Tag Archives: renewable energy

January 2019 Solar got Whacked by Snow and a Polar Vortex

Winter returned to eastern Iowa in a big way in January.  Want to guess when it got all wintry up in this house?  Check out the chart and tell me:

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Yep, you can see when the nearly foot of snow covered my solar panels.  Normally the snow will slide off with a few warmer days.  Heck, even when it is still pretty cold the sun can make enough of a difference to clear the panels.

However, when the polar vortex comes along with some new snow the panels on top of my garage remain covered.  Things should warm up this weekend—it might be sixty five degrees warmer this weekend versus Wednesday—and the snow should clear.

Just over 68 kWh of solar electricity for a month is the lowest production number in my system’s brief history.  It is also less than half the production from the same month last year.  It goes to show that I might need to invest in one of those soft rubber roof rakes to clear my panels in times of inclement weather.  Especially if I am going to expand my system by more than 50% to account for the electricity use of my Nissan Leaf.

More to come on the solar expansion very soon.  I promise.

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Twenty Days in January with My Nissan Leaf

The biggest step that I have taken to decarbonize my transportation was to buy a used 2015 Nissan Leaf.  Depreciation and other market forces made purchasing a lightly used electric vehicle an easier decision than it had been in the past.  It also helps that I had already wired my garage for 240V operation, making charging that much faster than relying on legacy 120V outlets.

January 2019 was a weird month and I only owned the Leaf for twenty days of the month due to a lengthy process to get the car delivered.  No one wants to hear that their newly purchased car was on the delivery vehicle that went off the interstate in high winds.  Combined with a week or more of polar vortex and the first appearance of significant snow this winter I have a hard time making heads or tails of my driving results.

Anyway, for the twenty days that I had possession of the Nissan Lead I drove a total of 352.5 miles (~17.6 per day) at an energy efficiency of 3.6 miles per kWh.

Until the temperatures dropped into colder than a well digger’s rear end on the shady side I was average around 4.5 miles per kWh.  This goes to show you how much an impact using a resistive heater can have on your EV’s energy efficiency.  I have also come to discover that the Nissan Leaf’s battery has a thermal management system that will heat the battery in extreme cold to prevent “freeze up.”  That is just more energy used to make heat and not drive the wheels.

Regardless, I am still saving in terms of fuel cost and carbon emissions.  Based on my prior primary vehicle—a 2013 Ford F-150—I saved $12.73 in fuel costs and 372.1 pounds of carbon dioxide.  This assumes that I drew all of the power to move my Nissan Leaf from the grid, which when I rack and stack January’s solar production looks very likely.

Friday Linkage 2/1/2019

It is February, it is freaking cold, and nothing seems to be going right anywhere.  Oh wait, the long awaited third entry in the Bill & Ted cycle may be coming to theaters before the end of the year.  Most excellent.  It would be a not heinous way to end 2019.

Wyld Stallyns may be forced to face the music, so we can hope that other people in our world—fictional or otherwise—will have to answer for their misdeeds in 2019.

Be excellent to each other!  Party on dudes!

On to the links…

The Trump Administration has Lost More than 90 Percent of its Court Battles Over Reregulation—For all the sound and fury of the Trump administration over the past two years—has it really been that long—most of the deregulation efforts have failed to pass legal muster.

Democrats Want Answers about the Interior Department’s Decisions During the Shutdown—Wow, another scandal at the Department of the Interior.  This is my surprised face:

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US Plug-In Electric Car Sales Charted: December 2018—Check out the market share:

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Last year and the year before it could not crack 2% total market share.  This year total EV sales went above 3% in the latter part of the year.  When does the tipping point occur?

The Biggest Returns—Imagine if there was a way to produce a dollar of economic activity without damaging the planet.  Oh wait, we call it energy efficiency.  The greenest source of energy is the energy you never need to produce.

Texas Grid Is Now 30% Carbon-Free, Led By Wind—Big red state Texas, actually increasingly purplish, is also a big time state for renewables.

Report says Offshore Wind could Beat Onshore Wind on Cost—Imagine the Atlantic seaboard getting on board with offshore wind.  Or the Gulf of Mexico, with an already established industry of offshore specialists, deploying offshore wind rather than drilling for oil. Now, imagine that offshore wind energy is cheap.

Supermarket Cuts Emissions 53%, Offsets Rest—Grocery stores seem like such an easy target for energy efficiency.  Just imagine the average dairy section in an average American grocery store.  What do you see?  I am guessing that it has refrigerated cases open to the ambient air.  Why?  Just one example of how we can do so much better without really sacrificing our way of life.

