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I went to MIT today to see the host of WGBH's "This Old House," Kevin O'Connor, speak to the Solar Decathlon team.  "This Old House" is running a series of shows on the remodeling of an Austin, TX house as a green building.  They increased the square footage by about 50% and lowered the energy bills by 40% as well as getting the highest rating, five stars, from the Austin green building authorities.  

However, "This Old House" is not the only WGBH show that is going solar.  "Bob the Builder" did a solar electric conversion on a trailer this week, too.  

As a matter of fact, solar is busting out all over the TV screen.  I was watching the 11 o'clock news on WBZ and there was a commercial from Local 103 IBEW lauding their experience and enthusiasm for solar.  Local 103 has a windmill that supplies most of the energy for their union hall and is visible from the highway every day as tens of thousands of commuters drive past it.  They are also installing PV panels on their roof if they haven't done so already.

This is the second solar renovation that "This Old House" has done.  About 20 years and more ago, they did a show on a house in Brookline, MA in conjunction with Boston Electric, a company that no longer exists.  It had passive solar features, solar hot water, and building integrated PV.  In response to my question, O'Connor said that all of the systems had been removed by subsequent owners since that time.

I did a video tour of that house back in the day and a friend was one of the carpenters on that project.  Oh well, so it goes.

2/28/07 - Solar, As Seen on TV
3/6/07 - Solar, As Seen on TV (2)

Originally posted to gmoke on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 08:44 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank you (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OLinda, shpilk, JohnGor0, VA2CA

    Thank you for the update - glad to see solar is getting more media attention.  

    And your blogroll also is great.

  •  Kinda makes you wonder (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OLinda, shpilk

    what happened to the alternative energy plans of the 70's when there were long lines at gas stations because of the "shortages".

    by VA2CA on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 09:04:06 PM PST

    •  What Happened (5+ / 0-)

      Reagan.  Reagan killed us.  One of the first things he did was fire the researchers at the Solar Energy Research Institute.  Those who were there said they got the message that they should find another field of interest.

      One of the differences between this solar boom and the other solar booms (at the turn of the 19th into the 20th century, in Florida in the 1930s and again in the 1950s, and in the 1970s) is that there are a whole bunch of people who have hung in through the dry period and now have thirty years of experience.  We have a strong foundation of experienced solar installers and builders now.  That should mean that the fly-by-nights will be fewer than before and that the lessons have been learned.

      Oh so one can hope.

      Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at

      by gmoke on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 09:36:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The other thing regan did was to get us (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        OLinda, KiaRioGrl79, VA2CA

        off the track to convert to metric - I hated him for that from the very start and take his name in vein every time I have to buy two sets of tools or try to figure out my woodworking cuts - try evenly spacing 5 drawers in a piece that is 3 ft 4 3/4 inches tall.

        "For me, walking into a nice Jewish deli IS a religious experience." -my mom

        by ETinKC on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 10:08:03 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  This is the future (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KiaRioGrl79, VA2CA
    • Produce locally
    • Decentralize
    • Destroy the network of greedy polluting corporations

    Independent generation means more secure sourcing in case of disruption, less impact due to wild shifts in energy costs and strengthens the infrastructure of the nation.

    Win, win, win.

    These actions need to happen in every city, every town.

    •  We do need to address the (0+ / 0-)

      problems with the raw materials and the manufacturing process, but I agree that solar is a great investment to make, and should be on every surface.  My company helped install some of the largest solar projects in the united states.

      "For me, walking into a nice Jewish deli IS a religious experience." -my mom

      by ETinKC on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 09:45:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Problems (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Is the problem with raw materials the present shortage of purified silicon or something deeper?

        I'd like to get some more information about the pollution and toxics caused by the purification and manufacturing process.  Do you have any good references?

        If your company is both an oil company (I checked your diary page) and a solar installer, I'd guess your employer is BP.

        But I could be wrong.

        Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at

        by gmoke on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 09:57:50 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The problems are both with the raw materials (0+ / 0-)

          and the the chemicals used in the manufacture process -  but with more research this can be overcome.

          And good guess on BP, they spend the most on green work and advertise the most - but I work for chevron.  They bought my company a few years back to increase effort in energy conservation, we do performance contracting - energy retrofits for large customers.

          "For me, walking into a nice Jewish deli IS a religious experience." -my mom

          by ETinKC on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 10:04:14 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Sun Edison (0+ / 0-)

            Heard about Sun Edison today.  They are doing an energy services management model using PV for commercial and government customers.  They'll buy and install the PV panels while the customer pays a set price for the electricity.  It's similar to the model CitizenRE is using but they actually have large customers and a track record.  The guy I heard about it from was with Staples and they are doing a LOT of solar and green thinking up and down the supply chain.  Or at least that's what he says.

            Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at

            by gmoke on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 10:41:16 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Decentralize - Create Jobs (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Earlier this week I caught part of a speech that Bill Clinton had recently given at a university in Kansas. Although he was using ethanol as an example, the point was that the distribution system to the end-user needs to be created, and that means - jobs.

      Additionally, he made the point that to make ethnaol usage cost-effective the end-user must be close to the source of production, meaning that production and distribution must be localized. Not only does this mean jobs thru the creation of the infrastructure, but because cost-effective production needs to be close to the source of raw materials, use of regional material will take pressure off the use of a food source (corn).

      The change in infrastructure is going to create jobs, lots of jobs, regardless of the type of alternate energy your changing to - if we can support an industry thru a $25k deduction for vehicles over 6000-lbs...

      It was also refreshing to see a President speak in complex sentences.

  •  I've lived in a passive solar heated home (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    splashy, KiaRioGrl79

    for tha last 14 years. It has a 180 sq ft Trombe Wall and a bunch of direct gain windows with an astounding Mountian and sound view. I designed it myself. My back up heat is electric baseboard and the bills are small maybe $150-$200 total for the whole heating season.

    The Party of Endless Occupation / The Party of Desperate Escalation / The Republicans Misled the Nation

    by Lefty Coaster on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 09:53:10 PM PST

    •  My Solar Bedroom (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I have one room in my rented city apartment essentially off-grid with two solar LED lights and a solar/dynamo flashlight/radio modified to charge AA batteries.

      Cost less than $200.

      My view is of the building next door and the sky.

      Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at

      by gmoke on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 09:54:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Cheaper Solar Panels (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    On Thursday, the ABC's (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) "Catalyst" science program had a segment on recent developments in solar energy from the Australian National University.

    The segment described Sliver Cells. These are a different kind of solar cell that are step forward in several areas. Leaving aside the technical advances, the big step forward is in economics. To quote from the programme:

    The cost of solar is measured is the number of years of free electricity you need to pay off the installation. Today it’s about 20. With mass-produced sliver cells it could be just 5 to 7 years.

    There are some popular science level publications available that describe the technology in more detail (follow the "Publications" link), including an overview paper.

    According to the programme, they expect to go into commercial production next year.

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