War is Declared on Green Energy

Why has the United States government declared war on green energy? I mean, what did green energy ever do to this country that warrants it being declared an enemy of the people and placed on the top ten list of things to destroy? What happened? Let’s back up and investigate this unusual occurrence as there must be a logical explanation.

Let’s begin on a topic I believe everyone can agree on. There is only one world on which we can maintain life, and that is earth. Human actively, spurred by a crippling population explosion and advancement of third world countries into the industrial revolution is overloading our atmosphere with carbon dioxide and other emissions, which is acting like a blanket in the upper atmosphere trapping earth’s natural heat.

This blanket of gases is not suppose to be there. Nature didn’t put it there, we did by burning fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas. I believe scientists and people who don’t believe in science can agree on this fact.

Trump pushing clean coal ignoring climate change

So what’s this got to do with anything? This is where the first battle begins between the two factions of science and non-science. Science claims this blanket has created a global warming which is wrecking havoc with our weather patterns and thus our environment. This claim is based on facts, but facts matter little to the non-science faction, who claim this is a natural phenomenon that the earth has experienced before.

This is most likely very true. After all the United States was once glacier covered and deep seas existed where only desert wastelands now exist. It might be noted these changes occurred over millions of years. Keep that in mind for future reference.

So for sake of argument let’s look at may happen if the war on green energy was called off.

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Improved Health

Air and water pollution from coal and gas fired industrial plants are responsible for creating breathing problems, cancer, heart attacks, neurological damage and a host of other illnesses. With the dismantling of the EPA, which is charged with policing illegal pollution, the health concerns will only become worse.

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A Harvard University study showed the health care cost for treating such pollutant induced illnesses at $74.6 Billion dollars a year. It doesn’t matter your social status, although the wealthy can afford medical treatment while the poor suffer, or literally die, the causes of such sickness affects everyone. Cancer doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor.

The irony is green energy technology simply does not create the types of pollutants which poison the air and water. Although in all fairness geothermal and biomass systems do emit air pollutants, but are generally only a fraction of coal and gas fired facilities.

Wind and solar energy require essentially no water in which to operate, thus eliminates the risk of water pollution. Perhaps more importantly in some cases, by not consuming water, allows greater amounts of water available for distribution for agriculture, drinking water and other water needs. That may not sound important, but if you live in the Southwestern United States you realize water is growing continually scarcer and more expensive.

Jobs and other Economic Matters

Alright you’re not a scientist, tree hugger or visionary, you’re just a regular Joe worried about making a living and having a difficult time doing it.

Fossil-fuel-generated technologies are mechanized and capital intensive where as renewable energy alternatives are more labor intensive. Manufacturing and installing solar panels is more labor intensive than coal or oil extraction requiring more employees. That should be a great thing, right?

But here’s the giant rub, fossil fuel employees make a good wage while the jury is still out on wages renewable energy employees will command. Does it make sense to lose 250,000 jobs which pay $50 an hour (benefits included) to gain 500,000 jobs at $20 an hour? 250,000 more people working, but at much lower wages. Is that a fair trade-off?

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I guess it depends on whether you’re losing or gaining a job, but in my opinion the answer is a resounding No. This is the classical Race to the Bottom agenda that the government and big business love to employ, which is the exact reason the American middle class, America’s backbone, is nearly extinct.

Why should this subject even enter into the overall discussion of renewable green energy vs fossil fuel? Let’s face it … like it or not, right or wrong, everything in life depends on money. Were Amazon, Facebook, Google created for the benefit of mankind? Hell, no they were created to make the owners wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. Trying to bring an illegal criminal enterprise to justice? Follow the money.

Point is, if we were talking losing 250,000 jobs at $50 an hour, but not only replacing them, but adding another 250,000 at $50 an hour, the public would be screaming for the advancement of green energy by the government.

Can we accomplish this? Is the government the answer? Yes, to the first question. Absolutely no to the second. The labor hating government is the largest obstacle to overcome to accomplish the goal. Instituting Rights-to-work laws which essentially cripples unions making them ineffective at collective bargaining, is the single most negative action enacted which stagnates workers wages. Are Unions good? YES! Are there some lousy scoundrels in the union leadership? YES!

