Stay Cool During Wind Power Season

It’s Cooling Season

In the Summer, California’s electric rates are higher in the afternoon when air conditioning loads push demand higher. So here is an easy way to lower your costs by up to One Dollar or more per day and stay comfortable on those Hot Summer Afternoons;

  • Know when your peak hours are on your chosen time of use electric rate.
  • Know your comfortable temperature setting, i.e. 68 degrees, 72 degrees, or whatever feels comfortable.
  • One hour before the start of your peak time period adjust the temperature setting one or two degrees cooler to pre-cool your home. In California, there is now so much solar, this is often a time when the energy supply is very clean.
  • If you have a multi-story home, turn off the downstairs air conditioning unit during the peak period. You might leave the fan on to circulate cool air descending from the upper story.
  • Around 7 or 8 pm, turn the temperature setting on the air conditioning higher by 2-3 degrees, but leave the fan on. If you time it right, you can avoid that last kWh that needs to turn on each day around 9pm to meet systemwide demand.

The reason we do this is to lower our energy costs, but also to decrease the amount electric power that needs to come from natural gas peaker plants each day. Natural gas peaker plants are the main way that California balances electric power supply with your energy demand. They are expensive, and create more pollution than typical natural-gas-combined-cycle plants that operate over the whole day.

Most modern connected thermostats like the Nest, Ecobee, or the Honeywell Lyric offer a high degree of control, but they often have no way of knowing your electric rate tariff. Utilities sometimes partner with thermostat companies to better manage energy use, but in the case of California, that’s often done by companies like Sabreez. Register and we’ll help lower your bill by up to 20%.

It’s Wind Power Season

California has so much solar now that the hours between 9am and 3pm are often the time of day when energy is cleanest. After the evening peak has passed, wind power is often cranking up to meet overnight power demand. California’s clean energy is abundant and being developed more and more each year, but it’s not always “on.” When it is “on,” electric costs drop, and if you’re not already saving money with a time of use electric rate, you will be in a year and a half when California switches to mandatory time of use electric rates.

Beyond the thermostat, there are a range of methods you can use to decrease the pollution during these hours of the day. Just remember, you don’t have to sacrifice comfort to make the “switch” to cleaner energy.

California’s electric rates are rising, but you don’t have to pay more if you switch to times when energy is cleaner. Using this method and understanding the energy supply is great way to reduce your impact on the environment and save money using cleaner energy.

California’s Wind Power Season is Here!

California’s Energy Supply and Demand

It’s May, and that means it’s the start of Wind Power Season in California. California has worked for years to build a sustainable energy system with solar and wind, and now consumers can start reaping the rewards in terms of air quality, and in terms of lower energy costs. For the year to date, California has curtailed about one-quarter million MegaWatt Hours (MWh) of solar and wind power. If that sounds like a lot, it is and it isn’t. It’s 250 Million kWh of clean energy that could’ve gone into homes like yours if you knew it was there and how to use it. With 11 million homes though, that’s only about 22 kWh per household, or about a day’s worth of electricity for each household. That number will grow each year now, until demand shifts and batteries soak up the good, clean energy.

As California transitions to time of use rates, clean energy costs less and less. Residential customers will transition to time of use rates in 2019, but many can start saving today. Prior to this year, time of use rates offered discounts during the overnight and weekend hours, but these rates have become altered by California’s abundant solar power. California has about 15 gigawatts of solar on both sides of the meter. Now there is a demand spike in the morning, and a larger spike in the afternoon. The size of this spike varies with the seasons. Rates are higher when demand spikes, although current time of use rates only charge more in the afternoon. Electric vehicle owners have even more options with utility rates.

Natural EnergyPicture6

As the interior of California heats up, it creates a natural phenomena that generates wind power. Cold air along the coast is dense and drawn inland towards less dense hot air.  The state’s wind farms are located in areas optimal for wind power generation and power transmission in this natural system of air movement. Wind power is strongest during this warm season during the afternoon, overnight, and early morning hours. By contrast, wind power tends to die down during the daytime hours, as the heat builds to start the cycle all over again. It’s quite predictable, though weather and electric power demand can lead to electric price fluctuations.

The Wind Number shows you when your power supply is cleaner and costs less. It’s defined as the ratio of power coming from wind over power from fossil fuels, times 100. A Wind Number of 100 means that equal amounts of your power are coming from wind and fossil fuels, which is pretty clean. The Wind Number takes into account both solar and wind, because when it’s sunny, solar power production reduces fossil fuel consumption. Since solar power is cranking when wind power is dropping off in California on most days, the two renewable energy resources balance each other well, but not perfectly. There is that morning peak in demand, and a much larger afternoon peak in demand. This is the time when natural gas peaker plants are cranking up to meet that demand, and when California’s energy supply is dirtiest and most costly.

