Tag Archives: Iowa

February’s Solar Production Shows Me that I Need a Snow Broom

Check out the week between February 6th and the 13th:


Notice the difference on either end?  That is what half a foot of Midwestern powder will do to your solar panels.  I lost several days of sunshine that would have easily pushed me past 225 kWh of production for the month.

Now I need to contemplate a snow broom or rake.  This is literally an item I never thought that I would have to consider purchasing.  Is this peak adulting?

As it stands now my system is producing approximately two-thirds of my household needs.  I anticipate that with the increased production going into spring and summer that I should easily produce 100% of my household needs in March.


Friday Linkage 2/16/2017

There are no words.  There are no prayers.  Nothing matters except action.  The United States is the only developed country that accepts routine mass gun violence.  Every other developed country in the world has acted in some way to address this problem, but the United States has failed to act because a large percentage of its politicians are in the pocket of an industrial gun lobby that masquerades as a defender of constitutional liberties.

On to the links…

The Outdoor Recreation Industry Generated $374 Billion in 2016. It’s Ready to Wield that Influence in Washington and on Wall Street.—The debate over public lands and the giveaways by the Trump administration should highlight the power and clout that outdoor recreation can wield.  Politicians need to realize that when the fossil fuel industry comes knocking its interests are in direct opposition to a large outdoor recreation industry that can generate economic activity without the environmental degradation.

Survey Says: The American Public is Souring on Coal—No one wants these plants in their communities,  no one wants to deal with the waste in their environment, and no one wants to hear Trump talk about beautiful, clean coal.

MidAmerican Energy Completes Two New Wind Farms in Iowa—The amazing thing is that there is a lot more wind power in the plan for the state and older turbines are being replaced with newer, more powerful turbines generating more clean power from the wind.

2018 Solar Power Rocks Report Grades Every State On Solar Friendliness—How does your state compare:


Major Utility Fails to get West Virginia Customers to Bail out its Aging Coal Plant—Right wing coal barons love the free market except when it is crushing their pet fuel.  The plan here was just ridiculous.  FirstEnergy wanted to take a non-competitive coal plant supplying a deregulated energy market and transfer it to a regulated markets thus burdening the regulated market with a costly energy source that no one wanted.

Mix of Solar and Batteries Is Beating Natural Gas—This is where the future begins.  Having the ability to store and dispatch renewable energy allows for the leveling of demand across the day to match production which moderates the variability of renewable production.

Australia’s Solar Energy Capacity Could Almost Double in One Year—These are monster numbers.  Imagine if the western United States deployed solar at these kind of rates?

Total Wind Capacity Surges While Total Number Of Turbines May Soon Plummet: Indulging In 4 Decades Of Danish Wind Energy Data—This is a treasure trove of data.  The opportunity to replace existing sited turbines with infrastructure in place with more powerful turbines represents a mind boggling opportunity to deploy more power in a quick manner.

Where Does The IOC’s Money Go?—Let me give you a hint: the billions do not go to the local communities or the cities or the athletes.  The money goes into the pockets of the IOC which is a corrupt cabal extorting money from countries with the promise of global goodwill.  Remember this as your city might consider bidding for the games.

Almost 200 kWh of Solar Electricity in January

So close.  Like less than 5 kWh away from a total of 200 kWh for the month:


Still, I like that production is trending upward after some fairly light months in the last quarter of 2017.  It will be very interesting to see how quickly my system ramps up production as the days increase in length and the amount of solar radiation increases.

Based on my, admittedly crude, calculations I should overproduce against my initial estimates in the summer months and underperform during the winter months.  Only time will tell if my math works out this time.

Maybe I should add some more panels?

For the month I figure that my solar photovoltaic system produced more than two-thirds of the electricity that we used for the month.  Considering that we were home for the entire month and only went out to eat twice—I call that a “home based life”—it feels even more like success.

December Brings Short Days and Low Solar Production

December 21st was the shortest day of the year in terms of sunlight and the rest of the month was kind of brutal in terms of solar production as well:

Solar December 2017

Just looking at the month by month production numbers makes me sad.  On the bright side, I can hope that as the days continue to lengthen and the temperatures rise that solar production will start to look more like September.  I am beginning to wonder if my west facing array is impacted to an outsize degree by its orientation as compare to a south facing array which makes me wonder if it will over perform in the summer when days are long and under perform in the winter when days are short.  Only time and data will tell.

On the plus side I am down to about 275 kWh of consumption in total, so even though my solar array is not producing all of my household needs right now it should shoot past that consumption figure in the coming months.  Okay, it helps that we were gone for the last eight days of the month.

