Our fourth year of Solar usage.

SCE 2016-Year 4

This is our fourth year update. Click here for the Last Year’s (3rd Year) Summary.

It’s been four years since our PTO our solar array was approved, we originally estimated our savings on driving the Active E or a vehicle like the Active E. Since then, we moved from driving one EV to two EVs to three EVs and finally back to two EVs. We’ve also driven around a lot and our mileage has grown significantly since then. Our original estimation of a break-even was calculated with a one EV household.  Since then, we believe that we’ve achieved our break-even mileage for our EVs and home use of electricity between last year’s update and this year..

In our first year of Solar use, we had a credit. Which, as we found out, we could not claim. Because, it turns out, Net Metering means that though we’re credited for the production at a specific $ rate, customers are paid out on OVERPRODUCTION of power and not on the CREDITS earned. What this means is the system produced greater kWh of energy than consumed by the end user. If this is the case, the customer is PAID OUT the power times the wholesale rate of production. As long-time readers are aware, on our second year, we paid over $200 to SCE. For our third year, coupled with our nearly a month of travel to Maine and back in our Here, There, and EVerywhere roadtrip, we were out of the house for about three weeks that year, and a little over a month for that year. So, that created about a month of overproduction. As a result, Year 3’s bill was approximately $40.  This fourth year that just ended, we had about the same number of weeks away from home, but our annual net metering statement is about HALF of last year’s total with a nearly $20 bill for Year 4.

This full fourth year of solar production is firmly with the Model S and Roadster with a about the same number of weeks on trips as Year 3. Our 2016 Road trip to the Pacific Northwest, which we will be publishing on Monday, 9/12/2016 at 10:00 AM Pacific/18:00 BST/19:00 CET (UTC), was for only two weeks, however we’ve had a lot of other trips so that our total time away from home has been about the same as Year 3.

I considered the third year as a monumental year for having the $40 annual bill, I am just flabbergasted at the $20 year that we’ve had for the fourth year. Considering our average electric bill prior to going EV and solar was closer to $200 a month, it is incredible to get most of our transportation and home energy use at so little.  Additionally, I focused on the change in tariff from TOU-D-EV to TOU-D-A in last year’s summary.

Logic tells me that I SHOULD have been paying more for electricity in Year 4 vs. Year 3.  And we didn’t even travel any more than we did in Year 3.  Our Summer roadtrip in 2016 (about our Long Way Round to the Tesla Gigafactory Party) was several days shorter than our 2015 Roadtrip.  I guess we’ve gotten better at shifting our energy use.

I wonder what we’ll be spending on energy next year?  I predicted an upward trend from Year 3 to Year 4 and was flat out wrong.  So, let me see if an upward trend will finally hit from Year 4 to Year 5.  After all, solar panels degrade and our guaranteed production on our solar agreements always step down year over year.

Interested in going solar? Get a quote from my solar vendor – Real Goods Solar.

Our third year of Solar usage.

Projected Usage 2015-09-09

This is a third year update. Click here for the 2nd Year of Net Metering.

It’s been three years since our PTO was approved, we originally estimated our savings on driving the Active E or a vehicle like the Active E. Since then, we moved from one EV to two EVs to three EVs back to two EVs. We’ve also driven around a lot and our mileage has grown significantly since then. I haven’t done the math, but estimated that we’re either at break-even this year or definitely in a few months.

In our first year of Solar use, we had a credit. Which, as we found out, we could not claim. Because, it turns out, Net Metering means that though we’re credited for the production at a $ rate, customers are paid out on OVERPRODUCTION of power and not on the CREDITS earned. What this means is the system produced greater kWh of energy than consumed by the end user. If this is the case, the customer is PAID OUT the power times the wholesale rate of production. Last year, we paid over $200 to SCE for the entire second year of Solar. This third year, coupled with our nearly a month of travel to Maine and back in our Here, There, and EVerywhere roadtrip, we’ve been out of the house for about a month. So, that created a month of overproduction. As a result, the annual net metering statement was for approximately $40 for Year 3.

This full third year of solar production is basically the Model S and Roadster. What is interesting is that our usage this past 3rd year probably would have cost us less than Year Two’s Annual bill. But the month off really helped. At less than $4 a month for power for the third year is greater than I expected. So, I chalk this third year as a monumental year. Considering our average electric bill prior to going EV and solar was closer to $200 a month, it is incredible to get most of our transportation and home energy use at so little.

