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Friday Linkage 7/21/2017

Can we just have someone organize a “touch a truck” event every week on the White House lawn so that our dear leader can have some fun:

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Can you imagine the crude jokes he is making with this bat in his hands:

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All hat, no cattle…never were truer words spoken:

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On to the links…

Bill Nye on the Terrifying Ascendancy of American ‘dingbatitude’—When did it become ok for people to basically act like an idiot, claim that they were an idiot as a defense for the behavior, and then go on their merry way to keep being an idiot?

The Best Way to Reduce your Personal Carbon Emissions: Don’t be Rich—Right wingers will never like to hear this, but the richest members of society are the ones who are causing the most damage to the environment:

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Scott Pruitt Desperately Wants to Be Loved—During the 2016 election we got to know alt-right terms like snowflake all too well.  It looks like the actual snowflakes are the people working for Donald Trump up to and including the dear leader himself.  These people have created an echo chamber of praise so that they do not have to deal with the reality that their only true defining characteristic is historic incompetence.

Callista Gingrich: Trump Wants US To Be Environmental Leader—The surrogates are getting more surreal as anyone with a pulse and hopes for a future in Washington D.C. head for cover.  Callista Gingrich saying that Trump wants to lead on the environment is laughable on so many levels.  Soak in the insanity.

Coal and Nuclear are Uneconomic — More Bombshells from Perry’s Draft Grid Study—Be careful what you wish for Rick Perry.

A Texas Company Wants to Spread Wind Power Across the U.S.—Wind energy is big business in Texas and big business usually wins in Texas.  What happens when renewable energy becomes big energy?  We are about to find out as established players with viable business models spread their wings.

States Can Recharge Rooftop Solar—Solar needs rules stability.  At the current prices rooftop solar can be competitive without heavy government incentives but a chaotic rules and regulations environment is hurting long term planning.

A Pipeline that Would Cut through the Iconic Appalachian Trail Sparks a Fight over Natural Gas Expansion—Pipelines are everywhere and the government is just a rubber stamp for industry regardless of who sits in the White House or controls Congress.

$2 Billion Energy Investment goes Bust in Rare Complete Failure of Private Equity Fund—This failure might not be an indictment of an entire sector or it may be a harbinger of hard times to come for fossil fuel investors.

Coal Baron Don Blankenship Jumping Straight From Jail To Senate Race?—First Kid Rock and now Don Blankenship…the right wing is going to be loving their candidates over the next couple of years as the Trump influence on the party metastasizes.

Flip-Flops: Fun in the Sun, but Tough on Feet—Can we just kill flip-flops for anything other than a quick jaunt to the beach or trip through the locker room?  The sound of cheap flip-flops dragging and slapping is the official sound that summer has begun.

Denver Startup To Install Flatscreens In Chairlift Safety Bars and Advertise—God help us.  Now Vail Resorts can advertise to us on the chairlift, which was one of the few screen free places left anywhere.

Friday Linkage 7/14/2017

The only thing saving our democracy right now is the pure incompetence of everyone surrounding the president.  If the people in the White House were even decent at doing their job we would be in a world of hurt.  However, given that the governing style flows from the “leadership” style of one Donald J. Trump there is a stunning lack of effectiveness.

This should not be surprising.  Governing is hard work.  Crafting legislation is jokingly referred to as sausage making, but it is an apt metaphor for something that can take unappetizing laws and make the palatable for enough members of Congress to actually vote in the affirmative.  Trump and his coterie are under the impression that legislation flows from the pen of the executive branch while everyone else is just a cadet branch of government.

Maybe is someone could explain how modern government works on Fox & Friends so that our dear leader might get the message in a format more to his liking.

On to the links…

Trump’s Environmental Rollbacks are Hitting Major Roadblocks—See what I mean about competence.  His administration believes that government is just like one of his golf courses or buildings.  If the dear leader does not like something they can just change it.  Yeah, sorry about that guys but there are rules for a reason.

The End Goal of Trump’s War on Science—Trump and people like Trump, e.g. the Republican Party writ large, do not like science because science tells them no.  No, the Earth is not a few thousand years old.  No, it’s not fluctuations in the sun’s output that is changing our planet’s climate.  These people are acting like nothing short of toddlers plugging their ears and screaming “Not gonna’ listen to you!”

