Thursday, July 23, 2009

Old tanks, a quartet of new bikes and a really big deck!

As you can tell from the title, there has been a good bit of activity at STARworks since I last posted. Let's start with the tanks in the biofuels area.

So, the old tank farm of the sock mill is where we are going to make biodiesel in the near future. Before Piedmont Biofuels can install the production infrastructure, we have to pull out three 6400 gallon plastic tanks. They are 10 feet in diameter and at least as tall. Check the picture above to better illustrate.

We were going to hire someone to remove the tanks by crane, removing the roof of the building, but that was going to cost a pretty penny. The tanks aren't worth much money now, so I decided to try removing them with our Baker forklift. After much gnashing of teeth, wriggling around and pulling on a tank, we finally got one out. Here's the spot where it used to exist in the building.

Many thanks to my Dad, Bill Moore, Santiago and Takuro from next door in ceramics for all the help in getting the tank out and onto Bill's trailer. I have two more tanks to remove, but I hope they will be easier now that we've done it once and have more room in the space .

Here are the other tanks that need to be removed, actually the ones on the left and right. The tank in the center with the ladder against it will be cleaned and modified to hold finished fuel and will have a fuel pump and meter installed. Let's walk outside biodiesel and see what is happening with the deck around the corner.

Lee Hudson, a local contractor that has helped us out many times in the past with other construction projects, agreed to take on this most recent task: to build a series of ramps and decks to serve as an entrance into the Nick's glass studio. The studio is where students from area community colleges, local artists and anyone generally interested in learning about blowing glass come to learn from Nick and others. Here's what the back of the building looked like before Lee and his crews went to work.

In the past several weeks they have been getting various aspects of the decks and ramps completed, and now its almost done! The "country red" metal roofing arrived from Triad Metals' Asheboro warehouse yesterday afternoon and should be installed soon.

This is how the deck project looks as of today.

We anticipate that the deck will be used quite a bit starting in the near future. Nick will have some classes in glass blowing offered through Montgomery Community College in the fall. Additionally, there will be an open house in the fall. Check Nick's website here for more information.

UPDATE! The roof on the deck is finished... and it looks great! Here are a couple of pics I snapped a little bit ago. Someone remarked that the series of ramps reminded him of the line for an amusment park ride. Well, we do have a lot of fun here in Star.

Finally, we were all excited to get some new bikes from Middle Ring Cycles over in Albemarle. Check out the pictures below as we try out the bicycles at STARworks.

Brian's truck and trailer with one of the new bikes next to it.

The bikes in the front entrance area.

Here are some action shots of folks riding around the trail.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Grease Run at Piedmont Biofuels

First, you might ask, "what the heck is a grease run!?!" Its definitely not a variation on that slip-n-slide you had when you were a kid... ick! It is merely shorthand for waste vegetable oil feedstock collections in the sustainable biodiesel business. Doesn't grease run sound more fun? It is a dirty job, collecting wvo, but its for a great cause -- making biodiesel out of the waste oil local restaurants and other cooking facilities need to dispose anyway.

We are partnered with Piedmont Biofuels in the construction of our biodiesel facility here at STARworks. They asked if I wanted to go on a celebrity grease run with Moya and Kate. As Lyle Estill indicated, they are rock stars, or perhaps a binary star system of grease collections at Piedmont. In a recent energy blog entry, Lyle discussed the inaugural celebrity grease run with his wife, Tami.

After waking at 430 yesterday morning to feed my laying hens and all the cats and dogs, I tooled over to Pittsboro to get some education. I met Moya and Kate at Lorax Lane to begin the grease run. I hopped into their pump truck, affectionately named Norma Jean, which was built by Bill Abernethy over in Vale, NC. It is a quite a system they have worked out, with routes planned monthly for picking up wvo from their region. Moya and Kate also have Earl, their GPS system, to help(sometimes) in navigating around the Triangle. We trekked all over Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Pittsboro collecting grease from so many places throughout the day. One place, Dale's Indian Cuisine, kindly provided us with some very tasty mango lassies. Thank you so much Dale!!! It was quite a tasty treat... especially on a hot day pumping grease.

We returned to Piedmont Biofuels with a loaded tank of waste veggie oil just in time for Kate to go to class in the Biofuels program at CCCC. It was a very educational day riding with Moya and Kate. They patiently educated me regarding the finer points of grease collection for making sustainable biodiesel: pallets, stickers, barrels, clean collection areas, and so much more. It was obvious they knew what they were doing, just looking at our clothes at the end of the day. I was covered in spots literally from head to toe in grease stains, not realizing how best to hold the grease collection hose and stinger. They weren't quite so filthy. I wish I had a camera to take some before and after pics as proof. Maybe next time. Speaking of which, I guess I didn't do too poorly, because Moya and Kate said I could come back any time I wanted to go on another grease run. I highly recommend it! I hope everyone has a groovy holiday weekend.