Quantitative assessment of the proposed wave energy demonstration farm off the coast of Portland, Victoria

The attached report is another that I wrote as part of my studies and which I thought may be of interest.

It is an assessment of the viability of a wave energy farm off the coast of my home town Portland, Victoria, Australia.

The proposed wave energy farm is being developed using buoys which rise and fall with the passing waves. The heaving of the buoy, which consists of a stationary lower section under the water and an upper section moving up and down, in turn drives a mechanical generator.

One of the problems with the viability of wave energy technology is that the current devices tend to have optimum wave height and frequency ranges; the further away conditions are from ideal, the greater the drop in the efficiency of energy production. Ocean conditions are highly variable and difficult to predict.

Fortunately, immediately prior to researching the project Sustainability Victoria had just finished compiling 2 years worth of wave height and frequency data at a location not far from where the project is planned to be installed. The plethora of wave data in the area of the project allowed a reasonably detailed analysis of average wave height and frequency and standard deviations on either side of the average. January and June were selected as months providing an indication of wave conditions in summer and winter conditions and data from those months were analysed to get an idea of the range of conditions that the buoys would encounter.

My conclusion raised concerns about the particular buoys to be used combined with the variability of conditions being able to efficiently convert the energy stored in the passing waves into electrical energy.

Qualitative assessment of wave energy demonstration farm off Portland, Victoria

Sustainable Dairy Farming – Eutrophication and Greenhouse Gas Mitigation

This is my first foray into posting a paper that I originally produced for my studies, something I hinted at doing in a previous post.

This paper was written as part of a subject exploring the human effect on the natural environment.

I chose to explore the prospect of sustainable dairy farming; particularly, the obstacles top sustainability created by nutrient run-off from dairy farms into waterways (eutrophication) and greenhouse gas emissions.

Although focusing on dairy farming, parts of the paper are applicable to other farming activities.

Preconceived ideas as to who will have any interest in this work, I have none. Hopefully, someone will gain some ideas of the scale of these two problems and possible practical solutions, and be able to put the paper to use.

I would be glad to receive any comments.

Cheers.

Sustainable Dairy Farming – Eutrophication and Greenhouse Gas Mitigation

Future Food – A Short story

One website I regularly enjoy reading is Big Think, a site with commentary covering numerous categories of progressive throught, such as in science, politics, ethics and philosophy.

Some time ago, the site held a short story competition, with contestants given a weekend to write a science fiction tale around the subject of ‘future food’. I couldn’t help but give it a go, and here is the final product.

It didn’t win any prizes, but I enjoyed telling the story. I hope you enjoy.

“What does it taste like?”

I cant remember the taste of a real apple. Or a strawberry.

Now that I think about it, there are lots of foods that I cant remember eating. You know, the real ones. The ones grown in the dirt or picked from really big trees.

Mum says that I did get to eat some when I was much smaller. I ask her how old I was when I ate them. She always replies “when you were about 2 or 3 buddy”. I’m 11 and half now.

Whenever I ask Mum about what the real ones taste like and why cant we have them now, she seems a bit sad, gives a little sigh and explains to me that they don’t grow very well now, its too hot for them, and that only people with a lot of money can afford the ones that are left.

I dont really understand what Mum means. The other day at school I secretly used my Google Goggles to see if I could find a better explanation on the internet, but I still dont understand it really. It says something about a tipping point when suddenly the temperature all around us jumped up really quickly. Snow melted in places it hadn’t for millions of years. Lots of animals went extinct. The internet says it happened in 2052. Lots of people, old people like my Nan, died when it happened.

I don’t remember Nan, but Mum says she would be fond of me and all the questions I ask.

The little black machine makes a funny noise when Mum uses it. Woooshhhzappppp! Woooshhhzapppp!

The kitchen benches are too high for me to see what happens when Mum points the machine at the tub and pulls the trigger. I grab the box that it came in down from next to where Mum is getting dinner ready. Food Matter Materialisation Device says the box. “With improved nano-wave particle identification technology – better tasting food for you and your family at every meal”.

Mum grabs another tub of pure matter particles from the cupboard, points the gun-like machine at it and starts pulling the trigger again.

Woooshhhzapppp! Woooshhhzappp!

Our new food gun isn’t as great as Sam’s one. Sam’s my best friend at school. His family live in a big house in Werribee, an inner suburb of Melbourne. Their house is much bigger than ours. I think Sam’s family is rich. Their food gun does everything really quickly, even cooking the food perfectly when it forms.

