We are being marginalized, patronized and ignored by our current energy policies. We're not being encouraged, or even invited, to participate individually in the solution to the problem. I feel that it's incumbent upon each of us to "plant our own renewable energy ‘Victory Gardens'".
Planting a New Kind of "Victory Garden"
|We are being marginalized, patronized and ignored by our current energy policies. We're not being encouraged, or even invited, to participate individually in the solution to the problem. I feel that it's incumbent upon each of us to "plant our own renewable energy 'Victory Gardens'".|
|By Obert Reslock|
With all the good buzz about renewables in the media lately, an important part of the solution to the global energy situation is being left out . . . us, as individuals.
While GE and other industry leaders are racing to build bigger and better wind generators, and solar-thermal powered electrical plants are being built in the desert near Las Vegas, they are all designed to a public utility scale and destined to supply power to the existing grid, which, as demonstrated by the Northeast Power Outage in August, 2003, is still as fragile as ever. In addition, an important component of the solution is still being ignored, that is the people who use the power.
Sure, we're being very quietly (I haven't seen any flashy ads on TV) encouraged to install CFL's (Compact Fluorescent Lamps) for our lighting needs and buy more efficient appliances, but we're NOT being encouraged to help with the supply-side of the problem. We are being marginalized, patronized and ignored by our current energy policies. We're not being encouraged, or even invited, to participate individually in the solution to the problem.
Experts estimate that 100% of the U.S. energy needs could be supplied by a PV array covering about 10,000 square miles, roughly the size of the state of Vermont. In actuality, that area is less than 25% of the roof and parking lot space in urban and suburban America. Who owns all that plentiful roof and parking space? We do . . . US!
I'm reminded of the "Victory Gardens" that the people of the U.S. were encouraged to plant in their yards during World War II. The reasoning was: if you grow some of your own food, you decrease demand on the food supply system and leave more resources for "the war effort". It was a very "patriotic" thing to do, and it made economic sense. Those who planted Victory Gardens harvested good, organically grown, low-cost produce. At the same time, they eased the load on the supply chain for those products, an obvious win-win solution.
If we're really concerned about the global energy situation, leaving carbon dioxide emissions and global warming out of the discussion, I feel that it's incumbent upon each of us to "plant our own renewable energy 'Victory Gardens'".
As with the Victory Gardens of the 1940's, such an idea would benefit us, individually, as well as the nation and indirectly, the world. Another win-win (-win) situation. The people who would plant a PV, or other renewable energy, "Victory Garden" will have done those same two things: created a perennial harvest for themselves of reliable, clean energy and made a significant contribution to reduce and ease their share of the load on the system.
According to every energy study report I've read, solar electric systems are very good at shaving the peaks off a public utility's loads, that is: they are producing their maximum power when the demand on the grid is at its highest. Installing grid-tied residential systems benefits not only the utility companies, because they can build smaller, localized generating plants that have to produce only their "base line" loads, not be capable of generating "peak" loads but also the resident by reducing and stabilizing his individual electrical utility expenses.
Individual, or multi- residential solar thermal systems can also be of a great benefit. They're relatively inexpensive to install and efficient to operate. A solar thermal system can reduce demand on natural gas, or electrical, supply systems while providing nearly no-cost hot water for domestic and space heating needs.
So what's the pay-back? I usually answer this question with one of my own, "What else have you ever purchased that you demand that it put the money you spent back into your pocket?" That issue (Earthtoys, April, 2005) aside, let's talk about payback.
In a world where energy and transportation costs are rising and ever more volatile, with a solar energy system you've reduced the effects of that volatility on your own pocketbook. From the very first day that your solar system goes on-line, you've reduced your utility costs and stabilized them at a much lower level, thus providing yourself with a daily/monthly increase in discretionary spending money. You're harvesting your own energy. Moreover, you've made an investment for your own, and our country's, future much like a retirement plan.
As energy costs continue to rise (do you really think they won't?), the value of your investment in any renewable system is going rise too, because every kilowatt-hour and BTU produced by a solar system will be just as valuable as one produced by our current, conventional, and increasingly costly means. As long as you live in your renewably-powered residence, your energy expenses will be stabilized at a lower level. Your investment will gain value and, in time, will pay you back with energy cost savings. That's an investment, and harvest, that I like!
Yes, by all means, install CFLs and more efficient appliances. The national energy savings of conservation alone would nearly offset the oil and gas that we're currently using for all our transportation needs. In addition, the more we conserve at home to start with, the less we need to "plant" in our own Victory Gardens to generate what we use. We can consciously reduce what we need to spend to harvest our own needs, and we should endeavor to do so. By making the decision to conserve and plant a new type of Victory Garden, we can become part of the solution, and stop being part of the problem.
So let's get started planting renewable energy Victory Gardens! Let your patriotism show, not just with a flag on your car or in your yard, but with a renewable energy system in your yard or on your roof. Become part of the solution, as an American citizen it's the patriotic thing to do.
Bert Reslock has been an enthusiastic, life-long advocate of renewable energy. Since 1999, he has been teaching renewable energy workshops in association with Independent Power Corporation in Reno, Nevada. His workshops provide an entry-level education in the basics of renewable energy power systems: how solar, wind, and net metering components operate in residential and commercial power applications, saving energy, money, and helping to clean up the environment. His six-hour workshops include a personally guided tour of the off-grid, passive solar residence that he and his wife designed and built in 1990-91. The tour of his rural Reno home graphically demonstrates and ties together many of the concepts that he teaches in the classroom. He's fond of saying, "We built this house to demonstrate that people can live in renewably powered homes without sacrificing any of the modern conveniences currently found in most typical U.S. households."
As an active member of Sunrise Sustainable Resources Group, the Nevada ASES (American Solar Energy Society) chapter, he has served as an invited speaker and panelist at public renewable energy conferences throughout the state. Through Bert's educational and promotional work, he has established a network of associations with many of the foremost scientists, engineers and executives in the industry. His and Patti's story has been used on Trace Engineering's (manufacturers of power inverters) world-wide advertising material for more than ten years.
Through their solar home tour and workshops, Bert and Patti have inspired many people to follow in their footsteps. Bert contends that if the people in the United States were not only more aware of, but also understood the obvious economic, environmental and reliability advantages of using the many forms of renewable energy available today, its usage would be considerably more "main stream" and common. His personal philosophy provides him with a very high level of motivation and enthusiasm to serve as an educator and drives his desire to reach and teach a larger audience.
Throughout his career as a professional Fire Captain/EMT, he has logged more than twenty-five years of experience as a versatile technical subjects instructor. In 1977, Bert attained a Bachelor of Science degree in Medical Sciences from the University of Nevada, Reno. During this time, much of his elective course work at the University involved classes on solar energy and its uses. He is a has a unique way of taking very technical information, breaking it down and making it understandable for the initiate to his subject.
Bert is a Nevada licensed photovoltaic contractor and he and his wife Patti operate Essential Strategies, L.L.C., a renewable energy design and educational consulting firm.
Obert N. "Bert" Reslock
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