Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Internet of Energy

About this time last year, we were in the midst of having a new roof, new windows, and siding installed. One of the purposes was to increase the house's energy efficiency. Although we're no where near passive house standards, we have made progress, at least as indicated by frost coverage on the windows when it's really cold.

North side sliding (old) window, heavily frosted
North side sliding (old) window, heavily frosted
Photo by J. Harrington

North side casement (new) window (almost no) frost
North side casement (new) window (almost no) frost
Photo by J. Harrington

The top picture shows what the old (circa 1978) sliding window on the North side of the study looked like in January 2013. The bottom shows the same window opening with our new casement windows. That looks like a major improvement to me. So we retained most of the energy embodied in our house, increased the energy efficiency and, hopefully, made it more durable. In temperatures such as we've had the past few days, we can still feel cold air seeping in through the windows, but it used to be worse.

I think that's how we're going to get to a more sustainable world and levels of greenhouse gases we can live with. It's going to be a step-by-step, incremental process that probably won't get us there as soon as we need to, and will require some life style changes (I now wear sweaters and flannel shirts instead of turning up our 97% efficient natural furnace that replaced our old oil burner.) There are no silver bullets, but we can be more strategic in our choices. Here's a link to a carbon footprint calculator. I'm one of those folks who doubt that all of our individual actions together will solve the problems we face as a species, but that doesn't mean we get a pass either. Depending on which variation we're looking at, this nice summary comes either from Helen Keller (misattribution?) or Edward Everett Hale. We also need the Xcel Energy's of the world to start focusing more on managing the grid instead of building power plants. We need something like an internet of energy, with micro grids and co-generation in addition to renewable solar and wind.

I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

Gary Snyder tells us why this is important.

By Frazier Creek Falls

Gary Snyder

Standing up on lifted, folded rock
looking out and down—

The creek falls to a far valley.
hills beyond that
facing, half-forested, dry
—clear sky
strong wind in the
stiff glittering needle clusters
of the pine—their brown
round trunk bodies
straight, still;
rustling trembling limbs and twigs


This living flowing land
is all there is, forever

We are it
it sings through us—

We could live on this Earth
without clothes or tools!

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Please be kind to each other while you can.