Friday Linkage 9/22/2017

It is officially fall.  It is time to get the skis out and waxed for the upcoming season.  It is time to fully embrace “sweater weather” and pumpkin spice whatever…oh wait, it is ninety degrees in eastern Iowa today.  Damn, I guess summer is not going to release its satanic grip quite yet.

On to the links…

Key Stories for Understanding the Monuments Memo—Get ready for the great environmental legal battle when Trump actually takes these recommendations and moves forward with bad policy.  Like spoiled brats and bullies the Trump administration is acting reflexively against anything that they do not like regardless of the consequences.

These Companies Support the Paris Agreement. They Also Support Climate Deniers.—I do not care what you say publicly.  If you support climate denial in any way you are part of the problem regardless of what you do with your other corporate efforts.  It would be better to do nothing at all than to secretly support these scam artists who are obfuscating the most important challenge of our time.

Cedar Rapids says They’re Seeing More Residents Go Solar in Linn County—I did not participate in this program when I had a solar photovoltaic system installed on my roof, but it is exciting to see that there is a lot of interest out there in going solar.  Every system is like a little dagger into the black heart of coal.

US Celebrates Record 29% Drop In Utility-Scale Solar Costs — But Tariff Cloud Looms—Everyone claims to love a free market right up until the moment that it impacts their pocketbook.  Solar prices have gotten so low so fast because of globalization.

Why Wind and Solar Won’t Save Us—Reducing demand should be the primary focus, but once we have reduced demand producing clean energy to satisfy what remains is imperative.

Trump’s ‘No Friend’ of Clean Energy. Here are 3 Reasons to Invest Anyway—The investment community does not care about the politics anymore.  They see clean energy as a sound investment going forward.  Given the cost curves and public sentiment you have to wonder how long coal can hang on.

The Solar Boom In The Middle East—The Middle East is a perfect and odd place for solar to be successful.  It is sunny and there is a lot of open space, but it is also blessed with cheap fossil fuels.

Tesla Powerwall 2: An In-Depth Review—Changes in behavior are always interesting.  As someone who wants to generate all his electricity needs from the sixteen panels on the my roof I can tell you that since I have installed my solar system I think twice about using the air conditioner, which is the last remaining major discretionary electrical appliance in my home.

Regenerative Solutions for the Future of Humanity—It is not enough to preserve what we have not destroyed.  We need to regenerate what we have degraded if we are to live a fulfilling life as a species on this planet.

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Friday Linkage 9/15/2017

The aspens are turning yellow in Colorado and the tulip trees in my backyard are doing the same.  The temps may still be in the 80s during the day, but fall is almost here.  That means on of these weekend nights will be spent waxing skis and checking over the gear.  It is time to start watching Open Snow’s reports and praying for powder.

On to the links…

As Hurricanes and Wildfires Rage, US Climate Politics Enters the Realm of Farce—It is my hope that we look back on the last fifteen or so years of American politics as an embarrassing interlude before sanity regained its footing.

Why Environmentalists Can’t Afford to Wait Until 2018—Too many times I have heard that a forthcoming election was the moment when the coalition of various environmental groups finally got their act together and drove votes to the polls.  Maybe the combination of the worst president in American history, successive natural disasters exacerbated by climate change, and a joke of Congress actually means it will happen.

The World’s Future Energy System: Cleaner, More Efficient and Less Demand—Despite how messed up things seem to be there is actual hope in the air.

Obama’s Solar Goal Has Been Met, Trump’s Energy Department Brags—Trump loves a win even if it is for something he purports to not like and set up by a man he openly loathes.  When are we going to be done with this flaccid cantaloupe and get back to some real leadership?

New Research Shows Solar Energy May Have Been Undervalued—You have to love simulations that do not include the fastest growing slice of the energy production market.  There are a lot of roofs in my neighborhood that do not have solar PV panels on them yet that are better candidates than my roof, which produces more than 100% of my household electrical needs.

