FEEL LUCKY – IN A MALIBU

John Scully: “The last scene (the bank robbery) of the video you linked to yesterday – The Luckiest People in the World – is from a Chevy Malibu commercial. Who knows how many of the clips are real.”

☞ Where would we be without Snopes?

WATCHING OUR ELECTRIC METER

So while you’ve been out playing softball or kadima and grilling hotdogs, I’ve been sitting by the side of our house watching the electric meter spin. There’s a remote control hooked into our wifi that shows me how much power our rooftop photovoltaic array is generating – we topped 2500 watts for several very sunny hours most days last week – and I can even go on-line and see it from here (I’m in Maine tonight). But there’s nothing like actually watching the big wheel of the meter spin backwards – oops! it’s slowed, stopped, moves slowly forward (a cloud is passing by), now starts going backwards again – to bring home what’s actually happening. All this with the pool pump on, the refrigerator and computers on, and all the little trickle things on like the electric clocks and cell phone chargers.

When possible, I flag down passersby to show them. “Come look at our electric meter.”

I explain that at night, of course, we generate no power. And that wattage is low on a rainy day. And that when we turn on the dryer, it spins forward no matter how sunny it is.

“Really?” said one friend.

“Let’s try it,” said Charles, who went inside to flip the switch.

Needless to say, I was of two minds about running the dryer for no reason, but figured a few seconds couldn’t hurt.

Well, suddenly the slow backward rotation of the meter went into a frenzied forward spin.

“Turn it off! Turn it off!” I cried in what I’m a little surprised to admit was genuine alarm. (Well, you should have seen it! It was flying!)

And a second later, with the dryer off, the wheel reverted to its lazy backward rotation.

This event made such an impression, we have begun drying our towels on the roof. (No, Silly, not on top of the solar panels; on the part of the roof deck we normally reserve for humans.) Not slavishly, and not on a cloudy, humid day, obviously. But I can’t tell you what fun this all is, or how toasty dry the towels get.

There’s nothing like being able to measure your usage of something to get you to use less of it.

So far, we’re been generating about 17 kwh a day. Not a lot – maybe $3.40 worth, so maybe we’ll come close to $1,000 a year. The economics are iffy, and would be far more so if it weren’t for the big rebate check the utility will shortly write us for having, in effect, built a small power plant for them. (When the meter runs backward, we’re actually sending electricity TO the grid, selling it to the utility.) The 30% federal tax credit, and the state tax credit, don’t hurt either. But to the extent those credits help encourage a fledgling industry, and help reflect “externalities” like pollution that are not currently priced into coal, they make some sense and I’m happy to accept them.

Of course, you can skip the very expensive solar panels, at least for now, until their cost come down, and still dry your towels in the sun. That’s a nice saving with no capital expenditure at all.

(For the record: Charles is somewhat horrified. But relationships are all about compromise.)

 

Comments are closed.