Gorgeous Green House

The Renovation Journey of a 1940’s ‘Traditional’ to 2015 ‘Contemporary, Green & Gorgeous’


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A Case For Investing in Solar Energy: East Coast Radio Interview

ECREast Coast Radio are running a wonderful series on sustainability and eco issues with Kerry Dell. It is aired on Wednesdays at 09:00 pm.  I was included to share our experiences around investing in Solar Energy.  My intention is to help people think about this investment in a broader context,  which includes the ROI!  Here is the link:

http://iono.fm/c/1612

 

 


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What is the Cost of Going Solar?

Solar geyser and panels on The Gorgeous Green House

Solar geyser and panels on The Gorgeous Green House

Government mandated power outages for South Africans are to be part of our lives for many years to come.  As we complain and our economy suffers  one might think that many people and organisations of reasonable means are installing solar systems.  This is not so.

Barriers to entry are certainly perceived high cost, but also general lack of knowledge of how these systems work.

One of the frequently asked questions about The Gorgeous Green House is ‘how much did your solar system cost’?

I’ve learned that if I answer the question directly people’s eyes tend to glaze over and they mentally check out of the conversation.  I wish to challenge people to think differently about the subject as it may lead to a different set of conclusions (and hopefully actions!).   So I now answer that question with the following questions:

  • Do you know what you are currently paying for electricity? (you would be surprised at how many  people can’t answer this question)
  • Do you know what increases are on the cards going forward?
  • Have you drawn up a spreadsheet to really get to grips with what you will be spending over the next few years?

We did this exercise, and based on our rather shocking, (but not unusual) $200.00 (aprox. R2000.00) per month electricity bill, we projected our forward costs based on the 12.2% increase that we experienced this year and the 25% increase that ESKOM are asking for. As we have installed, these costs are now savings.

This is what it looks like in South African Rands (divide by 10 for a rough conversion to American dollars):

Old (Non-eco) House Electricity Account:

Aprox 2 000.00 per month

  12.2 % Annual Increase Accumulative Saving 25% Annual Increase Accumulative Saving
2014 24 000.00   24 000.00  
2015 26 880.00 50 880.00 30 000.00 54 000.00
2016 30 105.56 80 985.56 37 500.00 91500.00
2017 33 337.48 114 323.04 46 875.00 138 375.00
2018 37 899.46 152 222.50 58 593.75 196 968.75
2019 42 523.19 194 745.69

Like us, you may be rather shocked at how much you will be spending on electricity over the next few years.  The reality is, however, that South African’s have benefited from relatively low rates compared to the rest of the world and on that score we have little to complain about.

Medupi Coal Station.  As unattractive as it is unhealthy.

Medupi Coal Station. As unattractive as it is unhealthy.

Our government’s solution to our energy crises is the building of even more filthy, polluting coal powered stations and extremely controversial nuclear stations.  The science shows us that with some political will and sensible interventions we can avoid these options with healthy, earth affirming renewable energy systems.  Starting at home seems like a good place to begin.

If you do you sums as above the next step would be to consult a reputable solar provider  for a quote.  You may be very surprised at the ROI time frame.  Ours will be somewhere between 4 and 5 years. If your quote to go ‘off grid’ is not possible, why not start smaller.  You can add to and expand your system very easily as your means allow.  In the meantime at least benefit from avoiding the incessant power failures!

We plan to be in our house for many years so relatively soon we will be scoring financially and using electricity in a way that serves our concern for the health of the planet!

In addition, we continue to lobby our authorities to implement systems to pay small scale electricity generators  for their excess electricity as this will offer further incentive to others to get on board. Watch this space!


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Top Billing Visits the Gorgeous Green House

The Gorgeous Green House  will be making her TV debut this Thursday 16 July via the very glamorous No.1 South African magazine programme Top Billing. ( 07:30 p.m. on SABC 3). For those outside of SA there will be a shorter segment on You Tube – will advise when I know.

This 3 day process was absolutely fascinating. At times it was nerve wracking, and at times tedious (“take 43”!).  It was also overwhelming and humbling as I know how the intro goes:

Good evening and a very warm welcome to Top Billing. Tonight we come to you from the Gorgeous Green house in Durban, the culmination of one couple’s desire to ‘live more gently on the planet’. It’s quite fitting as this Saturday is Mandela Day, a day to remember that everyone can help to make the world a better place.

