Tag Archives: Iowa

Drinking Local in the Fourth Quarter of 2019

Here is how my fourth quarter 2019 beer consumption worked out:

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You will notice two trends: heavy on the Big Grove Brewery and a tilt toward Colorado beers at the end of the year.

The emphasis on the Big Grove Brewery beers was due to holiday parties and wanting to be a crowd pleaser.  The three six packs ended up as mixed six packs—two of each kind—for a gift exchange.  Needless to say, my gifts ended up getting “stolen” the most.  Genius.

The Colorado tilt is all about location, location, location.  I spent Christmas break in Grand County, Colorado and these were the beers that were on tap or in the small liquor store by our condo.  I was said to not see any Outer Range Brewing on tap anywhere, but I managed.

It was a “no claws” kind of year as I managed to avoid the hysteria and mania of the summer of hard seltzer.  Seriously, does anyone actually enjoy those monstrosities?  The number of times someone has introduced a White Claw with the statement, “It doesn’t taste that bad” is staggering.  This is like people telling me that they chase a workout with a couple of Michelob Ultras.  What is the point of drinking a beer after working out if it does not actually taste like beer?

For 2020 I have some goals regarding beer buying and consumption that is going to up the ante from just being about “drinking local.”  Stay tuned.

The Downside of Snow

Unlike a lot of people I actually like snow.  I like snow so much that I spend my hard earned money to strap wooden sticks to my feet and fling myself down mountainsides covered with the stuff.  Come to think of it, when I describe my ski trips like that it does not sound so sane.  I digress.

The only problem that I have with snow is that it covers up my solar panels.  Like the two inches of snow that fell overnight:

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After last year’s snowy and cold January and February left my panels snow covered and non-productive I decided to come into this winter prepared.  Enter the SnoBroom:

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Okay, the SnoBroom is just the blue foam blade atop the extendable pole.  The extendable pole might be the true star of this story.  It extends to a maximum of 24’ which seemed like a lot right up until I was clearing snow for real:

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With the pole alone I was able to clear the first row of panels and a portion of the second row.  You can see on the closest panels that I spent some time with a step stool to get additional height.  Yes, I was able to nearly clear the panels.  No, I did not fully clear my array.

In the interest of full disclosure I need to come up with a better approach to clearing the array.  Snow, aluminum steps, and a little liquid moisture make for a precarious endeavor.  Practice makes perfect, right?

The other reason I did not push the issue this afternoon is that the temperature is supposed to be nearly 40 degrees with sunny skies tomorrow.  The snow will take care of itself this time.

The Vanity of Billionaires Running for President

If you live in Iowa right now you are used to seeing some things.  First and foremost as we approach January 2020 is that the airwaves—both radio and television—are flooded with ads for a rogue’s gallery of presidential hopefuls.  Heck, you cannot fire up a video on You Tube without being assaulted by at least one ad calling the sitting President a “fraud and a failure.”  Granted, the sitting President is a fraud and a failure but I digress.

For some reason the current political situation and relative wide open field of candidates vying to take on Donald J. Trump in 2020 has forced upon us billionaires as saviors.  Armed with virtually unlimited war chests to spend on campaigns these billionaires are, in their own estimation, here to save us from the perils of another four years of a self-professed billionaire.  Is it ironic that the only prescription these men have to save us from the tyranny of a rich man is to elect another rich man.

Depending upon the source, Michael Bloomberg kicked off his campaign to be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States with an ad buy in excess of $30 million.

Again, depending upon the source, Tom Steyer had spent almost $50 million on his long shot bid to become the Democratic nominee for President of the United States.

Furthermore, Andrew Yang has spent approximately $8 million on a campaign polling in the noise at the bottom of the candidate list.

Let’s not even get into Howard Schulz, the former CEO of Starbucks, who threatened us all with his idea of running for President of the United States.

The vanity of these men is outstanding.  What ideas do Bloomberg, Steyer, Yang, or Schulz bring to the table that are not already being discussed and debated by candidates with years of political experience under their belts?

Their entire logic for running for President of the United States is that as very rich men they are uniquely suited to solve the problems of the United States of America.  You know who else thought along those very same lines?  Donald J. Trump.  See how that is turning out for the country.

