Can the Little People (ie, US) Beat Xcel Energy in Boulder? These People Say YES


Xcel Energy, the people who started up the Colorado solar-to-home movement only to withdraw from it quicker than John Wayne Bobbitt lost his wang, are back at the douchebaggery again.  This time, a group of very smart and very environmentally conscious people called New Era Colorado is putting the kibosh on their plans for coal-fired world domination.  Check this out:

From the video page:

This is a grassroots David and Goliath campaign to create a landmark model for how communities can take control of their energy future: can support this effort on Indiegogo:

This is pretty great.  These folks are simply trying to stop the mass amounts of money from flowing into the pockets of the “we don’t give a shit” power brokers and back into the hands of the community, and to save the Earth one city at a time.  Can you imagine what would happen if this works?  I for one would love to see solar panels and wind turbines out en masse instead of coal fired plants spewing black death into the atmosphere.  But, that’s just me.  I’m sure the Xcel Energy executives need their Mercedes and homes in the Hamptons, too.  Right?

Check out the Campaign for Local Power’s IndieGogo campaign.  Feeling frisky?  Donate ten bucks, you’ll literally change the world.

From the IndieGogo campaign website:

Back in 2011, our community did something no other community had ever done before: we voted to explore taking control of our power supply for the sole purpose of lowering our impact on the planet. Xcel Energy spent nearly $1 million dollars on that election, but lost–because a committed group of community advocates and a small nonprofit that engages young people in politics won the day. Outspent 10-to-1, the grassroots coalition registered voters, knocked on doors, and made thousands of phone calls.

With voter approval, the city launched an extensive analysis and found that it could get cleaner, cheaper power that was just as reliable all on its own.

But now, Xcel is back, with a misleading initiative they’ve helped place on Boulder’s fall ballot that would stop the city’s formation of a local electric utility dead in its tracks. Their ballot measure is masquerading as a way to reduce government debt, but it’s really just a dirty trick–the measure includes impossible, even illegal, requirements that would stall out the very process voters already approved.

They’re back to undermine our local process, because the city’s findings made it clear that they stand to lose more than the $35 million dollars in profits they make annually from Boulder. They know that Boulder is on the verge of setting a precedent of national significance that would threaten not just Xcel, but the very core of the coal energy’s business model–not to mention that industry’s billions of dollars in profits.

We out-organized them in 2011, and we know we can again in 2013 if we have the resources to achieve the reach we need. Boulder has already voted to move forward–this fight is about keeping the coal industry from holding us back.

Can you help these smart people defeat the coal giant in the region?  Like New Era Colorado on Facebook, I’m sure they’d appreciate it.  Xcel Energy will not.

20 Really Awesome Facts about Solar Power


I love discovering new facts about pretty much anything.  Any day I can learn something is an awesome day.  Any day I can learn something new about light, it’s an even better day!

Here’s 20 Really Awesome Facts about Solar Power!