EPA Chief wants Scientists to Debate Climate on TV—Ok, may I suggest that he invite Michael Mann, James Hansen, and Paul Hawken to debate his hacks.

Rick Perry Tries to Make the Economic Case for Coal, Screws up the Economics Part—The best part is that Rick Perry is basically admitting the market for coal is thin and getting thinner.  The hope is that by putting a cheap fuel on the market that someone will choose to consume it.  That’s less a free market and more of a planned economy move folks.

Utilities Fighting against Rooftop Solar are Only Hastening their Own Doom—It is permanent demand destruction coupled with a death spiral. The utilities are trying to fight a battle where people have the option to flip them the bird and say, “Screw you guys, I am going it alone.”

Nearly 1/4 Of All Australian Homes Now Have Solar—I am just in awe of some of these numbers for rooftop solar penetration:

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Depending upon what numbers you believe Australia now gets ~3% of its power from these arrays, which seems small given the penetration rate.  More research to be done.

It’s Not Easy, But Aspen Moves Toward 100 Percent Renewable Energy—It’s not easy, as the headline says, but it is possible.

It’s Time To Move On From Notion Of Baseload Power, Says New South Wales Coalition—Renewable energy was able to fill the gap left by the departure of traditional fossil fuel generation options during a wicked heat wave.  This is almost the definition of baseload power.

Solar + Battery Storage Will Power Coal Mine Museum In Victoria—Why don’t we just leave coal in a museum where it belongs?

Do Electric Cars Squander their Juice?—The answer is yes, but not really given the impact to the overall system’s level of electrical power.  It’s like worry about the paint color of a room in a house when there are structural deficiencies.  Yeah, it’s a part of the decision making process but it is not what really swings the deal.

New Plan could Double $2.5 Billion Energy Efficiency Success in Illinois—Efficiency is the vegetables of the modern environmental movement.  It’s the good for you thing that makes everything better and easier but no one really wants to talk about it because you sound like a schoolmarm.

These Coloradans say Earth is Flat. And Gravity’s a Hoax. Now, They’re being Persecuted.—I just sat there kind of dumbfounded when I read the headline and the subsequent article.  Gravity is a hoax?  WTF?  This is the natural conclusion of allowing people to let faith guide beliefs despite actual scientific and empirical evidence.

The Uninhabitable Earth—This is just some scary stuff.

How Much Electricity Will My Solar System Produce?

By the beginning of September I should be generating electricity from the solar photovoltaic panels mounted on my roof.  The system will be comprised of 16 290W panels mounted on a nearly directly south facing roof (270 degrees azimuth give or take a degree for those of you into these things).

Using a variety of calculators online I averaged out the estimates of “peak solar hours” for my system as designed and came up with the following chart to estimate my solar system’s output:

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The output is based on taking the system size (4.64 kWh) times the peak solar hours and reducing it by an assumed system yield (65%).

The system yield is probably the trickiest number to estimate.  I went as low as 65% because that level would still allow me to meet my annual electricity consumption based on a 400 kWh per month rolling average, which dipped to 390 kWh the past few months and which I hope will drop even further with some forthcoming household changes.

The yield is a function of so-called system losses and general lower production due to siting issues, shade, cloud cover, dirt, etc.  My hope is that on balance I see a system yield in the 75% range.  This would give me a little breathing room above and beyond my average annual consumption.

The worst part right now is the waiting.  The solar installers are ready to go and the panels have arrived but we are waiting on the power company and the city to sign off on the system design.  Every day that I see the sun out shining bright is a day that I feel like I have missed an opportunity to generate clean electricity from the sun.

Friday Linkage 7/7/2017

Altitude really kicked my rear end last week.  I normally have no trouble travelling to the high Rockies and partaking in all manner of activities with just a day or so of acclimation.  This trip I struggled mightily until the final day.

What this means is that my quest to hike a 14er is on hold until next year.  On a warm up hike near Breckenridge I barely got to 12,000 feet and felt like dirt the next day.  I hope that this is not a harbinger for my physical condition during ski season.

On to the links…

Court Rejects Temporary Block to the Methane Rule—This is the best that we can hope for right now with the current political leadership in Washington D.C.   Thankfully these hacks do not understand that there is a process in place to manage the rules making process.  Incompetence on the part of Donald Trump and his allies is our greatest source of hope right now.

