Our staff already have hands-on experience with all of the tools and technologies necessary to make this project work. The technologies being developed by the Living Energy Farm include:
Super-insulated buildings using locally available, cheap or free materials. Our first house is being built to existing codes. This is being achieved using simple design and super-insulating straw bale walls. From there we will build demonstration structures out of very low-cost materials, rock, discarded masonry, organic materials and clay from the land to demonstrate that super-insulated, comfortable living spaces can be built using the most basic of materials.
For winter heating our housing has been designed to employ very high-mass active and passive solar. This allows a house to store heat for days. Wood pyrolysis that captures the heat from wood while largely eliminating smoky pollution will be integrated, but will be needed only on a limited basis.
For summer cooling, our housing has been designed to employ creative designs that allow for natural cross ventilation of all living spaces. The buildings are being situated to use agricultural irrigation water as a heat sink, thus achieving a limited air conditioning using no added energy other than that which would already be needed for irrigation.
For farm traction, we are going to rely primarily on woodgas. Woodgas is an old technology that was heavily employed throughout Europe during WWII. It allows gasoline engines to run directly off of woodchips or other cellulosic debris. We also have draft animals (a pair of oxen) and will keep the farm design scaled to moderate horsepower needs.
For cooking we have solar parabolic cookers and solar ovens. We have wood cookers, and are developing biogas and high-temperature thermal storage.
For refrigeration, we will use a solar ammonia loop refrigeration system developed by the STEVEN Foundation (Sustainable Technology and Energy for Vital Economic Needs) for use in the underdeveloped world. This refrigeration system has no electronics and no moving parts, and can be built out of low-cost materials.
For other general energy needs, we are employing direct-drive solar electric (no batteries)/ We are devceloping biogas and small-scale steam power.
For transportation, we are using bicycles and woodgas. (For the first 3 years of the project, we have allowed ourselves access to fossil fuel machinery to get some infrastructure in place. Our land had no infrastructure whatsoever when we first acquired it.) We do not intend to promote woodgas as a replacement for the widespread use of automobiles. Instead, we will endeavor to meet our social and economic needs with the local area. In doing so, we will be actively promoting the rebuilding of local economies which will be so vital to the creation of a post-petroleum world. We have and will continue to emphasize the importance of the context in which energy is used rather than the energy source itself, thus educating people about the limitations and wise use of biofuel and other alternative energy sources.
The Living Energy Farm is being designed to maximize cooperative use of tools and materials among its members. Cooperative use is probably the single most important “technology” that will allow us to make a fully sustainable lifestyle accessible to people of the most meager of means.
Our goal is incorporate the best of old and new technologies in a community setting that demonstrates that real sustainability is not only possible, but desirable. We have strong support and involvement from members of existing communities in the central Virginia area, and will continue to network with these groups. We will employ a “bridge,” a location where we have access to modern media and the internet. This bridge will allow us to make ourselves known to the larger world. The Living Energy Farm will conduct classes, accept interns, and publicize its efforts far and wide. We look forward to your involvement in our project.