Tag Archives: Iowa

November was the Lowest Solar Production Ever

This past November was the weakest month ever for my solar system’s electricity production:

Image-1

Just 144.4 kWh.  That’s it…144.4 kWh…I feel like Bob Uecker’s character in Major League discussing the woeful Cleveland Indians’ game stats.

The silver lining, so to speak, is that we did not use very much electricity in November.  All in, the household ended the month about 60 kWh in the red.

December, January, and February are likely to be pitiful months for solar production based on the prior year’s production history.  However, an upgrade is on the horizon.

An upgrade just over a year into ownership?  Yes, my friends I am looking to add solar capacity in anticipation of acquiring an electric car.  No Tesla for me.  I have a line on a used Nissan Leaf for a good price that will serve as my daily drive.  According to my calculations, based on observed system performance, an addition 8 290 watt panels or a 50% increase in system size should cover more than 100% of my in town driving for the year.

Actually, it will cover more than 100% but I want to build in some buffer for months like November.  Stay tuned…

Advertisements

Iowa’s Election Post Mortem

Iowa did its part in providing a check on the Trumping of America by flipping two Republican held seats in the House of Representatives.

Abby Finkenauer defeated Rod Blum in the 1st district race.  The result was largely expected nationally and locally as Rod Blum was just about the worst caricature of Washington D.C. you could imagine.  I am no fan of Rod Blum and look forward to being represented by someone who is not as ethically challenged as Iowa’s Splenda version of Donald Trump.

A little less expected was Cindy Axne’s defeat of David Young in the 3rd district.  Polling was kind of all over the place—which has to be considered the new normal in U.S. politics—but Axne ended up winning by a comfortable margin.

The most surprising result of the night, in my opinion, was Kim Reynolds’ victory over Fred Hubbell.  The margin was not large–~33,000 votes—and if I add up the vote totals for the four house races the Democrats’ total was within less than 1,000 votes of Reynolds’ total.  So, there was some serious ticket splitting going on somewhere in Iowa.  It looks like we get a few more years of tax giveaways to multi-national corporations, health care privatization that costs more money, and budget shenanigans in the name of tax cuts for the wealthy.  Welcome to the Republican Party in 2018!

Iowa has become a messy state politically.  It was a harbinger of Barack Obama’s two victories, but it swung hard for Trump in 2016.  Now it appears as if the state is swinging back toward something resembling sanity.  It is my opinion that this bodes well for the election in 2020 as Iowa will be one of the states that is hotly contested despite its low number of electoral votes.  Combine that with the first in the nation caucus for presidential hopefuls and it adds up to an eventful two years ahead of the Hawkeye State.

Unfortunately, Iowa is still stuck with the stain on humanity that is Steve King.  The 4th district came within 8,000 votes of sending Steve King to the speaking circuit of white nationalists and neo-Nazis.  He won, but not by a lot, and I hope that the Democratic Party works hard over the next two years to build up both a candidate and ground game to unseat that racist clown.

An October Surprise for My Solar System

It is five days until election day.  I cannot stress how important it is that everyone who is legally eligible to vote goes to the polls to cast a vote.

October turned out to be a decent month for solar:

Image-1

Production for 2018 beat the production from the same month in 2017 by a little bit.   According to my calculations I also ended the month in positive territory (production minus consumption) to the tune of ~45 kWh.  I say it was a surprising month for production because the month started out very gray with a lot of rain.  You can see the low production numbers for several days, but the sun came out at the back half of the month to bring in more than 316 kWh of clean, green electricity.

An unexpected car repair—nothing says welcome home quite like coming back from vacation and having your car not start—got my wife and I thinking about a new car.  Naturally, as someone who has a solar array on top of their house an electric vehicle of some sort is part of the consideration set.  The hard part, beyond the financial commitment of a new car which is something significant to consider after having zero car payments for the past five years, is comparable vehicles.  Is a Chevy Bolt, or Volt for that matter, really comparable to a Tesla Model 3?  Where does the Nissan Leaf fit into the equation?

