April 6, 2007 – Volume 10, Issue 23
I N · T H I S · I S S U E


Our Solar Story
Well it’s our turn to walk the talk.

Sure we have efficient lighting and Energy Star appliances at home, we carefully control our high-e AC system, and we have a Prius and composter. So now Terry and I are installing photovoltaics. It’s time to tap the near-ever-present Southern California sun and to prove that we can get a good return on investment while generating our own green power.

We’re taking full advantage of Glendale Water and Power’s $4.00/AC watt rebate, the Federal $2,000 tax credit, and rolling the system cost into our home refinance at just over 5%. Sound pretty cool? We think so. In fact, we’re so excited that we’ve invited dozens of friends, family, and co-workers to our PV installation party!

This begins a short series on our solar story. We start with three bids. After all, this is a $15,000 – 25,000 investment.

The first company’s salesman reviewed our electric bills for the past year, then popped open his laptop, and spit out an impressive report on the spot with three system scenarios. (He just peered at the roof from the back yard.) The second sent a colorful salesman who gave us his full and very interesting solar rapp and then happily bound up onto the roof with compass and measuring device. The third company elected to come over when we were not home.

Each company had a different approach for the panels (their racking and configuration), size of system (2 – 4 kW), and make-up of system. Each professed different gross and net costs, paybacks, and returns. We built our own spreadsheet but had trouble getting an accurate comparison of cost and value.

After a month from first visit until our questions were answered, we took the plunge! Our system will offset about 80% of our power use (and more if we conserve), will bear a gross cost of about $24,000, and a net cost of about $11,000.

And then you’ll never guess what happened. The salesman came over as scheduled to collect signatures and a $1,000 deposit. We had glasses of celebratory wine poured (several notches up in quality from our regular), the checkbook out, the pen literally in hand, and then and only then were we told that our system would cost $900 more than estimated. “Sorry, I made a mistake on the racking system,” was all we heard.

“Excuse me?”


Solarbuzz has produced a new market share report that finds that worldwide photovoltaic (PV) installations totaled 1,744 megawatts in 2006, a new record and 19% over 2005.

The United States installed 8% of global installations (140 MW), while Germany led the world market with 960 MW of installations, fully 55% of the world's total PV installations.

To supply the market, global production of solar cells reached 2,204 MW in 2006, a growth of 33% over PV production in 2005, while the production of polysilicon—a critical ingredient for silicon solar cells—increased by 16%.


Not to be outdone by California, Australia, and the European Union having banned incandescents, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom wants to ban T-12 tubular fluorescent lighting from all of the City's commercial buildings.

The City Attorney is currently drafting legislation that would force energy-efficient T-8 florescent tubes into buildings, ousting the older (and thicker) T-12 tubes that were once standard.

Many businesses and buildings have already made the switch to T-8s. But according to the U.S. Department of Energy, the energy saved by converting San Francisco's remaining T-12 lights to T-8s could power more than 7,000 residences, the equivalent of taking 3,000 cars off the road.

In a statement, the Mayor's Office said it would employ "every option the City has legally at hand to get inefficient fluorescent lights out of buildings and businesses throughout San Francisco, both new and existing." San Francisco's Energy Watch program will provide subsidies to help medium and small business with the transition.

“I always enjoy reading your emails and learning. Happy Easter.”
Joan Corman, Artist, Laguna Beach

Reader Responses: Incandescent Disposal

Question: So what the heck do you do with your operable, but now obsolete, incandescent lamps?

And our members respond:

“I guess you just throw them away.”

“Smash them and trash them.”

“I have no idea.”

“I don’t know. You tell me.”

“Put them in a bag in the basement.”

“Rummage, I guess.”

Several readers asked, “Can you recycle them?”

One noted that, “The real issue is disposal of CFLs. There needs to be a simple way for people to do the right thing.”

And then we got some fun responses!

“Send them to China so as to justify their, what, 50 GW coal-fired plant construction.”

“Use them as radiant heaters under your desk. “

“Replace fire walking with A-lamp barefoot walks.”

“Drop a load from the Space Shuttle at night.”

“Save them! Think how much they'll be worth on the black market when California bans them.”

The Green IndyCar Series

Great news from the world of auto racing! The Indy Racing League’s IndyCar® Series has partnered with the ethanol industry to promote “green racing,” including the Indianapolis 500.

The league explains that ethanol “reduces harmful air pollution and improves racing’s environmental footprint.”

One driver commented that, "We should be getting our fuel from the Midwest, not the Middle East." Another comment, “We are proud to partner with the ethanol industry to showcase a great American fuel source.”

Indy driver Danica Patrick (photo) noted that, "We really all need to do something about this Earth and about the world and take better care of it, so I'm glad were going with ethanol."

For the 2007 racing season, IndyCars are using 100% fuel-grade ethanol. And far from sacrifice, race car engines operating on ethanol have demonstrated excellent performance due to the fuel’s high octane content.

