2009 at BioFuel Oasis;  A Fulfilling Year.

To re-cap– we opened our doors on Ashby Ave, May 1st

soon enough our corner sign was blooming with wild flowers..


on a summer night, we held a grand opening for our long time dream–an urban farm supply store.. a ceremonial moment included calling up a handful of local urban farmers to help “raise the barn” city style—  throw open the garage door

slowly we add more and more items our city folk need at your feedstore; strawbales, beekeeping supplies, books, chicken feed, mason jars, and even baby chicks

there was a photoshoot by Choloe Aftel for an article BUST magazine that gave us some hip new group photos

we celebrated Novella’s success with Farm City!  Not only did we get to cheer her on, but we got to share in the success –a boon of book sales and author events at the Oasis and she definitely can’t get out of writing our newsletters now.

if that wasn’t enough..we began hosting workshops and classes on sundays (is there no rest for the Biodevas?) on tantalizing topics– city chickens, backyard beekeeping, mushroom cultivation, olive curing, kraut and gingerbrew fermentation, greywater and more. Check out the current offerings here.

There is more to share about 2009 and what’s gone down at the Oasis — I will have to re-cap more in the next post.  At the core of it, we are a Biodiesel station and the cars roll in and out all day and evening and happy drivers fill up, stop by, and make us happy.

May 1st 2009 represented 2 years of permitting, funding and construction come to term.   We feel like a five-headed mother who has given birth, so tomorrow, on Mother’s day, we are  getting together and celebrating Oasis Mother’s day.   For the first time in years we all have the same day off (on Sundays our automated fueling cardlock system works and we don’t!)

Our first day was cold and rainy and warm and fuzzy.


The fence was taken down early in the morning..giving the site a totally new feel.


Novella’s goat was giving birth so she showed up later.  Our local council person, Daryl Moore stopped by.


Cars and trucks pulled in to fuel and everything worked correctly, phew!


Our store was opened…



and we happily served our customersEricnewloc


Thanks to everyone who came by and brought flowers, cookies, cards and congratulations!!

The last day at our Fourth Street shop, as jennifer said: “a dark cave with a lot of heart”.  Then it was over to Ashby for finishing touches until after dark…img_1777




We passed our FINAL INSPECTION the day before opening- Phew!


No time to write much.  Just some images of our recent finishing work











Using every last screw

Using every last screw





Our floor is a radiant beauty and a radiant heat source.  The idea of radiant heating is to transfer heat into a large thermal mass that will hold it, and radiate it out over time.  Once I thought about it, blowing hot air into a room is just that when it comes to efficiency: blowing hot air.  It’s like a rock in the desert that is still warm after dark or a stove that you’ve cooked on that still feels hot after it’s off.   Interior hydronic radiant heat works by passing heated water through pipes that are in the floor.  Because heat rises, the floor makes the most sense as a place to put those pipes.

Pex heat piping

The coolest thing is: we are going to heat the water for these pipes in a generator (no gas lines to the property) that runs on…Biodiesel!

Pouring a new floor made sense in order to comply with ADA (wheelchair) accessibility issues at our store. Ahh…sweet new floor.

greg interior floor pour

new floor 1

We took the opportunity to add some personal touches.  These tiles represent the 7 worker-owners of the BioFuel Oasis since it began in 2003.

worker-owner tiles


Photo by Alex Farnum

Some nice coverage of our efforts as part of the May feature article in a local publication: Diablo Magazine.

We call this year’s Women to Watch “Entrepreneurs With Heart” because each started a business that has meaning—to them personally and to other people. Sure, they’d like to make money, but they mostly want to pursue their own ideas to help other people and do some good in the world.

SolarPanel Pass up

We were so disappointed when we found out that 30% “back” of the cost of our solar PV install was in the form of a tax “credit”.  Our 4 Kw system cost $25,000 so were were looking foward to about $8K.

Turns out, according to the Commercial Solar ITC (Investment Tax Credit) we needed a tax appetite for at least $8K to take advantage of this credit.

All my chatter about what scroungers we are is not bullshit.  We have cobbled together the funds, banked hours, took two loans along with owing our general contractor money still.  So, how in the world were we going to be profitable with this capital intensive project?!  Breaking even for the year barely, we owe no taxes! We can’t take advantage of $8,000 in credit on taxes! And certainly, there was no $8,000 check coming. The sinking ship feeling was overwhelming ….enter here: Barack Obama.

Written into Obama’s stimulus bill is a provision that enables ITC-eligible projects to instead receive a cash grant of equivalent value. CASH GRANT?! If I didn’t think Obama was dreamy already (significantly cutting military spending yesterday)–he is going to save the day at the BioFuel Oasis! Thanks to my friends at Vote Solar, Claudia Eyzaguirre and Annie Carmichael, I have been assured that before the end of the year we will see some money.  Once again: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 says that commercial Solar PV systems put into service or that begin construction in 2009 or 2010 will be able to elect the equivalent cash grant rather than the ITC itself.

Sunlight and Power, a local Berkeley company who uses our Biodiesel to drive their trucks  did the installation.


Our solar installers above and below.  One of the coolest things going on in the solar industry right now is the Green Collar Jobs movement.  The idea is that the green economy is a growing sector with an amazing opportunity to re-tool blue-collar workers with skills in the fields of renewable energy, sustainable agriculture and green building.



img_0187 img_0155

Our meter turned backwards when it was commissioned in March!The box on the wall that looks like a microwave is our inverter– it changes the electricity from DC to AC and it displays how much energy we are producing at a time.  This Sunday, I looked over and we were crankin’ out 3.5KW –more than we were using, so our meter was turning backwards–we were giving energy back to the grid.

Our Solar Panels are mounted on the canopies over the pump islands because the roof of the building is ceramic tile and well, a wierd shape.



On the canopy with margaret, the calk  gun, the gutters, and solar pv panel.


Roger, the project manager and long time BioFuel Oasis customer, inspects the installation atop the canopies.

Our “Number 1” (out of 2,791) customer, a retiree who has filled with us for 5 years, was also the first to fill his tank at a pre-opening event at our new station.  Not planned at all, we laughed when he pulled up!

Number 1

These pre-opening events are to train people on our new after-hours credit card payment system.

I know, I know! It looks like an ATM machine from 1985! Oh Well. BioFuel Oasis walks the line: Futuristic in some areas and Retro in others.

Cardlock Training

Cardlock TRaining Receipt

Another pre-opening event this Sunday April 5th.  We will also be planting california natives, moving compost around and eating doughnuts. Come on by!



Mother Nature trumps all. She does.  February was a wonderful month for California’s reservoirs and BioFuel Oasis’ mud pits. See Novella standing on the shores of Lake inferior above–Lake superior is behind the building.

It is natural and we are dealing with the reality that progress slows when it rains for weeks.  We get done what we can.


our card reader got wired up during the rains

img_0133Solar Panel installation began under  a stormy sky

img_2943A little drizzle does not stop Ace from her favorite new tool–yeah, that’s a jackhammer!

Some days nothing much happens..the site is quiet and kinda sad in the rains





The tank wrapped in a tarp

The tank wrapped in a tarp