Home owners in West Seattle and Burien neighborhoods are preparing to show their solar homes as part of the National American Energy Solar Tour on Saturday, October 4 from 12:00 noon to 4:00 pm. It is a golden opportunity for curious folks interested in solar energy to view projects first hand, see how they are working, and talk to the owners and installers.
Pam Burton and Jeremy Smithson, owners of Puget Sound Solar, will be available for answering questions at the home of Cindy Jennings, 2205 41st Ave SW. For more information or questions call 206-402-6926.
The Green Go Solar project is helping out in Baja, Mexico. Many residents of rural Baja have no or very limited access to electricity and Green Go Solar has been working to change this.
Baja has a tremendous solar resource yet solar panels can be overly expensive and distant for many. This keeps solar technology out of financial/logistical reach for many, leaving them without access to electricity. Many residents of the outlying fishing and ranching communities have resigned to living completely without power.
In addition, hurricane Odile ravaged the Baja peninsula on September 14th and 15th of this year. As a category 3 hurricane, it blew 140 mph winds and dropped some 14 inches of rain in places causing widespread and dangerous flooding. It was the strongest hurricane to hit Baja peninsula in the satellite era. It left thousands homeless and desperate in its wake. This will increase the gap in access to electricity for years.
An organization is trying to change this situation by empowering local communities to create or rebuild their own renewable power in Baja, Mexico with affordable DIY solar panels.
The Green Go Solar Project teaches people how to build their own solar panels, mostly from everyday household materials. The hands-on teaching process provides education in the basics of solar/photovoltaic technology for residents and visitors alike. The organization is demonstrating that solar is a viable and affordable alternative to running a generator or burning tires, with the end-goal of providing locally built electric power to people without light.
The project was founded in 2008 by Keith Bonarrigo soon after he arrived in San Juanico, Baja Sur, Mexico. Keith is a surfer and was drawn by the legendary wave in “Scorpion Bay” (as it known amongst surfers). Upon arrival he was captured by the local culture and geographic beauty. He also recognized the notable need for accessible and affordable power, and began to strategize a way to bring this technology to the area.
The solution lay in what could be considered a waste product of the solar industry; all cells used in these workshops are cosmetic rejects from the solar cell production process. The solar cell fabrication process produces perfectly functional but cosmetically imperfect solar cells which are not used in retail-grade panels. These cells are sometimes destroyed or broken down at the factory, consuming time, energy, and resources. When the cosmetic defect in question is slight, the cells can also be purchased in bulk for pennies on the dollar. The project acquires and imports these B/C-grade solar cells and puts them to work. The solar cells are used as a vocational resource to illustrate basic electric principles critical to the design, construction, maintenance, and expansion of any solar system of any size.
Solar panel prototypes were built using this material and methodology. They were installed for field testing, leading to the evolution of their concept and designs over time. The panels lasted, proving themselves to be functional over a period of years, and the process has led to further improvements in both methods and materials.
Workshop students test the electrical integrity of these solar cells and then connect them together into strings for a larger, pre-calculated electrical output. Students are taught construction methods to create custom housing structures to protect the contents from the harsh Baja environment. They ultimately assembled all this to comprise a fully-functional solar panel. Teaching methods put an emphasis on the re-use of regular household materials for panel construction to reduce the amount of material going into landfills, and to generally encourage the idea of recycling.
The methods, materials, and tools employed by the group are specifically tailored to meet local challenges. Everything needed for a DIY solar panel is within the economic and physical reach of any resident of this remote area. The most common panel construction method used in the workshops results in a solar panel that produces about 80-90 watts of power for roughly 650 pesos (+-$50 U.S. dollars) of solar material. This same amount of solar power in a commercially manufactured panel is currently available for roughly 6500 pesos ($350 dollars) in the nearest outlet, the B.C.S. capital of La Paz, located about 6 hours away from the project’s base. Solar workshops are conducted based on the working schedules of local people, as fisherman and ranchers can have quite varied day-to-day routines – oftentimes based on environmental factors like tides or rain. Workshops are scheduled based on these factors and communal feedback in an attempt to run during downtime in many local’s lives. This enables workshop students to keep lost potential work time to a minimum, which allows them to keep their family finances working.
