Operating Safely without Crucial Violations


Given the volatility of the different kinds of fuels manufactured today, it is little wonder why fuel plant owners are held to the tightest of safety standards today. You must ensure that your plant is well constructed and that it will avoid posing any kind of risk to your workers and the immediate public. When you want to be sure that you can pass any scrutiny of your plant, you may want to retain the help of contractors who can offer assistance like API 570 inspection services. This assistance will pinpoint any areas upon which you must improve and identify violations that government inspectors will flag immediately. This intervention now could help you avoid being heavily fined and also shut down temporarily or permanently.

Before you retain such services, however, you would do well to ensure that the company that you are considering has the years of experience that you need. A company that is new to inspection services may be unable to identify hazards and could even lead you to fail an inspection carried out by the state or federal government. When you team with an experienced company, however, you get 30 years’ worth of knowledge in how to pass inspections every time. You also benefit from insight that will allow you to keep the public and your employees safe.

One crucial aspect of keeping your plant as safe as possible could center on checking up on your vendors. If you trust your staff to carry out all prescribed safety guidelines, you also may want to have the same trust in your vendors. When you utilize this company’s help, you can consider safeguards like vendor surveillance that will allow you to see firsthand what, if any risks your vendors pose to your plant. You can then make adjustments and recommendations to the vendors as necessary.

If you are convinced that this partnership would benefit you and allow you to pass your future inspections, you may wonder how to get started today. You are invited to fill out the online form and submit it to the company. A representative from the company will then contact you and talk with you about your inspection services and options. This person can also tell you what parts of your plant that the company can inspect during each visit. This partnership can save you fines and avoid your plant being closed.

Wind In Our Hair – And Our Future

We get no broadcast, cable or satellite television at my homestead. Being in a cut-off cove in a sheltered depression on the southeastern slope of Mount Mitchell and smack up against the Blue Ridge continental divide (less than 5 miles uphill to the west), the “public airwaves” don’t reach us. Cable is never going to come half a mile up our driveway just so we can watch the SciFi channel, and satellite package deals are well out of our budgetary range. What we do have is a combo VCR/DVD player and 20 years’ worth of accumulated movies, PBS/BBC special series collections, etc.

windWe go for weeks without actually watching, but when the family’s here or during those dark months when we can’t be working or playing outdoors, we indulge frequently. One of my all-time favorites to view again and again is the 2-volume VCR version of Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves. And I am not alone among my female family members and friends in never tiring of enjoying the stunning physical presence in that movie of Native American actor Rodney A. Grant as the character “Wind In His Hair.” I want to make this connection between a contemporary fictional role model of the once fierce and free natives from whom our mostly British “founding fathers” stole this vast nation, and the technology that will play a lead role in this vast nation’s energy future: Wind.

More and more of those towering 1.5 Mw land-based wind generators are dotting skylines across the country, primarily in the midsection’s Great Plains from the Canadian border to the Rio Grande’s separation of the U.S. from Mexico. As the generators are increasingly installed we’ve been hearing a lot of astroturfed complaints (those funded by the fossil fuels and nuclear industries but intended to look like ‘grassroots’ Mom & Pops). The windmills are ‘ugly’. They make too much noise. They can’t provide ‘baseload’ power when the wind’s not blowing. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Old King Coal and the Nuclear Priesthood aren’t making all that much headway with their anti-wind and solar PR campaign, as homesteads, villages, towns and cities happily increase their reliance on renewables to power our energy future.

Renewables don’t contribute hefty amounts of CO2 and particulate pollution that contributes to millions of human deaths annually and climate change that will kill millions more. There is no nasty waste product of generation that needs careful disposal and management (in the case of nuclear, for at least 10,000 years AFTER we’ve toasted our breakfast bagels), no chance of meltdowns or explosions that amount to the Mother Of All Dirty Bombs, no ever-increasing mercury poisoning, cancer rates and pollution-caused pulmonary dysfunctions, no imperialistic wars of aggression to be fought by our children to steal the natural resources of other people’s countries to enrich fossil fuelish greedheads. Wind and solar ‘spills’ will never cause whole swaths of valuable territory will never become “exclusion zones” unfit for human habitation for hundreds of years. And unless you happen to be standing next to a concentrated solar boiler when it overpressurizes, or directly under a wind tower when it falls, accidents aren’t at all likely to kill you.

