Tag Archives: solar

Friday Linkage 12/15/2017

I was prepared to write some snarky comments about how the voters of Alabama could look past someone being a certifiable crazy person and child molester but could not stomach voting for a Democrat. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that at least enough voters in Alabama had the good sense to not vote for Roy Moore.

The frightening thing is that more than 48% of voters who participated in that special election thought that Roy Moore was the right person to represent them, the state of Alabama, and the values of the United States of America.  There is nothing that encapsulates our broken system, riven by partisanship, more than that fact.

Imagine there was a special election in say Colorado where the Democratic candidate was accused of cruising the mall for teenagers, had been twice removed from office for failing to follow the laws of the land, and had defended slavery.  Can you imagine the howls from people like Sean Hannity and Fox & Friends.  Instead, put an elephant on that candidate and he is the last, best chance to protect America from…access to healthcare?

On to the links…

Trump’s Interior Secretary: Shameless Tool of Oil and Gas Industries—The more light that we can shine on Ryan Zinke’s agenda and actions the better the world will be for it.  Like the other Trump kleptocrats he is gorging on a buffet of public goods to enrich his friends and donors.  Take a moment and read up on the scandals of the Warren G. Harding administration and tell me if you see some similarities.

The Interior Department Is Giving Business to Secretary Zinke’s Billionaire Pal—Can you smell the corruption that Ryan Zinke is cooking?  This guy does not care that he is corrupt because there is nothing you can do about it.  This guy is the point man for the theft of your public goods.

Reclaiming Appalachia: A Push to Bring Back Native Forests to Coal Country—Coal country is a damaged place.  Decades of dominance by companies that care little for the land or people has left a landscape scarred.  Healing that landscape in a deliberative way is a great step forward.

How American Cities & States are Fighting Climate Change Globally—The federal government is in the bag for fossil fuels and ideologues who would have you believe that human caused climate change is some kind of hoax cooked up by academics and liberals.  As if those groups can be counted on to agree on a menu for a campus mixer without things devolving into a bloodbath of recriminations let alone conspire on a global scale in secret.  Cities, municipalities, and states are where the climate change action is happening right now.

Here’s What Carbon Neutral Electricity Could Look Like for Fort Collins—Cities are starting to figure out just how much power they have to transform the energy system of the future.

Trump’s Coal and Nuclear Subsidy Won’t Keep Power Plants Open but Will Raise Prices—Let’s see, a plan championed by all hat, no cows Rick Perry is destined to fail in its ultimate goal yet still raise prices for consumers. It’s like Republicans under Trump have decided that it is okay to get all of the downside risk while achieving none of the goals.  Also remember that this plan is essentially a sop to a half dozen or so coal barons who want a federal bailout without actually asking for a federal bailout.  You know, the free market and all.

The Federal Land at Stake in Trump’s Rush for More Drilling—Trump and the rest of his kleptocrat cronies are running high on the hog right now in transferring public goods into private resources.  If you think that there is anything public about land being opened for oil and gas drilling try getting near one of these facilities out west.  Your ass will end up in the back of a sheriff’s car real fast.

‘Death spiral’: Half of Europe’s Coal Plants are Losing Money—Coal is on the brink.  Why?  It is losing money.

Australia Has Already Hit 1 Gigawatt Of Solar Installed In 2017, Breaking Multiple Records—1 GW is a lot of solar.  Every week seems to bring a solar story from Australia that highlights that country going all in on solar.

Rooftop Solar and EVs Save Water and Cut Pollution in Texas – and Data can Help Us go Further—As we enter a period of climate change stressing water supplies it is important to consider the second order effects of renewable electricity.  It takes a lot of water to produce grid electricity from coal, nuclear, or natural gas.  A solar panel requires zero water to do the same thing.

Are Pigs Eating our Food?—This is a fairly nuanced look at the idea that livestock is eating our food in a 1:1 direct substitution.  The truth is much more complex, as the truth tends to be, as livestock—depending upon the species—eat residues from other agricultural production processes that are essentially waste products or eat substances that humans cannot eat directly for sustenance.

