Tag Archives: solar

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.

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Friday Linkage 7/26/2019

The heat and humidity finally broke here in eastern Iowa this week and we got to open the windows.  Okay, we opened the windows in our house but it seems like everyone else still has their air conditioning running full blast.  Naturally, this includes my neighbors who run their air conditioning even when it is sixty degrees outside.  It must be an ice box inside that house.

These are the same neighbors who complain about their high electricity bill.  So it also makes sense that these same neighbors would install a hot tub.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, says high electricity costs quite like a hot tub.

On to the links…

American Green—If there is one thing that I wish people would do it is that they stop obsessing—in terms of both time and money—about the lawns surrounding their homes.  Who cares if a stray dandelion shows up or some clover has established itself?  Who cares it some spots start to brown out when the mercury hits 90 degrees?

New York Just Passed the Most Ambitious Climate Target in the Country—There is no climate leadership at the federal level, so it falls to cities and states to move things forward.  Luckily, the states most likely to move forward also happen to be home to a lot of people and a lot of economic activity.

Refinery Explosions Raise New Warnings About Deadly Chemical—If a Tesla or other electric vehicle catches fire there is sure to be a whole raft of coverage.  If a normal ICE car bursts into flames or an oil refinery explodes there is little coverage.  Never mind the potential of a truly catastrophic incident at an oil refinery.

It’s Just Good Business: Even Red States Are Dumping Coal for Solar—I think that this needs to be the response for anyone who gets asked a question about solar power.  It’s just good business.

Waste Only: How the Plastics Industry Is Fighting to Keep Polluting the World—Plastic is bad.  It may be a necessary evil in some applications, but limiting the use of plastics is the ultimate goal.

Cigarette Butts are the Most Pervasive Man-Made Pollutant—My late father, a former smoker who quit in his thirties, hated cigarette butts with a passion and had a more hot burning hate for the people who threw their cigarette butts about with abandon.  His whole theory was that cigarettes with filters should be banned, all cigarettes should be called coffin nails, and the package should say “Smoke More, Die Younger.”

10 Ways the Bicycle Moved Us Forward—The bicycle is a humble solution to a lot of problems.  As we design ever more complex solutions to our problems we need to remember that easier solutions exist.

In Madrid, a Car Ban Proves Stronger Than Partisan Politics—I know it will come as a shock to most right wing reactionaries, especially the ones on Fox News who want to cover themselves in a cologne called Fossil Fuel Funk, but people actually like living in places where cars are not valued over people.  Remember, in most modern offices your car will be allotted more space in the parking lot than you will be inside the building.

How ‘Corn Sweat’ Makes Summer Days More Humid—If you live in Iowa during the summer you understand this phenomenon all too well.  The humid haze that rises from the endless fields of tall corn in July and August is like an oppressive ghost moving through the landscape.  Maybe I spend too much time cycling along these same fields in the heat.

Dunkin’ Adds Beyond Meat’s Sausage to its Menu, Starting in New York—Are we turning the corner into a world where renewable energy is the cheapest source of electricity, people actually care about the climate, and non-meat alternatives are commonplace?  I sure know that non-meat alternatives seem to be everywhere.

Can You Taste the Difference Between Plant-Based Meat and Beef? Burger King Sweden is Betting No.—This is what the people behind calling plant protein “meat” in Arkansas are worried about.  Okay, their actually being funded by a locally powerful meat industry to take this fight on but their paymasters fear this outcome.

Has Wine Gone Bad?—When reading Napa at Last Light by James Conaway I was struck by some critiques of wineries for the total lack of environmental consideration.  The gist was basically that if anyone actually knew just how much of a bad actor the wine industry was in California it would cripple the industry’s marketing efforts.

The Budweiser Beer Empire was Built on Debt. Now it’s Racing to Pay it Off—Geez, I cannot imagine how building an empire through acquisitions fueled by debt could ever go wrong?

June 2019 Solar was Back on Track and EV Miles were Extra Efficient

June was a better month for solar production:

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Over the course of the entire month my household ended up ~150 kWh (consumption minus production), including all of my EV charging for that same period as I did not use any public chargers.  With at least eight more panels being installed on my roof this summer I am going to be seeing a lot more months with excess production.  Every kilowatt hour that I produce from my solar array is like a nail in the coffin for coal.

