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Old 07-14-2009, 10:17 PM   #121
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I think it would be simpler and more effective to just tax the stuff. When gas was $4, people found all sorts of ways to conserve. That's not theoretical, it is a fact, consumption went down. We know it works, it happened w/o any stupid "cash for clunkers" bill, or any CAFE standard changes... but no one wants to go there.
You have my vote. Now if you can just convince the other 49.99999999% of the electorate. Hey, what are you doing in 2012? Looking for a running mate? I hear Palin might not be up for it, so if not, give me a PM.

I think if everyone's utilities rates doubled, there would be a lot more conservation going on in the most efficient manners possible, and we could even waste the tax revenues on stuff like paying down the national debt, funding the next stimulus bill, or heck, even shaving off a fraction of a percent from everyone's tax rates!
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Old 07-14-2009, 10:40 PM   #122
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I did a little more research on the organization that buys PV solar power at $0.19 per kWh. They are a non-profit that seems to be loosely funded and affiliated with the state government, and they are housed at the local state U. They sign agreements with small producers of 10 kW systems or less. The rate used to be $0.22 until last year, then they lowered it due to "reduced cost of PV generation". However everyone receiving the old rate is grandfathered in. I need to call them and see how many years the "agreements" last and also determine the solvency of this agency and just how government backed (if any) they are. They have a long list of over 200 PV generators in the state (mostly residential), and at least a handful are in my city, so I'm sure I can talk to experienced residential generators. The $0.19 per kWh is based on $0.15 premium from the green power organization and the approx $0.04 that the power company pays for wholesale power. The green power org charges green minded bozos $0.04 per kWh extra to buy green energy (like offsets I guess), but somehow they will pay me $0.15. Something smells a little fishy in terms of sustainability, to borrow a word from the green movement.

Their PVWATTS program tells me a 3 kW DC system will generate around 3900 kWh annually using the assumptions they have for my city and the monthly sun strengths. I think these assumptions allow for a 23% inefficiency between the theoretical raw solar DC wattage and the AC wattage at the meter due to, among other things, a 5% reduction for dusty/dirty PV cells.

Quick back of envelope calcs say if I can get panels installed at a total cost of $4.5/watt, I will get a 16% payback each year, plus a 50% salvage value in year 6. A realistic installed cost is probably closer to $9 per watt based on the online calcs they had at the sites I visited. Which reduces the yield of this to the point where it probably isn't worth the hassle.

Or in dollar terms, if I put $30,000 into a 6.67 kWh system, it would cost me $10,500 after state and fed credits and produce 8749 kWh or $1,662 a year. Then in year six I could scrap the whole thing and if I could clear $2.25 per watt, make another $15,000. Making this little venture nicely profitable.

I am constrained a little on roof real estate, with only ~1200 sf, and 300 of that slopes downwards towards the north, so not sure how useable that is. Any idea is 900 sf of roof space could accomodate 3 kW or 6 kW? I also have around 8000 sf in the fenced back yard on ground level that could theoretically be used.

I definitely need to dig into this a little more. Partly because playing with stuff like this is fun, and partly because I like making money if it isn't too much work. And as an engineer, all my coworkers will be jealous of my technical prowess at building a powerplant at my house.
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Old 07-14-2009, 10:52 PM   #123
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And as an engineer, all my coworkers will be jealous of my technical prowess at building a powerplant at my house.
But will PV provide the technical challenge you desire? I saw a very cool web page/document several years ago (can't find it now) that described a way to make cheap pseudo-parabolic trough mirrors by putting a slight bend in mirror-coated regular plate glass. Maybe put about ten of these 4'x6' mirrors in your back yard. Design some solar tracking devices linked to servos and a "power tower" with a stirling cycle engine or a small steam turbine (a fun project in itself) and you'd be off to the races. This would give you WAY more bragging rights than a few solar panels on the roof.
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Old 07-14-2009, 10:57 PM   #124
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But will PV provide the technical challenge you desire? I saw a very cool web page/document several years ago (can't find it now) that described a way to make cheap pseudo-parabolic trough mirrors by putting a slight bend in mirror-coated regular plate glass. Maybe put about ten of these 4'x6' mirrors in your back yard. Design some solar tracking devices linked to servos and a "power tower" with a stirling cycle engine or a small steam turbine (a fun project in itself) and you'd be off to the races. This would give you WAY more bragging rights than a few solar panels on the roof.
That was part of my thinking as well. I was already thinking about the comparative advantage of some sort of non-PV solar powered micro power plant.

