Tag Archives: PV

This is What the Future Looks Like

Last week the installers from Moxie Solar completed the installation of eight additional solar photovoltaic panels on my west facing roof and the attendant upgrades to the electrical system (e.g. larger inverter).

Here is what 62% additional solar capacity looks like from the road:

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See anything?  That is right, you do not see anything out of the ordinary save for a standard suburban house.

Here is what that same additional solar capacity looks like from the west side of the house:

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This is what the future looks like.  Twenty four panels—sixteen 290W panels and eight 360W panels—producing green electricity every time the sun sends its rays our way.  These panels do their thing every day without nary a thought or action from me.  Silent and motionless these panels produce clean electricity.  This solar array will produce more than 100% of my household’s electricity needs including an electric vehicle.

If this is not the future than I have no idea of what will come to pass.

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.

Friday Linkage 10/18/2019

As the investigation into Donald Trump’s administration deepens I do not see anyone really stepping back and asking, “How did we get to a point where an obviously corrupt and incompetent administration is allowed to operate with impunity?”

Granted, if I were Mitch McConnell—the grim reaper of American democracy—I would “get while the getting is good” because posterity will not be kind to the one man who is demonstrably responsible for the situation we find ourselves in today.

On to the links…

This Is What Adapting to Climate Change Looks Like—California is America on fast forward according to author Manuel Pastor.  Our collective future is going to look a lot like California’s present as the climate changes and the planet gets angry.

Staring Down Donald Trump, the Same Elephant in Every Room—In a little more than a year I hope that the results on election night play out like a national version of Greta Thunberg’s stare as we watch Donny Two Scoops melt down.

BLM Head: ‘What I thought, what I wrote, what I did in the past is irrelevant.’—In the swampy Trump administration it does not matter what you may have said or done in the past.  All that matters is fealty to the dear leader and a willingness to loot the public treasury for the benefit of private interests.

Why US Car Emissions Are Continuing to Rise in the Era of the Hybrid—No matter how many EVs and hybrids we buy it is being cancelled out by the rise in SUVs and pickup trucks.  It also does not help that we buy things from Amazon that have to be delivered by truck.

The Midwest’s Solar Future will be Unlike Anything Seen Before—I can see this happening first hand in eastern Iowa.  Lots of homes around me have gone solar as county wide efforts to bring down the per watt cost have increased the rates of adoption.  Farmers have installed massive ground mount arrays with the help of local co-ops and accommodating rural electric cooperatives.  What makes me hopeful is that there are so many more roofs that can be graced with solar panels.

Renewable Energy Surpasses Fossil Fuels in the UK—The ongoing Brexit debacle may have made the UK seem like a dysfunction mess, but there is real progress on becoming a post-modern energy state.

#Sludge Report: End Of Fossil Fuel Era Closer Than We Know—Like a snowball rolling downhill things start off small and slow but before long it becomes large and fast.

No Relief from Fracking Industry on Colorado’s Front Range—This is where fracking will be stopped.  Fracking is going to shoot itself because it does not care about the communities that it impacts negatively.

Another Insurer Will Dump Coal and Oil Sands—Boring but important news here.  Without insurance a lot of projects cannot get debt financing.  Debt financing is the lifeblood of fossil fuel projects.  You do the math.

Fast Food is Fueling Brazilian Wildfires—Global supply chains do not care about sustainability.  Global supply chains only care about getting commodities for the lowest possible price.  If the world has to burn to save a nickel the global supply chain will provide the match.

The Shadowy Beef Lobbyist Fighting Against Plant-Based ‘Meat’—The same cast of characters who coordinated the rear guard action for Big Tobacco are reassembling like a motley band of comic book villains to help the meat industry slow the advance of plant based alternatives.  The irony is that it did not work out so well for Big Tobacco.

The Impossible Whopper is Driving Steady Traffic to Burger King—People actually want to visit a Burger King to get an Impossible Whopper.  When was the last time you heard anybody say they wanted to go to Burger King?  This is what the meat industry fears.

Cities Are Worried About the Health Effects of Glyphosate—Everyone should be worried about the negative health impacts of glyphosate.  Monsanto lied and people died.

A Coffee Crisis Is Brewing And It Could Make Your Morning Joe Less Tasty—Climate change is coming for your coffee.  It’s not just climate change but international business and geopolitics as well.  Needless to say, you might want to read up on the robusta variety of coffee because you will be drinking it soon enough.

Buying ‘Green’ Won’t Make You Any Happier, but Buying Less Will—We cannot buy our way into a state of happiness and we cannot buy our way into a greener lifestyle.

It’s Better to Buy Less than to Buy ‘Green’ Products—The greenest thing that you can do is just say no when it comes to buying stuff.

The Climate Change Solution Scientists Have Been Overlooking—This makes so much sense you know that organizations like the Catholic Church and Republicans will be against it because…reasons.

When Medical Debt Collectors Decide Who Gets Arrested—If you do not think we need Medicare for All than you have never interacted with the system that actually put people in jail for medical debts.  Furthermore, this is a system that is using a power normally associate with absolute monarchs—contempt—to put people in jail for debts owed to private entities.  If there was ever a recipe for a revolution this would be it.

September 2019 Solar PV and EV Numbers

The past month was surprisingly similar to the same month the year prior:

Sept 2019 solar

Almost 416 kWh of clean, green electricity from the funky yellow sun.  All in, including 100% of my EV charging needs, I ended up down ~122 kWh for the month.  The weather was schizophrenic this month bouncing from cool fall weather to hot and humid.  The third week of the month felt like the dog days of August with 90 degree temperature readings and similar humidity levels.  Needless to say, the air conditioning got turned on to cut that down a little bit.  Until that point I was running ahead in terms of production versus consumption.

