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Tesla’s Solar-Powered EV Charging Stations
Sep28

Tesla’s Solar-Powered EV Charging Stations

Tesla Motors recently revealed their first six solar-powered “Supercharger” stations for the all-electric Model S sedan.   Strategically located off major California highways, these charging stations have an output of 90 kW to power the sedan’s 85 kWh (or 60kWh) battery, providing 3 hours on the road at 60 miles per hour from only 30 minutes of charging.   The grid-tied solar-powered Supercharger stations can send excess power back into the grid.    Tesla’s six Supercharger stations are located throughout California, making a road-trip from LA to San Francisco possible.   Tesla CEO Elon Musk intends to build vast network of 100 Supercharger stations by 2015.  These Supercharger stations will be conveniently located at shopping destinations and restaurants.      Tesla’s all electric vehicles charge for free at the Tesla Supercharger stations.  Though most EVs cannot charge at these stations, it isn’t clear whether future non-Tesla vehicles will be allowed to use these charging stations....

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What is the Smart Grid?
Sep26

What is the Smart Grid?

Just in the last two decades, we’ve seen our daily communications progress from landlines and pagers to smartphones.  Though the devices we use on a daily basis have been dramatically improving over the years, we’re charging our iPhones with century-old grid technology. The North American electric grid, otherwise known as the “largest machine in the world,” is the intricate network of power stations, transmission lines, transformers, and distribution lines that power our daily lives.  The idea for the North American electric grid was developed about a hundred years ago.  A hundred years ago, the average person’s energy demands were quite modest in comparison with today.  A centralized energy model used to make sense. US energy consumption is expected to increase 41% by 2030. With a drastic increase in demand for energy from a growing population, the North American electric grid is under enormous pressure.  We’re currently experiencing an increase in blackouts and brownouts because of the stress on this dated infrastructure. Though the grid is actually 99.97 % reliable, Americans still pay $150 billion every year because of these disturbances in grid electricity. Long story short- the grid is old and in need of change.  This is why everyone is talking about “Smart Grid.”  With all the hype about Smart Grid, it has many wondering what its defining feature is. Truthfully, the Smart Grid is more of a concept than one specific technology. The goal of Smart Grid is to adapt the existing infrastructure to 21st Century demands by implementing modern communications technology. The easiest way to conceptualize what “Smart Grid” means is to imagine the entire electrical infrastructure connected to the internet.   The Smart Grid is a vision of a more flexible, efficient, and reliable grid that will support renewable energy and engage consumers in new ways.   This won’t be an overnight change, but rather a gradual move towards this ideal. The Smart Grid will be able to collect and respond to data collected throughout the entire electricity grid.   Transmission and distribution sensors will be installed throughout the grid, enabling communication between the devices themselves and with utilities operations.   This will allow the grid to determine the most efficient way to transmit and distribute electricity, saving money and keeping the cost lower. Remote control and automation technologies make the entire system more reliable and efficient.  The Smart Grid will enable us to understand and improve the generation, transmission, distribution and consumption of electricity, creating a more balanced and efficient grid. Utilities will be able to predict, detect, and respond to blackouts/brownouts immediately by without having to wait for a customer to call in and notify the...

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Community Solar Bill Dies

Senate Bill 843, a piece of legislation that would have extended the benefits of renewable energy to millions of Californians, died last Friday in the state’s Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce. Currently, 75% of households cannot install residential solar (and other renewable energy) systems for one reason or another.   One of the most significant factors is that 44% of households in California rent, rather than own their homes.  Typically, the only people who can use solar energy are well-to-do homeowners with good credit and minimal shading challenges on their roofs.  Senate Bill 843 would have made clean energy a possibility for Californians who don’t necessarily fit this restrictive criteria.  It is a shame to see this bill die.  Supported by a volume of groups including the Sierra Club California, the California School Board Association, and the Department of Defense, Senate Bill 843 aimed to help Californians the opportunity to make use of virtual net metering from off-site renewable energy plants.   Essentially, this bill would have made possible the indirect consumption of clean energy for Californians who could not otherwise access solar, or some other form of renewable energy.   Proposed by State Senator Lois Wolk, Senate Bill 843 would have created 2 GW of solar energy through community facilities throughout the state of California.   Senate Bill 843 would have made it possible for utility customers within the territories of PG&E, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric to purchase shares of power from these community-based  facilities that have medium-scale renewable energy systems (up to 20 MW).  Customers would sign contracts with the facility and pay a monthly fee for their share of electricity sent into the grid.  These community energy facilities then report the customer’s percentage of the facility’s power to the respective utility.   This amount of solar electricity would then be credited towards the the customer’s utility bill.  This is how virtual net-metering would function with these community-based renewable energy facilities.  The renewable energy facilities’ economies of scale would have given way to a cheaper cost per kWh than standard residential systems- a savings that would keep the cost of electricity down for Californians who wish to utilize renewable energy through virtual net metering. These small to mid-sized solar power plants could have been built at existing establishments such as schools or churches, reducing the need for large-scale solar power plants in the desert, which often pose environmental concern.     These community-based renewable energy facilities also would have created an estimated 12,000 jobs without spending any state funds. Despite all Wolk’s compelling arguments to pass the bill, Senate Bill 843 died in California’s Assembly Committee on...

