Sunday, February 14, 2010

Deep in Denial About The Suck


One of the suckiest things about living in Bend is the dumb-ass way the locals delude themselves about how hard Bend sucks.

Case in point: Yesterday the local daily newspaper, in a front-page story about solar power, made the rather astonishing claim that Bend has "more sun than Florida."

Say what?

After picking my jaw up off the floor I decided that, in the interests of scientific accuracy and fair and honest blogging, I shouldn't simply assume the assertion was full of shit; I should make some effort to check it out.

So I went to the city-data.com Web site (an invaluable repository of all sorts of economic, demographic and climatic information about thousands of cities) and looked at the sunshine chart for Bend, just to refresh my memory.

Then I looked at the sunshine charts for Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville, Tallahassee and St. Petersburg.

The chart for every one of those five Florida cities shows sunshine substantially ABOVE the national average for most of the year. The Bend chart shows sunshine substantially BELOW the national average for almost all of of the year, except for a period of about six weeks in midsummer.

In fact, the curve showing Bend's sunshine is almost exactly the same as the sunshine curve for Portland, which is notorious for its gray, rainy climate.

The newspaper story didn't explain the basis for the "more sun than Florida" claim. Perhaps, in some obscure technical way, it's legitimate. For example, there might be more sun in an open field in Bend on a typical summer day than there is inside a sealed crypt in Florida on a typical summer day. Or there might be more sun outdoors in Bend on a sunny day than there is 40 feet underwater in Florida on a cloudy day. I can't be sure.

But my strong suspicion is that "more sun than Florida" is just one more load of Chamber of Commerce bullshit which the paper passed on without question, and which -- like "300 days of sunshine" -- will be added to the local folklore and help Bendites continue to live in denial of the fact that this town truly, deeply and profoundly sucks.

ADDENDUM: At the top of the post is a chart that Jack Elliot obtained from Dr. Vignola at the U of O. Evidently Central Oregon gets more solar energy than Florida by some arcane measurement process. I'm still not persuaded that Bend truly gets "more sun than Florida" by any reasonable human standard.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are funny and most correct. I got pulled in by the 300 days of sun BS and after living here 3 years I can say by experience that it's simply not true. Thanks for your humor and honesty. I'm hoping to watch your true count of sun for this year so please keep it up.

PS. I think a more accurate record would be to measure HOURS of sunshine as opposed to days. Days can be subjectively altered.

PSS. Bend still has a lot to offer and my family is enjoying it quite a bit. =)

blackdog said...

I'm glad you and your family are enjoying what Bend has to offer, but there isn't anything to enjoy in Bend that can't be enjoyed better in a place with a better climate -- with the possible exception of snow skiing.

blackdog said...

Re measuring hours of sunshine: I lack the technical means to do that, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

Talking about the 'weather', can you please talk about something that the humans suck in Bend?

The weather is what it is, but its the humans that say another thing.

But its the humans in Bend that truly make this place suck.

blackdog said...

I don't think the people of Bend suck any worse than people anywhere else. We have the usual mix of human types -- pleasant and grumpy, friendly and unfriendly, smart and stupid, honest and dishonest.

The one thing about Bendites that really, truly annoys me is their non-stop bragging about how gloriously wonderful Bend is. To hear them tell it we have the sunniest sun, the most mountainous mountains, the cutest kids, the greenest grass, the rockiest rocks, the wettest river, and blah-blah-blah-blah ad nauseam.

Makes me wonder who they're trying to convince -- other people, or themselves.

Anonymous said...

This is blasphemy you know?

The weather god's are pissed because Lord Hollern, and Reverend Neuman, and Christian Moss have been harmed by the failure of the people to continue to buy real estate.

Insulting Bend's weather is an insult to the weather god, and to Bend true God's.

So get out there and promote 300 days of sunshine and buy a home from Brooks Resources, and deposit some money into CACB, and give your life savings to 1031-Neuman,, ... and make Bend a better and sunnier place.

Quit Bitching about the weather, because its not going to get better until you open your wallet.

Jack Elliott said...

You callin' them folk liars?

"Central Oregon has a number of benefits that make solar a good option, said Lizzy Rubado, senior residential solar project manager with the Energy Trust of Oregon. The region has long, clear, sunny days in the summer, and often clear winter days as well — in an average year, more sun hits Bend rooftops than Miami rooftops, she said.

"Studies measuring the amount of solar radiation shows that the area gets more solar energy than Florida, with its storms and hurricanes, said Frank Vignola, director of the University of Oregon's Solar Radiation Monitoring Lab."

blackdog said...

Jack: As the old saying has it, figures don't lie but liars figure. I'd like to know how those studies were conducted before accepting them, especially since Miami is the sunniest of the five cities I checked out on city-data.com. Yeah, Florida has storms -- but so does Bend. And the Caribbean area definitely has hurricanes, but only one or none comes ashore in Florida in a normal year. The way the Bulletin story phrased it, it sounds like they get one every week.