Friday Linkage 12/22/2017

It is time to decompress and enjoy the holidays.  I know that the holidays are actually stressful for a lot of people—dinner arguments with drunk Uncle Carl who want stop saying “MAGA!” and “You’re all a bunch of snowflakes!” would take it out of any of us—but it is important to just stop for a moment.

Yes, the world seems like an unmitigated clusterfuck right now.  For all intents and purposes the world is an unmitigated clusterfuck.  However, it is important to remember that at almost any point in the history of the world things seemed like an unmitigated clusterfuck.  Except the period from 1997 to 1999.  That period of time was freaking awesome.

I digress.

On to the links…

We’re Witnessing the Wholesale Looting of America—Washington D.C. is run by a bunch of sociopaths who want to take from the many and give to the few.  The whole reverse Robin Hood thing is getting old real quick.

The EPA Spent $120,000 in Taxpayer Funds to Hire a GOP Public Relations Firm—Scott Pruitt may actually be the worst person in Trump’s administration.  He is a paranoid party hack who scans his office for bugs, built a secret phone booth like something out of a 1960s spy movie, and he now is hiring partisan opposition research firms to message his mess of a policy platform.

E.P.A. Employees Spoke Out. Then Came Scrutiny of Their Email.—If you do not think we are living in an increasingly Orwellian state than Scott Pruitt’s EPA is here to make you nervous all over again.  Remember, the president and all of his men like free speech as long as it is promoting their agenda of coal, tax cuts, foul air, dirty water, and MAGA.

Rick Perry’s Fake Grid Crisis just got Undermined by More Grid Experts—Rick Perry is the gift that keeps on giving.  No matter how much he tries—the “smart guy” glasses are a good disguise—he is just a partisan hack from Texas who has no idea what he is doing when it comes to leading the department of Energy.  His marching orders from the head Cheeto is to find out a way to pay back the coal barons who love America so much they want to blanket it in fly ash.

Global Coal Consumption Forecast to Slow—Other than India the world is trying to get off coal.

The World’s Biggest Coal Port is Now Preparing for the End of Coal—What happens when the market for coal dries up?  It does not matter how much people like Donald Trump want to mine coal if there is no one to burn coal and no place to transport coal.

Burning Wood instead of Coal in Power Stations makes Sense if it’s Waste Wood—When the forests are managed for timber products, like in the southern United States, there is a lot of waste wood that does not get turned into lumber or pulp.

Tesla Responsible for Slide in U.S. Home Solar Sales—Have we entered the slow growth phase of residential solar installations?  Or, is the business model used by companies like the former Solar City not up to long term stability?

Iowa Utilities Adding to State’s Wind Power Portfolio—Announcements like these are pretty routine in Iowa right now as Alliant Energy and MidAmerican Energy are putting the finishing touches on some serious wind energy expansion.  Iowa is driving toward more than 50% wind produced electricity in the near term when you look at the aggregate numbers.

Germany Predicted To Set Renewable Energy Record In 2017—Take a moment to check out the chart:


Over 33% is coming from renewables and counting nuclear over 44% is carbon free.  This is progress.

Meet the Microgrid, the Technology Poised to Transform Electricity—As our grid becomes increasingly brittle the solution to future resiliency may be a solution that looks a lot like the early days of electrification when small scale grids dominated.

Solar Power and Battery Storage could Topple 10GW of US Natural Gas Peaker Plants—Peaker plants are the necessary evils of the energy marketplace.  When demand starts to spike in excess of baseload power these plants come on line fast to make up for the deficit.  The downside to this rapid action is a severe lack of efficiency compared to traditional combined cycle generation plants.  Replacing these plants with a renewable solution would be a very green thing kilowatt hour for kilowatt hour.

Unconventional Solar Panel Siting Saves Agricultural Land While Providing Plenty Of Power—Basically, there is a lot of potential space for solar panels that would not in any way imperil our ability to produce food.  Just sock this away for that moment this holiday season when drunk Uncle Carl starts talking about how solar panels are taking away land from the farmers.

Food Waste is 20 Percent of Iowa Trash—Waste is bad.  Twenty percent is crazy because it is just money in the dump.

One-Third of Forests aren’t Growing Back after Wildfires—Well, that sucks.

Wine Glasses are Seven Times as Big as they Used to Be—Given how messed up things seem lately I am surprised that the glasses are just seven times bigger than before.


Friday Linkage 12/1/2017

Has America gone mad?  I am starting to wonder if this is the moment when this country turns toward ruin because its leadership is so disconnected from anything resembling coherence.  The current tax “reform” legislation winding its way through Congress is a thee day old salad bar of bad ideas cribbed from the plethora of failed Republican economic experiments going back to the 1980s.  The only hope that I have if this passes in anything near its current form is that it finally puts the dagger in the heart of any right winger being able to stand on anything that looks like economic principle.

