Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Salem Has Bigger Earthquakes Than Seattle or San Francisco

I grew up in Salem and I've never heard a thing about earthquakes in Salem. My wife's family came to the Willamette valley in the 1850s and no one in her family has ever heard of earthquakes in the Willamette valley. When we moved back to Salem from Seattle we thought we'd be getting away from the risk of earthquakes.

However, in the last 15 years Oregon geologists have come to understand the following facts:
  1. The Willamette valley has had big (magnitude 8 and 9) earthquakes (called subduction zone quakes) on the average of every 250 years for a very, very long time (many thousand years). This is recorded in the geologic record.
  2. The last big (magnitude 9) quake in Salem was in 1700, before white men were here. They know the exact date, time and size of this quake because the time and height of the Tsunami was recorded in Japanese historical records.
  3. Local Indian folklore has stories about big earthquakes and Tsunamis.
  4. We are currently 311 years into a 250 year earthquake cycle.
  5. The reason the quakes here are bigger here than Seattle and California is because of the nature of the Cascadia subduction zone along the Oregon coast. 
This lecture by James Roddey of the Oregon Dept of Geology explains all the ugly details. It's an hour and 10 minutes but it's well done and well worth understanding this subject.

The bottom line is that these big magnitude 9 quakes are not likely to kill many people but they disable the infrastructure (roads, bridges, power grid, etc.)  from northern CA through OR and to BC for a very long time. You need to be able to survive on your own for months! 

Friday, September 23, 2011

48% of Our Electricity Comes From Solar

In November of 2010 our 3.4 KW Photovoltaic solar system installation was completed by SolarCity. The question since we started this project was how much of a home's power can you generate with solar power here at 45 degrees North latitude? I've heard people claim 50%.

We are well over 8 months into 2011 and through the month of August our PV solar installation has supplied 48% of our electricity. The chart above, which is a chart supplied by SolarCity automatically shows how much was generated by the solar panels each month and what percentage of our average monthly usage that is.

Monday, February 28, 2011

How Much Of Your Home's Electricity Can Solar Generate?

The chart above shows how much electricity our solar panels generated during the month of February 2011. The vertical green bars show how many kWh (Kilowatt hours) our panels create each day. The red horizontal line is at 21 kWh. 21 kWh is the average amount of electricity that we use each day based on our consumption the last two years (2009 & 2010). 21 kWhrs is also the design target for our solar installation. That is, the most our solar system will generate is right around 21 kWh's. If we are not home and don't use all the power the solar array is generating the unused electricity goes out on the grid and PGE sells it to our neighbors. If we use more than the solar array is generating we use electricity from the the grid.

As you can see about 9 days during February the panels generated over half of our electricity. On 2/25 the panels generated roughly all the electricity we used. As we move towards June 21 when the Sun is the highest angle we'll have more and more days like 2/25 Over the whole month the solar panels generated roughly 44% of our electricity.

The reason there is so much variability from day to day in power output is due to the variation in cloud cover. The other factor that influences power output is how high the Sun is above the Southern horizon. In the summer months there will be more and more days where our solar array will generate all of our power (21 kWhrs)  each day.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Well Insulated and Sealed Homes Don't Need a Furnace!

Heat your home by throwing a dinner party?

This concept may sound bizarre, but it's feasible in cutting-edge green homes that are so well-insulated, they don't need a furnace or boiler. They'll stay warm simply with body heat. A hairdryer might also suffice.

"It's like living in a glass thermos," says John Eckfeldt, a physician who built one of these "passive" homes in frigid Isabella, Minn. He says the inside temperature is so even that if he sees snow falling, he's surprised to realize it must be cold outside.

 Click here to read the complete USA Today Article.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

SolarCity Installation At 5889 Montevallo In Creekside

Last Wednesday  Oct 20, 2010) SolarCity finished the physical installation of the our 3.4 KW Photovoltaic solar solar system here at 5889 Montevallo St in Creekside. The video above is time-lapse video (click here or on the photo above to view the video) of much (but not all of the installation process. We are currently waiting for our paper work to be processed and have PGE come "program" our power meter so that it is capable of keeping track of power that we don't use and put back into the power grid. Once PGE does it's thing we will be able to turn on the system.

SolarCity has been fantastic to work with throughout the whole contracting, design and installation process.

We will soon have more information about cost savings and other aspects of using a solar system on your home.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Solar Panels Installed on Two More Homes in Creekside

As of this week (10/20/2010) Creekside has two more homes with solar panels that will soon start generating electricity.

They are at 5843 Fountainhead and 5889 Montevallo.

I realized from the questions from several neighbors while our solar installation was was going on that many people don't know how Photovoltaic solar systems work and why you'd even want one. So I though I'd provide a simple explanation.

First of all these solar panels generate electricity. There are solar gadgets you put on your roof to create hot water but those are different than the three solar systems currently installed in Creekside. The amount of electricity the solar panels create depends on how many panels you have, and how they are oriented with respect to the Sun. Ideally you want the panels facing South because the Sun moves across the southern sky at varying heights above the horizon depending on the time of the year.