I heard this week about a very cool new offshore wind project (pictured above) planned to serve Megalopolis – the dense U.S. population zone between northern Virginia and New York – that is exciting. The Atlantic coast of North America enjoys a wide and stable offshore continental shelf that is only 50-150 feet deep, which allows offshore turbines to be well anchored. The west coast drops off steeply and is notorious as an earthquake zone, so offshore wind there is not as feasible with current technology. Though I’m sure appropriate technology will be developed soon to take advantage of Pacific winds to supplement what can be done with solar in the desert southwest and southern California.

The Atlantic Wind Connection project for Megalopolis includes a series of 4 to 15 Megawatt wind turbines placed 15-18 miles offshore so they can’t be seen from the beaches and connected with a HVDC [High Voltage Direct Current] backbone grid and 4 feeds to the mainland along the route.

HVDC is better for transmission of generated electricity over long distances on land or from generators offshore because it loses less of the power along the way. HVDC cables also generate virtually no electromagnetic fields, offer better flow control, minimize environmental impact, and have other advantages as well. As an additional plus for the project, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory confirmed in late December of 2011 that wind power is now at $33 to $65 per megawatt-hour and still falling, positioning wind to quickly become the most cost-effective means of generating electricity.

Even better, a nationally supported effort to manufacture, install and operate renewable energy systems holds great promise to provide literally millions of jobs at a time when unemployment levels have been far too high for far too long – a way to help get us out of this long economic depression and thrive in the future for having built the new infrastructure.

There is of course no guarantee that this country’s political system is at all capable anymore of planning or doing for the future health, prosperity and security of the people. Rather, it’s obvious that there’s not a national politician of any Party or philosophy at any level of government right now with enough vision, courage or chutzpah to even try. Fortunately, there are corporations, financiers and investors willing to step into the breech and do what government won’t do. It will be up to us – We the People – to insist that our elected leaders do what is necessary to support and promote the necessary change-over from fossil fuels and dangerous nuclear power to renewables. And if they are too timid to take a stand, it’ll be up to us to replace them with people who will do the right thing.

Toward that goal I will be posting more about the latest developments and deployments of renewables going forward, and providing information of particular interest to homesteaders who want to go off-grid or become suppliers themselves. Do stay tuned!

How Swedish Cities Stay Warm With Renewable Energy

A number of Swedish municipalities are arguably leading the world in environmentally-friendly heating. Heat and power production in such cities is combined with district heating systems to provide affordable, ecologically-sound heat for citizens.


District heating systems tend to use heat from renewable energy sources, which is then piped through the city for homes and other buildings to tap into rather than using their own separate boilers. Biofuels such as wood and peat are commonly used as well as combustible household waste. Other sources of heat may also be used, such as geothermal heat from deep underground or heat reclaimed from industrial processes. These types of heating system have played a major role in the relatively high level of independence from fossil fuels that Nordic countries have managed to achieve.

Altogether, around 60% of Sweden’s heating comes from district heating systems. Overall, about 85% of all public buildings and multiple-dwelling homes connected to these networks and such networks exist in all of Sweden’s towns. The birth of the Swedish district heating networks really took place in the 1950s, when many Swedish municipalities were looking into ways to reduce air pollution. They were also keen to find more efficient ways to produce electricity, and found that combined production of electricity and heat represented a significant improvement in efficiency. Helped by a culture that is generally supportive of community infrastructure, district heating took off in the following decades.

Many people around the world are starting to wonder whether the international community could do well to learn from Sweden’s example. While other countries struggle with energy usage, pollution, and declining stocks of finite natural resources, Sweden has almost removed fossil fuels from its heating sector. District heating systems are also relatively easy to operate. The infrastructure can be costly and challenging to construct, but it doesn’t come with the same challenges of internationalism that might hinder other types of infrastructure such as electricity.

Even those countries that do already use district heating systems may have things to learn from Sweden. In Eastern Europe, this kind of heating solution is more common than on the Western side of the continent. However, it is still largely based on coal, so while it offers advantages over self-contained boilers for each separate building it still produces large amounts of carbon and draws on finite resources. In Sweden, by contrast, the use of fossil fuels is virtually non-existent in district heating, yet the system continues to serve countless citizens well.

