Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Solar panels for free?

A company called Citizenre is claiming that they will install photovoltaic panels on your home for no upfront cost, then charge for the electricity generated - at a lower cost than your local utility charges for the same kilowatt hours. You can read more on Wired.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Especially when the business model smells of multi-level marketing, which this one does. Nevertheless, it's an intriguing idea.

Xcel energy's Solar Rewards program pays $4.50 (part rebate, part renewable energy credit) per DC-watt of capacity when you install a PV system. That's designed to cover about half the cost of installing a PV system, which runs in the $20,000 ballpark for a typical home. I'd like to know how much Xcel spends per watt to build a new coal-fired power plant?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Back to China!

Our adoption agency called yesterday with good news. They received our travel notice from the Chinese government, which means we can travel to China as soon as we can schedule the necessary appointments with the US Consulate and the various Chinese agencies. Most likely, we'll be going over around March 5 and returning 2 weeks later, with Elizabeth (a.k.a Fu Ni Ying) in tow!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Energy Efficiency

Today I attended a seminar on home energy efficiency put on by the Colorado Energy Science Center, which is loosely affiliated with the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) in Golden, Colordao. It was informative, and inspired me to look more closely at improving my own house, which was built in 1971.

Coincidentally, today's Rocky Mountain News had an article on green homes.

A few years ago, we had cellulose insulation blown into the attic and it made a huge difference, most noticeably in the summer. We found that we didn't need to run our swamp cooler nearly as often, nor nearly as long, after our attic is well-insulated. The house stays more comfortable, and it cost only a few hundred bucks.

Did you know that the avergage home leaks 60% of its air every hour? Yep, that means you're paying to heat the neighborhood with your furnace. That's usually the best place to start - fix problems with insulation and leaky windows and doors. If you're house is old like mine, your walls may not even have insulation, and even if they do, it may have settled or been installed poorly, which makes it nearly useless. To remedy this situation, you can have insulation blown into the walls to fill those gaps, and it's supposedly guaranteed not to settle if you find a good vendor to do the work.

How about replacing your incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents? These run on 25% of the power, and last 10 times as long. Their quality has improved recently, too, with the use of electronic ballasts that reduce some of the flicker and slow starts that plagued earlier incarnations. You still want to avoid the cheapest, lowest-quality CFLs, though.

Now I just need to figure out how to harness the 60+ mph winds that regularly blast us here on Green Mountain to generate electricity. I can use the savings to pay to fix my roof which keeps getting shingles blown off.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Para-sledding in Wyoming

The scene:
  • February 3, on the high plains south of Laramie Wyoming.
  • Steady winds of 30-40 mph out of the west, with gusts of 50+ mph.
  • Lots of blowing snow.
  • About 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

The equipment:
  • One used tarp, about 12 ft x 6 ft
  • About 60 feet of rope
  • One sled (later replaced with a $10 Kmart inflatable "tube" sled)
  • Really warm clothes
Add it all up, and you've got para-sledding!

Amy, Andrew and I spent the weekend with my sister Lynette and her husband Jeff Morris on their 40-acre spread south of Laramie. After battling the brutal winds all the way up I-25 and then on I-80, I figured I could get my revenge by putting all that blowing to some good use.

Jeff and I rigged the "sail" and had some fun while the wives watched with amusement from the comfort of home. We both got a few good runs in, although next time, I'd use a bigger sail for more speed!

Like I've said before, enjoy the snow, and in this case, the wind too!