This was how we experienced the overall process:

Day 1:  Lorna interviews Jane, Caitlin (daughter), Chen (architect) and James (vertical garden designer) about the house

Jane extolling the virtues of the eco kitchen

Jane extolling the virtues of the eco kitchen

Interviewd In the lounge: "no we didn't get in an interior designer, the garden is the decoration:.

Interviewd In the lounge: “no we didn’t get in an interior designer, the garden is the decoration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James, Jane and Lorna explaining how the vertical garden works

James, Jane and Lorna explaining how the vertical garden works

Walking, talking and shooting, eeks!

Walking, talking and shooting, eeks!

Day 2:  Lorna arrives in elegant evening gown, make-up artist in tow, to do all the ‘links’ that appear between the different segments of the show

Sparkling Lorna Maseko

Sparkling Lorna Maseko

Lorna next to the pool

Lorna next to the pool

Lorna verandaLorna bedroomDay 3: The director and team return with a drone to take aerial images!

Thanks Top Billing for this wonderful opportunity to get our “living green’ message out to such a wide and diverse audience.

Awesome team: Adrian (director).Lucky (Technician),Mfundo (Camera)

Awesome team: Lucky (Technician),Mfundo (Camera), Adrian (Director)

Setting up the drone

Setting up the drone

Away it goes!

Away it goes!


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Wonderful Professional Images of the Gorgeous Green House

Our architects Sagnelli Associate Architects are entering our project into the  AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture.   The exceptionally talented Grant Pitcher has been commissioned to take the photos for entry.

http://www.grantpitcher.co.za/architectural-photography/the-gorgeous-greenhouse/

My favourite is this one. It is a birds eye view shows off the solar technology, roof garden and eco-pool from a vantage point not seen before.

gorgeous green house

Good luck Chen Sagnelli and team for the competition!


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Join the Rooftop Revolution, it’s the Solar Solution!

Join the Rooftop Revolution

We’ve got 24 hours for South Africa to Go Solar!

 

In the midst of a crushing electricity crisis, Greenpeace considers it a right of every South African to produce their own power, and to feed extra electricity into the grid and get paid for it as a long-term energy solution.

This means being permitted to put solar panels onto rooftops and connecting to a decentralized energy system, where energy can be generated near the place where it is needed. This would have a double impact of increasing energy efficiency, while allowing electricity production to finally be in the control of the people who need it.

As we have seen in examples in more than 50 countries, a rooftop revolution is not only feasible, it is ready to go.

So this is great news!

What is holding this back? Paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork, with barriers imposed by the South African government.

YOU can change this!

Greenpeace is urging government to make the process feasible for South Africans.
IN THE NEXT 24 HOURS
we are sending a formal submission to NERSA (the National Energy Regulator of South Africa), and with your help we can put the pressure on NERSA to simplify the regulations governing installing solar panels and feeding extra electricity into the grid.

It’s pretty technical, but essentially we believe that if you sign this petition to NERSA then there is a clear indication of support for simplifying the regulations, and focusing on helping people install solar panels, rather than burying them in paperwork. 

 


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Gorgeous Green House Covered by Papers Nationally

daily_news

It has been a fantastic week of media exposure for the Gorgeous Green House. Lindsay Ord has written up our story and shows how living green can be much more accessible than many people realize.  If you missed the article in your local paper you can see the online IOL version HERE.

Star 125cape-argus

 

 


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Net Metering: South Africa slow to compensate small scale generators for excess energy

Solar Panels on the Gorgeous Green House

Solar Panels on the Gorgeous Green House

South Africa’s current energy crises resulting in up to 6 hours of blackouts (the term load shedding is misleading) on any given day has everyone’s attention.

In this post I would like to focus on one opportunity that is not yet getting traction in our country but has been fairly commonplace in developed countries around the world for several decades.

Net Metering is a fairly simple idea: it is generally an arrangement with a service provider whereby excess electricity generated by a customer who has installed their own solar/wind/other electricity generating technology is used to offset electric energy provided by the electric utility to the electric consumer during the applicable billing period.

