Connecting with Sunshine


How can we make a better connection with our sun?
How can we avoid an energy crisis?

       Our tiny planet was formed from the elements and compounds cast off by our sun over 5 billion years ago. Our sun is huge. It contains about 99% of the mass of out solar system. Fortunately we far enough away, but not too far from our mother nuclear reactor. Unfortunately we have become dependant on non-renewable resources such as oil that our Mother Sun has taken a billion of years to make. These resources are rapidly disappearing along with with the quality of air we breathe and the water we drink. Did you know that 80 ton dinosaurs have done less harm to our planet in 100 million years than we have done in the last 20 years? We have wandered far from the roots and the path back home will be difficult, but I do believe we can make the transition from an oil based economy to a sun based economy and avoid an energy crisis. As long as we depend less on the decisions of large corporations and more on our own decisions we can learn to live in harmony with nature and become the green people we were meant to be.

    There are many green ways  to make a better connection with our sun. We can start by cleaning up the mess we've made and we can pass laws and impose penalties on corporations that violate those laws. This will of course  mean that the price of certain non-renewable products will increase, but maybe they should increase. Maybe this is the motivation we need to find alternatives. 



    Oil and water don't mix well, but they are both valuable resources. HOWEVER when they are mixed the environment suffers.. Burning oil to stay warm is not the most practical use of this non renewable resource since the air quality is lowered  and the increase in global warming upsets the delicate balance of nature,  Dumping raw oil in the ocean destroys the habitats of marine life. With every spill the value of our planet is diminished, and the price of oil increases. Are some companies just too big to fail?
Drilling a hole a mile below the ocean's surface is risky business and if there is a plumbing problem the damages outweigh the benefits of black gold. Just think of the claming and crabbing and fishing jobs that will be lost in Louisiana to say nothing of the wild life destroyed and the contaminated ocean that will take years to recover. I am not saying that drilling for oil should be outlawed, but I am saying we should be willing to pay the price for energy concentrates. Perhaps the engineers need to take a step back and rethink the problems of offshore, deep-well drilling or perhaps we could explore the possibilities of a more direct connection with the sun.



What is sunlight worth anyway? Air, water, and sunlight are our most precious resources and they are also the resources we take for granted. It may sound ludicrous to place a quantitative commercial value on sunlight, but let's give it a try. How much is a square meter of sunlight worth?
Over the period of one hour one square meter of direct sunlight has the energy equivalent of one kilowatt in a typical USA mainland area. This means that a total harvest of all the solar energy striking a surface area of 1000 m2 per year will add up to 1,000,000 KWH of energy. At $0.15/KWH this much energy would have a value of $150,000. Of course no one can expect to harvest 100% of the sun's energy, but if you could harvest 10% you'd still have $15,000 to put in your pocket at the end of the year. $15,000 worth of power from a 1000m2 PV system per year is close to the energy value you could expect, but you should know that the cost of a PV system this large isd great. It's good to see the brave green pioneers step up to the plate, but I don't expect the average person to jump for joy when they do a cost analysis of a PV system. A house like this may seem a little odd, but energy- independent, food-producing houses may soon become commonplace. 


    Notice that the entire south facing facing roof is used for harvesting solar heat and solar power. Additional PV panels may be installed on the shallow sloping (shed roof) if additional power is required. The support system for a shed roof like this is a little different than a conventional ridge or truss roof, but the additional materials and labor provide extra living space that would normally be wasted as attic space. I expect the cost of an energy independent house like this would be similar to the cost of a more conventional dwelling. This is because MTD collectors are used instead of conventional flat plate collectors.



        MTD collectors do not use metallic absorber plates

        MTD collectors do not use flow tubes to transfer heat

        MTD collectors never have a freezing problem and they do not require antifreeze

        MTD collectors are made from commonly available materials

        MTD collectors may be pressed together to form a continuous solar roof

        MTD collectors are light and easy to install

        MTD collectors cost less than $4/ sq ft and they are easy to assemble and disassemble.

        MTD collectors have an efficiency rating of 50%

        MTD have been tested for three years over a temperature range between �30*F to 275*F

        MTD heating and hot water systems can use recycled plastic drums to store heat.

        MTD collectors are normally 2'x8' or 2'x12� but there are other possibilities

        MTD collector starter kits are available to facilitate the assembly of the first MTD collector. 


Today the oil stained tides are starting to turn on the oil stained oil rigs.. More and more Green People are jumping on the DIY solar bandwagon. PV installers are available for those willing to make long-range investments. AND DIY people, willing to make a short range investment, can make more cost effective investments. Most of the materials needed for solar heating systems are commonly available. I know this to be a fact because for the last 10 years I have been building, installing and researching a variety of Domestic Solar Hot Water and Solar Heating systems.  I have put together how to solar heating books, MTD solar collector kits, Differential Controller Kits, fully assembled Differential Controllers, Temperature Probes, monitoring stations and even a sunlight intensity monitor called SKY EYE.  

In 1980 I worked with the Adirondack Solar Association to understand why an interest in solar applications seemed to fade away. After the Oil Embargo in the mid 70's the alternative energies started to blossom, but the fragile new green businesses was stomped out when Reagan killed Carter's Solar Bank Bills in 1980. The Alaska pipe line and other well drilling operations soon brought the price of oil back down and most people soon forgot about the possibilities of solar energy, but now with the help of president Obama the tides of social change are finally beginning to turn in a life sustaining direction.