Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Saltbox and Battery

By Bob Ferris

When I was at Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Warren, Vermont from 2006 to 2009 I thought and wrote a lot about energy conservation, alternative energy and integrated power systems in architecture and in daily life.  During this time I was intrigued by everything from super-insulation to compressed-air-powered cars and from building small to micro-hydro systems.  

And light too.  Why did we in the US still design lighting systems to mimic candles when some in Europe were looking at "light walls" an such?  It is amazing how your mind drifts to thoughts of energy efficiency or better ways of doing it when you are writing checks the size of house payments for utilities nine months of the year.

Yestermorrow was a very fun career detour, particularly for someone married to a green architect. And it allowed me to meet some very, very interesting people including the folks from YERT (Your Environmental Road Trip). My piece ended up on the cutting room floor in the compiled YERT movie, but I still keep in touch with Ben, Julie and Mark.  

At some point I became so immersed in this energy stuff that my good friend Gregor Barnum and I along with Jasna and Gaelan Brown also tried to start a "Carbon Shredding" movement (we lived near Sugarbush Ski Resort so shredding worked on several different levels--get it?).  We eventually took our show on the road hitting Bonnaroo after the 24-hour Solar Bus ride from Vermont to Tennessee.  We worked a booth from 8AM to 3AM three days in a row.  It was big-time fun but what the hell were we thinking?

Gregor and I clowning around before getting on The Solar Bus in Vermont.
All of this and more came back to me over the last week or so for two reasons.  The first was Tesla's big announcement about a soon-to-be-premiered whole house battery which to me is a very exciting development indeed.  Maybe it will be too expensive for most, but it is a step.  

And the second happened when my wife and I were shopping for binoculars at REI.  I had cruised over to the camping section and was looking at things like new attachments for the Biolite stove that my wife bought me for my birthday this past year.  I have not used the stove yet but am very intrigued because of the rocket-stove nature of the device and its ability to put a little charge into cellphones and the like via the USB connection once it gets ripping.  

As I was cruising through the options, I was soon joined by a sales person.  We talked a little about the Biolite and then he got a little conspiratorial look on his face and led me over to a new tent that Big Agnes had just started making.  Big Agnes had just released a line of tents with a string of LED lights running along part of the ridge as well as the top of the back wall.  

I do not know whether or not that the LEDs actually provide enough light for reading, but I do know that it has to be better than using a headlamp or flashlight.  The idea that a tent company had looked for a way to incorporate an energy-efficient "light wall" into their tent filled me with a sense of hope. 

I sensed, the late and much missed, Gregor's presence as I looked at this, because this would have been something that I shared with him via e-mail.  I felt too that I might have even heard...Get on the Bus, Come chill with us...We are Carbon Shredders...somewhere in the background of my mental sound track.   

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