I was wondering if microturbines were out there on the market today. I'm just thinking that the neighbors might tar and feather me if the tracking somehow screwed up and I burnt down their houses with a targeted solar beam. Or the whole neighborhood. The townhouses across the street went up in a massive conflagration a couple years ago with some high winds and dry conditions, destroying 37 units I think. There's frugral (PV) and cheap (getting tarred and feathered).
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Old 07-15-2009, 10:01 AM   #125
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I wasn't sure about maintenance. I'm a newb, but I thought they had to be cleaned occasionally? And I assume there may be corrosion or wear/tear and weathering on connections? Hail or flying debris could crack a panel? Further research is required as I figured it wouldn't be easy to just set and forget for years without the occasional troubleshooting.
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We usually don't get more than 3/4 inch hail and that is only a couple times a year. We are in the approach/take off path for many geese, and goose feces would be all over these panels by the end of summer. Sometimes they land on the roof and poop on it too. re Hurricanes - we get tropical storms or remnants every few years it seems and strong hurricanes hit us or nearby areas every decade. Plus we get high winds a lot during regular storms since we have no tree cover and live at the end of a canyon basically (the lake basin). I'd definitely have to engineer the attachment to the roof to withstand some serious wind. May be more important to call the insurance company to see if they have a "solar panel" rider to their policy.
Every time I'm on the roof I check the panels, and there's never anything to clean. I don't know if occasional rain or dew takes care of everything or there's just not enough air pollution to deposit any dust.

Retail panel racks are usually warranteed at 100 MPH and some commercial racks are rated up to 150 MPH, although I doubt that a residence roof is rated to survive that.

The trick is not to build a monolithic array of airtight lifting surfaces panels but rather to allow an inch or two between the panels to let the breezes blow. Our racks are screwed into the beams of our cathedral ceiling with 1.5" bolts (plus silicon caulk) so I sure hope that holds.

I know that commercial installations are insured, but the cost of a homeowner's PV policy may greatly prolong the payback. We have a huge hurricane deduction so I haven't bothered to check. But then we don't have hail at our altitude and I keep the area clear of hurricane missile hazards.

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I did a little more research on the organization that buys PV solar power at $0.19 per kWh. They are a non-profit that seems to be loosely funded and affiliated with the state government, and they are housed at the local state U. They sign agreements with small producers of 10 kW systems or less. The rate used to be $0.22 until last year, then they lowered it due to "reduced cost of PV generation". However everyone receiving the old rate is grandfathered in. I need to call them and see how many years the "agreements" last and also determine the solvency of this agency and just how government backed (if any) they are. They have a long list of over 200 PV generators in the state (mostly residential), and at least a handful are in my city, so I'm sure I can talk to experienced residential generators. The $0.19 per kWh is based on $0.15 premium from the green power organization and the approx $0.04 that the power company pays for wholesale power. The green power org charges green minded bozos $0.04 per kWh extra to buy green energy (like offsets I guess), but somehow they will pay me $0.15. Something smells a little fishy in terms of sustainability, to borrow a word from the green movement.
So they're going broke slowly, which eventually would leave you scrambling for a net-metering agreement. But in the meantime you'd still be making most of your own power and I doubt the utility would make you unplug from the grid.

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Their PVWATTS program tells me a 3 kW DC system will generate around 3900 kWh annually using the assumptions they have for my city and the monthly sun strengths. I think these assumptions allow for a 23% inefficiency between the theoretical raw solar DC wattage and the AC wattage at the meter due to, among other things, a 5% reduction for dusty/dirty PV cells.
It's probably accurate to within 25%. I know that most inverters are at least 95% efficient and most panels are around 12-14% efficient, although later models are pushing 18-20%.

