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Search Engine Giant Google Wins Green Leap Award
This is a new feature we’ve added in order to highlight organizations and companies who have made noteworthy contributions to developing a clean energy policy based on renewable power. We recently profiled Cal Green Lending, Real Goods, and Nanosolar, and these companies are retroactively awarded this distinction as well.
Today we’d like to salute…well…a giant media corporation. Not just any multibillion-dollar press magnet, either; Google is the most active web entity on Earth, attracting over 80 million visitors daily to its search result pages and other web services.
“To Google” has become an infinitive transitive verb meaning, “to instantly research any topic.” According to our site statistics, there is a 75% chance you arrived here via Google referral.
Google exercises god-like power over the Internet, defining the user experience and revolutionizing the core concept of advertising with the Google Adsense program, which enables millions of independent content creators to easily place ads on their site.
The start-up in San Jose has gone on to become one of the wealthiest corporations on Earth, and many online talking heads (and the courts) regularly debate the dangers of concentrating so much power in a single company. What is not debatable is that Google is one of the most active corporate voices on behalf of alternative energy.
Google has been putting these considerable funds where its press releases are, adding the world’s largest solar array to the Mountain View facility, and we’ve reported previous;y on the investment founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page have made in the ultra-thin printed solar modules from Nanosolar.
The latest news is the best yet: the “.org” side of the loudest voice in technological development has issued a bold plan to “Green the Grid” and shift the majority of energy production away from fossil fuels by 2030. Drafted by Jeffrey Greenblatt, who is the Climate and Energy Technology Manager for Google, the analysis recommends an investment of $4.4 trillion in a combination of solar, wind, and geothermal power. The program calls for 88% of grid electrcity to be produced from earth-friendlier technology by the target date.
We’d like to quibble a bit with the low goals for the vehicle fuel aspect of this plan…a piddling 38% percent reduction of petroleum in 20 years. The plan focuses on using electricity for transportation , which is nice, but will require a completely new infrastructure of charging stations and new vehicle factories,
Greenblatt also oddly presumes that electrical power will be cheap and abundant, which seems unrealistic, considering the effort which will be needed to accommodate existing and inflating demand for household and commercial electricity. We’d be robbing the lights to pay the tank.
At Holy Solar, we’d like to see 80% or more of a reduction in petroleum fuel by 2030, which can not be accomplished with electric cars alone. We were not able to find a single reference to the role of biofuels. Also, the notion of offering rebates to “retire older cars early,” is wasteful of the existing vehicles and the energy that went into building them.
It also ignores the millions of poor who have never owned a new car and probably never will. This was clearly a plan drawn up by someone with a well-paying career, but the fact is that this comes at a time when auto manufacturers are struggling to sell new vehicles at all.
So, as you stride up to the podium to collect your award, Dear Google, please do take a moment to think bigger about the potential of biofuels to achieve for vehicles what solar, wind and geothermal power do for electricity…allow a gradual shift while salvaging the existing infrastructure. Let’s not throw millions of vehicles to the scrap heap when a simple modification can make them burn more cleanly.
Nevertheless, this plan is admittedly a first draft; what we’d like to salute is the way this media giant is pioneering the dialogue about going beyond the inconvenient truth to investing in the technology to make this the time for a Green Revolution. Therefore, Google is hereby named winner of this week’s “Green Leap Award.”
The Holy Solar crew trucked down to Hopland, California, for the annual SolFest celebration at the Solar Living Institute & left with this song and video.
Solar Living Experiment
For those of you who’ve never been
It’s so amazing as to be a sin
Right along scenic highway one-oh-one
There’s a magical place, mostly about the Sun
We’d heard about the Redwoods, so we came to see,
What it felt like to be under all of those trees
We weren’t the first to hear their call
Hundred foot Redwoods dwarfing any wall
Under their canopy you might feel a little small
Until you give one a hug and feel part of it all.
With towering trees and ancient ferns
Restoring the forest each time it burns
Once again, we’re headed down to the Solar Living Institute in Hopland California to take part in the annual Solfest gathering. For those who are not familiar, the Solar Living Institute is one of the most active and established sites using green technologies and earth-friendly land strategies since 1998.
