Author Topic: Solar Wood Hot water & energy independence  (Read 12017 times)

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jraabe

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Solar Wood Hot water & energy independence
« on: December 30, 2004, 11:35:24 AM »
I've been recently re-reading the information available about the increasing demand for oil and worldwide decreasing supply. This is not the supply blip problem of the 1970's "oil crisis" — this one is much larger! A soon-to-be planetary tipping point is coming where supply will increasingly be unable to meet demand. This means much more than just spending more money at the pump.

I have little doubt that we will see a major revision of civilization as cheap energy goes away and everything from food, transportation, plastics and heating become much more expensive. Whether this tipping point or "E-day" as it is called is two years or twenty years away no one can say for certain. The people who know the most (and predicted in the 1950's that US production would peak in 1970) are saying it is closer than most people expect.

If you are building a new house in the country you have a great advantage over city dwellers. You can make your house relatively energy independent now without a great deal of expense.

I would do the simple low-cost things now and then plan for and do the more expensive (such as solar electric panels) when they are more cost effective and the technology is a bit further developed.

A backup heating system that you can provide fuel for is a minimal necessity in cold climates. With little additional expense in a new project you can also include simple solar water heating and tie this in with the wood stove (which will provide efficient winter heat from your wood lot). This can give you the luxury of year round hot water independent of the cost of outside fuels.

Here is a PDF schematic of the system that has been in use at our house for over 20 years.
http://www.countryplans.com/Downloads/solar_wood_water.PDF

Here are the two range boiler tanks located in the upper skylights of my sunroom.



Let's start a discussion about the cost-effective energy-independent country home. What are the things you are planning to provide in your project?
« Last Edit: December 30, 2004, 11:51:33 AM by jraabe »

glenn-k

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Re: Solar Wood Hot water & energy independence
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2004, 02:00:51 PM »
I didn't know if you wanted to start the discussion here in the links section or move to the general section but here is a link of what I have planned to do one of these days.

This is a compost hot water heater that will work year round if properly designed.  The same structure of chips can keep bacteria warmed to the proper temperature for methane production.  I composted about 200 tons of horse manure last year and can verify that temperatures can get very high.  The wood chips last longer though as the horse manure was completely composted in about 2 to 3 months.

http://www.motherearthnews.com/arc/2032/


jraabe

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Re: Solar Wood Hot water & energy independence
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2004, 07:29:53 AM »
Very interesting report on composting and hot water production.

• Here is a follow-up article on the 1980 experiements of Mother Earth News:
http://www.motherearthnews.com/arc/1985/
• A Reader's digest article from 1981 on the Jean Pain project: http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/methane_pain.html
• The "Journey to Forever" small farms on-line library of articles. Some very interesting topics here: http://journeytoforever.org/farm_library.html

glenn-k

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Re: Solar Wood Hot water & energy independence
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2004, 08:21:50 AM »
Another great link to another source of energy from wood-- Wood Gasification -- from which  you can directly run an internal combustion engine.  20 lbs of wood converts to about 1 gallon of gasoline equivalent at approximately 70% power output.

I started collecting and building parts for this last year-- never finished- seems I start lots of things but have a hard time finishing them!! :D

http://www.gengas.nu/byggbes/contents.shtml
« Last Edit: December 31, 2004, 08:22:48 AM by glenn-k »

glenn-k

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Re: Solar Wood Hot water & energy independence
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2004, 10:20:03 PM »
Being completely off the grid I tend to notice when power gets low--I have to start the backup generator to kick in a little extra power to the batteries, but since I have a wind generator also I don't have to do it often.  An added advantage is that when the nearby town was out of power the other day during the storm, I didn't even notice.  Mine was still working just fine!

I have a Bergey XL1 which is a very reliable 1KW wind generator. It pretty well takes over during winter storms when the sun is scarce.  I have only run the backup gas engine generator about an hour in the last two weeks and yesterday my batteries were near fully charged.  A wind generator alone is not suitable for all areas, but a combination of wind and solar covers a lot more.

Here is a link to Bergey if you would like to study up.

http://www.bergey.com/

Here is a link for if you're overly ambitious and would like to build your own - including carving your own rotor.   Tons of free info here too!  

:D
http://www.scoraigwind.com/
« Last Edit: January 01, 2005, 10:46:29 PM by glenn-k »


Offline John Raabe

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Re: Solar Wood Hot water & energy independence
« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2005, 02:59:53 PM »
Glenn always gets me fired up and thinking about his projects. (It is easier to think than to do the actual work!)

