Solar CITIES 3 IBC Refugee Camp Passive Solar Biogas System

Refugee camp digester being field tested at the Kelsey household in Glenmoore PA

In 2016 Solar CITIES will be moving rapidly toward providing  rapid deployment biogas systems for refugee camps and orphanages to respond to the crises of displaced persons exacerbated in extremis by the armed conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Palestine and other parts of the MENA region.

While biogas systems are now becoming well known as sanitation solutions as well as renewable energy solutions, very little attention has been paid to household and community systems for impoverished or crisis areas where there is a need for systems that are extremely quick and easy to set up, are low cost, and can be easily replicated by stakeholders through participatory community based development.  There has been little attention paid to systems that run on organic residuals (food wastes and toilet wastes) created by congested human populations which are all too often a source of noxious pollutants, diseases and dangerous vermin. And there has been even less attention paid to the creation and deployment of small scale biodigester systems that can work well year round in areas where cold weather is of particular concern.

Solar CITIES has taken on the challenge of answering this dilemma by creating our Solar CITIES 3 IBC Refugee Camp Passive Solar Biodigesters.  The first experiments for this system were conducted in Tamera Solar Test field in Portugal during the summer of 2015 by T.H. Culhane, Martin Funk, Stefanie Thieme and Nick Chase.  A prototype field system was then built in Greece at Skala Ecovillage by Martin Funk and Sandra Imhof (see

Upon return to the US, Solar CITIES team and Envisaj Mercy Environmental Sustainability and Justice League built two insulated passive solar heated IBC digesters at the home of Kathy Puffer and at the Yonkers Groundwork Hudson Community Garden .

At the Kelsey homestead in Pennsylvania, site of the first Backyard IBC digester in the US, Envisaj students and Culhane and the Solar CITIES team put all the pieces together for the first time: A soy polyurethane foam insulated Solar CITIES IBC digester with two double pane windows for passive solar heating (one facing south, one facing west, with mirror reflection of the southern sunlight on the west facing window) and the floating IBC gas holder, filled with antifreeze for winter performance. 


We are datalogging temperature performance with our Arduino microcontroller based ds18b20 temperature probes, but all indications are that this system is the ideal for getting out into the field and within a few hours being able to get active and effective biodigesters built and commissioned that can work year round.

Please... DO try this at home (and get the word out to refugee camps everywhere!).



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