Feb 2 2011

Texas has it’s own power grid, but it doesn’t mean freedom from blackouts

It’s been a while since I’ve have a chance to post anything, but I thought I’d quickly comment on this morning’s news that Texas is under a ‘rolling blackout’ order. This is due to the increased demand on the grid due to the cold-snap.  Yes, it is true that Texas has it’s own power grid (a result of WWII-era factories’ need for reliable power, an independence-oriented Texan attitude, and the sheer abundance of fuel resources within the state.), but it is no guarantee of continuous power.

Authorities say that blackouts are to be no more than 45 minutes at a time, in order to prevent a more serious collapse in the system. This sort of thing simply highlights the need for local, alternative power generation capability – solar water, solar electric, and wind (it’s been really windy lately). Wind and solar could be fed back into the grid, and solar water heaters would reduce the overall load. Both strategies would reduce the need for these rolling blackouts. If Texas is to be truly energy independent, then I think it’s high-time that Texas start thinking beyond the next fiscal quarter, and be proactive in educating citizens about the need to decentralize power production – because that makes us truly independent – ya’ll get it now? Checkout the Houston Chronicle article for more details.


Jun 12 2010

My Solar-Powered Security Light Works Great!

My front entranceway is deeply recessed from the other parts of the house, and it’s often dark when I want to unlock the door.  My only option was to leave the light on all day in case I came home after dark.  The entranceway has one of those disco-fabulous frosted globe-style lights that hangs from an eight-foot cord above the door.   The hardware store had a few options, one of which was an adapter that screws into the socket.  It contains a light/motion sensor and another socket that you would screw your light bulb into.  Unfortunately, they do not work behind frosted glass. My only other option was a solar-powered light. At Lowe’s I found a solar-powered LED motion-sensing light for $99 a Heath/Zenith LED Secure Home Motion-Activated Solar Light.

It took a little work – my front entrance faces North, and doesn’t get direct sunlight until very late in the day.  Luckily, this light came with a detached solar panel and a 12-foot extension wire, so I was able to mount the solar panel on the South-facing roof.

Supplies Needed:

  • A ladder high enough to reach the roof. You might need a person to help steady the ladder.
  • A caulking gun with caulking.
  • a cordless drill with a Phillips’  and a spade drill bit.
  • The solar panel/bracket.
  • the provided mounted bracket screws.

Here are the steps I took, in case anyone is interested:

  • Find a good place to mount the panel. I found a nice location for the panel – near the attic vent fan.
  • I lifted up one shingle and drilled a hole straight through using the spade bit.
  • I fed the long extension cable through the hole, then pushed the single back down.
  • I then screwed the solar panel mounting bracket to the roof with the provided screws, then caulked around the bracket.
  • I sealed the shingle covering the hole closed with more caulking.
  • I climbed down and I went into the attic and added more caulking to the hole.
  • I then stapled the extension cable along the rafters until I got to the front entrance.
  • I drilled another hole in the entranceway wall and fed the cable through.
  • Outside, it was simple matter of getting back on the ladder and mounting the light over the hole and allowing it to charge for a couple of days.
  • I then went back into the attic and applied caulking to the hole behind the light

After using it for a few weeks I have to say that it works great.  This is a nice baby-step to eventually getting a full solar panel installation.

Solar-Powered_Security_Light

Solar-Powered_Security_Light

(11.06.2010, 6 Photos)