Tag Archives: solar panels

Friday Linkage 8/9/2019

No links next week since I am going to be on vacation and completely out of touch with the world…at least in terms of electronics.  I am going to enjoy a lot of snorkeling, cold beers, and not worrying about the latest tweet storm coming from our dear leader.

See you in a couple of weeks.

On to the links…

Economic and Environmental Cost of Trump’s Auto Rollback Could be Staggering—Who is surprised that a reactionary rollback of well thought out environmental regulations will have drastic economic and environment costs?  No one raised their hand.  Color me shocked.

Speak Up Now to Save Our National Forests—Another brilliant idea from the people trying to loot our public lands for private gain.

Trump’s Environmental Legacy Will Take Time to Erase—Yes, it will take time.  Yes, it will be undone.  November 2020 is the most important election since the Great Depression.  Look at what four years of Donald Trump has done to America.  Do not try and imagine four more years.

How Climate Change Could Trigger the Next Global Financial Crisis—The next financial crisis, which is coming sooner rather than later, may be exacerbated by climate change or even caused by a climate change related disaster.  Will it still be a Chinese hoax for our tangerine hued leader?

How American Cities Score on Clean Energy—Until sometime in January 2021 we will have to look to American cities for leadership in the clean energy transition.

Why Is U.S. Demand For Solar Panels Booming?—Taking advantage of a tax credit that is due to begin phasing itself out over the next few years may be artificially driving demand for solar panels into 2019, but maybe there is a solid base of demand for homegrown clean energy.

US Utilities to Boost Capital Spending in Shift Away from Coal—Coal fired power plants are going to be considered “stranded assets” in the very near future.  That is to say these power plants will no longer be assets in the traditional sense, with a commensurate value on the open market, but that the intrinsic value will be zero because there is no buyer available on the open market at any price.

1 Stat Shows Coal-Fired Power Plants Have Passed the Point of No Return—The death spiral is real.  It is now just a question of how fast we can retire these coal fired power plants and get on with our lives.

How The Clean Energy Transition Could Save More Than It Costs—The discussion has moved from the feasibility of the clean energy transition to a discussion about the potential cost savings of the transition.  We’re talking about saving money and making clean energy.  The market has spoken.

Using Electricity at Different Times of Day Could Save us Billions of Dollars—Demand or load shifting is one of those holy grails of infrastructure planning.  If you can shift peak demand to other times the load on the overall system is decreased and redundant capacity can be reduced.

Sorry, Scooters Aren’t so Climate-Friendly After All—Lifecycle costs are a bitch, man.  Just get on a bicycle and be done with it.

What Grocery Stores Won’t Tell You About Plastic—Bring all the reusable bags you want to the grocery store.  It’s a start, but until the grocery stores demand changes from their supply chain there will be little real impact in the reduction of single use plastic packaging.

Subway Partners with Beyond Meat as Part of its Comeback Bid—Non-meat meat alternatives are now considered an appealing part of a restaurant’s menu in an effort to combat falling sales and perception issues.  Think about that for a moment.

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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:

Screenshot_2019-01-03 How Does Your State Make Electricity .png

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.

March Brought Over 400 kWh of Solar Electricity

For the month of March my solar photovoltaic system produced just a hair over 424 kWh of electricity, which stands as my second best full month since my system went active in the last week of August 2017.  A few things stand out from the month:

Image-1 (2)

Notice the two major dips in production?  That is the impact of some spring snowfall that covered my panels under at least six inches of heavy, wet snow.  It just goes to show the potential value of a snow rake in upping my production next winter.

The other thing that is interesting, but is not something readily apparent in the production chart, is that the month was just generally more productive each day.  Granted, the days are longer in March.  However, I think that there is something to be said for the intensity of the solar radiation being higher as we head into spring.  The winter months in Iowa are known for being heavily cloud covered and this reduces the overall productivity of the solar system.

The last week, as the sun stays bright until after 7:00 PM, I have noticed that the system is producing well in excess of 3 kWh into the late afternoon/early evening.  This bodes well for the coming summer months when the array will be getting hit with the sun fairly heavily from noon until sunset.

We Have More than Enough Money to Decarbonize Our Energy System

If I ever hear another American politician say that we cannot afford the transition to clean energy I will scream.  Why you ask?

In 2012 it was estimated that consumers in the U.S spent approximately $65 billion on soda.  In that same year it was estimated that consumers in the U.S. spent approximately $11 billion on bottled water.  [1] That is to say that American consumers spent over $75 billion on unnecessary drinks and, in the case of soda, a product that is generally regarded to be detrimental to your health.  Not to mention the environmental impact of disposable, single use containers.

Okay, why is that relevant in the terms of this discussion?  In 2016, the most recent year for which full year data is available, the U.S. invested $44 billion in clean energy including both private investing and government expenditure.  [2]

Therefore, we spend more than 50% more on soda and bottled water per year than we invest in clean energy.  If we just directed the money from soda and bottled water to clean energy investment it would represent an increase of 172%.  That is a lot of solar panels and wind turbines.

Someone may argue that this scenario is impractical, but I would challenge such an argument on several fronts.  One, spending on soda and bottled water—for the most part—is totally discretionary.  No one needs a Diet Coke to survive and other than emergency situations no one needs bottled water.  It could be argued that it would be better if no one consumed bottled water given the economic and environmental impact of a product that can also be obtained from municipal water supplies.  Two, by and large individuals now have the power to redirect their discretionary spending toward renewable energy.  As long as you have the capital or alternative financing arrangements are available you can put solar panels directly on your roof.  Thus, your Diet Coke and Evian habit can be turned into clean energy.  A direct substitution, so to speak.

