Appropriate Technology Roundup #29 073108

AIDG’s somewhat weekly roundup of appropriate technology stories. This week: prefab homes that look like computer servers, power from poop, sugarcane charcoal in Southern Haiti, a mobile phone-based vehicle anti-theft system and more.

1. This week’s favorite title:
Our Homes Have Turned into Server Farms [Server Architecture] from io9

Prehab houses look like servers

Nestled among the towers of midtown Manhattan is a new housing development made entirely of prefab houses … that look like rack-mounted computer servers … In fact, these houses are intended to be mounted and stacked in giant racks that can be built in days. Soon, all of New York City may look like a giant Google server farm.
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The houses are part of an art installation for the Museum of Modern Art exhibit “Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling.”

The exhibit is running from July 20–October 20, 2008.

2. A Dung Deal: Making Power from Poop from Treehugger

Basic Large-scale Biodigester Lay-out

View Larger Version [Globe and Mail]

At a properly run farm, “nothing is waste. Everything is a resource. It’s just a matter of harvesting.” With 750 cows, Laurie Stanton’s farm has a lot of manure to harvest. Martin Mittelstaedt writes in the Globe and Mail about Ontario’s largest farm-biogas installation. It seems like the perfect solution to a big problem; there are only so many places to put the 50 million tonnes of “biomass”, as it is politely called, that is produced each year in the province. Instead, it is fermented in a big tank, and the methane is collected and piped to a diesel generator. The leftover liquids make a good fertilizer and the solids become bedding for cows.

3. Cow Power Could Provide 3% of U.S. Electricity? from Earth2Tech

a team of researchers at the University of Texas at Austin say that biogas made from manure could provide as much as 3 percent of America’s electricity needs — that’s about the same amount of U.S. electricity that comes from renewables, excluding hydro and nuclear.

The researchers published the data in a paper called “Cow Power: The Energy and Emissions Benefits of Converting Manure to Biogas” in the Institute of Physics’ Environmental Research Letters yesterday.

How much manure is being generated? via the NYTimes [Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler]

U.S. livestock produce perhaps 900 million tons of waste annually, about 3 tons of manure for each American.

U.S. livestock produce perhaps 900 million tons of waste annually, about 3 tons of manure for each American.

4. Northwest Haiti families combating food crisis, poverty with sustainable agri co-ops from Reliefweb

Haiti and other nations continue to struggle in the grip of a worsening world food crisis. But Haitians in the island nation’s remote Artibonite and Northwest regions are gaining food security, through a sustainable agriculture program supported by global humanitarian agency Church World Service and funded in part by a new grant from the U.S.-based Osprey Foundation.

The program’s expansion will provide more people, particularly women, with opportunities to grow enough food for their families and increase income for other basic needs through access to credit and training.

5. Could Carbon Capture Be The Next Cash Cow? from The Sietch

Overview of Geological Storage Options

According to a new technical market research report, Carbon Capture & Storage Technologies from BCC Research, the global market for carbon capture technologies was worth $88.7 billion in 2007. This is expected to increase to over $236.3 billion by 2012, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.8%.
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This report … goes against the findings of a similar UN report that show that renewable energy is really where the money is.

6. 18 year old self-taught electronics “genius” invents mobile phone-based vehicle anti-theft system.

Morris Mbetsa, an 18 year old self-taught inventor with no formal electronics training from the coastal tourist town of Mombasa on the Indian Ocean in Kenya has invented the “Block & Track”, a mobile phone-based anti-theft device and vehicle tracking system.

7. Recycle old PCB components from Instructables via MAKE

Desoldering circuit boards to recover components

Desoldering circuit boards to recover components

This instructables will show you how to recycle, by desoldering, all your old PCB’s components.You can find PCB in every electronic things(DVD,computer,camera,toys…).All you have to do is to disasemble them, and desolder the components you want.So here how to do step by step.

8. The folks at Proje Espwa in the South of Haiti have been making charcoal from corn cobs. A few pics of their success.

JaRoro holding finished charcoal briquette

This is JaRoro holding a briquette of charcoal we made this morning from our own vegetable waste. We use the stalks of corn along with vertiver and end up with this which lasts longer than regular charcoal. It is economical and ecological as we don’t contribute to the huge problem of deforestation here. JaRoro was the project leader for this and did and excellent job. The idea is based on Doctor Amy Smith’s (MIT) D-Lab work. We now have a team of 16 working on making these briquettes and freeing us from super-expensive propane and regular charcoal.

9. ALTERNATIVE ENERGY: Rain Power from Inhabitat

[A] team from CEA/Leti-Minatec has created a system that is capable of recovering kinetic energy from the impact of falling raindrops.

In a study featured in Smart Materials and Structures, a physics journal, the authors, Romain Guigon, Thomas Jager, Ghislain Despesse and Jean-Jacques Chaillout, write about how it is possible to recover [very small amounts of] energy from the impact of a raindrop of water.

10. GM Works With Utilities On Plug-Ins from NPR

General Motors is working with utility companies to make sure its next-generation plug-in hybrid has a smooth rollout in 2010. GM is pushing utilities to move forward on so-called “smart-metering.”