Ever since I can remember, every 5 years something happens that is really remarkable for increasing the speed towards man’s achieving the ability to harvest the sun’s energy cost effectively.
Here are a few of the ones I can remember, the last one is the best, and it’s happening now, its the beginning of the great flood of 17.
Nixon Energy Proposals: 1971–1974
President Richard Nixon presented his original plan for an energy agency in his first energy message to Congress in June 1971. Citing the “brownouts” which had occurred in recent months, the natural gas shortages, increasing fuel prices, and the lack of an integrated national energy policy, the President proposed that all major energy programs be consolidated in a new Department of Natural Resources.
The Energy Reorganization Act: 1973
Brought together for the
first time the major programs of
research and development for all forms
of energy. Along with the programs, a
total of 7,222 employees made the
transfer to the new agency, which for
fiscal year 1975 would had a budget of $3.6 billion.
The Energy Crises-Summer 1973
Shocked the Nation when Saudi Arabia had placed an embargo against the United States on all oils shipments. America had to wait in hour long lines to get gasoline.
Implementing the Energy Plans: Conservation and Solar
Conservation was considered one of the most significant of the near-term solutions to the energy problems of the Nation. In its early months the Energy Research and Development Administration ERDA (I coincidentally named my dog ERDA that very same year) began working on a two-part strategy for informing the American public of ways to conserve energy and for encouraging industry to develop greater efficiency in heating and cooling systems, and in machinery, home appliances, and automotive transportation. Among
the early programs sponsored by ERDA were those to improve energy storage systems and to develop batteries for electric automobiles. (Two years later, as his last official act as Administrator, Seamans rode in an ERDA electric car in President Carter’s inaugural parade.)
The Tucson Energy Center. October-1973
About this time, some guy from Tucson with a crazy idea about solar powering the earth and saving mankind from destroying itself over oil and as well it’s environment, starts a solar company. An article appeared in the local paper: “In a ramshackle shed, along with local artists, Kimball, armed with a homemade parabolic concentrator, a thermosyphon solar water, a PV solar module made from discarded space cells and a solar oven he found in the desert over the summer, set up a permanent energy display at his new business providing information on solar and alternative energy, The Tucson Free Energy Center.”
As fast as I could, I was literally running, (very similar to Forest Gump, [no car]) all over Tucson meeting with anyone who would listen, giving local presentations at schools, community centers, on radio, and got several articles in the newspaper, all talking about the potential of solar and renewable energy. I’d hitchhike, with $.10 to a $1 in my pocket up to the ASU Library in Phoenix to get my information. Lucky for me, the American Solar Energy Society had its collection there. I used this great source of information to make a book, of sorts, on solar energy. I made copies of all the most interesting solar info, history, pictures of systems, etc., stuffed them into manila envelopes, and glued a cover sheet on it. Unbelievably, one of the main bookstores in Tucson actually bought them. To this day I’ve never seen anything so obviously homemade in a bookstore.
John lands jobs in Washington-1974
I packed my bags and headed to D.C. Also fondly called Chocolate City by the local African American population. It’s a beautiful city. Very interesting, good to visit. Great music, nice local people (but not so nice people in politics it’s all about your position. Not all of them, some of them are great people just not nearly enough.)
I started working for the awsome, and often humorous, Congressman, Morris K. Udall, (he was a law partner with my father, William F. Kimball, and neighbor of ours in Tucson), then some Congressman from Indiana, who will remain nameless, and then for the incredible Congressman George E. Brown, Jr. (Ca.). George ended up being the Chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee. He was a great inspiration to me and helped me to publish two books on Solar and Renewable Energy while there. What a great and fascinating staff!
Under the Energy Reorganization Act and the Solar Energy Research Development and Demonstration Act of 1974, Congress authorized the construction of a Solar Energy Research Institute to support ERDA’s solar program and to aid in establishing an industrial base for solar energy. The agency immediately requested the National Academy of Sciences to provide assistance in defining the scope and structure of such an institute.
ERDA requests proposals for a Solar Energy Institute-1975
Under the Energy Reorganization Act and the Solar Energy Research Development and Demonstration Act of 1974, Congress authorized the construction of a Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI) to support ERDA’s solar program and to aid in establishing an industrial base for solar energy. The agency immediately requested the National Academy of Sciences to provide assistance in defining the scope and structure of such an institute.
Everybody wanted it in their state CA., AZ., CO., NM., TX., NY., OR., WA., MA., VT., you name it.