  1. The first working, practical, usable solar cell was created by Bell Laboratories in 1954.  It only produced 1 Watt of energy for $250/Watt.  Now that’s Cost INeffective!
  2. Photovoltaic (PV) cells made from the silicon in 1 ton of sand can produce as much electricity as burning 500,000 tons of coal in a power plant.  Why are we burning coal again?
  3. Light that comes from the Sun takes approximately 8 minutes and 20 seconds to hit the Earth.  How’s that for light speed?  Wacka wacka!
  4. In the state of California, if we covered every available commercial and industrial roof with solar power panels, ALL of California’s electricity demand could be generated during the daytime, forever.
  5. A few hundred years ago while traveling to Africa, a scientist named John Herschel created a cooker using the Sun to cook food, inventing the first Solar Cooker.
  6. The first traceable use of the Sun as a tool was back in 700 BC, when people learned how to concentrate the Sun’s rays with the use of a magnifying glass of sorts.  As a kid I always felt terrible about the thought of burning ants, which is probably why I never joined the Military!
  7. In 1981, a man named Paul Macready produced the first solar powered plane — Paul’s plane used more than 1600 solar cells mounted on its wings.  Paul Macready flew from France to England.
  8. 2012 was an unbelievable year for massive solar collection plants.  The largest solar energy plant is the Golmud Solar Park in China, with an installed capacity of 200 megawatts.  Arguably, this is surpassed by India’s Gujarat Solar Park, a collection of solar farms scattered around the Gujarat region with a combined installed capacity of 605 megawatts.
  9. There are two types of Solar Panels for use in commercial and residential applications — Photovoltaic panels and Solar Thermal panels.  PV panels work by converting the Sun’s rays to electricity, and Solar Thermal panels work by absorbing the Sun’s heat energy to warm up water by circulating the water through it.
  10. Solar collection on its own is a carbon neutral, pollution-free method of collecting and generating energy.  The only carbon creating part of solar power is the manufacture of Solar Panels and the accessories that go into building a solar panel system.
  11. In one hour, the Sun provides more energy to Earth than the whole world uses all year.  Approximately 120,000 terawatts (TW) hit the Earth’s surface each day.  Over the course of a year, the world only uses 15 TW of energy.
  12. The diameter of our Sun is 1,392,000 kilometers across while Earth is just 12,756 kilometers across.  Earth is 109 times smaller than our Sun, and our Sun can hold over a million Earths (that is if we didn’t become like the bits at the bottom of the pan of bacon before we got all of the one million in there).
  13. In only 20 days, the Sun could match the power of all of the world’s resource stockpiles of oil, coal, and natural gas.  Why are we ruining our world with crap energy sources again?
  14. Regardless of the completely negative and destructive effects of continuous usage of oil, coal, and natural gas in the world’s countries, human civilization is very slow to adopt Solar Power to replace even one of the non-renewable energy sources.  As of September 2012, only 0.05% of the world’s power comes from Solar sources.  Doesn’t that disgust you?
  15. Of all the Solar energy that strikes Earth, only 50% is absorbed by Earth while 30% of it is reflected back into space.
  16. To date, the most efficiency that solar power manufacturers can reach is barely 47.12%.  So for all of the sunlight that burns down onto a solar panel, at best there will only be around 40% converted.  This is also a best-case scenario, and the actual percentage is considerably lower based on many factors.  Typically, efficacy of Solar panel technology is around 15%.
  17. Production of 1 kilowatt of solar energy is equivalent to burning 170 pounds of coal which releases 300 pounds of carbon dioxide.  This is comparable to preventing 15 gallons of gas from ever being used!
  18. If you cover 10,000 square miles of land in the Southwest United States, it would generate enough power to meet the energy needs of the entire country!  To silence the anti-Solar power whiners on the Internet, the US has strip-mined at least that amount for coal.  No wonder the environment is slipping.
  19. As of October 2012, Germany is using Solar power with the most fervor, followed by China.
  20. The real kicker — all current fossil fuels are just stored versions of Solar energy!

Have a great day, everyone!

solar power tower

Thanks to Going Green, All Purpose Guru, Wikipedia on John Herschel, Solar Gadgets, USDoE, Explore Green Tech, St. Gobain Solar, Green Building, Renewable Power News, and International Energy Association!

Hot, Steamy, Sexy Solar Power – ALL NIGHT LONG!

Doesn’t that just sound like the biggest nerd pr0n video of all time?!

I just saw an article over at about a solar power plant in Spain that is using reflected solar thermal power to heat salts that stay molten for a long time, and then using that heat during the evening hours to maintain a constant stream of collected energy to electricity for customer demand.  The idea of using hundreds of heliostats to focus daytime sun onto essentially a bucket of something to collect solar energy is not new, we’ve been doing it for a long time.  It’s always interesting, however, exactly what stories get peoples’ attention.  I’m always grateful whenever cool tech makes regular news.

PS, a heliostat is the combination of a very, very specular mirror of the planar variety (usually) that is attached to something that makes it continually point so that it is focusing its reflected beam of light onto a target.  When you put several hundred of these things together in a field shining at something like they use in solar thermal collection, you get beams of light that create some of the most intense melting heat we know on Earth.  Like this:

Here’s the video from CNN:

Thanks for the image, Wikipedia!

How Much Solar Surface Area Would It Take to Power the World? [infographic]

If you understand the panel surface area (or even the general collector surface area) needed to power something with solar, you will look at this and say to yourself, “well DUH, self!”

If you have no idea, however, which is going to be most of the people on the planet, I hope you are surprised at how little area it really takes to power the world on ZERO CARBON EMISSIONS, and on JUST SOLAR ALONE.  Doesn’t it make sense that Big Oil and Big Coal should latch onto this like white on rice, a glass of milk, and a paper plate, all in a snowstorm?!

