Author: Scott Blessley

The Future is Sunny

The Future is Sunny

The Lovely Misses and I have been together in Arizona for maybe a month now. While apart (I was living in Vancouver BC meeting the residency requirement for Canadian citizenship; she’s less keen on winter drizzle), we schemed about things we’d like to do with the Arizona house. One of those decisions was to get solar photovoltaics installed. This is quite popular in the southwest, because we have no shortage of sunshine, and electric bills can be quite high due to air conditioning needs.

As a result, there are lots of solar installers, even if you just choose from the cream of the crop, there are still lots of solar installers. There are tax credits from the state and federal governments that are currently scheduled to expire.

We’ve got the interest, we’ve got the funds, and we’ve got the sun.

It was straightforward to get companies to visit and give us quotes, and since we had already “separated the wheat from the chaff” in terms of reputable companies, they all provided quality quotes, most within a day or two. The quotes ranged from about $10,000 to about $15,000, which sounds like a ton of money (OK, it is) – but there are a number of benefits (not the least of which is free electricity):

  • The purchase is not subject to Arizona sales tax
  • There’s a 30% federal tax credit and a State of Arizona credit too (we don’t pay much in the way of AZ taxes, however).
  • The electric company (Tucson Electric Power or “TEP”) pays the consumer for power we generate. They don’t pay nearly what we pay them for that same kilowatt hour, but it’s better than nothing.
  • The resale value of the house increases by more than the cost of the equipment and installation.
  • While they’re doing the electrical work for the solar, they’ll install the outlet we’ll eventually need for a hybrid/electric car. Two birds, one stone.

Here’s the gory details with some translation for the non-technical:

We bought a 4.77Kwh* PV (photovoltaic) system, using Kyocera cells (18 panels) and a SolarEdge Inverter with its “power optimizers”. In contrast to the traditional “string inverters” which arrange panels in series with performance limited to the lowest performer in the string, this has localized devices that manage each panel. This makes the inverter simpler and gives us performance information via web for each panel . The cell performance is guaranteed to 93% of its original performance (265W/cell) for 25 years. The inverter is warranted for 12 years, which is considered its average lifespan.

*The kilowatt-hour … is a unit of energy equivalent to one kilowatt (1 kW) of power sustained for one hour.  — Wikipedia

The system is over-configured – our average use is only about 60% of an average customer, because we’re both in British Columbia during the summer when temps here are in the high 30s (Celsius) (near 100F). The payback for the initial system (3.6kwh) was about 8 years, but we decided to provision it for the possibility that we (or renters) would be cooling during the summers (we usually set out thermostat at it’s highest setting – about 90F / 32C).

So what happens now that we’ve written the check?

  1. The Installer sends out people to do a site survey
  2. They contact our HOA (Homeowner Association) for permission to do the installation (it’s a formality)
  3. They do the install probably toward the end of January 2016 (2 months from now)
  4. The town approves the work
  5. We pay the installer the balance of the cost
  6. The electric company hooks the system up to the electrical grid
  7. We start generating electricity and make the electric meter spin backwards!

Watch this space.

For the technically-inclined, here are the quote/configuration, and manufacturers’ information.

Download (PDF, 880KB)

Download (PDF, 212KB)

Download (PDF, 319KB)

Download (PDF, 176KB)

Download (PDF, 101KB)

Now, we Wait – Citizenship Watch

Now, we Wait – Citizenship Watch

Oh, Canada. After over 11 years living in Vancouver BC (on and off, with a significant “on” during the last 4 years), I’ve (Scott) finally met the residency requirements to apply for Canadian citizenship. It’s a proud moment. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate the differences between Canadians and Americans – whether personalities, knowledge of events outside the country, politics – all are different than I would have expected.

Canada is not perfect; I don’t know any country that is – and I’ve been to over a hundred of ’em. But British Columbia has such charms that I miss it the day I step foot away.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada say 2 to 3 years (update: 12 months or less!) for processing. So with hope, I’ll get the call sometime before Summer 2016.

