Fossilfree around the World had lots of publicity in Spain lately. We did a great event with Sail-a-Future. And, we were very fortunate, because Marta Perez wrote good articles for Huelva24 and El Correo del Golfo. Thank you Marta! Also, our friends in Sanlucar de Guadiana sent Canalsur on our way. As you might know, this is the TV-channel of Andalucia. Andalucia has 8 million inhabitants, so this is quite an audience.
In the video, Inge shows Rossio the sustainable yacht. Rossio is really interested in the kitchen. We agree this is an important part of our sustainable lifestyle:) If you want to see more detailed information on what makes Ya a sustainable yacht, check out Youtube or www.fossilfreearoundtheworld.org
Our friend Philip urged us to go see the Pulo do Lobo. He was right. It is magnificent. Thewaterfall is located north of Mértola, in the Lower Alentejo. Pulo the Lobo means “wolf’s leap”. And when you stand there, you realise the wolf has to be pretty desperate to jump this fierce current.
Pulo do Lobo is the most dramatic stretch of the Guadiana , where the “river boils between harsh walls, the rushing of water, hit, flow and wind gnawing a millimetre per century per millennium, a nothing in eternity” wrote José Saramago, one of Portugal’s most famous writers (source).
We were also impressed by the boardwalks like we saw in Alvor, designed to enable tourism without damaging nature.
On board “Ya” Hetty van der Linde of Sailafuture got the brainwave to turn ‘sailafuture’ painted sails into Christmas bags with the children’s wishes. The bags can contain regional products and make lovely and sustainable Christmas gifts.
We introduced Hetty to the Mayor of Sanlucar de Guadiana, she described the idea and he was enthusiastic right away.
So, we asked two young future artists to test the paint on Ya’s glasses first. See here:
Thank you for those lovely drawings and we think the Christmas painting is also going to be a great success!
We sailed the Guadiana river with friends. The Ya arrived at Pomarao, just next to where for nearly 100 years, the sailing cargo ships were loaded with copper ore from the mines. We started hiking along an old deserted railroad track, through rough nature. It led to the former copper mines. On the summit of the exploration about 1000 Portugese men worked there. But in the early 60s the English bosses closed it down from one day to another and shipped all gear with them. Now you can only find the railway sleepers. Here an impression in some images.
You build a large catamaran, you make a great and well thought technical system in it, including an efficient energy consumption, and then you discover you can live fossil free!
That is what Adrien did.
Adrien and Thelma built a 15-meter catamaran, they sailed her to the Mediterranean from Iceland, where their son was born. Then they bought a piece of land along the river Guadiana. This is when we met them.
On the outside you can see this 15 m catamaran is designed and built to sail. Adrien tells: “we have built her light but very strong (thanks to the sandwich material and simplicity inside) and sailing with her is just…” – Adrien’s eyes start rolling in his head as he tries to find the best word and then shouts in French: “…Formidable!”.
Thelma is perhaps not such an enthusiastic sailor, but she likes the life around it. The freedom, always your home with you, with your own comfort, your own space. Space?
There is so much space, you could organize a table tennis tournament in their saloon. And there are also 2 spacious bedrooms in each hull.
The development of the energy system
Adrien and Thelma built the ship in Iceland. We all know, it is cold up there. If you start thinking about energy systems in such a place, you think fossil, without doubt.
So did Adrien. He made a complete central heating system in the ship. He installed a water heater on propane gas. Very efficiently, he even wanted the hot air from the heating system to flow along the exhaust pipe to get back the wasted energy.
He wanted to make his own water. He found out that the little water makers are expensive and the industrial ones are cheap, especially in maintenance. But these big things need a lot of power. So, he uses the boat’s diesel engines to get this job done. And the engines can also propel the boat.
The electrical system is all 24 Volt. So, all wiring can be rather thin. He took a LiFePO4 battery bank, so there is nearly no inefficiency in storing.
All lighting is LED.
He wanted a big fridge and a big freezer. Everybody who has been on the ‘Ya’ knows what Adrien also knew: on cooling (and heating) three things are important:
So, he insulated the refrigerator well and the freezer very well. They hardly take energy compared to all manufactured fridges and freezers, which are still very poorly insulated.
