One House – Two BMW i3s – Powered Solely By Sunshine

4 years ago by Peder Norby 116

The Sun

The Sun

There’s something traditional, in an American sense, about a home and two cars in the garage. We are a nation that came of age the past 100 years concurrent with the era of the automobile. For better or worse our homes and cars are together entwined with the embodied energy of our built history. For better, we can power both our homes and our cars with harvested sunshine.

On May 15th 2014, we will begin a documented 12 month effort to power our home and our two cars, each driven an average of 12,000 miles, by sunshine harvested from the roof of our home.

We will attempt to make more kwhs than we use over the entire year. We will attempt to be a true zero emission transportation solution, net zero in use and below net zero in the total cost of energy. We will document all with our utility bills and car readouts and share our somewhat private information with you openly at the beginning of each month. We’ve done the math, we’ve lived this EV + PV life for 6 years, we’ve been below zero with our home and one car, we believe we can do it with two.

Net Energy Metering Summary

Net Energy Metering Summary

Just as the cell phone, the digital camera memory chip and the computer have transformed how we communicate the past 20 years, Innovation and advances in technology have led us to an arrival at an important new intersection with our energy and transportation future. An intersection where there is an emerging “symbiosis” of the building, the automobile, and the energy plant all working together as a self contained system owned by a single entity, rather than separate entities at separate locations such as a home, a gas station and a power-plant.

It is a time primed for great change in how we make and distribute energy and how we motor from place to place. A time when new entrepreneurs will take up the challenge and lead us into an exciting and imaginative energy and transportation future.

Our goal is to save money, to be more self reliant, to lesson our dependency on foreign oil and its related cost in dollars and lives, and to improve the air quality in our city. Our goal is also to be a demonstration of this rapidly emerging and symbiotic new energy and transportation future.

Front of House

Front of House

Our home

We live in Carlsbad California in a temperate climate. We were owner builders of our home in 2006. Our home was nominated and was awarded the 2008 California Center For Sustainability Energy “Excellence Award” for being a net zero energy home. This award is peer reviewed and goes to one homeowner per year in Southern California. The main home is 3,250 sq. ft. There is a 1,200 sq. ft. guest home occupied by one. Our home and guest home use approximately 5,000 kwhs a year of energy, less than half of the average home electricity use in the U.S.

Our Solar Panels

Our Solar Panels

Our solar PV system

In early 2007 we purchased a SunPower 7.5 kw system installed by Stellar Solar that generates approximately 11,500kwh a year. This 7.5 kw system was architecturally integrated into our home at the plan stage and was sized to power the home and one car. This system was completely paid off in utility savings and gasoline savings in April of 2012.

In April of 2014, we added an additional 1kw of panels for a total system size of 8.5kw generating 13,000kwh a year. Our system is grid connected, we charge our cars at night from the grid when it is less expensive and less taxing to the grid and we generate extra kwhs for the grid during peak hours, providing this energy to our neighbors during peak demand.

BMW i3

BMW i3

Our cars

Julie and I will both be drivers of the fully electric BMW i3. We expect to take delivery around May 1st. The BMW i3 is one of the most efficient cars and just might be the most efficient car in the world. It is a dream to drive with leading edge technology, comfort and safety.

Demonstrating the Light Weight of the BMW i3

Demonstrating the Light Weight of the BMW i3

Julie and I have been field trial drivers of both the BMW Mini-E and BMW ActiveE for the past five years and both of these cars have fit perfectly into our lifestyles requiring no concessions on our part. I drive approximately 9,000 miles a year and will use approximately 2,000 kwh per year. Julie drives approximately 15,000 miles a year and will use 3,600 kwh per year.

Of special note, the BMW i3 at 2,650 lbs is 1,400 lbs or about 30% lighter than our current car the 4,050 lbs BMW ActiveE. This lightness will save us over 1000 kwhs of energy each year for the same miles travelled.

The total usage of the cars and the home equal ~10,600 kwhs per year. The remaining 2,400 kwh (about $860 at the top tier rate of 36 cents per kwh) will be used to offset our annual $250 natural gas bill.

An asterisk here as even though the energy is priced retail at 36cents per kwh and our excess generation is sold to our neighbors by SDG&E at that price, they only credit our account 3.8 cents per kwh for excess generation and you cannot carry over the credit to offset your natural gas bill.

A therm of natural gas contains the energy equal to 29.3 kwh of electricity. So our generation of extra kwh will offset the therms of natural gas that we use.

We’re attempting this and are willing to document and share, success or failure, as we believe that this “Sunshine Symbiosis” will soon become the standard with millions of “symbiotic homes, cars and solar power-plants” accomplishing this same result in just a short decade or so. Solar is getting cheaper with a smaller footprint, houses are getting more efficient, and electric cars are getting better, more efficient and less expensive. Put that all together and you have disruptive change and awesomeness 🙂

Lastly, we are saving about $7,500 annually in fuel cost and utility cost. Our power-plant installed in 2007 is completely paid off with the savings of the past 5 years. We are living and driving at 20% the total cost of traditional utilities and gasoline. We look forward to those savings for the rest of our lives.

We are on a great path America, let’s put the pedal to the CFRP (carbon fiber reinforced plastic) and motor towards a better future.

I’ll update this effort with a new post around the first of every month.

Cheers & Sunshine,

Peder Norby

*Editor’s Note, Peder is the Chairman of the San Diego County Planning Commission. His wife Julie is Director of Curriculum and Instruction at the Solana Beach School District. They have been Field Trial drivers for BMW for five years. Together since 2009, they have driven 95,000 EV miles powered from roof top solar.

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116 responses to "One House – Two BMW i3s – Powered Solely By Sunshine"

  1. MTN Ranger says:

    Congrats on the solar upgrade Peder. Enjoy the new i3s.

  2. Robster1979 says:

    Hi Peder, looking forward to your updates! The amount of electricity used by an average US household is amazing. In the Netherlands it’s 3500 kWh. You guys need better build quality, i.e. start insulating your houses.

    1. Warren says:

      The problem in the US is size…of houses and cars. If you compare average square feet/meters of houses in the US and Netherlands, I think you will be amazed.

      1. vadik_veselovsky says:

        Compare GDP per capita which is nearly identical. The Dutch just choose to be frugal with energy.

        1. MrEnergyCzar says:

          Very high gas prices will do that…

    2. Spec9 says:

      American houses can significantly reduce their electricity if they move heat tasks (stoves, hot water, heating, dryers, etc.) to natural gas, install LEDs, and put the entertainment center on a power strip that turns of everything when it is not being used.

      1. Ocean Railroader says:

        Personally I think I’m lucky that my house as a AC and a Heat Pump and uses no natural gas. In that during the great cold snap Natural Gas prices along with propane went up by a large chunk. While electric rates in Virginia stayed around $0.10 a kilowatt. If I were them and I had a $250 month natural gas bill in heating my house I would get a heat pump. In that $250 is more then I pay in electricity to run my whole house with everything including heat pump and cooking along with hot water.

        What worries me is that the power companies and car makers are getting to happy about natural gas in wanting to make everything use natural gas in that natural gas will run out a lot faster then coal.

        I would love to add a large eight or nine kilowatt solar system to my house to feed my heat pump and AC during the summer along with a few basic things.

        1. Peder says:

          Just for clarity, our Nat Gas bill runs around $250 a year.

          1. Priusmaniac says:

            Yes, but natural is a beautiful word to say dirty fossil gas, the more in the US it is now become fracking gas, which is even worse. The only clean gas that really deserves that name is biogas. So, unless you are using biogas, eliminating the fossil fuel from your energy package should be your number one priority.
            You may use a heat pump or better a shower heat recuperator combined with a heat pump associated with a solar boiler. Now if you really want to burn something, which is always a bad idea, you can still make use of a pellet burner.
            But all the other things you do arte fantastic, so I would give you a 9/10, but I definitely need to lower it to a 6/10 because of that fossil thing you still use.

        2. Spec9 says:

          Yeah, a heat pump is better than natural gas . . . but that is a big thing to install. (At least a ground source heat pump.)

    3. Alan says:

      I doubt if many Dutch people have a 415 sq meter home to take care of … that’s big by American standards. If someone has a home this big while ignoring efficiency, it is profligate … However, this couple makes up for it by using power efficiently, and getting it from solar photo voltaic (I doubt if insulation figures into their power usage – electric power is generally a bad way to heat your home, unless it’s via a heat pump. Regardless, Carlsbad, California probably has the most modest heating and cooling requirements of any place on the planet; it’s the sort of place where you can almost get away with no heating or cooling at all). I’m really interested in how they pull this off; they’re obviously a wealthy couple who want to enjoy life, but try to do it efficiently. If you compared them to similarly wealthy families, their usage would look even more modest.

