Tag Archives: demand destruction

Demand Destruction from Home

Demand destruction is what coal mining companies, utilities, and anyone who benefits from a centrally controlled power grid dreads.  Why?  Demand destruction represents an existential threat to the entire business model of these entities.

Consider the state of Iowa’s electricity generation mix and my recently installed solar photovoltaic system.  Iowa’s electricity generation mix breaks down like this for April of 2017:

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In Iowa non-hydroelectric renewables usually equals wind given the relatively low penetration of solar photovoltaic generation.  Another caveat is that the wind tends to blow strongly in the spring and demand for electricity has not spiked with the onset of the summer air conditioning season.

Now consider the impact of a solar photovoltaic system, mine or someone else’s.  When that demand leaves the grid, so to speak, what generation sources do you think will be curtailed?  In order I think it would be coal, nuclear, natural gas, and finally wind.  Why?  Wind turbines do not have a recurring fuel cost, so the cost to retire them does not include a perpetuity of fuel cost baked in which can be a significant driver for an asset with a long life.

In other terms, do you keep generating power by paying to burn a fuel or just harvest the wind for free?  In business school the number one lesson I learned in marketing was to not compete with free.  You will lose every time.

So, as demand disappears from the grid as a result of distributed residential solar the traditional fossil fuel sources are forced to compete with installed and cheap wind power for a dwindling number of customers.  I exaggerate to some degree to get the point across, but in Iowa this may not be such a moot point given the plans for wind power development in the next three years.

Depending upon how you measure it Iowa has more than 6,900 megawatts of wind power providing anywhere from 35% to 40% of the state’s electricity.  This is great news in and of itself, but the state’s two major utilities—MidAmerican Energy and Alliant Energy—have announced investments for an additional 3,000 megawatts or more by 2020.  Just with these additions—barring any additional activity by other energy players—would bring Iowa nearly 10,000 megawatts of wind power and give the state the capacity to produce more than 50% of its electricity from the wind.  This is without a significant portion of the state’s electricity demand being displaced by distributed residential solar or energy efficiency.

As you can see from the chart that when the wind blows heavily, which it tends to do in the spring, wind is already the largest source of electricity generation in the state.  That trend was true for February, March, and April of 2017. This is only going to grow in the future.

Our homes can be the drivers of change for a cleaner and greener world.

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.

Signing on the Dotted Line for Solar

The contract is signed.

By September I will have a solar photovoltaic system on my roof generating electricity for the next twenty five years or so.  I consider it my fairly large middle finger to anyone who wants to keep digging coal out of the ground and burning it like some bad parody of the birth of the Industrial Revolution.

The system will be installed on a west facing (almost exactly 270 degree azimuth for those of you into that sort of description) roof that is a large single pitch with no protrusions.  Due to my relatively low electricity consumption the maximum system allowed the power company was under 5 kWh.  My system will be composed of 16 SolarWorld 290W panels for a total of 4,640W.

Gross system cost is $2.35 per watt installed.  The applicable federal and state tax credits take that figure down to $1.29 per watt.

Based on the system size, orientation, and projected system losses I figure that this system will generate slightly more than my annual electricity consumption assuming no changes in consumption patterns.  This would all get thrown out the window if I traded in my truck for a Chevy Bolt.

The most frustrating part is that if it were not for the various hoops that the power company makes everyone jump through this process could have been completed in weeks if not days.  Now that the cost for the solar panels and inverters have dropped so dramatically the biggest impediment to widespread adoption will be the balance of system costs and the permitting hassles.  Although my power company is obligated to allow me to install solar panels and the feed that power back into the grid via net metering it is their intention, in my opinion, to make the process as onerous as possible in order to deter other people from signing on the dotted line for solar.

This is the first step in the newly coined #myPersonalParis where I am going to control as many aspects of my life to align with a significantly reduced emissions footprint as possible in solidarity with the Paris climate accord which our dear leader decided was too onerous because…reasons?