The excess production in June was a little artificial because we were on the road for more than a week.  With no air conditioning running it is to be expected that we would run a surplus.  June was also fairly cool with a corresponding lack of need to deploy air conditioning.  The last few days of the month were a reminder that summer in Iowa is a hot and sticky affair.  I am talking temperatures exceeding 90 degrees and humidity levels exceeding 90%.  If there was ever a time where I did not want to come home from the mountains this was that time.

For June I drove my Nissan Leaf a total of ~555 miles at an average efficiency of 5.9 miles per kWh.  This is my best number by far, in terms of efficiency, and makes me wonder if I can nurse my way to a figure over 6 miles per kWh in July.  For the period I saved ~646 pounds of C02 being emitted assuming that my charging came via the grid at an average carbon intensity.

You may ask how I can be ahead in terms of energy production yet still account for some level of carbon intensity for my electric vehicle.  Unfortunately, my photovoltaic array’s production occurs when I am not charging my EV which usually happens at night.  Therefore, to run my Nissan Leaf I am utilizing grid electricity.  It’s a little like keeping two sets of books for the same business.

Friday Linkage 6/7/2019

Do we live in an alternate reality?  Watching Donald Trump and his family pretend to be royalty on a state visit to the United Kingdom was maybe one of the most disturbing things I have witnessed in recent memory.

It was not as bad as horrible laws passed to punish people based on archaic religious views that have no place in American government.  It was not as jarring as seeing pictures of asylum seekers being ripped from their children to satisfy the base desires of rabidly racist political base.  It was, however, disturbing on a different level.

Donald Trump believes, deep down in his little shriveled soul, that he is analogous to the Queen.  You can see it in his face when he poses with his children in formalwear that the entire corrupt brood feels as if they are American royalty.  Blue collar billionaire my ass.  Donald Trump is a dime store duke or ersatz earl.

On to the links…

The Radical Plan to Save the Planet by Working Less—I think this has less to do with overtly saving the planet and more to do with realigning our human existence.  What has our obsession with every increasing workloads in the name of economic growth done for us lately?  Who is happier?  Who is healthier?  Outside of a few billionaires reaping the benefits of our labors I would endeavor to say that almost no one is better off.

Donald Trump Is Sending Park Rangers to the Border to Help Enforce His Immigration Policies—What the f*ck?  Charles Blow in the New York Times pretty much nailed it when he wrote that every action by this administration is an effort to shore up the continued dominance of conservative white control.

Coal Plants Are a Dying Breed—Despite his best efforts or, maybe because of his best efforts given his track record of business failures, coal is dying.  Check out the chart:

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Now, every wind turbine and solar panel we can install is another kWh we take away from coal.

How California Became Far More Energy-Efficient than the Rest of the Country—This is why Donald Trump and his administration want to hamstring California’s legal right to set its own efficiency targets.  It works.  Less electricity demand means less need for coal.

We Electrified Everything (and So Can You)—This is the personal climate action plan that everyone needs to adopt:

  1. Electrify everything possible in your life
  2. Use as little of those electrified things as possible
  3. Produce as much electricity from your roof as possible

It sounds simple because it is.

Massachusetts Looks to Beef Up Commitment to Offshore Wind—The east coast of the United States is not a good place for onshore wind.  However, offshore wind could put a lot of renewable energy within close geographic proximity to millions of people.

Chile’s Cheap Power – Sign Of A Solar Future?—These prices for solar power are scary low.  Scary for coal and scary for natural gas.  I love the last line in the article: “And that means the future is electric, renewable and, best of all, cheap.”

Diving Gas Costs Spark Potential Rare Switch Away From Coal in Japan—Coal cannot survive in a world where other energy sources are cleaner and less expensive.

Ford Recycles 1.2 Billion Plastic Bottles a Year for Auto Parts—It is a proverbial drop in the bucket, but I wonder if there is an idea here to help create a real market for recycled plastics.  If there is a market for Kardashians there has to be a market for recycled plastics.

NREL Scientists have a Plan to Fight Ocean Plastic: Upcycle it into Something Valuable—Create a market and people will be all over recycling plastic.

Woman Collects 2.4 Tons of Trash on Nova Scotia Beaches in 1 year—If one person can collect more than 2 tons of trash in a year, what can we accompolish as a community dedicated to environmental restoration?

Lyft Offers Free EV Charging to Portland Drivers—I do not know if Uber and Lyft are in this for the long haul given their money losing business models, but this cannot do anything but help increase the adoption of EVs.  Furthermore, if more people are exposed to EVs that is a good thing.

