Tag Archives: electricity

2021 Personal Goals Scorecard

2021 was a year.  Actually, it felt like more than a year.

Looking back I do not know what I really did for an entire year.  Work feels like pretending as our ad hoc work from home arrangement is entering its third year with no end in sight.  Play feels like a constant question of “is this worth the risk of potential exposure?”  Heck, every time I think about going out to grab a pizza my minds starts to think about transmission rates and air handlers.  Yeah, that is what 2021 did to my brain.

Anyway, I digress.  How did I do when it came to my goals for 2021?  Read on below to find out.

Here goes:

  1. Read 60 books—73 books in total against a goal of 60.  Victory.
  2. Ride 3,000 miles on my bicycle—4,103.6 miles against a goal of 3,000.  Victory.
  3. Ride 3 “new to me” trails—I only rode one “new to me” trail: the High Trestle Trail in central Iowa.  It seemed like coronavirus and weather killed every effort I made to ride new trails.
  4. Local, direct, and packaging free beer—Pretty good.  You can see the details here, but the theme was heavy on the local (only one non-local purchase all year) and decent on buying direct from the brewer and/or in a packaging neutral form factor.
  5. No new car in 2020—Epic failure.  We got through March before the reality of needing two cars that could travel more than 75 miles or so set in.  Granted, I am glad we did not spend the first half of this year trying to rent cars for those few weekends of kids activities separated by hundreds of miles. A single weekend was going for about what our car payment is right now.  That would have hurt.
  6. Less lawn, more life—I feel like I am about halfway to my goal of ripping out my lawn in various spots.  I started to build out a large pollinator garden in 2021, but 2022 is probably going to see my finish the project and undertake another similar style bed in another part of my lawn.
  7. Deeper decarbonization—Like the prior year, I do not know how to categorize this goal.  Without any effort on our part, my wife and I “avoided” 218 days of commutes to work.    Since 2019 we have “avoided” 383 days of commutes to work.  This is a lot of avoided carbon dioxide and other attendant pollution.  I have also decarbonized my lawn care with a battery electric mower.  It does feel, however, like we stalled out a little this past year.  Our delayed effort to replace out natural gas water heater with a hybrid air source heat pump model ran into supply chain realities.  As a household we made some efforts to reduce natural gas usage by keeping our house a little chillier and focusing on heating the person via electricity.  If there is one thing I am going to work on in 2022 this is it.

Third Quarter Progress on My 2021 Personal Goals

I am nine months into the year and the end is coming into focus.

Let’s see how things are shaping up with just under a quarter of the year remaining.

  1. Read 60 books—57 books down.  Two in process should put me on the doorstep of my goal before mid-October.  With some cooler weather there are going to be some good reading nights in the near future.
  2. Ride 3,000 miles on my bicycle—Ended September having ridden 3,839.2 miles.  Success and then some.  Aiming for something closer to 4,500 miles as a “stretch” goal.
  3. Ride 3 “new to me” trails—Rode 1 new trail (High Trestle Trail), but COVID-19 seems to be getting in the way of me riding anything else.  Or the weather.  I have taken three days of vacation where it has rained—during a summer of drought—so I am not thinking this is my year.
  4. Local, direct, and packaging free beer—Keeping it local.  You can check out my beer purchasing below:
  • No new car in 2021—Fail.  I have spent enough time dwelling on this failure.
  • Less lawn, more life—Took out some scrubby turfgrass and planted the start of a large pollinator garden.  (Part 1 and Part 2)  I have a few more things to do in order to get the bed read for the winter and future planting next spring when I intend to complete my vision of a pollinator oasis.
  • Deeper decarbonization—Again this is an interesting case of how you frame the situation.  I did not end up replacing our water heater or furnace with air source heat pump models because supply chain constraints meant high prices that pushed me to wait until next year.  Plus, we finally got contractors in to complete repairs stemming from last year’s derecho so our house budget was kind of blown. However, consider that by the end of September my wife and I had not commuted to work for ~165 days or more than the entirety of 2020.  With three months to go, we will have avoided well north of 200 days of commuting.  Plus, we have not taken an airplane flight since the summer of 2019.  The direct carbon emission savings of those two differences is a big deal.

Second Quarter Progress on My 2021 Personal Goals

It has been six months since January 1, which kind of blow my mind.  In my household, that means we are on the downhill slide—pun intended—to winter and a, hopefully, abundant ski season.  I hope that I have not pissed off Ullr and cursed my future years of skiing.

  1. Read 60 books—36 books down.
  2. Ride 3,000 miles on my bicycle—1,441.72 miles by the end of June.  Okay, it was really by June 23rd since we left on vacation.  I was really ahead of prior years’ pace.  If I do not lose 10 days in August to another derecho level event this should be another big year for miles ridden.
  3. Ride 3 “new to me” trails—Nothing to report so far.
  4. Local, direct, and packaging free beer—Keeping it local.  About the only “misstep” was buying a six pack of Odell Brewing Company beer in Denver rather than something from one of the local breweries that I visited, but nothing was really hitting the spot that was packaged. You can check out my beer purchasing below:
  • No new car in 2021—Fail.  I have spent enough time dwelling on this failure.
  • Less lawn, more life—Drought really helped this goal along in late-May and June.  I mowed twice in six weeks and once only because we were leaving town.
  • Deeper decarbonization—This is an interesting case.  Through six months my wife and I have avoided 112 days’ worth of commuting.  This translates to a household savings of ~4,167 miles and 5,556 pounds of carbon dioxide.  In June my household also went “into the black” in terms of solar PV production versus electricity consumption.  Unfortunately, my goal of replacing natural gas fired appliances in my home—both water heater and furnace—has run up against supply chain realities.  Our HVAC contractor advised us to wait a year unless we really needed to switch.  Selection and price are not in your favor right now if you are looking to upgrade your home’s internals.  At least lumber futures are coming down.

Sending Iowa’s Hard Earned Money to Wyoming

The state of Iowa sure likes to send its hard earned money to Wyoming.  Not the city in eastern Iowa, but rather the state in the Rocky Mountains.

Depending upon the measure and year, Iowa buys ~$370M of coal to generate electricity across a number of coal-fired power plants.  This number is likely to be less in the near term with some natural gas conversions and retirements of older generating assets.  Regardless, the state sends hundreds of millions of dollars a year to another state when proven electricity generating resources exist in the state itself.

Depending upon the measure and year, Iowa now generates ~60% of its electricity demand from the wind that blows across the state.  From 2010 to 2020 Iowa added ~7,985 megawatts of wind power capacity.  If the ~11,660 megawatts of installed capacity gets us to 60% that means we only need to add ~7,800 megawatts of capacity to get to 100%.

Granted, this would not account for variability and timing of demand.  So, let’s add a bunch of solar to the mix.  $370M would buy a lot of solar.  How much?  Based on an average installed price $0.70 per watt you could install more than 500 megawatts of utility scale solar per year with that kind of money.  That is change I can believe in.

The dividend is that every year you do not pay for fuel.  Now you have an extra $370 million to spend on a lot of other things.  Like water quality. 

The Downside of So Many Wind Turbines

Iowa has, depending upon when you do the counting, almost 5,600 wind turbines generating nearly 60% of the state’s electricity demand with more coming online.

However, there is a downside to all of the wind power development.  No, this is not a screed aping Donald Trump talking about wind turbines causing cancer.  Yes, he really did make that claim.  The downside is that it means that if you live in Iowa it is a fairly windy place.

If you happen to be a cyclist this also means you get to deal with some nasty winds.  Heck, you start rating your rides based on what the wind was like.  Was it the kind of wind that seemed to blow in your face no matter what direction you were riding?  Was it the kind of wind that pushed you back into the saddle, forced you to upshift, and fight for every mile?  It rarely seems like we talk about the wind at our backs.

This past April I was really dogging it when it came to getting out on my bike.  Why?  The wind seemed especially brutal this year.  It was also cold, but you can layer and put pogies on your handlebars to deal with that problem.

I guess every April is kind of windy when you consider the wind power generation by month in Iowa:

Based on this graph I can hope that May through August really come through in terms of weather conditions.

April 2021 Solar PV Production and EV Efficiency

Well, April 2021 felt a little like getting back to normal more than one year after this whole pandemic thing started.  For the month, my solar system’s production looked like this:

Just over 900 kWh represents the most electricity made in the month of April yet.  So that was good.  Interestingly, my household only ended up “in the black” ~215 kWh versus ~396 kWh the same month a year prior.

Where did the extra kWh go?  First, more driving.  We drove ~577 miles in April 2021 versus ~115 miles in April 2020.  The extra 462 miles represents ~88 kWh.  The other ~100 kWh?  I do not know.  It was colder this April, so we used more heat and my wife used a space heater in her lower level office area because it gets cold.  She is also growing her own starter plants from seed so there is a level of electricity consumption for grow lights and a heating mat.

Still, we are back in black.

In terms of driving, we drove the Nissan Leaf ~577 miles at an average efficiency of 5.2 miles per kWh.  This is a big increase from the year prior because our kids are actually in activities this year.  Last year, at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown, we did not do anything or go anywhere.

This month we avoided ~658 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions versus driving my truck assuming that we pulled every kWh for the Nissan Leaf from the grid at an average carbon intensity for my region.  For the year, we have driven ~1,992 miles and avoided emitting ~2,238 pounds of CO2 versus driving my truck.

