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The Path to a More Sustainable Life

sherilyn fenn nude photos

To Solar Oregon members, partners and supporters

Farewell my friends it’s time for me to step off the “solar coaster” for a while …When Claire Carlson left for greener pastures, I stepped into the executive director role to ensure continuity, keep momentum, and meet our contractual obligations and mission objectives. I think this was accomplished and then some. I’ve always been connected to our cause and mission in a deep and meaningful way, but I couldn’t have accomplished much without the support of many others.

Mr Speaker It has been my honor and pleasure to serve Solar Oregon.

Along the way I put in a lot of my time, money, and energy into Solar Oregon’s mission, just as previous executive directors and board officers have done. Over the past six years, I’ve been a member and volunteer, workshop presenter, Solar Ambassador, solarize project leader, writer and promoter, cheerleader, sponsor, board member, president of the board, and most recently the executive director.

I admit I thrived on the solar coaster’s adrenaline rush most of this time, as it is constantly changing, very challenging, and so damn tempting in its promise. I believe we’re at the beginning of an energy revolution in this country and I like being a revolutionary in some aspects.

Of course there’s still plenty of work to do. Although studies and polls continue to show massive support by our citizens for solar power, and it is being pushed harder by the Obama administration, solar still lags as part of our nation’s energy mix.  Make no mistake that America’s fossil fueled powers-that-be have declared war on renewable energy and they fight us every step of the way. Their power and influence has been beating a war drum for decades over a reduction in fossil fuels, regardless of the impacts and consequences to our society and the planet.

Yet, we’re winning this war.

Sure, we’ve got a long ways to go to move to the mainstream stage for distributed energy, but the solar movement is approaching high gear and right now (2014) every 4 minutes, a new solar system is installed in the United States. One rooftop at a time! This is how renewables will eventually become a part of our daily fabric as an energy source. It will also be one of the things required to help deal with climate change, reduction of pollution and the protection of the environment – important stuff.

It is just that my priorities have changed since a bright and beautiful spirit entered my life. My wife, Noriko, and I have an infant daughter (Maya Cassidy) and she needs our full attention. I simply couldn’t manage the rigors of the job and support my family in the way they require, so this is why I’m leaving the office.  My family comes first and I know everyone will understand.

As for Solar Oregon, I think the organization is fortunate to have good governance during this time of transition with a great staff, executive committee, and a solid board led by President Doug Boleyn. Please continue to support them as you supported me.

You probably haven’t seen the last of me. I am still a Solar Ambassador and a lifetime member of Solar Oregon and so is Noriko.  So, you might find me conducting a new volunteer orientation, presenting a solar basics workshop, or even hanging out at Solar Drinks event. Be sure to say hello.

Solar energy’s brightest days are still ahead, so keep on keeping on, my friends.

My thoughts re: President Obama’s speech on Climate Change – June 25, 2013

Note: Originally printed in Sustainable Business Oregon online publication – Voices Section – when I was President of Solar Oregon.

Obama Solar

Today, rather quietly in front of a small audience at Georgetown University, President Obama announced he’s issuing a presidential memorandum to launch the first-ever federal regulations on carbon dioxide emitted by existing power plants. He articulated that his climate strategy will focus on three key areas: cutting the amount of carbon pollution in the U.S., preparing the country for the long-term effects of climate change, and leading global efforts to combat it.

Speaking to a predominately student audience, the President said, “I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that is beyond fixing … I’m here to enlist your generation’s help in keeping the USA a leader, a global leader, in the fight against climate change.”

It was fitting that President Obama chose to give his speech before a group of young people who face a daunting future.

“It was important for me to speak directly to your generation”, Obama said, “because the decisions we make now, and in the years ahead, will have a profound impact on the world that all of you inherit.” He continued, “The question is not whether we need to act … the overwhelming judgment of science has put all that to rest. So, the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late. And, how we answer will have a profound impact on the world we leave behind, not just to you, but to your children and to your grandchildren. As a President, as a father, and as an American, I’m here to say – we need to act!”

As a renewable energy advocate, and someone who is concerned with destructive behavior towards our own environment, I’ve been waiting to hear this kind of message from a sitting American president for almost twenty years.  I pray it isn’t too late.

Warning us that climate change threatens the health of the planet is vitally important, but will the President’s message be a game changer?

