Personal Update 202209 | 1 Sep 2022


Thanks for taking a moment to read this month’s update. The photo above is from my morning walk today.


This month I will be switching to solar power for most of my tech devices and work-related energy needs. This helps meet a goal of using and promoting more sustainable technology choices for the Iowa City Tech initiative. Having portable solar power lets me continue using solar power even when I’m at a remote job site.

I’m using some products from Jackery. [View] Using a 100W solar power panel, in 3.5 hours the 293Wh Jackery Explorer 300 system can be charged to about 80 percent (234 watts). [View] Presumably the difference between the 350 watts (3.5 hours at 100W) of charging energy and the 234 watts of resulting stored energy reflects the efficiency of the charging process.

The Jackery Explorer 300 is fairly small and light weight, so it can be carried in a backpack or on a bicycle. It allows access to solar generated power in any location at any time of day.

Having two Jackery Explorer 300 systems would allow for one to be in use and another to be charging on alternate days.

I may at some point purchase more of the folding portable 100W solar panels from Jackery (or build my own) which would allow simultaneous charging of multiple battery power storage units, of faster charging of larger ones.

I have access to a very large solar array of panels that produce thousands of watts of power most days. That normally gets pushed back into the grid, but any power captured and retained is more economical than what the power company pays. Using the solar array, it would be possible to use dual charging for the Jackery Explorer 300 and get an 80% charge in about 2 hours.

If you know someone with a solar array who is pushing power back into the grid, they would probably be more than happy to have you pay them the equivalent of 10 cents per kWh rather than getting paid a fraction of that from the power company. If you have an electric car or electric bicycle, this is a way to give yourself the electricity at full value rather than getting paid very little for the power pushed into the grid.

When you pay the power company 10 cents per kWh for electricity, but are only offered 5 cents per kWh for the power you give them, it seems unfair. The pricing is based on the fact that power companies pay wholesale for energy they buy or produce, and they resell it at retail prices. They can’t afford to pay retail prices for energy and resell it at the same price for zero profit. With zero profit they would not be able to pay their employees and maintain the national power grid.

Let’s say you make apple sauce. You can sell it to a grocery store for $3 per pint, and they will sell it for $5 per pint to their customers. Or you can sell that apple sauce directly to people you know for $5 per pint. However, you can’t sell that apple sauce to the grocery store for $5 per pint and have them sell it to other people for $5 per pint. They wouldn’t be able to pay their employees or bills.

Energy from the grid at 10 cents per kWh is fairly inexpensive. A $600 expense for a solar energy source is fairly high. For some people that could be equal to a year of electric bills. It would take some years to bring your solar sourced power cost down to 10 cents per kWh. An advantage of this type of solar powered battery backup system is that it can offer sustained power in an outage, it offers power in locations where no other sources exist, and it offers (hopefully) cleaner power.

DROUGHTS and Floods

Over the past week I was studying recent news of water scarcity and global flooding. I created posts for these topics with video news coverage from recent months. [ Water Scarcity News | Global Flooding News ]

I don’t spend an excessive amount of time going too deep into the details of these and other global crisis news stories, but I do want to be informed about what the rest of the world is going through and consider what can be done to help those who are impacted.

Some of us live in cities and communities not impacted by droughts, floods, fires, war, and other challenges. It seems to me that we have a responsibility to serve people who are struggling around the world.

Iowa City Free

The Little Free Library initiative promotes the installation of small library boxes in local neighborhoods. The “Free” aspect of that project is only a small part of the benefit provided. Of more value than the savings is the convenience of having books to read that are a short walk or bike ride distance for many people. This also helps build community.

Partly inspired by the Little Free Library project, I setup a website this past month called Iowa City Free. [View Site] It has a resources page that lists free services in the Iowa City area. [View] However, the primary goal of the site is to provide a list of free items available. It would be nice for there to be a “Little Free General Store” in neighborhoods across the city. For now, I’m just using the website for distributing items. I’m often given usable electronics and see this as a way to get these items to people who can make use of them.

Giving items away is an eco friendly way to downsize because recipients of items do not need to generate the income required to purchase those items new. Generating income typically has a negative impact on the environment (such as traveling to work and using supplies or energy while working).

Free used items compete well with new items. This reduces consumerism and the manufacturing of new items.

When downsizing, there are a few options depending on the items:

  1. DONATE — Donate to stores like Crowded Closet, Goodwill, or the Habitat ReStore.
  2. GIVE — Give away items that are too big and heavy to ship using eBay and inconvenient to sell.
  3. ORGANIZE — Any items to be kept should be organized so they can be easily found, used, or distributed later.
  4. SELL — Sell items on consignment through stores. [View List] Or, use eBay to sell unique items not likely to be in demand by any buyers in a 100 mile radius. An online service like eBay connects you with millions of potential buyers more likely needing whatever it is that you’re selling.
  5. RECYCLE — Recycle cardboard, plastic, paper, glass, metal, and other items that aren’t usable.

Simplifying and minimalist living is a goal that many people have. The option of giving items away is an important part of downsizing.


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Many thanks to all of you who keep in touch and provide support for the work I do.

Origins. For those of you who are new to these monthly personal updates, they began about 22 years ago out of a desire to share from my personal life about topics of lifeways (faith/philosophy), health, career, finances, relationships, effective living, and public interest efforts. This is based on the Life Map presented on the Resources For Life website. [View]