Now, this current fourth year, I wonder what our bill will be. Most of the past three years our electric tariff was on TOU-D-EV. This was a special whole house rate with a discount for EV drivers. A few months ago, Southern California Edison got rid of that tariff and adjusted the Time of Use tariffs so that the times that start with Peak, Off-Peak, and Super Off-Peak.

Under TOU-D-EV, the Peak rates were from the hours of 10am-6pm M-F, the Super Off-Peak hours were from midnight-6am every day, and Off-Peak is any other time. This was great because Solar was credited during the peak times most days and helped off-set a lot of the costs.

Under TOU-D-A, the Peak rates are now from the hours of 2pm-8pm M-F, the Super Off-Peak hours are now from 10pm-8am every day, and Off-Peak is still any other time. Though the Super Off-Peak hours are longer, the effect of moving peak time to the hours between 6pm-8pm means that we’re no longer generating credits at the Peak rate between 10am-2pm. Additionally, we’re spending more between 6pm-8pm because we’re paying at Peak rates and not Off-Peak rates.

So, I’m projecting paying a little bit more for electricity next year… Unless we go on yet another LONG roadtrip.

Interested in going solar? Get a quote from my solar vendor – Real Goods Solar.

First CHAdeMO quick charge


Regular readers will be stunned to see the term CHAdeMO pop up in a post on is site. After all, neither the Active E, Tesla Roadster, and, currently, the Model S have no CHAdeMO enabled. However, those aren’t the only electric vehicles in the family.

So, this past Satuday, my mom came over to visit us in her 2013 Nissan Leaf SV. Aside from Familial bonding and her visit to her favorite (son she would say, child I would say) this was a weekend of EV training and getting the information needed to see if she should go Solar at her home.

Step one in any decision to go Solar is to gather your bills to get an idea of what your consuming in energy. And we’re definitely still on the first phase of her Solar journey. We’ll revisit that later.

When we got her 2013 Nissan Leaf SV last year, one of the main drivers for her was the availability of the DC Quick Charging for the car. However, after over eight months of driving her OB-8, she has yet to use the CHAdeMO in her car. As I’ve mentioned before, for a Granny her age, she’s fairly technical. She carries an Android phone, uses some Apps and is quite adept at some of the things that she has on her Android (this is actually her second Android phone. Her first was the G1.)

So, why has she not charged via CHAdeMO? Well, it’s because most of her driving in her Leaf has been well within the range of a J1772 outlet. She hasn’t been in a rush to get charged up. She still has her ICE minivan and is quite comfortable living with a hybrid garage. Additionally, many of the CHAdeMO stations in the LA area have converted from being free to use to a minimum of $5 usage (for the Blink Network ones).

Luckily, we live near the Mitsubishi North American Headquarters and were able to train her on how to use the CHAdeMO charger there.

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Granted that this unit is not the most common one out there, but it served its purpose and was free to use. In order to maximize the time spent charging her Leaf. We spent the day drawing the range down until we went to use the station.

This particular location usually has a wait and there was a gentleman finishing up his Leaf charge as we arrived and it provided a good amount of time to re-initiate my mom on charging etiquette and Plugshare. So, checked into the location and proceeded to train the use of the CHAdeMO station.

This was the first time I’ve used CHAdeMO and have to say that it is rather straight-forward, however we had to make sure certain things “clicked” in place rather than the relative ease that Tesla Superchargers work. But nothing that was critically flawed. I was confused, at first, with having to pull the lever down to lock the port in place, but it was good exercise to do so and the unit was smart enough to tell me when it was properly connected.

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While waiting for the car to charge, I spotted the Plug-In Hybrid Mitsubishi Outlander that Nicolas Zart had written about. Based on the color of the one I saw at the Mitsubishi parking lot, I’m certain it is the same one.