Improved Representation of Solar Variability in Climate Models—The models of climate change keep getting better with more data, but the climate deniers keep yelling louder.  At what point do we put climate deniers in the same room as perpetual motion machine hucksters, flat Earth proponents, and John Birch Society members?

The Energy Secretary Is Wrong: The Grid is Ready for Renewables—The energy secretary is wrong.  Get used to saying that as long as Rick Perry is holding that position.  Do you remember when Ernest Moniz was in that position and statements were made with a deliberate foundation in good science?  Yeah, not so much anymore.

Even as Renewables Increase, Fossil Fuels Continue to Dominate U.S. Energy Mix—There is a long way to go:

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Check out the decline in coal.

Renewable Energy Generates More Than 25% Of UK Electricity In 1st Quarter—The United Kingdom has now had multiple quarters where renewables have accounted for more than 25% of electricity generation.  The future is now.

Johnson County Adding to Solar Grid—The same guys who are putting in my solar system, Moxie Solar, are contracted to build this 75.5 kWh array.  This is in addition to existing 85.8 kWh and 159.6 kWh arrays nearby.  Why aren’t all large buildings taking advantage of solar?

Study Shows That Electric Cars Could Help Kill the Duck Curve—The “duck curve” is one of the most pernicious problems with respect to renewable energy production and grid demand.  When the sun is shining and the wind is blowing are not the same times that residential demand peaks.  Hence, a curve that looks like a duck.  EVs could provide an energy storage solution that could help smooth the duck.

The Chevy Bolt & The Tesla Model 3: The Solar-Powered Restoration of American Energy Independence—Are mass market EVs and cheap renewables, which are finally available to consumers in a broad based manner, representative of a turning point?  I hope so.

Here’s A Huge Reason Why We Need Electric Trucks—Check out this GIF and tell me that electric semis are not the future:

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Oil Got Trounced And Solar Soared In The First Half—Only two of the top 50 oil and gas producers had a positive return on stock in the first half of 2017.  Renewable producers did much better.  When the markets turn on you there are few places to hide.

McDonald’s Brings Foam Cups Back to Chicago Despite Shareholder Pressure—This is such a blast from the past.  I remember the push to get McDonald’s to get rid of foam clamshells as one of my formative moments in environmental awareness.  Be nice, it was the 1980s.

7 Reasons to Rant about Fireworks—After decades of banning fireworks, Iowa’s legislature led by freedom loving Republicans pushed a bill to legalize fireworks because…’Merica?  It is the worst.  The actual July 4th holiday was reminiscent of a war movie with an acrid haze hanging over our neighborhood and explosions throughout the night.  Why?

Beware Solar Panels and Homeowners Insurance

Do you know what has been the hardest part about getting my new solar photovoltaic system put on my house?  Homeowners insurance.

How often do we really think about our homeowners insurance?  For me, not very often.  Like once in fifteen years when I made a claim after a massive hailstorm left almost every house in the area with a need for a new roof and siding.

So, there I am a customer of fifteen years with one claim to my name looking to switch insurance providers.  Why?  The company I had been with does not insure homes with solar panels installed on the roof.  Ground mount installations would be fine.  Even an installation on a non-attached garage would have been fine.  However, mounted on my west facing attached garage roof was a bridge too far for the insurance provider.

How far?  Like no consideration at all of insuring a home with solar panels even with a policy rider or similar insurance vehicle.  Like no consideration for the fact that I was a long term customer with multiple policies.  No way, no how.

The problem with all of this is that the solar installer requires a certificate of insurance to begin an installation.  If your insurance company will not insure your home when it has solar panels you are forced to switch providers with all of the relevant switching costs and hassle in order to begin the installation.  Consider it another hassle or hurdle to the broad installation of solar panels across the United States.  Every impediment is a step backwards on the path to a cleaner future.

This is the challenge for distributed rooftop solar.  Balance of system costs and hurdles, e.g. those costs and impediments that are not directly attributable to the PV panels or related hardware, will be what determines the ultimate penetration rate of distributed solar.

Friday Linkage 6/30/2017

This is going to be a little light since I am in Colorado prepping for my first 14er.

On to the links…

Rick Perry Loses his Cool When Confronted by Sen. Franken on Climate Science—Who would have guessed that when Al Franken won his election years ago that he would turn into one of the most reasoned and well informed voices in the entire Senate?

