Tag Archives: solar panels

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When Energy Is Stolen, There Are No Victims.

By: Chris Warren

For over a generation green energy has been the exclusive domain of the liberal left. The reasons why could run thousands of pages, but the oversimplified explanation is that clean energy is not economically viable and suitable only in niche applications. It is not cash flow positive nor does it have mainstream practicality, and therefore depends on government subsidies and complex protective legislation. Add that to the liberal foundational doctrine that feelings matter more than actually getting something done, and clean energy becomes a natural fit for them.

That was then and this is now. Renewable energy, particularly solar, is on the cusp of becoming technically and financially competitive with traditional fuels. The left hasn’t noticed –yet– that free market libertarian ideas are pushing it over the line (note: liberal and libertarian are not the same thing). How long this ignorant bliss will continue is uncertain, and I’m not sure it matters. What is certain is that just a year or two ago, the idea of two groups who so sorely disagree on everything else setting it all aside and joining forces to make solar energy go primetime would have been found only in a Saturday Night Live comedy sketch.

A nascent movement is gaining traction down in Florida where liberals and conservatives are in an unlikely collusion to pass legislation that would allow any private citizen to install solar panels on their home or business and sell the electricity for profit on the open market. In essence, they would become a miniature power company. As the law is right now, only state registered commercial utilities can sell juice. The new rules, if passed, would let anyone in on the action.

It is encouraging to see solar energy get the boost it so rightfully deserves, and let it be noted that all of this is unfolding without government subsidies, handouts, or special legislative favors. The plan does not officially break up the power company monopoly, but is it really a monopoly if anyone can do it? To be sure, Florida’s proposal is no magic answer. There are a lot of holes in the plan, and we are long away from completely powering our society with sunbeams and happy thoughts. Still, there is almost nothing negative about this initiative.

Conservatives should further their cause by spreading the Florida example elsewhere. Finding a reason not to do something is easy. It takes thought and effort to confront problems and find a path through them. Since the beginning of the clean energy movement, the right touted a long list of reasons why green energy would not work for mainstream use, and to be fair, for most of that time they had a valid point. Now there is a foot in the door that addresses many of these concerns. Here is the conservatives’ big chance to show everyone that free market solutions really do work.

Regardless of how the Florida experiment plays out (it has not even been passed into law yet), liberals are faced with no course to steer around the reality that decades of government largesse and mandates has failed to make solar a legitimate option. And I’m certain I’m not the only free market supporter who is taking some quiet pleasure seeing progressives forced into a position where, in order to achieve their long time goal of widespread renewable energy, they will have to admit that their other long time goal of solving the renewable energy “problem” with more government spending and regulation is a total failure.

The way I read this, two causes liberals covet (green energy and big government) have been turned against each other. Well played, tea party! Well played! Not only are conservatives stealing a worthwhile but horribly mismanaged liberal issue and making it work with capitalist policy, the liberals are cheerfully going along as if they were helping  load their own stuff into a burglar’s getaway car. In this case the thief is doing the victim, and everyone else, a huge favor.

SPECIAL EDITION: A Winter Storm.

By: Chris Warren.

As I discussed in my last article, being ready for emergencies is not just for whackos. The other half of the equation is that a “disaster” does not have to come in the form of an epic 300 foot tidal wave or alien invasion.

Overnight, my territory in the upper Midwest USA got clobbered by about ten inches (25 cm) of snow, with about another 4-8 inches (10-20 cm) still to come before it’s over. The temperature, which is actually above freezing right now, is expected to drop to 5F (-15c) before sundown, then the high winds will kick in.

By local standards, this storm is not a particularly big deal. Yet there are people who will face serious weather-related problems that could have been entirely avoided with even a little planning. Already, I’ve had to give some gas to a guy up the road because he ran out and needed to fill the tank on his snowblower. This storm was predicted three or four days ago. Why didn’t he fuel up when he had the chance? I just don’t get it. There will be fatalities because of this storm.

The following is a pictorial account of my life during a snow storm. I took all the photos myself.

 

IMG_1042This photo was taken from my kitchen window. It looks very pretty and serene. But beyond the backyard things get rough.

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IMG_1021This is as about as “plowed” as it’s going to get for a while. I saw very few cars on the road, only 4×4’s. Everyone else is stuck at home. Even in my big truck, it was a challenge getting around.

IMG_1041The temperature has dropped from almost 35F (1.6C) when this photo was taken about an hour ago to 31 (-0.5C) now. It also went from no wind to a modest breeze. I can’t get a wind speed because the weather instruments are frozen.  Strong winds are expected later today.

IMG_1040The weather alarm does not lie. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. As much as I trash on the government in this blog, I have to be fair and say NOAA and their network of radio stations is a very valuable and worthwhile public service.

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IMG_1037IMG_1032It is not possible to overstate the importance of amateur radio in times of mayhem. It requires almost no special infrastructure and can be run on backup power. There are hundreds of thousands of amateur radio operators in the Unites States alone. None of them are paid for their services and nearly all supply their own equipment. When there are no cell towers, internet, or landline phones, ham radio is there. Always. It’s the ultimate  “mesh network” that is almost impossible to to take down. The top photo of UHF & VHF antennas is just a portion of my rooftop communications complex. The center photo is my HF (shortwave) radio capable of worldwide communications and a 75 watt 2-meter VHF radio, with a range of about 25-30 miles (40-48 km). The VHF is especially valuable when the public communications system goes down.  All of this equipment is powered by off-grid solar energy.

