May 04

Jason King is on his way to driving his Volt for ‘free’

 

Is the Chevy Volt way too expensive – a car for well-meaning but well-heeled greenies to make themselves feel good? Or, is it so frugal to own and drive that you cannot afford not to get one?

Those are two extreme views aren’t they? We’ve heard from critics – who often have never even driven one – and who’ve tried to paint negative views, and more recently we heard from Jason King, who says his Volt fits the latter scenario, and is paying him back fast.

King is a writer and photographer living in Maui who figures his driving will soon be effectively “free” due to low-cost solar panels he had installed to keep his car charged.

 

The cost of solar has come way down in recent years, but we know where gas is going, don’t we?

“Gas prices are only going up,” King said. “Gas here is around $5 a gallon, and I drive by just laughing, you know?”

What’s more, King says his Volt is the best automotive value he’s yet had despite not having recouped any federal or state subsidies when he bought it. Being eager to get one early, he bought his Volt in California just two months after GM began production, and shipped it for about $1,000 to Hawaii.

His cost for installing nine extra solar panels to his pre-existing solar array was $5,000, plus he paid $500 for an optional fast charger.

If you have no solar now, you would also need a DC-to-AC inverter and related hardware, so it could be up to double or more compared to what King paid, but this is an investment that would last for many years that would effectively wipe out your gasoline bill, and you may even be able to sell unused electricity back to your local utility.

As for King, he says buying a Volt and solar charging is a good deal even though he forfeited eligibility for a $4,500 Hawaiian state subsidy now available, and the $7,500 federal subsidy.

To others, he says it should also make good financial sense, as they more likely will qualify for federal and state subsidies – for the car, and possible for the solar installation.

King’s estimation that charging costs will soon be no charge takes into consideration what he formerly spent monthly on gas for a Honda CR-V. In nine more months, his Volt will have paid off its lifetime cost to solar recharge, then every electric mile he drives thereafter is effectively free.


Not having a particular affinity for the undesirable effects petroleum has had on the environment and society, King has set up his house to live autonomously yet with high quality of life.

“I was previously spending at least $2,500 a year on gasoline so that means in two years the solar panels have paid for themselves, compared to what I previously spent on gas,” King said. “You know – in terms of the cost of the solar panels to power it. That means in two years my driving is not only pollution free, it’s free.”

The deal was especially sweet where Maui electric rates can hover around 30 cents per kilowatt-hour or more.

King acknowledges everyone’s situation is different, and living entirely off the grid as he does, his environmental commitment is deep, but having researched solar, he does not understand why more people are not doing it – particularly when a less-involved approach of grid tie-in is more financially feasible than ever.

Nor is he alone.

Jay Friedland, legislative director for Plug In America says a growing number of people are discovering what it is like to cut or eliminate the electric bill – and even be able to sell energy back to their local utility for a very satisfying turning of the tables.

State-by-state subsidies are available, as is a 30-percent federal tax credit, and so are loans if needed.

Friedland cited others who have realized – like King – that all of a sudden having effectively free kilowatts on hand, they would benefit from buying or leasing an electric vehicle.

Naturally, beyond the cost-benefit analysis, every individual’s motivation is unique. People’s rationales can include preferring their energy to be domestically sourced, and it’s satisfying knowing the money stays at home, instead of paying domestic or foreign oil suppliers. Others point to what it costs in wars and military expense and lives to keep the oil flowing here. Others point to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Others point to being self-reliant and not having to pay for ever-increasing gasoline expense. You can take your pick, or empathize with some or all of the above.


King’s off-the-grid living is made possible through readily available technology.

But consumers who are not as ideologically driven want to know they are not paying extra just to support a cause. There are those who want to able to simply justify the outlay, and see a return on investment.

That ultimately depends on a host of variables for your local circumstances, but the good news, says Friedland – and King – is that solar recharging can pay back out-of-pocket costs to switch to solar.

King says his solar power system includes 24 deep-cycle batteries for storage, and a diesel generator backup – which he rarely if ever uses, and he looks forward to when the Volt can be used in a smart grid application as his backup.


Twenty four deep-cycle marine batteries last maybe seven years or so. The rest of the system is much more robust. Battery backup is optional, and not required for more ordinary grid-tied systems.

In any event, his solar panels recharge 100 percent even on a cloudy day, and about the only time he may not generate power is in a torrential downpour.

If anyone thinks solar is only for sunbelt states though, you’d be mistaken. They just need a clear exposure to the sun, and Friedland notes the second largest solar energy usage outside of California is in New Jersey. King observes also that Germany leads the world in solar proliferation.

As for justifying whether it would be worth it for solar electric car recharging, one major factor to consider is how much you spend on gasoline and electricity per year, and factoring the Volt’s electric range and money saved can make a compelling case.

In King’s moderate climate, his Volt’s all-electric range is much better than the EPA-stated 35 miles, and he averages 45-48 miles on a charge. All this to him will soon be effectively free, as he is not even paying a utility for the kilowatt-hours or a gas station.

His reasoning extends also to other electric vehicles with longer ranges, such as the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubushi i, and other available or soon-to-be models like the Ford Focus Electric or Tesla Model S, and others.


Going well beyond creating enough juice for their car, Norma and Alan Williamson power their California home with photovoltaic panels. We’re including this photo to show an example of a more ordinary residence with solar system potentially tied to the grid. This is one of Plug In America’s case examples mentioned.

If the vehicle to be charged has a larger battery as pure EVs do, you’d need enough solar energy daily, and a 240-volt level 2 charger, but the math can still work out – while giving a hedge against inflationary gasoline prices.

For his part, King says the Volt makes the most sense because its range meets his daily driving needs – and statistically, those of most Americans – and has gasoline backup when needed. Thus far, he estimates he’s only used about four gallons, and has effectively driven the Volt at 2,000 miles per gallon – with his electricity soon to be paid off as well.

“It’s not just a hype – the lack of range anxiety that I feel having that backup, you know? I mean if it was just pouring rain for few days and I needed to use the electric that my panels were generating for my house; I didn’t want to charge the car,” King said. “So yeah, I can still drive. You know, if I need to drive 100 miles in a day because I have friends visiting and I’m taking them all over the island, no problem, so I’ll drive 100 miles and I’ll use a gallon of gas.”