Expect a Meat Tax within 5-10 Years—Five to ten years seems a little sporty, but as we fully understand both the environmental and health impacts of eating meat there will be an increasing drumbeat for some sort of action.  In the United States I think that the easiest solution would be to end the crop subsidies that make CAFOs possible.  Without subsidized corn and soy there would be no way that companies could make CAFOs work.

How Our Housing Choices Make Adult Friendships More Difficult—Is it just our housing or is it our entire society?

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Friday Linkage 12/8/2017

I am glad to see that Chuck Grassley, one of the most hypocritical members of the Senate, thinks that anyone who does not benefit from the estate tax repeal is just someone spending the money on booze, women, and going to movies.

Hey loyal viewers of Fox News and other right wingers, this is what your elected officials think of you when they take the time to actually think about someone other than the mega rich donor class.  Your opinion, desires, and hopes only matter so long as it enables clowns like Chuck Grassley to keep getting elected and lining the pockets of his donors.

BTW, Chuck Grassley likes to point out that the estate tax endangers Iowa family farms but the reality is quite different.

I will save you the hassle of reading the article.  Every year approximately 1.4 million Iowans file tax returns and, depending upon the year, approximately 30 to 60 are subject to the estate tax.  Chuck Grassley is worried about the smallest percentage of Iowans it is not even funny.  Like strange mathematical results small percentage.

On to the links…

Ryan Zinke Memo Signals Trump’s Attack on Public Lands is Just Getting Started—This issue needs to be the rocks upon which the Donald Trump presidency falters.

Senate Tax Measure Helps President Trump Pivot Away from Clean Energy and Back to Fossil Fuels—Never mind the jobs in renewable energy and, heaven forbid, you think about climate change in a realistic manner for once.  This is about a final payoff to the fossil fuel interests that have greased the skids for people like Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell.

EPA Scuttles Rule on Mining Cleanup Funding—This is what you get from the party of “personal responsibility.”  Mine companies know that the cleanup costs from their waste will be borne by the public and it is how they model their financials.  The plan is to declare bankruptcy, move the productive assets to a new legal entity, and stick the liabilities for cleanup with the bankrupt company that communities, states, and the federal government have to deal with for decades more.

Trump Science Job Nominees Missing Advanced Science Degrees—How many times do Republicans get to say, “I’m not a scientist” right before offering an opinion on a complex scientific issue.

“Alternative Facts” about Climate Change—Let me tell you what Trump and his cronies are doing: lying.  Alternative facts is just an Orwellian…er, Trumpian way of saying lies.

Zinke Seeks Protections for Public Lands in his Home State While Attacking Utah Monuments—I guess you can add being a hypocrite to being a corrupt public official.

The Accelerating Market for Zero Emission Trucks—There is no better place to invest dollars in zero emission vehicles than heavy dirty commercial trucks.  A smallish fleet is responsible for a disproportionate share of emissions.

Electricity Sector No Longer Biggest Emissions Source In US — Guess What Is—This is why dealing with transportation emissions is such a big deal:

BNEF-Emission-chart-Dec-17-570x336.png

Iowa Might Lack Green Policy But It Still Beats Out California With Cleanest Power—This is a great look at power generation across states.  What this fails to see is that with the pipeline of projects in Iowa over the course of the next couple of years the percentage of power in Iowa generated from clean sources will be greater than 50%.

Wind Power Capacity Has Surpassed Coal in Texas—That is to say that clean energy from the wind is a bigger part of the mix than coal.  What do you think is going to happen in the future as coal gets more expensive and wind turbines keep producing electricity with no fuel costs?

As Coal Falters, Larimer County’s Largest Polluter Could Close its Doors—It looks like another one is going to bite the dust.

One of the Biggest US Oil Fields Turns to an Unexpected Power Source: Solar—This is one of those odd juxtapositions of old versus new.  The Belridge field in California is a monstrosity of Twentieth Century oil extraction.  It is also a huge user of energy as it takes a lot of power to coax black gold from the ground.