Last observation: People move to Florida ("The Sunshine State") for the sunshine but I never heard of anybody moving to Oregon for the sunshine. Well, maybe a few people from soggy Seattle.

In short, I strongly suspect this is just more "gosh-Oregon-is-so-wonderful" puffery.

blackdog said...

An afterthought: They might be comparing solar INTENSITY. The sunlight here is, indeed, very intense ... on the rare occasions when the sun is out. But even if Bend does get more totalwatts or foot-candles or whatever per year than Miami, I don't think that justifies the claim that we get "more sun." It may be true in a narrow technical sense, but it's misleading.

Jack Elliott said...

Exactly. The units of measure are not specified in the article well enough to know what is meant. The sources may have been referring to something in a "narrow technical sense" which means little to someone out taking a walk, or maybe they know rather more about the subject.

I'll email both Rubato and Vignola to see if they can explain what they meant. If I get a response from either, I'll post it here.

Anonymous said...

http://images.angelpub.com/2009/45/3287/solar-radiation-map.gif

Look here at the standard solar map for the USA used by scientists.

Basically on our planet about 1 kilowatt comes down on a solar-panel, that is a square meter.

In the areas of brown assuming 99% efficient panel you might get top solar energy.

You can clearly see that Bend is light-yellow, and florida is dark-yellow, and the willamette-valley is green.

So for the record,

Florida gets MORE sun than Bend, and Bend gets a lot more than Portland.

End of fucking story.

Bend is about 30% efficient, so that even with perfect panel you can't expect more than 300 watts of power. Another issue is 'solar hours', how many hours a day you get of this good shit, in Bend its about an average of 6 hours a day, its higher in Florida because they're close to the equator.

Thus Florida NOT only gets MORE pure sun, because there is LESS WATER in the air, but florida also gets MORE sun hours on average.

In summary what HBM is saying is true, these people are talking out of their ass, and are obviously right-wingers ignorant of real science.

Bend 'might' have something going for it, but SUN isn't it, yes out by xmas valley they get a lot more PURE sun, and thus that is where they're testing solar arrays, but NOBODY is going to invest that shit in this area, we simply don't get good sun even hitting the ground here in Bend.

Anonymous said...

hbm,

If you look at the map on solar radiation you can see a green spot down by Miami, which means down there the solar-radiation is the same as Bend, .. maybe they're comparing this spot to Bend?

It does appear the Bend color is the same yellow, but my eyes are old.

But because Florida gets more solar hours, it still has better sun for energy and pleasure on average, than Bend, Oregon.

blackdog said...

"But because Florida gets more solar hours, it still has better sun for energy and pleasure on average, than Bend, Oregon."

Bingo.

Anonymous said...

http://www.freepower4home.com/images/USA%20solar%20Power%20System%20Geography.jpg

Jeebus XMAS HBM, post a real map that used by the solar industry, look at this map.

It clearly shows the Florida Kicks ass on Oregon, and Central Oregon.

Your map from UofO would be completely discredited by the solar power industry.

blackdog said...

"Your map from UofO would be completely discredited by the solar power industry."

Hey dude, it ain't MY map, it's the U of O's map. I'm not vouching for its accuracy or validity.

Jack Elliott said...

Overlaying the CSP map (at the head of the this blog article) over a mappie of Oregon, the city of Bend can be found in the 5 to 5.4 kWh/square meter band, while Florida is in the 4 to 5 kWhr/m^2 range. Putting Bend onto the map that one of they anonymous anonymouses provided (http://images.angelpub.com/2009/45/3287/solar-radiation-map.gif) places Bend in the 4 to 4.5 kWhr/sq in per day range while most of Florida is in the 4.5 to 5 kWhr/sq in per day range.

Pretty close enough for me.

And an anonymous wrote, "But because Florida gets more solar hours, it still has better sun for energy and pleasure on average, than Bend, Oregon."

While science can be disputed, opinions cannot. I, for one, have spent most of the years of my life in a foreign country where the sun is relentless. If more hours of sun per day is your measure of excellence then I commend you to Phoenix, Ariz. (see map at top of the blog), or perhaps someplace between the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer.

blackdog said...

Can Jack or someone else with a more technical bent than I explain what "average annual direct normal solar resource data" (map at top of page) means?

Jack Elliott said...

Another darn research project.

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Geographic Information System (GIS), who published the map, this map represents "monthly average daily total solar resource information on grid cells.* The insolation values represent the resource available to a flat plate collector, such as a photovoltaic panel, oriented due south at an angle from horizontal to equal to the latitude of the collector location. This is typical practice for PV system installation, although other orientations are also used." (http://www.nrel.gov/gis/solar.html)

Of course no one set up millions of photovoltaic panels to gather the data. The NREL's "How the maps were made" page (http://www.nrel.gov/gis/solar_map_development.html) says that the model used to derive the data used "...hourly radiance images from geostationary weather satellites, daily snow cover data, and monthly averages of atmospheric water vapor, trace gases, and the amount of aerosols in the atmosphere to calculate the hourly total insolation (sun and sky) falling on a horizontal surface." Correction for latitude tilt was applied to correct for how high the sun is in the sky at each location, for each month.

