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augustlan's avatar

Possible renewable energy plan?

Asked by augustlan (46609 points ) September 29th, 2008

If the US is really interested in investing in renewable energy, why are we focused on developing possible energy sources instead of harnessing an already existing energy source…the sun. Wouldn’t it make sense to use all that “development” money to equip all or most buildings (residential and commercial) with the means to be solar powered? Since the sun is free, it would be a one-time investment that would pay off for many years to come. Since the sun is free, would the powers-that-be ever allow such a thing to happen?

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12 Answers

galileogirl's avatar

Why not start off with building codes for new construction. Why not require appropriate passive heating and cooling systems as part of building permits. We already set certain standards like ceiling height, foundation standards, size and accessibility of bedroom windows and plumbing and electrical standards. Why not require solar panels, solar efficiency in placement of windows, floors/patio slabs that maintain even temperature. When incorporated in new construction the cost is much less than when added to existing buildings and will lower energy usage over the entire life of the house.

augustlan's avatar

I see that point, and it’s a good one. However, that would pass the cost onto the builder, then the buyer. I’m thinking those costs could be subsidized with the money we’d otherwise spend on theoretical(sp) plans.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

@augustlan

I could not agree more with you. I am an electrician, currently in the middle of a 8 week solar power course. I am very excited about it. However, like you said about the powers that be, I see that the oil companies are, and have been for years, trying to take over the energy that is available to everyone. Shell, BP, and Exxon bought up many of the PV manufacturers. Now I keep hearing about solar and wind farms. Sure, it sounds like a good idea, but the same people that control the energy now, will control it in the future also.

I think the biggest problem is that the media defines things and tells people what the word means. Take energy independence for example. Ask people what that means and they will say, “to be independent from foreign oil.” WRONG!!!!! To me, energy independence means that every person is energy independent. Like you said, we have the power to harness the sun, wind, and water to produce our own energy. Granted, it is a bit expensive now, but thats why businesses need to take the lead and drive down manufacturing costs, which would make it affordable for the average homeowner, and eventually make it affordable to give everyone in the whole world electricity.

I also see that many towns, at least in NJ, are making it illegal to install battery banks for storage, forcing people to only tie into the utility grid. If there was a law that forced utilities to buy back power for the amount that they sell it, I would be somewhat ok with this idea, however, in NJ, the utilities are not forced to do so, paying $.01kwh less than they charge. Its only a penny difference right now, but it opens the door for more and higher charges. In my opinion, the optimal system for a home would be a bimodal(battery backup and gridtie) system so during the day you are charging the batteries and during “peak hours” you can use the energy you have stored. I feel the ban on batteries is more for the utilities to keep control also.

The possibilities are endless. In Denmark, they have solar and wind and have many electric cars. When the cars are home, they get plugged in and become storage devices. When you get to work, plug it in and you have more storage. We are so behind in this country, mostly because of the oil companies. Watch Who Killed the Electric Car.

America is supposed to be the land of the free. I do not believe it is. I believe in 3 steps to complete freedom and I bet it would help the economy like crazy.
1. Abolish the property tax. People should have the right to pay off their mortgage and completely own the land without being forced to pay taxes on it.
2. Energy independence. My definition, not theirs.
3. Make your own food. Garden, raise animals, stop buying processed and factory farm foods.

With these 3 steps, anything extra people want, will be easy to buy because people wont be working just to survive and pay for necessities, they will be taken care of already.

I would also like to add a 4th step, just to prove a point. If we are going to continue buying things from corporations that make things in China, we may as well bring slavery(not a racist remark!!) back here. I believe it is wrong that it is ok for us to buy things, made by people with very little, or no rights at all, just because it doesnt happen on our turf.

augustlan's avatar

@Chris: Regarding China…not to mention all the recent recalls of products made in China due to safety issues (toys with lead paint, formula with melamine, etc…). I think it may be time to stop all imports from the country.

winblowzxp's avatar

The problem with solar power is that the panels are quite expensive, but you just don’t get a lot of power from it without using a bunch of panels.

I think that we should invest more into fusion research, something like nuclear, but cleaner and just as efficient.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

Nuclear is expensive. I just went through training for a nuclear power plant. You could not imagine the money wasted on security alone. If you think solar is expensive, you have no clue. Nuclear just seems cheap because the money comes from the government. Dont fool yourself that it is cheap. If the people took charge of solar and wind and not the government and corporations, money will not be an issue.

Energy independence- The ability to be able to produce your own energy, independently, without relying on anyone else for it, only the resources available to us every day.

galileogirl's avatar

With solar power it’s all about efficiency of scale. As long as production is low prices remain high. Car manufacturers used to argue that catalytic converters were too expensive, the 4 meg pc cost $5000. The more that are produced the cheaper, smaller and more efficient they became. We have to provide a market and solar power will become more feasible. Even as expensive as solar panels are today, the are still cheaper over their life span than power from the utility company. It’s all about “pay me now or pay me later” and as we have seen over the last three years, paying later can be much, much more expensive.

augustlan's avatar

That’s why I think the government, if truly serious about change, should throw the money at solar power. Right now, only the rich can afford it, but if the gov. bought and installed the equipment, production costs would go down and even more people could afford it. This would go a long way towards energy independence for not only the country, but individuals as well.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

Who pays for the money the government uses??

We need to take the corporations out of manufacturing and let the people do it. Its only expensive because the oil companies took over the manufacturing and now control the supply, therefore controlling the price.

augustlan's avatar

I really don’t think most people have the knowledge, time or money to manufacture solar panels themselves. I realize it’s our tax dollars I’m talking about…I just think this is where the money could do the most good re: energy.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

Well how about you take a day or two and read a book about it? Go to the library and check it out. The sun is out and the wind blows every day. Pick up a book and learn to utilize it. The government doesnt have to do everything for us u know.

galileogirl's avatar

chris: you are making a lot of assumptions based on whai I can only hope is a lack of experience-which you may grow out of. I can assure you it would be impossible for 10s of millions of us to build efficient, safe renewable energy facilities, let alone place them so they will be effective’

I am not necessarily saying the govt should pay pay for solar or wind power devices for private but they could require that all govt buildings meet green goals.

Local officials could change zoning laws so that all new construction and most reconstruction must be energy efficient. When roofs are being replaced zoning laws could require higher insulation values and maybe property tax rebates for those improvements.

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