From void into vision, from vision to mind, from mind into speech, from speech to the tribe, from the tribe into din.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Agrophotovoltaics, Agriphotovoltaics, Solar Sharing

Fraunhofer Institute in Germany has been doing “agrophotovoltaics” studies for the last few years, the concept of producing both crops and solar power on the same land.  Their 2018 study results are available here:

”The results from 2017 showed a land use efficiency of 160 percent, as confirmed by the project consortium under the direction of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE. The performance of the agrophotovoltaic system in the very hot summer of 2018 greatly exceeded this value.”

Fraunhofer is also doing tests of solar panels over shrimp ponds in Vietnam:
They show similar results there, too, possibly even better as the solar shading is more conducive to shrimp growth.  If there are any applicable aquaculture facilities in your state, there might be some solar opportunities available there too.

What Fraunhofer calls agrophotovoltaics the Japanese call  “solar sharing” and have been doing since at least 2004:

”The concept was originally developed by Akira Nagashima in 2004, who was a retired agricultural machinery engineer who later studied biology and learned the “light saturation point.” The rate of photosynthesis increases as the irradiance level is increased; however at one point, any further increase in the amount of light that strikes the plant does not cause any increase to the rate of photosynthesis….

”Based on the tests conducted at his solar testing sites in Chiba Prefecture, he recommends about 32% shading rate for a farmland space to reach adequate growth of crops. In other words, there is twice as much empty space for each PV module installed.”

UMass Amherst is working on this concept as well with outreach to farmers through a state program:

Mother Jones article on this idea:
Paper from Nature Sustainability the article references

There should be no competition between active farmland and solar development.  When done correctly, solar can become a lucrative second “crop” for farmers while maintaining and, in some cases, increasing agricultural productivity.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Old Solar: Jimmy Carter's 1979 Green Deal

Jimmy Carter’s energy plan called for "20% of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000" in 1979. Renewables, wind, solar and hydro, are at just about that level now, 20 years behind his schedule.

Carter also wanted to insulate 90% of American homes and all new buildings and use solar energy in more than 2.5 million homes by 1985. There were 1.3 million solar installations in the USA in 2017 by one count and may be 1.9 million now by another and all low-rise residential buildings in CA will be built to net zero energy standards starting in 2020.

Carter was thinking in terms of his next four years in office. Extinction Rebellion is demanding that “Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.” The Green New Deal has a 10 year timeframe.

The argument can be made that Jimmy Carter in his cardigan sweater spouting “mush from the wimp” is more radical about energy than almost anyone in the public eye today.

PS: Reagan won the 1980 election and shut down the building solar wave with extreme prejudice. Reagan killed us. Carter’s energy plan would have saved us (as long as the terrible shale oil component was shelved).

Old Solar: 1881
Old Solar: 1980 Barnraised Solar Air Heater

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Zero Net Energy - July 18. 2019

Zero-energy demonstration project in Beijing made from pre-fab timber components

Energy blockchain for 55,000 rooftops in Japan planned, 100 rooftops now
Power Ledger - Australian company behind the project

Singapore’s first net zero energy building - 6 story building at the National University of Singapore School of Design and Environment

"S2A Modular in Southern California is building a factory to manufacture modular net-zero-energy private homes, condominiums, apartment complexes, and commercial buildings."

Renovated office building in Amsterdam is net positive energy with BREEAM outstanding rating

Net zero energy church in Iowa

In the EU all new buildings will be nearly zero-energy by the end of 2020 and all new public buildings have been nearly zero-energy since 2018.

Eco-Capsule - self-sustainable micro-home
in Times Square NYC

Net positive house in Lincoln, MA produces 67% more energy than it consumes with  -6.3kBtu/sf/yr

Carbon Drawdown Now:  Turning Buildings into Carbon Sinks

Zero carbon retrofit for Paris 2024 Olympics

Norwich, UK’s 100 unit Passivhaus council house development

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

How Do You Pay for the Green New Deal: Cost of Fuel

I did some back of the envelope estimates of the cost of the fossil fuels we use in a year.  
The source of these figures is the USA DOE Energy Information Agency

But any mistakes in arithmetic are my own.


7.5 billion barrels of petroleum products consumed in USA in 2018
average price $69.78 per barrel
Cost of petroleum products:  $523,350,000,000

In 2017, the United States consumed about 27.11 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas
average of $4.08 per thousand cubic feet
Cost of natural gas:  $110,608,800,000

EIA expects total U.S. coal consumption in 2018 to fall to 691 million short tons (MMst)
$39.09 per short ton (2017 price) 
Cost of coal:  $27,011,190,000

Total:  $660,969,990,000

We spend nearly $661 billion per year or something like that on fuel alone every year.
And these are only ballpark numbers, probably on the low side.

