Cangro - an upside down way to look at growing veggies

Hooray! It’s unashamed cronyism time! My friends Jody & Di have started a fantastic initiative - Cangro, where they are using upside plants to educate the young and old on how easy it is to grow fruit & veg under your own steam.  They sell an urban farming kit which can then be hung with a plant facing downwards.  It’s great for plants like tomatoes or beans, where the fruit/veg doesn’t normally do well when planted straight in the soil, because they tend to get nibbled by critters on the ground. 

They’ve also run a bunch of competitions where kids see who can grow the biggest and/or most impressive tomato plants, and they’ve seen these kids get SO excited at how wonderfully rewarding the experience can be (as well as how wonderful it is to win a bicycle…)

Contact details here for more info:

083 403 3394 &

 Bit of history from their website:

Cangro was founded by siblings, Jody and Diane Kramer. With a little bit of environmental and sustainable knowledge and some forward thinking, they discovered the “magic” of the upside down can.

It all started with a tomato growing in the back garden and a thought…

“How can we grow tomatoes in a fun and practical way?”

… A few days later, Diane and Jody came across 30 000 redundant paint cans earmarked for the dump and so their journey began.

From their very humble beginnings at the Irene farmers market, in which they sold out before they could unpack the trailer, Jody and Diane knew they were onto something special… It was soon realized, from the children’s and teacher’s enthusiasm that this could become a wonderful teaching aid, something that could replace the “old bean and cotton wool”.

With Diane’s exuberant personality and Jody’s practicality, they have formed a very compatible and effective team.

“Everybody has been so enthusiastic and helpful towards the project, we often find we have no control over where this can is taking us. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience!” Jody Kramer

Energy storage really the talk of the RE town at the moment

Following on from my post on electricity storage from yesterday, the Renewable Energy World site included three articles on storage in their mailer this morning.

Sitting at the Tip of the Iceberg: The Huge Potential of Energy Storage (found here), where they estimate that “the U.S. energy storage market will grow to 1.7 gigawatts in 2017 and should hit 2.5 GW by 2020."  This is largely driven by targets set in California where it has been mandated that "the state’s utilities procure 1.325 GW of storage by 2020.”

In Hawaii’s Solar Conundrum: Can Energy Storage Save the Day? they describe how Hawaii is alsolooking into storage quite actively (article found here), where they have “opened bidding for one of the largest energy storage projects in the country: a 60- to 200-megawatt storage project to help manage solar power within the Oahu island grid by 2017.”

And finally, Energy Storage: A Different View from Germany (found here) talks on how Germany is looking into “three main categories: power to heat, power to gas (specifically hydrogen) and power to power, which can utilize a range of storage technologies, including electrochemical (batteries), mechanical or thermal.”

It’s no surprise that all three of these articles focus on areas where there is a high penetration of solar technologies, and there is likely to be even more interest in solar going forward.  
It’s good news for South Africa that R&D in the States and in Germany is a priority at the moment.  Innovations and breakthroughs in this field can have massive implications for a country with solar irradiance like ours, where baseload is considered to be so important.

A quick intro to electricity storage technologies by Arup

With renewables becoming more prominent in many countries’ energy pictures, the issue of intermittency is become more and more relevant. As Steve Saunders from Arup points out in his Thoughts article “*Storing electricity evens out the intermittency in supply that comes with technologies such as wind or solar. Without it, a grid is limited to around 18% renewables – a point Germany has already reached and the UK is close to*.”

I found this guide, put together by Arup, quite interesting and handy. It
summarises the key characteristics of some storage technologies, and the
full doc can be downloaded here

The following technologies are explained at a very high level, with info on

the advantages, disadvantages and possible applications. A nice intro into
energy storage.

- Sodium Sulphur (NaS) Batteries
- Flow Batteries
- Lead Acid Batteries
- Lithium ion (Li-ion) Batteries
- Sodium Nickel Chloride Batteries
- Liquid Air Energy Storage
- Compressed Air Energy Storage
- Pumped Hydro Energy Storage
- Pumped Heat Electricity Storage
- Flywheels
- Hydrogen
- Superconducting Magnet Energy Storage
- Super Capacitors

Some healthy responses to an unhealthy world

Two years ago I watched a video about these large sea birds (think they
were albatrosses) in the Pacific that were feeding their chicks bits of
plastic that they picked up. The baby birds were dying from malnutrition
and were stuffed full of pen lids, lighters, bottle caps and the like. It
was a ten minute video that left me crawled up in a ball on my bed with a
boyfriend who didn’t know what had just happened (“but why are you
CRYING?”). For all the wracking sobs that this inspired I have changed my
behaviour in less ways than I am brave enough to admit. It does, however,
sit on my mind heavily.

