Tag Archives: rural electric cooperative

The Financial Math Behind Decarbonization

What if I told you that for the price of a base model Tesla Model 3—good luck actually finding one—you could decarbonize your household?

What if I told you that this is not a thought exercise but an examination of steps already taken?

Are you ready?

The price for base Tesla Model 3 is ~$35,000.  That is the price assuming that you can actually purchase the so-called “standard range” model and before any applicable tax credits.  For the purposes of this discussion I am going to leave tax credits aside for the time being.  So, we are working with a starting price of $35,000.

For that price you get an electric vehicle that has to draw power from the grid, which depending upon your locale and power company may support coal fired electricity.  It may also support fracking for natural gas or the nuclear power energy, assuming any of that industry remains in your region.

What else could you do with that $35,000?

Over the course of the past two and half years I have installed solar photovoltaic panels on my roof in two phases.  Why two phases?  Initially, my power company would only allow my roof mounted solar photovoltaic array to exceed my annual consumption—based on average expected production—by ~10% or so.  Considering how little electricity my household used in comparison to the average this worked out to a system of 4.64 kWh.  This initial phase cost me ~$11,000 before tax credits at the state and federal level.

In the past month I added ~62% more capacity to my existing solar photovoltaic array at a cost of ~$7,500.  In the past year I added an electric vehicle to the mix, which has upped my household consumption, in addition to a few winter months in 2019 where my prior panels were covered under deep snow curtailing production.  We also forgot to turn off a garage heater, which ran up the electric bill in February.  All told these changes goosed our consumption just enough to allow me to install an additional eight panels on my roof.

As it stands right now the photovoltaic array on my roof has a nameplate capacity of 7.52 kWh.  This was complete at a total cost of ~$18,500 before any tax credits.  Remember, we are leaving tax credits aside for the moment.  Assuming my household usage patterns hold—including one electric vehicle—this system will produce more than 100% of my household’s electricity requirements for the year.  The estimated excess production should allow me to replace my natural gas water heater with an electric air source heat pump model further reducing my household requirements for fossil fuels.  With the water heater replaced in the next year my household will only use natural gas for the forced air furnace in the colder months.  Trust me, I am looking at options to replace that as well.

What about the electric vehicle?  This is where the power of the market and a realistic assessment of one’s needs come into play.

A Tesla Model 3 is a fine automobile.  Dollar for dollar, it may be the best vehicle on the market right now when one considers its relative performance and environmental bona fides.  However, it still costs $35,000.

In January of this year I purchased a used Nissan Leaf for ~$11,500.  The Leaf had ~33K miles on the odometer, but the battery was in great condition being that the 2015 and later model years utilized an updated architecture that corrected some of the prior model years’ most glaring problems.  A purchase price of more than eleven thousand dollars might sound like a lot, but this was a car that retailed for more than $30,000 when new.  Losing two thirds of car’s value without high mileage is crazy town.  Or, good for the person who can take advantage.

If one can live with a lesser range, one can take advantage of the market punishing these older EVs for not being up to Tesla’s newer standards.  If one drives in town, for the most part, there is no disadvantage.  In almost a year of daily driving I have had just one instance of the range “guess-o-meter” dropping below ten miles remaining and I have never experienced the indignity of “turtle mode.”

How does this all add up?  Total cost for me to purchase an EV to replace all of my daily driver miles and enough solar photovoltaic capacity to power me entire household, including EV electricity requirements, was less than $30,000 before any tax incentives.  Compared to a $35K Tesla Model 3 I would say that I ended up in a better place.  Five thousand or so dollars better, mind you.

This is not to diminish the decision of someone purchasing a Tesla or any other EV.  Rather, it is to illustrate that there is an alternative path to decarbonization that is neither as expensive as portrayed by many and without any appreciable downsides.

The future is now.

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.

Friday Linkage 9/13/2019

On Friday the 13th I want to “pour one out” for a site that has gone dark.  Think Progress and its companion site Climate Progress were linked to frequently from my blog.  The reporting was always well done and backed up by copious well documented sources.  Editorial factionalism and a bitter unionization battle probably contributed to the demise of the site.  The same problems have plagued other “new media” operations as well over the years, but this is a lost nonetheless.

On to the links…

25 Books That Teach Kids To Care About The Environment—The children, they are the future right?  Well, we should be helping them to understand just how amazing, precious, and threatened this planet of our is in the modern age.

There’s a $218 Billion Design Problem Sitting in Your Fridge Right Now—You want to know the real reason why this will not change?  It’s the same reason that I cannot get parts for an appliance that is just a few years old or why a small part for a car costs hundreds of dollars.  The manufacturers of these products want to sell you a new product.

