Whole House Electrification with Howard Wenger

Whole House Electrification with Howard Wenger

To slow the global warming trend, a number of states have committed to the aspirational goal of 100% carbon-free energy. As a species that literally evolved from burning wood and hydrocarbons, how can we possibly run our modern lives and economy without fossil fuels?

We can indeed achieve this transition quickly and economically. First, by converting all power generation to renewable, non-carbon sources. And second, by converting all fossil-fuel burning vehicles and appliances to electricity. Steady progress towards these conversions is being made. For example, 32% of California’s retail power came from renewable energy in 2018. The state is well on the way to converting to 100% renewable electricity. Use of EVs is growing steadily, and new building codes mandate the use of rooftop solar and electric appliances instead of natural gas.

The challenge is with the existing stock of residential and commercial buildings. Homes and businesses predominantly use natural gas for space heating, hot water heating and cooking. That’s where the concept of Whole House Electrification come in. Whole House Electrification is conceptually simple: replace gas appliances with electric appliances. In reality, one needs an energy audit to prioritize these conversions, then hire five different specialty contractors to do the work: insulation, solar, HVAC, plumbing, electrical and pool. It can be a daunting task.

Fortunately there are some pioneers out there – one of whom is my friend Howard Wenger. Howard was also a pioneer in the solar industry, with stints at AstroPower, PowerLight and SunPower. Please listen up to this week’s Energy Show as Howard discusses his experiences as he converted his house to 100% electricity, supplied — naturally — by solar.

Weather Impacts on Solar Power Systems

Weather Impacts on Solar Power Systems

This past winter season has been the rainiest I have ever experienced in California. The good news is that the state is no longer in a drought condition. The bad news is that severe weather is occurring around the country. We are likely to continue on this trend: a polar vortex recently hit the Midwest, heavy snows on the east coast, and even Seattle was devastated with big snow storms. 2018 was the 4th hottest year on record globally. On average, the summers are getting hotter and the winters are not as cold. 

But this is a show about energy — particularly solar. Although the output of solar systems can be predicted fairly accurately, weather has the biggest impact on annual energy fluctuations [side note: the biggest monetary fluctuations come from your local utility as they raise electric rates]. Several of our customers were concerned about lower energy output from their solar system in November, December and January. We pointed out that rainy weather — including smoke from wildfires — obscured the sunlight enough to make a noticeable difference in energy output. Even our customers who had battery backup systems contacted us, but for different reasons. Many of them had multiple weather-related blackouts this winter. These customers were delighted that their refrigerators, TVs, lights and heat were all still working even though their power was out. 

While one cannot change the weather (unless your name is Dr. Evil), we can prepare for a changing climate. Please listen up to this week’s Energy Show as we discuss how weather impacts solar power system performance.

High Electric Bill? – Consider These Money Saving Tips

High Electric Bill? – Consider These Money Saving Tips

People complain about high electric bills almost as often as they complain about the price of gas. And for two good reasons. First, utilities consistently raise their electric rates — not only for inflation, but also to increase their profits. So even if you don’t change your habits, your electric bills will generally keep increasing (like my waistline). Depending on where you live, these rate increases can average 3% -7% per year. The second reason is that we are using more and more electricity. Our 21st century lifestyle is much more energy intensive: we have more appliances, electric vehicles, electronic toys and cellphones, use heat pumps for space conditioning and hot water, and rely on more air conditioning as the climate gets hotter. (more…)

Cleaning Solar Panels

Cleaning Solar Panels

When a business or homeowner gets a new rooftop solar installation, the second question they always ask is “how often do I need to clean my solar panels.” We’ll answer that question on this week’s show — taking into account the different effects of rain, dust and electric rates. BTW, the first question people always ask is “how do I read my electric bill;” but that’s a topic for another show. (more…)

Real World Solar Economics with Tom Beach

Real World Solar Economics with Tom Beach

Great solar policy is just as important as great solar technology. Obviously we need the technologies for these products — but we also need the policies so that solar products can be cost-effectively installed. And I’m not just talking about incentives…policies related to net metering, interconnection and permitting are just as important. (more…)

There is a New Utility in Town – Silicon Valley Clean Energy

There is a New Utility in Town – Silicon Valley Clean Energy

The electric utility industry is undergoing rapid change. There used to be two types of utilities: investor owned utilities (IOUs, such as Pacific Gas and Electric and ConEd) and municipally owned utilities (MOUs, such as LADWP and Silicon Valley Power). Now there is a third hybrid type, called a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) utility. (more…)