Monday, July 20, 2015

Mr Sun, Sun, Mr Golden Sun

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Me and my sibs, being all one with nature
and stuff, circa about a million years ago.
I don't remember when I got hooked on being green. I mean, I've always adored nature. Trees. Lakes. Dirt. My family's annual (and sometimes bi or tri-annual) camping trips (usually to the majestic Rockies) led to a love of the great outdoors and all that it represents being wound into the very fabric of my being. But did I always recycle? No. Was I always that person – you know, the one who dies a little inside when someone at a birthday party throws away a paper plate, or licks clean plastic cutlery and puts it in their purse so it can later be reused? No. No, I wasn't.

I'm a firm believer in the fact that green living is about integrating eco-friendly choices into reality. I clearly recall that I didn't start blue-bagging until I lived in my first apartment, which had recycling bins in the parking lot. I didn't start separating organic waste from the rest of the garbage until I moved to Stony Plain, where we have Organicarts that are collected on a weekly basis.

Then there's this whole solar power thing. I'm not sure where my obsession with it began, but I do know that when Devin and I first started talking about building a home it was something I brought up very early on. And though he certainly was intrigued by the idea, he also tends to be a bit more pragmatic than I about this whole "let's save the world" business.

Fast forward a few years (and, you know, throw a baby in there just for fun) and the phrase "solar farm" (as in on our land) has actually befallen my ears via the mouth of my husband several times as of late. Be still my David Suzuki-lovin' heart!

So here's some info on solar power  specifically geared toward our Albertan climate, which we all know comes with its own set of… shall we say quirks?

Ironically, this photo was taken in British Columbia.
Alberta is Mad Sunny, Ya'll

According to a recent study by the not-for-profit Canadian Solar Industries Association, "Alberta's solar energy resource is almost one million-billion kilowatt hours per year" (or 1,000,000,000,000,000… I didn't even realize there was such thing as a "million-billion"). Alberta is the best solar energy resource in all of Canada and, fun fact, even though Okotoks is more than 25 degrees of latitude further north than Miami, it still is a greater solar energy resource than "The Magic City" between the months of July and October.

Just think  this could be you! For serious though,
brushing snow from solar panels may not even be
necessary as "the albedo effect," i.e. sun reflecting
off of snow, "can make a panel generate more
electricity in the same way that it gives
skiers sunburn on sunny winter days." (Source)
Unlike Most of Us, Solar Panels Like Cold Weather

I attempted to paraphrase (and then deleted) this article because of the nightmare-inducing equations, but then I found this one, which explained things just the way I like it  with words instead of numbers. Plus, it gives a grand total of nine explanations about the relationship between solar panels and temperature, one of them being: "As the solar panels get hotter, they will produce less power from the same amount of sunlight [than a colder panel]. Normally, electrons at rest (low energy) are excited by the sun (high energy), and the difference between their excited and rest energies is the potential difference (voltage) . . . Because we produce power from the difference in the states (at rest and excited by the sun), if the electrons have more energy at rest (your solar panels are hotter), the difference between the rest energy and excited energy (from the sun) is smaller, and our solar panels will produce less energy." What do you think, should I change my header to read "Of Houses and Trees: A Blog about Architecture, Interior Design, DIY Projects, Trees and, Of Course, Excited Electrons?"

The days of ginormous solar panels protruding from the
rooftops of only the crunchiest of hippies are coming
to an end. Behold... solar shingles!

"This is Oil Country" is O-V-E-R

No, I'm not talking about Connor McDavid (but, since I did bring him up, let me just say that poor kid is never going to live up to everyone's second-coming-like expectations of him  he's basically Barack Obama on skates). I'm talking about the glorification and shortsightedness that permeates our oil-soaked culture. Yes, we have a lot of oil. We get it already. But, as aforementioned, we also have a lot of sun. So pardon my idealism, but would it really be so hard to divert just a teeny bit of the time, the energy and the monies we put into the oil industry and send it on over to solar (and other alternative and renewable resources)? "That will never happen," you say. "It's all a conspiracy," you moan. "There are people who would have you shot just for saying that," you intone, twirling the tip of your handlebar mustache between your thumb and forefinger. "Bah," I scoff. "Change is coming," I muse. And then, I break into song… here comes the sun, little darling...

What say you? Is oil over? Have you ever thought about looking into solar power or other alternative energies? Do you care about where your power even comes from, or are you more of a "as long as I can binge-watch the new season of Orange is the New Black I'm all good" kind of person?


Anonymous said...

Excellent read. I had no idea about the potential energy Alberta could produce and how solar power reacts to coldness. I love those solar shingles.

Unfortunately it is a "conspiracy" but I also believe we are about to witness the end of the age where those who conspire against us hold the strings.

I agree, here comes the sun

tjcurrie said...

I never recycled until my then girlfriend now wife taught me. Now I bring home papers or plastics from work or anywhere else I am at so I can place them in my blue bag.

In Alberta, you're suppose to worship oil. If you do anything but, you're shamed for "biting the hand that feeds you.", and you get a checklist of things that you likely use daily that require oil at some point between manufacturing and usage. You're then called a hypocrite.

That's the problem right there; full on dependence. Yes I use those products, I'm/We're not at the point yet where we can be fully free of them, but there's nothing wrong with using them for the time being, doing what you can (i.e. recycle, and making smart choices when you can) and hoping for the day that we aren't so dependent on the slick stuff.

Anonymous said...

Nice play on words "using our energy --- on solar power!" Now we have been thinking solar power for years (Sunny Alberta is not a new term). Our next house is definitely going to incorporate some such form of heat/light/energy. Okay so far I have a tiny (small **cough**) house and solar power PLUS we recycle bottles, separate compost and are generally pretty Eco-friendly. What's our next gig? You tell me....
Guess who since I'm not using evil Google.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the comments everyone!

Great points Travis! I agree it's all about making the shift away from oil. Little by little…

To the anonymous poster who dared me to "Guess Who" - I recall this board game fondly and shall take you up on your challenge… Do you wear glasses?

Unknown said...

That picture....

Unknown said...

If all it takes to get you to comment on my blog are photos of you in your youth, dear brother, I would have started posting them long, long ago. I have A LOT of pictures...