The crazier number is what working from home has done for our carbon avoidance.  So far, my wife and I have worked from home for 81 days which results in a carbon dioxide avoidance of ~3,991 pounds between us.  If there is one thing I am taking away from this pandemic it is that commuter culture needs to die.  We just sit in our cars wasting time and resources on an activity that no one enjoys.

First Quarter Progress on My 2021 Personal Goals

Three months into another coronavirus year and it is time to take stock of how I am doing against my personal goals.  Check out the progress below:

  1. Read 60 books—24 books down.
  2. Ride 3,000 miles on my bicycle—38.77 miles so far.  Obviously, this is a weather and seasonally dependent goal.
  3. Ride 3 “new to me” trails—Nothing to report so far.
  4. Local, direct, and packaging free beer—Save for my impulse purchase of a case of Costco Kirkland Signature beer I was keeping it local in 2021.
  5. No new car in 2021—Fail.  After nine months of reduced car ownership the reality of kids’ activities putting us in two different states at the same time set in.  Combined with a killer deal on the Subaru Outback my wife wanted put us back into the car ownership column.  We tried.
  6. Less lawn, more life—Stay tuned.
  7. Deeper decarbonization—The first three months have been interesting.  Our household electricity usage seems to be running ahead of the prior year, which is not surprising given that the first quarter of 2020 was not impacted by coronavirus.  Add in a wicked cold snap in February 2021 and a person ends up in a different spot.  We ended the quarter about 641 kWh “in the red” versus 346 kWh “in the red” for the same period the prior year.  Looking to turn net positive in April.  On the good side, my wife and I worked 59 days from home saving ~2,259 miles of commuting and thereby avoiding 3,012 pounds of CO2 emissions.

Other than our epic fail of not buying a new car in 2021, I would venture to say that we are doing pretty well so far.

March 2021 Solar Production and EV Efficiency…Almost Back to Even

Well, it has been a little more than a year since most of the United States started this whole “dealing with a pandemic” thing.  For my family, the moment we will always anchor the pandemic’s start will be when Colorado closed all of its ski resorts in 2020 about two hours after we arrived in Winter Park for what was supposed to be spring break.  About thirty-six hours later we were at home where we have been for the last year.

The interesting thing to watch over the past year—if you are into worrying about your electricity consumption—is how our patterns of consumption have changed due to spending so much time at home.  We have very little so-called leakage of electricity where we shift our home’s use to a workplace.  In fact, we have none of that anymore since we have not gone into the office in over a year.

So, how did we do in March:

Just under 689 kWh for the month.  Compared with consumption that put us about 7 kWh “in the red.”  This was, interestingly, a lot worse than the same month the prior year.  The weather—colder than the prior year—and some space heating—my wife moved her “office” downstairs where it gets cold no matter the season—contributed to our increased electricity consumption.  Also, my kids were baking fiends last month.  I think that they were making something in the oven at least three nights a week for the entire month.

For the year, my household is ~641 kWh “in the red” with better months of solar production to come.  I hope that with mild spring temperatures, sunnier days, and less baking we can move back into net positive territory soon.  It also makes me want to install another array of solar panels on my roof to really knock things out of the park on a monthly basis.

The converse side of the coronavirus equation is that we are driving a lot less.  So much less that we sold my wife’s car in June 2020.

For the month of March we drove the Nissan Leaf ~577 miles at an average efficiency of 5.1 kWh per mile.  This was down ~11.5% versus the same month a year ago.  It is highly doubtful that I will be down in mileage compared to April and May 2020 when we drove less than 200 miles per month due to lockdowns.

Assuming I pulled all of my electricity for the Nissan Leaf from the grid at an average carbon intensity for my region, I calculate that I “avoided” ~656 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.  For the year, making the same assumptions about carbon intensity, I have “avoided” ~1,579 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.  This is all compared versus driving my truck.

The crazier thing is just how many miles we have “avoided” by not going into work on a daily basis.  So far in 2021 we have not commuted to work for 59 days—not including vacation, holidays, and what not—which has resulted in not driving ~2,259 miles and not emitting ~3,013 pounds of carbon dioxide between the two commutes our household used to undertake.

2021 Personal Goals

It is that time of year again when I think about goals for the forthcoming new year after reflecting back on my success or failure of the prior year.

2020 was…well…2020.  There is not much more that can be said about a year that saw coronavirus upend nearly everything we did on a daily basis.  Granted, the pandemic did help me succeed in some of my goals given the nature of limited options for activity.  Exercise was about the only thing keeping me sane in 2020.

With the pandemic still a part of our lives in 2021 until the various vaccines can be rolled out to a significant enough percentage of the population my goals for the year are going to take into account a more limited scope.  Granted, I never really set goals that are crazy in scope but I am not going to worry about things like commuting to work since that is out of the question at my employer until at least the summer.

