Solar Evaluation

One of the projects I had planned for the summer was to investigate installing solar panels on my new garage.  I had this vision that I could come home, plug-in my car in (plug-in car required), and have it powered cleanly from the sun (sun required).

The proposed location:

I thought I had the perfect spot…at least it appeared that way all winter.  What I forgot about, and what became obvious over the summer, is that my neighbor has a perfectly lovely tree in their yard that is shading my solar spot….and the tree is still growing!

The company giving me the quote ran what they call a Solar Access (the ability of one property to continue to receive sunlight across property lines without obstruction from another’s property) estimate for my location (tree shade growth not factored).  For you geeks out there here are the results:

Without the tree the numbers aren’t bad, an average of 86% over the year.  Who says Portland doesn’t get sun????  The estimated energy savings if I could achieve this level of solar access would be 2,482KW per year.  This would offset ~20% of my current usage.

The Cost:  This is where the rubber met the road….a 3kW system would cost me $17k.  The incentives are signifcant, over a 4 year period the total cost to install would end up closer to 5k.

The Final Analysis: Although this was never about the ROI, I had to crunch the numbers anyway.  Using the offset estimate, an esitmate of future electric rates, and the cost of the system after incentives…it would take 10years to pay for itself….which I found to be a bit depressing.

The Reality:  I don’t have 17k to spend right now (you will see why later) on what would essentially be a “statement” that I care about my footprint.  I have not ruled out solar (smaller system…bigger than a light and smaller than 3kW) for perhaps another spot in the yard but for now this project is “Closed”.

I’m still following the Solarize NE activities and am thrilled I live in a city with opportunities and groups like this one.

Want to be inspired? Pam Warhurst: How we can eat our landscapes

I watched this today and was truly inspired.  Watch…it’s worth the time…it’s motivating me to start planning for the garden expansion into the parking strips and the front yard…GRASS BE GONE!

Favorite quote:

“…and we have done it all without a flipping strategy document….”

CSA – 2nd Week

One of my goals this year was to join a local CSA.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term CSA, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  You basically buy your food directly from the farmer!  You pay upfront and then receive harvest throughout the year.   Here are some advantages of a CSA (copied directly from the http://www.localharvest.org/csa/):

Advantages for farmers:

  • Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16 hour days in the field begin
  • Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow
  • Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow

Advantages for consumers:

  • Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
  • Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
  • Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
  • Find that kids typically favor food from “their” farm – even veggies they’ve never been known to eat
  • Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown

If you want to find a CSA in your area checkout Local Harvest.

I joined Sauvie Island Organics.  I chose this CSA because it’s been in business for quite a while, has a great reputation, friends have used it, pick-up is just blocks from my house, and it supplies some of my favorite local restaurants.  Plus, they have a great blog, you can see the harvests from past years, they have partnered with a local chef who posts recipes specific to that week’s harvest, and they send you an email right before the weekend to give you an idea what is coming so you can shop accordingly!

I signed up for a half-share (good for 1-2 people), and a salad share.  So far I’m very happy!  The greens have been amazing.  I highly recommend this to folks who love veggies, want to support local farming, and what to get out of rut and cook with some new veggies they might not normally buy.