Tag Archives: efficiency

Over a Megawatt Hour of Solar and a Little Bit of EV Driving in June

June’s solar production ended at ~1.14 MWh.  Yep, my expanded solar photovoltaic array produce more than a megawatt hour of electricity for the month.  That feels like progress:

June 2020 Solar

Overall, my household ended the month producing ~544 kWh more than we consumed.  For the year, we are “in the black” ~995 kWh.  Quickly, I am approaching the point where I am net positive since installing my first solar panels a few years ago.  With July—traditionally the best month for solar production—I could reach that milestone before the summer is out.

Yes, I draw power from the grid.  However, it is my contention that if everyone were attempting to be net positive in terms of their power consumption this world would be a better place.  If enough people were doing just that we would have a huge portfolio of generating assets across the United States that would go a long way to curbing greenhouse gas emissions.  All right, I will get off my soap box.

The total number of miles driven for the month went up compared to prior coronavirus impacted months mainly as a function of actually leaving the house to shop for groceries and taking children to their limited activities for the summer.  Still, I only drove 254.3 miles for the month of June at an average efficiency of 6.2 miles per kWh.

Compared with my truck—which is an untrustworthy mechanical beast that left me stranded on the side of the interstate—I saved ~298 pounds of carbon dioxide being emitted, assuming that I pulled all of the electricity that I required from the grid at an average carbon intensity for my area.  Obviously, I am pumping out quite a bit more solar than required by my household so the actual emissions savings are probably even greater.

The crazy thing over the past three months has been just how much our household driving has been reduced.  For April, May, and June my driving is down 82%, 83%, and 54% respectively.  This takes into account that we have been using the Nissan Leaf for almost 100% of our local and regional trips.  So much so that my wife sold her car to her brother.  Talk about savings.  Plus, there is so much more space in the garage now.

May 2020 Solar Production and EV Efficiency

To paraphrase Dickens, it was the best of times—most electricity generated via my solar photovoltaic array every—and it was the oddest of times—all of my household’s driving total a little more than 150 miles.

First, my household’s solar photovoltaic array generated more than 900 kWh of clean, green electricity:

May 2020 Solar

The interesting thing is that back half of this May was kind of gray.  There was a week span—easy to see on the daily production bar chart—where the sun did not poke through a low level of clouds.  Things picked back up at the end of the month to push the monthly production over 900 kWh.  My hope is that June can come in at more than 1,000 kWh.

In terms of production versus consumption, we ended up “net positive” just over 400 kWh.  This I a good number in and of itself, but it is even better considering that it represents my household’s entire energy usage.  Due to coronavirus we have had two people working from home full time, two kids attending school from home, my sister-in-law living with us while she is between jobs, and cooking all of our meals at home.  There has been very little energy “leakage” save for ordering pizza in one night because my sister was craving the most Iowa thing of all time—taco pizza from Casey’s.  Yes, pizza from a gas station is a big deal for some reason.  I do not get it, but I was not born here.

On the opposite spectrum is my driving in the Nissan Leaf.  For the month, almost our entire household’s driving came to just under 155 miles at an average efficiency of 6.0 miles per kWh.  Compared to my truck, I saved ~181 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted assuming that I pulled the electricity from the grid at an average carbon intensity for my service region.  This month I made sure to plug my Nissan Leaf—all told twice—during the height of the mid-day sun when my solar array was pumping out the watts.  Running on that funky yellow sun, baby!

The crazy thing right now is the sheer reduction in driving.  Just my driving, not including my wife’s driving, is down ~82% in April and ~83% in May.  As we are both working from home and not shuttling the children to activities our driving is down double or more whatever total mileage I have avoided driving.  That is a crazy reduction in such a short period of time.

Onward to June.  Stay safe out there.

