since it can be placed near ground.
  • Lower audible noise.
  • If mounted on a rooftop, building redirects wind higher over the roof, doubling wind speed at turbine if mounted on roof ~50% of building height (near optimum for max wind energy and minimum turbulence) >> noise could be an issue.
  • Requires a heavier, stronger rotor assembly due to increased torque, etc. + stronger, heavier tower due to increase in turbine mass >> accounting for 60%+ in total capital installation cost.

THREE | HAWT [Horizonal Axis Wind Turbine]

  • Larger swept area >> more energy produced.
  • Performance in turbulent wind not favorable.
  • Higher RPM >> more suitable for driving a generator.
  • Gearbox turns slow blade rotation into quicker rotation (steps up) for driving an electrical generator.
  • Rotor usually positioned upwind since turbulence (mast wake) produced behind tower.
  • Downwind rotors don’t require additional controls mechanisms for keeping in line with the wind.

Quiet Revolution VAWT

Poo gurus | Rebranding ‘waste’ instead as ‘resource’

First things first. I think the human race would be more inclined to participate if ‘waste’ was rebranded ‘resource.’

In light of the exceptional drought in California, and the ‘slated’ increase in population for space ship Earth, INDEED, water management is paramount. To supply a great deal of the current and future inhabitants with water management flush and discharge sanitation systems is not sustainable or pragmatic long term.

Overall, I think what is needed is improved education on the whether (and how) local taboos surrounding excreta change when it is presented as a resource versus a threat. And so, I propose it needs to be rebranded with the operative ‘resource’ instead of ‘waste’.

Altho the aversion to humans’ excreta has been a major reason that has limited the spread of disease, what is not widely known is it was not until the 19th century that the links between bacteria and disease were fully understood. However, what we know now, is humanure, managed properly, is a rich, sustainable resource as a soil amendment and fertilizer for food propagation that doesn’t require a lot of water input–but today, has been mostly dismissed as a viable resource in most developed nations.

Over the past few decades, there has been a great deal of interdisciplinary research on the technical feasibility and social acceptability of two very different approaches that could be applied to managing human excreta/humanure; ‘sewer avoidance’ (separation at source and the use of on-site remediation methods e.g. composting toilets AKA ecosan/ecosanitation toilets), and approaches that dispose of sewage sludge using technologies like reed beds and ‘waste to energy’ (gasification and anaerobic digestion)–essentially, using humanure as a means to transfer filth into food.

Although Pliny’s Natural History, Book XXVII stated that “human excretions are the best possible fertilizers” (Laporte, 2000, p. 152), it received relatively little attention from scholars until the fourteenth century when Crescentius of Bologna first published his Opus ruralium commodorum in 1307. According to Laporte, “the symbolic equation of money and shit” (Laporte, 2000, p. 33) was formally registered when the Opus was translated into French, in 1532, under the title “Prouffits campestres et ruraulx”. The value of human waste as a fertilizer was again ‘rediscovered’ in nineteenth century France as the hygienists’ movement emphasized the superiority of human excrement and physicians urged agricultural communities to “incite serious contemplation amongst growers in a region whose agricultural fame rests on the very rational use of human secretions in their most natural state.” (Bertherand, 1858, quoted in Laporte, 2000, p. 120).


Laporte, D. (2000). History of shit. Cambridge MA: MIT Press. (translated by Benabid N and El-Khoury R).

Poo gurus? Researching the threats and opportunities presented by human waste, Sarah Jewitt, School of Geography, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, United Kingdom


Baltimore Food Hub

Baltimore, Maryland might have a high crime rate, but this city is visionary. Like a few other municipalities in the USA, Baltimore is leaps and bounds ahead on what needs to be accomplished with regard to food security. But it should be no surprise. Johns Hopkins University (JHU) revolutionized teaching and research.

For years, since I returned from my six months in the field WWOOFing back in 2011, I have been asking, “When the cost of petrol becomes prohibitively expensive, how will we address replenishing the food markets/grocery stores?”

The Baltimore Food Hub will be the first of its kind in the Region. As a food campus, every tenant will get the support and access they need to be focused on growing the food economy.

An innovative concept in promoting local and regional foods on a 3.5 acre campus in E. Baltimore, that is offering entrepreneurs resources to scale their mission.  This concept certainly adheres to PREPARE. RESPOND. ADAPT.


For quite some time now, I have had my doubts about some advances in technology and the definition of what really constitutes progress?

Today, modern glass greenhouse require massive inputs of energy to grow crops out of season. This is considered progress? This energy loss is due to the fact that every square meter of glass, triple glazed included, loses ten times as much heat as a wall, a thermal mass.

Producing crops in temperate regions did not originally involve glass greenhouses, instead thermal masses, fruit walls, were utilized. These thermal fruit walls stored heat from the sun for nighttime use, and are installed with insulated mats rolled out over the glass covers during the night or cold weather; passive solar buildings in the true sense.

Kris deDeker recently posted up a nice exploration of the utilization of passively designed fruit walls that were highly utilized in urban farming up until the late 19th century in Europe.

