California is Sailing Away from Fossil Fuel Energy Production. Are You Onboard?
A Message From our Founder;
I love sailing. It takes some effort, but there’s nothing like harnessing the wind to get where you want to go. Even though modern sailboats have a motor, sailors rely on the wind whenever possible, and constantly trim the sails to increase speed as well as comfort. Being over-powered when it’s too windy doesn’t help our progress, so we trim the sails to stay upright. As a skilled sailor, I can usually travel 90% of the distance using my sails. But, when there is no wind at all, I need the motor. This is a great analogy for understanding California’s Smart Grid and its abundant natural energy.
California’s Electric Power System Runs on Several Energy Sources
California’s electric power system runs on multiple energy sources, just like a sailboat. The state is getting much of its power from natural resources like wind and solar and balancing out electric power demand with fossil fuels. The state continues to invest in modernizing the power grid, just like nautical engineers constantly improve their designs. To manage its renewable energy resources, California is installing smart meters, new distribution systems, and other infrastructure that consumers will never see.
In terms of electric power generation, wind power in California has played a major role for more than a decade. Over the last five years, most of the investment has been in solar, both on building rooftops and through solar farms. California has over 4 gigawatts (GW) of potential wind power and over 8 GW of potential solar power, not including what’s on the other side of the meter. Take a look at the Windnumber on our website or the get the data directly from the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) to see how much power is coming from various resources in real time.
America’s Coal Plants are Lagging Far Behind in Energy Efficiency
While California’s renewable energy system is state-of-the-art, America’s Coal Plants are ancient by comparison. More than 90% of them are more than 30 years old. Until recently, there were coal plants operating in this country that were 100 years old. It’s like powering your boat on a coal-fired steam engine, not very efficient. We don’t see steamers on our waterways, so we shouldn’t expect to preserve coal-fired power plants to feed our homes.
Many of these coal plants are being replaced with natural-gas-fired power plants using the most efficient combustion technology. Combined-Cycle Natural Gas (CCNG) Plants produce half of the carbon pollution and a small percentage of the other pollutants compared to coal plants. However, the natural gas turbines (peaker plants) used to balance power generation with California’s electric power consumption are not as clean burning and are expensive to operate.
Navigate Your Home’s Energy Use with Smart Technology
California has plenty of fossil fuel generating plants that can be turned on to meet your energy needs, but they’re not good for the environment and can cost a lot to operate at certain times of the day. The most efficient plants are running for most of the day; the least efficient plants run for less than an hour. In this system, cleaner energy costs less.
Your home can help to integrate renewables or it can work against them. More and more people are adopting connected devices to enhance control, safety, and efficiency in their home. The smart thermostat can be controlled by your phone. Imagine turning on your home’s heating system from bed on a cold morning, or making sure it’s off when you’ve already left for work or to go shopping. Cameras, sensors, door locks, and other security devices have apps that allow you to monitor the safety of your home. Lighting controls can automate settings within your home, and with the new LEDs that use less than 10 watts per bulb, why not light it up? Now mid-range appliances also have wifi chips in them to allow you to run them whenever you choose. There are electric water heaters and pool pump controls with similar control functions.
You Can Help “Trim the Sails” on California’s Electric Power System
Add home solar and battery storage to these connected devices and you have a Smart Home. Solar is obviously only generating power when it’s sunny, and that goes for your home solar unit as well as the one in a field somewhere (or on your neighbor’s roof). Overall system-wide wind power production and state-wide demand effect how clean your energy supply is as well. When it’s both sunny and windy, the system can be overpowered, much like our sailboat. How do you trim the sails when California is over-powered? By running your appliances, water heater, pool pump, or charging the batteries on cleaner energy.
Sabreez was created to make this system more efficient; to foster “smooth sailing.” We accomplish this by showing energy consumers when their energy supply is cleaner. We also show people how to use this cleaner energy, often using the existing technology in their home.
Knowledge is Power with the Wind Number
It’s all rather complex isn’t it? A simple rule of thumb is that the electric power supply in California is dirtiest in the afternoon around sunset, and in the morning around sunrise, but there are daily and seasonal variations depending on how sunny and windy it is. Now that we’re getting so much of our power on both sides of the meter delivered on “mother nature’s” schedule, there’s a profound feedback mechanism being established that significantly lowers wholesale prices when natural power is abundant.
This is why we created the Wind Number. The Wind Number is proportional to your power supply coming from wind versus fossil-fuel burning plants. Adjusting when you use power to times of day when the Wind Number is high will save money as the state transitions to time of use pricing for consumers. Read our blog to see how this change may affect you.
All this information leads us to the following conclusion; knowledge is power. People want to use cleaner energy, they just don’t know when their energy supply is cleanest. And many people are not aware of the technologies and life-hacks available to realize the goal of using cleaner energy. It’s as easy as hitting the delay button on your appliances; but there’s so much more. Wouldn’t it be nice to know when the “wind’s up” and you don’t have to “rely on the motor?”
Follow our updates to learn more about the Wind Number. Our free services tell you when your energy supply is cleaner and cheaper. Questions? Leave us a comment below.
W Scott Hoppe, Founder