Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Norby's "Driving to Net Zero Energy Challenge" Starts off Strong!

My i3 is powered by electricity generated by my home solar array. EV+PV is really a fantastic combination and one that I believe will be fairly common in the near future.  So how can you possibly top that? How about by getting two i3s and powering both of them plus your entire household's energy use by your  solar array! That's exactly what the Norby's are attempting to do.
I have frequently written on my blogs how one of the best part of being in BMW's e-mobility test program for the past five years has been meeting and interacting with many of the other people in the program. Together we learned how to live with the issues that test cars frequently have, we built up our own support network and we simultaneously realized how fantastic driving electric was. It was a really a great experience and one that was nothing short of life changing for many of us. 

While I've literally made hundreds of acquaintances in the program, there are a few people who I've really connected with and now consider friends, and one of them is Peder Norby. Peder and his wife Julie live in Carlsbad, California and went from MINI-E to ActiveE to BMW i3, just like I did, only they went one step further and got two i3s! Like me, the Norby's power their electric cars with clean energy from their rooftop solar array. However even though our systems are about the same size, their array provides about 1/3 more energy than mine does because of the location (sunny Southern California) and orientation of the arrays. 

This year, Peder and Julie began a year-long net-zero energy challenge. They are attempting to live the entire year with their solar array providing all the energy they need to power their home and both of their cars. I believe this is a fantastic story and a glimpse into what the future has in store. Peder has been updating the progress on his i3 blog but now that he is one quarter of the way through the year, I asked him for permission to post his progress here and he happily agreed.  Below is a little introduction to what the Norby's are doing followed by the three month update. 

It’s hard to get this down to a sentence or two, but when we built our home in 2005,  our ethos was to partner with nature, harvesting the gifts of nature, building the most efficient home possible.

In doing this, we wanted to elevate, we refused to compromise or lower the enjoyment of our life and the caliber of our dwelling, we refused to reduce our life to living in a small cave with one solitary light bulb, solely for the sake of efficiency.

Our desire was to express ourselves artistically, with the highest quality materials, design and comfort in the size home needed to accommodate our family and friends, while partnering with nature, being as efficient as possible. We wanted to live in a net zero energy home, harvesting food and drink from our land. Not big or small, not right or wrong,  just our home.

The idea is a simple one: Harvest sunshine from the roof of your home to provide 100% of the power needed for your home and the two cars in the garage. That is our goal in this "Driving to Net Zero Challenge.
The 12 month documented journey began May 15, 2014. Three months in, things are looking pretty good:

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
Thanks for reading and commenting.

(Past "Driving To Net Zero" articles on Peder's blog)

Energy Challenge Introductory Article

Bonus video:
Below is one part of a series of videos that Peder and I participated in. The video series is called "Wherever You Want to Go" and was produced by BMW back in 2011. BMW recruited Buzz Aldrin, Marissa Meyer, Robin Chase, Syd Mead, and many others to participate and Peder, Todd Crook and I were also chosen to because of our high level of participation in BMW's e-mobility program. The four-part series is available online and did a good job of opening the up a conversation about where we are going with regards to personal mobility. Take a look and see if you can spot Peder and me.  :)

1 comment:

  1. It continues to be a great ride Tom. Thanks for all you do for the cause and for your friendship!