OMEGA-ALPHA RECYCLING SYSTEMS’ EFFORTS – DRACO II
With Draco I in operation, et al., I was able to get some funding through the Jimmy Carter era Appropriate Energy Technology Small Grants Program run by the DOE. Again, I did not seek installation at my own farm because:
- I wanted to focus on propagating digesters rather than first getting into livestock of my own.
- Due to old wells on my property, I was entitled to free gas for domestic uses.
- I had just added to my house a 12’ X 22’ greenhouse with waterfalls and a large pond, half under the living room.
- I did not plan on planting enough land to fully utilize the digester residues.
- I thought I’d have better chances of getting the grant if it was for someone else.
Draco II was installed at a small, diversified horse farm operated by an at-the-time enthusiastic fellow transplant to central West Virginia. Changes for this system from that of Draco I included constructing two larger digesters, end-to-end, so as to provide for more constant digestion. The south-facing digester walls outside the greenhouse and the concrete ceiling of the digesters were to be insulated to encourage digestion in colder weather. The greenhouse was to be much larger. Photovoltaic fans were added to the thermosiphons. The ponds on top were to be extended for increased biomass production. (Not needing terrestrial support structures, algae and aquatic plants can devote much more solar energy into biomass growth. They are many times more efficient at converting solar energy into biomass than are land plants.)
In spite of all sorts of the…usual construction and interpersonal hassles, the system did get built, and, finally, functional. I provided assistance with barn cleanings/digester loadings and emptying several times but finally decided to end my volunteer efforts at maintaining the owners’ farm after a couple more years. The owner seemed to focus almost entirely on the greenhouse -- which I felt wasted nearly 90% of the system’s potential.
I did have to produce a final report for the DOE. Not having the operational data needed to dazzle them with brilliance, I was left with baffling them with DS (dragon shit). I included consideration of bio-economics along with documentation of individual bio-technologies and symbiotic potentials. (For example, it appeared that likely the highest financial use of the biogas would be to burn it in the greenhouse to increase CO2 levels.)
I suspect that I made a life changing mistake with the placement of Draco II. I would have still have received the grant had the system been built at my farm. At the time, I could have fairly easily carted in manure; I could have expanded well-fertilized growing areas; I could have used the biogas to increase CO2 in the greenhouse; and I could have intensively investigated pond production. I could probably have employed a couple folks to help develop the inherent commercial aspects of the system. In my dreams, having used a Chinese design, I could have developed an international center by the early 90s.
The following photos may give a better idea of what was attempted and done. All photos are from 1981-82.