After his announcement today, some may believe that America will finally begin to take appropriate action and move faster toward climate solutions. They want to believe that this administration will stand up to the fossil fuel industry and resist developing new infrastructure investments such as the Keystone XL pipeline and coal export facilities.

I suspect this isn’t going to be the case.

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud the President for taking leadership on this issue (albeit five years into his administration), but this situation shouldn’t be left up to his administration itself to solve. We are all in this together. We citizens are all caretakers of the future and what we need in this fight right now are thousands more citizen leaders at every level of our society. This is a defining moment in our history.

Opposition to the President’s announcement will be fast and furious. It started before he even gave his speech for heaven’s sake. Critics from both sides of this issue have commented that his speech was simply pandering to environmentalists for his administration not acting sooner on climate change; or that this is no more than a ham-fisted attempt to sooth greenies because the Obama administration is planning to approve the controversial Keystone XL project.

Republicans and the established energy industry criticized Obama’s climate change plan saying it will lead to higher utility bills and less development of reliable energy. House Speaker John Boehner stated, “ these policies will shutter power plants, destroy good-paying American jobs, and raise electricity bills for families that can scarcely afford it.”

Yawn. This is the same tired refrain we’ve heard for the past thirty years anytime the fossil fuel industry feels threatened.

The fact is that no climate proposal from President Obama will get past Republican opposition, so our greatest chance for a climate legacy lies in empowering American citizens to take control — with our voices, our votes and our dollars — and especially taking control over our own energy future.  Unlike the countries cited by Obama as global leaders in the clean energy race, like China and Germany, this is how it will get done here in America.

President Obama must already know this. He challenged us in his speech by saying, “I’m directing the EPA to develop the standards in an open and transparent way, to provide flexibility to different states with different needs, and build on the leadership that many states and cities and companies have already shown.”

Regardless of speeches and the good intentions of the Obama administration, I believe the solution to addressing climate change will rely heavily upon individuals, organizations and local governments.  Climate-protecting energy policy succeeds when communities can keep their energy dollars local by directly owning and profiting from investments in renewable energy. This is being proven every day, both here and abroad.

I’m proud to say that the solar energy industry is uniquely poised to be part of the solution. America’s solar energy industry is already ushering in a new era of clean energy and providing opportunities and jobs.  Despite what critics say, this isn’t a choice between clean energy and a robust economy. We can have both – and solar power is showing the world how to make that possible.

As President Obama declared, “A low carbon, clean energy economy can be an engine of growth for decades to come, and I want America to build that engine, I want America to build that future, right here in the USA, that’s our task.”

Well, that starts with change in our own behavior and in our own backyard. And, it takes leadership. As President Obama himself said, we can’t win it, if we’re not in it. He asked the Georgetown students … can we imagine a more worthy goal? Well, as a non-profit president, as a father, and as an American myself, I cannot. My wife and I are expecting our daughter, Maya Cassidy, to be born only few days from now, so time is of the essence.

Ron “Mac” McDowell

Sabin Green

By David Sweet, Solar Oregon member and Solar Ambassador

Ralph Nader famously remarked, “The use of solar energy has not been opened up because the oil industry does not own the sun.”  But that was before we created the Solarize Portland model that has opened up solar energy to hundreds of Portland households and is about to open it to hundreds more.

Solarize Northeast had its start in the fall of 2009, when my friend Kelly Rodgers and I decided to see if we could replicate the Solarize model that had been created in Southeast Portland.  We brought our plan to the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods, which took it on, and the result was 204 solar installations in Northeast Portland.

The idea has really taken off, and over the last 2½ years, neighborhood-based Solarize projects in Portland have resulted in over 700 solar installations.  In all of 2008, by comparison, there were 38 installations.  But the Solarize totals are only part of the story, because the number of non-Solarize installations in Portland is exploding as well—there were more than 500 in 2010 and more than 1000 in 2011.

What’s going on?  Social scientists call it “innovation diffusion”—the spread of a new idea.  Typically, innovations are championed by activist “change agents,” and first tried by so-called “early adopters.”  Our goal with the Solarize projects is to move solar technology to the “tipping point,” where it spreads beyond early adopters and into the mainstream.  Among the factors that determine whether and how quickly an innovation spreads are its complexity and its visibility.  The Solarize model addresses these factors.

We simplify the complex decision making with a predetermined contractor, a fixed price, and community workshops to demystify the process.  We also make solar technology more visible through our outreach, our workshops, and the number of panels going up in our neighborhoods.  People are also encouraged to try something new if it’s being done by people they know—people like them—their community.  Which is another reason that the Solarize community model is so successful.

