Span Electric Panel with Arch Rao

Span Electric Panel with Arch Rao

With the upcoming wildfire season in California and Covid-19 stay-at-home requirements, many people are looking into ways to power their home when utility power goes out. Battery backup systems coupled with rooftop solar are an ideal solution to keeping the lights on during these blackouts. Although these battery backup systems are affordable, quiet and clean — there are limits to the amount of power they can provide.

We all have had experiences with the limited energy capacity of batteries — neither our phones nor EVs seem to run as long as we would like. Moreover, we know that battery-powered devices cannot provide as much power (sometimes referred to as in more technical terms as “oomph”) as devices that have cords plugged into the wall. These limitations are based on both the energy capacity in the battery (measured in kwh), as well as the power delivery capacity of the battery (measured in watts).

Large appliances in homes presents the biggest challenge to powering a whole house with battery power. Power requirements for a central AC, electric oven/stove, pool pumps or EV chargers can be over 5,000 watts each. If these appliances were to be powered by a battery backup system with a 10 kwh or 13.5 kwh battery, that battery would be discharged completely within a few hours — leaving no more energy for more essential items such as refrigerators, lighting and computers. Of course, a determined DIY homeowner could turn off the circuit breakers to these appliances when the power goes out. But this approach does not work if the blackout occurs at night or when no one is home.

To solve this problem, Span has developed a “smart” electrical panel that provides detailed control and monitoring over every single electric circuit in your house. Arch Rao, CEO of Span, is our guest on this week’s Energy Show. Prior to founding Span, Arch was head of products at Tesla Energy, working on their PowerWall, and previously he was at the Westly Group and Stanford University. Please join me as Arch explains how Span makes home energy connected and intuitive with a smart electrical panel.

New Normal as we Recover from the Corona Virus

New Normal as we Recover from the Corona Virus

Everyone is looking forward to a return to some degree of normalcy as we recover from the corona virus pandemic. But it is very hard to make sense what a new normal would be with all the conflicting information from health, economic and policy experts — not to mention the almost diametrically opposed viewpoints expressed in various media outlets.

The reality is that the progression of the corona virus will dictate the pace at which we will return to normal. Unfortunately, there are just way too many variables — on a worldwide basis — to predict when the corona virus will be reduced to a manageable level, perhaps like the flu or common cold.

I’m not a medical or economic or political expert — but I do know a bit about energy, solar and storage. As a result of the corona virus, the solar + storage industry has been on an extreme version of the Solar Coaster. Like most businesses, almost all solar and battery companies were completely shut down for a few weeks in the March/April time frame.

Since energy systems are generally considered “essential infrastructure,” many companies were able to restart as long as they followed applicable social distancing protocols. Unfortunately, local building departments have been slow to resume their permitting and inspection activities. More troubling has been that utility processing of interconnections has been extremely slow; our local utility continues to find virtually every excuse to delay solar and storage installations and increase costs.

Fortunately, the supply chain for solar and storage equipment has been pretty good — so far. Most companies have not experienced any significant shortages of solar panels, inverters or batteries. But the increased need for home and business backup power — coupled with the upcoming wildfire season here in California — is increasing the demand for battery backup systems. As a result, the biggest “supply chain” limitation that most contractors are experiencing relates to the availability of experienced solar and battery installers.

So please listen up to this week’s Energy Show as we discuss the changes the solar industry has experienced during the corona virus pandemic, and our outlook on the future as we move toward the “new normal.”

Will a Trillion Trees Stop Global Warming

Will a Trillion Trees Stop Global Warming

As our society recovers from the triple threats of Coronavirus, economic collapse and social unrest, the longer term threat of global warming continues to hang over our heads. Earlier this year — just as the Coronavirus hit and our economy went into a recession — the  Trillion Trees Act was introduced.

Representative Bruce Westerman, a pro-logging advocate from Arkansas introduced this act, along with several Republican colleagues.  Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio hailed the act as offering a powerful solution to combat our changing climate. And President Trump declared the US will join this initiative. A fundamental claim of this initiative is that a trillion trees is an important part of solving the global climate crisis. In itself, this claim is an acknowledgment by Republicans that there is indeed a global warming problem that humans can effectively address.

