Sunday, May 19, 2013

the staycation, part 2 (our little trip to titusville and the space coast)

Space Coast Next Generation Solar Energy Center
We spent Thursday going to the doctor for my wife and filling in the time doing other tasks. Friday we decided to make a quick trip over to the Kennedy Space Center and spend a few hours just touring the latest. I'd hoped to see something of the Atlantis exhibit, but it's still under construction with a tentative opening date of 29 June. We were also somewhat shocked at the cost of admission. The last time we were over there was in the mid-1990s with our two girls, who were still in elementary school at the time, but old enough to appreciate what they were seeing. Ticket prices at that time were pretty low. I don't remember what we paid as adults, but the kids cost $5 each. When we stopped in to check on prices we were shocked to see prices were $50/person and up, depending on what type of tour you wanted. Since the Atlantis exhibit wasn't ready we decided to pass and to just drive around Merritt Island and the general area from Rockledge to Titusville, including Cocoa Beach, and see what we could see. The day was sunny, the weather great.

On the way south from the Kennedy ticket center we passed the Space Coast Next Generation Solar Energy Center, a low-key solar power generation station built back in 2010. It's output is roughly 10MW, enough for about 1,100 homes at the time it came online.
Field of Solar
After we got back home I looked at FPL's on-line page for the center and played back the short video. At one point one of the video's speakers hoped that more solar centers such as this could be built. Considering that the way we build these is to cover a lot of ground, I'm very conflicted as to whether that's a good idea or not. On the one hand it's pure solar, emissions free while it's operating (but not emissions free to manufacture it). On the other you have to cover over more land to build it, which is an issue for me, especially on or near sensitive areas such as Merritt Island's conservation areas.

I am reminded of Robert Heinlein's stories I read while in high school, especially his "The Past Through Tomorrow" series. One story that I still remember from that collection, his 1940 short story "The Roads Must Roll," described an alternate future transportation system in which the roads themselves moved, carrying passengers and cargo. Key to powering these roads were the "Douglas-Martin Solar Reception Screens." Solar cells. While our roadway systems are just the opposite of this (static roadways with moving vehicles), the one key idea that would work for out roads is the same for Heinlein's and that is to put the solar cells over the roads. We've already cleared thousands of square miles in this country just for the privilege of driving. Let's make the roads dual-use by building a second level over them and covering that second layer with solar panels.
Daylight to Nitelight
Even the little things are powered by solar. This outside light has its own solar charging panel and what looks to be a battery to store power for use in the evening. Considering that Florida's nickname is "The Sunshine State," it's about time we really started to find ways to become far more solar powered than we currently are.
Dixie Crossroads
On the way back we stopped at Dixie Crossroads in Titusville where we both ate a dozen and a half rock shrimp for lunch before driving back to Orlando. Great food, fun atmosphere, and superb service. We just don't go there often enough.

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