Swedish district heating solutions have made use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, but sourcing enough renewable heat through these methods alone would be challenging and perhaps impractical. As a result, a big emphasis has been placed on biofuels as a replacement for traditional fossil-fuels over the past two or three decades. The way district heating has been combined with electricity production is also something that many other district heating systems around the world lack, yet offers a significant boost in overall efficiency.

This article was contributes by Prepayment Energy Solutions who specialise in prepayment energy and heat meters for multi-tenant buildings.

MTR: Big Win for the Good Guys!!!

Patriot Agrees to End Mountaintop Removal

Patriot Coal,Patriot Coal, one of the largest coal companies operating in Appalachia, has announced that it will end its surface mining operations – including mountaintop removal – in return for an extension on the time schedule for installing expensive pollution controls at several of its West Virginia mines. The agreement was negotiated by attorneys from Appalachian Mountain Advocates representing the Sierra Club, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy. Patriot filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy this past July, though this settlement arises from previous litigation by the groups against Patriot.

The original lawsuits were about selenium pollution in violation of the Clean Water Act. The groups submitted evidence that Patriot and three of its subsidiaries were releasing selenium above allowable limits at 42 outlets discharging from ten West Virginia mines. The settlement involves 8 specific actions Patriot agreed to take –

1. Retire significant and expensive infrastructure that is essential for mountaintop removal mining, including immediately retiring the Catenary drag line and retiring the Hobet drag line by the end of 2015.

2. Agree not to allow infrastructure such as haul roads and coal preparation plants to be used by other mining companies in Central Appalachia, except as required by existing agreements and arrangements.

3. Relinquish its remaining rights under a Clean Water Act section 404 fill permit that was already issued for the Colony Bay complex. Withdraw two section 404 permit applications – one for a Hobet Coyote mine and one for a Colony Bay mine – currently pending before the Army Corps [of Engineers].

4. Commit not to file any new applications for section 404 permits for large-scale surface mines.

5. Commit not to open any stand-alone surface mines, with the exception of the Huff Creek metallurgical coal mine for which an application for a section 404 permit is currently pending. Provided, however, that the groups retain the right to challenge the section 404 permit for the Huff Creek mine if EPA indicates in writing that it has concerns about the mine’s impacts on water quality.

6. Limit small scale surface mining to facilities associated with existing and planned underground mining complexes.

7. Commit that coal production from remaining surface mining will not exceed 3 million tons per year by 2018, and that production from surface mines will never exceed that amount.

8. Donate $500,000 to a West Virginia non-profit organization to be identified by the parties.

The specifics of the Clean Water Act, Section 404 allows the discharge of dredged or fill material into the navigable waters at specified disposal sites. This is one aspect of mountaintop removal mining that most damages the environment, as thousands of tons of rock and debris are dumped into what used to be the mountain drainage watercourses that are the headwaters for downstream reservoirs and rivers from which populated areas draw their drinking water.

The Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] regulates selenium for both marine life and drinking water as a naturally occurring toxin. Mining operations tend to concentrate the natural selenium in their rubble and waste streams, in the case of Patriot’s mines thereby violating the established ‘safe’ limits for the metal, which in trace amounts is nutritionally essential. At high levels it is toxic to all marine life forms as well as wildlife and humans who drink contaminated water.

The term Metallurgical Coal refers to “coking coal,” which is low-sulfur, low-ash coal that can be heated to remove volatiles and produce porous coke that produces very high heat but little smoke and is used in the making of metals.

The statement from Patriot:

Patriot Coal has concluded that the continuation or expansion of surface mining, particularly large scale surface mining of the type common in central Appalachia, is not in its long term interests. Today’s proposed settlement commits Patriot Coal to phase out and permanently exit large scale surface mining and transition our business primarily toward underground mining and related small scale surface mining.

Patriot Coal recognizes that our mining operations impact the communities in which we operate in significant ways, and we are committed to maximizing the benefits of this agreement for our stakeholders, including our employees and neighbors. We believe the proposed settlement will result in a reduction of our environmental footprint.

