A lecture that should be remembered

I enjoy a good sermon on Sunday.  Unfortunately, I rarely hear a good sermon in person.  Sermons that I find to be worthwhile are almost always found online.  The Community Christian Church in Springfield, MO has raised the bar regarding what I consider to be a good sermon.

Pastors, who deliver good sermons, are individuals who are good speakers.  They provide information in a way that makes you want to listen and leaves you wanting more.  I found Dr. Roger Ray at CCC in Springfield through my interest in lectures given by Bishop John Shelby Spong and Dr. Ray is such a speaker.

For today and next Sunday, I am not able to watch Dr. Ray’s sermon because he in the UK, delivering guest sermons and lectures for the next 2 weeks.  Today, as I was checking the CCC YouTube channel, I came across a lecture that Bishop Spong delivered to the CCC in 2013.  I had not seen this particular lecture, but Bishop Spong’s point of view is familar to me.  I decided that his lecture would be my sermon for today.

If you are so inclined, you might consider watching this lecture and try to do so with an open mind.  I recognize a lot of truth in what Bishop Spong discusses.  I know people who dislike Bishop Spong because he challenges the way they have been taught to believe.  What he teaches makes much more sense than what I and others have been taught and are continuing to be taught.

Why Tesla is the only EV game in town

This past week, Tesla reported an increase in their production rate for the Model 3.  At about the same time, Goldman Sachs set a target price for Tesla stock at $195 per share, even though Tesla stock closed up at $300.34 per share on Friday.  The financial media keeps hitting Tesla with dire news reports, which causes people, who apparently can’t think for themselves, to panic and sell, before buying back again.

There are signs that Tesla is definitely making progress in their ramp-up of the production rate for the Model 3.  In the past week, there have been 3 rounds of invitations sent to reservation holders, something that hasn’t happened previously.  Normally, there is one batch of invitations sent during any week that they have been sent.  Tesla sent invitations on or about April 6th, April 10th and April 13th.  Some of the reservation holders that received invitations on April 13th had estimated configuration windows starting in May.  That’s good news because perhaps my window, set to start in June, may actually be in May.

While much of the financial world is trying to beat down Tesla, they should be doing the opposite.  Clearly, we cannot and should not be continuing to use 19th century technology to power our transportation in the 21st century.  It is unfathomable to me why there are people who still believe that it is fine to pollute the Earth’s atmosphere by driving gasoline and diesel vehicles when a clean alternative exists, today.  All car companies should be making the switch to electric-powered vehicles, but they are not.

Some car companies, like General Motors, sell electric-powered vehicles.  However, the only car company, selling cars today, that is producing only electric vehicles is Tesla.  General Motors makes the Bolt EV, but they make a lot more gasoline and diesel vehicles than electric.

Even if you choose to buy a car like the Bolt EV, you will have a difficult time using the car in the same way that a gasoline car is used, unless you never plan to drive farther than short commutes for work or shopping.  With the exception of the Tesla Supercharger network, there is almost no infrastructure for charging EV’s.

Part of my morning routine is to scan YouTube for videos that pertain to EV’s.  I watched a video this morning that was posted on the News Coulomb YouTube channel.  This YouTube channel is maintained by a guy, who owns a Chevrolet Bolt and he posts videos about his experiences with the car.  This video he posted in January really demonstrates why Tesla is the only game in town.

In the video, News Coulomb documented his charging session at an EVgo fast DC charger at the Oaks Mall in Thousand Oaks, California.  When he arrived at the charger, his battery charge level in his car was at 1%.  Clearly, he was in need of a charge.  There are 2 charging stations at this fast charger.  When he tried to use one of the chargers, the CCS connector, which the Bolt utilizes, was not working.  He went to the second charger and was able to start a charging session.  The charging station started supplying his Bolt with about 44 kW of power.  In about 30 minutes, his car charged to 37%, at which time the charger stopped charging.  Apparently, at least in January, if you charged at EVgo, it limited you to only 30 minutes of charging.  How would you like it if you went to a gasoline station, intending to fill up your 15-gallon tank, you start pumping, and when you reach 5 gallons, the pump shuts off and says you can’t buy any more gasoline?  In the video, News Coulomb reasoned that he didn’t need any more of a charge than that and he headed on his way.

Compare that charging session at the EVgo DC fast charger with a charging session at any one of the hundreds of Tesla Superchargers around the country.  The EVgo charger dispenses a maximum power level of 50 kW and limits the charge to 30 minutes.  Tesla Superchargers dispense a maximum power of 120 kW and you are not limited to how long you can charge.  Even the Tesla Urban Superchargers provide more power at 72 kW.  If you want a full charge, you let your car charge until it is full.

If you want to do the occasional road trip in your EV, having anything but a Tesla means road trips will be a serious challenge.  Until someone, other than Tesla, installs a usable EV charging infrastructure, Tesla really is the only EV game in town.  This is not a problem for me because I choose to drive 21st century technology and Tesla is my choice.

