Tag Archives: solar

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.

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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.

Friday Linkage 9/6/2019

If you have a Sharpie and you are the President of the United States then anything is possible:

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It is an old trope to ask someone what the right wing would have said or done in the wake of President Obama doing the same thing, but can you imagine the cerebral hemorrhage that Sean Hannity would have had in this case?

We live in strange times.

On to the links…

15 Things a President can Actually do to Tackle the Climate Crisis—It’s not like number fifteen on this list is ever going to happen.

Cedar Rapids Electric Bill Could be Slashed in Half from New LED Lighting in Downtown—It’s a small change, but why hasn’t every city in America switched to LED streetlights?

Trump Rolls Back Regulations on Energy-Saving Lightbulbs—Does Donald Trump just sit in his private residence during “executive time” and mumble things like, “LEDs…bad…horrible…old, hot lights…good.”  In a little more than one year and four months someone with half a brain can take the executive pen and reassert some sanity.

Economics of Electric Vehicles Mean Oil’s Days As A Transport Fuel Are Numbered—Anyone who drives an electric vehicle will agree with this hypothesis.  In my case, I spend approximately 2 cents per mile to drive my Nissan Leaf versus approximately 15 cents per mile to drive my Ford F150.  Even if I doubled the mileage of my truck it could not compete.

China’s Very Ambitious Transportation Revolution—China was supposed to be the “swing” consumer for fossil fuels as developed Western economies transitioned to cleaner energy.  Looks like China is going to try and just bypass the whole dependency on fossil fuels stage of economic development.

While ‘Zombie’ Mines Idle, Cleanup and Workers Suffer in Limbo—Coal companies do not care about workers or the communities that they leave behind when they close up shop.  Coal executives fly away on private jets after paying themselves while leaving workers high and dry.

The Feds Tried to Make an Example of a small Washington Coal Mine. It Didn’t Work.—Twenty years later and the job is still not done.  Maybe it would be best if we just left the coal in the ground and found another way to make electricity.

Ireland Will Plant 440 Million Trees By 2040 To Combat Climate Change—If Ireland can plant 440 million trees in a little more than twenty years what could the United States achieve?  Okay, probably nothing in the short term with Republicans and Donald Trump hanging around.

The Disturbing Hypothesis for the Sudden Uptick in Chronic Kidney Disease—Climate change will come for our chocolate and coffee.  Climate change is also coming for our kidneys.

Holy Cross Energy Eyes Complete Decarbonization after Striking New Wind Energy Deal—Big utilities, small utilities, rural electric cooperatives…the list goes on and on but the trend is the same.  The tools to free our electricity production from the tyranny of fossil fuels are available and cost competitive.

The Best Place for Harvesting Solar Energy Is Not Where I Expected It to Be—I remember reading about a French pilot project that combined solar canopies over high value crops like grapes.  That project showed the viability of the idea.

One Very Bad Habit Is Fueling the Global Recycling Meltdown—I see this all the time in my neighborhood where people put all kinds of random crap in the curbside recycling bins.  Styrofoam packaging?  Yep.  Resin chairs?  Yep.  Christmas light strings?  Yep.

Banning Mini Shampoos from Hotels Won’t Really Reduce Plastic or Save the Environment—We are just nibbling around the edges of our problems with promises like these.

Tyson Foods Invests in Plant-Based Shrimp Company—I do not know if plant based shrimp is any good, but I know that plant based foods are a real trend when the people at Tyson Foods are putting their money behind the trend.

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.

Friday Linkage 8/30/2019

It is my belief that the last couple of weeks represent the turning point in the Donald Trump era of American politics.  Between proclaiming himself to be the “chosen one,” blatantly violating the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution by promoting his janky resort as a host site for a future G7 summit, and in general being an incoherent gas bag this is where the vast majority of the American public realizes that our time in the dark valley is near an end.

Perhaps it is the same across the globe as Brazilians realize their current leader is a corrupt profiteer, as Italians wake up from their decades long dysfunction to recognize the threat posed by nationalists, and as the United Kingdom comes to grips with the political calculus of Boris Johnson’s coup via the Queen.

Nothing is complete nor can anything be taken for granted, but within the next eighteen months I believe that we can put down this ugly episode like the diseased dog that is has become.

On to the links…

We Now Have the Technology to Create a Grid of Cheap Fully Renewable Electricity—These are opinions being written for sites like Forbes, Marketwatch, and CNBC.  This is hardly the opinion of green eyed dreamers anymore.  The reality is that the future is possible and it is incumbent upon us to demand that it happen soon.

Hawaiian Electric Companies Issue Largest Clean Energy Procurement to Date; Aim to End Coal Use, Replace Oil—Hawaii, due to its remote island location, is the United States’ energy lab for the future.  When Hawaii goes 100% renewable it will provide the blueprint for the rest of the country and, by extension, the rest of the world.

Energy Lobbyists Changed Politicians’ Official Letters Supporting Gas Project—To get to the ideal future we are going to have to deal with the fact that legislators and regulators literally have fossil fuel lobbyists write the opinions on projects.  This is not politics.  This is corruption.