  3. Peder says:

    Thanks MTN Ranger, I was surprised at how low cost the 1kw addition was, Solar PV has really reduced in cost since my last purchase in 2007. I was able to use my existing inverters so the cost came out to around $1700 to add 5 panels.

    I agree, we need to be more efficient in the way we build our houses in the US. According to our US Energy Information Office:
    In 2012, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,837 kWh, an average of 903 (kWh) per month. Louisiana had the highest annual consumption at 15,046 kWh and Maine the lowest at 6,367 kWh.

    Interesting that a warm weather state had the highest and a cold weather state the lowest. I suspect the biggest draw is the air conditioners in the warmer states.
    Our home does not have air conditioning.

    1. MTN Ranger says:

      Correct on the HVAC. During the summer, my home uses triple the electricity than in winter due to cooling. By contrast, my Volt only uses $25/month.

      My home has good insulation, but I do want to install a radiant barrier under my roof. Unfortunately due to roof direction and trees, solar is not a good solution for me.

    2. jumpjack says:

      900 kWh per month is about three times the typical value for Italy houses.
      Which is the price for kWh in USA and Nederland, and which the kW price of a turnkey solar system?

    3. Alan says:

      Most people in Maine probably don’t have electric heat. Energy is used, just not electric energy.

  4. Assaf says:

    Congratulations to the Norby family.

    I do wish however, that somewhere in the article Peter would have mentioned the words “climate change” and “global warming”.

    After all, with all due respect to energy independence and air quality – climate change is the main reasons why both rooftop-PV technology and EV technology have been pushed so massively in recent years, and have made the progress that now enables the Norbys to install this great system.

    For sure, without the super-massive subsidies on all sides of all oceans to alternative tech – subsidies pushed mostly due to climate-change concerns – the Norbys would have never had a shot at saving money on such a system in this day and age.

    It’s nothing personal, btw. Omitting climate change from the conversation is par for the course.

    When I have the time (not this week, surely), I will write something for about this typical “Elephant in the Room” attitude to climate change. Somehow, it is the reason/motive far most likely than any others, to be tucked away or left unmentioned.

    Even someone living through California’s most epic super-drought (i.e., right now) feels he cannot afford to mention it, lest…. lest what, really?

    Congratulations again, Assaf

    1. Gsned57 says:

      Because there are enough reasons everyone can agree on to go solar/electric it’s often better to leave the polarizing ones out of the talking points. For some folks it is their new religion and the end all be all. For others it is a liberal conspiracy to tax utilities and stifle business. For those of us in the middle both sides tout facts figures and studies that support their views and both sides have their black eyes from lies corruption and data falsifying. It is a plausible theory that may prove true but unfortunately muddied by politics and personal gain.

      1. Brian says:


        Although I find global climate change to be most likely true, I tend to leave it out in my own discussions for exactly the reasons you mention.

        1. Assaf says:

          Sorry, but -1 to both of you.

          0. For me, to read in an EV blog someone touting their environmental credentials and motives, but neglecting to mention climate change – is *very* alienating and polarizing. It helps further precisely the misconception you are echoing: that climate change is something that is not “respectable” to talk about.

          And it is also polarizing/antagonizing to call climate-change a “religion”. It is science.

          1. @Gsned57: You are “in the middle” between “two sides who tout facts and figures”. You are in the middle between practically all scientists and in particular climate scientists – and a bunch of hacks, quacks, conspiracy-theorists and shills funded by Big Oil.

          For Goodness’ sake, here’s an official statement from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (

          – Climate scientists agree: climate change is happening here and now.
          – We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts.
          – The sooner we act, the lower the risk and cost. And there is much we can do.”

          2. Presenting all other reasons *except* this one makes no sense, because a. This is the biggest risk right now, and

          b. To mitigate the other reasons there are other “solutions” that don’t involve solar/wind or EVs.

          For example, “energy independence” can be also achieved by helping Canada expand its Tar Sands operation, and increasing fracking/drilling even further, everywhere.

          Local air quality has already improved dramatically with catalytic converters, higher-grade fuels, etc. etc. – to the point that nearly everywhere in the US, it is in fact a secondary concern if that (I happened to work in that field in 2009-2012).

          Ok, gtg.

          Finally, my apologies to Peder for misspelling your name.

          1. Peder says:

            appreciate the dialog and no problem on the spelling of my name. That’s a issue I have had to bear my whole life.

            San Diego, LA, and most of our large cities do have an air quality problem, it is unhealthy, and we can do better.
            Cheers and thanks for you passion.

            1. Assaf says:


              Thank you for your gracious response.

              I’m not sure I understand your Elon Musk analogy (I’ve heard the “I don’t want to risk this experiment” schtick argued both ways; most recently Nate Silver of all people, has gone to bat on this argument on behalf of climate-deniers).

              As I said, there’s nothing personal here. I just think it’s beyond time that people stop dropping the subject from conversations about the environment and EVs. It doesn’t make sense anymore.

              Indeed, we should take our cues from all major scientific organizations, who are literally tearing their hairs out at the silence/complicity/willful-ignorance of Big Media and most of the political system about climate change, at least in the US.

              The scientists have decided to stop mincing words. As a scientist (although a more outspoken one than the average :), I know how much this type of decision runs against the grain of most scientists.

              They would much prefer to just be able to do their job and let other people handle the social and political aspects. But those other people have been dangerously negligent.

              1. Mint says:

                Assaf, science has given us good evidence that AGW is happening, questionable evidence that it’s happening as fast as predicted, and has very poor evidence about the costs of warming (because there are too many variables to make even slightly accurate predictions about the economy 100 years from now).

                Even worse is how virtually all scientists are silent about cost per degree. Consider residential solar installed at $4/watt (we’re almost there):
                30% subsidy means $1.20/watt public spending, and if each watt of solar gives you 30kWh over its lifespan, that’s 4c/kWh for clean power. Solar displaces natural gas (as opposed to baseload coal), which emits 0.5kg CO2/kWh or less. So that’s $80/tonne.

                Now, globally 35B tonnes of CO2/yr is increasing atmospheric CO2 at 2.1 ppm/yr, and the IPCC tells us warming is about 1 degree per 100ppm. Do the math, and you get…

                $1.3 trillion for every HUNDREDTH of a degree in averted warming.

                So tell me: how are you going to tell me that such an expenditure of western goodwill is scientifically justifiable? Do you have any idea how many starving mouths you can feed with a ‘mere’ $100B? How many diseases you can immunize against? How many water pipes and schools you can build? The latter is critical in stemming population growth.

                Fighting global warming is NOT a worthwhile humanitarian priority right now. Not by several orders of magnitude.

                I support EVs for more important reasons than AGW, i.e. energy security, reducing the trade deficit, lower lifetime costs, and reduction of urban air pollution.

          2. Brian says:

            Well, as I have said, I do believe that climate change is real (it’s hard to believe that we’re NOT changing the climate, given all the cr@p we spew into the atmosphere). I also do what I can to reduce my footprint. I cannot afford a system the size of Peder’s, but I bought what I could afford – 3kW, enough to cover the electricity used in my Leaf.

            But the problem with using such an issue as climate change is that people tend to jump straight to the conclusion that solar panels/EVs/etc are a form of “take your medicine” wherein the person buys into a substandard way of living just for the greater good. Most people have a hard time envisioning themselves doing that, so they say “well, that’s great for you, but I could never do that because of X”. A much better sales approach is extolling the virtues and private benefits. In this case, the cost savings and local air quality are much more tangible to a reader than global climate change. I also like to focus on the joy of driving an electric car and the conveniences of starting every day with a full tank.

            I am not trying to minimize the impact of global climate change, but it does not have to be drilled into your head every time you read about solar panels or electric cars.

            1. Assaf says:

              Brian hi,

              The problem isn’t that the subject is “drilled into you” each time EVs are discussed. We are actually much closer to the other extreme, where climate-change is the least mentioned subject in sites like this. When the post topic is an auto show or Elon Musk’s latest provocation, ok fine. But when the post is about environmental concerns and actions – well, that’s a pretty glaring hole in the discussion.

