Tag Archives: solar

Signing on the Dotted Line for Solar

The contract is signed.

By September I will have a solar photovoltaic system on my roof generating electricity for the next twenty five years or so.  I consider it my fairly large middle finger to anyone who wants to keep digging coal out of the ground and burning it like some bad parody of the birth of the Industrial Revolution.

The system will be installed on a west facing (almost exactly 270 degree azimuth for those of you into that sort of description) roof that is a large single pitch with no protrusions.  Due to my relatively low electricity consumption the maximum system allowed the power company was under 5 kWh.  My system will be composed of 16 SolarWorld 290W panels for a total of 4,640W.

Gross system cost is $2.35 per watt installed.  The applicable federal and state tax credits take that figure down to $1.29 per watt.

Based on the system size, orientation, and projected system losses I figure that this system will generate slightly more than my annual electricity consumption assuming no changes in consumption patterns.  This would all get thrown out the window if I traded in my truck for a Chevy Bolt.

The most frustrating part is that if it were not for the various hoops that the power company makes everyone jump through this process could have been completed in weeks if not days.  Now that the cost for the solar panels and inverters have dropped so dramatically the biggest impediment to widespread adoption will be the balance of system costs and the permitting hassles.  Although my power company is obligated to allow me to install solar panels and the feed that power back into the grid via net metering it is their intention, in my opinion, to make the process as onerous as possible in order to deter other people from signing on the dotted line for solar.

This is the first step in the newly coined #myPersonalParis where I am going to control as many aspects of my life to align with a significantly reduced emissions footprint as possible in solidarity with the Paris climate accord which our dear leader decided was too onerous because…reasons?

What are you doing?

Friday Linkage 6/23/2017

Rick Perry is not a scientist.  Just ask him, but he apparently “knows” that carbon dioxide emissions are not the main driver behind climate change.  Okay, but what does the former Dancing with the Stars contestant and multiple time presidential candidate failure actually think is driving the climate to change?  Good luck deciphering that opinion.

The part about the “debate” over climate change is that no one asks no-talent ass clowns like James Inhofe what his thoughts are about the issue when it is too hot for planes to take off in Phoenix or the temperatures reach 90 degrees in Siberia.  Sure enough the media is ready to put him on television holding a snowball in the freaking winter—like the presence of snow in winter is proof of anything other than it being winter.

On to the links…

Renewable Energy Just Passed a Major Milestone in the United States—10 percent of the electricity in the United States was generated by renewables in March.  Wind power is now the fourth largest source of power in the United States behind coal, natural gas, and nuclear.

Solar Power Will Kill Coal Sooner Than You Think—We have reached the tipping point where the costs of choosing solar power are the same or better than coal.  Why tether yourself to an outdated fuel?

Forget Coal, Solar will Soon be Cheaper than Natural Gas Power—When this happens a lot of people are going to be gagging on their ribeye steaks across the natural gas basins of the United States.

This Case Could Upend America’s $29 Billion Solar Industry—Everyone loves the free market right up until the moment it impacts their own business.  It’s the same in automobiles, agriculture, and even solar panels.  The reason solar is so cheap right now is that China is selling panels extra cheap.  Each time I get an estimate for a solar PV system on my house the cost has gone down, which is directly attributable to reduced panel cost.

LED Lights are Taking over Households at a Meteoric Rate, but Some are Slow to Make the Switch—Prices for LED bulbs are down 90% since 2008.  LED bulbs are having a measureable impact on electricity consumption.  Even with these crazy numbers there are still a lot of households holding on to inefficient incandescent bulbs and horrible CFLs.

Nevada Boosts Solar Power, Reversing Course—It’s a little bit of good news coming out of the Silver State.  Eighteen months ago Nevada killed net metering which slaughtered its solar industry.  Now it is back.

Texas Is Too Windy and Sunny for Old Energy Companies to Make Money—Am I supposed to feel bad for fossil fuel companies that built business plans under the assumption that they would have control over their markets into the forever future?

California Invested Heavily in Solar Power. Now There’s So Much that Other States are Sometimes Paid to Take It—The LA Times has done some great reporting on the growth and development of California’s entire electrical grid, including the construction of unnecessary power plants to the tune of billions of dollars.  Now it looks like they cannot contain the solar either.

