Tag Archives: efficiency

Third Quarter New Year’s Resolutions Progress

It is now October and that means it is fall.  It also means that I am nine months of the way through the year which is probably a good time to check in on where I am at with my resolutions or goals for 2019.  Here goes:

  • Decarbonize transportation—My 2015 Nissan Leaf has been in the garage for almost nine months. Through the end of September 2019 I have driven ~5,893 miles.  By trading a Ford F150 for a Nissan Leaf I have saved ~6,733 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted.
  • No more Amazon—While I failed in the first quarter and succeeded in the second quarter, the third quarter was a little better. I spent some money that I was “awarded” from work via a gift card.  It was money spent at Amazon, but it was not my cash and I felt that the effort to transfer the funds was not worth the return.  Trying to reduce my spending at both Amazon and Walmart has made me think about our consumer habits in general.  More to come.
  • No more Walmart—Spent about a $100 on school supplies for a work organized effort to help out area kids during the back to school time. Walmart was running sales where I was able to pick up whole classrooms’ worth of some supplies for a few dollars.  It was craziness and well worth failing in my goal to make it happen.
  • Read twenty five books—38 books read in the first nine months.  Mission accomplished.
  • Drink local—Doing pretty good so far.
  • Declutter my house—This is probably the singular failure so far this year. Sure, some stuff has gone to Goodwill but I feel that on the whole nothing is less cluttered than it was nine months ago.  Maybe I can sprint to the finish.
  • Replace existing toilets with low volume flush models—I have picked out the model of toilet to replace my existing commodes. I have even purchased the wax rings to install the new toilers.  Now I just need to get a free day on a weekend to spend a few hours doing some plumbing.  Can you tell that this is my favorite way to spend a few hours on a Saturday?
  • 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— No real progress, but I have plans. I promise!
  • Ride 2,500 miles on gravel roads—I am sitting at ~2,718 miles for the season as the month of September came to a close. Surprisingly, September was a real dog of a month for riding as the weather really conspired to keep me inside.   Mission accomplished.

So far, so good I think.

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A Great Month for Solar Production, Electricity Consumption, and EV Efficiency

At last!  In August 2019 my solar photovoltaic array produced more than the same month in prior years.  I was somewhat consigned to a reality where my best days of solar production were behind me, but August came to the rescue:

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All in, my household ended up 179 kWh “up” in terms of electricity production minus consumption.  Remember, this includes all of my EV miles as well.  For the year I am creeping back toward being even in terms of production minus consumption after some awful months in the dead of winter.  During that period of time my solar array was covered in nearly a foot of wind driven snow and our electricity usage was high due to crazy low temperatures.  Normally August is a heavy month for air conditioning use.  Our HVAC system has been idle since the first week of month.

For the month of August my total miles driven in the Nissan Leaf was depressed by not being home for a little more than a week.  In the end I drove 531.2 miles at an average efficiency of 6 miles per kWh.  Compared to my truck and assuming power is drawn from the electricity grid, I saved ~620 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

Since bringing the Nissan Leaf home I have driven a total of 5,138 miles and save 5,854 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released.  Using the most conservative method of calculating savings—which assumes all electricity comes from the grid as opposed to my solar panels—I have saved just under $727 in fuel costs alone.

Second Quarter New Year’s Resolutions Progress

June has come and gone.  Summer is officially here.

It also means that it is a good time to check in on where I am at with my resolutions or goals for 2019.  Here goes:

  • Decarbonize transportation—My 2015 Nissan Leaf has been in the garage for almost six months. Through the end of June 2019 I have driven ~3,706 miles.  By trading a Ford F150 for a Nissan Leaf I have saved ~4,181 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted.
  • No more Amazon—While I failed in the first quarter, I feel like I am nailing it in the second quarter with $0—yes, zero—spend at Amazon in the past three months. It is surprisingly hard to resist the temptation to just order something from Amazon at nine in the evening.  It is like our brains are wired to just hit the “add to cart” button.
  • No more Walmart—As with my goal of spending no money at Amazon met with reality in the first quarter but improved in the second quarter, so too did my attempt at not patronizing Walmart. Zero dollars in the second quarter.
  • Read twenty five books—23 down, 2 to go.
  • Drink local—Doing pretty good so far.
  • Declutter my house—I started off with the best intentions in January, but after taking an entire car load of clothes the effort to get stuff out of the house has kind of fizzled. Again, I feel a little overwhelmed by all of the stuff that we have in the house.
  • Replace existing toilets with low volume flush models—I have picked out the model of toilet to replace my existing commodes. Now I just need to get a free day on a weekend to spend a few hours doing some plumbing.  Can you tell that this is my favorite way to spend a few hours on a Saturday?
  • Plant at least five trees—Two Norway spruce trees are in the ground. I am actively hunting for additional trees to plant, but the nursery stock locally has not been very attractive.
  • Reduce lawn coverage— Plans are laid out and some of the hardscaping materials are sitting in my driveway. However, this is the kind project that has to wait until the temperature declines a little bit.  Spending a day digging out turf when the mercury is over 90 degrees and the humidity level is above 90 percent is a no go.
  • Ride 2,500 miles on gravel roads—Almost 1,200 miles have been spent in the saddle so far and this includes a lost week spent on vacation in Colorado. I had the best of intentions to ride while I was out in Summit County, but I chose to hike and raft instead.

