Bike Loan Program, Heat Sponge, and Other Energy News

A commuter bike loan program in Anchorage, Alaska and a heat sponge for thermal storage are among the energy news stories covered in this ongoing feature.

| September/October 1981

  • 071 bike loan - LianeM - Fotolia
    In 1981 Earth Cycles starting a commuter bike loan program in Anchorage, Alaska.

  • 071 bike loan - LianeM - Fotolia

NONPOLLUTING MASS TRANSIT: Earth Cycles—a non-profit organization in Anchorage, Alaska—has started a commuter bike loan program, letting folks borrow single-speed, fat-tired bicycles to run errands or to sightsee. The two-wheelers are checked out on a first come, first served basis, and each cyclist leaves a refundable $5.00 deposit and a piece of identification at the group's headquarters.

THE HEAT SPONGE, a thermal storage unit suited for use in existing structures, gathers surplus daytime heat for nighttime release in a series of phase-change salt "shelves" arranged in a cabinet. The inventor says that five Heat Sponges—which may be plugged into standard electrical outlets—can save 500 gallons of fuel oil annually when used in a 1,500-square-foot house in the northeastern United States.

HATE TO DO YARD WORK? ... WELL, READ ON: Maryland researchers have found that a typical 121-square meter suburban lawn consumes the annual food equivalent of 173,000 calories in labor, water, fertilizer, and other resources ... and estimate that a household could grow 445 pounds of garden produce (including tomatoes, cucumbers, and potatoes) in the same amount of space, using only half the energy!

SUNSET FOR SOLAR ENERGY: The Reagan administration has dismissed 370 of 959 employees at the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI) in Golden, Colorado and has cut the facility's 1982 budget to $50 million, a 50% reduction from current spending levels. The budget-slashing is based on the new policymakers' belief that private industry should fund most solar development work.

SUBSTANTIAL RESULTS IN ENERGY CONSERVATION—primarily through voluntary efforts in the private sector—are occurring faster than anyone would have predicted, according to a study performed by the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. Conservation measures taken since 1973—almost entirely in response to economic forces and without significant government planning—are saving about six million barrels per day of petroleum, researchers say. The major gains have been made in energy-conscious housing design and remedial residential projects, such as weatherproofing.

THE BUNNY THERMAL UNIT: A Grants Pass, Oregon man has combined his rabbit-farming and plant-raising businesses to produce a hare-heated hothouse. The nursery owner claims that 500 of the mammals, whose body temperatures average 103°F, are able to warm 25% of his 30,000-square-foot greenhouse to 58° even during freezing weather.

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