The Rise of Solar Co-ops

Getting solar on as many roofs as possible, and as quickly as possible must become a national imperative.  But buying a solar system can be as costly as purchasing a new car.  Although a car is technically a liability because it does not generate revenue.  The problem of making solar affordable for more people has always been the $64 question.

Solar Co-ops are one possible solution to answering that question. For more information please click the link below.

The Rise of Solar Co-ops.

Thanks for reading.


National Climate Assessment

The National Climate Assessment report released on Monday at the White House, is a stark reminder that humans, and developed nations in particular, have a daunting task in front of them.  As Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said on a recent episode of Cosmos:

We just can’t seem to stop burning up all those buried trees from way back in the carboniferous age, in the form of coal, and the remains of ancient plankton, in the form of oil and gas. If we could, we’d be home free climate wise. Instead, we’re dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a rate the Earth hasn’t seen since the great climate catastrophes of the past, the ones that led to mass extinctions. We just can’t seem to break our addiction to the kinds of fuel that will bring back a climate last seen by the dinosaurs, a climate that will drown our coastal cities and wreak havoc on the environment and our ability to feed ourselves. All the while, the glorious sun pours immaculate free energy down upon us, more than we will ever need. Why can’t we summon the ingenuity and courage of the generations that came before us? The dinosaurs never saw that asteroid coming. What’s our excuse?

So what can we do to reverse the trend of increasing greenhouse gas emissions? There are at least a couple of things our government can do.  First is to stop subsidizing fossil fuels.  Coal has been subsidized for over 100 years, since the 1880′s.  Why is it still getting taxpayer funds to pollute the environment?  Secondly we need massive investment in renewable energy development.  Wind, solar, geothermal, ocean and some biofuels.

The fossil fuel industry has been subsidized for far too long.  It’s long past time to break free from our addition to dirty energy and the debate on climate change is over.  It is time to start looking for solutions, and renewable energy is the primary solution.

For more information please click the link below.  Thanks for reading.


National Climate Assessment Report



LED Market Heats Up Again

The LED light bulb market is heating up again which is good news for consumers.  Phillips will be introducing a 60-watt LED bulb retailing for under $10 (or $9.97 to be exact).

It produces 800 lumens for a mere 10.5 watts and is a direct competitor with the Cree 60 watt LED bulb.  The following comparison chart shows the head-to-head specifications for each bulb.   A major feature of the Phillips bulb is that it does not use a metal heat sink.  This means lower materials cost which should translate in to lower retail prices in the future.


The chart is probably somewhat dated, however, because the Cree sells for $10/bulb in most Home Depot stores.  There are some differences in the light quality that are mostly preferential in nature depending on the use.

In any case, consumers now have more options to chose from when purchasing LED bulbs.  Click here for more information.

How renewables can keep the lights on when the sun doesnt shine : TreeHugger

Renewable energy is the future, and more people are coming to realize that.  Although fossil fuels and oil in particular, are the most energy dense and concentrated form of energy ever discovered by humans, they are not renewable.  Energy companies are scouring the ends of the earth while using ever more destructive exploration technologies to squeeze the last drop of oil out of the earth.

But at what cost to our health and the environment?  How much more climate change do we need?

Comparing renewables to fossil fuels solely on the basis of availability is a slanted comparison.  So I thought this was an interesting article because it explains how renewables can be incorporated in to our lives.  Please click the link below for more information.

Thanks for reading.

How renewables can keep the lights on when the sun doesnt shine : TreeHugger.

Listen Up: What Solar Panels Should I Buy?

This podcast is an excellent discussion about solar panels from buyers perspective.  It tells you what to look for and goes in to a lengthy discussion about the difference between the major manufacturers.  Anyone who is thinking about purchasing solar panels should listen to this program.  It would be well worth your time.

Please click the link below.

Listen Up: What Solar Panels Should I Buy?.

Solar Plane Pilot Plugs Renewable Energy –

It was remarkable to watch a plane traverse the US powered by nothing more than solar energy.  The implications while unclear at this moment, are certainly far reaching.  Obviously solar planes will never be able to replace jet airliners, in fact they likely won’t be able to replace private planes.  The weight issue is far to great an obstacle to tackle.

But there must be some entrepreneurs and innovators out there who will start thinking about the possibilities for solar, and ask ‘why not’?  Please click the link below for more information.

Solar Plane Pilot Plugs Renewable Energy –

Energy Democracy

A January 2013 report by the Edison Electric Institute predicts that solar energy could be the undoing of the electric utility industry.  Largely unnoticed in the media, this report has broad ranging implications.  Increasing distributed energy generating resources coupled with demand side management programs result in decreased revenues for the electric utility industry, reduced earnings and so on.  David Roberts of Grist wrote a couple of good articles on the issue.  One of them is here.

