September 6th, 2014

Surface Pro review update

Well, I'm a little obsessed right at the moment by some UBS Q-series reports on EV, solar and stationary batteries that I stumbled across while surfing the web. The kids were enjoying jumping on trampolines at open gym. Anyway. I was about to start posting link fu, and thought, Self, you should use the Surface. I never use the Surface. It has a beautiful screen and a fabulous keyboard and yet, I apparently hate it. Why? I thought I should give it another go.

Well, it was _very_ asleep. So that was disturbing. When it came up, it had low memory, which made no sense. I hadn't used it in forever, so clearly somebody is leaking. I quit firefox, and then it told me there was no network connection. Really? For why? Then it wanted to do a system update.

I'm waiting for that to finish and experiencing significant dissatisfaction. It has rebooted and made loud fan noises, and now claims to be "Getting ready". Yeah, I've heard that before. I'm back on the Chrome, but honestly, the memory of getting totally screwed by a loose board that caused all kinds of secondary symptoms on the Macbook Air has faded enough that I might be willing to start carrying it around with me again. Also, I have all these lovely bags that it fits in beautifully.

Post reboot, it is still trying to install a system update. But you know, all I wanted to do was fix the lack of a network. And I have to wonder if that lack of a network is causing it some problems with the install . . .

EV + stationary battery + solar for the win?

I ran across this at Inside EVs: http://insideevs.com/subsidy-free-evs-solar-battery-storage-2020/

It refers to a UBS report, located at an odd site:

http://www.qualenergia.it/sites/default/files/articolo-doc/ues45625.pdf

If you go down to Figure 11, you can see there is a list of a bunch of other articles, many of which are Q-series, on related topics.

Here's the general argument:

"Our proprietary model suggests a payback time as low as 6-8 years for a combined EV + solar + battery investment by 2020 – unsubsidised."

The idea is that this is going to hurt utilities which make money off of generation but will be neutral to positive for utilities which are retail- or distribution-focused. This model does not assume the grid goes away; quite the contrary. It _does_ assume that centralized generation will be decreasing going forward (and there are other articles that focus on that theme specifically).

Hey, good news for those of us who think nuclear power is a bad idea, hunh?

Ironically, the guys over at Inside EVs were really skeptical of this thesis. I am not as skeptical but I am not convinced yet. I do think that there are some great career opportunities for young people going into power engineering or whatever that is called. Because it is clear there is going to be staffing and infrastructure need at all retail- and distribution- focused utilities for years to come, as every bit of commercial property and a whole lot of residential sprouts panels on the roof.

More later: the Surface Pro has come back to life.

ETA: I'm starting to better understand how the pen/trackpad click maps onto the two-button mouse paradigm. I fucking hate Windows.

Okay. So the Q-series report references above has a lot to say about batteries: which chemistry is likely to win for which application and which companies will benefit, also recycling and regulation thereof and who is going to bear the recycling cost and so forth. It is interesting, but I don't understand all of it. R. probably would. They do note that Tesla (heavy) has bet on getting battery costs down, while BMW has bet on weight reduction (carbon fiber). All true, and all observed by BCG in their commentary as well. BMW is going to continue to sell mostly ICE cars and will be subject to all the CO2 regulation that is still driving this bus; they need to reduce weight across the line while maintaining quality. Tesla has no such concerns. BMW and Tesla are both behaving in very strategic ways.

So I have to pick up the pen to click on a link, but if you want to scroll, you have to go to the bar (*yuck*), which means Page Up Page Down are better choices. *sigh* Who made these tradeoffs.

Where was I? Ah. All electric cars are Hondas! Honda dealerships run a little differently, because they require fewer repairs so dealers have to make money entirely on sales. And electric cars are going to behave like that, too. The report doesn't mention the Honda part -- that's my addition.

BCG weighed in on distributed generation's disruptive potential back in 2010: https://www.bcg.com/documents/file51254.pdf

Solar, battery, EV: why I care

Here's a little background on what happened. A few years ago, I saw solar panels sprouting everywhere around me, and a solar store over on Great Rd. I said to R., hey, we should get one. Or at least look into whether it makes sense for us. R. said, no, too many trees, bad angle, bad roof, won't work, too expensive, not worth it. I didn't care enough to push it. Time passed.

His sister and brother-in-law signed up with SolarCity and loved it. When they showed up on our door, we invited them in. All were skeptical, but the site audit came back fabulous, and we signed papers and after a variety of delays for a variety of reasons, our system got turned on this week. Whee! Meter running backwards. Yay.

My car is almost 3 years old, and that new crash test has made me dissatisfied. I wanted a new car. I was thinking maybe something with a third row, but probably not. M. said, the Tesla has a 3rd row. Ha ha ha. Well, if I'm gonna test drive a Tesla, I'll test drive the other electric car(s), too. So T. and I tried the i3 (which won), the Tesla (which I was surprised to actively dislike because of the reclined driver's position) and the Leaf, which is a very carlike car, inoffensive in every way, and if I didn't have more money than sense I probably would have bought. I convinced the dealer to take my deposit and they told me to expect the car in the middle of October.