Again, as luck would have it, I was working for the great U.S. Rep. “Mo” Udall, in Washington, D.C. at the time. I was asked to deliver our State’s proposal for the institute across the street to the Capitol Building. I’ll never forget bolting out of the Longworth House Office Building and, again, running, well sprinting now, across Indepedence Ave. and into the Capitol to help us win. We won, we’ll sort of. It was so contentious, they split it up between 5 states instead of just one. Good thing too because I didn’t like Washington, D.C. that much, too cold, in more ways than one. I found a job waiting for me back home at The Arizona Solar Energy Commission (ASEC) headed by a great guy, Jim Warnock. And then another one, run by one of the commissioners, Bob McGinnis. He was President of Photowatt Int., Inc., one of the very first PV manufacturers in the world. He offered me a job at his PV factory, wow what a break! Thank you Mr. McGinnis.
About 1977 Marijuana Growers
My sales first trip in my life as a PV Sales Engineer for Photowatt was very exciting. It was like Dec. 28th and they asked me to go find out what was happening in N. California. I made some calls to Real Goods in Ukiah one of the, if not the very first, PV companies in the USA. I asked a few questions and it was like there was a gold rush going in there, actually two golds, Acapulco and Sun. The Marijuana growers had created the largest and first residential PV market in the USA. Almost all the early pioneers were involved there. It was a great trip. The company even paid to let me take my wife and 3 year old daughter with me. First stop San Francisco then we drove straight into the Giant Redwood Forest, Thank you God! Man do I love the West and especially Arizona, Sonora and Baja, Southern Cal., and ALL OF CALIFORNIA! It’s (here I go again , aww the hell with it, totally f….n awsome! Actually the word does sound sexual, right ? Hopefully I’m not the only one.
Oops getting off track.
Totally Free PV Systems-1980
I was went to N.M. to check out potential business for Photowatt. I found a solar water heating company in Santa Fe called WEBA, and met their engineer Ken Wood. He told me they had discovered the legislature there had passed a bill to support solar energy research at UNM Las Cruces for the cattle industry to promote the use of solar powered water pumping. At the bottom of the bill with the funding provision for the university the bill’s author’s included this:
“The University or any taxpayer of the State of New Mexico, who installs a solar water pumping system, is entitled to a 100% refund for the cost of each system installed, up to $10,000 per system.”
I’d bet ya $50 that once the other State Legislators found out that the Rep. for Las Cruces was getting UNM funding for solar electric research and development, they all wanted in, right? That law helped to inspire other solar research, but most importantly it, accidentally, created the first large demonstration of off grid residential solar electric systems in the USA. Let me explain:
[For a year I was like a little kid in a toy store where I knew the owners and they liked me so much they said, “Johnny you can have anything you want in the whole store. Merry Christmas!” (That actually happened to me once.)]
Anyway, I went nuts, I made a hundred copies of it. It was so simple. The entire actual bill, with its large legislative type, fit easily on one, 6′ by 10′ page. It took the legislature a year before they figured it out that many more millions of dollars were pouring into solar homes instead of water pumping systems for cattle.
Due to an oversight they created the country’s first tax payer funded Residential PV Demonstration Project. They finally managed to re-write the legislation, but not before hundreds of homeowners installed their large arrays of PV panels with and all necessary BOS (including racks, inverters, batteries and a very small token pump). Dozens of businesses there bloomed into one of the countries first real PV residential markets. Of course, the state hired an engineer/inspector who stamped and approved the required drawings. It turned out he was just like me, a big nut, environmentalist and PV enthusiast. I just didn’t drive a Harley and have hair down to my waist like him. He invited me to his home and we talked solar and had a smoke together. We did not inhale, of course.
Anyway, he’d also go out to certify the PV pumping system installation. In most cases there was another conduit with a cable connected to the system that ended up being connected to a house as well as that very small pump, as no cattle were anywhere in sight. You see most systems were installed in the middle of the city not out on the range.
He probably knew after very soon after it started what was going to happen but he wanted PV technology to grow too. He stamped any system the was properly designed about as fast as he could. He was a great and wise young man, because, almost all those systems ended up on remote independent homes right were they made the most sense. All the homes (and some pumps) were all cost effective applications of PV. Today those very early examples of cost effective PV systems have grown into one of the largest concentrations of cost effective off-grid independently powered homes probably some grid connected homes and water pumping systems. In fact Dankoff Pumping in Santa Fe is one of the finest and largest solar water pumping companies in the world.
When I met Windy Dankoff (he once was a hippie) and his lovely wife, they were living in a school bus in a grove of Cedar trees in the gorgeous hills outside of Santa Fe. Windy invited me in. It was neat. It had a wood stove in the bus, it gets cold in Sante Fe. I couldn’t believe he was feeding his stove pure cedar!
