31 August 2009

CEED Update

Check out the CEED press:

The Little Idea that Could.

At the CEED groundbreaking, I ran into a representative from American Electric Power. He was there to get some shine off the CEED project. Now I have no problem with folk wanting to learn more or wanting to do more but I do have a problem with a primarily coal burning utility trying to greenwash itself. So at my first opportunity, I cornered the AEP rep and asked him bluntly what he was doing to further sustainable energy. After touting the hydro projects (most projects almost as old as I am) he said they were going to put some solar panels on a building they own in Ohio. I listened and then asked "what about making it feasible for locally generated power to feed into the grid?". He then went into an explanation about how the State Corporation Commission sets the rates and how there is more than the wholesale costs to power generation (Company line all the way). I told him that the actual legislation does give individual power companies the option of paying higher then wholesale for customer generated power and that I had a suggestion on how to do this without costing AEP anything.

I suggested that they add a check box for green power to fund locally generated sustainable power (like the neighbor to neighbor fund) and that this extra money be used to boost the rate paid for customer generated power. After the surprised expression left his face, he said "well maybe we could do that, but it may be prohibitive" Not being one to take no for an answer, I told him how hard it was to get into the AEP hierarchy and asked if he could help me get to the right people. He said he wasn't sure, but I asked for his card and will be following up this week. More as it unfolds.

30 August 2009

Obama needs to Grow a Pair or prepare to Get off the Pot!

At the ground breaking of the CEED project I had a moment to talk to Tom Perriello. I asked him quite bluntly if the Democrats in congress had the fortitude to push health care, climate change or other sustainable energy measures through. His answer was enlightening and very disheartening. He basically said that we will probably end up with some symbolic, watered down legislation that they can "sell" as reform. There is too much division among the majority party to push for real change.

I worked very hard on the Obama campaign. I hoped that we had someone that would push for real change, not another politician. At this point, my simple analysis of where we are is this:

Obama came into the White House with the hope and expectation that he could get bi-partisan compromise on legislation. That politicians would put aside rhetorical "sides" for the betterment of the country. This was evidenced by his early proclamation that he expected 80 plus senators to vote for the stimulus "for the good of the country".

We all found out that was a beautiful thought, but not going to happen.

Obama's presidency is now at a crossroads. Obama needs to take the lead like Roosevelt did in 1932-1933 and shove, push and cram his policies through with little compromise and taking few prisoners. He cannot let his patient, "wait for the other guys to catch up with me" mentality to slow him down.

Obama should take Teddy Kennedy's death as a rallying cry and call up the troops and push through every bit of the legislation he promised with the best ideas he can muster. If the right wing of his party or other parties doesn't want to play let them take their toys and go home.

If Obama does this now, he has about 6 months to work and actually get something done before all is lost to the mid term elections.

If he does push and take no prisoners, with the massive organizing his campaign showed he could muster, he will be able to hold on to the hard working middle of the roaders he won in November.

If he follows his current namby pamby middle of the road approach he will lose both the middle and those of us who so passionately fought for his election this past November.

In November 2010 Obama can end up with a stronger majority as Roosevelt did in his mid terms, or he could end up losing the house like Clinton did in his mid terms.

I can speak as one who was ready to ditch this country for a more enlightened one, I hope he makes the right decision because too much depends on it.

For a great article on Obama's presidency to date click here.

29 August 2009

Virginia Dominion Power vs Solar Power

Va Dominion Power, arguably the least eco-friendly utility in Virginia has been working to keep this 70Kw solar system off line for 9 years. Now we really need that new coal plant, but F** you to anybody trying to help this region. These fat cat, coal sucking pigs and their conservative big business politicians need to get a lesson in reality. I vote to move every one of them to Carteret Island!

Wake up Virginia and smell the sulphur. We have made a deal with the devil to keep our low electric rates! Vote out the republican and conservative democrats and start moving this state into the 21st century!!!

28 August 2009

CEED Update

It was a beautiful, drizzle as we broke ground on the CEED project.

August 28, 2009

27 August 2009

Virginia once again Trails the Nation in Renewable Energy

For those folks who have or are considering Net Metering, be careful when offered a "smart meter". It is smart alright, smart like a fox. The old adage "spin your meter backwards" applies to the old fashioned geared electrical meters. When you produce surplus energy the meter spins backwards, in essence erasing KWh from your meter and giving you a 1:1 payback, i.e. you produce one Kwh you get credit for one Kwh. Makes sense no?

Not to the electric utilities of Virginia. They are only required to buy back the surplus energy at the lowest wholesale price, which for those in Roanoke is about 3 1/2 cents per KWh. Well you are paying about 8 cent per KWh. Now a "smart meter" is smart enough to know the difference between power your using, for which you are paying 8 cents and power your generating, which they are "purchasing" for 3 1/2 cents. So you are getting credit for less then 1/2 of what your producing.

