Archive for the ‘solar’ Category

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Could government green buying simulate the economy?

November 21, 2008

The Daily Kos (and other places too) recommended the government replace it’s mamoth fleet of ICE cars with Chevy Volts instead of dumping a huge bailout in their laps.  That would 1) stimulate the demand for US hybrids, 2) support the automaker with legitimate revenue, and 3) improve the government fleet’s MPG.

I’ve an advocate of this approach to promoting green tech (see my earlier post about School Solar) because it allows markets to develop.  Unfortunately, the companies most likely to have solutions are not equipped to navigate the bureaucracy need to do business with the government.  For example, Texas has funds to install solar at school but the money goes unspent because solar installers are not on school bid lists!

Here are 10 programs that would generate more tax revenue (to pay off ill conceived bailouts) and/or simulate critical US technology sectors:

  1. carbon tax (gas is cheap now, let’s act before people forget about high prices)
  2. convert trucks to natural gas (ala T Boone Pickens)
  3. energy neutral for schools and military bases in 5 years
  4. require national time-of-use billing by utilities including tax-by-time-of-use
  5. national passenger rail on dedicated tracks – free up freight lines for freight and make passenger trains faster
  6. nuclear plant design standardization & construction
  7. implement LED lighting in all government buildings (not those toxic CFLs!)
  8. legislate tele-commuting / commuting carbon footprint reduction
  9. enable cities to implement pay for car entry policies
  10. eliminate corn ethanol as a fuel
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Schools are ideal location for national solar push

August 31, 2008

I’m mixed on residential solar: I love to see grassroots movement to expand solar but I’m skeptical about the ROI for widespread adoption.  I’m a believer in local solar as a way to regionalize generation.  Municipal solar sites (including commercial and manufacturing) would have scale and facilities maintenance that can generate a meaningful ROI.

If the Federal Government is serious about energy independence, then our schools are the ideal place to start.   The US should pay 100% of the cost to install arrays at every school in the country and allow the individual schools to use the energy savings/revenue to offset their facilities costs.  Just supplying this one initiative would consume the output of multiple PV factories!  The demand created would be enough for a VC feeding frenzy in PV speculation.

Schools are tightly integrated into our communities, high visible, and mandated to educate.  Solar schools would have tremendous and immediate community impacts with both economic and the social activism benefits.

Let’s set a goal for our schools to become energy neutral (or better) in 3 years.  It would be a bold statement to a huge audience that we’re serious about energy independence.  Now that’s something that students everywhere could sing and dance about!

Solar powered high school?  Now that's something to dance and sing about!

Solar powered high school? Now that is something to dance and sing about!

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Solar update…12 volt A/C?!

August 10, 2008

I thought it was worth amending my disparging comment about residential solar based on new information.

The AustinEV thread continues (and grows) about residential solar and 12 volt DC air conditioning.  DC A/C powered by solar would match peak generation (hot days) with the primary consumption (hot days).  Very interesting – why aren’t new home using this?!?

I think that residential solar is a bad fit for home given our current power loads, but would be excellent if we were more sustainable in our consumption (read: efficient).

I’ll go farther – I believe that houses should be switching to DC power instead of AC.  Most items in my house are DC and require converter bricks that waste power.  If we can have DC options for primary big consumers (A/C, refrigerator, water heater, dryer) than we could actually store power locally!

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Solar so far so so

August 9, 2008

An interesting quote from the AustinEV (off topic) discussion on solar. Bruce J from Madison WI has an array that cost $13k to install. Like my EV, it’s not a profit center. His says he did it “because it is SOMETHING. And if *everybody* does *something* then great things will happen.”

Solar is Austin is subsidized by the local power company, but still have very long pay back. California has demand (time-of-day) billing so their solar arrays produce power at peak (3 x $). Since home use is mainly off-peak, the California arrays can reduce utility bills dramatically.

The big problem with solar for US homes is that WE USE TOO MUCH POWER to make an array practical.  An off-the-grid array is either really expensive, requires a life style change, or uninvented technology.  I don’t think that it makes sense to turn roof-tops into solar farms because most individuals are not equipped to maintain them.   Parking lots, however, could be excellent solar sites!

Developing countries like Africa are a stark contrast to the US.  Their current power demand is near zero.  A tiny solar array can make a life changing difference.  For example, the BOGO light initiative sends solar LED flashlights to Africa and allows people there to have lights on a night.  THEY ARE SO POOR – THEY DON”T HAVE LIGHTS AT NIGHT.   They don’t care about air conditioning, dryers, or plasma TVs.  In these places, solar is a huge wind fall.

Buy One, Give On (BoGo) Light

Buy One, Give On (BoGo) Light