Streamline - Summer 2013 - (Page 40)

Solar Power: Snug and Smug with Keeping on the Sunny Side of the Storms BY CHRIS BOLGIANO, FOR BAY JOURNAL NEWS SERVICE Producing your own power is true independence, but all power has its limits. All around me, millions of people are losing electric power as trees and other inappropriate objects crash down on power lines. It doesn’t matter anymore what storm it is. At least three recent storms of apocalyptic dimensions have slammed into the East Coast, and more record-breaking ferocity is being predicted. Traffic lights don’t work. Stores can’t process credit/debit cards. Gas stations can’t pump gas. Roads are blocked and relief supplies can’t get through. Favorite TV reality shows go unwatched as the real world intrudes. So hATE ME. But we don’t miss a show, the husband and I, although in actual fact we usually watch old movies on DVDs as storms thump outside. During the searing heat after last June’s notorious wind that caused power outages for weeks, we sat in the breeze of our little fan. During the various winter blizzards that loaded lines with snow and ice, we sat in the warmth of our gas furnace. And not even Superstorm Sandy turned off our TV. Instead, time after time, for a few hours to several days as the entire region was paralyzed, the husband and I simply went about our business mostly – an important caveat – as usual. Powered by 17 grid-connected solar panels on the roof and 40 S T R E A M L I N E • S u m m e r 2 0 1 3 eight sealed lead-acid batteries in the basement that instantaneously take over when the grid goes down, we watched news, listened to radio, took a quick shower and read in bed, to the hum of the refrigerator/freezer. Solar panel costs have plunged by 80 percent in the past five years. What the industry calls the “soft costs” of installing and connecting photovoltaic panels has dropped roughly 30 percent since 1998, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. A 30 percent federal tax credit applies until 2016, and some states offer additional tax incentives. When Walmart goes solar, you know it’s cheap; the world’s biggest box store now boasts the country’s biggest business capacity at 65,000 kilowatts, with Costco second and Kohl’s Department Stores third. Maybe such stores can serve as emergency shelters in future storms, using solar electricity to provide drinking water, food and ways to cook it, sanitary disposal of wastes, shelter against extremes of weather, and lots of toys to keep dangerous boredom at bay. They could provide a form of community security unique to our consumerist era. But I prefer a less centralized approach better suited to the American spirit of independence. Thousands of panels in suburbs and exurbs, neighborhoods and communities, on urban condos and office buildings, farms and businesses, schools and hospitals, retirement homes, community centers, gas stations and quick stops,

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Streamline - Summer 2013

From the President
From the Executive Director
Generators – Learning from the Past
Does the End Justify the Means?
Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet!
How is Serving on a Board of an Organization like Owning a Car?
Monitoring Master Meters
2013 Conference Highlights
OilClean from EcoSolutions Naturally Separates Oil from Water
Choosing a Rate Analyst
Ergs, Joules and Other Stuff
Snug and Smug with Solar Power
Fresh Faces: Joey Fagan
Wastewater Math
Throwing My Loop
eLearning Benefits
Membership Application
Do You Know What Your VRWA Benefits Are?
VRWA Mailbag
Welcome New Members
Training Calendar
Board of Directors
VRWA Committees
Index to Advertisers/

Streamline - Summer 2013