Monday, October 29, 2012

Cheaper Alternatives &/or Compliments to Solar & Wind Technology

The above cartoon is a common scene this year of one Political Ideology looking for excuses to demonize and denounce another Political Ideology's perceived failings. Of course the other side does likewise to it's opponent.  In this philosophical climate in the battle of the wills, one has to wonder why either side would celebrate and applaud such failure. Either way it's the average person who seems to get the shaft so to speak. When one ponders the use of public monies to fund ecological technologies it should be hoped that such investment would become a success, not only in terms of jobs, economy, etc, but also a win for the environment which is our own planet Earth. Yes it appears a lot of money has been lost, but people need to realize that this world's leadership is far from perfect. Entrusting such imperfect leadership to do the right thing is always a gamble no matter what the Ideology. No one knows the secret deals that go on behind the scenes of such Politico-Economic schemes if they were well thought out and considered or merely for public relations bonus points. Too often there seems to be bad consequences of taking ideas into the mainstream before they are truly ready. Each Researcher, Engineer or other any other Technician has good intentions to be sure, but the reality and side effects aren't often considered when Politicians and their Lobbying Constituents get involved.
There are far to many people writing & focusing on the failures now days about the land destruction taking place on pristine wilderness lands where industrial Solar and Wind Energy Factory Farms are being created and I'd rather not go there with this post. To be honest, these technologies in their present form do not appear to be sustainable answers either. Many of these Farms are & will be owned and operated by the same historical energy firms which have from the beginning of energy creation and distribution been at the monopoly game forefront and have no intention of giving any of  the monopoly share up any time soon, even to Do-It-Your-Selfers! Yet I believe energy independence would truly be a desirable thing.  Not only would it be a win win for the private individual on Earth, but also a win win for the environment whose acreage isn't destroyed by an ever increasing (not less) industrial infra-structure. You can Google all the other Green Blogs and Enviro Activism sites out there for a further in depth viewpoint on this subject. I'd rather focus here with my post on some simple inexpensive things I've done and others can do and at incredibly very little if any cost. 

First and foremost I think the construction and creation of an energy efficient home and the actual materials used in creating them are the first defense in energy usage reduction. That's why I love ideas on techniques on  straw bale construction , dual & triple pane insulated windows with  low emissivity glass  , etc. Of course folks with houses who have older technology construction cannot start from scratch, so what can they do ? Coming from a sunnier warmer part of the world, here is what I have done. Clearly where I'm from strategic Landscaping is a huge game changer as far as choices go. I first and foremost like to start with low maintenance choices such as native plants incorporated into an area which along with their host specific mycorrhizal fungal symbiotic root associations which will aid not ONLY in hydrating the plant, but also feeding the tree will add a measure of energy savings as well as esthetics. This can almost eliminate almost entirely water supplementing during drier times(which cuts costs) but also TOTALLY eliminates feeding by means of industrially created fertilizers which are NOT necessary IF you do it right and know what you are doing. Create that healthy landscape and chemicals against pests are eliminated as well. Believe it or not this is how things actually work out in nature. Selection and correct establishment in the right location are of prime importance. In hot environments shade is of concern. In frigid climates living vegetative evergreen screen barriers against freezing energy sucking winds is of prime importance.

This is where I think costs of Solar Panels can be kept to a minimum if the Landscape is done right. I've posted a photo of my mum's place where in six tears time she has 30 to 40 foot high trees which shade the southwestern exposure of the house which eliminates the need for this powerful industrial sized commercial air-conditioner which she and my dad mounted on top of the roof in the back in the 1990s. Of course she also had those older 1954 Ranch Styled crank windows replaced with heavy duty dual pane windows which also made a huge difference. Looking at the photo here to the left, the California Sycamore Trees are much larger in crown and taller in height than when this shot was taken. The trees were 6 inches in height from one gallon containers and heavily inoculated with varietal mix of several kinds of beneficial bacteria and several different species of beneficial endo-mycorrhizal fungi. The rapid growth was aided by drip irrigation watering as a head start & was tapered off in favour of a Deep Pipe Irrigation later on. Presently little or no water is added other than the local seasonal rainfall averages. The area's temperatures are quite often in the 90-100 Fahrenheit range (30 to 40 Celsius) and by the time they peak, the shade is already doing it's work. At least everyone gets the idea of the strategy here.
Common Midwest Evergreen Windbreaks used to block northern and westerly cold high winds which sap the home of it's warmth and energy efficiency.
Industrial Grade
Green House Shade Fabric
Another strategy I used in Anza California where I lived for almost 24 years was not only the shade of trees, but also the use of industrial Greenhouse shade cloth which is extremely long lasting and durable. I had an older technology Mobile Home on the property that we purchased. While there were a measure of extra add-ons ordered for the home by the previous owner like dual pane windows and heavier snow load roof, they were still lacking in quality and upgrading certain components around the home not only improved warmth and coolness in what is both a very warm and very cold dry climate, but also the aesthetics or eye appeal of the place as well. Take the picture of the Green House Shade Cloth above. Now who would have thought to put that over picture windows on the western or southern exposure side of a house ? I already new the potential of such a material in the Seed Germination and Plant Nursery industry, so why not in some type of home based application. Take a look at the front of my old home which I photographed last year and notice that the cloth is as strong as it was when I originally installed it in the late 1980s.

photo: Mine

The shade cloth you should notice here in the above photo has a wooden frame around it which blends in with the actual window frames which themselves were replaced when I installed newer siding by Weyerhaeuser Corp product which anyone can pick up an any Home Depot or Lowes Home Improvement Store.  In all the cloth and wood for frames were no more than $20 back then.