Here is an interesting farm based gassification project I ran into:

http://www.ftlcomm.com/ensign/wallace/gasifier/gasifier.html
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Offline glenn kangiser

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Re: Solar Wood Hot water & energy independence
« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2005, 11:29:37 PM »
I like what they did on this project.  There are tons of different ways to do these things and the one I like is the one in the booklet I posted earlier where you use a car heater motor modified to suck the air through the downdraft gasifier.  In this manner you can add fuel anytime you want and you dont have to worry as much about leakage..  A blower would have to pressurize the fuel hopper causing a shutdown to unpressurize and add fuel then a restart.  (Maybe there is another way to do this?)

Another point is that this is not rocket science and is easily changed to use other materials that may be on hand as long as you understand the basic concepts.

If you experiment with this keep in mind that one of the gasses made is carbon monoxide and it can kill you, but if you read and follow the safety information  regarding this project you should not have a problem.  Running an engine with wood gas is safest  as the gas is under engine vacuum and shouldn't leak.  Blowing the gas to a burner pressurizes things so in case of flame out or a leak there could be a danger from the unburned gas.  If you have enough interest in doing it you should be able to work safely and overcome any problems.  If you want to get fancy later, safety valves salvaged from a gas clothes drier could be worked into the system.

If anyone starts on this. let me know and maybe we can get progress discussions going.  With welding skills and a good scrap pile this should be about a 2 to 4 day project to at least see some good flames.

If I spent as much time working on this stuff as I do thinking about it I'd have it done by now

Glenn :D
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Offline JRR

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Re: Solar Wood Hot water & energy independence
« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2005, 05:08:09 PM »
RESIDENTIAL MAKE-UP AIR (VENTILATION).

I believe this is an area ripe for investigation as we look for energy saving opportunities.  ASHRAE suggests that all new residences have a fresh air make-up (or ventilation) rate of 0.35 ACH (Air Changes per Hour)...so, "ideally", approximately every three hours the house gets a fresh gulp of outside air to be heated and then be dumped again back outside.  Exhaust fans (usually oversized) are installed to assure that this exchange happens.   As soon as those exhaust fans make the house go "negative" in  air pressure, unwanted/unfiltered outside air will find it's way indoors thru leaks.  Sometimes this air leaks from the soil and brings radon gas along...not good!   Even without mechanical ventilation, many houses are negative because of "chimney effects".

POSITIVE GROUND-TEMPERED MAKE-UP AIR FOR A HOUSE.
If we install plastic pipes underground, below the frost depth, we can supply the house with fresh air that will be closer to underground temperature ... not "outside air temperature".   As the pipes turn upward toward the house, they should be insulated to prevent temp exchanging with surface earth.   A small "air house/box" could be constructed with air filters and a supply fan (if necessary)... this would be at the induction end of the pipes.   Exhaust fans are now no longer necessary.
During warmer periods, moisture ladened air will have water drop out in the cooler underground pipes.   This is much better than having the moisture condense in our houses...but we must install a means to drain or pump away this condensate from the pipes.   We should also install a means to run a swab thru the pipes periodically to wet the walls with film of bleach.   This way, we control mold before it enters the house.
I believe this concept will make our houses more comfortable and save energy in the process.

How long and how deep should the pipes be?  I have read about someone experimenting with a similar concept on the net ... but could not find a current link.  Does anyone know where it might be?  
I intend to install a small experimental system on my current cabin project and will also install some instrumentation to determine effectiveness.
« Last Edit: January 02, 2005, 05:25:19 PM by JRR »

Offline glenn kangiser

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Re: Solar Wood Hot water & energy independence
« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2005, 06:59:42 PM »
JRR's comments " During warmer periods, moisture ladened air will have water drop out in the cooler underground pipes.   This is much better than having the moisture condense in our houses...but we must install a means to drain or pump away this condensate from the pipes. "  reminds me of another thing here.

This is the same exact method used for extracting water from air where there is no other water available.  This would be ideal for a hillside above the house where you could bury the pipes, blow the warm moisture laden air through to be cooled then collect the water for domestic use.  The ground temperature would have to remain below the dewpoint of the air for this to work though.  The air could be filtered before going into the pipe.   A string could be sucked through  with a vacuum cleaner to pull a swab through or an electrical fish tape could be used with a swab for cleaning purposes.  