Change is not always a bad thing, and in the case of the electric utility industry it’s actually a good thing.  The electric utility industry has relied on the same business model for over half a century.  Centralized generating capacity is more efficient when you have an unlimited supply of fossil fuel resources to burn.  Obviously they present their own set of problems though, and fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal) are becoming more difficult and expensive to find and extract; especially in the case of oil.

People in Industrialized countries, to a large extent, take energy for granted because it’s always been so convenient and readily available (until there’s a black-out then the phones at the utility company start ringing).  Utilities make money by selling electricity and historically prices have been low because fossil fuels were cheap.  But now we’re discovering they’re not as cheap as first thought, because of the externalized costs of health concerns and climate change.

Energy democracy means people have a say in how their energy is produced and what resources are used.  It means they have more control of their energy destiny, because energy is an integral part of a civilized society.  It may sound like touchy-feely mumbo-jumbo; but personal liberty is a very broad concept not fully appreciated by many; except during a black-out when people develop a much greater appreciation for energy, if only until the lights come back on.

Investor owned electric utilities have become rather comfortable operating as regulated monopolies since the passage of the Federal Power Act in 1935.  They are guaranteed a profit, and as a result they have less motivation to innovate and develop new technologies. Renewables contribute less than 1% of our total energy mix, but that has to increase dramatically as fossil fuels continue their inexorable decline.  Looming scarcity of fossil fuels means higher energy prices for everyone.

The utilities don’t make money by implementing demand side management programs or distributed energy generating technology.  These don’t contribute to the bottom line and as corporations, the bottom line is the primary concern of the investor owned utilities.  Utilities serve an important function as part of our society, but if the utilities are unable, or  unwilling to facilitate the transition to renewable energy technology, they will become dinosaurs.  We all know what happened to the dinosaurs.

Thanks for reading.

Curt Sommer


Museletter 251: There’s Only One Real Option for Averting Economic and Ecological Ruin | Richard Heinberg

It’s somewhat comforting in a perverse sort of way that I’m not the only Cassandra out there.  The sooner we wake up to he reality that we live on a finite sphere with limited resources, the better off we’ll be.   The age of conspicuous consumption for the sake of consumption really needs to end.

Renewable energy is great, I love it and believe we must transition away from fossil fuels.  The problem is that they’re so entrenched in our society that to go cold turkey would send the economy in to a death spiral.  We need to make a expeditious but gradual transition by implementing stringent energy conservation measures.

Heinberg goes in to greater detail about how this would work.  I encourage everyone to read it.  Click the link below for more information and thanks for reading.

Curt Sommer

Museletter 251: There’s Only One Real Option for Averting Economic and Ecological Ruin | Richard Heinberg.

Spring Has Sprung

Actually, it will have sprung as of 7:02 AM EDT on Wednesday March 20th, 2013.  So I’m a little premature, but I can’t help myself.  I’m tired of the cold and cloudy days, but I suspect that won’t change for a few weeks yet either.  That’s just the Pacific Northwest.

All the same, our solar system is starting to ramp up production again.  January was our_solar_install 059actually a little higher than last year, but February was slightly lower than the previous year.  We’re currently at 195 kWh, which is almost 60% of last years output with twelve days to go.  Who knows, maybe we’ll beat last years output.

Of course production is not going vary significantly from year to year because the number of solar hours per day will not increase significantly.  However, it would be helpful to cut down, or at least prune a couple of nearby trees; especially the very large Doug Fir.  Unfortunately, that isn’t on our property.

The Vernal Equinox is a big deal, but it doesn’t overshadow the fact that March is the true-up month for homes with solar systems in the Portland General Electric (PGE) service territory.  The solar year for PGE runs from April through March.  At the end of this month we hope to see a check from the power company for the electricity that we supplied to the grid for the previous twelve months.  How often does one get a check from the power company?

Thanks for reading.


Curt Sommer


Silicon Valley Investors Shifting to Power Grid After Solar Sours | Renewable Energy News Article

Solving the energy storage issue is the holy grail of renewable energy development.  Solar and wind technology are not capable of ‘storing’ energy by themselves.  Solar has the advantage of coinciding with peak demand but the sun isn’t always shining and the wind doesn’t always blow.

Geothermal and wave energy have the advantage of consistency in that the energy from underground and the waves doesn’t go through cycles.  But as with wind and solar they can’t ‘store’ energy in and of themselves.  It requires specific technology to do that.

Small scale battery systems would likely be more practical so the energy can be stored on site where it will be used.  This would avoid transmission loses to a large extent but utility scale battery systems will likely be necessary to some extent as well.

Better late than never but these are the questions we should have asked 20 years ago, like President Carter suggested.

Please click the link below to read the full article.

Silicon Valley Investors Shifting to Power Grid After Solar Sours | Renewable Energy News Article.