Being a billionaire or even a multi-millionaire—I am still waiting on the receipts to see just how rich Donald Trump actually is—makes you one thing…rich.  That is it.  There is no intrinsic quality to money that conveys wisdom or ability or drive or compassion or whatever.  If Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump, Barron Trump, or the forgotten child Tiffany Trump inherit any money from their father it just makes them “lucky spermers” in the parlance of old money winemakers.

What positive benefit could these men create by focusing their efforts and resources away from this vanity project and toward something else?  Look at Beto O’Rourke, who realized fairly quickly that despite his zeal for the office there was a general lack of enthusiasm for him as a national candidate, focusing on a state wide voter registration effort in Texas to flip that state blue.  If you want to get rid of Republicans and their politics of destruction the first step is to get more people voting.  Look at what happened when turnout rates are high as during the 2018 midterm elections.  It turns into a bloodbath for Republicans because the majority of the population does not like their policies.

Imagine the tens of millions and probably soon to be hundreds of millions being spent on vanity campaigns being redirected.

October 2019 Solar Production and EV Performance

October 2019 was an okay month for solar production:

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As you can see, my solar array exceeded the production of 2017 but fell short of what was produced in 2018.  Those are the breaks.  All in, my household ended up down ~229 kWh.

Granted, a lot of this delta between consumption and production can be accounted for by the Nissan Leaf sitting in my garage.  For the month of October I drove 900.3 miles at an average efficiency of 5.4 miles per kWh.  Total electricity consumption to drive my EV was ~167 kWh.  This represents an approximate savings of 1,034 pounds of CO2 versus driving my prior vehicle.

For the year I have driven 6,794 miles with an average efficiency of 5.3 miles per kWh.  Assuming all of the electricity I have used comes from the grid at an average carbon intensity for my region I have saved ~7,767 pounds of CO2 from being emitted.

What is really a good sign is that I should really be in the black when it comes to consumption versus production within a month or so.  My local electric cooperative approved my revised interconnection agreement and an additional 8 360 watt solar panels are waiting to be installed.  A weekend with snow has kind of messed up everyone’s schedule around these parts so I am just waiting for the phone call from the installers.  Any day now.

An extra 62% production capacity will put me well above my consumption numbers, including my EV’s needs and a few electrification projects I have pending, for the foreseeable future.  For the year I estimate that I would be ahead of consumption by 1,858 kWh assuming similar weather patterns.  That is a lot of cushion to further decarbonize my household.

In Praise of Fall Rides

Despite the emergence of pumpkin spice lattes and the forthcoming Halloween festivities fall is an amazing time in eastern Iowa for those of us who ride bicycles.

Why?

With RAGBRAI long past and college football in full swing a ride on the weekend is usually an affair where you might see a half dozen people out on the trail.  In the summer it is like spending Black Friday at the Mall of America.  Yes, it gets that bad.

Despite the increase in wind speeds the drop in temperature is manageable through some strategic layering and thoughtful ride timing.  A friend of mine says that if you wear black in the sun it feels ten degrees warmer than whatever the weatherman is telling you.  I do not know if that is true, but fifty degrees is pretty darn nice when you are twenty miles into a thirty some mile ride and starting to really heat up.

The cool temps and lingering humidity keep the dust down on the gravel.  Save for the patches of trail covered in green hulled walnuts, which will drop you on your ass if you are not careful, the surface conditions are just about perfect.  Dry and firm with enough give for traction.  This is a trail you would have killed for in the middle of sun baked summer when the conditions vacillated between rock hard and sloppy mess.  Sometimes in the same ride.

For some reason the animals are crazy this time of year.  Kamikaze squirrels will dart across the path with alarming frequency.  Raccoons crawl out from under bridges like they are coming off three day dumpster benders.  Bald eagles circle lazily looking for the plump, easy meal of a rodent making its way across a freshly harvested soybean field.

The changing colors and dying grasses add an otherworldly quality to the landscape that has grown so familiar over a lot of summer miles.  Where there used to be impenetrable walls of tall grass is now a mottled screen of drooping stalks and golden leaves.

Perhaps best of all is that your legs feel like they are carved from springy wood.  Hardened from thousands of miles, yet fresh from a taper in riding time equals some refreshingly fast and fun rides in mid-October.

Plus, you can wear a flannel shirt on your ride and no one looks at you funny.  Try doing that in July.

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.