EPA Plans to Abandon Regulations on Methane Emissions, Reports Say—Industry is breaking with the Trump administration on this and other proposals because they realized that the backlash that is coming is going to be brutal.  It will be even more so due to the Trump administration’s brazen gutting of anything that even looks like it might be beneficial to the environment.  What incentive does a Democratic lead government have to help an industry that was so in bed with Trump?  None.  Furthermore, the logic the Trump administration is using to gut these regulations works in reverse so the change will be quick, fierce, and dramatic when change comes to the White House.

These Are the Cities That Should Be Worried the Most About Climate Change Disaster—Is it any surprise that Florida is at risk and not prepared?

Can Solar Panels Handle the Heat of a Warming World?—It is a valid question, but does it really matter in a world where we need to stop burning fossil fuels?

The $30 Billion Exodus: Foreign Oil Firms Bail on Canada—The “smart” money in the investment community is turning against oil and gas investments that are seen as vulnerable in a world where there is an emerging political consensus to keep the dirtiest fossil fuels in the ground.

Coal Sector Outlook Drops from ‘Stable’ to ‘Negative’: Moody’s—Despite the Trump administration’s best efforts, which is really about the same as your kid putting all his toys under the bed when he “cleans” his room, coal is seen as a loser by people who actually have to put their money where their mouth is.

Australian Thermal Coal Exporters Warned of Falling Demand from India—India was the great hope of the Australian coal industry, but a softening global economy will reduce demand.

Offshore Oil and Gas Rigs Leak More Greenhouse Gas than Expected—The story about fossil fuel emissions is much more complex than just what is released when these fuels are burned to produce energy.  At every stage of production and consumption there is a contribution to the emissions of potent greenhouse gases.

The Surprisingly Great Idea in Bernie Sanders’s Green New Deal: Electric School Buses—Why is this not a standalone idea for all potential Democratic presidential candidates?  The benefits are well established and this could serve as a seed for a wider adoption of electric commercial vehicles.

‘World’s First’ Solar-Powered Rail Line Opens in the UK—I actually believe that there is a short line railroad in Australia that beat the Brits to the punch, but who is counting amongst friends?

This New York Agency Cut Its Energy Usage By 40%, & So Can You—Now, imagine a world where we took the initiative to reduce our energy usage by 40%.  It’s not hard and the tools exist.   All that is lacking is will.

How Copenhagen Plans to Reach Carbon-Neutral Status in Just Six Years—I applaud just about everything that happens in Copenhagen, but what I really want to know more about is this place:

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Betting the Farm on Drought—As a group, farmers may lean toward conservative politics and not be great believers in the science behind climate change.  However, the reality on the ground is forcing farmers across the world to figure out what adaptions must be made in a changing climate.

Getting Coral To Reproduce—Is there going to be a time when the default question about music to get animals into the mood does not involve the smooth baritone of the late Barry White?

Knocking it Out of the Park with EV Efficiency…Solar Not So Much

There are times when driving my second hand Nissan Leaf feels like I am working on cracking a code.  Change one behavior (e.g. turning on the heat) and relative efficiency takes a nose dive.  Adjust a few things (e.g. make sure to drive with the car set in “B” mode) and it seems like you can do no wrong.  Ambient air temperature, type of driving, route choice…on and on it goes.

I am certain that it is the same for a traditional ICE vehicle or even a Tesla, but when you are limited to a little more than 100 miles on a full charge there is a hyper heightened awareness to how quickly the “guess o’ meter” depletes.  However, it was a lot less of a concern this month as I averaged 6.1 miles per kWh for just a tenth of a mile over 900 miles.  That works out to a little less than 148 kWh of electricity consumed and ~1,053 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions avoided versus driving my truck.

Since January I have driven 4,607 EV miles at an average efficiency of 5.1 miles per kWh.  This correlates to ~5,234 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions avoided versus driving my truck.  As I have said before this assumes that I draw all of my power from the grid as opposed to generating it on site with my solar panels.  Based on gasoline prices I have saved about $650 just in fuel since January.

Speaking of solar photovoltaic production, July was a fairly good month:

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720 kWh for the month is good.  It is a little bit less than the same month during the prior year, but I would say that it is within the margin of error.  It is not like this is January and February where snow covered my panels up to a foot deep some times.

All in my household consumption ended up about 26 kWh more than my production.  Included in my household consumption numbers are almost all of my EV charging, so without the Nissan Leaf in the garage we would have ended up over 100 kWh.  Granted, that would mean I was spewing carbon dioxide from the tailpipe of my truck.  I will take the trade.

Unlike some summer months we were home for every weekend and took no trips.  Furthermore, for the entire month of July we went out to eat once.  I feel fairly good about making all but one meal at home, charging my electric car, running the air conditioning when it got really hot, and still managing to almost be even in terms of household electricity consumption versus solar electricity production.  It is my hope that in the next month I will adding about 60% more solar photovoltaic capacity to my roof.