Belated Appropriate Technology Roundup #24 [1/31/08]

AIDG’s somewhat weekly roundup of appropriate technology stories. This week: Nigerian solar, see-through concrete, the “Lego of gadgets”, and more.

1. Nigeria Investing in Solar Energy to Power Rural Communities from Treehugger

Nigeria’s government has just announced its intention to make another round of investments in solar energy to supply up to 10 rural communities that currently lack access to the national power grid. The initiative, funded by Nigeria’s Ministry of Science and Technology, will benefit around 5,000 individuals living in villages spread across several local governments and is projected to cost 150m Naira, or $1.25 million.

2. Translucent Concrete Lets The Light Shine In from Io9

Transclucent concrete

A German design firm has created load-bearing concrete containing optical fibers, allowing light and color to pass through to the other side (the shadowy hand is what you can see through the concrete in direct light). The result is that you can live inside a sunlit dome and still be protected when the space invaders come and drop those dangerous light thingies on your head.

3. Transportation Tuesday: ZiPee Electric Scooter from Inhabitat


Meet the ZiPee, a cute and functional electric scooter and one solution the UK’s pollution problem (ZiPee stands for Zero Input of Pollution from Emissions into the Environment). The ZiPee is a scooter marketed for London commuters, enticing them to trade in their gas guzzling vehicles for their everyday journeys. Hoping to change the outlook of passengers and urging them to make a choice in their commuting habits, the ZiPee is ideal for travel within London and other cities.

Retailing at £799, the electric scooter is capable of 30 miles on a single charge, takes only two hours to charge up and if you run out of power the incorporated pedals can get you home safely. You only have to be 14 to ride one and there are no requirements for road tax, insurance, licence or registration. Even the London Congestion Charge can’t get you!

4. Bug Labs: Build your own dream gadget from CNET

Bug Labs Bug Base

It’s expensive right now and you need to be a Java programmer to use it, but aside from that, it’s very intriguing.

Described as “the Lego of gadgets” by Webware’s Rafe Needleman, the Bug Labs platform starts with a minicomputer, the Bug Base, onto which you can snap multiple modules, such as a digital camera or an LCD screen. You can then program your own software to run your custom gadget or download software others have written from the Bug Labs site. Need a GPS-enabled digital camera that will automatically upload your images to Flickr? With the Bug Labs platform, you can build one.

5. Aeropoint Small Wind Turbine Pays Back in 2-7 Years! from Jetson Green


I ran across some news that Marquiss Wind Power just raised $1.3 M in series A funding, which, in and of itself, isn’t that big of a deal to me (because funding doesn’t = anything). That said, Marquiss Wind Power has quite the value proposition with their ducted wind turbine product called Aeropoint, a product that comes in three sizes. It’s a small-wind turbine built for commercial buildings of 1-3 floors. Based out of Folsom, California, the company had encouraging results with the first three test turbines. Actually, the results were so good the company claims purchasers should have a payback period of 2-7 years. You’ll notice that depending on a lot of different factors, a 2-7 year payback is about 2x faster than the payback for solar.

6. More On Coskata’s $1 per Gallon Ethanol from Ecogeek

The Coskata process that GM is promoting can use a wide range of different feedstocks to produce ethanol. Materials ranging from agricultural waste to purpose grown crops that can be raised on marginal lands (switchgrass being the most widely known example of this) to waste materials such as old tires and even municipal waste streams can all be used as the raw materials that can be turned into ethanol with very little to zero landfill waste.

7. When Gadget Parts Break or Get Lost from NYTimes

Advances in business-to-business Internet transactions in the spare parts industry in recent years have helped make it easier for consumers to find replacement lids, chargers and remote controls, and for repair technicians to find obscure parts on a moment’s notice.

8. Ross Yoke analysis For Stirling engines from MAKE

9. Amazing Green Roof Art School in Singapore from Inhabitat

Green Roof of Art School in Singapore

10. Animal waste: Future energy, or just hot air? from CNN

According to Ecofriend, one cubic foot of biogas can be produced from one pound of cow manure (heated at around 28 degrees Celsius, or 82.4 degrees Fahrenheit). That, it says, is enough to cook one day’s worth of meals for four to six people in India. One cow in one year can produce enough manure, which when converted into methane can match the fuel provided by 200 liters-plus (about 53 U.S. gallons) of gasoline, it adds.

Around 7,500 cattle can produce 1 megawatt (MW) of electricity (1MW can power the average home in the developed world), according to the University of Alberta, Canada. The university also says it would take all of the manure of 6 million cows to fulfill the needs of 1 million homes — or about six cows per home.


The U.S.-based Sierra Club, however, doesn’t hold much hope for biomass. It believes that AD manure has limited potential in the U.S., pointing out that even if all the 7,000 farms in the U.S. cited by the EPA as “good candidates” for AD were to use the technology, they could only produce 0.0002 percent of all energy consumed in the country today.