With the 2018 USA GDP at $20.50 trillion, the cost of fuel is approximately 3.22% of annual GDP


Another "cost" of fuel is covered in the International Monetary Fund's recent report on fossil fuel subsidies, covering 191 countries:

They look at the difference between the market price and "how much consumers would pay if prices fully reflected supply costs plus the taxes needed to reflect environmental costs and revenue requirements."

Global fuel subsidies were $4.7 trillion (6.3% of global GDP) in 2015 and were projected to be $5.2 trillion (6.5% of GDP) in 2017
China subsidizes the most with $1.4 trillion per year
$649 billion in 2015 for the USA, 3.6% of GDP
Russia at $551 billion
EU at $289 billion
India at $209 billion

"Efficient fossil fuel pricing in 2015 would have lowered global carbon emissions by 28% and fossil fuel air pollution deaths by 46%, and increased government revenue by 3.8 % of GDP."

Subsidies consist of underpricing for local air pollution, the largest source (48% in 2015), 
global warming at 24% 
broader environmental costs of road fuels at 15% 
undercharging for general consumption taxes 7% 
supply costs 7%

Coal and petroleum get 85% of the global subsidies monies. 
Coal receives 44% of subsidy monies
petroleum 41%
natural gas 10%
electricity 4%

"If fuel prices had been set at fully efficient levels in 2015, estimated global CO2 emissions would have been 28% lower, fossil fuel air pollution deaths 46% lower, tax revenues higher by 3.8% of global GDP, and net economic benefits (environmental benefits less economic costs) would have amounted to 1.7% of global GDP."


The USA spends about $661 billion per year on the cost of fuel
and another $649 billion on subsidies for that fuel
That's about $1.2 trillion per year for the full cost accounting of fossil fuels and such fossil foolishness.
That's about 7% of USA GDP

The energy transition, Energiewende, of Germany is estimated to cost 0.5 - 1.2% of GDP per year

How do you pay for the Green New Deal?  You do away with the cost of fuel (and all the subsidies that go along with it).

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Daily Reminder Calendar for the Next Decade of Climate Change

Scientists tell us that
we have about a decade to do something
to reduce climate calamity.
Let's schedule out the next 10 years
3,650 days
for climate action
month by month
week by week
day by day
to do what is
ecologically necessary
to restore the atmosphere to
270 ppm CO2

This is a reworking of the end of My Approach to Climate Change ( which I was reminded of by reading a paper on “German Energiewende:  Power System” I received at the NE - Germany Energy Transition Forum (, at Harvard Law school on May 16, 2019.  In it I saw goal figures for greenhouse gas reductions (ghgs) and renewable power increases for both Germany and the EU.

My daily reminder climate catastrophe calendar would have these kinds of things on each page:

Climate goals for the EU:
80-95% reduction greenhouse gases (ghg) by 2050
(compared to 1990 levels, the agreed upon standard it seems)
32% renewables by 2030
32.5% increase in efficiency by 2030
Climate goals for Germany:
55% reduction in ghgs by 2030
80-95% by 2050
30.8% reductions from 1990 levels of ghgs now
65% renewable electricity by 2030
80% by 2050
37.8% renewable electricity now, already above the 2020 goal of 35%
(Renewables are the dominant source of electricity in Germany for the second year in a row and renewables have tripled since 2000)
40-45% renewables by 2025
nuclear phase out by 2022
coal phase out by 2038

I know another date to add to the calendar could be Costa Rica’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2021.

I wonder whether people would actually buy a Climate Change Daily Reminder Calendar.  I’m guessing the German Network Development Plan 2019-2030 which outlines the planned grid development to accomodate 65% renewables by 2030 has something like it though.  

May somebody somewhere be working on a 100% by 2030 calendar for their country and the world — just as a thought experiment.  Perhaps those who are interested can work on it every Friday while the schoolchildren are striking for climate.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Why isn’t job growth the first thing climate activists mention?

In 2016 and 2017, the US Department of Energy produced the US Energy and Employment Report [USEER] as part of an effort to "produce the most comprehensive and accurate study of energy workers across all sectors." The last DOE USEER was released in January 2017.  With the installation of Trmp, the DOE cancelled the project.  

In response, the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) ( and the Energy Futures Initiative ( worked with numerous partners to "continue producing the USEER report using the same methodology, datasets and research firm that produced the reports for the DOE.”  The report searches 186 employment codes, contacts 30,000 employers each year, and covers 53 different energy, efficiency, and motor vehicle technologies.  

