Alternative Energy For A Better World

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In America, a strange myth perpetuates that solar power “isn’t enough”, but forward-thinking engineering-heavy nations like Germany, who are further north and more climate-challenged than most of the USA prove this misleading belief wrong.

According to Slate, “On a sunny day last May (2012), Germany produced 22 gigawatts of energy from the sun — half of the world’s total and the equivalent of 20 nuclear power plants.”

Top 10 Solar States

Top 10 Solar States infographic by borisbenko.

Power needs: take take take

We live in an era where everything requires power. Everything requires a charge now. Leaving the house? Better make sure your phone’s at 100% power, right? We’re like greedy children — we take, take, take when it comes to power, but we never give it back.

It’s imperative that we realize every bit we feed back into the grid is another way we solve our energy independence. Creating energy is just like dieting or saving money — everything counts.

And that goes the other way too. When we leave our appliances plugged in, lights turned on, and every gadget we own is portable and uses energy that has to be replenished, be it by battery or getting recharged, then we’re constantly demanding far more energy than we’re currently producing.

Solar power capital of the world

That realization of demand crippling us has already dawned on places like California, where the population exceeds that of the entire nation of Canada, but where they don’t have enough water or power for their population. Californians are realizing they can’t rely on other energy-strapped regions to save them from future brown-outs and droughts. They’re finally saying enough, that’s time to be a part of the solution.

Look at the surprising campaign of the repeat Republican Mayoral in Lancaster, California, who has successfully mandated an energy-forward platform. Mayor R. Rex Parris states he wants to make Lancaster “the solar capital of the world” by requiring every new home include solar panels.

ThinkProgress explains:

The mandate requires for any new home construction permit issued after January 1, 2014, builders must meet a minimum number of kilowatts of solar energy produced per house. This gives builders flexibility, allowing a larger solar installation on a few homes rather than a cookie-cutter solution to every home. The rate would be 1 to 1.5 kilowatts of solar per 7,000 square foot lot. Rural homes on 100,000 square feet must have at least 1.5 kilowatts. Prospective home buyers will be able to see the solar system offered in the builder’s model home.

It’s obviously not a popular idea with the building industry, who do have higher costs than ever, but it’s a necessary step for us to get out of the past and into the future.

Slow change to alternative energy

To us North Americans, Parris’ solar dream sounds so progressive and modern, but solar power is hardly new, and Europe  got the message long ago.

We have to ask why, when all these alternatives exist, we’re still building homes the old-fashioned way, designed to be a drain on the network. We’re using 19th-century mindsets on 21st-century homes, and it’s time we do better. We’ve learned too much to ignore advances made by science.

Back in 2007, the Sundance channel ran a great series called Big Ideas for a Small Planet, where brilliant designers were coming up a crazy selection of things to harness energy. What about a piezoelectric floor where every step creates energy that can pump back into the grid or power your lights? It already exists. In fact, this same kind of technology is being used in a soccer ball soon entering production, which generates electricity from being kicked and traveled during gameplay, intended to keep the third world powering gadgets when no other options exist.

There are wind turbines and so many other ways the average home can generate, and recycle, electricity, and yet here we are, building homes with better appliances, but not the means to power all these bells and whistles.

Building for the present, for the future

Lancaster’s Mayor R. Rex Parris has the right idea. Make it the law for all new homes constructed to be a part of the solution, and we’ll start making some actual progress on reaching a solution. As long as saving the world remains opt-in only, we’ll not be doing a whole lot of saving.

This is part of why we’re so concerned about green initiatives here at BuildDirect. We can’t just build our homes for today, tomorrow’s what we’re really concerned about. Using green products is only half the battle. It’s not the solution to all our needs, but we can already inventively harness energy for personal use while potentially selling surplus power back to our city grids, and that’s a start of somethin’.

Most experts believe there is no one solution to the energy crisis. Instead, it will be a patchwork effort — conservation, creation, and innovation.

Getting smarter, setting new standards

With laws that encourage developers to increase energy solutions on all new homes, and the educating of home-buyers on the long-term advantages of power-smart designs, and by giving incentives to the public to create (and sell) energy, we’ll make remarkable inroads to having energy independence.

Here on the BuildDirect green blog, we’ll continue trying to inspire and educate our readers on green solutions, because we believe the power to solve our energy crisis is already in our hands, and it’s only a matter of all of us investing in these technologies and thinking big for our small planet.

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.