Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Gas Prices killing you part 3


Alex Beamer: Electric Truck and Wind Power for HimIn 1977, Alex Beamer bought Breitenbush Hot Spring, an old hot springs resort in the mountains of rural Oregon, about an hour east of the state capital, Salem, where he now lives and manages a natural foods store.

"At Breitenbush I helped create a community that sought to live lightly on the Earth and serve others as a healing retreat and conference center," he says. "In the early days of that adventure I worked a lot with developing alternative energy projects. I restored a 30-kilowatt small hydroelectric system, drilled wells into the geothermal aquifers, and used the hot water to heat our buildings, domestic hot water, and hot tubs." Breitenbush Hot Springs recently celebrated its 30th anniversary as a cooperatively owned business.

So Beamer was already predisposed to living sustainably when he decided to buy an electric truck and charge it with wind energy. But the thing that inspired him to get the electric truck was a sustainability conference where he heard a talk about peak oil.

On investigating if he could buy or convert a Toyota Prius into a plug-in hybrid, he found the technology wasn’t yet ready to use. He then looked into electric vehicles and found there were no assembly-line options at the time that worked for ordinary driving. "So I searched the Internet for conventional gasoline cars that had been converted to electric, and that’s when I ran across an ad for the electric truck I ended up buying."

It’s a 1997 production vehicle made by Chevrolet, and it was ready to go when I bought it," he says. "They made about 1,500 of them. Most were leased vehicles that were collected at the end of the leases and crushed. A few, maybe 50 or 60, were sold privately. My truck and many like it were used for a few years, then developed some problems and were parked for years. A fellow in Mesa, Arizona who’s an electric vehicle advocate bought many of them and restored them. That’s where I bought mine: http://www.evbones.com/."

When Beamer bought the truck, he was already purchasing “greensource” electricity from PG&E, his local utility. “PG&E offers all its customers several choices of environmentally friendly electricity, and we chose greensource, which is 85 percent wind and 15 percent biomass. Using wind-generated electricity makes a whole lot more sense than coal, and the cost is comparable to conventional electricity. Conventional is 9.9¢ per kilowatt hour and greensource costs 10.7¢, so greensource is .8¢ more.” PG&E’s website for clean electricity options is here.

Beamer says there’s a lot of interest in electric vehicles but very few ‘good’ ones available today, and retrofitting a conventional car is time-consuming and expensive. “Hopefully in the near future there will be more choices,” he says, "once battery technology gets where it needs to be."

Beamer says Tesla electric cars, which are now coming off the assembly line, are"“the most exciting thing happening now, but they’re very expensive." Here's a wide range of electric cars and conversions .

At the beginning of February Beamer turned off his home oil fired furnace and started using a ground loop heat pump system to heat the family home. "So now, since this system runs off electricity and our utility offers a clean electricity option, we run our whole household with wind powered electricity!"

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