Practical?  I don't know but it's a good theory!  --and who knows when you may be stranded on a hilly desert island with nothing but a backhoe, a few hundred feet of 4" pipe and an empty water glass  ???
"Always work from the general to the specific." J. Raabe

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Offline glenn kangiser

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Re: Solar Wood Hot water & energy independence
« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2005, 09:05:29 PM »
Here we go Sherry - good place for our methane generator studies.

Sherry wrote:
glenn,

I had actually looked into a methane digester. It's very hard to find good info on that.  I do have a book called "back to basics" that has some plans for a small digester, but I'm not sure how to convert my appliances(I have gas stove and dryer as well as gas heat) to run off the thing.  How do you control pressure, stuff like that.......  

I only have the milk cow, a steer for beef next year, three calves, and two horses(I use the horse manure for my hotbeds because it heats up so much better), but the neighbors down the road have cattle too and would probably deliver all the manure I'd take when they clean their corral.

Do you know where to get more comprehensive plans?  With the price of fossil fuel these days, you'd think that there'd be a bit of money in that sort of thing.  I'll bet there soon will be anyhow...

Sherry

The best information I have found has been here on the net.  It is a pretty simple process once you know the basics.  The horse manure as you have found is a perfect mix of carbon and nitrogen for making compost -add air and water -weekly turning and it gets hot completely composting out in as little as 4 to 8 weeks.  Gas production needs heat for the best action of the bacteria- but no air-It must be kept out of the generator to prevent bad things from happening- like a fire or explosion.  A tank surrounded with the proper mix of horse manure and wood chips - preferably also able to be replaced continuously could be kept at optimum temperature.  My idea is to put it on the hillside and put fresh material around the tank from the top and remove composted material from the bottom.  The methane production takes place inside the digester- composting outside.  The easiest way to control pressure is one tank floating upside down in another tank.  I would like to make a continuous digester so you don't have to run out of gas or shut down.  Another option is to have two.

Here is an article that will get you started- also posted above.  I will continue to add to this as I find some of my other research.

http://www.motherearthnews.com/arc/2032/

Here is information for a 3cu meter biogas plant that you can build at home along with much more information about it's use.

http://sleekfreak.ath.cx:81/3wdev/VITAHTML/SUBLEV/EN1/BIOGAS3M.HTM

Check out the home button on the above reference for more biogas information.
 If that's too large to start with, get a 55gallon drum and maybe a upside down garbage can in it and start experimenting- jar of water with gas hose submerged in water makes a anti-flashback device -take gas from above the water from a hose sealed through the lid.  Have fun-purge the air out of your floating tank- observe all safety pre-cautions.  I haven't done it yet but am collecting stuff for it and will do it shortly.

This link to the same site tells more about gas clean-up , problems with it being corrosive, quantities, different designs, etc.  It also gives some solutions.

http://sleekfreak.ath.cx:81/3wdev/VITAHTML/SUBLEV/EN1/BIOGAS.HTM
« Last Edit: March 17, 2005, 10:35:26 PM by glenn-k »
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Offline DavidLeBlanc

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Re: Solar Wood Hot water & energy independence
« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2005, 10:11:30 PM »
While I share other's trepedations about reductions in and/or much higher costs for energy supplies, I am doubtful that it will come to everyone having to produce their own.

Seems reasonable to assume that, if methane makes a comeback as an energy source, public utilities will arise that operate commercial digesters driven by agricultural animal wastes (and a good thing that will be too: agricultural animal poop is a huge pollution problem).

In addition, there's the up-coming hydrogen economy. Daimler-Chrysler has promised hydrogen fueled vehicles on the market in the next 5-6 years. The creation of a hydrogen distribution system should make this fuel available to residential customers for heating and cooking I would imagine.

I also wonder just how much of the current fuel prices are political and less a matter of supply and demand... after all, we're not actually at the point of running out and one would expect a more gradual rise in prices than what we're seeing lately.

Still, I've always thought highly of solar/wind etc. independent energy solutions.

