With Solar Energy, Future Can Look Bright
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
November 18, 2000
Last September during the hottest recorded temperatures in Texas history, a long-time friend called me after 10:00 p.m. complaining that her 80 year-old father's apartment electricity had gone out. She said he was having great difficulty dealing with the loss of air conditioning to his apartment. She went on to inform me that a fair number of the residents of the apartment were packed like sardines into the apartment swimming pool at that same time of night, attempting to keep somewhat cool. This apartment complex was apparently one of several that night that was experiencing a "brown-out".
Around that same time, a story appeared in the media about the incredible $4.50 per gallon gas in Great Britain and $3.50 per gallon gas in Germany and France. Another news story, the VIA fare-hike question confronting our community has centered on the significant jump in fuel prices. And, on Sunday, September 17, 2000, the Express-News lead editorial entitled "Foreign oil not just harmless addiction". Nothing could be truer than the present state of our addiction to foreign oil.
America is presently experiencing somewhat of a "golden age", the greatest economic expansion in either peace or war time and is itself at peace. So there is no better time than the present to challenge ourselves and strengthen our country, starting with our individual actions and then of course, with our local governmental decisions. If we heed the signs and take appropriate action, we can have lower prices at the pump and strengthen our country for the long-term.
What I have heard in listening and talking to energy experts is that over one-half of this country's energy is imported from foreign sources. Our great State of Texas, known for Spindletop and for its oil, imports one-third of its energy. If we do not change our current situation, in forty years, we will import 80% of our energy in Texas. Yet today, Texas is the largest recipient of solar energy and the State least using it.
You will be pleased to know that several local efforts are being made that represent a humble, but very noble and visionary beginning. Solar San Antonio, Inc., lead by visionary civic leader Bill Sinkin, is conducting educational symposia on numerous aspects of renewable energy with some emphasis on solar energy. Solar San Antonio may be reached at 354-0236.
In addition, your County plans to install the largest solar thermal (hot water) installation in the world to date, at the Bexar County Detention Center! This particular project is designed to house 2,000 inmates. The solar thermal system will provide hot water for showers, laundry, kitchen facilities and cleaning at the Center. It will also pay for itself too, in just under five years!
And, for those in doubt about the effectiveness of this technology, please note that the manufacturer of the Detention solar thermal system has installed a 5,000-gallon system for the Santa Rosa Hospital. This design achieved worldwide recognition for cost effectiveness and maintenance-free performance. Yet another manufacturer has installed a solar hot water and electricity system on a home on Iowa Street and the preliminary results reflect a striking result. The solar hot water system is carrying nearly all the hot water demands of the household and the photo voltaic (electricity) solar system has cut the electricity bill by 88%!
All of this serves to emphasize that everyone can be benefited as we take our rightful role in the big picture of energy conservation. Ultimately each of us cannot much affect the long-term prospects for our country unless we think globally and act locally. No matter how difficult it is to change our habits, we should reflect on a situation that occurred in World War II due to a lack of energy.
Author Daniel Yergin recounts the relevant story in his Pulitzer Prize winning book entitled "The Prize". He says, "...to many around Hitler, the impending disaster (in 1945) resulting from the Nazi fantasies and savagery had been apparent for months. On a night journey to the struggling remnants of Germany's Tenth Army in Italy, Albert Speer had seen before him a clear vision of one of the primary reasons why the Reich that was to last for a thousand years had, in fact, only weeks to go. For on that trip, he had encountered 150 German Army trucks. To each were hitched four oxen, which were dragging the trucks forward. It was the only way the vehicles could move. They had no fuel."
Let us all work to ensure that this is never the fate of America. A nation with discipline and vision will endure!