PV Solar Panels

I want to charge my Solo EV from Sun rather than using Manitoba Hydro. Hydro works. It’s reliable. It’s renewable. However it costs a bit of money, perhaps $300 per annum to charge my Solo (15000 miles X 2 per mile). I can do a little better by charging from Sun, plus I get some shade.

A major expense is the solar panels each about 1m X 2m in size giving nearly 300W each in peak insolation. They do deteriorate a bit over time but can be replaced as needed. Many manufacturers guarantee 80% of the rated output for 25 years. Good. My Solo might not last as long. Me neither.

Solar panels are made from small modules about 72 in each panel in a rectangular array 6 X 12 in shape. Each module delivers about 0.6V, the silicon band-gap energy making about 48V output at ~8A, less under shade or failed modules or less than normal incidence. By connecting panels in series with standard weatherproof connectors a high DC voltage can be obtained to charge batteries through a charge controller or to run an inverter. The circuitry is isolated from the frame up to about 1000 volts. Fuses and diodes protect the system by opening circuits and jumping failed modules. Panels weigh about 23kg.

By pointing the panels to Sun, one can get closer to peak performance for much of the day. Where I live, clouds are absent for ~2300h on average and the usual cloud is a high cirrus, allowing lots of light through. In “cloudy” weather, light is cut back quite a bit and it can get nearly twilight under an eclipse or a cumulonimbus cloud. We get those only a few times a year. So, a PV array charging a battery and running an inverter is quite a reliable source of power for a day or so. Typically, Solo will need only a partial charge after some errand so a matching battery might actually last several days of charging. Even cloudy days might keep up.

Prices for panels in China are about 50 USD per watt or a bit less in quantity. About 26 panels fit on a pallet which is far more than I need for my project. I could store the surplus for spare parts or to shade TLW’s patio in the future… or get like-minded DIY types to share in the purchase. I could store them on the roof of our house to generate even more power but that would be much more complicated than a shade over my picnic table… and TLW has stated she is against such a move…

The advantages of using solar panels to run my car are obvious:

  • I get to save a bit more money,
  • I get some shade instantly,
  • I get to make something, which I enjoy, and
  • I can show the neighbours possibilities…

The costs are obvious too:

  • I get to spend $thousands which might take a decade or more to recover,
  • I get some “eye-sore” in the backyard,
  • I have to put in a lot of effort to avoid adding even more cost for fabrication and installation, and
  • I have to keep explaining myself to doubters… 😉
Posted in family, technology, weather | Tagged , , , | 23 Comments

John McCain Versus Trumpism

“The attacks on John McCain’s personal sacrifice were roundly condemned then – and millions of Americans will be praying for his recovery now.
Glioblastoma is a particularly aggressive brain tumour, and increases in frequency with age, affecting more men than women.
Mr McCain, who is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, was in “good spirits as he continues to recover at home with his family””
See John McCain has brain cancer, his office says
Senator John McCain is a tough cookie but he has his hands full with Trumpism rampant in the land and a serious case of cancer.

McCain has always stood up to Trump’s nonsense although he’s not particularly fond of my favourite variation on MediCare, “single payer”. However, he’s now on the front line of the battle over health care. If he resigns to fight cancer, the slim margin of the GOP in the Senate will be cut in half almost certainly blocking the draconian measures being contemplated. If he tries to retain his seat while fighting cancer, he may well lose his life. This cancer is very aggressive and it’s probably already spread or soon to spread. There can be no delay in treatment unless death is considered inevitable and acceptable. If McCain resigns his successor will be torn by Arizona’s Medicaid Expansion.

If McCain does resign another possibility will grow, that of impeachment. The odds of finding one or two GOP senators willing to impeach are much better than finding two or three. With the latest news that Trump is contemplating firing his current investigator about Russia, a majority of senators may be willing to impeach sooner or later. For a reputed deal-maker, Trump is nailing his own coffin shut from the inside by pointing Mueller at Trump Inc. finances. Meanwhile Manafort’s situation screams “money laundering” with Russian interests. You can bet Mueller will try to follow the money right to Trump and associates.

If McCain resigns his successor will be appointed by Governor Ducey who wants ObamaCare gone but wants to keep hundreds of thousands of Arizona’s citizens insured. All Ducey has to do to protect his people is delay the appointment indefinitely or appoint someone who sees Trumpism for what it is. Trump’s base is eroding. It was made of sand.

UPDATE McCain did return to the Senate rather promptly and was instrumental in killing Trump’s last hope of “repealing and replacing” ObamaCare. See US healthcare: Senate ‘skinny repeal’ bill fails. So much for the idea that the Trumpists control the US government. So much for the idea that Trump is a leader, a uniter and a deal-maker.