How Can I Control When I Use Power?

There are a surprising number of ways to change your home’s load for the better. The easiest is to replace your lighting with LED light bulbs. Using the delay button on your dishwasher or clothes washer is another easy thing to do. Own a pool? Try running the pool pump during the early morning hours, or just after the morning peak. If you have air conditioning, you might try raising the temperature a degree or two when that last natural gas peaker plant is cranking up. That’s when energy is dirtiest (usually around 9 pm in the Summer), and you probably won’t even feel a difference in your comfort. Switching your hot water heater, dryer, or cooktop to gas eliminates their electric power demand, and it’s more efficient. If you do have an electric hot water heater, it can be controlled to heat the water off-peak. As we automate with the Internet of Things in our homes, you’ll be able to hit auto and run your appliances, charge your car, or take other measures to increase your clean energy consumption relative to your fossil fuel consumption. That’s the definition of the Wind Number, and if you contact us, we’ll be happy to tell you more ways to save. Clean Energy Costs Less!

 

California Has Started Wasting Clean Energy

California Energy Generation on April 2, 2017 – Courtesy of California Independent System Operator

On April 2, 2017, California wasted a record 10 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of clean energy.

And it’s no joke that the state wasted 9 million kWh on April Fool’s Day, a day earlier. We all want more clean, renewable energy, so why isn’t it being used?

California’s electric power supply (or most of it) is managed by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO). CAISO dispatches the state’s various electric power resources and manages the marketplace for electric power. The marketplace is complex, but the state regulations strongly favor clean energy over electric power from fossil fuels for environmental reasons. Even so, there are times when the state can’t shut down enough fossil fuel plants in response to solar and wind power production. During these times, solar and wind power plants are shut down instead to stabilize the system until demand increases, hence the waste.

California’s Clean Energy Resources are Incredible

At Sabreez, we monitor the daily output of California’s clean energy resources closely, and it’s been an incredibly productive year for clean energy. That’s a very good thing. Through wind and solar resources, Mother Nature is able to provide for more than 50% of Californians’ energy needs during some hours of the day, and that’s not even including power generated by hydroelectric resources.

As can be seen in the image, electric power from thermal resources (or burning fossil fuels) drops down to almost nothing during the middle of the day when renewable energy is sufficient to meet demand. However, as demand rises in the evening, thermal resources ramp up and production triples over a short period of time in the evening (shown for hour 20 on the image). Then it decreases during the late night and into the early morning hours. The dramatic swings in demand make it challenging for the state to balance production from renewable and non-renewable sources.

Fortunately, solar costs have come down enough that wasting 20% of the solar output isn’t going to break the bank. But wouldn’t it be nice if people would just use energy when it’s cleaner instead of in the late afternoon when natural gas turbines are cranking up to meet increased consumer demand?

When it’s Sunny and Windy, Energy Can be Free

Wholesale energy prices are often turning negative during the middle of the day this time of year. When weather conditions are just right, renewable energy is so plentiful that the generation component of the electric bill becomes a payment. This can greatly reduce overall hourly costs for customers with direct access to the grid, like larger commercial businesses.  This phenomenon will disappear when air conditioning use picks up in the late spring, but the negative pricing will return in the fall, and continue until the state balances demand with supply.

Californians can choose to use a time of use rate to take advantage of this bounty of clean energy. They can also sign up for a program with companies like ohmconnect, Chai Energy, or Energy Hub to receive money when they shift their energy usage. The state of California is adopting mandatory time of use pricing in 2019. That means electricity will cost more when fossil fuel burning plants are cranking up to meet high demand. Conversely, it means that when energy is cleaner, it will cost less. Think about that for a second. You can put solar on your home, or you can just use solar power when it’s sunny and save money. Even better, when it’s windy and sunny, you can save even more. It’s easier than you think, and we’ve produced a new smart grid owners_manual to help.

To Save Money and Renewable Energy, Simply Shift

In short order, companies like Sabreez will offer consumers real time pricing information to know when to shift their energy use to save money and reduce waste. Now that California is wasting up to 10 million kWh of electric power a day, it can’t happen soon enough.

 

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California’s Clean Energy Ecosystem- Part 2

Save Money with Residential Solar and California’s Clean Energy

The residential solar lease is celebrating its tenth birthday!  Over the last decade, residential solar has skyrocketed in popularity. But, just recently, more people are choosing direct ownership of solar over the turnkey solar product owned by a third party, known as the “solar lease.”

The increasing number of homeowners choosing to own solar is just a reflection of the diversification of the industry and individuals’ desire to make a great investment. But, don’t worry, the solar lease and other similar turnkey solar products aren’t going anywhere! Solar power just costs less, so the number of residential solar systems will continue to grow by leaps and bounds as people figure out how much they can save.

GreenTechMedia just wrote a piece about this booming home solar market. But is it the right choice for you?