Are Cargo Bikes the Future for Urban Deliveries?—The future?  In some places this is the present.  Bikes are the best solution for delivery of the last mile in denser environments.  Let’s see…no pollution, no noise, small footprint…yeah, pretty much awesome.

The Zero-Waste Movement is Coming for your Garbage—Zero waste is a good goal.  Here is the better goal: Buy less stuff.  Just a reminder, if a company is telling you how green their packaging is it probably means that they are trying to assuage your green guilt and encourage you to buy more.

Eco-Friendly Options for Decluttering Waste—Decluttering is a thing right now.  Blame Netflix and Marie Kondo.  It was popular when she had a book, but now that people can binge watch a show it is a cultural phenomenon.  I just hope that we are finding appropriate places for all of this stuff being tossed out of homes.

Friday Linkage 1/25/2019

The partial government shutdown is about to enter its sixth week.  It is already the longest such shutdown in the history of the United States.  It is also case study #1 of what happens when you elect people to run the government who have a professed hatred of the government providing any services whatsoever.

In some ways I feel that this shutdown is the fever dream of people like Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan.  Without a functioning government they can go on Fox News and tell everyone that America soldiers on.  Just wait until Sean Hannity starts a special on how the shutdown is proof positive that the federal government is unnecessary.

On to the links…

Why We Won’t Quit the Climate Fight—We will not quit in a fit of despair because to quit would be to admit defeat.  And defeat in this case is not an option.

Could a Green New Deal Save Civilization?—I believe that the idea of the Green New Deal has the possibility to be a Trojan horse for so many progressive ideas.  Clean energy, modernized mass transit, smart development, etc.

New Proposal Aims To Make Legacy FDR Works Project The Flagship Of A Green New Deal—The thing about the Green New Deal that excites me the most is that we can begin to execute many of the proposed ideas without a single new government agency or program.  Heck, some of it is still in place since the last New Deal.

72% of Americans are ‘Very Worried’ about Climate Change—People are worried.  People want solutions.

Idaho’s New Governor: ‘Climate change is real’—The worm has turned on climate change.  You cannot be a reasonable, notice I said reasonable, politician in the United States and not recognize the impact of climate change.

Why There’s No Bringing Coal Back—Here is another reason why coal is not coming back: Donald Trump.  The industry hitched its wagon to the man who will be remembered as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history.

The Trump Administration Keeps Taking Care of Big Oil—The Trump administration is making sure that Big Oil is taken care of at all times.

Zinke Leaves Unfinished Business at the Interior Department—The best that we can hope for is that in less than two years we can begin to unwind the damage done to the United States.  This sums up the course of action: “Many of the actions taken by the administration have been done through secretarial orders, internal memos and staffing decisions, many of which can be reversed on day one of a new administration.”

The Invisible Energy Bonanza: Creating Wealth Out Of Nothing—If we really wanted to we could save a proverbial buttload of baseload power just by focusing on not using so god damned much energy.  It is not rocket science.

Colorado Mandates Electric Vehicle Sales, State Dealers Association Angry—Do you know why the dealers are angry?  No service on electric vehicles.  No oil changes at regular intervals.  No fuel filters, air filters, spark plugs, timing belts, etc. to change.  No water pump to replace art 100K miles for the low, low price of $1K.  It’s pretty much rotate the tires, check the wiper blades, and send you on your way with an EV.

Of New Power Generation, How Much Is On The Roof? Quarterly Update — 2018 Q3—There are so many roofs without solar panels.  So much room to grow.

San Diego Has Vast Solar Parking Lot Potential—What locale in the U.S. does not have a lot of solar parking lot potential?  Boston, ok.  New York City, ok.  Just about everyone else.

Renewables In Britain To Overtake Fossil Fuels By 2020—Remember when renewables were only capable of providing a sliver of power generation according to the experts?  Remember when the ceiling was probably ten percent of total power generation according to the experts?

74% Of India’s New Power Capacity Addition In 2018 Was Renewables—It would be better if it were 100%, but I will take it.

US Coal Retirements In 2019 To Hit At Least 6 Gigawatts—This has to be a kick in the gonads for Trump and his coal baron cabinet.

10 Ways Beer Drinking Will Change in 2019—This is the year that I think we will see some major closures in the craft beer space.  My prediction is that one or two of the mid-tier brewers will close or consolidate this year because growth has not kept pace with expansion.

A Bit of Meat, a Lot of Veg – the Flexitarian Diet to Feed 10bn—It is not like this idea is very new.