So far, so good I think.

June 2019 Solar was Back on Track and EV Miles were Extra Efficient

June was a better month for solar production:

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Over the course of the entire month my household ended up ~150 kWh (consumption minus production), including all of my EV charging for that same period as I did not use any public chargers.  With at least eight more panels being installed on my roof this summer I am going to be seeing a lot more months with excess production.  Every kilowatt hour that I produce from my solar array is like a nail in the coffin for coal.

The excess production in June was a little artificial because we were on the road for more than a week.  With no air conditioning running it is to be expected that we would run a surplus.  June was also fairly cool with a corresponding lack of need to deploy air conditioning.  The last few days of the month were a reminder that summer in Iowa is a hot and sticky affair.  I am talking temperatures exceeding 90 degrees and humidity levels exceeding 90%.  If there was ever a time where I did not want to come home from the mountains this was that time.

For June I drove my Nissan Leaf a total of ~555 miles at an average efficiency of 5.9 miles per kWh.  This is my best number by far, in terms of efficiency, and makes me wonder if I can nurse my way to a figure over 6 miles per kWh in July.  For the period I saved ~646 pounds of C02 being emitted assuming that my charging came via the grid at an average carbon intensity.

You may ask how I can be ahead in terms of energy production yet still account for some level of carbon intensity for my electric vehicle.  Unfortunately, my photovoltaic array’s production occurs when I am not charging my EV which usually happens at night.  Therefore, to run my Nissan Leaf I am utilizing grid electricity.  It’s a little like keeping two sets of books for the same business.

May Showers Dominate Solar Production and Electric Vehicle Efficiency is Stable

May was a rainy month in eastern Iowa.  How rainy?  It rained for twice the number of hours in May and three times the usual rainfall hit the ground.  Things were really wet.  Like the “ground is a sopping wet sponge” wet.  It had an impact on May’s solar production:

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Now, just over 542 kWh of clean, green solar electricity is not bad.  It is down about 80 kWh from the same month the prior year.

All in all, my household ended up about 10 kWh ahead of consumption for the month of May including home charging of the Nissan Leaf.  When you can drive all month and live in house with modern amenities all powered by the sun that is considered a win.  Sometimes I just feel like I am living in the future.

For the month I drove 937.4 miles in my Nissan Leaf at an average efficiency of 5.5 miles per kilowatt hour.  This beats my efficiency the prior month by 0.1 miles per kilowatt hour.  This saved ~1,080 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions versus my prior vehicle assuming that I charged using grid electricity, which in Iowa averages about 1 pound of CO2 per kWh.  As noted above, I actually ended the month ahead of my consumption so the emission savings were probably higher.

It does not seem like a big win in terms of efficiency.  However, there are two round trips to Iowa City that totaled almost 140 miles of driving at highway speeds.  For anyone who has driven a Nissan Leaf there is a moment of dread the first time that you get the little car up to 60 miles per hour or more and watch your efficiency drop like a stone in freefall.

The trick is to minimize interstate highway type driving in favor of more sedate state or county highway driving.  That is to say, drive 55 miles per hour as opposed to the 70 miles per hour or more on the interstate.  It takes a little longer, sure, but there is something really peaceful cruising along with the windows down and the silence of an electric vehicle drivetrain.

It also helps to have access to public charging at the midpoint of your trip.  In Iowa City there are ChargePoint facilities available in several public parking ramps.  You pay for parking (first hour is free and a $1 per hour for any additional time) and the charging is free as long as you have a ChargePoint account.  My Leaf is equipped with a standard Level 2 charging port so it can accept, at most, 3.3 kWh of electricity per hour of charge.  It is not a lot for the ninety minutes or so that my errands in Iowa City take, but it provides a margin of safety for the trip home that eases any potential range anxiety.

These trips have gotten me thinking about electric vehicles and range.  Maybe the issue is not absolute range, as in 235 miles of range when fully charged, but rather the ability to gain a lot of range in a short period of time, as in 80% battery charge in 30 minutes.  If I was able to regain more than three quarters of my vehicle’s charge in less time than it takes to make a quick trip into Costco that would change my route calculations considerably.  Also, if more public charging facilities were available at destinations that might also change behavior.

Do I spend a little more time in downtown Iowa City because I am charging my Nissan Leaf?  Probably.  Think about that from an economic development standpoint.

