Thus, while the outside temperature is 5 degrees below zero F - though actually much colder because of the windchill factor - inside the Solviva Winter Garden greenhouse it is warm enough to maintain a thriving garden, abundant with vegetables and flowers, without any heating fuel. I can go back to bed without worrying about the greenhouse freezing. So I tromp back across the fields, a bit more easily now as I retrace the deep footprints I left on the way down, feeling entirely at peace and as one with Earth, Universe and self. This is true plenty, freedom and security. Two fans, powered by the sun shining on the photovoltaic panels, hum as they force hot air from the top of the greenhouse down through ducts and into heat-absorbing water-mass storage. Some of the heat-activated vents are slowly opening, increasing air circulation and preventing overheating.

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It faces south, and was built from the bottom up to embody her environmental ways. Because this pleasant little building is actually a lab to monitor its own design elements, all of its systems are being measured and notated for their energy generation and usage, including the chickens. Anna says it is carbon neutral, because wood releases that same amount of carbon whether it decays naturally or is burned.

Both pool and sauna tie into the solar-heating system, and it seems to be working just fine. The interior temperature of the building in winter is in the seventies during sunny weather. It shows that even under the most extreme weather conditions — which were on the night of March 3 when it was 17 degrees outside — the interior temperature never went below 55 degrees.

At that point Anna could decide to put on another layer or light the small wood stove. Anna Edey swims year-round in the pool inside her new lab. The primary solar component of the heating system is the south-facing, sun-absorbing, black, tin roof, which warms the air moving under it. With much of the heat deposited in the heat sink, the now-cooler air begins its travel up the south side of the building, cooling some more as it moves up the exterior wall and back to the hot roof again.

Solar-powered fans keep the air moving in a circular flow around the envelope of the building. The hot air, having been sucked down in a continuous doughnut-shaped path enveloping the lab, warms the center of the doughnut — the interior space — mostly by the radiant heat emanating from the floor and the under-floor heat sink.

What is known from the monitoring of the system is that the rise in temperature of the flowing air can be significant in the two to three seconds it travels under the fourteen feet of south, sun-facing roof. The most extreme example was on the day the solar roofing was installed. That sunny, winter day, the air temperature at the bottom of the duct was 45 degrees coming up from the stone heat-sink layer, and degrees after passing under the solar roof.

The two fans that move the air around the envelope of the building are powered by one twenty-by-thirty-five-inch photovoltaic PV solar cell, and they begin to operate only when the sun shines. If the sun is only halfway out, the fans turn at half speed, which is fine, because the roof, as the heat collector, is only producing half the heat.

Anna has formulated a way to incorporate chickens into the design of the lab to supplement the heating. It harkens back to the early times when humans and domesticated animals routinely sheltered together and hygiene was an unknown word. Anna is proving that this symbiosis is useful and healthful for both parties. She remembers the first winter as being particularly cold and on days that were around zero degrees Fahrenheit the plant areas of the greenhouse were about 45 degrees — well above freezing — but the separately enclosed area of the greenhouse where rabbits were housed was 55 degrees, and the chicken area was 72 degrees.

Body heat is a free byproduct of the egg- and meat-producing chicken that has been ignored in the modern era. But back in the three-dog-night days, animal heat could be crucial for winter survival. In fact, Anna says the chicken heat is 8 Btus per pound of chicken per hour — a new way of thinking of a pound of chicken.

That heat is free if you consider that the chickens pay for their upkeep by the eggs, meat, and compost they produce. The chicken area is behind an interior wall of the lab, which has a see-through panel, and is enclosed by the north-facing outer wall. In the cold of winter, the chicken heat will keep the interior wall at 60 degrees.

There is also a wire-fenced enclosure outside where they can exercise their scratching and pecking needs. In their domain, the absence of olfactory evidence of the bustling chickens going about their business is striking. The lack of chicken scent is one of the keys to living this closely with fowl.

This process feeds the ryegrass, while removing the chicken odors. The lab features the pool downstairs and a sauna upstairs. The pool, as you might expect, is heated by solar, and again that hot, black, tin roof is the source.

For this purpose, there are copper pipes that cycle water pumped from the pool to zig-zag through the air-channels under the roof, absorb the heat, and send it back to the pool. That same pump also sends the water through a filter made of copper and silver, both of which are natural germicides and kill bacteria, for the most part eliminating the need for chlorine.

There is a trace amount, only about 5 percent of what the pool would otherwise require, which Anna says could only be detected in a lab test and not by smell. Anna likes the pool temperature to be in the range of 81 to 84 degrees, which is no problem for the solar-heating system. She says it also helps keep the humidity in the room at a healthy level, averaging about 50 percent. When closed, the pool loses only one degree per twenty-four hours.

A second pump creates a current to swim against. Twenty PV solar panels mounted along the ridge of the roof power the electrical needs of the pumps and lights, and send excess power into the NSTAR grid. It also gets plenty warm when you open the small door of the large duct that leads the to degree solar-heated air down to the stone heat sink. Along with the sauna and pool, Anna has five different pieces of gym equipment in the lab, so there is plenty to do besides notating twice-daily temperature readings from ten different thermometers.

Looking toward this coming winter, the experiment continues. With the sun merely rising and setting, turning it on and off, it is a self-regulating system, with no batteries, no controls. In this era, when solar is being touted as one solution to our energy problems, Anna Edey and Solviva are innovating simple and efficient methods to make that solution a pleasant one — with no carbon footprint and with chickens, if you like. Also see.


Solviva’s Anna Edey saves the world, truly

We live in abject fear. Cars, planes, and everything else that runs on fossil fuels have loaded up our atmosphere with lethal amounts of carbon dioxide — enough to melt glaciers, froth hurricanes, and tip the earth off its axis. Plus those fuels that run those cars that each individual on this planet needs parked in his or her driveway, ready for the next quarter-mile trip to the pizza joint, these fuels, as every one one of us knows, hustle us into war after war as we guard the oil derricks in whatever Middle Eastern principality pockets our dollars, and grins and bears us. The science has long been in. And as more people, e. But what if we could rescue ourselves one by one, living in ways that were both comfortable and sustainable and which miraculously require near-zero fossil fuel, that emit near-zero carbon monoxide and other poisons into our atmosphere?


Gardens of Love: Anna Edey

I have read nearly all of Solviva, and all of Green Light. The first book has about 40 pages of glossy color photos and drawings with notes, whereas Green Light has all glossy color pages throughout. Many of the photos and captions are exactly the same, but Green Light has more, especially depicting construction phases and designs. I have been focused on the wastewater management sections, specifically the designs and effectiveness of brown and green biofilter systems. If you want to build your own, Green Light is much more helpful than Solviva. It is not quite written in a how-to format, but you can derive the information you need by reading and rereading the sections and taking notes of the critical pieces of information.


Here, in case you wonder, is a bit of background about me and my work: I grew up in Sweden, where my gardening grandmother and Mother Nature were my best friends. When I was born, , the human population was 2. As I approached 40, the population had increased to 4. My marriage died and my home burned down, but out of the hellish chaos rose heavenly magic!

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