Posted in politics | Tagged , , , | 24 Comments

Impeach Trump Before He Does Any More Damage

“A new Monmouth University poll found that 41% of respondents think that Trump should be impeached and made to leave office, compared to 53% who disagree. These responses were to the same question asked by the Gallup Poll in July 1973 at the beginning of the Watergate scandal. But at that time, 24% of Americans wanted to impeach Nixon, and 62% were opposed.”
See Donald Trump: Impeachment Support Holds Steady
It’s going to happen sooner or later. USA can’t wait until 2020 to kick Trump out of office. He’s already wrecked the government. There’s no reason to wait to see how bad it gets.

  • He’s revealed classified information to the Russians in the Oval Office just for kicks. USA does not need an agent of the Russian government running things.
  • He’s offended, frightened and alarmed friends and enemies alike. This is the kind of chaos that breeds wars. South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Japan could even go nuclear if Trump keeps saying stupid things.
  • Trump tells more lies in a week than most politicians do in a career. USA chose him to change that and they made a mistake. Impeachment will fix that mistake.
  • Trump has attacked/insulted/demeaned more women. This is not what the “Leader of the Free World” should be doing and is a disgusting example to put before the youth of the world.
  • Trump has demonstrated schizophrenic decision making, deciding one thing at 6am and declaring something else in the afternoon so his spox have no clue what the fearless leader is thinking. This chaos is not what the country needs. Calm deliberate leadership is needed in good times and bad. He doesn’t lead. He harasses.
  • He shows no interest in good government at all like not balancing the budget, kicking tens of millions off health insurance, retaining obsolete declining industries, not replacing necessary people he fired from the former regime, destroying the environment, education and healthcare, hiring incompetent cronies and relatives, playing golf when he should be thinking what the Hell is going on or solving problems, …
  • Rather than putting “America First”, he’s putting “Trump First”. He spends more time and energy being his own PR person/attack-dog than governing and he’s doing a very bad job of that. He’s out promoting his businesses every chance he gets.
  • He’s obviously spent more than a decade worshipping Putin but instead of moving to Russia where he would fit in perfectly he serves as a subversive agent for Putin doing his best to destroy what’s great about USA.

I don’t know which of these are the highest crimes or misdemeanours but all are sufficient reason to kick him out of office sooner rather than later.

Posted in family, politics | Tagged , , , | 57 Comments

NAFTA Revisited

Trump’s long awaited wishlist for NAFTA has appeared.
See Summary of Objectives for the NAFTA Renegotiation

For NAFTA being “the worst trade deal ever”, there certainly aren’t a lot of specific problems being considered.

A few that interest me:

  • “Establish rules to prevent governments from mandating the disclosure of computer source code.” — That looks like a serious security violation and possibly forbidding Free/Libre Open Source code.
  • “Ensure standards of protection and enforcement that keep pace with technological developments, and in particular ensure that rightholders have the legal and technological means to control the use of their works through the Internet and other global communication media, and to prevent the unauthorized use of their works.” — DRM anyone? This looks either to be very vague and ineffectual or the thin edge of the wedge of a very intrusive Internet. “Ensure” could cover no end of evil surveillance, censorship and invasion of privacy. 1984 called and wants Freedom abolished, I think.
  • “Require that SOEs not cause harm to another Party through provision of subsidies. — I could see lawyers getting rich over this one. Any business could claim some government corporation was subsidized and given unfair advantage after doing all the initial capital investment, creating the market and educating consumers like Manitoba Hydro did for hydro and wind and promoting EVs.”
  • “Seek to eliminate non-tariff barriers to U.S. agricultural exports including discriminatory barriers, restrictive administration of tariff rate quotas, other unjustified measures that unfairly limit access to markets for U.S. goods, such as cross subsidization, price discrimination, and price undercutting.” — This will be fun. Canadian farmers are split on the Canadian Wheat Board and united on milk and egg supply management. This is one where I think Trump might have my support. These days farmers can deal on the Internet so CWB could be replaced by a shipping company and I would like the price of milk products to be based somewhat on the cost of production instead of the speculative price of quotas traded like stock options… It’s silly but one cow’s worth of quota can cost several times as much as a cow and the price of milk is raised to cover this artificial “cost of doing business”. Both made sense at one time but with farming being a business now instead of a family subsistence, no longer.

I’m sure there are more hard nuts to crack in there but these are the ones that popped out on a quick read. They are not much like Trump’s campaign rhetoric so they might actually get somewhere. It’s pretty clear USA is not interested in abolishing NAFTA, just tweaking. Still, the Canadians and Mexicans will have to be careful not to give away the farm.

