Squirrels: Solar’s Biggest Threat?


So, what do a home solar system, squirrel/critter guard (more commonly known as chicken wire) and way too much yard work have to do with one another?

In my case, quite a lot, unfortunately.

Three years ago, when REC Solar installed our 5.59 kW home solar system (which has been working great, having pumped out about 25,000 kWh of electricity), I had no idea that squirrels represent a threat to a PV system (think gnaw, gnaw, gnaw on your panel wires), or that squirrel guard was an option to prevent squirrel disaster.

No one at REC Solar talked to me about squirrels and squirrel/critter guard.

no-squirrel-guardOur squirrel-guard-less home solar system — with perfect, and, unfortunately, easily accessible nesting/wire chewing space underneath. [Photo By Christof Demont-Heinrich]

Neighbors have squirrel guard
Then, a year after our system went up, our neighbors had a comparable solar PV system installed on their roof. They did a Sungevitiy lease.

And, guess what?

Sungevity must insist on protecting its investment as much as possible, because the solar installer (Namaste Solar) who put in our neighbors’ system placed squirrel guard around the entire thing.

As soon as I saw the squirrel guard, I became paranoid about our un-protected system, and, to be honest, felt a bit gipped that REC Solar hadn’t done squirrel guard for us.

squirrel-guard-neighborsOur neighbors’ solar system with squirrel guard around the edges. [Photo By Christof Demont-Heinrich]

Do only leased solar systems get a squirrel guard?
This feeling become more acute when I saw an REC Solar system go up in July of 2012 in Denver in which REC did in fact add the squirrel protection. Of course, that was a leased system, not a system owned by a homeowner (I know, because I talked to the REC Solar workers installing that system in Denver). This makes me wonder if only those who lease their home solar (we bought our system) get automatic squirrel guard protection — but that’s a slightly different topic.

Back to the topic at hand: ‘Sammy’ Squirrel — my daughters call all squirrels ‘Sammy’ for some reason ;-)

Have we had any squirrel problems?

Not yet. I happen to think a big reason for that is that we’ve never have any squirrels on our roof. And I think this is largely due to me cutting back the tree pathways that could lead ‘Sammy Squirrel’ directly onto our roof (sure, Sammy could climb directly up our house, but he’s unlikely to do so because it would be too much effort).

Of course, this means I’ve performed a considerable amount of hard labor (even a bit of dangerous labor – I’m climbing trees in some cases) to trim the trees back around our house in a serious way, such that, hopefully, it would take a flying squirrel, not a regular squirrel, to be able to reach our roof.

Of course, I would have preferred to have a squirrel guard installed around our home solar system to begin with, as this would have saved me a huge amount of tree trimming over the past few years (to be fair, I would have had to do a little trimming simply to keep branches from growing through our window screens).

Am I too paranoid about those ugly rodents with the giant teeth and bushy tails? (Sorry, I’m not a big fan of squirrels.)

Keeping ‘Mr. Teeth’ at bay
I’m not sure, though I do know one of the bushy-tailed critters gnawed his way through the wiring on my outdoor weather station (located on a backyard fence), which no longer records wind speed as a result of Mr. Teeth’s ridiculous “work” (I have no idea what motivated the squirrel to gnaw the wiring).

It could be even if squirrels had easy access to our roof, they might not chew into our solar PV wiring.

Then again, it could be that they would destroy it – reading blog entries like ‘Solar owners fear squirrel apocalypse’ certainly doesn’t help me in terms of my squirrel paranoia.

In the end, I’ll be damned if I’m going to take any chances. So I’ll be out there, year after year, sawing down large tree branches around our house. On the other hand, I’m so sick and tired of having to attack our backyard trees again, and again, and again.

What do you think?

Am I wasting my time – or is my hard work in making it as difficult for squirrels to jump from trees in our yard directly onto our rooftop actually a big reason that, knock on wood, we haven’t had a squirrel chew into our home solar system yet?

christof-sawingThat’s me in the middle of a 10-hour job sawing back branches near our house. I’m sawing them in order to eliminate any possible tree pathways onto our roof and protect our squirrel-guard-less home solar system. I wish REC Solar had told me about squirrels and installed a critter guard around our 5.59 kW system when they put it up in June 2010. That would’ve saved me 30 to 40 hours of tree sawing/pruning/disposal work over the past couple of years. [Photo By Christine Demont-Heinrich]

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NREL Gets 2nd Solar Canopy


The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) now has a second Envision Solar International Solar Tree array at its Vehicle Testing and Integration Facility. Envision completed the installation of the solar EV charging canopy at NREL’s Golden, Colo. facility in mid-April.

