Archive for the 'Coming Soon' Category

Looking for 100 People Under the Sun

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

“More energy from the sun hits the earth in an hour than all the energy consumed by human beings on our planet in an entire year. “  Nate Lewis, Professor, California Institute of Technology

Many of our readers already have heard this statement…but what does it really mean, and how do we plug in?  Who are the leaders among us around the world, how can our communities learn from them, and what new lessons can we build on in 2009?  Most of our readers are connected through our solar schools…as I type this, we are close to 100 posts on our Energy Seeds site and have close to a thousand visitors a month from around the world (only 50 of you comment…but we know you’re out there)!  We are very happy to have you with us as we start a new effort…and I hope you will find it as exciting as I do.

Today I leave to join the 100 People team for a trip around the world…to begin telling a new story of solar leaders around the world – 100 People Under the Sun.  Some of you will be featured in this launch…and we hope to include others as we expand this effort over the next months and years.  Our team started in Paradise over the weekend with a trip to visit Greg Holman and Mario – both are contributors to Energy Seeds, and one of the first schools selected for the PG&E Solar Schools Program.  Tonight, we leave for the Philippines…then on to Malawi and Spain.

You will hear more about this effort in the coming months.  Check out the site below, and consider having your school join this effort…we will highlight leaders among us, and hopefully reach many new students around the world.

Here’s a little background:
The 100 People Foundation is proud to announce a new project in collaboration with our energy partner, SunPower Foundation.

In a world that has become increasingly interconnected and interdependent, the need to understand commonalities, shared values and resources is vital. The 100 People Project set out to do this through the simple means of educating and connecting the people of the world through photography and film.
SunPower Foundation seeks to create a future where sustainable, clean solar power is an essential component of the global energy mix.  With 100 People Under the Sun, we have joined forces to help educate a global population about the tremendous potential that sunlight offers.

Dead Bat Mate, Solar, and…Argentinian Energy Seeds

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

How often do you get to put Dead Bat Mate, and solar in the same sentence?  We hope we have your interest perked…we want to share a perspective on a project we are just beginning.


This project has different partners and finds us working with an entirely new group of people from Ohio to rural Argentina and the projects are unlike anything that you might see in the United States.  After all, while Argentina is in the same hemisphere as the United States, it is south of the equator.

Most of our blog stories are about completed solar projects on schools and other kinds of public buildings inside the United States, but Argentina is different in so many ways even our blog stories will be different.   We thought you might need blog stories that would provide you with some insights into the background of this part of the world.  This is rural Argentina.  This is not Buenos Aires.  Some background on rural Argentina is important.

Below are two stories that will help you understand the location for projects that are in their early phases.  They were both written by Beatrice de Courtivron.  Her organization is MotoMedics International.

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We felt it was important for you to read two stories because the first is a little bit funny and the second is very sad.  This part of the world is inhabited by fantastic people who enjoy life, but who face indescribable hardships so their lives are often funny and sometime very sad.  The two stories seem to convey both emotions so we are choosing to give you both.  In the next few months, we will give you more stories about our partnership with MotoMedics and the people of rural Argentina.  If you want to look this area up on a map, look for Santiago del Estero, Argentina.  The second story took place in Majadas, Argentina.

And so none of you ask “where are the solar panels?” here is a picture of an installer explaining what is going to happen when the sun hits the panel and electricity is created…in Santiago Del Estero, Argentina.


But before we show you more pictures and tell you stories about solar panels on schools in Argentina, it is important for you to learn a little bit more about this country.

Story One: Dead Bat Mate

Argentines love their mate. Its more than an herb infused drink; it’s hospitality, a ritual, socializing. Everyone drinks from the same straw, they pass the cup around. No one worries about each other’s germs. I happen to like it very much. Although I prefer it unsweetened, sweet is fine too. Argentines seem to like everything sweet so it is easier for me to drink it whatever way they do.


In Burro Pozo, during a lull before lunch, the mate comes out. The woman prepares the cup. First the mate leaves go in then the hot water. Everyone takes it in turn then passes it around. The water is continually added between drinkers. As there is no electricity here, water is kept hot by placing the kettle on burning pieces of wood on a piece of metal that they carry around with them. When the leaves need to be changed, they put fresh mate in, add the hot water and pass it around. I enjoy this ritual; the easy socializing with our hosts.  I knew the minute we arrived at this rancho and saw a goat skin drying in the sun that we would have cabrito today. I watch the grandmother and a daughter cut and grill the pieces while I sit under the outdoor kitchen’s thatched roof and sip the mate.