Solarize is also a model for the cultural transformation we need to make.  The end of the oil age is upon us.  The subsidy of ancient sunlight that has brought us the wealth and wonders of a global industrial society is ending.  In the very near future, we will need to be locally self-reliant and self-sufficient.  We will need to produce most of what we need, including energy, very close to home.  We will also need strong bonds of community to support us through this challenging change.  Solarize Northeast is a shift toward local self-sufficiency and it is an exercise in community.  And community, like a muscle, becomes stronger when it is exercised.

Eighty years ago, Thomas Edison told Henry Ford, “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy.  What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”  Well, we haven’t quite run out, and we’re beginning to tackle it.  Solarize Northeast Phase II is going to be even more successful than Phase I, and I’m excited that I get to be part of it.  My gratitude to NECN and to everyone here who is working to create a more resilient, self-reliant, and stronger community.

The Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods is proud to announce a second round of Solarize Northeast, a community driven project to simplify solar electric installation for North & Northeast Portland residents. Mr. Sun Solar has been selected as the solar contractor for this effort.

Interested neighbors enjoy savings through a community-driven bulk purchase of solar panels. Solarize Northeast hosts workshops to educate residents about solar options, site assessment, installation, and financing options.  For more information, including dates and times of workshops see …  http://solarize.necoalition.org/

Lately I’ve been reading up on how to be a successful non-profit board member like Nonprofit Management 101 and How to Manage an Effective Nonprofit Organization. In doing my homework, I came across this list of resolutions for nonprofit board members that I just had to share with all of you. I also sent this to the boardmembers I serve with on the Earthshare Oregon and Solar Oregon boards. Please indulge (and pardon) me … I don’t mean to preach and I do mean well. I hope you’ll take these ten things to heart and apply them so our non-profit organizations can be as successful as possible.

It’s that time again—for turning over a new leaf, for reexamining our work and lives, for refocusing on what we really want, and for refreshing our commitment to good works.

Here are some great New Year’s resolutions for nonprofit board members. If you do these, you’ll set an example and be a “spark plug” for your organization — and you’ll also help make the world a better place through your favorite nonprofit.

 1. Get more engaged. Your non-profit needs you to pay attention to your job as a nonprofit board member. We don’t need disengaged bosses.  And yes, you are the boss – you’re the legal fiduciary guardian of your nonprofit. The staff all report to us and they need us to lead, to question, and to act.

 2. Have a bias towards action. Do something. Non-profits need more than talk out of you. Don’t be one of those board members who thinks his or her job is to come to meetings and pontificate. Look for real actions you can take to help the cause. Ask the staff what they need you to do this month, this quarter, this new year. There’s too much at stake to just sit around and talk!

 3. Think big. You can make a huge difference if you think BIG! We’re not going to change the world, save the environment, feed the hungry, or change the community, by thinking small. There is great power in a big, wildly exciting vision. A big vision helps you attract people and resources  to your cause. Energy is everything when you are trying to create change.

 4. Be optimistic, no matter what. Be a board member who sees the glass half full. Ban the handwringing and nay-saying. Negativity is self-defeating , wipes out passion and deadens momentum.  Be the board member who has the point of view of abundance rather than scarcity. You’ll influence the rest.

 5. Go back to your vision over and over and over. It will keep you excited, focused, passionate, and results-oriented.  If you feel jaded or bored, ask yourself why you care about this cause and this organization. You’ll feel deep personal satisfaction when you see the results your organization is creating in people’s lives.

 6. Be the catalyst; be the provocateur. Challenge the status quo. Remember Jack Welch’s quote: “If the change is happening on the outside faster than it is on the inside, the end is near.”  Well, guess what – that goes for nonprofits too. Too many nonprofits plan for the future based firmly on the past. Be willing to ask, “Why are we doing this?”

 7. Make your own personal gift to support your organization. And … encourage the other board members to give generously. If you don’t put your money where your mouth is, you have absolutely no credibility. Set an example. Don’t be afraid to bring up the subject of board gifts in board meetings. Be willing to talk to other board
members about their annual contributions and commitments.

 8. Support the staff. Ask them what they need from you or how you can support them. The staff is carrying the weight of the organizational responsibility on their shoulders. Pay them competitive salaries. Don’t let them overwork in the name of the cause. Return their phone calls and respond to their emails. Tell them what a great job they’re doing. An acknowledged, self-confident staff is a higher-performing staff.