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Fortunately or unfortunately I have personally witnessed Union Officials of both types. Union officials that place their greed above the memberships needs should be tar and feathered and run out of town. But then someone will say all the politicians should be included in that group. Touche’ can’t argue that.

But remember, the point is to create good paying jobs in the renewable energy sector, not menial flipping hamburgers wages. Whatever means required to reach that goal is the correct one, unions are just a traditional method utilized.

Speaking of Government

Government loves money, as your taxes illustrate, so green energy should be a no-brain-er for them. For example, Local governments could enjoy a windfall of revenue from green energy with several avenues of new revenue. The property owner where the power company installs their wind turbine will be paid $3000 to $6000 per megawatt, plus royalties, plus rights-of-way leases, all resulting in more taxes being paid. The green energy company is also required to pay taxes. Farmers can produce feed stocks for biomass power facilities. The list goes on and on.

UCS analysis estimate that by 2025 a national renewable electricity standard would result in $263.4 Billion in new capital investment in renewable energy technology, $13.5 Billion in additional landowner income and $11.5 billion in new property tax revenues which flows directly into the local government’s coffers. That’s a lot of money.

Stable Energy Prices

The government likes to crow the example of federal spending to a normal household budget, when it serves their purpose. Using that example what happens to the household budget when hit with a massive and unexpected expense, it shatters possibly destroying peoples’ lives.

Historically fossil fuel prices have experienced very dramatic price swings. In the years prior to 2008 coal demand far exceeded coal production due to global demand, skyrocketing coal costs. In 2008 world demand plummeted as did the price of coal. Natural gas experienced the same dramatic shift in 2005. In 1974 the entire United States economy came to a grinding halt when the price of oil shot up and oil production was cut by OPEC. Utilizing more renewable energy would cushion the blow of a sudden spike in fossil fuel prices regardless of whether it be coal, gas or oil.

There is a price to pay. Upfront investments to build renewable energy platforms of whatever nature, will be expensive. However, once the initial sticker shock of construction is endured the facility will be extremely cheap to operate. Most clean energy technologies employ free fuel, sun, wind, water which can result in very stable costs of energy after the initial investment is recouped.

Additionally, costs of renewable energy technology has steadily and will continue to decline. The average cost to install solar panels on a home has declined 70% from 2010 to 2017. Cost of wind generated electricity has dropped 66% between 2009 to 2016. There’s no reason to doubt the continued cost reduction as technology improves.

Reliability

If I turn on a light and the bulb blows I’m immediately aggravated. Now I gotta find a bulb, a ladder, undo the light fixture, etc etc. How aggravated would you be if there was literally no power at all, for days, weeks or months.

We won’t even discuss the eventual total depletion of fossil fuels, but let’s talk about temporary unavailable fossil fuels. Hurricane Sandy devastated much of New York and New Jerseys fossil fueled electric producing capacity leaving millions without power. Green energy systems in the same pathway of Sandy resulted in much less damaged capacity. Why? One reason is the green energy system is spread out over a large area, which requires massive destruction to put it down.

Water scarcity is also becoming an increased risk potential for non-renewable power plants. Coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants require a tremendous amount of water to function. The recent dramatic shift in weather patterns have produced, and will continue to produce severe drought conditions. An examination of the quickly disappearing Lake Meade should send shivers down your spine.

The risk of disruptive weather events will only increase as droughts, heat waves, more intense storms and increasing amounts and severity of wildfires become more frequent due to global warming.

So What’s the Problem?

By now you may be thinking the argument for increased renewable green energy appears to be solid. So what’s the problem? Why is it taking so long to get going?

Well, in a nutshell … a nut. The Trump administration has declared war on green renewable energy for several reasons. The most ridiculous reason is their absolute denial that Climate change is real. They immediately publicly declared their ignorance by withdrawing from the Paris Climate agreement, the only country in the world to do so, an agreement America spearheaded and helped negotiate. This denial comes as Miami is slowly sinking into the Atlantic ocean due to rising sea levels.

Another reason is pandering to a particular voting block. Trump is an expert con-man who feeds on peoples’ fear and frustration. Coal workers, Steel workers and other hard labor good paying union jobs have been decimated by global free trade. I know, I was an autoworker who suffered greatly under NAFTA. But instead of promoting new skill training for displaced workers, which could feed directly into the green energy segment, he initiates a trade war through tariffs which may destroy the American economy, if not the world’s.