              Regarding how to communicate this, clearly a lousy EV or crappy solar panels that don’t do their job, are not good solutions. I’m not going around telling people “this EV is lousy, but that’s all you get from now on because climate change”.

              That goes for any solution – including e.g. transit, if the transit system is lousy and doesn’t work you can talk yourself blue in the face about CO2 footprint, and you will find even yourself slinking back into your car.

              The fact is, we live a privileged life in a consumer society, and the climate-change damage is still sporadic and localized. So no one will choose to suffer on their own accord. The climate-mitigating alternatives must be good working solutions.

              But it’s silly for us who choose those solutions, to pretend they are something else. EVs and solar panels would be nowhere near where they are right now, if not for climate-change concerns. So let’s not evade the issue just because someone might laugh at us or say mean things. We’re not in middle school anymore.

              1. Mint says:

                “EVs and solar panels would be nowhere near where they are right now, if not for climate-change concerns.”

                I disagree. Battery tech is what brought EVs to where they are right now, and 90% of our current tech there is due to the impetus from mobile electronics. In the end, climate change will play a very small role in EV success, as they will simply be a cost-saving choice for personal transportation. Same with solar panels: they’re selling primarily because they’re saving money (albeit on the individual level, due to our flawed pricing system).

          3. Spec9 says:

            Here is the thing, Assaf . . . there are idiots and charlatans out there. And if you can make a great pitch for PV & EVs without talking about climate change which will get some of those idiots and charlatans into PV & EVs then why not do it? And if mentioning climate change will alienate them then why mention it?

            Yes, climate change is a real risk but even for the people who are concerned about it, you are unlikely to get them to do PV & EVs just by talking about climate change. But if you can show them that it is a good financial investment, they’ll do it. And they already know about the climate benefits.

            So yeah, I guess not mentioning it is *sort of* tilting toward the idiots. But they are idiots and so I’d rather trick them than raise their ire.

            I feel the same way about EV marketing. I think the “Leaf” was a bad name and the polar bear commercial was a bad idea. The green people already know the EV advantages and don’t need to be sold on it. So they should focus on energy independence, money-savings, local pollution savings, the reduced trade deficit, reduced maintenance, the rugged individualism of EVs, the ability to ‘grow your own’ fuel on your roof, not sending your money to foreign dictators, etc.

          4. jumpjack says:

            Global warming is not the real point.
            Being it caused by Men or Sun or God or Doom is not the real point too.
            The amount of CO2 produced by humans is not the point too.

            The point is that warm&CO2 are NOT the only by-product of oil combustion: there are also NOx, CO, sulfur, un-burnt fuel, small particulate.

            Just imagine to place a can of gasoline in your living room and light it: would you be concerned just about CO2 and hot air being produced in your livingroom???…

            Our atmosphere is just a closed environment, we can’t “open the window” and let the air change once it’s full with smoke and NOx and CO and sulfur, they just remain there.

      2. Nick says:

        Great writeup!

        Climate change is clearly a reality. Ignoring or downplaying it doesn’t put you in the middle.

        Failure to mention it in an article like this is a jarring omission.

        In my opinion, It’s best not to give global warming deniers any leeway on this, since you boost their positions by taking this stance.

    2. scott franco says:

      As usual, Assaf, no.

      I am a “global warming denier”, and a republican to boot. However I have an EV and myself want to install solar. I don’t want that because I am saving the earth, but rather because I grew up with smog and think we can do better living on this rock without polluting it in the process.

      If you insist on having your information presented only by people you find “idealogically pure”, you are:

      1. Going to find yourself alone quickly.

      2. Are punishing those who agree with your basic goals just because they don’t agree with you %100.

      3. Are alienating everyone.

      But of course you have presented your far left credentials long ago. Ah well.

      1. Nick says:

        If denying reality and ignoring the massive destructive effect on our biome are prerequisites for getting extreme Republicans on board, then I’m not sure it’s worth it.

        1. Assaf says:

          @scott franco:

          This is not “ideology” but reality backed by solid scientific data.
          CO2 levels have gone nearly 2x since the industrial revolution started. That’s an undeniable fact.
          CO2 absorbs infrared, which is the most prevalent “black body” radiation emitted by the Earth. That too is undeniable.
          This means that since the start of the industrial revolution the crust-ocean-atmosphere system has been having an ever-more-positive annual heat balance. That too is a fact.

          The only reality-based, scientific uncertainties are how bad this makes things, how rapidly – and what are the worst specific effect that will show up first.

          Climate change is as inconvenient for me as it is for you. Fortunately, both of us agree that “we can do better living on this rock without polluting it in the process” – and it so happens, that the list of things to do to mitigate climate change is pretty much the same list of things to do based on this principle.

          Of course, you are free to deny climate change, but you *cannot* deny there is a wall-to-wall scientific consensus among climate scientists, and all major scientific organizations, on the matter.

          As to being a global-warming-denying Republican who puts up solar and drives an EV – great for you.

          But if you are honest with yourself and with us, you will have to admit that there are at least 100 times more global-warming-denying Republicans for whom the mere words “solar panels” and “EV” are a red flag, will continue to support “Drill Baby Drill”, and proudly drive a 10 MPG SUV to do their commute and groceries.

          So absent the climate change emergency, they have not been convinced this is the way to go.

          1. Mint says:

            “The only reality-based, scientific uncertainties are how bad this makes things, how rapidly – and what are the worst specific effect that will show up first.”

            And what makes you think these are trivial matters? You cannot make a legitimate case for preventing AGW without addressing these uncertainties, finding how much each unit of warming contributes to these effects, and how much it costs to prevent X amount of warming.

        2. +1 to Nick and Assaf. Though I’m not sure Peder intentionally left out climate change, I do think we give some credence to deniers by omitting it. It’s a little bit like debating evolution and intelligent design as equal scientific explanations for the variety of life on earth. Just by proximity, intelligent design gives those unfamiliar with science and the scientific method a sense that it could be valid. When of course, as science, it couldn’t be more flaky.

          Climate change hasn’t been in scientific doubt for decades. But since we have incentive to be ignorant on the issue (it threatens to affect our fossil fuel based economy) and because climate patterns are changing and inherently unpredictable – deniers have gained some foothold. Thankfully, there are those, like scott franco and Gsned57 who find the other more tangible benefits enough to encourage EV and PV adoption – despite the sometimes self-righteousness of the scientific community and the “left” that has taken up the cause.

          1. Nate says:

            On the other hand, I wanted to read about Peder’s cars and home PV system. The title was about 1 house and 2 cars powered solely by sunshine. I wanted a focus on the details of his cars and home. I did not know about the details of his home and cars and that is what I was hoping the focus was on.

            If we give everyone who wants to contribute something crap for not writing it the way we personally want it, there is going to be less articles to read and less variety to them. We will read the same thing every day.

            I like the info Assaf provides but lets let people be themselves.

            1. Assaf says:


              To re-iterate:

              1. EVs and rooftop-solar have become middle-class affordable, mostly due to massive public subsidies provided both on the producer and the consumer side, the vast majority of which are related to climate change.

              2. Peder goes into some details into explaining his environmental motives for acquiring and installing this equipment. Among environmental and climate scientists, the #1 general environmental concern nowadays, by far, is climate change.

              Given these, one has to literally go out of one’s way in order to neglect even mentioning climate change, when discussing an EV+solar home system, and how great it is to the environment.

              Unfortunately, it is par for the course. I think we need to drop the habit, and stop being afraid of even mentioning the issue. That’s all.

              1. jumpjack says:

                I still don’t understand why they don’t start paying us some cents per each electric kilometer we drive, rather than for each kWh we produce, given that real price of solar panels is currently so low (0,5$/kW!) that there’s no more need at all for “solar subsidies”! But an EV still costs three times an ICEV!
                When solar subsidies started years ago, solar panels price was about 6$/kW!

      2. Bill Howland says:

        Hi Scott Franco

        I too don’t believe in the fairy tale of man-made global warming. Any good historian knows, prior to the Renaissance (called by some the Brilliant Ages as opposed to the desparagingly dark-ages or middle ages) that the earth, and Britain and Greenland, were much warmer than they are now.

        Just mentioning this to say that you’re not completely alone.

        Of course, its a let down to most people, since they wouldn’t have bothered springing for the added CA$H an EV requires without it, so while overall in the majority, we’re probably the trailing 1% of EV owners.

