9.21.2009,9:42 AM
Green Energy Fair in Texas
GreenEnergy Fair. Fredericksburg, Texas. 

Three of us locals rode down to Fredericksburg, Texas, for the annual GreenEnergy Fair. The even showcases current and future energy saving developments and construction. Demos, seminars, demonstrations, etc galore. It is a three-day event w ith presentations and demos running all day on the commons in the center of town.

Curtis and I rode down early. It was 45 degrees when I left home. I wore four layers underneath my mesh jacket and liner adding up to six layers. Long-johns and leggings with tall MX cushy warm socks, heated grips ran all the way to Marble Falls. I'm a weather weenie.

We arrived at Armadillo Campground in Luckenback (the famous Willie Nelson hang-out) shortly before noon and picked a lesser of all the evils spot in the corner of the property under a few giant trees. The property runs along the road (FMxxxx), so there was no place to get away from the sound of cars and bikes. Mostly bikes because it is barely a few thousand feet from the Luckenback Hangout (you know the place; listen to Willie Nelson's song). Other than traffic, it was quiet. Of course, I put my earplugs in before I fell asleep both nights.

Neither of us had had any breakfast so a meal was on order. We ended up at an excellent Mexican restaurant on the east side of town on Hwy-290. I had a taco salad that was the best I've eaten in six years. Staff were very friendly and accommodating; place was ultra clean and comfy. I highly recommend the place.

We finally arrived at the fair which was on the town square. Parking was a zoo, but Curtis lucked out on finding a spot for our two bikes when a big truck pulled out. Only had to navigate around the block three times before that. Day 2 and 3, we were allowed to park alongside the exhibitors parking, thanks to a kind motorcycling lady exhibitor that told us we can. Ed found the same spot available when he joined us Saturday.

Paying our dues, we walked in and went right to a sight that caught both of us while passing by. This windmill has me. It's quiet and efficient, catches wind at only 2.2 mph, whereas the others require a wind speed of minimal ~4 mph. And it's not unsightly and ungainly. No joints! = less friction and resistance. Low and easy maintenance. Expensive, but I think the price will come down. It is made by Honeywell and was just recently released as a prototype. I likey.

They had no literature on it; it's that new. So I don't have any more info to share.

Next on my 'Likey List' was an answer to the Loo issue!!!

Some background is required. I lived partly off the grid in Maine for 14 years: no water, no septic, no phone. I did have electricity, but used as little as possible (I recall my monthly bills being about $5-10/month until I got a big chest freezer). I heated and cooked with wood. I have a fondness for outhouses (I built my outhouse as a two-seater and wallpapered the inside with colored Sunday comics, seats were removable to hang inside near the woodstove during winter months). I have a photo album of outhouses from all over and over the years.

Now, loo alternatives are few: outhouse, composting toilet and chemical toilet. The latter is out. The first will be built on the property anyway, no matter what. And the second was not very appealing either, but probably the only answer. Septic systems in the Terlingua desert are not an option.

So, imagine my surprise when I found these: the E-Loo, or the Enviro Loo. They are perfect for the desert! The systems were developed for arid and semi-arid environment in Africa (if I recall). It's a solar heated evaporative human waste system. Solids and liquid are separated internally; all the liquid evaporates and the solids become a powder. The only maintenance is every several years, the powder gets scooped out. AND the entire system except for the throne is outside the bathroom or commode room.

I didn't find any alligators inside, either.

Had several conversations with the reps and installers there; a great group of folks! Lo and behold, there are already several of these in Big Bend at the BB Ranch State Park. I have exact locations, so I will be checking these out next time I'm there. The guys love it down there and asked if they could install it for us so they can have another excuse to spend a few days there.

Next on the list was water catchment systems. I've been a proponent of several poly tanks, but was concerned about getting the things into the interior of the desert. Hauling anything big is a problem when navigating 10-14 miles of bumpy, rocky desert roads and deep arroyos, as well as crossing deep draws with steep sides. I had trouble explaining this to several reps at the fair; they think they can access everywhere in Texas.

I found an answer to the issue with this system of metal tanks.

These are the tanks that I saw erected on a YouTube video! Innovative Water Solutions had a booth there and I chatted with the guys. I complemented them on the video and learned they did another video on YouTube that had intrigued me (I was told this one is in Dallas, down the street from where I work!). A buddy of theirs did the music for the vids. Most of the guys are UTA engineer graduates, one still working on his masters. Bunch of nice guys. (and they are creative: another vid  )

Solar was overwhelmingly represented at the event. Panels were everywhere. It got so that they all looked alike, except for the colors of the exhibitors' booths. What really grabbed me were solar thermal tube collectors. These stood out. One on display had a thermometer attached to the top head of one tube and the reading was 400 degrees F.

Silly me (actually, I was too hot) didn't take any photos of this, but here's their website: Kingspan Solar Thermomax. I like these because they are direct, more efficient than panels, and based on simple design and technology: glass, sun and heat transfer. Old timers in Maine (including myself) used this technology in very simple forms: garden hose, black plastic waste receptacles, etc. (wet application versus the more modern techy dry vacuum tubes).

One product and idea I was not expecting was this: pervious concrete. I can see this as the floor of my outdoor shower. Catch the shower water and rainwater, pipe water out of the lined box underneath filled with pea gravel and into a small catchment tank for outdoor watering needs. In the desert, water is the most precious resource; waste not, want not.

A few other photos: The Tesla that everyone oohed and ahhed over. Dad and son are wiping it down. They drove it to the event.

Everyone that knows me is aware of my hair-brained ideas of how to make a living in Terlingua/Big Bend. One is being a provider of another precious commodity: ice cream. I've had a few ideas of a station, ranging from a caboose to cargo trailer. Of course, a mobile van serving ice cream at the fair was a frequent place of refreshment and chat several times during the three days. Very friendly couple; we enjoyed talking to them and they showed me how their truck is set up. I expanded upon it with my own ideas, of course, "Where's the fold-down cot? Can you fit a bike in here?"

Now we have the obligatory bike photos:

Back at camp.

And Curtis, just as he leaves and embarkes on his TAT tour.


posted by Macrobe
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