In the end the part that got me the most excited about this discussion was how much solar photovoltaic capacity I would need to add to my roof to generate enough electricity to account for our annual driving of a single vehicle.  In an average year we drive less than 10,000 miles for either of the vehicles in our garage.  Some years it is quite less if we do not take any extended road trips, which are one of our indulgences.

How does 10,000 miles equate into electricity?  Based on a cursory search of various message boards for EV owners I am going to use a figure of 3.5 miles per kilowatt hour of electricity.  Therefore, a system would need to produce ~2,850 kWh per year to account for 10,000 miles of driving.  Based on the actuals from my current solar photovoltaic array I figure that I would need to add 9 or 10 290 watt panels, which are equivalent to what is on my roof today.  At a cost of $2.5 per watt installed I would be looking at $7250 before state and federal incentives.

Does anyone realize how scary that idea must be for oil companies?  With just 10 panels on a west facing roof in Iowa I can account for 100% of my annual miles driven at a cost of little more than seven thousand dollars.  No gas stations, no wars in the Middle East, no refineries…yeah, that is truly scary for oil companies.  The revolution will be powered by the sun!

Friday Linkage 10/12/2018

There are just 25 days until the midterm elections on November 6th.  If you are not registered to vote, do so as soon as possible.  If you are unfamiliar with the rules for voting in your state, get educated as soon as possible with regard to identification requirements and what not.

It is generally hyperbole to claim that any single election is the “most important election” of our lifetime, but given the absolutely dystopian two years under President Trump and his Republican enablers one has to believe with some temerity the claim of importance.  Nonetheless, get out and vote.  There is no excuse.

On to the links…

A Major New Climate Report Slams the Door on Wishful Thinking—The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is grim as fuck.

10 Ways to Accelerate Progress Against Climate Change—The actions we need to take are not mysteries.  We just need to possess the will to actually demand and implement change.

Trump’s FERC Pick Could Tip Balance in Favor of Coal Bailout—Everyone is pretty much against this silly ass bailout plan for non-competitive coal and nuclear power plants save for Trump and a coterie of people who make money off of ageing coal and nuclear plants.  When you can’t get the result you want make sure you appoint a loyal toadie to make it happen.  It’s the Trump way.

EPA Chief Andrew Wheeler Engaged With Racist, Conspiratorial Posts On Social Media—Seriously, can Trump not find a single person to serve in his administration who is not compromised morally or ethically?  It’s like he has a deck of cards with every rogue who wants to serve in government, but was blackballed by prior administrations for sucking at life.

Science Says Saving the Planet Could Really Be as Simple as Saving Trees—Trees are amazing and as a collective forest these organisms are even more amazing.  In these troubled climatic times, we need an effort to radically and quickly reforest degraded lands and stop the destruction of the forests that remain.

Caution Urged Over Use of ‘Carbon Unicorns’ to Limit Warming—Geoengineering is a slippery slope.  There is a segment of the populace that believes the solution to our climate change challenge lies in developing carbon sequestering technologies that will suck the carbon out of the atmosphere.

No State Has Ever Enacted a Carbon Tax. Washington Voters Might Just Do It Anyway.—The irony of the carbon tax as the “holy grail” of climate policies is that is actually one of the simplest tools to actually implement.

The End of Coal Could Be Closer Than It Looks—Coal may continue down what appears to be a fairly linear decline until it hits a cliff because at a certain point the economics become untenable.  Maybe.

One Of America’s Oldest Coal Companies Just Filed For Bankruptcy—Declaring bankruptcy is something that rich people and corporations do to keep from actually having to pay their debts, see the current President of the United States who loves bankruptcy filing almost as much as he loves divorce court.  However, it is not something that is done by healthy businesses in attractive industries.  Mining coal is anything but an attractive industry right now.

Wyoming Proposes Its Own Methane Regulations As Federal Level Sees Rules Relaxed—Curbing methane emissions from natural gas wells was a central part of the Obama-era climate change action plan that has been gutted by the great cheese puff.  You know that things might be going your way when a state like Wyoming works toward some sort of action on the issue.

Iowa Looks to Take the Next Steps on Storage—Iowa has a lot of wind energy with even more coming on line.  However, intermittency is an issue.  Enter energy storage.

Five Radical Steps We Can Take to Fight Climate Change—It’s not rocket science.  Heck, it will probably look a lot like things in European countries during war time.

Oysters On The Half Shell Are Actually Saving New York’s Eroding Harbor—It’s not all bad news all the time.  This is a great story about taking something that restaurants literally threw away and turning that waste into something beneficial.  Why can’t this program be expanded all along the Atlantic seaboard?  And the Pacific seaboard for that matter?

Is Rod Blum Desperate?

Some pundits are saying that Rod Blum is cooked in the 1st district midterm election.  Polls are not favorable.  Republicans are pulling support.  He has a pesky ethics investigation to deal with now.  And, never mind, he is basically a facsimile of Trump’s worldview. 

This does not bode well in a midterm election that is seen as a referendum on everything Trump.  What else tells me that Rod Blum is cooked?  His supporters, namely the Republican Party of Iowa, is desperate to paint his opponent as a younger version of Nancy Pelosi.  This is the mailer that I received in the mail earlier this week:

Rod Blum Mailer Page 1.jpg

The Golden Gate Bridge and the dollars floating down are really subtle.  Like Trump mocking people subtle.  I am half surprised that this mailer does not include some mid-90s melded picture of Nancy Pelosi and Abby Finkenauer under the heading “Finkenauer is the Evil Love Child of San Francisco Liberal Nancy Pelosi.”  Hold on, I should not give Republicans any ideas for their next mailer.  By the way, my address is home to two registered Democrats so sending this mailer is a real waste of money.  Not my money, but it is still a waste.

The Republican Party of Iowa is treading a fine line here lambasting anyone for taking political contributions from questionable sources.  In 2016 the Republican Party of Iowa received $9000 from the Trump Organization and $5000 from Koch Industries.  Hmmm, that sounds like about the same amount of money that they are harping on Blum’s opponent for receiving.

Rod Blum and his allies are cooked because their entire strategy is to just say the world “liberal” over and over again.  This is what your college Republicans did when they got too drunk on Goldschlager and wanted to sound like the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.  The problem is that people actually like progressive ideas if candidates are willing to run in support of them.  It is tough to run on a platform of giving more money to the rich and making everyone else pay by taking stuff away.

Solar Power was Nearly Even Stevens in September 2018

Image-1 (3)September was an odd month.  Solar production really fell off because the weather turned overcast and rainy real quick, but the first week or so of the month was really hot and humid.  Here is what the production looked like for the month.

It’s pretty obvious that things were a little gray since the array ended up about 100 kWh down compared with the prior year.

All in, my household ended the month with a surplus of 17 kWh.  The system will probably run a surplus in October and November depending on the weather and, therefore, the amount of heating we deploy before going into deficit for the deep winter months.

With a little more than a year under my belt of solar powered bliss I am pleasantly surprised that my little system—just 16 290 watt panels for a total of 4.64 kW of solar potential—has been able to cover more than my household’s needs.  As I look out at houses in my development and others nearby I wonder how much potential there is for everyone to be solar powered.

Imagine a world where we lived off the power we could produce from our roofs?  That is a future I want to live in.