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Filler Doors on both sides…

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One nit about the Leaf Charging under CHAdeMO is the fact that the only indicator I have on the car that told me how long is the three blue dots on the dashboard. Luckily, the Eaton L3 CHAdeMO station has a screen in front that pretty much gives the user an idea of what percentage of the battery has been filled. It’s definitely not as fast as the Tesla Supercharger, but then again, nothing really is. It’s my understanding that CHAdeMO is actually going to be faster than CCS, so, why again are the other manufacturers installing a whole different standard than one that is already widely deployed? Would I have paid $5 for CHAdeMO? If I was travelling, probably, but being so close to home and having solar on the roof, it’s cheaper for me to just plug in L2. However, for the insurance it provides to have my mother with the ability to recover energy quickly, it’s definitely an option that’s been worth it. Even though it took eight months before we finally used one for her Leaf.

Minimizing gas use…

So, about a month ago I was inspired by an article, on Plugincars.com regarding BMW’s plan to allow i3 drivers the ability to rent a traditional gas (internal combustion engine/ICE) BMW when they need it, to figure out how often my family uses ICE vs. EV.

Seeing that there are two of us who use vehicles in the family, I figured to count the FAMILY’s usage of Gas vs. Electric.

So, I decided to log my mileage of use for the period between March 6 and April 5, 2013. It was a rather interesting log. We travelled a total of 2,948 miles in this period of which we did 2,499 miles Electric vs. 449 miles on gasoline. I anticipated a heavier gasoline use this past month as we were going to help our nephew move. Ended up not using the X5 for this and he only needed a few items which fit our ActiveE, so, score 1 for the EV use.

However, as things do tend to go to the mean, the 328i ended up with a recall. Of all things, in the electric wiring of the vehicle. As a result, had to do almost 100 of those miles gasoline and 22 of the approximately 100 miles was using a 5 series loaner.

Good thing the BMW ActiveE folks were not planning on the Morro Bay FB meetup until tomorrow, otherwise, I would be adding another 460 miles on gas as I’m not crazy enough to wait the hours needed to charge the Active E on the drive north and south to the meet.

Hats off to some of my fellow electronauts who live a fully electric life, I’m not sure if I can quite do that yet.

These brave souls all live fully electric, or at least nearly so – check out the blogs of Todd Crook, Peter Norby, and Pamela Thwaite

Todd is impressive because the whole family uses the ActiveE, solely! Peter has both an ActiveE and a Honda Fit EV, and Pamela Thwaite‘s family has 3 Electric cars. A Tesla (roadster, I believe), Active E, and a Mitsubishi iMiev for the kids.

Still, at 85% electric vs. 15% gasoline. I think I’m doing well… Saving a lot of money and enjoying the ride!  Figuring that my 2499 electric miles is closer to $21.64 and my 449 miles of gasoline is closer to $85 (using an inflated approximate $0.19 per mile as I do not have the cost per mile for the 5 series vs. my $0.17 per mile calculated convertible 328i cost.)  If I were to extend $0.17 per mile to the 2499 electric miles, I’m saving about $400 on not buying gas.  (not even factoring in $100/hour per the currently controversial articles on Tesla’s leasing program.)

When we get a Tesla Model S (unless BMW comes out with a more aesthetically pleasing i3 or cheaper i8 BEV, not hybrid) and with that range, we would probably not need to drive as much gas as we do now.

Real Goods Solar installation

A picture is worth a 1000 words… So,here are some pictures…

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This is what the front of the house looks like. One of the good things about our house is the fact that the south facing roof (the one with the most power generating capability) is not on the front of the house. This fact made it easier to sell Solar Power to the better half on the aesthetics of the solution.

More front of the house shots. Closer to the roof –

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My new roof looks great, but you’re here for the Solar pictures…

So, the next picture is from the backyard looking up.

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That doesn’t really give you a good shot of it, so… Even though I have a fear of the sudden stop after a fall… (i.e. it’s not really the heights that scare me or kill you.) I decided to get on the roof to take some pictures.

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Here is a nice shot of the conduit runs for the electrical cable.

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Here’s the ActiveE peeking out from the roof.

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Closer shot…

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Here’s a shot of the junction from the South Facing and the West Facing roof… The conduit still looks good.

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Better shot of the junction

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Panoramic of my most productive panels

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Panoramic by the chimney. The shading really wrecks havoc on my production for three of the panels.

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Some of the nice warning signs

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Another shot of the ActiveE from the roof…

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Meter is going backward! Success!