*The "grid cells" are chunks of land about 10 km in size, or 0.1 degrees in both latitude and longitude. This is the resolution of the map -- like dots per inch describe the resolution of a photo or computer monitor.

The particular map that Blackdog used shows "Concentrating Solar Power" (CSP) which is a measure of the heating effect of the sunlight falling upon a "concentrating" type solar collector. Solar collectors come in two popular flavors: photovoltaic (PV) or concentrating. PV collectors are the familiar solar panels we see on roofs, and they convert visible light to electricity. They are not happy with heat, becoming less effective as they warm. Concentrating types use mirrors or lenses to focus the sunlight onto a small spot, creating a heat source to be used as a source of power (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power#Concentrating_solar_power). So PV maps show sunlight brightness, CSP maps will show sunlight heat. Pretty much.

So, the phrase "average annual direct normal solar resource data"

"Average annual" is pretty easy to parse. It suggests that the data was measured over an entire year, then averaged. It's not clear whether it's the average of one year's worth of sunlight, or several. More years are better as some regions have weather that varies wildly from year to year.

"direct solar resource" -- direct sunlight as a resource. "Normal" is, well, what one might normally expect.

So "average annual direct normal solar resource data" is the amount of direct heating sunlight at the surface, averaged over a normal year in units of kilowatt-hours per square meter per day. A higher number means more available sunlight which can be converted into power.

Note that the GIS page at http://www.nrel.gov/gis/solar.html has links to monthly maps. These might help explain how Bend can have the same annual solar heating as Miami, given Bend's higher latitude and possibly greater cloud cover (? -- apparently Florida gets a lot of cloud activity during tropical storm season? I don't know, never been there).

blackdog said...

Thanks for the research, Jack. I understand it now ... I think.

I guess whether Bend has "more sun than Florida" depends on which data set you use. And I can't help thinking the U of O scientists picked the data that makes Oregon look good.

But then I have always been a cynical son of a bitch.

Jack Elliott said...

Over breakfast I thought that maybe the CSP map might not relate as directly to what we perceive as "sunny" as the PV map. The CSP numbers refer to the sun's heating power. But anyone who has used PV solar panels knows there are very, very sensitive to the brightness of the sunlight. Even a thin scrim of clouds can cause a PV panel's output to drop to close to zero, whereas the heat concentrated by mirrors or lenses in a collector type system might not drop so precipitously.

So if we human types only consider a day in which the sun is shining through clear air, with no high thin clouds, then the PV maps might provide a better sense of how Bend stacks up to Florida in the "human" sense, as opposed to how much energy the sun would provide to a CSP power plant.

To see how this idea stacks up, I placed Bend on the NREL's PV map, and it sits in the 5 to 5.5 kWh/square meter per day range -- as does Florida.

I'm thinking that looking at the monthly charts gives more insight.

Here's December: http://www.nrel.gov/gis/images/map_pv_us_december_may2004.jpg

Here's March: http://www.nrel.gov/gis/images/map_pv_us_march_may2004.jpg

Here's June: http://www.nrel.gov/gis/images/map_pv_us_june_may2004.jpg

Here's September: http://www.nrel.gov/gis/images/map_pv_us_september_may2004.jpg

As can be seen, Bend easily outperforms Florida, solar energy-wise, for several summer months, but Florida makes us cry "uncle!" in the winter months. On the whole, Bend and Florida average out. But Florida's sunlight doesn't vary as much over the seasons as does Bend's.

I would say that the experts quoted in the article can justify their statements with these data, and data from a bunch of other studies, too; that the words may have received editorial massaging to add a bit of bias; and that Blackdog and other who feel that there is no way Bend has as much sunlight as Florida can just as easily use these data to make their points, too.

Less sun in winter, more in summer.

Jack Elliott said...

"But then I have always been a cynical son of a bitch."

Your mom dresses you funny, too.

blackdog said...

Your mother wears combat boots.

Anonymous said...

Ha, I was in beautiful Miami, Fla. in February and missed this thread! I'm with you, Blackdog. Since I moved here almost a decade ago, yes, from Florida, it's struck me as heeeelarious that so many people in Bend refer to it as "paradise."

Paradise has palm trees, of course.

Also, their complaints about humidity. I'd take a warm night in the South, crickets chirping and not a jacket in sight, over frigid summer nights any day of the week.

BTW, having spent most of my life in Fla., I can attest: There's way more sunshine there, as if it needs to be said. And no cursed temperature inversions either.

blackdog said...

Yes, it's a pain in the ass to have to put on a sweater or jacket every time you want to sit outdoors after dark, even in midsummer. This damn place just NEVER gets really warm. The sun is intense, but it seems to lack the ability to warm the land. As soon as it sets, it's like somebody turned on the refrigerator.