GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE AND RENEWABLE ENERGY

Green Infrastructure is a living network of landscapes, waterways and natural areas that slows, captures, filters and moves water to areas of need.  It is a more effective way of discharging rainwater by finding future uses for it, providing a range of ecosystem functions, including stormwater management, recreation, water filtration, habitat provision, and air purification.  Rain gardens, bioswales, green roofs, permeable pavers, tree canopies, and plant selection are site-specific practices that can take the place of traditional “gray” infrastructure problems like irrigation, water pumps, sewer pipes and septic systems.

At Harmonia, we use a combination of grid and off-grid energy sources.  We are located approximately 35 kilometers from the start of a large wind farm that provides a significant amount of energy to Nicaragua and the Central American grid.  Nicaragua had set a goal fo 90% renewable energy by 2020, although this goal is still a few years away from full implementation.

Renewable energy is energy generated from natural resources—such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat.  Alternative energy doesn’t harm the environment, a distinction which separates it from renewable energy which may or may not have significant environmental impact.

There is a dark side to some renewables.  There is significant waste from the manufacturing of a solar panel and at the end of its useful life.  Sulfuric acid and phosphine gas are required in the production of solar panels, but these chemicals are difficult and expensive to recycle.  In the meantime, the waste is shipped to poor countries where it is dumped into the lakes and soil..  Solar panels cannot be recycled without great cost, so 97% of discarded solar panels sit in landfills, leaching lead and cadmium into the earth.  This also does not include the environmental cost of the batteries or the child slaves who mine the rare earth metals in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, sometimes as young as 4.  When we look at energy systems, we use the permaculture/medicine wheel approach to see the true footprint of the infrastructure.  We encourage renewable and alternative energy systems, but we aware of their imperfections.  It is a real lesson in mindfulness and conservation.

Energy is the biggest crisis we face.  Without a continuous flow of energy to nuclear power plants around the world, they will melt down in a few days a la Fukushima.  We have to find a solution to oil, gas, coal and nuclear.  We have no right to demand that generations that follow pay for the excesses of our lifestyles.  There are solutions, but we need to understand the foundations of the problems beyond the rhetoric of politicians.

Our sustainable infrastructure program will include classes in Water and Energy Efficiency, Solar Thermal Energy Systems, Photovoltaic Systems, Wind Energy, Bioenergy, Converting to Biodiesel, Rocket Stoves, Solar Ovens, Sustainable Water Infrastructure, Dowsing for Water, Hand-dug Wells, Water Filtration, Gray Water Systems, Compost Toilets, Irrigation Components, Bioswales, Rain Gardens, Landscaping, Rain Gardens, Green Roofs, Tree Canopies, Managing Water: Flooding and Scarcity, and Transitioning from an Oil-Based Economy.

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