10 Stubborn Body Myths That Just Won’t Die, Debunked by Science—Please don’t pea on anything as a solution.  That is really my takeaway from this.

An Ugly Month for Solar in November

November was ugly.  Especially in terms of solar production from my rooftop solar photovoltaic system:

November 2017 solar.jpg

The production was nice and steady save for some real dog days when the system produced less than 3 kWh per day.  I am really surprised by the actual production numbers because the system is producing far below my calculated expectations, which were based on fairly pessimistic assumptions.

Like October there is a sort of silver lining.  Even though my photovoltaic system produced slightly more than 212 kWh for the month I consumed less than 300 kWh in total, including both grid and on-site consumption.  Considering how much the family has been staying at home and cooking at home I am going to consider this a victory.  It will be interesting to see what the numbers look like in December with a long holiday vacation at the end of the month.

On the bright side, it looks like solar is contagious.  Two new systems went live over the past week and I know of at least two more that are going live soon.  This is in addition to the several systems going up that I can see on my way to work.  Each one of these systems is like a little dagger in the black heart of the coal economy.

Friday Linkage 12/1/2017

Has America gone mad?  I am starting to wonder if this is the moment when this country turns toward ruin because its leadership is so disconnected from anything resembling coherence.  The current tax “reform” legislation winding its way through Congress is a thee day old salad bar of bad ideas cribbed from the plethora of failed Republican economic experiments going back to the 1980s.  The only hope that I have if this passes in anything near its current form is that it finally puts the dagger in the heart of any right winger being able to stand on anything that looks like economic principle.

Of course, I said the same thing when Donald Trump got elected about evangelicals and those clowns are falling in line to support Roy Moore because…’Merica!

On to the links…

Sam Brownback Trolls America: The Guy Who Wrecked Kansas is the GOP’s Role Model—Kansas is an abject failure of a state right now because Sam Brownback decided to remake the state in the image of Paul Ryan’s utopia of low tax, low quality life that he dreamed up while short pouring beers from kegs at fraternity parties.  No seriously bro, Ayn Rand was right about everything!

This Map Shows Exactly How Many Republicans in Your District Don’t Believe in Global Warming—These are the same people selling the lie that trickle down economics works.

How Could the Agung Volcano in Bali Affect Global Temperatures?—James Inhofe just got all excited because he might get to talk about snow in the winter again as some kind of perverted proof that climate change is not real.  No talent ass clown.  Notice the trend in temperatures from the chart?  Short term perturbations do not change the long term trend of warming.

Interior Department Mired in Investigations—In a few years the accounting will hold this current presidential administration as the most inept and corrupt in the history of the United States.  No amount of Twitter insults or Fox & Friends call ins will change the reality.

U.S. Energy Sources and Uses: Everything You Need to Know in One Lovely Chart—This is one of those charts to keep around and reference frequently:

estimated-u-s-energy-consumption-in-2016-graphic-lawrence-livermore-national-laboratory_100634001_l.jpg

Just look at the rejected energy total.  That essentially equals wasted energy.  Efficiency is the holy grail kids.

Solar Panel Prices Plunge by a Shocking 26 Percent in One Year—I thought that the downward trend in solar panel prices would level out, but at this rate we will just be able to put panels on whatever surface is available.  Oh, and wind is getting cheaper too.

U.S. Coal Industry Shows No Sign of Comeback—No matter what Donald Trump, Rick Perry, Scott Pruitt, or any other coal obsessed right wing stooge says coal is not coming back.  It’s fake news to say anything other than coal is in a long downward trend that will be almost impossible to come out of unless the fundamentals of economics change.

Oil and Gas Industry is Causing Texas Earthquakes, a “Landmark” Study Suggests—All that natural gas being pulled from the ground in places like Texas might also have been the cause of the ground literally breaking apart.  Awesome.

A Map of $1.1 Billion in Natural Gas Pipeline Leaks—Just remember, these are the same people who want to build the Keystone XL pipeline and others.