Friday Linkage 9/28/2018

Some weeks feel like we are living through an episode of the Twilight Zone.  I keep waiting for Rod Serling to introduce the day’s episode.  Don’t believe me?  Think about what happened this week:

  • Cleveland Browns win a game for the first time in over 630 days
  • Trump’s performance art speech at the UN General Assembly
  • Brett Kavanaugh’s increasingly bizarre path to confirmation
  • Buffalo Bills stomping on the Minnesota Vikings
  • Cats and dogs sleeping together, sorry that was Ghostbusters

On to the links…

Rising Seas Could Cause a Mass Migration of Americans Seeking Higher Ground—If you want to imagine a dystopia imagine millions of people forced to move because climate change and its impacts make communities unlivable.  Imagine wide swaths of the eastern seaboard rendered a climate change wasteland and those people moving inland.

Fear Climate Change — and Our Response to It—Humans are not rational creatures, so any model that assumes rational behavior is bound to end in failure.  We are not rational about climate change.

Carbon Emissions Could Be Costing the US 8 Times What Trump’s EPA Estimates—When the government in Washington D.C. is somewhat rational again we need to make sure that the figures used for estimates of climate change and its impacts are properly accounted for in any and all models.

Toxic Red Tide Could Fuel a Blue Win in Florida—Rick Scott represents some of the worst trends in American politics.  He is a scammer who takes no responsibility for his shenanigans and then tries to blame everyone else for his own behavior.  He has made the environment in Florida worse by being in the pocket of developers and big sugar.  Hopefully this is the grifter’s last con.

Trump Admin to Move $260M from Cancer Research, HIV/AIDS and Other Programs for Migrant Child-Custody Costs—You just know that Donny Two Scoops will brag about this on the campaign trail when e is trying to gin up what is left of his Alt Right supporters and closeted racist Republicans who cannot stand to see a brown person.

China Bumps up Renewable Energy Target to Reduce Reliance on Coal—China is trying to kick the coal habit.

Renewables in UK Energy Mix Hit All-time High—The mix actually was not super favorable to renewables as onshore wind suffered from lower wind speeds and hydro suffered from reduced rainfall.  Imagine what this will look like when the wind blows and the rain falls.

A Hail Mary Attempt to Save the West’s Largest Coal Plant Has Failed—This particular coal plant closing is a big deal.  The coal industrial complex has always viewed this plant as one of its redoubts.  It is now closing in 2019 after the latest attempt to keep operating beyond that date failed.  Yes, the local economy is going to need help because of the loss of jobs.  Yes, this is an unalloyed good in the fight to kick the coal habit.

Texas Coal Plant Announces Plans to Shut Down—The market is speaking and even in deep red Texas money still talks.  According to the article, this represents the fifth announced closure of a coal plant in Texas this year.

As Coal Stalls, Wyoming Considers New Environmental Clean-Up Rules—When Wyoming comes to the realization that trusting coal companies to pay for clean-up costs is unrealistic you know that coal is in trouble.

New Jersey Makes Way For 1.1 Gigawatt Offshore Wind—Usually, people are making fun of New Jersey for being corrupt or downright awful.  Go New Jersey!

How a New Zinc-Air Battery Could Transform the Grid—Cheaper batteries are the next hurdle for the clean energy revolution.  It is already cheap to generate power from sun and wind.  Now we need to be able to store some of that bounty for times when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow.

Fast Charger Infrastructure In Iowa Limited By State Law & Utility Rules—This is why people hate utility companies.  The double speak is amazing.  Saying people do not understand billing by kilowatt hours is the most asinine thing yet because most, if not all, utility companies send out bills calculated via kilowatt hours.  It’s a fairly well understood metric.

No, Avoiding Meat and Dairy is Not ‘Elitist’—Here’s the thing, most of the world already avoids meat and dairy because it is too expensive.  Only in the West, particularly in North America, do we consider a meat or dairy free diet to be elitist.  Then again we live in a country where a man with his name plastered on buildings and a private plane was called the “blue collar billionaire.”

9 Times Mister Rogers said Exactly the Right Thing—Appreciate Mister Rogers as the antithesis of our current predicament.