The power of community

This post originally appeared on The Energy Collective.

You may or may not have noticed, but a grassroots movement in community power is picking up speed around the country. What’s community power, you may ask, and why does it matter?

The community power movement aims to decentralize electricity generation, which provides benefits to communities beyond local, clean, and more affordable energy — though those benefits would be enough. Take the case of solar power. Solar is getting cheaper, and given the costs of coal and nuclear plants, it will at some point become cheaper than other options. But who will benefit? Organizations promoting community power want to ensure that the answer to that is the people who need the power, rather than big companies outside their communities. In addition, keeping power production local creates jobs locally, avoids destroying delicate habitats, and bypasses the need for inefficient transmission lines, which can take many years to put in place.

Continue reading “The power of community”

Adobe volunteer day with GRID Alternatives

Romulo (volunteer team lead), Tim, David, Jeff, Rosana, Jay, Cheryl, Peter, Janice, Rahul, Liz, Ed (volunteer team lead), and, squatting, our group leader, Dave. It was a cold day, so I wore my hard hat over my wool cap.

Last Saturday, a group of Adobe employees, including myself (plus one person’s brother and another’s friend), rose early to brave the San Francisco fog. Why would we do such a thing? Naturally, to install solar panels for a low-income family! This was made possible by Adobe’s corporate sponsorship of GRID Alternatives, a local nonprofit whose aim is to empower communities in need by providing renewable energy and energy efficiency services, equipment, and training. Continue reading “Adobe volunteer day with GRID Alternatives”

California hopes to speed the transition to clean energy

Panama Bartholemy and Stephanie Wang at the San Francisco Green Festival

This post was originally published on The Energy Collective.

Those of us who live in California often have occasion to feel proud of our state’s leadership in the area of clean energy. The spring 2011  San Francisco Green Festival provided another such opportunity at the session on “Accelerating the Transition to Clean Energy,” with speakers Panama Bartholemy of the CA Energy Commission and Stephanie Wang from the Clean Coalition. Continue reading “California hopes to speed the transition to clean energy”

Condoizing solar, part 4: options for condos

As part of my research on getting a solar PV system for my San Francisco condo complex, I thought I’d look around and see what other condos have done. (I’m especially interested in condos that share roof space, which presents extra challenges.) With the whole Internet at my disposal, I expected to encounter the usual information overload. Instead, I found that very few condos have managed to go solar. Continue reading “Condoizing solar, part 4: options for condos”

GRID Alternatives: A Green Building Super Hero

On Friday night I was lucky to be able to attend the Green Building Super Heroes Awards Gala, sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council. You can read more details about it on my EcoTuesday post. For me, the highlight of the evening was when GRID Alternatives won the award for Outstanding Community Organization. A little over half a year ago, I hadn’t heard of GRID. Their co-founder, Erica Mackie, spoke at an EcoTuesday evening I attended last spring, and it was her description of what they do that led me to participate in their annual Solarthon in July.

Continue reading “GRID Alternatives: A Green Building Super Hero”

White House going solar

The White House is finally installing solar panels! President Carter put panels on the White House in 1979—but like many of the positive changes Carter made, this one was reversed by Ronald Reagan, who had the panels removed. The Obama administration may prefer to avoid comparisons with Carter, but let’s hope any negative connotations are overridden by the positive aspects of this symbolic gesture. By promoting solar power and other types of renewable energy, Obama can help create jobs, protect the environment, and decrease our dependence on foreign oil—all in one blow! A true strategic initiative. Continue reading “White House going solar”

GRID Alternatives Solarthon: a mega-strategic initiative

You may know from my post on hiking that I value the idea of a strategic initiative, taking one action that affects many areas at once. George Lakoff, in Don’t Think of an Elephant, notes that focusing on alternative energy is a powerful strategic initiative, because it affects not just energy and sustainability but a host of other areas, such as jobs, health, the environment, foreign policy, developing countries, and more. This is a major reason I’m drawn to alternative energy; it gives a lot of bang for the buck, and it deals with the most urgent issues facing humanity today. Continue reading “GRID Alternatives Solarthon: a mega-strategic initiative”

Condoizing solar, part 3: patience required

As I noted in previous entries, getting a solar system for my condo complex will be a long process. I’ve had representatives from four solar companies assess our site, and they all said we have enough roof space for a system that would provide energy for the common electricity—on which we spend about $2000 a month. Three of the companies have submitted preliminary proposals for systems that would cost between $74,000 and $450,000, before incentives and rebates. We’ll have to decide how big we want our system to be and what we can afford. Continue reading “Condoizing solar, part 3: patience required”

Condoizing solar, part 2: off the grid

Last week I attended a “solar mixer” hosted by 1 Block Off the Grid (1BOG), a community-based program that helps people buy solar panels. By negotiating group discounts, they lower costs—and perhaps even more valuable is their help in sorting out all the confusing details that homeowners face when they attempt to go solar. They even help people deal with net metering, which allows you to feed power you generate back to PG&E when you’re not using it and then get it back at no charge when you need it. (That’s right, 1BOG is not technically about being off the grid, since that would require batteries—but you get the idea.) Continue reading “Condoizing solar, part 2: off the grid”

Sustainable camping

Solar panels at Cache Creek campground

When we made plans to go camping this weekend, the only solar power we expected to find was the direct rays of the sun. As it turned out, we stayed at California’s first solar-powered campground, at Cache Creek in Yolo County. An easy drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, this region feels more remote than it is. The climate is certainly different from what we’re used to, with summer temperatures as high as 115F (it was only in the 90s this weekend, downright cool!). And the demographic is different, too; while some urban residents make it to this area, most of the clientele seems to be from the more immediate vicinity. You can expect to hear heavy metal blaring into the evening, accompanied by more yelping than I’ve heard in a long time. Glass containers are forbidden on the beach by the creek, but you’ll run across some abandoned beer bottles. And you won’t fit in with the majority of the crowd if you don’t smoke or have at least a few tattoos. So it’s not what you’d picture as a hotbed of sustainability—which just goes to show that our preconceived notions can easily be misguided. Continue reading “Sustainable camping”