For example, this system has enabled German citizens to build and own nearly half of all the wind turbines, solar PV, and biogas plants in the country. Individual German citizens—not their utility companies–have invested more than $100 billion in renewable energy. They have done so because they are paid a fair price for their electricity and because they can install the size, type, and amount of renewables that is the most economic for them and the best fit for their communities.  energyblog.nationalgeographic.com

This model appears to be a ‘no-brainer’ in its potential to incentivise property owners who can easily calculate a faster return on an investment in alternative energy while contributing to a greener planet.  A document recently released  by NERSA (National Energy Regulator South Africa) has pointed out:

MECHANISMS should be developed to allow the integration of electricity generation by solar panels on residential, commercial and industrial buildings into the power grid.

Nersa’s document comes during what it says has been a great increase over the past year in the number of private rooftop photovoltaic (solar) panels installed on residential and commercial/ industrial premises at the cost of the owners. These are connected to the grid and could feed surplus power back into it.

The owners of a number of rooftop grid-tied solar systems have agreements with municipalities on net-metering, which sets off the electricity consumed with the surplus electricity supplied to the grid.  The Gorgeous Green House has signed such an agreement with our local municipality but are yet to see any credit for surplus electricity. The Mercury Newspaper and IOL have been covering aspects of this story and approached eThekwini for comment as to why the process has not been implemented.  The full story can be accessed here.  Leshan Moddliar from eThewini’s response was:

 “Currently, the municipality is not ideally structured to remunerate renewable small scale embedded generation, as processes are designed to buy power from Eskom and supply customers. When a customer wants to generate electricity, power is now flowing in the reverse direction and it does pose a challenge to integrate to current systems.”

 One can’t help wondering why this ‘structuring’ is taking so long to sort out. We signed our Power Purchase Agreement in October 2013.  Perhaps the real reason is as the NERSA document points out:

“The widespread installation of rooftop solar panels, which is also referred to as embedded generation or distributed generation, poses a real threat to municipal and Eskom revenues,” 

My follow up questions for Leshan are as follows:

  • What has eThekwini/NERSA/ESKOM been doing in the last few years  to address the structural issues that are preventing the implementation of our PPA?
  • Why is it that other municipalities have pilot projects running and NERSA are not inhibiting them?
  • What is eThekwini/NERSA/ESKOM doing to learn from these models and other successful projects around the world?
  • To what extent is eThekwini prioritising this opportunity in light of the energy crises?
  • What are you time lines?
  • What is your comment in terms of the NERSA document (quote above). Is it possible your reluctance to move these projects forward is because it poses a threat to your revenues?

Unfortunately, several e-mails and messages left for Leshan have elicited no response.


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Gorgeous Green House Featured in Green Home Magazine

Cover Green home magWe are thrilled that our green message is being picked up by other publications.  Thank you Green Home Magazine for sharing our story.  They have shared an electronic version.  Click here  and go to p.12 to see what a wonderful job they have done!

Green home mag p.12


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Greenpeace Bust Myths Around Renewable Energy

Greenpeace

RENEWABLE ENERGY MYTHS

6 MYTHS ABOUT RENEWABLE ENERGY, BLOWN AWAY

The evidence is in: Renewable energy is viable, reliable, and ready to go – all that’s missing is the political will to kick start an energy revolution in South Africa.

On this page we’ve grouped some of the most common myths about renewable energy, explaining why they are just that – myths that don’t stand up to reality.

But here’s the thing, although we’ve busted the myths here, we need you to make the myth busting go beyond this page.

Please share it widely. Tweet, Facebook, and talk about it freely.

Now, let’s get going!

 

MYTH 1

RENEWABLE ENERGY IS TOO EXPENSIVE

 

Right now, renewable energy is actually already cheaper than coal and nuclear power at every step.

  • A unit of electricity from Eskom’s new coal plants will cost about 97c while a unit of electricity from renewable energy will only cost 89c. Source

In addition, there are no input costs for wind and solar energy. So for example, while one needs to buy coal for a coal-fired power plant to generate electricity (and coal mining itself has massive environmental costs), solar and wind energy don’t have input costs like that – sunlight and wind are free.

 

THE HIDDEN COSTS OF COAL AND NUCLEAR

Market price aside, coal and nuclear power have huge hidden costs that aren’t included in the price that you and I pay for electricity.

For instance, Eskom is currently building the Kusile coal-fired power plant, and it’s estimated that the coal plant will cause damage of up to R60 billion for every year it operates. We’re talking the costs of water pollution, human health impacts, the plant’s huge water footprint, and climate change.

These massive costs aren’t taken into account when the price of coal power is calculated — but they are still very real!