The electricity that comes off of the panels goes through a device (called an inverter) that makes the power compatible with the power coming into your home from the PGE power grid. If your refrigerator or other electric appliance in your house needs power it takes the power from your solar panels first before it sucks in power from the power grid. On the other hand if there's nothing in your home that needs power, the power from your panels goes out on the power grid for the neighbors to use (actually for PGE to sell to your neighbors). When power your home doesn't use goes out on to PGE's electric grid it runs your power meter backwards and subtracts from your power bill so effectively you are selling the power back to PGE. It's possible to put more power out onto the grid than you take in. In this case, PGE doesn't send you a check at the end of the month, they just credit your next months bill.

So what percent of your home electric usage can you expect to generate with solar panels? Of course it depends on how many panels you have and how they are oriented but Burt, who's solar system has been producing power since July 17, just told me that for the 98 days his system has been in operation it's produced 46% of his home's electric power. Not bad considering that Burt's home doesn't have a South facing roof surface to put solar panels on. He has his panels on a west facing roof.

So if you are using power these days while the Sun is up you may well be using the unused solar power these solar homes are putting out on the local power grid.

Stay tuned, we'll be writing more about the economics of solar power in the near future.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

SolarizeSalem Effort Kicks Off Monday 8/2

Solarize Salem is a new co-op solar installation purchasing program led by Salem Creative Network, a nonprofit corporation organized to provide creative solutions for social innovation. The kickoff event for Solarize Salem is at 12 noon August 2 on the steps of the capitol building. Then at 7 PM August 10 there will be a workshop at the Salem Library Loucks Auditorium. Solarize Salem is an opportunity to get a Oregon made photovoltaic system installed in your home and participate in a volume discount.

Friday, June 11, 2010

First Solar PV Installation in Creekside Completed

Last Wednesday (Jun 9,2010) Advanced Energy Systems finished the physical installation of the first solar PV system in Salem's Creekside neighborhood. Click here or on the photo above to see a video that shows before and after shots and clips taken during the installation. Next steps are inspection by the City of Salem and PGE. Once these steps take place, the net meter will be installed and electrons will start to flow. Congratulations Burt and Louise!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Green Cart Hopefully to Become Mixed Organics Cart

The City of Salem and Marion County will soon be considering expanding what can go into the current green yard waste cart. If approved by city and county leaders in upcoming public hearings, the yard cart will soon become the Mixed Organics Cart. Every year, tons of what otherwise can be turned into useful compost ends up in our ever-growing landfill. The Mid-Valley Garbage and Recycling Association is proposing that Salem customers be allowed to expand the types of waste that can go into the current green cart. The Association projects that 6,000 tons of waste could be recovered each year under the new service!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Creekside Support of Solar Featured in USA Today

Today's (5/13/2010), USA Today ran an article by Tracy Loew on page 3 that reports, "It's a scene that's being played out across the country. As homeowners increasingly seek to turn to green practices such as using clotheslines instead of dryers or moving to solar or wind power, they are finding those plans in conflict with the rules of homeowners associations that encourage conformity in order to maintain property values."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

ARC Approves First Creekside Solar Installation on Earth Day

I just talked to Burt and he said: "I attended the meeting tonight (4/22) of the Creekside Architectural Review Committee and am happy to report that my 2.5 kW photovoltaic solar energy project was approved.  I will provide updates as the project progresses. I hope this news will prompt others in Creekside who are interested in pursuing solar energy projects to do so, and will be happy to be of assistance." I wonder if the ARC realize they made this decision on earth day?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

HOAs Pose Obstacles to Reducing Impact on Environment

Today the Statesman Journal ran a follow up article to their coverage on April 12 of our fight for solar rights. They were responding to Creekside resident Barbara Husseini's questions, "do homeowner associations pose significant obstacles to resident trying to reduce their impact on the environment?" After Statesman Journal reporter, Beth Casper researched the issue she found that:
  1. HOAs do not need to register with any government agency.
  2. HOAs don't have consistent enforcement policies.
  3. No one even knows how many HOAs there are in Salem.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

First Creekside Solar Installation Gets Media Coverage

On Monday April 12 the Statesman Journal ran a front page article, by Beth Casper, on our efforts to provide a process in Creekside for the approval of solar installations. The article was syndicated to the Associated Press and picked up by many AP affiliates. The subject seems to be extremely popular since as of this writing the article is either on or referenced by 1,310 web sites world wide. Despite the positive media coverage of the new Creekside installation guidelines and Burt's upcoming solar installation the Architectural Review Committee (ARC) has run over their allotted 30 days for review. Burt is ready to start his solar installation but there's approval yet from the ARC.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Eat Grubs; Don't Poison Them

