Tag Archives: solar

April had a Solar Turnaround

Black Friday used to be a big deal in retail because it signified the moment during the year when the establishment turned “into the black” or profitable for the year.  The rest of the holiday shopping season was the profit for the enterprise for the year.  It seems a little doubtful that this story is entirely true, but in this age of Amazon let us give legacy retail its moment.

April was my Black Friday for solar.  Check out picture one:

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And compare that with picture two:

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What’s the big deal?  My bi-drectional electric meter is showing that I consumed (picture 1) less than I have produced (picture 2) since the meter was installed in August last year.  April was a really good month for solar and, just as importantly, a low month for consumption:

April 2018 Solar

April 2018 was the system’s best full month thus far and I am looking forward to the next four months of big production.  Based on my back of the napkin calculations, which are the best kind, I clawed back into net positive energy production by producing a little more than 270 kWh more than I consumed.  Assuming May is not extreme in any way weather wise I should be able to best my consumption from April given how brutal that month was with late season snow and cold.  You can see where the snowstorms rolled in last month when the solar production dropped off.

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Friday Linkage 4/27/2017

The weather has finally turned here in eastern Iowa and it feels like spring.  What is really important is that several days in a row of solid sunshine means my solar panels are producing mad wicked power.

On to the links…

The Global Crisis of Plastic Pollution—This is the environmental crisis that I believe we can unite disparate groups behind to create an eco-consensus.  Who can argue, in any legitimate and coherent way, that we should not strive to have oceans free from plastic pollution?

Plastic Pollution Now Being Found In Arctic Ice Sheet—Nothing is pristine anymore because we are the worst species on the planet.  We just trash everything without regard for the consequences or the future of anyone but our immediate selves.

The GOP House’s Farm Bill Would Gut a Key Conservation Program—Get ready for some of the right wing’s worst ideas to come out in the form of the gestating farm bill.  SNAP benefits?  Probably cut a lot.  Conservation?  That is communist, pinko, hippie shit according to the GOP.  Subsidies for big agriculture?  ‘Merica!

EPA Proposal would let States Relax Coal Plant Pollution Rules—This is the kind of crap you get with Scott Pruitt in charge of the EPA. It also shows the importance of removing coal fired power from our grid.  Without the need to burn coal there would be no coal ash and thus no need to dispose of coal ash.

Wind, Solar Provide 98 Percent of New US Generating Capacity in January and February—Basically, no one added any new fossil fuel generation to the mix.

US Wind Energy Now Supplies More Than 30% In Four States—Four red states—Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota—get a lot of electricity from wind power.  These are fairly “red” states in the political parlance.  I also think it is interesting that 14 states are generation 10% or more of their electricity from the wind.  Weren’t renewables supposed to be incapable of providing a substantial amount of energy?

The Gloves Are Off: $105 Million Greenbacks For US Solar Energy Industry—Trump, Scott Pruitt, and Rick Perry may hate renewable energy but even the retro-grouch luddites in control of Congress see the value in renewable energy for producing clean power, jobs, and a general boost to the economy.

Linn County Receives Gold Designation from SolSmart for Solar Energy—The part that made me laugh is that this program is run by the Department of Energy headed by Rick Perry.  Do you even think he knows that there is a program that recognizes municipalities for creating environments helpful to deploying solar energy?  My guess is not.

Cost, Schmost! Energy Dept. Touts Coal-Killing Atlantic Offshore Wind—Yes, Rick Perry’s Department of Energy has published a report promoting offshore wind as a cost effective renewable energy solution.  Are we living in bizarre world right now?

The UK Just Went 55 Hours Without Using Coal for the First Time—The United Kingdom is probably the one country most associated with coal due to the Industrial Revolution and what not.  For that country to have gone more than two days without burning coal to make electricity is a major step.

Crunch Time For Renewable Energy In Southern California—A municipality is asking for industry to present solutions to a problem that is going to be vexing a lot of other municipalities in the coming decades.  Can renewable energy be deployed in such a way to take the place of ageing and expensive fossil fuel assets?  Can renewable energy plus storage provide baseload like power for cities?

The Latest State to get Serious about Climate Change is … New Jersey?—If we retire all of our nuclear plants than renewable energy will just be deployed to replace energy that was not producing carbon emissions already.  This type of plan, in of all places New Jersey, might serve as a template as we bridge to a future energy paradigm.

Electric Buses Are Hurting the Oil Industry—I say forget incentives to deploy EVs for personal automobiles.  Drop every one of those dollars into incentives for cities to deploy electric buses, garbage trucks, and other high mileage heavy duty vehicles.

Bitcoin mining is using as much power as 5,699,560 American households.—Can we just stop the cryptocurrency madness?  The model is ripe with potential for scammers as witnessed by every initial coin offering that seems to pop up daily.  The underlying value of the cryptocurrency is even more nebulous than our regular paper currency.  And the energy used to “mine” cryptocurrencies is outrageous.

Mass Timber is in for Massive Change—Wood is good.  Mass timber might be better.  Given the climate change implications of concrete—huge source of greenhouse gasses if you did not already know—mass timber construction could be the better choice for building increasingly dense communities.

Study: The Greenest States in the U.S.—How does your state rank?

Friday Linkage 4/13/2017

Paul Ryan is gone.  Okay, he is not actually gone today instead opting to “retire” in January when his term is over.  Nonetheless, who saw this coming?

He gave the standard “spend more time with my family” and “I’ve spent enough time in Washington and want to get back home” answers as to why he was choosing to leave Congress.  Does anyone doubt for a minute that he was tired of working with the chief cantaloupe?

This tweet just about perfectly sums up the end of Paul Ryan’s time in Washington D.C.:

Paul Ryan Tweet.jpg

On to the links…

The US is Winning the Climate Fight in Electricity — and Losing it Just About Everywhere Else—This chart says it all:

Emissions CO2 Chart

Transportation is killing us, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, and one of the biggest culprits is commercial air travel.  Flying is bad for the environment.  End of story.  And you free two day shipping on Amazon is also part of the problem because the cargo operators are flying jets all over the place to deliver our crap.  So, buy less stuff and fly less.

Solar Leads Record Renewables Investment—Solar now accounts for more than half of all the investment put into renewable energy.  China alone invested over $127 billion in renewable energy with more than two-thirds of that investment going to deploy 53 GW of solar.

Clean Energy Investment Down 10% To $61.1 Billion In First Quarter—Sometimes these are quarter over quarter anomalies driven by major investment timing, but if the trend continues into subsequent quarters it will be time to question what is driving the trend.

Google Hits its Incredible 100% Renewable Energy Goal—Google does not actually own the wind turbines and solar panels that make its renewable electricity, but it has bought enough renewable energy on the open market to account for its entire usage.

Illinois Blazes New Trail in Anticipation of Private Microgrids Using Utility Wires—Microgrids may be the future of energy generation and transmission.  The problem is that the utility companies own a lot of infrastructure and do not want anyone to have access to that infrastructure unless they control all of the terms.

Secession Or Not, Big Win For Rooftop Solar In South Carolina—South Carolina is in general a state known for doing some batshit crazy stuff.  Like electing Mark Sanford to public office…more than once…and after he had that whole Appalachian Trail thing happen.  WTF?  Anyway, if solar can score a win in South Carolina you know that things are good for solar.

Biggest Problem for U.S. Offshore Wind? Ports Are Too Small—This will hamper offshore wind development for decades as any port expansion project is a nightmare in terms of approval and execution.

This Coal Power Plant is Being Reopened for Blockchain Mining—Nothing can save coal except for another questionable idea: cryptocurrencies.

Washington State Bans Salmon Farms—Last August a breach in an aquaculture facility allowed Atlantic salmon to escape into the waters off of Puget Sound.  These non-native salmon could wreak havoc with the native species.  In response, the state of Washington has decided that hipsters love of grilled salmon is not enough of a priority to risk the health of an ecosystem.

Reckoning with History: The Parks have Been Fixed Before—The National Park system is one of America’s crown jewels, but the parks are in need of help.  This situation is, sadly, not unique in our history.  Make sure that your elected officials are committed to providing the support that our National Parks deserve and require.

REI Rolls Out First-of-its-Kind Sustainability Requirement that will Affect Every Brand in its Stores—If Congress won’t take action on sustainability than it falls to large companies to take action.  REI is, as usual, killing it.

What will Zinke do with the Extra $2.5 billion in his Budget?—Ryan Zinke wanted to gut the Department of the Interior.  Congress said, “Nope.”  What happens next?  Assuming the next most corrupt member of the chief cantaloupe’s cabinet, after Scott Pruitt, is even leading the agency in a few months.

IG: Zinke’s Reassignment Of Native Americans And Climate Scientists Possibly Illegal—The defense on this issue is the most Trumpian of all time, “We might have done something illegal, but we kept such bad records that no one can prove we did anything illegal.  Our incompetence is our shield.”  This is why Ryan Zinke needs to be the next Trumpkin out the door after Scott Pruitt gets his fossil fuel covered gremlin ass out of Washington D.C.

Why Scott Gottlieb is the One Trump Official Everybody Seems to Like—It just goes to show that even in a storm of gross incompetence and outright malfeasance that actual good governance can happen.  It’s not likely, but it is possible.