A Pioneer of Battery-Powered Trains Now Wants a Nationwide Fleet of Them—Electrifying transportation is not just about personal automobiles.

The Preachers Getting Rich from Poor Americans—These sons of bitches still exist and are fleecing poor people out of their money.  If you are a pastor and you fly on a private jet you have failed to read and understand the gospel of Jesus.

Why You Want Oysters and a Salt Marsh between You and a Hurricane—Here’s an idea: why don’t we deploy these natural solutions to as many places as possible rather than blindly rebuilding communities in the paths of ever more destructive hurricanes.  It’s not like we can keep building castles in swamps until they stop sinking.

Students in the Philippines must Plant 10 Trees to Graduate—Reminds me of the part in Ecotopia where someone wanting to build a house needed to spend time planting and harvesting trees in order to obtain the building materials.  Would the world be a better place where we understood the origin of the things we consume?

Urban Forests are Dying. Baltimore Shows us How to Bring them Back.—We are urban creatures now.  We need to preserve and regenerate our urban forests.  It is not an impossible task.

May Showers Dominate Solar Production and Electric Vehicle Efficiency is Stable

May was a rainy month in eastern Iowa.  How rainy?  It rained for twice the number of hours in May and three times the usual rainfall hit the ground.  Things were really wet.  Like the “ground is a sopping wet sponge” wet.  It had an impact on May’s solar production:

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Now, just over 542 kWh of clean, green solar electricity is not bad.  It is down about 80 kWh from the same month the prior year.

All in all, my household ended up about 10 kWh ahead of consumption for the month of May including home charging of the Nissan Leaf.  When you can drive all month and live in house with modern amenities all powered by the sun that is considered a win.  Sometimes I just feel like I am living in the future.

For the month I drove 937.4 miles in my Nissan Leaf at an average efficiency of 5.5 miles per kilowatt hour.  This beats my efficiency the prior month by 0.1 miles per kilowatt hour.  This saved ~1,080 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions versus my prior vehicle assuming that I charged using grid electricity, which in Iowa averages about 1 pound of CO2 per kWh.  As noted above, I actually ended the month ahead of my consumption so the emission savings were probably higher.

It does not seem like a big win in terms of efficiency.  However, there are two round trips to Iowa City that totaled almost 140 miles of driving at highway speeds.  For anyone who has driven a Nissan Leaf there is a moment of dread the first time that you get the little car up to 60 miles per hour or more and watch your efficiency drop like a stone in freefall.

The trick is to minimize interstate highway type driving in favor of more sedate state or county highway driving.  That is to say, drive 55 miles per hour as opposed to the 70 miles per hour or more on the interstate.  It takes a little longer, sure, but there is something really peaceful cruising along with the windows down and the silence of an electric vehicle drivetrain.

It also helps to have access to public charging at the midpoint of your trip.  In Iowa City there are ChargePoint facilities available in several public parking ramps.  You pay for parking (first hour is free and a $1 per hour for any additional time) and the charging is free as long as you have a ChargePoint account.  My Leaf is equipped with a standard Level 2 charging port so it can accept, at most, 3.3 kWh of electricity per hour of charge.  It is not a lot for the ninety minutes or so that my errands in Iowa City take, but it provides a margin of safety for the trip home that eases any potential range anxiety.

These trips have gotten me thinking about electric vehicles and range.  Maybe the issue is not absolute range, as in 235 miles of range when fully charged, but rather the ability to gain a lot of range in a short period of time, as in 80% battery charge in 30 minutes.  If I was able to regain more than three quarters of my vehicle’s charge in less time than it takes to make a quick trip into Costco that would change my route calculations considerably.  Also, if more public charging facilities were available at destinations that might also change behavior.

Do I spend a little more time in downtown Iowa City because I am charging my Nissan Leaf?  Probably.  Think about that from an economic development standpoint.

Friday Linkage 5/10/2019

Steve King, the vile racist from northwest Iowa who inexplicably gets elected every two years to the House of Representatives despite achieving nothing for his time in Congress, is the fucking worst.  As Davenport, a city in Iowa that sits along the Mississippi River as part of the Quad Cities, was dealing with flooding downtown following epic early season rain and a failure of a temporary barrier Steve King had the audacity to speak:

… That means it will rain more and more places. It might rain harder in some places, it might snow in some of those places. But it’s surely gotta shrink the deserts and expand the green growth, there’s surely got to be some good in that. So I just look at the other, good side.

