Tag Archives: electricity

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:

Solar_Estimate.png

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.

My Personal Paris

The U.S. government will not save us from climate change.  The signs have been apparent long before Donald Trump took the oath of office and handed over the U.S. government to fossil fuel interests in a manner so brazen even Dick Cheney would blush.  The final nail in the coffin of the possibility of leadership from the U.S. government came with the decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

Make no mistake, the Paris climate accord was not going to be the tool with which to save the world from man-made climate change.  It was a first step in codifying a structure with which to address the issue in a constructive manner.  The current President of the United States does not understand constructive problem solving since it cannot be manhandled into a monosyllabic tweet at five o’clock in the morning.

The Paris climate accord was limited, but it was a start.  Just getting everyone to the table—save for Syria and Nicaragua at the time—was a major accomplishment.  Just getting everyone to agree that man-made climate change was a problem and that we should act was herculean.  We all can agree, however, that the Paris climate accord did not go far enough to address the problem and it does not include forcing functions for countries that fail to live up to the commitments made to the world.

Regardless, the framework of the Paris climate accord is irrelevant for those of us in the United States.  This does not mean that we have to sit idly by and watch as the world tries to address the problem.  I surmise that at this moment in history most of the tools that we need as a civilization exist for us to combat climate change and secure the future of Earth as a viable habitat for humanity.

Consider the following chart of the sources of carbon emissions in the United States:

totala.png

As an individual we have a hand in every slice of the pie with a more direct impact on some more than others.  It is our job as residents of the planet to figure out how we can meet or exceed the goals of the Paris climate accord without the agreement of politicians in Washington D.C.

Everyone has to figure out how they will act on a “personal Paris.”  Unlike almost any other time in recent history we have the tools to make meaningful change at a personal level.  Solar photovoltaic systems are cheaper now than ever and make economic sense in almost any market in the country.  Electric vehicles are now more common than ever before and accessible to a larger share of the population that at any other time in the short history of the technology.  Commuting can be reduced or eliminated via bicycling or telecommuting or just becoming an early retiree like all those couples living in vans on Instagram.

My point is that we have a plethora of options in order to address every slice of the emissions pie pictured above.  If you have the discretionary income there are options.  If you have extra time there are options.  If you need to save money there are options.  As I stated earlier, unlike any other time in recent history we have the tools available to use to make meaningful change.

We need to take responsibility for our actions and act in a correspondingly restorative way.  We need to become the change we want to see in the world.

Thinking about Household Electricity Consumption

As I dither about installing a solar photovoltaic system on my home I also spend a lot of time thinking about electricity consumption in general.

When I first contacted a few solar installers in my area—who have all been very responsive which is a sharp difference from other home service providers lately—all of the systems were sized far in excess of my needs.  I have written before about my household electricity consumption and it remains something that baffles me well into 2017.

The twelve month rolling average electricity consumption of my household is approximately 400 kWh.  It has been stable within 20 kWh of this number for about three years.  What does that number mean in comparison to the average U.S. and Iowa household?

According to the Energy Information Administration the average U.S. and Iowa households consume approximately 900 kWh and 847 kWh per month respectively.  What the hell are people doing with all of this electricity?

It is not as if I live in a small house without the use of many electric appliances.  We have a large-ish French door refrigerator, chest freezer in the basement, electric dryer, and an electric range.  When I lived in a house with a gas range, gas dryer, and no deep freeze the monthly average was below 200 kWh over the course of three years.

We use the air conditioning in the summer, although it is rarely icy like in some houses.  We cook at home all the time using the electric range and small appliances like my beloved Instant Pot.  There are two elementary school aged children in the house so we run through a lot of clothes that often times use the electric dryer.  Sure we turn off lights in rooms, have LEDs in all but a few fixtures, do not watch very much television, and generally exist in a somewhat analog entertainment world (e.g. books that are actually printed on paper occupy many an end table spot).

It makes me question the urgency to install a solar photovoltaic system.  Yes, such a system would divorce me from the somewhat dirty grid in Iowa where even though a large percentage of our electricity is wind derived much of the rest comes from coal.  However, would I be better off investing that capital in something else that might have more of an impact ecologically speaking?

Furthermore, if I am living a modern life at half of the juice—so to speak—of the average household in my state doesn’t that mean we have a lot of room to become more efficient without really sacrificing anything in terms of modernity?  Just some random—kind of like the Tweeter in Chief going off in the morning—thoughts for a Monday afternoon.

Friday Linkage 4/14/2017

Presidents, by the very nature of being one who seeks the presidency, are creatures with massive egos.  However, the current president—who was the loser in terms of the popular vote lest we forget our recent history—has to be one of the most egocentric human beings to ever inhabit the office.  If you take a moment to listen to his interviews or read his tweets, which may lead to a little bit of vomit coming into your mouth, you see someone driven by the need to be the center of everything.  Humility is not something that this man brings to the office.  Ugh…how many more days of this do we have?

Oh right, it’s only 3 years 9 months and 7 days until the next president takes office.  But who is counting?