        I own 2 EV’s and before I bought them my yearly electric usuage, with considerable central air conditioning use in the summertime, was 3500 KWH per year, right in line for European Usage. My Home is a decent 2200 square footage, not including a very usable 600 sq ft basement.

        So not all American Homes use huge amounts of Juice, if you’re frugal.

        Solar Panels in my view are the way to go, especially if your Electric Utility is screwing you, which mine is, and is the SOLE reason why I just contracted for a bare bones 9 kw system (the article’s system is 10 kw, plus he gets more energy (about 40% more) being in sunny California.

        But even being in Cold, CLoudy western NEW YORK state (similiar to Germany), my Solar Panels have every reason of being cost effective. They are an even BETTER deal if you live in Arizona.

    3. Ocean Railroader says:

      I personally don’t care about climate change or global warming when I look at a EV or a solar panel system. This is based off of the idea sure I can cover my house in solar panels but Coal India and China will open up another large coal fired power plant anyway. In fact Coal India and China is going on a massive building spree of hundreds massive coal fired power plants that can each burn 20,000 to 80,000 tons of coal a day. And their demand for power is still growing by leaps and bonds as hundreds of millions of people plug into the growing power grid. As for electric cars we have over six to seven million of them in the state of Virginia with the first electric cars still very rare so that is another 900 pound power gorilla getting ready to happen.

      Me personally about solar panels and EV’s I really want a solar system like this so that the power company can’t jack up my rates when ever they feel like it. Also I feel it would make a great Doomsday prep to avoid getting cut off in a hurricane or in case something happens with Russia or the middle east tampering with the global oil supply. Also the local gas stations are owned by dirt bags and I would love to drive my electric car with the solar panels at home and make fun of them. I would also love to lath my head off when I have a EV and gas is five dollars a gallon and electric rates are 50 cents a kilowatt but I own my own solar panels.

      So personally I don’t care if global warming happens or not in that there is nothing we can do to stop it as individuals.

      1. Nick says:

        Don’t be defeatist.

        I think that individual action is the only thing which has any hope of slowing climate change.

        If the US wants it to change, it will. In order to push for change we need global warming denying to be pushed to the fringe. Talking about global warming is the only way to keep it on peoples minds, and show them that it’s okay to discuss and take action.

        The IPCC report covers much of this. Grassroots action is quite useful here.

        1. Assaf says:


          “Also I feel it would make a great Doomsday prep…
          …So personally I don’t care if global warming happens or not in that there is nothing we can do to stop it…”

          @Ocean you get +3 for the unintentional irony.

          1. Ocean Railroader says:

            I did know someone who was very well respected in the power industry and he did help build and maintain a lot of these giant coal fired power plants.

            He said that if a coal plant made a 100% of the coal it burned into a kilowatt of power it would take 35 pounds of coal to make a Kilowatt. But on top of that coal planets only turn about 30% of the coal they burn into power so it would take 70 pounds of coal to make a kilowatt. So in the day to running of the solar system it would at least save a few hundred pounds of coal a day in not needing to be burned.

      2. Spec9 says:

        Actually, no . . . India and China are no longer on a coal plant building spree. India has a couple problems: a lack of a consistent coal supply and a lack of water needed to run coal plants. They’ve gone on a solar PV spree.

        China just announced a move to close down thousands of small coal mines. And they are not building so many coal plants . . . they are installing solar like crazy, they are installing wind turbines, and then are building nuclear plants. They are trying to reduce their coal usage due to the smog in their cities.

        So you can’t use China and India as an excuse any more.

  5. Big Solar says:

    Excellent story and nice house! We are currently installing a 6 kw system here in Orlando and we have 2 EVs. Our monthly electric bill is about 140 so hopefully it will cover it.

    1. Spec9 says:

      That might be enough depending on how much you drive. I have a 6 KW system that covers all my needs but I’m just a single person and I only commute to work a couple days a week right now. But it creates much more electricity than I use.

  6. zoe-driver says:

    Hi, good story. Here in dark and cloudy Germany I have a plus of 1300 kwh per year. We generate 9300 kwh with our 5 year old PV, House uses 2800 kwH, Heating 2800 kwH and ZOE car 2400 kwH, which results in +1300 for the world. But that is easy. No rocket science. Our autarky is 40%. Which means, that we have to get 60% out of the grid. The next step is to get to 85% autarky with an home-energy storage system and a enhanced PV system. Funny years to come.

    1. Spec9 says:

      How do you survive on 2800KWH/year in your house! The average US house is like 11,000KWH/year!

      1. jumpjack says:

        Stop using electric stoves, electric ovens, electric water-heater and other things which do not need to be electric to work fine!
        And stop using electric dryers, use sun or radiators to dry your clothes instead!!

        1. Spec9 says:

          I don’t use any of those things but I still use much more electricity than that.

      2. Alan says:

        That was roughly what our usage was before we got the electric car. Admittedly, house heat, stove, oven, and water heat are gas (washer/dryer are electric). For a 1000 sq foot home with 2 people – if you use efficient lighting and appliances – it’s easy to do with no significant lifestyle compromises.

  7. Suprise Cat says:

    > we charge our cars at night from the grid when it is less expensive

    So they are obviously not solar powered.

    1. Peder says:

      Yes, obviously as stated in the article, and it is why we refer to it as net zero as in generating the same amount that you use. Remember, someone else during the day is using our sunshine electricity when we push it out to the grid. We could charge during the day if it were convenient and beneficial to do so.

      It’s also an emerging new energy, I have no doubt that viable energy storage is just over the horizon and that will be a huge game changer.

      Said another way, If you deposit $1000 in a bank, but withdraw the same $1000 over varies expenditures at varius places during the month, was it your $1000 or someone else’s?

      1. vadik_veselovsky says:

        Grids eg usually have pumped storage at over 70% efficiency so energy is no way wasted.

        1. Ocean Railroader says:

          There was a big idea I had for Virginia Power for pumped storage. In that Virginia power owns the massive bath county pumped hydro project that pumps up water into a upper lake though a massive pumping station when out of state power rates are cheap. It then lets the water out though generators when the state power rate gets higher then the out of state rate off of the open market.

          My idea would take this existing 1000 megawatt system and hook it up to a 800 megawatt solar panel farm. The massive solar farm would send half it’s power to the grid during the day and half of it’s power to the hydro storage system during the day. At night the hydro station would let the water and let it back into the grid. Which would allow Virginia power to own a form of base load solar power.

        2. Spec9 says:

          I doubt 70% efficient. But pumped-hydro is probably the most cost-effective storage system we have.

    2. Nick says:

      From an emissions and climate impact point of view this is likely better than 100% solar powered, since their daytime power generation offset dirty fossil fuel generation during peak. They then used energy which may have otherwise been wasted that night (since thermal power generation plants have a minimum output overnight).

    3. jumpjack says:

      Sure they ARE: if you produce 1 kWh during day, store it on the grid ant take it back during night, you’re actually using sun to charge your car!

  8. Peder says:

    Love the fact that folks are commenting from all over the world! It truly is an era of change in our energy and transportation future not to mention communications!

    Assef, Regarding the climate change issue, I’m right where Elon Musk is and agree with what he has said on the subject “It is simply not an experiment I want to run, even if only 10% of the scientist (as opposed to over 90%) said we had a problem”

    I hope my actions speak louder than my words and that’s the point.

    1. Nick says:


      That’s a great way to look at it.

      1. Assaf says:

        ….and now Peder and I are even on the name-misspelling count 🙂

        1. Peder says:

          Too Funny, sorry about that Assaf!

  9. This is great Peder! I hope to come and visit with Meredith sometime during the year. Currently kicking around the idea of following you with the two-i3 household model, though we would have one REx and one BEV if we do.

    Looking forward to watching the your progress during the year!

    1. Peder says:

      Thanks Tom, we have walked most of this path together. Julie and I want to come out and visit you guys as well!

  10. Mark H says:

    Good on ya Peder. We have been powering our home and one EV since 2011.
    My personal stewardship these days is to help others make the solar leap. Once they do, there is a strong chance that the EV will follow.
    We have enjoyed net metering in our area for some time but Duke Energy has come out this year to inform us that they will no longer offer net metering. The power companies love to sell EV owners power at night but less loving toward the solar panels. In the future, they will find that we are one in the same in many cases. I prefer the grid tied approach as well but may invest in a battery in future years for a partial storage if the wholesale price is too low to my liking. Look forward to your regular solar post

  11. Long N says:

    Great job Peder! I’ve always wanted to do something similar to what you have set up, but currently I live in a condo with not that much roof space. We have one EV and a regular ICE between the spouse and I, but contemplated before about getting a custom built home the first time we bought a house. We will be getting another EV to replace hers (hopefully the B-class if it works out).