Trained Students Have Solar Skills
Upon completion of the workshop, all solar students are provided with solar cells, wire, and a diode to build their own solar panel. The workshop usually takes 1-2 days, including hands-on instruction in solar system design and sizing as well as battery maintenance.
After the initial panel build, the workshop group normally identifies a family, business or institution in need. A modest solar system is designed for the site selected, based on their estimated energy consumption. The system is installed and the panel is put to work, creating renewable power for the local community, and a practical demonstration of DIY solar at work.
The group has built and maintains a base vocational facility known as “el Rancho Solar” which they open to the public to learn to build and run solar power. A renovated Airstream trailer serves as the workspace for the workshops themselves, as well as a tool library. The doors are open for general public interface for any kind of guidance/advice to help solar students succeed.
Since the inception of the project, the success rate has been high and local interest has grown rapidly. Interest from surrounding areas has spawned the development of a mobile workshop program where the material and methods are brought to surrounding areas and taught there.
In addition to the solar experience, students of the project are encouraged to enjoy the incredible natural playground that Baja has to offer:
San Juanico Is Beautiful
San Juanico is nestled between the beautiful Pacific coast and the rugged San Pedro Mountains on the Baja California peninsula. Its remote location has kept this a slow-paced fishing village, which continues to offer an escape in a tranquil setting. The town sits on a pristine bay with a rich and vibrant marine ecosystem. It has long been known by surfers as the legendary “Scorpion Bay” for its incredible point breaks. This location provides one of the best waves to learn to surf on in the world, excellent fishing, snorkeling, tide-pooling, and a vast desert expanse which makes for miles and miles of wide-open ATV/moto touring. Nearby Laguna San Ignacio offers up-close whale watching experiences unlike any other (and has served as another test-base for the solar project). The project encourages and emphasizes responsible appreciation of the surrounding environment so it can continue to serve as a constant reminder of the benefits of preserving these beautiful natural resources.
Surfboards, fishing/snorkeling gear, and motorcycles/ATVs can be made available for solar students through the Green Go Solar Project’s workshop facility, known as “El Rancho Solar” or available for daily/hourly rental at the nearby Burro En Primavera restaurant and bar.
There are several options for accommodations in San Juanico, ranging from free beach camping or trailers at the project workshop facility to affordable local hotels/casitas and local rooms/houses for rent.
Please see http://greengosolar.org for more information on the organization, accommodations, and upcoming workshop/events schedule.
The Washington Environmental Council has initiated a petition gathering effort in the state to support change. According to WEC, the climate movement in the Pacific Northwest is growing faster than ever, just last week, Oregon denied a key permit for a proposed coal export terminal, a big success for the health of the PNW. And this weekend, September 2o, is the largest rally for climate ever in New York City, with hundreds of solidarity events happening around the nation with many in Washington.
To build on this momentum, Washington Environmental Council announced the launch of their petition gathering effort. WEC says our legislators need to see the energy and hear the calls for climate action in Washington, sothey are working to collect 50,000 signatures from citizens across Washington state. With your help, Governor Inslee and our legislators will see the support and hear the strong call to action that our communities want.
Schedule an email to your Washington members for next week, Sept 22 – Sept 26.
Choose an email template and adapt/personalize it if you’d like to incorporate more of your organization’s voice. WEC encourages you to use the first version which builds off the energy from this weekend’s climate march.
In a Climate Changed World: Chapter 4 – by Andy Silber
March 4th, 2055
Yucca Mountain, Nevada
I love when it’s my turn to do security detail, especially when my shift falls at night. I get to come outside; see the stars and the mountains silhouetted against the moonlight, breath the fresh mountain air. There are always three security guards up here, as befitting an abandoned federal facility, it’s just not always the same three people. Not that there’s anyone to watch us, except maybe a Chinese satellite. We’re surrounded by a hundred miles of desert in every direction. Even the nearest city, Las Vegas, is a shell of its former self. I guess everyone finally realized a city with no access to water just wasn’t a great idea, though there still is a market for “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”, maybe even more than when that slogan was created before I was born.
