One of the coolest things about New Englanders is that Yankee thrift seems to translate well into environmentalism, particularly where alternative energy and energy conservation are concerned. There’s a really active alternative energy subculture in Massachusetts that brings biodiesel nuts together with solar geeks to dream of the day when we’ll harness the methane from our compost heaps to drive our oil overlords out of business.
So far this week, my heat has kicked on exactly twice. I am deeply, spiritually in love with my wood stove.
My next green upgrade was going to be a tankless water heater. It uses a super-hot element (gas or electric) to heat water as it passes through the unit, giving you unlimited hot water without the need to keep a tank of water hot all the time. They’re pricey, but worth every penny. Our home inspector has one, and he raved about it. But for that $1000-$2000, my friend John may have a better idea.
(*Note: I’ve priced the reconditioned Bosch units at like $400 plus installation; I think I’m getting on of these with my summer teaching money after all).
John Arney, the Zen Wood Master, is seriously planning a waterwheel-driven generator for his farm in Vermont. Hydroelectric is way out of town for me, but he sent me some links today that have me thinking wind may be my next step.
The Cape Wind Project is big; I’m talking more along the lines of the Whisper 100 from Solatron Technologies. The opponents of Cape Wind suck; I think these things are cool and way better looking than solar panels.
The other link he sent me was for a company called Applied Magnets. This stuff isn’t entirely straightforward, but it could be potentially lucrative as hobbies go. You need batteries to charge and discharge, and a way of synching your setup to the power grid. But this is where geek subculture comes in; there are old guys out there just dieing to lecture young people about this stuff. Start in Newburyport this summer; look for the beards.