Happy (Energy) Independence Day!

As a special Fourth of July treat, here’s a sampler of someintriguing Web-based graphics related to solar power. Think of it ascandy for the eye, brain and spirit.

Tracking oil imports over 35 years

Tracking oil imports over 35 years

Led by Amory Lovins, the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)has been promoting smarter energy policies and practices for decades.The graphic above comes from RMI’s Flash-video that uses a scrollingtimeline marked with key historic events and “pipelines” that changesize over time so that viewers can get a sense of how much oil theUnited States has imported, from where, over three and a half decades. Beautiful and revealing.


Keep them electrons flowin'!

Keep them electrons flowin’!

In 2003, Writer/activist Bill McKibben wrote a wonderful piece about how instant feedback effects human behavior. In “My Mileage is Better than Your Mileage,”McKibben discussed his obsession with the real-time MPG readout on thedashboard of his Toyota Prius. Was it driven by his passion to fightglobal warming? he asked, rhetorically.

Not really. True, that’s why I boughtthe car in the first place, paid the two grand extra it costs to getthe hybrid engine. But if you thought about global warming all thetime, you’d be nuts. When I’m behind the wheel, I’m anAmerican—competitive, score-keeping, out to win. As I pull out of thedriveway, what I think about is: can I beat my last trip? Will I makeit home averaging 60, or is the last hill on Route 125 going to knockme under?

That same American competitive spirit is behind the popularity ofwebsites (there are thousands of them) showing realtime solargeneration from individual solar arrays. The one above is from SPGSolar and shows the current power generation of one site. All theelectrons (represented by the flashing red lights) are flowing from theutility to the building, with no power provided by the panels in themiddle. That’s because I grabbed the image at night. If you’re readingthis during the day (US time), you’ll see the power coming from the panels.

It’s a great selling point for solar — watching all those pretty redelectrons flowing from someone else’s system, via a computer screen.


Solar energy yield

Solar energy yield

This one, from the McKinsey Quarterly,is a bit more esoteric, but I like it because it puts data in agraphically interesting format, one that cleverly mimics the subject’stheme. The image depicts countries as planets orbiting an (unseen) sunof “grid parity.” The farther the “planets” are from the “sun,” thegreater the cost of producing solar energy.


One final image for Independence Day.

Stars & Stripes | Come back safe

Stars & Stripes | Come back safe

I’ve heard some talk of creating a “solar flag” to show our commitment to clean, renewable energy. I think the one we have, made official on June 14, 1777 by an act of the Continental Congress, does the job just fine. After all, each state is represented by a star — what could represent solar power better?!

To all our men and women serving in uniform, in harm’s way, thank you for your service, have a wonderful 4th of July, and come back to us soon! (Lieutenant Commander Jody Bruton, that goes double for you!)

Happy 4th of July to all.



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