Saturday, April 12, 2008

SolarCity, making it easier to be green?

Polycrystaline PV cells laminated to backing material in a PV moduleSolar Cells.
Image from Wikimedia Commons
Being green isn't easy, just as Kermit said. We are not the most green household, far from it. But it is not for lack of desire, or even for lack of motivation, it's that it is hard work and there is little incentive. I suspect we are not the only Americans that feel that way.

Why is that?

I won't speak to why recycling is so hard, other than to mention that something that you have to spend more time doing, and pay extra for (as is the case in many munincipalities), isn't likely to win a lot of converts in the US, that's just how we Americans are.

I won't speak to why fuel efficient cars and hybrids don't have a larger share of the US market already (although this is growing) except to mention that at present, most vehicles of this type don't make economic sense yet. (note, my current vacation is the first chance I've had to drive a Prius and I think I'm in love... it just needs a way bigger battery. But I digress)

No, those are large topics and I'll leave further discussion of them out of this post except to say that they are hard problems. Make them easy, anyone, and people will change habits. However some people (those more concerned with economics and practicality instead of ideology) there will be no change in habit before they're easy.

Green electricity is another hard problem. So, let me tell you about a nifty outfit I learned about called SolarCity. (as with anything I mention, disclaimers apply, my opinion only, do your homework, don't take my word for it, etc. etc.) This company, one of several started by Elon Musk, of PayPal fame and fortune, is trying to make solar electricity easy, especially for residences.

Putting aside the engineering and efficiency problems that need improving (and which are being addressed by many researchers), a very big problem with solar is how daunting of a project it is. As their website outlines, there are permits to obtain, construction to oversee, financing concerns, agreements with the power company to worry about, ongoing maintenance, and eventual replacement of parts, and a host of other concerns. Much hassle.

SolarCity's approach is to be a bundled provider, their PowerStation product is more or less turnkey, as it includes all the componentry, the photovoltaic solar panels, inverters, electric interconnects and metering, and ancillary hardware, and more importantly, all the paperwork, needed for a residential installation. They offer a purchaseable installation in PowerStation, as well as a leasable option in SolarLease which reduces the upfront cost. The only problem I have? They're not yet in our area, so far it's a California only operation.

There is a significant fraction of the population that will only go green when offered this sort of turnkey approach, in my view.

Does that include you? Are you green already? What's holding you back?


RoscoHead said...

Well, if it was easy, it would have been done already. The whole problem stems from the fact that we've taken the easy way out for so long. Want PowerStation in your area? Why not talk to SolarCity and people in your area about helping to start it up? Sounds like a great opportunity to me. But I guess it's too hard.

Oh and BTW, I think the Kermit who performed that song was a frog, not a file transfer protocol. And your Technicbricks link could do with a look.

llywrch said...

Actually, recycling isn't as difficult as it may seem -- if the infrastructure is properly set up. Here in Portland OR, one just puts the recyclables out on the curb each week in their own tubs next to the trash. One no longer even needs to sort the materials out -- although it is helpful. As a result, over 50% of the population recycles; the rest either still need encouragement, or stubbornly refuse to do so. ("No damn Commie is gonna make me keep my newspapers & tin cans out of the trash.")

On the other hand, the bottle deposit system is broken, sabotaged by the beverage distributing industry. They've successfully blocked updating the state bottle law for years with such tactics as offering junkets to state legislators, & foisted unreliable redemption machines on us, which after spending 15 minutes trying to put bottles or cans through anyone will be tempted to return their bottles through the grocery store's windows. If this situation wasn't intentionally created by the distributors, they are certainly fooling me.