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

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Old Solar: Equal Rights to the Sun


“Produced by Bonnie Symansky, this video, Equal Rights to the Sun (1979) documents citizen [led] solar energy projects organized in the Boston area by the Urban Solar Energy Association (USEA - founded by Barbara Brandt [Susan Baldwin, George Mokray, and Ambrose Spencer]).

Cities in the northeast have the greatest energy needs yet resources are often scarce. Solar enthusiasts are working hard to solve energy problems through neighborhood cooperative efforts. Equal Rights to the Sun documents some of Boston's self-help urban solar projects, demonstrating that solar is working in cities and it need not be expensive. Includes examples of building a breadbox heater, converting an attic into a solar greenhouse, the addition of passive wall collectors, enclosure of a south-facing porch and construction of a solar skylight. Solar energy shines on every part of the city. Shows that all we need is a little ingenuity and cooperation to take advantage of it.”

Many of the people in this 1979 video continued in the renewable energy field, even through the lean decades after 1979, when Reagan was elected and all movement stopped dead in its tracks.  It’s one reason why I say Reagan killed us (although he’s had a lot of help since then).

 The Urban Solar Energy Association became the Boston Area Solar Energy Association ( which hosted school programs, a long-running lecture series, and other events.  They plan to resume activities soon.

Here’s an upate on one of the USEA barnraised solar air heaters:
Old Solar: 1980 Barnraised Solar Air Heater

Some late 1970s context:

Old Solar:  JImmy Carter’s Green Deal

Another example from those days was the New Alchemy Institute in Cape Cod and in 2019 the Guardian looked back at it after 40 years

I believe we knew what we were doing then and practiced positive protest by constructing the alternatives we wanted to see.  There is a positive future but only if we start building it now and continue building it daily.  One group which is doing that today in the Boston area is the Home Energy Efficiency Team [HEET] ( which started by doing weatherization barnraisings,proceeded to local gas leak monitoring, and is now starting a pilot GeoMicroDistrict to prune back gas lines by replacing them with geothermal heat pumps with the local utility, Eversource

Earlier entries in the Old Solar series:
Old Solar:  Eames Solar Do-Nothing Machine

Old Solar:  Keck and Keck Twentieth Century Modern
Old Solar:  1881

Old Solar:  Venetian Vernacular

Old Solar: 1980 Barnraised Solar Air Heater

Old Solar:  JImmy Carter’s Green Deal

I always thought you could teach the rudiments of solar energy in about a half hour and over the years produced a series of short videos that attempts to do that:


But then I also thought the site-built, community renewable energy movement would produce something like this

Do It Yourself Solar:  Austrian Self-Build Coops


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