Our team has divided into 2 shifts for lunch so at least one team is always working. Gerardo arrives from the small community/health center and joins us. After lunch while we walk back to the community center, he tells me about the well this community uses. It’s more of a water filled underground cave about a kilometer away and it is the only source of water for this little community. It was also home to the area bats. One of the men a while back decided it would be a good idea to smoke the bats out of the cave to keep their guano from falling into the water. So during the day, while the bats slept, they threw a bunch of burning torches into the hole, covered it up so the bats couldn’t escape and waited to rid the water of the bat guano problem. But since the bats couldn’t get out with the hole covered, they were smoked to death and fell into the water. There was no way to remove all the dead bats from the cave so there they remained. Dead Bat Water.

I look at him for a minute while my brain registers the implications and kicked into very high gear. My first desperate thought: O my God, I’ve been drinking dead bat mate. My second desperate but somewhat hopeful thought: it is made with hot water and please God help me that it was boiled for days for the constant mate drinking and had some semblance of sterility.

I waited for a couple of hours for the poisonous effects of dead bat mate to wrack my body. I pray not to get sick; I decide that if I am spared illness, I will never ever drink anything boiled or otherwise without casually inquiring about what could be in the water first. But nothing happened. I have always liked bats and found them interesting. Now I wonder if I don’t carry some part of the cute little critters around in me.


Story Two: A Little Boy

photo5.jpgWhen we arrive at the clinic in Majadas, people are already lined up. The waiting room quickly fills up. I am taken aback by all the sick children. There is a Down’s baby who is 2 or 3 times the size of a normal baby his age. His mother smiles at me as he lies in her lap.

Both doctors start treating immediately. Graciela, a doctor from Santiago del Estero, is doing pediatrics. She quickly becomes overwhelmed. There are so many sick and not enough drugs. Many have bronchitis and asthma, there is so much dust. The antibiotics and inhalers go fast and she must resort to using the one remaining inhaler for several children to alleviate their symptoms. All the children have parasites; the drugs are gone in no time. There is simply not enough. The nearest city is hours away; there is no way to get any more and she must do what she can.

This is the second day that we are using the portable EKG that MMI has purchased and donated to Pilotos. I am learning to attach the leads and run the test. Mirtha, the cardiologist, is doing brief physicals and I do the EKGs when she asks me. There are several Chagasic patients, one with advanced TB, who come through. We’ve been working for several hours when Graciela asks Mirtha to help examine one of the children. He has been fainting and turning blue. He is brought into the room where I am for an EKG. He is 3 years old. He can’t lie down because he faints so we do the test with him sitting up. He faints when he cries so we give him cookies while we attach the leads and try to do the test. He is so little, the leads keep falling off his chest. He looks down at the wires and starts crying; we all talk to him and give him another cookie. We have to hold the leads in place. There are 3 of us who do this; I am holding the last 3 against his chest. We do manage to get a reading. He has Chagas disease and his heart is severely damaged. Both doctors speak with his mother. He must be taken to the hospital in Santiago or he will die. She is barely 20 yrs old, she has two older children and is pregnant with her fourth child, her husband works away from the rancho. He brings money when he visits his family. Essentially she is alone. She does not have the money for the bus trip into the city, who will take care of her other children and her animals? It’s a death sentence for this little boy.

I am so distraught after his mother takes him from the room that I have to be alone. People who know me know that I always have something to say. But I am speechless; without words. I go outside for a walk. It’s hot and brilliantly sunny. The sky is a cloudless blue. There is no sign of the torrential rains 2 days prior. The ground is as cracked and parched as ever. The cacti are blooming. I really need a distraction so I start taking photographs of the flowers. There are scorpions and poisonous snakes here. People die of snakebite and I am terrified of snakes. But I am so focused on my flowers that I don’t even think about them.  I am busy with my camera when Gerardo comes looking for me. I struggle trying to explain. I just have no words. He knows this forest with its seemingly insurmountable problems so well. There are thousands of such children in Argentina. Millions in Central and South America. They expect to die young; they know that not all of their children may survive. They all need help and that is why we are here. To help, to make a difference.

