26 July 2014

Slice of life

I walked past a 90s Buick. It had a broken rear bumper, the side trim was ripped off at the front, one of the tires was flat, one wheel had been replaced with the spare, one of the tail lights was broken, and there were patches of rust on the bodywork. The alarm was sounding loudly. Wouldn’t want anyone to steal it, after all.

23 July 2014

Going solar, part 3: Installation

Once the paperwork started, I learned that our house was sufficiently old that it would need to pass an energy audit to qualify for Austin Energy’s incentive programs. I completely understood the reasoning, too. If you want to save money and cut energy consumption, efficiency measures are almost always the most cost-effective thing you can do. So before you even think about solar power, you should make sure you’ve sorted out all of the following: ... Read more

23 July 2014

All-purpose article

All technology invented before I hit 30 is awesome and wonderful and the natural way things should be. All technology invented after I hit 30 is terrible and leading to the downfall of civilization. (Add examples to fill word count.)

22 July 2014

Going solar, part 2: Economics and hardware

Costing a solar system is complicated; there’s just no getting away from that. So I’m not going to present a detailed cost breakdown; instead, I’ll outline a few of the complexities. First of all, solar panels vary in efficiency. Higher efficiency panels generate more power per unit area, but they also cost more. So do you buy more panels, buy better panels, or aim to use less electricity? Similarly, the inverter which turns DC electricity from the panels into AC has a certain capacity and efficiency, and there are lots of companies making them to all kinds of specifications. ... Read more

21 July 2014

Going solar, part 1: History and practicalities

The first working solid state solar cell was developed in 1883 by Charles Fritts. Just 1% of the solar energy hitting the cell would be converted to electricity, and the cell was made from selenium with a thin layer of gold, making it far too expensive. It wasn’t until the development of silicon semiconductor junctions in the 1950s that solar cells started to become economically practical. Bell Labs developed a silicon-based solar cell with about 6% efficiency in 1954. ... Read more

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