I’ve been interested in the potential for micro-hydro for ages but never been able to find a suitable system that would work with the large head, small flow streams that many smallholdings would have. A couple of weeks ago I was working at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show as part of my role with the Horticulture Wales project, imagine my surprise then when I saw this in the same tent as our stand!

It’s a 7kW system, put together by a really interesting not-for-profit group called The Green Valleys. They spend their time helping landowners to install micro-hydro and have a range of systems from 1.5kW  upwards.

There are a lot of challenges – the cost of pipes and grid connections amongst them – but the economics are really very interesting.

If you consider a turbine like this, and assuming your stream never dries out, here’s how much money you’d bring in from the Feed-In-Tariff:

7kW x 24 hours x 365 days x 20p per kWh = £12,264 / year

Not bad! And when you consider that a simple installation would start from £25k, it could be a fantastic investment.

And that’s before you even consider the environmental benefits that come from producing 61.3 MW of green electricity each year!

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I Saw this video posted over at a great blog I follow – Becoming Domestic – and I think it gives a good 5 minute summary of the difficulties society is currently facing. If you want to know our  motivation for the eco-house, this sums it up nicely:

The book mentioned in the video is the Post Carbon Reader. If you’re still getting to grips with what Peak Oil and Climate Change will mean for you, your family, and society, then this is worth a look. If you’re already on the right track, then don’t read about the problems any more – get digging! What you need is How to Grow More Vegetables!

Following last week’s post on Cargo Bikes, here’s a great example of someone using one in everyday life, and for their work. This is a particularly post-peak-oil example – a bike covered in gardening tools. Well worth a watch:

A nice lighthearted video today, with a serious context. In a world of expensive oil – and therefore expensive petrol – we’re going to have to re-learn how to move things around without the benefit of power assistance. If you’ve ever had to move anything heavy (like two resisting kids) without the benefit of wheels, you’ll know what a slow and painful job it is. That’s why I love Cargo Bikes and trailers so much. They can carry really heavy loads decent distances, powered by normal people (although you’ll go faster if you’re fitter!). We’ve got a trailer so I can’t justify a dedicated cargo bike like this, but if you want to be car-free there’s no better way to shift shopping, kids, plants, or work gear. One of the best UK suppliers is Practical Cycles, although they don’t have this one:

I know people who find my obsession with growing our own food a little strange, but when you look at the challenges faced by farmers, and the fragility of the food supply chain it all becomes clearer.

The BBC’s Farm for the Future is one of the best programmes I’ve seen for highlighting the challenge faced by British farmers in the face of Peak Oil. It’s longer than most of the videos I share, but it really is worth taking the time to watch it – unless you could be outside, gardening:

I’ve finally tried the Real Bread recipe from my “Baking cheaper, better bread” post. I have to admit I was pretty sceptical. about a third of the yeast I usually use, no sugar to feed it and no butter? I put it into my standard one-hour breadmaker cycle and was expecting a flat, solid, uninspiring loaf.

Opening the breadmaker was not very encouraging, it had risen less than my usual recipe, but not by much:

It wasn’t a nice glossy brown on top, but it did look encouragingly bread-shaped:

Time to open it up then! The best reflection on taste and texture was that the loaf was half-gone by the time I managed to get a pic. It was a lot less crumbly than my usual  loaf, tasted nice, was pretty light, and sliced nicely. Pretty much all you could want:

So, it’s edible, how much does it cost? We’re using the same prices as my original “How much does it cost to bake your own bread” recipe, minus the milk, butter, sugar, and with the new Doves Farm large packets of yeast we’re getting from Waitrose – 125g for 99p.

250g Strong White Bread Flour 11p
250g Strong Wholemeal Bread Flour 16p
1 tsp salt 0.2p
5g yeast 4p
Electricity 3.14p
Total 35p

So this “Real Bread” recipe costs only 35p in comparison to my usual recipe’s 78p. That’s a pretty significant difference, so it’s our new favourite – until the next comes along! Any other suggestions?

Almost forgot to add – now it doesn’t use any chilled ingredients it’s even more green, and it can be made out of standard store cupboard ingredients – even better for our Peak Oil prep.

Another great interview from Peak Moment TV. One woman’s experiment to see how much food she could grow from her own garden. She has bees, chickens and rainwater harvesting – it’s an inspiring video – take half an hour to watch, or at least listen, to one person’s view on sustainability and resilience – and the fun she has.