Tag Archives: solar panels

Friday Linkage 11/22/2019

This week one of the true giants of craft brewing announced a sale to a multi-national beverage conglomerate.  Fort Collins based New Belgium Brewery–the people behind Fat Tire Amber Ale–sold out to the group behind Kirin. This is the fourth largest craft brewery in the United States and the eleventh largest brewery overall.  Middle craft beer is dead. Support your small local brewery. Like today.

On to the links…

Keystone Spill Has Affected Nearly 10x More Land Than Was Estimated–Every time that someone brings up an argument in favor of an oil pipeline, especially the Keystone XL pipeline, just link to this article.  There is no such thing as a perfectly safe and secure oil or gas pipeline. The only perfectly safe and secure oil or gas pipeline is one that is not built.

See How Good the World Could be in 2040—If We Act on Climate Solutions Now–Lost in a lot of the pessimism about climate change specifically and the state of the world in general is that a future dystopia is not the only path available to use if we act.  Sure, right wing fanatics would have you believe that accelerationism–which is really just a pet theory for apocalypse nuts–is driving the world to the end times but they are wrong.

How Much Energy do We Really Need?–This is the kind of question that we need to be asking because it cuts at the very heart of the perpetual growth arguments of modern economic theory.  If we do not need to grow in perpetuity than we will need less energy than forecast in the future.

How to Cut U.S. Carbon Pollution by Nearly 40 Percent in 10 Years–Common sense and simple solutions to accelerate the climate change solution are available.  The problem is that a portion of this country’s politicians have no incentive whatsoever to embrace anything other than reactionary politics.  This is how we got a place where a conservative solution to health care coverage became the right wing’s bugaboo. We are doomed as long as these people are given any agency.

A Carbon Tax Won’t Kill the Economy–When someone at Forbes writes this article you have to wonder if the worm has turned.  It could also be that even the people at Forbes realize that America is relatively undertaxed and a carbon tax would go a long way to addressing destructive behaviors.  Somewhere Grover Norquist is hiding under his bedsheets and crying.

Two of America’s Biggest Coal Plants Closed this Month–This is why we keep pounding away at the problem by increasing efficiency, installing solar panels, and fighting for the true costs of fossil fuels to be included in the price of extraction.  Even with a president in the pocket of coal barons the ancient fuel is dying. Here is the damning paragraph from the article:

Together, the two retirements equal all the emission reductions from coal plant shut-downs in 2015, a record year when 15 GW of mostly smaller and older units were shuttered, reports Scientific American. Last year, 14 GW were mothballed. In 2020, more are on the way, including Kentucky’s Paradise plant.

The Paradise plant in Kentucky represents 1.15 GW of coal fired capacity.  It’s closure and another TVA asset in the region will save customers over $300M.  That is economics, bro!

5 Things to Know about Fighting Climate Change by Planting Trees–Here is the thing that gets me about this debate: the argument is that planting trees is not as good as some people make it out to be.  Okay, but that does not mean it is not beneficial. Just because the upside potential is lower than advertised does not mean that it ceases to be a worthwhile endeavour.  What is the downside?

When Residents Support Solar—Just ‘Not in My Backyard’–This is the worst.  Supposed liberals and supporters of green energy who just want to put energy production somewhere else.  Take responsibility for your consumption.

EasyJet Flights are Now Carbon Neutral–Carbon offsets are kind of the crack cocaine of the climate mitigation movement.  Easy to consume and oh so addictive. “See, we are carbon neutral,” a company can say without really addressing the underlying environmentally destructive behaviors that drive their business.

This Man Wants to Convince America Beef is Healthier than Meatless Burgers–This is also a man who worked for years to convince the American public that smoking was not a public heath crisis.  This is the same kind of man who will tell you industrial pollution is actually good for you. This is the same kind of man who will sell his soul for a few extra dollars in his bank.  This is the kind of man who needs to rot in hell.

There Are 2,000 Untested Chemicals in Packaged Foods — and It’s Legal–In some dark basement somewhere Richard Berman is swimming in his ill gotten gains like an oily Scrooge McDuck wondering if he should contact the packaged food industry to begin a campaign of telling us that untested chemicals in our food are really good for us.  Or, we could just avoid the middle aisles of the grocery store.

Los Angeles Places Largest Single Electric Bus Order In US History — 130 BYD K7M Buses–I am really waiting for the day when orders like this are just commonplace.  Or when orders of a much larger magnitude are what we report about. Still, progress.

Dominion Energy’s Electric School Bus Program Offers Valuable Vehicle-to-Grid Lesson–When electric buses are idle those big batteries can be part of the solution in shifting the mismatch between the supply of renewable energy and the demand for electricity.

Thermal Camera Reveals Efficiency Gap Between EV And ICE–About this time of year I wished I had a little bit of that wasted energy for heating my Nissan Leaf.

The U.S. Natural Gas Boom Is Fueling A Global Plastics Boom–Cheap natural gas equals cheap plastic.

Fast Shipping isn’t Great for the Environment— 7 Ways to Cut the Carbon Footprint on your Amazon Deliveries–Until Amazon is rocking a fleet of Rivian electric delivery trucks you are stuck with getting stuffed shipped the old fashioned way–heavily carbon intensive.  The advice is really simple: ship it together and ship it slowly. Or just stop buying stuff online.

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.

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.