President Bush has called for the country to cut its gasoline consumption by 20% over the next decade and says ethanol will play a big part in that. Ethanol is a clear liquid produced from crops such as corn, grain sorghum, wheat, sugar and other agricultural feedstocks. "I'd rather be paying American farmers than people overseas for the energy that fuels this economy," stated the President.

To meet his goals, however, the country needs about 35 billion gallons of ethanol each year. Right now, the U.S. produces just 5 billion gallons, and to do so requires a fifth of the entire corn crop.

The Cambridge Energy Alliance

“Cities are the answer,” claims Doug Foy, a founder of the new, non-profit Cambridge Energy Alliance.

Funded by the Henry P. Kendall Foundation and the City of Cambridge (Massachusetts), the Alliance is an innovative, largely privately-funded approach to cut electricity, natural gas, oil, gasoline, diesel fuel, and water use in Cambridge. In terms of greenhouse gases, the Alliance seeks to cut 150,000 tons of carbon dioxide by 10% by 2011.

Foy claims that the Alliance represents the “most aggressive energy efficiency program ever developed by a U.S. city.” Working in close collaboration with the local utility, NSTAR, the $100 million, 5-year program is intended to save 164 million kilowatt-hours annually (a 10% reduction), while cutting 50 MW of peak demand (a 15% negawatt contribution). "

In most cases, new energy efficiency devices -- from refrigerators to air conditioning systems -- will be paid for by the project's financing, with future energy savings funneled back into the fund. No upfront costs will be required for energy-saving devices and the program won't use Cambridge or state tax dollars.

Sound good? Yes, according to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. He’s so fired up about the program that he’s allocated $2 million to help other cities follow suit. "The solution to our energy crisis is not just conservation, but innovation," Patrick said.

The Spanish Wind Milestone

Wind has certainly come of age in Spain. This past week, during a “particularly gusty period,” Spain's wind energy generators were the country’s number one source of power.

At the height of production, wind delivered 27% of Spain’s power requirement, contributing 8,375 MW to the total national demand of 31,033 MW. Nuclear power came in second, contributing 6,797 MW with coal third with 5,081 MW.

The news was reported by the nation's electricity network authority, Red Electrica. Last year wind power contributed 9% of the nation's total power requirement.

U.S. Solar Highlights

* The Colorado Public Utilities Commission approved an 8 MW PV installation, which SunE Alamosa1, LLC will construct in Alamosa before year's end.

* The Nevada PUC approved a 20-year contract between Nevada Power Company and Solar Star NAFB for an 18 MW PV installation at Nellis Air Force Base.

* The Nevada PUC also approved 562 applications for customer-sited PV installations that will qualify for the state's SolarGenerations program.

* Chevron Energy Solutions has begun building a 1 MW PV system at California State University, Fresno.

* Southern California Gas recently presented a $3.4 million incentive check to Peninsula Packaging for installing a 1 MW PV system at its facility in Exeter.

* The City of San Diego has unveiled a 1 MW PV system at its Alvarado Water Treatment Plant.

* SPG Solar, Inc. announced the completion of an 827 kW PV system at Western Wine Services in Napa Valley and a 500 kW PV system for the Sonoma County Water Agency.

* The San Francisco Giants, in partnership with Pacific Gas & Electric, are installing 590 solar panels at AT&T Park to provide 120 kW of green energy. (A new scoreboard will use 78% less energy than the old scoreboard.)

* This past week, Santa Monica dedicated what is expected to be the first LEED-certified parking structure. The four-story structure has nearly a thousand parking spaces and a 181 kW that features translucent Schott panels.

Sydney’s “Earth Hour”

On March 31st, from 7:30 – 8:30 PM, approximately two million citizens in Sydney, Australia – as well as the City itself and many prominent business and institutions – cut power consumption by 10.2% in a gesture to show commitment to reducing global warming.

The result was double what had been expected by its organizers.

The City of Sydney cut power consumption in 283 buildings, notably Opera House, banks participated, and 90 McDonalds extinguished their golden arches. (Essential lights - like aircraft beacons – remained on.) According to Energy Australia, “Sydneysiders” reduced power consumption from 228,180 kWh to 204,900 kWh during the hour. Of those polled, 53% turned off lights, 25% turned off computers, and 17% turned off their TVs.

"Earth Hour is an awareness program," wrote Philip McLean, Executive Editor of co-organizer Fairfax Media. "It aims to educate the community about the simple measures that can be taken to curb greenhouse gas emissions," he wrote.

World Wildlife Fund claims that if businesses turned off lights, computers, photocopiers and unused appliances, Sydney can reach the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 5% over the next 12 months. For more information about the project, go to www.earthhour.org.

Fuel Cell-Powered Airplane

Boeing and its European partners are preparing for experimental flight tests of a manned airplane powered by a fuel cell and lightweight, lithium-ion batteries. The Fuel Cell Demonstrator Airplane research project was started in 2003. Now the test aircraft is undergoing final checks prior to flight testing.

The so-called “Demonstrator” drives its propeller with an electric motor which is powered by the combination of a hydrogen fuel cell and a battery pack. The fuel cell can power the plane while cruising, but the extra power of the battery pack is needed for takeoff and climbing.