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Posts Tagged ‘Residential’

SpiroFlo discusses reusing food for animals, creating compost, and the joy of exploding watermelons.  

Why did nobody ever tell me that you can be sustainable by launching rotten watermelons from the back of a pickup truck?

I recently visited my in-laws close to Durango, Colorado (near the New Mexico border). As they have a small farm out back of their house, all those animals need feeding. This includes the dogs, goats, pigs, peacocks, chickens, horses, and the cats with extra toes, missing eyes, and country music star names. One of the ways to feed all these mouths is with the help of the local food bank.

If you didn’t know, the U.S. throws a lot of food away. Some of it has nothing wrong with it (more on that food waste another time), but as the donations the food bank receives are already a little past their “best” date, inevitably, some of it is too far gone for human consumption. But you know who doesn’t care? Pigs and chickens.

So this happens:

farmfood1

Basically, the food bank now leaves all this expired grub out for pick up. The in-laws grab all this food, load it in their back of their truck, then drive it home. After reversing the truck into the yard, you get to launch this food all over. We’re talking fruit, veggies, bread, etc. Lobbing watermelons across the yard is, of course, the best part. Even almost accidentally splooshed a peacock with one (I did pelt a pig while wildly machinegunning rolls—didn’t seem phased). Finally, you get the tractor and push all this food into a giant dirt mountain.

By doing so:

  • Food doesn’t go to waste
  • The chickens have something to do the next few days (wandering around the dirt mound, pecking for food), so they don’t peck each other; and
  • Any food left in the dirt mound becomes compost

Oh, and that giant food mess in the yard? It’s eaten up in less than 24 hours (save the mountain of relish I dumped out from a giant jar—apparently even chickens have standards about that).

Thus it’s official: Using expired food for farm animals is my recycling happy place.

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo reports on California’s recent commentary regarding the state’s water shortage.

Admittedly, when I see people legitimately sharing serious information on April Fools’ Day I get squinting real good, but this commentary from Californian water officials popped up before that marker:

On March 13th, senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Jay Famiglietti, wrote an article for the LA Times where he hypothesized that California’s state reservoirs only have one year of water remaining.

Not surprisingly, your Average Joe took this to mean that California will run out of water in a year, but Famiglietti denied that he made that statement. He clarified that A) reservoirs are not the only source of water to the state (there’s still groundwater); and B) reservoirs are designed to only hold a few years’ worth of water anyway.

The big problem is that the title of Famiglietti’s op-ed was “California has about one year of water stored. Will you ration now?” It didn’t matter that the content had a different tone. The article was titled as clickbait and it spread rapidly. However, maybe it’s the effect of The Onion in our modern media consumption, but people took in punchline of the title, not the full story of the text.

Thus came a wave of defenses from California state officials, letting people know that California will not run out of water in 2016. I’m sure some took this to mean that there’s no drought issue whatsoever (but that joke still sucks the other 364 days of the year).

While I can appreciate that some of this has to do with the sad truth that the speed of media travels faster than the speed of truth these days (get your article out before anyone else, fact checking be damned), there are some unfortunate truths that haven’t got the clickbait titles they deserve:

California is now in its fourth year of drought. This has led to overpumping of groundwater reserves (now a decade strong) and it’s getting costlier to get the water out the deeper they have to go.

CA groundwater

In addition:

The Department of Water Resources did not have a readily available estimate of the total water supply in California or the amount expected to be used over the next year.

Just because California is not exhausting its water supply “doesn’t mean we’re not in a crisis,” said Leon Szeptycki, executive director of the Water in the West program at Stanford University, who called the state’s snowpack, at 12% of average, “both bad for this year but also a troubling sign for the future.”

Then there’s that whole bit of growing the nation’s food supply in the desert…

While some believe that people will police their own water use (unlikely) and that the government will step in before the point of water getting shut off in homes (hopefully), no matter the headline, it’s an ugly road ahead. No matter where you look, there’s a critical water shortage looming. California is just highlighting the issue.

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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Some of the damage done to Jamestown, CO

SpiroFlo looks at the how much impact the 2013 Colorado flood had on drought levels in the area.

It’s a bit of a strange time in Colorado. We were supposed to have the two driest years on record, Denver Water was enforcing water restrictions for the stage-two drought, and there were record-breaking highs over the summer.

And then it rained. A lot. As in a whole year’s worth in one week a lot.

Schools shut down; homes and businesses flooded out. It became easier to take a canoe around certain towns and people had to call and ask, likely for the first time, “Do I have flood insurance?” Odds are most did not, as insurance companies aren’t even allowed to provide flood insurance to places that aren’t normally at risk of flooding—you know, like a land-locked state that was about 14 years into its latest drought.

The hard numbers (as of today): 19,000 homes damaged (1,500 destroyed), 11,000 people evacuated, six confirmed dead, and 500 still unaccounted for (though not necessarily considered missing). If it were a snow storm, it would’ve been a 15-foot event (and I’ve seen this state shut down and struggle with three).