Colorado Utility says Odds it will Build a Major New Coal Plant are now ‘Remote’—The key line in this article is when the representative for Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association said that some of the costs for the coal plant expansion were unrecoverable.  That means the finance people in the room said that a portion of the project would be a loss no matter what.

Offshore Wind Power is Cheaper than New Nuclear Power in the UK—Coal is dead.  Nuclear is non-competitive on a cost basis.  The future is clean and renewable.

DONG Energy To Build World’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm—Hornsea Project Two 1,386 MW of offshore wind power is a lot of wind.  Like one quarter of the state of Iowa’s installed wind power in one installation.  Together with Hornsea Project One the combined wind installations represent more than 2,500 MW of clean power.

GE Renewable Energy Unveils Largest Onshore Wind Turbine—Imagine replacing existing GE 1.5MW turbines, which dominated the U.S. market for many years, one for one with 4.8MW turbines from the same company.

MIT Researchers Propose an Ancient Technology to Store Clean Energy—Thermal energy storage is an already developed and vetted technology that could help us in shifting the demand curve to match the production curve of renewables.

How Does Thermal Energy Storage Reach Scale?—It can reach scale by being mandated.  If you want to build a large building in a hot climate like southern California or Arizona you should be required to use a thermal energy storage system to help regulate the peaks and valleys of energy demand and production.  If you are a grocery store or warehouse with huge refrigerator systems you should be required to install these systems.

If Power Start-Up Drift can make it in New York, it may be Lights Out for Traditional Utilities—Utilities are one of the last great true monopolies left in the United States.  Heck, you can get out from under the thumb of the cable company now by cutting the cord but you cannot pick your power company.

Vivint Solar & ChargePoint Announce Fully Integrated Solar Residential Energy Management Solution—The future will be a place where the solar panels on your house, the battery in your garage, and your EV are all integrated into a single system to maximize performance and stabilize the larger energy grid.  Tesla is trying to get to that point with a closed system of Tesla products.  This partnership may be more effective because it can be open source to a degree.

Wyoming ‘Ag-Gag’ Law Suffers Appeals Court Blow—Ag gag laws have flown under the radar in the age of Trump but there is legal wrangling going on that will decide the fate of such restrictions on the First Amendment.  How anyone can interpret these laws as having anything other than a cooling effect on free speech is beyond me.  The other irony is the same people pushing these laws trumpet anything done by James O’Keefe.

The Premium Mediocre Life of Maya Millennial—We are all just living a premium mediocre life now.

Minnesota Named the Happiest State, while Red Ones Roil in Angst—Is anyone really surprised by this?  I am just amazed that people in red states just keep electing the same people while their quality of life sucks and accept that the answer is someone else is to blame for the problem.

Health at a Planetary Scale—Getting people to even say public health is hard.  Republicans automatically think it means socialism because the word public is akin to saying Lord Voldemort.  The rest of the world generally does not know what it means and those that do are prone to wonky discussions about outcomes, policy, and efficacy.

As Bees Die-Off, Coffee Production could Plummet more than Previously Thought—Well, piss in my shoe.

Friday Linkage 9/8/2017

Labor Day week and the links are a little light.  Maybe I spent too much time reading about DACA, Hurricane Irma, and the forthcoming Iowa vs. Iowa State football game to really get my head into other news stories.

On to the links…

This EPA Statement Reads Like Something You’d Find in Breitbart—In a few years when the Trump Administration is little more than a steaming pile of bad memories the lasting damage will be unwound slowly and shit like this will just make us cringe in collective disbelief.  It is amazing that a group of politicians who accuse everyone outside their circle of being “fake news” is probably the largest source of bullshit every spewed from the West Wing.

