Enviros shoot themselves in the foot

Wednesday, Oct. 31 was a perfect fall day for a walk around Longmont’s scenic Lake MacIntosh trail.

But what did I encounter on the far east end of the trail near the Harvard St. power station?

A 40-foot stretch of anti-fracking graffiti drawn on the path with the words… “Wake up and smell the…benze”, plus a ban fracking symbol. Continue reading…

Baum Council ahead of green extremism

Admin noteAs we watch the fantasies of green activists being increasingly exposed, many Longmonters are noting the foresight of the present City Council in stopping these distorted programs before they were to wreak further economic damage on our city. We’ve already covered solar rebates in this blog; today, a guest contributor reminds us of the failed DaVinci Quest…   Continue reading…

Council got it right on halting solar rebates

There was an interesting bit of national news this week regarding a failure in prodigious government support for solar companies and green energy programs. Quoting from a Washington Times editorial

“President Obama made a high-profile visit in May 2010 to Solyndra Inc., a solar-panel manufacturing plant in Fremont, Calif. The company received $535 million in loans from the Energy Department and was a centerpiece of the Obama administration’s economic stimulus effort. “Companies like Solyndra are leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future,” Mr. Obama chirped. On Wednesday (8-31-11), Solyndra closed its corporate headquarters, announced that it’s filing for bankruptcy and laying off 1,100 workers.”

Relating the issue to Longmont, it reveals a smart decision in early 2010 by Mayor Baum and the newly elected conservative majority on City Council to put the brakes on city solar subsidies to homeowners at taxpayers expense. Continue reading…

Cooling off a solar flare-up

Longmont had an Open Forum in council chambers back on January 12, 2010.  One of the more interesting moments came when a heated exchange occurred between Mayor Baum and Steve King, a solar installer.  Since that time, the usual merry band of screwballs that often parade in front of council with some of the most hair brained statements decided they were going to take Mayor Baum to task for how he treated Mr. King.  They’ve also made similar statements in the TC Line and on some websites.

At the January 19th meeting during a Study Session it was a packed house and as expected they demanded Mayor Baum apologize to Mr. King and the residents of the city.  At one point, Mayor Pro-Tem Gabe Santos had to tell one of them to basically put a much needed sock in it.  You can see the others on the video at the city’s website and witness their feigned outrage.  Oh, the humanity! Continue reading…

We all shine on(?)

In the August 14 Times-Call there was an article titled “Let it shine” about the recently installed solar power system at the Boulder County Courthouse. This is the photovoltaic variety that turns sunlight into electricity, not the kind used for hot water heaters that heats up a fluid that in turn heats the tank. I’ve looked into both types and found them fairly expensive and would lead to a lot of panels on my roof. Something I’m sure my homeowners association would look sideways at.

This system in Boulder cost $83,500 for 46 panels, that’s a lot of panels, but that’s not really a bad price. The article said this array could provide power for 5 2,000 square foot homes. Well, that seems like a stretch. Extrapolating what they paid, that means I could power my home for $16,700, from my own past research I can tell you that number is a little low. No, a lot low. Triple it and you’re getting warm.

The possibility of a backwards running electrical meter is enticing, but the payback usually takes several years. To make it a little more bearable, Xcel Energy provides rebates for up to half of the cost, that’s huge. Ahh, but here’s the rub: If you live in Longmont, forget about that rebate. When looking into this I spoke to both Xcel and Longmont Power, they both verified Longmont residents who get power from Longmont Power are not eligible for this great deal. Yet the City of Boulder is?

I think what Boulder did was great with a pretty sweet incentive from Xcel. I hope this, and the Times-Call article, bring attention to this policy in Longmont and the city makes this energy saving technology more attractive to its residents. Now, are these two companies who installed this (Namaste Solar and Independent Power Systems) going to match that price (extrapolated of course for home size) for us non-government entities?

Blinded By The Light, Pt 2

In Part 1, I spoke of how conserving energy is all well and good, but that some solutions (compact fluorescents, or CFL’s) could be a cure worse than the disease. In this part I’ll speak to some of my own research and experiences.

For lighting, obviously the cheapest and most environmental would be sunlight. Raw sunlight has its limitations though. Harnessing sunlight for lighting, heating, and electricity is far from cheap. I’ve looked into each of these options, and so far have only gone with the lighting option, a Solatube. For those that are unfamiliar, it’s basically a skylight with a directional tube that you pipe right into your ceiling into a fixture that sort of looks like a light. It puts out a pretty decent light, especially in rooms that have no windows, like interior bathrooms or closets. Even on overcast winter days it does a good job. It’s brought in moonlight on occasion, too. These are not cheap though, and the federal tax credit barely makes a dent.

I could write an entire story on solar electricity production for home use, but there’s plenty of it out there on the net to peruse. While I see it as a very attractive alternative, until the prices come down and incentives and rebates go up, it’s not reasonable for most people. The only other solar option is solar-cell rechargeable lights, mostly the outdoor lighting variety. They seem to be improving to the point of actually being useful, and prices have come down, making them a good choice, but not for indoor use, yet.

LED (light emitting diode) lighting is an up and coming technology for home use. I’d like to give this more of a try as I like the long life, low heat, and low energy properties of them. But the bulbs are hard to find (typical light bulb replacements), even on the internet, and nearly impossible to find at home improvement stores. Many bulbs have so few LED’s that they don’t come close to their incandescent or CFL equivalent. The ones that do are very expensive, and not all are dimmable. Since they are newer and still sort of a specialty item, they still have a way to go before they become practical. About the only useful LED’s you see now are in flashlights and nightlights. The latter is a good option for its low heat and energy use.

I have a mix of all of the above, including a couple CFL’s. But what works best for me is the combination of incandescents, dimmers, and home automation. Depending on which chart or numbers you look at, incremental percentages of dimming saves around the same percentage (or more) of heat and electricity usage, and extends bulb life by multiples of that percentage. For instance, dimming just 10% doubles the life of the average bulb. With aggressive use of programmable dimmers, I’ve steadily watched my kilowatt usage decline. These dimmers are tied together like a home network through a “powerline” interface, there are a few competing technologies out there to choose from.

Typically, especially in rooms that kids leave lights on needlessly, I can program the dimmer to only come on at 75% when the switch is turned on. Nearly all of the time no one notices and it’s plenty of light. If that extra light is needed it’s only another click away, but it never is. You can get real creative with motion sensors for those particular lights that seem to stay on no matter what you do, once again usually involving kids. For those lights (basement, garage, backyard, etc) that occasionally get left on all night that serve no purpose, you can program it so an OFF message is sent out to them at a certain time. For you gadget freaks, this is some fun stuff, the possibilities are endless, and there’s real energy savings in it as well.

My solution is a combination of many technologies that so far has led to lower electricity use and monthly bills. There is no one right way for everyone, and no government entity should force what they consider the best, or only, way to do it on anyone. There has been too much warm carbon dioxide coming out of too many peoples mouths over how you will do this or that when it comes to energy issues. “Our way or the highway” is not a solution.