Sunday, February 28, 2010

Equation for a better future

This is an Op/Ed I wrote for the San Diego Unoin Tribune.
Its mostly about Solar but does include the Mini-E.
Equation for a better future
EV + PV = SD>

By Peder Norby
Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 12:04 a.m.

San Diego is blessed with abundant, endless sunshine. We would be wise to use this resource accordingly.

The emerging application of the plug-in electric car coupled with new legislation that makes solar photovoltaic energy affordable and, in many cases, a net positive from day one will launch this county and state into a change in motive power and a change in the way we power our homes from consolidated sources of power (power plants, oil refineries) to distributed “in-basin” sources of power (home or business power plants) during the next few decades.

An electric vehicle in the garage charged from a solar photovoltaic system on the roof or car port equals a San Diego County that is far greater than it is today. Each, while beneficial alone, when paired together will change our county for the better.

EV (electric vehicle) + PV (photovoltaic energy) is a pairing as natural as hardware and software, as chocolate and wine, as sunshine and photosynthesis.

The county of San Diego and most cities within the county, have adopted the Property Assessed Clean Energy program (PACE). This makes solar photovoltaic systems, as well as other important energy and water saving improvements, affordable to all by allowing the financing of the improvements over many years via property taxes. With the PACE program, the savings on your utility and water bills after your improvements can equal or exceed your payment via your property tax assessment.

How does this make San Diego County greater than it is today?

Fifty-five percent of our total man-made emissions in the region come from our personal transportation. Twelve percent come from our homes. Imagine a county and state in which our autos and our homes are powered by affordable sunshine. No emissions, a fixed cost as opposed to ever increasing bills, cheaper than your current utility bill and much cheaper (50 cents a gallon of gas equivalent) than your current gasoline bill for your car.

Land use and planning in our county is largely centered on our transportation systems. These emerging clean energy systems and cars will “evolutionize” our planning efforts, resulting in a better San Diego County.

It you are a bit skeptical, who can blame you? I ask that you consider our experience.

We live and drive on sunshine. We generate 12,000 kilowatt hours of energy with our solar photovoltaic stem. Our experimental car uses 3,000 kilowatt hours and our home uses 9,000 kilowatt hours per year.

For the past 30 months, we have powered our home nearly completely with solar photovoltaic energy. In just a short three years more, our system will be fully paid off – paid off with the same money we used to pay San Diego Gas & Electric and our local OPEC-supplied gas station.

From then on, our energy use for our home and our cars is essentially free.

For the past 11,000 miles, we have been field trial drivers for BMW, driving a fully electric MINI E powered by local sunshine all over San Diego, Orange and Riverside counties.

In less than a year, General Motors and Nissan will be offering similar plug-in electric cars. The year after that, Ford and Toyota, and by 2012 most of the major manufactures will have some variety of electric plug-in vehicles including popular SUVs.

In this short time frame we will all have a choice on how we power our homes and our cars. No longer will we be chained to OPEC every few hundred miles. No longer will we be chained to a utility’s power plant to produce the energy we consume. We will have a choice to produce our own energy for our own homes, businesses and cars.

We will have a choice whether we continue being dependent on foreign governments and OPEC for gasoline, or realize and honor our forefathers’ wish for an independent country by generating our own electric energy from an endless local resource, sunshine.

We will have a choice weather to convey a cleaner, emission-free San Diego County to future generations who will inherit this earth from us, or give them a world more polluted as our parting gift.

In San Diego County we have 1.4 million homes and 3 million automobiles. We have a choice on how we power both.

San Diego is blessed with abundant, endless sunshine. We would be wise to use this resource accordingly.

Norby is a San Diego County planning commissioner. He and his wife, Julie, were awarded the 2007 SANDEE Award from the California Center for Sustainable Energy for the home they built in Carlsbad.