photo by Sheri Dixon

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Missed It By...A Freakin' Mile

We had the most depressing thing happen to us yesterday.

Oh, I guess in a global, Big Picture, personal way it was nothing but it was just the sort of thing that makes you go, "Ewww" and leaves a bad taste in your mouth for the rest of the day.

We were very excited to see a solar and alternative energy place go up right outside Tyler. Very. Excited. We thought FINALLY we're getting somewhere, FINALLY we won't have to go to Austin to find people who want to live sustainably and ecologically.

We visited them when they first opened up in a tiny little building and saw the array of different solar rigs and whatnot.

We watched as they built their NEW building next to the old one because business was so good for them (YAY! to alternative energy) and they told us the new building would be built out of SIP's (Structurally Insulated panels- sort of a styrofoam-y thing, not our choice of "natural" materials but better for the planet than traditional stick-built homes), and be big enough to have a CLASSROOM.

Yay! to Education!

My spirits drooped when I saw them use standard brickwork on the outside and standard shingles on the roof and the place was a huge square. The awning across the front being all solar panels was a bonus but otherwise it looked like any other stupid big square building.

When they planted a gabazillion pansies around the huge solar array in front of the building I thought, "Well, it's deep in the fall, and they didn't have time to do anything else." Personally, I could think of many things that sunny highway-side spot could have planted in it- an edible garden? All natural plants/wildflowers? Drought-resistant natives? Stuff to show people, "Look- there's an alternative to geraniums and petunias and it's every bit as pretty and takes less resources to care for AND feeds either you and your family or wildlife (or both)".


About sustainability and renewability. Because that's what this is all about, right?

So when they planted instead 100 little annuals straight from Walmart, I was personally miffed.

We went inside the big new building for the first time yesterday. We had specific questions for them- even though I thought I thought of everything when I built this house, I forgot to think of the possibility of having a fan in each of the upper gable windows to facilitate air flow of the hot air out of the house on the days that it's over 100 AND still as death. And we haven't gotten to a hand pump dropped down the well shaft, but our good friends Bruce and Cheryl in Minnesota have a solar water pump for their remote garden, which would be a handy thing to have if/when the electric goes out.

It's big. It's new. It has an acid etched, scored, stained and poly-sealed cement floor (that has a huge crack running from one end to the other).

The ceiling shows the "Great Stuff" kind of blown on insulation and there are multiple skylights- some of which open with a remote control and have rain sensors for when you're gone and it starts sprinkling (kind of cool but I was afraid to ask how much they were).

There is a classroom, but it's empty and devoid of any sort of displays or learning materials.

There is some stuff out but it's not arranged to be informative, and the only information about it is the manufacturers' brochures.

It's a big, sterile looking, dark (even with the skylights) uninviting warehouse.

The girl at the desk couldn't fathom what we were after so she got her boss.

He said, "I've got just the thing". And opened up a smallish attic fan with a little solar panel attached. Well, that WAS what we were thinking about, save for 2 drawbacks-

-There's no battery, so it only runs when the sun is shining- technically the hottest days and parts of days, but it would be nice to also have them running at night when the air is cooler to draw the cool air INTO the house from the open windows and

-They're freaking crazy expensive. $650. EACH. Uninstalled.

As far as the well pump, his short answer was, "No" justified by telling us if we hooked up our WHOLE house to solar, that would run the well pump, too.


On our way to our next errand at Home Depot, Ward and I discussed how disappointing that whole get-up is. There's nothing to show a different, possibly better way to build or live in ways that are gracious and sustainable, earth-and-human-friendly and renewable- the whole emphasis seems to be, "See? This looks JUST LIKE A REGULAR HOUSE- and for a shitload of money, we can make YOUR schmancy subdivision house behave this way, giving you a buttload of tax breaks".

Ward said "Well, if you're building a $450,000 house and looking for "green" tax refunds- $650 tacked onto it for a fan is nothing". And went on to wonder who, exactly, is getting the money from (at most) a Ben Franklin of parts and materials. We guess NOT the guys on the line building them.

The canned icing on the box-mix cake?

Home Depot has the same damn solar attic fans...for $200.

A. So for $400 instead of $1300, we could have the solar attic fans.

B. Or for WAY less than $1300, we could have an electrician put in stupid plugs up near the windows for regular fans...probably even with remote controls.

C. Or for about $75, we can buy 2 box fans and an outdoor extension cord for each window, run 'em outside the house, tacked inconspicuously to the logs and into the plugs on the porch- because the inside plugs under those windows are behind dressers and the only way to turn off a $15 box fan is from the switch on the back...or to unplug it.

We're choosing Option C.

I understand the need to make a living, but seriously?

No wonder a lot of people think the whole Alternative Energy thing is a scam.

1 comment: