Planning for an All Electric Future

Planning for an All Electric Future


There is no doubt in my mind that the “All Electric future” is inevitable. The only question is how fast…20 or 50 or 75 years? Electric generation and storage technology is getting cheaper, while at the same time the problems with fossils fuels keep getting worse. Many of our new construction customers at Cinnamon Energy Systems want to power their entire homes with electricity. They will not need natural gas for heating, hot water, laundry or cooking. And with EVs, they will not need gasoline for their cars. Naturally, a bigger solar array is required. And battery storage for when the grid goes down — also to maximize savings with time of use rates.

Mankind has been using fossil fuels since we started burning coal thousands of years ago. What does it mean when our homes, businesses, industries and transportation systems operate primarily from electricity instead of coal or oil or gas? In some states our political leaders are pushing for this 100% clean energy transition. The solar and wind industries will obviously benefit – as well as electric utilities which can transition to fueling our vehicles as well as powering our buildings. The coal industry — and eventually other fossil fuels — will steadily decline as their polluting product also becomes too expensive compared to wind and solar. Breakthroughs with clean coal or inexpensive nuclear are becoming less and less likely as renewable power prices continue to decline.

Enabling this transition is a steady stream of new devices and appliances that substitute electricity for fossil fuels. A few examples include heat pump hot water heaters, induction electric stoves and electric vehicles. Please Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show for more about this “All Electric future” — and what you can do now to best prepare your home and business.

Todd Lindstrom with Enable Energy

Todd Lindstrom with Enable Energy

Success in the solar industry requires leaders with a diverse skill set. Leaders must really understand the technology’s evolution, be effective with sales and marketing, coordinate what always seem to be chaotic operations, juggle financial issues and manage a growing team. I’m always interested in learning from people who have this diverse background — and have demonstrated success in the solar industry.

One of these executives is Todd Lindstrom, CEO of Enable Energy. Todd and I go back to his time at Sun Power and Geothermal Energy circa 2004. Since then he’s been at Solar Power Inc., Sharp Solar, and Paramount Energy Solutions. He is also manufacturing very clever mounting solutions for flat roofs that we are using at Cinnamon Energy Systems for many of our flat roof projects.

Join us on this week’s Energy Show as Todd discusses innovations that are changing the way the industry installs commercial rooftop solar — as well as his solar installation business at Enable Energy.

What are the best solar panels?

What are the best solar panels?

What are the best solar panels? That’s a question we are asked all the time. When customers look for the “best” solar panels they consider efficiency, reliability, quality and cost. Cost and efficiency are closely related – all solar panels generate the same amount of electricity (kwh) on a per watt basis. Your appliances can’t tell the difference if they get their electrons from super-efficient panels made in the USA, or the cheapest panels made somewhere in Asia.

Nevertheless, there are clear cut differences among solar panels when it comes to aesthetics (all black panels look better), ease of installation (which effectively reduces costs) and cost per watt pricing (especially in light of the tariffs on solar cells and panels). There are also more subjective distinctions such as brand name and perceived reliability. Generally these subjective measures are not based on comparison data or independent laboratory testing, so be wary of manufacturer’s claims.

So which panels are best? Please Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show for our advice for selecting solar panels for your roof.

Reducing E-Waste with Lou Ramondetta of Surplus Services

Reducing E-Waste with Lou Ramondetta of Surplus Services

Ours is a consumption economy: we buy electrical equipment, building materials, appliances, toys and innumerable ephemeral knick knacks. When these items no longer serve their purpose — or just become passé — we throw them out. They are almost never re-used and rarely recycled.

Ideally, we should recycle everything. Household waste streams are mostly recycled, But old electronics are the worst: think about that drawer of circa 1990s cell phones, box of 3.5” floppy diskettes containing precious data, or pre IP office phone systems that can still power up but are worthless without a dial tone. Unfortunately, this old electronic equipment is usually just thrown in the dump, becoming what we now call “E-waste.” Efforts are in place to prevent old solar panels from also becoming E-waste. Theoretically, the glass, aluminum, silicon and copper in the panels are extremely recyclable. But because of the 25-year durability of solar panels, there are few efficient ways to recycle, or even re-use, old solar panels.

There are a few new companies that are addressing the growing need to re-use or recycle E-waste. My guest on this week’s show is Lou Ramondetta, President of Surplus Services. Lou has been in the industrial, electronic and medical equipment industry for over twenty years, and is now working to recycle or — better yet, find a home for working but old electronics equipment. To learn more about how companies like Surplus Services are helping companies and local municipalities reduce and even zero-out their E-waste streams through repurposing of electronic equipment, Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show.

John Farrell on Why It Costs More For Utilities to Sell Power

John Farrell on Why It Costs More For Utilities to Sell Power

For over a hundred years our civilization has been getting electricity from centralized generation. This utility business model relies on remote power plants fueled originally by coal, oil and gas — and now increasingly by wind and solar.

But the development of inexpensive rooftop solar power over the past 20 years is changing this central generation paradigm. It is now cheaper for homes and businesses to generate their own electricity on their rooftop, and only stay connected to the utility for night time power. These Distributed Generation (DG) solar power systems are connected on the customer’s side of the meter, or referred to as Behind the Meter (BTM) from a utility’s perspective.

Utilities generate their profits by selling power, as well as owning the power plants and utility power lines. When customers generate their own power, utilities lose revenues. Moreover, when customers pay for their own solar generating systems, utilities do not get to own additional generating assets – further reducing their profits. This loss of revenues and profits is disrupting the conventional Investor Owned Utility (IOU) business.

Utilities claim that there are costs being shifted from solar customer to non-solar customers. This cost shift argument is nonsense, since in reality the utilities are trying to regain their lost profits from solar customers by increasing rates for everyone else. Think about it: since utility customers are going elsewhere for the utility’s product (electricity), utilities are raising prices for everyone else. Nice work if you can get it.

The trend towards BTM solar (and now battery storage) is inexorable as these technologies continue to get cheaper. The aptly named Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) focuses on these technology and sociological transitions. Our guest on this week’s Energy Show is John Farrell. John directs the energy program at ILSR and is best known for his research and papers on economics and benefits of local ownership of decentralized renewable energy. John is one of our best thinkers and communicators on this subject, so Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show for his commentary on the superior economics of Behind the Meter solar and storage.