So unless I’m miscounting, with Mark Critz’s election to fill John Murtha’s House seat in Pennsylvania last night, Democrats have now won 6 out of 6 special Congressional elections since President Obama took office. (Or 6 out of 7, if you include the Senate race.)

This is not to say anger is not abroad in the land. It is – and rightfully so. We are, as the President says, in a ditch. But at least some voters seem not ready to hand the keys back to the folks who drove us there.

Our job is to get voters to focus on the broad contrast, which is everywhere you look, most recently with the $75 million cap on BP’s liability. Democrats want to raise it to $10 billion. Republicans don’t.

And our job is to inspire people to vote for more change, not for worse gridlock.

The Party of No has blocked so much needed legislation, kept so many outstanding appointees bottled up, taken the filibuster to such new heights, cheered when we lost the Olympics, sneered when our President won the Nobel Peace Prize, fought against consumer protections, fought for corporate protections – and perhaps most tellingly, blocked the establishment of a bipartisan deficit commission that they themselves had proposed. Its seven Republican co-sponsors actually voted to kill the thing once the President signed on.

But I digress.


Michael Joblin: “Congrats on going solar. We decided a couple of months ago that this summer we will install both a solar PV system for our electricity and a solar thermal pool heating system. We’ve been researching panels and installers, and there are many of both. I’m beginning to think there’s a possibility of the paralysis of analysis. May I ask which panel you’ve selected and why, and what percentage of your estimated total usage you will be generating? With the tiered pricing in use here, there’s diminishing returns as the percentage of usage increases. We’re currently looking at generating around 70%-80% of our usage, which should cover 90%+ of our utility bill. As for panels, right now we’re looking at SunPower, Sanyo, Suntech, First Solar, and Kyocera. I gather from my reading that I should probably also look at Yingli. We don’t understand why we don’t see many more solar installations here in the desert than we do. Would you have a theory about that?”

☞ We chose Sunpower 230 panels for this system because we had very little space available to fit the panels. It is a 3.68kW system that will cover approximately 73% of the electric load of the property. (It’s a summer place.) Our gurus for this explain, in answer to your question:

Sunpower panels are the most efficient available on the market, meaning we can fit more watts in a given area when compared to other brands. There is a high cost associated with this; however, for unique applications like this, Sunpower is ideal. For systems where space is not an issue, we typically use Suntech or Canadian Solar. They both produce excellent panels and CS is the closest affordable panel from an efficiency standpoint to Sunpower.

In New York State, residential system ROI’s go down as you exceed 10kW since the rebate is capped at 10kW. The same is for commercial at 50kW. NYS does not have a Renewable Portfolio Standard which makes the annual payback entirely dependent on the electricity negation, after you apply the state and federal incentives. In NJ, the payback is not only dependent on the negation of electricity after incentives, but the sale of Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) to utilities who are fined for not producing a certain % of their power renewably. SRECs are valued around 4x’s the cost of electricity.

Regarding the amount of solar currently installed in a particular market, it entirely depends on what State incentives are available and whether or not that state has an RPS. Solar typically costs around the same no matter what state you are in (except for non-typical mounting applications); however, the incentives vary the paybacks from 5 to even 20 years!

☞ I understand only a little of that. But as to the last little piece, I’m quite sure desert-based panels would pay off faster than ours would, other things (like incentives and energy costs) being equal. What we need to get to are panels cheap and efficient enough to be compelling investments without subsidy. Which would mean, at least in part, recognizing the true cost of fossil fuels. Which gets us back to:

Stewart Dean:Here’s a link to the report itself – Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use – and for something this important, it’s a major journalistic and political failure that it’s been around since last October and hasn’t gotten heavy coverage and been used to leverage action for alternative energy. Sheeesh.”

Amie Home: “I’m glad you’re getting solar panels, we’ve come close a couple of times but keep expecting to move and have been hoping for some technological advancements, hoping that like PCs the price won’t come down necessarily but the product will get better. In the meantime we’ve just cut usage and replaced heavy usage appliances with energy efficient ones. But the Tom Rooney article you posted was just plain trite. ‘They confuse price with cost. Like Pee Wee’s customers.’ Come on! If Pee Wee were a real and not fictionalized person, his customers wouldn’t know that he was dumping so they wouldn’t be confusing anything – they’d just be unwittingly supporting a criminal. The article was poorly written by the CEO of a solar company pushing his own wares with a lot of trite phrases that bugged the heck out of me. Even though I’m pro solar, I hated it.


Bill: “[Re Marc’s ‘fourth’ thing yesterday:] I don’t understand. How does scanning photos that you already have save anything? It may make displaying and sharing the photos more convenient, but if you already have a hardcopy photo what have you saved? Indeed, a real extremist would claim that scanners fill up hard drives that eventually fail and have to be replaced, adding to our recycling costs. But I won’t go there.”

☞ All true. Some people use the scanner to go paperless. Others, like me, may have used them to cut down a little on our paper use, but just love the way our photos are now preserved, easily backed up, organized, shared, and accessible. Where it once would have been beyond weird to carry photo albums everywhere you went, now you can – on your iPhone.


So far, I’ve given you the first through fourth (well, Marc gave them to us). And at the end of this series, I’ll give you the link to all 12. But for now . . .

5. Love vacuuming.
All hand-held vacuum cleaners I’ve had in the past were weak suckers, if you want to call it that, — until I got this one. The “Black & Decker PHV1800CB 18-Volt Pivoting-Nose Cordless Energy-Star Handheld Vacuum Cleaner” is amazingly powerful in its suction, even though it’s hand-held and cordless. Having it handy saves you from having to drag out your big regular vacuum cleaner in 99% of all situations. The Black and Decker got 132 5-star, and 44 4-star ratings out of 208 customer reviews on Amazon (as of 5/9/2010). Black & Decker Handheld Vacuum Cleaner, approx. $55.


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