“So, let’s have a look inside!” Dino and I walk into the restaurant through the open door by balancing on a metal platform over a thin water channel. It is evidently under construction, as we can see from all the materials and tools around, as well as the smell of lime in the air (the stone, not the fruit. Unless we were to hang a few dozen car fresheners inside). It is also colder inside than is outside, from the drafts and bare walls.

“We have a geothermal system, which means that it will be using the temperature of the earth to warm up water, and the water is then going through the piso radiante [radiant floor], which will create a nice, balmy interior of the restaurant during the cold months. A couple of weeks after this conversation, a team started digging the 100-meter-deep holes for the probes of this energy source, as you can see in the picture above! Extremely exciting.

Dino then takes me to the turbine home, a deep hole in the floor, under the restaurant’s ground-level, with a big round opening. This opening will have a glass cover (already ordered, weighs 400kg!), so that all visitors of the restaurant can take and peak into the swirling water going through the turbine (and maybe me having fun down the waterslide, who knows, see figure 2). “Turbulent had never done it inside the building, and they don’t know of any other vortex turbine in the world installed inside a building! It’s really unique in the world”

And around this round well there is also a space under the whole building of about 1 meter high, to cope with floods when the river level rises.

“Turbulent came with the design of the electrics, and also the design of the basin, of the spiral”, in the centre of which is the turbine. Because it’s not just a circle, but a spiral, “it had to be really precise, so that the water comes in and swirls ideally with not much resistance”. They had done a real-life sized sketch on the floor for the planning of the basin dimensions. This reminds me of the Golden Spiral, from the studies of the golden ratio and golden proportion, found in so many places in nature such as snail shells. “It was really a huge challenge, a lot of back and forth, doing and redoing”.

Suddenly a lean man with dark hair, green eyes and impeccable outfit comes towards us, speaking kindly and curiously in Portuguese. Dino introduces him “Mário is really one of the heroes, one of the main men in charge, really determined to make it work”.

And how has it been to work with building this new technology? “We are always learning new things, that’s what we like.” Dino asks Sr. Mário what gave him the most satisfaction in his work with the turbine. “Doing something that I had never done before. Now I’m curious to see this work! It will be beautiful.”

Sr. Mário lives in Aldeia Nova since he was little, a little bit up the river. “My house is close by the river. And this zone is pretty, it’s very pretty. Coming from a city, this is really different”, he says, “there is less stress. You can come visit sometime!” He later joins us outside by the açude again, and shares my dream of jumping into the 4-meter-deep pool in the summer. Dino asks Mário to tell me how the ribeira was when he was young. 

“The channel is the same. And it had water all year round. In those years all the land around was farmed, all of it, and the ribeira always had water. Now no one waters the crops, there is no water… When I was a kid we used to go in the water where we made a small dam, to hold more water, and we swam all summer long in the ribeira. Now it dries completely, by July it is dry, dry. If only it were like this in the summer as well. Look at the birdie!” The camera-ready birdie is still jumping right in front of us on the twigs in the pool. “In the old days there were a lot of these birds, eating the little cabbage bugs, so many of them!” I ask Sr. Mário if I can take of picture of him and he is quite happy about it, becoming immediately camera-ready as well.

“This week, if we have some good rain days, this will all fill up.” He couldn’t have been more right – refer to part 1 of this report, published February 11th, and to the stories on our Instagram highlight Água [Water].

But the surprises on the plans for energy production aren’t over yet! The restaurant by the river will have a pizza oven in a corner of the ground floor, close to the turbine spiral. A system of biogas will be created to power it, to which I ask Dino where they will get it from. “We produce our own, from the organic waste, from food waste”, Dino tells me proudly. “We’re going to try to be fully circular. So the food waste from the kitchen will be collected to create biogas through composting. And then we use the biogas for making the fire” and making PIZZA! Dino and Sr. Mário proceed to discuss emphatically who among the both of them will make the pizzas.

Regardless of who will make the pizzas, it all sounds delicious. For my taste buds and olfactory sense, for those of anyone visiting the restaurant, and for my sustainability inner sense.

Vale das Lobas is leading towards sustainable life on Earth.

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