Solar Grid Parity For Australia By 2020 As Renewables Surge—That is just a little over two years away.  This means that in all of Australia solar will cost the same as coal or natural gas regardless of condition.  Now, imagine a scenario where natural gas prices spike.  Are Australians going to go back to coal or put up some more solar panels?

Australia Can Meet CO2 Emissions Target By 2030 With Renewables At Zero Net Cost—Net zero cost is the key term here.  When you replace fossil fuels with renewables you are trading a higher upfront cost for a lower long term cost because you no longer need to buy fuel, which tends to increase in cost as time goes on.  The long term tail costs are often excluded from a lot of comparison models because doing so favors fossil fuels.

Elon Musk bet that Tesla could Build the World’s Biggest Battery in 100 days. He Won.—Say what you will about Elon Musk and his affiliated companies, but the guy does bold in business in an era when bland is the rule of the day.

Iowa Airports Going Green, Saving on Energy Costs—Nearly $650K for a solar photovoltaic system is great.  That puts 240kWh system to make power to be consumed on site.  I think the real story if that just over $200K is being spent to reduce energy consumption by up to 80%.  Granted that project happened over six years ago it shows you the relative power of putting money into energy efficiency.

Look-alike Apartment Buildings in Northeast Minneapolis Showcase New Ideas in Energy Efficiency—Do we really need a demonstration like this to prove the benefits of building a well-designed energy efficient building?

These ‘Chilling’ Soviet Maps of San Francisco, Bay Area Likely Intended for the Communist Takeover—The world seems like a scary place right now, but this is a reminder of just how scary things were during the Cold War.

The “Downside” of Staying at Home More

In a quest to save money and consume fewer resources my family has been staying around the house a lot lately.  I tried to make it sound fancy by saying we were focusing on a home based life or economy, but the truth was much simpler.

The reality of the situation is that the transition has been fairly straightforward.  No more “convenience” trips for weeknight dinners.  Instead I meal plan for the entire week—including the provisioning of leftovers for those nights where activities keep us away from home until almost eight o’clock in the evening.  No more “shopping” trips that are really just excuses to walk around like a zombie consumer with the vague notion of buying something you deemed necessary.  Instead we have spent a lot of time the last month or so going through our closets and getting rid of the stuff that clogs our home.  There are probably a dozen or more examples of what this home based life is like in practice.

We are not perfect.  Not by a long shot and it was never the intention.  We still like to go out to eat, but we have cut it down to once during the weekends and we try to go local.  No chains for us, but mostly because the local restaurants are the ones that serve the local beers.  It’s a virtuous circle like that.

The one downside, however, has been that our consumption of electricity at home has gone up.  It makes sense as more time at home cooking dinner and just living would equal more energy consumption.  It was just not something that I had counted on when making my calculations for my solar photovoltaic system.

It is not a large delta—approximately 40 kWh or about $5 per month.  Given the cloudy nature of October and November, so far, we have been outstripping the production of the solar photovoltaic system.

On the plus side, we have traded somewhat hidden energy consumption and overt monetary costs for a modest increase in electricity consumption and significant monetary savings.  Consider that the $5 a month in electricity costs is offsetting a single meal out of the house per weak or slightly more than four meals out of the house per month.  At an average cost of $30, which is conservative given my habit of ordering whatever local tipple is on tap, we are a net positive of $125 for the month without accounting for the energy savings of not driving as much.  Should I consider myself more than $1400 in the black?  Maybe.

The calculation is a little facetious, but it gets at a more salient point about the hidden energy costs of our decisions.  I have no doubt that it takes just as much energy or more to produce a meal at a restaurant when everything is considered—power, plant, and equipment so to speak for those with an accounting bent—that even though we have increased our household electricity consumption somewhat, we are saving both in terms of energy and money.  Something to consider as well is the reduced driving costs to and from such convenience meals.  A few miles here and a few miles there starts to add up to some real savings when you multiply things out over the course of a year.

Friday Linkage 11/3/2017

Could Washington D.C. be a bigger shit show right now?  Just when you think that American democracy has hit a new low, Donald J. Trump and his sycophants come out with some new affront to decency.  At what point do people look around and tally up the damage done—Russia, cronyism, nepotism, money laundering, and the list goes on for sure?  Is it 2018 yet?