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One of the things you get with Real Goods Solar under this plan is TWO monitoring systems. This one is a closed system mounted by your panel and it is for the finance company to ensure that they’re producing what they committed to.

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Here’s the one from Enphase that allows the user to see what the system is producing. It connects to the panel via Ethernet over Power and then you need to have a port on your router to connect to the Internet.

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Here’s the ports on the box –

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Here is the sub-panel for the whole system –

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These are the breakers for each of the 3 sets –

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Here’s the disconnect for the whole system –

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Lastly, the installation was very clean, here is where they ran the power to the main breaker as well as the Ethernet for the monitoring.

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The conduit on the left side (on the wall of the house) is where the power comes from the solar panels to the main panel.

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I asked them to run two Ethernet runs from the monitoring to the wall so that there’s one spare in case of failure in the future. This sucker is supposed to last 20 years.

That’s it. Several THOUSAND WORDS worth of pictures.

Interested in going solar? Get a quote from my solar vendor – Real Goods Solar.

More Napkin math, OR – Real Goods Solar and BMW’s program is a REAL GOOD deal!

Saving money while saving the environment is an addictive process.  It’s crack for good Karma!  I feel like Michael Corleone in the Godfather III, I try to get away from it, but they keep dragging me back in!

As I had indicated on my Ping! post, I got “unofficial” Permission to Operate (PTO) on August 17, 2012 and finally received official PTO ten days later on August 27, 2012.

So, we’re now running our car on Solar Power…  or are we?  Unless your house is completely disconnected from the electric grid, what you are really doing is netting out generated power from the solar panels on the roof with consumed power from the electric grid.  So, if you’re overproducing power from your solar panels than what you’re consuming, you get money back, otherwise you’re really just netting out what you’ve made with what you’ve used.  As I have published previously, the rate to charge depends a lot on what tariff you’ve chosen.

In my first napkin math post, I charged on the SCE Domestic rate which effectively got me charged at $0.31 per kWh as my usage of electricity had already pushed me to Tier 5 for most of the billing periods.  In order to normalize and compare ICE vs Electric, I calculated that the cost under the first plan was 1.714¢ per mile

By my third napkin math post, I attempt to alleviate that $0.31 per kWh charge by opting for the whole house SCE Electric TOU Tiered rate structure, this pretty much reduced my rate to charge to $0.13 per kWh for my car charging needs (as well as my pool pump as I switched the time of use for that from mid-day to mid-night to 6 am).  As we noted on that post, my cost per mile dropped to about 1.412¢ per mile.

So, the big question is what is my cost per mile under the Real Goods Solar and BMW ActiveE program deal.

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Before I took advantage of this deal, I would like to tell you about my search to save our energy costs further.  Not necessarily the environment, but that’s always a fun side-effect with this accidental environmentalism that I’ve stumbled across.  After signing up for the Active E, I figured to become educated on what my solar options were.  To that end I requested quotes from three solar companies in the Los Angeles County area: Peak Power Solutions (Sunpower reseller), Solar City, and Verengo Solar.  Each solution had its strengths and weaknesses and around the third week of March (between three to four weeks of receiving my ActiveE), I decided to sign a power purchase agreement with Solar City.

A power purchase agreement is basically the right to buy a guaranteed amount of power from a provider for twenty years.  I don’t own the solar array on my roof, someone else does (a finance company) and I agree to pay them a fee for this.  This means at the end of twenty years I get the option to keep buying from them, buy the equipment outright, or have them remove the array from my roof.

So, how did I compare the suppliers.  Ultimately, economics.  So, at the end the Solar City deal that I had originally signed was approximately $0.10344 per kWh.  How did I calculate this?  All the suppliers with the power purchase agreements have a guaranteed rate of production for the 20 years that the system will be produced, so I divided the total guaranteed kWh by the the total prepaid lease amount, and that’s how I got to the $0.10344 per kWh.

So, I thought that was it.  I signed up with Solar City, got a rate that I felt was fair and waited to get installed.  Solar City’s installation process was methodological and professional.  They provided a website to track the progress of the installation and was quite impressive.  However, their process proved to be the opportunity for Real Goods Solar and BMW’s deal to come in and make my costs even less.  Around the beginning of May, during the design and survey process, Solar City notified me that in order to proceed with the installation of the system that I signed in the third week of March (about five to six weeks earlier) my roof would have to be replaced.  This change provided me with an out-clause from completing the agreement that I signed with Solar City.

As I was mulling through a roof quote and setting up more roofers to see what this replacement roof would cost me, Real Goods Solar and the BMW Active E program announced their program.  So, I figured, why not ask them to see what the solution would cost me.  I contacted Real Goods and they had a sales agent contact me within the day.  Their initial quote was 12% less than the Solar City quote and agreement that I went with.  However, I had to bundle in the cost of the replacement roof and needed to get the total project cost to figure out which deal I was going to take.

Figuring that both solar companies would probably be able to get a reliable, professional, licensed roofer at a lower cost than I would have on my own, I went back to both providers to find out what the roof was going to cost from them and go from there.  My assumption was not exactly correct as my independent roofer quote was actually $500 to $1000 cheaper than the lowest quote from either solar provider.  I was at an inflection point.  I was already saving quite a bit on gasoline with the TOU tariff and this would have been the time to quit or cut bait.  I approached both providers to see if there was anything they can do to their quote to make the entire project less expensive (replacement roof and solar).

The dilemma is how do I adequately calculate my cost per kWh based on the various scenarios.  I figured the most conservative thing to do would be to subtract the lowest roofing quote from my total project cost and use that figure to divide my cost per kWh over the guaranteed generation over the life of the system.  Granted, this methodology would provide me with an understatement of cost as the guaranteed rate of production is typically rather conservative of the suppliers, but it IS what they guarantee, that is why I went with that methodology.  When the system has really sunny days it will outperform this guarantee and my actual cost per kWh is less than what I calculated.

With the total system cost, I figure that my cost per kWh is $0.10250, however, if I subtract the roof cost my cost per kWh drops to $0.07970 based on guaranteed power.  Seeing that my energy cost is a 38.7% reduction, mathematically speaking, my cost per mile is approximately .8657¢ per mile ($0.008657) or 73.58 cents per day based on the 85 mile day that I had in the last post on this matter.  Not bad at all.  Of course, the system is currently overproducing and with time of use I actually am paid a rate for the energy I am sending back to the grid during the day and most of my charging occurs between midnight and 6 am, so this is, like my other estimates “napkin math”, so I am certain my actual costs are lower, but the numbers work for me.  Remember, my original calculation of a comparable vehicle costs were approximately 17 cents per mile, so my 0.8657 cents per mile cost is quite a bit less than driving my ICE 328i convertible.

So, there you have it.  My energy costs are a heck of a lot less than it has been.

Want to see what my system is producing, check out the sidebar production information courtesy of Ken Clifton‘s plugin for WordPress or directly from Enlighten’s website.

In a few days, I will follow up this Napkin Math article with pictures and my opinion on the installation from Real Goods.  Let me just say, I recommend them and if you give my name, I get a referral on your system, so contact me if you’re serious and I will recommend them.

Interested in going solar? Get a quote from my solar vendor – Real Goods Solar.

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Ping…

Yes,  I’m still here.

I’ve been busy with our ActiveE and have been on vacation on top of that…  I promise at least two more ChargeIt! articles for two really great food AND charging facilities (here’s one of them – Gjelina at Electric Avenue in Venice). [Here’s the other Church and State – Mateo Street Charger, now caught up for the Great Food series.]  However, trying to decide on whether to do the next article on joining the Solar powered movement.

Still haven’t received my “official” PTO, but I did notice an off-cycle close to my SCE account this past Friday (August 17) (when I logged in to my SCE account on Saturday) and followed up with a call to SCE on Saturday morning.  According to the telephone representative my permission to operate (PTO) letter went out last week and I am now generating my own energy via the Solar Panels on the roof of the house.

Thanks to BMW and its partnership with Real Goods Solar, I was able to get a system at a bigger discount than I had originally negotiated with Solar City.  But that will have to be the subject of a subsequent post.  As well as updates to my Back of the Napkin Math series (1) and (2).

As those that have followed this blog, I’m not an “environmentalist”, I just like to save money.  As long as one has a “long” view, the money savings will follow those that do things that are “environmental.”