Clicking map goes to a DOE webpage, then please come back!
Happy Earth Day! If you’ve had enough of the same tired suggestions to recycle more or turn off your lights when you leave the room, and feel like maybe that’s just not cutting it these days, I humbly propose that you can do more. Right now. Easy, and cheap.
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One of the common arguments against solar as an energy source is that it’s just too variable. You can never count on it when you need it. What if clouds roll in and out? 
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So, Microsoft Hohm is going away next year, too.
The feedback from customers and partners has remained encouraging throughout Microsoft Hohm’s beta period. However, due to the slow overall market adoption of the service, we are instead focusing our efforts on products and solutions more capable of supporting long-standing growth within this evolving market.
blah, blah, blah….
Gosh, now how will Microsoft charge all those Ford Focus EVs? :/
Ok, big guys, get out of the way. I’ve seen what the little guys can do – witness pvoutput.org (granted, solar geeks are already a self-motivated bunch). I think energy monitoring absolutely has a future, and a positive role to play. But it may go better when led by a passionate, democratic, fired-up community than something that was born on a powerpoint slide. It might even catch on some day. Maybe not ’til energy prices double or triple though. :)
The Minnesota Renewable Energy Society was hosting a screening of Carbon Nation tonight at the Bell Museum of Natural History in Minneapolis. They also had tours of the University’s entry in the Solar Decathlon contest, a pretty neat little house.
Overall the movie was pretty good; supposed to be about climate solutions but I couldn’t help feeling a fair bit of despair. I guess it’s just how I’m wired.
But you can’t really drive your car 6 miles to go to a film about climate solutions, so I rode my bike. On the way home, around 9pm, it was spitting rain, verging on sleet. It was a great ride. Stopped at a light and talked to a guy on a mountain bike, all decked out for a ride in this weather. With some sort of speaker system in his jacket so he had music for the ride.
I’d forgotten how great a night ride in the city can be.
So, today is World Water Day – something I didn’t know existed until recently – until today, actually. I usually think about energy, but water is as critical a resource as energy – or moreso. With 5 million people joining the urban population every month, water resources are critical. It’s no wonder that many experts think that wars of the future will not be fought over oil, but over water.
I’m not well versed in water resource issues, but like most other things, I’ve got measurements, charts, and graphs of my own water usage in my home:
And like most things I measure, it tends to help me move in a good direction. We’ve dropped water use significantly, by doing just a few things:
None of this has reduced comfort of quality of life (at still around 100 gallons per day for a family of four, I should hope not!) – it just intelligently eliminates waste in our water use. Who knows, more austerity may be needed in some places in the future, but for now, I bet most people could look around and find some low hanging fruit to reduce their water usage. Happy World Water Day!
I had been using Microsoft Hohm to graph month-by-month utility usage, and it used to pull bill data directly from Xcel. And then I got solar, and a bidirectional meter, and it all fell apart. Now nothing pushes to Hohm – not even gas usage. Argh. (I have been manually entering data, though, because the graphs are fairly illustrative I think).
Anyway, Xcel has recently started using Gridpoint to present account info to customers, and it’s a bit better than what we had before, as you can see in the above graph. 24 month history of gas or electric, with average temperature overlaid (though wouldn’t heating degree days be better?) can show you how you’re doing. Now if only it had a “compare to neighbors” feature like Opower provides. 
I’m a firm believer in measuring anything you want to change, so presenting info like this to every customer is pretty helpful, IMHO. It could be a bit more intuitive (and a bit less flash-heavy!) but it’s a start.
If you’re an Xcel customer, the portal is here: http://www.xcelenergy.com/myaccount
 Xcel did a pilot with Opower, too, and the friends who received the comparisons seemed pretty interested. However, I can’t tell from Xcel whether they plan to continue it or not, which is a pity. Grindpoint and Opower overlap a bit, so I wonder if they’ll keep both.
While the Tesla Roadster gets a lot of press and has serious cool factor, it’s out of reach for … well, for pretty much everyone. Many more mainstream EVs are somewhat … milquetoast. Leaf? Yawn. Honda Fit EV? Fits are cool, but… Ford Focus EV? A little better. They’re all also really quite expensive.
The Brammo Empulse, at $10,000 (pre-order), looks pretty awesome, don’t you think?
Yay! I got my homebrew powermeter running (based on openenergymonitor.org’s design, still just stuck together on a breadboard) and after reading up on this article on the Mosquitto project’s blog, it’s not so hard to get data up to Google PowerMeter. I’m not using MQTT at the moment, just retrieving data from pachube & forwarding it to PowerMeter, but it works. The net flow representation (above) is pretty neat. Kudos to Google for opening up the API!
And now a bit of good news / bad news.
- Good news: I hit the Megawatt-Hour mark a few days ago for the arrray. Sounds like a lot, eh? :)
- Bad news: roofers came out to check for hail damage, and found none, but apparently the solar installers did a fair bit of damage to my new roof (as suspected…) If I had it to do over I would have hired the roofers to at least put the solar standoffs on the roof, they’re way more at home up there. :(
Wow… I had no idea that Joe Strummer’s old London Calling BBC World Service radio shows were so great.
Many of them are available as podcasts on iTunes for free – and a few more are posted on this site. I feel awfully old finding stuff like this 10 years later (not quite as old as when listening to Black Flag demos that are almost 30 years old now!) but anyway, man… Joe was great. If you really love music, you’ve got to check these shows out. Joe loved music, too, and it really shows on these recordings.
From the “better late than never” department:
Yay! Google finally announced an API for their PowerMeter site. So there’s hope that homegrown monitoring devices can hook up to some PowerMeter love… will be interesting to look over the API and see what all we can do.