Friday, January 29, 2010
1) Fibrowatt company overview and its projects in Minnesota and North Carolina, and the UK if that is possible;
2) Review of the press releases on their website, and anything else that is reviewed by following these;
3) An overview of what I find out about local citizen's concerns, some EPA matter’s that turned up in a Google search, and also research into one of Fibrowatt’s own press releases about “alleged non-compliance in Minnesota”;
4) A break-even analysis from a report on a similar plant in Arkansas, and other operators of similar projects in the US; and
5) A wrap up, with some abbreviated profiles of Fibrowatt’s board members.
This is going to keep me busy next week, and the posts may tend to be on the longer side…but I am looking forward to it. I'll leave you with this paragraph, cut from the article linked below. If it’s true that Fibrowatt only builds where they have been invited, one has to conclude that Page County somehow invited them here:
"Locating these plants near to major poultry producing centers is critical to the model’s long-term success. But Fibrowatt is sensitive to the needs of the communities it would like to enter. Although it is exploring potential future projects in Arkansas, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Alabama, Texas, and other states, the company’s philosophy is to only go where it’s invited."
That’s from: http://www.energytodaymagazine.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7006&Itemid=101
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Delegate Todd Gilbert is quoted at length in the article:
"The ag industry benefits from having this waste product taken off their hands," Gilbert said.
"And [Fibrowatt tells] us it's a clean process. The smokestacks are mostly steam. And you would be removing thousands of tons of poultry litter from the ground that might otherwise have found its way into the Chesapeake Bay."
As a renewable-energy producer that would sell the power to utilities, electric cooperatives and large industrial users, there are certain economic impediments to Fibrowatt's operations that require incentives to make the process affordable for everyone, Gilbert said.
"What the company does is highly specialized and expensive," he said, adding that its costs are only marginally above the wholesale value of the product.
Given the history of Project Clover, this is sure to be controversial. I hope there will be a lot of additional due diligence done on the prospect. I have a feeling that this Gilbert quote doesn’t tell the whole story: "The ag industry benefits from having this waste product taken off their hands, and [Fibrowatt tells] us it's a clean process.”
I started to do some additional research on this after reading the article last night. I was impressed with the assessment of potential economic impact…but I could see a number of environmental concerns about an industrial site like this that I would like to understand better.
After thinking about it some more, my first impressions returned to the matter of how the site selection for Project Clover was done in the first place, especially after I read about how the plant would need to source the chicken litter from a wide geographic area. They need a sustainable supply, and their Minnesota operation gets it from at least five counties. A Page County plant would source the whole Northern Valley area.
The question then becomes one related to truck access to the Clover site. I imagine there would be at least one truck per hour delivering raw materials to the plant, and they would have to use that two-lane bypass to get there…rolling through the little town of Stanley since through traffic in the other direction isn’t allowed. My conclusion on this a few months ago was that other sites with better proximity to existing highways were better candidates, and I still think that way.
In any case, seems like we’re on the front end of an exciting development. The prospect of 300 construction jobs and 100 permanent jobs operating that plant is nothing to sneeze at, but the reality is that Page County has a hard time sealing the deal on prospects like this. The best way to move forward is an open, trusting, intelligent dialog involving all County stakeholders, now that this opportunity is public.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
The watch is not on Amazon either, where my Casio Pathfinder came from, and where there are a number of reviews. The reviews are the main reason I chose it. If you come across any, or have one to share, please let me know with a comment.
Monday, January 25, 2010
The four Page County snowfalls in December 2009: 6.5 inches on the fifth, .25 on the ninth, 18 inches on the 18th and 19th, and another inch on the 31st, combined to make it the snowiest December since 1942. In fact, the average snowfall during December is 4.26 inches, according to Quintrell. Adding the rain and freezing rain that fell during the month, there was another 4.85 inches of precipitation, on top of the heavy snow.
The article goes on to report that the average annual snowfall from October to March is 22.74 inches, with the heaviest falls in February, at 6.36 inches, and January, at 6.20 inches. Comparatively, the 2007 snow was only 17 inches, with only a light dusting after we bought the place. In 2008, there was only 5.85 inches, and we never saw it during our weekends out.
However, the average figure of 22.74 inches is certainly enough to justify those snow poles in the old roofing system. We’ve modernized and upgraded that system now, so there is no danger of a collapse, and we added insulation up there to reduce heating costs. Maybe it would be nice to have the old beams back, but I’ve no complaints about our successful renovation and the character of the new ceiling.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
The route from the Hawksbill Cabin to the Hawksbill Creek crossing is about 1.5 miles round trip, roughly measured using Google Earth. Along the way there are two hills and four stream crossings, including Hawksbill Creek. Three of the crossings are little Beaver Run tributaries that collect before their confluence with the main Hawksbill Creek.
So, my readings were taken at: (1) the cabin driveway; (2) at the first crossing of Beaver Run – the main stream that passes in front of the cabin; (3) at the top of the hill; (4) at the second crossing of another part of Beaver Run; (5) at the intersection of the road and the main road; (6) at the little red barn where I met my friends the donkey, horse and goats (there’s also a Beaver Run crossing here); (7) and at the end of my route, Hawksbill Creek at the big red barn.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
I started by taking a walk around the parking area of the visitor center – I have been trying to get by here when it was open for some time now – and finally noticed the sign about its permanent closure. There are a couple of fixtures left in a state of neglect, including this large area of benches at the Discovery Way trailhead – more on the trail in a moment.
A second historical note was a Civil War encampment of General Stonewall Jackson, as noted on this interpretive marker. Page Valley and the greater Shenandoah Valley were witness to many of Jackson’s exploits, and New Market Gap is no exception.
After I walked back to the trailhead, I found the sign for the Discovery Trail – I was also doing some work learning how to use my new altimeter watch, and roughly was able to verify the altitude gain of 200 feet over the course of this hike…more to follow on that part of the day. As described in the PATC guide:
I had a nice time up on the mountain despite the disappointment. Combined with an earlier walk around the neighborhood at the Hawksbill Cabin, I managed over 10K steps that day, measured on my new Timex pedometer – and I am very close to my goal of averaging 5K per day for the month of January. But could I recommend these trails? Not really – not without some much needed maintenance and rework of the interpretive information.
Monday, January 18, 2010
In addition to reattaching the gutters where they had torn away, we reopened the downspout at the center of the back of the house. I don’t like the placement of this one or how it drains to a little pipe under the house, seen in this photo as white piping in the stairwell. But we learned this is essential drainage for the roof’s large flat spaces – the run to the ends is too far for a heavy rain.
The downspout at the end of the stone portion of the house had to be reattached after the storms, and the gutter on this end was angled more to send water its way. Because this side of the house is somewhat sheltered by trees, there never seems to be much drainage here, although it may just head the other way to the central downspout.
Now just to get the chimney work and icebreakers in place, and hopefully that’ll do ‘er.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
I took a carryout menu to refer to as I wrote this post. There’s an amusing quote here: “We go where NO pizza has ever gone before!!” I believe this is a reference to their delivery zone, which I was told extends all the way south to the outer reaches of Shenandoah, and north to Rileyville, which is the border of the county. They said it takes about 20 minutes to get to the south end of the area, and less than that to get to the north end.
Friday, January 15, 2010
- Mary's Rock in the SNP
- Ivy Creek in the SNP
- Duncan Knob via Scotthorn Gap in GWNF
- Kennedy Peak in GWNF
All of these involve ascents but they range in distance from 3 miles to 10 miles. We'll see what the guys are up for and their timeframes. Hopefully we can pull this off by mid-February.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
After that recent post, several colleagues on Facebook got a thread going about one little trek we did. It was a cross country route that was between 6 and 10 kilometers that took us right down to what we think was the border. Although there was no fence in view, there was a little stream and I think I remember a no-man's land area, and my friends remember signs similar to the ones shown here.
While we were out on the route, a snow storm started - pretty heavy, and we really didn't have great visibility. I have to admit I was pretty worried because we'd skied downhill, and now were a couple miles out, near the border in unfamiliar territory, with a long way to go in a storm. We made it back of course but there was plenty of drama to go around.
Some friends mentioned the radar installation visible in the resort photo above - it was on a neighboring mountain in East Germany. They say a colleague of ours - a famous defector, ended up working there for a time. I don't recall reading that, but wouldn't be surprised that this location is where he might have been assigned when he went to work for the Stasi.
I have the price list from the little pension hotel we stayed at - seven days, single room with private bath, breakfast included - DM 287 - at the time with those exchange rates - $100. The good ole days!
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
There’s a couple of things we especially like about Front Royal – of course, there is the little hamburger stand Spelunkers right there on our route ( http://www.spelunkerscustard.com/ ) . If we are on the short turnaround weekend plan, we’ll stop here for a Saturday lunch, or if I am on one of my Park adventures and enter at the north entrance, I’ll grab a bite here before going in. People tell me the custard is great – looking at the website, I realized I’ve never tried it!
Since we’ve been going out, another business opened along the road in Front Royal that I like to stop at whenever the schedule permits – Two Fat Butchers. ( http://www.twofatbutchers.com/ - and see the photo). For the most part, I just pick up sausages for grilling when I am in the store – I get most of my steaks and beef cuts from the Burners' Trio Farms in Luray whenever I can. But sausage is certainly not everything they have at this place…and frankly, I think it’s worth a drive out to Front Royal from DC all on its own.