The problem is local conditions. None of the website calculators handle vog, but it nailed us 10% last year. Most of the website calculators don't handle seasonal variations, and even at 23 degrees latitude we have a swing of 25% from winter to summer. If you're in a microclimate that's always cloudy or rainy then PV is just not worth the effort.

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Quick back of envelope calcs say if I can get panels installed at a total cost of $4.5/watt, I will get a 16% payback each year, plus a 50% salvage value in year 6. A realistic installed cost is probably closer to $9 per watt based on the online calcs they had at the sites I visited. Which reduces the yield of this to the point where it probably isn't worth the hassle.
Those are good numbers. The issue is how long you'll be living in the house to enjoy the payback, and whether the payback calculators factor in a 5% inflation rate in utility costs-- or whatever your local utility has been able to get away with.

A local company has put nearly a megawatt of panels on top of the state's airport buildings, selling the power to the state at 32 cents/KWHr fixed for 20 years. This made lots of sense last year when electricity rates were 29 cents/KWHr and gas was $4/gallon, but not so much this year when fuel costs have plummeted and electric rates have dropped to 18 cents/KWHr. The state has been taking a lot of heat from the media, but in five years they'll no doubt be back up in the 32 cents/KWHr range.

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Or in dollar terms, if I put $30,000 into a 6.67 kWh system, it would cost me $10,500 after state and fed credits and produce 8749 kWh or $1,662 a year. Then in year six I could scrap the whole thing and if I could clear $2.25 per watt, make another $15,000. Making this little venture nicely profitable.
Yup. Assuming you use all those credits within the first couple years, although they carry forward for a long time.

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I am constrained a little on roof real estate, with only ~1200 sf, and 300 of that slopes downwards towards the north, so not sure how useable that is. Any idea is 900 sf of roof space could accomodate 3 kW or 6 kW? I also have around 8000 sf in the fenced back yard on ground level that could theoretically be used.
You're going to have to do the math on the panel dimensions, and unfortunately the high-power-density panels are pretty pricey. I wouldn't try to use anything facing north unless you could find an angled rack to elevate the panels south.

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I definitely need to dig into this a little more. Partly because playing with stuff like this is fun, and partly because I like making money if it isn't too much work. And as an engineer, all my coworkers will be jealous of my technical prowess at building a powerplant at my house.
It's all worth it just to watch an analog meter spin "backwards"...
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Old 07-15-2009, 10:32 AM   #126
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I am constrained a little on roof real estate, with only ~1200 sf, and 300 of that slopes downwards towards the north, so not sure how useable that is. Any idea is 900 sf of roof space could accomodate 3 kW or 6 kW?
The cell efficiency in commercially available mono and multi-crystalline panels is around 15%. Even if you round it down to 10% for cell spacing, frames, etc, you can count on roughly 10W per square foot. So your 900 sf roof should be able to accommodate at least 9kW of PV panels.
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Old 07-15-2009, 10:54 AM   #127
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The problem is local conditions. None of the website calculators handle vog, but it nailed us 10% last year. Most of the website calculators don't handle seasonal variations, and even at 23 degrees latitude we have a swing of 25% from winter to summer. If you're in a microclimate that's always cloudy or rainy then PV is just not worth the effort.
Here was the calculator provided by the Green Energy organization:

PVWATTS: North_Carolina - Raleigh

Looks like it accounts for monthly variations with the Dec-Jan solar radiation around 3.5 kWh per m^2 per day and the March-Oct closer to 5.5.
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Old 07-15-2009, 11:38 AM   #128
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Looks like it accounts for monthly variations with the Dec-Jan solar radiation around 3.5 kWh per m^2 per day and the March-Oct closer to 5.5.
They're getting a lot better.

The sales guys used to just tout the July insolation data...
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Old 07-15-2009, 12:34 PM   #129
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They're getting a lot better.

