Appropriate tech tips: Quick start for a biodigester – Cow, goat or sheep rumens

If you want to start really, really quickly, go to a slaughter house and buy a few cow goat or sheep rumens, remove the sludge from the rumens, and feed the sludge into the biodigester filled with water, maybe even sprinkling a little bit of chemical fertilizer. Let the material sit for a day and then start feeding at a reduced rate. I have never done this myself but this is how many labs start up their biodigesters to great effect. If you want I can look up the literature exactly how this is done but if I remember correctly it is the same process as starting up with anaerobic sludge from a biodigester. The advantage of the rumen over anaerobic manures is that the rumen has always had its pH regulated to control acid production and the anaerobic manures have not. Testing pH is key though for quick start up because it is easy to overload the digester with acid producers. Anaerobic manures will definitely work (preferably cattle, goats or sheep) but you need to know the pH and really smelly stuff can be a problem because that is a good indicator of too much acid build up (methane producers will not grow in too acidic an environment).

Haiti Relief Operations: Who is Doing What Where? [Part 2: NGOs]

This is a non-exhaustive list of what NG0s are doing in response to the disastrous hurricanes in Haiti. Apologies to anyone we missed. The data comes from Relief Web, emails from NGO contacts, news sources, and NGO websites.

Local Action

Haiti SOS working with UNICEF to get donated goods from NYC to Haiti

Duration: 8 min 55 sec

On Sunday September 21, 2008, the New York Music Industry came together at Amazura night club in Jamaica , Queens, for a concert to benefit victims in Haiti who had suffered from a series of storms and hurricanes in late summer. Despite a sparse dance floor, the venue was a cavalcade of movers and shakers in the Haitian Music Industry.



Partners in Health
Doctors without Borders

Food/Water/Emergency Supplies

World Food Program
Food for the Poor

Note: USAID…


World Vision:
Read CBS Piece

Infrastructure: Transport, Roads, Telecom

Instrastructure: Energy


Related Posts:,com_jd-wp/Itemid,34/p,1256/

Video: 5-gallon bucket pico-hydro generator

Duration: min sec

A letter Sam wrote that appears in the Oct/Nov 2008 issue of Home Power magazine.

Bucket Hydro

I developed a 5-gallon bucket generator as a low-cost hydro-electric system for the developing world. The picohydro systems that I saw for sale in the United States were very expensive, so I sought to create a system that would be affordable to lowincome people. With this economy in mind, my system uses only the generator, one standard lead-acid car battery, an inexpensive solar dump-load regulator, and a 100-watt inverter. For first-world applications, the system could use a large battery bank and provide considerably more usable electricity, but in the interest of creating an affordable solution, a single, standard car battery was used in our tests. As in an automobile, the battery experiences minor fluctuations in charge, but is never drained very much.

During trials in Guatemala, we used another 5-gallon bucket that was fitted with hardware cloth to serve as a trash rack. A 2-inch-diameter penstock was then run from the trash rack, and down the mountain for a total drop (or head) of 98 feet. When the turbine was hooked up, it was generating about 60 watts. Ten cell phones could be charged at a time without discharging the battery.

The generator uses a permanent-magnet alternator (PMA) and off-the-shelf PVC pipe and hardware. Everything except the PMA is readily available at almost any hardware store. The turbine itself is made of eight 45-degree PVC elbows, cut in half and mounted with rivets to part of a bucket lid. The PMA is mounted to the lid of the bucket using threaded rod. A manifold is mounted to the lid of the bucket and plumbed through, culminating in four nozzles also made from PVC. While a considerably more efficient generator could be made using a Pelton or Turgo runner, the idea behind the design was to make something that could be easily constructed and serviced with readily available materials. The PMA with cooling fan was about $360, and the other hardware and PVC was about $40, totaling $400.

Our long-term goal is to incubate microbusinesses that charge cell phones in areas where there is no electricity. We are also exploring the idea of microlighting using high-output LEDs.

Sam Redfield – West Shokan, New York

Ram Pump at Palmera Xolhuitz: Juan Martillo Strikes Again

The women chatted gregariously as they scrubbed clothes at the communal outdoor pila, a large concrete washbasin and water storage unit. Around them, children tried to help their mothers with the laundry, being careful not to get soap into the adjacent clean water basin.

There is no mains water out here at Palmera Xolhuitz, a 50-family coffee and macadamia cooperative 1.5-2 hours outside of Xela. There is no spare electricity to power water pumps. There isn’t even a local bodega where you can get 5 gallon jugs of Salvavidas water.

The pila that is shared among Palmera Xolhuitz’s 50 families. The women collect water in plastic buckets and use it conservatively, primarily for cooking and drinking.

All the community has is a rudimentary water system put in by the original finca owners decades ago. The system is gravity fed by small upland springs or surface streams that provide clear, but not necessarily clean water. The water supply is relatively plentiful during Guatemala’s rainy season, but has been found lacking in the dry season when it is more unreliable.

This worries Mardo Queo, one of the members of Palmera’s 7-person Junta Directiva, the community’s joint committee. He explained to us that the resource was not sufficient for the 50 families. He and the other members of the Junta anticipate that the community will grow larger in the coming years, further stretching their already maxed out water supply.

That’s were we come in. We approached the Palmera Xolhuitz community last year to help us prototype a water pump that requires no electricity and has few maintenance requirements. Their location on a slope of a volcanic mountain range above the lush Candalaria watershed made them eligible for a hydraulic ramp pump install.

