Simple Solar Power

Sunny days here in the Pacific Northwest aren't as frequent as some other places in the world. In fact, we probably rank pretty low on the number-of-sunny-days-per-year list. But for a brief time during the summer, the sunny days outnumber the grey ones reminding all us Washingtonians that NW Washington is a great place to live.

For this month's Environmental Project of the Month, I thought I would focus on the sun. Part one of the project is nothing new for me, but I want to share it in hopes of encouraging you to give it a try. Hang drying clothes is a wonderful way to harness the power of the sun and save electricity [and fossil fuels, if you have a gas powered dryer]. Not only is it great for the environment, hanging your clothes on the line is a great excuse to be outside on a beautiful day, if even for 10 minutes or so. Drying your clothes on the line isn't a summer only practice, even here in the northwest. For the past 5 years or so, I would say 90-95% of my drying needs have been met by the sun and wind.

Part two of this month's EPotM is what I am really excited about. From junk found around the house, I've built a solar oven. (Plans abound on the internet if you are interested in giving it a try yourself.) Basically an insulated cardboard box with aluminum foil covered collectors, a well made solar cooker can get to 250-275 degrees. In test runs, I've only got mine up to 214. Right now, I've got a couple of baking potatoes and some lentil beans cooking. We'll see how my first home solar-cooked meal turns out.

For those of us not ready or not in a place to make the leap to photovoltaic panels for supplementing our electricity needs (or even for those who are), harnessing the power of the sun through simple methods is a great way to reduce our impact. And speaking of how awesome the sun is, check out this audio ode to the sun. (For those of you at work (esp. in cubicles), be warned: The audio is embedded and hidden in the page so no volume controls or stop button is present. When will people learn that just because you can doesn't mean that you should?)
Tuesday June 19 2007File under: food, environment

Toggle Comments (14)comment?
on Tue 19th Jun, 2007 05:23 pm PDT Emilly said:
Got Solar?
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on Tue 19th Jun, 2007 06:27 pm PDT Saxtor said:
Speaking of photovoltaics, check out Google's Solar Panel Project website which appears to have just come online two days ago (and they've already generated ~20,000 kilowatt-hours or 3883 45min clothes dryer cycles!). The video that shows the scale of the array is pretty impressive.
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on Tue 19th Jun, 2007 07:20 pm PDT Saxtor's Boss said:
Firstly, nobody would ever read any blogs at work, so crank the speakers. Secondsty, how does the bottle of pee on the table figure into the solar EPotM?
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on Tue 19th Jun, 2007 08:24 pm PDT jenelle said:
nice sun illustration. my retinas burn. now my blood hurts. ouch.
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on Wed 20th Jun, 2007 04:27 am PDT Horge said:
Think I'll use this opportunity to toot my own horn a bit (hope Wren doesn't mind). Anyone else wanting to go solar can read a book (pdf, 5.2 MB) I wrote as part of my work at my Bosnian NGO. If you want to see some of the other work I/we did on this project you can check out our website.
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on Wed 20th Jun, 2007 04:44 am PDT Horge said:
Fine. BduW doesn't like the last part of my comment, so I'll just add it anew by itself: Y'all should also check out this NYT article about saving energy, and don't forget to try out the mentioned computer program to save energy, money, environment...
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on Wed 20th Jun, 2007 08:50 am PDT gretchen said:
if your pee is that color, saxtor...errr, saxtor's boss, you've got some problems. plus you should read picture captions.
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on Wed 20th Jun, 2007 08:50 am PDT Saxtor's Boss said:
Timely article about pee color And thank's for the heads up, I called Wren into my office to solve the mystery of the missing javascript captions
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on Wed 20th Jun, 2007 11:18 am PDT Sean said:
Pfff, my pee's way darker than that.
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on Thu 21st Jun, 2007 12:11 am PDT Horge said:
Thank you Wrennie for cleaning up my htmess. :)
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on Thu 21st Jun, 2007 12:11 pm PDT Sean said:
My boots get hotter than your oven.
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on Thu 21st Jun, 2007 12:18 pm PDT Wren said:
Sean, I don't doubt it. It turns out that NW sun isn't best suited for baking potatoes or cooking beans. That doesn't mean that I have given up, though. You should totally make yourself a solar cooker for over there. I would be impressed, and even give you a guest post if you got a picture and an account of your endeavor.
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on Fri 22nd Jun, 2007 08:20 am PDT Sean said:
Would it help if you put some glass or something like that over the top of your oven?
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on Fri 22nd Jun, 2007 08:56 pm PDT Wilbur said:
do solar ovens work inside too? cuz if it's raining i wanna be able to cook stuff still......hey where'd everybody go?
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