Of course, I said the same thing when Donald Trump got elected about evangelicals and those clowns are falling in line to support Roy Moore because…’Merica!

On to the links…

Sam Brownback Trolls America: The Guy Who Wrecked Kansas is the GOP’s Role Model—Kansas is an abject failure of a state right now because Sam Brownback decided to remake the state in the image of Paul Ryan’s utopia of low tax, low quality life that he dreamed up while short pouring beers from kegs at fraternity parties.  No seriously bro, Ayn Rand was right about everything!

This Map Shows Exactly How Many Republicans in Your District Don’t Believe in Global Warming—These are the same people selling the lie that trickle down economics works.

How Could the Agung Volcano in Bali Affect Global Temperatures?—James Inhofe just got all excited because he might get to talk about snow in the winter again as some kind of perverted proof that climate change is not real.  No talent ass clown.  Notice the trend in temperatures from the chart?  Short term perturbations do not change the long term trend of warming.

Interior Department Mired in Investigations—In a few years the accounting will hold this current presidential administration as the most inept and corrupt in the history of the United States.  No amount of Twitter insults or Fox & Friends call ins will change the reality.

U.S. Energy Sources and Uses: Everything You Need to Know in One Lovely Chart—This is one of those charts to keep around and reference frequently:


Just look at the rejected energy total.  That essentially equals wasted energy.  Efficiency is the holy grail kids.

Solar Panel Prices Plunge by a Shocking 26 Percent in One Year—I thought that the downward trend in solar panel prices would level out, but at this rate we will just be able to put panels on whatever surface is available.  Oh, and wind is getting cheaper too.

U.S. Coal Industry Shows No Sign of Comeback—No matter what Donald Trump, Rick Perry, Scott Pruitt, or any other coal obsessed right wing stooge says coal is not coming back.  It’s fake news to say anything other than coal is in a long downward trend that will be almost impossible to come out of unless the fundamentals of economics change.

Oil and Gas Industry is Causing Texas Earthquakes, a “Landmark” Study Suggests—All that natural gas being pulled from the ground in places like Texas might also have been the cause of the ground literally breaking apart.  Awesome.

A Map of $1.1 Billion in Natural Gas Pipeline Leaks—Just remember, these are the same people who want to build the Keystone XL pipeline and others.

Solar Grid Parity For Australia By 2020 As Renewables Surge—That is just a little over two years away.  This means that in all of Australia solar will cost the same as coal or natural gas regardless of condition.  Now, imagine a scenario where natural gas prices spike.  Are Australians going to go back to coal or put up some more solar panels?

Australia Can Meet CO2 Emissions Target By 2030 With Renewables At Zero Net Cost—Net zero cost is the key term here.  When you replace fossil fuels with renewables you are trading a higher upfront cost for a lower long term cost because you no longer need to buy fuel, which tends to increase in cost as time goes on.  The long term tail costs are often excluded from a lot of comparison models because doing so favors fossil fuels.

Elon Musk bet that Tesla could Build the World’s Biggest Battery in 100 days. He Won.—Say what you will about Elon Musk and his affiliated companies, but the guy does bold in business in an era when bland is the rule of the day.

Iowa Airports Going Green, Saving on Energy Costs—Nearly $650K for a solar photovoltaic system is great.  That puts 240kWh system to make power to be consumed on site.  I think the real story if that just over $200K is being spent to reduce energy consumption by up to 80%.  Granted that project happened over six years ago it shows you the relative power of putting money into energy efficiency.

Look-alike Apartment Buildings in Northeast Minneapolis Showcase New Ideas in Energy Efficiency—Do we really need a demonstration like this to prove the benefits of building a well-designed energy efficient building?

These ‘Chilling’ Soviet Maps of San Francisco, Bay Area Likely Intended for the Communist Takeover—The world seems like a scary place right now, but this is a reminder of just how scary things were during the Cold War.

An October Solar Surprise

October 2017 was kind of an ugly month for my solar photovoltaic system.  I calculated an expected production of approximately 400 kWh and saw production come in at just over 265 kWh.  This works out to about 66% of the predicted output.  Here is how ugly it was:

Solar October 2017.png

Do you see the period of time from October 10th through the 14th?  It must have been almost night out there all day.  What happened?

Easy.  Eastern Iowa saw some seriously gray conditions throughout the month.  Apparently we are entering into the so-called “stratus season” when local climate conditions produce low hanging stratus cloud formations that block out the sun.  November and December are apparently the worst months for this condition.  Awesome.

On the bright side I only ended up using approximately 73 kWh of grid electricity this month, which is not very much in the grand scheme of things.  Considering how well September turned out in terms of production I think I am still ahead of the game by about 64 kWh since my system became active at the end of August.  I will take net positive as we head into the gray months of November and December.