Guess What? The Rich Really are Different from Everyone Else — and It Ain’t Pretty—In the United States we have spent the last thirty or so years idolizing the rich as if they were somehow intrinsically better than everyone else with less money.  As our current president shows, money does not guarantee any sort of better human experience.  In fact, if the data is to be believed, it is likely that the rich, on average, are worse as human beings.  Suck it Ayn Rand.

A Sperm Whale that Washed up on a Beach in Spain had 64 pounds of Plastic and Waste in its Stomach—Yeah, that headline is pretty much as bad as it sounds.

 

Friday Linkage 4/6/2017

The weather here in Iowa has been brutal for spring.  It actually feels more like winter than spring.  Temperatures in the teens, snow in the forecast, cold winds blowing…you get the idea.  It is also killing my bike commuting since the one thing I am somewhat unwilling to deal with is ice covered roads.  Cars and trucks already view cyclists as sport targets.  I do not need to make their passion come any easier.

On to the links…

Sinclair’s Pro-Trump News is Taking Over Local TV. See if They Own Your Station.—The Sinclair Broadcast Group is the propaganda arm of Trump and whoever is on the president’s good side this morning.  Nothing more and nothing less.  Do not support the stations that these half-baked propaganda ministers own.

A Running List of Wild Shit Scott Pruitt Hasn’t Been Fired For (Yet)—As I go to press with this I am holding out hope that I have to amend this headline.

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Too Crooked to Fail: Why Scott Pruitt Still Has His Job (for Now)—I am really starting to love that every article about Scott Pruitt is followed with a “not yet” or “for now” when discussing his employment within the Trump administration.

Scott Pruitt’s Rent was Half what it Costs D.C. to Shelter Homeless Families—The thing about Trump and his “best people” is that these people are not even very good at corruption.  It is like they are not even trying to hide their corruption and incompetence.

Leaked EPA Talking Points Tell Employees to Sell the Climate Change ‘Debate’—Here is the problem with this directive: There really is not a debate among actual scientists.  The debate is among hacks, political hucksters, and right wing ideologues.  No one with half a brain and an actual interest in seeing a habitable planet thinks this is a debate.  Plus, Scott Pruitt is doing this so he can line the pockets of his masters.

Why Trump’s Base Probably Doesn’t Care About Corruption—For all of the fire and fury during the campaign about the alleged corruption of the Clintons you have to star in amazement at the sheer chutzpah of the current presidential administration when it comes to corruption.  Too bad Trumpkins—I saw that label on another site and just love it—do not care what happens as long as the vulgarian keeps “telling it like it is.”

Stunning Drops in Solar, Wind Costs Mean Economic Case for Coal, Gas is ‘Crumbling’—Crumbling is a serious word, but the fact that it is tied to phrase economic case makes me jump for joy.  When the economics have turned, the markets will turn.  When the markets have turned, coal and other dirty fossil fuels will only have the corrupt politicians in their pockets left.

FirstEnergy Shamelessly Begs DOE to Prop Up Uneconomic Coal and Nukes—Oh wait, it has already begun.  Just remember, when you are rich and powerful you just get to rewrite the rules of the market so that you maintain your wealth and influence.  The actual free market is only allowed to work when it hurts poor people and minorities and women and…you get the idea.

FirstEnergy Files for Bankruptcy after Begging Perry to Declare Power ’Emergency’—Looks like even with friends like Rick Perry FirstEnergy’s business model is screwed.

First Floating U.S. Wind Farm May Be Built Off California Coast—Unlike previous offshore wind farms like Cape Wind, a floating wind farm can be built in deeper water farther off the coast.  Also, California has a lot of coast off of which to build these wind farms and a desire to be free from fossil fuels.

College in Maui Reaches for Net-Zero Status with Solar Plus Storage—The first places that will completely untie themselves from the grid will be those with very expensive electric power or very unreliable electric power.  Maui is on the very expensive end of the spectrum, but it also has a culture and community that is dedicated to getting off of the very dirty diesel used to power the island.

Study: Wind and Solar can Power Most of the United States—We have moved past the question of “can we be powered completely by renewables?”  The question is now “how do we transition to 100% renewables?”

Rio Tinto Sells Last Coal Mine, Has Now Completely Exited Coal—This is not Patagonia getting out of coal.  This is a steely eyed multi-national mining conglomerate seeing that the future is not in burning a black rock.

Dubuque Landfill Hopes to Convert Gas from Trash into Fuel for Cars—If this is even mildly economic, why aren’t we tapping landfills across the country for the gas that could be repurposed?

Who do GOP Voters Like for 2024 Iowa Caucuses?—You have got be freaking kidding me.  Who is even thinking about the Iowa caucus that comes after the next Iowa caucus?  We are talking about six years from now with more than two of those years being Trump years, which are like ten years of any normal president not named Warren G. Harding.