My point is to illuminate that when we discuss the level of investment necessary to decarbonize our energy system it needs to be placed in direct comparison to some broader economic choices.  Is the future our planet worth skipping that Dr. Pepper?

  1. http://classroom.synonym.com/how-much-do-americans-spend-on-soft-drinks-12081634.html
  2. http://www.businessinsider.com/us-2015-renewable-energy-investments-2016-5

Beware Solar Panels and Homeowners Insurance

Do you know what has been the hardest part about getting my new solar photovoltaic system put on my house?  Homeowners insurance.

How often do we really think about our homeowners insurance?  For me, not very often.  Like once in fifteen years when I made a claim after a massive hailstorm left almost every house in the area with a need for a new roof and siding.

So, there I am a customer of fifteen years with one claim to my name looking to switch insurance providers.  Why?  The company I had been with does not insure homes with solar panels installed on the roof.  Ground mount installations would be fine.  Even an installation on a non-attached garage would have been fine.  However, mounted on my west facing attached garage roof was a bridge too far for the insurance provider.

How far?  Like no consideration at all of insuring a home with solar panels even with a policy rider or similar insurance vehicle.  Like no consideration for the fact that I was a long term customer with multiple policies.  No way, no how.

The problem with all of this is that the solar installer requires a certificate of insurance to begin an installation.  If your insurance company will not insure your home when it has solar panels you are forced to switch providers with all of the relevant switching costs and hassle in order to begin the installation.  Consider it another hassle or hurdle to the broad installation of solar panels across the United States.  Every impediment is a step backwards on the path to a cleaner future.

This is the challenge for distributed rooftop solar.  Balance of system costs and hurdles, e.g. those costs and impediments that are not directly attributable to the PV panels or related hardware, will be what determines the ultimate penetration rate of distributed solar.

Friday Linkage 4/14/2017

Presidents, by the very nature of being one who seeks the presidency, are creatures with massive egos.  However, the current president—who was the loser in terms of the popular vote lest we forget our recent history—has to be one of the most egocentric human beings to ever inhabit the office.  If you take a moment to listen to his interviews or read his tweets, which may lead to a little bit of vomit coming into your mouth, you see someone driven by the need to be the center of everything.  Humility is not something that this man brings to the office.  Ugh…how many more days of this do we have?

Oh right, it’s only 3 years 9 months and 7 days until the next president takes office.  But who is counting?

On to the links…

The Latest Test for the White House? Pulling off its Easter Egg Roll—Not even capable of pulling off the annual Easter Egg Roll.  Sad.

Land Transfer Advocates Steer their Focus to Monuments—This issue demands constant vigilance by advocates of public lands, which thankfully has allied some strange bedfellows in hunters, watermen, skiers, hikers, etc. over the past few months.  Nonetheless, clowns like Orrin Hatch and Jason Chaffetz—seriously, is there something in Utah’s water—are going to push the boundaries until they appease their masters.

EPA Ending Program to Prepare for Climate Change—Scott Pruitt will go down in history as one of the villains of the Anthropocene.  When the history is written by our children and grandchildren he will be remembered as a corporate shill more interested in lining the pockets of his Koch-backed overlords than preserving the environment for the people of the United States.

The De-Electrification of the U.S. Economy—I would not go quite as far as the author suggests, but there are promising trends in the decoupling of electricity consumption and economic activity.

More Subsidies than You Think Influence the Cost of Electricity—Our electricity generation and distribution system is a mess.  Subsidies are one reason why because the price we pay—assuming we even know what the price is per kilowatt hour—is distorted by a plethora of subsidies.

California’s Rising Solar Generation Coincides With Negative Wholesale Electricity Prices—Check out these two charts:

ca-solar-570x293.png

Distributed solar is huge—or is it yuge?—in California.

Washington State’s New 8 Megawatt-Hour Flow Battery is the Largest of its Kind—A big problem with renewables is variability and alignment with demand.  Take solar.  It’s production peaks right before the big demand peak from people coming home from work.  It’s the so-called duck curve.  Flow batteries are promising as a technology to deploy grid level energy storage for managing this mismatch.

Kentucky Coal Mining Museum Installs Solar—It’s not April Fool’s Day.  It’s just reality.

Appalachia’s New Trail: Finding Life after Coal—Appalachia, which is an odd way to define a fairly diverse region, has struggled economically since its settlement.  It is not conducive to industry and it has been used a pawn in politics for almost as long as there have been political parties in the U.S.  It’s residents have been abused by corporations claiming to act in their interests and governments forget about the region except every four years.

When Solar Panels Became Job Killers—China’s policies have created an economic situation where the price of solar panels has been driven artificially low.  This has led to a lot of non-Chinese companies being unable to compete with cheap Chinese solar panels.

SolarCity Will Begin Accepting SolarRoof Orders This Month—I really want some of these on my roof.

Making American Hydropower Great Again—Nobody is suggesting building new dams, but retrofitting older dams with new technology could lead to an increase in the available hydropower in the United States.  Hydro is clean, base load power that we need to help even out the differences between peak production and peak demand.

The Best Way to Restore Environments in the Face of Climate Change—Restoration ecology is going to be a major theme of the next few decades as we look to repair the damage that we have caused.  Best practices need to be figured out and shared as broadly as possible.

Rising Salt Levels Threaten Twin Cities Lakes by 2050—There is so much salt runoff from winter road salt that urban lakes will likely by devoid of fish because of rising salinity within our lifetimes.  As if we have not screwed up the planet enough.

New Sharing Depot Opening Reflects Success of Toronto’s Library of Things Movement—I want this to be the future.  Do I really need to own half or more of the tools I use once or twice year?  No.  Why does every house in a suburban neighborhood own their own lawn mower that gets used for an hour or so each weekend?  What a waste.  Sharing is caring, folks.