The new falcon herald logo.
General Articles

Green electric irony

Our local utility is trying, really trying to be green. The electric co-op on Colorado’s eastern plains has recently installed solar electric panels and an electricity-generating windmill at their headquarters. Of course, windmills only work when there’s a breeze and crystalline solar panels are near useless if there’s a smidgen of shade on them.I was admiring the electric co-op’s green efforts, and then chuckled to myself when I realized they are, as yet, only a light green. There, on a windless but sunny morning, I noticed the sleek but motionless windmill casting a shadow clear across its solar panels. Sure, the Earth turns and those shadows will eventually move away, but the electric co-op has plenty of land and there’s really no excuse for such an oversight, except for the whole beginner’s learning curve excuse. These people know electricity, but they don’t know alternative energy so well just yet.We’re learning too. We are on the grid like everyone we know, but we like the idea of generating power on the ranch to help cover our electrical demand. Of course, the most efficient energy is the energy you never need to use, and so we are first working to eliminate waste and increase the efficiency of our appliances and lights. Many good books are available to help with learning about alternative energy generation. Having perused several, we decided to attend an alternative energy fair – a hippie energy fair in the mountains.Hippies always used to say, “Power to the people!” Here, they were lending some truth to that old slogan. The hippie energy fair was eye opening and dynamic. There were solar panels running water pumps, little wind chargers, solar ovens and hydrogen generators. In fact, we found that the hippie fair had a common theme: poor oral hygiene. Still, if you looked only at the bridge of a person’s nose while he talked, there was a lot one could learn about alternative energy. We learned that crystalline solar panels are the most efficient type, with between 15 and 22 percent efficiency at converting sunlight to electricity. Windmills, we discovered, give you more bang for your buck in creating electricity than solar panels can. However, they are more obvious to your neighbors, and solar panels have them beat when it comes to low maintenance.A couple of guys at the fair tried to convince us that their hydrogen generator was a great thing for increasing gas mileage. Old guys like me always like to talk gas mileage with kindly and patient people that, for some reason, seem to sigh a lot. Here at the energy fair; talking gas mileage, I actually felt relevant and up to the minute and not at all like a cranky, old guy. I silently thanked the hydrogen guys for allowing me to feel kind of cool instead of just cranky and tedious.”But the trouble is,” I explained, “water is a tight, very stable molecule and not prone to being easily split into hydrogen and oxygen.” (This is why water is used to put out fires.) Their hydrogen generator took more electrical energy; therefore, it created more drag on their car’s alternator to split hydrogen out of water than the hydrogen just released could give in increased driving range. Suddenly, the only thing cool was the looks I got. The two hippie hydrogen guys began sighing in a vaguely familiar way.Regardless, the best part about the whole energy fair and alternative energy movement is that it is all so hopeful, so forward looking. Yes, green energy is still expensive but less so than in years past. For us, thinking on alternative greenways of generating our power gives us reasons and enthusiasm to consider our energy use. Instead of forever throwing switches and throwing cash at ever increasing bills in a mindless way, we can consider what we use and think about using what we need with less waste. Expensive or not, we are excited about the alternative possibilities and no longer feel powerless over our power needs.Still, I’ve heard that windmills and solar panels are ugly. But the curving scimitar blades, aerodynamic shape and stark, no-nonsense purpose of the thing gives a windmill a beauty all its own. Crystalline solar panels, looking like shimmering, faceted blue-silver gems, have a beauty, too. And while windmills have a straightforward understandability in their method of generating electricity, solar panels seem almost magical. They take sunlight and with technological alchemy, make light into electricity to run your iron, refrigerator or drill press.The hippie energy fair charged us with the possibilities of green energy generation. Worry is a poor substitute for action, and the fair was all about taking action. Just having any alternative at all is a hopeful thing. Alternatives expand choice and in nature having more choices has survival value. Green power is also personal power; power generated at home. “Power to the people” – at last.Just remember to place your windmill somewhat north of your solar panels. Either of those power-generating systems can run your iron. On a calm day, having your windmill where it shades your solar panels shuts everything off but the irony.Tom

StratusIQ Fiber Internet Falcon Advertisement

Current Weather

Weather Cams by StratusIQ

Search Advertisers