Friday Linkage 5/17/2019

The race for the Democratic nomination to face off against Donald Trump in 2020 is officially ridiculous.  Bill De Blasio?  Really?  As if we needed another egomaniacal New Yorker running for the White House when it is already occupied by the worst version of that sort.

As the temperatures increase here in Iowa we are preparing to be deluged with candidates at every county fair, sporting event, Pizza Ranch…whatever.  If you get three registered Democrats together on a Tuesday night you could probably book at least one presidential hopeful.

Thank god I do not watch commercial television anymore.

On to the links…

The Dark Reason so Many Millennials are Miserable and Broke—Minus some organizing for social causes, what good has social media brought us as a civilization?  I would argue it has done much more harm than good.  Who really gives a shit what someone you have never met on Instagram is doing?

Exxon Predicted 2019’s Ominous CO2 Milestone in 1982—Has there been a company more destructive to the planet than Exxon-Mobil?  These guys are behind every bad action regarding the climate since the dawn of time it seems.

The World Blows Over $5 Trillion a Year on Oil and Gas Subsidies—The next time your drunk Uncle Carl starts spouting off about the production tax credit or tax credits for residential solar arrays remind him about the subsidies that oil and gas companies utilize to distort the market.

The Hidden Subsidy of Fossil Fuels—The report above seems to have sent a lot of writers looking at the murky world of fossil fuel subsidies.  Happy hunting.

Future of Workers Uncertain as Third-Biggest US Coal Company Declares Bankruptcy—I will cut right to the punch line: workers will get screwed in this bankruptcy.  Workers get screwed every time.  Executives will get paid.  Heck, executives will likely get bonuses for some reason.  Workers will get screwed.

The Simple, Yet Elusive, Key To Fighting The Climate Crisis—Radical reforestation should be at the top of any agenda to stop the worst impacts of climate change.  What is the downside?  Extra trees?  Okay, I will take that downside risk.

Why Aren’t North Americans Buying Electric Cars?—I have an idea: it’s the dealers.  Seriously, have you ever been to a non-Tesla showroom to look at an EV?  Don’t do it because it is a horrifying experience.

Gas Car Sales ‘have already peaked and may never recover’ as Battery Prices Plunge—I can personally vouch that we likely bought our last internal combustion engine car in 2013.  My used Leaf has proven to be revelatory as a driving experience.  In a couple of years we will be looking to replace my wife’s Subaru Outback and the first choice will be an EV.

All Aboard the Electric Bus – Modern Public Transport Powered by Electricity is Coming Back—Buses are the humble players in the decarbonization game.  No one really thinks about the bus when compared with subways or light rail.  However, there is not quicker way to get carbon out of our transit than by replacing diesel buses with electric buses.

The Morning After: Germany Starts Testing its ‘Electric Highway’—This idea is simple, old school, and amazingly timely.

Toronto Restaurant Fights Waste By Chopping Menu Prices Till Food Is Gone—I just love this concept.

The Little Technology That Could—This is one those technologies that makes you ask, “Why is this not a requirement for every large building?”  The answer is that it costs more money up front and builders are looking to put up buildings in the cheapest manner possible.  Just look at the newly opened Hudson Yards in New York City.

Could You Live a Low Carbon Life? Meet the People Who Already Are—Reducing our carbon footprint does not mean going back to some stone age like existence.  It is about eliminating the most wasteful aspects of our modern life.

Metal Straws, Mason Jars, Bamboo Forks: Do You Have to Buy More Stuff to Go Zero Waste?—Be wary of anyone who tells you that in order to reduce your consumption you need to buy something first.  It’s a lie.  Just stop using the thing you want to stop using.

How Recreation Boosts the Economy—As the extraction economy of the western United States winds down the number one driver of economic activity will be outdoor recreation.

Cracking the Electric Vehicle and Solar Photovoltaic Code in April

April felt like the month where I cracked the code on this whole electric vehicle thing.  How so?  After averaging 5.0 miles per kilowatt hour (kWh) in March and considerable less in the prior two months I ended April at an average of 5.4 miles per kWh.  Over the course of ~630 miles of driving I saved ~724 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions compared with my prior ICE vehicle.

Since mid-January when I acquired my used Nissan Leaf, I have driven a total of ~2,214 miles and saved ~2,456 pounds of carbon dioxide.  Not to mention saving ~$230 in fuel costs, which is a number that is sure to go up as fuel costs are creeping up here in eastern Iowa along with the spring time temperatures.

The story gets even better when you factor in April’s solar production:

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The numbers are not dramatic in and of themselves.  However, for the month—including the electricity that I used to “fuel” my EV—I produced ~95 kWh in excess of my needs.  For the month of April my house and my car were more than fueled by the sun.  That is the future.

Imagine what things will be like when I increase the generating capacity of my solar array by almost 60%.  Based on my calculations that will allow for more than 15,000 miles of electric driving per year which should cover both my and my wife’s commuting miles in town.