Sustainability

Creating a sustainable world is one of the largest challenges of our time.

A large part of the inspiration for this project came from the need for sustainability.

  • A key aspect of a sustainability is using resources more efficiently and effectively as well as providing those resource from renewable sources.
  • It is often more effective, easier and cheaper to reduce resource use as the first step rather than increase renewable generation.
  • To do this we need to be able to quantify how much resources we use now and then plan and reduce the use of those resources.

An energy monitor makes it possible to quantify energy consumption and then plan and reduce its use or plan and measure increased provision by renewable sources.


Sustainable Energy - without the hot air by David MacKay of Cambridge University: http://www.withouthotair.com/ is a really enlightening book. The book highlights an approach using quite straight forward maths for quantifying our use of energy in full and then calculating how much renewables we would require to provide that energy.


 

The result of the calculations is staggering in terms of the scale of the renewables required to provide our current energy consumption: We need country sized areas devoted to renewables to provide significant slices of our energy use. The main message of the book is that we need energy plans that add-up, we cant be anti wind, hydro, solar, nuclear etc etc and not in my back yard and at the same time expect enough energy to do everything we do at the moment and have a healthy biosphere.

Saul Griffiths great talk on energy comes to the same conclusions using much of the same approach, using Watts instead of kWh/d and applied to the world instead of the uk.

 

So where do we go from here?

I like the way Saul Griffiths puts it very clearly at the start of his talk:

“We've heard about climate change, energy plans... What you probably want to know is how do you fit in, how do you relate to energy. What you also really need are the right tools for making the right consumer choices so that your life can match with the outcome for the planet that you would like.”

Energy monitoring hardware is one part of the tool-set required and we have made good progress with this project on these: We now have an energy monitor for monitoring mains AC electricity use , a multiple input pulse counter to interface with many smart meters a DC energy monitor for microrenewables and a Solar hot water controller/monitor.

The other part to the tool-set is good visualisation of the monitored data so that it can be understood and related to our actions and aims. This can be divided into two parts: standalone displays and computer based visualisations.

Through this project we hope to develop tools that make it easier to understand our energy use, understand the energy choices that we have and allow us to see and track the progress that we make.

 

Benefits of open source for sustainability

Open source documentation should make it much easier to repair a technology and when it comes to the end of its useful life it should be easier to take apart so that different components and materials can be recycled in to new technologies. Open documentation and source code also makes it easier for the user to adapt the technology to their individual needs or a change in circumstances. 

Further reading

Background

A good starting point:

Sustainability - wikipedia

Sustainability measures - wikipedia

carrying capacity, ecological footprint.

Humblefacture

Initiatives

Appropedia - a practical sustainability wiki.

Coalition of the willing

A good film on open source and sustainability