 9. Introduce ten of your friends to your cause. See if you can get them on your organization’s bandwagon. You’re not asking them for money, you’re trying to get them to join the cause. Have an open house and invite your friends to meet your Executive Director, or take a group on a tour out to the field to show them the good work your organization is doing.

 10. Spread your organization’s viral news wherever you go. Ideas are like viruses – they are contagious, spreading from person to person. You want to create an epidemic of good buzz about your organization all around. All your friends, family and business associates need to know about your passionate involvement in your cause.

 Bottom Line:

  • Don’t be a bystander.
  • Don’t waste your time in meaningless meetings
    and committees.
  • Make your service on the board meaningful. Make
    a difference.
  • Support your staff.
  • There’s way, way too much at stake.

I challenge us all to make it happen in 2012. Let’s put our ideas into ACTION!

Best Regards.

Reprinted from Gail Perry, January 2010
© 2010, Gail Perry

Gail Perry is the author of Fired Up Fundraising: Turn Board Passion into Action and founder of Gail Perry Associates, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based consulting and training firm.

                                                         Happy New Year!

Last year Solar Oregon spent a great deal of time working on our three-year strategic plan, building and training staff, relocating to a new home, and working to ensure solar energy incentives are available for everyone in Oregon. As we look back, we’re proud of all that we accomplished, but we’re even more excited to begin the New Year.  Our organization is committed to bringing together citizens, government, business, educational groups, and sustainability advocates to help solve our energy issues and improve the quality of life in our beautiful state.

So we approach 2012 with a renewed vigor with new initiatives aimed at better supporting our mission. We intend to expand our influence and will be working with communities to provide support for a multitude of Solarize and educational programs across the entire state. We’ll also be improving our internal processes, systems and website to allow for easier access to information and improve communication for our members and residents.

Oregon is such a special and diverse place abundant with natural resources and majestically beauty. Many of us choose to live here because of this quality of life. If you made a resolution to live a more sustainable, less polluting, and healthier lifestyle this year, then Solar Oregon has plenty of opportunities for you to make a difference right away. Please contact the Solar Oregon office to inquire about how to get involved.

Join Solar Oregon today – together we can make 2012 a year of action!


Our best years are ahead of us as an organization because solar power is the
future! As leaders of Solar Oregon, we are honored to serve the organization, our members, partners and residents of Oregon. Let’s work together to make our ideas and values a reality.  Regards,

 Mac and Claire

Ron "Mac" McDowell, President

Claire Carlson, Executive Director

Mt. Hood Oregon - December 2011

The renewable energy industries are under attack and for mostly political reasons. In solar, we are even at war with ourselves as stakeholders have turned against each other, while the powers-that-be sit on the sidelines. All of this is distracting our attention at a time when we should be creating great demand to balance this (over) supply, and get us off of fossil fuels as soon as possible. I urge you to join an ASES chapter, like NorCal Solar or Solar Oregon, because they work hard to create supportive policy for solar power, educate our citizens, and drive demand into the heartland of America – only $5 a month for a membership!


El Presidente with Executive Director Claire Carlson

Dear Friends: With 2011 quickly drawing to a close, I’d like to take this opportunity to express how grateful I am to everyone who supported Solar Oregon this past year. THANK YOU! to those of you who joined as a member, volunteered at an event, or sent a donation in support of our mission.

I am thankful I belong to a community that shares the promise of solar energy and one that values sustainability, collaboration, entrepreneurship, and innovation.

Solar Oregon recently celebrated our thirty-second anniversary and no doubt this year will go down in our history as a period of significant challenge and achievement. We are proud of our accomplishments and we remain committed to being a trusted resource to our members, the general public, policymakers, advocacy groups, the media, and our professional partners.

Recently we strengthened our resolve with a newly-developed strategic plan and revised mission and values statement.

 Our Values – community, optimism, leadership, passion, results, and distributed and scalable solutions – form the core of everything we do at Solar Oregon.

Community: Solar Oregon has developed a community where Oregonians who are interested in solar energy have a voice and feel empowered to be the solution for a clean energy future. We provide a forum for sharing local perspectives, knowledge, and experience.

Optimism: Solar Oregon believes that a clean energy future is possible, and that solar will move us to a clean energy future.

