Tag Archives: energy efficiency

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:

Iowa Energy Chart.gif

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 8/28/2015

I encountered one of the most disheartening sounds in the world this week. On an aborted bike ride my tire made the noise of a full on blow out. This is not the gentle hiss of a pinch flat or a small puncture, but the full throated blast of air and the realization that you are walking home. Why walking? Because the tread area on my well-worn Kenda Kwicks was torn through. Whatever I ran across was bad news.

On to the links…

Here’s What Happens When you Try to Replicate Climate Contrarian Papers—Let me spoil the punch line: you can’t replicate the results.

Shocking: Prominent Climate Denier gets Money from Big Coal—Shocking? Not so much. Christopher Horner is a paid shill of the fossil fuel industry. Anything that comes out of his mouth is little more than coal stained propaganda.

The Incredible Shrinking Mineral: How It Went from King Coal to Coal Kills—If I was confident I would start playing “Taps.” Coal is not dead yet, but with continued pressure and an unfavorable market the dirty fuel may be in its final death spiral.

NYC Rooftops Could Host 11 GW of High-Yield Solar ProjectsMapdwell’s work on modelling what solar could do in eastern cities is some pretty amazing work. Think about 11 GW of solar power in America’s largest city. Now multiply that across other major cities in the U.S. like Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, and so on.

California’s 40 Years Of Energy Efficiency Efforts Have Saved $90 Billion In Utility Costs—California has been a leader in trying to get people to use less electricity and it has worked. Furthermore, those efforts have trickled out—not trickle down because I do not believe in voodoo environmentalism—to the rest of the nation due to California’s sheer market heft.

Here’s Where The Rubber Hits The Road (Natural Guayule Rubber — Updated)—Apparently, rubber is a big import for the United States and we have been looking for a domestic alternative since before World War II. It also looks like guayule—a shrub that is drought and pest tolerant—could provide a significant offset to our imported rubber habit. Interesting.

New Study Finds Horse and Beaver in Grocery Store Ground Meat—As if you needed another reason to stay away from the case of ground beef at your local grocery store—pink slime anyone?—along comes the knowledge that we may actually be eating horse or beaver. Freaking beaver?

Salad Seems Really Virtuous, Right? It’s Not.—Salad, it turns out, is really just leafy green water. By the time we pick a few leaves out of that plastic clamshell most of the nutrition is gone. Never mind the fact that people end up throwing away tons of salad greens every year. Just go with the frozen peas.

Butter In Your Coffee and Other Cons: Stories From a Fitness Insider—I am really glad that people are calling bullshit on the people behind so-called Bulletproof coffee and food fads. If someone is trying to sell you something it is high time to get a move on. It’s probably bullshit.

28 Historic Photos of Yosemite to Celebrate its 125th Anniversary—Sometimes we forget to appreciate the amazing places we can visit right here in the U.S. Take a moment and appreciate the sheer awesomeness of Yosemite.

Friday Linkage 2/13/2015

It’s amazing that the one state I do not wish to visit is the one where I get sent most often on business travel. Work has sent me to Florida over the course of three different jobs supporting three completely different business units. It’s like someone wants me to bask in the warm glow of Rick Scott’s smile:

rick_scott

Spooky.

On to the links…

The FBI Is Making House Calls to Keystone XL Opponents—This is bad news and what the people behind Green is the New Red have been saying for years. Law enforcement has perverted terrorism and homeland security rules at the behest of industry to monitor the activities of completely lawful groups and citizens.

EU Energy Consumption Level Falls to 20-Year Low—Energy efficiency can and does work. Believe it.

India Plans 1 GW Solar Power Capacity Through State-Owned Companies—India is going big when it comes to renewables. Like really big.

India Issues Draft Guidelines For 2 GW Solar PV Auction—See, it keeps going bigger.

India Plans 4.2-Gigawatt Wind and Solar Energy Park—It feels like a the Lorax…keep biggering and biggering.

Starving Sea Lion Pup Strandings Surge in California—Maybe we need to consider the possibility that human actions are causing the oceans to die. I know, it’s a crazy thought for a lot of people. Like the world being round and vaccines being a good idea.

Cooking Can’t Solve the Threat of Invasive Species—The sad fact is that we can hunt a lot of species to extinction, but the ones we should excise from certain ecosystems are likely to be persistent problems despite our appetites.