Posted in politics | Tagged , , , | 24 Comments

Cost of PV Power

“Of all renewable energy technologies, utility-scale (larger
than 1 MW capacity) solar PV has experienced the most rapid
decline in the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE), driven by
reductions in module prices and balance of systems costs .
Between 2010 and 2016, the global weighted average total
installed cost of commissioned utility-scale solar PV projects
fell by 65%, with the LCOE falling by 67% over the period.
Projects commissioned in 2016 had an average LCOE of
around USD 0.12 per kWh, and a range of USD 0.05 per kWh
to USD 0.35 per kWh. Costs vary by region, with the 2016
weighted average LCOE of utility-scale solar PV at USD 0.09
per kWh in China and India (down 68% from 2010), USD 0.14
per kWh in OECD countries (down 61% from 2010) and
USD 0.17 per kWh elsewhere (down 57% from 2011). (p See
Table 2.) LCOE ranges have narrowed significantly across all
regional groupings, and there is evidence of acceleration in
the convergence of solar PV installed costs towards the most
competitive levels.”
The RENEWABLES 2017 GLOBAL STATUS REPORT shows the remarkable declines in cost of photovoltaic power lately. In many places PV is definitely feasible. In my back yard it’s definitely feasible as I don’t charge myself a salary, I have a stock of scrap steel I bought for pennies a pound and I can dig holes and pour concrete myself to cut the capital cost way down. I don’t even need to borrow money for the project. My pension will pay for batteries, PV panels and wiring. I even have parts for the charge-controller and inverter.

I’ve been planning this project for a while and one of the engineering problems is that batteries don’t work so well in the cold. I’ve figured out a neat solution to that. I’ll build an underground battery-vault. Then, in summer, the battery will be cooled by Mother Earth and in the winter the battery will be warmed by Mother Earth. Gophers figured that out millions of years ago. It took me a while. I may need a sump pump, but just a small one, and the battery can run it. I’ll need to dig and pour concrete to mount the solar panels anyway so the technology and material will be available.

My solar PV project will power my Solo EV and run tools, lights and pumps in my yard. The biggest cost won’t be the solar panels but the cells (NiFe) of the battery and their freight. The battery will make sure power is available any time and will last indefinitely.

Posted in technology | Tagged , , , | 35 Comments

We’ll Make Electric Vehicles But We Are Reluctant

“What is often left out of this conversation is that the auto industry is not the only thing that is at stake here. Basically, those automakers are asking the Chinese government to let them sell their polluting vehicles in their country for a longer period of time without penalties.
China has an important problem of air pollution that is believed to be the cause of over 4,000 deaths every day. This initiative is part of their campaign to reduce the air pollution in cities and its impact on the health of its population.
The country is also addressing the issue on the energy front by adding renewable energy on its grid faster than any country, which in turn, is making electric vehicles even greener by being powered by this increasingly greener electric grid.”
See Virtually all automakers (except for Tesla) are asking China to slow down electric car mandate
Who do these car-makers think they are? Gods? If a nation decides to go electric, they should deliver what the customer wants, not what helps them resist change.

EV technology is sufficiently mature there is little or no technical reason to delay ramping up production of EVs. Thank Goodness there are specialists like Tesla and Electra Meccanica whose major products are EVs. They will gladly ramp up production to help China change whether or not the Biggies cooperate. Maybe Trump should remind them that the customer is always right… No, he’s busy trying to tell the world to cling to fossil fuel because USA has lots of it. Ironically, the reason USA has lots of fossil fuel is that government forced auto-makers to make smaller more efficient cars and trucks… Going a step further to EVs would allow USA to ship even more fossil fuel to supply the world’s reluctant nations. Surprise! There aren’t many reluctant nations except TrumpWorld. Trump/USA wants to sell a deprecated product whether it’s good for people or not.

Posted in politics, technology | Tagged , , , , , , | 42 Comments

11 Quarters of Global Legacy PC Decline

“In the U.S., PC shipments totaled 14 million units in the second quarter of 2017, a 5.7 percent decline from the second quarter of 2016 (see Table 2). The U.S. market declined due to weak consumer PC demand. The business market has shown some consistent growth, while early indicators suggest that spending in the public sector was on track with normal seasonality as the second quarter is typically the peak PC procurement season. However, the education market was under pressure from strong Chromebook demand.
The Chromebook market has been growing much faster than the overall PC market. Gartner does not include Chromebook shipments within the overall PC market, but it is moderately impacting the PC market. Worldwide Chromebook shipments grew 38 percent in 2016, while the overall PC market declined 6 percent.”
See Gartner Says Worldwide PC Shipments Declined 4.3 Percent in Second Quarter of 2017
So too declines Bill Gates’ vision of a copy of That Other OS on every desk. Unfortunately, Android/Linux has taken up the slack instead of GNU/Linux. I consider Android/Linux OK for smartphones and tablets but it’s just not very useful on desktops. GNU/Linux however is very good and it’s Free Software and $free too. I recommend folks use Debian GNU/Linux if they don’t like paying monopolistic prices.

