Energy Lag in the U.S.
How Germany has it right!
Last month (October, 2010) while in Germany for a month I experienced first-hand the U.S. lack of focus regarding renewable energy, and it came about in some unexpected ways.
First, a friend of ours named Fahah is a restaurant owner and also an artist, who specializes in "sponge painting" and abstract oils. Several dozen of his works were on display for a few weeks in a building near Karlsruhe and he took us to see them. We thought we were going to an art gallery, but discovered that the location instead was the six-story tall office building of a prominent architectural firm. They had just opened a new shopping mall we had visited the previous week, though that wasn't known to us at the time.
The paintings looked terrific in that setting, so much so that I told Fahar the business should buy most of them and keep them on permanent display. But the building was just as spectacular, for other reasons. Every wall is filled with tempered glass windows treated to let in light, but not harmful rays, and the exterior is coated to repel dirt and streaks from the rain.
In front of the building are three large structures that look like sails on a ship, but are actually collections of solar panels that provide enough energy for the entire building and its business - and sells back to the power company the left-over electricity that's produced. Each 'sail' is geared to turn automatically so it always faces the sun, and each individual solar panel in each 'sail' also adjusts to maximize the sunlight that's captured.
The roof of the building utilizes green space, plants that soak up rainwater and carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. Inside, the primary access to each floor is by a long, wide extended ramp. Only a single elevator is present, used for special purposes to save on energy. Lighting is from energy-efficient bulbs and fixtures.
Second, almost every house and public structure in southwest Germany is studded with solar panels, and green roofs can be seen everywhere. Cars are small for the most part (a lot of Smart cars!) and work well in the narrow streets of most cities and towns, as well as use less gas. In addition, a lot of companies focus on energy reduction, as evidenced by the photos shown of two company cars seen in Ettlingen, Germany.
The U.S. is far behind Germany and other countries in the wise use and production of alternative types of energy, and behind China in producing the products that support those industries.
Maybe we will catch up, but we've got a long way to go - and time is running out. Do what you can to use energy wisely and encourage its safe and economical production.