Monday, October 08, 2007

Solar and Sustainable Tour

Maria and I attended the West Linn Solar & Sustainable Tour this past Saturday even though we don't live in the town. There were two interesting presentations, one by Chris Morgan, a resident who has used photo-voltaic cells to generate electricity and heat hot water, and two people from the Clackamas River Water Providers that serves West Linn. Some of the interesting take-aways:

If you have the land, you can get some of your space and water heating done using geothermal heat, i.e., heat in the ground.

Solar electricity is a lot more affordable than it used to be. But you need to take into account the long-term payback; it is not a small investment. Chris' estimates per Kwh for solar electricity was between $7.50 and $9.00. If you use 6000 Khw per year, that is between $45,000 and $54,000. There are a number of ways to calculate the payback, but there are intangibles that go with the investment as well. As Chris put it in a handout:
"Now whenever the sun shines we notice it and smile, and as silly as it may seem, after putting in the panels we both marvel even more at all the beauties of the Earth. There is tremendous satisfaction knowing that you are living in harmony with your world..."

In the world of water, using an ultra low flow toilet can save a typical household between 8,000 and 12,000 gallons of water per year.

Take shorter showers to save water. We picked up a little conservation kit that included something called a "Shower Coach" that is a five-minute hourglass encased in a plastic molding that latches onto a shower stall. I've got my showers down from near ten minutes to five to six minutes with the help of the coach.

It's more fun doing these types of events together than solo. Maria is energized to reduce our footprint and we're talking seriously about bringing solar PV contractors in for estimates.

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