Sailing Away from Fossil Fuel Energy Production

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

Sabreez

Green home

Green home

Carbon Credits separate the Green Component from the Renewable Energy Source.  Solar and Wind Power have an energy component measured in kWh, and a renewable component, measured in Pounds of Carbon.  The concept of the Renewable Energy Credit (REC) is based on this fact, with one REC equaling one ton of Carbon.  Thus, the energy can be sold to one party, and the REC sold to another.  Increasing demand for RECs increases the demand for renewable sources of energy.  Many businesses, and an increasing number of individuals purchase carbon offsets in this growing market.  There is real value in offsetting your carbon footprint, just like managing your other household waste.

With the recent news that a sea level rise of 5 feet is inevitable, there is also a renewed push for Governments to do more.  Why wait for Government action when carbon credits allow you to take individual action today?  It certainly saves money in the log run.  The cost is also much cheaper than you might think given the nature of the “global warming debate.”

Some utilities are further along than others in deploying clean energy and smart grid.  PG&E is a leader in this area, with CO2 emissions of about 1/2 pound per kWh.  By comparison a Utility heavy in coal-fired plants might have emissions of over 2 pounds per kWh.  You can see how your utility stacks up here http://bit.ly/1vMszRv.

Homes typically use 10,000 to 20,000 kWh per year, and in California homes will use less energy due to climate and high electric rates that encourage conservation.  A 2,000 sq. ft. home in the San Francisco Bay Area might have a carbon footprint of 5,000 pounds per year, whereas that same size home elsewhere would probably use more energy depending on climate, but assuming the 20,000 kWh figure, the carbon footprint could be up to 40,000 pounds.  That’s a huge difference!

How much more does that 35,000 pounds of carbon cost?  At terra pass, www.terrapass.com,  they charge $5.95 per thousand pounds.  That amounts to up to $210 more than the California home, but the California homeowner still has to pay $30 to offset their small carbon footprint.  Either way, offsetting your home’s carbon footprint is just not that expensive.  What’s it worth being able to tell your children and grandchildren that you’ve offset your carbon footprint since 2014?

Moreover, the cost of the actual electricity is MUCH greater than the cost of carbon.  Overall, the combined cost per household is about the same at about $2,000-$2,500 per year.  Given that renewables have reached cost parity with fossil fuels, we can expect that all utilities will install more clean energy, and that’s a very good thing given that the cost of doing nothing is much greater, but you don’t have to wait for them to do the work for you.

Buying carbon credits is not expensive, but there are a number of new technologies that save energy, reducing your carbon footprint, and saving more than $200 per year.  These include load shifting on a time of use rate tariff, new lighting, new appliances, solar, wifi-enabled thermostats, and other technologies.  This effectively makes offsetting the carbon footprint from your electrical consumption free!  In many cases, taking a whole house approach allows you to offset your vehicle use with the savings as well.

In coming blogs I’ll explain each of these technologies in detail.