April 2020 Solar PV Production…the Most Ever

My solar photovoltaic array’s production for April 2020 was the most my system has ever produced:

April 2020 solar

All right, this is less a function of any solar intensity and more a result of my adding an additional eight panels to my array at the end of 2019.  Nevertheless, over 840 kWh of clean, green electricity is a nice month.

The story gets better.  The delta between my system’s production and consumption was 396 kWh “in the black” meaning my home was better than net zero.  It was net positive electricity for the month of April.  I still have to do something about my home’s natural gas fired water heater and furnace.  Coronavirus has kind of put a dampener on any major purchases for the moment.

As expected, we did not drive very much at all this month.  I took the Nissan Leaf out for 115.0 miles at an average efficiency of 5.7 miles per kWh.  This represents 20.2 kWh of energy usage and a carbon emissions savings of ~133 lbs versus driving my truck assuming that all of my electricity was pulled from the grid.  Which, as I noted above, my household was quite positive this month when it came to electricity production.

Those 115 miles represent almost all of the driving for my entire household for the month of April save for a couple of trips in our ICE vehicles that we took to keep the fluids moving.  After this “adventure” we might consider paring down our personal vehicle fleet.

What is crazy about this whole not driving thing is the cumulative impact of not driving.  As of today my wife and I have worked from home for 31 work days.  Using an average miles per day of 22 we have avoided driving ~1,364 miles between the both of us just by not going to work.

March 2020 Solar Production and EV Efficiency

My solar monitoring platform was available for an entire month and all of the panels on my solar system were fully functional.  This led to a pretty good March for solar production:

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Just under 578 kWh for the month.  This compares with ~316 kWh in 2019 and ~424 kWh in 2018 or an increase of ~83% and ~36% over each of those years respectively.  My guess is that the average year-over-year production increase will fall somewhere in the middle of those two on average over the course of the next year.  Only time will tell.

For the month, my household ended up “net positive” ~67 kWh.  My household was also “net positive” in March.  It is my assumption that the next couple of months will be big “net positive” months in terms of electricity consumption versus production since the period before the hot summer months is generally light on consumption.

One factor driving a lower level of electricity consumption is the fact that we are not driving much, if at all, as a household due to COVID-19.  All of my children’s activities have been cancelled and we are working from home.  I cannot remember if I have charged my Nissan Leaf in the two weeks we have been home from an aborted spring ski trip to Colorado.

For the month, I drove my Nissan Leaf ~652 miles at an average efficiency of 5.3 miles per kWh.  Almost all of those miles were in the two weeks before we locked down at home.  I “saved” ~746 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions compared to driving my truck assuming that I pulled all of the electricity from the grid at my utility’s average carbon intensity.  In the first quarter I have “saved” ~2,785 ponds of carbon dioxide emissions.  Given that I am now producing more electricity via my solar panels than my household is consuming, including EV charging, those carbon dioxide savings are even greater.  The same logic goes for the fuel cost savings.

April is going to be a weird month for sure.

Friday Linkage 3/6/2020

I looked up and realized it was March already.  Wow.

Mike Bloomberg just spent half-a-billion dollars to win American Samoa outright, get schooled by Elizabeth Warren, and drop out after Super Tuesday.  What would you have done with 500 million dollars?  Probably not what he just did.

On to the links…

Calling Out the Super Polluters—Just 100 industrial sites in the U.S. account for approximately one third of toxic emissions.  This list should serve as the priority list for closure.

This Is An Unprecedented Drop In Oil Demand—Coronavirus is the cause, but the effect has been startling.  Oil demand is way down.  Satellites are showing images of pollution being way down in China because factories and power plants are not running.  The question is what will the demand be when things return to “normal.”

Your Plastic Addiction Is Bankrolling Big Oil—As demand drops, oil and gas producers are going to have to find ways to remain profitable.  Making plastic is one of those ways.  Reducing our demand for plastic could do just as much as using less oil to drive our cars for the environment.