Leadership: Solar Oregon leads the way for a clean energy future by demonstrating the successful use of solar energy. Through our Solar Ambassadors, community organizers, and our members, we inspire people to share their practical experience. Solar Oregon provides leadership through our depth of knowledge and connections across Oregon.

Passion: Solar Oregon loves what we do! We are a mission-oriented organization motivated by the meaningful work we do. At Solar Oregon, you will find a workplace surrounded by people who share their passion and values, motivated by the idea that there is always something new on the solar horizon.

I’ve lived and worked in Oregon about half of my life and raised my family here. I feel at peace in a place that is so green and beautiful and I’d like to keep it that way for generations to come. I feel we all have this responsibility and it is one of the main reasons I am an avid supporter of renewable energy. To my way of thinking it is a no-brainer to reduce fossil fuel consumption by utilizing a different technology to energize our homes. Solar makes that all possible.

From all of us at Solar Oregon, I wish you the merriest of holiday seasons and a happy new year. I hope to see you in 2012!

~ Ron “Mac” McDowell, President, Solar Oregon


Hey, where’s my gavel?

Posted by Mac on December 14, 2011
Posted in A Sustainable LifeSolar  | Tagged With: , | No Comments yet, please leave one

2012 Solar Oregon Board of Directors (I'm right front)

This week, I facilitated my first Solar Oregon Board meeting as President and I must say it was satisfying.  We approved the 2011 Q4 budget and took a peek at what 2012 holds. In short, there is much work to do, but I think we’ve got the strategic plan, motivation, and skill-set to meet our mission for years to come.

Following the meeting we enjoyed a board/staff party at our new headquarters in The Pearl district of Portland. It was a bonding experience and I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to spend my time with. I requested a picture of our new board of directors and this is the result [minus one member].

I wish them all a Happy Holidays … and to you too, my dear readers.

Happy Thanksgiving from Mac & Cap'n T

I’m thinking of changing the tag line of this blog to “on the path to a meaningful life”.

In an attempt to live more sustainably, I’ve morphed into someone with a better sense of purpose.

Along the way, I’ve met others just like me. Okay, I live in Portland Oregon which is a kind of lab for all things sustainable. [Would that make me a lab rat?] I also get that it isn’t so damn easy in the bread basket of America, or in the land of Dixie, but there’s a good chance the term “sustainability” will come to define the Pacific Northwest region of America.

Did you ever learn about the “Hundredth Monkey Syndrome” in high school or college? Or at a management seminar perhaps? Well, it has something to do with awareness, social learning, sweet potatoes, and Japanese monkeys on the island of Koshima.I liken this syndrome to how Americans are becoming aware of our cultural ills, especially as it relates to over-consumption and living more sustainably. I do see evidence that we’re (slowly) changing our behavior. One can see the results of what I’m talking about, if one looks for it. I’ve been (rightly) accused of being an amateur socialist, because I am looking for it, and I am learning from it, and I am doing it, and I am modeling this behavior on the blog for others to consider, follow, dispute, or whatever. I have a purpose to serve.

Call me monkey number 503.

This month marks two years that I’ve been writing this blog. It has become my conscious, my voice.

Since I started (Nov ’09) I’ve posted 167 articles. Some of the posts are quite personal, but most have to do with me trying to live more sustainably, including; my learnings, teachings, successes, and failures. I’d  suppose I’d have to put solarflareblog.com firmly in the success bucket. Working on this blog lifted my spirits and kept me going when times were hard. May sound weird, but it helped keep me focused and grounded. Yes, I’ve/we’ve had some difficult and challenging times here at naturehouse recently, but who hasn’t? That’s life. I know disappointment, but as my father used to say, ‘you gotta take the bad with the good.’

Although my blog is a journal of sorts, I rarely offer a peek too far behind the curtain. I realize that can make my content a bit too dry for some people’s taste, and it’s not like there’s a lack of this of subject matter available on the internet. It is literally everywhere. So, I feel blessed people have stopped by my blog to read something that I wrote.

Readership has grown from 25 visitors a month to over 3,000 a month (on average) – amounting to almost 40,000 post reads by 25,000 readers so far. In addition, solarflareblog.com readers are scattered across the globe.

According to my “count per day” software, the global readership top ten breaks down as

  1. USA
  2. China
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Ukraine
  5. Russian Federation
  6. Germany
  7. Canada
  8. Sweden
  9. Latvia (!)
  10. Romania

Runner-ups are France, Japan, Poland, India … and Brazil is coming on strong. That’s global, baby!

