Category Archives: Energy

Wildfires and Solar Panels – Solarponics

Wildfires-and-solar-panels: The heavy ash sediment has been known to reduce power production by as much as 30% or more if not washed off.

Source: Wildfires and Solar Panels – Solarponics

I’ve been losing up to 20% of power production every day for the past couple of weeks due to drifting wildland fire smoke. While the smoke is billowing clouds on a few days, or the sky looks visibly smoky, most days are just “slightly hazy”. In the morning and evening, the sun is noticeably orange but we otherwise have blue skies.

Yet with these conditions we have dropped from about 30 kwh to 24-26 kwh power production each day.

I had to hose off the panels last week – there had been a few days with pretty heavy smoke in the air and that seemed to have deposited ash on the panels.

The Adjustment Factor Tesla Uses to Get Its Big EPA Range Numbers

EPA mileage estimates are sort of bizarre. In EVs, once the range is 200+ miles, the more important factor is probably speed of fast recharging and availability of DC fast charging networks.

But looking at the “range” value is probably what most consumers focus on when making decisions. Tesla has mastered the “Adjustment factors” to get higher EPA ratings.

Source: The Adjustment Factor Tesla Uses to Get Its Big EPA Range Numbers

I used an online tool to calculate charging options for several EVs traveling over a specific route. One model, we will call Model 1, required 3 stops for 30 minutes each, plus one stop for about 45 minutes, to reach the destination. It’s maximum charging rate is about 50 kwh. That’s just over 2 hours of charging time.

One of the other cars is the Tesla Model 3 – which has access to high current DC fast charging stations along the route at up to 150 kwh.

Clearly, the Model 3 can be re-charged at a much faster rate than the “Model 1”.

In fact, the Model 3 required about three 10-12 minutes DCFS stops at 150 kwh stations, followed by one 25 minute charge near the end.

“Model 1” had over 2 hours of charging time on the route while the Model 3 had just under one hour.

The ability of the vehicle to accept the truly high powered chargers – and the availability of fast charging networks at high current makes a big difference.

Another factor is EVs do their fastest charging in sort of the bottom half of the battery capacity. Once the charge cycle refills past 50-60%, the charge rate starts to drop. It takes longer – a lot longer – to charge up the last 20% than it did to charge from 20-40%!

This means you’ll recharge to 70%, drive down to 20%, recharge back to 70% – and so on, to minimize charge time. But that is only possible if DC fast chargers are located in the right places along your route.

Battery capacity, the charging rate and charge curve, and availability of fast charging stations – all factor into your ability to drive long distances in a given amount of time.

I’ve concluded a charge rate of at least 75 kwh is going to be an important feature to make EVs practical for my sort of long distance travel here in the west where distances can be quite long. The vehicles charging rate, the charging curve, and your availability of fast chargers should all be considered when evaluating EVs.

Hypothesis, not conclusion: “In the US, switching to EVs would save lives and be worth billions”

With a confidence interval between zero and infinity:

A team led by Northwestern’s Daniel Peters decided to have a particularly detailed look at this issue, examining several scenarios of grid generation and EV adoption in the US. The results show that even with today’s grid, switching to EVs produces significant benefits.

The researchers used simulated hourly air pollution data from vehicles around the country, along with emissions data for power plants. This went into a model of weather over the course of a year (2014, as it happens), which also simulated important chemical reactions and natural emissions of compounds that interact with pollutants. The resulting air quality simulations were applied to an EPA population health model to show the expected impact on human health.

Source: In the US, switching to EVs would save lives and be worth billions | Ars Technica

And this was pushed through climate models afterwards.

No matter how you slice it, when your model is based on assumptions, simulated values, multiple models, all applied on top of one another, you have created an interesting video game simulation.

Perhaps you can use it to produce multiple hypotheses. But one thing you cannot do – in any way, shape or form – is produce a useful forecast of anything. Claiming this pile of models produces definitive conclusions is scientific fraud.

Continue reading Hypothesis, not conclusion: “In the US, switching to EVs would save lives and be worth billions”

Renewable energy confronts reality in California

Millions of homes in California are enduring rolling black outs. The power system operator acknowledged that as demand spiked, due to high temperatures and AC demand – they lost 1 gigawatt of wind energy and nearly 1/2 gigawatt of a conventional power plant.

Peak energy use occurs late in the day – when solar power production is in decline relative to peak demand. Related – the internal resistance of solar panels goes up in high temperatures. From personal experience, I lose up to 10% of potential solar array power production during extreme heat events versus “normal” temperatures.

Because solar and wind cannot be “revved” up on demand, like conventional power plants, the utilities have to reduce demand by shutting off power to customers.

This is a well known engineering problem –  one that California  pretends does not exist. This week reality and physics intervened and they discovered that it does actually exist. Yesterday, Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged that California’s heavy reliance on renewable energy is a significant factor in their current rolling shutdowns.

Continue reading Renewable energy confronts reality in California

Hyperventilating: “The Dirty Secrets Of ‘Clean’ Electric Vehicles”

Sort of correct but said with an axe to grind approach:

The widespread view that fossil fuels are “dirty” and renewables such as wind and solar energy and electric vehicles are “clean” has become a fixture of mainstream media and policy makers of all persuasions. But, in the case of EVs, the dirty secrets of “clean energy” should seem apparent to all.