Check out the infographic:

See the full-sized version here – it’s pretty awesome.

Beam Me Up, Scotty – Solar Power Collection In Space?


Are you familiar with the concept of solar power collection – in orbit?  It’s something that we’ve been working on for a while, some contracts have been signed, things are being studied, blah blah blah.  Basically – and I mean basically – the premise is that we collect solar power in satellites that are orbiting the earth.  The satellites then convert a large portion of this newly collected energy into a laser, which then shoots down through the atmosphere to some kind of device on Earth that then converts all of that laser beam into clean, useful energy from which everyone can benefit.

What’s the matter?  Is that a little too Battlestar Galactica for you?  Come on, I know you watch Battlestar Galactica.

Well, there are two major hurdles to this technology, and as you can imagine, the race to become the first company to put satellites into space to beam solar energy back to Earth.  The first hurdle is getting several (maybe 300) little satellites to beam their energy to one large satellite, which in turn would beam its energy back to Earth.  The other hurdle, as you might have guessed, is how do we get all of this gear into space? Lest we not forget also – how do we maintain it?  We employ armies of utility workers to keep up with our antiquated power grid at the present – when this system is designed, careful attention needs to be paid to maintenance and how it will be maintained.

solar space

Wait, wait, wait – am I really talking about this like it’s going to happen?  This seems pretty Michael Crichton There’s a power company called PG&E in California (remember when the Enron guys spent all of their retirement?) that has signed a deal with a company called Solaren for 200 megwatts of solar space-based power by 2016.  Someone thinks that this is going to happen – otherwise they wouldn’t be shelling out money to research it.  Right?

PowerSat, a company working on this technology, says that the technology will be usable within a decade – the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency and Osaka University are working on the receiver device presently.  The device is made from a combination of metal powders and plates that multiply the energy of the laser being shot at it by a factor of 4.  As the program progresses, one would hope that the factor could be increased.

On one hand, wow.  That’s some inventive thinking!  On the other, this would be some pretty great technology if it gets perfected.  PowerSat posted a video about the technology and their approach:

Thanks to The Daily Galaxy, CleanTechnica, and Yale 360!

All of Texas Could Be Powered By Solar


I just read a pretty incredible article from CleanTechnica – apparently a study was conducted by a consumer advocacy group called Public Citizen that says all of Texas could be powered by solar power collection.  All of Texas – which, if you’ve ever driven across Texas or from the northern most part of Texas to the southern most part of Texas is a long freaking way.

According to the article, Texas has a potential solar capacity of 148,000 megawatts using just one type of solar collection technology.  Holy jesus.  Considering that solar collection technology (photovoltaics) is becoming cheaper and cheaper and quicker to manufacture, we could have something here – that is if people who legislate in Texas will listen.

The study states that a 30 mile by 30 mile solar field could power the entire state of Texas.  That is a pretty large area – I wonder if we could build smaller plants all over the state?

The National Electric Grid


NPR has a pretty cool article on our power grid, locations of power plants, and some line addition proposals – it is extremely interesting to see what kinds of sources our nation is suited to support.  For example, in the image above here, if we added a whole bunch of solar plants in New Mexico we would utilize a resource that is just begging to be farmed.

The image below, from the article, shows the amount of solar power facilities we have in the United States.  The solar plants are the red dots.  You might also notice that there are two – look really hard in the southwest.

solar plant

Acciona’s 46 MegaWatts in Portugal

Do you know what “grid parity” means?

When alternative energy sources and their generating infrastructure make so much electricity that they are at cost or cheaper than the cost of the electricity on the regular power grid, those alternative energy sources have achieved grid parity.  This would be a wonderful thing – to have green technologies owning an equal share of the power grid.  My wife and I used a company called Green Mountain Energy when we lived in Dallas, Texas – Green Mountain is a wind power company that adds it’s percentage to the power grid.  It wasn’t quite a grid parity situation, obviously – but it felt good to be putting money towards the technology.

In a solar situation, a company called Acciona has just built a $367 million dollar solar farm.  This massive living breathing animal generates 46 Megawatts of photovoltaic power, with a grand total of two hundred fifty thousand panels.  This thing is amazing.  How many homes do you think it’s capable of powering?

Thirty Thousand.  Thirty thousand Portugese homes.

The press release from Acciona is here.  Here’s a good article from OVI Magazine, and one from EcoGeek.