Energy News: Methane Generator, Alternative Energy Store, and Other Items

This installment of a regular energy news feature covers five stories, including a man who built a methane generator and a man who opened an alternative energy store.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
November/December 1974
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In 1974 John D'Angelo established an alternative energy store selling wind power, solar, fuel cell, methane, and other power equipment.

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The following energy news items were drawn from multiple sources.

Homemade Methane Generator

Bill Patch—who rode a bicycle from Minier, Illinois to Redkey, Indiana to see MOTHER EARTH NEWS' methane generator last spring—turned right around and rode back to Minier, where he and Dale Whitley then proceeded to build a 20,322-gallon anaerobic digester of their own. Does it work? "We burned off 142,450 cubic feet of methane during the four summer months," says Bill. "That's equal to approximately 1,110 gallons of gasoline. As you can see, it's best to get ready to use your gas before you make it!"

Colombia Methane

The methane idea is catching on in South America. Nicole Maxwell, the first white woman to study the miraculous herbal medicines used by remote tribes in the Amazon Basin, writes from Bogota, Colombia: "Organic farming is big at the University and, this being cattle country, everybody's building little plants to convert manure into methane for kitchen use."

Alternative Energy Store

John D'Angelo is a young man who's done his homework. He visited Henry Clews' Solar Wind operation in Maine last February and bought a 2,000-watt wind-driven generator. He contributed to the American Wind Energy Association meeting in Detroit in September. He's visited MOTHER EARTH NEWS' methane plant in Indiana and Bill Patch's anaerobic digester in Illinois. And now D'Angelo has set up his own company—Independent Energy Systems—in Pennsylvania to handle wind, methane, solar, fuel cell, and other "alternative" power equipment. John also deals in 10-speed bikes and backpacking and climbing equipment. Give him a call if you live in the Erie area.

Thermal Mass Heating and Cooling

What costs one million dollars more than a conventional heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning system for the same space, but is expected to both heat and cool a 1.3-million-square-foot building at a savings of 20 million kilowatt hours and $200,000 a year? Answer: A 1.6-million-gallon concrete tank filled with water and equipped with computer-controlled heat exchangers. The monster vat is currently being installed in the Toronto headquarters of Canada's giant Ontario Hydro-Electric Commission and its contractors think that "other people are going to want systems like this." Although the storage container's auxiliary valves, compartments, plumbing, chillers and switches seem somewhat complicated, the basic idea of the whole shebang is Harold Hay simple: excess Btu's are pumped into the mass of water when the building's living space is too hot, and extracted again later when warmth is desired. (Harold Hay, by the way, is the California inventor who has successfully heated and cooled a house with a giant roof-mounted "water bed" and a series of moving panels which cover and/or expose the mass of liquid to the sun.)

Hydropower Scam?

UNCONFIRMED REPORT: Stateline Alternative Power Systems (nope, we never heard of the firm before either), is supposed to have found "a small supply of small Pelton-type, impulse turbine water wheels, new, ideal for people who want to build their own hydroplants." The note (from Stateline) which gave us this information was hardly decipherable and included no prices or substantiating photographs. We hope this lead is on the level but advise caution to anyone to whom the news seems too good to be true. It may well be exactly that.

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