Tales and thoughts from the founder of NormSoft (maker of Pocket Tunes), working and living in St. Croix, USVI

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Now the post office is returning mail to me that I sent BEFORE the rates went up. This is ridiculous.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

For my weekend project, I moved three palm trees from one corner of our courtyard to another. Check out my Flickr photostream for pictures. Damn those trees were heavy.

Once I got an 18" trench dug around the tree, I used 3/4" and 3/8" drill bits to drill a bunch of holes into the dirt between the tree and the concrete walkway (there wasn't enough room to dig anything). This loosened up the dirt enough to free the tree, and it fell over quite easily. Then I had to lift the tree out of the hole and onto a hand truck and move it to the other side of the courtyard. I would guess the trees with the root ball weighed easily 200-300 lbs. The thorns on the palm fronds didn't help.

Digging the new hole was relatively easy. Propping up the trees while I backfilled it was not. I probably should have gotten a friend to help, but I managed on my own. I'll have to support the trees with concrete blocks and mounds of dirt for a few weeks probably, until the new roots take hold. They are in the ground pretty solid, but the trees are tending to lean slightly. In addition, I'll need to water them every day to promote root growth and keep them from drying out with their reduced root structure.
Broadband VI's Internet service has gotten increasingly unreliable lately. I'm getting disconnected several times a day, and I sometimes have to reset the router because I can't connect to our company's VPN. Right now the whole island of St. Croix is offline. (I'm online through my Sprint broadband connection, which works really well but is too high latency for VOIP or gaming, so I don't use it regularly.)

I'm headed to the phone company, Innovative, tomorrow to sign up for their $39.95/month DSL package (1Mbps) so I have a backup connection.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Solar PV generation costs coming down in the next few years, and new solar technology almost as cheap as wind power: http://blogs.spectrum.ieee.org/tech_talk/2008/05/photovoltaic_moores_law_on_tra.html

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The US Post Office is a pain in the ass. All my mail that I dropped off in the mailbox Sunday just got returned to me because the new rate went into effect Monday, and I owed 1c. How much money did they lose returning that mail to me and re-delivering it?

It boggles my mind that they don't just raise the rate 5c instead of raising it 1c every damned year. The Forever stamps are nice, if our post office would ever have them in stock.

Monday, May 12, 2008

We've been considering installing solar PV panels on our roof. One of my main concerns about PV has been whether or not the cells actually generated more energy than they cost to make. Based on the prices to the consumer, it seemed to me that installing PV panels was akin to importing energy from somewhere it is cheaper.

In other words, we are paying nearly $0.33/kWh for power here. It will take around 10 years for a PV installation to pay for itself, including installation fees, shipping, the inverters, and other stuff necessary for install. The lifetime of a PV panel is about 20 years. So it seems like that would be akin to taking energy from somewhere where it costs $0.165/kWh and importing it to St. Croix. (20 years x $0.165/kWh = 10 years x $0.33/kWh)

However, according to http://www.ecotopia.com/apollo2/pvlever.htm , PV panels should produce much more energy (on the order of 9-17 times) than they take to create. That's good news, but it doesn't explain why the cost is not 1/17 to 1/9 of what I'm paying for electricity.

My assumption is that this difference is accounted for in overhead, profits, distribution, shipping, middlemen, installation, and other costs not included in the raw cost for creating the panels.

Though we may consider a PV installation, I think our next step is to try to reduce our energy usage. Air conditioning is ridiculously expensive here, and a lot of that is due to our poorly-insulated house (it was designed before a/c with an open-air design, so it's not well-suited to air-conditioning).

I may also wait a few years to see what happens with PV panels and concentrated solar generators. Wind power would be great here, but our home owners' association would probably frown on it. The local laws prevent homeowners' associations from restricting the installation of solar and wind power (except to suggest alternative installation locations that would not dramatically affect energy produced), but our C&R prevent installing anything to obstruct another lot's view, and I don't want to test the boundaries of those rules...