This settlement is consistent with Patriot Coal’s business plan to focus capital on expanding higher margin metallurgical coal production and limiting thermal coal investments to selective opportunities where geologic and regulatory risks are minimized.

Patriot Coal urges the Court to approve the settlement because it strengthens the Company’s ability to continue operating with our nearly 4000 employees, and significantly increases the likelihood that we will emerge from the chapter 11 process as a viable business, able to satisfy our environmental and other obligations.

Links to WLJ Coverage of Coal Issues:

Desperate for Fossil fuels: King Coal
Old King Coal, a Filthy Old Soul
Old King Coal vs. Reality
EPA Halts MTR Permits for Review
The Last Mountain: A Call to Action
The Mountains Cry: A Vibrant Voice Passes On

Five Tips For Choosing the Best Solar Panel

Choosing the best solar panel for your home depends on more than just size and cost but these are often the deciding factors for people when they start thinking about installing a solar panel system for their home. It is important to do your homework before making any choices or contacting specific dealers. Solar panel systems involve a large capital investment so you want to make certain you are receiving the best system fat the best price for you home.

solar panel

When beginning the process you should start by analyzing the cost to purchase and install the system against the benefits it will deliver in terms of the potential energy and carbon savings. Here are five important characteristics to consider in order to identify the best solar panel for your home.


The size of your roof will determine how many panels can be installed. One of the most important things to evaluate is the solar efficiency of each panel. Panel efficiency is expressed as a percentage of the amount of electricity a single panel produces per surface area. The higher the number the more efficient the panel is and the smaller surface you will need. This figure is really important because the amount of power you can generate depends on the surface area of your roof and the efficiency of the solar panel you choose to use.


The measurements or size of the solar panel you choose will ultimately determine the number of panels you will be able to install. It is important to engage the services of a professional solar panel sales professional and installer & SolarQuotes provider to help you understand how much weight your roof can handle and whether or not the panel system will meet local fire and building codes and work effectively and efficiently for your home’s location.


Adding solar to your home is a major capital investment and will affect the value of your home. It is important to consider how the panels are manufactured and what materials are used in its construction. It is smart to look for manufacturers that fall into the top 2% Of all solar manufacturers because these manufacturers are vertically integrated, controlling every stage of the manufacturing process. This means these companies invest a lot of money into research and development and use advanced robotics. They also have a quality control process that covers every stage in the manufacturing process and they have been in the business of manufacturing solar panels for 5 years or more. These manufacturers use the best grade of silicon to produce solar cells which results in greater efficiency and durability of the solar cells. The most reputable solar panels will carry a warranty period of at least 25 years.

Company History and Financial Condition

When you choose a manufacturer make certain they are in a healthy financial state and will be around to service their products over the long term. Avoid small, fly by night companies. This industry is highly competitive and companies come and go all the time. Look for a well established solar company that has a solid track record of performance and financial stability.

Type of Solar Cells and Tolerances

There are three types of solar cells used to manufacture solar panels: Monocrystalline silicon, Polycrystalline silicon, and Amorphous or thin-film silicon. Monocrystalline silicon cells provide high efficiency and good heat tolerance characteristics. Polycrystalline silicon cells are the most popular cells being used for residential installations because many improvements have been made in developing solar modules using these cells and now they offer equal or better performance in terms of heat tolerance, size and efficiency. Thin-film uses the least amount of silicon and tends to deliver the least efficient solar cell performance.

Heat tolerance is another very important aspect of solar panel performance and indicates the range a panel will exceed or fail to meet its rated power. A positive tolerance rating means the panel will generate a specific wattage and even more under standard testing conditions. The temperature co-efficient is also important because temperatures impact a panel’s operation after installation. Look for panels that have a lower percentage per degree Celsius. The lower the percentage the better the performance and the less impact the temperature will have on the panel.

Doing proper research and understanding the important characteristics of a solar panel will help you select the best solar panel for your home and location. It is always wise to work with a solar panel expert who can help explain the differences and someone who understands the local environment and solar market. A solar professional can also provide you with solar quotes so you can compare the costs to benefits of different solar panel systems.

