Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Summer Solstice Ritual - Washing Our Solar Panels

I started this blog with the resolution that I made during our winter solstice celebration. In the dark of winter, we cheer the turning of the wheel and recite litanies about the light returning. At this latitude, we still get plenty of sunlight even at the winter solstice. But now it's the summer solstice and we have the most sunshine we'll see in any day of the year. This year it is extremely hot and dry and fires have been ravaging Santa Cruz County during the past month.

So in this heat, a record 103 yesterday in San Jose and 104 expected today, we don't have much ambition to gather in circle and chant bring back the dark. We did have a few toasts over dinner and finally emerged from our relatively cool shelter about 8PM to take in the new play at Northside Theater Company, that has been a part of our family's lives for the past 25 years. Chrysalis, my daughter, spent over a decade there, from age 10, where she began applying her acting, directing and makeup skills, leading to her career in face and body painting. This year it's been Nick's home-away-from-home as he practices theater tech and occasionally finds himself on stage as one of the actors.

The play we saw last night , Picasso at the Lapin Agile, was a light comedy featuring a fictitious meeting of Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein in a French bar at the turn of the 20th century. A fun debate ensues over whether it is art or science that are the life changing forces that mold the future. But it is love and passion that drives both the scientist and the artist. Albert Einstein is my hero. I once had a favorite hat with his image embroidered above the bill. For it was Einstein that first discovered the photon and ultimately gave birth to science that developed the solar voltaic panels that now power my house.

People ask me how I like my solar panels. My first response was that it makes me feel like a tree- not me exactly, but having my home, which is like my turtle shell, especially in very hot or cold rainy days and nights, heated and cooled with power from my solar panels. The panels just sit on my roof and quietly and efficiently generate about half the electricity that we use throughout the year. Of course, our panels are constructed with doped silicon sheets and not chlorophyll.

I am also asked about maintenance of the panels. This involves about 20 minutes a year of my time, a long handled soft brush attached to a garden hose and about 100 gallons of water. Washing the panels at midsummer (which is the summer solstice, marking the day when the days begin to shorten, even if it continues to get hotter in general as the sun heats the northern hemisphere through the next three months) may become my ritual for the longest day of the year. It's a great way to celebrate this wonderful technology that has so much potential for the future.

Blessed Be and Never Thirst!

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