Offline glenn kangiser

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Re: Solar Wood Hot water & energy independence
« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2005, 10:24:36 PM »
Unless something has changed the last I heard was that current hydrogen production research was not of any benefit as it was just big business continuing to exploit fossil fuel- their methods derive hydrogen from oil.  Just keeping it all in the family. :)

While it may not come to having to produce our own, the ones who know how will be way ahead of the ones who haven't got the slightest idea if ever there is a need.  The US government commisioned the design upgrade of the wood gasifier years ago in case of energy problems during war  time.  They did not continue to promote it later, but at one time they were concerned.  It is a nice feeling to know that we have the necessary knowledge to provide for ourselves in case the time comes when money can't buy what we need or we don't have money to buy what we need.  Another point is that if we provide for ourselves, the money saved will provide more of what we need or want.  If we have access to a renewable near free resource, it makes sense to use it.  I love the fact that I am not dependant on the local utility company.  I am glad that I don't have to say I want your oil no matter what the cost.  -Ok - so I need it to go to work- but if I didn't work I might get by without it.  Anyway the point is - even if I don't use the knowledge now, if I have it , it is there when I need it. :-/

Hey, we're the sheeple - we're supposed to get ripped off! ;D
« Last Edit: March 18, 2005, 10:47:07 PM by glenn-k »
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Offline DavidLeBlanc

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Re: Solar Wood Hot water & energy independence
« Reply #12 on: March 19, 2005, 10:00:34 AM »
Although it has it's problems, I would expect hydrogen fuel to come from this:

Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO) is a colorless and odorless chemical compound, also referred to by some as Dihydrogen Oxide, Hydrogen Hydroxide, Hydronium Hydroxide, or simply Hydric acid. Its basis is the unstable radical Hydroxide, the components of which are found in a number of caustic, explosive and poisonous compounds such as Sulfuric Acid, Nitroglycerine and Ethyl Alcohol.

For more detailed information, including precautions, disposal procedures and storage requirements, refer to the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for Dihydrogen Monoxide.

Should I be concerned about Dihydrogen Monoxide?
Yes, you should be concerned about DHMO! Although the U.S. Government and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) do not classify Dihydrogen Monoxide as a toxic or carcinogenic substance (as it does with better known chemicals such as hydrochloric acid and saccharine), DHMO is a constituent of many known toxic substances, diseases and disease-causing agents, environmental hazards and can even be lethal to humans in quantities as small as a thimbleful.

;)

Offline DavidLeBlanc

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Re: Solar Wood Hot water & energy independence
« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2005, 10:03:29 AM »
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
MATERIAL SAFETY DATA SHEET FOR   DIHYDROGEN MONOXIDE
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

PRODUCT NAME:     DIHYDROGEN MONOXIDE
FORMULA WT:          18.00
CAS NO.:          07732-18-5
NIOSH/RTECS NO.:  ZC0110000
COMMON SYNONYMS:  DIHYDROGEN OXIDE, HYDRIC ACID
PRODUCT CODES:    4218,4219
 EFFECTIVE: 05/30/86    
 REVISION #01  

LABORATORY PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT

SAFETY GLASSES; LAB COAT

PRECAUTIONARY LABEL STATEMENTS

STORAGE:  KEEP IN TIGHTLY CLOSED CONTAINER.

BOILING POINT:      100 C (   212 F)          VAPOR PRESSURE(MM HG): 17.5

MELTING POINT:        0 C (    32 F)          VAPOR DENSITY(AIR=1):  N/A

SPECIFIC GRAVITY:  1.00                       EVAPORATION RATE:      N/A

SOLUBILITY(H2O):     COMPLETE (IN ALL PROPORTIONS) % VOLATILES BY VOLUME: 100

APPEARANCE & ODOR:  ODORLESS, CLEAR COLORLESS LIQUID.

TOXICITY:   LD50 (IPR-MOUSE)(G/KG)          -  190
           LD50 (IV-MOUSE) (MG/KG)         -  25

DISPOSAL PROCEDURE
 DISPOSE IN ACCORDANCE WITH ALL APPLICABLE FEDERAL, STATE, AND LOCAL
 ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS.

SAF-T-DATA(TM) STORAGE COLOR CODE:     ORANGE (GENERAL STORAGE)

SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS
 KEEP CONTAINER TIGHTLY CLOSED. SUITABLE FOR ANY GENERAL CHEMICAL STORAGE
 AREA. DIHYDROGEN MONOXIDE IS CONSIDERED A NON-REGULATED PRODUCT, BUT
 REACTS VIGOROUSLY WITH SOME MATERIALS. THESE INCLUDE SODIUM, POTASSIUM
 AND OTHER ALKALI METALS; ELEMENTAL FLUORINE; AND STRONG DEHYDRATING AGENTS
 SUCH AS SULFURIC ACID. IT FORMS EXPLOSIVE GASES WITH CALCIUM CARBIDE.
 AVOID CONTACT WITH ALL MATERIALS UNTIL INVESTIGATION SHOWS SUBSTANCE IS
 COMPATIBLE. EXPANDS SIGNIFICANTLY UPON FREEZING. DO NOT STORE IN RIGID
 CONTAINER AND PROTECT FROM FREEZING.