Source: The Dirty Secrets Of ‘Clean’ Electric Vehicles

  1. EV batteries require mining of raw materials, many of which come from economically poor countries with abusive labor practices. Rather than criticize what is, this seems to be an opportunity to create economic opportunities and as their economy grows, to address local corruption and labor practices.
  2. The author correctly notes that much of the life time energy consumption in a vehicle occurs during the manufacturing stage. Switching from gas-powered to electric-powered does not have as large an impact as many think. I have previously written about that. You are generally better off continuing to put more miles on your existing car, especially if you already drive a small or fuel efficient vehicle.
  3. For many EVs, the underlying power source is a fossil-fueled power plant. That is the case where I live – where 70% of our utility’s power generation is from (mostly) coal and some natural gas. That’s why we chose to put in solar PV at our house rather than purchase an EV. Our solar PV directly offsets that 70% of our local power company’s fossil fuel. And because we have become so economical with our electricity usage, we have a sufficient surplus of solar PV to recharge a future EV on site.
  4. EV subsidies are regressive. This is absolutely true. It is surprising the number of regressive tax policies that exist. For example, health insurance is deductible by employers – and the higher the pay of the employees, the greater the value of the tax subsidy. However, for many current EVs, the tax subsidy has already gone away once the manufacturer produced a certain number of vehicles.

The author of the above is not really wrong, but is hyperventilating with an axe to grind. They are real issues but most are fixable.

AM radio getting killed off by electric vehicles?

Newer Tesla EVs and the BMW i3 do not provide AM radios. The Bolt EV does but there are reports that reception may be poor (they might be using an attenuator to knock down electric motor noise).

In addition to the potential electrical noise problem of EVs, car makers want to push you into a monthly subscription for Sirius Radio via satellite. Or to stream radio via cellular data. Unfortunately I live in the eastern half of a state that has very, very, very limited cellular service coverage – literally, half the state is a cellular free hole – no service.

An estimated 31 million Americans tuned into AM radio every day in 2016.

The next logical step may be to remove FM radio support. They will require you use cellular data streaming or satellite radio.

The argument is that AM is “old” technology and should just go away. They don’t care what actual customers and consumers think.

Source: Radio Reception | Chevy Bolt EV Forum

Why does a GM web page feature a Tesla charging port?

Why does a GM web site page feature a Tesla and Tesla charging cable?

GM’s all-new modular platform and Ultium battery system will be the heartbeat of its all-electric future – making an electric vehicle available to everyone.

Source: National Engineers Week | General Motors

Here’s a screen shot from part of that General Motors page:

Here’s a shrunk image of a Tesla Model 3 charging port, from Motortrend and seen from the same angle.
Photo from

Does this imply GM will be adopting the Tesla charge port on future EVs?

What does it mean to use no fossil fuels for electricity generation by 2035?

2035 is 15 years from today. Presidential candidate Joe Biden unveiled his plan to eliminate all carbon-based fuels for electricity generation.

Most people have no idea how large the numbers are for producing energy. The scope is mind boggling.

Here is an analysis from Professor Roger Pielke, Jr:

To illustrate what this translate into in real world terms, we would have to bring online a new nuclear power plant every two weeks from now through 2035.

Or, build 1,700 two MW wind turbines every two weeks, or 121 new wind turbines every day. And since these do not produce power 24 x 7, additional power sources would be required.

Compare this to other large infrastructure projects:

  • It is taking ten years for Portland to update a major water line and water plant.
  • The California high speed rail project was launched in 2008, with construction starting in 2015. Phase 1 is to be completed by 2033. That’s 25 years. For a single railway. And it will not even be complete.
  • Think of other “big” projects and how many years – or decades – they’ve taken to complete. It took 2 1/2 years just replace a 100 yard, 4 lane roadway bridge over a local river.

Can we realistically build the equivalent of two large scale nuclear power plants every two weeks for the next 15 years? You can change the desired electrical power sources – bigger nuclear power plants, or bigger solar PV and grid-sized battery storage systems (using technology not yet in existence) – but no matter how you slice it, the enormity is mind boggling and there is no precedence to believe the scope of this undertaking is achievable. Do we even have enough workers to achieve this? We’d have to take workers out of other functions – such as building offices, homes, factories – meaning we disrupt everything else to focus on this one task.

EV Charging issues

If you live in California, you can pretty much charge any EV, nearly anywhere. About 1/3d of all EV charging stations in the U.S. – are in California.

This is not the case, though, in other parts of the country. The other 49 states have only 2/3ds of all available charging stations in the country!

I have been researching EVs since last fall. One EV I like uses the J-1772 standard plug for Level 2 charging (up to about 7 kwh or may be 25 miles per hour of charging) and the CCS/SAE (or Combo) standard for up to 50 kwh charging (up to 90 miles in 30 minutes of charging).

Looking around, I discovered in my area, CCS/SAE chargers do not exist. In fact, there are none at all in my town. There are 4 chargers at one location in the next town, 20 miles to the south, and 1 about 35 miles to the north.

If I were to head south from my house, the next fast charging station is about 230 miles down the road – which may or may not be do-able due to crossing mountains. The alternative is to stop for quite a bit at Level 2 charger. Do-able, but not a quick trip.

Continue reading EV Charging issues

Electric vehicles: Will take decades to overtake ICE vehicles

For obvious reasons, actually:

GM CEO Mary Barra believes it will take decades for EVs to become more common than cars with an internal-combustion engine under the hood

Source: GM sees an electric future, but it’ll take decades to get there – Roadshow

I while back I read the Green New Deal which proposes to replace the entire oil infrastructure of the United States in just ten years. A moment’s thought illustrates that is not physically possible.

Continue reading Electric vehicles: Will take decades to overtake ICE vehicles