Saturday, June 3, 2017

All Solar All The Time

I have an unusual relationship with the sun. I don't like bright sunlight. This has to do with my autism. Even with me avoiding bright sunshine as much as I can, I still get very tan very quickly. Maybe this is a sign that my body doesn't NEED as much sun as the average body does.

So, I stay out of the sun, and find it unpleasant when I have to be outside on a sunny day -- pretty much the exact opposite of most people. It has been this way my entire life.

But lately a new element has been added: my enthusiasm for solar energy. This enthusiasm, much like the solar-power industry, has just kept rapidly growing and growing over the past few years. But despite the steady growth in solar power, I've been getting steadily more and more frustrated because it isn't growing faster. I see the bright sunlight falling down all around (usually looking out from inside through a window), and all I can think of is how that tremendous amount of energy is being wasted every second, because there aren't solar panels everywhere. You know how in movies sometimes there's a character who knows something very important, and he goes around yelling about it, but nobody understands this very important thing, and so everybody thinks he's crazy? I haven't gotten to the point yet where I go around screaming about solar power all the time. But I've gotten to the point where I can very easily picture myself doing it: "Put the solar panels everywhere! Smash the power of the private utilities! We don't need coal! We don't need it! Aaaarrrghh!"

Except that more and more people would understand exactly what I was talking about, and fewer and fewer would think I was crazy.

Maybe I should do it: just start flipping out and screaming about it in public. Maybe if I do, lots of others will join me.

This is a global issue, as you may have heard, but it's been much easier for me to find statistics on US solar power than on global solar power.

And even the US statistics aren't always entirely clear. For example, I've read that 1.3 rooftops in the US have solar panels, including nearly 400,000 installations in 2016 alone. But are those all residential rooftops, or does that include the rooftops of factories and warehouses and office buildings and restaurants and malls and gas stations and other buildings? And among residential rooftops, how do the logistics of solar for single-family houses compare to those of solar for apartment buildings of various sizes? Not to mention the logistics for non-residential buildings?

There are lots and lots of figures and stats involved here, and in case it isn't already completely obvious: I'm not up to speed yet on all of them. I apologize for being lazy about that even though I understand how important it is to give you the best information I can.

One figure that you see very often is that between 40% and 50% of America's electricity could be generated by solar. Frankly, I don't trust that figure, because I think they're not counting all of the places where solar panels could be put. I know, I know, it's not cost-efficient to put solar panels everywhere, or to completely cover every roof with PV (photovoltaic, light-to-electricity) panels. But let's put 'em everywhere anyway. Let's over-do it.

Plus, the technology is making the PV panels more efficient, and all of the other related technology more effective, such as batteries which keep more power longer. So I think we can go way past 50% of our electricity from solar.

And then there's still wind and geothermal and tidal and so forth.

Also: a lot of the projections about the future of solar power (and other renewable sources of energy) have to do with energy utility policy: utilities could decide to screw people over and minimize the benefits of renewables, legislatures could continue to give big incentives to oil and gas, etc.

In short: politics will have a lot to do with it.

Which means that we the people can grab this issue and make it ours. We can take over all the utilities, and vote for people who will run them for the greatest possible benefit to health and sanity, and pass laws which are friendly to methods of generating power which are friendly to living things. We can do that. In the US, that means: vote Democratic, and in the primaries, vote for the Democrats who're most progressive on energy. Don't throw your votes away by voting Green, because this is much too important. This post attempts to explain to American Green Party voters how it is that they are throwing their votes away while Green Party voters in other countries are not, and what changes we need to make to the US Constitution so that we can vote Green here too without throwing our votes away. The idea of doing away with the Electoral College has gotten very popular, and we should do that. But in addition to that, we can make a lot of other huge improvements in the way our government functions.

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