What we are doing to the world is horrendous, overpowering, and shocking in
nearly every aspect of life; every industry, every meal, every journey,
every purchase. I am not very good at processing these emotions into
something productive and for me, this frequently translates into a
crippling and debilitating sense of shame, and a horrible feeling of ‘well
then, what’s the point of it all.’

I think most of us are well aware of how much is going wrong and I’m not
about to re-hash what a bad job we do of everything, but to give a couple
of examples of people who see the same things that I do, and somehow react
in a way that is healthy, positive, inspiring, and has more chance of
actually doing something than rocking backwards and forwards mumbling
incoherent sentences about factory farming. I also think it’s nice to
remember that I am not the only one who is bothered by these things; and
that some people are making an impact.

A young man called Boyan Slat has taken on the problem of waste in the
oceans, and has come up with “an anchored network of floating booms and
processing platforms that could be dispatched to garbage patches around the
world.” So far, they have raised over $610k from crowd-funding, and aim to
clean up almost half the north pacific garbage patch in the next ten
years. More info can be found here:

Closer to home, Michael Suttner, has taken a coke bottle and turned it into
safe, affordable and renewable lighting. It uses flexible PV solar panels,
wrapped up in an acrylic housing, with a battery, that sits under a
standard spec bottle cap. This then screws onto a soda bottle neck. The
idea is to provide this lighting to households for less than $10, without
any continuous energy costs as they’re rechargeable, and they make use of
waste bottles. More info can be found here:

“*In December 2007, Annie Leonard and her friends at Free Range Studios put
a 20-minute movie about the way we make, use, and throw away Stuff on the
internet, unleashing a torrent of pent-up demand for honest conversation
about the impacts of our consumer-crazed culture on people and the planet.
In the six years since The Story of Stuff was released, Annie’s ‘cartoon
about trash’ has been viewed more than 30 million times worldwide*.” It is
incredible, how powerful these movies are. They’ve done so much to raise
awareness around consumerism and how we use stuff, without giving through
to where it comes from or where it goes. Find out more here:

I don’t know what it is that motivates these people. Where they find the
energy, or the strength of character to see the things that are wrong and
pull out the resolve to still try to do something. I do know that I need
to remind myself of them though, often. Because who wants to live as a
shivering, quivering mess?

Engineers vs Planners - Joke for a “friday” thursday

A man is flying in a hot air balloon and realizes he is lost. He reduces
height and spots a man down below. He lowers the balloon further and
shouts: “Excuse me, can you help me? I promised my friend I would meet him
half an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”

The man below says: “Yes. You are in a hot air balloon, hovering
approximately 30 feet above this field.”

"You must be an engineer," says the balloonist.

"I am," replies the man. "How did you know?"

"Well," says the balloonist, "everything you have told me is technically
correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information.

"The man below says, "You must be a planner."

"I am," replies the balloonist, "but how did you know?"

"Well," says the man, "you don’t know where you are, or where you are
going, and you have made a promise which you have no idea how to keep. The
fact is you are in the exact same position you were in before we met, but
now it is somehow my fault.”

An emotional week. The recognition of my selfishness in society sneaks up subtly. His sacrifice is a light which could shame or challenge me.What is the contribution I could be making to improve the state of our country?It’s so terrifying a question.
Hard to ask, harder to answer, hardest to implement.
But possible.

An emotional week. 
The recognition of my selfishness in society sneaks up subtly. 
His sacrifice is a light which could shame or challenge me.
What is the contribution I could be making to improve the state of our country?
It’s so terrifying a question.

Hard to ask, harder to answer, hardest to implement.

But possible.

Delay in the announcement of additional projects under the DoE’s REIPPP Programme

From the DoE IPP website found here:

“The Department regrets that it will not make an announcement today in relation to the appointment of the additional MW for the Third Bid Submission Date in the Onshore Wind and Solar Photovoltaic Technologies. 

