Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Charting Seasonal Output

Now that many of us who got solar in 2007 have completed our first solar year, some interesting results are available for those of us who have charted our usage. The graph above shows the average value (in dollars) of my solar system's daily output over the 13 month period from 5/15/07 to 6/15/08. (I'm on the E-7 rate plan, which is no longer available to new solar households).
Because the E-7 peak rate is $0.28 from May 1-Oct. 31 and only $0.10 from Nov. 1 to Apr. 30, my solar system generates very little value for six months of the year. (It faces WNW, which exaggerates this effect compared to a South-facing system.) So, if I ever need to take my solar system offline to re-roof, I whould do it in early November when the weather here is usually quite nice (but the value of my solar output is paltry.)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Solar Buyers Group Returns to Mountain View

As explained in the story in today's Mountain View Voice, a second edition of the solar buyers group is now active in Mountain View. This year's group is being organized by former Mayor Mike Kasperzak, who purchased a solar system as part of the first group.

Dates and times for the first two public meetings are:

Wed. March 19, 7 pm, MVLA High School District Office Board Room, 1299 Bryant Ave., MV
Thur. April 3, 7 pm, the historic Adobe Building, 157 Moffett Blvd., MV

You can register for either event here: http://www.solarcity.com/tabid/133/Default.aspx

Friday, March 7, 2008

We're on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer

In December, Twana and I were filmed for a segment of The News Hour with Jim Lehrer. We didn't hear anything for months, and then yesterday we were told the segment (on carbon credits) was going to air that evening.

Here's a link to our 15 seconds of national fame.


We're not sure how we were selected to appear. Our best guess is that the program manager for the ClimateSmart carbon offset program at PG&E gave our names to the segment producer.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Electric Bill Below Zero? How to Responsibly Increase Your Usage

It's been 9 months since our 2.4 kW DC (1.9 kW AC) solar system was installed. I can now project with reasonable confidence that on the one-year anniversary of the system, I will have a cumulative energy charge of minus $65. In other words, my wife and I will have donated $65 worth of electricity to PG&E.

At last night's MV Enivronmental Sustainability Task Force meeting, Marn Yee Lee mentioned that she and her husband was in the same boat, and asked if I would blog about environmentally responsible ways to use more electricity and less fossil fuel.

The reasons we have a negative electric bill are some combination of:
1) it was a very mild summer and we used our air conditioners very little
2) our energy conservation efforts were more successful than we imagined,
3) we were more successful in shifting our usage to "off-peak" hours than SolarCity's models expected.

Here are a few ideas about how to use more electricity in a responsible way. Feel free to add more as a comment to this posting. I make no claim that any of these have a positive ROI, this is just a "top of mind" list.

1) If you have a gas range or oven, use them as little as possible. Use the microwave, toaster oven or even an electric frying pan instead. If you remodel your kitchen, go all-electric.
2) Get an electric kettle to boil water for tea instead of using your gas range, but only boil just as much as you need.
3) Replace your gasoline powered outdoor equipment (mower, blower, string trimmer) with electric equivalents. If you have a gardener, tell him you want him to use the electric equipment that you provide rather than his own gasoline-powered equipment.
4) Turn down your thermostat at night even more than you already have and use electric heaters in your bedrooms to keep things warm enough to suit you.
5) Skip the bedroom space heaters and buy an electric mattress pad. Turn these on high an hour before you go to bed and you'll never slip into cold sheets again.
6) Replace your gas dryer with an electric dryer or simply buy a "clothes spinner." This is an appliance that extracts water from clothes that have just been washed by spinning them at high RPM for about 3 minutes. Once the clothes have been spun, they will dry much faster in either a dryer or hanging on your clothes line.
7) Replace your gas water heater with an electric water heating system, either tankless or traditional. (I must note that installing a solar hot water heating system would be better for the environment and cost less in the long run.)
8) Buy an electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid.

Some of these suggestions will use only a few dollars worth of your "excess" electricity and others will consume all of it and then some.

We've already done #2 and #5, and I would like to buy a clothes spinner soon. If spinners work as well as I've heard, it might make line drying fast enough for me to go back to doing it in the summer like I did when I wasn't working.

What are your suggestions for additions to this list?