MYTH 2

RENEWABLE ENERGY IS STILL SCIENCE-FICTION

      

Renewables technology is ready to go, and is working reliably in countries around the world.

  • Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, already gets 25% of it’s electricity from renewables, and is aiming for 80% renewable energy by 2050 – source
    [See graphic below]

  • In 2012 China generated 104 billion kilowatt hours of electricity from solar power and wind power – source [Note: Page is in Chinese, so use a translation service]
  • Portugal generated more than 70% of its electricity from renewable energy sources during the first quarter of 2013 –source
  • South Africa is the third-best solar location globally as it has one of the highest and most stable solar radiations in the world.
    •  

How to power a country on renewables

Looking for more tweet-friendly renewable energy facts? Click here

MYTH 3

RENEWABLE ENERGY CAN’T SUPPLY ELECTRICITY 24/7

The key to getting a constant supply of electricity from renewable energy is to have a mix of sources: solar and wind power, natural gas, and anaerobic digestion plants. By having a mix of sources which are spread over a wide area, we ensure there will always be a supply of energy.

As the sun goes down, so wind production generally increases, and as the winds drop in one region they pick up in another. During peak times, biogas and natural gas can bolster our energy supply, and can also be used to meet sudden peaks in electricity demand.

How to power a country on renewables

MYTH 4

SOUTH AFRICA’S ELECTRICITY GRID CAN’T HANDLE RENEWABLE ENERGY

The reality is that South Africa’s grid – the system that connects power stations to consumers – needs to be improved or replaced regardless of the power source we use. It would be far more efficient to upgrade to a new smart grid system than waste money on old system that will continue having problems down the line. It’s similar to the the choice between repairing an old VCR or buying a new DVD player.

WHAT IS A SMART GRID?

A smart grid is a system that can connect (and swtich between) a number of energy sources (solar, wind, etc.), at many different sites, to provide a constant flow of electricity to users. It allows us to create a network of electricity production sites that spread over a wide area. So for example, it would allow you to create solar power on the roof of your house, and feed extra power back into the grid. This is part of what makes the grid “smart”: components can “talk” and “listen” to each other, making the supply of electricity much more flexible, reliable, and efficient.

 

 

MYTH 5

RENEWABLE ENERGY IS BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

Birds and bats: A common argument against wind farms is that they kill birds and bats. However, if environmental impact assessments are conducted and migratory patterns are assessed before construction, this impact is greatly reduced.

Also, while every effort should be made to minimise this impact, it should also be looked at in the context of other projects and their affect on birds. Coal and nuclear power plants have a far greater affect on birds, as do power lines, domestic cats, and cars. source.

Noise: Studies have shown that noise complaints, especially those related to wind farms, are often unrelated to actual noise. In most cases it was found that people were actually opposed to the farms on aesthetic grounds – which would be the same with coal or nuclear plants. It was also found that ‘noise’ complaints dropped off rapidly when local communities derived income from the renewable energy projects in question.

Land use: The land used for renewable energy projects, like wind farms, can still be used for farming and cattle grazing. International experience has shown that livestock are completely unaffected by the presence of wind farms and will often graze right up to the base of wind turbines.

Footprint of renewables: Unlike coal and nuclear RE pays off its carbon footprint and does so relatively quickly. Depending on where they are made, solar panels offset their carbon footprint in about four years.

 

MYTH 6

GREENPEACE WANTS TO TURN OFF ALL COAL AND NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS TODAY

The Energy [R]evolution is about a gradual transition to renewable energy. It’s a blueprint for how South Africa can decrease its reliance on coal and nuclear over time, while investing increasingly in renewables.

Fully switching over to renewable energy time, and involves 3 steps.

Increase our energy efficiency: this is about using our electricity wisely, so that we get more done while using less and less electricity.
Start investing in our renewable energy projects now, and steadily increase investments over time.
Stop investing in coal and nuclear plants while also shutting down old coal-fired stations as they reach the end of their lifespans.

WHERE TO FROM HERE?

The good news is that South Africa is investing in renewable energy projects – but not nearly fast enough. Given the incredible renewable energy potential we have and the thousands of new jobs that would be created, there is no time like the present for an Energy [R]evolution in South Africa.We’ve created a practical blueprint for just how such a revolution could take place – getting our country fully powered up on renewable energy: 94% by 2050.Click here to download the report and find out more – and don’t forget to share this page so it can live up to its true myth-busting potential!