The Climes They are a changin’

The Climes They are a changin’

Hello Readers (both of you :-),

As usual, an apology for not keeping you abreast of what we’ve been up to. I (Scott) tend to think that it’s because we’re not up to anything interesting, but Kathy (in particular) has a new passion which is keeping her busy and mentally engaged, and I thought I’d write a bit about it. She’s been working pro bono on climate change projects in conjunction with Anthros Consulting, which has brought her variously to the Adirondack region of New York, the British Virgin Islands, Palm Springs California, and the recent culmination of one project has had her spending a bunch of time in downtown Tucson – a half hour or so from our Oro Valley, Arizona home. She’s been hobnobbing with many of the country’s premier Climate Scientists. It’s been an awesome experience for her and I am enjoying it vicariously.

I don’t entirely understand the breadth of what she’s up to, but I know this: it is captivating for her. We’re apart at the moment (I’m in British Columbia, she’s in Arizona) but to hear her talk about the work and how gratifying it is for her warms my heart, and brings us closer despite the geographical distance between us. Maybe this short post will give her the incentive to write more.

St Petersburg, FL to Orlando

St Petersburg, FL to Orlando

Posts in this series
  1. US Road Trip 2014 - Arizona to Florida... and Caribbean
  2. St Petersburg, FL to Orlando
  3. Orlando and South

December 2014
2-1-2015 3-49-58 PMMy drive from Arizona to South Florida was an estimated 2583 miles (4156km) one way, and naturally some legs are going to be longer than others. A while back, I’d made arrangements to stay with a guy I worked for during my first job (I suppose technically it was my 2nd job – but with the same employer). We’ve been in touch over the years since we each left the company (Digital Equipment) and I knew he was somewhere in Florida. Unfortunately, while there was no error or ambiguity on his part, I had apparently mistaken one Florida town for another. Result? After a night on the town (read: “hangover”), I ended up at 7am and having to drive from New Orleans to St. Petersburg, Florida – almost 700 miles / 1125km. With traffic and a couple of stops it was over 11 hours in the car.

(photo by Bob)
(photo by Bob)

Well, it was worth it. Bob and I are both older by more than 3 decades; I’m mostly bald and while he’s got a full head of hair, it’s pretty much silver. I remember Bob as being thin going on gaunt; he isn’t any more but is an avid bicyclist and looks great. His wit and humor have survived the test of time – and the complete loss of his house to fire just a few weeks prior to my showing up. He’s got a great bunch of kids and entertaining pets too.

Here are a few “creative commons” photos – I didn’t take any while I was there (arrived late, left relatively early)

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US Road Trip 2014 – Arizona to Florida… and Caribbean

US Road Trip 2014 – Arizona to Florida… and Caribbean

Free, for the moment, from the need to reside in Canada full time, after returning to our house in Tucson, Arizona, I’ve started on a road trip of about 4800 miles / 7700km.

road-trip-2014-ov-fl

There’s something “zen” about long distance, solo driving for me (Scott) and this trip is no exception. The route is Tucson, Arizona to Lubbock, TX, on to friends in East Texas, a couple of days to party in New Orleans, a visit with a colleague from long ago in St. Petersburg, FL, rendezvous with Kathy in Orlando and a couple of days at Disney, then on to the Florida Keys where Kathy’s dad has a house. And that’s just half way – we still have to drive back to Tucson.

The trip has been long but cathartic. I had initial trepidation: had been “torn” from the comfort of my urban lifestyle in British Columbia to our lovely if relatively (compared to Vancouver) “rural” Arizona home, then after just a few days, starting a road trip, mostly solo eastbound, with no pre-identified time or route back.

Our trusty-steed, a 2007 bright red Toyota RAV4 is much easier to spot in a big, unfamiliar parking lot, and eminently more practical for long distance touring than a dark blue BMW. Much as I miss the bimmer, our little SUV is the right vehicle for us now (much as I remain nostalgic over the Teutonic precision). Anyway… as I write I’m in New Orleans Louisiana at a bed & breakfast outside the din of the French Quarter in the adjacent Faubourg-Maringy neighborhood. Its quiet-ish and you can park a car – both safely and for free. Neither of those is an option “in The Quarter”.

But once en route, armed with trail mix, tortilla chips, a surfeit of pop/soda and enough audiobooks to get us to the at least Argentina (hypothetically), plus our 3rd generation of “Priscilla” (our GPS), I didn’t even need a rendition of “On the Road Again” to experience the joy of The Road Trip.

Lubbock

The first stop was Lubbock, Texas – my first experience with a couchsurfing host, and I picked a great one. I’ll skip the details, but “a good time was had by all”.

