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Entering the battery age brings us more options
Marion and Rich Patterson
Mar. 3, 2021 12:00 am, Updated: Mar. 3, 2021 2:05 pm
Eight years ago I took a chance. I'd heard that lithium ion battery powered tools were superior to earlier generation batteries or those that plug into the wall. So, I plunked down 500 bucks and bought a cordless drill, saws, a light, charger and batteries.
Boy, do they work! Lacking a wire means they're easier to use and safer than corded tools. I've since added to my cordless tool inventory. My gas-powered lawn mower, chain saw and trimmer have been replaced with battery-powered equivalents that function perfectly and are easier to use. I bought Milwaukee and EGO brands, but many companies now make battery-powered tools. Consumers have options.
Battery tools are quiet, powerful and easy to use. They don't need filter or oil changes or require pulling a starter rope. Push a switch and they go to work.
I charge our batteries, in part, with solar energy striking photovoltaic panels on my roof, but even if I bought electricity, it would cost less to charge our tools than a gas energy equivalent. Since batteries eliminate the need to store cans of gas they reduce a fire hazard.
Ever improving batteries, combined with outstanding tools and vehicles, puts the world on the cusp of a new energy era. In the past two centuries, society shifted from wood fuel to coal and then petroleum. Because of advancing technology and reducing cost, batteries are now pushing gasoline aside. For example, several photovoltaic companies sell home battery storage units that mount on a wall. Charged by rooftop solar panels, when the grid fails the batteries kick in and power a home for several days. Gas generators are being nudged into obsolescence.
When a major product declines, producers often resort to politics to maintain market share. Although the relationship between oil companies and ethanol interests is somewhat adversarial, they sleep in the same liquid fuel bed. Both industries face long-term sales declines. Attempting to manipulate markets, like requiring more ethanol in gas, merely shuffles the deck chairs as the ship settles. It might work in the short term, but politics can't overcome the headwinds of technological and economic change. Money would be better used to develop new corn markets.
The handwriting is on the wall. Car companies are switching to electric vehicles. In the waning days of the previous administration, the federal government opened vast tracts of public land to drilling, but oil company interest is tepid. Declining demand eliminates profit from drilling wells in remote places and transporting oil vast distances.
The energy landscape is rapidly shifting. Alliant Energy recently installed a large battery unit in Decorah that stores electricity generated by photovoltaics, providing power during darkness. As electric cars and tools expand, utilities are well poised to sell energy for transportation, tools and all sorts of other devices. Homeowners and businesses can install photovoltaics to produce their own power.
I look forward to the battery era. It offers opportunity for new types of employment and a cleaner, quieter and healthier environment
Marion and Rich Patterson co-own Winding Pathways LLC, a business designed to encourage people to create wondrous yards. www.windingpathways.com.
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