To determine what state-by-state incentives are available, the Energy Department has an interactive map. You can think also about leasing solar from a company like Sungevity, or others, and as you know the cost of a Volt can also be offset by a presently reasonable lease rates – and this might make sense especially if you do not fully qualify for incentives.

For more information on solar power in general, you can contact a non-profit like the American Solar Energy Society, and the Energy Department has further info worth perusing as well.

 

Besides these resources, there are many others, but they ought to get you started in the right direction.

Calculating cost for solar would also mean factoring in amortization, as the solar array will not last forever, but they are known to last many years even decades.

But if you ask Jason King, he says he has the formula dialed and even if your daily mileage goes a bit over the Volt’s electric range, it still is an elegant solution with no downside.

“The point I want to drive home to people is most people think that they can’t afford to do it,” he said. “I’m living proof that you know what, you can’t afford not to do it. I only have nine months to go until all my driving is free and powered by the sun with no pollution.”

This entry was posted on Friday, May 4th, 2012 at 5:55 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

COMMENTS: 61


  1. 1
    nasaman

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    May 4th, 2012 (7:48 am)

    Great topic, Jeff! And a great story that will undoubtedly become commonplace as millions more people around the world discover the wisdom of Jason King’s strategy! I sincerely hope GM (and other EV manufacturers) will soon follow Ford’s example in offering home solar systems through their own dealers* to do exactly as Jason is doing —supply “fuel” (electricity) to both their vehicles & their homes! And as in Jason’s case, the car(s) & the arrays can both FULLY pay for themselves long before the end of their useful life! It’s a free ride & free home power after that!

    /*Ford dealers not only sell home solar systems as well as EVs; they also provide financing for them —an EV along with its own power source, both of which can pay for themselves! What a deal!!!


  2. 2
    Mark Z

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    May 4th, 2012 (7:49 am)

    A great report and an enthusiastic encouragement to install solar for cost savings and energy independence. I will be investigating this option for an inland California property that has high electric bills due to booster pumps for water and the need for air conditioning in the summer.

    For Volt and EV owners who need relief from high electric rates and cannot or will not install solar, please consider installing a second meter for bargain off peak charging.


  3. 3
    Schmeltz

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    May 4th, 2012 (8:25 am)

    I’ve been to Maui years ago with my wife for our honeymoon. Beautiful place to live!

    I can see how the Hawaiian islands quickly lend themselves to Electric vehicles in general. And in Maui’s case, unless you are on the “road to Hana”, there could/would be many places to install a public charging system on the island. Kudos to Jason for leading the way!


  4. 4
    Dave K.

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    May 4th, 2012 (8:27 am)

    Real nice setup. Hawaii is a great place to live. Hey Mark Z, you mentioned home air conditioning. You can currently choose from several dozen home solar air conditioner models. Nearly all made in China. Some are window mounted.

    I continue to petition my condo association to install solar on all units. We had a straw vote two months ago. Which I followed up with an offer to pay for my installation in full up front ($6000). As a pilot to provide feedback to other association members.

    Here is a photo of our condos. Each has a south facing roof. Yes, that is another red Volt next door. She moved out a few months ago.

    Voltnextdoor.jpg


  5. 5
    ClarksonCote

     

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    May 4th, 2012 (8:44 am)

    Similar arrangement for solar here in NY… My electricity is currently being offset completely by solar, including driving my Volt. I hope that over the year, the system makes as much as I use.

    I’m a grid tie system so I don’t need the batteries and what not. Net metering laws allow me to get full market value for electricity I created in a given year up to the amount that I used. So if I create 500kWh in one month and use only 400kWh, then in the winter create only 300kWh but use 400kWh, they’ll factor in that I created 100kWh more in a prior month and my bill will still be zero.

    https://enlighten.enphaseenergy.com/public/systems/hNDa25959

    People on the East Coast should seriously consider Astrum Solar, fantastic experience all around. If anyone does consider them, they should PM me in the forums before contacting them. When people are referred, they cut a $250 check to the person being referred, as well as the one that did the referring. That’s about 4% off out-of-pocket system costs in NY state assuming a 7kW system, not too shabby.

    join thE REVolution


  6. 6
    Chris

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    May 4th, 2012 (9:33 am)

    I always like to point out to people that with solar charging you have effectively frozen the cost of your transportation fuel for the life of your panels. Try doing that with Gas? I would think the non green global warming deniers would embrace this concept.


  7. 7
    George S. Bower

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    May 4th, 2012 (9:38 am)

    When I did my system, solar panels were 5$/watt. (but I had big utility and federal rebate)

    I recently did a quick check and found solar panels priced at 1$/watt.

    Made in China of course, but at 1$/watt solar starts to look pretty good.


  8. 8
    flmark

     

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    May 4th, 2012 (9:40 am)

    Seems like a good topic to repeat just how much solar can REALLY do, if you want
    http://gm-volt.com/forum/showthread.php?12413-Solar-Solar-and-More-Solar


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    montgoss

     

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    May 4th, 2012 (10:12 am)

    George S. Bower:
    When I did my system, solar panels were 5$/watt. (but I had big utility and federal rebate)

    I recently did a quick check and found solar panels priced at 1$/watt.

    Made in China of course, but at 1$/watt solar starts to look pretty good.

    Looks really good considering Indiana (where I am) has a Small-Scale Renewable Energy Incentive Program that pays $2.00/W (AC) up to 19.9 kW or $4,000. Looks like at that price, you could get a small 4kW solar system for essentially free.


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    Energy Tyrant

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    May 4th, 2012 (10:34 am)

    Great idea, especially since good solar panels now have a life expectancy of 35 years or more, and are often under warranty for 20 years or more of that lifetime.

    What a great return on investment!


  11. 11
    DonC

     

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    May 4th, 2012 (10:47 am)

    Great article and personal testimonials. Jason’s system is off the grid, but if you’re on the grid, either with or without solar, you can frequently take advantage of special tariffs. In my case because we have an EV we can go on a time of day net metering plan, under which we sell excess solar production during the day and charge at night using much cheaper power.