I explained the electric car to people by saying, hey, we got panels. We need a car to go with them! Surprisingly, this was a satisfactory explanation to many people. Even more surprisingly, it is sort of true. Utilities are going to find solar very disruptive if adoption is widespread (and it can be widespread just within a particular area and really mess with the utility's economics in that area), and EV can mitigate/ease that transition by increasing demand on the grid to compensate for the loss due to us consuming our own power/making them buy the excess.

SolarCity said they were hoping to add a battery to the mix, the increase the amount of used-on-site power. We were excited! Maybe we could get rid of the generator. Speaking of which, can we use the power from the solar panels when there is an outage?

No.

Seriously? Yes, seriously. No, it could be clear and blazing and power raining down out of the sky, but if the grid is down, we can't use it. We can run the generator, but not the panels.

So I'm now obsessed with (a) a stationary battery and (b) better meters and other Smart Grid products to enable me to use the power we generate on site whether the grid is up or down. Ideally, I'd like to be able to share excess with the neighbors, but I get that balancing load is a Very Tricky Thing.

Also, here's a question for everyone. If you want a resilient power grid in the face of weather related outages, is it better to bury wires or to distribute generation? What do we need to know in order to answer that question? The metrics I have in mind are simple: I want power to be available as close to always for as close to everyone as can be done for a Not Outrageous price (defined as, better availability for more people than the current situation, for roughly the same or less cost).

My guess is distribution is better BUT to make distribution work at all, we'll need to do a lot of engineering and productization. And I do recognize that people who are my age are likely to think this way, while people older than me are likely to prefer centralization/hardening (bury the lines). I have no idea what the 20 somethings are thinking about this. Probably thinking about buying a bunch of batteries and recharging them when they can?

When MIGHT SolarCity sell us a stationary battery and what might it look like and cost

Back in March, SolarCity suspended their pilot program in California, because the delays and fees involved in getting systems okayed by the utility were intolerable. This is interesting, because the state has mandated that the utilities implement a bunch of energy storage. You could go full-on conspiracy theory, but I don't think that would be wise.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-18/solarcity-freezes-energy-storage-program-as-grid-connections-lag.html

So what is actually going on? Probably a bunch of process, some cruft that just happens, some regulatory that is too heavy weight to apply to residential customers, some wtf. Bunch of fees set at the state level associated with the regulatory process. Etc.

Things appear to have restarted, but are not moving fast. Also, this isn't much of a system -- it isn't running HVAC, which would be a mandatory minimum out here (at least run the blower on the furnace!). The price is a little high, too: $1500 down, $15/a month for 10 years. Tesla battery, small box on the wall. I don't think it lets you do load shifting (pack it full of cheap energy during trough hours and then sell it back at the peak, or use it during a peak yourself).

http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_25900627/energy-storage-hot-new-thing-silicon-valley

19 customers hooked up in California, as of this article in June. There are pictures in the article.

Here's a nuanced discussion of utility-scale solar vs. distributed solar (sort of eye-popping savings doing bigger projects, actually), with sidelights on how tiered rate systems work and the interaction with net metering.

Anyone who calculates payback on a solar system based on their existing rate and net metering environment is probably make some kind of error, altho only the future will tell us what that error was.

Are there LGBT friendly Baptists? Yes!

http://www.awab.org/

Not in my town, alas, so I won't be checking out the American Baptist church in West Acton, altho there are some very nice people who go there.

I think we are going to SACC tomorrow. Littleton isn't starting their RE program yet. SACC has Rally Sunday AND they are kicking off Sunday school with ice cream sundaes. Mmmmm. That seems like an easy choice.

I think RE is starting over in our UU Parish church, and we could conceivably do both, since they have 9 and 11 a.m. services, and SACC is doing 10:30 this Sunday. But I doubt I will because I'm still coughing a lot, so I think we'll stick to the walkable/bikeable one for right now.

R. asked what the church is over by the town green. Turns out it is the other Congregational church in town -- and it is not ONA. We won't be visiting them.

ETA: The SACC service we attended recently included a brief mention of someone over at St Matthews, because a person in the congregation had attended a wedding there of a family member or friend. I was surprised at the warmth and love in the rev's voice when she referred to St. Matthews (Methodist), but I finally overcame my knee-jerk yeah-that's-not-gonna-happen to take a look at their website.

http://saint-matthews.org/

Which includes this, linked prominently on the front page.

http://saint-matthews.org/welcome-to-saint-matthews/pastor-steves-statement-on-homosexuality/

I have no good reason to attend a Methodist church, but I sure like that.

Oh, seriously, I may actually have to go at some point.

http://saint-matthews.org/welcome-to-saint-matthews/frequently-asked-questions/communion/

"when we have Communion, we offer it to everybody—no restrictions on age, church membership, or even belief. It’s Jesus’s presence, and he never held that back from anybody."

Nice people!

"You’ll get a piece of bread (gluten, dairy, & soy free); dip it in the cup of grape juice. Enjoy."

ETA: Aha! The Methodist welcoming association is the Reconciling Ministries Network, and St. Matthews is a member. Good to know!