The Solangelist’s Vision Shines Brighter

The Greenius Plan To Spread Rooftop Solar Faster Then The Common Cold

woody-guthrieIf you’ve followed The Adventures of the Solagnelist thus far you know that I am seriously jonesing to generate all my electricity from my own rooftop solar power.  The only thing stopping me – an even more serious lack of the do-ray-mi.

As the late great Woody Guthrie put it,

California is a garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or see;
But believe it or not, you won’t find it so hot
If you ain’t got the do re mi.

Woody wasn’t kidding and neither am I.  And just like Woody, I’d like to sing you a song about a better way…

teaser1My friends, with greenhouse gas emissions already in the danger zone, we needed to stop burning Killer Coal yesterday.

The quickest and most effective way to make that happen today is to green the current grid, house-by-house, by installing rooftop solar energy systems that feed clean, renewable power into the grid the second they’re switched on.

logo_raise_the_roofThat’s why my Raise the Roof plan is designed to rapidly accelerate the installation of residential roof top solar by emulating the barn raisings of our ancestors, with neighbors helping neighbors get the jobs done, community by community.

Maybe where you live it’s about quickly switching to wind power, or geothermal, or tidal wave energy or some other form of clean energy, but here in Greeniusland, PV solar is the high-speed ticket to carbon freedom.

We’ve got big solar coming and big wind too, but most of those projects are not built yet and neither are the transmission lines to connect them to the grid.  And it’s not going to be easy to get more approved because some old school politicians, like my Senator Dianne Feinstein, are acting like Republicans when it comes to understanding the need and the state of urgency. We cannot afford to wait for them to catch up with reality and we don’t have to.  I’m ready to start right now.

rooftop_arrayNever mind the “Million Roofs” initiative, the Creative Greenius says it’s now time that EVERY ROOF atop every single family and multi-family dwelling in the great state of California that’s already connected to the grid, installs solar.

Don’t stop there, either. All the commercial and government buildings in the state are ready to have their roofs raised too.

All told, that’s only about 90% of all our buildings.  We could get that done in the next 12 months and start making a big difference.  What the hell are we waiting for?

Oh yeah – none of us has any money.  And our homes are worth less now and nobody wants to lend us any more.  And we couldn’t afford another big monthly payment anyway.

Seems like a perfect use for some stimulus money, don’t it?  We’ve already got AB 811 in place to give us low interest loans for solar we can pay off as property tax assessments, but very few cities have the money to fund the program.  It’s not just about “shovel ready” projects, is it?  My roof is a “panel ready” project right now.  I think it’s time for the government to invest in you and me – instead of another risky Wall Street bailout.

Perhaps one of my many readers who work for the City of Torrance or the County of Los Angeles wants to pick that torch up and run with it.  I’m ready to help as soon as I hear from you.  In fact, if I don’t hear from you soon, you’re going to be hearing from me, because we need to kick it up a notch and I’m ready to lead if you are not.

Sure, we can all be fine little energy savers like my wife and I have been – changing out all our light bulbs and lamps to CFLs; replacing all our appliances with energy star models, adding Solatubes to bring in natural light, turning off the computers and power strips every night and making all the other energy saving moves we’ve made.  But that’s only going to get us a very small part of the way there and we’ve got much bigger steps to take.

At my home and office we’ve now got the monthly electric bill down to $75 , which means we’re using 500 kWh of electricity every month.  That’s less than the average single family home.  But only 16% of that power is from renewable energy generation through the power mix Southern California Edison provides.  That means 84% of my electric energy is dirty – no matter how many times I shower or how much soap I use.

solarBut that’s a whole lot better mix than most places.  If I was in the actual city of Los Angeles, a lot more of my electricity would be made from Killer Coal and a lot less from clean, renewables.  That’s because my pals at SCE are burning a cleaner energy mix than the state is overall – and by leaps and bounds better than DWP of Los Angeles City.

Putting it in a policy perspective from my position here on the Lower Left Coast of the Golden State, statewide we’re at almost 13% renewable energy, but our prescient AB 32 mandates call for us to be at 20% in 2010 – which according to my calendar is just 9 months away.

I love AB32 and the necessary slap in the face it brings my fellow California citizens who may not have been paying attention to the climate situation.

But in case no one else has said it, we ain’t going to be generating 20% of our electricity from renewable sources in 9 months – or even in 20 months.  Not on the pace we’re currently on.  So now it feels like my face that’s getting slapped and I’m not digging that in any way.

And if we’re not going to make that deadline then we’re in trouble deep, because just four months ago Governator Schwarzenegger signed Executive Order S-14-08 requiring that California utilities reach a 33% renewables goal by 2020. That’s more like a head butt than a face slap…

Personally I vote for Al Gore’s plan for generating 100% of our nationwide electric from renewable energy as he offered it last summer.  That’s the only plan that makes rational sense in response to the current state of climate change and what’s coming – but it’s going to take Al and me and our friends more work to make that happen, because most people are lizard brains who will only react after the fact when the shit hits the fan.