Dad had to buy a new one the other week because I had broken the last one. Before Mum had finished cleaning up after dinner I grabbed it ran to my room, pretending to shoot things. I accidently pulled the trigger and a piece of my desk started to melt and turn into a zucchini. Mum had just made some zucchinis for dinner and had forgotten to turn it off. The gun didn’t work quite as well after that.

I ask Mum how the gun works. She says she’s not really sure, some very smart scientists built it. She says that all she knows is that the processor shoots energy waves of different lengths into the particles and, depending on what food you ask the processor to make, it pulls out the particles it needs to make that food.

“Why can’t I see the waves Mum? I can see waves at the beach!” Mum explains that the waves are tiny and made of light, and we can’t see them without special goggles.

“And then” says Mum, “the processor assembles all the little bits of matter into the right order so that it makes something that looks like, feels like and tastes like the real thing”.

I hear the front door close and then something heavy falling to the ground. It was Dad.

“Please turn your skateboard off and put it away when you’re finished playing with it!’ He cries out. Whoops! I must have left it hovering next my shoes when I came in.

Rosie, the automatic vaccum cleaner, weaves it’s way around my legs. It’s name isnt’ really Rosie. I named it that after the cleaner robot on The Jetsons. Nan first showed me The Jetsons which she said was from her childhood.

Woooshhhzapppp! Woooshhhzappp!

Mum puts the last bits of the freshly made vegetables in the oven.

“Do they taste as good as the real thing Mum?” I ask.

“Sorry?” Mum asks. The beep of the super-conductor oven setting itself must have drowned out my question.

“The apples. The ones from the tree. Do they taste different to the ones we have now?” I repeated.

Mum kneeled down to me.

“Well buddy, sometimes the real ones looked a bit funny, or had some marks on their skin. Not like the ones we have now. But, when the juice from a real apple runs onto your tongue, it was delicious.”

“Mum!” I begged.

“Yes”.

“You didn’t answer my question! Do the ones we eat taste as good as the real ones?” I asked impatiently.

Mum glanced away, and then turned back to me with a kind of pitied look. The kind of look she gives me when we lose footy by a few points on the weekend but tells me we played really well.

She turned away slowly again.

Her shoulders lowered a bit and her back hunched forward a little. She stared out the window.

I was starting to get impatient with the pause.

“Close enough Buddy. Close enough”.

When it rains, is stores!

As with most of my projects, the search for the right materials without resorting to a visit to the local hardware store results in some time passing before I have everything I need to finish a job.

Recently I was fortunate enough to get together the final bits and pieces (and a helping hand from my sister’s boyfriend) I needed to build a stand for my water tank and connect it to my shed.

I already had the tank and had given it a good rinse, bought second hand from a local. I’d been given a heavy duty plastic pallet which could handle the weight of a full tank of water. And recently I sourced some sleepers from the in-laws property, and some plumbing supplies from the local tip shop.

And alas, the tank is now set up and, after some decent rain, is full and being put to good use.

Image

The tank is set up from the ground so that my watering can can fit under the tap, and to also use gravity to force the water out at a reasonable rate without using a pump. The faucet has a hose connector attached to it to make for easy watering.

The bottom level of the stand is made up with the three sleepers making up the border, with sleepers screwed in inside the box to support the plastic pallet and the tank. The pallet is sitting on top of the enclosed bottom level sleepers, with another three sleepers screwed together to make a border around the pallet to keep it in place.

The resulting stand, I think, looks pretty good and a does a great job!

Plumbing the tank wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might. I pulled the down pipe which connects the gutters to the drain out and using some existing pipe elbows and some found at the tip shop, re-routed the rainwater out from behind the shed, along the side of the shed and into the inlet hole.

All it takes is some good measurements, and the simple understanding that water can’t run up – you can see from the pipe attached along the side of the shed that it is on a slight angle down to ensure that the water runs properly down into the tank.

Finally, I’ve added another pipe to the overflow outlet, which currently runs into a big old pot. The idea will be to find another container for this overflow to run into, possibly an old wheelie bin which can then be adapted with a tap to allow this to be used as a portable water source.

The project wasn’t as daunting as I thought it might be, and would encourage anyone to have a go at it. Even if it isn’t with recycled materials, hardware stores carry equipment to divert rainwater from downpipes so that it can stored and used when needed. And of course it adds a further degree of sustainability to your garden and, in my case, to my growing veggies. Even a small roof area can collect a usable amount of water.

I am blessed by the fact that the gutters installed on the shed roof are constructed in a way to stop leaves and other objects from flowing down into the downpipes. For a normal gutter, it would be best to put some shade cloth or other gauze like material to trap leaves and dirt from running into the tank.