The Dangerous Chemical Lurking in Your Beer Can—So, aluminum might mess up my hormones and glass is a nightmare for the environment. What’s a drinking man to do? Maybe, refillable glass growlers from your local craft brewery is the only answer. Big Grove Brewery here I come.

The rise of ‘Made by China’ in America—Globalization is a hell of a thing. Trends reverse, commonly held beliefs get laid waste to, and strange things happen.

Rock Around the Doc: Here’s What an Anti-Vaxxer Band Sounds Like—How is this even a thing?

Friday Linkage 11/28/2014

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday enjoyed with the company of family and friends. I also hope that no one participated in the ridiculous shopping creep that has taken over the former holiday in the interest of more consumerism. This is the time of year when I tend to huddle indoors with my kids, wait for the worst to be over, and emerge on the other side of Christmas with the blank stare of apocalypse survivors.

On to the links…

Lean Times Ahead: Preparing for an Energy-Constrained Future—Look around and imagine what your immediate world would look like if energy were not available at the flick of a switch. What would it be like if you could not just turn up the thermostat a few degrees? It’s a possible future.

Wind Energy Provides More Than Two-Thirds of New US Generating Capacity in October—This is important because as older, dirtier plants go off line the generating capacity is being replaced with green energy. Even more telling is that for the balance of 2014 over 44% of new generation capacity has come from wind.

Biggest Ever Offshore Wind Energy Auction, Up To 5 Gigawatts—Now, let’s imagine some serious offshore wind power being sited near clusters of coastal populations.

Community Solar Prices at All-Time Low—Community solar is awesome because it gives people access to solar power who may not have the capital for an entire system or a site for a system. It also reduces the cost of the system per watt because the amount of solar being installed is so large. An economy of scale, if you will.

America Could Get 10 Percent Of Its Energy From Solar Power By 2030—Why does this need to wait until 2030? It’s not like America does not have enough roofs or parking lots to cover in solar panels. Make it happen.

UK’s First ‘Poo Bus’ Hits the Road—Once you get past the “ick” factor, biogas is a drop in replacement for natural gas. Considering the infrastructure already exists for natural gas it makes no sense why we are not making more biogas.

NRG Energy Committed To Cut Its Emissions In Half—These are commitments without overarching government regulation. Change can happen. I just do not know if it can happen fast enough.

Merchants of Doubt Film Exposes Slick US Industry Behind Climate DenialI’ve suggested you read the book, but now you can sit down with a bellyful of food and soda to get the same message.

Can Whole Foods Change the Way Poor People Eat?—Can a single retail store change the behavior of an entire neighborhood? I do not know, but Whole Foods in Detroit can only be a good thing. What bad can come of it?

Grade 9 Blogger takes on Big Sugar at a School Presentation—There is nothing like corporations getting owned by adolescents.

A Power Plant in California Goes Quiet, but the Stacks Still Tower—I have relatives in Cayucos, so Morro Bay is a familiar site to me. The three smokestacks, while incongruous to the natural landscape, seem almost inseparable in an odd way.

Friday Linkage 9/12/2014

Oh man, did the weather ever turn into fall this week. Night time temperatures dipped to near 40 degrees on Thursday night and we are in for more of the same come the weekend. After a mild summer I am hoping that this is not a harbinger of a harsh winter to come on the heels of last year’s sucker punch of a snow season.

On to the links…

America’s First Cellulosic Biofuel Plant To Use Corn Waste Is Open In Iowa—Is ethanol made from non-food feedstock a viable part of our energy future?   I do not know if anyone has a definitive answer because no large scale plants have come one line to test the commercial feasibility of the process. The opening of a plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa is a first step.

The U.S. Added More New Capacity For Solar Than For Natural Gas In The First Half Of 2014—Remember, each solar panel represents demand destruction. Or, another nail in the coffin of the fossil fuel industry. That’s what I see when someone installs solar…little coal coffins.

Bad News for Obama: Fracking May Be Worse Than Burning Coal—Natural gas, the supplies of which have swelled because of fracking, may not be the clean-ish bridge fuel that we were hoping for just a few years ago. Never mind the groundwater contamination and lifestyle destruction from the actual fracking because the release of other gasses may be worse. Great.

America’s Coal-Fired Divide—People may think it is a rifle that someone will pull from their cold, dead hands but the truth is more likely to be coal.