I attended a webinar on March 30, 2019 on the 4th annual USEER.  Here are my notes and some observations. 

There are 3.3 million clean energy jobs
2.3 million in energy efficiency
508,000 renewable energy
254,000 clean vehicles
139,000 grid and storage
38,000 clean fuels

There were 226,000 new jobs in 2018 in these 5 clean energy sectors.  Renewable energy and energy efficiency added 152,000 new jobs, out-performing the economy for the 4th year in a row, 2.3% growth to 1.8%.  

Energy efficiency alone added 76,000 jobs, for a total of 275,000 new jobs in the last 3 years.  Alternative fuel vehicles added almost 34,000 jobs.  

Energy storage (battery, pumped hydro, mechanical, thermal) employed 75,180 people.  

Employers expect over the next year for renewable generation to have 7.1% growth, energy efficiency 7.8%, 9% if they can “find the folks,” battery storage 4.4%.  However, solar hiring was down in 2018 by .03%  and solar jobs declined by about 4% due to Trmp’s tariffs.  Solar jobs, however, are still up significantly over past the 5+ years with 3-4% decreases only in the last two years.  

For comparison, there are 1.15 million jobs in the entire US fossil fuel industry with coal mining and fuels production gaining 650 jobs or 0.9% in 2018.  There are 1.15 million employed in fossil fuels and 3.3 million employed in clean energy today.

CA, TX, FL, NY, MI, ILL, MA, OH, NC, VA are the top 10 states for clean energy jobs.  
10 states generate more than 20% of their electricity from wind and solar:  KS, IA, OK, ND, SD, VT, CA, ME, CO, and MN.  
The fastest-growing jobs in 12 states were in renewable energy in 2018.  
There are more clean energy jobs in Republican districts than Democratic districts.

Full report at

There are currently more clean energy jobs available than workers to fill them.  The lack of trained people was highlighted by virtually all sectors as a growing problem.  Lack of experience, training, and technical skills was almost universally cited as the top reason for hiring difficulty by employers across all five surveyed sectors. The need for technical training and certifications was also frequently cited, implying the need for expanded investments in workforce training and closer coordination between employers and the workforce training system.

MA Clean Energy Center and NYSERDA workforce development programs were mentioned as good currently working models.  It takes a few years to train people for these jobs including continuing education for electricians, plumbers, carpenters.  Community colleges, military, and labor unions are all involved or should be. 

Editorial Comment
Clean energy technology teach-ins are certainly possible too.  Community groups have been doing self-education and activism around energy and environmental issues for decades.  At the end of the 1970s, the Urban Solar Energy Association (now Boston Area Solar Energy Association and many other groups around the country did solar barn-raisings.  More recently, the Home Energy Efficiency Team ( has organized weatherization parties and is currently deeply involved with Mothers Out Front and others on policing natural gas (methane) leaks.  These can all feed into DIY and certificate training, in combination with all the educational institutions interested in the possibilities.

This is an example of what I call swadeshi, local production or local economy.  It is the daily practice of nonviolent (home) economics that Gandhi believed was the heart of satyagraha, soul or truth force, the individual and community strength to perform political nonviolence.  A significant difference between Gandhi’s nonviolence and Martin Luther King Jr’s nonviolence is the absence of swadeshi, a practical or cottage industry component to the demonstration of economic, political, and social nonviolence.
End of Editorial Comment

Energy efficiency has the most overall growth and potential for jobs.  It is about 41% of energy sector jobs now.  More than 1 out of 6, 17% of all USA construction jobs are in energy efficiency.  E2 ( is preparing an Energy Efficiency Jobs in America report due in summer 2019.  Cities like Boston have found that energy efficiency retrofits, electrification of existing residential buildings and improved transportation to be the most impactful strategies for reducing carbon emissions (

Higher energy standards are another policy that supports clean energy and energy efficiency jobs.  On April 18, the city council of New York approved a plan where every building in the city larger than 25,000 square feet in size must reduce its carbon emissions by 40% no later than 2030.  "The new policy will apply to more than 50,000 buildings in the city, including Trump Tower” (  CA will have a building standard of net zero energy for all low rise residential buildings in 2020 (  In the EU, all new buildings will be nearly zero-energy by the end of 2020 and all new public buildings have been nearly zero-energy since 2018 (  Over the past few months, I’ve heard at least two energy policy experts say that a few hundred people, the people on the state and local boards who determine building codes, are a key constituency to speed the energy transition.