What are you doing?

Friday Linkage 1/16/2015

The amazing thing about cancelling my pay television subscription is how much time I freed up to do some things around the house without even noticing the change. Kill your television. You will be thankful.

On to the links…

The Anti-Science Climate Denier Caucus, 114th Congress Edition—The 114th Congress has been sworn in and here is how it looks from the perspective of which members are anti-science:

Denier-Caucus3

72 Percent of Republican Senators Are Climate Deniers—The population of the U.S. as a whole may agree that climate change is real, but the people who elect Republicans obviously do not care.

Scientists Discover Two New Pollutants In Fracking Waste—We barely know what is in fracking waste, but every new discovery makes it sound worse and worse.

Cost Of Solar Already Less Than Grid Electricity In Largest US Cities—Grid parity has got to be a nightmare for coal producers, coal fired power plants, and other fossil fuel proponents.

Clean Tech Investment Surges Back in 2014—Globally, clean energy and technology investment has almost reached the high levels seen in 2011. It remains to be seen what low oil prices and global economic uncertainty do to future investment, but the trend is positive.

5 GW Wind-Solar Energy Park Planned In Gujarat, India—Here is why there is so much clean energy investment…every time you read another article it is about 100s of megawatts and even gigawatts being installed. I remember a time when kilowatts were what people were talking about in Homepower magazine.

SunEdison To Build $4 Billion Solar Manufacturing Plant in India—This is a plant that will have the capacity to annually produce up to 7.5 gigawatts of panels. Damn.

100 MW Of New Solar Power Plants Approved In Idaho—No one is going to confuse Idaho for a hippie paradise, but even the potato state is getting in on the solar bandwagon.

Ecolab to go All-Solar in Minnesota—Minnesota, a state not known for its solar resources, is really pushing forward in making solar a part of the energy future.

Florida Conservative Group Launches A Ballot Initiative To Increase Access To Solar Power—The only people who do not like solar power anymore are those with a vested and moneyed interest in seeing the status quo remain.

These Five States Took Anti-Solar Action in 2014—Oklahoma, Ohio, Kansas, New Mexico, and Arizona took actions that will hurt widespread adoption of solar technology. The surprise to me was New Mexico and Arizona given that those states are blessed with a whole lot of solar potential.

Turning Waste into Energy in Oregon: City of Gresham Wastewater Treatment Plant—Why isn’t every city with a decent size water treatment facility in line to install a system like this? It seems like there is a free energy resource just sitting under our noses.

A Caribbean Island Says Goodbye Diesel and Hello 100 Percent Renewable Electricity—I have heard that the reefs around Bonaire are amazing and now I have a second reason to visit.

Rooftop Solar In South Australia Met One Third Of State’s Daily Electricity Demand—Rooftop solar, not utility scale projects, met almost one third of South Australia’s electricity demand. That is amazing when you consider that this is a conglomeration of small scale systems tied into the grid.

Investment in Almonds is Worsening California’s Drought—The symbolic produce of California is the grape. We mythologize the grape as the source of Napa’s amazing wines and people salivate over pinot noirs. However, almonds are now almost as valuable in terms of money but the value comes at a high price. It takes almost a gallon of water to produce a single almond. California does not have that kind of water available.

Could ‘Salt Potatoes’ Create a Food Revolution?—A lot of soil has been damaged by accumulation of salts. Anything that could grow in these degraded soils and provide food could be a game changer for people living on the fringes.

Iceland Brewery makes Beer using Smoked Whale Testicles—Craft beer experimentation has officially jumped the shark…er, whale with this creation.

Friday Linkage 1/9/2015

Damn, it got cold here during the first full week of 2015. How cold? Like minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit air temperature overnight and school cancelled because of cold. Not a snow day, mind you, but a cold day. Heck, we had a two hour delay on Thursday because of cold following Wednesday’s cancellation. People are starting to get a little stir crazy.

