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I plan to put solar panels on my new home when it gets built, which is bad for my wallet but good for the world. The world benefits because I will be generating about as much electric energy as I use, for once. I lose because if I could wait about three years before installing the system, the cost will probably drop so much that I will have a faster payoff. It's probably a difference of some tens of thousands of dollars. Unfortunately for me, but good for you, I'm obligated to start right away because solar panels were a condition of approval from the city, and that won't change. Nor should it. I'm helping to drive down the cost for the next person.

I was reminded of this when I heard about Al Gore's ambitious recommendation that we should attempt to generate all electricity from green sources in ten years. Many experts believe that timetable is too ambitious.

What do you think?

It is safe to assume the federal government will be more hindrance than help. Any real progress will come from brilliant individuals inventing things, funded by super rich investors. I can't see them cracking the full nut in ten years, no matter what gets invented.

Meanwhile, 99.99% of the general public is treating this as a spectator sport. It makes you wonder how you can help, since this might be the most important battle our species has known.

I can vote for the candidate who has the best energy policy, but none of them have plans ambitious enough to make a difference. And yes, I recycle. But let's face it: Recycling is the masturbation of energy policy. It might make you feel better, but it won't put a dent in global energy needs.

I wish some entrepreneur would create a way for citizens to invest in clean energy sources without having to gamble in abstractions such as the stock market or venture funds. I would love to invest in, for example, a particular windmill, or a piece of a solar farm that is generating a particular amount of energy each day. I would even invest in a few feet of new transmission cables in a specific place. I wouldn't care that it was a great investment if I knew it was directly helping save the planet.

If I could name my windmill, and see webcam pictures of it on the Internet to see how it is running, along with a widget on my desktop telling me how much power I am generating today, I would invest in it just to help save the planet, even if I knew the financial return was marginal. The same goes for investing in discrete parts of a solar farm, or any other clean energy source.

I realize windmills are expensive. But I'd be happy owning a share of a particular windmill with friends. We could name it together.

My prediction is that the brilliant scientists and the super rich investors working on clean energy can't meet the ten year goal by themselves. Some entrepreneur is going to have to figure out a way to get the other 99.99% of the country involved. If that happens, the ten year goal seems feasible to me, assuming the government stays out of the way.

 
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Sep 21, 2008
Would you feel less compelled to do good to the world by building an energy efficient home, if you managed to figure out a way to tremendously improve the world by a different path?

Like, for example, if you came up with condoms that Feel Better Than Sex (tm), and made them available for (almost) free, to anyone, anywhere in the world.
 
 
Aug 13, 2008
scott, community owned wind farms do exist. there are many in europe (especially denmark, germany and the UK), some in the US, and i'm involved with australia's first. i think community owned wind projects fit your criteria.

please stop by our website to check it out -- perhaps you'll even consider investing?

hepburnwind.com.au

i have solar panels on my roof, but and i'm amazed that a $4000 share of a wind farm will generate as much power as an average house needs. compare that with the cost of a solar array required to power your house.
 
 
Aug 1, 2008
Wind and solar canreduce fossil fuel consumption but not eliminate it. They are not acceptable for Base load generation becaus ethey are not reliable or stable so some sort of energy storage would be required. And that is a huge leap. At this point nuclear fission is the only viable alternative but maybe fusion in the future though the conditions required for fusion seem to be a bit difficult to manage to me. All this renewable energy initiative stuff is a bunch of crap people do to make them selves feel better about themselves and what they do.
 
 
Jul 31, 2008
here's my idea for working on getting the 99.99% of the public involved.
have some fund set up for the purpose of picking one house in a neighborhood - maybe do a poll to look into which occupants talk to the their neighbors the most and which neighbor all the othe neighbors admire the most (let's call them The Jones Household).....get The Jones set up with solar and get the whole neighborhood, or at least a few of them working towards keeping up with The Jones'.

and get someone to make the solar panels prettier
 
 
Jul 28, 2008
www.solarcity.com... Let's you lease a solar panel for your home for $85 a month. They're only in CA and the Phoenix metro, which is where I am. They want you to have a credit score of 720 , which I think I'm on the line. But kudos to affordable ($0 down) solar panels! :) The $85 a month will pay for itself very quickly as I run $350 a month right now on my A/C in the summertime!
 
 
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Jul 28, 2008
Many years ago I got an officially licensed Dilbert mug from a co-worker to help comply with an optional "no foam/paper coffee cups" policy we had in our office. (It also helped define the attitude needed for the position.)

Now I find the recipient of said license funds is putting solar panels on his house!!

A win-win for the environment!!!

But seriously, we need early adopters who can afford technologies to help drive costs down.
 
 
Jul 25, 2008
Have you considered micro-generation from wind power - your own personal windmill on your house?...

Expensive, and not likely to recoup the cost vs. buying your electricity off the grid, but may offer a contribution to your power consumption (if you have lots of wind!)
 
 
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Jul 23, 2008
I think the whole thing'll go a lot faster once we get BIG OIL MEN out of the top spots in government.
 
 
Jul 23, 2008
Scott,

If I understand what you're looking for, it already exists for some industries. They're called royalty trusts and basically are shell companies that throw off profits to its shareholders every month.

If you want to own a piece of an oil well or a coal mine, you can do it--just google royalty trusts.

Unfortunately, I think the problem is that none of these wind companies are making consistent money yet.
 
