PopulationSociety

Making Solar Power Reality in Our Cities

I stepped out of line last time when I posed the question; do our cities have the right to exist at all? Now their original purpose as military strongholds is no longer on the agenda. I concluded we are stuck with them provided they add value. They should be careful. Mobs overthrew cities in the past and looted them.

They are still capable of doing damage. Think what happened to the cultural jewel of the Ottoman Empire and arguably the oldest inhabited city in the world, Aleppo. This city has gone forever, and we shall not see its like again.

Could Aleppo be a Warning Sign for the West?

Aleppo was lost for a few reasons.

The was a city that was unsustainable. Without a steady inflow of food and energy, it could not survive.

People sat back and let it happen. This is the nature of humanity. Deep down we are still self-seeking hunter-gatherers, although the need for change is beginning to nip at our heels.

My biggest complaint about cities is they are net consumers of the planet’s wealth. While they do generate tax for government spending, they have such a big finger in the pie most of this flows back their way. They are the gluttons of our scarce resources.

I have suggested they should at least replace the energy they consume with solar farms on their rooftops. Heaven knows they have enough of them. This is what Manhattan looks like from the sky. I believe they have enough room to do their job.

Lower Manhattan Aerial: Ibagli: Public Domain
Lower Manhattan Aerial: Ibagli: Public Domain
A step in the right direction. In Hong Kong.
A step in the right direction. In
Hong Kong.

Moving Towards a More Mature Balance

Since our generators produce alternating current that we cannot store in any quantity, it becomes a matter of providing sufficient power in the instant of the moment. Demand and supply are never in perfect balance. We sleep through the night. In the morning, we all get up at the same time and create a spike in demand that the utility must do its best to balance.

The question I want to pose today is, should we, as private persons, be doing more in the daytime to help limit our daytime use to manageable proportions solar can support. If we do not do this, then our utilities will have to continue with fossil and nuclear baseload for the probable future. Here is an interesting infographic of how quickly, or slowly the UK can adjust its supply side.

Balancing UK Supply and Demand: Bexim: CC 3.0
Balancing UK Supply and Demand: Bexim: CC 3.0

The Essential Cards in Our Consumer Hands

On the demand side, we should do everything we can to use less electricity wherever possible. While our individual savings may seem like dandelion seeds in the wind, several million workers in one city will have a huge impact, and bring solar power that bit closer to a baseload solution.

Most of us are already becoming energy-conscious in our homes because we are beneficiaries who pay for the privilege. The situation is a little different in our workplace. Let’s face it; few of us are loyal enough to want to help the boss cut the electricity bill. That is their problem. This is human nature again. We concern ourselves with what affects us directly. The rest, like Aleppo, goes largely over our heads.

A Few Proactive Suggestions for the Office

Consider forming an ‘energy committee’ with your fellow-workers. Do the sums on the possibilities, then make presentations to your supervisor. They will welcome your ideas, especially as they do not have to motivate a change in working conditions.

1. Office Lighting – When electricity was cheap and abundant we got into the habit of lighting offices intensively with overhead lights. As a result, desks are work-ready whether anybody is sitting there or not. This is crazy! We should remove half the light bulbs and have low energy task lights instead. This is how we light our studies at home. Why not do so at the office?

2. Office Heating – If we lower room temperature by just 1°C, we can cut energy consumption by up to 8%. Is it such a problem if we have to dress a little warmer? We can achieve more savings by opening the blinds and letting in the sunlight. Then we close them tightly when the temperature falls outside to retain the heat.

3. Office Equipment – We turn our televisions and computers off at home when we are not using them because we know they consume power even in standby mode. How often do we not walk past screensavers at unattended desks? The first thing an office energy committee should do is an audit of computer power settings.

As an added benefit, strategies like these not only save energy and reduce electricity bills. They reduce the cost of replacing light tubes in ceilings. They also help equipment last a little longer. This, in turn, reduces recycling costs and carbon wasted on manufacturing replacements. We really should be making solar power a reality in our cities. Do you agree with me, this one is a no-brainer?

Computer Recycling: Blue Disc: CC 3.0
Computer Recycling: Blue Disc: CC 3.0

Do you agree with me you must implement these savings, and more if you must live in the city? We would like to suggest there is an even better way of living, not just existing from day to day.

There is open land in the countryside where you can grow your own food, and raise your family the healthy way nature intended.

Imagine the freedom of reaching out to the world where you are mostly self-sustaining, and only working for someone else a few hours a week for the extra things you need. Snap the chain and break the dependency. Living in the city and working for other people is artificial. It does not have to be that way. Come home to the real thing.

Beacon Farm Cottage: Nilfanion:  CC 4.0
Beacon Farm Cottage: Nilfanion: CC 4.0

3 Comments

  1. I’m normally pretty good at picking internet satire (because I try and stick to the Betoota Advocate). Is the author serious when he suggests that Aleppo didn’t survive because it wasn’t self sustaining with food and water??
    I’m not sure this article has any real benefit being posted when idiotic statements like this premise the rest of his points in the article

  2. Interesting but a bit of a cop out at the end. More folk moving out of the big cities to country isn’t necessarily a good move. Learning to live in the community where you are and doing it in such a way that it isn’t just for or about “you” is making your presence felt in a good way. Dealing with human nature (one’s own included) isn’t all together fun but no matter where you go it will catch up with you and still have to be addressed. Better to deal with it where you are and make a difference where you are.

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