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Notes on Solar WA (July 12th, 2011)

Here is my summary on the last meeting of Solar WA in Seattle.

Four companies presented, the focus being on Manufacturing in Washington, the U.S. and the incremental adoption opportunity in WA now that costs are coming down. The firms represented all discussed in one way or another the design modifications they’d made to their panels, the benefits to quality through local manufacturing, improved durability (through testing with NREL, to obtain ETL certification); and, the value of warranties extended by the manufacturers themselves (unlike warranties offered through 3rd party contractors–Chinese manufacturing), as a result of those findings.

Midnite Solar‘s owner presented an overview of their manufacturing capacity in Arlington. They specialize in arrestors, capacitors, inverters and they are now focusing on a new micro-inverter, along with the capacity to disconnect the panels to deal with home fires/firemen requirements.

Out Back Power has been expanding their reach worldwide to Asia and Africa. Their specialty is in converters and inverters. The Puget Sound sales manager presented some of their models.
Highlights of their products include plug-and-play installation design: no screws to connect wiring (they use spring-loaded pin slots, like you would use to connect your speakers); field upgradeable modularity of their firmware (inverter and controller modules–you can download an upgrade to a smart card and connect it to the memory card slot on the device); the capacity to connect controllers to an ethernet to allow for remote logging of energy use, or otherwise put a smart card into the controller to collect a log of use data; and, the ability for multi-user access controls (missed the specifics on that feature). more at

Top quality of panel design goes to Silicon Energy, whose panels are thinner, have been unable to be destroyed, have the greatest power harvesting (generation) proposition (better distributed capacity on the cells), lowest risk of overheat, no moisture absorption (they changed the plastic backing which was absorbing moisture/air), are thinnest, and have the greatest capacity to clear off individually in areas of snowfall. The panels are being certified to a 40 year life–NREL couldn’t destroy the until the 60th year of exposure, or some such (they begged NREL to keep going beyond the initial reqs).

iTek Energy is a conglomerate run by business investors that outsourced the design of their solar panel. they are still awaiting results of durability testing; and, are keeping things under wrap. They are about to start up and are resourcing a manufacturing installation in Bellingham.
The particular focus of this group is in lining up the installation and promotion of solar as a credit incentive during the development of new planned communities in Bainbridge. Schemes for two such communities were presented, in which the developer was tying up with iTek to supply the solar panels and integrate home-monitoring panels within the homes. What struck me was that they were at this time only using a digital panel along the lines of an HVAC control unit at home. I didn’t get the sense that this design was moving in the direction of using web-based interfaces. Yet, I got a chance to discuss the notion of community shared (module controlled) power with Kelly, their product development manager, and he suggested in Washington PSE will push back for a mandate for virtual net meetering; although, California already has a mandate to promote collective resource sharing monitoring. He also said they are working with a company I believe he said was One People Power that was part of the whole bit on home use monitoring, and whom might be a good resource to hear more about shared community power management services.

Also discussed were other services such that would help reduce the losses that arise and are increasing through panel theft. Someone in the audience suggested that perhaps there was room for a GPS solution to add to the panels for tracking.

Promoting Sustainable Community Resource Management

I get this feeling my future NOW is starting to shape up. Everything that’s been mattering to me seems to finally be coming together into a vision of how I can both work and play in the domains I enjoy. I found myself catching up with Josh from about the possiblity of building out the learning program on Intro to Computing and Information Resources that I conducted two years ago.

It made me dig deep about what it is I want to be doing day to day. The simple answer seems to be that I want to develop information tools for everyday people that are working on sustainable agriculture projects. But, getting the masses turned onto Sustainability seems like an open market ripe for giving back to the community by way of advising on how to develop programs. For me, I guess, it’s all melding from what I’ve been inclined to get into these past couple of years:

+ change management
+ usabiliity and productivity research
+ program continuity
+ collective intelligence
+ green power
+ systems engineering
+ industrial design practices
+ collection taxonomies
+ information assurance
+ community learning programs
+ sustainable systems, permaculture
+ property rehabilitation
+ self-reliance, wellness and happiness

All of it ultimately applies to my interest in building learning programs around the concept of community intelligent resource management. Been obsessing over that, if you will. People barely understand their collective capacity because they lack the tools to understand the fullness of resources around them. Moreso, they sometimes haven’t settled the means by which they could help each other out.

I’ve learned its only through Engagement that everyday people can Exchange, Experience, and create greater Value. So, how do we position the technologies so that they are best enabled towards productivity and happiness, for everyone?.. and I mean EVERYONE! Well, it turns out that THEY are best positioned to empower themselves, if handed the right tools. I truly believe in letting ideas grow through giving direct ownership so someone exercises their creative means proper. So, I’m curious about what the learning program components would be in this scenario.

From the last program we ran together on intro computing at, I learned alot! Some learners had scarce an education. Others had not really been in front of a computer at all. I had not anticipated for slowness in typing; in them not being used to memorizing passwords. Looking back on it, I realize how for some of them it must’ve really been intimidating… the rest were very brash and perhaps knew enough to get around the machine. In the end, I was flexible in how much I pushed these groups into the web tools; and I got to really enjoyed watching the process of discovery through them!