The Department experienced delays in finalising the approach to allocation of additional MW.  Therefore, the Department will make further announcement regarding its decision in due course, and is intending to do so by no later than 31 December 2013. 

We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”


@GoldieBlox have come up with a range of toys for young girls which are more than tea sets and little dolls.

I know that this is not energy related, but this resonated so heavily with me.  I grew up with three older brothers, playing with tonker toys in the back garden.  We had play cars, we built cities with wooden blocks and we made lego mansions.  

This incessant obsession with making everything for girls pink, and teaching young girls from such an early age that they should only care about how pretty their dress is, or if they have the right accessory for their new anorexic doll or peeing lifelike infant is very upsetting for me.  Girls get told they’re so pretty and boys get told they’re so smart or strong and that is where their perceived value lies and defines the choices and career paths to follow.

Thank goodness my dad taught me how to change plugs, change the chain on my bike, and explore the wonders of science.

More than just a princess indeed.  I was an engineer in the making.


Tags: GoldieBlox

A summary from the DoE can be found in the presentation linked.

Some key items for me with regards to Bid Window 3:

- 93 bids have been received, amounting to 6,023MW whilst the available
MW for allocation was 1,473MW.
- 17 preferred bidders have been announced and there are 6 PV projects,
7 wind, 2 CSP, 1 landfill gas & 1 biomass
- The Northern Cape has the lion’s share of the jobs again, with 82% of
all the construction jobs. Gauteng has got six jobs in there out of over
7000… This seems to be largely driven by the CSP facilities, both of
which will be in the northern cape. The PV plants are split between four
- 50.4% of equity across the projects is from foreign investors as is
25% of the debt
- PV, wind and CSP had a dip in Round 2 in operational jobs/MW, but they
have all increased in Round 3 (wind & PV most notably… where there is the
most competition) Not sure if this is a response to socio-econ drivers.
- The bidding tariffs for each facility has been provided. Not sure
this was available before, but it is quite interesting that this is
available now. The rumoured cheapest PV price is 86.41c/kWh from Adams
Solar PV2 (Enel?)
- Welcome to the party landfill gas & biomass.

There are still some things to be gleaned from the notice on the IPP
website today…

- If your PV facility was not 75MW you’re not yet listed as a preferred
bidder, as they’ll be awarding 6 projects at the 75MW cap = 450MW
- Landfill gas and Biomass have joined the party
- It is likely that we’ll be seeing 200MW of CSP with storage coming
online soon as the tariffs were only really favourable for CSP with storage
- Wind and Solar PV may have additional capacity made available, and
this should be announced before the 20th November.

The info below is found here .

The Department received 93 Bid Responses on the Third Bid Submission Date.

The Department has today, 29 October 2013, sent letters of appointment as
Preferred Bidders to 17 Bidders who submitted Bid Responses on the Third
Bid Submission Date. The number of appointments, and the total MW of
Contracted Capacity awarded to date, is as follows:

Onshore Wind - 7 Preferred Bidders totalling 787MW
Solar Photovolatic - 6 Preferred Bidders totalling 450MW
Biomass - 1 Preferred Bidder of 16,5MW
Landfill Gas - 1 Preferred Bidder of 18MW
Concentrated Solar - 2 Preferred Bidders totalling 200MW

The Honourable Minister of Energy and the Director-General of the
Department of Energy are currently not available to address the media and
interested parties about the outcome to date of the procurement in respect
of the Third Bid Submission Phase, and appropriate arrangements will be
made in due course for a detailed announcement regarding the Preferred
Bidders and the benefits to South Africa in respect of their projects.

The Department has today also sent letters of non-appointment as Preferred
Bidders to 18 Bidders. Those letters were sent to Bidders whose Bid
Responses were Non-Compliant with the requirements of Part B (Qualification
Criteria) of the RFP.

The Department has taken note of the fact that a large number of very
competitive Bid Responses were submitted for the Third Bid Submission Date
in the Onshore Wind and Solar Photovoltaic Technologies, and the Department
is considering the appointment of additional Preferred Bidders for those
Technologies from the remaining Compliant Bidders. As such, the Preferred
Bidders that have been appointed in those Technologies may not be the only
Preferred Bidders that are appointed in those Technologies for the Third
Bid Submission Date, and no final decision on this has been taken at this
time. The Department will make a further announcement regarding its
decision in this regard in due course, and is intending to do so by not
later than 20 November 2013.”