Why Energy Efficiency Is The Most Important Fuel We Didn’t Know We Had—Energy efficiency is not sexy. It does not make the news. It does not sell books or speeches. It is putting a sweater on during the winter, which is a buzzkill. Sorry Jimmy Carter. But, it is very effective because it is immediate and cheap.

Abandoned California Oil And Gas Field Will Soon Be A Solar Farm—Think about the solar potential of brown field developments. No one wants to live on top of a landfill, so why not put some solar down?

California Encourages West-facing Solar Panels—Not only does putting solar panels on the west facing roof maximize peak use energy, it also opens up a lot more potential roofs for residential solar PV.

5 Egregious Eco Crimes Committed by the Koch Brothers—These guys are the gifts that keep on giving. Never mind the eco crimes for a minute. Consider just how much money they have spent to promote their pet causes and the return on that spending. Ouch. Keep the ATM for whacko candidates coming guys.

David Keeps Winning: 10 Recent Victories That Will Give You Hope for the Planet—Does any victory matter is we win a bunch of battles but lose the war to climate change?

China’s Battle Plans in War on Air Pollution under Scrutiny—Is anything the Chinese government says believable? Blue sky days with impenetrable smog is the more likely scenario. Nothing to see here, move along.

Hustle and Flow: Here’s Who Really Controls California’s Water—Marc Reisner nailed California and the West’s water politics in his book Cadillac Desert and the truth remains to this day. Water is power and money in the arid American west.

Obama Outperforms Reagan On Jobs, Growth And Investing—Can we stop the myth making around Ronald Reagan? He raised taxes. Fact. The number of people employed by the government grew under his administration. Fact. He dealt with terrorists and dictators. Fact.

General Mills to buy Annie’s Naturals for $820 million—Big organic just swallowed another player, but considering the size of the acquisition I have to wonder if Annie’s Naturals was really already part of big organic. Hmmm….

Let’s Stop Idealizing the Home-Cooked Family Dinner—The mythology of the family dinner is strong. It’s not about the dinner, but about the time a family can spend together without distraction. The dinner table is just an agreed upon place and time for the interaction to occur.

How to Become a Food Bank Gardener—There has got to be a way to harness people’s love of growing food and people’s need for healthy, fresh food.

Sorry, Raw Sugar Is No Better for You Than Refined—I remember people pouring packet after packet of Sugar in the Raw into their coffee during graduate school. It was acceptable on some level because it was not white sugar. Too bad it’s all just sugar to our guts.

Friday Linkage 8/19/2011

It was a nice and boring week.  Good for the soul, but not good for the blog.  Nothing really happened that was noteworthy and I did not go out of my way to do anything special.  It was therapeutic to enjoy beautiful late summer days in Iowa.  On to the links…

Wind Supplies 20% of Iowa’s Electricity—According to the American Wind Energy Association, Iowa now gets 20% of its electricity from the wind.  This compares to about 3% nationally.  Currently, Iowa is the second largest market in terms of total installed wind power.  As a function of population, Iowa has the most wind power per capita in the U.S.  Go Iowa!

EPA Bans Sale of Imprelis—Imprelis, a DuPont herbicide, has been banned from sale by the EPA because of its suspected role in killing trees.  The herbicide was initially viewed as being more environmentally friendly than other herbicides, but this claim is not being proven by results in the field.  Perhaps the more environmentally friendly option is not to use herbicides at all.

Schools Move to Save Energy as Budgets Tighten—None of the measures taken by the school districts in this article are extreme, but each represents how much low hanging fruit exists in terms of energy efficiency gains.  We are so lame if we cannot see the benefit in taking this kind of action.

Beer Chart of the Day—Mother Jones is always full of surprises.  This infographic—man I love infographics—shows just how mega-corporate beer in the United States remains even with the explosive growth of craft beers.  Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller control 80% of the beer consumed in the U.S.  Yep, 4 out of 5 beers is controlled by two conglomerates.

How Soda Drinks Impact Your Body—More infogrpahics!  This one deals with the impacts of soda on a person’s health.  The consumption of soda is one of the most glaring public health issues that no one is really willing to tackle.

Plastic Bags are Good For You—Nothing like lobbying to insert propaganda into the textbooks of school-age children.  Just chalk this up to a long list of anti-environmental moves by pro-business groups that are hell bent on preserving profit margins over anything else.