Associated with the Real Goods Eco-store, the Solar Living Institute is one of our favorite places on Earth. Featuring the largest array of solar panels in Northern California, SLI’s Solar 2000 module grid produces more than 160,000 kilowatt hours of power annually. Since 2003, anyone traveling Highway 101 has been able to top off their biodiesel tank while visiting this historic landmark of the future.
A leader in alternative energy information, SLI sponsors ongoing workshops in the Bay Area and along the North Coast throughout the year, but SolFest brings together speakers on topics from straw bale building construction and permaculture to biofuels and windmills.
And, of course, solar energy. The entire event will be powered by the many solar panels which adorn the venue year round, and experts in grid-tie applications, tax incentives, and off-grid solar photovoltaics will be making presentations, as well as being on hand to answer questions.
Year-round interns care for and eat from the organic farm and permaculture displays, leaving with an intimate knowledge of Earth-friendly techniques to bring into a world in desperate need of solutions. Each year, the volunteer staff joins them to help produce a zero-waste event using all-natural biodegradable plates, bottles, and utensils.
We’ll be volunteering there as well as signing up folks for our new newsletter- which will be launching sometime next week with our experiences and inside view of the event. We’ll also be trying to get a hold of a video recorder so that we can make a brief documentary about SLI, Real Goods, and SolFest, hopefully with interviews and some good shots of one of the most innovative villages on Earth.
*The Solar Living Center picture was provided by anotheremily
In the previous post, we covered some of the main reasons why we chose the Unisolar 64 Watt solar panel for supplemental power in our alternative energy bus. We made the purchase at the Real Goods store in Hopland, California, but because our roof had no metal to fix the mounting brackets to, installation was pretty much up to us.
Erik at Real Goods helped us develop a plan, drew a diagram showing the proper way to hook up the wiring between the junction box of the solar panel, the regulator, and batteries, and wished us well. We had his card in the event of emergency; fortunately, we never needed it.
The first issue we confronted was the fiberglass roof. Since Mahayana was not new when we met her, we lacked electrical diagrams of the wiring scheme, although we could make some educated guesses. We decided that the region on either side of the visible wire bundle ought to be safe for drilling, and this turned out to be correct.
Along with the Unisolar Thin Film Panel, we chose the Uni-Rac RV mounting bracket set, which brought the total bill to just under $500. The bracket set is simple enough, but to avoid undue stress to the fiberglass, we mounted a T-plate to the roof beneath each bracket and attached the mounts to those.
This works well, but at high speeds there is some vibration noise, which makes us wish that we had insulated the T-plate with felt “washers,” such as battery terminal pads. Live and learn!
Each T-plate was mounted with a pair of fittings to the roof. The holes were drilled with a 5/8″ bit and secured with 1/2″ X 2 1/2″ mechanical bolts.
Since our solar panel is bus-mounted, we didn’t need to worry about connecting the panel to a ground, but those working on residential installations will need to ground the frame of the panel.
We drilled an additional hole through the roof in order to accommodate the positive and negative wires which passthe charge from the panel to the batteries, making a total of nine breaches in our ceiling. Preserving the integrity of the roof being a priority, we were glad to see that we made only as many as were needed. We were quite happy as well to see that the holes were confined to a relatively small area, approximately two feet across and three back. This means that there is room for at least one more panel like this if- and when- we expand our solar collection potential.
After making sure we had all of the wire, connections, splices and fuses we needed- all of which are included in the Global Solar Energy Extra Connectivity Kit– we proceeded to connect the SunSaver controller first to the deep-cycle marine batteries, and then to the panel. We made sure to splice the included fuse module to the positive wires on either side of the controller for overload protection.
It’s been a little more than two weeks since we added the Unisolar Thinfilm Panel to our alternative energy houseboat, and the results have exceeded expectations. The little green light, signifying charge, goes on with the first glint of dawn and stays fiercely bright, in shade and beneath cloudy skies, until the last flash of sunset disappears from the horizon.