On to the links…

This One Quote Shows What Angry White Guys Mean when They Talk About Government Overreach—Nothing says America like making a truck belch thick plumes of diesel smoke.  Oh wait, nothing says ‘Merica quite like the practice of rolling coal.  My bad.  The sooner that politicians stop pandering to this segment of society the sooner we can move on to a more advanced phase of our development as a country.

The Trump Administration Is Teeming With Climate-Change Deniers—It is like Donald Trump sat down with his chief of staff and asked, “Can you find me the biggest sack of sorry ass climate deniers to staff my administration with because…fake news.  Sad.  Isn’t Ivanka amazing?”

Scott Pruitt Is Using the Bible as His Guide for Reorganizing EPA’s Science Boards—If you thought it could not get worse, it usually does with the Trump administration.  I always wonder why these guys manage to peel out the parts of the Bible that they like without actually having to follow all of its prescriptions like, say, not eating shrimp.  Just consider this list of things “banned” in Leviticus.

Scandals Pile up for Interior Secretary—Sam Clovis did not even get to assume his post, so maybe we can now focus on the organizational dumpster fire that is Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.  We’ve got campaign finance chicanery, disaster relief scandals, plane scandals, and a whole bag full of other crap.

Global Solar Market Demand Expected To Reach 100 Gigawatts In 2017—What does 100 GW mean?  It would be a 30% increase over what was installed in 2016.  This makes solar the fastest growing form of energy in the world.

US Wind Energy Pipeline Nears 30 Gigawatts—This is not 30 GW worldwide, but 30 GW just in the United States.  Suck it coal.

Trump Admin. Desperate To Keep Coal Power Plant Alive With Taxpayer Dollars—It is not and it never was about the free market.  Trump’s obsession with coal goes back to his need for adoration and coal barons are always ready to give Trump the love because he is their last hope.  The market does not love them.  The utilities do not love them.  Trump does love him some coal.

Italy To Phase Out Coal By 2025—Another one bites the dust.

Electric Buses are Coming, and They’re Going to Help Fix 4 Big Urban Problems—If I had to put my money behind the electrification of transportation in America I would start with buses and garbage trucks.  There are few vehicles I see that could benefit from the advantages of an electric drivetrains and getting black smoke billowing diesel engines out of our cities would be a good thing.

Vikings Razed the Forests. Can Iceland Regrow Them?—The moral of this story is that it is hard to undo damage.  Especially when that damage occurred over a thousand years ago and your country happens to be a volcanic hot zone.  It does not mean, however, that you do not try.

If You Care About Cleantech, You Have To Change Your Diet—There are few more impactful things you can do in terms of greenhouse gas emissions than changing your diet to one that does not feature meat or other animal products.

Why You Shouldn’t Exercise to Lose Weight, Explained with 60+ Studies—You are what you eat.  Literally.  It does however make sense for you to exercise to be healthy.  There is nothing more liberating than following an exercise regimen to reach a goal that is not weight specific.  The scale is no longer your enemy.  It’s just another diagnostic tool.

An October Solar Surprise

October 2017 was kind of an ugly month for my solar photovoltaic system.  I calculated an expected production of approximately 400 kWh and saw production come in at just over 265 kWh.  This works out to about 66% of the predicted output.  Here is how ugly it was:

Solar October 2017.png

Do you see the period of time from October 10th through the 14th?  It must have been almost night out there all day.  What happened?

Easy.  Eastern Iowa saw some seriously gray conditions throughout the month.  Apparently we are entering into the so-called “stratus season” when local climate conditions produce low hanging stratus cloud formations that block out the sun.  November and December are apparently the worst months for this condition.  Awesome.

On the bright side I only ended up using approximately 73 kWh of grid electricity this month, which is not very much in the grand scheme of things.  Considering how well September turned out in terms of production I think I am still ahead of the game by about 64 kWh since my system became active at the end of August.  I will take net positive as we head into the gray months of November and December.