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Sunday, January 27, 2013

You Make Energy Choices

There are changes to our energy situation that are made by individuals, building owners, and local leaders.  The most widely available energy resources are Conservation and Solar. No one needs large infrastructure to change a light bulb.
Seriously, if we start with the premise that people would rather buy something new than give up something they like, we recognize the trends for increasing energy efficiency of buildings, new lighting, and financing/ownership of solar panels.
The increasing number of people engaged in making these happen, not the current megawatt size, is what is so exciting and important.  This is a race for "eyeballs" and "mindshare" first.
Solar rooftops are added by 5000 buildings per month in the U.S. these days. Local governments have created green building legislation in 442 localities, including 384 cities, 58 counties and across 45 states. (
Of course it is fantastic that President Obama made action on climate change a significant part of his inauguration speech. If everyone in the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency would follow that direction, we would have a better future. But just in case there are challenges to top-down initiatives from elected officials, we have our own capability to act.
There are incentives and great investment opportunities in your basement and on your roof. For individuals, there is opportunity right now to make more money through new stuff. Who doesn't like that kind of investment?
For community leaders, there are savings to operating budgets from making buildings energy efficient. There are solar companies ready to invest without residents raising money or paying more each month.
You make energy choices. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Crowdsourcing Solar

Here's an idea!
   Get 10, 20, 30 people together to share the cost of a solar roof project on a church or social services organization. Done as an investment, the contributors can make a nice return as well as lower the costs of electricity to the host building.
    Here's a firm that is already pulling this together:
   Of course, the same thing is being done by community-based groups, in nearby Harvard Mass:  and in Maryland:
   There are many great things about making a switch with your invested dollars to a locally-owned solar energy production facility. I'm sure the list of good reasons is longer than the list of why most other investments get made.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Renewables in the New Year

Over the years,  I have enjoyed the energy savings and great satisfaction from weatherizing my apartments and insulating attics of my homes as I moved and my family grew. This is great, cheap, and incremental stuff anyone can learn to do on your own. I fully recommend everyone that uses heating or air conditioning get your hands dirty, and do some improvements on your own residence. Good for the planet, good for your wallet, and good for your sense of self.
In the past year, I made two significant changes to my home that have made me a much more active part of the solution to reducing climate-damaging emissions. First, I am using a wood stove in the fireplace, so when I am carrying in wood and tending the stove, the oil heating system does not run. This feels great psychologically, and physically the house is warmer than I would have it on oil, that is for sure.
Second, with the help of Federal and Massachusetts tax and renewable energy credits, I now have solar collectors and PV panels on the roof of my house. This is a real paradigm change. The big change is not just to be part of Massachusetts becoming 4th in the U.S. for solar electric installations in the third quarter of 2012, but to be an individual energy producer.   

This December, when the holidays talk of re-birth, renewal, and light in the darkness, I joined over 5000 others across the US that converted from being just energy users, to being a producer of green, solar electricity. Five thousand a month, every month, is a safe estimate of the number of additional residential and commercial buildings turning on the solar electricity. This is meaningful to each of these decision-makers, decentralized and economically rational.  This choice feels different, because it is different. While I am writing this, my roof is exporting power that is being used by my neighbors.