Tag Archives: photovoltaic

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 2/9/2017

So Herr Trump wants a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue now.  Why?  Probably because he got to go to a parade in France and he cannot be upstaged by the French.

Can we just allow this doofus to get a few parades, drive a few tanks, make a few speeches, and let him believe he is the President of the United States while some adults actually do the governing?  I do not think that I can take three more years of this clown.

On to the links…

The Dark Reason so Many Millennials are Miserable and Broke—This is a lot more important than I think even the authors believe.  People are literally living in a way that is trying to compete with complete strangers on social media platforms and it’s killing them.  Not literally, which has to be the millennials favorite word, but spiritually.  Just stop.

Why Trump Wants to Repeal an Obama-Era Clean Water Rule—The reason why he wants to repeal this rule has to do with him hating anything to do with Obama and Scott Pruitt being a toady for industry.  The real question will be what these stooges come up with to replace the current rules.

Every Climate Denier in Trump’s Cabinet—It is always good to see what kind of no talent ass clowns Trumps has surrounded himself with these days.  Now, it is likely that by the end of the month several of these people will have angered the head cheese puff so take it with a grain of salt.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Debate over 100% Renewable Energy—No one knows what is possible or probable because the assumptions we make today will not be in valid in three to five years anyway.  The one thing I think we all can agree on is that clean energy is better than fossil fuel energy.  Anything after that is just a discussion about degrees of development.

Regulatory Relief Didn’t Help Coal Industry in 2017 and Can’t Save it in 2018—Trump can hold a hundred rallies and talk about “beautiful clean coal” all he wants because the market does not want it anymore.  It’s called a death spiral for a reason.

Coal’s Foes and Friends get Fired up in Hearing Over Future of Xcel Plants in Colorado—This is like trench warfare.  Each coal plant that gets retired is not going to be replaced with other coal fired power, so it is gone forever.  However, you have to fight every battle anew and each fight is entered with renewed vigor by all sides.

5 Graphs Explain Coal in Trump’s First Year—It’s not a pretty picture if you like “beautiful clean coal.”

Squaw Valley to Be First Ski Resort in U.S. to Run Just on Renewables—If you ski then you understand how at risk our pastime is to the impacts of climate change.  The powers that be running these ski resorts are woke to the reality.

Australian Solar Installs Are Going Through The Roof—Australia can feel like the future and a vision of the past all at the same time.

Tesla To Construct Virtual Solar Power Plant Using 50,000 Homes In South Australia—Let’s consider Australia to be the laboratory for what large scale solar power integrating into a larger grid looks like for the future of every sunny place in the world.  If they get it figured out we just scale it worldwide.

Nebraska Republican Seeks to Hobble Wind Power by Redefining it as Not ‘Renewable’—This is why Nebraska should not be allowed to have nice things.

What Bison in South Dakota can Teach us About Fighting Climate Change—Land use and agriculture are two areas where we can make dramatic gains in the fight against catastrophic climate change without having to confront the same demons of the fossil fuel industrial complex.

Being A Homebody Has A Surprising Environmental Upside—Anyone who spends a bunch of time at home—like me—understands this almost implicitly.  Once you get away from the temptation of online shopping—buying stuff is not good no matter how green the product—it becomes almost like a passion project.

Climate Strange—Maybe we should all just embrace a little bit of our weird side.  I got looked at a little bit strange when I put solar panels on my roof, but now at least a half dozen homes have panels on the roof in my neighborhood.  Who’s strange now?  Hopefully my bike commuting catches on in a similar way.

H&M is Closing Stores as Sales Shrink—Could we finally be reaching a point when we are past peak fast fashion crap?

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.

An Ugly Month for Solar in November

November was ugly.  Especially in terms of solar production from my rooftop solar photovoltaic system:

November 2017 solar.jpg

The production was nice and steady save for some real dog days when the system produced less than 3 kWh per day.  I am really surprised by the actual production numbers because the system is producing far below my calculated expectations, which were based on fairly pessimistic assumptions.

Like October there is a sort of silver lining.  Even though my photovoltaic system produced slightly more than 212 kWh for the month I consumed less than 300 kWh in total, including both grid and on-site consumption.  Considering how much the family has been staying at home and cooking at home I am going to consider this a victory.  It will be interesting to see what the numbers look like in December with a long holiday vacation at the end of the month.

On the bright side, it looks like solar is contagious.  Two new systems went live over the past week and I know of at least two more that are going live soon.  This is in addition to the several systems going up that I can see on my way to work.  Each one of these systems is like a little dagger in the black heart of the coal economy.

The “Downside” of Staying at Home More

In a quest to save money and consume fewer resources my family has been staying around the house a lot lately.  I tried to make it sound fancy by saying we were focusing on a home based life or economy, but the truth was much simpler.

The reality of the situation is that the transition has been fairly straightforward.  No more “convenience” trips for weeknight dinners.  Instead I meal plan for the entire week—including the provisioning of leftovers for those nights where activities keep us away from home until almost eight o’clock in the evening.  No more “shopping” trips that are really just excuses to walk around like a zombie consumer with the vague notion of buying something you deemed necessary.  Instead we have spent a lot of time the last month or so going through our closets and getting rid of the stuff that clogs our home.  There are probably a dozen or more examples of what this home based life is like in practice.

We are not perfect.  Not by a long shot and it was never the intention.  We still like to go out to eat, but we have cut it down to once during the weekends and we try to go local.  No chains for us, but mostly because the local restaurants are the ones that serve the local beers.  It’s a virtuous circle like that.

The one downside, however, has been that our consumption of electricity at home has gone up.  It makes sense as more time at home cooking dinner and just living would equal more energy consumption.  It was just not something that I had counted on when making my calculations for my solar photovoltaic system.

It is not a large delta—approximately 40 kWh or about $5 per month.  Given the cloudy nature of October and November, so far, we have been outstripping the production of the solar photovoltaic system.

On the plus side, we have traded somewhat hidden energy consumption and overt monetary costs for a modest increase in electricity consumption and significant monetary savings.  Consider that the $5 a month in electricity costs is offsetting a single meal out of the house per weak or slightly more than four meals out of the house per month.  At an average cost of $30, which is conservative given my habit of ordering whatever local tipple is on tap, we are a net positive of $125 for the month without accounting for the energy savings of not driving as much.  Should I consider myself more than $1400 in the black?  Maybe.

The calculation is a little facetious, but it gets at a more salient point about the hidden energy costs of our decisions.  I have no doubt that it takes just as much energy or more to produce a meal at a restaurant when everything is considered—power, plant, and equipment so to speak for those with an accounting bent—that even though we have increased our household electricity consumption somewhat, we are saving both in terms of energy and money.  Something to consider as well is the reduced driving costs to and from such convenience meals.  A few miles here and a few miles there starts to add up to some real savings when you multiply things out over the course of a year.

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.