October 2009

October is Energy Awareness Month. Help others understand what we do.

In this issue:


The BeauSoleil Home

President's Corner

Kids' Page

Find Solar answers

Waste to Energy

Solar Calendar

The Pros

We're choking on our own pollution. How do we clean our air?

Ideas, anyone?

Alabama Solar Association, P.O. Box 143 Huntsville, Alabama 35804
Established 1981 to Promote the Use of Our Sun’s Renewable Energy to Preserve Our Environment
ASA has a rich history

Alabama Solar Association (ASA) was founded by this author in 1990. It rose like a Phoenix bird out of the remnants of two previous solar energy organizations, the Alabama Solar Coalition (ASC) and the Alabama Solar Energy Association (ASEA). These latter two solar energy oriented organizations were formed, independently, during the mid 1970’s oil crises. Both were non-profit 501 (c) (3) organizations.

OPEC, unintentionally, with their drastic reduction of oil supplies awoke a giant, the USA, to recognize its vulnerability of dependence on foreign petroleum. A swell of determination was generated by the American people to be energy independent and never be threatened again by hostile governments. All of America was determined to find alternate energy sources. To this end Alabama did its part. The University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH) was identified by the State as the Solar Energy Center for Alabama. Huntsville, being a progressive technical town, had many who wanted to contribute to developing alternate energy sources to supplement petroleum. A group, including this author, gathered and formed ASEA, fully supported by UAH. Parallel to this, a group at University of Alabama (UA) in Tuscaloosa formed ASC. Both pursued the use of the sun’s reusable energy. Although, some limited research was done in conjunction with TVA of liquefying coal and biomass fuels for energy sources the emphasis was on solar.

Great interest in ASEA was shown by many in North Alabama. Much research and designs were done in academia, industry and technical organizations herein. Many meetings, symposiums, demonstrations and tours were conducted to describe uses of solar energy. A prime interest was the application of solar water heating systems to supplement the water heaters in all homes and businesses as a competitive energy source. The primary concept was the use of heavy (about 200 lbs) collectors that were normality roof mounted with liquid working fluids of various types. Photovoltaics were recognized but prohibitively expensive, the technology not yet being mature, at that time. These were great times with many having enthusiastic interests in being involved and sharing knowledge and skills. Talk was everywhere on inventions, improvements and new methods to conserve and utilize solar energy. This author invented and obtained patents on a light weight solar concentrator for heating water (or other liquids) and photovoltaics. There was much interest in these concepts.

Then the bottom fell out, so to speak. OPEC saw the error of their ways and America was pursuing more domestic ways to obtain petroleum locally, gasoline and natural gas prices declined and most all lost interest in alternate energy means. Consequently, industries ceased to manufacture solar energy apparatus, UAH resigned as the Solar Energy Research Center, which Auburn University (AU) quickly picked up, and with acceptable fuel costs most people developed other interests. ASC ceased and sent the remaining treasury funds to ASEA. This was in the mid to late 1980’s. In early 1990 this author, a past President of ASEA, received a phone call from a former member at UAH and was asked if something useful could be done with the remaining funds, a little oven $700. This author, still having an interest in solar energy applications, arranged with the Huntsville Association of Technical Societies (HATS) management to create a new organization named the Alabama Solar Association (ASA), a non profit 501 (c) (3) organization. A logo and motto was derived, an ASA in the middle of a sunburst over Alabama. The motto devised: Established to Promote the Use of Our Sun’s Renewable Energy to Save Our Environment and Life on Earth.

By persuasion others were encouraged to participate in new solar use interests promotions. In the 1990’s greater interest in saving this planet was increasing and uses of the sun’s clean, reusable and free energy is a way to help. ASA activities interest was directly proportional with fuel costs at the pump. Now the participation is up. An organization such as this is directly dependant on leadership to be recognized and promote interest. Increasing activities include talks, tours, displays and publicity. ASA is now on the rise thanks to a Board of Directors (BoD) that is willing to do things. ASA is now active in educational displays at various shows and meetings. Generally, the public now has greater interest in solar energy applications; the future for ASA is great. We’re having fun come join us.

Al Orilion, P.E.
Secretary e-mail

The BeauSoleil Home

"Son of a gun, we'll have big fun on the bayou."
Jambalaya (On The Bayou), Hank Williams

The University of Louisiana-Lafayette's Team BeauSoleil is assembling its entry for the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon on the National Mall. It is an affordable, green housing option that is well-suited for the Gulf Coast while capturing the Cajun culture. It is designed to withstand hurricane-force winds and can be elevated in flood-prone regions. Also, the BeauSoleil Home is powered entirely by the sun.

The house generates more energy than it consumes yet has a state-of-the-art kitchen for entertaining and cooking. The design incorporates several aspects of early Cajun cottages. It can be built for an affordable $120,000 to $150,000 depending on local construction costs.