[We used to have a ceder chest to store clothes in the upstairs of the Tucson home I grew up in. I first smelled cedar upstairs when my mother opened it up as a child, will never forget it. We cooled that big house with coolers aka swamp boxes., using cedar wood fibers, fresh cedar smells insanely good. In the summer, people in the Southwest still use evaporative coolers to cool their houses, a simple metal louvered box with water dripping all around over these pads and a drum spinning around in the middle drawing air in thru the wet pads and into the house. Anyway, I also remember the smell of the fresh cedar pads right after they’d been installed in those coolers, man that smelled fresh and well great? It’s an impossible smell to describe , maybe sweet in a way.
NOTÉ: I can’t keep up with time, the dates have been approximated for my convenience.
So…just a couple years later in Carrizo Plains,CA., the world’s first 1MW power plant was installed by Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO Solar). It was huge, monumental, ahead of its time. The 35 watt! modules were all mounted on big heliostats with reflectors between the modules. Awsome [(I’m running out of good adjetives, and I’m not supposed to swear. My brother Bob tells me it’s a sign of ones lack of vocabulary and probably mediocre grades in school.]
They screwed it up though, the first modules at Carrizo Plains had to be de installed because the little V shaped reflectors turned them brown from the extra heat . A guy named Kusianavich in New Mexico bought all the used and re packaged them into sets of four. They were called quad lams and the they nicknamed them Carrizo Golds. There’s a nice guy out in the desert in Southern California I known for 25 years who bought a ton of them and still makes and sells them and he says they’re still working after 40 years as brown as the EVA turned. EVA , the film they use to laminate the sells to the glass, is now much more resistant to yellowing .
A few years later after Carrizo almost the same thing happened in Cal. like it happened in N.M. for water pumping systems, not free, but when added to the federal tax credit of 35% it got you back 75% . But it was a big help in promoting PV’s big Cal. boom that came just after it because of the huge population compared to the population of NM.
A few years later, the first grid connected subdivision, in the world, was installed by The Sacramento Municipal Utility District. That project was pioneered by my friend Don Osborne. Don and I shared desks at the Quaker Society at the UofA one of my offices from the Tucson Energy Center Days. We also worked at the ASEC together.
A few years later California, under Governor Jerry Brown, Sr. CA. PV funding exploded.
Then a few years later under Governor Arnold Schwartzenager, it really exploded! That led to a nationwide explosion of funding from city, county, state and federal funding, and not just for solar but for energy conservation as well. And that pushed more legislation and Corporation Commissions to force Electric Utilites all over the nation to offer solar incentives.
At the same time N.J. Governor Chris Christy created huge incentives there as well as the Governors of Arizona, New México, Mass., Con ., N.C., GA., Co., and on and on. Even little HI. has exploded wher PV was is cost effective.
A now under Cal. Governor Jerry Brown Jr. the state has half the PV installations in the US. and there seems no end in site of PV’s growth there. Yes, it continues to have exploding growth .
So what’s the next big boom?:
Well let me scroll back to the title because I forgot, oh yes, (how did I forget, must have been all those Perino beers and Mojitos (yeech!) with Adam and Louis last night. That Perino beer is good but it goes down like water too, watch out!)
Hey Sun’s coming up, better hurry, so the answer is Surplus PV modules and BOS and Used (grade B and C ) modules and used BOS. I new it was big but it’s a lot bigger than I ever saw. It’s the volume it’s overwhelming. We’re talking thousands of MW’s! It’s a catacylizmic flood from every corner you can imagine, your next door neighbor’s system de-installation cause the new owners wife wants Spanish tile to match her hair color to forgotten failed gigawatt PV projects of the richest companies in the world on Wall Street to Shanghi.
Oh in case you haven’t heard, PV kWh in 2025, just 8 years away, is already being sold for $.02
Your probably paying $.12 now. So what does that mean. Think life on other planets. Think free electricity, think free electricity without toxic cancer causing nuclear waste for 200,000 f…… years !!!!!
And be happier or I’ll personally kick your ass because billions in China will be breathing clean air again, and you’ll be able to see the mountains again in Los Ángeles, and not only that but don’t forget we share this planet with a few animals, what’s left of em. They will probably get rain again, when it’s supposed to come. That goes for us humans too.
So the Sun just peeped out. Amazing isn’t it, as the world slowly rotates floating in space like a microscopic spec of dust.
The light, the light, follow the light, go ahead and go into the liiiigght, its ok, it will bring you back to life.
Good bye, God bye, go by…….*