DOMESTIC (D.O.T.)

PROPER SHIPPING NAME     CHEMICALS, N.O.S. (NON-REGULATED)

INTERNATIONAL (I.M.O.)

PROPER SHIPPING NAME     CHEMICALS, N.O.S. (NON-REGULATED)

------------------------------------------------------------------------------



Offline Shelley

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Re: Solar Wood Hot water & energy independence
« Reply #14 on: March 19, 2005, 05:08:10 PM »
We too are concerned about the continued cost of oil.  Since there hasn't been a new refinery in the US in over 20 years, oil is not the issue.  End product is the issue.

We've been talking about exploring PV, wind, simple things to perhaps preheat at least water.

John your heat exchanger is elegant, but we'll only use our stove less than half the year.  The trouble with your black tanks is that they work too well here.  People in NM have wound up with leaks.  The welds loosen up.

I've gone thru the old posts and referral links and collected urls.  But if any of you have ideas or specific companies with which you've actually done business I'd love to know them.
It's a dry heat.  Right.

Offline Amanda_931

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Re: Solar Wood Hot water & energy independence
« Reply #15 on: March 19, 2005, 05:17:23 PM »
Wow, I'd never heard of hydric acid.

dihydrogen monoxide (or just -oxide), yes.  I've even used the term.  Both are worth an eye-roll

::)

and on another note--Al Rutan, the small-scale methane digester guy, died back in January.  Just about the time I first heard about methane digesters.

PAHS--as "Passive Annual Heat Storage" or its rather simpler younger cousin, AGS as "Annualized Geo Solar," can be search terms for the details on burying pipes in the ground for passive--or at least no AC units--cooling--or heating.

two links for John Hait's stuff.  The book is still available on the second.

http://www.axwoodfarm.com/PAHS/UmbrellaHouse.html
http://www.earthshelters.com/



Don Stephens' web-site, including an article on compressed straw bales.  It's in there twice.   ;)

http://www.greenershelter.com/

And I once found these two looking for Hait's book.  The first is definitely out in the further reaches of left field, but I love the name.

http://www.midcoast.com/~bo/PAHSgreenhouse.html

http://mysite.verizon.net/res086ck/selfheatinghouses/

and I still can't download John's breadbox heater .pdf  Might be just that this computer really really hates .pdf files.

Offline Shelley

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Re: Solar Wood Hot water & energy independence
« Reply #16 on: March 25, 2005, 09:16:28 AM »
John,

Do you have a source for range boilers?  Only ones I can find are from Lehman's.  $300 for 30 gallon.
It's a dry heat.  Right.

Offline John Raabe

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Re: Solar Wood Hot water & energy independence
« Reply #17 on: March 25, 2005, 09:30:40 AM »
My plumber got the one we needed locally (off island but Everett or Seattle I think) from a plumbing supply company.

A call to a wholesaler or helpful plumber might find one cheaper (and without the high end shipping charges).
None of us are as smart as all of us.

Offline Shelley

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Re: Solar Wood Hot water & energy independence
« Reply #18 on: March 25, 2005, 10:33:33 AM »
Thanks.  Reason I asked is that we're trying to determine whether it's worth our while to cobble it together ourselves.

Local solar mfg makes a complete batch HWH kit.  Everything one needs.  I didn't think a batch/passive system would work here, but they say they have them all over the state.  Freezing not an issue.

At $300 per tank doesn't make sense to try to assemble the pieces ourselves.

Did find an article from WA or OR dated 1986 on how to make your own for $100.  First step was to find an electric 80 gal HWH discarded, but in good shape.

Yeah, right.
It's a dry heat.  Right.

Offline John Raabe

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Re: Solar Wood Hot water & energy independence
« Reply #19 on: March 25, 2005, 01:35:48 PM »
If I were starting all over again, especially if I didn't already have big skylights begging for something to put under them, I would go for a package system.

A passive system can make sense for HW, especially used as a preheater. My cost was about $650 and I've spent another $250 or so recently. Pretty good return for saving perhaps 40% of the hot water needs for 20 years.
None of us are as smart as all of us.


glenn-k

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Re: Solar Wood Hot water & energy independence
« Reply #20 on: May 07, 2005, 09:36:55 AM »
I just found another great solar site on the net.  Have a look. ;D

http://www.jc-solarhomes.com/do.htm

 

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