Potential Carbon Capture Game Changer Nears Completion—Natural gas as a source of electricity is here to stay for a while, so if we could find a way to effectively and economically capture the carbon released as a result of combustion it could be a pathway to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Power Company Kills Nuclear Plant, Plans $6 Billion in Solar, Battery Investment—This happened in Florida, which is a state as hostile to a good idea as any that exists.  Heck, it’s a state that has elected Rick Scott to be its governor more than once.

How Tennessee’s Taken the Politics Out of Renewable Energy—Make it about choosing economically efficient solutions that provide renewable energy and even red states like Tennessee can get behind the green revolution.

Huge Tunisian Solar Park Hopes to Provide Saharan Power to Europe—The numbers are staggering.  4.5GW of solar is a monster number.  However, the dreams of tapping the Sahara Desert to power Europe always seem to be just a little out of reach.

After its Dams Came Down, a River is Reborn—The Elwha River will be a test case for dam removal going forward and it looks like an amazing success story.  Nature will find a way.

Ten Days of Solar in August

My recently installed and activated solar photovoltaic system was operational for 10 full days in August.  Over the course of that period of time the system generated approximately 178 kWh of clean and green electricity.  At an average daily production of almost 18 kWh the system is yielding somewhere between 70 and 75% based on system size, orientation, and estimated solar radiation.

Interestingly, during those ten days I am “ahead” approximately 95 kWh compared to my consumption.  This is probably due to the fact that late August in eastern Iowa has been chillier and cloudier than normal.  The chillier means we have not turned on the AC but the cloudier means my PV system is not generating as much as possible.  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t so to speak.

If I continue to get the prior ten days’ worth of average electricity generation I should blow past my September electricity usage because we have taken some steps to reduce our household consumption even further.  Previously we were using about 380 kWh per month across twelve months.  Since the PV system was activated we stopped using a medium sized chest freezer in our basement that was really just a repository for junk food from warehouse stores.  It was not a large or old freezer, but I have to believe that it consumed a decent amount of electricity.  Plus, September is usually a great month for sleeping with the windows open.

I am sure that the novelty of my generation exceeding my consumption will wear off, but it is really fun.  I just wish that the electric meter had one of those old style wheels so that I could watch it spin backwards in the afternoon when the late day sun is blasting my west facing array.

Friday Linkage 9/1/2017

As we witness the damage in Houston and the surrounding area as a result of Hurricane Harvey our thoughts will turn to the recovery.  Knowing Texas this will be a great time to be a rich developer and a bad time to be anyone else.  My guess is that whole communities will get bulldozed to make way for developments that no one really asked for and lead to a wholesale change of what is a very diverse city.

Plus, our flaccid cantaloupe of a leader actually praised the size of the crowd which was comprised of refugees from the storm.

On to the links…

Pay Heed to What Nature Is Telling Us—Right wingers and Republicans in general are too concerned with staying in power by satiating a rabid base that thinks climate change is some socialist conspiracy designed to rip their guns and freedom away to actually do something constructive.  It is incumbent on the rest of us—as in the majority of Americans—to drive our nation forward in a positive direction.

The Death of US Coal, In Charts—The data does not lie and hucksters like Jim Justice know this to be true.  No one is adding new coal fired generation capacity and most utilities are removing such capacity.  It’s called a death spiral.

The (Only) Culprit Of Coal’s Demise—[http://oilprice.com/Energy/Coal/The-Only-Culprit-Of-Coals-Demise.html]  Cheap natural gas is the first order effect on coal.  It is the primary driver for the decline in coal use, but other secondary factors have played an increasingly important role.  Call it piling on if you will.

Xcel Energy Plans to Retire Two Coal-Fired Plants in Pueblo, Increase Renewables—If only Colorado Springs could finally close the awful Drake power plant in the middle of town.

Coal in Decline: An Energy Industry on Life Support—It’s not just true in the U.S. but in Australia as well.  What the Australian case shows is that as these plants age retirement will become a more attractive financial option given the state of electricity markets.

