Day 139, 147: Arizona Solar: Making the most of your Assets

First i have to say a huge thank you to Ben’s Dad for putting us up for a whopping 9 days in Arizona over Thanksgiving. We were so overdue for actual downtime that we sucked up the comforts of home like we were moving in. And secondly, I have to thank him for setting up our entire Arizona interview schedule. It was amazing, we were able to focus on all the other things…

We got to visit a really cool school called Starshine Academy which is going out of its way to be sustainable – they even have a garden and a compost out back! Mark gave his final two Inconvenient Truth presentations there and we had a lot of fun fielding questions after. One of the teachers, Lesley, has already informed us of the changes being made since YERT arrived, and several of the students have emailed us to say that they are accepting challenges: one is walking to school this week, one is changing the household’s lightbulbs to CFLs. Go, Kids!

Next we visited Debra Bills and Jeff Humphrey at the Dept of Fish and Wildlife who told us a bit about some of Arizona’s endangered species and how we are ALL fighting for the water…We learned that most California Condors are killed from eating carrion that has been shot with lead. I didn’t even know that they still made lead bullets – but the fact is that they do, and they are cheap, and it seems hunters don’t think much bout the face that they are filling their target full of lead (even though in some cases their kids will be eating it – Shot doesn’t stay in one place). Copper bullets are a bit more expensive but really.

Then came APS Solar – That’s Arizona Public Service to you and me, and they are doing all they can to capitalize on that great ball of fire in the sky that shines so frequently there. Dan Lonetti showed us around the man facility where all the different kinds of solar panels are being tried and tested, and Steven Gottfried took us down to the Saguaro Plant to see the Solar Troughs! (These are particularly cool as they do not need any of the expensive materials required for solar panels – they are designed with mirrors to focus the sun onto a clear tube filled with a gel that heats up mightily and, well, makes a lot of energy. Steven also introduced us to Flat Stanley (if you don’t know who this is, find a gradeschooler…) and we took our opportunity to interview him as well…he seemed a little 2-dimensional…

I opted to stay home one day while the boys went and interviewed Anthony Floyd (Scottsdale Green building Program Manager). I can’t tell you much about that interview so we’ll all have to stay tuned for the video on that one. I did accompany the boys to AKA Green however, a local home improvement store run by Michael Dalrymple. michael told us that they even had a super-sensitive human come walk around to detect any possible chemical off-gassing that may be coming from the store. It’s how they discovered that the “100% Natural Soy” Carpet Glue Remover contained some kind of chorylmethylflourocarbonsomething (please don’t quote me on that). Talk about new green jobs.

Did I mention that Thanksgiving was wonderful? And that we got to go trail riding in the Arizona desert too? Bliss. My horse was named Stomp and he was a treat. I was sore for days afterward and I couldn’t have cared less…and i slept right in the middle of the day sometimes after yet another delicious leftover turkey sandwich.

On our way out of AZ, we stopped at the super eco house of a guy named Jack Ehrhardt, a green builder and contractor who is doing his darndest to make sure that houses going up are going up smart. Jack also consults for the Hualapai tribe and drove us to the west side of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to see some of the solar the Native Americans have powering the airport and tourist center up there. We liked what we saw, and what a great way to end our Arizona leg, gazing down into that amazing wonderfully GIANT crevasse and being reminded of just how small we are…and simultaneously stunned and dismayed by the idea that we have been able to make such an impact on our own living system in such a short time.

Arizona may have a whole lot of people using not alot of water but they got one thing right: using the endless desert sun as the valuable resource that it is. Now let’s see if we can’t get some more wind power in Kansas…

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