One House – Two BMW i3s – Powered Solely By Sunshine

APR 7 2014 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.

Categories: BMW

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

116 Comments on "One House – Two BMW i3s – Powered Solely By Sunshine"

newest oldest most voted

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

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.

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.

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

Very high gas prices will do that…

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.

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.

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

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.

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 insideevs.com 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

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

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.

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 (http://www.aaas.org/news/aaas-kicks-initiative-recognize-climate-change-risks): ” – 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,… Read more »
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… Read more »
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… Read more »

“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).

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,… Read more »

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.

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.

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.

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.

@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… Read more »

“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.

+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.

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.

Nate,

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.

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!

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… Read more »
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… Read more »

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.

Haha,

“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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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!!

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

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.

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

So they are obviously not solar powered.

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).

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!

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!

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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!

Use this site to figure out how much energy you can produce in your location with a given solar plant:
http://re.jrc.ec.europa.eu/pvgis/apps4/pvest.php

And use my site to calculate how to build your own standalone plant 🙂
http://jumpjack.altervista.org/pannelli/dimensionamento.html

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.

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.

Peder, 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… Read more »

Peder,

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,
Brian

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.

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.

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… Read more »
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… Read more »

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