Bodger's Hovel
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Grant: Project 540 - Low-cost Low-emission Biochar Kiln for small farms

It is with great delight I can announce that we have received significant funding towards our small-scale/village biochar kiln project.

Many thanks to the clear-sighted folks at APE-UK, Artists for Planet Earth, who recognise a winning idea when they see it. From sales of world music CDs, with tracks donated by musicians, they have selected our project from many hundreds of applications, and awarded us £5,000. As all rates will continue varying wildly, I will not convert this to A$ or $US, etc, rather leave that up to you.

The grant is for: Project 540 - Low-cost Low-emission Biochar Kiln for small farms. It is awarded to the village-scale biochar work group, who are volunteers at The Rainforest Information Centre, Lismore, NSW, Australia. The project overseer is RIC founder John Seed, and the research, design and production team co-ordinator is Geoff Moxham, BSc Industrial Arts, Technology, UNSW. Other participants currently include research physicist ex-Harvard and Smithsonian, Dr. Paul Taylor (UNSW), Greg Hall, Patrick Anderson and blacksmith Adam Jung.

The Project 540 Kiln has the specific intent to sequester atmospheric CO2, in many small localities, and to make soil "good to the seventh generation." This will build on the wonderful experiment the Amazonians have already done for us, with their many hundred year old "proof-of-concept" terrapreta experiment. Thanks fellas.

The project is to run for 8 months, and will produce Public Domain / Creative Commons working designs, and support material, including a low cost biochar kiln wiki in 2009. Contemporaneously it will construct, and extensively test and refine at least one full-size ~1m^3 prototype best-practice kiln, including monitoring and control systems. The constraints will be construction at the village-tech level of skills, in light steel, firebrick and concrete.

It is proposed that we economize by using second hand and donated materials, and voluntary labour. We have been given the enthusiastic support of one of the first intentional communities, and the use of land for a kiln site, farmland adjacent to the site, and farm machinery. This way the grant money can be used to maximise the quality of kiln materials, buy the local test gear, and pay for organic and other test and certification costs that we cannot cover from our local community.

A connection exists already to the Wollongbar Department of Primary Industries Biochar research facility, and Lukas Van Swieten has offered the use of their ‘pyrograms’ for establishing and cataloguing char signatures. In addition, recently Stephen Joseph (ex-BEST) has agreed to mentor the project.

The resulting kiln will then be an ongoing test site, open for the community to access and copy. It is proposed that as far as possible, all work will be rewarded outside the failing world economies. We will use the local LETS, and their connection to the international CES, if necessary. In addition we will use the process of “payment in kind”, direct barter, and the use of the local LETS folding currency notes.

This will conveniently mimic both less developed countries’ current conditions, and the near certainty of collapse during the “long emergency”, that develops as the oil economies attempt to address climate chaos, change the entire vehicle fleet, use less energy, antidote the poisonous depression, shore up business-as-usual, and all without any more easy oil, and with decaying oil infrastructure.

The Project 540 vehicle fleet includes a “fry-brid” 100% chip-oil powered tow-car, which has already been used to collect and transport stainless steel pyrolysis vessels, and transport displays. Not a solution, just a stop-gap alternative for now.

As a secondary aim the project will inevitably look at the uses of the waste process heat. Primarily this will be for drying feed-stock. Some suggestions for community uses are for drying clothes in the wet season, hot water for laundry, hot-tub and sauna.

Time allowing, there is the possibility of extending the kiln design to be a “breeder kiln”, by co-firing green kiln bricks, saggars and furniture. Using local clay, this would allow self-replication and repair indefinitely, and provide shards or even terracotta night-soil vessels for terrapreta experiments.

Details of the design elements that will constrain the project can be read as a 4500 word outline. This is available online here or downloaded here.

In breaking news Dr Hugh Spencer, Director of Research at Cape Tribulation Tropical Research Station, and the Australian Tropical Research Foundation has offered a further A$1000 to the project, towards process-heat and woodgas research.

Photos here by Peter Gibson


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