Solar Update: 2010, hybrids and electric cars

    Graph of 2010 solar energy production
    Graph of 2010 solar energy production

    In 2010, our Sunpower solar energy panels generated3, 328 kilowatt hours of energy. This is down from 2009, when we generated 3,634 kilowatt hours from our 10 panel roof system.

    This matches what we’ve experienced this year in the Bay Area which was a cooler summer. Tomatoes in my garden and in the local farms, as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, were delayed several weeks before they were ready to start harvesting this year.

    Overall, I’ve been very happy with our system. We were limited by the amount of roof space we had to install solar panels that faced south-west. Because of the cost of solar panels, even factoring in the tax credits, it still only makes sense to install them on roof areas that face the direction which maximizes exposure to the sun’s rays. I would consider installing additional panels if the price ever came down more and, more importantly, the technology became more effective at capturing the sun’s rays and turning it into energy.

    December solar energy production summary report.

    Another “green” initiative we are exploring is getting a hybrid. We clock a lot of miles covering Bay Area events up and down the west coast for Stark Insider and finally decided for 2011, we should look at purchasing a hybrid. You can read about the start of this adventure here (Hybrid Experience: Toyota Prius vs. Honda Insight).

    When we started researching hybrids, what I was most surprised about was how long they have been in the market and how little share they have of the overall US automobile market. Seems even with the rising gas prices and environmental concerns, there is not enough incentive to overcome the extra costs of a hybrid versus a conventional gas-only powered car.

    I have considered taking the leap into a completely electric car. However, based on our travel requirements, I would be concerned that I would be stuck somewhere with a dead battery and:

    • a) no where to charge it
    • b) a place to charge it, but I would have to wait 12 hours for the battery to be fully charge

    The infrastructure of numerous gas stations still support the traditional gas car or a hybrid. This I could see changing over time. The latter concern is more challenging. I can fill up a gas tank in a few minutes, I have yet to encounter a battery that could charge in a few minutes. In fact, the same limits that battery life imposes on mobile devices these days will be the same problem, on a larger scale, facing cars that solely run on electricity.

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