Australia Generates Enough Renewable Energy to Power 70% of Homes—Maybe this is why coal is in such trouble in Australia.  The next step is to figure out a grid level storage system to take excess supply and apply it to peak demand periods.

Wind Power Costs Could See Another 50% Reduction by 2030—How is that for a gut punch to coal and natural gas?

Wind Power Costs Could Drop 50%. Solar PV Could Provide up to 50% of Global Power. Damn.—Believe it.

America’s First U.S.-Built Offshore Wind Installation Vessel—By 2018 the U.S. will have a mobile work platform designed for installing offshore wind turbines.  This is how we put the knowledge paid for by the offshore drilling industry to good use.

Shuttle Fleet At Zion National Park Adds Proterra E2 Electric Bus—Heavy use commercial and fleet vehicles like garbage trucks and busses should be the first focus of the electrification drive because these diesel monsters put on huge miles per year and spew a lot of bad stuff into the air.  Plus, with fuel costs being such a large component of the cost of ownership the operators are keen to save money.  Additionally, electric drivetrains are simpler to maintain.

Class 7 All-Electric Truck From Cummins Revealed—No one is saying that the first heavy duty tractor trailers to get electrified need to be able to drive across Nebraska on I-80 in one charge.  There is a large market of shorter haul trucks—think the multi-modal system out of the port in Los Angeles—that could go electric first.

China’s Crazy Plan to Keep Sand From Swallowing the World—If there is one place where people do not sit around endlessly discussing an idea to determine if it is too crazy to succeed it has to be China.  Generally this leads to bad air and questionable development, but in this case the outcome is decidedly greener.

How We Stayed Cool in the Summer Heat Without AC—Man are we over air conditioned.

MPG (Beer Equivalent)

The comments were lobbed across the common table at the local taproom:

How many miles per gallon do you get on your bike?

Is it really that efficient to ride a bike?

And so on and so forth.  The topic of conversation was the next step in the #myPersonalParis evolution.  In order to reduce my personal emissions of greenhouse gasses I have set the goal of riding my bike to work three days a week through the fall.  Sixty percent of my commuting trips by bike might seem a little aggressive, but I feel that doing more than half will be a sort of tipping point in my daily behaviors.  It’s a theory and I am going to test that theory in practice.

The miles per gallon question is a constant because there is always some smart ass in the room who says, “You aren’t carbon free because you are breathing.”  Sure enough, but I had to be breathing anyway so I consider that a moot point.

However, let’s spend a moment to ruminate on the relative efficiency of riding a bike to work versus commuting in my truck.

A gallon of gasoline contains 7,594 kilocalories of energy and a gallon of e85 contains 5,463 kilocalories of energy. [1]  On average my truck—a Ford F-150 equipped with a flex-fuel V-8 engine—achieves 15 miles per gallon using e85 fuel.  Simple math says that my truck uses approximately 364 kilocalories to travel one mile.

What about the bike.  Based on over 1,110 miles of riding tracked via a Garmin vivoactive HR the kilocalories expended to travel one miles via a bicycle is approximately 65.  The range is anywhere from 60 to 75 with the high end representing some serious pedal mashing on a long distance ride.

Based purely in terms of kilocalories the bicycle is around six times more efficient just to transport myself from point A to point B.

How does that translate to miles per gallon?  I do not care because I am not fueled by gasoline.  Beer on the other hand?  The average pint of beer—not the light lager swill—contains 200 kilocalories.  A gallon therefore contains 1,600 kilocalories.  [2] Therefore, I achieve approximately 25 miles per gallon beer equivalent or MPGBE.

It’s a ridiculous comparison, but sometimes we need a little folly.

 

My New Addiction

One of the great features of my SolarEdge inverter is a monitoring system that produces a great looking dashboard:

Image-1.jpg

There is an app for my phone that shows the same information updated at fifteen minute intervals.  Damn, this is addictive.  I check it probably ten times a day to see what my new toy is doing.

Now that I mention it, I wonder what the production is right now…