Solar power: looking to the light

There are days when we humans can seem hopelessly doomed. You know the drill: “the world is doomed to self-destruct, resistance is futile.” I say bunk. That is just jargon for “I am too lazy to change any of my habits and ideas.” There is no species on the planet that can respond with the creativity and genius of human beings when we focus our minds on devising solutions. Life is really busy. We don't have time in our day to debate with people over whether change is needed. The question is only how best can we get on with the change? In this sense, we need to ask each other only “who here is prepared to help with this work?” Helpers please step up to the front, nay-sayers and doomsayers please step out of our way.
An inspiring article in April's Canadian Geographic magazine caught our attention this month, “Sun power: How Ontario is jump-starting the solar-energy economy.”
Although arguably the most obvious, perfect and available energy source on this planet, sun power has been so far little championed in a world battling over black gold.
The sun fires enough energy at the Earth in a single hour to satisfy the world's electricity cravings for an entire year.” Read this sentence over a few times and let it sink in.
Luckily many innovative people and companies are committed to bringing solar power to the masses.
Although political support for solar power in Canada has been pathetic at best, pockets of interested citizens and business people have been tirelessly pushing the issue into the mainstream. In 2006 Ontario adopted the “standard offer” as the first jurisdiction in North America to commit to market-based incentives like those that have revolutionized greener parts of Europe.
Grassroots communities are taking the opportunity to capture solar power for their own use and to sell power back to the grid. In some Toronto neighbourhoods, trendy solar panels are cropping up on more and more roofs.
“Spring, a teacher, is banking on solar energy to put his home and his Toronto neighbourhood on a more sustainable footing. On the garage roof, 12 new photovoltaic panels generate a flow of electrons when exposed to the sun. The panels are wired to a gadget the size of a medicine cabinet attached to an inside wall that converts those stimulated electrons into enough electricity to illuminate twenty 100-watt light bulbs. But the energy isn’t being used inside Spring’s home. Rather, the power flows through a cable out to the hydro lines on the street, where it is pooled with the electricity supplied by Toronto Hydro. The gadgetry, though remarkable, is designed to be simple, unobtrusive and green. “It’s self-producing,” he says with a shrug. “No switches to flip, no meters to check.”
The West Toronto Initiative for Solar Energy (WISE) can be an inspiration and starting point for the rest of us. The organizers of WISE reckoned that if they could get enough homeowners using rooftop solar systems, they could use their collective purchasing power to drive down the cost of the equipment and installation. WISE also promised to take care of the technical due diligence, help families arrange financing, obtain energy-efficiency grants and navigate through the red tape of the new standard offer program. “We wanted to make it as seamless as possible” says WSIE founder Jed Goldberg. “In essence it’s a turn-key package.”
The Spring family and others like them earn about $840 a year selling their garage-top power to Toronto Hydro for 42 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). “The return on their $20,000 investment is equivalent to what they'd earn from a savings bond. And the profits are clean.”
More can be learned about these exciting initiatives on CBC.ca “Solar Revolution. Owning your own power.”
And Arise Technologies Corporation one of the companies at the forefront of this equipment.
My readl is that many people today are feeling overwhelmed with helplessness in the ongoing environment and energy dispute. Many people feel that there is no way out but to retreat from the comforts of modern living back into the dark ages. The reality however is much simpler and less onerous than that. Green alternatives like solar power are the next big waive for our future.
And for those who think that green power is a communist plot to undermine free markets. watch this April interview “The free market case for green.”“>”The free market case for green, with T.J. Rogers.”
Lastly, we need to stop buying 100-year old carbon combustion car engines. For the love of Pete! Those of us that can afford to buy better technology must lead the way on this. What about driving a 100% electric car that can recharge in 10 min in your garage (powered off your solar panels), and do 0-60 in 4 seconds? No brainer. These cars are already available, check out the Lightning here and the Tesla here. Sexy, fast, and perfectly green. These technologies are things worth buying with our hard-earned money. We must vote with our money and lobby governments to incent taxpayers towards these super smart, win-win alternatives.

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4 Responses to Solar power: looking to the light

  1. Anonymous says:

    For those of us that can't justify the expense of installing our own solar panels ($20,000 and up!), we can make a contribution to solar power via The Sunpark Challenge – http://www.sunpark.ca . There are thousands of individuals and some of the world's largest corporations contributing to the project.

  2. Anonymous says:

    That looks like a great initiative. Thanks for sharing the link. D

  3. Anonymous says:

    I recently attended a very informing lecture by Dr. Nathan Lewis from Caltech (see http://nsl.caltech.edu/energy.html for hearing an audio version of lecture and to see slides). I wanted to mention it if anyone was interested in learning greater details about the global energy challenge as his talk addresses very objectively the energy consumption and availability of non-renewable energy resources on the planet, of course touching on the critical issue of CO2 accumulation associated with fossil fuel usage.
    He discusses renewable energy resources (wind, tidal, geothermal, solar, etc.) and how much these could each maximally contribute to global energy production. I don't mean to ruin the ending, but he convincingly argues that solar is by far the most abundant renewable energy source available to our planet, as alluded to in this post.
    It's was also nice to learn about strong research efforts being made, such as those by Dr. Lewis, to make solar energy collection technology cheaper and accessible.
    Laura

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the link Laura, I will listen to the lecture. D

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