“I’m proud that we have been chosen again by NREL. They are delighted the Solar Tree deployment went so quickly and without any typical construction problems,” stated Desmond Wheatley , Chief Executive Officer, Envision Solar.

“The addition of this Made in America 18 kW solar canopy incorporating EnvisionTrak™ and EV Charging supports NREL’s R&D mission to integrate electric vehicles and grid systems for enhanced value,” stated Tony Markel , Senior Engineer, NREL.

System benefits of the new tree were maximized by integrating the most efficient SunPower E20 solar panels and a compact transformerless bi-polar inverter from Ideal Power Converters.

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Tesla’s Solar Charged EV Plan

Many people dream big, but relatively few follow through and make those dreams a reality. Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is one of them.

And, no, I’m not talking about Musk’s electric car company, which, of course, is a great example of a big dream transformed into reality.

What I’m talking about is Musk’s dream for a nationwide system of so-called Tesla Supercharger Stations, which combine solar canopies with quick EV charging.

Tesla wants to build more than 100 of these solar EV charging stations along virtually all of the major interstate highway systems in the U.S.

Solar SuperChargers online in Calif.

If Tesla follows through – it’s already got six of the stations online in California allowing Tesla Model S owners rack up what I call Sun Miles®, or miles driven by an electric vehicle (EV) or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) whose batteries have been charged using solar energy and/or using electricity from kWh credits amassed via solar offset generation – it will represent a truly revolutionary development in American motoring.

That’s because if Musk succeeds in building his network (see graphic at top of story), it will become possible to drive across the United States powered exclusively by 100 percent pollution-free solar-generated electricity.

When you consider how much power and money Big Oil has (350.Org reported recently that Big Oil spent $300 million on the recent American elections – in just two months), and how hard it has worked, and will continue to work, to try and stop exactly the sort of dream Musk is transforming into a reality this represents truly radical, one might even say mind-blowing change.

Positive change underway
Indeed, from where I sit, as a long-time proponent of solar-charged driving and its incredible potential to change the world for the better, the construction of a nationwide solar-charged Tesla Supercharger network stands as an unbelievably positive development.

I can’t wait until the day Tesla Solar-charged Superchargers surpass and then begin to supplant America’s tens of thousands of dirty, filthy, smelly, unhealthy gasoline stations which continue to tether us to a fuel that has, for too long, destroyed the planet and transformed the air we breathe 24/7 into a toxic soup responsible for thousands of deaths every year in the U.S. and around the world.

Can you tell I have the same dream as Musk?

How about you?

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Envision Solar Announces Pre-fab ‘Solar Trees’

Envision Solar recently announced that it has successfully completed the engineering, manufacturing and deployment of its new pre-engineered purlin structures for Solar Tree® arrays. According to Envision, the first of these structures have been deployed in Colorado and California for separate customers.

The new engineered purlin structures are part of Envision Solar’s Drag & Drop Infrastructure™ product line that offers faster, more efficient deployment of the Solar Tree® structures.

“This is another example of our using technology to improve our products and reduce our deployment time,” noted Envision Solar President and CEO Desmond Wheatley.

Pre-engineered purlin sections arrive at the customer site as part of a complete kit which includes everything that is needed to install Envision Solar’s tracking Solar Tree® structure. The sections are fabricated in a factory environment, which allows for “the highest quality assurance and the least amount of field activity” claims Envision.

The new purlin structures form an important part of the company’s Drag and Drop Infrastructure™, which is designed to enable the swift deployment of the large volumes of the company’s products.

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Dear Mitt Romney: America Wants Solar

Mitt Romney has been going out of his way to cast himself as Mr. Oil, Mr. Coal and Mr. Gasand doing what he can to paint Barack Obama as an out-of-touch greenie for supporting solar.

But it’s a bit difficult to undersand exactly why given the tremendously high percentage of Americans who support solar

In fact the vast majority of Americans clearly — and rightly — see as a major source of energy for the U.S. for the future, one that does not just “green” things up, but also which has huge potential to do one of the things Mitt says he’s gung ho about: Getting America off of foreign sources of energy and onto the track of energy independence.

In fact, we’ve speculated in a previous column as to why, when solar is so hugely popular in the U.S. across political lines, why Mr. Romney isn’t embracing it, or why, to be fair, Mr. Obama has at best been tepid in speaking out in support of solar and other renewable energy forms. So we won’t do so again here. But we will point you to the great infographic to the right, which, well, graphically illustrates just how popular solar is in the U.S. — even if the presidential candidates themselves just don’t seem to quite get it.