Growing to fossil freedom
Now the Kata Lind lies anchored: not in Iceland, but in the Algarve. With the solar panels to the south and a good wind turbine.
They bought an induction cooker, to replace the gas cooker. No problem for the batteries, plenty energy left.
Adrien is an engineer in automatization and when you come aboard you can see he loves his job. So, he uses nearly 1 square meter on clocks and meters and so on, including an autopilot for further development. No problem for the batteries.
Their household is running on 6 to 7 m2 solar panels, flat on deck and standing, next to the windows. On a good sunny day, they can deliver up to 8 kWh or energy. You can consume the world with it! When the weather is bad, there is a good wind turbine to get the energy.
Energy for the irrigation
They have a piece of land here and it needs to be irrigated in the dry and hot summer period. So, there is a strong pump, delivering some cubic meter of water. In the sunny weather the solar panels always deliver enough energy to keep the pump running.
The land will deliver their own vegetables, oranges, avocados and all. The freshest, and without any transport. This is the ultimate fossil free consumption.
We went for a first sail with our new battery-bank. On our way to Mertola, we saw lots of nets. In Penas de Aguia, we met a fisherman. He offered us fish, which we gladly accepted. It was ‘saboga’, (twait shad). We got 3 of them. He would have given us the two big buckets of fish he caught, because he only wanted to keep the eggs. The eggs are a local delicacy, like caviar. That’s why the fish in this time of year is the ‘queen’. The fish itself needs a special preparation because of the fine spines.
So the people only want the eggs of this fish. The fisherman regrets this. ‘If you prepare this fish well, it is delicious. I wish we could give the fish the people here don’t want, to people who are hungry.’ We carefully followed the fisherman’s instructions for preparing the fish. We have a lot to learn, because we still found a lot of spines. However, it was fresh and delicious! Getting to know the regional cuisine is always an adventure.
The fisherman complained that in recent years the catches were getting smaller and smaller. We checked. In northern Europe, the twait shad populations are fading. This is caused primarily through overfishing, pollution, habitat destruction and migratory route obstruction. Consequently, for example the Irish and English governments have taken measures to protect this fish. We hope the balance on Guadiana river will be preserved in time. Only respectful fishing and eating will guarantee there’s always enough room for this queen of the river.
In the fifties, a great change in agriculture took place in Western Europe. After the war, politicians decided that famine should be banned forever. Mechanisation, larger scale production, and fertilizer transformed agriculture into a food producing industry. Everybody thought this was a good idea. Was it?
Bio-industry made it possible to provide a large food supply of constant quality for a low price. But it did not ban famine all over the world in an environmentally friendly way.
Most of the bio industry goes to one part of the bioindustry, which is the meat production. Cows, pigs and chickens must be fed. This costs roughly 7 times more surface, water, transport, et cetera, then just the crops (vegetables, soya) itself.
So, let us focus on the big chunk of what the bio industry really is.
Worldwide, industrial animal farming emits 14% of the greenhouse gasses . The production of animal food is usually located far from the cattle, so this leads to large transportation, so more greenhouse gases and acid emissions. In such enormous quantities, the animal faeces, normally a fertilizer, causes problems. For example, it causes dead zones in rivers, Only algae can survive here. Also, the transportation of the livestock itself causes problems: millions of live animals are transported to be slaughtered elsewhere
Industry alters animals to their demands by genetic modification. Also, industry physically ‘adjusts’ the animals, by cutting the tails and beaks, and castrating male pigs. Even so, because of the crowded housing situations, 8% of chickens break their bones and wings annually in the Netherlands. Cows often get inflammations of the udder. 40% of pigs carry the MRSA bacteria (meticilline-resistent staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) Since the mid 1990s there has been a succession of food and animal disease scares in the EU. These include for example mad cow disease (BSE), Avian Flu, Foot and Mouth Disease, Swine fever, Salmonella, Viral Pneumonia, Infectious Salmon Anaemia etc. Health officers killed tons of healthy animals to prevent the spreading of some of these diseases. Fire kills hundreds and sometimes thousands of animals when their stables burn.
Most governments (at least the USA and the Netherlands, the two largest agricultural export countries) subsidise this kind of farming. So, you pay tax for the bio industry. Tide is changing, but not fast enough.
