Thursday, October 30, 2014

Survey says that "greenies" will conserve ...

Survey says that "greenies" will conserve ...
Earlier this month, I asked you about solar power.

The question came up because someone told me that rather than conserve, they would just add additional solar panels to their home.

So I wanted to know what dedicated "greenies" would do if all of their power came from the sun.

The answers are interesting and complex:

Survey Results

Survey says that "greenies" will conserve ...

Survey Comments

  • Of course I would still conserve if I were getting all my energy from solar. To do otherwise would mean I had used more rare earth minerals and other elements by buying more panels than I actually needed.
  • The answer is, it depends. If i was 100% solar and was attached to the grid and they were paying me for the extra i was producing then i'd make the attempt to save as much as i could. But, i'd still turn off lights when not in use, because your affecting the longevity of the bulbs. The thermostat? no. again if i wasn't being paid for the extra energy then that is being wasteful. The sun is giving you the energy use it.
  • Why? If the solar power had to be used just for my own home there's no reason. If a traditional power company purchased the unused solar power and in return lowered the cost of energy to its other customers, I probably would. But from what I understand that doesn't occur.
  • I still think everything in moderation is key. I don't think anyone should over consumer anything...take only what you need.
  • I would be donating unused energy to the grid thus saving fossil fuels
  • Solar is not technically 100% renewable energy, given that it takes a tremendous amount of energy and materials to extract, manufacture, distribute, install and eventually, replace/repair/dispose. There are statistics that it takes approximately 4-8 years of 'free, renewable energy' to pay back the energy that it takes to get it to your home. While I am all for renewables, we MUST reduce first. Otherwise, renewables will never be affordable or desirable to the masses. You might enjoy this post:
  • Well, I already do which wasn't an option on this questionnaire :). I wouldn't be changing my current habits. As a side note, solar for my small small home costs about $13-15,000 upfront to have it installed - which for me is not something I have lying around and would take 20 years for me to recup the cost since my electric is only $40/mo averag. While there are incentives and tax breaks, yes, you still have to come up with the whole chunk in advance, which makes it still close to impossible for most working class folks to afford. In Australia it's a microscopic cost in comparison...
  • You know what, I have actually never thought about this before. I guess I'm kind of ashamed to say "no." But I guess society is sold the idea that if something is renewable (or plentiful) then you don't *have* to conserve. Conserving isn't good in its own right, it's only good if the resource in question is limited. But all energy use by me is energy I'm taking from something else. For example, if I power my TV from a power station that's a square mile of solar panels, those solar panels are blocking the sun from reaching the soil, and the bacteria in the soil, and the seedlings that would otherwise be sprouting. The earth is a zero-sum game, it seems. Maybe the idea behind conservation needs to change. Maybe the way it's sold to the public needs to change. Maybe instead of conservation, it could be use-appropriate consumption, or resource sharing, or something that implies balance and cooperation, instead of just staving off the next shortage until the next boom comes along. Thanks for making me think about this question! :)
  • Absolutely! No need to be wasteful, especially if the energy is being stored in a battery for future use. If there's an emergency or a long stretch of cloudy/stormy days that backup power will come in handy.
  • As we are 100% on solar power, and not meaning to be aggressive in my reply, responding to your question from our personal experience the answer depends entirely on what power input you have from your solar panels and what battery storage capacity you have. On cold, but sunny days our panels produce more power than on hot, sunny days. If you are aware that you are in for a couple of days of overcast weather, you tend to use as little power as possible in order to eke out the power that you have available. Once you reach float or absorb stage with your batteries (in our case our batteries are at that stage from +/- 12 noon onwards), you can use whatever power is being produced by your panels freely as your batteries cannot absorb any further charge. I, therefore, tend to switch on my washing machine then ;) One has to plan for those days of minimal power input, more than for the days where power is freely available. Investing in double glazing, manual kitchen / household gadgets, low watt (3 watt) LED lights, A+ (or better) appliances you can live your life quite normally. (Switching off 3 watt light globes when you're not in the room is still a good idea, but if you had ten on at the same time, they combined would only use 30 watts of power / hour, which will hardly make a dent on your battery power during a 4 - 5 hour evening. Basically, getting back to basics and ditching power guzzling air-conditioners / heaters / electric stoves, you shouldn't have a problem. A broom cleans as well as a vacuum cleaner, and a dishcloth in a sink of good hot, soapy water vs a dishwasher, etc - it just requires more effort from the human wielding the appliance :)

My Thoughts

Survey says that "greenies" will conserve ...
I've thought a lot about this question.

One one hand, if we invest in enough solar panels, and they can supply a lavish lifestyle, then why not use liberally?

On the other hand, those panels aren't made out of air ... they require materials. So living large (power-wise) means that resources are being used to build additional solar panels for our lavish use. That seems wrong.

Our new home (a passive solar home) will be equipped with solar and photovoltaic panels. We are installing a net-zero system. That means that the total amount of energy we use, which will come from "the grid", will roughly be equal to the amount of solar energy we create (which will be sold back to "the grid").

You might be wondering why we chose this system as opposed to an "off grid" system.

Batteries which store solar energy are, at this time, expensive and have a short lifespan. Simply put, they are not cost effective for us. Hopefully, one day, they will be less expensive and more efficient. At that time, we'll upgrade and become grid free.

As I mentioned above, we are building a passive solar home. The house's orientation, along with the materials used to build it, will allow us to use nature to both warm and cool our home. With the net-zero system, we have the potential of generating more power than we use. That means that the grid will use less energy from other sources (in my area, most energy comes from coal).

I will continue to conserve so that the solar energy we generate will go that much further in reducing the need for "dirty" energy. If we generate more power than we use, then "the grid" benefits. That makes it very appealing to conserve.

Thanks to everyone who participated and left a thoughtful comment. As always, I learn so much from you!