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Study: Fox News Reports Misleading Representations of Climate Change

In 2007 News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch claimed that Fox News coverage of climate change would “improve”. However, a recently released study by the Union of Concern Scientists(UCS) shows that Fox and The Wall Street Journal, also owned by News Corporation, have consistently skewed coverage of climate change in favor of the fossil fuel burning status quo.

Not only has the coverage of climate change not improved in News Corporation owned news media outlets in the U.S. but it also has been predominantly negative.

Additionally, according to the UCS, a 2012 snapshot analysis shows that recent coverage of climate science in media outlets has been overwhelmingly misleading.

93 percent of Fox coverage misleading
In 2011, 93 percent of Fox News representations of climate science were misleading, according to the UCS. Furthermore, 81 percent of the Wall Street Journal’s letters, op-eds, columns, and editorials were misleading on climate science, according to the UCS.

The UCS analysis focused primarily on representations of climate science. It found that both Fox News and The Wall Street Journal placed heavy emphasis on negative coverage of climate action aimed at reducing global warming emissions, including personal lifestyle decisions as well as government policies.

The UCS report notes Fox News and WSJ coverage have contributed to public distrust of scientists and scientific institutions in the U.S. Fox News is a highly influential American media outlet. Last year, it was the most popular national news network in the U.S.

The UCS also found that Fox and WSJ coverage of climate science tended to offer a wide-ranging dismissal of human-caused climate change and, more broadly, to reject climate science as a body of knowledge.

An example of what the UCS characterized as misleading coverage comes from a report published in The Wall Street Journal that notes, “We are in the middle of what you might call a global warming bubble. It is a failure of global warming theory itself and of the credibility of its advocates [to acknowledge this].”

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U.S Professional Sports: Embracing Renewable Energy

A National Research Defense Council (NRDC) report released this month shows how the sports industry is using its influence to move ecological change in the American public consciousness. Many professional American sporting leagues, teams and venues have collectively saved millions of dollars by shifting to a more eco-friendly form of energy.

Leading the ecological change is Major League Baseball with the best-developed environmental data measurement program.

“As we strive to fulfill our social responsibilities, the national pastime will continue to protect our natural resources for future generations of base ball fans and to set an example of which they can be proud of,” says MLB Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig.

18 stadiums with solar
About 18 of North America’s stadiums have installed on-site solar arrays. Many have installed recycling and composting programs along with other ecological advances.

Out of the 126 professional sports teams in the U.S., 38 have switched to renewable energy for several of their operations. Another 68 teams have begun energy efficient programs.

According to the NRDC report, there is still much work to be done, but it is heartening to know that teams and leagues across North America are implementing meaningful changes and educating tens of millions of fans about environmental stewardship.

All leagues educate their fans about environmental issues, in particular, the need to recycle and to reduce energy and water use, notes the report. The NRDC also stresses that the sports greening movement has brought an important message to millions of fans worldwide.

College sports goes green
Many college athletics departments nationwide have also promoted environmental initiatives, from LEED-certified facilities and on-site solar arrays to recycling challenges between schools.

The green movement in American sports has prevented millions of pounds of carbon emissions. It’s also saved millions of gallons of water, and millions of pounds of paper products, which were recycled or eliminated altogether, according to the NRDC.

The NRDC also notes that the sports industry is a big unifier. The industry wields a uniquely powerful influence across several aspects of American culture, economy, religion and ethnic barriers. It also notes that sports provide much-needed leadership in sustainable practices and promote a nonpolitical public commitment to environmental protection.

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Electric Vehicles Running on Moonlight?

EVs will soon be able to be powered not only by sunlight but also with moonlight thanks to German architect Andre Broessel whose new spherical glass solar energy generator, the ß.torics, will allow electric cars to recharge using moonlight.

According to a story published on the Environmental Transport Association (ETA) web site, the sun-tracking glass globe allows sunlight and moonlight to concentrate up to 10,000 times and it is said to be 35 percent more efficient than existing dual-axis photovoltaic designs.

“Striking design like the ß.torics can help transform perceptions of sustainable energy as well as the potential of electric vehicles,” said an ETA spokesperson.

According to, the official site for the ß.torics, there are different uses for this solar energy generator. The design allows for it to be mounted on the side of buildings or in a mobile unit to provide power for heating, recharging an EV or other domestic uses.

