Browsing the blog archives for February, 2009.


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    Solar panels are evolving

    energy, green living, solar

    One of the largest hurdles of solar photovoltaic panels is converting their production of DC (direct current) electricity into AC (alternating current). AC current is what all household electrical systems use. Solar panels are usually placed on a roof top and wired and grounded together. Then the high voltage DC electricity is collected and fed to an inverter where it is changed to AC and fed into the household system. This causes the solar array to perform only as well as the least performing panel. So if one panel gets shaded in the afternoon, all the panels get “shaded” in the afternoon.

    A California based company, Akeena Solar Inc. , is changing the design of their Andalay solar panels to include a micro inverter in each panel. This means that the electricity produced by each panel will be converted to AC as it leaves the panel and is then fed directly into the house electrical system. If one panel becomes shaded all the other panels will still be producing AC electricity at their optimal levels. Because each of the Andalay panels already comes with a built in rack system, and comes with its own micro inverter, the company predicts design and installation costs to go down by as much as 25% and efficiency to go up by 5% to 25%.

    Akeena has found a way to make solar more efficient and financially feasible to more consumers. With the federal and state tax credits available it almost doesn’t make sense for most households not to try solar. Until more households start using the technology today, the industry will not be able to learn and develop how to make solar more cost efficient for the future. Solar has always been expensive and will remain so until the industry is given the time and resources to find a “better way.” In the meantime it is never too soon to reduce our carbon emissions.

    Akeena Solar Inc. plans to start producing the panels in 2009.

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    Cold? Time for some mid-winter energy saving tips!

    Uncategorized

    Now that much of the country is in the depths of winter, it is a great time to think about those energy saving do it yourself projects.

                    The first place to start is with your thermostat. Did you install a programmable thermostat? If you didn’t, do it as soon as possible. If you did, now is a good time to reevaluate the programming. Take some time to really think about when everybody gets up in the morning, when they leave the house, when they get home and when they go to bed. Take the time to learn how to program the thermostat to get the most out of it.

    Next, go around the house to each window and door and feel for the cold. You might even bring a disposable lighter with you and check for drafts. Did somebody open a window and forget to lock it tight? Is there a draft you didn’t notice before or get around to sealing? Plastic film on the windows can stop drafts and adds an extra layer of insulation even if you don’t have drafts.

                    Check the insulation in your attic. Often the area where the roof meets the floor of the attic (soffit) is the area most over looked. Nobody wants to crawl in that tight space but it is a common place for heat to leak up from downstairs. Then turn on the lights downstairs and leave the attic lights off, do you see any light? If you can see light, heat can see a way to escape. Always wear gloves and a mask over your mouth and nose while working with fiberglass insulation. Also if you use baby powder over your body it helps keep the glass fibers from getting in your skin. If you do get irritated from the insulation take a cold shower to wash it off and keep the fibers from getting deeper in your pores.

                    Is your hot water heater turned up too high? In our house everybody takes a shower in the morning. The first one up turns up the hot water heater and when the last person is finished the hot water heater is turned down for the next 22 hours or so. Also an insulation blanket on the hot water heater can save a lot of energy, especially if it is down in a cold basement. Another thing about the shower, don’t leave the bathroom fan on endlessly, as it is exhausting all that steam it is also exhausting all your heat. Wash your clothes in cold water whenever possible, there are detergents specifically designed for this.

                    At the hardware store, for a few dollars, you can buy little insulation pads for light switches and outlets. Go around to all your light switches and outlets that are on exterior walls and insulate them. Another trick while you have the cover off the outlets, take a pen and mark the circuit breaker number that corresponds to that switch or outlet. This will save time and headaches next time you need to shut that breaker off.

                    Enjoy the winter, and remember with each cold spell and snow storm how much more you will appreciate spring.

     

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    Wind Energy is great in the right place

    alternative, energy, green living, Uncategorized, Wind

    Anybody who follows renewable energy news, more specifically wind power, knows that there has been a lot of controversy with the permitting of Cape Wind’s proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound in Massachusetts. After a seven year battle, the farm has now been cleared by Minerals Management Service in their Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) to lease federal waters in between Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. The final permitting process will probably take place this spring.

    As you can probably assume, I am for wind power. Why else would I write this blog if I was not 100% behind renewable energy? But I have a problem with this one. I am from Cape Cod and the Islands. This is not even a case of “not in my backyard”; as a matter of fact I am looking into putting a wind turbine in my backyard. The problem is with the economy and the location of the wind farm.

    I, like most of my neighbors, survive on the three month tourist trade season. Other than those three months there is not a lot going on in our economy. It is cold and windy (great for a wind farm) and nobody wants to come and spend money. Large corporations are scared off by our exorbitantly high land prices and taxes, so they are not providing year round jobs. We rely on the tourist trade.

    Our tourist trade is based on two things our beautiful beaches and our excellent boating. Both of those will be in jeopardy once construction begins on the wind farm. Every south facing beach on the Cape will have a view of the behemoth structures, including a ten story building, instead of scenic vistas. Even each of the islands will have a great view of the turbines. Supposedly, part of the permitting states that both commercial fishing and recreational boating will not be barred from using the area around the turbines. Somehow, I find it hard to believe that some knucklehead won’t try to sabotage construction. If that happens there is a good chance a majority of Nantucket Sound will be deemed off limits due to terrorism concerns.

    This loss of our single largest natural resource is going to cause a huge loss in tourism dollars which translates to job losses in an already down economy. There will be loses among commercial fishermen who will have less area to fish and will have to travel further to meet their quotas. Jobs brought in by the wind farm are apt to be union and out of state jobs, they will not be filled by the locals. On top of which, electricity from renewable energy costs 2-3 times more than conventional electricity, so an already strapped economy will get a double whammy with higher electrical costs.

    If Cape Wind fails, as other proposed marine wind farms across the country have, who will pay the price? Will the government bail them out? Who will clean up any construction in progress or towers that are no longer being maintained or used? Once Nantucket Sound is gone it is a natural resource that is gone forever.

    No I am not against the wind farm; I am against the location of the wind farm. South of Martha’s Vineyard there is a little island called No Man’s Land. Most likely anybody who lives west or north of the Cape Cod Canal has never heard of No Man’s Land. During the Cold War this little island was used as a military ordinance testing ground. This area is no longer used, yet is and always will be, off limits to the public. The island is surrounded by shoals, as is most of the waters south of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. These waters don’t make for great boating, but they make for shallow installation of towers and actually better, unobstructed wind for a wind farm. Why has this never been a consideration? Money. It would cost more money to install a cable from there to one of the islands and then to the mainland. It is all about the wind farm’s bottom line, not the residents of Cape Cod who have to live here.

    Senator Kennedy, a Cape Cod resident, has been highly criticized for being against Cape Wind. Many consider him an elitist, too old or senile but he has done nothing but stand up for his constituents. He was elected to represent the best interest of the people of Massachusetts and that is exactly what he has always done and even continues to do now. He is not against renewable energy. It was his brother, President Kennedy, who was hailed for having the forethought to save a good portion of the Cape from development when he proposed the Cape Cod Natural Seashore. Now his brother is being chastised for his forethought to save Nantucket Sound. Senator Kennedy is for what is best for the people of Cape Cod and the people who enjoy vacationing here.

    Sometimes when looking at what is “right” we also have to look at the big (and small) picture and find what is best for everyone. In this case wind energy is best placed south of its current proposed location so that it can benefit the environment as well as the people it serves.

     

     

     

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