Both political parties to some degree acknowledge that global warming is a man-made problem. With abundant apologies to Joyce Kilmer: “I think that I shall never see, a Global Warming Solution as lovely as a tree. So the real question becomes: “how effectively can a trillion trees solve global warming?”

Please listen to this week’s Energy Show as we delve into a few of the scientific and economic issues related to the Trillion Trees Act, including: how trees sequester carbon, how much CO2 will a trillion trees remove, how much land is required, how much will it cost to plant a trillion trees, how long will it take for these trees to capture atmospheric CO2, and to cap it all off — can Congress pass such a bill.

Transforming our Electric Grid

Transforming our Electric Grid

In response to the Financial Crisis of 2008, Rahm Emmanuel — at the time Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff — quipped: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” The death, economic destruction and havoc wreaked by the Covid-19 crisis is by no means “good;” nevertheless, sometimes it does take a life-economy-society altering crisis to overcome the inertia that stands in the way of fundamental changes.

One of those changes that we need to make relates to our archaic electric grid. New technologies — wind, solar, batteries, EVs, computer controls, building electrification, software, heat pumps — make the distributed electric grid cheaper, safer and more efficient. But we have over one hundred years of established grid infrastructure practices standing in the way of transforming our electric grid.

Companies that are transforming our electric grid have a tremendous market opportunity, magnified and accelerated by any government stimulus spending that may be allocated. The problem is not just isolated to regular upgrades and maintenance of our grid. Instead, the big opportunity is to redesign the grid — much as the interstate highway system revolutionized transportation in the U.S.

One new company in this space is Veloce Energy. It’s my pleasure to have Jeff Wofe, CEO of Veloce, as our guest on this week’s Energy Show. I’ve known Jeff for over 15 years since he was the founder and Chairman of GroSolar, a pioneering national distributor and installer of solar equipment throughout the US. Jeff and I served for many years on the board of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), where we worked side-by-side on solar policies such as the Investment Tax Credit (ITC).

Please listen to this week’s Energy Show as we Jeff describes Veloce Energy’s grid-edge system architecture. This architecture will provide simplified connections for distributed generation, cost-effective resilience for both buildings and vehicles, and a streamlined path to help us in transforming our electric grid of the future.

Wholesale Distributed Generation – Clean Coalition

Wholesale Distributed Generation – Clean Coalition

With the Stay At Home orders in place throughout a large part of the U.S., many of us are now 100% dependent on our home’s electric grid for work — as well as lights, refrigeration, HVAC and entertainment.

Unfortunately, our old fashioned electric grid is not up to the challenges of wildfires and storms, not to mention ever-increasing maintenance costs. Transmitting power long distances over high voltage transmission lines is particularly vulnerable to disruptions. Although this old grid was good for over a hundred years, new technologies — particularly battery storage, solar and smart appliances — are more reliable and less expensive.

These new technologies move the generation and storage of electricity much closer to the buildings that need this power — a design that is called Distributed Generation. In suburban areas there is often enough available roof space for solar panels; power for these systems is generated Behind the Meter (on the customer’s side of the meter). But in urban areas there is rarely enough roof space; instead, large solar power systems can be installed over parking lots, on brownfields, or on warehouse rooftops. With this design the power is generated on the utility’s side of the meter — a concept called Wholesale Distributed Generation.

Wholesale distributed generation makes terrific environmental and economic sense. The Clean Coalition was established in 2009 to accelerate the deployment of wholesale distributed generation. They advocate for a modern, efficient power system that takes advantage of these new solar and storage technologies to provide clean, reliable and more affordable energy.

My guest on this week’s show is Craig Lewis, the Executive Director of the Clean Coalition. I’ve known Craig for almost 15 years — going back to his work at GreenVolts, one of the pioneering solar concentrator companies. Please Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show as Craig shares how the Clean Coalition is working to create fair, transparent, and effective policies and programs to help power the United States with renewable energy from local sources.