Hydraulic Ram Pump

Hydraulic ram pump technology was developed in 1796 by Joseph Michel Montgolfier, the inventor of the hot air balloon, for raising water to his family paper mill. The pump’s use was very common in rural areas of the US and Western Europe until widespread electrification made them obsolete.

The general principles of the ram are simple. The pump uses the momentum of a relatively large amount of falling water to move a relatively small amount of water uphill. What you require is a 3-50 feet (0.9–15 m) vertical drop (head) from your water source to the pump and a water flow rate of no less than 3 gallons per minute. In the rainy season, flow rate tops out at 150 gallons/minute. Typically, You can pump up to 25 percent of your supply water, depending on 1) the drop from the water source to pump and 2) the lift from the pump to your storage tank/distribution system. How high up you can pump your water is about 10 times vertical drop.

Hydraulic ram pump system
A schematic of a basic ram pump system from Appropedia

After many delays, the pump installation for the community is nearly completed. La Palmera is very isolated and heavy rains made the road leading to the community inaccessible on many occasions. Our original arrangement with the community was that we build and install the pump and they build the storage tank and distribution system. Unfortunately, la Palmera has been plagued by financial difficulties and has been unable to contribute in this way. Don Mardo quoted the average annual income as 3000Q ($400) per family and 100,000Q ($13,300) for the organization.


Several TecoTours … in July to construction of this distribution tank. Once the tank is complete, individual piping to households will be connected to the distribution tank. Hector, an architect of Palmera who designs large scale tanks for schools and businesses, designed the distribution tank himself and we are using this design to build the distribution tank.


FYI: Juan Martillo is the name former intern Liakos Ariston gave our ram pump. Martillo is Spanish for hammer and relates to the “water hammer effect” in the pump.

Hydraulic Ram Pump Links
Designing a Hydraulic Ram Pump [Water for the World]
Ram pump History and Design [Center for Appropriate Technology, 50 pence to buy]
Build Your own Ram Pump [Clemson University]
Hydraulic Ram Pumps [NCSU]
Ramp Pump Design Specifications [Institute for Appropriate Technology]
Hydraulic Ram Pump System Design and Application [Research, Development & Technology Adaptation Center]

Related posts:
Palmera Xolhuitz Water Pump Install: Intern Liakos Ariston Reports
Developments in Ram Pump Project for Palmera Xolhuitz in Guatemala
Water to the People!

Link of the Day 080808: Recommended Tourist spots in Haiti [UK's Independent]

From the Independent:

Riots, revolution and years of grinding deprivation – Haiti is the West’s poorest country. But the tourists may soon return to this Caribbean ‘Paradise Island’, says Tony Wheeler

Recommended Sights:


The Hotel Oloffson (made famous by Graham Greene’s the Comedians)
Pétionville, the upscale suburb in Port-au-Prince
Museum of Haitian Art on the Champs du Mars
Sainte-Trinité cathedral


Cast-iron market
Not mentioned, the Haitian Film Festival


La Citadelle
Labadie Beach

Not mentioned, Carnivale

Appropriate Technology Roundup #30 [080708]

1. Baja Positioning To Be Regional Solar Leader from Treehugger

The Pacific Mexican state of Baja California is swiftly becoming the region’s solar panel manufacturing powerhouse, boosting its profile as the “Silicon Border.” In recent weeks, two foreign companies — Q-Cells of Germany and Kyocera of Japan — announced new investments totally nearly $4.9 billion in plants that will produce for export mainly to the United States.

2. Is the compost crisis over? from The Guardian [UK]

Gardeners is the UK are having trouble with their compost, namely manure they were using has high concentrations of a new herbicide ingredient. The herbicide was damaging “sensitive crops such as tomatoes, potatoes, beans, peas and lettuce.”

[Aminopyralid from DOW Agrosciences] clings unexpectedly strongly to woody stems such as hay. Farmers apply it to grassland, to keep down docks and thistles, and then later sell the hay to merchants who sell it to stables or dairy farms. The horses and cows eat the straw, and the stable owners and dairy farmers then sell their manure to allotment owners.

The chemical has since been withdrawn as DOW’s scientists try to figure out what went wrong.


So how do we get to Gore's 100% renewable? Part 2

Current Energy Consumption

Electricity – consumption: 3.816 trillion kWh (2005)
US Energy Consumption by Sector 1949-2007
Source: Energy Information Administration Electric Power Annual 2006

According to Gore, the greatest gains can be made in energy efficiency. For instance, existing technologies can raise household efficiency by 30 percent and decrease energy consumption and demand.

Has the U.S. done anything like this before?


Such wide-scale change needs to be government led…. and before you start wringing your hands about how this smacks of central planning…

Issue: Energy Infrastructure>/h1>

Issue: Politics and People

What about people like in coal mining towns and whose entire livelihoods depends on dirty industries? What happens to them and their families, their towns and communities?

America’s transition to renewable energy sources must also include adequate provisions to assist those Americans who would unfairly face hardship. For example, we must recognize those who have toiled in dangerous conditions to bring us our present energy supply. We should guarantee good jobs in the fresh air and sunshine for any coal miner displaced by impacts on the coal industry. Every single one of them.

Roger and Me

Decline in Detroit, Sheffield in England, Pittsburgh

China and India’s hunger for coal…

Electricity – exports: 19.8 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity – imports: 44.53 billion kWh (2005)

US Electricity Imports and Exports, 1995-2006

How would this effect the world economy

Related Articles:
The (Annotated) Gore Energy Speech from Dot Earth