We had volunteered for the MEP, and we knew that meant living in caves for the foreseeable future, but there’s something different about living underground on another planet (an adventure) and living underground in Nevada in holes meant for nuclear waste (a drag). In retrospect, I wish I had never learned that part of the MEP mission was to hide the development of this base; recruitment and procurement were folded into the MEP not to raise suspicions. Bill and I were doing great in the training for Mars and they loved his engineering background. I thought my background, a PhD in political science and history, was pretty lame. When halfway through the training we were called into an office we had never seen to talk to people we had never met, we thought we had washed out. In fact, they loved my background and the fact that we were both only children and our parents had passed on (fewer people to ask questions when we disappeared). I suspect that we were slotted for this program before we even were accepted into the MEP. We were only told that it was a critically important mission, very secret and if we went forward with it, then it was for life with no way out. So we bit and we were whisked off to a new site to continue our training.
Putting the base at Yucca Mountain was a flash of brilliance. There was already all of infrastructure here, just waiting to be used. By design, it was a place far from habitation, allowing the base to remain secret. The biggest concern is that there would be a change of heart about storing nuclear waste here as the fission reactors were mothballed, having been made obsolete by the fusion reactors. A group was funded to push for dry cask storage at the site of the decommissioned power plants or regionally, the argument being that most of the risk was during transportation and that dry cask storage is a fully developed technology and allows us to mine the nuclear waste for valuable isotopes at a later date if so desired. Everyone now has bigger fish to fry, but I do worry that some of this waste will be mishandled and end up creating an enormous mess as things fall apart.
We’ve been here for 20 years, and I’m still not entirely sure what our mission is. Are we one of those monasteries at the edge of Europe that protected the books and knowledge of classical Greece and Rome during the dark ages? Are we mission control? If so, what’s the mission we’re controlling and to whom are we giving orders? We’re connected to all of the major fiber connections, but they’re becoming less reliable due to almost non-existent maintenance. What communication that remains is either satellite or more likely AM or shortwave radio. Ham radio geeks are suddenly in big demand. We monitor all of these channels with receivers across the country to understand what’s going on. There are a few people who come and go and bring back first hand reports, but I expect that most of us will spend the rest of our lives here. In a way, we’re even more isolated than the Martians.
I’m part of a large team that pours over all of those feeds and tries to understand what the political status of the USA is. Where is the power, who has control of what territory, where is the government weak and where is it strong. The Greenland ice sheet only lasted four years after the ICE3 project shutdown, less time than anyone expected. With seas now 10 meters higher than mean sea level in 2000, every coastal city was at risk. When hurricane Rodolfo hit DC at high tide and overwhelmed the sea walls in 2051, the federal government nearly collapsed. The importance of states and especially the cities has been growing in that vacuum. Most of the rural areas in the southeast are in anarchy, ruled by mobs and malaria. The country has become a weak confederation of city-states. I think back 40 years to the Tea Party; that this is their ideal, with everyone more self-reliant (or dead) and no fear that the government is going to take away their guns. No one is complaining about federal taxes, since they aren’t able to collect. The federal government still has some income from leases and fees, but it’s about as close to bankrupt as could be, without filling any paperwork. And who could they file with anyway. Grover Norquist’s dream to be able to drown the federal government in a bathtub has been realized. I just hope they have a chance to decommission all of the nuclear weapons before that actually happens.
All of this chaos out there, does make me glad to be here, safe and sound, in our underground prison. Bill is busy creating an encrypted, high-efficiency, long-distance radio. I believe the signal skips of the ionosphere, or something like that. Our daughter Cecily just turned 15 and is your normal teenage girl. She’s moody and wants to rebel, but life here is so regimented that there’s very little space for that. She’s never known a life other than the base, and for that I feel constantly guilty. But when I read the reports from elsewhere, I’m not sure we didn’t do the right thing. She’s smart, but artsy (I have no idea where that came from) in a world with very little beauty. I think she feels it’s her job to paint an ironic bird on everything. Doubly ironic, since she’s never seen a bird.
The reports from Mars make me very jealous for those who got to go. Life is hard there, but they now have a thin oxygen environment. Not enough to go without a rebreather for more than a few minutes, but it is amazing progress in just over 20 years. The population is growing and there’s talk of relaxing the one-child policy, but that probably won’t happen until the atmosphere is thick enough to live on the surface full time. Even then they’ll need solar-storm cellars, since the lack of a planetary magnetic field will always make Mars a dangerous place to live, even with a thick atmosphere.