 
Jul 22, 2008
That's who we build windmills in Denmark.
a few years ago a groupof windmills went up near me, and everybody got a letter saying that they could by shares in this windmillpark, and that it would take so and so many years before the investment would start earning a profit.
so the ideer works.

http://www.wulffmorgenthaler.com/
 
 
Jul 22, 2008
Dear Scott,

Here's one company you might consider investing in. They deal primarily in wind turbines. Apparently, investors can purchase a wind turbine and have it installed. Once electricity is being generated, the investor gets a cut from the profits earned from selling the electricity. I would love to invest in this company and buy myself a wind turbine but as it is, I'm too poor to own one. I'm sure someone of significant wealth like yourself would be able to contribute to the green effort by investing in this company.

www.suzlon.com

Do check it out.

Cheers,
Steve
 
 
Jul 22, 2008
Hey!

It's much too easy to be pessimistic about the US's energy future, as is obvious just from the comments on this post... However, Germany, as well as some other European countries, have put into place legislation called feed-in tariffs (known as "renewable energy payments," REPs, in the US) which have caused huge growth in renewable energy generation. I really like REPs because instead of making the government subsidize RE or forcing utilities to generate only a certain percentage of RE, REPs encourage entrepreneurship, and open up the energy generation market, which is overall a very closed market right now.

Anyhow, I won't rant too much about it here, but I would encourage you to read more about it- the best place to go is the nonprofit group pushing for REP legislation in the US: the Alliance for Renewable Energy. Here's the basic breakdown of REPs, in their words: http://www.allianceforrenewableenergy.org/what-are-reps.html .

REPs are not as well-known in the US as they should be, sadly... They provide a new way of looking at this issue, mixing capitalism and environmentalism in a way I find quite inspiring!
 
 
Jul 22, 2008
Wind power... It's a lot of hot air: http://www.aweo.org/ProblemWithWind.html

We might as well call it biofuel part deux. One highlight: the power grid has no storage, so any power contributed by wind mills must be supplemented at 90% with conventional power for when the wind isn't blowing, or when the wind is blowing too hard (which damages the windmill).

Solar is far better as a point solution. Nuclear is the only technology that actually makes sense as a replacement. Other than that, we'll have to develop something new (fusion).
 
 
Jul 22, 2008
Contact EcoAmerica - they're working on the 99.9% of people who think global warming is a spectator sport. I love the idea of naming a windmill. www.ecoamerica.com
 
 
Jul 22, 2008
Since you were talking about investing in windmills, it made me think that someone could create an Alternative Energy Stock Market where you would invest money in existing alt energy devices and ones invented by entrepreneurs. This way, no one needs to wait for a rich investor to invest money, because the 99.9% bystanders would be involved and have the incentive to profit. The inventors would get backing to continue their product. Everybody wins!
 
 
Jul 22, 2008
Since you were talking about investing in windmills, it made me think that someone could create an Alternative Energy Stock Market where you would invest money in existing alt energy devices and ones invented by entrepreneurs. This way, no one needs to wait for a rich investor to invest money, because the 99.9% bystanders would be involved and have the incentive to profit. The inventors would get backing to continue their product. Everybody wins!
 
 
Jul 22, 2008
Since you were talking about investing in windmills, it made me think that someone could create an Alternative Energy Stock Market where you would invest money in existing alt energy devices and ones invented by entrepreneurs. This way, no one needs to wait for a rich investor to invest money, because the 99.9% bystanders would be involved and have the incentive to profit. The inventors would get backing to continue their product. Everybody wins!
 
 
Jul 22, 2008
Since you were talking about investing in windmills, it made me think that someone could create an Alternative Energy Stock Market where you would invest money in existing alt energy devices and ones invented by entrepreneurs. This way, no one needs to wait for a rich investor to invest money, because the 99.9% bystanders would be involved and have the incentive to profit. The inventors would get backing to continue their product. Everybody wins!
 
 
Jul 22, 2008
Good discussion...with lack of federal leadership (agree with DDFM), we need visible leadership and it can come from anywhere and everywhere...T Boone Pickens is just one such source. We all need to change the way we live and be willing, for some period of time, to invest (pay more than we might) in the new direction. Scott, here's a solution to your investment wish: www.marquisswindpower.com
 
 
Jul 22, 2008
From an environmental perspective, you'd have to get people caring. And you'd have to make them smart.

"We're running out of oil! And it costs to much! And it's bad for the environment! What do we do????"

"Find more spots to drill oil?"

I personally think oil is the lubricant for the earth's plates and draining it is causing all these earthquakes. Maybe we could scare them with that?

I too would love to do solar. Can't afford it. My family composts, has an organic garden in the backyard, tries not to drive stupid distances (4 !$%*! is not a long walk except in really bad weather), I've been adding insulation, planting trees, putting in rain barrels, etc. The neighbor across the way can't be bothered to properly dispose of his engine oil. Unless the storm drain in front of his house goes to some recycling center I'm not aware of.

The ten year thing MIGHT happen. The answer really is like every other "thing". You need to convince people they want it, starting with the uber-rich and working down. Find one company selling solar and boost them into the everyday market. BP Solar might be good. As it filters down the classes, the prices drop as demand increases, R&D gets more money, and soon you have a single solar panel you can buy at Home Depot for 100$ that will power your entire block. OK, let's say a simple 10000 for your home (not unreasonable - the local "fence" company wanted that much for 300 linear feet). Then you need to provide incentive to the people. For most, you would think just the monthly energy savings would be enough. But instead I think you have to go with the fear factor (if a tornado comes and wipes out the power company, you still have TV!) and tax breaks. Cause the whole death and taxes cliche seems to resonate with people.
 
 
 
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