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Solar: It’s Just Easier (Graphic)

There’s not much to add to the graphic above. So we’ll just let it speak for itself.

If you’ve got the right rooftop — and statistics show that up to one-third of American rooftops are great for solar — go solar today. It’s way, way simpler, not to mention, cleaner, greener, way more satisfying, and simply better than the dirty, backward fossil fuel alternatives :-)

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Envision Solar Trees Juice Up Chevy Volts

Envision Solar and GM are teaming up to plug more Chevy Volts directly into the sun.

Envision announced recently it has broken ground on a project to build a Tracking Solar Tree with EnvisionTrak technology at GM’s Milford Proving Ground. The ‘Solar Tree’ will be outfitted with EV charging stations so that Volts parked underneath it can ‘drink’ up sun-generated electricity.

25 percent more efficient
According to Envision, the Solar Tree’s “dual synchronous solar tracking system” gives the array the ability to capture 25 percent more solar power than a conventional fixed solar canopy.

The structure will produce up to 30,000 kWh a year and provide enough solar energy to charge six electric vehicles per day, says Envision.

“Solar Trees, deployed in parking lots, will go a long way in helping us reach our renewable energy goals,” said Rob Threlkeld, GM’s Global Manager of Renewable Energy. “It’s important to us that we use architecturally beneficial products, like the Solar Tree, whenever we are deploying in high visibility sites.”

This project marks the installation of a second Tracking Solar Tree® on GM property. In November 2011, the two companies cut the ribbon on a Solar Tree at a GM site in Warren, Mich.

“We are excited by the prospect of our tracking Solar Tree arrays in GM facilities and dealerships all over the country and this ground breaking in Michigan is the latest step in that journey,” said Desmond Wheatley, President and CEO of Envision Solar.

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Solar EV Charging Canopy Installed at the San Diego Zoo

Smart City San Diego and the San Diego Zoo will install a solar PV canopy that will charge electric vehicles (EV) in the Zoo parking lot.

The Solar-to-EV project began construction Sept. 4. One of the first of its kind in the region, the project will harness energy from the sun to directly charge plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), store solar power for future use and provide renewable energy to the surrounding community. Located at the iconic San Diego Zoo in the heart of the city’s world-renowned Balboa Park, the Solar-to-EV project will serve as a new energy infrastructure blueprint that can be replicated throughout the region and beyond.

“This project will demonstrate new technology, and provide guests with a way to charge their EVs with clean energy while they visit the Zoo,” noted Jim Avery, senior vice president of power supply for SDG&E.

90 kW of solar PV power
The project will incorporate 10 solar canopies producing 90 kilowatts (kW) of electricity, as well as five EV charging stations. Using new battery technology, a 100-kW energy storage system will be charged by the solar canopies and used to offset power demands on the grid to charge the vehicles. When the battery is full, the excess solar energy that is generated will be put onto the electric grid to improve reliability and benefit the surrounding community.

The solar canopies also provide shade to approximately 50 cars in the Zoo’s southeast parking area.  One of the project’s charging stations is located in a nearby ADA-accessible parking space.

At peak production, the Solar-to-EV project will produce enough energy to power 59 homes. The clean energy produced is equivalent to removing 189,216 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, the same as planting 2,788 trees annually, or the equivalent to removing 21 cars from the road each year. When driven on electricity, EVs offer zero tailpipe emissions as well as no emissions overall when the electricity is directly from solar power.

High tech components
The Solar-to-EV project not only aims to encourage EV drivers to visit the Zoo and Balboa Park, but will also provide displays onsite and online to educate visitors about the usefulness of batteries that can store solar energy, the benefits of driving EVs, and the role that the system plays in driving sustainability forward.

“San Diego Zoo is delighted to be part of a project that sets the stage for the future,” said John Dunlap, Director of the San Diego Zoo.

The project will be owned and managed by SDG&E’s Sustainable Communities Program, which promotes local solar installations and green building design and construction throughout the region. The charging stations are part of The EV Project and will be owned by the program’s administrator. In keeping with Smart City San Diego’s economic development goals, the project will use local vendors for design and construction and create 35 jobs during construction.

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The Princeton Satellite Systems’ SunStation EV Charging Station

Solar EV charging stations are hardly new – as regular readers of SolarChargedDriving.Com surely know. But every now and then something comparatively new comes along in the world of solar EV charging.

Now is one of those times, at least according to Princeton Satellite Systems, which claims it will soon be producing “the first 100 percent green charging station for electric vehicles.”