Tesla is Changing the Electric Grid—It’s all part of Elon Musk’s plan.  Sell you a car that is really just a giant battery on wheels and sell you a house covered in solar panels with a Powerwall to tie it all together.  Suddenly Tesla is the company that can help the electric grid manage its peaks and valleys in demand and generation.  Talk about power.

Scientists Sharply Rebut Influential Renewable-Energy Plan—So if we cannot get to 100% renewables—which is a debatable assertion given that much depends upon the timeline and technology developed during that time—what is the number we can get to economically and technically?  I remember a time when a lot of influential people were saying that 10% seemed out of reach.  Well…

Rick Perry Just got Scooped: New Report Shows Cleaner Grid Provides Reliable Power—Is there a bigger knucklehead in government than Rick Perry?  Trump is a bully and I fully believe that Steve King is some kind of demon sent from hell to torture anyone with good sense.  But Rick Perry?  What a knucklehead.

Interior Chief Ryan Zinke Wants to Shed 4,000 Staffers in Budget Cuts—Your government is going to look a lot different in four years and it is going to take a long time to rebuild the expertise that is going to be lost in these purges.  It is intentional to degrade the service and capability because it allows people like Paul Ryan to say, “See, government does not know what it is doing.”  No shit Sherlock.  When you staff it with incompetent toadies it is no wonder government does not work.

My Personal Paris

The U.S. government will not save us from climate change.  The signs have been apparent long before Donald Trump took the oath of office and handed over the U.S. government to fossil fuel interests in a manner so brazen even Dick Cheney would blush.  The final nail in the coffin of the possibility of leadership from the U.S. government came with the decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

Make no mistake, the Paris climate accord was not going to be the tool with which to save the world from man-made climate change.  It was a first step in codifying a structure with which to address the issue in a constructive manner.  The current President of the United States does not understand constructive problem solving since it cannot be manhandled into a monosyllabic tweet at five o’clock in the morning.

The Paris climate accord was limited, but it was a start.  Just getting everyone to the table—save for Syria and Nicaragua at the time—was a major accomplishment.  Just getting everyone to agree that man-made climate change was a problem and that we should act was herculean.  We all can agree, however, that the Paris climate accord did not go far enough to address the problem and it does not include forcing functions for countries that fail to live up to the commitments made to the world.

Regardless, the framework of the Paris climate accord is irrelevant for those of us in the United States.  This does not mean that we have to sit idly by and watch as the world tries to address the problem.  I surmise that at this moment in history most of the tools that we need as a civilization exist for us to combat climate change and secure the future of Earth as a viable habitat for humanity.

Consider the following chart of the sources of carbon emissions in the United States:

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As an individual we have a hand in every slice of the pie with a more direct impact on some more than others.  It is our job as residents of the planet to figure out how we can meet or exceed the goals of the Paris climate accord without the agreement of politicians in Washington D.C.

Everyone has to figure out how they will act on a “personal Paris.”  Unlike almost any other time in recent history we have the tools to make meaningful change at a personal level.  Solar photovoltaic systems are cheaper now than ever and make economic sense in almost any market in the country.  Electric vehicles are now more common than ever before and accessible to a larger share of the population that at any other time in the short history of the technology.  Commuting can be reduced or eliminated via bicycling or telecommuting or just becoming an early retiree like all those couples living in vans on Instagram.

My point is that we have a plethora of options in order to address every slice of the emissions pie pictured above.  If you have the discretionary income there are options.  If you have extra time there are options.  If you need to save money there are options.  As I stated earlier, unlike any other time in recent history we have the tools available to use to make meaningful change.

We need to take responsibility for our actions and act in a correspondingly restorative way.  We need to become the change we want to see in the world.

Thinking about Household Electricity Consumption

As I dither about installing a solar photovoltaic system on my home I also spend a lot of time thinking about electricity consumption in general.

When I first contacted a few solar installers in my area—who have all been very responsive which is a sharp difference from other home service providers lately—all of the systems were sized far in excess of my needs.  I have written before about my household electricity consumption and it remains something that baffles me well into 2017.

