About stilwater

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So far stilwater has created 9 blog entries.

The Solar Life

We have a tendency to overdo things based on spurious reasoning.  Examples: “I had a really light breakfast, and hardly any lunch, so this enormous plate of midnight nachos washed down with a half-gallon flagon of ale seems a reasonable daily intake.” “I stretched pretty well during the warm-up; I see no reason why I can’t mirror the activities of the professional athletes who delighted me on SportsCenter last night.”  It’s only in the E.R. while explaining our antics to a puzzled orthopedic surgeon that we see things more prudently. “I think I have a pretty good base tan; I’ll stay out on the beach from dawn to dusk in only a doily covered with Coppertone (the brown bottle).” While meals [...]


The Skinny on Solar String Inverters and Microinverters

I drove a ’78 Corolla to high school my senior year. That car had a carburetor- and with the use of that term, I’ve risked estrangement from all six of our subscribers born after 1980, who have no need or wish to know what a carburetor is or does. I could change the oil in the Corolla, replace the brakes, spark plugs, and even remove the carburetor, clean it, and replace it, all the while fancying myself quite the gear-head...until I got around guys that really knew cars, talking about overhead cams and glass packs and tossing about automotive jargon that I was certain they were making up on the spot to torment me. Sort of the conversational equivalent of [...]


CarGo Solar

As early as 1769, a French guy named Nicholas Cugnot (let’s call him ‘Lugnut’ since we’ll probably pronounce his name wrong given the Frenchies’ propensity for superfluous consonants) designed, built, and drove a car. He called it fardier à vapeur…basically, ‘vapor cart.’ It was steam-powered, which you’ve probably deduced by now. Research indicates that Lugnut crashed it, too. First car, first car wreck. A replica of Lugnut’s ride can still be seen at The National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts in Paris, even though he lost his pension from Louis the Umpteenth and had to run to Belgium when the French Revolution started. He spent most of the rest of his life poor, until Napoleon invited him to come back [...]


How Germany Is Killing It in Solar, and What the U.S. Needs to Do to Catch Up

Look What Thag Do Recall ‘The Far Side’ panel where a group of cavemen sit holding pieces of meat in the fire, squirming in pain as their hands are burnt along with their dinner?  Meanwhile, a fellow Neanderthal sits at a comfortable distance from the flames, holding a stick while his tri-tip roasts on the other end.  One of the group notices this and remarks, “Look what Thag do.”  Until today, whenever I see someone doing something more intelligently than I’ve been doing it (almost daily, if you must know), instinctively I still remark, “Look what Thag do” as an acknowledgment. In 1810, the southeast German state of Bavaria came up with Oktoberfest, and in 1917, BMW.  Any people capable [...]


The Original Silicon Valley- Part II

In our ‘Earth Sciences for Dummies BY a Dummy’ segment last week, we didn’t merely step across the threshold of simplification to infantile…we long-jumped.  The point was proffered that silicon, a primary component of semiconductors, is basically sand.  Super fancy stuff is made out of dirt.  It was meant to make you go “Hmmm.” Semiconductors help form the basis of modern electronics, one of the more astonishing features of which is cool toys.  Your phone performs functions that border on miraculous, no matter how nonchalant we act about it.  In reading various definitions of semiconductors that elude my grasp, it seems safe to say that part of their appeal lies in the fact that they carry electrical current really fast [...]


The Original Silicon Valley

San Francisco’s South Bay- Many of the world’s phattest (I’m including East Bay here) tech corporations & most intriguing startups are right here.  One third of all venture capital investors in the US come here to prospect, if Wikipedia is to be trusted on such stats.  First the Gold Rush, now the Cash Rush…or should we say Sand Rush?  Let’s come back to that. The term ‘Silicon Valley’ as a designation for what goes on in South Bay evidently first appeared in 1971 in an electronics trade newspaper.  That means that 40 years from now, something I blah-blah-blog about might be relevant…or at least catchy.  It also means that some stuff called ‘silicon’ must figure prominently in the technological revolution [...]


CSI – Not Miami

CSI - Not Crime Scene Investigation, although our puzzled scrutiny of stabbing, forensically complex utility bills every month might well qualify.  Indeed, paying the monthly electricity tab is akin to getting mugged.  The mob boss stays at large and gets larger, with only three initials… P, G, and E, written in sweat from our own brow and left behind as clues.  Queue ominous music. CSI for today’s purpose stands for California Solar Initiative, a state program whereby the governor gives people money to install solar energy systems on their homes (money not used to educate and feed secret children- talk about living off the grid!). Until 2005, the cost of material, labor, permitting, etc., for installing residential solar was still a bit [...]


Don’t Fear the Solar

There’s a British website called Dentalphobia, which is funny for a couple of reasons: 1) That people are frightened enough of getting their teeth fixed that a website dedicated to overcoming that fear can fluoride, I mean flourish, and 2) That the site is UK-based, given the ‘Brits-have-bad-teeth’ stereotype, suggesting that they tend to put off going to the dentist longer than the average human, which is neither healthy nor aesthetically prudent. Cruel clichés aside, having a stranger digging around inside our face with sharp metal objects is not a nice prospect for even the most valiant of us. It was then, a stroke of genius on someone’s part some years ago to coin the phrase ‘gentle dentistry,’ a term [...]


Solar Price-Check on Aisle One!

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to solar power. Each customer’s energy usage needs are individual and require analysis. So, when people ask, “Can’t you just give me a ballpark figure?” we would prefer to give you an accurate answer to your question than just one off the top of our heads. Consider this: how much does a meal cost? Before you can answer that question, there are several determining factors to consider, such as:  Are you driving through a fast-food restaurant? Going to a sit-down, fancy hotel? Or will you be cooking at home? As you can see, the question can only be answered accurately once important details are considered. Electricity and food consumption vary in similar ways. A family in a 2,000 [...]