Peak Permian Oil Production May Arrive Much Sooner Than Expected—Oil and gas production in the United States is defined by boom and bust cycles.  We have been in one of the longest “booms” in recent memory, but just as the stock market has sown recently there is a lot of unease about the past decade.

Will U.S. Coal Power Plant Retirements Slow Down?—It is almost a given that coal retirements will slow down in the coming years.  One, fewer plants will be available to be closed.  Two, those that remain are the most entrenched whether that is politically or economically.  We just need to keep pushing the deployment of renewables and killing coal.

Wind has Become the ‘Most-Used’ Source of Renewable Electricity Generation in the US—That statement is true if you consider hydropower to be renewable, which some people do not because of its reliance on dams.  Regardless, wind is killing it.

Florida Approves Largest Community Solar Program In The US—These projects are a great way for people to help drive the renewable energy transition if they cannot put solar panels on their own homes.  The fact that this is occurring in Florida surprises me considering how retrograde that state has become in the past few years.

Los Angeles Orders 155 Electric Buses: Largest In U.S.—Buses are the humble workhorses of public transportation.  However, I believe that an electrified bus system can be the catalyst for greener transportation.  A municipality can deploy electric buses as existing platforms wear out due to use without a wholesale overhaul of their fleet.  Each electric bus is like a rolling symbol of demand destruction.

What a Green New Deal Would Look Like in Every State—It’s a little light on the details, but the idea is that the solutions are not the same for all states.  What is right for West Virginia is not the same as Iowa and that is a good thing.  Let each region and state figure out the best way forward.

The Rise of Cloud Computing has had a Smaller Climate Impact than Feared—I still think people need to quit Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter but at least the feared energy use increase did not happen.

Greggs Profits Still on a Roll with a Boom in its Vegan Snacks—I do not get Greggs.  As an American in London last summer it seemed like one of those odd “junk foods” that people from the country love but no one else really understands.  Apparently, even vegans crave a sausage roll.

A Trump-Elevated Skeptic has Been Ordering Interior Scientists to Muddy Department Climate Reports—This is the best government money can buy for fossil fuel companies.

Taxpayers Are Likely on the Hook for Eric Trump’s Trip to His Dad’s European Resorts—Just your weekly dose of Trump family corruption.  These people are an extended clan of grifters and con artists.

February 2020 Solar Production and EV Efficiency

The monitoring platform for my expanded photovoltaic array is back online:

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It was only turned on for the last few days of the month, so I do not know how the system performed for the entirety of February.  However, in just four days the system recorded more production than the entire month of February last year.  Granted, the array was under ten inches or more of snow for most of that time last year.

Overall, I ended up nearly even in terms of production versus consumption.  The actual number was approximately 4 kWh “ahead.”  I am figuring that I will end up “ahead” of consumption for most months here on out until January rolls around again.

The crazy thing was that if I had driven a normal amount this month I would have been even more in the black.  Due to a work commitment out of town for an entire week I drove approximately 50% more miles per day on average in the month of February.  Those highway miles added up to a lot of extra driving at a not so efficient clip.

For the month of February I drove ~973 miles at an average efficiency of 4.6 miles per kilowatt hour.  That driving used ~212 kWh of electricity and saved ~1,086 pounds of CO2 being emitted, assuming all electricity was pulled from the grid at an average carbon intensity for my region of the country, versus if those same miles were driven in my truck.

January 2020 Solar Production and EV Efficiency

Okay, January kind of sucks if you are living the electrified life.  On average, January and/or February are the worst months for solar production and EV efficiency.  Why?

For my solar photovoltaic array the answer is in two parts: snow and clouds.  For part of the month, it is common for my panels to be covered with snow.  I have tried my best to knock the snow free with a foam roof rake, but this is really just scratching at the surface of the problem.

The second part of the problem is that the month of January is just not that sunny in eastern Iowa.  The sun came out on Saturday and everyone in the house sort of looked surprised.  It was a “Do you remember the last time you saw the sun” kind of moment.