Second stop was Gladewater, Texas, a town rural enough that many Texans haven’t heard of it. But it is home to decades-long friends – we’ve seen their kids grown into adulthood, experiencing some of their growing pains (and their parents’) vicariously. They’ve all turned out well, and two out of the three find themselves back in Gladewater. The visit was short but sweet – just two nights – and the next, about 400 miles across Texas and Louisiana, I find myself in…

New Orleans

I’ve been here many times – perhaps a dozen times. The city is at the same time dynamic and invariant: on one block are scenes I remember from being here in the 1990s, yet others have changed completely. Case in point North Rampart street; when I was first coming to N.O. I was admonished not set foot there particularly a night. Walking along it today towards Armstrong Park, I noticed the signs for “luxury condos”. At the same time, New Orleans institutions – Cafe du Monde; many of the French Quarter joints – are frozen in time.

As I age (I am 57 + 11/12ths as I write this), my reasons for coming to New Orleans shift. A decade ago (still not exactly a youngster) I was attracted to the French Quarter “scene”, the drunken adolescent revelry I never really experienced as an adolescent, as if I could somehow reclaim that period of my life vicariously. Now it is more nostalgic: old haunts whether visited or not; restaurants that I associate with some long-ago pleasant memory. I guess it doesn’t really matter why I return, only that it is enjoyable and… harmless. I was about to stop at an old-favorite bar but I was a bit hungry. I asked for recommendations and they suggested a place with which I was already familiar. After a tasty burger there I’d lost the motivation to hang out a bar, and headed back to my comfy bed. The previous night’s Bacchanal might have contributed to that decision. Perhaps I DO learn from my excesses.

the-renewed-covenant-houseI did a couple of different things (from past visits) in New Orleans. First, I went on a long rectangular walk from the Faubourg-Maringy neighborhood where I was staying, out to Armstrong Park (which is lovely), down to the CBD (Central Business District) – and along the way I stumbled upon Covenant House (I volunteer with them in Vancouver). We chatted for a while, comparing the needs and offerings between the two “chapters”. Vancouver (to my knowledge) doesn’t do anything special for the change in weather: New Orleans has special programs for when the weather is freezing – uncommon there but dangerous. Otherwise, the programs themselves and the clientele are about the same. It was an interesting happenstance. Along the way back to my B&B, I had a “Ferdi Special” at old favorite “Mothers” in the CBD. Costs more, but still delightful. That evening I met up with a fellow (Vancouver) volunteer – Sofia – and her husband — we’d been working together and discovered we’d both be in New Orleans at the same time. Remarkable coincidence (and nice to have company).

Next: Bob Hessinger after 30 years, a meet with The Mouse, and holidays in the Keys. Watch this space.

In the Clouds: Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park

In the Clouds: Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park

Aug 17 – 21 2014. It has been a less than stellar summer. For a number of reasons, the two of us have been apart for longer than usual (Scott’s mom was in a stead decline and ultimately passed away, in late July). So despite Scott having been in Canada since January, this was our first true “getaway” together this year. Fortunately, it was splendid. Restorative.

Along with our wonderful friends Blake & Libby (whom we first met in South India [no they’re not Indian, they’re Vancouver natives of Irish ancestry actually]), we set off to the Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park, about 4 hours drive from Vancouver. But that’s just the start of the trip.

We were staying at Cathedral Lakes Lodge at some 2000m/6800′ of elevation – and you have to get there. Well, you can hike up for free… but it’s not an easy climb. So most of the guests at Cathedral Lakes got there over a 14km/9 mile harrowing drive by a remarkably-skilled youngster (17?) who grew up on logging roads. A little math (about 6000′ over 9 miles) gives you a sense for the pitch of the road, but not its  quality. The quality, we’re told, was exceptionally good (until the day after we left, when there were torrential rains…). Luck us. The drive up takes an hour. That’s 9 miles/hr (14km/hr).

But… it’s worth it. Unspoiled stunning views. Great hiking, good food. Excellent company. Recommended. Have a look:

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Here’s the neighbourhood:

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Scott’s Mom

Scott’s Mom

Mom-2003
Joyce Larko, circa 2003

Mom passed away in her sleep this morning, July 20, 2014, after a prolonged illness. She was under in-home hospice care, and was kept comfortable for her final days. She did not suffer, and family was by her side.

She was 84.

When she shall die,
Take her and cut her out in little stars,
And she will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.

― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet