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.