A man's home, they say, is his castle. It also can give you insight into his mind. We drove out to Lee Bristol's home (almost not making it because of an unexpected road block) expecting a routine interview about solar power. He is, after all, a co-founder of Standard Solar, a seven-year-old company that engineers, designs, and builds solar electric solutions for homes and commercial concerns.
It turned out to be anything but. We pulled into Bristol's driveway on a sunny warm fall day and immediately noticed two men standing on the roof. One was waving at us the other was filming us. "Come on up in the back!" came the cry from on high.
We walked around the house, with high-pitched A-frame design, and we noticed a set of homemade stairs jutting up from the back deck all the way up the steeply slanting roof. The stairs ended in one of the most interesting rooftop deck designs I've ever seen: He actually has fashioned a deck, perhaps 10 by 20 feet just behind the peak of the roof, overlooking lush farmland and his solar panels.
We came to find out that that design was evidence of Bristol's unique career path and approach to technology -- fascinating and unconventional.
For further reading
To keep up with our Chevy Volt coverage, go to Drive for Innovation and follow the cross-country journey of EE Times' EE Life editorial director, Brian Fuller. On his trip, sponsored by Avnet Express, Fuller is driving a Volt across America to interview engineers.
We use oil and electricity to generate heat from making hot water to making cement to cooling (e.g. propane fueled refrigeration). Solar water heaters (low tech using black PVC tubing) works on cold overcast days and snow. Mirror farms to make concrete and melt metal are low tech and can be built in third world countries. A heat source can be used in place of mechanical compression for refrigeration. Electric car advocates foolishly disregard electrical losses in our country's aging electricity generation systems, making hybrids generate less carbon dioxide per mile than pure electric cars.
MTBE is an industry scare issue, if you are so knowledgeable then why do you buy into it? High performance aircraft engines use water, methanol, and ethanol injection for peak power, as do race cars. I have worked at an Industrial Testing Laboratory and been deposed in several engine damage lawsuits. As a knowledgeable person you would know that modern gasoline is no longer isooctane, is no longer made for carb'd engines. Gasoline is now a "blend" ranging from butane to diesel that is cheap to produce and works well enough for fuel injection. The only weakness of ethanol is water solubility, Germany in WW 2 fermented to Fusel oil. BP owned stations get water/rust crud at the bottom of their tanks (partially due to EPA fume recovery; actually BP's lack of maintenance policy), it will clog your fuel filter or destroy your engine if you don't have one (it's a chain saw). Ethanol does not interfere with mixing of higher grade two-cycle oil. Several lawsuits were two-cycle chainsaws using inappropriate oil (ruled user error). Since chainsaws aren't very green (copious polluters) it is probably fortunate your chainsaw died.
I don't know why I bother to waste my time but ... MTBE is a very real problem, if it were not, the EPA would not be going to such great lengths to keep it hidden and pretend it doesn't exist. Genetic mutations in plants, widespread neurological and mental disorders in humans born post MTBE and increased health problems across the spectrum in areas where MTBE contamination is highest.
After all these years there still isn't one single person who can present just one justifiable argument for using more energy and generating more emissions in the production of ethanol than are countered by said ethanol. 20% less energy per gallon than gasoline and 65% increase in the production of repair/replacement parts for existing equipment ... just like all the others, you choose to ignore the facts but ignorning the facts do not change the facts. If you weren't so quick to engage your sales-hype, you'll note the damage to my chainsaw engine is only on the face and exhaust side, anyone with even the slightest knowledge of 2S engines knows that a lubrication failure will not be limited to one portion of the cylinder surface and would have no effect on the combustion face. Now go on back to driving your coal/oil-fired hybrid.
Highly regarded engineer and physicist Ransom Stephens speaks with Design News about his extensive science and engineering background, the serious yet funny study of neuroscience, and how one primes their brain for innovation.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies.
You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived.
So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.