So what happened? While I’m sure there was the occasional climate Nostradamus who saw it coming, there wasn’t a widely noted, credible source that figured a thousand-year flood would bust on into this year. I’ve seen a couple of recent articles debunking climate change (again) and there will likely be a swift series of rebuttals again (again), but regardless of what some on both sides want you to believe, the evidence for or against climate change is not so open and shut (though the phrase ‘global warming’ has fallen out of favor).

Still, I’m not sure what to think here. Can you argue that the heavy drought and the heavy rainfall both come from climate change? I’m sure some will, whereas others will likely focus on an anomaly like a thousand-year flood being just that—a data point not normally found on the chart. Does it make it less valid—I mean, we apparently have a term for it because it’s happened before—or simply far more limited in relevance?

Here’s something to think about: It’s been so dry that the Colorado River hasn’t reached the ocean in years. Lakes Mead and Powell—they’ve been at half-capacity for a long while, 100 feet below what they should be (thanks to a dry period from 2000-2009 and drought issues stemming back to the eighties). The lakes have mostly sat below the drought line and are continuing to etch closer to the critical shortage line with our growing population consuming water at a rate that will exhaust the reserves. This critical shortage is that line where hydropower falls apart and they stop giving water to states like Nevada.

Oh yeah, this critical shortage is scheduled for 2020—less than seven years from now.

Surely the flood must have helped there, right? Want to place your bets on how many feet the flood restored to that 100-foot drop?

Two.

Here’s the thing: simply because we had a flood, that doesn’t mean the water went in the right area. It’s not as if Colorado is a glass that water has slowly been evaporating out of for years and then someone casually came and filled it back up. This rainfall was more like a toddler trying to aim a wild fire hose. Even if the water was in the general area, that doesn’t mean it was going where it should, and the consensus is that the rain fell on the wrong side of the Rockies. Even when it did fall on the right areas, it was too much, and everything was essentially on drain mode to prevent flood damage.

Lake Mead: July 2009

So two of 100 feet have been restored. That means it’d have to flood like this for nearly a year to restore the drought loss to Lakes Mead and Powell. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but you can’t restore decades’ worth of damage from one mad week of rain (and one big snow season won’t help either). This would mean anomalies like this thousand-year flood do get to stand as is, because they’re overwhelmed by all the dry years that leave us still facing that critical shortage in 2020. You can predict critical shortage dates for other parts of the world, too, but it’s the same story—with our growing population, we’re consuming water at a rate that will exhaust the reserves.

This means that my interest in what’s to blame—climate change damage or not—is vastly overshadowed by the reality that this water crisis (which is still far undervalued) is not our grandchildren’s problem, but ours.

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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cleantech open logoI’m pleased to announce that SpiroFlo qualified as a semi-finalist for the 2013 Cleantech Open (CTO) for our residential hot water savings and industrial biofilm removal applications.

If you’ve followed this blog—gnawing on every tasty word (and why wouldn’t you?)—you’d know that I had a lot to say, good and bad, about going through the 2012 CTO as Vortex Tools. A fair question then to ask is: Why are you doing it again?

There are two main reasons:

  1. The Cleantech Open receives criticism and makes changes: I’m not going to say that all the changes came from what I said—common problems become commonly shared complaints—but I’m as blunt in-person and I had opportunity to share my thoughts with the CTO planners. Regardless of how it happened, this year they’ve changed the overall judging scheme. I still think they’re going to be painfully shorthanded volunteer-wise, but I’m willing to wait and see.
  2. SpiroFlo is a better fit: Last year, we entered thinking that the CTO is a competition, and chose our more established, more successful green oil and gas company, Vortex Tools. While the CTO is a competition, it’s designed more to accelerate smaller companies, making SpiroFlo a better fit.

I highly doubt I’ll write as much on the CTO as I did before, but I do like that it keeps me apprised of innovation in the green sector, as well as the same old flawed thinking that doesn’t seem to budge. Odds are there will be a speaker who, A) believes nuclear energy and/or oil and gas can be done away with today; and B) we can do so because of what some non-American country (usually Japan or somewhere in Europe) is doing with wind and solar.

I’m a fan of some of these technologies—living in a dry state, seeing what Germany has done to implement green roofs makes me jealous—but there’s a misguided belief among some environmentalists that multi-year, best scenario projections will equate to reality. Even by favorable estimates, Japan’s current wind and solar use could offset maybe 10% of their nuclear energy use, and that’s before you get into the painful realities of what happens when you try to move large amounts of business from one entity to another.

However it goes, I’m sure I’ll annoy some people when I take to the microphone. I’m looking forward to it.

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo looks at how drought conditions are shaping water utility pricing and why some of these increasing costs are necessary.