    The net result is that rather than paying the standard $.14/kWh we end up paying less than $.05/kWh. This means that it costs us about $.015 to run the Volt for a mile, reducing the cost of making a 40 mile trip from over $8 to about $.65.

    The point is that the national electrical rates sometimes used for estimating the running costs for the Volt are invariably high because they neglect that people are going to migrate to lower cost rate plans. My situation won’t hold for everyone, but most electric utilities offer various tariffs that let you cut your bill through lower nightly rates or separate meters or some other alternatives. Bottom line is that, as Jason says, it’s really cheap to drive electric.


  12. 12
    Kent

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    May 4th, 2012 (11:41 am)

    I’ve always wondered why more people don’t do this. I have had 27 solar panels on my roof since 2005. I got my Volt in August 2011 and in March 2012 I added nine more solar panels to offset my increased electrical usage. My electricity used to cost me about $300-$400 a year (in CA, I’m on time-of-use metering so I only pay my electric bill once a year). I expect my bill to be about $800 this year and that includes seven months without the nine additional panels. My gas savings is about $300-$350 per month.

    Any homeowner, and especially those who also own Volts, should be getting solar panels. The money you save on electricity and gas will more than pay for the solar array.


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    May 4th, 2012 (11:47 am)

    So remind me again why am I driving an ICE? Can you imagine still begging GM to get more Volts out, two years after they started shipping…to Southern California of all places :(

    Clenches fists, cups hands over face, falls forward onto table, sobs violently!


  14. 14
    Christof Demont-Heinrich

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    May 4th, 2012 (11:56 am)

    Nice piece Jeff! Jason and the many people who’ve posted in their comments above that they’re also solar-charging Volts and/or other EVs are an inspiration to us all. Their experiences are a testament to the fueling independence and long-term savings delivered by solar-charged driving.

    –Christof Demont-Heinrich
    Editor & Founder, SolarChargedDriving.Com


  15. 15
    pjkPA

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    May 4th, 2012 (12:06 pm)

    Good article .. lots of good info… but not applicable in all areas.

    I like this idea of Solar… but my elec bill is less than $100 per month and my commute is only 9 miles.

    I’m still considering solar but they want $41K upfront money and after rebates $17K for a 5KW system. Paying less than $100 per month this is not a good payback.

    I will definetly buy a Voltec vehicle when a practical CUV is offered… I like the electric drive.
    I only use $60 of gas every two weeks so there isn’t a good payback there here… I would buy for the performance of the car.


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    May 4th, 2012 (12:17 pm)

    pjkPA:
    Good article .. lots of good info… but not applicable in all areas.

    I like this idea of Solar… but my elec bill is less than $100 per month and my commute is only 9 miles.

    I’m still considering solar but they want $41K upfront money and after rebates $17K for a 5KW system.Paying less than $100 per month this is not a good payback.

    I will definetly buy a Voltec vehicle when a practical CUV is offered… I like the electric drive.
    I only use $60 of gas every two weeks so there isn’t a good payback there here… I would buy for the performance of the car.

    I don’t know where you live or what your electrical rates are, but a 5KW system sounds excessive (unless you’re planning ahead for your Volt) if your electrical bill is only $100 a month. I live in CA and my initial solar array was 3.9KW which covered most of my electrical usage, which I was averaging between $200-$300 per month. Also, I got my system in 2005 for about $32K before tax incentives and this was before the cheaper cost Chinese solar panels hit the market. Again, I don’t know where you’re located, but I think you should get several more quotes. If you happen to be in Northern CA, I can give you the contact info for my solar contractor.


  17. 17
    George S. Bower

     

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    May 4th, 2012 (12:28 pm)

    Update on hybrid #’s for April

    I must correct previous #’s

    Nice to see GM break out eAssist totals:
    4,311 LaCrosse eAssist
    3,324 Malibu Eco
    465 Regal eAssist
    = 8,100 mild hybrids

    + 1,462 EREV
    = 9,562 hybrid / EREV sold

    the e-assist #’s were wrong above the correct #’s are below:

    Nice to see GM break out eAssist totals:
    1,165 LaCrosse eAssist
    1,557 Malibu Eco
    130 Regal eAssist
    186 2 mode Trucks and Tahoe
    = 3038 mild hybrids

    + 1,462 EREV
    = 4500 hybrid / EREV sold

    So GM quite easily stomped Ford’s 1175 total

    coming second place behind Toyota’s 32593 total


  18. 18
    Truman

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    May 4th, 2012 (12:31 pm)

    Hawaii is a particularly good state in which to own a Volt, since it has the highest gasoline prices in the USA (regular averages $4.570/gallon today):

    http://fuelgaugereport.opisnet.com/sbsavg.html

    Too bad there are only 1.4 million people living there – it could be a Volt sales leader, if it had a population like California (37.7 million).


  19. 19
    ClarksonCote

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    May 4th, 2012 (12:45 pm)

    pjkPA:
    Good article .. lots of good info… but not applicable in all areas.

    I like this idea of Solar… but my elec bill is less than $100 per month and my commute is only 9 miles.

    I’m still considering solar but they want $41K upfront money and after rebates $17K for a 5KW system.Paying less than $100 per month this is not a good payback.

    I will definetly buy a Voltec vehicle when a practical CUV is offered… I like the electric drive.
    I only use $60 of gas every two weeks so there isn’t a good payback there here… I would buy for the performance of the car.

    Wow, find another installer. My 5.4kW system was $31k before incentives and rebates. Since then, other people I have referred to the same installer have purchased 7.7kW systems for less than I paid for my 5.4kW due to decreasing solar costs.

    This particular installer in my state only needs 10% down, and the rest is financed with a 0% 12-month loan while waiting for all the rebates to come in.

    join thE REVolution


  20. 20
    Jackson

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    May 4th, 2012 (1:00 pm)

    pjkPA:

    Good article .. lots of good info… but not applicable in all areas.

    We’ve read a lot about the cost issue in response to this comment, but there is another: Weather/Climate. Whatever you spend for a Solar array, you lose value when it is cloudy (or if you don’t have a good Southern exposure). In many locations, this rules out even the ‘bargain attic’ installation.