The end result is that you do not make very much electricity.  For the month I am unsure of just how much my PV array produced because my monitoring setup is still not reporting correctly.  Needless to say, I know that I was in the hole ~400 kWh for the month.  Ugh.

The cold weather will also bit you on the rear end when you are driving an EV.  Granted, the cold weather will also impact the efficiency and performance of an ICE vehicle as well.

When you turn on the heat you watch your range and efficiency go into the tank.  On my 2015 Nissan Leaf which uses a resistive heater I can see the “guess o’ meter’s” range drop by at least 30% and more like 40% usually.

If it gets cold enough the “guess o’ meter” will also show less range because the batteries are chilly and cannot discharge as well.

To add insult to injury, regenerative braking is not as effective in the cold weather so more energy is lost to heat in the form of actually using the brake pedal.

However, given all of that downside I still managed to drive 850.5 miles at an average efficiency of 4.7 miles per kilowatt hour.  This compares with the same period last year where I averaged just 3.6 miles per kWh.  I chalk that up to the weather not being quite as harsh and me understanding how to wring more mileage out of my little Nissan Leaf.

For the month I saved ~953 pounds of CO2 from being emitted versus my prior vehicle assuming an average carbon intensity of electricity from the grid.

Like most people in eastern Iowa I am kind of excited to see February be here because it means an end to the ceaseless political ads and a potential break toward more electrified living amenable weather.

Friday Linkage 1/10/2020

Although it looks like the Trump administration is backing down from an actual war with Iran as you would expect the schoolyard bully to do when presented with a combatant that is unwilling to gamely play along, it shocks me that we have a Republican president yet again selling a case for a war in the Middle East.

Is there something in the air at Fox News that makes these people so eager for war in the Middle East?

On to the links…

7 High-Impact Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions—Make 2020 the year that you make changes in your lifestyle that are climate positive in a large way.

Can We Live The Good Life With Less Energy?—The answer is an unequivocal yes.  However, the shocking thing to me is that we can really live a pretty good and modern life on a surprisingly lower amount of energy compared to what we are using today.

How We Cut Our Electricity Usage by 85%—I am not saying that everyone needs to go to this level of reduction, but it shows what is possible.

2,000 Gigawatts of Solar Power Needed for 100% Renewables—All right, now we have a number to work towards.

These Three European Countries Broke Major Renewables Records In 2019—Here is the punch line: Denmark at 50%, the United Kingdom at 26.5%, and Germany at 46%.  These are the percentages of power that are coming from truly renewable energy sources for 2019 in those countries.

Parking Has Eaten American Cities—This is when I knew we had a problem with parking in the United States.  At my place of work, your car will get more space than you are allocated in a cubicle.

How Ghent got Rid of Cars and Transformed the City in a Decade—If done properly, the reduction or elimination of cars from our urbanized landscape is effective and popular.  People really do not like cars save for the dream of convenience that is all but gone in modern circumstances.

It’s Time To Let Go Of Commuter Culture—No one is asking people to give up cars for the things that they enjoy, but commuter culture needs to die.  No one likes trudging along in gridlock.  No one.

National Trust to Plant 20 million Trees in UK Over Next Decade—Why not 20 million trees over the next two years?

‘Like sending bees to war’: The Deadly Truth Behind Your Almond-Milk Obsession—I want 2020 to be the year that we just sort of give up on milk and its plant-based replacements.  Except for oat milk.  That one seems to come without a lot of problems.  Probably because oats are just kind of awesome.

The Decade Lettuce Tried To Kill Us—Maybe it is time that we gave up on the vegetable that was once described as a fancy way to basically transport water from one place to another.

What is Private Equity, and Why is it Killing Everything You Love?—If you hear someone in an expensive suit say, “I’m from a private equity firm and we are here to help” it is the end times for your business.  The business model is predicated on making more money than is possible in traditional investing with no regard for anything else.