Back in Black…Electricity Wise

A good month or so of solar photovoltaic production and a nine day vacation put me back in the black in terms of energy production and consumption:

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Eighty two kilowatt hours of clean, green solar electricity production above my household consumption to be specific.

As you notice from the image above my bill is not zero or even net positive.  Why?  The dreaded facility charge or connection fee.  What is this?  It is the fee charged by your electricity provider for the use of the grid regardless of your electricity consumption or, in my case, production.

Now, the grid essentially acts as my battery since I have a purely grid-tied solar system.  It does not seem like a heavy burden to bear per month for the security of having electricity on demand.  However, in some states—here’s looking at you Arizona—legislators, hand in hand with their energy company lobbyists, are pursuing fees for connecting solar systems and higher facility charges in general to supposedly offset the costs incurred by these systems being active.  Some states have proposed that solar system owners pay an extra per kilowatt hour fee for each kilowatt hour that they draw from the grid.

This all seems fine and dandy to the people running electric utilities, but it may end up creating the conditions for a death spiral.  As costs for battery storage decrease and solar systems proliferate households may choose to sever their connection to the grid entirely.  In high cost or low reliability locations this is already happening.  As increasing numbers of households leave the grid the existing infrastructure is supported by fewer rate payers increasing the individual household’s share of the costs.  Costs go up and the incentive to sever ties to the grid increases thus more households make the leap.

None of this will occur overnight, so to speak, but the conditions are becoming increasingly favorable for such a transition to take place.

 

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:

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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.

Friday Linkage 3/30/2017

Spring is here in Iowa and that means…well, it initially meant six inches of snow followed by a lot of rain.  It also means that one day is sunny and 50 degree while the next day starts out with fog and mid-teens temperatures.

If you do not like the weather, just wait fifteen minutes is what every farmer in the state will tell you over a cup of coffee.  I always want to ask, “Who actually likes any of this weather?”

On to the links…

Public Lands are being Sold in Secret on the Internet—This is what you get when a corrupt businessman becomes president and appoints corrupt politicians to run agencies like the Department of the Interior.  Scream about Hillary’s emails all day long, but the real scandals that have occurred and will occur under the current administration will take a generation to unpack.

Zinke Creates New Outdoor Recreation Panel Made up of Industry Advisers—This is the best government that money can buy.  Trump did not drain the swamp, he appointed every Swamp Thing that he could find to help him loot our country.

The EPA ousted Science Advisers. Now it’s Going after the Science Itself.—You would not want actual science to get in the way of good talking points delivered to your desk by the filthy hand of the oil and gas lobby.

Scott Pruitt’s “Dirty Dealings” Stir a Campaign to Oust Him From the EPA—Is anyone surprised by this?  Trump appointed a guy to lead the Department of Energy who wanted to get rid of the department even though he had little idea of what the department actually did.  Scott Pruitt is a corrupt stooge.

Trump Wanted to Slash Funding for Clean Energy. Congress Ignored Him.—It turns out that a lot of people and, thus, a lot of members of Congress like clean energy.  Despite what the head cheese puff in charge says America is trying to move forward.

Study Predicts Major Expansion of Offshore Wind Along Atlantic Coast—The lead of the story is everything you need to know: “Almost every state along the Atlantic coast — 12 out of 14 — has offshore wind potential that exceeds its current electricity needs, according to a new study.”  Well, why don’t we get a move on?

Unprofitable Coal Plants now Play ‘Game of Chicken’ to Survive—Think about the statement “half of U.S. coal capacity ran at a loss last year.”  That is to say that half of the U.S. coal plants, measured by capacity not installations, did not make money last year.

California said to be Preparing to Retaliate if Trump Cuts Emissions Rules—Trump and his cronies may think that they have the upper hand here, but it has been fought in court that California has the legal right to set its own stricter emissions standards as their efforts predate federal efforts.  Trump will insist that he has the best people and that they will win in court.

Global Carbon Emissions could be Cut 3 percent by Following the UK’s Example—3% may not sound like a lot, but it is a start.

SoftBank and Saudi Arabia to Build World’s Biggest Solar Farm—The numbers on this project are stunning.  200 GW of solar.  That is almost three times what the entire country of Saudi Arabia generates in electricity today regardless of source.

Landfills: A Future Source of Raw Materials—Can you imagine a future where autonomous robots “mine” landfills for the raw materials that generations before us threw away as garbage?

Rep. Jeff Backer Tries to Blame Minnesota’s Ag Pollution on… Goose Shit—This is what you get when you elect politicians who proclaim, “I am not a scientist.”  This is usually said right before talking about something which a scientist would have a more valuable opinion than an elected hack.

Brewers Association Reports 5% Volume Growth for U.S. Craft Brewers in 2017—At least this is some good news:

beer chart