Trump is dismantling the EPA, encouraging renewed pollution of the air and water.

Trump is selling off public lands to mining companies at an accelerated pace. These are not his to sell, but that doesn’t stop a dictator.

Who has declared war on Green Energy? The Trump administration.

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Solar: Basic Science

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When it comes to “personal” solar usage many people fail to realize the simpler the better. We have fallen into the “more complicated the better” mindset which, in my opinion, originates with the cell phone. There was a time being able to make and receive a phone call without being attached to a land line, was not only amazing, but quite efficient and solved the number one issue of being able to communicate from any location.

However, today if the cell phone, I-pad, smart phone, whatever, doesn’t take professional grade photos, emit music as if you were in a symphony hall or order you pizza by you simply thinking about it, its of little value and is about to be replaced by a newer version. Lost is the original intent of making and receiving a phone call.

With this mindset it’s sometimes difficult to remain on task when discussing solar energy, which is …. to harness the power of the sun to produce energy that we can convert to our use. That form is usually electric, but could also be heat-transfer for specific use, such as hot water heating systems.

Quick History Lesson: Solar photo-voltaic (solar cells)

Simply explained Solar cells also referred to as PV cells, convert sunlight directly into electricity. The PV term is derived from the process of converting light (photons) to electricity (voltage), thus PV. This is not new technology as it was discovered in 1954 by scientist employed at Bell Telephone, who discovered silicon, an element found in sand, created an electrical charge when exposed directly to sunlight.

In the overall scheme of things a PV system is not really particularly complex considering its tremendous impact on our daily lives. Did you realize calculators and watches are powered by this system? First, panels collect the sunlight and turn it into electricity. The DC current is fed into an inverter which converts the DC into AC power, which is what powers your home. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to follow that logistic.

Basic list of PV system elements:

Panels: PV panels, are your biggest expense as they can run anywhere from $2.45 to over $5 per watt. It can not be emphasized enough, proper placement and mounting is the single biggest thing that can affect the efficiency of the system. Poor location and mounting … poor performance.

Mounting equipment: As previously stated, it’s imperative the location of the panels, calculated to be exposed to sunlight the maximum amount of time over the period of a year, is checked and double checked. Once the location is verified, the real problem is securing the panels with enough integrity to remain in position for 25-30years. It does little good to sweat blood arriving at the utmost pinnacle of efficiency to position the panels, only to have them move due to poor installation techniques or material. Like buying a $100,000 RV with 1 gallon of gas in the tank. Looks good, but totally useless for its intended use of traveling.

DC to AC Inverter: This equipment takes low-voltage, high current signals from the PV panels and converts it into 120VAC (240VAC is also available) which makes it compatible to household appliances & etc. This equipment is the weak link in the system from the reliability standpoint, so don’t sacrifice quality for costs. You’ll regret it later.

 

Tracking Mounts: These mounts move the PV panels, mechanically, over the course of the day so they are directly exposed to the face of the sun, maximizing power production. Dual axis trackers change both azimuth and elevation, while single axis trackers only change azimuth. It depends on many variables which type would be the more beneficial for your use.

Azimuth is an arc of the horizon measured between a fixed point (such as true North) and the vertical circle passing through the center of an object usually in astronomy and navigation clockwise from the north point 360 degrees.” Webster Dictionary

If your like me … you really didn’t understand that explanation, but I include it because someone will.

Disconnect switches: Must be easily accessible and within reach of the smallest family member, and every member must know how to operate it. If any abnormal behavior occurs with the home’s electrical system, immediately disconnect the solar system. Why? Because odds are if something has malfunctioned and has created a safety hazard, it most likely will be the new installation, not the established house electrical system.

Utility power meters: Always notify your local power company that you are going to use a solar power electrical system. Why? Conventional power meters can spin backwards, but most companies will convert your power usage to a TOU (time-of-use) rate structure. It’ll save you a hassle of getting your electric bill correctly formulated.