It’s not going to be much consolation for us to say “I told you so” later on when the rest of the public catches up.  We’ve been waiting for folks to board the Clue Train since Inconvenient Truth in 2005 and it’s an ugly painful process to watch…

In the meantime, it’s already taken us all these years to ramp up to 13% just in California, and now we’ve got to add another 20% more in renewable energy production in the next 10 years.  At the rate we’re going, following the course we’re on it’s not going to happen.  And if it’s not going to happen here in the environmental leader of all the states in the USA, then it’s not going to happen anywhere else in the red, white and blue, is it?

2007 USA electric energy fuel mix

Clearly the Creative Greenius has to take personal responsibility and do something.  Fortunately I am fired up, ready to go!

I was all set to pony up big money ($30K) last summer to have my system installed by one of the top pro outfits in the Los Angeles area, but then came the Not So Great Depression and like millions of my fellow Americans across this still great nation of ours, I had to make other plans.  As in plans for having no do ray mi.

I decided I needed to learn to install my own solar and that the Solar Living Institute was my best bet to begin the process.

0306ht_00z1994_honda_del_solrear_driver_sideAnd so it was, my friends, that I packed up the Greeniusmobile, swung by and picked up the Reverend Ron and headed SouthEast one month ago, to motor out to Riverside county and the fine city of Murrieta, Californa.

The Reverend, being a fellow seeker of solar knowledge and wisdom, joined me on my trek in search of teachings and insights from one of the masters of the solar arts. We had done our homework and knew the guru we must study under was teaching PV 101 and PV 102 in three eight-hour sessions.

So we enrolled and showed up bright and early at 9am for lesson number one.

Scott Carlson instructing our class on a job site

Scott Carlson has been in the business of installing solar energy systems for the last 22 years.  Since 1987 he has installed over 1000 solar systems and has long been considered the pro’s pro.  But with Carlson, it’s not about the quantity.  It’s about the quality and the reputation he’s built.  And as much as he taught us about how solar electricity works and about how to install and wire a solar system he also imparted his ethic of doing every job the right way, and standing by the work you do pretty much forever.  Is it any wonder we loved the guy?

In my next post I’ll share some of what we learned in our three days with Scott Carlson.  It was an intensive, drill-down-deep 24 hours of solar energy education.  I learned a lot and I’ve still got a lot more to learn.

But let me say right here, right now that from a big picture standpoint I learned what I needed to know most – that I can install my own solar energy system.  It’s hard work, and it’s not easy, I can’t do it tomorrow, and I can’t do it myself, but I CAN do it.  And I’m looking forward to doing it.  Every single step of it.

And as soon as I’m done putting a solar system on my house, I’m going to help the friends who helped me, put solar systems on their house.

And then me and those friends are going to help you and your friends put solar on your houses.

And that’s the way we’re going to Raise The Roof and start a roof top solar revolution right here in our own backyard – and then spread it as far and wide as the sun’s rays reach.

2 thoughts on “The Solangelist’s Vision Shines Brighter

  1. Write letters and call Sen Feinstein regarding her obstructing large solar development projects in California’s deserts. I understand the need to protect sensitive ecosystems in the desert, but believe this attitude is short sighted. If climate scientists are right, then the southwest could be in for 1,000 of drought, with our current emissions path. Imagine what that would do to the desert ecosystems.

    I agree with Joseph Romm, at Climate Progress, that solar thermal with heat storage is our most promising renewable energy source with current technology.
    Estimates from NREL, for solar thermal(CSP) potential in California are about 10 times total power generation capacity in California now.
    And that estimate is for land outside environmentally sensitive areas, and only considering land of 1% slope or less. Land with up to 3% slope is suitable, which would greatly increase the potential.

    There’s a good article at Alternative Energy concerning CSP, and showing how the dispatchable power from CSP is actually more useful than the base load power from coal.

    “Why CSP should not try to be Coal”

    I don’t in any way mean to diminish what you are saying about the benefits of PV rooftop and distributed power. We need it all.

    Terrific comment, Richard and I agree you with about Senator Feinstein’s ego-centric drive to keep her own wilderness legacy alive as a bigger priority than fighting climate change. Hopefully sharper brains than hers, from within her staff, will prevail on this critical issue. She’s seeming awfully tired and slow to me these days.

    I like your blog but wish you were blogging more often – as Joe Romm of Climate Progress said to me a while ago.

    And I like solar thermal – big time (pun fully intended). I just know how long it’s going to take to get folks to wise up and start building the amount of it we need. That’s why I’m pushing rooftop solar as a NOW proposition.

    We would have started 8 years ago if the Evil Doers hadn’t put Bush into office to destroy our environment and our economy.

    But don’t get me started on the people who hate America and what they did from 2000 to 2008…

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