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they choose to believe. They dare to imagine the impossible – challenging the expected while turning dreams into reality.

For a group of students from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, believing has not only changed the way they see the world, but quite possibly, the world we live in as well.

The team includes two architects, a professional engineer, 26 other faculty members, and more than 50 students.

TEAM BeauSoleil Took First Place for Market Viability in 2009 Solar Decathlon

Learn more about this amazing structure and the people behind it on the team website: http://BeauSoleilHome.org.

Geaux Cajuns!

Al and Morton
Louisiana PEs and Honorary Cajuns

Love your Mother,

Please recycle.

Recycling: Your Third Best Option

President’s Corner

Recycling is up these days, and that’s good. Even in a city where our garbage is burned to generate steam for over half the energy needs of Redstone Arsenal, it’s much better to recycle than to throw it away, but recycling is only the third best option. R-R-R, Reduce, Reuse, and only then Recycle.

Let’s look a bit more at those plastic shopping bags I mentioned last month, the ones that take a sixth of a gallon of crude to make. The Huntsville city recycler won’t take them in the curbside bin, but you can take them to Wal-Mart or to Publix for free recycling. Better, though, is to reuse them. I might use a bag to take things along on a trip, and then use the empty bag to gather dirty clothes. Back home, I do the laundry and use the bags to line small trash cans. If I haven’t put anything wet in the can, I might dump the contents into a bigger can and reuse the liner a few times. When I do throw it away, it goes to the city to generate energy.

But did I really need the plastic bag in the first place; how about the “Reduce” option. “BYOB,” Bring Your Own Bag, proclaims Kroger. I usually try to take a reusable bag into a store when I shop. We even have some insulated bags to help keep things cold on the way home. Feel free to use plastic bags when you really need them, like bringing home fresh meat or something wet.

Recycle before you trash it, but consider the other two “R” options.


Alababa Solar Association
Sundial Kids' Pages
October, 2009

Do your own recycling instead of putting it in the bin. How green is that?

Humans first communicated by drawing stories on the walls of caves. 6000 years ago, Sumerians scratched their thoughts onto heavy clay tablets. We eventually tried many portable writing surfaces from wood to cloth. Ancient Egyptians learned to layer strips of a wetland plant (papyrus, from which the word paper is derived) and pound them together to make flat sheets. Much later, the Chinese made a slurry of water and the shoots or bark of certain plants and poured it through woven screens. As the water drained through the screen, fibers adhered to the surface and fused into paper. That is essentially how we do it today.

Making recycled paper use your new crayons you made last month

Learn how here

Find Solar answers ASA questions.

MR. Tom Staples of Cooler Planet has answered criticism of various ASES chapters and specific questions posed by the Alabama Solar Association. Text below in green is from the Alabama Solar Association. Replies from Mr. Staples are quoted verbatim, including typos, in blue.

ASA Q: How does Cooler Planet separate qualified installers from the fly-by-night Gypsy firms?


i) We require contractor licence # upon registration from each firm. This is checked with the applicable state before the profile listing goes live.

ii) Once a company is listed, we conduct follow up surveys with every customer referral we connect and ask them to rate the firms on service, price, and professionalism. Over time these ratings are factored into a "merchant score" for each company which helps determine which firms get the most referrals in the future.

iii) We allow and encourage all participating firms to send customer review surveys to past customers as well. These ratings and reviews of completed projects are displayed on the company's profile page, and pictures and details of each project can be included as well. This helps create an online portfolio of work, complete with pictures and reviews, for participating companies.

ASA Q: How does Cooler Planet verify experience claims by advertisers? Do you check status of license, bonding, and insurance?

CP A: We check contractor licences #'s with the state, we also allow the companies we work with to post other certifications, awards, and notes in their profiles.

ASA Q: How will Cooler Planet pre-qualify leads to minimize wasting time of Alabama installers?

CP A: There are two levels of service available - Featured Listings (our primary service which delivers phone interviewed customer referrals) and Basic Profiles (allows solar companies in smaller markets to get listed for a low monthly cost without paying for referrals. No phone interviewed referrals). The details including qualification criteria and cost are below:

Featured Listings

Cost: Per referral basis, based on the number of referrals we interview and connect with you in your area. $119 per residential PV referral.


Full company profile, logo, and description available on the Find Solar and Cooler Planet websites in areas you service.

Ability to send out and display customer surveys and ratings data. Ability to upload photos of past projects along with customer reviews to a custom online portfolio of your work (integrated with Google Maps).