Smart Garbage Disposal Composts Your Food Scraps instead of Grinding Them Up—If this thing actually works, I want one.

Final Report on 2019 “Resolutions”

It is time to take stock of my so-called New Year’s resolutions for 2019 and see how I did.

Without further ado, here is the list:

  • Decarbonize transportation—My 2015 Nissan Leaf has been in the garage for about a year.  Over that time ~7,987 miles at an average efficiency of 5.2 miles per kWh. The Leaf saved ~9,119 pounds of CO2 being emitted compared to my prior vehicle.  Furthermore, I added ~62% generating capacity to my home’s solar photovoltaic array so for 2020 I should be driving on sunshine 100% of the time.
  • No more Amazon—A little bit of failure and a little bit of success. I definitely spent a lot less money at Amazon than in prior years, but it speaks to the company’s ubiquity that I ended up buying anything at all.  Want to buy that odd little gadget?  Guess what, Amazon is about the only place to find fulfillment.
  • No more Walmart—A little more success as I the only trips to Walmart were few and far between for the year. Over the course of the entire holiday shopping season it never entered into my mind to even shop there.  Once a store is no longer part of your “consideration set” that has to be considered a success.
  • Read twenty five books—51 books read.
  • Drink local—Pretty good, but I think I can do better in 2020.
  • Declutter my house—Fail. My family and I spent some time getting rid of old clothes and other stuff that was taking up space in our closets.  However, it feels like we replaced whatever we got rid of over the course of the year.  I know that I will never be a fervent follower of Marie Kondo’s methods nor will I ever embrace modern minimalism.  I thought I could do a little better.
  • Replace existing toilets with low volume flush models—One toilet was replaced. A second toilet is scheduled to be replaced in January.  The third toilet in the house does not get enough use to merit replacement at this time.
  • Plant at least five trees—Two Norway spruce trees are in the ground.  Three Colorado blue spruce trees in the ground. Mission accomplished.
  • Reduce lawn coverage—Fail. I had the best of intentions to start replacing some of my lawn with mixed plantings and landscaped beds.  While I got the trees in the ground the rest of the plan did not come together.  This is where I am going to focus my 2020 landscaping efforts.
  • Ride 2,500 miles on gravel roads—Over 3,000 miles ridden on the year. Mission accomplished.

 

For 2020 I am going to try and build on what was done in 2019.  The goal is to improve each year.  Different goals or different metrics, but the overall theme is improvement.

Stay tuned!

December 2019 Solar Production and EV Performance

The additional capacity for my solar photovoltaic array was finally turned on in the middle of December.  For some reason the monitoring software is screwed up—probably because it is tied to the old inverter that is now powering an array for a friend in northeast Iowa.  It is my hope that the issue is resolved in the next few days and I can start comparing total production of the array.

Regardless, I have a decent idea of how I am doing relative to total consumption versus total production using the readout from my bi-directional meter.  For December I ended up using ~208 kWh more than I produced.  Considering that my system was not operational for half of the month I am going to take this as a good sign that I should now produce more than I consume most months out of the year.  In the past December has been one of the worst for solar production.

Knowing my numbers at the beginning of the year it is my estimate that I will be net positive when it comes to total consumption versus total production even including my electricity usage for driving my Nissan Leaf.

For the month of December I drove my Nissan Lead 574.7 miles at an average efficiency of 5.0 miles per kWh.  This translates into a CO2 savings of ~651 pounds compared to driving my prior vehicle assuming an average carbon intensity of electricity from the grid.

For the entire year, I drove my Nissan Leaf ~7,987 miles at an average efficiency of 5.2 miles per kWh.  I think this is a pretty good average efficiency based on what I am seeing on forums and what not.  This represents a savings ~9,119 pounds of CO2 compared to driving my prior vehicle assuming an average carbon intensity of electricity from the grid.  It also represents ~$1,132 savings in fuel costs assuming I draw power from the grid at my residential rate.