All You Need to Know about Choosing the Best Light Tunnel for Your Property

If you think some areas in your property do not have enough natural light, such as a hallway, stairway, or even a bathroom, one convenient (and affordable) solution is to have a sky tunnel or light tunnel installed. Rather than opting for a traditional skylight, which is definitely more expensive (and may not even be logistically suitable to the area you have in mind), a sky or light tunnel is easy to install and fits most properties without any hassle.

But before you go ahead and have your own light tunnel installed, it is always a good idea to know as much as you can about it. This way, you are assured of making the right decision and can benefit from a well-chosen sky tunnel that fits your property in more ways than one.

First of all, what is a sky tunnel?

Light TunnelA sky tunnel (or light tunnel, solar tube, light tube, or sun tunnel, as it is also known) is basically a tube that is usually around 10 inches or 14 inches in diameter, and it is often made from sheet metal combined with an interior which is polished. This interior is designed to be like a mirror which channels intense, bright light through the whole length of the tube. The sky tunnel is specially-designed to capture the daylight on your roof and distribute it to the area in your property which needs more natural light.

The tube is often installed on your roof, and it is protected by a weatherproof globe. The other end of the tube then ends in a diffuser (similar in shape to a porthole) on the ceiling of the area below it. Whatever light the globe collects from the outside is spread by the diffuser inside, resulting in a white, iridescent glow that instantly transforms a space, making it look as if there is a light on inside.

Areas which benefit from a sun tunnel

There are undoubtedly some areas in your property which can benefit from the installation of a sky tunnel. This would be those that do not usually have any windows, such as a hallway, a stairway, a walk-in closet, a bathroom, a laundry room, or even a kitchen. In fact, the only place which may not benefit from a sky tunnel is the area directly above a computer screen or television, as this might cause an uncomfortable, awkward glare.

What you should know about sky tunnels

You have different tube sizes to choose from, with the smallest being 10 inches, which is equivalent to approximately 3 light bulbs, each at a hundred watts. A 10-inch tube can be enough to light up an area of around 19 square metres, whilst a tube measuring 14 inches can be enough to brighten 28 square metres of space.

The good aspect about a sky tunnel is the fact that it is, as mentioned, very easy to install. It does not require a new wall, nor does it require new paint or even modifications or adjustments to your property’s frame.

Choosing a sky tunnel

In choosing a sky tunnel, you can opt for either rigid or flexible tubes. Flexible tubes are often best for domestic use, whilst rigid tubes are usually more suitable for use in warehouses, factories, and other commercial sites. Sky tunnel specialists like www.windowstoreplastics.co.uk can even install a sky tunnel for you in less than two hours – before you know it, you have your own light tunnel which can dramatically improve your interiors and help you decrease your energy bill at the same time.




Image attributed to Serge Bertasius Photography/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Choosing the Right Heater for your Home

Since winter is fast approaching, a number of companies are set to distribute their respective range of heaters in various designs and types. Due to the abundance of products and their diverse nature, it may be a daunting task to choose the right home heater based on your lifestyle. There are several factors to consider, such as the environmental impact, running cost, degree of heat in the room, etc. Further, natural gas heaters for your home are segregated into various sub-types, including electric fireplace, ceramic, wall heaters, oil-filled radiators, baseboard or free standing heaters. Generally, there are two popular types of room heaters, called convection and radiant heaters. Radiant are widely common, safe, effective, and can regulate temperature and automatically shut off. Convection products are designed to quickly heat up an entire room and may or may not require the assistance of a fan. These are generally not as powerful as radiant, but have a wider coverage area. Let us take a detailed look at choosing the right heater for your home based on your lifestyle.

Heater 640

Gas Heaters

Although such products may be costly, their running cost saves you money in the long run. This is because gas products produce about only one-third of the greenhouse emissions as compared to portable electric heaters. Such natural gas heaters for your home should be installed by an acclaimed provider, such as Jager Gas. Their services include installing a spectrum of appliances, such as pool heaters, gas heaters, patio and spa heaters. Unflued products may require room ventilation and are far less expensive than fluid gas heaters. However, fluid products are much more suitable for bathrooms and bedrooms.

Electric Heaters

Electric products include oil-filled column, radiant, convection and fan heaters that are not very expensive but may incur heavy running costs. These are best used in small areas for a short period of time. However, keep in mind to look for a timer while getting these products, since they can amount to high utility bills if left running overnight. On the positive side, they are very convenient to use because there is no need to clean up splinters or ash. They are environment friendly as well and run on renewable electricity and are highly portable and versatile in nature.

Radiant Heat System

If you want to get a propane gas heater for home, it is a good idea to opt for a boiler or propane-powered water heater, called a radiant heat system. This system uses tubes that are embedded in the flooring and is considered to be much more effective than most central heating systems. The basic science behind its mechanism is that heat starts radiating from the floor and naturally spreads and rises throughout the room. You can also insulate the water heater with a blanket to be able to use propane efficiently.

Wood Heater

Wood heaters are considered to be a lot more effective than a fireplace, since the slow combusting fire gradually heats up the room and releases all toxic heat out through the chimney. This is an energy efficient way to produce heat, since slow combustion fires contribute far less to air pollution than most open fires. They are great for large living or dining areas in your home. So, check your home and your lifestyle before you choose a natural or propane gas heater for your home.

4 Unique Ways to Make Fewer Trips to the Gas Pump

Everyone is feeling the pain in their pocketbooks when hitting the gas station. Before you fill up, think about the ways that you can help keep your vehicle going longer between fill ups. There are so many little things that you can do to help make fewer trips to the gas station; you may be surprised at the things to help elevate your gas mileage.

Slow Down

Slow Down

One of the biggest tips to save money on gas is to slow down. The faster you go, the more gas you use. If you go a little under the speed limit on the freeway, you will extend the life of your tank of gas. You can get somewhere faster by driving the speed limit or higher, but you won’t be doing yourself any favors financially. It will cost you more in gas money in the long run.


2011 GMC Acadia SL White Diamond

Does your vehicle have cruise control? If it does, make sure that you use it as often as you can. Especially on long trips, cruise control can save you a ton. Setting the speed, and not revving the engine and hitting the break in turn, can help you get more gas mileage out of your vehicle. Though this may not be as effective in town, where you will have frequent stops, you will find that on the freeway, it helps you not only keep the speed you want, but keeps you under budget.

Read this one also: Natural Car Cleaners

Keep it Light

keep it light
keep it light

If your car is full, the trunk is packed, and you have heavy items on the top, you are going to use more gas than if you are carrying minimal weight. The heavier the vehicle is, the more gas it takes to keep it moving. Because of this, you may want to think about what you are packing before heading out on your vacation. Make sure to unpack everything that you can before heading back out. Keep your vehicle as light as possible to save on gas.

Look at Greener Options

Green Option
Green Option

If you are in the market for a new vehicle, you may want to consider something that is more gas-effective. Looking into hybrid options can help you save tons at the pump. If you don’t have others to cart around in the car, you may want to look at options like a scooter or motorcycle, which also get better gas mileage.

We all want to save a little money at the pump. The best way to do this is to improve your gas mileage. Even though many ideas may seem like they won’t do much, keep in mind that every little bit helps. What are some other great ways to help your gas mileage?

Autumn Weatherproofing Tip

water_proofingA FaceBook friend offered up an interesting and easy way to insulate windows, without having to replace them altogether with a company like Otto’s Exterior, as the weather gets colder, that should work very well for everyone whose homestead living quarters isn’t fully outfitted with double-paned windows. I’ve been doing the way too labor and staple-intensive job of covering windows every year with plastic sheeting, then taking it down again in the spring so I could let some fresh air in. And sometimes managing to get all the staples out of the wooden frames, leaving lots of little holes that make it ever more difficult to re-insulate in later years.

Don’t know why I didn’t think of this, but thank goodness someone did! It’s all about Bubble Wrap, which can be purchased by the roll at many retail and hardware outlets, or recycled from your own saved packing stash of “stuff you might need someday” that’s taking up way too much room in the attic or shed. And not only does the actual insulating material (bubble wrap) make great insulating sense, the method of getting it onto your windows does NOT require any staples or tack-tape! No-holes has a lot going for it in the home preservation department, for sure.

