As some of my readers may have noticed, I have not been around much lately. The reasons being multifaceted, but center around a couple key factors; I’ve returned to Colorado, a place I love; I’ve gotten out of my funk of the past couple years; and lastly I starting working for a company that proves renewable energy is not just a figment of future promise, but is competitive currently and actually works, and the last two months I’ve been working my ass off towards bringing renewable energy into actual people’s lives.
En route out of Oregon and my year long hiatus from my tree pruning business, I was in search of employment working on the giant Wind Turbines, but much to my dismay along my entire course through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming & into Colorado, the only ones I saw were in Arlington, WY. Ironically, on a return trip to Oregon I saw many more. In Arlington, Oregon another large wind turbine project was being constructed. What is the roots of the name Arlington, windy as fuck?! 🙂
Shortly after arriving in Colorado, I was hired on by Next Generation Energy in Lafayette, Colorado. A short list of renewable energy projects we work on, with some details to follow, is solar thermal heating of domestic hot water (for bathing, laundry, cooking, etc.), homes tied into either forced air or radiant heat, grid tied solar electric systems and stand alone photovoltaic systems to power remote communication towers or “street” lights and small wind turbines in the range of two feet diameter blades up to 12 feet.
Now I think there is a huge misconception out in the world that solar energy conversion to human use is an instant gratification device that us Americans are so used to receiving, yet this is not the case when we look at the installation costs of converting the sun’s energy into something useful. The simple notion that you can’t get something from nothing is applicable in the renewable energy industry as well, but we need to think of it as an economic investment over time. If we can get over our instant gratification insistence & expectations which we are too accustomed to, then we can come to realize how every day the sun is giving us huge quantities of energy that is being wasted and converted into destructive end results.
Just think of the amount of solar radiation that is being “wasted” in our urban environments converted to heat as parking lots & asphalt roofs absorb heat in the day, that we fight with air conditioners and more power consumption, then releases it in the night making it impossible to sleep without have the AC cranking. By intercepting the sun’s rays that would be converted to heat in a form we either do not want or cannot use productively, we could cover our roofs with both photovoltaic cells tied to the grid to reduce our need for fossil fuel production during the days, then at night when electricity demands from industry lower, the power plants would supply the electricity, hence diminishing the needs for battery storage. Also on the roofs we could have thermal collectors, that efficiently capture the suns energy before it is wasted as heat we do not want or cannot use, store it tanks similar to a modern hot water heater and supply 80-90% of our domestic hot water needs when averaged over the year.
Most people do not think about how much energy they waste and subsequently pay for, as the power companies do not give rebates for hot water you heat but do not use, do they? Upwards of 30-40% of an average home owners energy bills are for the heating of domestic hot water and keeping it at the high temperature for use at any time. Convert that fact to reality, and much of those costs are paid for something you do not use and it is wasted. Most people have their water temperatures too high, just think of the last time you turned on only the hot water to take a shower. There is enough energy in most areas of the country from solar irradiance, where you could achieve 80% of your home heating & domestic hot water needs from the sun alone.
So let’s be realistic and return to the errant preconception of the prohibitive costs to solar power. If you could reduce your home heating & energy consumption through investing in a system that can convert the sun’s rays to something useful and save 80% of your energy costs through the year, why would you not do it? Oh right, it is too costly!
Oh contrare my good reader. You are thinking of it from the old preconceptions. It is an investment, and what is the biggest investment most average people know of? Their homes, yet they have this wrong idea that they could “invest” in remodeling their kitchen or adding a bedroom that would increase the homes value for resale. Well if the last couple months have shown anything, homes do historically go up in value, but what is the rate of return on a home when you factor in mortgages & interest rates, or a slumping economy? Now if we cannot be certain a home’s value will increase at a rate higher than that of interest charges on a mortgage, while at the same time we know for certain energy prices from fossil fuels will increase and we know what the cost of heating & powering your home from the sun can be calculated relatively simply, we can begin to see if we look at a solar system as an investment, just like we have been mislead to believe our homes are supposed to be, that the rate of return on a solar system is much greater than that of a home investment.
I’ll return in a future post with more details as to how exactly we can accomplish converting the sun’s energy (a free, unlimited resource) into something that is not only useful to us, but also cost effective and over the long term profitable.