Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Fracking is Fracked: Chesapeake cuts 15% of workforce

Re-posting this CNN piece (if you don't see it you need to disable ad block) on the recent turmoil in the world of oil.  The interview with the last guy is the best, saying the Saudi's "have only made fracking / domestic production of oil stronger."  The news today of massive 15% workforce layoff from Chesapeake Energy, one of the nations largest energy exploration companies, suggests otherwise.

One thing is clear, US oil producers are getting a fierce lesson in the Golden Rule:  HE WHO HAS THE GOLD MAKES THE RULES.  Right now, OPEC has the Gold: 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Utilities looking to expedite their own death / irrelivance

Oh California utilities, whoa is thee.  This past Saturday saw this LA Times article hinting at the recent musings of California utilities on how to best preserve their antiquated business model through proposed changes to net metering and discussion of fixed monthly charges for customers with their own solar power systems.
In summary, utilities are proposing to cut the current net metering rate by 50%, and start charging a fixed per kW installed "tax" on solar customers.  This would be funny if it weren't so sad.  Instead of finding ways to truly change their business model towards what is very clearly going to be a clean energy driven, distributed generation future, they are moving to try and "preserve" their comfort with centralized generation using fossil fuels, under the guise of "solar power adopting customers are not paying their fair share of grid upkeep costs." Whaan Whaan Whaa.

Well, while utilities may have the "power" to do this today, it hardly seems like a good long term solution.  In fact, since they are basically offering to pay over generators of solar energy a fraction of the market value of their electricity, generators will be well suited to look for other means of monetization for excess generation, such as home based / community based energy storage.

Need I remind people that the hottest product announcement of the year was the home battery storage system from Tesla.  Now imagine the interest in such a product when you find out that your utility in basically insentivizing you through fees to integrate your own storage.  How are they incentivizing?

Lets do a little math:

Lets say I have a 5kW system, generating for 6hrs a day, or 30kWh. During the day I push 20kWh back to the grid, where I used to get fair credit (say $0.18/kWh). Now my utility wants to charge me $10 / month and only credit me $0.09/kWh. Well, looks like I'll have an extra $558 / yr incentive towards my own home battery storage system.

Has there ever been an example of an industry so blatantly signing its own death warrant?

While I have a little sentiment for the position utilities are finding themselves in, it is just that.. a little sentiment.  These are big, powerful organizations who have unlimited resources at their disposal to find another way to exist in the new world order.  While we should be seeing movements on par with "Nextflix moving from DVDs in the mail to streaming" level adjustment in utility business plans, we are instead seeing completely non-creative, totally expected moves to try and "tax and fee" their antiquated business plans back into relevance.

Its not going to work.  The sooner we ALL realized that, the sooner we can work on building the RIGHT system of clean, distributed energy for all.

Monday, September 14, 2015

OCR Sneak Peak: Team OC Solar Decathlon House!

I had the distinct privilege of stopping by 2 weeks ago to see the amazing progress on the Team OC "Casa Del Sol" Solar Decathlon house under construction at Irvine Valley College in preparation for the DOE Solar Decathlon which is only 1 short month away!

There are many impressive details of the OC home team effort, but lets start at the top.  As seen in the picture, Team OC is a consortium of four, that's right, four OC colleges (UCI, Chapman, IVC, Saddleback).  When they were selected as an entrant in the 2015 Decathlon, they were given $50,000 to get them started.  They have since raised over $1 million in donations and services beyond the DOE's $50,000.  That in itself for this entirely volunteer team is an amazing accomplishment.

Design of the Casa Del Sol is inspired by the Poppy flower.  Its diurnal and drought resistance characteristics make this California State flower the perfect theme for today's sunlight rich yet water poor California.  Also in the spirit of the Poppy, the team built the house on a reinforced steel foundation which, per CA State permit laws, can be moved and installed anywhere in CA after the competition.  This drastically increases the post-decathlon options for the future of the house.  Check out the pictures of the house as of last week, with walls and floors nearing completion.
Porch and a good view of the steel foundation
For solar panels / electrical power, the team is going with an array of LG MonoX Neon black trimmed panels.  These are a great high performance panels that will be mounted out of sight on the roof for a nice clean look.  As you may see, one of the panels was damaged in shipping.  Always good to order extra, which this team had the foresight to do.  The panels will work to provide electricity to the home as well as charge their electric car, a Nissan Leaf.

The home's solar thermal system is truly innovative and one-of-a-kind, with the team trying many new novel ideas to win points in the competition.  Beyond using a standard water heater and solar hot water reserve tank (see below),

they have implemented a huge water column tank in which they will hold a thermal gradient with custom temperature sensors (see below).  This is a great tool, basically acting as a big thermal storage bank for various systems running through the house.  The tank provides enough water storage area to really try some novel things, and the tank is mounted with a highly granular temperature measurement set up (the white "caps" on the side of the tank) such that the team can monitor the input / output to the storage system.

For solar hot water heating, the team is using German manufactured Ritter Gruppe solar hot water heating, which uses a small parabolic reflector to guide sunlight to a evacuated solar tube.


 Other neat-o tools of the house include a semi-custom sub wetbulb evaporative chiller, which is a technology starting to gain use in commercial building systems.  Basically, it is a very efficient way to cool air and this is one of the first examples of use of this technique on a small scale.

Another "cool" feature of the house, the home will automate the opening and closing of standard Milguard windows as part of the climate control system.  The automation features were not installed yet, but the windows were, as pictured.  This is a great use of a typically human interfaced climate control tool (opening a window) by the home's computer.  Imagine if you're own house knew it was nice enough outside to slide the windows open and turn down your AC.  Brilliant!

The house will also include, although not finished yet, a "man cave of the future" room.  This is something I very much look forward to seeing.  My guides, engineer / Ph.D Dr. Moritz Limpinsel and team marketing lead Ms. Camryn Jun said it would include a 3D printer as well as a few other killer toys.

A huge thanks to Moritz and Camryn for the sneak peak and I am terribly eager to see the finished product in less than a month.  Reflecting on their time as key team members with the effort, both Mortiz and Camryn said they were deeply affected by the work and struck by the passion everyone had for the project.  As a member of the "home team" geography, I hopefully represent all OC / LA Clean Tech enthusiasts in saying, "THANK YOU" for such a strong entry!  And with that we show a final pic of the team HARD AT WORK on getting this great entry to the finish line.

Some additional pictures from my visit are below.  Feel free to browse and click on them for the larger version.  See you at the Decathlon at the Great Park in Irvine starting Oct 8!

Best, Adam Plesniak - Managing Director, OC Renewables

Just so happened solar panels were being installed on the roof the day of my tour!

The Nissan Leaf will park and charge in this area

Some final renderings of the outside and inside of the house (below)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

DOE Solar Decathlon Volunteer sign up NOW OPEN

How would you like a front row, no... BETTER than front row seat to the largest, most popular solar / energy efficiency / green living event in the country?  Well, the DOE Solar Decathlon 2015 is coming up quick and, just like in 2013, it is going to be right in our back yard, the Great Park in Irvine, CA.

Long story short, this world-recognized event runs not only on the tireless efforts of nearly 20x university teams building the best of the best in sustainable living homes, but also on an army of event volunteers, many of whom are from right here in the OC.

Organizers of the event sent out a notice earlier TODAY that volunteering shift slots are NOW OPEN and available for taking after you register to be a volunteer at this link here.  I strongly encourage all that are interested to get over there and register right away, as the "best" volunteer slots are snapped up quickly.

I also suspect that like 2013, organizers will really be eager to sign up volunteers for the event when it is open during the work week (Monday - Friday), so for those who can volunteer at those times, your assistance is greatly appreciated.

As if you would need much of a carrot to be part of this terrific event, volunteers will be bestowed with a tee shirt in a size of your choosing!  Now were talking!