100 percent solar-charged
Princeton’s so-called “SunStation” is an off-grid solar EV charging station that links solar panels, an EV charger, and a battery storage system to ensure that 100 percent of the electricity flowing into your EV’s batteries has been produced directly by solar energy.

This contrasts with far more common grid-tied solar EV charging stations, which may, or may not, end up pumping electricity into your EV that has been directly produced by solar energy. That’s because these grid-tied solar EV canopies do not store solar-generated electricity on site, but send that electricity immediately into the larger grid.

Similarly, most solar-charged drivers with home solar have systems that are tied into the general electric grid and, because, the majority plug their EVs in at night, their EVs are not technically running on solar-generated electricity.

Solar-offset charged EV
Instead, they are using so-called solar offset, or “extra” solar electricity they’ve generated earlier in the day, when the sun is shining, to “fuel” their EV. The “extra” solar electricity they generate during the day immediately flows into the local electric grid and is used up by their neighbors. In the end, then, these EV drivers are technically driving on electric “fuel” generated by whatever electricity production means their local utility is using to create electricity at night.

The sense of satisfaction of absolutely, 100-percent flipping the bird at Big Oil and Dirty Coal that comes with an off-grid solar EV charging solution such as the SunStation – a sense of total satisfaction that does not come with a grid-tied solar system, trust us – is priceless.

Thus, Princeton Satellite Systems’ “SunStation” is for the solar-charged driving purists, or those who want to cut their auto-fueling ties to fossil fuels 100 percent.

According to the company, the larger SunStation – which provides so-called Level 2, or 240-volt charging, can fully recharge a Nissan LEAF in eight hours, a Chevy Volt in four, and a Toyota Plugin Prius in 1 ½ hours.

Additionally, according to Princeton, “The high-efficiency solar panels produce the maximum power with the minimum footprint.”

System size
Princeton plans to make the SunStation in two basic forms, one with 1.6 kW of solar and another with 3.2 kW of solar. The smaller solar EV charging station will have 12 kWh of batter storage, while the larger one will have double that.

Pre-incentive costs for the off-grid systems will be steep, at $27,000 for the 1.6 kW version and twice that for the 3.2 kW version. The Princeton spec sheet notes that the stations will use SAE J1772 plugs, but does not mention who will manufacture the EV charging station portion of the off-grid EV + PV canopy.

EarthTechling critical of SunStation
EarthTechling.Com recently ran a story that’s highly critical of the SunStation, basically slamming it for allegedly not packing enough solar punch and battery storage.

For instance, EarthTechling claims that a solar system of at least 5 kW will be needed to produce, on average, the 15 to 20 kWh it says many EV drivers will need per day – 15 kWh translates into about 50 miles of electric driving.

In fact, whether a 1.6 kW or 3.2 kW SunStation will be too small depends heavily on where that SunStation is located. If it’s in the American Southwest, chances are good that a 3.2 kW array will produce at least 15 kWh almost every day of the year, even in the winter.

In fact, a 5 kW system would be overkill in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Southern California, Colorado, Utah (except when it’s covered in snow, of course) if the aim is to produce at least 15 to 20 kWh per day.

For example, our 5.59 kW system, located in Aurora, Colo. consistently produces 30 to 39 kWh per day from late April through mid-September and typically produces at least 20 kWh of solar electricity even on the shortest days of the year (we do, however, have a problem with snow cover, but that’s a problem independent of system size).

Off-grid EV + PV offers unique benefits
In fact, while the EarthTechling piece asks important questions – most notably, will the SunStation produce enough electricity to effectively charge EVs – it ultimately reads like a one-sided, pro-grid-tied solar story.

While grid-tied solar has its benefits, so too do off-grid solar and off-grid solar EV charging.

On a practical level, the SunStation could be used to charge plug-ins in remote areas, far from the electrical grid.

On a political level, the SunStation allows plug-in owners to make a 100-percent clean break from fossil fuel. Yes, this break comes at a steep individual price. However, the sense of satisfaction of absolutely, 100-percent flipping the bird at Big Oil and Dirty Coal that comes with an off-grid solar EV charging solution such as the SunStation – a sense of total satisfaction that does not come with a grid-tied solar system, trust us – is priceless.

If you’re interested in the SunStation and live in the New Jersey, New York City area, New Jersey residents will be able to take a closer look at the SunStation soon. According to Princeton Satellite Systems, one is supposed to be on display on Sept. 29 at the Living Green Expo at the Princeton, New Jersey airport

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Tesla CEO: Huge Fan of EV+PV

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk recently addressed the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas.