I know this intellectually but it was my hands holding the leads on this little boy’s chest. I felt his ribcage expand with his breathing. I felt the panic to stop him from crying less he faint. It is very personal to me. I talk about my own 2 sons. They are sick, I go to the doctor’s. They need meds, I buy them. Here, there is nothing. A few drugs, some supplies on a metal shelf. I feel completely impotent, walking in this forest, under the relentless bright sun, the cactus flowers.

We walk down the path on the way back to the clinic. I see the little boy and his mother leaving. He is sitting in the basket attached to her bicycle’s handlebars. He is wrapped in a towel. He reminds of me of E.T. as I watch them head down the dirt road on their way back to their rancho. He glances at me from under his towel as they pass by. I don’t even know his name.

Chico’s  flower

For more information about Beatrice’s program:

Another 40 Soak up the Sun in California

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

PG&E announced the awardees for the next 40 PG&E Solar Schools Projects, which will bring 100 schools online in the coming months.  Congratulations to the new awardees!


Starr King Elementary San Francisco
Lawton Elementary School San Francisco
Lafayette Elementary School San Francisco
Sunset Elementary San Francisco
Creative Arts Charter San Francisco
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Academic Middle School San Francisco
Marshall Elementary School San Francisco
Argonne Elementary School San Francisco
Forty Niners’ Academy East Palo Alto
Bessie Carmichael San Francisco
Gateway High School San Francisco
Emery Secondary School Emeryville
San Lorenzo High School San Lorenzo
Skyline High School Oakland
Oakland Aviation High School Oakland
Irvington High School Fremont
New Brighten Middle School Soquel
Milpitas High School Engineering Academy Milpitas
Hacienda Science/Environmental Magnet School San Jose
Oceano Elementary School Oceano
Sierra Middle School Bakersfield
Madera South High School Madera
San Joaquin Elementary San Joaquin
South/West Park Elementary School Tracy
Soulsbyville Elementary School Soulsbyville
Ripona Elementary School Ripon
Shirley Rominger Intermediate School Winters
Grizzly Hill School Nevada City
Pioneer High School Woodland
Foothill High School Palo Cedro
Maxwell Elementary School Maxwell
Cottage Hill Elementary School Grass Valley
Marguerite Montgomery Elementary Davis
Middletown High School Middletown
Trinity Valley Elementary Willow Creek
Peninsula Union Elementary School Samoa
Laytonville High School Laytonville
Bahia Vista San Rafael
Willow Creek Academy Sausalito
Santa Rosa Charter School Santa Rosa

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint, One Electronic Device at a Time…

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

It seems that every time you turn around, another device has been created to make our lives easier. Many of these devices use electricity. Sure, an iPod does not require a lot of energy. However, millions of iPods requiring a little energy adds up.


Ten years ago, the United States had around 34 million cell phones in service. Today, more than 200 million!

So, how do these statistics show up on an Energyseeds story? Well, not long ago, I received a handy little solar gadget called the Solio. The Solio is a small, portable and lightweight solar array and battery storage system. Think of it as your own personal “off-grid” power supply. The Solio literature states that an hour of charging in the sun can translate into about 25 minutes of talk time. The nice thing about the Solio, that sets it apart from other chargers, is the onboard lithiom-ion battery. That way, your expensive new mp3 player does not have to be out in the sun to charge. In fact, you can charge up your Solio and carry that juice with you for up to a year!

At first, I was really enjoying setting up the panels and adjusting the angle of the Solio towards the sun by using a pencil. Next, I began to think how I could use it.


A student in my science class suggested that we could power a cell phone with it. Not to be outdone, another student suggested we power a cell phone with solar power – only. I am game to try anything once, so we decided to take my phone “off grid.” We are almost a month into the experiment, and my Motorola has never dipped below 2/3 a charge!

