April, 2009

Alabama Solar Association (ASA) P.O. Box 143, Huntsville, Alabama  35804


Established to Promote the Use of Our Sun’s Renewable Energy to Preserve Our Environment


How will we move people and goods in the future?  See the President’s Corner below.


Inside this issue:

Are we there yet?

Drive on wood chips

Human power—tried and true

Welcome to a new member

Kid’s Page—Transportation Independence

Kids’ Page—Energy History

What goes great with bio-fuels?

Solar Happenings,

Calendar of Events

Solarites—the professionals that make your energy projects happen


Are we there yet?




Some of you have heard my tongue-in cheek prediction of some future time when our air is clean, gasoline costs more than $25 per gallon, most folks ride bicycles to work, an electric tram network serves our city, and magnetic-levitating trains cross Alabama at more than 300 MPH.


Could this come true?  Could gasoline costs rise to twenty bucks more than last year’s high?  Even then, would Americans abandon their precious personal vehicles for human power and public transit?


One thing is for sure, we are running out of petroleum.  We are using oil at ever increasing rates and no more is being produced.  Something has to change.  We can no longer afford an attitude of business as usual.


The transportation industry around the world is evolving.  How we use energy, technology, and the infrastructure upon which we operate, will transform how we move people and goods in this century.


One group, The Global Green Initiative, will hold a three-day seminar in Memphis, Tennessee, April 20th through the 22nd.  The international industry, government, and academic leaders hope to provide “bright lights of opportunity in a world shaken by economic crisis.”  They are seeking the best ways to implement “green transportation”.


The FedEx Institute, located on the University of Memphis campus, will host the three-day event.  They want to consider the current trends and technologies in alternative energy for powering transport vehicles and consult the finance community on investment in green technology.  They are seeking to provide a roadmap for future success.


The 25 x ’25 vision seeks 25 percent renewable energy by 2025 (www.25x25.org)


Are we there yet?  No, but the conference in Memphis is a step in the right direction.


Drive on Wood chips




It looked like a scene from the sci-fi movie Back to the Future.  Alabama farmer and inventor Wayne Keith opened a hopper atop a barrel in his truck and poured in a small bag of wood chips.  Al Orillion and I watched as he explained that this fuel would carry his truck 80 miles down the Interstate.  “I haven’t bought a gallon of gas in three years,” he claimed.


So how strange is this vehicle?  Under the hood, it looks amazingly like any other farm truck, give or take a few wires and tubes.  Even the truck bed looks normal, except for the two old oil drums and some connecting piping.


Is this the future of travel in Alabama?  Two-thirds of our state is covered in pine forests.


How many miles to the cord does this thing get?



Human Power—tried and true




Know why we have paved roads in America?  Because back in the ‘90’s, a powerful group of transportation advocates complained about the difficulty of navigating dirt thoroughfares and lobbied the government to fix the problem.


Oh, that was the 1890’s, and the advocates were cyclists.  Before the automobile began polluting our air, bicycles were “King of the Road,” at least for those travelers who wanted the independence of personal wheeled transportation.


The bicycle has changed over the years, but many people still find it a flexible and reliable way to commute.  Auburn University was choking on cars when I attended there back in the 1960’s.  By the new century, the problem was so bad that officials set the goal of increasing bicycle commuting from 5% to 12% by 2010.


Lauren Lewis has cut her commute to campus in half, just by cycling.  The junior agricultural economics major from Haines City, Florida, makes the 1.5-mile ride under human power in 15 minutes; by car, including time spent searching for a parking spot, the trip takes a good half hour.  She saves even more time by combining exercise with commuting.


I had a similar experience in Germany in 1981.  I was one of six majors on temporary duty sharing an Army van.  I saw a bicycle on sale at the Post Exchange, bought it, and had independent transportation from our hotel to our office eight kilometers away.  While the other five walked almost a mile from their parking place, I cycled right to the front door and was in the snack bar when my co-workers arrived.  I used my bicycle in combination with Germany’s excellent public transportation system from 1983 until 1990, when I was assigned there.


