Amazon cancels Minnesota affiliates

Well, it happened.  First and foremost, I’ve always tried to make my blog interesting to readers interested in technology & energy, and in the process I’ve sometimes linked out to relevant products on Amazon, to make me a little beer money.  I’ve tried not to be too annoying or gratuitous about it, but it did help a little to offset the ISP charges etc.  But today I got this email:

We are writing from the Amazon Associates Program to notify you that your Associates account will be closed and your Amazon Services LLC Associates Program Operating Agreement will be terminated effective June 30, 2013. This is a direct result of the unconstitutional Minnesota state tax collection legislation passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Dayton on May 23, 2013, with an effective date of July 1, 2013. As a result, we will no longer pay any advertising fees for customers referred to an Amazon Site after June 30 nor will we accept new applications for the Associates Program from Minnesota residents.

As near as I can tell, Amazon has neatly evaded the law, which added:

(b) A retailer is presumed to have a solicitor in this state if it enters into an agreement with a resident under which the resident, for a commission or other substantially similar consideration, directly or indirectly refers potential customers, whether by a link on an Internet Web site, or otherwise, to the seller.

So: Chuck out all the affiliates, collect no tax, done and done.  The state is no better off, and the bloggers in the state are worse off.  This is exactly what has happened in other states, so it should come as no surprise to our esteemed legislators.  I get it that states are hurting from dropping sales tax from brick and mortar stores and are looking for solutions, but it should have been obvious to anyone paying attention that this law would have very little effect when it’s this simple for places like Amazon to avoid it.

I was tempted to purge all links to Amazon from the blog – why send my good readers there for free?  ;)  But going forward, I guess I’ll try VigLink, which is sort of an affiliate of affiliates, and seems immune from this kind of thing, at least for now.  It looks trivial to switch over to w/o needing to go fix up any existing articles.  Hopefully it won’t make me look too craven; I’ll fine tune it as we go along.

Update: Viglink isn’t an option; they won’t reaffiliate if you’re in a “nexus” state.  Trying out skimlinks now…

Running the numbers on Minnesota’s solar mandate

At the end of the 2013 legislative session in Minnesota, legislators passed an omnibus energy bill which included, among other things, a requirement that investor-owned utilities in Minnesota (Read: Xcel Energy) must generate 1.5% of their electricity from solar by 2020.  There were a lot of other things in there as a result of the sausage law-making process for the solar mandate, including some that I’m not very fond of, but the bottom line of encouraging more solar development is a good thing in my book.  (Also, it was signed into law on my birthday!)

Solar Panels1.5% doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but what does it really mean in terms of physical solar PV deployments?  Numbers have been tossed around that this will require 450MW of new capacity in the next 7 years.

Assuming the 450MW number is correct, and picking 250W panels as a common panel size today, that’s 450,000,000 / 250 = 1,800,000 or 1.8 million panels installed by 2020.  That’s about 700 panels installed every day for 7 years.

If commodity sized (65x39cm) panels are used, that’s about 112 acres of panels (if they were laid out flat and edge to edge, which of course they aren’t) ;)  That’s roughly equivalent to 112 US football fields.

Is this possible?  Sure.  Austria installed 230MW in 2012 alone.  New Jersey installed 415MW in 2012.  And Minnesota gave itself 7 years to accomplish this goal.

Is 450MW the right number?  According to the NREL PVWatts calculator for Minneapolis, 450MW of optimally situated, fixed solar PV could be expected to generate 578,512 MWh of solar energy in the course of a year.

According to the EIA energy data browser, all utilities (including co-ops etc) in Minnesota generated 42,586,000 MWh in 2012.  578,512MWh is about 1.3% of that number.  Xcel is by far the largest generator, so if we take out the smaller co-ops etc, 450MW does seem like a reasonable ballpark number.

There are already large companies ready to jump at this.  Geronimo Energy has submitted a proposal to provide up to 100MW of capacity at up to 31 sites ranging from 2 to 10MW.  I honestly hope this isn’t the predominant mode of development.  We have an awful lot of flat roofs which would be well suited – for example, Ikea put 1MW on their Minnesota store last year.  100 acres or so isn’t all that much land, but I’d still rather see this go up on the built environment before we start using farmland & green space.

I’m excited to see how this works going forward.  Will my friends in the small-scale solar installation business stay busy?  Will SolarCity come to town?  Will companies like Geronimo make up the bulk of this with giant installations?  Will it reduce the need for new gas peaker plants?  Time will tell, but it’s an exciting time for solar in Minnesota, for sure.

Making it easy

belkin-conserve

(Image link goes to Amazon)

Read any collection of energy tips, and you’ll get pretty much the same thing.  Turn off lights behind you, unplug your cell phone charger, put your AV center on a power strip, etc.  The problem with these ideas, IMHO, is that you have to remember to do them, everyone in your family has to do them, and you have to keep doing them indefinitely to keep getting any benefit.  And face it, it’s hard to change behavior. Continue reading

Uncompressing Cisco X2000 firmware images

I got a refurbed Cisco X2000 [amzn] ADSL router / wireless access point for cheap from Adorama, hoping to combine 2 networking boxes, and reduce clutter and power a bit.  It comes in at 3-4W, and has an efficiency Level V wall wart, so that part’s all good.


Edit: Everything else is bad!  Don’t get this device.  Really.  It’s the buggiest piece of junk I’ve had the misfortune of trying to run on my network.  I’ll leave the rest of this post here for posterity.


Continue reading