Sustainable living on the Key Peninsula
Editor’s note: This is part 2 in a series highlighting sustainable living and tips from Key Pen resident Ed Bressette.
Everyone who read about Ed Bressette (see KP News, March 2004) now knows he is a man willing to take the time to create ways to live sustainably. This includes taking time to read through the Little Nickel for parts for systems as well as, at times, entire systems. Bressette actually bought an entire water system in the box that way, unused. Some might call it “scrounging,” but it sure beats paying new prices.
One of Bressette’s biggest accomplishments is making bio-diesel, actual diesel gas that can be used in motorized vehicles designed to run on it. Believe it or not, combining cooking oil with methanol and lye makes bio-diesel. Bressette gets a lot of his cooking oil from Lulu’s Homeport restaurant and Dexter’s in Purdy, or other companies and co-ops off the Peninsula.
Bressette first tried batches in his home blender. Then he progressed to a 5-gallon bucket. Things went so well he kept going and made a tank with a trolling motor for internal stirring in his yard that holds 60 liquid gallons, connected to a storage tank. It has a filtration system and flows into a gas pump. He currently runs his diesel tractor on it, but needs to buy a diesel car! His friends from the Northwest Solar Group come and gas up all the time.
There are many steps to this process that include multiple filterings of byproduct, which mostly happens to be glycerin. This glycerin can be retained and cut into bars for pure glycerin soap, but it comes out dark brown — not very attractive. They would love to sell the soaps, but everyone thinks they are ugly and won’t buy.
Another step is knowing length of time for the cooking process and watching for any mechanical failures (hasn’t happened yet). It seems to be a complicated process, but when Bressette describes it, it sounds like anyone can do it. The main thing to keep in mind is the amount of chemicals, stirring, time and filtration.
Don’t try this at home! Bressette has made sure to inform anyone who asks for information regarding any of his projects that they need guidance and information before attempting anything alone for the first time. It is truly dangerous in many cases, as you are working with electricity, chemical compounds of many types and heavy parts. There are so many ways to get hurt, it’s too long to list here, but you can call Bressette with any questions, including about the next meeting of the Northwest Solar Group. They love to inform and pass on knowledge, but stress safety above all.
Another favorite project of Bressette’s is his wind generator. There are many different types, but to have an effective one, you need to know the conditions of your area. Bressette checked online and many other sources to determine the actual wind speed average on any given day —not just Washington wind, but Peninsula wind. The contours of the land account for a lot of the various conditions. Bressette has determined that in our area, the average wind speed is only 1 mph! The major variable to that is the fact that most of our wind comes at two times of the year— spring and fall.
This information is not to be found in the national records, either. Bressette now has a wireless weather monitor (can be obtained at Target stores) at home where he can check the conditions at any given time. He was very excited on March 5 at 3:55 p.m. when he discovered his maximum wind speed that day was 11 mph. This is great for charging up the batteries quickly. Bressette also has a wind gauge at the generator so he can calculate the wind speed and how much power was produced at that current speed.
Because of the low wind speeds here, the best type of wind generator to erect is a multi-blade type. The more blades, the better chance you have of catching maximum wind. At a 1 mph average, you need a lot of blades for any feeble movement at all. The more blades you have, the more torque you get and the more power you generate.
The process basically is this: The blades turn in the wind, which creates energy that is run through the wires to the batteries. The more batteries you have, the more power you can store. (Bressette is currently making an off-building to house the batteries he has and will be adding more.) The batteries charge and store power. They run their power in DC (there are some wind generators that come as AC running units, but most are DC) and are wired to an inverter that then converts the power to AC for use in the home and elsewhere.
Bressette feels the best source of information for any home projects is www.homepower.com. It has links to everything you can think of for sustainable projects as well as events in your community.
The Northwest Solar Group is now officially a nonprofit organization and can more quickly designate projects and educational demonstrations as well as printing periodicals —one of their dreams. They believe that the periodicals are the most important part of what they do educationally because they can take people safely through the process of their project from beginning to end: Uninformed experimentation leads to avoidable accidents.
Find out more
Information about the Northwest Solar Group, including meeting details and upcoming events, is available at www.nwsolargroup.com. The group will have a booth at a community fair at PLU on Saturday, April 3, and will demonstrate how to make batch hot water. With questions, contact Ed Bressette at 884-6225 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn about making bio-diesel, Bressette recommends the book “From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank, The Complete Guide to Using Vegetable Oil as an Alternative Fuel” by Joshua Tickell.