Posted in technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 46 Comments

Beat Me To It

For months I’ve been planning various projects/trips I will be able to do with my Electra Meccanica Solo EV. One of them was to visit most of the charging stations near Winnipeg to report on their condition and give directions to reach them. Amongst those published stations was the one in the parking lot of the Best Western Hotel in Headingley, Manitoba, just west of Winnipeg. For months, users of Plugshare have been reporting it wasn’t working, once for being frozen in ice, and once afterwards because it just wouldn’t charge a car. Well, someone beat me to it. They’ve just reported that the charging station was working yesterday. Hallelujah! I don’t have to wait until I get my Solo to report this useful component of the charging infrastructure.

Posted in technology | Tagged , , , , , | 15 Comments


I think about equities a fair bit these days. My nest-egg is tied up with them. The value of my currency is tied up with them. Even my politics is tied up with them.

Yesterday, revelations/admissions that Trumpists colluded with Russians to subvert the electoral process caused a little tweak in the Dow Jones Index within minutes of publication in New York. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Dow has been on a tear since the election of Trump based on the assumption that Trump in the White House will be good for investors. That’s not sustainable even if by some miracle Trump delivered all his promises. However, Trump has told so many lies and this most recent revelation almost makes it certain that Trump will be impeached sooner or later. At the moment, a majority of Congress would probably agree to impeachment, 100% of Democrats and 50% of Republicans should be enough. All it takes is a little push to start the sticky snowball rolling.

So, I’m sitting here, heavily invested in gold, watching the Canadian currency rise against the US dollar, hoping the fall of Trump doesn’t actually break anything, just makes a major correction. We should know when the indictments flow with articles of impeachment. Trump has been repeating the lies that there was no collusion, no obstruction of justice and no Russian connection. He’s repeated those lies so many times, there’s no alternative facts to retrieve his position. With no credibility and Congress passing veto-proof legislation all he can do is arrange another firing of investigators which will trigger impeachment.

Besides the politics, Trump has actually done much to harm the US economy in the long run. Anchoring USA back to oil and coal could prevent uptake of renewable energy which is the way all the competition is going. That will make USA less competitive within a few years. Certainly, not implementing universal healthcare will tie an anchor to the neck of the US economy for a decade or more. You just can’t have people in their most productive years avoiding healthcare when it has a chance to prevent illness/disease/loss of workdays. Will the best and brightest continue to migrate to USA when they know they will be persecuted as “others” and bankrupted by illness? Trumpism is killing the goose that laid the golden eggs.

The good days roll. Surely money that has been flowing into the US economy will be diverted somewhat to Canada and we will trade with the rest of the world while USA slips further into a quagmire of messy politics, restrictions on trade, self-inflicted sanctions, still no universal healthcare and a government of lies run by the liar in chief.

Posted in investing, politics | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Renewable Energy Becomes Mainstream

“Renewable energy is becoming so cheap the US will meet Paris commitments even if Trump withdraws”
See Renewable energy is becoming so cheap the US will meet Paris commitments even if Trump withdraws
It would be so sweet if Trump is thwarted by market forces rather than the force of his empty words. 2020? That’s his re-election year, eh? Fat chance of him surviving impeachment by then.

The latest news is that the Trump campaign has admitted attempting to collude with the Russians to sabotage Hillary’s campaign…. Does anyone believe the distinction between attempted collusion and actual collusion matter? Further, Trump’s cooperative moves with Russia are making him look more like Putin’s stooge rather than Putin’s superior. What has Putin got on Trump? Must be BAD. Sad.

Posted in politics, technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | 52 Comments

Second Solo EV Delivered

Good fun! To all the naysayers out there, driving electric is smart. There’s another guy enjoying smooth emission-free driving. He has a “prestige” plate too. Great minds think alike or differently…

Posted in technology | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments

Narcissist’s Dream Car

“Leona Green and her son Matt recently became the first customers to take home an Electra Meccanica SOLO, a single-user, three-wheeled vehicle made in the Lower Mainland. They spotted the prototype for the SOLO driving around town two years ago, as one of the company’s production facilities is in New Westminster.”
See New West business gets attention with made-in-New West wheels
In “The Martian” Matt Damon observed that being the only one on the planet permits one to be the centre of attention. The same is true of the Greens and their new Solo EV. They brought home the first one ever sold to a customer. They park it all day long outside their small business and it attracts attention.

There’s nothing like it on the road. It’s small, it’s efficient, it’s very green, and it’s theirs. I’m green with envy.

Posted in family, technology | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments