On Sun, Feb 24, 2019 at 12:27 PM Gordon Kubanek wrote (into a CACOR Google Group):
Hello CACOR friends,
I can see that the sense that we must DO something is building among us.
Here is a thought, which I am sure you have heard before, but with a personal story to add credibility.
10+ years ago I was sitting at the cottage with my sister in law, a Mennonite from Manitoba, talking about the environment and climate change. After I had talked a bit she turned to me and said:
“Actually, as I cannot see that you are living any differently than anybody else, as I cannot see that you have tried your best to live without fossil fuels, therefore I cannot take your talk seriously; quite frankly, until I see you acting upon what you are telling me, I have no intention of taking anything you say seriously.”
Well, that was a show stopper. I took her message to heart and have been working since then to live a net zero carbon life, and have finally succeeded.
There are actually two messages here;
- You MUST walk the talk, live what you believe – not that this will change the world, but at least people will listen to you
- It takes time to change [affordably]. We are asking the world to change in 10 years; knowing that it took little old me the same amount of time, I can see that this is a HUGE challenge – but, I did it, so it means it is possible [if not probable].
—– end message —–
Art Hunter replied:
My story is different. Years ago I saw that pushing influences for setting government policies was not productive; I was in need of a second car so bought the only Electric Vehicle available in Ottawa at the time (May 2016). This started the push to become 100% fossil fuel free. Soon solar PV, Tesla batteries and a ground source heat pump were added to the house and a research lab was established to figure how all these could be optimized. Demonstrations were soon started and now there are regular tours showing the skeptical what is possible right now. The surprises started coming as I settled in to see exactly what I had developed and where I was taking this. Performance is always the best means to measure how well a system is working and since a car’s energy performance is measured in miles per gallon, liters per 100 kilometers or some other energy consumption rate measurement, it became apparent to measure lifestyle energy consumption in energy units of kilowatt hours (kWh) and kilowatts (kW). Then the obvious started to appear as there was an outside desire to measure energy in dollars as nobody understood what a kW or kWh was. Alas, this failed badly as money has failed to be the universal measurement in other areas. For example when asked “how far is it to Montreal” the answer may be “3 hours” or 300 km but never $53.50. Dollars is a bad measurement of distance as everyone knows that the price of gasoline changes in unpredictable ways over time.
However it is well understood that the cheapest kWh is the one that I don’t have to buy, so energy efficiency, in kW and kWh, became a target.
Now that my lifestyle was 100% electric and 0% fossil fuels for transportation, hot water, heating/cooling the house and all appliances it became apparent that heating hot water 24/7/365 was a waste, some simple hardware changes, some software adjustments and suddenly the hot water gets heated from 06:30 thru 07:30 every day. Morning shower routines and other demands are done then. Enough warm water remains in the tank at 06:00 a.m. from the previous day for a shower but those are always brief. Lifestyle adjustment to this was not painful and the energy savings was substantial. More energy efficiencies were sought and new ones seem to come along on a weekly schedule.
It also became apparent that energy generation and energy consumption were wildly dynamic variables that most people are completely unaware of. However, now I was seeing this every second of every day the dynamics was very educational. To take charge of this dynamics, management of energy flows and energy storage was the only way. Supply must equal demand at all times. Thus, this gave two ways to do energy management: supply side and demand side. In the middle was this pesky issue of storage. Fortunately, there were three options with storage available on the grid, the Tesla batteries or via geothermal. Of course picking which of the three to use is not simple but the world of Artificial Intelligence (AI) comes to assist. Now it becomes important to measure all these energy flows and storage quantities to know if you are making a difference. Complications just increased. There are two ways to measure energy. The first is the easiest as all it means is going to my Hydro One accounts as they measure it in kWh and go through an incredible algorithm to convert it into dollars to account for generation, transmission, distribution, time-of-use, global adjustments and harmonized sales tax (HST). I also have the manufacturer of the inverters used on my solar systems that keeps track of generation. Then there is Tesla who tracks some energy flows and storage. Finally, my electric vehicle charger keeps track of charging the electric vehicle. They all have websites and it is trivial to go and access my data. But this is not enough. To know what is really happening with the geothermal system (compressor energy consumption, energy recovered from the ground, energy storage into the ground) and there are other power consumptions and flows that are not covered by the above. So, I have added my own sensors and computer systems to measure these and keep track of what has happened.
Data gathering is now organized but gathering it all together and presenting it in a fashion that has meaning becomes the challenge. This challenge is not 100% solved yet, but it is advancing. Then the next issue is “now that you know what is happening, do you want to change something to eliminate the inefficiency you are seeing?” Of course you do. So, one needs the means to change things. This is simpler than it sounds as electricity flows can be changed with a switch. Everyone turns light witches on and off many times a day. The problem is to get a computer to do this. Also not a problem as this sort of thing has been solved many decades ago. But on the geothermal side it means changing the flow of liquids flowing in pipes. Manually, ball valves and a handle will do the job and fortunately electric motor driven ball valves are available. So the problem is resolved by throwing a switch to drive the motor to close the ball valve. Now the computer becomes important. It gets a bit more complicated as all these physical things are not in a single location. The solar is on the roof, the geothermal in the ground the batteries in the basement and other things like the hot water tank and appliances are all over the house. So, a few computers are required to collect the data and send it off to a central computer for processing. Thus was born computer architecture to manage data flows and commands to change things. Software design just became more complex as there are now computers for data collection, transfer, processing, storage, displays, commands and internet interfacing. Twelve of them identified so far.
While all this design and development activity is progressing, gathering my data from outside sources has been processing and providing very useful information that aids in the design process for the rest of the system as well as for identifying useful energy management procedures and hardware design changes. The surprise side is that what sounds complex is really quite simple. It turns out that anyone can collect their consumption data from their power utility and keep track of the kWh consumption month over month and year over year. It is just a bit of work to go to their website and collect it. Then make a graph of it and be surprised by what you see. Doing this will make you very aware of your consumption patterns over time and not be clouded by price changes and money confusions. Then based on this new knowledge, you may want to adjust your lifestyle to be less wasteful and then see, with hard data, how you are doing.
The biggest surprise of them all was that the geothermal is so efficient for heating and cooling and that the payback on the capital equipment cost has dropped below 6 years and will be falling more as seasonal hard data becomes more apparent. Right now it is quite incredible how well this is doing and my objective is to do even better.
Living fossil fuel free is easy, the harder part is command and control for reducing energy waste and consumption which provides added resilience, reliability, survivability and economic benefits. Another challenge is convincing people this is real enough to come and see. Those that do the tour do not leave with any doubt in their mind. This is all possible using technology available today.
You want a tour? email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can arrange a suitable time.