Posts by Richard Grevers

  • Hard News: Over the paywall?,

    Paywalls imply a significant vendor-lock-in. I'm in Taranaki, so the Herald misses a lot of relavant news for me, but there are times it way outperforms stuff on breaking stories. But I'm not going to pay for both. (And I'm certainly not prepared to pay for stuff based on the abysmal quality of their android app story selection).

    The biggest problem is that, more than a decade after it was mooted, we still don't have a workable micropayments system ($0.08 to read this article), and I suspect that the main reason for that is that micropayments would show up how excessive the banking system's transaction fees on non-micro payments are.

    New Plymouth • Since Jul 2011 • 118 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Going solar?,

    I can't give any direct comparisions since we are several km from the grid. Our hot water is wetback off the kitchen range supplemnented by a doesn't quite work well enough (water pressure too low?) gas califont. From older phhotos the house used to have solar h/w - presumably it was removed when it broke down (I know the cylinder has been replaced since then).
    So while it would be nice not to have to run the fire in summer, our savings would be hard to calculate (what is the cost of our labour in harvesting and storing firewood) - and we spend so much time "in the cloud" during winter that annual solar energy gain is greatly reduced.

    So: General thoughts:
    In general, heating water and storing it isn't very efficient. However, the only fuel source fast enough to run a zero-storage system is gas - which would have been a great resource for several hundred years if we hadn't burned most of it to make underpriced electricity in the 80's and 90's. Neither solar nor electricity is fast enough for on-demand hot water.
    The biggest cost component of solar hot water is the plumbing. This varies in complexity depending on water pressures and cylinder type. An ideal system uses thermal siphon, but some need pumping.
    Solar may well not meet needs year round, so what is the winter backup going to be?
    Last time I spoke to someone a chinese-made vaccuum tube unit cost $1200+GST landed. You could get about three decent sized PV panels for that price. So if your existing cylinder could be fitted with a 12-24V DC element, (I don't even know if there is such a thing as a cylinder with dual element options) PV direct to water could have lower capital costs (a controller triggered by a thermostat should be around $200, cable can be expensive if you can't keep distances short).
    Excess PV can power other things, too, whereas SHW can only heat water.
    Using PV in a grid-tied or battery storage system to power a 240V AC heater element would increase the size of inverter required ($$$) - which is why, in conventional off-grid energy design, water heating is the first thing you throw out of the electric equation.

    In our system, going back to Solar Hot water might be something as simple as branching the cold water feed to our HWC before it gets to the house and running it through 40m of alkathene pipe attached to a black concrete wall. If that raises the temperature of the mountain stream water by even 10 degrees, it's a significant fuel saving.

    New Plymouth • Since Jul 2011 • 118 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The People's Poet is dead!,

    remind me how we embed video again? Just the URL format doesn't seem to work. (Should it be in the mini-help below?)

    New Plymouth • Since Jul 2011 • 118 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The Language of Climate, in reply to Che Tibby,

    otoh we need plastics, and they’ll have to be from oil or coal.

    We have the technology - all it needs is for oil to get a bit more expensive to make the bioplastic investment attractive:
    http://opensourceecology.org/wiki/Polyethylene_from_Ethanol - and also their wiki category on Bioplastics.

    New Plymouth • Since Jul 2011 • 118 posts Report Reply

  • Capture: Getting closer,

    Before I gave away my film SLR, I had a 1970's Toshiba 70-220 lens that was true macro - It could focus at 12mm and zoom at 50mm from the lens - which made lighting a real challenge, as I couldn't afford a ring flash, especially not for a lens with such a big diameter front ring.
    I had picked it up cheap, probably because nobody could be bothered with such a heavy lens (it had its own tripod mount) in the age of compact zooms - it was probably $2000+ when new.

    New Plymouth • Since Jul 2011 • 118 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Spring Timing,

    Question: Have there been any (recent) polls on attitudes to the TPPA? For me it's the biggest political issue going at the moment, but no party seems willing to make it a campaign plank. (The Greens told me some time back that it's there in their policy but they limit campaign focus to three policy areas).
    IMO Maori MPs of every political colour should be vocal opponents given the huge sovereignty issues it raises, but I've heard very little.
    Labour seems divided and unwilling to get off the fence, although their union base is clearly anti. - do they have info that opposing might cost them votes?

    New Plymouth • Since Jul 2011 • 118 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Climate, money and risk,

    Yes FG, I mean lifestyle. It seems to be relatively hard to get young people who grew up on farms to commit to a rural life, and much harder to get the city-bred interested. I think it's a mixture of lack of techno-luxuries and social circle / entertainment. And yes, I meant perception, not my own view. To me, our off-grid TV-less coal-range lifestyle is great, although Telecom's mobile data caps do suck, and they've just announced a tripling of over-cap data cost, something that seems totally unjustifiable.

    To Ian, my comments on Chinese Dao farmers are based on a friend and teacher who has spent months living with them to study their understanding of the flow of water through the land.
    There is a big difference between one or two animals working a padi a few times a season and a whole herd spending several weeks on a paddock.
    I've been told that the "war" between farmers and nomadic herders was a major reason behind the building of the Great Wall - If the cattle invaded and were ousted it still took generations to get the land back to full productivity.

    New Plymouth • Since Jul 2011 • 118 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Climate, money and risk,

    Wandering back towards the original theme, the Avon river red zone in Christchurch looks remarkably similar to the (then somewhat secret) 0.5m sea level rise map that I saw in the 1980s. So regardless of foundation suitability, CERA has substantially avoided a future problem by halting redevelopment in an area where it was doomed to be temporary.
    I wonder if insurers will ever bite the bullet and say to customers in vulnerable areas "You have 15 years, after which this location becomes uninsurable" - or do they profit more by upping premiums and hoping to avoid a payout?

    New Plymouth • Since Jul 2011 • 118 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Climate, money and risk, in reply to Russell Brown,

    How viable is it to talk about replacing pastures with grasses (GM or otherwise) which will reduce the emissions of our ruminants? And if not now, at some point?

    Coming very late to this interesting discussion...
    There's a base assumption right there, Russell - that cows eat grass. They can eat and enjoy a large range of fodders. What farmers don't like is that some involve work - they need to be brought to the animals from the field where they are grown.
    Asian farmers - truly sustainable ones who have worked the same land for 5,000 years with no degradation and no external inputs - know that hoofed animals destroy soil structure and significantly reduce the productivity of the land. So they restrict the animals to a very small percentage of the land - housing them, essentially, and achieve outputs per acre far above anything seen in the Western world. The system doesn't support animal products as the primary output, but animals are an intrinsic and essential part of the system. The amount of land needed to support a family to a decent standard of living is an acre or two. (We bought 1.5 acres and hope to become that productive on it)

    I don't know of a dairying example in NZ, but a mixed farm in inland Taranaki produces premium quality beef, lamb, poultry and bacon plus many other products. Pastures, with a wider than usual plant diversity are successively grazed by all the different animals. Animals self-medicate from the many medicinal plants in living fences. 170 acres produces the same income as the neighbouring 4000 acre block.
    Basically it's a myth that organic methods produce lower outputs. They are more labour intensive. So we could have a future where a lot more people work on a lot less land, leaving unsuitable land to be reforested, fixing many erosion problems. The stumbling blocks being that too many people see rural life as a low standard of living, and that the financial system values investment in land far above investment in people.

    New Plymouth • Since Jul 2011 • 118 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Making it up on smacking,

    From my experience, the people who opposed the repeal of section 59 didn't, and still don't, understand the law and, more particularly, the meaning of correction.
    There are still circumstances where it isn't illegal to smack/physically restrain etc. a child - e.g. stopping a child from endangering themselves or others is not "correction". Immediacy is a big factor - even a minute's delay could see it become correction.

    New Plymouth • Since Jul 2011 • 118 posts Report Reply

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