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My First Year With Solar

One engineer’s experience with switching to solar power at home

12 min read
A crew from REC Solar installs solar panels on the roof of the author’s garage.
Photo: Steven Johnson

I’ve long toyed with the idea of getting solar panels. My house in Boulder, Col., is perfectly situated: It has a south-facing asphalt shingle roof, including the roof over the four-car garage, and being a relatively new house, it has few trees to block the sun. Boulder, located just east of the continental divide and about 50 kilometers from Denver, gets an amazing amount of sun: an average of 157 sunny days and 184 partly sunny days each year, according to the Colorado Climate Center.

But whenever I tried to crunch the numbers—the cost of the equipment, the cost of installation and maintenance, the eventual payback, rebates, and so on—solar never seemed financially viable. In part that’s because electricity rates in Colorado are dirt cheap. Until just recently, rates were a flat US $0.12 per kilowatt-hour. In California, by contrast, tiered rates start at 11.9 cents/kWh and can climb as high as 49.8 cents/kWh. I figured solar would at most save me about $1000 per year in electricity, so how could I justify installing a $40 000 system?

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The Aftershocks of the EV Transition Could Be Ugly

To avoid unintended consequences, bring realism to the table

10 min read
CEO of Dodge Brand standing on a podium next to a Dodge Charger Daytone SRT concept all-electric muscle car. Behind him a giant screen displaying the sentence: The Rules Have Changed.

Tim Kuniskis, CEO of Dodge Brand, Stellantis, introduces the Dodge Charger Daytona SRT Concept all-electric muscle car on August 17, 2022 in Pontiac, Michigan.

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

The introduction of any new system causes perturbations within the current operating environment, which in turn, create behavioral responses, some predictable, many not. As University of Michigan professor emeritus and student of system-human interactions John Leslie King observes “People find ways to use systems for their own benefit not anticipated by designers and developers. Their behavior might even be contradictory to hoped-for outcomes.”

“Change rides on the rails of what doesn’t change,” King notes, “including people being self-serving.”

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Forecasting the Ice Loss of Greenland’s Glaciers With Viscoelastic Modeling

Researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany are developing new models to simulate how glaciers behave

8 min read
Aerial view of Nioghalvfjerdsbræ showing the extensive patterns of the crevasses

This sponsored article is brought to you by COMSOL.

To someone standing near a glacier, it may seem as stable and permanent as anything on Earth can be. However, Earth’s great ice sheets are always moving and evolving. In recent decades, this ceaseless motion has accelerated. In fact, ice in polar regions is proving to be not just mobile, but alarmingly mortal.

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