Here goes:

  1. Read 60 books—I blew past my goal of 50 books in 2020 and that included a period of time where I could not access the libraries in my area due to coronavirus.  That was also the same period of time when I would just spend inordinate amounts of time doomscrolling.
  2. Ride 3,000 miles on my bicycle—My goal last year was 2,500 miles and I went past 3,500 miles.  I doubt that 2021 will allow as many opportunities to ride.  Splitting the difference and making the goal 3,000 miles seems reasonable.
  3. Ride 3 “new to me” trails—One of my favorite goals from last year that really forced me to think about getting out of my comfort zone.  So, I added another trail experience to the goal.  There are some interesting trails near me that I have never experienced and 2021 is going to be the year.
  4. Local, direct, and packaging free beer—This is a repeat of last year’s goal, but I am hopeful that with coronavirus on the wane I can improve on 2020.
  5. No new car in 2020—This is going to be the hard one if we start having to commute to work or if children’s activities pick up in the latter half of the year.  We sold our Subaru Outback in June to my brother-in-law and used our Nissan Leaf as a primary daily driver.  I would like to go the entire year without replacement for the Subaru given the cost of a new car and the hope that a new model year will bring more fully electric options.  I never want to buy another ICE vehicle again.
  6. Less lawn, more life—It’s been a process over the past few years, but some of the progress I made in 2020 really sets me up well in 2021 to take out some big swaths of lawn.  I am thinking some more trees.  I am always thinking about trees.
  7. Deeper decarbonization—This is a goal I struggled with in 2020 because my plan for deeper decarbonization involved replacing out gas fired water heater with an air source heat pump water heater.  Coronavirus got in the way and we did not really think about replacing the water heater.  Granted, we drove a lot less in 2020 so I guess we succeeded on some level.  I do not know what my plan for 2021 is right now, but I need to make progress down the path of deeper decarbonization.

These goals are somewhat repetitive when compared with last year, but there is something satisfying with building upon progress year-over-year.

How Did I Do Against My 2020 Goals?

2020 is in the bag, so to speak, although I feel like we will be living with the aftershocks of this year for a very long time.

Here were my goals for 2020 and how I did against them:

  • Deeper decarbonization: All good plans go awry in some way at some time during the year and coronavirus blew a hole in this plan.  Granted, we drove a lot less this year so I guess that is deeper decarbonization in a way.  Like how much less?  Well, we did not commute to work for 164 work days of the year which works out to ~6,171 miles driven and ~8,300 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions avoided.  That was just the commuting that we avoided.  We also did not take any flights for the entire year, which is unusual given work and leisure travel.  So, maybe this is a win.
  • Replace 500 Vehicle Miles with Human Powered Transit: Total fail in some respects.  I replace no vehicle miles with human powered transit.  However, in total the two drivers in my household drove a lot less this year because of coronavirus lockdowns and working from home.  It’s hard to quantify because I did not track the miles driven in my wife’s Subaru Outback in prior years but we drove our Nissan Leaf ~25% fewer miles for the year and it was our daily driver from June onward.
  • Ride 2,500 Miles on my Bicycle: A total of 3,503.07 miles to be exact.  It would have been higher if not for the derecho in August that closed down trails all over the area.
  • Ride 2 “New to Me” Trails: I rode the MOPAC East and Chief Standing Bear trails in eastern Nebraska this summer.  Check out the ride reports.
  • Local, Direct, and Packaging Neutral Beer: I did well with regard to the local component of the challenge, but not so much with the direct or packaging neutral components.  Coronavirus had a lot to do with this since heading out for a beer or a growler became a game of risk calculus that I was not willing to undertake most days.
  • Read 40 Books: 69 books read. Victory!
  • Reduce Lawn, Increase Landscape Variety: Several big projects that had long been in gestation were completed.  Our side yard hardscaping, including a multi-tier retaining wall, was installed.  Now it is filled in with topsoil, mulched, and ready for plants in 2021.  I also planted trees in a couple of yard locations that are part of larger landscaping beds.  This sets things up very nicely for the next year.
  • Maximize Local Food: For the entire year, my household spent ~27% of its food dollars with local providers.  This numbers was depressed by stores being closed or limited at the outbreak of the coronavirus and the “stock up” culture that followed.  We were as guilty as anyone else for living via warehouse club size package of everything through the spring and summer.  By October our food dollars were 46% local with an increase to 47% in November.  I am going to consider 27% the baseline to measure against for 2021 as I work to spend more of our food dollars locally.

Not bad in total considering the changes that the coronavirus made to our lies on a daily basis in 2020.  The year served as sort of a baseline for me to measure success in the coming year as I work to decarbonize, spend more food dollars locally, and generally try to be a more mindful member of my community.

My goals for 2021 will be coming out shorty.  Stay tuned!