Tag Archives: solar

The Cells of Smart Power

When I last wrote about “smart power”, I was taking US business and especially political leaders to task for failing to craft comprehensive, forward-looking energy policy.  They seem to be more concerned with drilling for today’s dwindling oil than planning for tomorrow’s growing needs.  Meanwhile, citizens feel powerless to do much about it.

Part of the problem is one of scale.  Our energy dilemma is big and not easily solved.  There’s a great deal of economic inertia keeping us stuck in hydrocarbons.  As I said before, I believe it’s largely the role of government to help “unstick” us– to provide incentives, tax or whatever, in facilitating a transition from a polluting power paradigm to one more responsible and sustainable.

But that doesn’t mean the citizenry should sit back and wait for their tax dollars to be put to proper use.  There are moves we can make at local levels to get change underway… and set the stage for more expansive solutions.  Continue reading

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Smart Grids and Stupid Policies

Rolling power blackouts, a common resort in northeastern US states when extreme weather takes hold, are now steamrolling into an overheated Texas (although not yet as widespread as initially feared).  Unfortunately, the outages are largely indiscriminate thanks to an outdated, dumb electrical grid.  This puts people and produce at risk.

Tonight we lost power for a few hours and felt the impact immediately.  Our 30-year-old air conditioner was already struggling to overcome 111 degree Fahrenheit heat– without it or fans going, our little house quickly turned into a big oven.  As I walked around in the dark lighting candles and contemplating my car’s lovely air cooling ability, my mind went back in time…  Continue reading

A compact conundrum

CFLCompact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) offer two significant advantages over their counterparts such as halogens and incandescents: they put out the same amount of light at lower current, and typically last longer.

These characteristics have led to CFLs becoming a lauded centerpiece to environmental responsibility, touted by many groups as the long-overdue and obvious evolutionary replacement for technologies in place since the 1800s.

But what’s omitted from common propaganda about CFLs is the fact that these bulbs come loaded– with toxins.  Mercury, a poisonous metal long known to interfere with animal neurological systems, is a basic component of CFLs.  In addition, there is evidence to strongly suggest living and working solely under flourescent lighting is unhealthy, both physically and mentally.

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Good day sunshine

Regardless of how one may view the administration of former US President Jimmy Carter, one really good thing that came out of it (besides a large supply of comedic material for Dan Aykroyd) was a sensible, proactive energy policy.  Carter signed off on federal incentives to kickstart alternative energy years before it was fashionable, and a growth industry erupted almost overnight in response.

I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time because I got to directly participate.  I was a young plumber at the time, almost ready to take my journeyman’s license exam, when our little outfit became involved with installing passive solar water heating systems.  The basic setup was a roof-mounted panel or two along with a heat exchanger in the garage.  There was even a job or two involving several panels as well as a large storage tank for swimming pools.

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