Summing it all up, we dare say, the bio industry is a wrong good idea. If you want to shape a better future, you can make a start:
Eat less, or no meat
Search for meat and fish that is produced and slaughtered locally and animal-friendly.
And, if you treat your animals with care, you might be rewarded with good food…
What a great idea that was in the early 80s. If there is left over wood, or any material with caloric value, why would a power plant not combust it with their coals and make electricity out of it? Thus, you save coals, and that wood would rot anyway. So, this saves Carbon Dioxide!
What a great idea! It is good for the environment! They called it Biomass. Mass, because it can be anything, and you put bio before it, because it is good.
The French and British coal power plants started with it. Yes, it worked. The unhealthy materials in it was not seen as a problem. Many emissions were even lower than when 100% coal was combusted. They got permits to replace it to up to 40% of their coal.
So, the smart guys of the energy industry even asked their government for grants to combust it.
In the 1990’s, also the Dutch power plants started with mixing biomass with their coal. At that time, as an environmental consultant for the energy industry, I was enthusiastic. A coal power plant reducing the coal combustion to 90%, and mixed the other 10% with biomass like wood residue, or animal fats. Ola, 10% CO2 reduction, at once!
And, all that stuff would rot away somewhere – which is also a waste of the precious soil surface in our crowded little country. A great idea, for the whole chain!
In the years from 2000 The European Emissions Trading System (ETS) came. The less a plant emits, the better. So, the power plants needed more biomass. A variety of odd stuff came in. Waste water sludge. Little wooden road posts (along every Dutch road on every 100 meter you see a white post – there are an awful lot of them). Even citrus pellets, transported on big ships from for example South America.
10 years later waste combustion plants came up. Specialized in household waste, industry waste, actually specialized in everything. The industry became big and competitive. A big waste company advertised with: “Waste does not exist!”. They took all you wanted to get rid of and then they figured out what to do it. It came down to knowing the laws into the very details and working on the edge of what is allowed and what not. Also new companies started, building big incinerators.
We are thirty years further and the protests grow with the biomass. Since the Paris Treaty on CO2 reduction, many governments are committed to big CO2 reductions. So, they give big grants if you can save a lot of CO2. Well, the big power industry can. They build dedicated biomass electricity plants and the government subsides them with interesting sums. It is that much, that it’s an interesting business. So, the power plants let the Biomass (mostly wood) come from anywhere. It is worth the transport.
The more biomass, the bigger the protest mass.
This good idea of saving CO2 by biomass is implemented on such a scale, that it turned into a wrong good idea.
‘That’s a typical example of a wrong good idea’ fellow skipper Adrien said. This was when we talked about biofuels.
Then we discussed biomass and bio-industries. All of them ideas that seem good at first, but work out wrong – at some stage.
Let us focus on wrong good idea number one: biofuel.
Biofuels, like peanutoil, were the first fuels we ever used. But fossil fuels replaced them because they were cheaper and gave more energy. So, at the time that seemed like a good idea. However, the production, the uneven distribution of the profits and, of course, the CO2, are serious disadvantages. Now, we could decide to simply use less fuel, less energy. But, we appear to be unable to do so. That’s why we started to like biofuel. It sounds cool, it sounds natural. You might eve feel like you help the environment. But please check these cartoons to see the other side, especially for the first-generation biofuels.
For us, it is sometimes hard to make wise choices. We hope we can rely on our governments to guide us. They also seem to struggle with the transition we are in. In the EU, member States must meet national targets for renewable energy. Countries have to calculate carbon dioxide (CO2), but also methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). These are both stronger greenhouse gases than CO2. Biofuels must deliver greenhouse gas savings of at least 35% compared to fossil fuels. It is a start.
It looks good, but there might be risks for health and the environment. Also, the production costs are high. It would probably need genetic modification and large-scale farming of micro-algae. So, we are not sure if this is, on the whole, a good idea. The same goes for capturing CO2 and turning it into fuel.
Some believe that a technological fix such as biofuels can solve the climate problem and also make profits. Some think the real solution to global warming lies in consuming less. We think it has to be a combination of both, avoiding the ‘wrong good ideas’.