Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Free Market Fights Back in Arizona

As solar power takes off in Arizona, local utility companies loathe losing their share of the market

When photo-voltaic (solar panel) technology was first commercially made in the 1950's, Western Electric charged a cool $1500 per watt of energy for a cell that heralded an efficiency of 2%. It wasn't until the 1990s that solar power took off (related: Germany's 100,000 Roofs program), with much skepticism and opposition. Governments around the world took their respective routes in promoting the energy through subsidies, feed-in tariffs, and in the horrendous case of Solyndra, corporate backing.

Today, photo-voltaic technology looks to be the future of renewables as scientists make great strides in increasing its efficiency. From 2012 to 2013, the installation cost per watt dropped 25%. Germany, despite having the amount of solar potential as Anchorage Alaska, was able to get their over 50% of their total national energy demand from solar panels on a sunny day in May 2012.
Cloudy central Europe has made solar an integral component of their energy picture.
Today, individual rooftop solar systems in Arizona are capable of not only entirely satisfying their energy demands, but selling some energy BACK to the local grid. In the case of Arizona, the new "customer" is the Arizona Public Service (APS). This can be done through a process called net metering. As the idea gains popularity in some 40 states, critics cry out, saying that these rebate programs undermine the free market's ability to fix our energy needs.

APS, in order to preserve their funds, cut their net metered rates 3000%. Their newest plan is to charge its customers some $50 to $100 more per month to have access to the grid. Customers by the hundreds attended a town hall meeting voicing their concerns and pleas to keep the costs down and the rebates up. Some customers proposed organized attempts to remove themselves from the APS grid entirely, a move that ultimately hurts the utility's bottom line.
At current rates, the average Phoenix resident pays $1.40/month to fund the net metering program.
As the debate unfolds, I'll be keeping you updated on the APS decision and its impacts on U.S. Energy

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Welcome to Enlightened Energy

“You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself.” -Galileo

Welcome to Enlightened Energy, a blog dedicated to opening its readers' eyes to things they did not see before. While I am  studying Cartography and Atmospheric Sciences at Wisconsin, readers can expect to see and learn new things about our world, its people, and how we interact with it.


No one is denying the fact that there is only so much goal, oil, and gas in our Earth. The current strategy of the energy industry is search and exploit- find the new oil, "drill baby drill", then use it to our advantage. As time goes on, this strategy will become less and less effective and instability- economic, political, and possibly even geological- will rise.

Enlightened Energy is about discussing all types of energy: clean, dirty, and sometimes outright ugly.

Enlightened Energy will discuss the newest of the news in the energy industry, including everything from oil to nuclear, solar to politics, and prices to problems. Expect to learn the basics of how humanity's use of energy is changing in real time, including coverage on new policies, editorials on economic trends, and news of breakthroughs of the newest technologies.


Maps are pretty cool things. According to Penn State University, 80% of all information computers now process contains a location component. With maps, we can get a glimpse of where things are and hopefully get a better understanding. They also make for great complements to infographs.
Maps allow us to "see" numbered information. The Excel sheet this data came from would hardly mean anything to you, but in map form, you can see there is a definite cause for concern.

Not all maps are created equal. Both show temperature, but you can tell much more from the second map than the first.
You can expect lots of fun, interactive, and interesting maps covering a wide range of topics with Enlightened Energy. 


Agriculture is a $3 trillion industry. The most common crop loss is not insects or animals, but drought, frost, or rain. The weather affects our daily lives in numerous ways, from energy markets in the Middle East, to transport chains across the ocean and skies, and even down to Little League games in Smalltown, USA. Enlightened Energy will explore the quirks, trends, and news of atmospheric sciences.
If apples were as big as Earth, their peels would be twice as thick as the atmosphere.
Weather brings forth some of the most fascinating and terrifying parts of nature. It is also something we all as humans relate to. We all at times have the urge to tweet or post about the first snow, a crazy snow, or a prayer out to victims of a hurricane. Similarly, entire religions have been formed by humanity's fascination of what goes on above our heads.

With Enlightened Energy, I can only hope that what you read inspires you to view the world in a different light than you had before. So once again welcome and thank you for reading.