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.

Jul 7 2010

Why You Should Move Your Green Company to Houston Now

Five years of living in Houston has taught me a lot about life on the ‘Third Coast’.  I’ve always either lived on the east coast or the west coast, but Texas has been so good to us that I’ve learned to love it.  Although I have a passion for green technology, I work in the space sector as a contractor, in and around NASA’s Johnson Space Center.  It’s no secret that the future of America’s manned space program is seriously in doubt.

What does the future look like for Houston’s Bay Area? One possible solution seems very clear to me – Clean industries should consider coming to Houston.

Looking at the long list of companies involved in alternative energy – especially wind and solar, I notice a trend – they are mostly located on the east and west coasts. This is partly due to companies formed as a spin-off from university research, and partly due to heavy state subsidies.  Consider this – Houston can provide much better long-term solutions to the clean technology industry than either the East or West Coasts.

Why clean industries should move to Houston:

  1. Business Friendly: Low taxes, lots of land, and lots of highly-educated people.
  2. Location location location: Texas is #1 in the use of wind energy.  The entire state also gets plenty of sunshine, and is ready to make the change towards solar.
  3. Quality of Life: Employees from other states will enjoy extremely affordable homes, no state tax, a world-class city filled with diverse options for entertainment, dining, and cultural activities. By and large, the people in this state are extremely friendly, (especially noticeable if you’re coming in from the east coast).
  4. NASA: Things with NASA aren’t going so well.  Thousand of people are soon to be out of work in the Bay Area south of Houston.  In 2004, the Bush administration decided to cancel the Space Shuttle Program, and last year, the Obama administration decided to cancel its replacement – the Constellation Program.  Regardless of your politics, the fact is that these decisions will mean that there are going to be a lot of very smart people out of work.  Although their expertise revolve around the space industry, many of today’s green technologies are a direct result of the research and development from the space program.  Any green tech company that sets up shop here in Houston will have easy access to a highly-educated workforce in specialties ranging from electrical engineering, power systems, environmental control and life-support, operations planning and program management, systems engineering, physics, mechanical engineering, aircraft design, thermodynamics, and numerous support personnel which could all transfer to the alternative energy industry with relative ease.  Time is critical, however, and plans to move to Houston should be made now in order to really gain access to this diverse professional workforce.  Significant delays in relocating may lead to a lost opportunity, since there will very likely be a ‘brain-drain’  in the area as the manned space program is reduced to almost nothing, and people begin to disperse to other parts of the state or country. The first set of major layoffs are expected to begin within the next few weeks, and may eventually total 7,000 people.

So, I would highly-recommend getting out of the comfort zone of the east and west coast and check out the Bay Area of Houston sooner rather than later – before people begin to disperse.

Jun 23 2010

More Solar and Wind Power for Johnson Space Center

Driving along the road at JSC, I noticed workers installing towers in a parking lot with solar and wind.  I wonder if this is a pilot program, or if it is actually being rolled out for the entire facility.



More Wind and Solar at JSC (31.12.2003, 9 Photos)

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.



(11.06.2010, 6 Photos)