Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Roof notes

(with links I want to save)

Because the solar companies told us we need to deal with our roof, we started learning about roofs. They’re much more complicated than I thought. The big problem for us is the chimney flashing, which is not in great shape. We don’t want more lead on the house, but lead flashing is the standard choice in these parts. The roofer we were going to use won’t consider any alternatives. Lead flashing stays much more intact than lead paint, but it can have some runoff, and installation and removal both are much more problematic than commonly acknowledged. And where our chimney is, any lead dust running off from around the chimney (from cutting the lead, deburring it, grinding it out, or just continued degradation from environmental exposure) will go straight into a very small garden that we want to be working in.

The other good choices seem to be removing the chimney entirely or using copper flashing. (Copper isn’t great to ingest, but it’s not as bad as lead, and there’s a lot of copper in roofing shingles anyway to reduce algae growth.) I’m not sure why nobody considers zinc. We can’t remove the chimney until we change out the furnace (planned for the next few years), the water heater (as soon as feasible), and the fireplace (need to learn more). But it would make a lot of sense to remove it: it’s usefulness is declining, maintenance is a giant expensive headache, and it’s an enormous roof penetration that coincidentally makes house fires worse.

We might talk to GF Sprague, Ranch Roofing, or someone else recommended on the Arlington List. We have three quotes from other roofers, only one of which seems sufficiently detailed.

I’d love to rebuild the front porch and dormer over it at the same time, but we can’t live through that kind of construction with a toddler. And we still won’t be able to make our house look like this one.

For solar reflectivity, asphalt shingles vary from terrible to bad. Medium gray is pretty close to light gray in reflectivity, and is not as terrible as very dark gray or black.

If we ever do more work on the inside of the house, there’s some ideas at aMortonDesign, Clarke Carpentry, and Second Life. Or we could do more ourselves with help from Mr. Pete. We’re adding some shelving to my office, but I don’t really want to do more interior work anytime soon.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Shop class

Solar, the postscript

The Massachusetts last chance auction for SRECs was completed last week. This is the mechanism that SunBug described to me as a price floor for SRECs, a mechanism to guarantee that SRECs would always be worth a minimum of $300 each. It’s an annual fixed price auction at $300, but Massachusetts forgot to require the utilities to actually buy the leftover SRECs at that auction.

There were 38,866 SRECs available. How many cleared? All? Almost all? 75%?


Not 3%. Just 3.

They sold 3 SRECs at the last chance auction. Out of 38,866.

Maybe it looks better in dollar figures. The state put a lot of work into auctioning off $11,659,800 in SRECs. The utilities collectively purchased $900. The state probably spent two to three orders of magnitude more than that to run the auction.

The state did jump in and announce that they were buying all the rest of the SRECs themselves, in a one-time gimmick designed to shift everyone’s embarrassment and anger down the road a year. And they stated very clearly that they won’t do that again.

So there you have the final word on the state’s price support mechanism for SRECs. It was a colossal failure.

If you’re planning on putting in solar in Massachusetts, don’t do it based on fantasies about how much income you’re going to get from SRECs. The state might change the rules, but as things stand now there is no price floor. The folks saying that a long-term target of $150 per SREC is reasonable look a lot more plausible now.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Opinions, not facts, about the candidates for Medford City Council

Medford City Council elections are coming up, sadly. Here are the candidates, complete with my opinions or the opinions I’ve heard from others:

Michael Marks (incumbent): the best of a truly terrible group of incumbents
Breanna Lungo-Koehn (incumbent): somewhat harmless
Paul Camuso (incumbent): sometimes harmless
Frederick Dello Russo, Jr. (incumbent): desperate to appear harmless
Robert Penta (incumbent): this is the lunatic who gets Medford City Council into the papers for all the wrong reasons
Rick Caraviello (incumbent): the new guy, anti-Green Line
Robert FitzPatrick: clearly the best candidate
Adam Knight: can’t find any actual policies, though he appears pro-labor
Mark Crowley: some good ideas, but he must know he’s being completely dishonest about property tax rates as his leading issue (we care about how much we pay, not about the calculation that got us there)
Robert Cappucci: prominent local Republican
Neil Osborne: appears to have the full support of Bill Wood and Carolyn Rosen, the worst people in Medford
Jeanne Martin: goes on endless incoherent public tirades, frequently uses "liberal" as an epithet, vehemently opposed to just about everything
Jim Morse: writes a lot about local issues, an anti-development and anti-Green Line crusader

Now let’s create an interesting and smart Medford City Council. Here’s a slate: Ken Krause, Sharon Guzik, Doug Carr, Laurel Ruma, Dee Morris, John Roland Elliott, and Allison Goldsberry. Why are none of these people running?