I am investigating a change to the law that supposedly made the 1:1 equation a mandate in Virginia, but have not been able to find the legislation.

26 August 2009

Yard Sharing

For folks in close proximity to each other check out this site:

350 endorsed by Head Scientist @ UN

Well, finally a UN scientist has agreed that 350 ppm CO2 is an important number.

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

25 August 2009

Why it is so difficult to make headway in the US.

Recently there was a poll done among many countries, first, second and third world that asked folks to rate climate change as a priority that their governments should address on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being "ignore it" and 10 being "ahhh!!!!!! do something now ahhh!!!!!!!!"

Not surprisingly for those of us in the US, the Americans polled gave an average response of 4.71 on the scale. It was the lowest of all countries polled!

What that tells me is two things;
FIRST: The climate change denial movement is succeeding in clouding the issue. Just as there is no link between smoking tobacco and lung disease and the Holocaust never happened and Obama will kill your grandmother, the more wrong and twisted you are the louder you scream and Voila, more and more ignorant and passive American non-thinkers will have questions. (Current health care "debate" (debacle) being a great example).
SECOND: We need to get louder and more determined than the opposition. Also, in the very near future, there will be some natural disasters of some sort that will affect Americans so at least they may listen.

We have become a lazy and fatted people living on the resources of the body of the planet and one way or another we will change.

23 August 2009

Simplified easy explanation of Climate Change Choices

Just a few mouse clicks to create an avalance:

22 August 2009

Climate Change Wake Up Call

Watch these videos and think about it. 388 ppm is past critical and growing. Combine global warming and peak oil and let's all think about relocalization and relearning basic life skills. This is exciting!

Carteret Island - South Pacific is disappearing

Yellow River Source - Tibetan Plateau is disappearing

Amazon Basin - Worst Drought in 30 Years+

Austrailia - Worst Drought in 100 Years+

United States - Flooding & Drought

Peru - Glaciers Dissappearing

Easy Energy Savings

Here is a simple no cost method to cut your energy usage without and save yourself physical time. It is about as low tech as they come:

For more info click here.

21 August 2009

Solar Hot Water Install

August 20, 2009
PJ & Zack arrive early to finish plumbing the roof.

August 20,2009
Roof plumbed and tubes being installed.

August 20,2009
Commissioning the system. In this picture:
Grey Box - Steibel-Eltron on demand heater
White Box - Stecca Controller
Note: Both German made!

August 20, 2009

Aaron does one final caulk check and clean up.

August 20, 2009
2 of the family of 4 that will be bathing in comfortable solar heated water!

Another Peak Oil Wake Up Call.

Here is another article worth reading from a great site.


19 August 2009

Solar Hot Water Install

Here are some photos of the solar install we have been working on. We would have finished today if it had not been for the rain. More photos soon!

March 2009
Photo of home on initial visit March 2009

August 18, 2009
Aaron working on the mounting hardware installation.

August 18, 2009
Aaron & Adam take a break.

August 18, 2009
Who says plumbers & electricians don't get along.
Larry & PJ enjoy some time together.

August 18, 2009
Eddie, Larry, Adam & Aaron (and Rob at the camera)

August 19, 2009
PJ & Zeth plumbing the manifold just before the rain came!

August 19, 2009

System prior to insulation.

18 August 2009

Solar Hot Water Install

Today found eight of us crawling around, inside, under and atop a home in Blacksburg to install a Solar Hot Water system. We are installing an evacuated tube system that has an on demand hot water backup that senses the temperature of incoming water before coming on, so it does not power up unless there is a real need for hot water. The typical on demand system has only a flow switch which automatically comes on when the water is flowing, which in a solar system is a problem because the solar tank can have water that already is 120 plus degrees F. So finding one with not only a flow switch, but an incoming temperature sensor is critical for a solar system. For more info on the Stiebel Eltron tank we are using click the link. I will have photos of the install posted soon.

17 August 2009

Iran Changes Fleet to LNG

Well if nothing else, Iran can serve as an example to the rest of the world in one way - Leading itself towards energy security. Unlike the US, the Iranians recognize that they are slaves to the global system of trade as long as they cannot produce what they need locally (in country). Say what you may about Ahmadinejad, he has pointed his country on a path to partial energy security. The western nations, especially the United States, need to wake up and understand that we need to have the ability to produce as much as we can locally and regionally or we will be forever either getting in bed with rotting governments that oppress their people's and make them hate us or having to send our youth to capture the energy resources we feel it is our right to have. Neither is a sustainable or practical way to move into the 21st century.