The twelve month rolling average electricity consumption of my household is approximately 400 kWh.  It has been stable within 20 kWh of this number for about three years.  What does that number mean in comparison to the average U.S. and Iowa household?

According to the Energy Information Administration the average U.S. and Iowa households consume approximately 900 kWh and 847 kWh per month respectively.  What the hell are people doing with all of this electricity?

It is not as if I live in a small house without the use of many electric appliances.  We have a large-ish French door refrigerator, chest freezer in the basement, electric dryer, and an electric range.  When I lived in a house with a gas range, gas dryer, and no deep freeze the monthly average was below 200 kWh over the course of three years.

We use the air conditioning in the summer, although it is rarely icy like in some houses.  We cook at home all the time using the electric range and small appliances like my beloved Instant Pot.  There are two elementary school aged children in the house so we run through a lot of clothes that often times use the electric dryer.  Sure we turn off lights in rooms, have LEDs in all but a few fixtures, do not watch very much television, and generally exist in a somewhat analog entertainment world (e.g. books that are actually printed on paper occupy many an end table spot).

It makes me question the urgency to install a solar photovoltaic system.  Yes, such a system would divorce me from the somewhat dirty grid in Iowa where even though a large percentage of our electricity is wind derived much of the rest comes from coal.  However, would I be better off investing that capital in something else that might have more of an impact ecologically speaking?

Furthermore, if I am living a modern life at half of the juice—so to speak—of the average household in my state doesn’t that mean we have a lot of room to become more efficient without really sacrificing anything in terms of modernity?  Just some random—kind of like the Tweeter in Chief going off in the morning—thoughts for a Monday afternoon.

Friday Linkage 6/2/2017

It’s June and we are dealing with the “covfefe.”

At what point do we get to wake up from this nightmare, look at the clock, and realize that it was all just some bad pizza we had the night before?

On to the links…

What Darrell Issa was Doing on the Roof—2018 is a long way away and a lot can happen before the midterm elections, but can we finally get rid of this no talent ass clown?  He is literally looking down on his constituents after refusing to meet with them because he does not care as long as he stays rich and Koch money keeps him in office.

Frugality is Environmentalism—I wish that this point got driven home more and more.  We cannot buy our way out of our environmental problems.  We can save our way a lot closer.

Renewable Energy Generation in the US Dramatically Exceeds 2012 Predictions—This is one of the times I am glad when the experts were wrong.

India Cancels Nearly 14 Gigawatts Of Proposed Coal Plants—Have fun trying to bring back coal as a fuel for the future when most customers across the world are trying to move away from the fuel.

There’s Way Less Coal Than We Thought—Depending upon who you ask and who you trust it might be true that our estimates of economically recoverable coal were way too high.  What does this mean?  Basically, it is even more difficult for coal power to be cost competitive if the fuel is going to cost more to mine.

EPA Halts Obama-era Methane Emissions Rule for Oil and Gas Industry—What the oil and gas industry wants Scott Pruitt will deliver.

UK Breaks Solar Record; Generates 24 Percent of Power from Solar—This is not Saudi Arabia or sunny Spain.  It’s the freaking United Kingdom known for dreary weather and queuing.  With each new record for solar power we have to ask ourselves what is the true limit?

Pretty Soon Electric Cars Will Cost Less Than Gasoline—Define pretty soon.  Okay, it might not be as cheap as that Kia Soul I keep hearing ads for on the radio but the future is fairly bright.  Bright enough for shades?

15 Ways to Use Bar Soap—I am bar soap partisan.  I use bar soap in the shower and I use shampoo that comes in a bar form as well.

Cannabidiol Slashes Seizures in Kids with Rare Epilepsy—I realize it is derived from marijuana, but given the growing body of evidence—both anecdotal and scientific—why isn’t the government all over studying this?  Oh right, people like Jeff Sessions are making drug policy in the United States.

Hemp in Food for Horses and Chickens? Maybe.—Did you have a guy in the dorms in college who told everyone that hemp was a miracle plant?  It could be used for fuel, food, medicine, and so on.  Maybe that guy was on to something.

How Adults are Ruining Sports for Kids—Can we just change the title to how adults are ruining kids?

