Who’s Got the Juice?

Remember this? People were tired of smiley face and made a little joke. Bullet in the head. Good for a chuckle, but some large power companies haven’t tired of it yet, sending smiley and “frowny” to their customers depending on how much energy they use.

What a clever thing. It’s a comfort to know your old grandma, living alone on Social Security, has a power company, like Excel Energy (Northern States Power) or Otter Tail Power in Minnesota, to regularly ridicule old granny while they grab a good amount of her Social Security check every month. The old girl probably opens those smiley or frowny letters with fear, thinking perhaps it’s another bill she will have to struggle to pay. But instead, they only want to make fun of her, scold her, and humiliate her. She needs this in her old age.

And these fat public utilities, who lavish their executives with mountains of cash, can now spend a small fortune scolding granny. With hundreds of thousands of customers, or millions, and holding a monopoly as a public utility, there’s no end to the money. And, of course, no competition. What does it cost to mail all those letters? Thousands of dollars? Over time, hundreds of thousands of dollars? No wonder your electric bill is a major monthly burden.

Well, granny doesn’t care. She’s warm and accustomed to struggling to pay the bill anyway. And since she is old and tired, she keeps her thermostat higher in winter than more active and healthy people do. In summer, when the humid hot days come she rests in the air conditioning, earning herself another frowny face, while the power company executives ride to work, occasionally, in their expensive air conditioned cars.

Now if you think I’m preaching, you are wrong. It does us no good to complain to large corporations, who will ignore anything sensible and care nothing for people, only profits or power.

No, I’m not preaching. I’m proposing we shut them down. Seriously, do away with them. Eliminate them. Crush them. Cause them to abandon their nuclear power plants and polluting smoke stacks.

Sound crazy? I have a surprise for you.

This is the United States of America. We walked across this continent to subdue it. Men, women and children. We fought a bloody war to kill slavery. We beat Hitler into a hole in the ground where he performed finally a charitable act by killing himself. We built the Panama Canal and put men on the moon. Why is it then we allow ourselves to be victimized by public utilities?

The entire concept is corrupt and hopeless. We have plenty of oil and coal and nuclear energy to provide for our needs. But besides the obvious environmental effects, this system is corrupt by design. Fat corporations, especially those with monopolies, are never going to do what’s good for people or the environment.

Once again – this is the USA. A place where individuals determine their own destiny. It’s not our destiny to have our energy needs dictated by corporations or governments.

Take a look around. See all those solar farms springing up around the country? Acres and acres of panels facing the sun. Guess who will control them? Not a family living in a bi-level, and not granny. They’re corporate, and connected to the energy grid. In other words, more of the same. We have no control.

But in fact, we do. We have total control – we just have to seize it.

The sun God gave to us all. We can use it without corporate or government permission. We don’t have to buy it from, or sell it to, a power company or any government entity. Who ever heard of taxing sunshine? (Not that some politician won’t think of it.)

So what I’m saying is simple – make your own juice. It’s not that hard. I did it, but of course hired someone who knew what he was doing same as I would hire an electrician or plumber or carpenter to install or service things in their area of expertise.

Energy in a major expense for homes, businesses and transportation. But the cost of using solar to electrify your home or business is not as expensive as you might imagine. The technology is here now but is being usurped by corporate entities.

This is important. Individuals must take control of this energy source or it will become another giant corporate, or even government, boondoggle. By control, I mean electrify your house or business with sunshine.

Sounds expensive. It’s not. About the cost of a good used car. Say 10 to 15 thousand dollars for larger homes. Once installed, you can expect battery maintenance costs, computer issues sometimes, and maybe if you want some redundancy, generator expenses. You can disconnect from the electric grid, as I did, or keep it for when the sun don’t shine. Advantages to disconnecting – you never receive an electric bill again and power companies can no longer ridicule and scold you. Disadvantages are the lack of any backup system. A propane backup generator will cost around 4 thousand dollars. But things are changing rapidly. Heavy glass solar panels, once a major expense running $2,000 apiece, are now approximately $200, made of silicone, light and resilient.

Taking control means just that. We are in charge of ourselves. Walking away from the electric grid or even staying with it and using solar is not a decision to be made lightly. Do some homework and be very, very careful of scams and systems that sound too good to be true. Talk with people who have a personal solar system. If you decide to go ahead, research the company, electrician, or anyone who offers solar installation. Beware of fly-by-night outfits that so often prey on people who are breaking ground with new technology. Insist upon seeing such installations with your own eyes. Not on somebody’s laptop. We Americans didn’t cross the vast prairies of the 1800s without damn good rifles and plenty of ammunition. Do the same today. Be prepared. But don’t be scared.

Imagine a future America without a billion miles of ugly and vulnerable power lines, burdensome energy costs and corporate greed. Clean up the environment yourself. You don’t need any help, you don’t need to send anybody a donation so they can squander your cash and print glowing accounts of their accomplishments.

When I stand reading my solar computer inputs and outputs, knowing I’ve generated this power and that my array of eight storage batteries are filled and maintained by the sun, I have a feeling of ownership very much unlike watching the electric meter on my house spin around.

And just in case someone out there thinks I may have some vested interest in selling solar systems – I don’t, and haven’t the expertise to install one. In writing fiction and nonfiction, and reading voraciously on many subjects, I have formed some opinions and taken some risks. It’s sort of an American thing to do. Try it.