How To Make Sure Your Recycling Gets Recycled—You would not believe the stuff I see in my neighborhood recycling bins every Thursday.  Resin chairs, check.  All manner of oversized items, check.  This is why recycling does not work in the United States.

The Inherent Efficiency of an Electric Vehicle

“But you’re still using electricity from the grid!” drunk Uncle Carl says at the family gathering he is invited to once a year.  “And that electricity comes from coal.”

On the whole, the United States produces ~30% of its electricity from coal.  Some states make considerably less electricity from coal.  California makes almost no electricity from coal.  Idaho makes almost no electricity from coal.  You get the idea.

The thing is that even if my Nissan Leaf is using electricity from the grid it is still more efficient on a per mile basis versus almost any other car or truck on the road.  It is more efficient in terms of carbon emissions per mile and cost per mile in dollar terms.  Let’s see how that breaks down.

A gallon of gasoline, when burned, produces approximately 20 pounds of carbon dioxide.  In 2016 the fuel economy of new cars and trucks in the United States reached 24.7 miles per gallon.  Therefore, on a per mile basis the average new car in the United States emits 0.81 pounds of carbon dioxide.

A kilowatt hour of electricity has a carbon intensity of approximately 1 pound.  This figure obviously differs depending upon your utility, grid operator, locale, etc. but it works as an average for the United States.  Over the course of the last couple of weeks I have averages 4.2 miles per kWh in my Nissan Leaf, which is probably low since I have been forced to use the relatively inefficient resistive heater.  Therefore, my EV “emits” 0.24 pounds of carbon dioxide per mile driven.

For those needing a refresher in math, 0.24 is less than 0.81.  In fact, it is about 70% less.  Now, imagine you are charging your EV in Idaho where each kWh of electricity has a carbon intensity of 0.2 pounds.  That would be a decrease in carbon intensity of about 94%.  As the grid gets cleaner the miles driven by your EV get cleaner as a result.  Your regular old car with an internal combustion engine will still emit the same old carbon dioxide year after year.  In fact, it will likely emit more as it gets older and less efficient.  Just saying.

Furthermore, imagine I am charging my Nissan Leaf with electricity derived from the solar panels on my roof.  This represents a decrease in carbon intensity of 100%.  Talk about demand destruction.  Take that Uncle Carl!

Friday Linkage 1/4/2019

It’s 2019 and the resolutions are flying.  People are flocking to the gym to exercise and stopping two days later because delayed onset muscle soreness kicks in.  Trust me, there will be very few people in the gym this weekend.

I have no idea what 2019 will bring, but I am hopeful that it is a better year than 2018.

On to the links…

The Case for “Conditional Optimism” on Climate Change—I want to be optimistic that we have reached an inflection point in the international mood regarding climate change and the world is ready to act.  It is hard to be optimistic in the United States when Donald Trump occupies the White House and Republicans control the Senate.

24 Million Jobs Could Be Created From Meeting Paris Climate Agreement Targets—Going green will create jobs.  This is the promise of a so-called Green New Deal.  Deploying wind turbines, installing solar panels, building mass transit, retrofitting buildings, and so on will put people to work.

Trump’s EPA Doesn’t Seem to Want to Punish Law-Breaking Polluters—It’s not just about the laws that get changed, but the laws that do not get enforced as well.

Trump’s U.S. Coal Consumption Is Less Than Obama’s—Sad.  So sad.

How Does Your State Make Electricity?—The graphs in this article are just great.  Take a look at Iowa’s transformation into a wind energy powerhouse:

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Gotta’ do something about that remaining coal.

Ten Charts Show How the World is Progressing on Clean Energy—We are making progress.  We can make the transition to clean energy.  It just takes political will.

Renewables Set To Account For 38% Of German Electricity In 2018—Germany has been building renewable energy capacity like crazy and in some periods of 2018 renewables accounted for more than 43% of electricity.  The caveat is that the current pace of deployment will not get the country to its stated goal of 65% renewable energy by 2030, but that seems like critics trying to salve their wounds over good news for renewables.

Perovskite Solar Panels Edge Closer To Production As Prices Fall—The price per watt for solar panels has already fallen dramatically.  However, perovskite based panels promise to bring that price down even more.  Imagine a world of roofs covered in cheap solar panels sucking up the energy from the funky yellow sun.

Fulfilling the Potential of Biogas in Spain—Biogas is something that most discussions about renewable energy never discuss.  Maybe because it seems like sorcery or alchemy.  Maybe it’s because the process often involves animal waste.  I do not know.