    When you were having the home built, did you have any complications for permits, contractors, going over budget, etc? Originally I was overwhelmed when I first wanted to do this and building a well-insulated, efficient home seemed over my head at the time a couple years back. I live in Carlsbad as well, by La Costa and direct input from someone who has done it would be very informative.

    Anyways, keep up the good work and let us know how the project comes along.

  12. scott franco says:

    Awesome writeup. Anyone who has an EV should consider adding solar to their mix. It makes the complete cycle of energy use clean, negates the idea that we have to convert vast areas of the desert to solar, and advances the market for clean solar energy.

    I’ve been considering it myself. Right now its just a matter of the money upfront required.

  13. Thanks for sharing Peder. Your enthusiasm, thought, and openness will surely influence others to make similar investments.

    I also appreciate your comment about a home and two-car garage that is, for better or worse, historically intertwined. That seems to me an admission that actually, if we’re honest, our solution (two expensive cars and a large home with solar) is way out of reach for most Americans.

    So, I’m looking for a positive spin. How do we “sell” EVs and PVs to people with quite modest means? People with two kids, a working class job, living paycheck to paycheck? People just struggling to keep their older car paid for and out of the repair shop?

    Obviously what you do is WAY better than what most people of your means do. So, I commend you. But, I hate to say it, just like tax cuts for the wealthy, this kind of lifestyle choice doesn’t really trickle down to the less fortunate. I’m wondering how we collectively can get more bang for the buck.

    1. Spec9 says:

      Solar PV is NOT out of reach for most Americans who own a home and are willing to put a little work into it. Solar PV is actually VERY CHEAP if you do it yourself. If you have the skills to add a 240V dryer outlet and install an attic roof vent, then you have all the skills you need to install a solar PV system. It will cost around $8K in parts for a 4KW system and you’ll get back 30% of that as a tax-credit. So for a mere $6K or so, you can install a system that will provide you with lots of electricity for the next 25+ years.

      1. Uh, plus an inverter, a two-way meter, attaching it to the grid, getting the correct wire sizes, permitting, etc.

        I am pretty handy and can do a 240v outlet (did one), but I wouldn’t try a PV install and don’t agree anyone could do one.

        Besides, even if solar prices have come down, I was also talking about the cost for an EV, which still, despite some price drops, is affordable only to those with a fairly high income. Not only because of the price itself, but also because the full federal credit applies only if you’re paying that much in taxes (people making less than say 60 or 70k even, won’t get the full credit).

        1. Spec9 says:

          No, that price includes the inverter, wires, racks, etc.

          If you can do a 240V outlet then you can do it. Go look at the circuit diagram for a system on the Enphase web site. It is very simple. You ‘connect to the grid’ exactly the same way that you add a 240V outlet . . . with a 240V circuit breaker in your main panel. The utility will install the two-way meter.

          Don’t be so defeatist . . . you can do it if you want to.

        2. Spec9 says:

          Well why buy new? Lots of used EVs are probably hitting the market as the initial leases expire. They will be available for the teens-thousands and will be dirt cheap to fuel.

  14. Peder says:

    Dan, thanks for your comment and for catching the for better or worse part.

    Most of the worlds major cites outside the US were constructed in large part well before the advent of the automobile.

    For example Copenhagen is often cited as a walk-able and bike-able city. Copenhagen was 90% built before the early 1900’s and the introduction of the automobile, therefor its embodied energy is conducive to walking and biking.

    In the US our cities came of age at the same time as the auto so our embodied energy is very road and car oriented and as I said that’s for both better and worse.
    Cities and Counties are getting better at balancing this mix of transportation and in the San Diego area we have seen mass transit via rail make a strong comeback the past few decades with the trolly, the coaster and the sprintner.

    I believe this will get less expensive, and it will become affordable for most. It is headed that way now and I think will accelerate. Similar trajectory to the computer, the flat screen TV and the cordless cell phone.

    Some thinks we can do to speed this up is to promote the financing of solar to be on buildings (property tax) that never move instead of people that move every five years.

    Choose to live and shop more locally and less sprawl thus lessening a commute and transportation cost.

    Increase production scale to lower unit cost. This is now beginning with electric cars and Tesla’s giga battery plant.

    I’m happy to see that EV’s are in the low cost range now although not yet available everywhere. When i started driving electric there were two choices. A $110K Tesla roadster or an $850 a month Mini-E. Now there are lots of choices at all price points.

  15. Mark C says:

    Good for you, especially for sharing. I’ve followed your posts on the EV World website as well and have been cheering for you for several years, since your first Mini-E post. I too have sufficient solar energy to way more than offset my families electric usage and the rebate check covers more than the annual dollars spent on natural gas.I don’t know if I’m actually net zero or better, other than money.

    As for the climate change issue, I do not bring it up, because every time I have, the conversation immediately goes sideways. I stick to pollution and money, neither of which drives people away. As I can’t make anyone do what I want, I can only describe how it benefits me and the money I save, and I mention the pollution reduction and the coal sludge ponds that have failed destroying too many lives and too much property. Since carbon is a type of pollution, am I ignoring it, or just not singling it out. I don’t care to argue the point either way. As soon as I can afford an EV, I’ll have one.

  16. Peder says:

    Thank you Mark C

    It has been an epic journey beginning with Solar on the house in 2007 which led to a 2007 GemE4 then followed by the 2009 Mini-E. For some it’s solar then an EV, for some its an EV then solar. Either way it’s a great paring.

    That’s when I began writing as I felt the beginning of major changes 🙂

    We have continued to experiment, refine and relocalize our life that has led us to this point.
    It’s like a living science project 🙂

  17. Taser54 says:

    Alas, this experiment requires too much $$ for the common person (even acknowledging the gigantic government subsidies involved).

    While I admire the ultimate goal. I feel that it could be far better realized by a person who lived in an apartment/condo close to work and bicycled or walked to work, and in rare circumstances used a carsharing service.

  18. Mike I says:

    Peder, what appliances do you have in the home that use natural gas? In California, it is typical to have water heaters, furnaces, clothes dryers, and ranges/cooktops that use natural gas. I find it interesting that some people that try to go net zero don’t try to minimize hydrocarbon use (natural gas) as much as possible.

  19. Mikael says:

    I would like to know if you could get day by day statistics (or at least month by month) to see how many days of the year you are a zero household.

    I don’t care much about total kwh’s produced compared to kwh’s used since that number is vert irrelevant unless you can store the energy until it’s actually needed and wanted.

    1. Spec9 says:

      It is not irrelevant. We have this thing called the ‘grid’ and a major point of it is to distribute the supply & demand loads. While Peder’s house has clouds, someone a few miles away will have sun. While it is night for Peder’s solar PV system, a nearby wind turbine may be generating electricity.

      By using a grid to balance things, you reduce the need for storage. When we have some 30% of the grid as solar only then does storage really start becoming something to address.

      1. Mint says:

        Things don’t always balance out, and that’s a problem for a system where people demand 99.9% uptime. Cloud and wind systems affect geographically huge areas at a time. Studies have been done, and you either need 3x overbuild of renewables along with lots of storage, or almost full capacity fossil fuel backup, which will probably charge $1 per kWh if renewables are taking most of the business.

        As it is, solar without storage is increasing the rates of your neighbor without solar. You really think the utilities save 30c/kWh by you not purchasing from them? They still need to maintain the grid you’re connected to, keep capacity online to kick in when clouds show up, pay the same number of workers, etc. All they save is natural gas, which is about 3c/kWh.

        You mention elsewhere that your solar is sold to your neighbors for 30c/kWh. That’s nonsense. That sale would be completed with or without your power. They would have paid 3c/kWh for natural gas to go into otherwise idle plant capacity.

        Until ultra-cheap storage is a reality, solar increases system-wide cost of generation, despite the flawed pricing system rewarding you and others with individual savings.

        1. Peder says:

          OK Mint,
          I’m convinced. What the heck was I thinking.
          let’s just keep burning coal NG and oil forever so my neighbors can pay for the related subsidies, health care cost, environmental cost increasing energy cost and profits for those guys instead of for themselves.

          Here in So-Cal two years ago we had a 2000MW nuclear power plant go off line and that is now fully decommissioned.

          Because of our robust renewable energy generation and new transmission line linking to renewables in the desert, this major energy event was a non issue.

          My neighbors that you care so much about will now be paying the several billion dollars to decommission that plant and figuring out for the next few thousand years what to do with the radioactive material in the cooling pools.

          The CPUC just ruled that 1400MW of new plant construction can happen and that 700MW or half will be renewables, the rest NG.
          What were they thinking! 50% renewables!

          Renewables and behind the meter decentralized solar PV aas well as energy conservation measures such as those evil led bulbs and the fact that we are outlawing certain incandescent bulbs is saving ratepayers money by requiring less over all power-plants to be built, and less expensive Peaker plants to be built.


          1. Mint says:

            I am in SoCal as well, and am fully aware of the San Onofre plant closing. You obviously haven’t been paying close attention, as its closure resulted in much higher CO2 emissions:

            In state electricity generation had 35% higher CO2 emissions in 2012 due to the plant’s closure.

            The reason it was a “non-issue” (when putting CO2 aside) is that 2GW isn’t a large percent of the grid, especially considering the national grid that CA is linked to.

            So you’re one of those anti-nuclear hypocrites? One who ignores that this power station has given you 435 BILLION kWh of electricity without any air pollution? If people of your ilk had successfully protested in 1983, would have been a coal plant instead that would’ve released over 400 million tonnes of CO2, and who knows how much cancer-causing and asthma-inducing pollutants along with their health costs.

            Cost billions to decomission? They’ve already collected $2.7B for the decomissioning fund.

            I wonder what James Hansen thinks about nuclear power. Oh wait, he’s already stated that it’s vital to avoid catastrophic climate change…

            “and less expensive Peaker plants to be built.”

            Are you that myopic? Peaker plants are inefficient and charge way higher rates due to being idle so much. They’re exactly what I’m talking about when it comes to higher rates.

            SCE and PG&E don’t have big profit margins. If they lose substantial kWhs sold to residential solar, but can’t shut down natural gas capacity, they WILL raise average rates. Guaranteed.

    2. jumpjack says:

      The grid is your energy storage. And you even get PAID to use it as a storage! 🙂

  20. Peder says:

    Hi Mike I
    As we designed/built the home to be as efficient as possible and to include Solar PV, we made the decision to go mostly electric on our appliances. We have three gas appliances.

    A tankless gas water heater located in the middle of the home in between studs to minimize plumbing runs.

    An efficient gas heating system consisting of three zones each can be turned off independently (we are in a temperate climate and only need heating a few weeks a year)

    Our clothes dryer.

    1. Mike I says:

      Peder, thanks for the quick reply. I have a similar situation. I have high efficiency gas furnaces (97% on the EnergyGuide Label), a Navien condensing tankless water heater (95%), a gas clothes dryer (wired for 240V electric too) and a gas range. I would change out the clothes dryer for electric, but I only have 4.32kW solar, so I’m still a significant net user with our EV. I have heard of others that have gone all electric and even shut off their gas. Hybrid Electric water heaters (heat pump and backup resistance heat) and heat pump furnaces are possible in California climate but not popular because they require big solar PV systems to make sense on operating cost.

  21. Peder says:

    Hi Mikael,

    Generally speaking, for four months we over produce, four months we are neutral, and four months we pull energy from the grid. We do have the ability to see our day to day usage and generation. Energy storage is a “near future” strategy for us as prices fall.

  22. Jimmy says:

    What websites can one visit who wants to get their feet wet in regards to looking at solar for their house? I drive a leaf and we are buying a house that faces north. I figure I can place some panels on the backside of the roof. BTW, great article. I look forward to seeing updates!

    1. Peder says:

      Hi Jimmy,
      Obviously this website is a good resource:)
      Seriously, since you have got the EV part already I would do three things.

      1. Research in your local area firms and websites that can help you reduce your energy use as a first step. If your house is new, it will be fairly efficient, If it’s older, lots of low hanging fruit to help you save energy. It’s always cheaper to save energy than it is to make energy.

      2. check out your utility website and local solar PV contractors websites. Much depends on your rates where you are. For example many in the North West are already powered by hydro at very low rates.

      3. Ask someone around your area who has gone solar. Those who have done it are great resources for the good, the bad and the ugly.

    2. jumpjack says:

      Use this site to figure out how much energy you can produce in your location with a given solar plant:

      And use my site to calculate how to build your own standalone plant 🙂

  23. GeorgeS says:

    for anyone using solar PV grid tied:

    In AZ APS has done similer to Ca on an overage at the end of the year. APS made it so if you have a surplus at the end of the year you get squat when they buy it.

    Therefore you should not oversize your system.

    1. Spec9 says:

      You get paid 4 cents a kilowatt. That’s fine. I think you should still oversize your system to accommodate future growth. And at 4 cents a watt, that is pretty much break-even for my self-installed system.

      1. Peder says:

        kind of a ripoff when they sell my juice to my neighbor at $0.36 cents per Kwh 🙂

        I’m not that handy nor do I trust myself (or my house) around hi voltage to do a self install.

        Installed systems here are now in the $3 to $3.50 per watt for mid size systems.

        I know it’s half that for self installs.
        Cheers! and thanks for commenting!

          1. io says:

            By the same logic, you could point out that cars are too expensive by quoting pricing on engines when bought by the thousands.

            Buy modules in smaller quantities and from companies who might actually still be around for the duration of the warranty, add racking and other roofing bits, inverter(s), wiring, grounding and whatever other local regulatory requirements (engineering e.g. wind loading calculations, permitting, inspection(s)), and you’re easily above 2$/W already, likely closer to 3 depending on situation and system size.

            Things often don’t pan out quite as smoothly and simply as you might hope. On my far-from-ideal roof, just racking, mounts and related hardware totaled close to 1$/W. Stainless steel bolts are stupidly expensive, for example, but very much required for something supposed to remain just as safe after 40 years or more.

            Installation would easily run another 1$/W, plus whatever profit a professional installer will slap on top of that.

            3.5$/W installed seems like a pretty good deal.

            1. Spec9 says:

              Indeed. My self-installed microinverter system was a little more than $2/watt and that was just for the equipment. Yeah, you can get panels for 70 cents a watt but the disconnects, conduit, wiring, racks, microinverters, grounding lugs, grounding wire, flashing, breakers, etc. It all adds up.

              But what a great investment. I want more houses that I can do it on.

            2. Bill Howland says:

              IO, apparently NY State is not too bad for Solar. My cost on a 9120 watt system will be a bit under $1 a watt.

              So while it will only get the Sunshine of Germany, I don’t care since its cost to me is LOW.

              1. Spec9 says:

                How do you get it for $1/watt? The panels alone are around 70 cents. And then you need inverters, wire, conduit, disconnects, breakers, inverters, grounding lugs, grounding wire, a permit, etc.

                1. Bill Howland says:

                  30 % fed credit, 25% New York State, $9120 Nyserda credit, for a total expense to me of about $8550 for a licensed contractor.

                  (We have an agreement that I am responsible for all alternating current work, which I’ve already done prior to the contract. Since my “spare parts box” is large, I’ve spent about another $60).

                  Thats $8610 for a 9120 watt system, and since being 2 old fashioned inverters, it will never generate more than 8kw, but my discounts are per the state directive to use the 9120 number – 38 – 240 watt panels.

          2. Spec9 says:

            Modules are only one part of the system. You also need racks, wires, conduit, grounding lugs, grounding wire, inverters, disconnects, breakers, junction boxes, warning stickers, flashing, etc.

        1. Spec9 says:

          Well, Peder . . . don’t think of it as a rip-off. Think of it as that is the way you pay for your share of the distribution grid costs. That way when the utility company starts whining about you and I ‘costing’ them money because we don’t pay for the grid, just point out that that they take our clean solar PV electricity and sell it to our neighbors for 30 cents a KWH and then pay us back with cheap excess electricity they have at night such that they actually make money from us.

  24. Jim M says:


    Outstanding article and looking forward to your updates. I have a modest home in Honolulu which is carbon neutral. Solar Hot Water enabled me to get rid of nat gas totally.

    Have yet to get the EV and read comments like yours with avid interest. Deals on LEAFs out here in Hawaii are quite good but I can’t shake the idea of getting a Model S. Especially since our CEO has graciously agreed to no cost recharging stations at work plus a coworker has a Model S due at the end of next month.

    The climate change doesn’t exist argument is truly disheartening at times, but I just attribute that to folks who won’t believe the issue until their couch is floating in the middle of the living room due to sea level rise. I’m also sure ships out there need to use caution or they’ll sail off the edge of the earth for sure . . . and the moon landing was a hoax . . .

    And yes, I’m far to the “left” on the issue of climate change. Not only do I try to live carbon neutral, but with donations to Plant A Billion, Trees for the Future, and Sustainable Harvest, I’m trying to reverse the lifetime carbon impact for myself and all of my ancestors back to the dawn of the industrial revolution. I figure it’s going to take planting of approximately 150,000 trees to do that and I’m well on my way. (I probably just gave two of three of your responders a cerebral aneurysm).

    Best of luck and thanks again!

  25. Brian F says:


    You totally get it! PV powering your home and EV while helping to level grid demand.

    We are doing the same here in our cold climate. A 10 kw PV array fully powering our home and Tesla while load balancing grid demand. We produce 11.5 mWh per year (with snow cover and tree shading) which powers our home 7.1 mWh, Tesla 3.65 mWh and the rest sold to the grid.

    Thing we can improve on are replacing the minivan with an EV, adding energy storage and reduce my use of our 64″ plasma TV. The biggest challenge is efficiently heating the home with outdoor temps below freezing. Currently we use an air source heat pump above 35 degrees and high efficiency natural gas furnace below 35 degrees. Total gas use is an average 395 therms per year ($675) for space heating, hot water and cooking.

    Thank you for publicizing your efforts,

  26. io says:

    Peder, Mike, Marc, Jim, Brian… Thank you for sharing and hopefully inspiring others.

    I guess I’m a bit the same: 6 kW PV, EV, solar hot water; next step will be a heat pump to replace my aging gas furnace, so as to get down to zero fossil energy. I’m already adding more PV for this, so I’ll remain a net generator.
    [Btw, a bit like Spec9, I’m not hoping to do more than just breaking even on that extra solar, but I love the idea of having my neighbors’ electricity being a bit more solar and less NG. I’m not in it for the money, I just want to be able to still look at my kids in the eyes 20 or 30 years from now. We can’t say we didn’t know.]

    Anyway, regardless of individual reasons, I feel good knowing that a lot of people go that same route.

    Thank you guys. Together we DO make a difference.

    1. Spec9 says:

      Tell us about the heat pump adventure. I’m very interested in a heat pump eventually too but by what I understand they are pretty expensive due to the digging required.

      I’ve gone 6 months with my system and have a 1 megawatt surplus . . . and those were the winter months. I suspect I’ll have several megawatts when my ‘true-up’ comes around. And despite only getting 4 cents a watt, I’ll probably make the system bigger eventually since I designed it to be able to expand another couple of KW pretty easily.

  27. John says:

    Great job, Peder! We can not expect the world or the government to solve all our problems and people like you through example show that we can make personal decisions and choose priorities in building and driving that MAKE A DIFFERENCE, and we don’t have to be rich to do this. I agree with comment that Americans use too much energy. I hope the we will change and that the developing world will not find itself indoctrinated by product advertisers with a mindset that makes some of the energy saving choices seem like they were borne of radical crazy people instead of those who are enlightened with the knowledge that we people of the world past, present and future are all in this together. Americans can be happier with less and smaller carbon footprints. Much smaller. I just built my second net zero home and drive a Prius, and I realize now I could have done even better. My second ICF (insulated concrete form) house is 375 sq.ft inside plus a small guest house detached and is powered completely all electric by a 2kw system that cost me $6000 for a 25 year power supply AND most likely would have enough to spare to drive an EV for all my local errands. I do choose to go to Walmart on my bicycle whenever possible and that works great too. I let the sun dry my clothes. I am retired and single and have more room in this house than I really need. My error is not having someone else to share this big 400 sq. FOOT house as there is plenty of room, but that is life sometimes. When I went to Thailand I saw houses built of bamboo and people who did not own cars. They were some of the happiest people I have known…of course, their children are all watching TV and learning to love the things we and the Chinese want to sell them. We need to think small, think less, think share the resources and yet find our happiness in a safer world somehow. Still, please don’t get me wrong, I am not criticizing anyone who has added renewable energy to their lives in any way. Keep up the good work!

  28. flmark says:

    It will be tough for me not to write volumes, as I have been where you plan to be, for about 2 years now. We have two Chevy Volts, a home and business in FL and another home in New York. Our FL home (3400 sq ft) has 7 kw of solar + 3 PV panels connected to a dedicated DC solar pool pump, along with solar water heating. No NG/Propane. We have had a net surplus of electricity for the entire time (two years now) that we have been charging our EVs with solar energy. At the FL office, we have 13 kw of solar and have undertaken many projects (new air conditioning, attic insulation, solar window film) to get down to near zero. Last year, I undertook the final project at the office, a swap out of 200 fluorescent bulbs for 100 LED T-8 tube lights. That project indeed sent us on to becoming net suppliers of electricity from our 3000 sq ft dental office. In NY, I am fighting with state and federal officials to put solar PV on the dock, as our lot is entirely shaded. In the meantime, though, I have shifted all heating to Mr Slim Mitsubishi heat pumps combined with an ultra-efficient wood burning fireplace insert. I have ditched my propane. And that is where I want to start with this.

    I excitedly read about your conversion following in the footsteps of mine…until you got to the NG part. While I am not quite as fervent as some others about the distraction of a mention of climate change in your article, I do indeed see all fossil fuels as the enemy. I want ALL of them out of my life as soon as possible. In Florida, it is easier to begin with because we lack a dedicated infrastructure for burning NG/propane. Nonetheless, when the last propane tank left my NY house, I rejoiced. To be fair, I am not in NY for the worst of winter weather, but I normally don’t leave until December and even sometimes, January. There are strategies for the COMPLETE elimination of fossil fuels and that is the point of the following discussion.

    1) The most glaring absence in your write up and all the 100+ comments thus far is the lack of discussion on induction cooking. By heating the PAN instead of all the surroundings, 90% of the energy makes it into the food. The best percentage of efficiency for combustibles is HALF of induction cooking. And until you have used a GOOD cooktop, you have no ability to dismiss the quality of induction cooking. My wife is chef level and LOVES it. (again, reminding myself not to write volumes here)

    2) At the NY home and FL office, water is heated via heat pump water heater. At FL home, we employ solar water heating. Both options have merit and fully displace the need to burn stuff to make water hot.

    3) The Mitsubishi heat pumps do indeed make hot air WELL below freezing temperatures outside. I have the EFFICIENT wood burning insert for supplemental heating for those extreme times. I emphasize efficient, because we cannot ALL start burning wood unless we do so EFFICIENTLY- that means lower fuel burn AND cleaner air. Your smoke stack should show very little visible emanation if you are using proper secondary combustion. Incidentally, do not think that geothermal is all that great. This winter it got so cold that even the ground source got chilled out and many geothermal users were using resistance heating.

    4) Clothes drying in a machine is just about the dumbest way to use energy. While I won’t toss my electric clothes dryers, they are RARELY used. The first step to avoiding the clothes dryer is to use an ultra-efficient spin cycle to get the vast majority of water out of the clothing. Then, HANG to dry (especially in sun and wind). In Florida, by the time you get done hanging the load, the sun has done most of the work for the first few items hung. It is FASTER to dry clothes outside (in FL) than in the dryer- without all that heat added that needs to be removed with your air conditioner. In NY, when it gets cold outside, I will sometimes use the dryer for about 20 minutes before hanging indoors. There are excellent racks available for hanging clothes without using clothes lines (and pins). It ain’t quick indoors in the winter, but the stuff will dry. Which brings me to FANS.

    5) Ceiling (and other fans) should not be thought of as cooling. They make you feel cooler by moving the air your body heated away from your skin. In fact, the MOST appropriate time for ceiling fans is actually when you are HEATING the air. Without running ceiling fans, you ensure that all the heated air rises to the ceiling- and AWAY from you. Fans help to dry your clothes faster and move conditioned air throughout your living space.

    So, I laud everyone who goes down the path of solar pv + EV to get rid of fossil fuels. Driving around on sunlight is an awesome, freeing feeling. But if you still feel the need to supplement with ANOTHER fossil fuel, you haven’t finished the job.

  29. Peder says:

    Hi flmark,
    Thank you for your comments and suggestions and all your efforts. I’m amazed this article got so many comments but I love the passion!

    Your two Volts are hybrids that also use gasoline Right?

    You come across as pretty hard hitting on a minimal amount of NG use but avoid the issue of using gasoline for the Volts. In my book gasoline is far worse than NG both in it’s source, refinement, and it’s emissions.

    I’d love to read more about your efforts as I enjoy reading about like minded folks who are leading the way.

    1. Peder says:

      …and I think a little moderation is in order so that we can live happily with our spouses and other family members who may not be so zealous in the pursuit of energy reductions. I’m fine with hanging my cloths on the line, My wife likes the cloths dryer 🙂

      A favorite story I like to tell, several years ago I was being interviewed for an energy article and the interviewer asked me if I had a DVR? I said yes. The interviewer asked if I knew that DVR’s were big wasteful electricity hogs, and how could I have one in my efficient home? I said yes, and that i did.

      I told the interviewer that I liked being happily married, and that my wife who is a working professional loves to watch the Oprah. That my marriage and the happiness of my wife was more important to me that the $20 a month in electricity it cost to operate the DVR.

      So, I’m not pure, but I am happily married to an EV driver and we both love our lifestyle 🙂

    2. flmark says:

      I’ve got lots of stuff (there are actually 3 professional videos on the site if you go to other pages)

      Somehow, I just knew somebody would bring up the Volt using gasoline. The Volt, of course, only uses gasoline after you burn through the electricity (40-50 miles). ALL EVs (except Tesla) fail to reliably deliver me to my mother in laws (in NY a 120 mile trip) or my daughters (in FL a 100 mi trip). Anyone else would have to use ANOTHER VEHICLE which would probably get less than 40 mpg for the ENTIRE trip. My Volts will SAVE gas because I only have to burn gas on PART of the trip. The overall burn rate for these trips ends up being on the order of 80 mpg. You simply cannot be an EV purist at this point in time. I use my Volt for deer hunting which is 74 miles RT on COLD days. Again, EV purists would have a tough time without a Tesla. I have read multiple times that Volt owners actually get MORE EV miles than Leaf owners, because in a Volt you can take it to zero with no downside (and no need for a tow). My Volts are gateway drugs and I want MORE electric driving. Right now, I keep a Tahoe Hybrid around which sits most of the time. It is there for bigger jobs, more people…and for towing one Volt to the second home (where the Tahoe again mostly sits). I get 20 mpg out of my Tahoe Hybrid while towing the Volt. I think I calculated one time that it costs about 15 extra gallons to tow the Volt and my Volt can make up for that in no time once I am in NY. With that said, we have pretty much determined that when the Tesla Model X (and full supercharging network) is ready, the Tahoe Hybrid and towing dolly will be sold off and one Volt will remain in NY full time, with the Model X transiting between homes. Then all those mother in law trips and trips to pick up wife at airport, etc, will be gas free.

      My DVR is on a power strip; I turn it off when I go to bed at night. Before I go to bed, I check out the schedule and make sure I turn it back on before the next program. Indeed, my Kill-a-watt meter told me that my DVR consumes a hundred watts just sitting there. Besides the wasted energy, that DVR creates as much heat as a body at rest- again, another burden on the air conditioning. I use power strips in a few places to kill vampire loads. Here is something I wrote up even before I had my Volt

      I will admit to being a bit OCD about waste, but I think of resources for what they represent; I don’t take things for granted. I like to tell people about the POUND of coal it represents (approximately) for a kwh of electricity. If people could see a couple hundred pounds of coal sitting in their driveway to run the DVR for a month, they might indeed buy a power strip. We use reusable shopping bags and recycle what we can. I committed to Soda Stream after I read that 40% of all our plastics get put back on a boat and sent to China. I was born and raised along the Great Lakes. Last summer I learned that about 20% by volume of all the ‘sand’ on Great Lakes beaches is actually plastic. That thought should strike terror in all of us- in just a few decades we did that to ourselves. I can’t say we live like paupers or any such thing, but I have now taken to heart the old saying that, ‘We don’t inherit the world from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children’. I have two adult children and two grandkids. I am always aware that I am a temporary occupant of this place and I don’t want my descendants to deal with the crap I leave behind.

      1. RussB says:

        flmark, your Volts also don’t use all of that CFRP. The CFRP in the i3 erases, from a GHG perspective, any advantage of having a BEV over an HEV in the first place.

        1. Mint says:

          You have a source for that CFRP remark? I have a hard time believing any car manufacturing step can be as bad as 4000+ gallons of gasoline used over a HEV’s lifetime. That’s 35+ tonnes of CO2 per car.

          1. RussB says:

            HEV Use: 200000km @ 4.55 l/100km (52mpg – Prius) @ 32 MJ/l = 351,000 MJ

            351,000MJ @ 72 gCO2eMJ (Heywood et al., 2003 (WTW gasoline) = ~26,000 kg CO2e

            BEV Use: 200000km @ 12.7 kWh/100km (i3) = ~25,400 kWh

            25,400 kWh @ 712 gCO2e/kWh (US grid) = ~18,000 kg CO2e

            So the difference in use emissions is not that great.

            CFRP production (~22kgCO2e/kg – Ashby, 2005)) is more than 10 times as GHG-intensive as steel production (<2kgCO2e/kg – worldsteel, 2010), and almost half-again as GHG-intensive as aluminum production (~16kgCO2e/kg – IAI, 2013). And you can't recycle it (not in any way that makes a difference), which makes it worse. So, if you replace 400 kg of steel with 240 kg of CFRP, you are adding ~7200kgCO2e (because you have to account for yield losses in forming, which means you need about twice as much material to begin with as you end up with) before calculating any benefit from recycling.

            1. Mint says:

              Your calculations are using garbage assumptions.

              First of all, an i3 is made lightweight for handling and performance purposes. A Prius is slow, handles like crap, and doesn’t have close to BMW luxury/interior. A more comparable car from Toyota is the Lexus CT200h at 42 MPG.

              Secondly, you’re using 2005 figures for carbon fiber. The reason it was so expensive then is that it was produced inefficiently. A few years ago, it was 10-15 kgCO2/kg, and 2.7 is the theoretical limit:

              Finally, you should be using marginal CO2 intensity of electricity, not net. New generation is natural gas, wind, or solar, which has a much lower CO2 intensity.

              1. RussB says:

                Interesting ppt from the marketing department. I will believe it when I see it.

                Current CFRP # in GaBi database is 19.7 kgCO2e/kg.

                According to a BMW engineer I heard speak at a conference last year, they had to use CFRP because “it was the only way we could get the necessary range”, not to make the i3 a performance car. There are certainly inherent performance (acceleration) gains in a BEV, but the i3 is not, and was never intended to be, a performance car. And that interior is hardly luxurious.

                How far the grid will actually transition to renewables is debatable, as is the development of the biofuel market. Because it was just a rough calculation, I didn’t speculate about either. You can make the numbers come out the way you want them to if you cherry-pick all of the parameters.

                I am not anti-BEV or anti-CFRP. I hope we solve all of these challenges, but I think that if we want to make reasonable choices, we have to take a reasonable view, and not get swept up in the greenwashing, however good it sounds. We are ostensibly the people interested in these issues; if we don’t look critically at the proposed solutions, who will?

        2. Peder says:

          I’m not thinking sheet metal and aluminum come out of the ground in bars or sheets 🙂

          If it helps to inform, the BMW i3 raw material CFRP is made in Lake Moses Washington with hydro power and the car is assembled in a plant powered 100% by wind energy.

          They are also using a resin bonding technique that does not involve the massive heat or time that was once required.

          And…the BMW group has consistently been named as the most sustainable automaker in the world.

          BMW Group Dow Jones Sustainability Index Leader for 8th consecutive year.

          The Dow Jones Sustainability Index is the most influential stock index for sustainability-driven companies worldwide. This award confirms that, since 2005, the BMW Group has been the world‘s most sustainable premium automobile manufacturer.


          1. Mint says:

            That’s a bunch of BS by BMW. You can’t claim renewable energy just by locating near it.

            There’s no surplus of hydro being wasted anywhere. If BMW is claiming their factory’s electricity usage is all hydro, then they took it from another business who was clean but is now on natural gas after the i3 plant was built.

            Having said that, I still agree that it’s silly to nitpick about CFRP vs aluminum/steel. Apparently it’s much less wasteful during repair, too.

  30. George B says:

    Awesome, great to see! Cheers to you and yours.