Friday Linkage 7/19/2019

July has really come out swinging with hot weather.  It came in hot and dry and now we get hot and humid.  In reality, I do not know which one I prefer or, rather, hate less.

There is something pernicious about hot and dry weather in a place accustomed to a certain level of moisture.  Here in eastern Iowa plants began to go dormant and things get all crinkly as it dries out.  This is not western Colorado where the plants are adapted to this kind of weather.  It was somewhat of a relief when some drenching rains happened over the past few days and the green returned.

On to the links…

Are We Having Too Much Fun?—I remember a discussion I had with an Iranian ex-patriate who was studying at the University of Minnesota when I was an undergraduate at the Minneapolis campus.  He said that his biggest problem with American society was that we trivialized everything until, at seemingly random intervals, something began to matter.  It did not make sense to him.  It does not make sense to me when put that way.

The Life-Changing Magic of Making Do—Barring some major external event—depression, war, etc.—I doubt that we will ever embrace a relationship with our stuff that is fundamentally different versus today’s paradigm.  However, it is something to strive for on an individual level and hope for the best.

America’s Addiction to Absurdly Fast Shipping has a Hidden Cost—Our addiction to stuff is just a problem.  Why do we feel the need to buy so much stuff?  When did shopping become an activity in and of itself?

Workers with Short or ‘Active’ Commutes are Happier Campers—From the land of “obvious conclusions from studies that did not need to be conducted” comes this gem.  Spend a week in a long commute and you will understand why shorter commutes make for happier people.

US Energy-Related CO2 Emissions Expected to Fall this Year, Almost Solely Due to a Drop in Coal Use—So, how do we drive coal to zero?  More solar.  More wind.  More energy efficiency.  It is not a complicated blueprint.

Fiscal Collapse of Coal Towns Increasingly Likely, New Research Shows—States like Wyoming, which is reliant on coal dollars, are going to have to deal with the reckoning of coal’s collapse sooner rather than later.  These declines usually happen in a stair step, as opposed to linear pattern, as major suppliers are driven out of business and no one steps in to resume operation.

The Game-Changing Spark Iowa’s Solar Industry Needs Could be in Louisa County—We have a lot of wind power built out in Iowa and more is on the way.  Solar could be the next big buildout that pushes Iowa to a nearly carbon free electricity grid.

Minnesota Utilities Weigh Energy Storage as Substitute for Peaker Plants—We are now reaching a point when renewable energy storage, through a variety of mechanisms, is considered a viable alternative to conventional natural gas “peaker” plants.

Fossil Fuels Increasingly Offer a Poor Return on Energy Investment—The economics are turning against fossil fuels.

Former Rick Perry Staffer Raises Six-Figures for Trump’s Reelection Campaign—Donald Trump’s presidency is the best thing that money can buy for the energy industry.

Government Watchdog Fears EPA’s New Climate Scientists Are Not Vetted And Have Conflicts of Interest—I will save everyone the effort: anyone who goes to work in the Trump administration is likely to have not been vetted, probably lacks credible experience, and is riven with conflicts of interest.

Scotland Generated Enough Wind Energy to Power its Homes Twice—There was a time when pundits said that renewable energy could never power more than 5% of the grid.  Then it became 10% and has been revised upward ever since.  Now places like Scotland are generating more power from renewables than needed.

Can Mass Timber Reform Construction’s Carbon Footprint?—Combined with a program of extensive reforestation I believe that mass timber can be the construction method of the future carbon neutral world.

This Colorado Ranch-Made-Lab is Turning Beetle-Kill Trees into Lumber in the Name of Forest Health—Trinchera Blanca Ranch is a living, breathing example of how regenerative ecology can work.

Jump Aboard the eDumper, the World’s Largest Electric Vehicle—Most of us think of Tesla Model 3s or Nissan Leafs when we think of EVs, but maybe we should think of something like the eDumper?

The Humble Pea is America’s Favorite New Crop—One of the upsides to products like the Impossible Burger is that there is a growing demand in the marketplace for peas, which can supplant commodity crops like corn and soybeans.

Clothing You Don’t Have to Wash, Explained—Is this really a good idea?

San Francisco: Wealthy Opponents of New Shelter Claim Homeless are Bad for Environment—We have really reached peak California with this NIMBYism.  At what point do we just call out California for the hypocrisy that permeates everything?