The sales guys used to just tout the July insolation data...
I was actually surprised by the relatively small differential between winter and summer solar radiation levels. It is very hot here in the summer (mid 90's usually) and rather chilly in the winter (30's or 40's F as the high). I guess the solar radiation is more a function of the departure from perpendicular of the angle of the sun as it goes overhead plus the shorter daylight hrs in winter. The coldness in winter just makes it seem like the sun is much much less powerful.
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Old 07-15-2009, 12:50 PM   #130
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I was actually surprised by the relatively small differential between winter and summer solar radiation levels.
Well, I think that's due to the quality of the data. If they displayed it at least month-to-month then the 25% peak-to-peak difference between Dec and July would be quite apparent around here.

Grid spacing matters too. We're just 15 miles away from a place that has 10% more insolation and almost never sees any clouds, let alone rain. (But they need a lot of A/C there so I'm not complaining.) A 40-km grid spacing won't show that significant difference.

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It is very hot here in the summer (mid 90's usually) and rather chilly in the winter (30's or 40's F as the high).
That's the actual difference between the solar radiation peaks... not the data.

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I guess the solar radiation is more a function of the departure from perpendicular of the angle of the sun as it goes overhead plus the shorter daylight hrs in winter. The coldness in winter just makes it seem like the sun is much much less powerful.
Well, the departure from the perpendicular is a trigonometric function that doesn't drop off much until you get above 25 degrees latitude or so. But then it starts changing pretty dramatically.

There's also that earth's elliptical orbit thing. We're a lot farther away in the winter, so the insolation goes down as a cube function of the orbit. That's probably the dominant factor, especially below 25 degrees latitude.

Another minor factor, perhaps not so minor on my roof, is that many panel conversion efficiencies start dropping off above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
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Old 07-15-2009, 12:57 PM   #131
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Another minor factor, perhaps not so minor on my roof, is that many panel conversion efficiencies start dropping off above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hmmm... 90 degrees? It definitely hits that up on the roof in the summer. By about 11:00 am. Is this just a function of resistance in materials increasing as temp increases? Or something more specific to how photovoltaic cells operate? I have to admit I know little about how PV cells actually work other than "sun excites electrons which move; moving electrons = current"
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Old 07-15-2009, 01:10 PM   #132
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There's also that earth's elliptical orbit thing. We're a lot farther away in the winter, so the insolation goes down as a cube function of the orbit. That's probably the dominant factor, especially below 25 degrees latitude.
I think you have that backwards. Earth is closer to the Sun in the Northern Hemisphere's winter.

The insolation factor might be a cube factor, but it would be a cube of the change in distance, and we are already 93 million miles away, ,...

ahh, wiki to the rescue:
Earth's orbit - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Earth's perihelion occurs around January 3, and the aphelion around July 4 ...

aphelion 152,097,701 km ,1.0167103335 AU
perihelion 147,098,074 km , 0.9832898912 AU

eccentricity 0.016710219

so 1.016710219 ^ 3 = ~ 5.1% delta from max to min

edit/add: Hmmm, eccentricity must average the numbers somewhat (RMS maybe?), so the ratio of max/min is: 1.033988392 and that ^3 is 1.105470072, so about 10.5% from max-min, in favor of winter.

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Old 07-20-2009, 10:36 AM   #133
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Here's a little green entertainment for you. I have partially completed an electricity consumption inventory in my house to see what passive loads are sucking down electricity. Here's the spreadsheet.
There's another step you should do when working on the inventory. When you finish adding up all your "phantom loads," unplug the refrigerator, turn out all the lights, then go out to your power meter, and calculate how many watts are flowing.

I posted instructions on how to calculate it years ago, and am having trouble finding that post.

IIRC, I found that all the phantom loads added up to 170 Watts of power being used when everything was off. That was significantly more than I calculated from my inventory.

That was when I thought that phantom loads were insignificant, I should probably redo it.
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Old 07-20-2009, 10:41 AM   #134
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Here's how to measure your instantaneous total house current:

How to measure your electrical use: Electric Meter and Watt-Hour Meter methods
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Old 07-20-2009, 10:58 AM   #135
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Here's how to measure your instantaneous total house current:

How to measure your electrical use: Electric Meter and Watt-Hour Meter methods
thanks, I'll have to try that. I have the digital meter outside similar to the pic shown in the link. I'm sure a whole bunch of 1-2-3 watt phantom loads add up to a lot overall.