Use a Solar Lease or Power Purchase Agreement

Solar power has grown cheaper every year over the last decade. So, how low can it go?

On average, California’s residential electric rates range from 20 to 40 cents/kWh. A 400 square foot solar array on your roof can produce about 6,000 kWh per year in round numbers. After incentives, you might pay $10,000 to have solar panels installed, but over 20 years that’s less than 10 cents/kWh. If you don’t want to pay cash, there are a number of choices to finance the savings.

The solar lease rolls the capital cost of your solar system, including maintenance, into a monthly payment. The $10,000 system might cost $100 per month, but reduces your electric bill by $150/month. Alternately, you could choose a power purchase agreement (PPA) and buy electric power on a kWh basis.  PPAs might cost 15-20 cents/kWh, but if it shaves up to 40 cents/kWh off your bill, it’s a better deal than paying your utility. Sound too good to be true? The solar lease and PPA have been around for years. They’re good and they’re true.

If you have a sunny rooftop, take a look at Solar City, SungevitySun Run, or Vivint to lower your energy bills.

Use More Energy When It’s Clean, Less During Peak Demand

Now it’s time to blow your mind. Even if you don’t install solar on your home, you can enjoy the savings of solar power. There is so much energy now when it’s sunny, wholesale power prices drop system-wide, and utilities pass that savings on to you, the consumer.

This month, utility-scale solar in California reached 9 GW. That’s gigawatts, which is one billion watts, times nine. A GW is one million kilowatts (kW), which is the unit of the measurement for your home’s electric power bill.

California has about 11 million homes, so 9 GW is almost one kW per home. If every home was using 800 watts, every California home could run on solar power during the middle of the day!  Even better, there is a lot more solar power being generated on commercial and residential rooftops too. It’s safe to say, when it’s a sunny day in California, the power is ON and it’s cheap.

This much solar power is enough to supply half of California’s electricity during the low-demand days we see this time of year. During the summer, there’s plenty of air conditioning demand to soak up that much ”sun power,” but this time of year, wholesale electric power prices plummet when the sun is shining and electric power demand is low. By contrast, when the sun sets, California’s natural gas peaker plants crank up to compensate for the lack of solar power, and prices skyrocket; so does pollution.

If you’ve been waiting for clean energy to cost less, you don’t need to wait long. Just reduce your energy use from 5 pm to 8 pm, and your home will be running on some of the cleanest electric power in the country. It’s really that easy.

Harness California’s Wind Power

Before California started installing solar everywhere, there was plenty of wind power. Overall, the state has over 6 GW of wind power potential in its wind farms. When it’s windy, more than 4 GW of wind power can be generated by this system.

Seasonally, wind power generation is strongest in the spring and summer. Another attribute of wind power is that it generally picks up at night and dies down during the day. This works well to balance energy production with solar when it’s windy, but the state still needs plenty of power backup for times when it’s not sunny or windy. During the fall and winter months, it can be windy any time. When it’s windy, power prices drop because supply is being driven by mother nature, not consumer demand. This is why we show consumers the Wind Number. It’s a great way to save money using cleaner energy.

This year we’re seeing so much clean energy that wholesale electric power prices have been turning negative on a regular basis. Sometimes this happens when there is no wind, but when it’s sunny and electric power demand is low. Other times, it’s sunny and windy, creating up to 12 GW of combined solar and wind power, making California’s energy supply exceptionally green. When the clean energy is on and you’re not using electric power, prices turn negative, and can even lead grid operators to curtail wind power generation. This leads to a lost opportunity in terms of system-wide efficiency.

The Wind Number is designed to make California’s overall energy system more efficient by showing consumers when their energy supply is cleaner and costs less. Sabreez shows energy consumers how to use this clean energy and to lower their electric bill using the existing technology in their homes.

Balance Your Demand with Supply

Home solar still makes a great deal of sense whether you lease, buy, or borrow, but anybody can save money just by using more clean energy when it’s flowing into California’s Smart Grid.

California’s electric power utilities offer reduced rates to people that use this clean energy; they’re called “time of use” rates. The rate is low for most hours of the year, but higher during periods of higher demand. The peak rates charged during periods of higher demand are only slightly higher in the winter (+2 cents/kWh), but +7 cents/kWh more during the summer months.

The development of clean energy resources like solar has shifted demand so much, that the daily peak pricing periods have changed. They used to be centered on the middle of the day. Now peak prices occur primarily in the afternoon on weekdays. For now, electric vehicle owners can opt-in to super off-peak pricing during the overnight hours (although utilities may adjust this pricing as solar energy production increases further).

Just remember, clean energy costs less. The more energy you use when the energy supply is cleaner, the more money you’ll save. There are myriad ways to use energy differently now, just subscribe to our newsletter or download our App to see when energy is cleaner and costs less.