Fortune reported in January (1) that U.S. solar workers now outnumber coal miners by a factor of two, and that good jobs in solar are growing rapidly. That’s good news, and probably a good sign that Trump’s promise to put coal miners back to work is not going to amount to much more than a little hot air. Literally. Because of market forces. If I were a miner, I think I’d happily trade my hole in the ground (2) (3) for a bright sunny day. The Fortune article points out that solar is still a small piece of the energy pie in this country, but also relates how some forward-thinking fossil fuel energy companies are beginning to move into solar as economics improve, as they should. The handwriting is on the wall – er, on the roof.
The picture above was taken during a walk in Kaiserslautern, Germany in late January. You can see our shadows at the bottom. It’s hard to find a roof in the frame that is not covered with solar photo-voltaic panels. This area is primarily industrial, but on the left are apartments and their garages. On the train rides we took in Germany, we noted widespread deployment of solar on private residences and businesses. We saw many wind turbine installations, as well. According to The Guardian (4),nearly 90% of the European energy sources added in 2016 were renewable. Over half of those were from wind, but that’s still a lot of solar.
In the United States we don’t have the government policies to encourage development of renewable energy sources as the Europeans do. But we do have common sense, and as individuals we can do what some utilities are doing, as Sharon and I are doing.
Sharon and I are presently designing a Zero Energy Ready (5) rated house for construction in a “New Urbanism” community (6). Our architect calls it the Ecohouse. We call it our Legacy House. It will be solar photo-voltaic and grid, with no fossil fuel on the lot. The grid connection will be wind offset, as it is at our present house. Construction should start in June. It is the right thing to do for us, our family, and our community. It should be a lot of fun. There will be more about the project here as the real work begins. Much to do.
- A figure of speech. Most coal mining in the United States is surface mining.
- (Added in edit 01/05/2017)