Category Archives: Energy

Just an innocent bystander?

The more I look into the story of the family that owned a Tesla powerwall (see previous four posts), the more I get the impression that there is more to the story than what meets the eye. In the article (and also the video that was linked to), it was the man of the family who did the talking. He was portrayed as a family man from Kermt (a tiny village with a population of 4.122) who installed a powerwall and this allowed him and his family to reduce their dependence on the power grid.

Yet, I was not really convinced. He looked indeed as an ordinary family man, but he sounded knowledgeable, the video was well made and only the advantages were highlighted, avoiding the disadvantages altogether. It seemed more like a slick sales pitch than an objective news item.

Later I learned that he signed in for the new model of the Tesla (the car). It is a hyped status symbol, not something that an ordinary family man would go for and he probably would have a higher than average salary.

There was also the puzzling tagline on his Facebook account:

Translation:

Here you find all details on the home battery of Tom Nijsen and his strive for an inter-dependent energy landscape.

His strive for an inter-dependent energy landscape?

These are not the words that I would expect from a simple family man.

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The powerwall and clear numbers: a difficult combination

A couple days ago, I read with increasing astonishing a new post on the kermtstroomt facebook account (the account of the family that owns the powerwall that was the subject of last three posts). The subject was the number of days that they didn’t need to draw power from the grid (translated from Dutch):

There are 219 days from September 1, 2016 until April 10, 2017, of which we have been able to bridge 75 days without grid because the sun produced more than we consumed! Thanks to the #Powerwall, which uses the surplus from one day on darker days afterwards, we can pull this up to 100 days. This means that we could do without grid in 100/219 = 45% of the darker half of the year!

Huuuuuuh?!?!

There is so much wrong in only three sentences.

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Easily through the night on a fully loaded powerwall

This is already the third post on the Tesla powerwall series and especially how it is (mis)presented in the mainstream media. This misinformation is not only limited to the mainstream media, it is also strong in social media. The subject of this post is a facebook post by the owners of the Tesla home battery mentioned in previous two posts.

It starts informative with a description of their powerwall (translated from Dutch):

Our home battery is a lithium ion battery with a usable capacity of 6.4 kWh (slightly less than our average daily consumption). We decided NOT to go for the #offgrid option, so when the grid voltage is lost, our battery will also not be able to power us. The battery can deliver 2 kW continuous power, with a peak power of 3.3 kW.

The capacity of their powerwall is indeed somewhat lower than their average consumption. I understood from a previous post that their annual consumption is around 3,200 kWh, meaning around 8.77 kW per day. On average of course, their consumption will be lower in summer (when production is high) and in higher in winter (when production is low).

Not sure whether all this 6.4 kWh is really usable and how long it stays that way (this battery is currently brand new, but lithium ion batteries degrade after a while). But that aside.

It becomes a bit trickier in the next sentence when it comes to the limitations of the powerwall (translated from Dutch):

With a load of 2 kW, the battery is depleted after 3 hours.

Followed by the justification that this is not much of a restriction for them (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):

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Break-even in thirty years (for something that probably will not last half that time)

The half-news show continues. The subject of previous post was the hurrah story from Belgian newspapers about a family that installed a Tesla powerwall. My impression was that things that didn’t fit the narrative were excluded, therefor coming to an overly positive success story. I wasn’t really sure whether this was caused by a wrong interpretation by the journalist or whether it originated from the interviewee.

I found out that the owner of this powerwall had a twitter account and recently started a facebook account in which he writes about his installation and (only) its advantages. Going through the posts, it seems likely that the one-sided positive narrative came from the owner and the journalist probably reported it uncritically.

Reading his tweets on the powerwall, I found a very small glimpse that it is not as positive as it was painted in the newspaper articles and the social media:

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Fully self reliant on solar power for 42 days (out of 210)

From the only-half-of-the-news-will-do department, this newspaper article titled Family from Limburg uses a home battery for one year already: “our house runs on its own power for weeks”. Not only this newspaper, all the other newspapers jumped on the story.

Screenshot article Het Nieuwsblad

Basically, a family from Kermt (a small village in the Belgian province Limburg) has solar panels on their roof and got themselves a Tesla powerwall (translated from Dutch):

For 42 days since the beginning of September, a family from Limburg has already been using the energy they generate themselves via the home battery. By storing the energy from the solar panels, it can be used when the owners see fit. “So our house runs on its own power,” says Tom Nijsen (39).

At first glance, it sounds really nice. A Tesla powerwall was installed, storing the energy produced by their solar panels and therefor making it possible to use that solar energy, even when the sun doesn’t shine. Reducing their dependence on the grid and for some periods even being self sufficient. What is not to like?

The reason why initially my attention was drawn to this article was because three statements in the title and summary were demonstrably false. You just had to read the article carefully to notice it.

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The experts who forgot that wind energy is intermittent

A final post in the energy fact check series from SER. Fact check number 4 is titled “Do wind mills run mostly on subsidies?“.

This is the reasoning why subsidies are necessary according to the fact check: since the cost of wind energy is somewhere between €0.074 to €0.098/kWh for onshore wind and €0.133 en €0.157/kWh for offshore wind and on the price on the energy market is around €0.04, therefor subsidies has to be provided to settle the difference.

I have no problem with that.

The fact check starts with the costs of wind energy: cost of the wind mills, installation and maintenance. That is rather brief, but luckily there was a source at the bottom of the page for more information. Unfortunately, no link to it, just a name of a report: Final advice base costs 2014 by ECN (Energy research Centre of the Netherlands). Fortunately that report (Dutch) was easily found on the internet. Strange, why was there no link provided for a source that is readily available online?

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The (actually not so) “excellent” fact check

There was some controversy related to the third fact check of SER on energy. This fact check is titled “Nearby residents have mostly nuisance and little benefit from windmills(Dutch). Two action groups opposing wind mills read the fact check and were not amused. They claimed that the information of the fact check was not objective and incomplete.

Rightfully so. That fact check exaggerated the advantages of wind energy and minimized its disadvantages.

This is no big surprise. This kind of framing is not only done in this fact check, but also in the four other energy fact checks of SER. I would even say that this framing is endemic in alternative energy reporting. The advantages are being emphasized and the disadvantages minimized or even ignored. Being confronted with the nuisance of wind mills first hand, it was probably not that hard to notice for those two groups.

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