Sustainability and Winglets

Electric vehicles and comfortable healthy homes are just part of the puzzle to live sustainably.  The puzzle is complex, and if it isn’t put together properly, the desired result may not be what is needed.

How much energy is needed per person?  My estimate is 5000 to 7000kWh of energy per year for your daily living (household operation) and transportation (~10,000miles per person per year) as we move toward efficient homes and vehicles.

This is about $600 to $900 worth of energy per person per year at today’s solar energy cost.  Some regions need more (Alaska) and some less (California).  You can think of this as about 300 to 400 sqft of solar collection surface area per person.  The installed cost is about $50 per sqft for the solar system, for an upfront cost of $15,000 to $20,000.  That’s about $5 to 6 trillion to completely solar power everyone in the US, which is a small fraction of the projected national debt, and about the amount it costs to wage war for a decade or so to protect the oil industry’s interest.

Reaching a self-sustaining way of life is complex, and solving that puzzle is our challenge.  It is common sense that an unsustainable way of life is, well, unsustainable.

What we can’t predict is when or how the implications of our unsustainable ways will make itself known.  Will it manifest itself through the unsustainable buildup of wastes that pollute and alter the environment we need for living?  Or will it be a dwindling resource we developed an essential reliance on?  Will the difficulties occur in 1 year or 1000 years?

What we can predict is our failure if we do not maintain a sustained effort over whatever time it takes.  Championship teams are the ones who maintain a sustained effort for the whole game, not the final inning or minute of play.  Losers think they can make up for a lack of effort with a spurt of activity at the end.

Here’s a small piece of the puzzle.  Ever wonder about the “winglets” that have been appearing on the tips of airplane wings?  According to WOE (Winning the Oil Endgame), these pieces improve a plane’s aerodynamics and reduce its fuel consumption by 3 to 4%.  The installed cost of a pair of winglets is about $700,000 (think employment), and the lifetime fuel savings is about $800,000 (think avoided oil cost…a large fraction of which is exported to people who don’t care for you very much).

Notice the rich Illinois farmland on the ground below the plane.  As written over the main portal to Davenport Hall on the University of Illlinois campus: “The wealth of Illinois is in her soil and her strength lies in its intelligent development” by Draper.