Fruit Walls: Urban Farming in the 1600s

This labor-intensive practice required a deft, skilled hand for maintenance. But cheaper, less-labor-intensive produce was imported due to the railways eventually took over.

I understand, some of these passive farming practices are still used in Korea. And the Chinese use passive solar greenhouses that are heated year round with only solar energy. Of course performance will be predicated on the greenhouse design, the location (latitude), and on the local climate.

According to Kris, produce grown in a passive greenhouse industry would take up two to three times as much space to produce the same amount of food. But do we really need to be eating so much anyway? 

Another challenge is it is a best-practice is to have a CO2-level that is at least three times the level outdoors to increase crop yield. When no there is no CO2 byproduct from the combustion of fossil fuel based heating systems inside the greenhouses, another source is required. Provided a structure is well insulated, compost from the manure of livestock and fish in an aquaponics system can serve this purpose. A compost heat recovery system producing hot water could be pumped through a radiant floor. So compost can serve a triple purpose; CO2 production,  heating, and soil enrichment.

Talk about a GREAT food propagation practice to re-institute in the urban environment. Get me to a warehouse space!

Fruit Wall Greenhouse

Greenhouse built against a serpentine fruit wall. Source: Rijksdienst voor het culturele erfgoed. http://ow.ly/Wm8qn


Siemens eHighway for Hybrid EV Trucks + Ethane—This could be a winning combo!

Many in the energy industry know and there is a great deal chatter now these days that a replacement transportation fuel is needed, until the electrical vehicle infrastructure can become more fully realized. I think those in charge are solicitous about adopting an unconventional fuel stock, because so many green fashionistas have undermined the science in the biofuels sector for so many years, too. Unfortunately, there is going to be A LOT of pain, soon. The price of gasoline is low for a reason–we have reached the end of growth. If consumers cannot afford to buy goods and services, there will be little demand, so prices have to be kept low. This is the antithesis of the ‘models’ predictions of economists from years gone by.

This past Friday, the DoE rejected my and my co-collaborator’s Concept paper for their Dual Fuel Fleet Demonstration Project, altho they agreed to recognize, consider ethane as a transportation fuel stock now. EV (Electric Vehicle) was featured prominently in the categorical exclusion criteria scope and their scoring. No surprises. Big auto companies who are trying to get more hybrid-EV drivetrains for trucks, and SUVs into the market are trying to squeeze out any competition, so the (mostly) energy illiterate, entitled masses who lifestyles predicated on hyper-consumerism can continue. This hyper-consumerism lifestyle is NOT sustainable.

This is a DAMN pity. Such hubris. Such stupidity and short-sightedness. Any sensible engineer knows, until batteries and electric motors weigh the same/less, a dense, energy-rich, liquid fuel makes the most sense.  At worst, an intermediate, transitional fuel solution, like ethane is needed–that is if the citizenry is hell-bent on maintaining this quality of life to which they have become accustomed. 

I mean, what, we here in the USA are INSTANTLY going to get an EV infrastructure built?! What emulate Europe’s train/locomotive system, because we were short-sighted back in the day to mostly abandon this for the automobile, which is now going to bite us more in the ass? Sure. How long will this take? At least a decade+, at best. So what about the interim?

I bet the handlers of the engineers who have performed calculations how much space carrying today’s batteries on a semi-truck will take up have been excoriated or ignored. What ~½+ the payload?

Siemens is proposing an EV highway, the eHighway in SoCal for semi-trucks/18-wheelers; results to be reported next summer. However, the question that requires answering is how much power these hybrid-EV trucks will need to overcome to compete with 1,500 lb of diesel in a typical semi-/18-wheeler fuel tank. 

Siemen’s EV Truck

I attempted to locate information on Siemen’s web site with road freight challenges metrics that have to be overcome; there was this:

The main obstacle to electrified road freight has been the size and weight required for on-board storage of electrical energy. For example, a road truck weighing 40 tons traveling 1,000 kilometers would need approximately 20 tons of batteries. This problem can be solved by providing power to the truck as it is driving.

So at least my initial W.A.G. (wild ass guess) about batteries taking up ~½ load was correct. NOT even cost effective today. Let alone all the interstate weight restrictions that would be violated hauling around massive battery packs. It’s not as if the roadway infrastructure isn’t already under maintained, tenuous.  And if there’s no gas tax, then where’s the money going to come from to keep this infrastructure viable, working?!! Is anyone talking about this?! No. Ugh.

I mean, at least delivery companies like UPS get that to get to a point where an EV infrastructure makes sense is to have a hybrid solution, first. Crimey, a fully electrical drivetrain, with a simple gearbox, smaller battery, regenerative braking, and an electrical generator optimized for certain speeds and driving behavior, er like a delivery truck driver in a major metro area. Ethane could be the complementary, supplementary fuel stock for these hybrid-EV trucks, in the interim and perhaps well into the future. I’m just sayin’…


GREEN GONE WRONG | AC Transit using Bloom Boxes to produce hydrogen

Ms. Standridge, legal council for AC Transit has been aware for almost a year now that the Bloom Boxes owned by AC Transit, used to generate electricity to produce hydrogen (a HIGHLY inefficient process) for their fleet of 12 hydrogen fuel cell buses generates hazardous, HIGHLY TOXIC solid waste with sulfur; hydrogen sulfide, H2S to be exact. These fuel cell buses cost $87.6 million of taxpayer and PG&E ratepayer money. Ms. Standridge chooses to let the poor who live nearby the AC Transit (on San Leandro Blvd and Seminary Ave) site be exposed to this waste stream.