Hunting Down the Lost Apples of the Pacific Northwest—What have we lost in our efforts to always have perfect Snow White-esque apples on every shelf?  Taste for one considering how bad most supermarket apples actually taste.  Yes, I am looking at you red delicious.

Could We Run Modern Society on Human Power Alone?—I do not know if that is the right question.  Maybe we need to ask ourselves when human power should be the preferred energy source.

An Anthropocene wildness grows in Rome—Is this the future?  What will the world look like as the climate warms, humans retreat, and nature takes back the spaces?

Friday Linkage 5/19/2017

At what point do we begin to point the finger for this entire Donald Trump mess at the people who enabled him.  Joe Scarborough on MSNBC’s Morning Joe is partially to blame for giving Donald Trump a national platform for free in exchange for ratings in the early days of the campaign.  The entire Republican establishment is on notice for allowing this charlatan in orange to assume the Oval Office because they felt that it would be beneficial for their agenda.  Paul Ryan and the rest of his elected Republican cronies need to get in line and get behind the real investigation into the Trump campaign’s connection.

Furthermore, the American people need to demand that all of our elected representatives act as the Constitutionally mandated check to Trump’s deranged ambition.  I am sure of the fact that Donald Trump feels he has the ultimate authority regardless of law and will do anything to facilitate this delusion.

On to the links…

Under Trump, Inconvenient Data that was Previously Public is Being Sidelined—You don’t think that people like Scott Pruitt are loving this action.  This is an administration and a Republican party that is allergic to facts in general and almost violently reactive to anything that even hints at an opposing viewpoint.  It’s like your drunk Uncle Carl who yells about the “lamestream media” is in charge of the country.

Why Trump Will Make the Wrong Decision on Paris—I do not think this really needed a long explanation.  Donald Trump is an under informed reactionary decision maker who loathes anyone with more expertise or knowledge on a topic than himself thus he is prone to making bone headed decisions.  Furthermore, he surrounds himself with family and sycophants utterly dependent upon his wealth thus the toadies are always telling him how great he is doing.  Is it any wonder we are doomed?

Trump’s EPA Greenlights a Nasty Chemical. A Month Later, It Poisons a Bunch of Farmworkers.—Color me surprised, but I am not.  Chlorpyrifos is nasty stuff, but Trump’s corporate allies wanted it allowed so it was made so under the guise of…profits and screw everything else.  Only profits matter now.

The EPA Asked the Public which Rules to Scrap and Got Chewed Out—People like clean air and water.  People like it when toxins are not prevalent in their food.  People like health.  It must have been a real surprise to Trump’s denizens of death that people prefer to keep regulations that prevent profit seeking companies from polluting.

The Surprising Story of the Decline of Electricity use in American Households—It all comes down to LED lighting based on back of the envelope calculations.  Those are the same LEDs that talking heads like Sarah Palin derided as some liberal conspiracy.  Granted, most of those talking heads are nitwits who supported Trump.  And you thought those pictures of your high school fashion choices were embarrassing.

Three Reasons to Believe in China’s Renewable Energy Boom—China is all in on renewable energy because the leadership of that country believes it is critical to their staying in power.

By 2020, Every Chinese Coal Plant will be More Efficient than Every US Coal Plant—However, a coal plant still produces a lot more pollution than a solar panel.

Terawatts of Solar Power are Within our Reach—Solar power will soon reach a tipping point where it is like a large snowball going downhill picking up speed and gaining in size.  The victims of its destructive path will be old line fossil fuels and maybe your drunk Uncle Carl who hates hippies, Volkswagens, and solar panels.

New US Residential Solar Capacity Additions Drop 17% In First Quarter—So goes California…as California is responsible for almost 50% of residential solar installations the golden state has an outsize impact on the aggregate numbers for the U.S.  Other states saw smaller declines and it may be due to major installers pursuing more profitable installations over heady growth figures.

Coal and Natural Gas Are Foes, Not Natural Allies—This is the real inconvenient truth for Trump and his coal cronies.  Natural gas and coal compete directly with each other so any policy that favors both fuels—relaxed emissions targets, etc.—also favors the fuel that directly replaces coal.