First of all, there is a great story here. The first time I stopped in, with my friend Chris, we met one of the butchers and talked about some of their values as a family-owned business. The butchers have more than 26 years of experience combined, and work in the evenings to prepare the inventory (and dress the bountiful deer that the local hunters bring in during the season). Their wives and families work in the store during opening hours, making for a refreshingly traditional arrangement that adds heaps of quality to the experience.
After our first impromptu visit, Chris was inspired and made an order – he chose the “Six Pack Attack,” recently advertised at $166.66, and including: six pounds each of ground chuck, chicken, link sausage, pork bone in chops, and roast, and six premium ¾ inch cut steaks. That’s most of a winter freezer load for a couple. What made this purchase even more memorable is that he scheduled pick up on the Saturday night after we did our Duncan Knob climb (a three-part review starts here: http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/2009/03/weekend-hike-duncan-knob.html ).
Monday, January 11, 2010
December 2009 Mother Earth News article “Grow $700 of Food in 100 Square Feet
Recent completion of Michael Pollin’s “The Omnivoure’s Dilemma” (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0143038583?ie=UTF8&tag=hawkscabin-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0143038583)
Twice-a-week lunches at Whole Foods in Arlington
I guess the most pressing thought on my mind is our apple tree at Hawksbill Cabin. We think it is 50 years old, dating to when the Thompson’s first built the place. It has gone wild from neglect over the last 10 years (at least) and although it gave a great crop in 2008, 2009 was dismal, even a failure. I think it needs an aggressive pruning – maybe even a couple of years of work on this account – to make it a reliable producer. I’ve started looking for advice on how to take this on, a project we’ll likely begin in mid-February.
There was another realization that David and Heather, at Public House Produce, will probably already have made their seed orders for this year’s CSA and Farmers’ Market program (http://www.publichouseproduce.com/2009CSA.html) . I recently saw where the Sustainable Shenandoah group reported out on their efforts last year (http://sustainableshenandoah.blogspot.com/2009/11/sustainable-shenandoah-garden-2009.html) . Some Facebook friends were discussing a new local, grass fed, beef farm in Sperryville, one that complements the Burner’s farm outside of Luray (http://www.triofarmsinc.com/) – they are a corn fed operation, available at the Luray and Manassas markets. This is pretty fascinating stuff, all contributing to the development of a new, non-industrialized, agriculture, and it has really added some interest to our simple weekend home concept.
I talked to Mary about last year’s container garden, where she had some great success with the tomatoes and peppers – expanding the tomato crop to three varieties and introducing peppers for the first time. I asked what she thought about adding a zucchini plant and maybe some eggplants, upon which she went into some additional detail about moving a rose bush to expand that operation out to maybe 30 square feet this year.
I think there is a still emerging philosophy around our house about eating better. The habits are already changing – I saw a recipe for stuffed zucchini that I think I can do on the grill. It sent me looking for summer vegetable pictures – some of these come from the Public House Produce site, and a few are from planetnatural.com (including a summer squash and eggplant variety that I’m encouraging Mary to include in the container garden plan).
Friday, January 8, 2010
Here is another view of the site from ground level looking up an alley as I walked around the new buildings. You can see the masonry going up, they are using these gantry elevators to do that. In the next update I will try and include a photo showing how they are attached to the building - very interesting.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
I spotted these icicles when I did a little checklist walk around in the snow. I was immediately worried because of what they mean to the roof – not so much about the weight load on the low-pitched roof, since we had that all taken care of a couple of years ago (http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/2007/12/wtf-moment.html ) - but with the melt getting stuck along the roof edge and either tearing down the gutters (the lesser problem), or ice dams forcing water back up under the standing seam metal roof and wicking into the roof structure (a more serious problem).
Preemptively, I started shoveling snow off the roof as far as I could reach. I wasn’t going up there because of the footing, although at other times of the year there are some chores I have to do up there – see http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/search/label/Carpenter%20Bees for an example. When we first bought the place, we saw that Mr. Thompson had built a little staircase so he could easily get up there…we wondered why, but I think now we know – it was to get up there to sweep the snow off – we’ve removed the staircase and I use a ladder when I have to go up now.
I cleared the heavy snow off to about three or four feet back from the edge, and checked on it every morning to make sure the gutters weren’t getting refilled or blocked by the melt. These ice blocks are what I found in the gutters each morning – very heavy – and I’m afraid the damage is done, so we’ll have to get them reattached. We have already been in touch with the gutter man to get this taken care of.
We now have a hard frozen pile of snow behind the house – it’s about 18 inches tall, and solid enough for me to stand on and look over the roof. Since it’s in the shade, I don’t think it is going away anytime soon – at least not until we have a week-long warming trend.