Ok, ok, so Saint Paul doesn’t have a buzzword-compliant “smart grid” but I did at least have digital meters which the utility could read via some proprietary RF signal.

So why, now that I have solar panels, a production meter, and a bidirectional meter for my house, does Xcel dispatch a human meter-reader out in a car to walk to the back of my house and copy numbers off the meters?   Given that even average driving uses the equivalent of about 40kWh/day, this is not the effect I hoped my solar panels would have.

On the bright side, I used 270kWh last month and produced 308kWh, my first month of over-production.  (Bright, clear October days, and no need for fans, AC, or heat!).  So not only did I avoid $27.00 on the electricity bill ($0.10/kWh, $0.07/kWh + $0.03/kWh for wind costs) I’ll get a credit of about $3.50 ($0.09/kWh paid by the utility for the small net production) – at this rate I’ll have these things paid off in … oh, well, here’s hoping for rate increases ;)

5 thoughts on “#smartgridfail

    • My family of 4 was home for all but 4 days, yes…

      Probably the thing that kicked off the reduction was simply paying attention; graphing out my monthly bill to see what direction we were going, and trying to make it go down. There are plenty of ways to do this monitoring; it’s almost fun.

      I did a lot of things, but these come to mind (I’ll edit to add some links later when I have time)

      Didn’t use the electric clothes dryer once.
      Used CFL lighting wherever possible.
      Religiously turned off things which were not in use.
      Connected everything on the A/V rack to the switched outlet on the receiver.
      Made my always-on PC low-power (40W) by using laptop drives, 80Plus PS, and cpu throttling.
      Made my MythTV box and Mac Mini sleep when not in use.
      Got a very efficient (but not expensive) refrigerator.

      However, we:
      Do use an electric stove.
      Do use an electric dishwasher.
      Do have 2 (small) refrigerators.

      So it’s not like we’re living quite like hermits.

      That’s about it; I’d recommend paying attention to your utility bill for 6 months, and getting a Kill-a-Watt to find out what each always-on thing uses, and get to it. We cut our electricity usage in half; it’s been an effort, but a fun one. More info here

  1. Eric is right: You don’t have to live like a hermit/caveperson to do 270 kWh per month. We used 280 kWh in October, with a family of 4 (OK, our kids are 4 and 6, not teens). We pretty much are doing what Eric is doing. The dryer is a big killer (if you’ve got an electric one), so hanging clothes, even some of them, can really, really help. CFLs help too. We’ve got an electric range, a dishwasher, and a pretty old fridge (2003ish) that’s certainly not energy efficient, and we’re still able to stay somewhere between 240 and 300 kWh for most months.

  2. I was surprised to hear your new meter wasn’t read wirelessly, so I checked with the Solar*Rewards program manager. He said our current contract with Cellnet doesn’t include wireless reading of bi-directional meters, but we’re working toward having that capability in the near future.

    Glad to hear you’re enjoying your PV! I’m a Solar*Rewards customer too. This is the first time in my life where I actually look forward to getting our energy bills. It makes me happy to see our system’s production and the recent energy efficiency measures translate into low bills.

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