I finally went back and looked at historical power bills, and I use about 4000 kWh not including heat and a/c, and then another 4000 kWh to run the furnace fan for heat and the a/c.

4000 kWh works out to an average of 457 watts throughout the year. After adding in a bunch of active loads (fridge, microwave, oven, stove, washer, dryer, dishwasher, lights, etc), there probably isn't a lot of room left for passive loads. But further investigation will reveal whether that is correct.
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Old 10-08-2009, 10:28 AM   #136
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Been reading this paper more carefully during a lull in the action here at w*rk...

The author states that average usage in the USA is 250kWh/d/p.

I've calculated my average usage over the past three years at around 82kWh/d, including electricity (22), natural gas (23), and gasoline (37). I suppose the other 169kWh/d is fueling trucks, trains, aircraft, street lights, gumment buildings, etc., on my "behalf"...
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Old 10-08-2009, 12:18 PM   #137
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Been reading this paper more carefully during a lull in the action here at w*rk...

The author states that average usage in the USA is 250kWh/d/p.

I've calculated my average usage over the past three years at around 82kWh/d, including electricity (22), natural gas (23), and gasoline (37). I suppose the other 169kWh/d is fueling trucks, trains, aircraft, street lights, gumment buildings, etc., on my "behalf"...
Don't forget your share of Wally World, the banks, fast food places etc. that are all there just waiting to serve you...
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Old 12-02-2009, 09:47 AM   #138
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Unfortunately for far too many the climate change is a business to make a buck off of. The more they can stir the pot and agitate the population/politicos the more money they make. Yechh, , they disgust me.

This most recent congressional cap and trade boondoggle is another example of attempting to make money off of climate change.
The above is part of post #3, 6/28/09

The recent discovery of ...ahem.... some creative fudging and destruction of original climate data prompted me too look at my previous post on the subject.

Some musical comment on the subject:


Me thinks some jail time is in order for many of the eminent scientist for perpetuating a fraud on the world. Amongst them fine fellows like Phil Jones head of UK's Climate research, University of East Anglia and Michael Mann of Penn State et al..
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Old 12-02-2009, 11:20 AM   #139
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A good overview on the technical state of the global warming debate from MIT professor of meteorology Richard Lindzen.

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Claims that climate change is accelerating are bizarre. There is general support for the assertion that GATA [global averaged temperature anomaly] has increased about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since the middle of the 19th century. The quality of the data is poor, though, and because the changes are small, it is easy to nudge such data a few tenths of a degree in any direction. Several of the emails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU) that have caused such a public ruckus dealt with how to do this so as to maximize apparent changes.


The general support for warming is based not so much on the quality of the data, but rather on the fact that there was a little ice age from about the 15th to the 19th century. Thus it is not surprising that temperatures should increase as we emerged from this episode. At the same time that we were emerging from the little ice age, the industrial era began, and this was accompanied by increasing emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2, methane and nitrous oxide. CO2 is the most prominent of these, and it is again generally accepted that it has increased by about 30%.



. . . At this point there is no basis for alarm regardless of whether any relation between the observed warming and the observed increase in minor greenhouse gases can be established. Nevertheless, the most publicized claims of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) deal exactly with whether any relation can be discerned. The failure of the attempts to link the two over the past 20 years bespeaks the weakness of any case for concern.
The examples he gives of positive and negative atmospheric feedback mechanisms are interesting. This is complex, and a graph of CO2 levels vs temps turns out to mean almost nothing by itself. And then:

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What does all this have to do with climate catastrophe? The answer brings us to a scandal that is, in my opinion, considerably greater than that implied in the hacked emails from the Climate Research Unit (though perhaps not as bad as their destruction of raw data): namely the suggestion that the very existence of warming or of the greenhouse effect is tantamount to catastrophe. This is the grossest of "bait and switch" scams. It is only such a scam that lends importance to the machinations in the emails designed to nudge temperatures a few tenths of a degree.
Can anyone tell me what the global average temperature is "supposed' to be, and if we are above or below it?
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Old 12-02-2009, 11:27 AM   #140
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Can anyone tell me what the global average temperature is "supposed' to be, and if we are above or below it?
How about 80F, and sunny...
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