Seriously?  This is the modern Republican Party in the age of Trump.  Don’t worry about global ecological disaster because it might get better in a few places.

On to the links…

How Taxpayers Covered a $1,000 Liquor Bill for Trump Staffers (and More) at Trump’s Club—Nothing like a little self-serving corruption to line the pockets.  My favorite part?  Lining out the taxes on the bill.  Only the little people pay taxes.

The Tax Bill for Many Big Polluters Last Year: $0—The Trump Administration is an orgy of bad behavior and giveaways to industry.  Everyone is fat, drunk, and happy right now because they get to keep on drilling and dumping like there is no tomorrow.  The hangover in 2021 is going to be brutal for these people.

Environmentalists Fight Mining Plan By Ivanka Trump’s Billionaire Landlord—The key thing in Trump world is to make sure that you ladle benefits upon Trump and his children.  If you can manage to butter the family circle up the world is your oyster.  Or open pit mine.

The Trump Organization’s Problem with Possible Money Laundering—Just in case you needed a little reminder as to the myriad ways that the Trump Organization is profiting from the public trust.

Mike Pompeo Admitted the Arctic Is Melting. He Just Didn’t Mention Why.—This is the new Republican message on climate change.  Yes, I recognize that the planet is going haywire.  I am not a scientist, so I cannot speculate as to why.  Would you like to drill for oil on public lands?

Can New York Make Buildings Super-Efficient, Fast?—Imagine this kind of effort on a regional or nationwide scale?  This is the type of near term “victory” that we can achieve vis a vis energy usage to reduce our carbon emissions without radically altering our way of life.

We’ll Soon Know the Exact Air Pollution from Every Power Plant in the World. That’s Huge.—Or is it yuge?

1 in 5 Americans Now Live in Places Committed to 100% Clean Power—Twenty percent is a lot, but more is better.  I am sure there was a time when it looked like we would ever get rid of leaded gas and catalytic converters seemed like techno-mumbo jumbo.

Why the Bicycle’s Future Looks Bright—The bicycle’s future has always been bright because there is no simpler device that can return such ample benefit.

Dark Money Group Spent $1.25 Million on TV Ads Supporting Bill Imposing New Fee on Solar Panels—I do not watch much television, so I did not see these ads, but apparently these ads were on all the time.  Nothing says transparency like a dark money campaign to get people to pay more.

Iowans Use a Lot of Energy. Here’s How Much.—Damn, we use a lot of energy per capita in this state.

The Problem With Lab-Grown Meat—This is the same problem with organic when “big food” got into the game.  It replicated the ills of the industrial agriculture system with a veneer of planetary benefit.

The Complicated Gender Politics of Going Zero Waste—This kind of reminds me of the joke about newspapers announcing the end of the world.  The Washington Post’s headline was going to be “World Ends: Women and Children Impacted Most.”

Do Married Millennials Cheat on Each Other?—Every time I see an article about Millennials having a marked improvement in a certain behavior I believe that the headline is missing the point.  Millennials, in many wars, are reverting to norms of behavior that predate the worst generation in American history: baby boomers.  Baby boomers are the worst.  Fight me.
Oh, No, Not Knotweed!—I have yet to run across this nasty invasive yet, but based on this article I never hope to see a single sprout.

Cracking the Electric Vehicle and Solar Photovoltaic Code in April

April felt like the month where I cracked the code on this whole electric vehicle thing.  How so?  After averaging 5.0 miles per kilowatt hour (kWh) in March and considerable less in the prior two months I ended April at an average of 5.4 miles per kWh.  Over the course of ~630 miles of driving I saved ~724 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions compared with my prior ICE vehicle.

Since mid-January when I acquired my used Nissan Leaf, I have driven a total of ~2,214 miles and saved ~2,456 pounds of carbon dioxide.  Not to mention saving ~$230 in fuel costs, which is a number that is sure to go up as fuel costs are creeping up here in eastern Iowa along with the spring time temperatures.

The story gets even better when you factor in April’s solar production:

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The numbers are not dramatic in and of themselves.  However, for the month—including the electricity that I used to “fuel” my EV—I produced ~95 kWh in excess of my needs.  For the month of April my house and my car were more than fueled by the sun.  That is the future.

Imagine what things will be like when I increase the generating capacity of my solar array by almost 60%.  Based on my calculations that will allow for more than 15,000 miles of electric driving per year which should cover both my and my wife’s commuting miles in town.