My last post got me thinking about about… well exactly what I wrote about in my last post! if solar power is available to everyone and its so cheap why the heck aren’t I using it already?
I have decided to remedy this with the purchase of 2 portable 5W solar panels with usb outputs and 2 1500mAh backup batteries with usb input and output all for a grand total of $94.36 AUD. There are smaller battery packs and panels available but at $47.18 each I think that’s a bargain.
As I mentioned in my previous post these initial steps are not going to save the world, I’m never actually going to recover my costs either. So far my best guess here is that charging a phone for 8 hours everyday (overnight) would cost about 28c per month. I have a work mobile a private mobile an iPad and a kindle if I charged them all for 8 hours every night for a whole year I might be looking at a unbearably large bill of about $15. So maybe in 6 and a bit years I could recover my costs? but that’s OK because that is not the point of the exercise at all. The point of this exercise is to maintain a set of electrical devices on nothing but solar power.
This also clashes a little bit with my previous comments as well, I stated that the driver for change should be an economical one rather than an environmental one. Charging a mobile phone without fossil fuels using a technology that will cost more than I can get back or save is certainly more of an environmental driver and if you really wanted to go there, a political / activist one. At the end of the day these competing influences, environment and economy both need to be tackled and they both need to tackled by different areas and groups. The individuals main goal here should be to lower their costs associated with power usage, which of course leaves money for other things and more money for retail spending and more services which in turn helps the economy which means more people are employed which means more taxes are paid.. I think you get the idea.
The government on the other hand while it also should be concerned about the economy (Obviously!) its main focus on this topic should be the environment. If the demand on electricity from the grid falls and power plants can be shut down, yes people will lose their jobs and that is never a good thing. Unfortunately when any industry comes to an end people will be out of work but it happens, how many Lectors, elevator operators, pin setters or icemen do you know? (interesting article on obsolete occupations here) now if demand for grid electricity actually dropped that low that power plants could be should down I would say that it is due to the uptake of electricity generation by other means, which at the moment might be a fringe industry but if plants are closing down it wouldn’t be any more and new jobs would be available in this ever expanding industry. The government here using the benefits of more people spending money and being employed and paying their taxes can focus on retraining the staff from the coal industry and of course on the environmental impact. Governments are not efficient beasts by any stretch of the imagination but ultimately that isn’t their purpose, a private company cant risk profits on policies being implemented for environmental reasons but a government can. Think of such schemes as the Snowy Hydro or the NBN, 2 very expensive schemes where the return on investment was not immediate but was/will be long lasting. If Australia leads the way on renewable energy technologies we can then export them around the world. The government can also focus such policies as the Carbon Tax and Kyoto Protocols. By ensuring that green energy is the cheaper of the 2 options whether it be through tariffs, taxes or other means to encourage green energy market forces driven by the individual could then dictate what the people want. If you don’t think this would work just have a read about the cotton industry in the US and the subsidies that make it nearly impossible for farmers in other countries to compete.
Now for the challenge part! as some of you might be aware I travel nearly every week for my job and because of that I obviously don’t spend a lot of time at home, hence why I bought 2 of each. What I would like to attempt to do is at a minimum power my private phone on nothing but solar power for a month, never plug it into mains power at all for at least a month. I hope to have one panel set-up at home and the other I will take with me on the road and set it up in the window of the car and make sure to park it in the sun while I am in the office. I would like to be able to run all of my portable devices on solar but we will have to see how I go. I really hope that it works out and I can run them like that ongoing and never plug them in again which would then of course encourage me to try a new challenge with a bigger panel and a bigger battery and a room full of appliances!
I know all of this may seem a bit like a utopia, but a boy can dream right?