All you need is bubble wrap (large or small bubbles) that your kids/grandkids haven’t yet popped for fun, a pair of scissors, and a spray bottle of plain water. Instructions are a breeze:

• Cut the bubble wrap to the size of the window pane.
• Spray a film of water on the window using the spray bottle.
• Apply the bubble wrap while the window is still wet and press it into place.
• To remove the bubble wrap just pull it off starting from a corner.

Voila! Well-insulated windows! The bubble side should go next to the glass for best results. If you wish to get a good view out the window pane for any reason, just pull off the bubble wrap from the corner, and then re-apply with the water sprayer when you’re done. After removing you can put your pre-cut bubble wrap window insulators into a box or bag for use in following years, just hide it from the bubble-popping kids.

Hurricane Sandy: Solar Plan-Ahead

Hurricane_SandyWe all watched in dread fascination as Superstorm Sandy hooked a hard left right where predicted off the coast of northern Virginia to slame full-force into northern New Jersey and New York City just days before Election Day. Its storm surge was every bit as devastating as predicted, and its 1,000-mile-plus wind field wreaked havoc and whipped up 30-foot waves on Lake Erie (20-footers on Lake Ontario). The storm whipped an arctic front around the back side and dumped feet of snow on southern Appalachia. Tens of millions lost electricity in the storm, and some have still not been reconnected.

As we usually see in Florida and along the Gulf coast during hurricane seasons, home supply companies quickly ran out of portable gas-powered generators and other emergency supplies, even before we were treated to the appalling spectacle of a wind-whipped inferno taking out more than a hundred homes in Queens, which was above the surge and thought it was safe. I’m sure we’re all gratified that good forecasting and serious pre-storm planning as well as pre-placement of relief personnel and supplies kept the death toll down to less than half a percent of Katrina’s toll back in 2005. But we also learned that for all those portable gas generators that were sold to people who knew their electricity would go out, the attendant problem of gas stations being unable to dispense gasoline without power rendered most of them entirely useless.

So I’m passing along an interesting blog article entitled Use solar to survive the next storm. Now, solar panels atop a pole in the yard aren’t any more likely to survive hurricane-force winds or 14-foot waves than your bird house is. But houses in New Jersey and New York that had rooftop solar panels fared very well – there are reports of considerable damage to shingles and gutters and such, but so long as the entire roof isn’t taken off, the solar panels up there should be fine.

Now, we know that solar panels won’t provide any ready juice in the middle of the night, or when the kind of deep, rain-drenched clouds a superstorm brings are between you and the sun. But for emergency purposes you should have some batteries already charged and ready to take over at least a minimum of lighting, radio, charging of PCs and cell phones, perhaps even running your laptop or iPad for up to date information. Even your basic surge protector for computer equipment – the kind with an undersized car battery with converter built-in and plugs will serve the purpose until the sun is shining again. You can set it up to draw its full charge from the solar panels normally, even if your panels are wired into the grid. While that wiring is done, just insist on a switch that will allow you to use the solar panels exclusively whenever the grid is down.

Here are some nifty portable solar generators that would in this storm have proven way more useful than a gasoline generator you couldn’t get gas for, once the next day dawned. Goal Zero offers emergency solar kits in personal, family and household sizes. Home Depot and Lowes have a variety of solar products and generators too, and the prices are getting more reasonable every year. Cabela’s outfitters offers portable solar generators too, a little tougher-built and a little more expensive. Truly industrial-level portables with steel containers of batteries are available through several companies, those by Mobile Solar are impressive, can even be sized for off-grid living.

We homesteaders don’t generally live in big cities, but there are urban homesteaders all over the place these days coming up with sustainable means of living in cities. How about having street lights with solar panels and batteries? Solar powered stoplights and such as well, to switch over from grid whenever there’s an interruption?

At any rate, for those of us who know enough science to be expecting increasingly violent weather from global climate change need to ensure our emergency supplies and power are well thought-out. It seems to me that NOT having to rely on the power company that’s been cutting service personnel for years to increase profits is better than sitting in the dark for days or weeks at a time. It also seems smarter to NOT have to find a source of gasoline in the aftermath of a hugely destructive event just so you can plug in your computer and charge your cell phone. Whether you just want an emergency supply or are able to install an ample rooftop array you can switch over when the grid goes down is of course dependent on your situation. But all of us should be thinking solar for this aspect of emergency planning.