Use Your Head:

Solar energy, although great, is too expensive to try the old trial and error method of design and installation. Don’t lose sight of energy efficiency being the most cost effective method of reducing the cost of heating and cooling your home. Do your due diligence and work with contractors who have demonstrated their expertise in building and remodeling to energy efficiency. This is especially true when switching to solar from a traditional power source. Get a Home Energy Audit before doing anything. It may offer options that will make conversion, for cost benefits only, unnecessary. It’s up to the individual, but installing any system that will require 30 years to pay for itself is a questionable choice.

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Basic Thermo – syphon system

Let’s assume you’ve had a Home Energy Audit performed and with a few changes to the homes windows and insulation, the cost of going solar is questionable, right on the edge of smart or wasteful. You want to do something. What about a solar water heater? Water heaters, especially older non-energy efficient types, are an energy consuming beasts.

How solar water heaters work: These systems are comprised of storage tanks and solar collectors, which use the sun to heat either water or a heat-transfer fluid in a collector to provide hot water to the house. The most common system utilizes a well-insulated storage tank to hold and maintain hot water. There are two types of solar water heating systems; Active direct circulation which require circulating pumps and controls, and Passive, which don’t.

Direct-circulation systems circulate water through the collectors and into the home, which can be used in climates where a freeze is uncommon. Indirect-circulation system pumps a non-freezing heat transfer fluid through the collectors and into a heat ex-changer, which heats the water that then flows to the home. These are used in cold weather climates.

A Passive Solar Water Heating System is typically less expensive than active systems, but not usually as efficient. But … the passive system may last longer. There are essentially two basic types of passive systems.

Integral-collector-storage: These systems can only operate in fair weather environments where it rarely freezes, and there is significant sunny daylight.

Thermo – syphon systems: The collector must be installed below the storage tank elevation in order for the warm water to rise into the tank. They are normally more expensive to install than the Integral-collector.

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Storage Tanks & Solar Collectors:

Solar water heaters will require a well-insulated storage tank, which has an additional inlet and outlet connected to the collector. There are 2 tank systems which include a traditional type water heater, as the solar heater will preheat the water before being pumped to the traditional water heater tank.

***Note*** Nearly all solar water heating systems will require a back up system in order to compensate for unusual high demand or cloudy days.

Questions to Answer Before Purchasing a Solar HW system:

1. Arrive at a firm estimate of the cost and energy efficiency of the particular system. The last thing you want is a $1000 increase surprise in the middle of installation, or a system that falls far short of expectations.

2. Evaluate the site’s solar resources. Some building lots, or current home location, is just not suitable for enough exposure to sunlight to provide the energy required without expensive modifications or unchangeable natural hindrances.

3. Double check the required size of the system. Some contractors, whether by inexperience or by deceit, will offer a less expensive system claiming it’s plenty big enough to do the job, but is totally inadequate. It’d be like buying a car with a little bit of brakes. Not a good idea.

4. This may actually be the first step you need to take. Check local codes, covenants and regulations which may prohibit you from installing a solar system. Usually, other than the cost of building permits, local governments rarely pose a problem. However, belonging to a homeowners association, or something similar, may prohibit any “unsightly” additions to a property. That’s an ambiguous term which can create unnecessary headaches and legal fees.

Screen Your Contractor:

Few people realize that a “Licensed Contractor” simply means the contractor paid a fee to the municipality to do business within its borders. It is no guarantee the contractor knows what they are doing. Ask questions and expect plain forth right answers.

1.What experience do you have installing and maintaining solar systems? Ask for referrals or site locations of finished jobs. A contractor proud of his work will welcome the opportunity to display its workmanship.

2. Does the company have experience installing the type of system you want? Solar systems have a general operating principle, but no two systems are identical. Are they capable of handling unexpected problems, such as hitting rock 8 inches down where there wasn’t suppose to be any.

3. Years of experience is a factor to consider, but don’t let that stop you from hiring a newer contractor. The new guy may be excellent and has a burning desire to begin a reputation of quality service, while the guy with 5 years experience may have performed shoddy substandard work, skating from one scam to another. Check your BBB.

We have only scratched the surface of understanding the many types of solar systems available, and they improve and become less expensive as time goes on. I just wanted to expose you to a few basics of solar water heating and its principles.

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