A Cloud Over The Sunshine State

I posted an article on this topic a day or two ago, and thought it missed the mark. Here’s a redo. I Blew the old one away.

My son lives in Sebring, Florida. As a result of Irma, he’ll be without power for about two weeks according to local power company folks. The Washington Post has a good article on the scope of the situation, (1) and CNN covers the cost of rebuilding traditional electrical utility infrastructure. (2) Both stories miss the point of my post here. That point is that this completely unnecessary mess is in the “Sunshine State”, a state in which everyone SHOULD be generating power on their business and home rooftops with solar panels for personal use, to share with neighbors in a microgrid, or to feed back into a conventional grid if that’s what one wants to do. But, because of regressive State regulations that protect utility interests, solar power has simply become too expensive to deploy. (3)

Many of the “shoulda-been” rooftop installations would certainly have been damaged by Irma, but many would have made it through just fine. How many people would be cool and comfortable tonight running on their Powerwalls (4) while repair crews from as far away as Michigan work around the clock to patch up Florida’s coal and gas fired grid so it can work until the next storm comes rolling in and they can do it all over again? Would the twelve who died in a hot nursing home still be alive? (5) We don’t know, but we do know that not having strong governmental policies and incentives promoting the rapid conversion to decentralized microgrid or personal solar power in Florida is simply foolish — unless you own a coal or gas power plant — or unless those folks pay your political office campaign bills.

Something to think about very seriously if you are a Floridian when the next election opportunity comes about. There is something you can do.

-George-

  1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/09/12/florida-struggles-with-top-job-in-irmas-wake-restoring-power-to-millions/
  2. http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/14/us/underground-power-lines-trnd/index.html
  3. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-no-solar-20140810-story.html
  4. https://www.tesla.com/powerwall
  5. Updated Sep 29, 2017. https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/hurricane-irma/florida-nursing-home-death-toll-rises-twelve-after-irma-knocked-n805846

The Three Stooges

When I started this blog I really wanted to be as respectful as I could in any criticisms I made of political action, to stay away from the people involved and to focus upon the acts themselves. But, since November 2016 that has become very, very difficult. I have frequently failed. One can reduce ignorance by supplying information, but stupidity is something else again. One cannot debate complex issues with a stupid person. Reason will not penetrate the cognitive walls built up around a stupid mind, and now we have a government with two stupid minds leading the congress and one leading the executive. We have actually got a real set of Three Stooges (1) running our country, and we can do nothing about that fact in the short-term. So, that’s about all I can say about Trump, Ryan, and McConnell. If I say any more about these people, it might be considered disrespectful.

This blog is about what we can do, not what we cannot. And, of course, Trump’s Paris Climate Agreement withdrawal is what set me off today. Having, like Elon Musk and Bob Iger (2,3), given up on the idea that Trump, Ryan, and McConnell might only be ignorant, needing only some coaching, there is nothing to do but implement the deal ourselves, by states, localities, companies, and individuals.

California is pressing ahead. As Governor Jerry Brown said (4):

. . . the world is not waiting for Donald Trump. He has given a body blow to the cause of environmental sustainability, but we will take it and we will respond. We’re on the field of battle, and we’re going to overcome. That, I can promise you.

And others (5,6,7,8).

Our family is on the field of battle with Jerry Brown. We have already laid the plans for that in the construction of a new Zero Energy Ready home (9). We are now bumping that up to be off-grid capable upon occupation. After a shakedown period, we want to unplug the house. There is no reason not to. We are buying absolutely no more internal combustion engine vehicles. We’ll keep our 2015 CR-V until the wheels fall off or until we are sure we don’t need it, and replace our 2013 Chevy Volt with a Tesla Model 3 in 2018 (reserved). Tesla’s charging network is an important part of the Volt replacement choice. The Volt, by the way, has delivered well over 1000 miles per gallon since we bought it new due to our driving pattern and the 240 volt rapid charger (wind offset) in the garage.

There is a lot we can do without the Stooges (oops, sorry).

-George-

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Three_Stooges
  2. http://money.cnn.com/2017/06/01/news/elon-musk-resigns-trump-adviser/index.html
  3. http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/paul-ryan-mitch-mcconnell-praise-trumps-move-against-paris-climate-deal/article/2624722
  4. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/gov-jerry-brown-trumps-move-reject-paris-agreement-hurts-america-will-cost-jobs/
  5. http://money.cnn.com/2017/06/02/news/companies/trump-ceo-revolt/index.html
  6. http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/obama-musk-other-world-industry-leaders-call-paris-climate-deal-n767296
  7. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/climate/american-cities-climate-standards.html?hp
  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXH2ojr7wi4
  9. A Renewable Energy Project

A Renewable Energy Project

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.

ktownsolar

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.

-George-

  1. http://fortune.com/2015/01/16/solar-jobs-report-2014/
  2. A figure of speech. Most coal mining in the United States is surface mining.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal_mining
  3. (Added in edit 01/05/2017)
    http://money.cnn.com/2017/04/05/news/economy/donald-trump-coal-jobs/index.html
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/feb/09/new-energy-europe-renewable-sources-2016
  5. https://energy.gov/eere/buildings/zero-energy-ready-home
  6. http://www.evansfarmliving.com