Monthly Archives: October 2010

our electricity bill skyrockets!

After recent monthly electricity bills of $0.68 and $3.61 (or whatever the exact numbers) this month the electricity bill went WAY up. $26.21!!! We still had quite good numbers on the PV production side, and didn’t use much, but since there is no net-metering (our electricity supplier is a municipal and so is exempt from the MA law requiring that electricity companies allow net-metering for grid-tied PV and wind systems. I’m not really complaining, just explaining.

So anyway, our billing is “time of use” so any time the sun isn’t shining and we use electricity, we pay for it full price whereas when we have extra on sunny days that we put back into the grid, we are paid back for this on $0.44550/KWh (roughly 3 or 4 times less than what we pay).

So that’s basically how we end up with a $26.21 electricity bill even though we put 571 KWh back into the grid and only used 381 from the grid.

If there was net metering I suppose our bill would be something like:

571-381=190KWh extra made, so…

Min charge from the electric company is: $21.63
– 0.15 x 190 (the rough amount paid per KWh is 15 cents)
= 21.63 – 28.50 = -$6.87 (credit)

I guess one could calculate the amount this will likely add up to over one year. Rough assumptions:
1. Exactly net-zero for the year
Our PVs make exactly the amount expected from the “avg year” from the “PV Watts v1” calculator on the web (I believe it is ~9000KWh for our 6.9KW PV system)
2. Worst case scenario: we use exactly 0 KWh of our electricity we make during the day — everyone is away and somehow the house magically uses nothing in phantom loads (impossible since the smoke detectors have to run at the very least!) — and therefore we have to buy 100% of our electricity (at night).

If net-metering, our bill for the year would be exactly $0.00. Simple.

With our current arrangement it will be (worst case) per month: $21.63 + 0.15 * (9000/12 – 200) (Note: -200 since 200KWh are included in the $21.63 monthly base charge and we will likely always use at least this much in eves)
= $134.13

That’s per year = 12 * 134.13 = $1609.56

In reality it will be much less than this because we DO use a lot of our electricity during the day. So let’s say 1/2 that… $800.
$66 per month.

And that’s for everything, heating/cooling (heat pump), all appliances, cooking, hot water (also heat pump), mowing, well pump, etc, etc.

Anyway, I’ll report back in a year with the actual numbers.

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Filed under erik-green, house, solar, zero energy home

PARDIS SABETI – What would she think of Sudbury Valley School?

Paradis Sabeti — Profiled on Nova ScienceNOW *8 minute video at PBS)
“By night she’s a rocker. By day, she’s a Harvard geneticist tracking the evolution of the human genome.”

Some excerpts:
“In one year, she received not only a seven-figure research grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but an honorable mention in Billboard’s World Song Competition”

“PARDIS SABETI: If you do you what you love, things happen fast. And I think that, that I don’t manage my time well, I don’t think I do anything special. It’s just, I stick around things that I love.

“PARDIS SABETI: As long as I have a heartbeat, I’m fine. So I just do what I love, and I do it the best that I can. And if it all goes away, I’ll just start over. You get this added drive because life is so precious.”

“ERIC LANDER: What’s wonderful is Pardis has no boundaries about what she’d like to do, what she’s interested in doing. Her problem will be how to choose which of those she can fit into a 24-hour day.”

“Her high-energy personality, she adds,
appeared in those early years. “I’m a hyper
person,” she says. “My parents always told
me to relax.”” — from a Profile in SCIENCE

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Interesting places to extract heat from, besides fossil fuels

We all know the standard ways to heat your house and heat water:
– oil
– natural gas
– propane
– wood

And renewables of course: solar/wind/etc
And electricity (could be any of the above plus nukes, but for fossil fuel sourced, comes at a 3x penalty. source-to-site, since power plants generally are only 1/3 efficient vs 95% condensing boilers/furnaces in one’s home)

But have you heard of these? (with some example links…)
1 – septic system pre-heating
2 – compost pre-heating (especially see One Straw link)
3 – waste-water heat recovery — only really works with showers
4 – Leaving the hot-water (from a bath, shower, cooking pasta) or leftover hot food cool off a bit before draining it, or putting it in the refrigerator
5 – negawatts — Think of a CFL, “14 watts replacing 75, as a 61 negawatt power plant.”
6 – brine/water geothermal with a heat pump (still electricity, but with a COP of maybe 2.5 or 3 to undo the source-to-site issue)

Just sayin! Some interesting ideas out there!

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Filed under erik-green, solar, thinking

More structural problems: how to shop for a smaller, better designed, more energy efficient house?