Although I haven’t done it yet, I’m planning on adding something to the pipes to catch smaller object from falling into the tank, with the idea of being able to use the tank water (after testing it properly of course) as drinking water.

I’d love to hear any stories or suggestions from people who have done the same thing, or are planning on doing so.

Silent Saturday – My Clean Energy Future

Climate Scientists from Macquarie University, The University of Melbourne and Monash Sustainability Institute recently held a competition for anyone to create a film demonstrating the positive effects of a clean energy future, called “Green Screen Climate Fix Flicks“.

The purpose of the competition is part of the greater purpose of the association of these three organisations to raise awareness of and promote sustainable living. Given the similarity between this objective and that of my blog, I thought I’d have a go.

Using the camera in my phone and my trusty old laptop, here is what I came up with – “Silent Saturday“.

The film features my new (figuratively speaking) water tank and stand and new veggie patch, which are to be the included in a future article covering the new additions to my backyard, the tomato plants the topic of my last post, my bike, the often cited Portland tip shop and vegan cooking, all elements of my idea of sustainable world.

I really hope you enjoy it.

You say tomato, I grow tomato!

Welcome to the first article for the year.

Over the small break from work and blogging, I spent some more time than I usually find for digging up the garden and turning these evolving green thumbs a nicer shade of soil brown. I will post another article looking at all the activities I undertook, including digging a new patch and planting in pots (including an old washing machine cylinder).

But, the purpose of this post is one particular veggie I planted, the beloved tomato. Whether cooked as part of a hot breakfast, cold in a salad or between bread as part of a toasted sandwich, how could I not want to have a go at growing them?

I gathered some seedlings from friends and family, and had a collection of 10 of varying ages. The largest plants were planted at the southern end of the new veggie patch, so that they couldn’t block out the smaller plants. The same principle applies to all plants in a patch, as can be seen with the eggplants and capsicum plants I’ve put in with the tomatoes.

Like always, a well prepared soil with plenty of compost dug into it greatly enhances the prospect of a successful crop. Further, tomato plants start to droop pretty quickly in hot weather, even though they are a summer fruit, and a good watering at the time of planting and during their life is essential.

There are some extra tips with tomato growing. One, is that the plants need to be staked once they grow to height where they start to flop due to the weight they are carrying. The stakes don’t need to be anything special, I grabbed some long thing pieces of wood from the local tip shop (which the attendant thought was nothing but trash and refused to charge me for) and I’ve tied he plants to them using elastic from some old singlets and some old shoelaces.

The second tip is to pull off any branches that begin growing in the fork where two other branches already exists. This forces the plant to focus on growing the fruit, as opposed to growing more branches, and will see your crop grow immensely. The following two photos show what to look for:

Here is the branch growing in the fork….

And now its gone!

Some of the more mature plants started fruiting within 2 to 3 weeks from the time they were transferred into the garden using these two tips. The smaller plants are well established and have few small flowers, sure signs that there will be more to come.

Finally, in order to be truly sustainable, leave aside some tomatoes to take the seeds from which can then be planted the next spring/early summer for your next crop. To do this, cut the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds. Either using a sieve with running water or on a paper towel, remove the tomato flesh from around the seeds. The seeds need to be left for a couple of weeks to dry out. Once dried, simply store them (using old glass jars is great for storage so long as they are clean and dry) until needed.

Enjoy the process, learning is half the fun. If anyone has any comments or further tips, please feel free to comment.

Cheers.

Dig it up! The veggie patch bears more fruit

I was watering the veggie patch the other night, when I spotted the tops of a number of carrots in the line of seeds I had planted and which had been growing the quickest.

Eager as I have been lately to taste more of what I had grown after recently picking the peas I had grown, I started to pull up the carrots that were just showing their tops out of the soil.

One by one, the thick orange roots that supported the green foliage I had been feverishly watering for the last number of weeks came out of the ground. It is amazing that these had started from some of the tiniest seeds that I had grown.

There are still more carrots waiting to be pulled up which need some more time to grow.

Given that the shrubs that had grown from the potatoes that I had planted had mostly died off, bar one which continued to grow, I decided that it was time to see if the potatoes had flourished to the same extent that the carrots had. Unfortunately, only the potatoes growing as tubers to the longest lasting plant had grown to a decent size.

Although a little disappointing, trial and error is part of the fun. Next time, I’ll try planting the potatoes in a sunnier part of the patch to see if that will promote better growth.

Apart from the remaining carrots, only the brussels sprouts are left, and they need some tending to eradicate their growing attraction to some moths – but that will be part of another article looking at organic ways to deter pests.

If any gardeners out there have any suggestions or questions I’d be happy to hear from you!