Phone interviewed customer referrals from your service area. Interviews cover the following topics (along with many others depending on the conversation):

i) Confirmation that the contact person is the owner of the property and all contact information provided is correct

ii) Details on the physical structure (orientation of the roof and property, square footage, roof material and square footage available, style of home or building, shading or other concerns etc)

iii) Current energy usage (average electric bill and/or kw usage details)

iv) Discussion of cost - (we estimate the likely price range and verify the customer is prepared from a cost expectation standpoint, has considered payment options, etc)

iv) Project timeline and motivations (how soon will they install, what made them consider solar power, what are the looking for in an installer, etc)

Basic Profile (Available in selected states including Alabama)

Cost: $50/mo. or $500/yr.


Full company profile, logo, and desciption available on the Find Solar and Cooler Planet websites in areas you service.

Ability to send out and display customer surveys and ratings data. Ability to upload photos of past projects along with customer reviews to a custom online portfolio of your work (integrated with Google Maps).

No obligation to pay for leads

Free "Request a Bid" button for 90 days that sends interested customer inquiries directly to the company without being interviewed by Cooler Planet (no additional charge)

Option to purchase leads or not after 90 days.

ASA Q: Does Cooler Planet ask potential leads if they have run the solar calculator?

CP A: We walk them through the calculations over the phone to ensure they understand the costs involved. We also cover incentives, rebates, and the information noted above.

ASA Q:Does Cooler Planet know what percentage of referrals lead to contracts?

CP A: We don't know the exact percentage. We've had installers report they've closed 6 out of the first 10 they received, and we've had others who report less success. We get great feedback on performance from the vast majority of companies that participate, but ultimately we're a marketing service and it's up to each firm to determine if the Return on Investment is acceptable to them. I believe we're the most cost effective marketing vehicle available for the solar industry and we offer a 100% refund for any company that tries the service and isn't satisfied.

ASA Q: How does Cooler Planet check utility rates and rebates?

CP A: We work with the DSIRE (http://dsireusa.org) to keep our incentive and rebate data up to date. Our utility data comes from the EIA - Dept. of Energy. We also rely on help from our community of users and solar professionals to point out any problems and we share feedback we receive back to the DSIRE. We make updates frequently and have a link for helpful people to send us tips or updates directly on the calculator page here: http://www.findsolar.com/index.php?page=rightforme

ASA Q: How does Cooler Planet select “Other Installers In This Area?

CP A: The "other installers" list is based on a pre existing list of companies provided by ASES from the original Find Solar site. We display the companies we don't work in the "other installers" list in the county where they are located as a free service.

ASA Q: Will Cooler Planet consider changing the business model to charging a higher fee for leads which actually produce a contract rather than for potential cold leads?

CP A: We won't, we think this model is superior. Here are our reasons why:

i) No economic commitment to participate on the part of the installers in our experience leads to poor results for installers and consumers. The primary complaint from consumers using the original Find Solar site was that they couldn't get responses from installers for this very reason. The more committed the installer is to the success of the program, the better service the customer gets, and ultimately the more likely the customer is to do an installation.

ii) We have delivered millions of dollars of closed contracts to our partners around the country, and have high demand for the referrals we provide.

iii) We guarantee the service 100% and will refund the initial deposit for any firm that tries the system and doesn't see the value. There's no risk to try, no long term commitment, and we have hundreds of customers around the country using the system.

Tom Staples
Cooler Planet
Cooler Planet seems to have a good process in place, and their responses are mostly specific. Their “100% refund” offer is a good sign.

Several things concern me. Their response on the success rate of referrals leading to contracts seems rather vague. Their refusal to consider fees based on successful contracts, rather than leads, suggests that they are much less confident in their success rate than they claim. The number of errors and typos in their response worries me; if I were responding to a criticism of inaccurate information, I would be very careful to fix obvious errors.

ASES is hosting a webinar on Find Solar on Wednesday evening, October 21, 2009. The time is listed at 5:30 PDT.

I encourage all ASA members to sign up, especially the Solarites. You can register at https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/801095241.


Waste to Energy

What happens to the trash you throw away every day? In Huntsville and in the five surrounding counties, it goes to the City of Huntsville “Solid Waste Disposal Authority (SWDA, http://www.swdahsv.org) waste-to steam facility on Triana Boulevard.

This facility, also known as “The Steam Plant,” is the only waste-to-energy facility in the state of Alabama. The Solid Waste Disposal Authority owns the facility, but it is operated by Covanta Huntsville, Inc. (www.covantaenergy.com).

The waste-to-energy facility is designed to process about 700 tons per day of municipal solid waste, commercial waste and limited amounts of dried sewage sludge. The pollution control technology used at the facility complies with all presently applicable federal, state and local environmental requirements. The plant output is much cleaner than that of an equivalent coal-fired steam plant.

