Archive for August, 2009

Realtor James Lupori of the Kenmore Undressed blog has written two articles about the viability of solar power in the Northwest. He looks at the topic from the point of view of a remodeling project.

Based on his numbers, it will cost him approximately $1,600 to install one 13 square foot solar panel that will produce 205kw of power while the sun shines. This cost includes the actual installation of the panels. And that’s on the cheap end of installation. Normally the cost of installation ranges between $7/watt to $9/watt, so James is getting a good deal on installation.

Is it worth it? Well, yes.

Currently, solar power installations will payback their investment in about 20 years. The downside is that the average lifespan of current solar panels is only 25 years. Hopefully, when it comes time to replace them, the cost will have dropped significantly.

And as more and more units are installed, costs will drop. As newer solar cell technology is developed, the amount of power produced by solar panels will go up. Our current solar cell technology is only 17% to 20% efficient for most commercial solar panels. The highest efficiencies are around 40%, but at a much higher cost per panel.

So, how many square feet solar panels do you need to power your home? Take out your energy bills for the last twelve months and add together kWh on them for your yearly total. Then, divide your yearly kWh usage by 1.5. The resulting number will tell you how many square feet of solar panels you would need to power your home.

The obvious problem with solar power is that you only get power while the sun shines. So, if you really want to get off the grid, you’ll need to go multi-modal with your power generation. I’m a firm believer in multi-modal transportation and that applies to power generation as well.

In the Northwest we have a lot of wind, so wind turbines are a possibility. However, I strongly suggest that you seek out expert advice before going out a buying one. Some neighborhoods may ban them for the noise that they make. Also, you may not have enough wind in your area to for a turbine to work at all. But, if you’re lucky to live in a place where the wind blows consistently, it’s a worthwhile investment.

The Kenmore Undressed articles:

SOLAR ENERGY – The Perfect Remodeling Project of the Future, Part 1

SOLAR ENERGY – The Perfect Remodeling Project of the Future, Part 2


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So, what would happen if the City of Seattle where to tear down the Alaskan Way Viaduct and not replace it with anything?

According to most pundits: Gridlock!

But according to the Braess Paradox: Better traffic flow and less traffic.

This is the conundrum presented in the Infrastructurist post “Huh?! 4 Cases Of How Tearing Down A Highway Can Relieve Traffic Jams (And Save Your City)”, where four case studies are examined and show that removing roads can actually reduce traffic in a city.


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Vince Carlson

Vince Carlson

Vincent Carlson is a remarkable man. He has over 20-years experience in architecture, construction, engineering, development, design and fabrication. He also makes award-winning meads as well. His architecture company, Architect for the Environment, specializes in green and sustainable architecture, for residential, commercial, and agricultural needs.

Vince lives the sustainable lifestyle in Woodinville, Washington. Here he’s raising a family in a green lifestyle. He grows his own food, raises his own chickens for eggs and makes mead, a honey wine, for sale through his other business, Adytum Cellars.

Vince’s most current project is the 21 Acres Center for Local Food and Sustainable Living. This Center will be a facility that will be a self-sustaining and energy-efficient and renewable structure built with green principles and materials. The building will include stalls for market vendors and farmers, areas for educational displays and produce sales, dry storage and cold storage facilities for farmers, and sit-down eating areas for families coming to the market. The Center will be surrounded by a vast outdoor patio area that will enable pedestrian traffic to flow in and out of the building as people shop, eat, and explore the atmosphere.

A fine glass of mead.

A fine glass of mead.

Beyond architecture, Vince also makes mead. Award winning mead. His Traditional Mead won the 2007 International Mead Festival Silver Medal. As a personal connoisseur of Vince’s meads, I can highly recommend his products. He used to have his own hive, but it swarmed recently and flew off. He’s currently looking to replace it with a new hive when he gets a chance.

His meadery has a partial green roof with drip irrigation to keep it going in the hot months. He has recently renovated the business with a new tasting room on the ground floor of the meadery. He’s always willing to explain the mead making process and uses natural and organic honeys in his products.

Along wit his traditional meads, Vince also makes several fruit meads:

  • Pyment – grapes
  • Cyser – apples or pears
  • Melomel – peaches, cherries, elderberries and most other fruits
  • Metheglin – herb or spice

If you get a chance stop by his place and try his products. You won’t regret it.

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Let us here at the Living Sustainably blog help you make your story heard. Just fill out the handy little form on our Suggestion Box page and we’ll contact you for more information!

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In the GreenTech section of CNET news is a story about how the Solar Trust energy company has acquired the rights to Solar Millenium’s agreement with Southern California Edison and plans to offer a “turnkey solution” to thermal solar energy development:

Solar Trust’s strategy is to offer what it calls a “turnkey solution” to thermal solar energy development. It says it will be a company that can provide not only the design, development, construction, and installation of a thermal solar plant, but also the running and management of the plant once it’s functional.

A parabolic solar array unit.

A parabolic solar array unit.

These solar plants are different from from photovoltaic solar cells in that they use parabolic mirrors to concentrate sunlight on a working fluid. This fluid is heated up into steam or run through a heat exchanger to create steam, and then the steam is used through a traditional steam turbine to generate power.

What does this mean for the future of solar power? Well, if this new company succeeds in producing power to California residents, similar projects could be build in Eastern Washington State. So we’ll be keeping our eyes on how this develops.

Read the full story here.

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