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”

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”

Condoizing solar, part 1: getting started

Partial view of the Sierra Heights roofs. The block to the north has four houses with solar panels.

As I stood on the roof of our condo complex on a recent sunny day, I could see the roofs of several blocks to the north and east of our three buildings. We live in one of the sunnier areas in San Francisco, so perhaps it shouldn’t have surprised me to see four roofs with solar panels on one block, three on another, and three on the third. But San Francisco is unusual this way; according to the representative from a Fremont-based solar company who stood with me on the roof, more people in San Francisco than in Fremont choose solar, though Fremont is sunnier. Continue reading “Condoizing solar, part 1: getting started”