From Germany I moved to Kwajalein, a Mid-Pacific missile range.  Private cars were not allowed, so the choice was cycle or walk.  I cycled everywhere I went.


When we moved back to Huntsville, Alabama, we only owned one car.  I committed to full-time bicycling.  I saved over $7,000 per year.  I even went on many 400 mile bicycle vacations for the next 11 years.


The Alabama Bicycle Coalition (www.AlaBike.org) is helping to make cycling a safe, convenient, and economical form of travel again.


And the Auburn cycling goal for 2010?  They met it in 2008.


Candy bars as an energy source, anyone?                                                                                                                                                        Morton


Hello Everyone, welcome to a new member





None of you know me yet.  But, I think that will change soon enough.  I have just recently volunteered to become the Newsletter Editor for the Sundial.  I am a native Alabamian who is about to return home for good.  I have been an instructor for the Army for these last few years.  I have a range of experience.  From writing to shooting, you-name-it, I have either heard of it or done it.  I have a motto that is easy to follow, “If you don’t agree with the idea, then be able to present a better idea.”  What can you think of to reduce, reuse, and only then recycle?


My goal is to help people who are trying to go green.  I want to enhance my understanding going green, and I wish to help others do this also.

I will be temporarily at Fort Dix, NJ, until June.  Then I move back home with my wife and great danes.  I look forward to working with all of you.

                                                                                                                                                Joel Allen


How will we move people and goods?                                                                                              President’s Corner




How will world citizens move people and goods around the world in the future?  Will we follow Brazil’s example using ethanol?  How about bio-diesel from Alabama’s vast pine forests?  Maybe an electric Segway-like vehicle recharged from solar panels?  Perhaps we’ll revert to an upgraded form of human-powered vehicles?  Maybe it’s magnetic levitating trains or something we haven’t even thought of yet.


One thing is for sure, we can’t go on with the attitude of “business as usual” much longer.  Petroleum demand is increasing as supplies become harder and harder to obtain.  None of us want to experience the brown sunrises that big cities in developing countries see every day.


We have a lot of smart people in Alabama.  We taught the first aviators to fly from a field in Montgomery, and we developed the rockets that sent astronauts to the moon and back home safely.  We can solve this crisis as well.


Ideas, anyone?                                                                                                                            Morton

Kid’s Page—Transportation Independence




Tired of waiting for Mom or Dad to take you someplace?  Maybe they’re tired of taking you.  Learn to ride a bicycle safely, and a whole new world will open up for you.

Learn to become independent.  Here’s how:

ü    Ask your parents to buy you an ANSI or Snell approved helmet and learn to use it properly.

Wear your helmet flat atop your head, not tilted back at an angle!  Make sure the helmet fits snugly and does not obstruct your field of vision. Make sure the chin strap fits securely and that the buckle stays fastened.

ü      Learn to ride your bike.  You are going to fall at first, so learn to land properly.  Learn to avoid obstacles in your path.  Think ahead.


ü      Stay on the sidewalk with your parents close, until you learn to handle your bike well.


ü      Before you venture onto the street, learn the rules of the road.  Under Alabama law, you are afforded the same rights as any other vehicle—just like Dad’s car or even a big truck.  It’s a lot of freedom, but it is also a huge responsibility.


ü      Participate in a local Bicycle Rodeo.  Learn from people who have more experience than you.


ü      Ride with a bicycle club, a parent, or someone more experienced before striking out on your own.

ü      When you think you know it all, learn some more with practice, practice, practice!


Learn more from:



Bee Alert,

Arrive Unhurt!



Before people could read or write, they used fire for cooking, heating, and scaring away wild animals.  Wood burning was our first energy source.












Source:  US Energy Information Agency

What goes great with bio-fuels?