Over 50% of energy and energy efficiency jobs have median entry level wages below $17/hour.  Solar and wind employ a higher percentage of veterans than the national average, 8 - 11% as opposed to 6%, but women are a smaller portion of the workforce in these sectors, ranging from 23% to 33%, compared to the overall economy, where women make up 47% of the workforce.

Clean energy employers said they anticipate 6% job growth for 2019.  After two years of losses, solar energy employers predict 8% job growth for 2019, Energy efficiency continues to lead the clean energy sector in total number of jobs, growing 3.4% to 2.3 million jobs.  Wind energy is also up 3.4% jobs over the past year.

Jobs in clean vehicles manufacturing increased by 16%. About 254,000 Americans now work at companies building hybrid, electric and other clean vehicles, while another 486,000 Americans work in companies that manufacture parts that make vehicles more efficient.  Energy storage employment increased 14% as utilities, businesses and consumers deployed more batteries in EVs and with solar and wind installations.  Grid modernization jobs grew by 3.3%.

Between 2013 and 2018, support for renewable energy research increased from 73% to 88% among registered voters, including a 30 percent shift among conservative Republicans.
A majority of Americans (58%) say they think policies to transition from fossil fuels to clean energy will improve economic growth and create new jobs.

Nevada saw 32.43% growth in green jobs over 2018.  However, MA solar job growth is down 11.4% and Vermont is down 19.9% so state policies really matter and may be temporary blips in the overall trend, which is increasing growth for clean energy jobs.

Why climate activists don’t talk about clean energy job growth first and foremost is beyond me.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (, solar photovoltaic installers (median salary $42,680) and wind turbine service technicians ($54,370) are the number one and two fastest growing jobs in the country, with expected growth rates of around 100% out till 2026.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Healing Earth (Through the Waters)

John Todd, author of Healing Earth:  An Ecologist’s Journey of Innovation and Environmental Stewardship (Berkeley, CA:  North Atlantic Books, 2019  ISBN 9781623172985) (, has spent his professional life building living technologies, eco-machines and eco-restorers, biological systems which "contain representative species from all the kingdoms of life ranging from bacteria and viruses at the lower end of the size scale to fungi, animals, and woody plants at the macro scale.  Working together as a biological team, these assemblages of organisms help us transform polluted water into clean water.  In return, we provide them with extra air and water circulation as well as appropriate substrates to live on or in.” He works on the basis of “that which has been damaged can be healed” and “do good things in bad places,” showing that the field of applied ecology is practical and can solve problems, exploring the myriad ways that informed stewardship can help heal and transform the Earth.

He started with a greenhouse full of transparent water tanks for the treatment of septage in Harwich, MA in the 1980s and, “more by accident than design,” included representative species of all the kingdoms of life in the system. Over years of experimentation, he learned "that a diversity of organisms from a variety of parent ecosystems could produce systems with a meta-intelligence that had a highly specific ability to self-organize, self-design, and self-replicate.  They were capable, in fact, of surviving through long periods of times, possibly centuries, with minimal human support.”

His installations are ecologically engineered, "they are designed with the attributes of natural ecosystems like marshes, ponds, and streams,” borrowing their designs, life forms, and progressions from natural ecosystems.  For John Todd "natural history is not an old-fashioned form of knowing;  it comprises the narratives of living entities that provide the alphabet of the design vocabulary.”

In this book, he provides a pattern language, the human grammar for that design vocabulary, a baker’s dozen of design principles for constructing living technologies and eco-machines based upon his decades of experience with projects that treat sewage, septage, petroleum wastes and other toxics, producing improved water quality at both household and community scales.

Todd considers such individual projects as First Order Ecological Design, techniques and technologies applied to the landscape.  Second Order Design is the linking together of processes and practices into new associations and entities, industrial ecologies and agricultural eco-parks for example.  Third Order Ecological Design addresses larger economic and social structures and their evolution over time.  He writes, "It is my belief that durable and sustainable economies, in an age of resource limits and information richness, can replace the extractive and environmentally destructive technologies and infrastructures of today.”  For an example of a Third Order Ecological Design see John Todd’s ecological plan for Appalachia, the winner of the first Buckminster Fuller Challenge Award at

In Healing Earth, John Todd has given us practical, working examples of how to think like nature itself, in ever expanding systems which repair the damage we homo sap sap (the sap) have already done.  We must learn to live in our ecological niche or risk extinction.  John Todd’s report of his lifetime of observation and experimentation teaches us not only how to live within that niche but expand it.

Projects from Todd Ecological

Providence, RI living machine treating sewage and septage with ecological systems design and without chemicals (1990)

Canal Restorer to River Restorer (2013)

Gaian Design of Ecological Alchemy:  notes from A Safe, Sustainable World (2005)