Here's the way the interior temperature was before. The sun shining through those open exposed windows even with closed curtains super heated the front of the house on that western exposure so much that it would often on warm or hot days be in the 90s F or 35 Celsius on the inside of the entire home front to back. We actually had a large ground foundation air conditioner on the south side of the house which could keep things rather cool inside. It was connected to the central heating natural gas or propane heating system which could be used for either heating or cooling with the simple flip of a switch. But running such a device is expensive to operate. Plus it's not exactly aesthetically pleasing. Unfortunately we had no Low-E windows which would have prevented the sun's rays from heating up all objects and surfaces on the interior to high temperatures which effected the whole interior. So the Green House shade material was a smart and very cheap option. I actually measured the frame around the window and came up with an identical window screen frame for both with the same exacting measurements. Then I stretched and stapled the shade mesh screen onto the back of the frame and trimmed it to fit. I then proceeded to drill holes and using brass screws mounted them on top of the existing outer wooden frame. These screens worked perfectly from the start and had eye appeal. The noticeable effect was instantaneous. The front of the home (Living Room and Dining Room) temps where lowered by 15 degrees or more which didn't require the air conditioner to be on in late afternoon. And we had a continual westerly wind for which open windows controlled on the inside would allow a cool breeze to do it's work properly.

Of course I see nothing wrong with installing a Solar or smaller Wind energy program, but doing so on a not so conspicuous level. I hate to see homes which reflect an ugly commercial industry eye sore visual. Making home improvements that I've only barely touched on goes a long way into factoring how much of the solar or Wind energy program you DON'T need had you not done anything. I like a warm cozy eye appealing home. I admit it. There is a type of atmosphere I want to surround myself with in living and enjoying life in my home. 

Where I presently reside in Sweden, most Scandinavian Architecture as a general rule NEVER takes into account estheitc or artistic eye appeal in a living environment. Everything is industrial and institutional for Secular Societal Futuristic Living. I could care less. Yes as a kid I was entertained by the "Jetsons" Cartoon characters, but I never wanted such a life to become my reality. Yet I am over here in a Svensk version of Utopian Living. One of the ways around the Solar Industrial look are some of the technologies introducing Solar Shingles which blend in and become part pf the home and don't offend the eye with an industrial grade add on that doesn't fit.

Mother Jones
Seriously, who wants this on a beautiful home ? Do many of the extra things I mentioned and you won't need such Industrial Applications to be ecogreen

Image -

New solar panels along Bellair Avenue in Fair Lawn.
Public Service Electric and Gas Co. is installing
180,000 such panels statewide.

Junk like this down a street doesn't work for me either. I'd rather live in a Mongolian Yurt in a Barren Wilderness! I seriously love the idea and would delight in the fact of Green Technologies as being the rule, but only if they truly work and could indeed account for much of our energy. But when you add the power-trips and  politics for which big business lobbyists who push for less than eco-green technologies, the whole thing eventually gets exposed to the money making scam it is and then it's difficult to convince the average person of it's ecological importance. As all of the blogs and Activism sites out there have pointed out, there are huge disconnects between promise and performance for which Green Technologies have promoted themselves as sustainable and Eco-green. It clearly emblematic of how easy it is for ideology to subvert what could and should otherwise be good science. Not long ago I reported on some of the common phony Eco Propagandizing being done in an article entitled: 
Green Grabs: The Dark Side of the Green Economy

But there are some plus points in that aesthetics direction, take a look.
Look at this. Perfect, it doesn't offend and it attempts at an aesthetic eye appeal design. No holes drilled into existing older technology roofs with industrial apparatus which otherwise looks like it belongs in an Electric company's sub-station transformer somewhere in the neighbourhood infrastructure network grid.

In closing and addressing the original cartoon at the top of this post. I truly hope and wish such ideas or strategies would succeed. I could care less who comes up with the idea or gets credits in the accomplishing of such a plan. But clearly there should never be a rush in putting just anything out there in the interests of profiteering, satisfying shareholders or making Brownie Points with Politicians of either side. Nature could care less about Ideology and neither should people. Motive is everything. Doing the right thing the right way will always count. 


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks. I think all alternative energy schemes should incorporate good eye pleasing aesthetics, but often times the goal of massive profit gets in the way and we are left with an industrial vision of things.


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