Trump Coal Obsession Largely Irrelevant To Electric Utility CEOs—Those darned market forces just get in the way of a good campaign speech.

Stanford Study says Fossil-Fueled Cars will Vanish in 8 years as ‘Big Oil’ Collapses—I doubt it will happen in eight years, but I think there is a time in my lifetime when my truck will be a classic because of its fuel choice.

You May Live Longer if You Bike to Work—Let us count all of the ways that bicycles rule.

New American Study Confirms: Physically Separated Bike Lanes are Crucial for Safety—Add this to the list of things that seem obvious but that someone felt a study was needed to confirm.  As someone who rides both types of bike lanes I can assure you that the protected and/or separated bike lanes are the better option for a cyclist.

Denver’s Bike-Friendly Plans Seem To Be Panning Out—People actually like biking to work and play.  It’s a proven fact.

Friday Linkage 5/5/2017

We are entering a new dystopia.  It’s a few steps before the Handmaiden’s Tale, but it is not so far off as to be improbable.  Don’t believe me?  Recently, the Alabama senate allowed a church to establish its own police force.  You can talk to me all day long about sharia law, but I am much more worried about evangelicals pushing their putrid stew of erroneous religiosity.  And Donald Trump, our fearless flaccid cantaloupe of a leader, signed an executive order to remove restrictions on a church’s ability to be active politically.

Add into this mess the talk about making it easier for public figures to sue for libel and you have a runway to the apocalypse.

On to the links…

The Drivers Behind Flattening CO2 Emissions—It’s like we got a short reprieve from CO2 emissions increasing, but those drivers are not likely to continue driving any flattening in the long term.  The only long term answer is a move toward a fossil fuel free economy.

Colorado Just Explicitly Banned Rolling Coal After An Incredibly Stupid Debate—Why is this even something that people do?  I should have known we were in trouble as a country when I started seeing this happen.  Hey, look at me, I am an idiot blowing billowing black smoke out my tailpipes!

California is About to Revolutionize Climate Policy … Again—California, you’re our only hope.  How does this state keep electing Darrell Issa to Congress?  I will never understand that conundrum.

“Red State” Utilities Populate the Top 10 Lists for Solar—They might not say it, but even right wingers like the economic arguments for solar.

Turbines Propel Nebraska Past a Wind-Energy Milestone—Welcome to the party Nebraska.

The Energy of Tomorrow Looks Strikingly Artistic from Above—Just some cool images of renewable energy taken from the air.

Once and for All: Obama Didn’t Crush US Coal, and Trump Can’t Save It—Now that right wing reactionaries can no longer rely on the “other” that was Barack Obama they will have to answer why everything they do does not bring back coal jobs.  Oh right, natural gas killed goal.  Oh right, automation killed coal jobs.  Oh right, you guys were full of shit and spent eight years bloviating about a war on coal.

Saving Coal Country by Ending Coal’s Empire—In all the rhetoric about coal jobs leaving coal country there has been little discussion about the abusive practices of coal companies toward their workers.  There is a reason why coal country was a hotbed of militant worker organization.

Portland to Use Sewage Gas to Shift Away from Diesel—What kind of potential exists to do this in cities like New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago? Portland has a population of approximately 620k people compared with approximately 8.5m for New York, 3.9m for Los Angeles, and 2.7m for Chicago.  That is a lot of poo gas.

The Wine Industry’s Battle with Climate Change—Vineyards are agriculture’s canary in the coal mine, so to speak, given the touchy nature of high end grape production.  Many varieties of grapes were bred to grow in particular micro climates that may not exist in the near future.

No Animals Required: Lab-Grown Meat Can Help Beat Antibiotic Resistance—We have to hope for solutions like this because our government will do nothing to combat the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria linked to the over medication of livestock.

2022 Winter Olympics To Be Held On Mountains Where It Doesn’t Snow—How do I know that the Olympics are run by a corrupt organization only concerned with lining their own pockets?  When they decide to host a winter Olympiad on a mountain where it does not snow.

Do You Really Need That? No, You Don’t.—Just stop buying stuff.  Simplest eco advice in history.  Also the most effective.

6 Most Common Sources of Plastic Pollution—Eliminating these sources of plastic pollution is low hanging fruit.