New Database Shows Trump is Filling the Government with Fossil Fuel Lobbyists—Drain the swamp?  Trump just covered the swamp in oil and coal ash before pouring it back out onto America

World’s Largest Coal Company Will Shut 37 Coal Mines That Are Not Economically Viable—Coal is not economically viable.  This is the fundamental problem with El Trumpo and his allies arguments about saving coal.  Progress killed the economic argument for coal in the U.S., India, and other countries.

First-of-Its-Kind Clean Coal Plant May Not Burn Coal at All—There is no such thing as clean coal.  Less dirty at the point of combustion perhaps, but considering the impact of the entire process—mining, waste disposal, etc.—there is no way that coal could ever be considered clean.

Mayors Could Shift Nearly 42 Percent Of U.S. Electricity To Renewables By 2035—Cities, where most of our economic activity happens, will be the locus of change when it comes to climate change.

DIY Ski Racks

One of the downsides of skiing is the collection of gear that you end up with after a few seasons.  It’s a total first world problem, but the struggle is real.  If you are a family of skiers—or god forbid, snowboarders—the collection of gear can reach some ridiculous heights.

Even if you do not subscribe to the idea that you need specialized skis for all kinds of conditions—my Icelantic Pilgrim 95s have handled everything from fresh Colorado powder to Midwestern shave ice to spring corn with no problems—you will end up with a lot of skis.  Kids grow fast and you keep the first kid’s skis to hand down to the next kid because the sticks only have thirty or so days on mountain.  Heck, I am probably keeping little skis for the day when I have to coax a grandkid out onto the slopes with promises of hot cocoa and good times.

The solution is storage.  Most ski storage solutions are somewhat temporary and meant for storage between days on the mountain not the deep storage of summer.  I despise the vertical dowel-type racks because I have been witness to many a set of skis sliding out and crashing to the floor.  Nothing like having to get the p-tex out to fix a nice gouge in your base layer due to a bad storage rack.

My solution was to use several various wakeboard storage racks on Pinterest for inspiration and come up with my own homebrewed design.  What does the better part of a Saturday, four 2x6s, some scrap 2x4s, and a whole lot of power tools get you?  Two completed ski racks for yourself and your friends’ condo in Colorado:

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Each rack is composed of two 2×6 dimensional or structural lumber approximately eight feet long.  In my neck of the woods a select structural—which usually are not as beat up and contain fewer knots—costs about $4.50.  With a shorter piece of 2×4 dimensional or structural lumber as well you are looking at about $10 in costs.

The rack is 30” interior width, which I cut from each 2×6 to yield two stretchers and two risers.  The 2×4 that stiffens the top and acts as a mounting board was cut to 30” from some scrap stock that I had on hand in the garage.  When you are building project after project from dimensional or structural lumber you end up with a lot of useful scrap.  You also end up with a lot of fuel for backyard fire pits.

The real work is on the slots that will serve as the storage for each pair of skis.  I drilled 1” diameter holes 1.75” off the back side of the riser down the length of the board at 9.5”, 18.5”, 30.5”, 42,5”, and 52” measured from the top of each riser.  The measurements may seem a little random but I based them on my original ski rack design that had some issues fitting skis with bindings.  Once the slots are cut these provide a variety of slots to store kid and adult skis without stuff banging together.

The bottom of each slot is a 45 degree line measured out with a speed square.  In my original design I used two parallel lines cut at 45 degrees, but this tended to bind thicker skis or those with a little more camber than others.  On the second iteration I cut the top of each slot slightly more open.  Honestly, I just guessed at a good measure using the speed square.  The slots were cut using a circular saw and sanded clean with a drill mounted drum sander:

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The entire riser is finished with a round over router bit to smooth the sharp edges.  Construction is simply gluing and screwing everything together.  Quick, simple, and dirty but it is strong.

Here is a picture of my original design mounted in my basement:

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Each rack is mounted with a pair of cabinet screws into studs.  Do not mount this with wall anchors or cheap ass screws.  It is made from freaking 2x6s so it is stout and, thus, heavy.  Take the time and spend the quarter on actual high grade cabinet screws.  Take the time to find actual studs and mount properly.  Now you know and knowing is half the battle.

Two racks, space for eight to ten pairs of skis, and a whole lot of winter memories.