On the road in Southeast China – 2011

It never occurred to me this might happen when I set out to tell my story here in Oregon. I figured I might get a few looky-loos from outside America via the www, but I never counted on 25% of my readership coming from outside the United States! It is a small world indeed.

It makes sense about China, however, as I did visit there last Feb/March and met hundreds of people over a two-week period.  The Chinese want to live how we do here in America. The people there look to American living standards as a model for their future. [For both good and/or bad, I’m afraid.] I like that they’re reading my blog, ‘cuz if any place needs to embrace the notion of less polluting, sustainable solutions, it is China. I’m happy to see India and Brazil moving up on the list, for that matter.

In case you’re wondering … the top ten reads on this blog (in order) are:

1. A glimpse into the future                                           http://solarflareblog.com/?p=968

2. In every endeavor there is conflict                           http://solarflareblog.com/?p=929

3. Living with Solar – Winter is a time of doubt        http://solarflareblog.com/?p=1772

4. SolarCity                                                                         http://solarflareblog.com/?p=1150

5. The Landscape of My Dreams                                    http://solarflareblog.com/?p=1346

6. Put your money where your mouth is                      http://solarflareblog.com/?p=2369

7. Solarflare – News Flash  (BETC / RETC)                http://solarflareblog.com/?p=2136

8. Kevin Costner to the Rescue                                      http://solarflareblog.com/?p=871

9. DIY – Independence Day, indeed                              http://solarflareblog.com/?p=2316

10. Baby Boomer Boomerang                                         http://solarflareblog.com/?p=531

Out of this lot, the only post I’d like to edit is “In every endeavor there is conflict”. This is only because I felt I was a little too harsh in my criticism of a fellow solar advocate, Andrew Koyaanisqatsi. He had the gall to challenge the Portland Solarize campaigns and he called them unjust and some other things. I and others took exception to his point of view and his message. I’ve since gotten to know Mr. Koyaanisqatsi better and I think
he’s a good and principled man. We are both passionate about what we believe, and what we do, and that passion got the best of us. Hey, I’m Irish, what else can I say?!

Solar Beaverton Workshop presentation

My Akismet spam filter informs me it caught/ counted 4,426 messages during these two years. My assumption is the high number of visitors from the Ukraine, Russia and Romania might be responsible for this. I got nothing bad to say about those countries, but this is the result of an audit. Yep, I reviewed a sampling of the spam, and I ask you, how many fake passports, fake Gucci bags, fake Rolex watches, Ugg boats, Viagra, and porno movies does one person really need?

You know, the work to keep up a blog like this is a labor of love. However, the time and effort put into this blog has been equaled by what I’ve gotten out of it – or better. I hope you readers feel the same. Please let me know by making a comment on a post you like, or hate, or whatever. Okay?


Lovely Noriko, my “bag lady”

Over the past couple of years, I’ve had an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do whatever I wanted. Think about that! As a full-grown adult, how many of us ever have this luxury?!  It wasn’t done with smoke ‘n mirrors, it was because I devoted myself to the cause, and to my passion and objectives. Mostly, it is because of my wife, Noriko.

This blog, like everything else I’ve done, or will do, is only possible because of Noriko’s love, dedication, and generousity. Whatever I accomplish, she gets much of the credit, because I couldn’t do this without her support.

So, today, Thanksgiving Day in America, I thank God for Noriko for being my love and my life.

And … may God bless you and your family too.


 * The story of “The Hundredth Monkey” has become popular in our culture as a strategy for social change. It is also referred to “Hundredth Monkey Effect” or the “Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon.

Want to know more …  see http://www.i-change.biz/100monkey.php

“I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree.” ~ Joyce Kilmer

A storm blew through our region last night, and man, it was windy. It was the typical wet ‘n wild pacific storm track that we get in the Northwest this time of year. I do love the Fall – college football season of course – but it’s nature’s changing colors, filtered light, and the chill in the air I appreciate the most.

Southwest Arnold Street – Portland Oregon

We live on Arnold Street, a scenic place of creeks, trees, moss, wildlife, and no sidewalks. In times past, our
neighborhood was considered the woods just outside of town, although we’re just seven miles from downtown. I’ve seen data that shows Arnold Creek as the most canopied neighborhood in all of Portland.
The street itself parallels a stream that bears its name and it runs through a dense forest until it spills into Tryon Creek SP (640 acres) which is at one end of our street. The neighborhood butts up against Mountain Park, so we have elevation and hills to contend with, and our house is on a slope surrounded by tall evergreen trees of all kinds. We feel fortunate to live here, except on a day like today. In the aftermath of this storm, our neighborhood is a disaster with broken tree limbs, downed power lines, tree leaves and debris scattered everywhere.