 

The Power of the Media

Most people I know are aware of Tesla because of my interest in the company and the fact that I am waiting for my turn to buy a Model 3.  Yesterday, I visited one of my friends, who needed help installing a streaming device on his TV.  His first comment to me reinforced what I already know about the news media.  People believe what they see or read in the news media, regardless of the truth.

My friend asked me what I was going to do for a new car now that Tesla is going bankrupt.  He was not joking, but was very serious.  He had read or seen one of the numerous stories about how Tesla is faltering and had not considered that, perhaps, what he was being told was not true.

What my friend didn’t see in the news is that the Tesla Model 3 was the best selling electric vehicle in the United States during the first quarter of this year.  The only news he saw was that a Tesla was involved in a fatal traffic accident here in California and that Tesla is going broke.

It’s unfortunate that someone lost their life in the accident while driving a Tesla Model X.  Why does the media focus on the fact that the vehicle was a Tesla?  This morning, I saw a news report of a 10-car traffic accident in my area where there were 2 fatalities.  There was no mention of what car makes were involved in this accident.

During the week leading up to the end of the last quarter, there were a number of news stories that attacked Tesla’s viability.  As a result, Tesla stock fell at one point by about 15%.  Tesla is making and selling cars that people are lined up to buy.  The news media doesn’t report this and people believe what the news media is telling them.

I have drastically changed how I keep up with what is happening in the world.  The news broadcasts on major networks are more show than news.  When the subject of Tesla is raised, I rely on these 2 facts.  Tesla is the only major car maker building only EV’s and they have a large number of people as owners and owners-in-waiting, who believe in what the company is doing.  Anything negative, designed to keep us driving internal combustion engines, is just static.

Goodbye to Facebook

Recently, Facebook has been front-and-center in the news, concerning the data they collect on their subscribers.  It was reported that, during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a company connected with the Trump campaign was allowed access to a huge amount of personal data maintained by Facebook.

This Facebook news got me thinking about what Facebook was saving about me.  I started looking at my own Facebook account to see what was there.  I discovered that I had joined Facebook 8 years ago in 2010.  That was so long ago, I had forgotten how long I have been on Facebook.  I started digging around my account and found that I had hundreds of photos that were visible to anyone who went to my account online.  I also had thousands upon thousands of posts, likes, shares, tags, and so on.  These individual items spanned all the way back to 2010.  Like many Facebook users, I didn’t consider the fact that everything I was doing on Facebook was being saved, and I mean everything.

I had considered purging what wasn’t relevant to what is going on today.  I discovered that it wasn’t that simple.  Facebook clearly doesn’t want you to delete stuff.  There was no setting allowing the bulk deletion of individual activity items.  Over about 2 hours, I began systematically deleting photos, clearing search histories and location histories.  Yes, every time I checked in somewhere, all the way back to 2010, there was a notation of that in my Facebook account.

This morning, there was a segment on the Today Show on NBC about this topic.  After watching the segment, I learned that there is no way to delete things in the Activity Log unless they are delete one-by-one.  That was discouraging.  The report stated Facebook issued a statement that they would be making it easier for users to delete their content.  My question is, why did they make so difficult to delete content in the first place?

Ultimately, after reading a number of articles online, I came to the conclusion that the only way to delete stuff was to completely delete my account.  It felt a little odd contemplating the complete deletion of my Facebook account.  After all, I had been using Facebook for 8 years and there are people I maintain contact with through Facebook.  However, when I looked at the totality of all of the people listed as friends on my account, I came to the conclusion that most of the people listed as “friends” were people I hadn’t had contact with in years.  Many were people I had worked with during my working career.  Most of them were people who likely don’t hold the same political views as I hold.  I could not come up with a good reason to continue my Facebook account.

When you tell Facebook to delete, it doesn’t delete stuff right away.  Photos are deleted in 90 days.  When the command is sent to Facebook to delete an entire account, a notice advises you that your account will still be there for 2 weeks and that you can go back in and reactivate it, should you choose to do so.  Well, hopefully, in 2 weeks, I will be gone from Facebook.  I already feel a sense of relief.  Now, when I go some place, I won’t feel the conflict of whether or not to check-in on Facebook.  Freedom feels pretty good.

Residential Solar Installers Will Likely Kill Solar Themselves

In 2003, I purchased a photo voltaic system for my house at a cost of $27,000.  The system consisted of a 2.5 kW grid-tied inverter and 18 – 135 watt solar panels, along with the mounting hardware and installation.  At the time, there was a tax incentive which paid $8,000 of the cost of the system, leaving me with paying $19,000.

In 2003, my local power utility had a time-of-use metering schedule that charged me much higher rates during the day when my PV system was generating the most power.  I was sending most of the power I generated to the grid and I was able to draw electricity at a much lower cost during darkness.  For about 10 years, my electric bill amounted to $200-$300 per year.  I had a good feeling about being able to generate a good portion of the electricity I was using from the sun.  At the time my system was installed, I never considered the actual cost of materials provided to me by the solar company that did my installation.

About 3 years ago, my local power utility company changed the rules of the solar generation game.  They moved peak time farther into the afternoon, so that I was generating very little electricity during half of the peak period.  My cost for electricity from the utility skyrocketed to about $1,000 per year.  Apparently, the electric utility, with all of the residential solar installations, wasn’t making enough money because they didn’t have to sell as much.

