The Intersection

by Philip H.

DISCLAIMER – The opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the author alone. They do NOT represent the official opinion, policy, or action of any governmental agency the author may work for or have ever worked for at the county, state or federal level. If you do not like the content or opinions, contact the author, not your Congressmen.

In my last post for The Intersection, I let folks in on the potential energy and carbon savings from software that would automatically turn off computers across various federal executive departments. At the time, I also referenced a much earlier post of mine on the potential of existing buildings to serve as solar generators on the U.S. Electric grid.

Well, someone must have been listening. In the 15 September 2008 issue of Federal Times, there is a small notice about a new solar panel installation on the Department of Energy building in Washington, D.C. They have put 891 panels on the roof of the building, totaling 14,000 square feet of photovoltaic generating capacity. DOE estimates that they will reduce their carbon footprint by 270 tons per year, generating 8 % of the electricity they need per year. And, if they have a grid interconnection agreement with Pepco (as all residential solar projects in D.C. are required to), they will be pumping solar generated electricity int o the grid on weekends. Energy will also have the ability to operate some basic systems if the grid goes down, which is important in a city that is a terrorist target.

I know, I hear the skeptics sharpening their knives now. One building won’t address the global problem they say. Even if, as Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman suggests, every federal agency replicates this across the nation, it won’t have too much more impact because of China dn India others will opine. You can’t solve the problem with solar panels others will entone, so why bother?

All those are valid points, but they miss the opportunity here. Just like my computer example, the Energy solar installation is an example of a federal agency taking the lead, to show how effective an alternative energy solution can be. Sure, one building won’t make it all better, but 1500 buildings? 2000 buildings? Once you get to that scale, I’m not so ure that we can dismiss the change that will be made. So why not try?


  1. #1 llewelly
    September 18, 2008

    All those are valid points …

    Those points assume China, India, and others will never follow suit – that they’ll be burning coal for the next 100 years.
    There are at least three scenarios in which this assumption will prove false:
    (a) China or India sees the huge advantages of reducing CO2 emissions, and follows with regulation.
    (b) The myriad other pollution problems of coal industry force China or India to greatly reduce use of coal power.
    (c) Solar and wind power become more cost-effective than coal even when coal’s enormous health costs and goverment subsidies are ignored.
    (d) China or India figures out that, wow, miracle of miracles, saving energy saves money and helps the econmy.

    The whole ‘but China’s makin’ a bigger mess than we are’ whine is based shoddy assumptions and poor thinking. It’s not a list of ‘valid points’. It’s crap only a 3-year-old could be proud of.

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