On to the links…

Going Dry: The Benefits Of A Month Without Booze—I haven’t gone totally dry, like some participants did for the month of January, but I can confirm that anecdotally I feel better. I no longer have any pre-gout symptoms. Which is huge, because gout sucks.

The Three Biggest Solar Charts of 2014—Check out these charts and marvel in the progress being made in solar.

API Energy Report Says Solar Will Double In 2015-16—Basically, the U.S. has approximately 20 GW of solar PV with another 20 GW in the pipeline. Yep, that’s about double.

Renewables Over 13% of US Electricity Production Jan–Oct 2014—The numbers for the end of 2014 are starting to be compiled and it looks like a good one for the production of clean, renewable energy sources in the U.S.

California’s Governor: 50% Of Electricity From Renewables By 2030—If California can make this goal it might just drag a lot of other states along with it. Certain states—California and Texas primarily—are so large that decisions made in these states trickle down—voodoo policy?—to many other states.

Denmark Sets World Record For Wind Power Production—I live in Iowa, so I am a sucker for wind power. Last year Denmark got over 39% of its total electricity from wind power. Damn.

Renewable Energy Review: Brazil—Brazil’s renewable energy development is generally thought to be about ethanol and little else, but this provides a nice overview of other things happening in the southern hemisphere.

La Paz, Mexico to be 100 Percent Solar Powered by the End of 2015—Not 100 percent renewables, but 100 percent solar!

The Pace of Japan’s Renewable Development is Slowing—The pace was bound to slow after the rush following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, but the surprising thing is that nuclear power is scheduled to come back online.

Six Renewable Energy Trends to Watch in 2015—I think that we are passed proving the technical capability of renewables. Now it is time to see if the services and financing around renewables can develop at a fast enough pace to really deploy some serious demand destruction.

The 41 Weirdest Things Ever Used to Make Biofuels—People will try anything to make a little go juice for the gas tank.

A Nuclear Plant Leaked Oil Into Lake Michigan For Two Months Straight—WTF? How can anyone ever listen to an energy executive talk about safety and a commitment to the environment without laughing?

Coal Companies Are Selling Coal To Themselves To Get More Government Subsidies—Basically, these companies are routing transactions through shell companies and fronts to pay less in taxes and royalties. If you and I did it we would go to jail for tax evasion. If a coal company does it they get more subsidies.

Don Blankenship Trial Delayed Until April—Can’t we just get this trial going? Seriously, does anyone think this guy is not guilty:

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Friday Linkage 12/26/2014

As you read this I will be on the road driving to Colorado. Skiing and good times with old friends await in the mountains. It just requires over thirteen hours in the car to make it happen. First world problems.

On to the links…

Prosthetic Hand Crafted on 3-D Printer may Open Doors for Denver Girl—This a hell of a story. Instead of printing questionable firearms or another miniature for tabletop rpgs, Clay Guillory made a prosthetic for a 9 year old girl with a partially formed hand. Maybe the world is a pretty good place after all.

This Is the Stupidest Anti-Science Bullshit of 2014—When someone builds a Mount Rushmore of jackasses, James Inhofe will have to be placed front and center. How someone like this has any influence over science policy in the United States is beyond the pale.

A Green Dilemma for the Holidays: Better to Shop Online or In-Store?—This is the paper or plastic debate of the 21st century. Just buy less stuff and buy what you can locally. There is the answer that no one wants to hear.

200,000 Miles In A Chevy Volt With No Problems—The thing to remember about the Chevy Volt is that the car is just the first generation. In terms of reliability and efficiency the car seems to be fulfilling the promise. It will be interesting to see if the second generation can deliver more at a better price point.

750 MW Solar Power Plant In India, Likely To Be Largest Solar Power Plant In World, Gets World Bank Financing Commitment—Instead of just financing huge dams or other questionable projects, the World Bank is getting into the solar game.

Wind & Solar = 77% Of New US Electricity Generating Capacity In November—Dig it. The renewables revolution is here. Every watt that can displace a fossil fuel watt is demand destruction.

