Solar C.³I.T.I.E.S.: Turning human and food waste in to clean energy using homemade systems

Solar C.³I.T.I.E.S. is working with indigenous people and those living in some of the poorest neighbourhoods in the world to build and install rooftop solar water heaters and food-waste-to-fuel-and-fertiliser biodigesters.

The non-profit organisation, set up by sustainable development expert and professor Dr T.H. Culhane, helps people to build homemade biodigesters which turn human and food waste into biogas or clean energy, which can be used to heat water, cook food, or produce electricity. This allows for people to become sustainable, as well as reclaim sovereignty and self-sufficiency.

Biodigester fermentation tanks turn the waste into biogas, a form of clean solar energy that can power generators, refrigerators, air conditioners, cooking, and more. Fertiliser produced by the technology then turns food back into food.

T.H. Culhane explains: “The DIY solar panels  generate 200 liters of hot water and 200 liters of cold water for each household every day. The biodigesters turn kitchen scraps and other organic garbage – including toilet wastes – into 2 hours of cooking gas every day, for life!

“And since the technology is completely CO2 free, it contributes nothing to global warming. If people don’t have access to enough hot water, if people can’t boil water, it becomes a serious health issue. And when women spend all their time collecting firewood or charcoal and tending stoves to cook and  heat water, then how can they go to school or get ahead?”

T.H. Culhane’s work at Solar C.³I.T.I.E.S. (Connecting Community Catalysts Integrating Technologies for Industrial Ecology Solutions) has naturally taken him across the globe where he has supported projects in Brazil’s favelas of Rio and Sao Paolo, rooftops in Cairo and New York, rainforest villages in Tanzania, schools in Maasai towns in Kenya, and Bedouin and refugee camps in Palestine.

T.H. Culhane has a particular resonance with indigenous populations of this planet. In fact it’s the time spent with indigenous tribes where T.H. Culhane has learned most about the environment and how to be resourceful – the wisdom of which essentially provides the backbone of his non-profit organisation, Solar C.³I.T.I.E.S.

“[Indigenous peoples] use every part of the environment to survive and thrive,” he says. “It inspired me to rethink urban living along those same ecological principles.”

T.H. Culhane’s first encounters of such resourcefulness, inherent among indigenous peoples the world over, was during rain forest ecology fieldwork with the Dayak of Borneo and the Maya Itza of Guatemala’s jungle villages.

Solar C.³I.T.I.E.S. teaches communities how daily biogas can easily be made from the previous day’s kitchen waste using nothing but a bit of manure, a couple of  local water tanks and plumbing supplies.

The purpose of these self-build projects that Solar C.³I.T.I.E.S. has created is such that biogas can just as easily be produced and administered in urban areas – a small apartment in an urban city, rooftops and inner cities – just as easily as in the great outdoors.

The Solar C.³I.T.I.E.S. website also serves as an open-source for individuals and communities, providing training and resources for all those “researching, developing and deploying sustainable solutions for flourishing societies”.

Biodigesters are now commonplace around the world, according to T.H. Culhane. Germany has 15,000 giant biodigesters converting home waste. Sweden has an entire island producing so much biogas they’ve run out of garbage. Urban centres across the Middle East are building massive biodigesters with the goal of becoming the world’s cleanest cities.

“It isn’t rocket science…but it could fuel rockets,” T.H. Culhane told National Geographic.

One of T.H. Culhane’s most recent projects was installing a basement HomeBiogas system in the basement of the home of a Native American family in Lake Traverse Indian Reservation, at the border of North and South Dakota, not far from the controversial tar sands project, Dakota Access Pipeline.

The purpose of the installation of the HomeBiogas system, which was donated by the Rosebud Continuum Educational Project in Land of Lakes Florida, is to make biogas a central technology for sustainable development and independence in indigenous communities.

Because of the extreme winters in the Dakotas, Solar C.³I.T.I.E.S. has partnered with the Chief Looking Horse and his family to demonstrate the effectiveness and safety of the “domestic dragon” as an indoor “house pet” by installing the biogas system in the basement of their home.

Solar C.³I.T.I.E.S. founder T.H. Culhane explains how the purpose of this particular project is also to support and inspire indigenous peoples in standing up against controversial pipeline projects.

“We are proving that biogas belongs in the house,” T.H. Culhane says. “And invite members of all first nations to come and see how they work so that we can spread the wave throughout the Dakotas to help defeat the “black snake” of oil pipelines threatening areas like Standing Rock.”

Solar C.³I.T.I.E.S.

Rosalind Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She is a writer who specialises in sustainable lifestyle and living, wellbeing, music and arts. Rosalind also works as a counsellor, intuitive reader and spiritual life coach helping people to become who they truly are and manifest their heart & soul’s desires into their lives:

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