For rooftop solar collection, this is an especially difficult time in the Pac Northwest. Trees, hills, shade, and storms are enemies of solar efficiency, but even without those things, solar resource is something we sorely lack in the Willamette Valley this time of year. Last winter I lamented and wrote a piece called Winter is a time of doubt http://solarflareblog.com/?p=1772

Our solar panels needed cleaning after the storm

It is common knowledge that when choosing a site for solar collection, one must consider sites with minimal tree coverage and free from shadowing by chimneys, dormers, power lines, structures or hills. A professional solar contractor will conduct an assessment and locate the best solar collection site on your property, but since we live in a forest-like setting, this was a difficult proposition. However, we sited our solar array in a place that allowed for over 75% total solar resource fraction (TSRF) [required by the Energy Trust of Oregon for their solar rebate program]; which is a small building in the backyard unattached from our main residence where we placed our 20 Sanyo HIT solar modules.

It’s important to keep panels gleaming for maximum electrical output. Dirty panels reduce efficiency.

Tree debris, pollution, dust, tree sap, pollen, soot and other fine particles, build up an opaque layer of grime on the panels. Even bird droppings can significantly reduce the power output by shading the silicon cells under the protective glass layer. In places where there is abundant rainfall, solar panels require relatively little cleaning or maintenance. In fact, I’ve hosed off our solar array only four times over the past two years. See Keep ‘em cleanhttp://solarflareblog.com/?p=1079.

In colder climates solar electric modules tend to self-clear snow and most dirt and grime is removed by the melting snow or rain. In the Southwest region of America, it rains so infrequently that this just isn’t an option. Besides, the desert dust mixes with the oils and dirt on the road then is picked up by the winds and deposited on residential rooftops. So, to clean requires more maintenance and in many cases a biodegradable “earth friendly” detergent is used to remove the oil-soaked grime from the panels.

I’ve never used a cleaning detergent. I simply spray off our panels with a garden hose, which takes only about six minutes from start to finish [including the time it takes to clean out the rain gutters!]

I’m careful to spray under the modules to prevent debris from accumulating as it can reduce airflow and might cause water to back up in a severe rainstorm.  I was also sure to spray the trough – the bottom side of the panel – where pine needles and grime tend to gather. I didn’t even need to use the soft brush this time.

Be careful!

Extreme caution should always be taken when on a roof or a
ladder. Consider hiring a professional service to perform regular cleaning if
your home is multiple stories, or if you cannot use a hose from a distance more
than 50 feet. Use a soft brush on a pole so that there’s no chance the panels will be damaged by any weight being placed on them. Although the tempered glass surface of a module is quite durable, it will break if you walk on it. Any crack in a tempered glass usually requires replacement of the entire module … and this is something you don’t want.

Even in paradise trees shed debris – look out for palm fronds!

Why should I clean my solar panels … I thought they’re “maintenance free”?

You paid good money for this system and you want maximum output of course. Dust, bird droppings, tree debris and the like can accumulate, thereby reducing module efficiency by 20% or more. The only maintenance most require is a semi-annual washing. For regular dust accumulations, you can simply hose the modules off, but if there’s significant accumulation of tree sap or other residue, cleaning with a sponge or squeegee, using a mild soap and water solution, may be required.

Will cleaning my solar panels invalidate my warranty?

No, just the opposite, regular maintenance of your solar panels will protect your warranty and is recommended by the manufacturer. Most solar electric (PV) modules are guaranteed for 25 years and regular cleaning will keep your warranty valid.

Is getting my solar panels cleaned by a professional expensive?

Pricing is based on the size of your system, accessibility to your solar panels, water source and power. For most residential applications the one-time cost is between $40-$60, however many solar contractors offer discounts for quarterly or monthly cleaning contracts, which is not a bad deal if you live in a dusty region of the country.

I love trees and solar power ... they are nature's gifts!


by Joyce Kilmer  (1886–1918)

 I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest, against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

 A tree that looks at God all day, and lifts her leafy arms to

 A tree that may in summer wear, a nest of robins in her

 Upon whose bosom snow has lain; who intimately lives with

 Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a