Friday Linkage 10/31/2014

Just living takes a lot of time. You wake up, get the kids ready for the day, finish a day of work, make some dinner, and look up to see that it is almost 7:00 which means the bedtime routine is about to start. I envy people who find time in their day for other pursuits, but I am not one of those people lately. It’s like we barely have time enough to get the bare minimum done. I guess this is what you mid-thirties with two kids is supposed to be like. Right?

On to the links…

Climate Change And Rising Violence Are Linked, According To 55 Scientific Studies—Get ready for a world where conflicts arise because of climate change. If you thought the water wars in the Mad Max films were a fantasy then you have not been paying attention.

NPR Guts Its Environment And Climate Reporting Team, Becomes ‘Part Of The Problem’—If NPR, which usually gets credit for being one of the honest brokers, is not giving good coverage to climate issues who will be the voice of reason? It sure as shit is not going to be Fox News.

Solar Grid Parity In All 50 US States By 2016, Predicts Deutsche Bank—Imagine the demand destruction that can take place when solar is on par with the cost of other power sources. The panels on your roof could be putting out power on a per watt basis that was comparable with dirty coal or fracked natural gas. Let the sun shine, baby!

Minnesota Gets Ready To Launch Solar Highways—Just look out the window for a moment the next time you drive on a highway and think about all of the land sitting there that could be used for solar energy installations. It’s a lot.

SolarCity Unveils ZS Beam — New System Improves Speed + Affordability Of Solar Carport Installation—If you are done thinking about all of the right of ways along American highways start thinking about all of the parking lots that could be covered with solar carports. It’s an amazing opportunity to get two uses out of space that is just sitting there and is not very aesthetically pleasing.

The Australian Solar Industry Has Grown By 1 GW Since July 2013—When you think about Australia you probably think about the sun. Here is a country roughly the size of the continental United States that gets absolutely blasted by the sun. It should be covered in solar panels.

MGM Installs America’s Largest Rooftop Solar Array but it Only Powers 1/5 of the Hotel—This solar array is freaking huge and it only powers 20% of the convention center/hotel’s needs. That really speaks volumes about the nature of energy use in Las Vegas. It is still cool to see something of this scale done.

How Cheap Wind Energy Threatens To Upend The Kansas Governor’s Race And Upset The Koch Brothers—What the heck is wrong with Kansas? It is the home the Koch brothers, which is bad enough but it is also the state that elected Sam Brownback to be governor. That guy is a complete stooge. The state should also be covered in wind turbines like Iowa, but the industry is still in its infancy. WTF?

America’s Last Coal-Fired Ship Finally Stops Dumping Coal Ash Into Lake Michigan—The S.S. Badger is a freaking ecological disaster that as used political machinations to continue operation long beyond its expiration date. It looks like the boat might finally be cleaning up its act. Somewhat.

How California is Turning Drainage Canals Back to Rivers—People think of California as this ecological oasis, but its modern history has been of subverting the natural order. As people begin to realize the value of nature some of these mistakes are being rectified.

John Oliver’s Takedown of the Sugar Industry is Pretty Sweet—John Oliver, like his former boss, delivers some of the most had hitting commentary with a hint of humor that is undeniably excellent. I cannot wait for the 2016 election cycle. It’s going to be epic. Although his assertion that cranberries taste like cherries that hate you is a little harsh. C’mon John.

Against the Grain: Should you go gluten-free?—Gluten. The new big bad in the nutrition “whack a rat” game. It’s funny how people eliminate gluten and feel better. No, it’s really just common sense that if you eliminate beer, refined carbohydrates, and lots of calories that you will feel better. Alas, it’s a fad.

What the World Eats—Check out National Geographic’s series of images on what various countries eat. It’s kind of shocking.

What Food Do We Throw Away the Most?—Ahhh, an infographic. Noel Dempsey has produced a couple of graphics that show what we throw away:

Food-Waste-Infographic