On to the links…

The Latest Test for the White House? Pulling off its Easter Egg Roll—Not even capable of pulling off the annual Easter Egg Roll.  Sad.

Land Transfer Advocates Steer their Focus to Monuments—This issue demands constant vigilance by advocates of public lands, which thankfully has allied some strange bedfellows in hunters, watermen, skiers, hikers, etc. over the past few months.  Nonetheless, clowns like Orrin Hatch and Jason Chaffetz—seriously, is there something in Utah’s water—are going to push the boundaries until they appease their masters.

EPA Ending Program to Prepare for Climate Change—Scott Pruitt will go down in history as one of the villains of the Anthropocene.  When the history is written by our children and grandchildren he will be remembered as a corporate shill more interested in lining the pockets of his Koch-backed overlords than preserving the environment for the people of the United States.

The De-Electrification of the U.S. Economy—I would not go quite as far as the author suggests, but there are promising trends in the decoupling of electricity consumption and economic activity.

More Subsidies than You Think Influence the Cost of Electricity—Our electricity generation and distribution system is a mess.  Subsidies are one reason why because the price we pay—assuming we even know what the price is per kilowatt hour—is distorted by a plethora of subsidies.

California’s Rising Solar Generation Coincides With Negative Wholesale Electricity Prices—Check out these two charts:

ca-solar-570x293.png

Distributed solar is huge—or is it yuge?—in California.

Washington State’s New 8 Megawatt-Hour Flow Battery is the Largest of its Kind—A big problem with renewables is variability and alignment with demand.  Take solar.  It’s production peaks right before the big demand peak from people coming home from work.  It’s the so-called duck curve.  Flow batteries are promising as a technology to deploy grid level energy storage for managing this mismatch.

Kentucky Coal Mining Museum Installs Solar—It’s not April Fool’s Day.  It’s just reality.

Appalachia’s New Trail: Finding Life after Coal—Appalachia, which is an odd way to define a fairly diverse region, has struggled economically since its settlement.  It is not conducive to industry and it has been used a pawn in politics for almost as long as there have been political parties in the U.S.  It’s residents have been abused by corporations claiming to act in their interests and governments forget about the region except every four years.

When Solar Panels Became Job Killers—China’s policies have created an economic situation where the price of solar panels has been driven artificially low.  This has led to a lot of non-Chinese companies being unable to compete with cheap Chinese solar panels.

SolarCity Will Begin Accepting SolarRoof Orders This Month—I really want some of these on my roof.

Making American Hydropower Great Again—Nobody is suggesting building new dams, but retrofitting older dams with new technology could lead to an increase in the available hydropower in the United States.  Hydro is clean, base load power that we need to help even out the differences between peak production and peak demand.

The Best Way to Restore Environments in the Face of Climate Change—Restoration ecology is going to be a major theme of the next few decades as we look to repair the damage that we have caused.  Best practices need to be figured out and shared as broadly as possible.

Rising Salt Levels Threaten Twin Cities Lakes by 2050—There is so much salt runoff from winter road salt that urban lakes will likely by devoid of fish because of rising salinity within our lifetimes.  As if we have not screwed up the planet enough.

New Sharing Depot Opening Reflects Success of Toronto’s Library of Things Movement—I want this to be the future.  Do I really need to own half or more of the tools I use once or twice year?  No.  Why does every house in a suburban neighborhood own their own lawn mower that gets used for an hour or so each weekend?  What a waste.  Sharing is caring, folks.

Friday Linkage 7/10/2015

Man, it feels like fall around here right now. It is just about perfect for a summer in Iowa. Global warming be damned.

On to the links…

All of the World’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions in one Awesome Interactive Pie Chart—This pie chart is pretty freaking amazing.

Free the Snake: Restoring America’s Greatest Salmon River—If you have watched the documentary DamNation you need to watch this short about the Snake River.

Marijuana Growing Spikes Denver Electricity Demand—This might be the one downside to marijuana legalization in Denver. It’s not really sustainable to grow something inside under artificial lights. Maybe a new generation of growers using greenhouses instead of grow rooms can change the paradigm.

How The Oil Industry Got Two Regulators Fired For Doing Their Jobs—If you think that the government can actually regulate oil and gas companies you need to realize the power that these companies wield.

How Solar Power Is Learning To Share: The Rapid Growth Of Community Solar Gardens—Community solar is kicking ass. It will probably become a talking point for right wingers because the word community is too close to communism for their brains to handle. Too bad people like it a lot. Kind of like Obamacare.

White House Plans Rooftop Solar Panel Initiative for Inner-City Neighborhoods—Solar is generally something enjoyed and employed by the relatively well-off. Solar leasing changes this to a degree, but a lot of people are left out of the benefits. Here is an effort to change that dynamic.

Solar In New York State Grew 300% From 2011-2014—Think about that growth rate for a moment. Anything that grows that fast is amazing.

Billionaire On Way To Building Largest Wind Farm In North America… And It’s Not Warren Buffett—Philip Anschutz is a name you will be familiar with if you spend any time in Colorado or Wyoming. The billionaire is now building a pair of windfarms with the capacity to generate some 3,000 megawatts of clean power. The irony is that the facilities are located in Carbon County, Wyoming.

Kenya’s New Wind Farm Will Provide Nearly One Fifth Of The Country’s Power—Granted, Kenya’s electricity demands are nothing like the U.S. or other developed Western countries, but one-fifth of a nation’s power coming from the wind is pretty sweet.

Belize Going 100% Renewables As Part Of 10 Island Challenge—How come Belize can make this kind of commitment and we in the U.S. cannot make the same kind of effort?

Alaska’s on Fire and It May Make Climate Change Even Worse—Great. Alaska is on fire and the carbon release is going to make climate change worse. Awesome.

Walmart Website Riddled with Deceptive Made in USA Claims—Walmart lies. Big surprise.

Urban Farmers: Community Food Growing around the World – In Pictures—Urban farms, like community solar, are hot right now. But these gardeners have nothing on the urban farming of Cuba. I have seen these operations in person and some are truly impressive.

Friday Linkage 7/19/2013

The heat was just brutal this week.  Storms look to be on the horizon for Friday and the heat looks like it is going to “break” over the weekend.

On to the links…

The Anti-Science Climate Denier Caucus Infogaphic—Follow the money:

Denier-Caucus-FINAL

Keystone XL would Raise Gas Prices—So, how many lies and falsehoods are people willing to accept when it comes to the story surrounding Keystone XL?  This pipeline is like the gift that keeps on giving in terms of underhanded and devious play on the part of its backers.

Ideas to Bolster Power Grid Run Up Against the System’s Many Owners—Our electricity grid is a shambles because it is fractured along so many lines with so many competing interests at play.  A truly modern grid, however, is probably a pipe dream because of that dynamic.

Next Generation Wind Turbines With Storage Are Cheap, Reliable And Brilliant—Well, if our grid is going to remain dumb and outdated at least the wind turbines that are connected to the grid can be smart.  Each advancement in renewable energy brings the day closer when we will wonder why we even bothered with coal in the first place.

Xcel Energy to Boost Wind Power in Upper Midwest by 33 Percent—Lost in the headline is the statement that the utility believes the introduction of more wind power generation will save consumers in excess of $180M over the lives of the projects.  So, it’s not just a “green” play anymore.  It’s the smart money play as well.

Is Solar Cheaper than Grid Electricity? Yes and No—Here’s the thing, getting down to what is the “true” price of any electricity, regardless of generation method, is damn near impossible because of subsidies and externalities.  At the end of the day, the moral of the story, is that solar is getting cheaper every day.

Wind At Parity With New Coal In India, Solar To Join By 2018—I remember listening to someone say that the price of solar and wind in the U.S. was almost irrelevant because it was the China or India price that mattered.  Guess what?  The renewables are already at the India price.

China Plans a Major Solar Buying Spree—Speaking of China.  It looks the Chinese government is going to try and erase the glut in solar panel supplies by massively expanding its capability to generate power from the sun.  Dig it.

In Los Angeles, Developer are Building Small Homes on Tiny Lots—I read this whole article thinking, “It’s called supply and demand.  Why are we surprised?”  People do not want to spend the better part of several hours in a car to get the simplest tasks done anymore.  Developers will have to accommodate that desire if they want to sell houses.  End of story.

$10 LED Bulbs

Do you remember when Republican candidates for president were all up in arms about the efforts to phase out the use of incandescent bulbs because the technology is outmoded and inefficient?  Yeah, I kind of forgot about that when Mitt Romney failed to get more than 47% of the popular vote.

LED light bulbs for residential use have come a long way.  It was only a couple of years ago when poor performing models costing more than $50 were the norm.  Now the market is full of well performing bulbs that cost much less.  The race seems to be on to have this technology replace both the mythologized incandescent and the somewhat reviled CFL.

In this week’s Menard’s flyer, there was a sale on a medium or Edison base LED light bulb intended to replace a 60 watt incandescent.  The bulb only cost $10 and there was no rebate or other gimmick to get that price.  How could I pass this opportunity up?

Meridian Bulb

 

I had never heard of Meridian Electric, but for $10 it seemed like a chance that was worth taking.

The bulb conforms to many of the design conventions of modern LED bulbs:

Bare Bulb

That is to say it looks a lot like a regular incandescent bulb in terms of shape with the heat sink replicating the gentle curve toward the screw in base.  It’s unlike the Phillips LED that I have had in my kitchen for some time now.

The bulb’s output is hardly omni-directional.  It does output a nice light in an approximate half sphere, so this is better suited to an application where the direction of light does not need to reach back toward the base.  In a light fixture with frosted glass enclosures meant to look like candles it appeared as if there was no light in the bottom two thirds of the glass enclosure, which looked kind of silly.

Nonetheless, for $10 this bulb makes it easy to replace the incandescents and CFLs in your house as each fails.