AC Transit Hydrogen Fuel Cell Bus

AC Transit Hydrogen Fuel Cell Bus

Because of our due diligence for the better part of these past 12 months, Lindsay Leveen and I now know by Bloom’s admission to the Board of Public Utilities in NJ, this waste ends up being hauled in sealed metal canister to an EPA licensed site for treatment in TX.  The waste is so dangerous that the sealed canister in never opened until it reached the EPA licensed hazmat site. Ms. Standridge is more than happy simply hide this like Bloom hides this.  She does not give a crap about people.  She does not want answers, or to fix this.  She draws her good paycheck and protects the Board of AC Transit not some poor folks living in East Oakland.

See my first offering to AC Transit’s Customer Feedback form back on 25 Sept 2014, below–which mind you took until 24 December 2014 to receive scathing information via the PRA process that indeed this technology is severely underperforming and emitting improperly manifested hazardous waste stream.

Customer Feedback

Thank You

Thank you for your valuable feedback.

Your comments and suggestions are important to us, as we use this as a tool for maintaining and improving service. Since you indicated that you would like a response, we will contact you after our research is complete.

Your reference number is 366499. Please hold onto this number so that when calling us, we may quickly look up the details or this incident.

Should you need to follow up with us on this matter, please call Customer Relations: Dial 511 and say “AC Transit,” then say “Customer Relations.”  Representatives are available Monday through Friday, 6 am to 7 pm, and Saturday and Sunday 9 am to 5 pm.

Bus Shelters:

Note: Please report maintenance or safety issues at bus shelters by calling Clear Channel toll free 24/7:
1-888-ADSHEL1 (237-4351)



I think AC Transit needs help regarding your hydrogen fuel cell application.  http://www.actransit.org/environment/the-hyroad/energy-stations/

I think the help you need is in understanding thermodynamics and economics, not buying buses.  I understand you purchased 400 kW of Bloom Boxes to provide electricity to an electrolysis unit that makes hydrogen from water; where the hydrogen will be used in a fleet of fuel cell busses. I also understand you are making claims that you produce carbon free hydrogen as the gas feeding the Bloom Boxes is biogas.

Some facts:

  • The Bloom unit is at best 45% efficient based on the higher heating value (HHV) of natural gas (NG).
  • The electrolysis unit is at best 66% efficient at producing hydrogen from water and electricity.
  • The combined efficiency (45% times 66%) equals 29.7% (~30%) of overall efficiency.
  • One can produce hydrogen by steam methane (CH4) reforming (what the first part of the Bloom Box does) with at least 75% efficiency.
  • AC Transit’s actions reduce the efficiency of producing hydrogen from 75% to 30% ==> They need to use 2.5 times as much NG to yield the same quantity of hydrogen.
  • This system cost AC Transit over $6 million.
    • $4 million given to Bloom Energy.
    • $2 million to the vendor of the electrolysis unit.
    • For the production of the same quantity of hydrogen, a steam methane reformer (SMR) and pressure swing adsorption (PSA) unit for approximately $1 million in total could have been used.
    • This unit would only use 40% of the NG.

Question:  Why take the reformed gas containing hydrogen, run it through a fuel cell to generate electricity, and then take the generated electricity that came from hydrogen in the first place to again produce hydrogen in a electrolysis unit???!!!????

Wasting 2.5 times the precious biogas that was needed to simply make the hydrogen is BEYOND embarrassing. I would like to hear your justification for this complete waste of a vital resource.

I await your reply. Thank you in advance.

I also recently came across this affirmation from Mr. Telsa Motors, Elon Musk, which follows:



At this year’s Automotive News World Congress, Elon Musk (admittedly far from a neutral party) called hydrogen “extremely silly”—perhaps the most polite in a long and continuing string of dismissals from the Tesla head. It makes little sense, Musk pointed out, to go through the trouble of using even renewable electricity to generate hydrogen fuel, when you could just put that energy directly into a battery pack.

It makes even less sense when you have to build new, expensive hydrogen filling stations to do it—then spend years hoping that demand for them will materialize. 



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What is a Hybrid RE Engineer?

An engineering generalist with an understanding of sustainable development whose skills set are typically comprised of an amalgam of mechanical and electrical engineering. One who is able to design and assemble systems and components that are comprised of more than one renewable energy (RE) technology i.e. solar, wind, hydro-kinetic (ocean/wave/micro-hydro), biomass, hydrogen fuel cell, geothermal and storage (battery, fly wheel, pumped-hydro). The RE technologies selected depend on one's geographical predisposition, resource availability, the end-use need, practicing conservation (behavioral change) to name a few considerations...

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