The State of the Solar Industry

The Solar Energy Industries Association has released their Q2 report, and the news is sunny! (oooh, sorry ’bout that.  The pun was too tempting)

The highlights: 832 Megawatts of new solar installed in the second quarter of 2013, the second best quarter for solar, ever.

This brings the US total to 9,400 Megawatts of solar electricity, on pace to reach 10,000MW (10GW) by the end of the year.

To put that in layman’s terms, that’s enough to power 1.5 MILLION homes.  To put it another way, it’s like removing 1.9 Million cars from the road.

Powering 1.5 Million homes, or taking 1.9 Million cars off the road.  With that comparison, we can deduce that ‘going solar’ has a BIGGER environmental impact than buying an electric car, way bigger than buying a hybrid!

Click on SEIA’s infographic for more from their Q2 report:




Why the U.S. Power Grid’s Days Are Numbered – Businessweek

Here’s a recent article from business week proclaiming that the days of the centralized regulated power grid are numbered.  We all know that monopolies are prohibited in the United States, except for areas such as utilities.  Now, as more people combat pollution and rising fuel prices with home-grown solar and geothermal power generation, there is a small yet growing challenge for the monolithic utilities.


Sound far fetched to you?  Read the article to see why some industry experts think it is coming sooner than you think!

Why the U.S. Power Grid’s Days Are Numbered – Businessweek.

Human Power: Exercise Equipment with Generators!

Have you ever played with a small electrical generator?  They are pretty simple devices.  Really, all you need is some mechanical energy to spin a conductor through a magnetic field, and presto! Electricity!   In our fanciest, biggest power plants, this is all we are trying to do- spin a generator.  We can do it on a small scale too:  You have probably seen those hand-crank flashlights and radios.  Now, if we just could find some people willing to sit around and spin something for an hour or two, without paying them, and we would have some cheap clean energy…hmmm…

Wait....people actually pay for this "spin" class?

Wait….people actually pay for this “spin” class?

Oh yes, that’s right, that place where most of us pay money to go a few times a week to do our best imitation of hamsters on a wheel; the Gym!  Virtually all cardio machines involve a lovely rotating motion, just waiting to turn your mechanical energy (or is it chemical because you are burning calories?) into nice clean electricity.  Except for they aren’t .  At least, the vast majority of them aren’t.  In fact, if you take a look at most treadmills, exercise bikes, ellipticals etc. all have a cord and a plug, sucking energy from the grid.  They use electricity to power those built in TV’s, fans, displays, heart rate monitors, and whatever other bells and whistles they have.  But then you go and apply all of this mechanical energy to them, literally the sweat of your brow, and it goes nowhere.  This is a huge missed opportunity to reduce energy usage!

Now, some machines are self-powered.  Spin bikes and rowing machines are generally electricity free.  But, there are companies out there making self powered versions of exercise bikes, treadmills, and ellipticals too!  They still have the nice amenities like built in TV’s (I run faster when I’m angry, so I watch Fox News), and displays tracking your stats.  But these are all run from the juice that you produce.  These machines can be bought at comparable prices to name brand gym equipment like Cybex, so this seems like a no-brainer!

Other companies are taking this a step further and aiming to generate some electricity off your sweaty, sweaty back.  That’s right, plug-in machines that pump any excess power BACK into the grid.  Companies like SportsArt Fitness are building ellipticals, exercise bikes, and treadmills that feature a generator and an inverter to harness YOUR energy and feed it back in the grid.  Can you see gyms hosting contests to see who can generate the most electricity?  Maybe offering discounts on memberships even?  Or using them to tie into some larger community mission? (hmmmm YMCA?)


Granted, these machines cost about twice as much as the average commercial machine, but as with everything in renewable energy, this is about the long game.  Higher cost up front, but savings down the line.  Also, since this is currently a niche market, production costs are higher.  The more that gyms adopt these new machines (cutting their costs in the meantime), the more the price will come down.

Of course, not everyone can spend $8000 on a piece of exercise equipment.  If you are handy and industrious, there are plenty of instructions out there for turning a bicycle and a trainer into a power generator!

Now we’re talking human power!

Answer to the Nuclear Argument…

Here’s a quote from sustainability leader William McDonough that is the best response to nuclear energy proponents that I’ve ever heard:

“Don’t get me wrong: I love nuclear energy! It’s just that I prefer fusion to fission. And it just so happens that there’s an enormous fusion reactor safely banked a few million miles from us. It delivers more than we could ever use in just about 8 minutes. And it’s wireless!”

William McDonough, Fortune Brainstorm Conference, 2006


Natural Gas – Better than Coal, still not great

Natural Gas is enjoying a huge renaissance right now, with production sky-high, and prices low.  Everyone seems to be advocating for more implementation of natural gas electricity production, heating costs are down, and some are advocating for development of cars that run on compressed natural gas (I spent some time in Argentina, where many cars run on CNG, and it is cheap!)

President Obama even included natural gas as a major component of his energy/climate change speech.

It’s true that natural gas is much cleaner than coal, and gathering the resource is less damaging to the environment (no mining, but shale gas? not so good).  We must remember, however, that its use still pollutes.

And it can catch on fire and explode.  As this disaster reminds us:

Hercules 265 Rig, Gulf of Mexico

Hercules 265 Rig, Gulf of Mexico

Gulf rig partially collapses as fire rages

Natural gas disasters happen all the time, check out for a comprehensive week-by-week list of explosions.

We like natural gas for the energy that it gives us, but remember that it is dangerous and does pollute.  You know what abundant energy source doesn’t catch fire and explode? The wind (at least that I know of, that would be terrifying).  And for that matter, when was the last time the sun caught on fire?  Well, erm…I guess always, but we like it that way.

Artist of the day…Lorenzo Duran…(Leaf Carvings!)

So, the other day I posted a picture of an amazing leaf carving. It was a picture of “industry” and pollution and such… a striking image.
The artist who does these amazing works of art from nature is Lorenzo Duran of Spain. Here are more samples of his work, check them out!

ghetto is not an adjective...

Spanish artist Lorenzo Duran uses leaves as the canvas for his cutaway art. after washing and drying the leaf, he carefully cuts away segments in a technique akin to those of traditional Spanish picado, Chinese jianzhi, German scherenschnitte, or Swiss papercutting. His most recent project is for German based organization Plant For The Planet, it confronts and illustrates the causes of the global issue of CO2 emissions. Have a look below for some more work off the project et al.

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