Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Solar power info in Mother Earth News

The August/September issue of Mother Earth News has a big section on solar power.

Well so what, you say - even if I wanted to mess with this I couldn't, because I live in the burbs and the zoning people wouldn't let me do anything. Maybe, maybe not. The cover story shows a family of 5 outside their exurban Washington DC home which teams solar power, passive solar and general purpose conservation so well that they have zero net power usage. They have 6 kW of capacity, which is expensive, but the resulting increase in their mortgage payments was just about equal to their presumed energy cost savings.

Another interesting project involved a man who got tired of his very hard, overchlorinated city water supply and decided to start trapping his rainwater. At first it was just for toilets, washing clothes and other such, but eventually he added components so it could supply his drinking water too. The auxiliaries such as storage tanks cost him some yard space, but he's very happy with the results.

In both cases the corresponding utilities are available locally, so there is always a backup.

Projects like these aren't cheap, require a fair amount of involvement after completion, and typically make little economic sense outside very specific circumstances. But solar panel prices are coming down, so the scope of applicability is increasing.

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