My shift is almost over. I take as deep a breath as I can. I’ve already requested to do my next shift, in three months, with Cecily. It will be her first time above ground. She’s seen photos and movies, but her eyes have never focused on infinity. I can’t imagine what that will be like for her, but I want to be there and see the world through her eyes. She pretends to be blasé about it, but I know she can’t wait. There’s a whole big, scary world out there for her and I can’t imagine what the future has in store for her. In the meantime, I go back down into my hole to pour through radio transcripts and satellite feeds.
I’m trying something different than my previous blog posts here. Rather than describing current technologies or policy questions or what I think we should do, here I’m delving into speculative fiction: what do I think might be in store for us if we continue on our current path. This is definitely not a best case scenario, but I don’t believe it’s the worst case either. On a scale of 1 (your grandchildren are going to live in a world that resembles “The Road” ) and 10 (Technology will save the day and it’s not too late), I’d probably give this a … now that would be a spoiler.
I’m writing this in installments in the spirit of Dickens and Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles”. Unlike them, I’m not a great writer, so I don’t expect to win a Nobel, Pulitzer, Hugo or a Newbery. But maybe this will be made into a mini-series on SyFy. Also, for fans of classic science fiction, I’ve thrown in some references or out-right theft.
I hope you enjoy the first piece of fiction that I’ve written that wasn’t assigned in school. – Andy Silber
Solarize Seattle is hosting a Summer-long series of workshops and webinars for those interested in solar power in the Southwest quadrant of the Seattle area.
If you live in southwest Seattle, Burien, North Highline, or Tukwila, and have been thinking about installing a solar system on your home or small business, this program is for you! Solarize Southwest offers an exciting solar group purchase program for residents south of Downtown, west of I-5, and north of the Seattle City Light service boundary.
Neighborhoods invited to participate in this program include:Admiral, Alki, Arbor Heights, Burien, Cottage Grove, Delridge, Fairmount, Fauntleroy, Gatewood, Genesee-Schmitz, Georgetown, Highland Park, Highline, High Point, Morgan Junction, North Tukwila, Pigeon Point, Puget Ridge, Roxhill, Seaview, South Park, Sunrise, West Seattle Junction, Westwood, White Center, Youngstown
Northwest SEED will be holding a volunteer orientation for their upcoming Solarize West Seattle Campaign on April 29, from 6:00 to 7:45 pm in the community room of the High Point Branch Library at 3411 SW Raymond Street, southeast corner of SW Raymond and 35th Ave. SW.
All are welcome to attend the orientation, which will include an introduction to solar energy technology and costs and a discussion of the values and characteristics that the community is looking for in a solar contractor.
Solarize Washington is a community-led effort to simplify and cut the cost of investing in a solar electric system through public education and group discounts. The West Seattle campaign will kick off in July, with volunteers selecting a solar contractor and planning outreach efforts starting in May.
More information is available at http://solarizewa.org/, by emailing email@example.com, or by calling (206) 267-2213.There is an exciting solar energy opportunity coming to West Seattle neighborhoods this spring.
Northwest SEED is launching a Solarize campaign this spring in West Seattle. This will be the 8th campaign organized by Northwest SEED; previous campaigns have resulted in discounts of up to 20% off the cost of a solar system, nearly 500 solar installations, and an investment of over $12 million in our local economy.
Solarize Seattle is a community-led effort designed to accelerate the installation of solar electric systems for homeowners through public education and a group purchase discount. The program is managed by the local environmental non-profit Northwest SEED, in partnership with Seattle City Light. More information about the project can be found on our website www.solarizewa.org.
In order to have a successful campaign in West Seattle, Northwest SEED is seeking the support of local neighborhood groups, as well as individual volunteers, who can help select a solar contractor to serve the neighborhood, organize public educational workshops, and help spread the word about this opportunity. Their goal is to organize a volunteer orientation meeting in late April and start the process of selecting a solar contractor in May. The campaign will officially launch with public workshops in July.
If there are members or other organizations or individuals who are interested in helping with this effort, please forward this notice and/or contact Eli Seely & Mia Devine at Northwest SEED, 1402 3rd Ave, Suite 901, or online at www.nwseed.org or alternatively at www.solarizewa.org, or by phone at 206-267-2213 or by email to Eli Seely at firstname.lastname@example.org
The department also wants to hear from anyone who wants to participate in project review panel. They are seeking volunteers who wish to participate in the evaluation of project proposals. The approximate time commitment will be 10 to 20 hours between April 23 and May 7. Those interested in serving on the review panel can download an application here.