  21. 21
    Loboc

     

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    May 4th, 2012 (1:32 pm)

    Even with cheap chinese panels, with the grid hookup (that can be destroyed during any lightening storm) and frequent roof-destroying hail, I can’t see owning my own electric plant.

    My electricity is $.057/kwh and with NG generators it’s not going up any time soon.


  22. 22
    George S. Bower

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    May 4th, 2012 (1:38 pm)

    ClarksonCote: Wow, find another installer.My 5.4kW system was $31k before incentives and rebates.Since then, other people I have referred to the same installer have purchased 7.7kW systems for less than I paid for my 5.4kW due to decreasing solar costs.

    This particular installer in my state only needs 10% down, and the rest is financed with a 0% 12-month loan while waiting for all the rebates to come in.

    join thE REVolution

    here’s a link to some panels close to 1$/watt

    I can’t vouch for the quality but it’s a good place to start.

    http://solarsyz.com/Solar-Panels.html?gclid=CLjkj72V568CFcYBRQodzkRUBw


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    George S. Bower

     

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    May 4th, 2012 (1:40 pm)

    Loboc:
    Even with cheap chinese panels, with the grid hookup (that can be destroyed during any lightening storm) and frequent roof-destroying hail, I can’t see owning my own electric plant.

    My electricity is $.057/kwh and with NG generators it’s not going up any time soon.

    Theft and Vandalism is a consideration.
    I’m surprised mine haven’t yet been used as target practice.


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    CaptJackSparrow

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    May 4th, 2012 (1:41 pm)

    This might mitigate some of the negatives of Solar collection….
    http://atlanticces.com/solar_tracker_double.php

    You’d be able to get a higher collection rate than a standard stationary set of panels.

    Heck, even if the roof top types were able to tilt left to right to track the sun would be a big improvement.


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    CorvetteGuy

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    May 4th, 2012 (3:21 pm)

    ‘Mahalo” for the great report. Hawaii got the last three of our “Non-HOV Lane Approved” VOLTs. Maybe one of those came from us!

    Meanwhile, on another topic. We had a visit from my favorite VOLT customer who also works as an advisor to the City Council of Riverside. Good news for residents of my town: The City Council is close to modifying the City Rebate for Electric, Gas+Electric (aka VOLT), and CNG vehicles to increase from $2,000 to $2,500 !!! She also told me that her electric bill has only gone up about $7.00 per month since she bought her Crystal Red VOLT.

    So, a local here could get up to $7,500 from Feds, $1,500 from State, and then $2,500 from the City for a total of $11,500 worth of incentives! In addition, Riverside has completed the installation of 11 ‘Rapid Charging Stations’ in various locations around town. (I forgot to ask how much it costs for a full charge, but they are credit card operated…)

    A Base Model VOLT with the “Chevrolet MyLink Touch” option is $40,095.00 — and after the incentives it’s down to $28,595.00 effective net cost. Woo-Hoo! That’s about the same as the very nicely equipped 2013 Malibu ECO.

    We have 9 units in the works and our General Manager just put in a request for 10 more! It’s gonna be a great summer! ;)


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    kdawg

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    May 4th, 2012 (3:22 pm)

    Solar is cool, because it’s “free” energy. But the upfront costs aren’t free, and it doesn’t make sense for everyone. My electricity bills are $50 in the winter and $100 in the summer. I only pay 8cents/kwh. I don’t see myself getting a solar panel anytime soon, unless I do it just for the geek factor. I looked into personal windmills too, and the #’s don’t make sense for me either.


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    Kent

     

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    May 4th, 2012 (3:28 pm)

    Loboc:
    Even with cheap chinese panels, with the grid hookup (that can be destroyed during any lightening storm) and frequent roof-destroying hail, I can’t see owning my own electric plant.

    My electricity is $.057/kwh and with NG generators it’s not going up any time soon.

    You have a really good rate. Is that a fixed rate regardless of how many kwh you use? My utility company (PG&E) has tiered rates ranging from $0.09273-$0.51823 per kwh on the TOU rate schedule.


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    Kent

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    May 4th, 2012 (3:32 pm)

    CorvetteGuy:
    ‘Mahalo” for the great report. Hawaii got the last three of our “Non-HOV Lane Approved” VOLTs. Maybe one of those came from us!

    Meanwhile, on another topic. We had a visit from my favorite VOLT customer who also works as an advisor to the City Council of Riverside. Good news for residents of my town: The City Council is close to modifying the City Rebate for Electric, Gas+Electric (aka VOLT), and CNG vehicles to increase from $2,000 to $2,500 !!! She also told me that her electric bill has only gone up about $7.00 per month since she bought her Crystal Red VOLT.

    So, a local here could get up to $7,500 from Feds, $1,500 from State, and then $2,500 from the City for a total of $11,500 worth of incentives! In addition, Riverside has completed the installation of 11 ‘Rapid Charging Stations’ in various locations around town. (I forgot to ask how much it costs for a full charge, but they are credit card operated…)

    A Base Model VOLT with the “Chevrolet MyLink Touch” option is $40,095.00 — and after the incentives it’s down to $28,595.00 effective net cost. Woo-Hoo! That’s about the same as the very nicely equipped 2013 Malibu ECO.

    We have 9 units in the works and our General Manager just put in a request for 10 more! It’s gonna be a great summer!

    Those with a GM Master Card can save even more. I just got a flyer in the mail showing that I can save another $2,500 off the best dealer price I can get. If I was in Riverside that would mean a brand new Volt for $26,095. I wish this deal was available when I bought my Volt 8 months ago.


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    May 4th, 2012 (3:52 pm)

    As the global market for solar PV power grows, cost per peak-watt comes way down:

    PV-curve-IPCC.gif

    The blue line is for silicon PV modules – it dropped from $65/watt (1976) to $1.40/watt (2010).

