Picking up Nickels

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Is the bar really set this low for joining the solar power industry?

A Boston Globe profile of a solar energy consultant caught my eye recently. It's a look into how former "financial adviser" (I'm guessing that means annuity salesperson) Cara Morano became a solar consultant at Borrego Solar Systems last year.

So what kind of a background in solar power systems is needed for this job? Not much, apparently:

Morano had to learn the difference between volts, watts, and amps, and says organizations such as Solar Energy International offer hands-on workshops and online courses; the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners provides certification programs. "You don't need to go in as an expert," says Morano...

You sure don't need to be an expert Cara, and you prove that with this beauty (disclaimer: I am admittedly no solar power expert, but I did take a physics class once upon a time):

I'll keep it simple. First, there's the solar module, which takes sunlight and converts it into energy. Then the inverter takes the sign waves that come from the solar module and converts it from DC to AC power...

First, let's have a little high school physics level background on DC and AC power (thanks to Doctronics for the images):

DC (direct current) has a constant amplitude and no frequency component:

AC (alternating current) has an amplitude that varies with frequency (like a sine wave):

So basically, the idea is that you get DC from a power source like a battery or a solar module and you must use an inverter to convert it to AC, which is what a device in your home like a television would use.

With that in mind, shouldn't the above quote talk about a sine wave and not a "sign wave"? Assuming this wasn't an honest mistake from a non-technical Globe author, isn't that a pretty big blunder for a consultant who assesses your electrical system to determine if a solar power solution is right for you?

Second, if sine waves (emphasis mine) did indeed come from the solar module, then why would there be a need for it to be converted from DC to AC? That's probably because the solar module generates DC power (which has no frequency component), and must be converted to AC by the inverter. Basically, you don't have a sine wave until the inverter comes into the equation. I'd say that's blunder #2 from Ms. Morano.

Now seriously, wouldn't you be a bit embarrassed by this article if you worked at Borrego? And would you feel confident about Ms. Morano coming to perform a solar assessment at your home or business?

Now don't get me wrong, I think solar power is a pretty cool technology. I just think that if you profile a solar power consultant in a major metropolitan newspaper, shouldn't they at least sound like they know what they're talking about?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Free Gillette Fusion Razor at CVS Pharmacy this week

It's back!!! In December, I was disappointed that CVS Pharmacy didn't offer the free razor deals they typically have in the weeks leading up to Christmas. That changed recently when CVS has offered free in-store deals for a Gillette Fusion Gamer Razor over the past couple of weeks (although I unable to find one at local CVS stores last week).

CVS has the Gillette Fusion Gamer razor on sale for $7.99 this week. They are also offering a $4 Extra Bucks bonus with purchase (prints out immediately after purchase), bringing the cost down to $3.99. This price combined with the $4 off any Gillette Fusion Razor coupon from the 2/8 Proctor & Gamble coupon booklet will make this razor free.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Free Valentine’s Day music

Get the romance flowing with a free MP3 of Marvin Gaye's "Let’s Get It On" at amazon.com:

Let's Get It On

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

February 2009 Financial Asset Roundup

Here are my current financial assets as of the market close on February 10th, 2009:

Asset Jan 2009 Feb 2009 Change
Checking 713 337 -376
Money Market 37,252 34,182 -3,070
Savings Bonds 15,071 15,135 64
Treasury Bills 0 0 0
CDs 103,328 103,787 459
Brokerage 76,554 77,770 1216
401k 62,272 58,002 -4,270
Roth IRA 26,193 24,761 -1,432
SEP IRA 131,376 134,758 3,382
529 Savings 31,534 30,211 -1,323
Total Assets $484,293 $478,943 -$5,350

The value of S&P 500 index was going to end up pretty flat over the past month, but the big decline yesterday helped drive a 4.95% drop since the last update:

Ugh, unemployment is now up to 7.6% and the stock market reacted pretty negatively yesterday to the latest and greatest financial rescue plan and economic stimulus plan. Oil prices continue to hover below $40 per barrel despite gasoline supply concerns.

Money-wise, I pretty much have nothing going on at the moment other than a modest 7 month Bank of America CD @ 4.11% APY CD maturing early next month. At this point, I'm leaning against reinvesting the proceeds as savings rates continue to drop.

Business-wise, I am thankfully still bringing in consulting revenue for my S Corp. I'm looking to finish making my 2008 SEP IRA contributions getting my 2008 personal and business tax returns wrapped up, and will be relieved when all of my 2008-related tasks will be put to bed.