Semi OT: Solar Ypsi

Sometimes you know what your friends and acquaintances are up to … and sometimes you see them in adverts for Google search

Here’s the advert:

Its semi-OT as the person, Dave Strenski, is also an HPC hand of quite a stretch at Cray, and has been a colleague of mine during our SGI/Cray days. He was one of the reasons I thought Cray had some of simply the best technical people anywhere. An absolute joy to work with.

Dave is a denizen of the Ypsilanti area. For those who aren’t aware of the geography, Canton, where we are, is adjacent to Ypsilanti.

Ypsilanti is a nice town. I’ve always liked it. Its home to Eastern Michigan University, and a number of other things. Like the rest of Michigan, as the economy structurally transforms away from a manufacturing base, Michigan as a state, and Ypsilanti, among many other towns and cities in the state, has been decimated.

I won’t go into a discussion of failed economic policies employed in the state, or willful neglect, or politicians and others holding fingers up to their ears and saying “la-la-la”. Like it or not, the economy here has cratered. Ypsi’s been hard hit.

Readers of this blog may remember me posting about the ruins of Detroit. Yeah. Its like that. Driving through and around the area can wreak havoc on a person. Entrepreneurs are supposed to have optimistic outlooks, to look on the sunny side of things as it were. Sometimes its hard to do that here.

Why this is relevant … well, where there are issues, there are opportunities to do something. To make a difference. To take risks, to build something. To inspire others.

An entrepreneur would see opportunity in this scenario. The private citizen might look at how to do something positive for their community, by committing their time and resources to make this better. Motives of economic profit or community uplift are quite similar. Both are seeking a “reward” for their efforts and investment. In the case of the entrepreneur, the reward is often limited to the owners of the company. In the case of the private citizen, everyone wins when they win.

The important aspect of this is that the amount saved has to be larger than the cost of the project, in order for it to pay for itself. To break even. To make a “profit” by reducing expenditure beyond the net cost of the infrastructure and its continuing operation.

Dave’s and his fellow citizen’s work at Solar Ypsi is starting small, but it is repeatable. His efforts to make a difference in Ypsilanti; to help make a better and “sustainable” community, are not just laudable … they are working.

Imagine, every community working on something like this in a massively parallel manner. Taking their own citizen initiatives, and leveraging similar hardware and software stacks (I haven’t asked but I am imagining that the code and design/plans are open source). That’s not simply making a difference, that’s potentially lowering energy consumption at a noticeable scale across the nation. Which has (without stretching too far) potential energy policy considerations.

Imagine, not depending upon a region that really doesn’t like us very much, as much, for a product that has been used as a weapon against us in the past (1973-ish … I remember the gas lines and rationing).

All it takes to get there is a good idea, a working implementation. And people like Dave working hard to make stuff better.

While I am not a fan of AGW (actually quite skeptical of it for many reasons, but things like this put everything nicely in perspective ), I am very much a fan of power efficient computing, conservation (of a nature that doesn’t cost more than it saves). That is, I see great value in consuming less power, and generating power in as a cost efficient manner as possible.

I’ve heard arguments both ways about solar cells. I don’t know if the project is yet at or past break even. As long as the operational costs are at or nearly zero, eventually, given enough time, the system will break even and move past that. This implies automation and many other things.

That is, given sufficient time, and a continuous improvement in quality and lowering of manufacturing cost and acquisition cost of solar cells, eventually, these projects will be profitable. Some may be damaged via weather or failures, or what not else. But, hopefully, a majority will succeed.

This is exactly what Michigan needs.

That and lots more people like Dave, who take risks to do something good. We need more Daves. Definitely.

And I have to make sure I ask more of my friends and acquaintances what they are up to. I am sure he told me something about this at some point, and it slipped my mind.

Have a look at the video as well. That’s Dave talking about it. Its very cool.

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