    Even if solar doesn’t make sense today for some people, wait a decade – looks like costs will continue to come down as innovations continue in the solar cells, module quality, manufacturing economies of scale, and maybe some new way to slice 30-micron-wide silicon wafers, or vapor-deposit into a crystal formation (so “thin film” modules don’t degrade quickly like current thin film modules). More and more companies have more and more money to improve quality with – like computer chips, we are on the path of “better and better” with photovoltaics, even if it’s not quite a Moore’s Law…


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    May 4th, 2012 (4:27 pm)

    Loboc: My electricity is $.057/kwh and with NG generators it’s not going up any time soon.

    So it would cost you $20 a month to drive your Volt a thousand miles. Your electricity is so cheap it’s hard to see anything displacing it.


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    May 4th, 2012 (4:59 pm)

    Loboc:

    My electricity is $.057/kwh and with NG generators it’s not going up any time soon.

    CorvetteGuy:

    So, a local here could get up to $7,500 from Feds, $1,500 from State, and then $2,500 from the City for a total of $11,500 worth of incentives!

    I guess the trick is to buy a Volt in Riverside.

    ……and then move next door to Loboc.


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    May 4th, 2012 (5:09 pm)

    Kent: You have a really good rate. Is that a fixed rate regardless of how many kwh you use?My utility company (PG&E) has tiered rates ranging from $0.09273-$0.51823 per kwh on the TOU rate schedule.

    It’s fixed and locked for 12 months.

    The more I use the better they like it. I use up to 5,000kwh in the summer. As a matter of fact, when your average usage is higher (like above 2,500/month), you get the best rates in Texas. Other states have laws that ding you for excessive consumption. In Texas, electricity is kind of unregulated on the billing side. There is still a utility commission though.

    They just installed a smart meter and it seems to be more accurate (read less usage) than the old analog one. Not too many providers have multi-tier or TOU rate plans yet because the smart meters aren’t rolled out everywhere. I have been reading where there are some ‘zero cost’ rates at night for some plans. That’s a pretty big incentive to go TOU (10c peak and 0c off-peak. Yikes!)

    5.7c is the raw rate. With delivery and taxes, I’m around 5.9 most months. Someone using 1,000 or less would be at 9c or so.


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    May 4th, 2012 (5:16 pm)

    George S. Bower: I guess the trick is to buy a Volt in Riverside.

    ……and then move next door to Loboc.

    It’s not all gravy.

    I didn’t mention the taxes in Texas. You’d have to pay 8.25% sales tax by importing a vehicle from out-of-state. And that’s based on the State’s book value, not what you paid for it. In other words, about THREE GRAND.


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    May 4th, 2012 (5:24 pm)

    Loboc: It’s fixed and locked for 12 months.

    The more I use the better they like it. I use up to 5,000kwh in the summer. As a matter of fact, when your average usage is higher (like above 2,500/month), you get the best rates in Texas. Other states have laws that ding you for excessive consumption. In Texas, electricity is kind of unregulated on the billing side. There is still a utility commission though.

    They just installed a smart meter and it seems to be more accurate (read less usage) than the old analog one. Not too many providers have multi-tier or TOU rate plans yet because the smart meters aren’t rolled out everywhere. I have been reading where there are some ‘zero cost’ rates at night for some plans. That’s a pretty big incentive to go TOU (10c peak and 0c off-peak. Yikes!)

    5.7c is the raw rate. With delivery and taxes, I’m around 5.9 most months.

    Does TX have an abundance of electrical energy? Here in CA, it’s all about conservation. Use less but pay more.


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    May 4th, 2012 (6:19 pm)

    But it’s not just about how much money it costs RIGHT NOW people! If we look at it like that and keep burning coal and changing nothing, just because it might cost less RIGHT NOW, then we and our children are SCREWED. Global warming or not, no one can deny we are trashing the planet. It saddens me to see people who just think “my (coal powered) electricity is so cheap, why would I switch to solar….” Don’t you like to BREATHE CLEAN AIR?????????


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    May 4th, 2012 (9:42 pm)

    Jason King:
    But it’s not just about how much money it costs RIGHT NOW people! If we look at it like that and keep burning coal and changing nothing, just because it might cost less RIGHT NOW, then we and our children are SCREWED. Global warming or not, no one can deny we are trashing the planet.It saddens me to see people who just think “my (coal powered) electricity is so cheap, why would I switch to solar….” Don’t you like to BREATHE CLEAN AIR?????????

    There’s nothing wrong with green energy … as long as it’s the right kind of green. These new energy sources don’t come out of thin (or clean) air; the wealth spent producing them, developing them, purchasing them has to come from somewhere. This attitude that only the wave of a wand (or a sufficiently enlightened viewpoint) is required for a wholesale conversion is madness. (Nothing short of a wholesale conversion will make significant inroads, by your lights).

    YOU USE THE INFRASTRUCTURE YOU HAVE TO BUILD THE INFRASTRUCTURE YOU NEED. Tear the old infrastructure down first, and the new will never get built; no matter how concerned you become for your grandchildren.

    If you can afford to follow an enlightened viewpoint at an increased cost, that’s fine (and keep in mind that without perfect siting and weather conditions, the effective benefit will involve more than simple cost). Congratulations. You’re helping bring about a better future, one step at a time. For your trouble, you’re getting to experience that future a few decades before the rest of us. However, for wide-scale adoption, if it doesn’t pay, it doesn’t stay. It will be economies of scale and market selection which makes this possible, not government fiat or scare tactics.

    When it costs more to keep the old ways, then you can shake your finger and say “shame, shame.” Until then, keep your fear-enabled guilt-drivel to yourself.

    Sorry, raw nerve. I hear this kind of comment far, far too often …


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    May 4th, 2012 (10:25 pm)

    George S. Bower:

    Made in China of course, but at 1$/watt solar starts to look pretty good.

    Not in my eyes. I’ve had enough of Chinese products dumped on the US market. The corners cut to sucker in people with low prices or the dumping to destroy our domestic industry is not worth it even if they were free but I was paying installation cost. The panels are inexpensive enough from US manufacturers to be worth installing domestic solar.


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    May 4th, 2012 (10:30 pm)

    nasaman,

    $39,000 for a golf cart with fancy seats? (Ford Focus EV) Is Ford factoring in inflation before it happens?


