Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Update Month Three. We're killing it!

The idea is a simple one, harvest endless sunshine from a small portion of a roof to provide 100% of the energy needed to power a home and two cars with zero utility cost, and zero gasoline cost.

  • 1/4 of the way through the year,  -167 kWh and a $468 credit.
  • Stats, Stats, Graphs, Graphs. 
  • We're killing it! Ready to make a projection!
  • Our French import.
We estimate that we will be -$800 by Oct/Nov

Solar PV production holding steady at 1326 kWh

Electricity use for the two BMW i3's rose to 478 kWh for the month

We have a credit of $315 for the first seven months of the year

1/4 of the way into our "Driving to Net Zero Energy" challenge and as they say in political election coverage:
"I am ready to make a projection and call this race"

We will be below zero in utility cost and gasoline cost providing the energy for our home and guest house, and the two cars in the garage driven a total of 24,000 miles a year.  In fact we are so far ahead we will accomplish this goal four months earlier than planed with the January 2015 true-up bill from our utility. 

Our natural gas cost for a year is $301.27
We estimate at the true-up bill that we will have a credit of $400 to $450 for our electrical use and a cost of natural gas of $301 for the year thus  -$100 to -$150 in total energy cost for the year.

How about total cost?

As I mentioned in my first post in May, an asterisk is required regarding the cost of energy as our utility does not let us carry over our electricity credit to our natural gas cost.  Essentially our valuable peak hour electricity that we do not consume will be a gift to our utility.  As the years go by we will most likely convert one or two of the natural gas appliances at the end of their useful life to electric in order to reduce the natural gas bill by using our excess electricity credit.

Where are we with energy usage and gasoline cost now compared to 2007 when we began this path to energy independence?

In 2007 our energy cost were:

$3,800 a year in electricity
$   300 a year in natural gas
$2,800 a year for Julie's Infinity G35 gasoline
$2,400 a year for my Volvo S60R gasoline

Total:    $9300 a year in energy cost.  ($792 per month)

This is not far off the statistical norm for a US family which uses an average of 11,000 kWh per year ($3,060 at SDG&E rates) and $2912 for gasoline according to the 2012 EPA statistics.

In 2014 our energy cost are:

$      0 a year in electricity*
$  300 a year in natural gas
$      0 a year in fuel cost for Julie's BMW i3
$      0 a year in fuel cost for my BMW i3

Total $300 a year in energy cost. ($25 per month) 
* we donate $450 worth of electricity back to SDG&E.

You can see how quickly that $9000 a year in energy cost savings will pay off a $30K Solar PV system, $15k in extra construction cost for a thick well insulated home, efficient appliances and led lights and $1000 for a EV charging station in the garage.  We have calculated from the installation in January of 2007 we reached the payoff point in April of 2012.

From April 2012 and for the next few decades, we will have essentially zero or de minimus cost for energy saving us $200k to 300K in energy cost with escalating utility and gasoline cost.

How about total usage?

Julie and I live normal lives, things come up and situations change. The interesting part of our Drive To Net Zero Energy challenge is that we are real people with a real life and not some demonstration house with nobody living in it.

We have been doing really great using a net total of -167 kWh of electricity (generation vs consumption) for the first three months of the challenge. We can extrapolate the prior four months of usage pre i'3s, assuming we had the efficient BMW i3's and the extra 1kw of solar pv production which would have saved us 225 kWh per month. We estimate that by May of next year we will be very close to a net of 0 total kWh used, +- 250 kWh per year which is a normal usage and weather variable.

The French Import.

I bet you thought it was a car :)

Julie and I have decided to make an impact on two young adults lives.  We are hosting through Rotary Youth Exchange, a 17 year old French student named Peroline for a one year exchange. By doing so, an American young man is traveling to France to begin his year as an exchange student in France living with Peroline's family.

Our household has now risen to four and the extra electricity that our 17 year old exchange student will use will most likely push us into the positive use territory.

Hosting a 17 year old young lady French exchange student for a year was not contemplated and is not a very good idea for the Drive To Net Zero Energy Challenge!

But life is life, unpredictable, wonderful and real.  We are very happy to have Peroline as part of our family for the next year and we're looking forward to driving her everywhere, using lots of electrons, to see the sights of our great nation.

Our goal remains Net Zero Energy usage as well as Net Zero Energy cost.
We'll see how the the next 3/4 of the year goes.

Imagine a better future and your participation in it.

Next Month:
  • Charging stations and what's on the horizon.
  • Our CHG emissions 
  • Our version of GHG offsets

Editor’s Note, Peder is the Chairman of the San Diego County Planning Commission. His wife Julie is Director of Curriculum and Instruction at the Solana Beach School District. They have been Field Trial drivers for BMW for five years. Together since 2009, they have driven 100,000 EV miles powered from roof top solar.


  1. Peder, I want you to know your columns have inspired my family to take the next step. I have an i3 and am loving every driving minute of it. My son, who lives next door to me was going to buy one but the roll out tried his patience so he now has a Mini Cooper Countryman which is at least more fuel efficient than his big Infiniti SUV which he gave up. But your columns made us decide to install solar panels. We live on the water in Huntington Harbour in Orange County. Of course, being on the water we have a lot of cloudy days, but various solar companies have assured us that this will not be a hindrance to having an abundance of solar power. At any rate, just wanted to tell you that your columns and example have given us the courage to take the next step.

  2. Dr. B

    Thank you for the email and kind words. We live on a lagoon in Carlsbad about 1/2 mile from the ocean and we do fine. The solar companies are spot on at estimating production so you can believe what they say regarding your location.

    Enjoy the soon to be solar powered i3!
    Thanks for the comment.