L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

22 June 2006 Blog Home : June 2006 : Permalink

NIMBYs and Ecofreaks

Some people may have noticed that this site was down for some of last weekend. The reason for that is that it is hosted by a friend of mine at his abode near San Diego (or Sandy Ego as I prefer to spell it) and his neighbourhood had a sustained power cut:

There are some things I can't control, our excremental power company, San Diego Gas and Electric, who deliver the highest priced electricity in the US, some of the time, is one. We had a 12 hour power outage that completely drained the UPSes from 11PM to 7AM Friday night. The UPSes won't restart until they are fully charged (otherwise the shutdown software goes into an infinite loop when there isn't enough run-time left to shutdown gracefully, and you need to run a full charge cycle after a full discharge or risk damaging the battery), which  didn't happen until the afternoon.

Anyway I semi-facetiously suggested that he invest in some solar panels to which I received this excellent rant which needs additional publicity:

There's a market for solar panel systems for the house, but I don't know of one for upses. Thing is, they don't have DC charging connectors, in general. [Snip geeky tech bits]

The real solution is to take the nimbys and enviros who opposed power plants, and power transmission lines, and cut off THEIR electricity first. Then, pass a law invalidating all HOA rules and CC&Rs against solar and wind generation. Solar is still really inefficient. It would take my whole roof to generate what I can do with two small Yachting type wind turbines (which are whisper silent, and small enough to fit on a 30' boat's rail), but I'm forbidden to do wind power here. Wind is also more consistent here, as I'm in a valley that runs East-West, so I get 15kts of breeze offshore @ night, and onshore in the day. The only time it's calm is early morning and around sunset.

The problem is, there's an unholy alliance between luddites (the proper term for most "Environmentalists"), lookists (the people who care more how things look than whether they work or not), and an ignorant and disinterested public. Everyone screams when the power goes out or gas is $4 a gallon, but they all also give to the Sierra Club and Surfrider (who oppose new power plants, transmission lines, and offshore oil drilling), vote for politicians who kowtow to them, and leave all their lights on, run the ac, and drive SUVs.

The real symbol of the total idiocy of Californians is the ubiquitous 1960s VW Bus with the environmentalist stickers plastered all over it. Those things get 12-15 MPG, pollute like crazy (no emissions controls), leak oil (the horizontally opposed case motor needs regular bolt torquing, which most owners know nothing about), and are a safety hazard to boot.

I know, I used to have one (but I didn't plaster it with stickers).

We had a power outage here too this week, although for less than an hour rather than the 12 hour one he got (remember everything is bigger in America) so I think I must look into my local capitainerie and see what is on offer wind-generator-wise. The cost of solar is also dropping and a combo of solar plus wind plus a large number of lead acid batteries would probably make me independant of the electrical grid. I don't know how much it would cost and I doubt it would be cost effective at present (I think you'd need to have at least a 3yr ROI), but it is intriguing given that oil prices remain high and my house is heated by fuel oil, an option which was very attractive a few years back but which isn't now that even fuel oil is nearing the €1/litre mark.

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin