Photons for Me – Negawatts for You

Walking My Talk

Joan and I live in the high desert of northern Arizona. Like most deserts, ours gets lots of sunshine. Lots of photons on the roof, almost every day. What’s more, our house is almost perfectly situated for collecting solar energy.

For us, solar energy makes a lot of sense. So, we are installing about 6.8 kW of solar collectors. The solar collectors will cover the bulk of our ordinary daytime electric power requirements, including heat, A/C, hot water, appliances and so on, even in the heat of summer. When the sun isn’t shining, we will buy power from the utility. When we produce power in excess of our immediate needs, the meter will run backward and the utility will buy power from us. Our electric bill, like most, is structured with the first “”x” number of kWh billed at a minimal rate, the next “y” kWh at a higher rate, and so on, rather like income tax brackets. With solar, our net monthly power draw from the utility should be entirely in the lowest billing bracket. Since our net power draw from the utility will be low, we are cushioned from seasonal billing peaks and from power rate increases.

I mention this because this is a good example of a pragmatic approach to Sustainability — in this instance, installing solar reduces our personal monthly electric power expenditure immediately, and buffers us from future increases. At the same time, the utility will burn a little less fuel, benefitting everybody by creating a little less CO2 and other atmospheric emissions.

for You

Installing solar — or any alternative source of energy — in a house, a factory or other structure, makes practical sense in some instances, nonsense in others. Negawatts, however, are almost universally practical. “Negawatts” refers to power not used due to improvements in energy utilization efficiency.

Previous posts to this blog [1] have discussed negawatts and have offered suggestions as to how to improve energy utilization efficiency. By happy accident, the solar energy project at our house provided an additional and very practical tool for locating negawatts in a factory. Breaker boxThe first step in our solar power installation was replacement of my home circuit breaker box. The new breaker box happened to be Square D® brand, toward which I have long been partial.

The breaker box reminded me that Square D® is manufactured by Schneider Electric.
That, in turn, reminded me that Schneider Electric offers a very practical way to train your maintenance and engineering people in energy utilization efficiency. Schneider Electric’s Energy University [2] provides an extensive collection of free on-line courses on energy utilization efficiency, which they claim are vendor neutral (not just advertisements). Available courses include six courses on compressed air systems (I’ve always known that compressed air is energy inefficient, but I never imagined how inefficient it really is), as well as motors, variable frequency AC drives, fans, boiler efficiencies and a host of others. There is even a credible certification program available.

Developing In-House Expertise in Sustainability

Late in 2012, the Montreal office of the Network for Business Sustainability reported on a survey of challenges facing small and medium sized Canadian business in the pursuit of Sustainability [3]. The number one concern of the firms surveyed was “How can we develop in-house expertise in (S)ustainability?” Schneider Electric’s Energy University offers a part of the answer, at a very practical price (no charge for the courses, no specific schedule, no travel required). Jera Sustainable Development exists to assist smaller manufacturers in finding resources like Energy University and in integrating those resources into a comprehensive system of management.

Thoughtful comments and experience reports are always appreciated.

Chuck and Joan
…  Chuck Harrington

: Contact me when your organization is serious about pursuing Sustainability … CH

This blog and associated website ( are intended as a resource for smaller manufacturers in the pursuit of Sustainability. While editorial focus is on smaller manufacturers, all interested readers are welcome. New blog posts are published on Wednesday evenings.

: Other than a favorable impression of Square D® products, I have no relationship with Schneider Electric.


[1] See Negawatts – Waging War on Waste, this blog,—waging-war-on-waste.aspx


[2] Learn more about Energy University at


[3] See the Network for Business Sustainability report at