800px-Vianden_lakeLast time, I covered how Colorado has officially moved deeper into its drought, hitting the stage two level (meaning forced water restrictions as opposed to mere suggestions). In recently attending a Q & A with Denver Water CEO, Jim Lochhead, one of the main topics that came up was how they’re reacting to drought conditions. After hearing his comments, I have to say that while Denver Water isn’t government run, when I look at some of their pricing tactics, it feels like it is. Here’s what I mean:

Denver Water is aiming to reduce water use in Colorado by 20% in 2013. With the stage two drought limitations, this seems like a fair goal. However, on May 1st of this year, Denver Water will assign people a “drought charge” – a fee assigned to cover their reduced revenue from customers’ reduced water use… which Denver Water is enforcing with their rules and fines.

I don’t think this is completely unfair—given that there is actually less water to use with the drought, and it needs to be aggressively conserved—but Denver Water’s customer fees went up in 2010, too. They didn’t go up then because of a drought; they went up because 2009 was such a wet year and people didn’t use enough water.

So in the end, if you don’t use enough water because of good water conditions, you get charged more, and if you aren’t allowed to use water because of drought conditions, you get charged more. Admittedly, this feels like any old company that charges its customers more because they’re not making enough, but there are some differences. First off, people need clean water and someone has to treat it. Every utility has fixed costs: the base level pieces that are required to maintain any business at all. For Denver Water, these fixed costs include maintenance of pipelines, infrastructure and the overall system—you know, the parts necessary to treat and deliver clean water. According to Lochhead, as Denver Water does a decent job of keeping their fixed costs down—which make up 20-30% of their costs, as opposed to the 40% average for other utilities—only 4% of the customer’s rate is made up of these fixed costs.

Inevitably, there is that awkward conflict where Denver Water is providing a need (with fees that are at least somewhat regulated on the state level), yet, like any business, they’re trying to make a profit. Considering 2012 and 2013 will stack up as the two worst consecutive water years in Colorado history—and Denver Water is slated to lose $50 million in 2013 alone—water utilities are not in an enviable position.

That said, should water utilities simply feel the pains and costs of slower years like any other business, or with the need of clean water on the line, are they allowed to? If their provision of a need doesn’t allow them to face the pains of drought years, should they be allowed to reap the rewards of good water years? However it goes, I’m not sure you can argue that a different company could do a better job without being allowed to have a successful business model.

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo shares on Israeli inventor Izhar Gafni’s cardboard bike: the Alfa.  

When I heard Izhar Gafni had designed a cardboard bike, the first image I had in my head was that of a bike on fire—because let’s face it: setting stuff on fire always pops up first—then that of a bike warping in the rain. Well, turns out Gafni thought of that, as the bike is both fire- and waterproof.

Dubbed “the Alfa,” Gafni spent three years perfecting the design. First off, he needed to make it functional. In the same way that paper folded over several times can be quite strong, the bike—made mostly of cardboard folded over repeatedly—can hold up to 485 pounds. After getting basic functionality out of the way, Gafni needed to improve the bike’s looks, as early designs looked like a cardboard box on wheels. Finally, some comfort tweaks were clearly in order, as a cardboard seat doesn’t sound appealing at first thought.

With the design basics out the way, Gafni is now looking towards mass production. Depending on subsidies—and you know what a mess that can be—initial estimates could put the sales price as low as $9. If it does go big, I expect some parent to threaten their kid with, “Mouth off to me again and I shove your bike in a wood chipper.”

For now, you can learn more about the Alfa bike by watching the video below:

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo looks at Sweden’s success in recycling and how that success has created a shortfall of trash for burnable waste.

Sweden: Land of neutral diplomacy, equal pay, and the top recyclers on earth (though it turns out that bit about them all being blonde haired and blue eyed is a myth).

While the rest of Europe wastes an average of 38% of their household trash in landfills, Sweden wastes only 4%, instead recycling or composting most of it. When that doesn’t happen, they also have high standards for their Waste-to-Energy program, where they burn trash to provide 20% of their district heating and electricity to 250,000 homes.

There’s just one problem: Sweden ran out of trash.

Sure, people are throwing things away every day, but Sweden is far enough behind that they’re importing trash from other countries. They’re looking for 800,000 tons a year from Europe. Right now, most of that comes from Norway; though Sweden is already eyeballing glorious trash piles in Bulgaria, Italy and Romania.

As much as I’d like to set up a catapult to fling trash at other countries, there are far more logical rules and tradeoffs:

  • For Norway, exporting their excess trash is cheaper than burning it (and landills are running out of space).
  • For Sweden, they get to return the toxic waste ashes (and the harder-to-treat-yet-easy-to-pollute dioxins) to Norway, thereby remaining all the more sparkly and clean.

Dioxins are nasty business (Agent Orange contained dioxins). Highly toxic, they’re established as a carcinogen that can mess with tooth and sexual development.

Yeah, not so sure if that trade is so great now…

However, some have already figured out that as the world continues to improve its recycling, the laws of supply and demand could push the value of trash up:

“Earlier this year, Catarina Ostlund, a senior advisor for the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, said that in the future, waste will be valued even more. ‘Maybe you could sell your waste because there will be a shortage of resources within the world,’ Ostlund said.”

As of 2010, the U.S. only recycled 34.1% of its trash. I’ll see you at the catapult.

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SpiroFlo wishes you all a happy Thanksgiving.

Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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