A Renewable Energy Christmas...and other thoughts

Well, Ďtis the season, and as you drive around doing your last minute shopping you canít help but notice all the lavish Christmas light displays all over town. And Iím certain that your first thought is "I couldnít string Christmas lights if I had a renewable energy system." (well, OK, maybe itís your second thought). But youíd be mistaken.

While itís true you probably wouldnít want to put in a large system solely to power a 12 foot neon Santa and sleigh pulled by draft horse sized reindeer outlined in 100 watt colored lights, it is still possible to have a display. You just need to realize how it impacts your particular energy system.

Maggie and I cut our tree last Saturday and had a grand time stringing the lights and hanging the ornaments. We even wove a long string of lights through the railing of our stairs to light our way to the second floor. Between the tree lights and the lights on the staircase we "spend" a whopping 120 watts for the color and joy the lights bring us.

That isnít much power to spend on lights that only need to be on for 3 or 4 hours in the evening. We would have also put up some outdoor lights but there is no one near enough to us to see them. Our only immediate neighbors are coyotes who, as far as I know, donít actively celebrate Christmas. However, they do enjoy caroling from time to time.

Since the Christmas lights on the stairs provide lighting for the staircase and the greenhouse we donít use the regular lighting in those areas. We find it a delightful change of pace to use the strings of lights to illuminate different parts of the house. Our first year in the house we strung lights on a large cherry tomato vine. When we came down Christmas morning we got to open our presents and then eat the tree.

By only using the lights when you are home and turning them off when you go to bed it is possible to have a delightful display of Christmas lighting without putting much of a dent in your energy system.

On a more mundane note, this is also the season for the Global Warming Treaty recently signed in Kyoto, Japan. For all the hype surrounding it I donít think the watered down version that came out of the conference will really make much of a difference.

One positive side effect of the conference, however, has been an increased amount of attention paid to alternative energy technologies. It seems like just about every media outlet has done at least one major story on electric cars, solar or wind power, or some other application they could slap with the label "alternative". Unfortunately, for all the press the subject has received, surprisingly little of it that has been accurate or informative.

In my view, the global attention focused on this treaty provides a golden opportunity to truly inform people and governments about the real nature of the renewable energy industry and how it fits into our future. Unfortunately the media has chosen to entertain with fluff, rather than inform with facts.

In case any of you were wondering where this column has been the last couple of issues, Maggie and I took an "alternative energy" vacation over Thanksgiving. It didnít start out as that kind of vacation but about halfway through I realized that all the major transportation systems we were using were operating on electricity! Not only that, some of them use a technology that, though it has been around for decades, is only now being considered for use in automobiles. Iíll explain more about it all in my next article.

All Contents © 1998
Wagonmaker Press
Thomas W. Elliot


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