Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Area Hermit Has Great Ideas For Saving Planet

How the other half lives: Phoenix, Arizona. Hermit in forest on the other side of the planet suggests improvements. (Photo: Google Earth.)

We're screwed.
Forget peak oil. We're heading toward peak everything.
It's all going to hell.
But while we all lounge in the waiting room of the apocalypse, it's sort of nice to think about what we could do.
I may live in a small cabin, use train and muscle power for transport and sprout my own lentils, but I don't live more sustainably than the next guy in any significant way. However, I've discovered one thing: We don't need all that much electricity in our homes.
I have solar panels rated at 180 watts, with a battery bank of 550 Ah. And nine months a year, here at 60 degrees north, this has turned out to be more than enough. My batteries' state of charge rarely dips below 85% except during winter. I power my computer, wireless broadband connection, iPod, cell phone, lights and small battery chargers on my system, and would have more than enough juice left for some pumps, fans and and an energy efficient freezer, if I had only gotten around to buying them.
A conventional washing machine, though, would still be a bitch.
Anyway, with some lifestyle changes most homes could power themselves large parts of the year. In an ideal world most houses might have more panels than I have, and they would all be grid-tied instead of using the rather questionable hermit system of lead-filled batteries. And we're talking about the mildly maligned photovoltaic cells here, a system which is not very efficient but is blissfully low maintenance. Add some windmill farms to the equation and we can have stereo and tv, too.
If we all made more power than we used in bright, sunny times, the surplus could be utilized to pump water into artificial lakes, so we could use hydroelectric power on rainy days. The possiblities are mind-boggling.
It's not going to happen, of course.
For one thing, we can't all heat our homes with wood, the way I do. And so far, there simply aren't enough solar panels to go around, or even any theoretical chance that there ever will be.
And normal people just like using a lot of power. Not because we're all idiots, but because we get used to conveniance pretty quick.
CO2 emissions are fun!
But solar power, if you've got it, actually does work.
I'm just saying.

1 comment:

R. Paul Waddington said...

Your not too far from the mark in showing the photograph of the cluster of housing and drawing the conclusions you do about solar panels.

It has long been my view - panel availability dependent - each house should be fitted with as many panels as is practical. These 'should' be owned and maintained by the power utility just as their meters are presently and it should be done in areas where there is a high density of roof area.

Property owners participating in this scheme would, possibly, receive special rates on the power used and could find find no payment for power would necessary if the balance of use vs production on their installation is so designed.

The reason for doing it this way means the property owner does not need to worry about costs and installation and price negotiations: and the the power company has both the clout to purchases at good prices, the facilities to install, managed, maintain and run the utility whilst being in control of the 'power station' instead of heaps of individuals being their own infrastructure in parallel with existing systems.

A "daytime" urban power station allows the larger power stations to come into to own at night. It's a compromise that is not perfect but so easy to do and would have a very large impact very quickly by allowing the big power stations to throttle back in a controlled and planned manner.