“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” - Often attributed to Plato but likely from Ian McLaren (pseudonym of Reverend John Watson)

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Pavegen, up close and personal

Photo credit: Pavegen
I was again in Washington, DC (actually, National Harbor, Maryland, just down the Potomac) last week for the annual (and perhaps last?) arpa-e Energy Innovation Summit (about which, more later). But I had learned that one of my targets of opportunity for debunking vacuous green claims, Pavegen, has an installation in Washington, DC. I couldn't feature being so close to an installation and not paying a visit to experience the Pavegen pavers first hand.

After Lyfting from the summit site at the Gaylord National Harbor Resort and Convention Center to Dupont Circle in Washington, DC, I had my first chance to observe and experience the Pavegen pavers (or tiles). To the right, you'll see the triangular tiles arranged as hexagons in the Pavegen sytem. Those are my feet and my Cross pen (inscribed with a wonderful message from my beautiful wife, Zandra) for scale.

I walked on the pavers, jumped on them, stood on them, and watched the DC pedestrian crowd interact with them. I'll describe my experience "down post" but first I'll describe the reactions from the pedestrians. I'll note that there were no signs or other indicators that the pedestrians and bicyclists were contributing to green energy generation (albeit at a negligibly small scale) with their efforts. No advertising was there and, frankly, the pavers don't look bad.

The video is slow motion of folks walking on the pavers. I didn't survey, or even count, but I'd estimate that somewhere around 5% of the pedestrians noted that there was something different in the small areas where the pavers were installed. And, on three occasions, someone mentioned to their fellow walker that electricity or energy was being generated by the pavers. One said that "I think it runs the lights or something." None seemed troubled either by the extra effort entailed in walking on the tiles, and the company of whomever mentioned the energy typically said "cool" or similar.

My reaction was fairly similar. It wasn't particularly troubling to climb out of the estimated 5mm depression caused by my weight acting on the Pavegen generators. But, as to electricity generation, I'll just say that my opinion is unchanged. To the left is one of several little installations of lit LEDs, again with my pen indicating scale. Based on Pavegen's site, there are also lights for some of the hardscape features. You can barely tell that the three LEDs are lit.

In any case, now that I've actually walked on the pavers, seen pedestrian reaction to them, and analyzed them (to death), I think I can finally put my Pavegen focus to rest.

From the "duh" department...

In my day job, I am an executive in a firm that provides consulting services, materials testing, and construction inspection. We don't work in the area of single family housing but, other than that, if it's being built, we want to be involved. And we're located in Southern California.

As such, we're very interested in the economics of the State and of its various regions. I was reviewing the 2017 "California Economic Summit Roadmap." On the first content page of that 12 page document, I read the following:

 "An additional 6.8 million people are considered “economically fragile,” living in households earning below their area’s median income (which varies by region, from $43,000 a year in the San Joaquin Valley to $64,000 in the Bay Area)."
Indeed. I must point out here that this statement is statistically confusing or, at the least, is poorly phrased. Exactly half of the households in California, or any County, or any State, or the U.S., or any Country earn below their area's median income. And, no matter how hard anyone in government tries, they simply can't fix this problem. Because, well, that's the definition of median! So, clearly, the issue isn't that half the households are below their area's median income but, rather that their area's median income is below the level that would represent not being classified as "economically fragile."

The definition of an "economically fragile" household isn't clearly stated, but surely it can't be "any household below its area's median household income" because, by that definition, one half of households everywhere are economically fragile and will be for all eternity or until Armageddon, whichever comes sooner.

I'm sure that my sophisticated readers were able to infer the intended meaning of this paragraph but, given the level of innumeracy out there, I'm absolutely sure that there are many readers who think My God, half the households in California are below the median household income! Make the rich pay their fare share, that will fix this!" And, of course, if such persons were asked "what fraction of the households in California would you estimate had below the mean household income?" they'd answer "Why, one half, of course! What a stupid question! "

The fact is that, barring an anomaly, significantly more than half are below the mean. For example, in 2014 the median household income in the U.S., per the Census Bureau, was $53,713. The mean household income was $72,641. Clearly, fewer households earned $72,641 and above than earned $53,713 and above. And yet, the mean is what people think of when the word "average" is used. But you knew that, didn't you?