Solar Power isn't Feasible!

Solar Power isn't Feasible!
This cartoon was on the cover of the book "SolarGas" by David Hoye. It echoes the Sharp Solar slogan "Last time I checked nobody owned the sun!"

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Draft Intro to Solar CITIES Alternate Reality Survival Game: "Getting Into Hot Water"

First Cut Scene:
(A young Egyptian woman with a bright orange headscarf  carrying a leatherbound  architectural portfolio is leading an American journalist on the Solar CITIES eco-tour of old Cairo.  She deftly navigates through the narrow streets of Darb Al Ahmar in Old Cairo on newly laid cobblestones past rrecently renovated and ornately decorated ancient houses along the reconstructed Ayubbid Wall.  As they pass camels and donkey carts and smiling  falafel street vendors she speaks to the journalist about the new "Masr Gadida" -- the new "New Egypt", evolving before their eyes:)

" We are all Egypt now... since the peaceful revolution of 2011...
"Here where so much of civilization  began some 6000 years ago, and where science and medicine and scholarship flourished while Europe struggled through its dark ages...
"I can now walk the streets with my head high and see the path before me through a lens of hope and inspiration...
"This land was once called by the Greeks "Heliopolis" -- the "City of the Sun", but for the past century, since the massive Solar Energy field by the Nile buit in 1911 was dismantled to make way for the oil age, the part of the city bearing that name, also called "Masr Gadida" or "New Cairo" made a mockery of both of those monikers.
"We struggled under a dictator for 30 years, a small minded man who was dedicated to preserving  a worn out status quo.
"He forced us into a stasis where his centralized political power was sustained by an imposed reliance on other forms of centralized power -- power from oil, power from coal, gas and uranium, all subsidized so that no other forms of energy could compete.  I call those forms of energy "power from hell."
"And though we here in Egypt had more sunshine, wind and water for power production that almost any other country -- power from Allah above falling like manna from heaven -- we ignored their potential for over a generation -- since the time when U.S. President Carter and Egyptian President Sadat both put solar panels on government buildings in our countries to symbolize a new independence from oil -- solar panels that both Reagan and Mubarak summarily took down.
"Since then we have allowed Europe, particularly cloudy rainy, resource poor Germany, take the lead in  fields that we, a people who once even worshipped the sun God Ra, should have been the undisputed masters of.
"Well all that has changed!"
"Democracy has come to the land of the Pharoahs and we have a chance to be a leading light in civilization once again.
"These streets, home of the once feared "Arab Street", are now a peaceful unfinished blueprint for participatory design of a better tomorrow.  I can feel it in the extra bounce in the step of "ordinary" Egyptians as they go about their daily lives.  We no longer look at this city and see only its congestion and decay.  We see opportunities for renewal, a chance for the whole of Cairo to undergo the renovation that the Aga Khan Trust for Culture has been doing here in Darb Al Ahmar, blending the best of the old and the new.
"And me, as an urban planner and green architect, I see endless possibilities for harnessing the renewable resources we once merely wasted -- organic and inorganic trash that we can use for biogas and fertilizer and petrochemical substitutes  in a new industrial ecology and recycling economy, the strong seasonal Naseem desert winds, the animals whom we've kept with us within the urban fabric as vital value adding symbionts in the built environment, and of course sunshine, eternal sunshine.
"All of these resources are abundant in our city of 20 million and our people are excited to harness them to provide all the hot water and heated air and thermodynamic power we need for clean and safe cooking and washing and for running our refrigerators and air conditioners and generators and turbines and motors, giving us healthy homes and clean industries and efficient smog-free transportation."

(The young woman has led the journalist up the stairs and to the roof of her building where she has a home-built biogas system providing all her cooking fuel, a roof top garden for her vegetables, and a solar hot water system that also serves as a cool goat, chicken and duck shelter from the hot sun. They look out over the ancient Blue Mosque and the Al Azhar park, a former garbage dump turned into a cultural treasure filled with lakes and waterfalls, restaurants  and botanical gardens ,the first lush green space to be built  in Cairo in  100 years. A billboard over the park, however, spoils the view with an image of an electric heater saying "Olympic Electric Water Heaters -- Heating all of Egypt".)

"But I fear this Eutopian dream of a new and sustainable Egyptian Civilization is not as inevitable as we newly liberated Egyptians would like to believe...
"There are still dark forces out there who will resist our true liberation. There are powerful forces that are against truly decentralized and distributed power and wealth.
"We can feel the hostility floating in the smoke that blows across the red sea to us from the oil refineries in Saudi Arabia.
"We can read the disapproval in the dismissive swagger of potential investors and businessmen who come to Egypt from Europe and the U.S., vying to "help us" by building the expensive and dangerous nuclear power plants that the Mubarak regime green lighted and fast tracked as a symbol of Egyptian potency in the face of Iran.
"For Egypt to become a true leader in the Arab World, helping us all to find our way away from oil and uranium... well, this might be too much for those powerful special interests around the world whose obscene profits still demand our submission to their Pharoanic and centralized control over where our motive power, if not our political power, comes from.
"And that is why taking on this challenge, the challenge of building a sustainable SOLAR CITY in the land of "Heliopolis" is guaranteed to get us into HOT WATER...."

(The scene fades into a 3D splash screen bearing the title of the game:)


Are you ready to play?


Here are some tests we made for the game using architectural models created by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Elder Scrolls Construction Set:

Here is a test using Sketchup and Google 3D warehouse models to instruct others who want to replicate the hand-made HDPE biogas systems and Solar Hot Water Systems we innovated as part of the Blackstone Challenge to National Geographic Emerging Explorers:

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