Southern California environment news and trends

PV solar warms up your property value, LBNL says

Does PV solar help your property value? 

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab researchers got curious. So they gathered a dataset of about 72,000 California homes, including 2,000 that had PV when they were sold. They used several pricing models, and looked into whether "premiums for PV installed on new homes were different than those for PV installed as a retrofit on existing homes, and whether the age or the size of the PV system impacted premiums." Which all means, they weren't messing around. 

The answer, according to Berkeley Lab's new study? Yes, and to the tune of about 17 large

[E]stimates for average PV premiums among a large number of different model specifications coalesced near $17,000 for a relatively new “average-sized” - based on the sample of homes studied  - PV system of 3,100 watts (DC). This corresponds to an average home sales price premium of $5.5/watt (DC), with the range of results across various models being $3.9 to $6.4/watt. 


Greener pot: is there such a thing as energy efficient Cannabis?

Maybe, says Evan Mills, a Staff Scientist & energy analyst at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs. On his own time, he wrote a paper called Energy: Up in Smoke: The Carbon Footprint of Indoor Cannabis Production, and he suggests marijuana's covert life in suburban grow houses could be mitigated. 

It's a fascinating read, because it accomplishes what a great energy analysis can do: tell you something about the way people behave, that's reflected in their consumption cycle, that you either didn't know before, or bother to math out, or possess the capability of mathing out. 

If you've watched the wonderful show Weeds, though, (on your television...using electricity...) it seems obvious: the grow house is an energy hog. A lot of lights to plug in. "Driving the large energy requirements of indoor production facilities are lighting levels matching those found in hospital operating rooms (500-times greater than recommended for reading) and 30 hourly air changes (6-times the rate in high-tech laboratories, and 60-times the rate in a modern home)," Mills writes. "Resulting electricity intensities are 200 watts per square foot, which is on a par with modern datacenters."


CORRECTED: Edison's new solar map: they're looking to buy from small solar

Check it out, big flat rooftop owners: are you in one of the red dot areas on this map? If so, you might be a great candidate to sell your power back to Southern California Edison - if they get their way. 

Edison has submitted an "advice letter" to the Cal Public Utilities Commission. Basically, it's a document that outlines how they're planning to seek power from independent generators, what the rules for applying will be, and what kind of agreements they're gonna want to make.

According to their website, "locating your SPVP project inside one of the identified areas could potentially minimize your costs of interconnection to the SCE system."

So, for translation purposes: "Independent generator" is, for example, someone who puts solar panels on their roof to heat their warehouse. A "purchased power agreement" is a contract between that building owner and the utility for the utility to buy why that house generates when it's not being used on site.* 


Energy efficiency in your dryer is like dating the nerd

Renewable energy is sexy; energy efficiency is not. Everybody knows. Everybody's got an opinion about why that is. I like the way another blog at Renewable Energy World puts it: "[I]f renewable energy is the girl that everyone wants to be photographed near, energy efficiency is her nerdy tag-along little brother."

I was thinking about this when I started testing dryer balls.

LADWP has an energy efficiency handout; Top 10 Energy Using Appliances in Your Home. I don't have #1 (central air) or #3 (pool pumps). I have #2 (window air conditioner) but it's really a backup system. It's a highly-rated EnergyStar version of the smallest window unit I could find; I don't know if I could use it any more efficiently. #4 is your washer/dryer.

Most of the good efficiencies in your washer are in the buttons. No hot rinse; cold water works great for washing; use the smallest water setting you can. Some people line dry after that and forgo the dryer entirely. I can't pull that off. There's a squirrel race war (black on brown on grey violence) in the tree overhanging my house and I can't leave anything on a line without finding it on the ground with tiny evil prints all over it.

A friend in New Orleans told me about dryer balls. (Get ready to forgive my green ignorance often, people.) You can buy commercial ones that look like asteroids or land mines. I like the wool ones because they hold moisture longer than just about anything else in the dryer, so your clothes get dry, but not too dry (a leading cause of the cling). You can make 'em yourself. Four to six of them inside a regular dryer (my landlord has given us a combo up-and-down washer/dryer) have cut my drying time a good 20-25% so far. It's the easiest efficiency I've started since getting a shower timer.

So why isn't THIS the trend? It's probably the fact that commodifying efficiency is hard. It's not naturally a consumptive act. You can throw money at solar panels on a rooftop, or get a car that plugs in. But the key ingredient of being an energy miser is thinking differently about your energy, not buying stuff. True, I did buy dryer balls (I didn't have any wool sweaters lying around to unwind). Still: everything else is about less.

I'm not a natural for this green living business. I'm busy, and lazy, and while I don't tend to have money to throw at a problem, chances are I'll try to if I can. But I can get on board with this nerd. He's not pretty to look at, but he's lower-maintenance than his big sister. He's a cheaper date.


RPS, DWP, renewables & your rates: 5 things you want to know

California's new law requiring its utilities to get a third of their energy from renewable sources has changed the landscape for a group of public utilities in southern California: in Burbank, in Pasadena, in Glendale, and the biggie, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. (Check out Air Talk - we talked about the RPS today.)

Not only did the previous state-level driver - the Governator's executive order mandating 20% renewables - apply solely to the investor owned utilities like was an executive order. Vaguely unenforceable, immediately revocable by anyone who sat in that chair next. This one's for reals.

The news comes after LA City Controller Wendy Greuel released a scathing 68-page audit of DWP's renewable energy program - the one Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa congratulated the department for last year. It made its target last year, she writes - the whole report is available on SCPR's website. "It appears that this was likely due more to luck than to strong planning and policies," Greuel wrote. "Our auditors estimate that the DWP only achieved a 20% renewable energy portfolio due to abnormally cool temperatures and higher than expected wind at Department owned wind farms," she argues. This year the renewable energy percentage will likely drop back.