Not surprisingly, he had a lot to say about the renewable energy + EV synergy, and, in particular solar-charged driving. In fact, Musk – as are we – is a big fan of EV + PV (of course, he’s a big player at SolarCity, so there could be some economic self-interest at play on both the EV and PV side of things for Elon).

But cynicism aside – and we’re actually not cynical, though some might be, here are a few gems from Musk’s talk, which was very supportive of renewable energy:

  • Musk on the need for a more sustainable world –> “We must have sustainable energy in consumption and production or we will face massive economic collapse. That’s a problem we know we must solve one way or another.”
  • Musk on the energy potential of solar –>“I feel strongly that solar power will be the single largest source of sustainable energy in terms of power productions that humans consume. But the earth is almost entirely solar powered already. So we’re really talking about taking a little portion of that energy converting it to electricity for use in human economic activity.”
  • Musk on PV + EV + battery storage –> “You can put solar panels at point of use. We need to pair that with energy storage in order to have 24 hour a day power.”
  • Musk on wanting to leave “the environmental argument behind” –>“What Tesla is trying to do is create an EV that is better than a gasoline car. Leaving aside electricity is far cheaper than gas and it’s good for the environment, if we just make it a better product then you don’t have to make the environmental argument and get a much broader set of people willing to buy the car.”

Okay, the last quote is a little irritating to us at SolarChargedDriving.Com, as it implies that somehow environmentalists are a drag on the EV movement, America, and the world in general – as if the earth, which, along with the sun, is the source of all life, including human life, is just a sideshow to capitalist economic growth.

However, the other quotes are good stuff — though we have to wonder what, at core, Elon’s primary impetus is: Money, or doing the right thing. To be fair, he seems to believe it isn’t an either/or situation. And, if we’re lucky, he might be right.

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Making Solar Sexier

The unanticipated potential life changes that have likely pushed out the time we’ll add an EV to our PV equation by two years have accentuated — in a big way — something I’ve known all along: Adding an electric car to your home solar equation makes home solar way more sexy.

Here’s why:

Auto fueling independence: Powering your car with solar electricity you generate yourself is tremendously satisfying. For me, this is primarily because solar-charged driving means saying goodbye to Big Oil. But there’s more to it than that — there’s just something really, deep down rewarding about producing the fuel you drive your car(s) on via your own personal home “fueling station”.

The mobility thing. It’s much more rewarding to use home solar-generated electricity to power something that moves, that has wheels, that actually takes you places rather than powering your refrigerator, your computer, or your desk lamp with solar. I know, depending on the grid mix where you live and whether you’re focused almost exclusively on CO2 pollution, it’s possible that, environmentally speaking, you might be doing the world a favor by using your home solar-generated electricity to power traditional electric devices in your own home, and, as is true in our case because we overproduce every day, your neighbor’s traditional electric devices as well. Even it were true that it’s more environmentally friendly for you to power your neighbor’s fridge, dryer, power drill, etc. — and I don’t know that it is — I’d still be inclined to ditch a gas car for a solar-charged EV and use the extra electrons we’re generating for a car rather than donate them to our neighbors’ electronic devices.

acura-being-filled-upGasoline savings. It’s so much more exciting to calculate how much “gasoline” money we’ve saved by banking the 7,000 extra kWh we’ve generated with our 5.59 kW solar system here in sunny Aurora, Colo. than to think about how much traditional electricity savings we’ve generated. That’s because it’s much more lucrative to use solar generated electricity to replace gasoline costs than to use solar to supplant electricity generated by a utility — at least in our case where there are no time of use (TOU) rates.

Here in Colorado Xcel territory, 7,000 kWh = only about $800 worth of electricity, where the per kWh rate is about 11 cents. If we’d elected to get paid out for our solar over-production rather than save it for use for a future EV, 7,000 kWh would be worth a paltry $200-$300 at the three to four cents per kWh Xcel would pay us. As a gasoline replacement, calculating $3.50 per gallon, 25 mpg, and 3.5 miles per kWh, 7,000 kWh means a much, much, much more satisfying $3,430 worth of solar-electric “gasoline” savings!

In the end, I know home solar is good for us, for our neighbors, and for the world even if there’s no electric car to plug into the electricity stream it generates. However, I have to say, it feels a whole lot more boring to be facing another two years of powering our home electric — plus our neighbors’ home electric use (we’re overproducing by about 60% with our 5.59 kW system) rather than to be PV plus EV right now.

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