The time-of-use schedule I was given was workable.  I just had to account for the higher cost of electricity.  Unfortunately, the rate I was given was not available to new solar generators.  Anyone buying a new solar installation would have their peak time start at 3:00 PM, a time when the sun is on its way down and solar power is generally low.  As much as electric utilities say they are proponents of renewable energy,  they are only interested in how much money they can make from their customers.  The closed rate schedule I’m on will phase out in 6 years.  At that time, I will be forced into the 3:00 PM peak time schedule, which will make grid-tied residential solar of no financial benefit to homeowners.

A couple of weeks ago, I walked into my garage first thing in the morning and checked my PV inverter as I do each morning.  On that particular morning, the inverter had some bad news for me.  It was on, but it was not generating any electricity.  The inverter display showed there was a ground fault in my solar array.  I did a quick search on the Internet and decided it would be prudent to just call the solar company and have them troubleshoot the problem.

I expected that I might have to wait several days for a technician to come out, but I was surprised when I was told that a technician would be out by the end of the day.  Late afternoon, the technician arrived and began looking at my system.  His first comment was that he didn’t realize my inverter was such an old one.  It was over 15 years old.  The technician didn’t look much older than my inverter.

The technician ended up calling the company that made the inverter.  They talked him through some diagnostics and decided that the problem was with the solar array.  At the time this troubleshooting was going on, there was a steady rain falling.  The technician reluctantly said that he would need to go up on the roof to check the array.  I suggested that going up on the roof could be saved for another day when it wasn’t raining.  The technician packed up and left.  I called the solar company and made an appointment for a return visit the following week.

When you have a solar electric system and it’s not working, it feels a bit like not having your cellphone with you.  I kept thinking of all the electricity I wasn’t generating.  Nearly a week after the first service visit, the same technician came back and went up on the roof to check my array.  He was up there for about a half hour, then came down and reported that there was no short circuit in the solar array.  The inverter was still reporting a ground fault in the array.  The technician was beside himself.  He clearly had no clue as to what to do next.  His last comment to me was that he would need to go back to the office and call the inverter company again.  It was obvious that he didn’t know what to do and just wanted to leave.  I let him leave and then I went back to the Internet.

I did some searches for less than an hour and ended up with the exact cause of my inverter failure.  It seems that a number of people, with the same inverter, had experienced the ground fault error when there was no actual ground fault.  The culprit was a solid-state module in the ground fault detection circuit.  I found that I could order the module from sellers in Hong Kong and China for about $18, but it would take 30 days to ship the part to the United States.

About 4 months before my inverter failed, I had contacted the solar company and asked for a quote for a new inverter and to add 3 additional solar panels to my array.  The quote from the solar company was not itemized.  It listed the inverter they proposed to install and said they would add 3 additional panels for a total cost of $4,900.  Initially, when I got the quote, my thought was that it was more money than I was willing to spend and I had set the quote aside.  Because of my inverter failure, I started researching the cost of new inverters.

In the grand scheme of things, I found that inverters are not very expensive.  The inverter that the solar company had proposed as an upgrade retailed for $1,100.  The 3 additional solar panels would cost $750.  So, the total retail cost for the equipment for my system upgrade was $1,850.  With the solar company quoting $4,900 to do the upgrade, I wondered how it could cost over $3,000 in labor to install a new inverter and 3 new panels?

I called the solar company and spoke to the sales person, who had written the quote I’d received.  I questioned why the quote was not itemized and if I was correct in my observation that his company wanted to charge me more than $3,000 in labor to upgrade my system.  The sales person was very vague, just saying that the $4,900 was for equipment, installation, insurance, warranty, etc, etc, etc.  I said thank you and hung up.

I contacted another local solar company and asked for a quote to install a new inverter and 3 additional solar panels.  I was shocked at the quote I got from this second company.  They wanted $7,890 to install a new inverter and add 3 panels to my existing array.  I said thank you, but no thank you.

I set to work searching the Internet for a solar equipment distributor where I could buy my own equipment.  I found a company that seemed like just the ticket, EcoDirect.com.  I was able to purchase all of the equipment I needed to get my system back up, better than it was before for a total cost of $3,375.  After watching a number of DIY YouTube videos, I installed my new equipment and my solar electric system is again generating power for me.  As a side note, after a week and a half from the time the technician from the first solar company last departed from my house, I have not heard a word from them.  That’s a bit surprising, but it is a good thing because I didn’t need them after all.

This experience clarified something for me.  It is obvious that solar companies charge huge premiums to install solar equipment.  Going solar would be much more affordable for homeowners if the companies doing the installation weren’t expecting such huge profits.  Both of the solar companies I contacted about upgrading my system lost out on my business because of what they expected me to pay them.

Power utility companies have made solar to be less of a financial benefit to homeowners.  However, solar installation companies are going to lose in the end because, with their high prices for installation, along with the power companies wanting more money, the solar installers will ultimately kill solar for residential themselves.