Now, I think the whole experience of learning about computers could still be structured towards building a community website, which we didn’t have time for–some of it I layed out but never stylized. The key is to spend a little less time allowing them to practice keyboard skills while chatting or emailing. Instead they should have homework, two 30 min sessions weekly, to sign in at the computer center and practice.

With the tools that exist today, they could learn more about creating a joint domain space in a place like Ning or WordPress. But, I’d never say it that way.. what I did learn about change (beliefs, wants and fears) and about community development, while I was considering the issue of Happiness and Wellness, was that there’s a gap in being able to implement the programs long term. And, from reading the Dalai Lama’s guidance on community building, the main issue does turn out to be the creation of Trusted relationships.

BK and I pondered this question of Trust, and how you can develop it.. how do you motivate people to Trust each other? and I posited that if you started by bringing them into group challenge exercises to come up with ideas to eliminate problems; or, to build simple structures (paper windmills, water courses, school interdisciplinary projects for kids to resolve), you could get a greater degree of Trust, as people spent more time together. If you added a structured participative organization, a cooperative for example, then you could even provide an ownership incentive that demanded not only Trust, but Dedication from each member.

So, in my view of the new learning program about computing, the students would be guided to think first about their community needs, and how those are laid out into requirement lists. Then we could talk about stepping into getting email accounts and doing research. Each person would be assigned their category of interest to build a list of community resources. We would talk about saved files, organizing documents, naming and tagging documents. Finally, they could build a small joint website, while guided to collect pictures for it and documents and links, independently–perhaps even some video.

While I’m describing it, I’m thinking already that I’m perhaps a bit ahead… but, these are the work skills of this knowledge economy. They need to learn how to dig, and share, together.

One experience from building the last learning program on info resources, was that it really helped me later when coordinating projects at the Information School last year. I was forced to adjust my classroom methods to the different styles of each individual at a terminal–6-12 in a room! Some could be pushed farther along into document editing, and uploading to their cloud space; but, others had to be given simple tasks like finding a flower or favorite dessert image on the web, and saving it locally. It forced me to use semi-structured plans, to be sure everyone got my equal time.

Anyway, this all builds into my need to prepare to hold seminars at the experimental community sustainable development station I have in mind. The location where I want to start is not isolated, but rather on the outskirts of a metro area. So, it serves as a bedroom country community, like North Bend would be around here. Which makes it ideal as a headquarters for the development of small seminars on maximizing productivity of oneself, the community, and in sustainable natural resources management.

The 1st congress on the Island on Sustainability Development Strategy is underway this year in PR. I’m going to register to help work on the objective towards a strategy for the Economic Development domain and the Education domain. How could I not? I see a big break to help resolve some important information problems!

Strange how these career transitions do start to play out, eh?!

Maybe I’m facilitating a lesson plan this Summer. Perhaps I might turn out to be advising through some firm that encapsulates these Loves of mine. Or, else, I could end up just Digging Holes.

Lots of work that I want to make time for  to structure how SPAKL could take a shot at the needs in the PR market for sustainability information resources. Someone needs to simplify the message, the process.. *SPAKL stands for “Simplifying Parents And Kids Lives”!

Funny how passions have a way to come full circle and open doors like that! Cheers!

M.E.  ;P

Eyes Wide Open: Permacultura

I’ve been trying to build a strategy for some time now on how to go about rehabilitating my property in Puerto Rico. Three acres is just large enough to build a self-reliant extra-urban farm house. But, for a guy that spent half his life moving opposite of a farming life, its a bit of a struggle to find oneself squarely back in the drivers seat. The rest of the family has been holding its breath to get direction from me on how to execute the re-development strategy. Everyone admittedly agrees on the objectives: depend solely on solar, solar-thermal and wind for energy, re-use water wisely, make room for plant rotations; and even allowing for the pursuit of my personal passion of keeping track of it all using information tools.

Not only are we having to change our approach from what we had learned from our grandparents. Now we had a responsibility to share in our knowledge with the community, to build a wider network to support community sustainability and self-reliance.

This wasn’t about money, it wasn’t about egos, pride or recognition; but, about a promise to my Abuelo to preserve his deed to the world… Moreso, personally, about what is right to return to a state of balance with the world. For as much as I love digital gadgets and appreciate the value of virtual existences (my bread and butter), we must learn to put down the distractions and take care of our planet so it can carry out its role in nurturing us.

Until this past weekend, when I chanced upon a brilliant puertorrican soul in the guise of one Glorimar Santiago, and her thesis on sustainability in the Caribbean, I was not sure exactly how to make that change happen in my native Trujillo. Glorimar’s thesis ( provides a blueprint upon which to soundly base a growth strategy. Yet, it goes beyond that. It provides us a means by which we can structure learning opportunities for others, to work with local educators and technologists to put our youth to work on building our future by engaging in small plot agriculture as a basis for their application of math, biology, chemistry, agronomy, renewable energy resources and information sciences methods.

The future just got brighter as there is a clear path towards local partnerships that will help me realize the CHaPA project–a draft mental model for which I append below.

Centro de Habilitacion Personal Alamo

Centro de Habilitacion Personal Alamo

I recommend to anyone else that is interested in growing  a sustainable living movement to read up on permaculture through, and register to contribute to the conversation.  Glorimar’s thesis presentation slides can be downloaded here: