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Benjamin Gorman's Comments

February 14, 2013

A Cooler Way to Protect Silicon Surfaces

Goodness, you don't need to drag in Sandy (though I applaud the effort). There are quite enough indisputable effects of fossil power generation to go around. Coal-fired power is the largest source of airborne mercury, you've got coal mining operations destroying ecosystems, including rivers, slurry ponds creating toxic hazards of leaching and dam failures, and oh my what a source of CO2! Don't even work up a sweat, v-bruce-stenswick. "Hidden" externalized costs are absolutely legitimate concerns, and the reason that many/most renewables are already at grid parity. Just because faulty accounting is traditional doesn't make it accurate. Fossils gotta go.

January 31, 2013

Switching Costs, Personal Identity and the Difficulty of Switching to Solar

Paula writes "(bring back PACE)". Where has it gone? Though it hasn't been nationalized yet, many states offer PACE financing. See this article and map at DSIRE:

But my interest in community solar increases. Indeed, not all homes are well suited to solar (though solar thermal, always the underdog, can often do well even where solar PV is not advisable), but there may be somewhere in the local community that can offer a good site for a larger system whose power is share among neighbors.

January 31, 2013

Switching Costs, Personal Identity and the Difficulty of Switching to Solar

Solar PV prices HAVE gotten substantially lower in the last few years, mostly due to a drop in PV module prices (due in part to a recent oversupply of feedstock, hence of module supply). I have heard for many years the old saying, "I'll just wait until the prices get a little lower," or "I read about this new technology where you can paint your walls to absorb electricity (or some similar Popular Science hoopla)." But the truth is, most people would not install PV even after being shown that the long-term financial benefits are in their best interest. We've been trained to think short-term, what I call Wal-Mart thinking. People don't look to the long term, and so waste huge amounts of money through short-sighted financial choices.

Even if you could prove a 5-year payback AND increasing cash flow after that, AND significant environmental benefit, people just can't be bothered for the most part, UNLESS they are predisposed to believe in something greater than themselves, a benefit to the planet and think themselves capable of making a contribution. Selling solar PV on financial terms alone to short-sighted Americans is an uphill battle. Yes, let's ends the fossil subsidies. Aren't gov't subsidies supposed to offer a helping hand in the market to enterprises that would benefit all? Cheaper oil doesn't benefit all in the long, or even the medium-term, run. It's a proven insupportable COST to all. So end them already!

January 31, 2013

Switching Costs, Personal Identity and the Difficulty of Switching to Solar

A coal plant, to most perceptions, has zero mess--- because people don't normally see them. It's terribly easy (too easy) for energy consumers to remain disconnected from the many costs of power production given our present centralized production model. The long distance between cause (coal-fired power plant) and effect (the lights coming on in the kitchen) is a welcome sanitizing gap into which we readily toss our responsibility and our culpability as consumers. I've managed to close the gap in my own mind such that I equate turning on a light switch with turning on a coal plant. I never want to lose sight of the relationship between causes and effects. That's why I find it more than a little disingenuous when well-intentioned people decry the power industry-- which developed along the obvious market paths of the yesteryear-- for its ravenous and willful destruction of the environment, but take no responsibility for their own actions. That doesn't mean one must invest in an expensive PV system (or even lease one)-- since that would be the LAST step in any rational attempt to reduce one's footprint. Conservation and efficiency would be the top priorities, especially if one's power mix was mostly dirty coal (such as in Ohio and other Midwestern states). We're all complicit, we're all culpable. We must all work toward solutions.

February 03, 2013

Switching Costs, Personal Identity and the Difficulty of Switching to Solar

The aesthetics issue is not universal. In some markets, such as many areas in California, PV modules on the roof are considered aesthetically pleasing-- in part due to the social aspects of solar PV ownership (or leasee-ship, I suppose!). PV mods on the roof are a badge, a status symbol, and their appearance is suddenly no longer intrusive, but attractive. Humans. Go figure! Certainly, there are less pleasing-looking installations than others. But when the market has lots of penetration, the perception is often positive. Witness enhanced property values where PV is installed in such markets.

December 23, 2012

One Man's Mission to Recreate Tornadoes to Produce Electricity

I knew this story sounded familiar. I thinm\k RE World did a story on the Australian man who proposed non-vortex type thermal dynamic generator towers (my own klunky descriptor!) along these lines, and because Renewable Energy World's article search engine is godawful, I found another article about it on Google, linked below. Seems the guy couldn't get the backing in his native Australia, so came to Arizona.

October 06, 2012

Despite Setbacks, San Diego Unified School District Asserts Commitment to Clean Energy Alternatives

Doubly disappointing, in that the technology failed and that (most likely) the project was part of the current vogue to put solar on schools without addressing energy conservation and efficiency-- the cheapest, most widely available source of energy there is. I would bet this school could easily make up the estimated 9-10% energy penalty the systems' loss represents through conservation and efficiency measures. I hope all school projects look at C&E before-- or at least at worst, at the same time as-- they install PV.

October 06, 2012

Despite Setbacks, San Diego Unified School District Asserts Commitment to Clean Energy Alternatives

I think due diligence would have served them better in terms of technology selection. They let themselves be sold on something bright, shiny, and "new"-- which did not have a proven track record. Framed crystalline PV-- same ol' same ol', boring boring-- does. School administrations shouldn't be in the business of taking risks. Conservation and efficiency efforts, by contrast, are not risky, and are cheaper.

September 06, 2012

CSP Gains a Foothold on US East Coast

Hmm. The website you mentioned appears to be merely a parked domain. All I see there is a listing of links to various "green" techs, each of which yields only a listing of paid advertisers links. Maybe the site's not up yet??

And wouldn't it be ironic (and a bit pathetic) if Florida returned to its solar water heating root (by whatever technology route!). It was the solar water heating king before WWII, a model for renewable energy marketing. Then the war effort's need for copper put the kibosh on growth, then the electric utilities came in and gutted the solar market. Sigh.

September 05, 2012

Why Isn't the Deep South Green? Or Is It?

Most people, regardless of region or culture, favor saving money. If you can get people past the belief that CFLs are some kind of guvmint conspiracy (there are plenty such-- I met them while doing home energy assessments in Ohio), and you can show them the savings-- real costs and savings and timelines-- people will usually make the effort (or leapfrog to more expensive LEDs, in the case of lighting).
I think the historical influence of the enormously powerful TVA did much to ingrain an unconscious mode of energy consumption in the south-- note that namesake Tennessee has the highest per capita consumption in the nation. Once you make a strong case for savings-- which also means, to some, snubbing the utilities-- people will make it happen. You can't stop at a mere, "Use these CFLs/LEDs and Energy Star appliances." You have to demonstrate the payback in clear terms and times.

August 30, 2012

Strong on Solar: Australia Eyes CSP Leadership


Superficial? Wow, that description doesn't seem accurate at all. This nearly 2,300-word article seems to me rather thoroughly to address CSP in Australia and even globally. The author describes the current market, the government's strategic plan and incentives, a comparison of the technology to other renewables, advantages and challenges of Australian CSP, and a look at the near-term political climate. I'd call that thorough. Faulting it for not mentioning rare earths used in the manufacture of a minority of solar PV modules is entirely non sequitur. You do realize this article is about concentrating thermal solar, not photovoltaics, right? Sounds to me like you're looking to start a fight but couldn't find a good venue.

Benjamin Gorman

Benjamin Gorman

I have been an installer (solar PV and thermal), salesman, educator and trainer in renewable energy technologies. I'm very interested in energy efficiency and conservation and seek to spread enlightenment in these areas to those I come...

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