Florida Bill to Kill Rooftop Solar

Today excess power generated by rooftop solar in most places is bought back by grid operators at retail prices, about $0.10 kWh. This seems fair, since consumers are paying retail form the power they take from the grid. A new law will lower this by half in four years, then continue to lower the payback more in subsequent years. This bill is massively unpopular and simply protects monopoly utility companies. Oh, there is also a plan for power companies to charge some unspecified fees to people with rooftop solar panels.

Wow. Citizens need to fight this. And if that doesn’t work, get batteries and stop selling excess power back to grid operators. If that doesn’t work, disconnect from the grid all together.

Anti-rooftop solar net metering bill passes in Florida

Fresh Water from Solar

As solar gets cheaper and cheaper it might be time to think of what could be done with all that excess capacity, or just explore non-traditional uses for this sort of electricity generation. Many places around the world already use desalination to make fresh water from abundant salt water. The problem is the expense (as well as the pollution) from the energy used.

I was wondering what it would take to make your own fresh water using solar. Lets use a rough figure of 15,000 kWh for 1 million gallons of water. This comes to 15 wH per gallon. That is, a 15 Watt energy source can make a gallon of water per hour. This is rough and maybe not to scale, since the numbers are probably for larger and perhaps more efficient large installations. But perhaps not.

A normal 400W solar panel running for 8 hours would give over 200 gallons of water. Assuming an American uses 50 gallons of fresh water per day (probably a large number due to various forms of waste and inefficiency) this means one solar panel can supply an American family of four with it’s fresh water needs. I’m a bit surprised by this. Given some of my water bills I wonder if it may even be cost effective in many places where municipal water is available. Somebody check my math.

Update: several home reverse osmosis units are available for about $300. They don’t seem to be using any sort of excessive power and claim to produce on the order of 500 gallons per day. Could be much less than one solar panel to produce clean water for a family of four, and you could do it easily today.

Energy Efficiency

A good read from the Guardian. I remember as a kid during the Energy Crisis in the 1970s people quickly switched from Gas Guzzlers to small cars and became interested in alternate energy. Here we are, a half a century later in more or less the same place. But things are really different this time. Some good quotes in this one. One of the best:

“Solar and wind are now the cheapest bulk power sources in 91% of the world, and the UN’s International Energy Agency (IEA) expects renewables to generate 90% of all new power in the coming years. The energy revolution has happened. Sorry if you missed it,” he says.

Energy efficiency guru Amory Lovins: ‘It’s the largest, cheapest, safest, cleanest way to address the crisis’

The Black Curse

I’m had an Iranian colleague years ago who told me they referred to oil as the Black Curse. I’m don’t recall hearing this term before or since, and googling the term brings up all sorts of unrelated nonsense, from the mystical to the racially offensive. But there seems to be more than a little truth to this.

I grew up in south Louisiana which has produced vast amounts of oil and gas for decades, yet the area remains one of the poorest in the country. Even Texas has a similar feel. All of the oil and gas are in east and west Texas yet all the prosperous cities are in the center of the state, far from that presumed wealth.

I remember having a discussion in 1980 with a professor of Latin American studies about the vast oil discoveries in Mexico, offshore. I speculated that Mexico would soon be a very wealthy country. He scoffed at this idea. At the time, I thought he was surely wrong. How could all that wealth not help a poor country like Mexico? But he was completely correct. I suppose that is why he was a professor of Latin American Studies.

Even in the UK all of that North Sea oil didn’t turn Scotland into a prosperous region, though one suspects it did help make London what it is today. Norway seems to have survived it’s Black Curse so far, but perhaps they are the exception.

You can go all around the world and places with any sort of mineral wealth seem to have the same Black Curse: poverty and oppressive governments. On the other side, countries with no real natural resources at all seem to fare well. I’m thinking of places like Japan and Germany.

Perhaps Russia is the latest victim of the Black Curse. All of the oil and gas wealth does not seem to have pushed Russia economically past either western or eastern rivals. As a long time leader like Putin watches his country become famous for it’s corruption and failures I can only imagine what he thinks and feels. He has now alienated the West and appears to be unsuccessfully begging the East for support. No matter what the outcome in the Ukraine, and no matter what the political efforts, the long 20th century oil and gas party seems to be ending. There are just better and cheaper alternatives. The only real question is when the oil is gone, will the curse go, too?

Honey Roasted Cat Treats

We have two containers in our pantry that are almost identical and always end up next to each other. One is honey roasted peanuts, the other is cat treats. Yesterday my wife ended up trying to give honey roasted peanuts to our cats. I suppose it could have been worse. She could have tried to eat a handful of cat treats.

More EV F.U.D

As gas prices rise from the Russian invasion of the Urkaine, electric cars look better and better. This doesn’t stop some news outlets from spreading nonsense. The math isn’t that difficult. Let’s say my Tesla has a 300 mile range and a 75 kWh battery, more or less. Electricity here in Austin is tiered, starting at less than $0.03 per kWh and maxing out at almost $0.11 per kWh. Just multiply and you get (75 * $0.03) = $2.25 at the low end and (75 * $0.11) = $8.25. Where can you ever fill up a gas car for this? I’m sure you can find chargers in public places that charge more, but you can also find deals for less. We had a ChargePoint card that cost $50 for unlimited charging. Who writes these articles?

Filling a gas-powered vehicle can still be cheaper than charging an electric one