Well, not you.....let beneficial parasites eat the grubs. Each summer we see those giant "mosquitoes" flying around our yards. These are crane flies. They don't bite--but are an annoyance--and the grubs they hatch from can cause lawn damage. Crane flies lay eggs in your lawn that eventually become grubs. These grubs, which come to the surface in the spring, munch on lawn roots before turning into crane flies and starting the process all over again. Here is a good calendar of the crane fly life-cycle in your lawn. If your yard becomes overly infested with crane fly grubs, you might note brown patches in your lawn. But be aware that many other pests and lawn diseases can cause the same conditions. Don't overreact.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Creekside HOA Board Approves Solar Guidelines

Today (Wed 3/10) the Creekside HOA board unanimously voted to approve these solar guidelines. So after 8 months of working the problem of getting the Creekside HOA to create a process for allowing and approving solar panel installations, the Creekside Architectural Review Committee is now prepared to accept and review installation plans for solar installations in Creekside. I would like to publicly thank Creekside HOA President Suzanne Towery, past ARC chairman Rich Fry and current ARC chairman Don Wildfang for their cooperation in getting this important Creekside HOA process changed. Eight months may seem like a long time to get something like this fixed but a little research on the Internet will quickly show that there are many cases all over the US where HOA boards resist these kind of changes for years and end up backing down and doing the right thing only when threatened with litigation. Our previous post on this subject is just one example.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Update On Status of The CreekSide Solar Guidelines

On January 22, 2010 the Ad Hoc committee for Solar Guidelines met and agreed on a set of solar guidelines (click here to view the guidelines). The general process for approval of the guidelines is as follows:
  1. Guidelines will be reviewed by the HOA legal council (complete).
  2. Guidelines will be presented to the board at the 2/10/2010 meeting (at 4PM).
  3. Guidelines will be mailed to all Creekside residents.
  4. There will be a special meeting of the board for the purpose hearing input from residents on the subject of solar guidelines.
The schedule for 3 and 4 have not been set at this time.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Creekside Mailer Results In A variety Of Great Community Feedback

In early January we sent out a mailer to all Creekside residents to let them know about the this web site and encourage participation and feedback. The mailer resulted in a bunch of votes on the solar poll (on the left side-bar) and many new e-mail subscriptions to the site and e-mail feedback. Here is a summary of what we learned from the resident feedback:
  1. Creekside residents are supportive of solar power: Granted that not everyone in Creekside has voted in the poll but we feel that we have a significant sampling of Creekside residents voting.
  2. Request for the Creekside mailing list: Our mailing list was developed from public tax records available at the Marion County Assessors web site. Since the Creekside HOA does not share the Creekside Mailing list we will be making the public version available on this website.
  3. Issues other than solar power: Creekside residents tell us they have other issues they are concerned about in addition to solar power such as: Wind power, grass requirements, Wacky fence aesthetic priorities which encourages chain-link fences but prohibits wood no matter how elegant the wood fence is.
  4. Many would prefer to remain anonymous. As a result we've added the Discussion page that allows feedback and discussion on any subject where the commenter can remain anonymous.
We appreciate and agree that there are many opportunities to improve Creekside and even though our immediate focus is renewable energy we would be happy to have this web site act as a discussion forum for other issues that the community would like to discuss. The Discussion page is starting place for this discussion.
Thank you for all the feedback and participation! Keep up the good work.

Friday, January 1, 2010

How Green Is My Valley

A recent article in the Eugene Register Guard described the growth of the solar power industry in the Willamette Valley. There are currently seven facilities, from Portland to Eugene, producing everything from silicon ingots and wafers to solar cells to inverters. These facilities employ about 700 people, with plans to expand to over 2700 in the period 2010-2011.  This means at least 2000 Valley residents currently work in or serve/supply this industry and  within two years that figure will jump to over 8000. In addition, the article indicates the (disclosed) investments made, or to be made, in these plants and facilities exceeds $700 million. Another way to look at how green solar power can make our valley is the home owner's investment when installing a photovoltaic system.  We recently received a proposal to install a 2.5kW PV system for $17,500.  After figuring in the Energy Trust cash incentive and the federal and state tax credits which can be taken, the net investment in this system will be only $3188.  Our estimated savings in electricity costs results in a payback of a bit over 14 years.  In addition, data is beginning to come in indicating that solar power installed on a home increases its value and resale price (more on this in another article).  Put together, that's a lot of green to get by being green!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Oregon Gets High Marks For Integrating Renewable Energy

A report from renewable energy advocates says Oregon is among the best states for regulations that encourage distributed renewable energy, like residential solar panels. Read the whole article at:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Oregon State Law 105.880 Guarantees Your Solar Rights

In early 2009 my wife and I decided that we wanted to start moving towards the use of renewable energy. These days there are more and more motivations to take renewable seriously. At the time our biggest motivation was to support the use of clean, renewable energy. So, after attending the Solar Expo in Portland in May I found a solar installer and started moving towards the installation of a 3000 watt solar photo voltaic installation. Since our HOA (Creekside in Salem) requires approval for all home modification projects I submitted the plan to the HOA for approval. Much to my surprise the HOA said, "no, the CC&Rs don't allow solar panels".