STFU, Dim Bulb (Charge VII)

-See also Charging, Part STFU

I had posted how electric vehicles usually charge at night.  Nighttime is a weird time for power plants.  Most people are asleep, like their tools and workplaces, so demand is low.  Yet, certain plants are difficult to shut down and start up with demand (“load following”), particularly nuclear ones (trying to shut down suddenly was a contributor to the Chernobyl disaster).  Some wind turbines actually run fastest due to night winds.  Thus, in many regions EVs are charging with pretty clean electricity.  They DO NOT simply move pollution somewhere else.

The US power grid is only ~40% coal-fired, and getting better.  It used to be 50%, but cheap natural gas led to less coal.  Not only did natural gas get better economically and environmentally, but gas turbines can do load following, which is worth money to grid managers.  Then throw in nuclear (20% of the grid) and hydro (varies widely by region).  Wind power grew faster than any other source in this century.  Heck, some coal plants are even throwing in some biomass (“co-firing”) to help clean up their act.

And then there’s solar.  A funny thing happened on the way to tomorrow: solar got practical and economic, and not how many thought it would.  Sure, solar costs fell partially due to innovation, process improvements, and simple scale-up benefits.  But there’s one place where it wins, hands down: at the “pump.”  When solar has to compete on the grid with coal, nuclear, and wind, it loses.  Roof owners, though, can win after transmission costs- the wires are short.  (Of course, hydro beats them all.  Easily.)

Solar, when compared to gasoline, finally wins, and wins big.  Electricity simply beats gas- compare 13 cents per kilowatt-hour, to gas at $3.70 or even $3.50.  A dollar gets much more electrons than oil (and more on my motorcycle).  Hence, the solar carport: a canopy with solar panels, and a charging cable on one leg.  A parking stall is about 8x 18 feet.  Depending on how you set it up, this is enough panel area to charge a car most days.  Since not every space gets filled, and not every EV will charge, not all the way full, this works out nicely.  Some have batteries to smooth out cloudy spans; most just tie to the grid to flatten peaks and valleys.  Grids like:

Bowling Green, KY

Smyrna, Nashville (Vanderbilt), Pulaski, Shelby Farms TN

Raleigh, NC

Atlanta, GA

Eustis, U-Central Florida FL

Portland, Bar Harbor ME

Plainville, CT

Brooklyn, Hempstead, Islip NY

Trenton, NJ

Bethesda, Clarksville, Landover MD

Columbus, OH

Grand Blanc, MI

Chicago and suburbs, Frankfort IL

St. Paul, MN

University of Iowa, Ankeny, IA

Las Vegas, NV

Seattle, WA

Etobicoke, ON, Canada

And, of course, California has solar charging, if nothing else because of Tesla-funded carports.  Tesla’s “superchargers” are located to allow highway charge stops, and drink up maximum sunshine.  This makes sense, both in general, and because Elon Musk runs both Tesla, and panel company Solar City.  Mitsubishi has a solar station at its California offices.  GM is partnering with Envision to provide solar panels, Ford with SunPower, and BMW is working with Real Goods for theirs.  Numerous EV owners have thus installed solar panels on their homes- if they hadn’t already done so.  I don’t have the space here to list individual homeowners with PV and EVs.

Still think EVs just substitute smokestacks for tailpipes?


7 thoughts on “STFU, Dim Bulb (Charge VII)

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