” I’m sure there are many [real estate agents] that do say something like, “have you considered a smaller, more energy efficient home?”, but I think those agents are still in the minority. This is not really their fault though either. It is a structural problem with our understanding of home value. The MLS itself makes it difficult to search on any criteria that consider efficiency, sustainability or design. Appraisers have to have their arms firmly twisted to take performance into consideration. Banks claim to offer energy efficient mortgages, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of anyone getting one. Size is still firmly in charge of the housing market.”

Erik: Right, there is no form (like HERS) that sellers of homes need to fill-in. What if each house being sold had a HERS (kinda like MPG for a house) rating? Or if square feet measurements needed to meat the ISO standard used in careful passivhaus ratings. And maybe a solar shading study. Then we’d be in business!

All of this stuff is coming I assume. But maybe not until 2050.

Another fun fact is that if you build a house with thicker walls (more insulation), your tax bill will go up vs a house with similar inside usuable space. That’s because tax assessors use outside house dimensions to calculate assessed values.

LINK for quote above

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Since October Is Bullying Prevention Month…

Since October Is Bullying Prevention Month I thought I share again his article I surely shared earlier this year:
Freedom from Bullying: How a School Can Be a Moral Community
Every school should be, first and foremost, a moral community.
Peter Gray, “Freedom to Learn” blog, June 8, 2010

“In the standard school, the principal, in demanding that the student [do/not do XYZ] would himself have been engaged in an act of bullying. He would have been using his superior power to inflict his will upon the student, who had no power in that setting. The only lesson that [the student] would likely have taken away is that “might makes right”–the lesson of a bullying environment.” (** see the footnote at the bottom of this post for reference to stats on bullying elementary school teachers)
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Conversation and the Sudbury Valley School

“When I drop my boy off at school, I still get my good-bye kiss and
smile, old as the hills that thrill, and I watch him go down the path
towards his school, and begin to run, so eager is he to continue the art
of conversation and observation in his new day time home.”


The Magic of Conversation
Free and Clear Communication
Why Does a Sudbury Valley School Work?
Curiosity, Self-Respect and Learning
– Organic Intelligence, Toy Story and “What Did You Do In School Today?”, Sudbury Valley School Journal, Fall 2010 (Vol 40, Num 1)

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Filed under alternative education, communication, community, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

Backyard Sustainability

Kinda interesting interview with this guy (Scott McGuire) who wanted to see how much food he could grow in his 1/3 acre yard.

“It’s a group thing… You can’t have a local food supply by yourself. It has to be done with other people.”

Article: Self-Sufficiency Versus a Backyard CSA


This is not news to anyone, but clearly being green in a holistic sense has to involve getting more local and more solar (ala Michael Pollan) in many ways, and food is one of those ways.

It’s also exploring community/CSAs vs rugged individualism/homesteading.

– Great website: One Straw – “Growing Real Food in Real Spaces” / Yardening / Suburban Agriculture
Shelburne Falls Food Security Plan

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Filed under community, erik-green, homesteading, permaculture

Thomas Edison on solar energy

“We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy — sun, wind and tide. … I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”

— Thomas Edison, In conversation with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone (1931); as quoted in Uncommon Friends : Life with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Alexis Carrel & Charles Lindbergh (1987) by James Newton, p. 31


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What if people built solar hot water systems instead of mowing their lawns?

Just sayin!

Point 1. I am guilty of mowing my lawn as well, but as I do, I must admit I think to myself…
wow, what if I put this much effort into building a solar hot water system? I could probably
do it if I just skipped 2 months of mowing! And I don’t do that much mowing. Really! How totally freakin’ awesome would that be! The planet would thank me.

Point 2. Or replace “solar hot water” with your favorite pet project:
a. 100 pushups (website with same name in case you were wondering)
b. square foot gardening
c. running a 10k

Point 3. The problem with some of these things is that for those of us who are not exactly do-it-yourselfers, we need some guidance/nudging. Procedural things like learning to cook or garden or woodwork is tricky to learn by reading a book. Sort of like “frame-it-yourself” days at some frame shops. Whereby under the tuteledge of a person knowledgable/expert in XYZ, we do it!

Point 4. I believe this is called community education — at your local high school!

Point 5. DIY snowballs — Once you tackle a small project of any sort, I think most people are motivated/emboldened to do more.

Just do it.

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Filed under contrarian, erik-green, solar

Sudbury Valley School and the “Library Model” of Education

In this post I will collect quotes and threads of conversation related to the topic of SVS and the “Library Model” of education. (Created: Oct 2010, Last updated: Nov 2019)
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Filed under alternative education, libraries, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School