Friday, October 21, 2016

Who wants the good old days?



We have an amazing source of near constant free energy in our Sun, so why don’t every home have a solar panel array in place? It is 2016 after all.  Think about it.  The first internal combustion engine automobile became generally available to the public in 1908, just 22 years after its invention. It was made by ford and named the Model T.

The invention of solar panels predates automobiles by over 30 years. Although rudimentary and inefficient, it wasn’t until 1941 that the solar cell came along. That was 55 years ago and yet, I don’t have a solar array and a bank of batteries powering my house.  Why? It is still too expensive. Again I ask why. Why is it so expensive for us to get off fossil fuel generated electricity and onto solar energy cells?

We are risking a future nightmare if we lose power. Heckfire, if we lose juice for just 24 hours, most of us are utterly miserable and anxiously ready to revolt. (Get it?) Never mind. The idea of living off the grid for most of us is just a fantasy and the good old days of no electricity and outhouse toilets, is not something I don’t want to experience again.

John Wells, a New York photographer liquidated his assets and bought a plot of desert land near Terlingua, Texas about 10 years ago.  His homestead is called the Field Lab and he blogs about it daily. It is an experiment in off the grid living and yes, he has solar panels to provide electricity. He runs the Southwest Texas Alternative Energy and Sustainable Living Field Laboratory, a personal experiment in green living.

In his own words, he writes, “I was paying $1,000 a month in taxes. I decided I would try a debt-free lifestyle. I knew a couple, Abe and Josie Connally, who were practicing sustainable living in West Texas, so in October 2007 I packed up and moved. Now I own 40 acres in the desert, and my property taxes are $100 a year.”

He has a huge scientific following and I guess I can say my attention also, as I have followed him since the inception of the experiment. Don’t get me wrong, I want a simpler life as do most of us, if we think about it. I remember a time when things were not as complicated and yearn for them occasionally. One of my fantasies is sitting in front of a log cabin on the side of a mountain and drinking coffee over a small campfire. At the end of the day, I would turn on the lights inside and cook on my gas stove and get a beverage out of the refrigerator, just like I do here in Baytown.

“As soon as I got here, I built the basic box of my house in ten days and moved right in. I used four-by-eight-foot panels of oriented strand board, which is like plywood but cheaper. There are seven little windows and a big glass door.”

In my fantasy, I would have the best of both worlds.  Solitude, peace, great scenery and modern conveniences at my fingertips. With proper landscaping, I could have all of them right here in Baytown with a solar panel array and batteries with no need to buy propane, butane, or gasoline to run my house and vehicles. So why hasn’t the price and knowledge of solar energy become cheap and common? It works and is clean and I think everyone would switch to it if they could.  Can you imagine how quiet our world would be if we weren’t propelling ours vehicles with gasoline and diesel?

Back to the Field Lab, John writes, “I’m building a greenhouse out of shipping containers and cinder block, to create a garden that will be my little oasis of food and wean me from canned goods. I’m going to try hydroponics and aquaponics, which is when you grow fish and vegetables at the same time.” Do we have to be in starvation mode to plant a Victory Garden? Wouldn’t it be amazing if people all across this country took to planting their own crops in their yards, verandas, or patios? I imagine we would all be happier than we are now. Talk about a farmer’s market!

People would be friendlier too and guess what?  You could actually enjoy talking to people again. The good old days had a certain charm, I will grant you that, but we need electricity and the way to insure we keep it, is for solar panel technology to become affordable.


8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Virgina Compton: I passed a big hillside of solar panels yesterday in N Carolina.

Anonymous said...

FU: Nice dream Bert!
Enjoyed the read and thanks.

They are working on it : )
http://www.graphenea.com/pages/graphene-supercapacitors#.WAn_cMnmCig

Mother Earth used to be one of my favorite magazines.

Anonymous said...

PG: Yes it is a very nice dream, but I think the power companies and gas companies are the ones who are making sure that these solar panels STAY too expensive for the average American to be able to afford installing them!!

Anonymous said...

Gilbert Morton: I've considered putting solar panels on my house, but it takes almost 20 years to break even on your investment. Most people move before then plus a few more issues.

Anonymous said...

Larry Houston: Even with the billions of dollars the federal government has funneled into the solar panel industry, the cost is prohibitive for most home owners. With natural gas at around $3 per thousand cubic feet, it's much more efficient right now for someone else to generate the electricity in a power plant and send it to me over wires.

Anonymous said...

Stan Roby: Like most things, we seem to prefer convenience and cost over conservation. I'll admit that I've been guilty of those. In the last year or so, we've paid more attention to quality over convenience in the food that we eat. It really makes a difference when you get real food, not out of a box. It's not as convenient, but it's better for you if you get the right stuff.

Anonymous said...

Awesome column in The Baytown Sun this morning, Bert! Lots of truth in there, buddy! Keep on! DDC

Anonymous said...

Ren Fitts: I considered having them, but its hard enough getting my house windows washed , i would hate having to wash panels on roof to get maximum efficiency after a year of elements taking its toll on panels...

Thankfully, we have an anchor!

 Today is Thanksgiving? Already? My grandson swam in the pool Monday. Am I the only one who feels like we are hurtling over the sur...