DIY, inexpensive and open source: Open Source Ecology has been reinventing collaborative energy for more than 10 years. On the eve of its first anniversary, the French branch of the association is launching its first project, the solar concentrator.
7,000 euros to change the world. On November 4, the French branch of Open Source Ecology (OSE), an association that supports the spread of the free in ecology, announced the successful financing of its crowdfunding campaign. These several thousand euros should allow for the construction of a solar concentrator, the Solar-OSE, an energy transformer destined for micro-industry and reproducible by citizens practicing DIY.
The principle of the solar concentrator is simple: recover the energy from the sun and exploit its thermal energy. “We capture solar energy on mirrors and concentrate it on water in pipes that we can turn into steam up to 250 degrees”, explains Andrea Sannuto, 37, one of the founders of the French branch of OSE.
A different technology from solar panels (it uses the thermal energy as opposed to the electrical energy) that exist on a much lager scale: “Usually one talks about solar megawatts, explains Andrea, who works in computing besides her involvement in OSE. The large groups use these technologies to extract petrol for example. As for us, we are getting close to 5 kilowatts: we are more on the scale of the small craftsman.” Most importantly, “it is a technology that you can seize completely. You don’t need large industries to produce the components, they can all be easily available locally. We do not want large industries that finance research to use their products. We want the citizens to decide which technologies to embrace.”
Ecology and open source
The project is developed by the French branch of OSE, an American association founded in 2003 by Marcin Jakubowski, a “technologist farmer” as he describes himself, who is developing a construction set of equipment that is useful in modern life, the le Global Village Construction Set (50 most important machines in the industrial and agricultural sectors), made in DIY and collaborative mode, the plans of which are in open source.
“It is a great gift to humanity to develop the open source philosophy beyond IT. We must lead it and give it a direction.”
Andrea Sannuto, OSE France
Several machines have already been prototyped, reproduced and are functional: a tractor, a 3D printer, a compressed earth brick press or still a micro-house.
Marcin Jakubowski, founder of OSE, in February 2011 (TED conference):
OSE France was launched in September 2014 by Andrea and six other collaborators following several years of thought and networking. The association counts today around 140 members. They chose the solar concentrator especially because it could be 100% made in France but also because of its impact on renewable energy, a topic “of major importance”.
At the time of COP21, their topic is even more in the limelight. OSE was in fact at POC21, where 100 makers gathered from August 15 to September 15, to DIY concrete solutions for the ecological transition. They developed their first prototype at POC21, at one fourth of its real size in order to take it on tour through France.
Making citizens understand the project is not always easy, admits Andrea: “Since its use is not directly domestic, many people did not understand.” But POC21, movements such as Alternatiba and networks of eco-villages made it possible to gain in popularity. “We met a small producer who grows lavender, apples and potatoes. Today he sells them as they are. With the concentrator, he could cook the fruit, sterilize jars, turn the lavender into essential oil.” Where he would need three different machines, the producer could use this source of alternative energy for a minimal cost, explains Andrea.
Europe is daring
The plans of the prototype developed at POC21 are already online on Instructables and are having a degree of success: 47,000 visitors rushed to the complex and detailed roadmap to leave tens of eulogistic comments and pieces of advice from pros.
The real size prototype should be finished in July 2016, Andrea hopes. Another prototype, the costs and materials of which – namely insulation – will be optimized, should be finished in summer 2017. In the meantime, OSE is strengthening: France is working in collaboration with Spain, Austria, Italy and also Germany to attempt to create a European network.
The anniversary of OSE France , planned on November 20, should take place on December 4.