Solutions for Self-Reliance

What I Found Interesting This Week 3/17/2013



Here’s what I found interesting this week.


What’s your home’s solar potential?  Here’s a nice way to find out.  This tool was put up by a solar marketing company (obviously as a marketing gimmick), but it appears to do a relatively good job.

To use it, put your address into the tool.  In return, you get a picture of your roof (via Google maps) with some analysis of its solar potential.  Here’s an example:

Quick Estimate

I particularly like the heat map of the roof.  However, I wouldn’t pay too much attention to the amount of savings and the payback period.  That’s highly variable, depending on how and what you install.

NOTE:  There are also some cool tools you can use on your smart camera phone to much the same thing (with more precision on location).   I’m still trying to determine which tool is best.


Building Networks

The first release of the mesh network developer package from Commotion is now available.   Commotion got some funding from the US State Department to build a toolset for creating local networks of phones and computers that can’t be shut down by governments.  This tool is useful in situations when the government moves to shut down the Internet (Egypt/China) or during disasters that knock out phone/cable lines (Katrina/Sandy).

How does it work?

Basically, this (still, relatively clunky) toolset makes it possible for people to connect their phones and wireless routers together to form a local wireless network.  This network would allow a user to get a small amount (more with dedicated equipment) amount of bandwidth on the network to text other people on the network and/or connect to the Internet (if anyone has access, the entire network has access).


Here’s a long article on the idea in the Scientific American if you are interested.

Building Communities

Building a resilient community from scratch.  This group guys decided they want to build a productive community near Montreal, Canada.  A community that they are calling Valhalla.  Their hope is to prototype the methods and tools required to be resiliently productive, in a way that makes it possible for others to copy (via video, docs, etc. over the Internet).  Given what I’ve seen, they are using the Web and the media pretty effectively.


Their first project is a prototype of a completely off-grid greenhouse design that they can use to generate ongoing funding/relationships.  To kick it off, they are funding it via Kickstarter.  Not that this is similar in concept, but less advanced, than the project Jason and Anne put together earlier this year (we interviewed them on Resilient Strategies).

Valhalla Farmlet

NOTE:  the best way to get a prototype funded is to a) build an open source design, b) build a community around that design (refining and adjusting it), and then c) go to Kickstarter for funding in exchange for detailed plans/video of the effort.  IF you skip a step, it’s harder to pull off.

Resiliently Yours,



JR Small

PS:  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a “what I found interesting” letter out last week.  The travel to Texas for SXSW joggled my writing schedule a bit.

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