Synthetic lubricants actually go great with any fuel, but it seems especially appropriate with organic fueled vehicles.  I learned to use synthetics during the first energy crisis of the 70’s.  I mainly wanted to make my gas go further in my vans.


Synthetic lubricants are not that new.  Lieutenant Colonel Albert J. Amatuzio, US Air Force, flew for 25 years betting his life on the quality of the synthetic oil keeping his jet fighters running smoothly.  He found synthetics had three extraordinary performance characteristics:  they reduced friction and wear on engine components, they worked at extreme temperature differences, and they withstood long engine operations without chemical breakdown.


Colonel Amatuzio realized that the same benefits would make internal combustion engines last longer and run more efficiently.  There was only one problem.  Jet engines did not circulate oil.  Jet engine oil need only to lubricate and cool the moving parts.  Oil for internal combustion engines also must clean the by-products of combustion and remove them from the cylinders.  This third requirement needed a detergent able to withstand higher temperatures and last longer, if the synthetic oils were to take full advantage of the lubricant’s inherent properties.


In 1972, Al Amatuzio formulated the first synthetic motor oil in the world to meet API service standards for automobile engines.  Mobile Oil followed with Mobile One in 1975.  Other companies have followed since.


Synthetic motor oil was just the beginning.  You can now find synthetic grease—great for boat trailer hubs and other wet applications, gear lube (a favorite of race drivers), transmission fluid, high performance filters, and many more products.  What works best for you depends on how you will use them.


The primary benefit of synthetic lubricants is that they reduce wear and extend machine life.  The benefit most folks recognize is the 10 to 20 percent better gas mileage and the fact the oil lasts for 25,000 miles or more between changes.  The thing I like best is that it originates from farm products in the American Heartland, not from under desert sands.


Whatever reason interests you most, synthetic lubricants help reduce our dependence of foreign oil three ways:  organic origin, longer life, and improved gas mileage.  Learn more about the benefits from these websites, and consider using synthetics in your vehicles and machinery.




More on synthetic lubricants:

š       http://www.synthetic-solutions.com/story.htm

š       http://www.performanceoiltechnology.com/historyofsyntheticlubricants.htm

š       http://www.amsoil.com/performancetests/g1971/index.aspx


Solar Happenings—what’s going on in your area?



Wednesday, April 22nd, Earth Day celebration at Burritt on the Mountain, Huntsville


Friday, April 24th, Earth Day celebration at Burritt on the Mountain, Huntsville


Thursday, April 30th, ASA Quarterly General Membership Meeting, Ryan's Steakhouse, South Memorial Parkway, "Kilowatt Ours,” 1 PDH.


Saturday, May 2nd, Bike ride with Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, 9:30 AM


Tuesday, May 12th, Noon, Gulf Coast Branch of the US Green Building Council, Spanish Fort


May 11th – 16th, American Solar Energy Society national convention, Buffalo, NY


Friday, May 15th, deadline for nomination of the 2009 Solar Professional of the Year.


Tuesday, May 19th, Annual Tour de Arsenal bike ride, 5:00 PM


Thursday, May 21, 2009, ASA Board of Director’s meeting, noon, everyone welcome


Saturday, May 30th, Boy Scouts recycle in Huntsville.  Ask Morton


Thursday, June 11th, HATS 2009 Professional of the Year Dinner, von Braun Center


Thursday, July 16th, , ASA Board of Director’s meeting, noon, everyone welcome


Thursday, July 16th, ASA Quarterly General Membership Meeting, Ryan's Steakhouse, South Memorial Parkway, "Ethics for the 21st Century,” 1 PDH.


Saturday, October 3rd, Alabama Solar Tour, Corner, Hoover, Huntsville, Royal, and the Gulf Coast


Thursday, December 3rd, the annual HATS Holiday Reception and the ASA Christmas Party at the Huntsville Botanical Gardens


Solarites professionals that get the job done:





Find a solar professional to help you meet your energy needs in these troubling times.


Go to the Alabama Solar Association homepage.