Download the RevolutionJoin our Energy Campaign


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Daily News Covers The Gorgeous Green House

daily_news

Today the Daily News published the third article on the most Gorgeous Green House on the planet!

Click HERE to read the on line version.

Thank you Lindsay Ord and Marilyn Bernard for getting this information to a wider audience. Fingers crossed it will inspire and motivate others to look at some greening options in their own home.


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Photo Update (part 2)

Pond at front door in.  This is a vitally important element  as it will be stocked with Tilapia fish whose waste will feed the plants on the vertical garden behind.

Pond at front door in. This is a vitally important element as it will be stocked with Tilapia fish whose waste will feed the plants on the vertical garden behind.

Master bathroom mosaic/tiling done in double shower. Very happy!

Master bathroom mosaic/tiling done in double shower. Very happy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The original outbuilding (now demolished) had huge concrete sink outside, presumable for doing laundry in.  It is now re-invented as the mint planter under the tap - perfect!

The original outbuilding (now demolished) had huge concrete sink outside, presumable for doing laundry in. It is now re-invented as the mint planter under the tap – perfect!

 

Solar geyser in!  Fantastic.  This is such an easy energy/money saver  (minimum 40% on your electricity bills) so a win all round.  Please visi

Solar geyser in! Fantastic. This is such an easy energy/money saver (minimum 40% on your electricity bills) so a win all round. Please visit this post to see why we didn’t go the heat pump route

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Induction geyser  in!  Visit this post if you are curious as to why and induction geyser when we have also installed a solar geyser.

Induction geyser in! Visit this post if you are curious as to why and induction geyser when we have also installed a solar geyser.

 

My first Knipfophia of Autumn.  Will it turn into a red hot poker?  Time will tell as I have no idea which one it is.

My first Knipfophia of Autumn. Will it turn into a red hot poker? Time will tell as I have no idea which one it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, another yellow beauty, not commonly found:  Agrolubioum tomentosum.

And finally, another yellow beauty, not commonly found: Agrolubioum tomentosum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, our enormous pit that will house the water harvesting system.  This HUGE project is so exciting and the technology so amazing it will get a post all of its own.  Suffice to say its 9m X 3m X 2.5m deep and has taken weeks to build.  Happy to report that not a grain off soil went off site, its it the roof garden and being spread around the property.  Watch this space!

And finally, our enormous pit that will house the water harvesting system. This HUGE project is so exciting and the technology so amazing it will get a post all of its own. Suffice to say its 9m X 3m X 2.5m deep and has taken weeks to build. Happy to report that not a grain off soil went off site, its it the roof garden and being spread around the property. Watch this space!


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Photo Update

With 5 working days to go until move in day, nerves are a little stretched.  One can’t help noticing that there is still no sign of any part of the kitchen, a toilet, tap, shower rose and one or two other rather important things that one gets used to. We must live in faith though that it will all come together and in the meantime this post will celebrate what has been happening at the Gorgeous Green House.

Owl House

Owl House

We are very excited to have installed the owl house.  You may think the design looks a little ‘open’ and are wondering why it is not in a tree.  We wish to attract Spotted Eagle Owls as we know they fly in our area and according to the experts they want to nest where they will have 360 degree clear views.  We’ve installed ours in the roof garden so we can lie in bed and watch all the action.  Just waiting for a broody pair to move in. Click here for designs for this and Barn Owl houses.  Very easy to make. I’ll allow the photos to tell the story of the updates.

First grenadilla flower.  Fruit next - yum!

First grenadilla flower. Fruit next – yum!

Re-cycling old doors. They are solid oregan so will be gorgeous when sanded down

Re-cycling old doors. They are solid Oregon so will be gorgeous when sanded down

Ditto recycling of doors for new braai (bargeque) cupboard

Ditto recycling of doors for new braai (bargeque) cupboard

Rockery constructed out of rocks and boulders on site.  White stuff to kill grass and weeds will be cut open for planted.

Rockery constructed out of rocks and boulders on site. White stuff to kill grass and weeds will be cut open for planting.

Another pathway.  It is so exciting to cut back the overgrown garden and discover these beautiful old stone walls.  By placing the path next to it and can be really appreciated.

Another pathway. It is so exciting to cut back the overgrown garden and discover these beautiful old stone walls. By placing the path next to it , it can be really appreciated.

New butternut on its way

New butternut on its way

 

Turraea floribunda being devoured by hungry caterpillars.  I'm guessing (hoping) its the Pseudaphelia apollonaris Apollo Moth as it is its larval food.

Turraea floribunda being devoured by hungry caterpillars. I’m guessing (hoping) its the Pseudaphelia apollonaris (Apollo Moth) as it is its larval food.

 

Tiling done in outbuilding bathroom. Happy here as well!

Tiling done in outbuilding bathroom. Very happy!

Clementine tree planted for my daughter.  Its here favourite fruit!

Clementine tree planted for my daughter. Its her favourite fruit!

Masses of brick paving was on site and we are re purposing it as flower bed edging.

Masses of brick paving was on site and we are re purposing it as flower bed edging.

Pool and reed beds in.  Just awaiting fibre-glass and we can fill and plant.  Can't wait.

Pool and reed beds in. Just awaiting fibre-glass and we can fill and plant. Can’t wait.

Dombeya tillacea

Dombeya tillacea

Deck infrastsructure going in. More to come on this as we are using a wonderful product made with re-cycled plastic.

Deck infrastsructure going in. More to come on this as we are using a wonderful product made with re-cycled plastic.

Garden dotted with these beautiful old walls, many in  dire state.

Garden dotted with these beautiful old walls, many in dire state.

Acquiring new skills, very pleased with my restoration work here!

Acquiring new skills, very pleased with my restoration work here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Photo Update

The build seems to have accelerated, or maybe its just because we are starting to get to the best bits.  The most exciting installation, so far, is the vertical garden.  I’m going to be really mean though, and not show you a single picture yet because it is so magnificent, and the landscape artist James Halle is so talented, it has to have its very own post with lots of elaboration.  Watch this space!

Floating staircase

Floating staircase

The shuttering has come off the ‘floating’ staircase, and although this is not a green aspect of the build it is so beautiful I just need to show it off!

The interior painting has commenced.  There are loads of eco-friendly paints on the market these days.  They are much lower in volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) which basically means toxic stuff our bodies don’t like.  Confirm this with your paint supplier though because you won’t automatically get a low

Low VOC paint primer

Low VOC paint primer

VOC paint as there are still mixed perceptions about its efficacy.  Rest assured, they are equally effective and no more expensive than traditional.

veggie box

Mesh lining veggie box

The veggie garden now has 3/5 veggie boxes installed.  We are using a plastic timber product. These recycled planks are now widely available.  They are 100% recycled plastic so get great green points.  We lined the base with chicken mesh too keep out the moles.  Galvanized rods secure the sides from bowing out. This stuff will last forever, looks attractive, is easy to install and cheaper than recycled brick options which we had considered

3/5 Veggies Boxes Installed

3/5 Veggies Boxes Installed

Trichocladus crinatus

Trichocladus crinatus

I was really excited to see my Trichocladus crinitus (Black Witch-hazel) in flower. This small indigenous tree is quite rare and the petal form delicate and unusual.

Insualation Made From Recycled Plastic Bottles

Insualation Made From Recycled Plastic Bottles

There are lots of eco-friendly options for insulation these days.  We’ve gone with a product made from recycled plastic bottles.  The recycled newspaper product was a close contender.  The team on site report that the green stuff is really great to work with as it doesn’t shed prickly bits like the more traditional pink products.

 

Off Shutter Concrete

Off Shutter Concrete

The off-shutter concrete wall has had its first of two buffs and polishes.  It looks fabulous. I love the industrial /contemporary aesthetic and the honesty of the material.  Its a great ‘hard’ contrast to the green abundance of the garden.  Very happy with how its turned out.

Erythrina humeana

Erythrina humeana

The Erythrina humeana (Dwarf Coral Tree) are exquisite at the moment.  A really showy splash of red at the bottom of the garden.    

The pool has a new rectangular shape and fits snugly into the space of the old.  The reed beds are almost complete. It’s going to be great fun planting them up.  I’ll be sharing much more information on how to install an eco pool.  Suffice to say at this stage that the plants will do all the filtering of the water and no harsh chemicals will be required.  The plants and water provide the foundation for the wetland eco-system and we look forward to the

New Rectangular shape to pool

New Rectangular shape to pool

Reed beds constructed

Reed beds constructed

bird, amphibian and insect life we will be attracting.

Next to the veggie garden we have two of the Baunia’s in flower at the same time.  Gorgeous!

Bauhinia natalensis

Bauhinia natalensis

Bauhinia tomentosa

Bauhinia tomentosa

The whirly gigs are on site. Prith and Eamonn are finding them quite amusing.  Definitely a first for them as they are usually found in industrial builds.  We are putting them in to draw and pull up the cool air that will pass over the pond outside and into the hallway.  The best way to reduce the need for air conditioning in this space.

Whirly gig

Whirly gig

So overall fantastic progress!  And still so many of the best bits to come:

  • Vertical Garden (as promised)
  • Roof Garden
  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Eco Pool
  • Veggie garden
  • Chickens
  • Bees
  • Worm farming
  • Grey water recycling
  • Solar system
  • Induction geysers
  • plus…plus… plus


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Great News: Gorgeous Green House to be an Embedded Generator!

Every sector has its share of jargon and the renewable energy area can be very confusing.  Two years ago the title of this post would have been meaningless to me and now it’s cause for celebration!

Embedded generation is the term used for any electricity generating ‘plant’ that is connected to the regional electricity distribution networks. In other words our solar energy system will be designed and set up to feed into the ‘grid’.

So what?

Firstly, once the municipality has the infrastructure in place (and we’ve signed off on all the paperwork known as Power Purchase Agreements) we will be able to export our excess electricity for profit.  It also means that the set up cost of our system is substantially reduced as we don’t need to invest in batteries to the same extent (approximately $8 000.00 saving).  This is because we have now decided not to be ‘off-grid’ i.e. not totally independent but rather ‘grid-tied’ so we can also draw electricity if we have very protracted cloudy weather. In other words we are to be part of a bi-directional metering pilot project. We need only invest in batteries to tide us overnight (and a bit extra in case of outages).

The bigger picture, of course, is that significant growth in embedded generation (of all kinds; wind, bio-fuels etc.) will contribute to a reduction of our dependence on ‘dirty’ energy (ESKOM Coal in the case of South Africa) which is important for the environment. It will also reduce the cost of energy which is currently predicted to increase 16% annually in South Africa.

South Africa Lags Behind

Embedded generation is fairly mainstream in Europe, North America and Australia.  In South Africa the Western Cape is piloting 6 properties, Port Elizabeth a few more and currently, that is it!  We recently read in the press that 17 bidders have been selected by government to produce 1 500 megawatts of renewable energy and more will follow.  Good news but we have much catching up to do.

The time frame for Durban Municipality to come on line by July 2014 is ambitious if one studies the document ‘Creating an Enabling Environment for Small Scale Embedded Generators.’ Published at the Association of Municipal Electricity Utilities (AMEU) convention that took place in October 2014.  It tells of a plethora of legislation that needs to be amended, technical requirements that are not standardised and the perception that local government is perceived as a blockage rather than and enabling agent.

Currently financial barriers are identified as the biggest barrier to investment.  In SA it is extremely expensive to set up one’s own system (see my post of October 2013, Solar Energy:  What does it Cost. How to Explore Feasibility).  Rebates for installing Solar Geysers (only) are about $1 000 on a $ 2 800 investment through the SHISA programme. It would help if additional incentives such as rebates, tax credits and financing mechanisms were provided to customers over and above the SHISA programme.  Offering our citizens a way to make money from excess energy generated is a logical way to mitigate the high initial outlay, will stimulate and demand and hopefully drive prices down.  Tariffs will need to be carefully considered.  It is unlikely that we will be remunerated at the same rate/s that we pay for electricity but if the differential is too great it will not be motivational.

Durban property owners who are interested in becoming Embedded Generators need to start by completing the application form which can be downloaded here.

Come on everyone!  The more of us that put up our hands and make our voices heard the more momentum this process will get.  It has to be part of our way forward in saving this beautiful planet. So if you have the means now, this can be a huge contribution you could make and with all things that are correct and true and have integrity, as the law of abundance teaches us; ‘What you put out will be returned’.

http://www.kznenergy.org.za/creating-enabling-environment-small-scale-embedded-generators-durban-solar-city-framework-case-study/

An example of the PPA can be found here.

You can learn more about the Shisa Solar programme here:  http://www.durban.gov.za/Resource_Centre/Current%20Projects%20and%20Programmes/energyoffice/Pages/Shisa-Solar.aspx