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    May 4th, 2012 (10:48 pm)

    Truman: As the global market for solar PV power grows, cost per peak-watt comes way down:The blue line is for silicon PV modules – it dropped from $65/watt (1976) to $1.40/watt (2010).Even if solar doesn’t make sense today for some people, wait a decade – looks like costs will continue to come down as innovations continue in the solar cells, module quality, manufacturing economies of scale, and maybe some new way to slice 30-micron-wide silicon wafers, or vapor-deposit into a crystal formation (so “thin film” modules don’t degrade quickly like current thin film modules). More and more companies have more and more money to improve quality with – like computer chips, we are on the path of “better and better” with photovoltaics, even if it’s not quite a Moore’s Law…

    Nice graph, however…. As a PV supporter I’m not busting balls but I’m trying to be realistic. This appears to be a graph of the lowest market price of any module without consideration of installation costs. (Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong)

    The good news is that, even with installation aside, that the costs for PV have come down dramatically since 2010. The bad news is that this graph (appears) to represent the cost of the lowest priced module on a per watt basis and that hasn’t changed as much as the average cost per watt. (Check out solarbuzz.com for confirmation)

    Anyway, the point is not necessarily to bash the graph. I would like to see the graph extended to 2012 and I would like a little bit more in way of analysis of the graph because while it looks great, some of us that follow PV know that, at best, it is slightly misleading.

    And before any fellow PV fans get the wrong idea, I’m considering putting PV on my under-water house in Arizona even though I live in VA. While it wouldn’t directly power my Volt it would be an indirect way to do so. And, if I’m simply wrong in my analysis about the graph, it’s not out of malicious intent. Just show me where my thinking has gone askew.


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    May 4th, 2012 (11:24 pm)

    Jackson,

    Speak for yourself. Not everyone ONLY looks at cost. (And even if you did, I have shown that it still makes sense). Some people have moral and other considerations that factor in their decisions.


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    May 4th, 2012 (11:39 pm)

    Jason King: Some people have moral and other considerations that factor in their decisions.

    I never said anything different:

    “If you can afford to follow an enlightened viewpoint at an increased cost, that’s fine. [...] Congratulations. You’re helping bring about a better future, one step at a time.”

    To this, I would even add “thank you.”

    You must surely appreciate that this viewpoint will never represent be the majority, however. As you say, “Some people … ”

    What we must really pull for is the group who will give an economic decision the benefit of the doubt in favor what they believe in … when possible. Money is very seldom no obstacle. If costs can meet one’s druthers half way, many people will pick the high road. This is a much larger group, I think; and they are the ones who will eventually extend the possible to the majority.

    What I do object to is this simplistic all-or-nothing, guilt-trip/scare-tactic which you’ve copied so perfectly from popular culture. Don’t cheapen all you’ve accomplished by scolding those who won’t (or can’t) follow your lead.


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    May 5th, 2012 (7:30 am)

    Kent: Does TX have an abundance of electrical energy?Here in CA, it’s all about conservation.Use less but pay more.

    Short answer is ‘yes’. Texas has shale NG and someone built a giant wind farm before the bottom dropped out of NG futures.


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    May 5th, 2012 (9:27 am)

    Jackson: I never said anything different:

    “If you can afford to follow an enlightened viewpoint at an increased cost, that’s fine. [...] Congratulations. You’re helping bring about a better future, one step at a time.”

    You must surely appreciate that this viewpoint will never represent be the majority, however.As you say, “Some people … ”

    What we must really pull for is the group who will give an economic decision the benefit of the doubt in favor what they believe in … when possible. Money is very seldom no obstacle.If costs can meet one’s druthers half way, many people will pick the high road.This is a much larger group, I think; and they are the ones who will eventually extend the possible to the majority.

    What I do object to is this simplistic all-or-nothing, guilt-trip/scare-tactic which you’ve copied so perfectly from popular culture. Don’t cheapen all you’ve accomplished by scolding those who won’t (or can’t) follow your lead.

    Yup,…and there is no economic case to be made for a catalytic converter either.

    Nor would the majority of the population buy them if given the choice.

    You certainly do fit in with the majority of mankind in taking the selfish viewpoint that if it doesn’t benefit your wallet, it doesn’t matter. South Carolina would still be a HUGE grower of rice if slavery were still legal. Unfortunately for those plantation owners, the economic model for rice cultivation didn’t include slave (read NON EXISTENT) labor costs. Likewise, ‘dolphin safe’ tuna has no economic model, except that enough people feel strongly enough about the MORAL implications of needlessly killing other sea life, thank God.

    The cost to get your fracked energy is just as mystical as South Carolinian rice, in that it ignores CONSEQUENCES of using the product. The Clean Air and Clean Water Acts were an attempt to factor in the environment as an economic consideration for making something that people want to buy…
    ….oops, almost forgot that frackers got a free ride on that one.

    With the Gulf Oil spill, we got just a SLIGHT taste of factoring in what damage to the environment means from an economic standpoint. Amazingly enough, nobody wanted to come visit our fine Gulf Coast beaches or eat our seafood…to the tune of BILLIONS of dollars worth of lost revenue. But that’s okay, right? It doesn’t impact YOUR wallet, right?

    Thank God, after TWO DECADES, utilities see that their free ride is finally over. Half of environmental mercury pollution comes from burning coal, and now that the coal burners are going to have to pay extra to stop dumping all that mercury into our air, we are actually starting to see the dirtiest of these plants go off line.

    Some communities, like Auburn, NY, have finally stood up to fracking companies and stopped accepting their waste water- because they have realized the ‘blood money’ wasn’t worth it. Municipal sewage treatment plants have ZERO capacity to remove the toxins before they end up back in our drinking water supply. Once your fracked NG is required to meet applicable pollution controls, this discussion can be continued.


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    May 5th, 2012 (10:35 am)

    Economicaly speaking major economic factor is the location of PV instalation. Solar radiation in CA differs three times on average from nothern states due to number of sunny days and radiation intensity. This could result in solar power generation cost (including depretiation and interest) up to five fold. Therefore
    living in NY I would not spend single dolar on PV panels rather considering investment into IPP of wind power. And vice versa – living in CA I would go fo solar due to huge peak and offpeak power price difference and peak power shortages during hotest days. In Conecticut peak demand ocures on coldest day which might be windy but no sun at all.


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    May 5th, 2012 (10:59 am)

    Darius:
    Economicaly speaking major economic factor is the location of PV instalation. Solar radiation in CA differs three times on average from nothern states due to number of sunny days and radiation intensity. This could result in solar power generation cost (including depretiation and interest) up to five fold. Therefore
    living in NY I would not spend single dolar on PV panels rather considering investment into IPP of wind power. And vice versa – living in CA I would go fo solar due to huge peak and offpeak power price difference and peak power shortages during hotest days. In Conecticut peak demand ocures on coldest day which might be windybut no sun at all.

    …and you would be WAY wrong with that assertion
    http://www.ecotechnousa.com/EcoTechnoNews/DidYouKnow/tabid/68/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/6/Solar-Myth-4.aspx
    THREE TIMES??? HUH???
    NY, I believe, is among the TOP THREE states with respect to solar installations.

    The WORST place in the (continental) US (in Pacific NW) is still just a bit more than half of the BEST place for solar (desert SW). Your factor of three wouldn’t even have worked if you compared the (Alaskan) Aleutian Islands to the FLORIDA KEYS!!! My NY home shows to be just about 20% less than my ‘sunny’ FL home- and I will be putting in solar in NY. You forget that the LENGTH of the day, during summer, is greater at the northern latitudes. This, and the fact that most summer days in NY are SUNNIER than FL, with all our afternoon showers, compensates greatly for the drab winter days.

    If you are indeed paying for wind power in NY (which is what I am currently doing, as well), good for you. And I am not an advocate of ‘small wind’- the numbers show you need to get WAY off the ground for good wind, and small wind just doesn’t cut it. But don’t knock NY solar; the numbers show it is pretty good.


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    May 5th, 2012 (1:59 pm)

    Good comments on alt energy production …solar wind sea etc we need to break this vicious cycle of totally dependent on middle east oil. We had paid a heavy price for wars in Praq kuwait to keep our energy supplies intact… Very high cost indeed we can become close to self-suffcient if we pursue aggresively alt energy sources including nuclear and using EV for our day to day commutes …Alas the GOP is totally against such a policy for US…They are totally in bed with the oil cos and from where they draw $$$ to run campaigns… Alas we the fools elect some of these goppers whose selfish bs polcies keep us dependent on oil.


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    May 5th, 2012 (3:20 pm)

    The best alternative energy plan is conservation.

    The TX plan of “we found a bunch of NG, let’s use it up and charge less for more use” is not very sensical and shows how short-term thinking works. If they found a bunch of NG, they should release it slowly and use it wisely.

    There are parts of NY (a big state) that are cloudier than others. When I lived in Rochester, it was noted as 2nd cloudiest city to Seattle. But go sounth of the effect of the lakes or into the mountains and there is both sun and wind available. A lot of wind farms have gone into Western NY and there is talk of more possibly going in on lake Ontario offshore. Most people against it are worried about birds and the view (as have other off-shore wind farms have faced. http://www.rbj.net/article.asp?aID=183950


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    May 5th, 2012 (4:07 pm)

    Kup: Nice graph, however….As a PV supporter I’m not busting balls but I’m trying to be realistic.This appears to be a graph of the lowest market price of any module without consideration of installation costs.(Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong)

    The good news is that, even with installation aside, that the costs for PV have come down dramatically since 2010.The bad news is that this graph (appears) to represent the cost of the lowest priced module on a per watt basis and that hasn’t changed as much as the average cost per watt.(Check out solarbuzz.com for confirmation)

    Anyway, the point is not necessarily to bash the graph.I would like to see the graph extended to 2012 and I would like a little bit more in way of analysis of the graph because while it looks great, some of us that follow PV know that, at best, it is slightly misleading.

    And before any fellow PV fans get the wrong idea, I’m considering putting PV on my under-water house in Arizona even though I live in VA.While it wouldn’t directly power my Volt it would be an indirect way to do so.And, if I’m simply wrong in my analysis about the graph, it’s not out of malicious intent.Just show me where my thinking has gone askew.

    Yeah, the main intent of the graph was to show PV costs dropping like a rock over the decades.

    For more information on this graph, see:

    http://cleantechnica.com/2011/05/29/ge-solar-power-cheaper-than-fossil-fuels-in-5-years/
    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2011/05/26/208184/ge-solar-cheaper-than-fossil-fuels-in-5-years/

    Sometimes a shortage of high-grade silicon, or a shortage of modules, drives up PV prices temporarily, but I’m pretty sure the medium term trend will be much cheaper PV.

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2011/02/07/207474/energy-and-global-warming-news-for-february-7-2011-chus-department-of-energy-seeks-to-cut-solar-costs-75-by-2020-in-its-sun-shot-program/
    Chu said cutting the cost of installed solar power by 75 percent would put the price at about $1 per watt, he said, or about 6 cents per kilowatt hour.

    “That would make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of energy without subsidies of any kind,” he told a conference call.

    And if American Conservatives succeed in sabotaging long-term commitment to clean energy in the USA, the Chinese will carry the ball and dominate this new industry.


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    May 5th, 2012 (4:38 pm)

    Jackson,

    If all you care about is how it affects your wallet, let me ask you this – Do you only eat at McDonalds? (Scarily, you might say yes) Because it’s the cheapest ‘food’ out there… Just sayin.


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    May 5th, 2012 (7:05 pm)

    Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone! Time for the margaritas.


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    May 5th, 2012 (11:37 pm)

    OT but Interesting:

    I’ve been monitoring the Volt/OnStar mileage counter at http://www.chevrolet.com/volt-electric-car/#testimonials_1_LB7. Just this evening it reached 60,000,000 Total Miles for all US Volts, of which over 36,000,000 miles (60%) were in EV Mode only. Further, it estimates ~2,000,000 gallons of gasoline were saved by the relatively small number of Volts driven in the US thus far.*

    / *During 2 weekdays this past week the total US Volt mileage increased by almost 500,000 mi/day; at this pace ~100,000,000 miles will have been accumulated by existing US Volts in another 90 days!


