Ecuador Project Reports: Riccardo Clemente & Ryan LeBrun, Jan.-Mar. 2005

Report #1: Riccardo Clemente, Solar Energy Volunteer

The solar hot water course has come to the end of the first part with successful results. Around 15-17 students participated, and about 7 students followed the entire course with enthusiasm and involvement.

On Monday we started with a quick introduction on renewable energy, global warming and other negative effects of using fossil fuels. I went through the general principle of solar hot water and the basic components. On Tuesday I went into the more detailed description of solar systems including detailed information about types of collectors available (unglazed,glazed, evacuated), types of heat transfer system (pressurized, ventilated, drain-back and thermo-siphon) and types of storage tanks.

I also explained how to design a system customized for a specific building. I described how to make a site survey, how to calculate the total water needs, how to calculate the energy necessary to heat this water, how to calculate the size of solar collector to be installed and how to incorporate all of that information in a final design.

On Wednesday we visited Genesis School and did a real survey of the site. We went through the details of the project.: where to position the collector, how to install the system, what type of materials we are going to use, and how much it is going to cost.

Thursday was dedicated to software design. We collected all the information obtained during the survey and transfered it into retscreen software. This can suggest the number of collectors to be used, and orientation and quantity of energy generated during the year.

Friday was a summary of the entire course with a group discussion about the project and a schedule for the next few weeks.

Generally, the course has provided very good results. We have a group which includes an architect, plumber, professor of science, etc. who are determined to conclude this project and actively participate till its final construction.  

The design of the system has been drawn with some final details to be discussed next week. We are trying to create an original design which can be extremely cheap, easy to construct and custom-made for Ecuadorian weather. After relentless research I finally arrived at a conclusion. We can use the hot water tank as a collector itself thereby avoiding the construction of a complicated and expensive system. The water tank will be placed in an insulated wooden box, a glass will be put on top of the collector, and the tank will be painted black. We will use mirrors to maximize the solar gain entering the collector. We also will build a platform 4 meters high using bamboo and wooden boards to place the collector on top and to increase the solar gain.    

The quote for the project is around 420 dollars including the platform. It will be good to build the platform because we are using a traditional building technique for bamboo which is slowly disappearing. I know Planet Drum has no funding for this project but it is extremely important to acquire those foundations. The system has a cost of 200 dollars without the platform and is affordable for many people here. We would like to conclude the project by the February 23 when we will have an open house and people from Bahia will have the opportunity to see this installation as part of the celebration of the Sixth Ecociudad Anniversary. I really hope you will be able to support this project with the necessary funds….we are working towards reducing the budget by searching for materials through friends, looking for unused or leftover stuff…. 

Regards, 
Riccardo Clemente

Report #2: Ryan LeBrun

Weekly Report 

Monday — Upon first arrival at the greenhouse on Monday, we noticed the incredible increase in mosquito population. We assumed that this was due to the rain that Bahia has received. Despite this everything else was looking better then ever. The seeds, which we acquired from Guayaquil, and planted in the newly turned seedbeds, were already well out of the ground. There are also about four of the Pigios, which will be ready for transplanting in about a week. In all the new beds we also changed the ratio of soil to sand to compost, which obviously made a difference. The greenhouse was wet when we arrived so we transplanted the rest of the Jaboncillos and worked more on the Ceibos. We gave the plants a quick drink, fixed the ones that had fallen over and did the compost. We then returned to the house to make sure everything was in order for the solar course, and help Riccardo with whatever he needed.

Tuesday — After another night of rain we headed out for a day of watering. First we went to the “Bosque en Media de las Ruinas.” There as well we found that the plants had received a lot of water from the previous night’s rain. Since we had already hauled the water up the hill we still gave them water and proceeded to observe the plants’ current states. All but a few are taking off and looking really great. More green leaves are growing along with the entire plant in general. The bad news, however, is at the very top of the site. My favorite spot of the Bosque is a leveled out spot overlooking the ocean, river and Bahia. Here we at one time had 5 trees planted. Unfortunately I believe there are only three remaining. From the evidence which I gathered (some bamboo markers hanging from trees and thrown around) I believe there was a party up there and our young trees were unwanted guests. I think this site has always been the most common for pointless vandalization, so I wasn’t all that surprised, however very disappointed. Jorge Lomas was the next site we were off to.

Once again at Jorge Lomas we found this mysterious lock on the cistern that we use to get water. At first we heard that a man at the end of the same street put it there. Upon further investigation it was revealed that the lady who owns the house put it there. This is an extreme surprise due to the fact that we have a contract with her. Fortunately for us, the trees, and the houses we are protecting, Jorge Lomas is filled with friendly people who are willing to help, so we returned to the family that had helped us before, and they gladly supplied us with water, and good conversation to raise our spirits. Rain had fallen there as well, but we went through to water anyway, for we did not want those friendly peoples’ water to go to waste. I think the trees here are some of the best we have, and were still in excellent shape.

Wednesday — another day to tend to the greenhouse and the compost. With rains falling very heavy again the night before, we first observed the University site, which was well watered from the rains. From this we decided that the trees had received a sufficient amount of water and that we would focus on the greenhouse and compost. The first matter was the weeds. They served as my first encounter with the effect rain has in a dry tropical forest, for in two days these weeds just exploded all over the greenhouse. Although I thought it absolutely amazing, for the sake of the greenhouse I was forced to rip them all out of the ground. This took quite some time since they were in the floor, in the seedbeds, and in a lot of the bottles containing plants. Hanna kept busy transplanting and caring for the plants we have in our “Intensive Care Unit.” With energy to spare after this we decided to help the compost pile. Around two weeks ago we moved the contents to the other side to let it fully mutate into good, usable compost. We constructed a pallet to keep it off the ground and allow air to circulate through. With the rains however the pile seeped down over the edges and was blocking air circulation. For this problem I dug a ditch around the compost, cleared the edges of the pile, lifted the wood pallet, and put bricks along the edge to create a wonderful air current. This is important for aerobic respiration to occur, which will allow the bacteria to break down the matter into sweet usable compost.       

Thursday — A day which was very busy without even going to the field. We took all the seeds we have and made pictures with the name, size and photo of the seed. These were done with a digital camera so we will use them in the ever-growing seed bank document. Speaking of the Seed Bank document, a good portion of Thursday was spent successfully adding to it. Another good portion of the day was spent preparing for not only another day of the solar course, but also the second Eco-city Anniversary Celebration meeting. The solar course goes from 5 – 6:30, and the eco-city meeting started at 7:00. The eco-city meeting gathered around 14 people, from various groups around Bahia. Planet Drum was very active, and we will have a solid role in the eco-celebration.

Friday — At the greenhouse everything was still in order. It had not rained as much Wed. and Thurs. night, so Friday I gave them a nice slow watering. The compost is looking better then ever. Next week however, we must build a new pallet on the new half of the compost pit. As far as the plants go, they are all in good, happy, green states.

The most eventful occurrence happened later in the day at the beach. To make a short story even shorter, I was running around playing with the dog, Shasta, on the beach, when suddenly I was stung by a jellyfish. I had the blue tentacle still making painful love to my foot when I fell to the ground and saw what it was. The sting was very painful, although strangely invigorating.     

So all together that has been the week, a good and positive one. The trees are green, the temperature is hot, and the beach is forever gorgeous.

From Planet Drum, Bahia De Caraquez, Ecuador, this is Ryan LeBrun asking you all to have a good weekend, and support your local non-profit,

Ciao,
Ryan LeBrun


Riccardo Clemente – solar energy  volunteer 
Planet Drum Foundation  
March 18, 2005

I left Bahia last Friday and am in Banos at the moment.

The solar hot water system is finally working properly. We finished on Thursday and Vladir was present. It was a cloudy day with rain and we could still obtain a huge amount of hot water. I was not expecting it would work so well. 

The students from my renewable energy class who helped build it seem to be seriously intentioned about continuing to produce more systems….they will probably have the first client in Canoa. I gave diplomas with their photos and signatures of Peter, the mayor and myself to everyone, as well as a CD with all the info they will need in the future.

Saludos 
Riccardo