24 August 2008

Sol y sombra

The San Francisco Department of the Environment recently went on line with something they're calling the San Francisco Solar Map. Find it here. It's a pretty neat idea. The idea behind the map is to begin to get a sense of the sheer number of photovoltaic solar installations that are scattered throughout the city. And what it does too is allow someone to go see where a rooftop installation is in his or her neighborhood and then go see firsthand how unobtrusive a rooftop solar installation can be.

If you look at the map from pretty far back, you can get a feel for just how many solar installations there are.

Here it is a little more zoomed in.

And here's my friend Jim's street --one of his neighbors has a rooftop installation.

San Francisco has set a goal of being host to 10,000 solar rooftop installations by the year 2010. That's pretty amazing, but when I consider the source, it's not really surprising. However, about the last place on the planet I think of when it comes to sunshine is the great City by the Bay. San Franciscans will never admit it, but coastal northern California has some of the most overcast skies I've ever experienced. I'm talking weeks spent behind a veil of clouds and fog so dense it makes me lose my will to live. Don't get me wrong. San Francisco's a gorgeous city and I'm eternally grateful that I can make my weather-related generalizations from first-hand experience. But still, San Francisco's not the place to go if you're on a quest for endless summer. Yet, somehow, they make solar work.

In today's St. Petersburg Times, there's an article about Florida's Public Service Commission and their lackluster attempts to meet Governor Charlie Crist's ambitious alternative energy goals. To paraphrase the PSC:
Florida energy companies are resisting a more ambitious renewable portfolio standard, arguing that it would drive up costs for customers because the state does not have good potential for wind or solar power.

More from the Times article:
Among the new draft provisions: Any new renewable energy projects must not exceed a 1 percent increase in cost to consumers. Renewable energy advocates accused the PSC staff of adopting a double standard, pointing out recent requests by utilities to increase consumer charges by more than 20 percent for construction of new nuclear plants.

I'm confused. Why is it OK to jack up my rates to pay for a new nuclear power plant (and jack them up in advance of its eventual construction) but solar and wind projects have a 1% rate increase cap?

I'm confused too by the assertion that Florida doesn't have good potential for wind or solar power. I can sort of see the wind thing. Florida seems to lack prevailing winds --the winds change directions too much for a turbine to work efficiently. But the solar thing mystifies me. I've heard it before, that Florida's doesn't have good solar potential. But I've never heard that assertion made with any kind of evidence to back it up. It's almost as if its a forgone conclusion that solar won't work here and it makes no sense to me. Anyone? Anyone? Why won't it work here?

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