Monthly Archives: September 2010

White House solar panels: some historical behind-the-scenes info…

Interesting behind-the-scenes article from Tom Gocze, the person who installed the White House solar panels for Carter admin. He writes weekly for a Bangor Maine newspaper and has a business building huge tanks which can be used for hot water storage from solar or wood burning heating systems.


Huge Solar Hot Water Tanks

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Filed under erik-green, solar

Sudbury Valley School: Let it rain!

Today I was doing carpool pickup for the Stow “Sudbury Valley School Express” as I like to call it. Three kids under 8 to find. Good luck to me! 🙂 Older kids at SVS (and I’ve seen some 5 years olds!) can be trained pretty well to be ready at a certain time and wait at/near the parking lot or barn for their parent pickup, but for many parents of younger kids… we gotta go find ’em (and help them sign-out, if they need/want help).

And sometimes it goes pretty smoothly. Yeah right! If I’m lucky, 2 of them are in the same room and I quickly bump into someone else who has recently seen kid #3. But today I only found #1 quickly, #2 was not in any of the “usual” places, and #3 was last seen in the barn. And darn, it was raining! And once I found #3, now where did #1 go off to! Hilarious! 🙂

Actually, the raining part was pretty fun to be honest. I was in the right mood I guess. And I was wearing appropriate clothing and got to enjoy any number of kids playing joyfully in various degrees of soakingness out in the downpour. Some seemed mostly dry to start, so they had probably made the calculation that it was now OK (at ~3:45pm) to brave the rain since they’d be getting picked up soon and wouldn’t have to spend several hours shivering in wet clothes. But really, if someone gets cold, I can guarantee that warm/dry borrowed clothes would surely be offered up from any number of sources… other kids and staff.

And plenty of kids keeping inside too, of course. Or hanging out on one of the many covered porches — a nice combo of inside and outside for a warm rainy day. And I was lovin’ the piano music pouring out of the open second floor window. Love this place! Who wouldn’t!

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Filed under alternative education, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

The miracle of garbage collection

I’m talking about for computer languages. And I guess I could include any number of miracles, that really makes using many programming languages like PHP as easy as speaking english (at least within the realm of the sorts of web application tasks I often encounter…)

– garbage collection / automatic memory allocation
– flexible typing / conversion / etc
– interpreted languages
– debuggers with stacks, stepping, breakpoints, etc.

Not having to worry about low-level hassles that these things take care of automatically makes things more fun for me. I know that there are others who love doing the above, and actually create those tools and make them better. Thank goodness for people like that. A lot smarter than I!

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contrarian and conflicting green priorities? not really.

1. People sometimes think it’s best to use spray foam and exterior foam to insulate really well. I think there are some cases where that is true, but not necessarily. It’s not only that it is more expensive, but also in many cases I don’t think it is good building science/physics/durability. Hence, not green. (link to old post) Generally I think cellulose is the way to go.

2. Sometimes it seems like using particleboard vs plywood is better or TJIs (wood i-joists) vs dimensional lumber (2x8s, 2x10s) are better. Smaller trees but more glue. But here’s a great article about that too. Again, local economy, susceptibility to mold, plus building practices don’t make it a no-brainer.

The basic advice I have is… when in doubt, go for local and the more labor intensive option. Better to put people to work than spend $$ on more expensive products. And when still in doubt, ask your Q at the Q&A section at Great info and great out-of-the-box green thinking happening over there!

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Filed under contrarian, erik-green

Put solar back on the white house? No brainer!

“It’s been almost a generation since solar panels President Carter installed on the White House roof were removed during renovations. Now, a group of climate activists armed with one of the original panels are on a road trip to the White House to get President Obama to put them back up.”

article here…

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“Want to end dependence on gasoline, forever? We’ll need to replace most cars and light trucks with electric vehicles (EVs). It’s doable, but not with today’s electric power grid.

Here’s the math: The United States burns 138 billion gallons of gasoline annually. The existing fleet of cars and light trucks averages about 25 miles per U.S. gallon, which translates to 3.5 trillion miles of driving.

With today’s technology, small electric cars and delivery vans get about 3.5 miles per kilowatt-hour. To do 3.5 trillion miles, we’d need to use about 1,000 terawatt-hours of electric energy (a terawatt is a trillion watts). Today’s U.S. power grid sells about 4,200 terawatt-hours annually, so to meet the need we’d have to boost electricity production by about 25 percent.

However, driving an electric car 50 miles costs less than 15 kilowatt-hours, and that can be generated daily with a 2.6-kilowatt (kW) photovoltaic array costing, at today’s prices and incentives, about $9,000. (That’s 2.6 kW times $5 per watt, less the 30 percent federal tax credit. It costs less in competitive markets and states with good local incentives.) Think of getting a lifetime supply of gasoline for $9,000. With 15 kilowatt-hours a day, you could drive a car 19,000 miles a year. The system will pay for itself in three or four years in saved gasoline. After that, you drive the car, and every subsequent EV you may own, for the cost of insurance, tires and wiper fluid.

Americans own more than 250 million passenger vehicles, an appalling number for a population of 300 million. We have about 100 million households. Assuming two cars per household, a gasoline-free future is possible, providing each household has access to the equivalent of 5 kW of solar or wind power, either on site or located remotely. Double that distributed power source, and most household electric needs are covered, too.

Under this scheme, does it make sense to package solar modules with new electric vehicle sales? You bet it does.

–Seth Masia, Solar Today, Sept/Oct 2010, page 18

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Massachusetts solar is hot!

You might think that solar energy is not for Massachusetts or New England. You’d be wrong! Even though the sun is not as strong here as in other parts of the country, the electricity (and other energy) prices here are quite high, so that makes solar quite a good deal. And this is even before considering tax credits and SRECs. Depending on how quickly you think energy will increase in price, the dollar payback can be quite quick on a PV system.

And if you are a DIYer, I suggest you check out and the SolarHeat discussion group. Lots of amazing info and people to ask questions of.

So… go solar! And for local inspiration in Massachusetts, go visit someone who already has solar electricity (photovoltaics), solar thermal heating, or solar hot water heating. A good way to find such people is the NESEA green buildings tour list. CLICK HERE

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Filed under erik-green, solar