We can educate and innovate our way to a peaceful prosperous future, or we can continue on the same road we have taken for the last 100 years, trying to deperately hold onto something that will, in time, slip out of our grasp.

16 August 2009

What's all this about hot water?

About 25 years ago, I had occasion to stay in a small farming village of about 50 families in Greece for about 3 weeks. It was a model of integrated sustainability and local ingenuity that, over time, had evolved systems to make the most of what they had locally. It was very interesting and they had developed many integrated practices, but what I want to discuss today is water.

There was for generations three villages that all shared a common spring. For generations, folk had hauled their water in vessels from the spring back to their homes. They had constructed underground catchment basins to collect what little rain water came their way. And sewage was dealt with in a very crude manner. Then, in the mid seventies after the fall of the military junta, someone in the government got the idea that these three towns needed running water. So they drilled three wells, installed a cistern above the towns and gravity fed water to the homes. They also installed a few primitive septic facilities.

The day I arrived in the summer of 1983, I noticed that the home I was to stay in had a kitchen sink, but when I tried it nothing came out. I asked at the Taverna in town about it and was told the story of the water development project. I was also told that the town was so poor that they could only afford to turn the pump on once every 5 days or so to fill the cistern. So one day, voila, water. The water ran for about 2 1/2 - 3 days until the cistern was emptied and then you waited. What became clear to me was how thankful these folk were that they had the chance to have water, even intermittently. Another very interesting thing was that alot of the homes had a black 55 gallon barrel on their roof. This acted as their solar batch heater. Boy did I hear about the wonders of taking a hot shower at the Taverna over Ouzo and cards. These folk were living the high life, as compared to their predecessors.

It is interesting to me that the western world expects hot water with the turn of a knob and electricity with the turn of a switch. That we have lost the ability to appreciate what we have or where it comes from.

About 15 years ago, living in the mountains of southwest Virginia, after the birth of my second son, we lost power for a week after the second "fifty year" ice storm in two weeks. (good subject for a future post). With no power, a wife who had just given birth, a 6 year old, a new born, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law all at our home, i was very busy cutting wood and hauling water. When after 7 days I heard the sound of a truck coming, I could only hope it was the electric line crew to fix the power lines. Sure enough it was! I rushed out to greet them, give them some hot tea and thank them for their hard work! What they leader of the crew told me has stuck with me since that day. He said, "You know you folks up here are sure different then the folks we service in Atlanta (they had been brought up to help restore power because of the widespread outages). Every drive we go down folks are nice and very happy to see us, in Atlanta if they are 3 hours without power they cuss us when we come!". WOW. That was an eye opener!

We all need to imagine life without and appreciate life with. It is all a matter of relative perspective.

15 August 2009

CEED Update

Official groundbreaking for the Center for Energy Efficient Design has been set for Friday, August 28th at 10:30am at the Gereau Center.

Be there or be square!

14 August 2009

A Fairly Sane Radical Solution to Reduce Energy

One idea put forward to reduce carbon is the US cap & trade bill (HR2454). This is one way to help reduce carbon, and we really need to start the process. I am personally dubious of the chances of getting meaningful greenhouse gas reductions out of the Senate after seeing how the house pandered to special interests like King Coal, but we will see.

Unfortunately, it does not really represent a solution that makes the individual consumer aware of our responsibility for climate change. A quick analysis of the proposed cap and trade bill looks like the average American will have to pay somewhere between 5 and 10 dollars a month more because of the legislation, but once again that legislation is pending and probably will be watered down, so the personal "pain" will probably hardly be felt by the average American.

I contend that it is this generation's responsibility to start atoning for the shortsighted use of fossil fuels that we have benefited from. Why, may you ask, is this relevant. As an American, it is important that we recognize that while we are but 4% of the world's population we consume over 20% of the world's energy. That is a 5 to 1 ratio. Imagine if you had to cut your energy consumption to your world percentage "fair share". That represents an 80% reduction in current energy usage! Are you ready to do that? I really believe, as American over consumers, we need to think on those terms.

We need to think about energy and sustainability as one thing. One idea I have would facilitate both the conservation of current energy as well as the creation of new sustainable sources of energy. It is simply this, we allot each American an amount of monthly or yearly electrical energy to use. When you use less you pay less, when you use more you pay more. Here is a quick outline of the basic plan:

Average American usage:
Average American household size -2007 US Census Bureau = 2.6 Persons Average American Household Electricity Usage - Department of Energy = 10,656 KWh Average American Electricity Usage = 4098.461538 KWh / Person
Average monthly usage is approx. 415 KWh / person.

So a family of four would be allotted 1660 KWh/month, based on 2007 information. Now let's say we decide we want to lower our energy usage by 5% in year 1. That would give that family of four a monthly energy budget of 1577 KWh. Great! So here is how it may work.