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IMG_1046The snow covered angled items on the roof in the top photo are a few of my solar panels. The bottom photo is the charge controller for the solar power. The photo was taken during daylight but due to all the snow on the solar panels, the system thinks it it night time and shut itself down. The 12.8 volts on the battery means I have a good charge and should be ok…for now. We are not expected to have any real sun for a few days, so at some point I’ll probably have to change my batteries off the generator.

IMG_1048Sometimes life here can be a real pain in the ass, but it is a great feeling to be in a nation where I can make my own choices and fly or fall on my own. For my readers outside the USA, it is customary for Americans to display a flag on their homes. Flags are most often seen on patriotic holidays or in times of war, but at my house, the flag is out 24 hours a day, every day. It is the symbol of a land and people who are not easily beaten down.

 

The Climate Change Circus Comes to Town.

By: Chris Warren.

My seven year old nephew is quite a showman. He doesn’t take things too seriously and can come up with some very clever one-liners, just like his uncle. What’s best about his style is that he is funny when he does not intend to be. This trait is common in children and sometimes adults, except when adults do it, it’s seldom cute and charming. Few things are more pitiful than adults who want to be taken seriously then go about playing a fool in a way that makes you wish, really wish, they are not doing it on purpose. They ought to consider getting a job in the circus  so they can at least be paid for acting like clowns.

On Sunday, September 21, 2014, New York City was host to the “People’s Climate March.” Yes, they had an impressive crowd. Yes, they have a legitimate cause, sort of. Yet, they are closer to being like my nutty young nephew than they’d like to admit.

It didn’t matter that the marchers left behind tons and tons of garbage and litter; left wing media outlets have gone through gyrations worthy of a side show contortionist to explain the mess away. It did not matter that two of their headline acts, actor Leonardo DiCaprio and internet inventor/ex-vice president Al Gore, live lifestyles that puke more carbon than most entire American neighborhoods (did they at least share a private jet to NYC?). It did not even matter that the New York transit system added a whole lot of extra energy-gulping busses and trains to accommodate the party.ByFj0axCQAAuKfq

As I have observed in this blog before here and here, liberals are weirdly obsessed with feelings and appearances over actual results. To them, hundreds of thousands of people walking around with signs is more desirable than the same number of people cleaning local parks, planting gardens, or calling their congressman. Why? Because cleaning, planting, and calling do not make a worldwide media event. The march was timed to coincide with a United Nations summit on climate change, which itself was a ridiculous circus that accomplished absolutely zero, unless agreeing to meet again next year counts as an “accomplishment”. U.N. press releases not unexpectedly omitted the detail that many of the biggest polluter countries did not think the summit was important enough to send representatives to. Think of it as a Big Top where the  trapeze act, lion tamers, and elephants are taking the day off.

Huge crowds of Climate Marchers walking up the street did not even succeed in the superficial goal of making a lasting impression. Within twenty four hours it was a news cycle has-been. They walked around, chanted, made a few speeches, dumped their plastic water bottles and signs on the street for someone else to clean up, then left, secure in the self-indulgent belief that they are pioneering activists who made a real difference. A small minority of faithful will continue to work on environmental issues, but they were already doing that anyway. The other 97% were just there to party, feel good, and spread the smug on Facebook. Marchers: You won over no new soldiers to your cause, not even yourselves. A month from now almost no one will care about or remember the People’s Climate March.ByEn5-DIcAA359Y

Meanwhile in emerging countries around the globe, millions are living hand to mouth in abject poverty. They cook on open fires, assuming they can find something to cook, and get around on smoking, barely-running motor scooters. The climate movement, the one that claims a desire to lift up the poor, wants to take this away from them. Here in the United States, the average poor man barely scraping up enough cash to eat is being lectured that he’s better off paying more –much more, actually– for an organic, non-genetically modified version of his daily bread. The environmental movement is perfectly happy to restrict resources to those who have very little to begin with because the environmental movement’s acolytes are disproportionately wealthy and either either don’t realize or don’t care that the five bucks they blow on a pound of organic tomatoes is more than some people have to spend on food for an entire week.

On the day of the Climate March, other ordinary citizens all across America calmly went about their business recycling aluminum cans, tending their gardens, collecting rainwater, and doing meaningful volunteer work. Farmers went out to their fields and busted their asses to put food on all our tables just as they have every single day since the beginning of civilized man. For my part, I did some fine tuning on my solar panels. We had no party, no sanctimonious speeches, no manufactured “hey look at me!” moment. Any one of us did more good that day than all the efforts of the entire march. If anyone noticed us, it was by accident, and that’s the way we like it. True environmentalists are about doing, and walking through downtown Manhattan with a sign in one hand and a Starbuck’s cup in the other is not “doing” anything. Environmental problems will never be solved by people who have absolutely no intention of putting any effort into the cause beyond showing up for one  event.  The true agents of change were nowhere near Manhattan that day.

Almost every kid has given at least a passing thought to running away and joining the circus. All they know is that the circus is music, crazy acts, stunts, fun. They don’t see the hours of rehearsal and tending to animals that happens before and after every show. When the show is over, the spectators get to leave. That’s why for most of the marchers, the environmental movement will never be more than a form of entertainment. Everyone wants to be in the circus; no one wants to help put up the tent. My cute little nephew may get away with being a goof because of his age, but the march participants have to rise above second grade antics  If they expect to see any progress on keeping the planet green. The People’s Climate March is proof that the environmental movement needs fewer clowns and more dung shovelers.