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    May 6th, 2012 (8:43 am)

    Bonaire,

    OR, make hay while you can. I don’t have a link, but, all those LNG import facilities built last decade have reversed into LNG export facilities. Cheap energy is helping reverse the trend of off shoring manufacturing.

    As far as dumping product goes, Americans invented it. Nobody can compete with US corn and wheat.


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    May 6th, 2012 (10:29 am)

    Amazing how folks are worried about the view with Wind farms but not worried about the polluted air we inhale due to millions of ICE cars that run in the cities … How short sighted can we be? … It is us with the views like that politicians know deep down we are the stoopids and cater to us to get the votes … Nothing will change unless the Joe/jane demand changes to our policies of reducing dependence on oil., environment, food we eat etc etc and conserve our resources and use them wisely ..
    Just the statisitcs posted here from Volt use shows how millions of gallons of oil can be saved … Imagine if we adopt Volt/Leaf in years to come for our commutes and Spark ..:)


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    May 6th, 2012 (12:06 pm)

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    May 6th, 2012 (12:38 pm)

    nasaman: OT but Interesting:
    I’ve been monitoring the Volt/OnStar mileage counter at http://www.chevrolet.com/volt-electric-car/#testimonials_1_LB7. Just this evening it reached 60,000,000 Total Miles for all US Volts, of which over 36,000,000 miles (60%) were in EV Mode only. Further, it estimates ~2,000,000 gallons of gasoline were saved by the relatively small number of Volts driven in the US thus far.*
    / *During 2 weekdays this past week the total US Volt mileage increased by almost 500,000 mi/day; at this pace ~100,000,000 miles will have been accumulated by existing US Volts in another 90 days!

    nasaman – I’ve been cataloging it since the day they started providing the data. If you want to see some charts go to: http://www.kdawg.com


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    May 6th, 2012 (12:43 pm)

    Eco_Turbo: Who says the Volt only holds 4 people?
    http://www.driveforinnovation.com/how-many-engineers-can-fit-into-a-volt?cid=NL_UBM+Electronics

    That thing was bottoming out. no female engineers? :(


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    May 7th, 2012 (1:47 am)

    flmark,

    I was related to renewables for many years but not now. Solar power is not eligible for private investment at any location on competitive basis without subsidies(3 fold like Germany). Those maps you are reffering to do demonstrate solar radiation “above clouds” and PV panels shall be perpendicular to the light all the time. Snow and clouds are not taken into consideration. May be there are new developments on solar panel manufacturing cost reduction, but solar panel installation and grid integration cost will stay.
    It would be good to know your’s new PV intalation in NY area comparison with FL. If you are using PV power for tap water heating, may you should consider solar colector for heating and hot water. It would be much more economical way of energy transformation.


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    May 7th, 2012 (2:30 pm)

    flmark: Yup,…and there is no economic case to be made for a catalytic converter either.

    Nor would the majority of the population buy them if given the choice.

    You certainly do fit in with the majority of mankind in taking the selfish viewpoint that if it doesn’t benefit your wallet, it doesn’t matter. South Carolina would still be a HUGE grower of rice if slavery were still legal. Unfortunately for those plantation owners, the economic model for rice cultivation didn’t include slave (read NON EXISTENT) labor costs. Likewise, ‘dolphin safe’ tuna has no economic model, except that enough people feel strongly enough about the MORAL implications of needlessly killing other sea life, thank God.

    Jason King: If all you care about is how it affects your wallet, let me ask you this – Do you only eat at McDonalds?

    So it is a case of all or nothing, regardless of sacrifice, regardless of all reason. What you want cannot be forced. I’ll try to drive this home again:

    YOU USE THE INFRASTRUCTURE YOU HAVE TO BUILD THE INFRASTRUCTURE YOU NEED.

    The degree to which you deride and insult those who cannot instantly comply with COMPLETE REPLACEMENT OF THEIR POWER NEEDS, the more you show your disconnectedness with life in the here and now, and your disregard for a majority trying to make ends meet. You are coming off more as elitist eco-snobs, and less like pioneers.

    In the end, catalytic converters never represented the kind of investment which housetop solar (or it’s equivalent) represents. No, you don’t need to eat at McDonalds all the time … though it is possible to economize with health in mind, using less extreme options.

    The case for catalytic converters suggests that you are for government solutions by fiat, regardless of costs. In contrast, the tuna example shows what education can do without more public indebtedness, which we can’t afford. The slavery comment is simply uncalled for.

    Products like the Volt represent an opportunity to build gradually for a future that you and Jason demand instantly: It allows what can be done to be done by a larger number of people motivated by education and enlightened self-interest, much more so than by bullying and fear.

    I am concerned that your all-or-nothing, black-and-white, moral-equivalent-of-slavery standpoints will repel enough people to damage your own cause. Reality includes shades of gray.

    If you present the totally-off-the-grid lifestyle in absolute, unattainable terms, you will win few converts. “I can’t do all that; it’s too much. Maybe I shouldn’t bother doing anything.” If you allow people to built to it as they can, the movement will grow, and people will pay for the industry which will bring costs down and actually make that future come to pass. Look at what has already happened with home insulation, which saves energy and pocketbooks.

    In other words, if you win, you will lose. If you lose, you may win.

    Jason and flmark; it is far better to lead by example than to wield a whip of emotion-charged rhetoric. You cannot and will not re-build Rome in a day. Try not to make our inevitable lifestyle conversion slower than it needs to be.


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    May 7th, 2012 (11:36 pm)

    Jackson,

    “wield a whip of emotion-charged rhetoric.” Wow. All I did was say this system works great for me and I highly recommend it. I had no idea I had so much power.

    uh.. What article did YOU read?


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    May 7th, 2012 (11:48 pm)

    Jason King: uh.. What article did YOU read?

    This One.

    The good people here didn’t deserve this.

    Yes, you have a system that works well for you. You are a pioneer, well positioned to lead by example. Unfortunately, as the ‘article’ I cite indicates, you are just as prepared to push from behind, with intolerant screed. And you didn’t have to, that’s the real pity.


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    May 8th, 2012 (3:26 am)

    Jackson,

    I am sorry you are so clearly unhappy.