Burning Wood to “Cool” an Entire Lodge

Arbor Day’s Lied Lodge:
It is Air Conditioned with Current Sunlight
(i.e. Scrap Wood)

Becky at the Fuelwood Energy Plant, one of the places we'll be touring during the {a href="http://midwestpermaculture.com/courses-training/our-certification-courses/pdc-at-lied-lodge-arbor-day-farm-ne/"} March PDC{/a}.


In our last post we talked about thermal mass rocket stoves and the great benefit they held by being able to heat our homes using current sunlight in the form of firewood.  (The sunlight energy stored in coal, oil and natural gas is millions of years old.) With these stoves we consume as little as 1/4 the amount of firewood it would take to heat the same amount of space with a traditional wood stove.  This is a huge savings in energy consumed for the same results.

Last February, Becky and I visited Lied Lodge and were surprised to discover that they not only heated their water and the Lodge with scrap-chipped wood, but they also air-condition the entire Lodge using the same fires…!!!   How can this be?

What I Learned From My Pickup Camper
The basic concept is really quite simple. My first exposure to it came years ago when I was living in Montana in my pickup camper for a short time. The camper had an absorption refrigerator in it; I couldn’t get over the fact that by generating a flame using the LP gas under a small boiler in the refrigeration unit, I could actually freeze ice cubes and keep perishables cool.

The way it works?  When certain liquids (ammonia in the case of the fridge) are brought to a boil they turn into a gas.  When the hot gas is run through a condenser (like a car radiator) and is cooled, it turns back into a liquid.  This phase change requires energy be absorbed (heat) and a tremendous amount of cooling takes place.

The YouTube video below gives a good explanation of the heating/cooling process.


Using Fire to Cool a Building
So, using similar principles and the use of appropriate technology (metals, tubing, vacuums, basic chemicals) Lied Lodge created a system that could cool the entire building. Here is a simple diagram from the Lied Lodge Website: 

What’s the Big Deal?
As we shared in our last post,  with good generational planning and conscientious designing for the future, we can actually create way of living that requires the use of very little coal, oil or natural gas (ancient sunlight) and instead uses current sunlight to harvest the excess CO2 from our atmosphere.  We could create a culture that is sustainable in the long term while leaving the planet in better condition with each successive generation.  We just might be able to stall or even reverse global climate change. We could create a more permanent-culture…a permaculture.

From last weeks post… 

“Quite literally, farmers will be able to convert some of their prime (and not so prime) farmland into the raising of selected firewood brush using the long honored art of coppicing.  For example, a farmer could grow hazelnut bushes for the nuts.  Once every 7-10 years it is  a good practice to coppice the hazel bush  (cutting it completely off, close to the ground) thus harvesting the perfect firewood for a rocket stove.  The next season the hazelnut bush springs back to life and will begin producing nuts again in another 2-3 years.

Bill Hogarth, an English expert, Coppicing Hazelnut

This is why permaculturalists have such a passion for food forests.  In a food forest we not only can learnt to grow the foods we need to eat, we can also produce fuel and fiber while simultaneously building topsoil.  Food forests improve the land and water with every successive generation of farmers.”  

 Arbor Day Farm and Lied Lodge Demonstrating Great Leadership

Quite interestingly, the Arbor Day Foundation has had an on-going hazelnut project for over 15 years.  When one looks out over the valley from the Lodge, the first thing they see is the Arbor Day Farm’s expansive hazelnut plantings.  They are doing trials and research on the most useful and beneficial varieties of hazelnuts while inviting the entire nation to join in on the project.

The Lodge, fuelwood energy plant, the hazelnut plantings and the various biomass-tree-planting trials will all be a part of our upcoming training from March 25-31, 2012.  Join us if you can.  It promises to be a great training in the comfort of this beautiful lodge.

Lied Lodge in Winter - Their Hazelnut Plantings are in the Foreground

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