For the month I drove my Nissan Leaf EV 755.1 miles with an average efficiency of 5.9 miles per kWh.  For the month I required ~128 kWh of electricity for my mobility.  Compared with the F150 that the Leaf replaced, I avoided emitting ~879 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere assuming that I drew electricity from the grid at an average carbon intensity for my region.

For the first nine months or so of the year—my Leaf arrived the second week of January—I have driven a total of 5,893 electric miles at an average efficiency of 5.2 miles per kWh.  The total C02 emissions that have been avoided versus the F150 that the Leaf replaced are 6,733 pounds thus far.  Again, this assumes 100% of charging occurs from the grid with an average carbon intensity for the region.

Interestingly, the total amount to charge my Nissan Leaf for the month–~128 kWh—was about how much I was “down” for the month in terms of solar production.  This aligns with my original estimates where my initial sixteen panel PV array would provide ~100% of my electricity needs.

As the weather turns cool and the pumpkin spice flows freely I am waiting on an install date for the solar array expansion.  The plan is to add 8 360 watt panels to my existing 16 290 watt panel array.  This represents a ~59% increase in solar capacity and given the new panels will be on the same azimuth it should represent the same amount of increase in terms of actual production.

The increase in solar array capacity should account for more than 100% of my Leaf’s charging needs and provide a cushion of excess production for additional electrification.  The future is electric.

Friday Linkage 9/27/2019

I know it has been almost two weeks, but this is my favorite animated GIF ever:

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Every time I hear a fan of Iowa State University say, “We just beat ourselves,” I just think, “No shit, you really did.”

On to the links…

Good News, Bad News: 4 Trends in US Energy Use—Transportation energy use and, by extension, oil consumption are the great hurdle for our transition to a fossil free paradigm.  However, I wonder just how much we could reduce our use of energy in the transportation sector by reduction rather than replacement of usage?

Coal Declining at Quicker Clip than Previously Forecast—Every solar panel that gets hooked up to the grid is a nail in the coffin of coal.  That is what I think about every time I imagine what eight additional panels added to my array mean in the larger scheme of things.

Are 1,600 New Coal-Fired Power Plants Being Constructed Today?—The brief answer is no.  Now that this story has been debunked thoroughly it will probably make it into the next round of Trump rallies.

How Hawaii has Built Momentum to Become a Renewable Energy Leader—Hawaii is our national laboratory for renewable energy.  The state is on course to produce 40% of its energy from renewable sources fairly soon.  We need to be looking to Hawaii and applying lessons learned across the United States.

Solar and Wind Power So Cheap They’re Outgrowing Subsidies—Now, let’s remove the subsidies from fossil fuels and see how things work out.

Residential Solar: Becoming Increasingly Cost-Effective And Customer-Friendly—The market is maturing, transparency is increasing, costs are coming down, and adoption is up.  These are the trends that make something mainstream.  Solar is mainstream.

Getting to 100% Renewables Requires Cheap Energy Storage. But How Cheap?—I think the question is not just the price, but also how much capacity is really required?  We have seen that as states and countries build out renewable energy that the hurdles are less insurmountable than they appeared at first blush.

Is DC Fast Charging Bad For Your Electric Car?—Yes, but not as bad as some pundits would have you believe.

The Rise of Regenerative Agriculture in Colorado—It is not just about saving pristine places anymore.  It is also about restoring the places that we have degraded.  Agriculture can play a role in that restoration.

The Burger Brawl—Do I really care who wins as long as these products replace traditional burgers?

1% of English Residents Take One-Fifth of Overseas Flights—Amazing how it looks like the Pareto principle is at work here.  One percent responsible for 20%, top ten percent responsible for more than 50%…

What Do Evangelical Christians Really Think About Climate Change?—Given that this is a group of people—I am making broad assumptions here—that support Donald Trump despite his blatant non-Christian behavior after years of telling people that they were “values voters” I am inclined to tell evangelical Christians to suck a big, fat one.

This is What the Future Looks Like

People frequently ask me what I think the future looks like.  Rarely do I provide a coherent answer because what I think will happen is constantly changing based on the conditions of the day.  There do exist some constants, however, and solar power is one of those constants.

Why?  For one, it is easy.  Once the panels are installed your array will just sit on your roof producing electricity regardless of what you do.  When you go to work the panels produce electricity.  When you go on vacation the panels produce electricity.  It is the ultimate in “set it and forget it” environmentally beneficial behaviors.

Second, you can see the impact at a household level.  If my utility purchased electricity produced by wind turbines I have no real concept of what that means to me.  Was 15% of my electricity produced by the wind?  More?  Less?  However, with solar panels installed you get a very local idea of how much energy you have produced versus how much you have consumed.  Witness this portion of my latest utility bill:

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Notice the lack of green bars from April through August?  That signifies my solar array produced all or more of the electricity that I consumed during that period.  Sometimes my math and the utility company’s math will not align because billing periods do not align with calendar months but the general outlines agree.

Now, imagine approximately 60% more solar photovoltaic capacity being added to this chart.  The contract has been signed, the check has been sent, the plans have been approved, and the panels are waiting in a local warehouse for my system expansion.  I am just waiting to hear when the installers are scheduled to make it happen.

This is what the future looks like.

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.