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Customer’s Off-Grid System

Gus Gomez is a retired university professor who spends several days out of the month at his remote, off-grid cabin in Moses Lake, Washington.  To power this stand-alone home, Gus Gomez recently purchased and installed an off-grid solar system from GoGreenSolar.com. “GoGreenSolar delivers sales and technical support and advice when needed.  I highly recommend GoGreenSolar for anyone’s solar system needs. The equipment is high quality and the technical support could not be better.”  – Professor Gus Gomez Distant from the basic amenities of city life, Gus had to transform this isolated cabin into a livable home.  Located on a 40-acre plot of farm land, this 550 square-foot cabin now has its own off-grid power, septic system, and water well, all of which are “in place free of monthly charges,” according to Gomez. “The climate in Eastern Washington provides an excellent opportunity for households and businesses to install solar systems for their electrical needs … It’s warm during summer with an average maximum temperature of 88.20 degrees Fahrenheit, while the coldest month of the year is January with an average minimum temperature of 21.70 degrees Fahrenheit.” Gus had an off-grid PV system installed to power the cabin.  Because Lake Moses frequently experiences powerful winds, Gus had the 3-module array mounted to a cylindrical pole mount instead of installing a racking solution on the roof. After drilling a ten-foot hole in the ground, they secured the twenty-foot-long steel cylinder with concrete.   At the top of the pole, three REC 235 Watt solar panels are secured with a DPW Power Fab Top of Pole Mount racking solution. This off-grid system uses eight MK 8G8DLTP Sealed Gel Batteries and a Xantrex Charge Controller. “The gel batteries are maintenance-free so we do not have to worry about them,” Professor Gomez. The couple uses the Magnum Battery Monitor Kit to view the percentage state of charge, real time amps, voltage, amp-hours in/out, and the minimum/maximum DC volts. This information is accessed through the Magnum Energy ME-ARC50 Remote Control, which acts as a command center for his system. Using the Magnum Energy ME-ARC50 Remote Control like a “fuel gauge” meter, the couple tracks the performance of their system and manages their personal kWh usage. Gus keeps his Magnum Energy Remote Control inside the cabin to check the battery level 100 feet away from the actual battery bank. The 3-panel array outside the “pump/electrical outhouse” From inside the cabin, they can also activate the MAGNUM 4400 Watt Pure Sine Wave Inverter inside the outhouse. “The system is trouble-free and easy to understand … the small monitor (Magnum Energy ME-ARC50 Remote Control) installed inside the cabin provides...

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Understanding Your Electricity Bill Part 1: The Basics
Aug27

Understanding Your Electricity Bill Part 1: The Basics

Hello solar drops and droplettes!  Electricity bills can seem quite cryptic to the uninitiated, so we are going to do our best to demystify the bills for our readers.  It is our hope that you will gain a better understanding of your electricity usage, utility rates and schedules, how you can reduce your personal usage and save money.  Once you understand how your electricity rates works, you’ll be able to determine whether or not replacing all or part of your electricity with solar makes sense in your specific situation. We’ll focus on the basics of the bill page-by-page, focusing mainly on the first and third page because the other pages contain no usage data.  Future articles will address other aspects of electricity bills, some of which were outlined above and others that will be generated directly from questions you may have.  Please post any questions in the comments and I would be happy to answer them in a later article.  Now, grab a copy of your bill to follow along, and without further ado, let’s dive in! *Please note that the example bill for this article is from Southern California Edison (SCE). Most bills have the similar information, but if there are some serious differences, feel free to ask about them.  I will address all questions in later articles or directly in the comments.* Page one is your account summary. Most of the important numbers on the bill are on this first page. The customer account number is in the upper right-hand corner. This number can be used to check your account history online or over the phone. The customer account refers to any properties signed up with the utility under the same name. The service account number is associated with specific addresses that are under the customer account. Underneath this number and associated address is the rotating outage number, which may be used to access information about scheduled blackouts for your outage group (this information is available online or by phone as well). Just below the top portion of the bill is the invoice summary of the previous bill amount, your payments, the current balance and any new charges that have accrued in the current billing period, which is listed in the top left-hand corner. Below the summary is the reading from your meter in kilowatt-hours (kWh). It provides a graph that shows your daily average electricity usage (kWh).  Use this tool to compare your daily usage as it varies month-to-month and season-to-season. The bill also offers data on your average daily usage by the year, so if you have been making efforts to reduce your usage, those...

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