As a municipal untility, we should be proud of City Light for many reasons, City Light says, including their protection of fish and wildlife habitats, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, resource conservation, and collaboration with stakeholders on environmental issues related to City Light’s electricity generation and distribution.
The 2013 Environment Report, their second report of this kind, is full of examples of the utility’s commitment to environmental stewardship. Visit Seattle City Light’s environment pages to read the report and learn more about City Light’s efforts and accomplishments.
City Light Says “Get Ready for Advanced Meters!”
Starting in 2016, City Light will be rolling out an exciting new technology – Advanced Metering!
This new generation of metering is the foundation of the “Smart Grid,” and will deliver more reliability and provide for more accuracy in billing. City Light is also hoping it will help their customers save money on their City Light bill by providing them more information on their energy use.
City Light conducted a series of public meetings about this initiative last summer, and have been collecting comments on their Advanced Metering website since mid-2013. One of the most common questions City Light receives is about the role of the meter readers. The good news is that we don’t anticipate any layoffs – many current employees are eligible for retirement in the next five years, so it is City Light’s plan to retrain the meter readers for jobs in other parts of the utility.
City Light has also been asked about the option of “opting out” of having an advanced meter installed. While there will be an opt-out policy, City Light says they are confident that most customers will see the advantages to advanced metering.
Sales Tax Exemption Extended for Solar Energy Systems in Washington State.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed SB 5882 into law June 30 which extends the Washington state sales tax exemption on small solar energy systems for another five years. The last-minute bill also reinstates the previously expired sales tax exemption for solar hot water systems, and allows photovoltaic systems over 10 kW to continue to qualify for a 75% remittance from the Department of Revenue.
Solar Washington’s Policy Committee Chair, Howard Lamb, and Coordinator, Patrick Nugent, worked toward this signing through successful outreach efforts over the past several months. Also supporting the bill were Environment Washington and the NW Energy Coalition.
Here are some of the details of the new bill:
Section 1502: Extends the 75% sales tax exemption for PV Systems over 10 kW until January 1, 2020. Customers must pay all sales tax up front, but are eligible to receive a 75% exemption through a remittance from the DOR the following quarter. The law states that a person can only apply for a remittance once per quarter and must provide proper supporting documentation (e.g. an invoice along with description of the equipment) in order to qualify.
Section 1602: Extends the sales tax exemption for PV Systems 10 kW and under until June 30, 2018. It also exempts solar hot water systems capable of producing no more than 3 million BTUs per day which is about sixty times larger than an average residential system. Customers are not required to pay sales tax upfront so long as they fill out an exemption certificate.
The City of Seattle is looking for qualified candidates to fill 10 positions in the City’s new Living Building and Deep Green Pilot Technical Advisory Group. These volunteer positions are expected to be filled by September 2013 so work can begin immediately following. The role of the advisory group will be to provide recommendations to the Department of Planning and Development on updating the City’s Living Building and Seattle Deep Green Pilot Program, which aims to promote sustainable building and development.
Promoting development that will achieve the highest levels of environmental performance requires commitment from the building and development community, as well as the public at large. The advisory group will consist of qualified professionals from diverse fields within the greater Seattle area that have technical knowledge, experience and interest in sustainable development. The advisory group will also include at least one experienced sustainability professional associated with a community council or other neighborhood group. Members are appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council and will serve a two-year term. See www.seattle.gov/dpd/permits/greenbuildingincentives/livingbuildingpilot/ for more details on the Pilot Program.
Applicants should have:
A passion for green building and sustainability
Knowledge of the overall building design, construction and development process
Sustainable building expertise and experience
Technical expertise in efficient building systems (e.g. energy and water), green stormwater management, and/or other relevant specialty
The Technical Advisory Group is being established under Resolution 31400 (http://tinyurl.com/me2pszj) to inform updates and enhancements to the City’s Living Building and Seattle Deep Green pilot programs and regulatory framework.
Members should expect to work 4-6 hours a month attending and preparing for meetings. It is anticipated that the group will initially meet two times per month through December 2013 and no more than once a month in 2014. Members are expected to attend at least 90 percent of the meetings.
To be considered for appointment to the Living Building and Deep Green Pilot Technical Advisory Group, please send an application and resume by July 19, 2013 by email to: