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Solar power gets me to work

Guest Post by CelticSolar, celticsolar.blogspot.com

 

There are several reasons to own solar panels. Self-reliance, protecting the environment, and lower bills come to mind. My personal reason? To ‘fuel’ my transportation.

Two years ago I acquired an electric vehicle. It is a GM factory made electric 1998 Chevy S-10 pickup; one of the few that survived the crusher. It was a truly lucky find. It is purely battery-powered, not a hybrid. It will go 74MPH and works great for my commute and errands. Several auto-manufacturers have announced various forms of plug-in vehicles for 2010 and later. Owning this EV has given me insight into how many other people might be driving in a few years.

With this electric vehicle (EV) I was no longer using gasoline for most of my driving. All of my in-town driving was now grid powered. The grid today has a large chunk of its power sourced by coal (the percent varies by region). In my area, 42% of the grid power comes from coal. Even with a large part of the electricity derived from fossil fuel, EV driving was producing less CO2 than driving a Prius. I decided I could still do better by installing solar panels. I had been considering solar for a long time. Knowing that it would fuel my transportation was the nudge I needed to say ‘the wait is over; now is the time to get solar.’

If you are considering solar panels, the federal incentives for 2009 are significantly better than in years past. You also might consider adding an extra kilowatt or two for that Chevy Volt or Plug-in Prius that could be in your garage in 2011. How many more panels you’ll need to fuel your own plug-in transportation depends on what car you buy and how much you drive it. The Volt for example gets 40 miles from its 16kWh pack. That is 400Wh per miles (actual numbers may vary). If you were to drive 8,000 miles per year, that would be another 3200kWh per year that you would want your PV system to generate. You can work with your solar installer to figure the optimal PV system to fully fund driving on sunshine.

It’s a great feeling to drive a solar powered vehicle. While other cars are spewing out CO2 and pollutants every mile, my driving is powered by sunshine. Also, gas was over $4 per gallon this summer, and it will be again, but it does not matter if it is $4 or $2, sunshine is free.

Some people have asked if plug-in vehicles are going to be a burden on the grid. When combined with PV, plug-ins are a benefit. Our home PV system generates power and feeds the grid during daytime peak energy demand. Then I charge up my vehicle over night when there is surplus capacity. Generating and charging during these hours helps equalizes the demand on the grid. This is referred to as “peak shaving” and “valley filling”. If the vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology aka “smart garage” takes off, the plug-in car and grid relationship will be even more synergistic.

Darell from EVnut.com was an inspiration sending me down this EV+PV path. Thanks Darell.

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8 thoughts on “Solar power gets me to work

  1. Solar Energy says:

    Yes using Solar energy helps protect enviorment. Some people think that home solar energy is restricted to being useful only if it’s converted into electricity.

  2. CelticSolar says:

    Bill,

    Here are my responses. Sorry I didn’t see this sooner.

    > Pat is your solar panel located on the roof of your home?

    Yes. I started my blog to document the system’s install.

    > Do you own an ICE vehicle?
    Yes, we have a Prius and a Honda Passport. The Passport does not get used much and I have to remove the battery to prevent the car alarm from draining the battery. I only use it when I need 4×4 or to haul our pop-up camper. (not too often)

    > Can you recommend a local supplier?

    I used and liked Mr.Sun Solar, in Portland OR.

    You can also try the “Click here to connect with local solar experts” at the top of this page.

  3. Bill Price says:

    Pat is your solar panel located on the roof of your home? Do you own an ICE vehicle ? Can you recomend a local supplier ?

  4. Pat says:

    Thank you ko, Robert, Sonny, & Eli for the nice comments.

    ko, I do hope other will follow and that prices & availability of solar and EVs improve and make them more accessible.

    Robert, I enjoy reading Thomas Friedman’s NYT articles. He is a smart guy.

    Sonny, thanks. Yep born and raised in Stumptown.

    Eli, good point. Referring to my PV system, one of my co-workers recently scoffed “how long is that going to take to pay itself off”. My reply was “much faster than your trips to the gas station will pay you back.”

  5. Eli S. says:

    With so much focus on the initial installation cost (and unknown upkeep factors) of a solar power setup that would allow people to power their lives with sunlight, it’s easy to forget about the enormous cost savings that the system provides. Even with cheaper gas prices now, being able to charge a plug-in car with home-generated solar power would equate to thousands of dollars per year.

  6. Sonny says:

    Pat,

    Great article and keep up the good work. You are setting a good example and a true Portlander.

  7. Robert haran says:

    Thank you Pat for your entry “Solar Power gets me to Work”. I have just finished the book Hot, Flat, and Crowded, by Thomas L. Friedman. In this book he explaines in more detail the the phrases you used in your blog “peak shaving”, “valley filling”, “smart Garage”. In his book he makes sense of where our power comes from, and the real cost of that power.

  8. ko says:

    Truly wonderful. Keep up the good work. The forces at play may have made gas prices frighteningly low, but as you said sunshine is always free. This is a solid example of not only a commitment to your future, but to your community, and others will hopefully follow.

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