Tag Archives: photovoltaic

November was the Lowest Solar Production Ever

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

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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…

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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:

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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!

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.

A Mixed Bag for Solar Production in August

The solar photovoltaic system on my roof had a mixed record of production in August:

Solar August

I would have thought the system would come in a little closer to July’s number, but a consistently rainy and dreary end to the month dashed those hopes.  Still, over 563 kWh of clean solar energy was more than enough to offset my consumption and I ended the month up a little over 100 kWh.  In total, over the course of the past year or so since my system was installed I am up over 800 to 850 kWh.

It’s a little hard to tell exactly where I am at because my utility company replaced my electric meter without telling me so I lost some data points that I was tracking manually on a spreadsheet.  If you have a solar system watch your electric bills like a hawk.  My utility company consistently uses incorrect meter readings that discount the amount of solar electricity that I produce.  It is amazing that my consumption from the grid is never discounted.

My hope is that September turns into a good month for solar production, but the rainy weather that ended August is carrying over in September.  The first few days of the month have been little more than rain.  So much so that the ground is like a wet sponge and my grass is growing like crazy.  Maybe a I should just get a goat to mow the lawn…

Friday Linkage 8/24/2018

I came back from London to a world where “Truth isn’t truth.”  Maybe so, but felony convictions and guilty pleas are pretty much fact.

I thought that we had reached peak semantic games when Bill Clinton tried to debate what the meaning of the word is was under a given context, but Donald Trump and his minions have come along to upset the entire apple cart of human decency.

We now live in a country and, maybe, a world where a large segment of the population does not believe in objective truth unless supported by Sean Hannity and Alex Jones—who, by the way, tried to argue in a custody case that he was a “performance artist” and therefore his speech was “art.”  You get the idea.

On to the links…

Trump Administration Scraps Plan To Sell Land Cut From Utah Monument—It is all a grift.  Everything these criminals do is in support of the con to loot the American public of every last nickel and dime before the authorities finally start actually locking people up.

Ryan Zinke Would ‘Sell His Grandkids For Big Oil,’ Says Washington Governor—Jay Inslee forgot uranium mining and coal mining and mineral extraction…

Trump Administration Hit With 7 Major Environmental Setbacks In Court In Past Week—Granted, the impact of this administration will be felt for decades as Republicans in Congress have finally decided to fill long empty court seats because they like a white guy picking judges as opposed to a black guy.  If you think their reticence to confirm Obama’s nominees has anything to do with anything other than naked racism you are delusional.

Trump’s Attacks on Public Lands Could Help the Democrats in These States—Surprise, surprise…people in western states like public lands and understand when a politician is just shilling for the oil and gas industries.

Talk About “Losing Money” — US Shale Gas Will Crash … Hard—This is not a really bold prediction for anyone who has followed the boom and bust cycle of the U.S. oil industry for the past fifty or so years.  Remember Denver in the late 1980s?  No one really does because the crash turned the city into a ghost town.

New 9.8 Megawatt Solar Farm In Gallup, New Mexico, Will Save City $785,000 In First 8 Years—Keep pushing coal Donny Two Scoops.  Meanwhile, the rest of the world will move to cheaper and cleaner sources of energy.

Bitcoin’s Annual Carbon Footprint Is Equal to One Million Transatlantic Flights—I admittedly do not really understand bitcoin, but the carbon footprint is out of control.

The Conflict of Interest That Is Killing Recycling—It is the fox guarding the hen house.  Landfill operators and trash haulers want to pick up rubbish and dump it in a landfill.  That is where they make their money.  Recycling is just something that municipalities have burdened them with and they are failing to make the entire endeavor work.

New York’s Push to End Inequality Extends to Garbage—Environmental justice is social justice.  The story of garbage collection and transfer in New York City is the story of how rich people or, at the very least, not poor people have paid to have their trash sent to places where the residents did not have the money and/or clout to prevent the operation of transfer stations.

Report Finds Traces of a Controversial Herbicide in Cheerios and Quaker Oats—Who does not want a little Roundup in their breakfast cereal?  Seriously, we need to stop indiscriminately spraying chemicals on our land.  It is wrong.

Piles of Peer Reviewed Research Show How Bad Cooking with Gas is for Your Health—I have always been a fan of a smooth top electric range because of how easy the top is to clean, but now it looks like I was making a healthy choice as well.  I have always kind of wondered about the wisdom of having an open flame burning in my kitchen.

In Praise of the Dumb Box—I don’t know if calling it the dumb box is the right idea.  Simple.  Austere.  Nordic?  For every “starcitecht’s” whack ass vision in curves and angles there is a basic box doing yeoman’s work housing people.  We tend to actually like basic boxes because it provides us actual space to put our touch on things rather than living in a prefab module.

Norway Has A Radical Approach To Plastic Pollution, And It’s Working—On top of dealing with climate change, we need to deal with the scourge of plastic pollution.  Maybe the Norwegians have figured something out.

Indian Man has Planted a Tree Every Day for 40-Years and Now has a Thriving Forest Larger than Central Park—Maybe we should all just wake up tomorrow and plant a tree.  Turn off the news, put down the phone, and plant a tree.

Over 700 kWh of Solar Electricity in July

July 2018 was the best month ever for my house’s solar photovoltaic array:

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Approximately 742 kWh of renewable energy from the roof of my garage seems like magic.  I still think there is some black magic going on in those panels that turns sunlight into electricity, but I also still like Harry Potter so maybe magic is my thing.

Even with some days of fairly heavy air conditioning use when the humidity climbed along with the temperature, I still managed to produce ~250 kWh more this month than I consumed.  In total, since my system was turned on at the end of August I am up over 700 kWh when I compare production versus consumption.

Here’s the thing, with a middling sized solar array—just 4.64 kW on a 270 degree azimuth facing roof—generates more than 100% of the electricity that I use in a large-ish American suburban home.  It is my contention that this shows we can move to 100% renewable energy a lot easier than anyone thinks.  A combination of renewable energy deployment, efficiency, and comment sense conservation can get us there with little sacrifice.  For everyone who says that it cannot be done I welcome you to have a discussion with me about the topic.

Here’s to hoping that August and September can come in big to build a buffer against the gloomy winter months.

Over 600 kWh of Solar Power in June, yet Left Wanting More

June 2018 ended with my home’s solar photovoltaic system have produced approximately 619 kWh for the month:

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This is about on par with May’s production, but several things are off.

See that really low production day on June 26th?  The weather was partly sunny or partly cloudy depending upon your weather vernacular.  That was also about the time that the monitoring data from the app that I use went all haywire.  One day it would show no production, but then update with crazy fluctuating production for that same day later.  I am liable to think that the numbers for the month are off as a result.  Since that period of hiccups everything looks fine, but I am suspicious.

Also, watch your meter readings like a hawk.  I received my electric bill from my local electric coop and it was way off.  How off?  Like someone switched the meter readings for production and consumption.  Instead of showing me positive approximately 500 kWh it was showing almost the same number as a deficit.  Granted, it was easy to figure out because I know how to read my meter but it was discouraging to have to go through the process with customer service.

Without telling me the electric coop replaced my bi-directional meter with a newer model.  It is no skin off my back, but I have lost my tracking of how well my system has done since being installed.  That being said I know that I am net positive more than 600 kWh since the system was installed and I am looking forward to a big month of production in July.