The first phase:
We would simply read meters. We already do that on a monthly basis. If your base electric rate is 12 cents per KWh then if you use 1577KWh you pay 12 cents per KWh or $189.24. If you use less energy than the monthly allotment your per KWh rate would start to reduce by the percent you are under the allotment. When you exceed the monthly allotment, you pay a higher rate. So here are some quick examples of how it may work:

KWh / person 415 KWh / person 415
Cost / KWh $0.12 Cost / KWh $0.12
Year 1 Target Year 2 Target
Reduction 5% Reduction 7%

Household Monthly Monthly Household Monthly Monthly
Size KWH Energy Size KWH Energy
Allotment Cost Allotment Cost
1 415 $49.80 1 415 $49.80
2 830 $99.60 2 830 $99.60
3 1245 $149.40 3 1245 $149.40
4 1660 $199.20 4 1660 $199.20
5 2075 $249.00 5 2075 $249.00
6 2490 $298.80 6 2490 $298.80

Household Monthly Monthly Household Monthly Monthly
Size KWH Energy Size KWH Energy
Allotment Cost Allotment Cost
1 394.25 $47.31 1 385.95 $49.80
2 788.5 $94.62 2 830 $99.60
3 1182.75 $141.93 3 1245 $149.40
4 1577 $189.24 4 1660 $199.20
5 1971.25 $236.55 5 1929.75 $231.57
6 2365.5 $283.86 6 2315.7 $277.88

Household Monthly Monthly Household Monthly Monthly
Size KWH Energy Size KWH Energy
Allotment Cost Allotment Cost
1 433.675 $57.25 1 424.545 $56.04
2 867.35 $114.49 2 849.09 $112.08
3 1301.025 $171.74 3 1273.635 $168.12
4 1734.7 $228.98 4 1698.18 $224.16
5 2168.375 $286.23 5 2122.725 $280.20
6 2602.05 $343.47 6 2547.27 $336.24

Household Monthly Monthly Household Monthly Monthly
Size KWH Energy Size KWH Energy
Allotment Cost Allotment Cost
1 473.1 $68.13 1 463.14 $66.69
2 946.2 $136.25 2 926.28 $133.38
3 1419.3 $204.38 3 1389.42 $200.08
4 1892.4 $272.51 4 1852.56 $266.77
5 2365.5 $340.63 5 2315.7 $333.46
6 2838.6 $408.76 6 2778.84 $400.15

Household Monthly Monthly Household Monthly Monthly
Size KWH Energy Size KWH Energy
Allotment Cost Allotment Cost
1 354.825 $38.32 1 347.355 $37.51
2 709.65 $76.64 2 694.71 $75.03
3 1064.475 $114.96 3 1042.065 $112.54
4 1419.3 $153.28 4 1389.42 $150.06
5 1774.125 $191.61 5 1735.775 $187.57
6 2128.95 $229.93 6 2084.13 $225.09

Household Monthly Monthly Household Monthly Monthly
Size KWH Energy Size KWH Energy
Allotment Cost Allotment Cost
1 315.4 $30.28 1 308.76 $29.64
2 630.8 $60.56 2 617.52 $59.28
3 946.2 $90.84 3 926.28 $88.92
4 1261.6 $121.11 4 1235.04 $118.56
5 1577 $151.39 5 1543.8 $148.20
6 1892.4 $181.67 6 1852.56 $177.85

(Now i am no accounting wiz or economic model person or MBA, the figures I am quoting here are for illustration only, to get the point across. Other folk with more wisdom then me can figure out the real numbers by crunching something)
As you can see from the numbers there would be quite an incentive for folks to become aware of their electrical usage.

Now let's get into the fun part.

There would be both debits and credits on the utility balance sheets depending on the amount of energy used. If your rate reduces below the average as you use less power then the utility will want to make that difference up. This could (and probably would) be made up by the offset of the folks who use more energy. But, let's say that, we are in a perfect world and everyone uses less then the target rate. Well, we would then have to adjust the base rate, right? No, wait, there is another way. Suppose sustainably generated energy had no cap and no adjustment! Then the utlity could build sustainable plants rather then polluting plants to power the grid. They could sell and folks could use as much of this power as was available with no penalties! What an incentive for the utlities to create more sustainable energy plants. They can sell as much as they can produce at the market rate, the great American profit motive shines through! There is another consideration here, if your energy is generated by coal you are having a greater impact on the climate then if your energy is generated by natural gas or solar power. Here is where Cap and Trade re-enters the picture. There should be real costs for greenhouse gas creation for the utilities to push them towards sustainable power production. That, however, is a post for another day.

Right now, remember to think about what your global energy share is and try to relate it to your personal habits.


ps. I know the formatting is messed up, can anyone tell me how to insert a table into this blog?