Dakota Access Pipeline Developer Misses Year-End Deadline to Plant Trees—Is anyone surprised that Energy Transfer Partners has failed to meet its commitment for planting trees as a condition of building this pipeline?  Not me.  It is the standard operating procedure for these companies to promise many things and deliver on nothing.  Every tree not planted is another dollar into the pocketbook of the shareholders.

Native Shrubs and Why They’re Essential for Carbon Sequestration—Our landscaping lacks layers.  In the United States it is all about trees and turf grass.  It is a monoculture masquerading as a functioning landscape.

Where Government Is a Dirty Word, but Its Checks Pay the Bills—This is the problem with American politics right now.  Too many people believe the bile spewed about the government on Fox News, but fail to realize just how dependent that they are on the government.  It reminds me of the Tea Party clowns telling the government to keep their hands off of Medicare.

Friday Linkage 11/16/2018

California is on fire.  Venice is under water.  Glaciers in South America have retreated.  Famine in Yemen is accelerating.  It seems like this week has brought out the apocalyptic news.

On to the links…

The Zinke Effect: How the US Interior Department became a Tool of Big Business—Ryan Zinke is the robber baron that we deserve.

Interior Department Whistleblower: Ryan Zinke Hollowed Out the Agency—Rebuilding the federal government after the tragedy of the Trump administration is going to be a long, hard road.  This is what you get when you elect people to run government who happen to claim to hate government.  It is also what you get when you elect a serial philanderer who cannot stay out of bankruptcy court.

Trump Campaign Paid Millions to Trump Businesses During Midterms—This is what grift looks like in an era when there is no accountability.  Imagine if Barack Obama had paid himself for the use of a plane he owned from campaign funds?  Mitch McConnell would still be crowing about it and clutching his pearls.

In New Mexico, Public Lands Turned an Election Blue—It turns out that people like the idea of public lands being available for use by the public and not just a land trust for the use of fossil fuel interests.  Republicans will never understand this fact because it runs counter to their deeply held beliefs that oil and gas companies can do no wrong.

Why Nevada Upped its Renewable Energy Standards (and Arizona didn’t)—It was really a mixed bag for climate change related policies on the ballot during the midterm election.  Some states came through while others just toed the line.  Arizona has always struck me as the Florida of the west.  The state will act against its own self-interest time and time again in some misguided defense of “principles.”

Scotland’s Wind Turbines Generated ‘98% of Electricity Demand’ Last Month—It was not really 98% of electricity in a linear fashion all month.  Sometimes it was “only” ~65% of electricity demand while other times it was well over 200% of electricity demand.  Remember when people opposed to renewables said that the maximum would only ever amount to 5% or so of total demand?

Global Coal Use May have Peaked in 2014, Says Latest IEA World Energy Outlook—Despite what the orange despot in the White House says on the campaign trail, coal is not coming back.  Coal is not beautiful.  Coal is dead.

BNEF Confirms US Coal On Track For Record Capacity Decline—Every wind turbine and solar panel that we can deploy is another brick in the wall.

Big Oil’s Death by a Thousand Small Cuts—Every Tesla Model 3 or Chevy Bolt or Nissan Leaf represents demand destruction for oil that is not coming back.

10% Of New Vehicles Purchased in California Are EVs—If I am an oil company or a car company without an EV this trend would scare the living crap out of me.

Spain to Ban the Sale of All Gas-Powered Cars by 2040—The Spanish plan is part of a larger initiative to break free from fossil fuels in our lifetime.  Now, imagine you are an international auto exec watching an entire country ban the sale of gas cars.

The Wheels on These Buses Go Round and Round With Zero Emissions—If I am in Congress the first bill I propose—ok, maybe not the first—is a program to help subsidize the purchase of electric school buses across the country.  Along with electric city buses, garbage trucks, and delivery vehicles.

Electric Tuk-Tuks Power EV Revolution In India—Sometimes the best conversion from fossil fuels to EV is a low tech swap.  Replace hundreds of thousands of two stroke tuk tuks in India with EV versions and you have made a real dent in air pollution.

Heat-Rejecting Film could Reduce Air Conditioning Costs—Anything that can reduce our demand for air conditioning, thus reducing our demand for the electricity to cool the air, is something worth pursuing.  Particularly, if the solutions do not require retrofitting buildings in expensive and labor intensive ways.

Impossible Foods Will Finally Sell Plant-Based Burger Meat in Grocery Stores—I have yet to try one of these burgers, but maybe if I can find a package in the grocery store I will take it home to compare with an actual ground beef burger.

Plot Twist! Elephants come up with a Foolproof Way to Survive Ivory Poachers—I have linked to similar stories in the past, but it really gives me a chance to post one of my favorite lines from blockbuster movies of the past:

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