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Now let’s crunch some numbers. The average cell phone charger uses about 3 watts. Assuming that conservatively every phone is plugged in for 6 hours a week…

7 hours a week X 3 watts = 21 watts a week

21 X 52 weeks = 1092 watts a year (round to 1kWh).

If we take a simple calculation of $.10/cents a kWh, that translates to Americans are using more than 200,000,000 kWh a year to power their cell phones! That is at least $20 million a year!! Those of you that are energy savvy may know that unless those Americans are unplugging their chargers between charges, the “phantom loads” on those chargers being plugged in can be many times higher than the amount of energy they are using to charge the phones!

Lets assume half of this country’s cell phone chargers are left plugged in. (this is being optimistic)

100 million X 1watt/hour X 24 hours X 365 days =’s 876,000,000 kWh! X $.10 =’s $87 million a year!

Enough about money… By using the Solio, charging my phone is so much more convenient in my backpack. I do not need to worry about forgetting it “on the charger.” Not to mention the safety aspect during a power outage, or out hiking and camping away from modern civilization.

There are parallels between off-setting your carbon footprint of your cell phone, with off-setting your home electrical use with a home solar system. Or in the future, installing a solar-covered car port to plug in your all electric vehicle…

Sure, the immediate payback may not be there. Using the Solio as a real-life example of how to gain the convenience of a cell phone, while off-setting environmental impacts is excellent.

Buying a Solio portable solar charging device: $80
Teaching the world to reduce their carbon footprint: PRICELESS!

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One of the Oldest Forms of Solar…

Saturday, August 11th, 2007

When one first thinks of solar energy, farming is usually not the first thing that comes to mind. Although not traditionally considered solar energy, the sun is essential for Farming. This author has grown up on a small almond orchard in Northern California and would like to share the little known story of how that tiny, healthy and tasty nut arrives at your local supermarket…and there’s a parallel between natural farming and the solar energy seeds being planted around the country.


The almond industry first came to Durham commercially in 1895. For years, Durham was considered the almond capital of California. As the industry grew, California produced more and more almonds (more than 200 million pounds of almonds in 1974). This year, the crop is projected to bring in more than 1.33 billion pounds! Two-thirds of the crop is exported, more than half of that to European countries. Almonds are considered the most “nutritionally dense” nut available and are part of many nutritional diet plans. You can learn a bit more about almonds at this great site –

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As a third generation farmer on this property, my grandparents and parents have built houses and improved the property. I grew up with the understanding that hard work and being dependent on weather and seasons was normal. Sure, not nearly as difficult as my grandparents’ earlier dairy farming, but farming nonetheless. It was at one point years ago while traveling and living on farms in Australia that I wrote in a diary my most profound observation ever, “Farming is the science of guessing.” This is true of all forms of solar as well, but we’ve developed additional means and methods of predicting our success…calculated guessing, well, or so we think.

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Back to solar. Trees spend the winter months “resting.” During this time of less light, they prepare to awaken in spring. As they awaken, you carefully adjust water and nutrient levels to optimize chances of a large harvest. Planting, pruning, and managing the orchard floor become the important tasks. Bees are used to pollinate the almond trees that have a beautiful white blossom. For a few weeks, orchards appear to be blanketed with this fake snow.


When summer hits, irrigation is the key. Too much, you get fungus. Too little, stress is put on the trees. Just right, and you get a profitable crop. Summer is our most profitable month for harvesting the kWh of solar energy systems as well, particularly in many parts of California where we rarely get rain during the summer months.

As fall approaches, so does harvest. Trees are shaken with machines that hug the base of the tree and vibrate them for less than 30 seconds. On the ground the almonds lie – to be sun dried for a few days. Nuts are mechanically swept into rows where they are put in carts with “Pickup Machines.”

As fall approaches, so do new energy seeds. We have projects in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Southern California that you will soon be hearing a lot more about.


Farmers are often at the forefront of new and cutting edge technology. They are constantly looking for improvements that can reduce negative effects on the land and increase profits. Recently, Paramount Farms installed an 8 acre solar energy plant. The 1.1 megawatt, $7.5 million solar plant in the San Joaquin Valley, is the largest single-site, privately owned solar plant in the U.S. If farmers are going solar, you know that it makes business sense.

With increased pressures on the small farmer, I hope that I am able to continue our family’s way of life. My wife and I hope to instill a work ethic and respect for nature in our three young children. Next time you sit down for a meal, think of all of the ingredients and work involved in growing your food.

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