Why Industry is Going Green on the Quiet—This is a sign of the polarized times that we live in.  If a company can produce the same product using less destructive methods why does it need to be kept secret?  Probably because a reactionary slice of the population will react like their hair is on fire at the mere mention of environmental concern.

A Decade of Renewable Energy Investment, Led by Solar, Tops USD 2.5 Trillion—This gives you an idea about the potential scale of the energy transition from fossil fuels to renewables.  If you want to create jobs in the United States you would support renewables at every juncture.  Imagine trillions of dollars more being spent to deploy solar and wind across the United States.

30 Million Acres of Public Land in Alaska at Risk of Being Developed or Transferred—Your public lands are being sold off by the most corrupt and criminal presidential administration in the history of the United States.

Trump Campaign is Cashing in on the Alabama ‘Sharpie’ Controversy he Keeps Complaining About—Every time I think we have reached the height of Trump’s unique combination of stupidity and hubris I am surprised by a new event.  Remember, Trump totally did not change that map.  Trump totally does not know who drew the limp circle showing Alabama in Hurricane Dorian’s path.  However, you can totally “own the libs” by giving his slush fund…er, campaign $15 for a freaking Sharpie.  Get some Trump branded straws to complete you MAGA look for fall.

Department of Justice to investigate BMW, Ford, Honda and Volkswagen—Remember, the right wing is all about states’ rights as long as those states’ rights are about unlimited access to firearms, restricting access to health care, gutting social programs, and in general making the world safe for rich people.  God forbid a state, which has the precedent to set its own emissions standards, would contradict the federal government.

Hydrogen Could Replace Coke In Steelmaking & Lower Carbon Emissions Dramatically—Steel production, like concrete, is a carbon nightmare.  However, steel is essential to modern civilization so any decrease in its carbon intensity is a win for the planet.

Pulling CO2 Out of the Air and Using it Could be a Trillion-Dollar Business—It is doubtful with Moscow Mitch in power that we will ever see a price put on carbon emissions in the United States.  However, what if we could create a market that placed a value on carbon dioxide.

Renewable Energy At Risk In Rural Electric Cooperative Tax Snafu—The Republican tax debacle of 2017 is the gift that keeps on giving.  So to speak.  This piece of garbage legislation that was rushed through because no one actually wanted the details to be public is creating messes just about everywhere.  Wasn’t this the signature legislative accomplishment of so-called policy wonk Paul Ryan’s speakership?

How Much Photovoltaics (PV) Would be Needed to Power the World Sustainably?—I like the thought exercise, but this is not about a single technology.  Freedom from fossil fuels will come as a result of deploying a portfolio of renewable energy technologies combined with greater efficiency.  It is not rocket science.

50 Years Ago a Nuclear Bomb was Detonated under the Western Slope to Release Natural Gas. Here’s how Poorly it Went.—This was someone’s bright idea.  Heck, it was probably the idea of a group of fairly smart people.

It’s Time We Treat Some Forests Like Crops—Let’s just make sure that we do not treat trees like corn or soybeans.  Those crops have been a disaster for Americans.

Invasion of the ‘Frankenbees’: The Danger of Building a Better Bee—What could possible go wrong?  It’s not like scientists have been wrong about making drastic changes to our environment before.

Today’s Special: Grilled Salmon Laced With Plastic—Our love affair with plastic and our inability to deal with its waste is a great, unregulated public health experiment.

The Definitive Superfood Ranking—Can we just stop with the superfood nonsense?  Seriously, you can eat all the kale you want and you will still not be healthy.

Chicago’s New Tool Library Is Awesome, Exactly What It Sounds Like—I own a lot of tools—some bought and some acquired through family—but a lot of my tools just sit for extended periods of time.  This is true even though I use my tools a lot to build furniture and fix things.  For the average user my guess is that tools get used a couple of times at most.

mountainFLOW Launches Plant-Based Ski Wax—I want some.

A Full Month of Solar in September

September 2017 was the first full month with solar providing electricity for my home.  Yay!

The numbers are in and things look good.  For the entire month my solar photovoltaic system produced 509.63 kWh of electricity.  Compared with my estimated based on average solar radiation, my array’s azimuth, and other factors I predicted the system would produce approximately 536 kWh in September.  The system ended up at around 95% of the estimate.

This is a mixed bag, but the weather played a factor.  It was cool and cloudy for a good chunk of the month, so we used little to no air conditioning save for a few days when it decided to reach into the nineties.  Thanks climate change.

In terms of production versus consumption I ended the month producing an excess of approximately 130 kWh of electricity.  I will be very interested to see what my bill looks like with a full month of the bi-directional meter installed.  Last month’s bifurcated bill was an absolute mess to understand.

Also, the thrill of monitoring my photovoltaic system’s production has not really worn off.  On sunny days I loved to check and see how much the system is producing.  Every kWh feels like a small victory.