The Power of Collective Energy Purchasing

Bulk purchasing is basically the model that Costco was founded on. It gives more control to the consumer as well as lower rates.  So by purchasing in bulk consumers can demand that more of their power come from renewable energy resources.  It is a win-win for the consumer and the power provider to know they have a consistent demand.  And more options for the consumer is what deregulation was supposedly all about.


The Power of Collective Energy Purchasing.

SunPower Offers Solar and Storage Packages to Hybrid Car Customers

This is a unique marketing approach by SunPower to get more people to buy in to solar power.  Buying a solar system should be no more difficult than buying a car really.  The car will draw power from the grid so why not have it drawing power from the solar system?

My preference is for all electric vehicles in order to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, but making that transition will require a lot more renewable energy.  Plugging in to a coal power plant does not really solve anything.

Click the link below for more information.  Thanks for reading.

SunPower Offers Solar and Storage Packages to Hybrid Car Customers.


Making The Grid Smarter

The push to develop renewable energy resources is a good thing and I’m sure there are climate scientists who would argue for faster implementation.  I agree with them but we also need a commensurate investment in electrical grid infrastructure to create a ‘SmartGrid’.  A smart grid essentially allows two-way communication between the power generator, typically a utility company, and the end-user.  It employs the use of different technologies that facilitate the flow of information between the producer and the user.  This allows the end-user to more effectively manage their energy usage while giving producers the ability to better manage distributed energy resources.

Electricity demand in the US has gradually increased over the last twenty years, from 2.8 Bkwh in 1990 to 3.8 Bkwh in 2012.  Demand is not likely to decrease significantly with the popularity of EV cars increasing, along with other electronic devices.  Renewables have the potential to meet most of our demands but promoting energy efficiency and demand side management is critical.

Renewable energy resources, wind and solar in particular, are more variable in that the sun does not shine at night (or on cloudy days) and the wind is not always blowing. The variability of these resources makes power capacity planning more challenging. Geothermal electricity generation on the other hand, is considered a base-load power source because it can generate power 24 hours per day.  The drawback of geothermal resources is that they are primarily located in the Western half of the US, whereas wind and solar resources are much more widespread.  Ultimately, we need to develop as much of our renewable energy resources as we can, in order to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

A Smart Grid would help facilitate development of renewable resources because it would helpmeter to balance the load on the grid by directing electricity where it is most needed.  It would also create new jobs in the production and installation of energy management technology.  It would make the grid more reliable by allowing utilities to isolate power outages faster and decrease response times.  Some of the technology such as smart meters are already in service in the Pacific Northwest, and other technology such as sub-station automation and software controls are soon to follow.

There are several other reasons to invest in creating a smart grid.  We need a reliable electrical grid to maintain our quality of life while also creating a more sustainable electrical infrastructure.  SmartGridNW is a leader in the movement to bring about a more flexible, reliable and responsive energy grid.  Please visit their website for more information.

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:








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


News and information about solar energy, sustainability and other energy issues


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