Waste arriving at the facility is fed into chutes and then on to the grates of two mass-burn furnaces where temperatures exceed 2,000° F. This incineration process reduces waste volumes by 90% enabling the landfill to have a longer life. As an example, the amount of ash resulting from incinerating the waste in a fully loaded residential garbage truck would fit into a wheel barrow!

Steam produced at the facility is shipped via seven miles of pipeline to the U.S. Army's Redstone Arsenal. The Arsenal, which includes NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, uses the steam for heating, for air conditioning, and for running other equipment. The 60-square mile facility contains 18,000 buildings is home to 50,000 soldiers and scientists each day. The SWDA steam provides more than half the total energy used by Redstone each month.

Ash remaining from the combustion process is transported to the landfill where the ferrous and non-ferrous metals are removed before the ash is buried. Acid gases resulting from the combustion are neutralized in a dry flue gas scrubber; and particulate matter is captured by a fabric filter baghouse.

All aspects of the plant's operation are continuously monitored from a central control room.

Despite all the benefits of the waste-to-steam process, SWDA seems to be missing several huge opportunities. The plant is actually capable of producing much more steam than the Army or NASA currently uses. Excess steam is vented to the atmosphere daily. The plant uses electricity from the Huntsville power grid to operate the plant. Why doesn’t SWADA use some of the excess steam to generate electricity to power the plant?

For that matter, why don’t they encourage Redstone Arsenal to use more steam to generate electricity during peak demand periods? Unlike residential facilities, the Arsenal sees peak demand from 11:00 am until 2:00 PM, and they pay more than a million dollars a month in demand charges alone.

Anybody else see an opportunity here?


Solar Happenings

See what's happening in your area

Did we miss anything?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009, ASES Webinar on Find Solar, Internet

Friday, October 23, 2009, "Claim Your Rain" Presentation, US Green Building Council, Huntsville, AL

Tuesday - Thursday, October 27 - 29, 2009, Solar Power International, www.solarpowerinternational.com, Anaheim, CA

Saturday, October 31, 2009 9 – 12:00 am, Boy Scouts recycle for Meals-on-Wheels, Huntsville, AL

Wednesday, November 11, 2009, 9:00 AM CST, Optical Characterization of PV Cells webinar, Internet

Thursday, November 12, 2009, Quarterly meeting, Southern Solar Systems, Huntsville, AL

Tuesday & Wednesday, November 17 - 18, 2009, 6th Annual Alabama Renewable Energy Conference, Auburn, AL

Wednesday - Friday, November 18 - 20, 2009, AWEA Wind Energy Fall Symposium, http://awea.org , Orlando, FL

Thursday, November 19, 2009, "The Solar Energy Course for Architects, Engineers, and Contractors, Click here for details , Birmingham, AL

Wednesday & Thursday, December 2 & 3, 2009, Offshore Wind Project Workshop, http://awea.org , Boston, MA

Thursday, December 03, 2009, HATS Holiday Reception, Huntsville Botanical Gardens, Huntsville, AL

Thursday, December 17, 2009, ASA BoD Meeting, Visitors welcome, Huntsville, AL

Saturday, January 09, 2010, Boy Scouts recycle for Meals-on-Wheels, Huntsville, AL

Saturday, January 09, 2010Engineer's Week, Future Cities Competition www.futurecity.org , Huntsville, AL

Wednesday & Thursday, January 20 - 21, 2010, Solar Power USA, utility-scale event, www.solarpowercongress.com , Las Vegas, NV

Wednesday Friday, February 3 - 5, 2010, Renewable Energy Technology Conference and Exhibition, www.retech2010.com/ , Washington, DC

Monday - Saturday, May 17 - 22, 2010, ASES National Solar Conference, http://ases.org , Phoenix, AZ


Those energy professionals who support The Alabama Solar Association
and solve your energy challenges.

Summerdale, Alabama,
(Mobile Area)
Affordable Solar Hot Water and Power LLC
Barton Craig McManus
P.O. Box 375, Dothan, AL 36302
e-Mail: asolarpro@gmail.com
Green Works
Design - Build - Remodel
  • New Home Designs & Reviews
  • Home Energy Performance Clinics
  • Passive and Active Solar Applications
  • Member Southface Energy Institute
    Stephen Guesman
Mark Friedline
Mobile, AL
Reisz Engineers
3322 Memorial Parkway S.
Huntsville, AL 35807
admin@reiszengr.com www.reiszengineers.com

11807 South Memorial Parkway
Huntsville, AL 35803
(256) 883-9848
Southern Solar has what it takes to meet your energy needs.

Debra Rucker Coleman, Architect
18250 Tanner Rd.
Citronelle, AL 36522
(251) 341-0509

Room for another Solarite here. Anybody know a solar pro not listed here?

Learn more about your Solarites on the Solarite Webpage

Richard E. Martin

P. O. Box 611
Lanett, AL. 36863