The year 2011 is nearly at its end and that means that it’s time to look back. The year didn’t start very well when two of our Soladin 600 inverters were recalled by Mastervolt. The inverters were gone for three weeks and during that time we missed 12kWh of solar electricity which is about one percent of our yearly yield.
In the beginning of May I had the privilege of being allowed to drive a brand new Nissan Leaf for week. That was an awesome experience, of which you can find the report here (in Dutch only, I’m afraid).
Just like Dutch consumer organisation Consumentenbond in 2010 the magazine Geld & Recht (‘Money & Law’) published a very negative article with many incorrect facts on saving energy and producing renewable energy. And just like the Consumentenbond this magazine also wouldn’t change its point of view. Regrettable.
On June 25th, 2011 this website was five years old. For several reasons I had to cancel a planned ‘birthday party’ but I did celebrate it in a small way that night. If I look back I can still remember like it was yesterday when I installed our first solar panels on our rental apartment and started this website that same evening.
Of course we participated in the yearly Solar Days in 2011, and our open door day drew seven visitors throughout the day, which made for a fun and interesting afternoon.
Clearly the biggest event of this year for both me and this website was the World Solar Challenge (WSC). In the months before the WSC I was invited by both Solar Team Twente and Nuon Solar Team, which were both very interesting and fun experiences. During the race itself I took a week off from work and when I look back that week was one of the most intense I’ve had in ages. I spent around 18-20 hours per day behind the computer on the racing days. Unfortunately both Twente and Nuon didn’t finish as high as they (and I) had liked but if possible it made the race only more exciting. Click on this link to see all articles regarding the World Solar Challenge (but there are a lot!).
During the WSC I had priceless help from Diederik Kinds, een ex-Nuon Solar Team member who, during the few hours of sleep I managed to catch, took over reporting and enabled this website to provide near-24/7 coverage. Many readers showed their appreciation for this. Diederik also wrote two excellent background articles about the importance of strategy in a solar race, and about the difference between the top two teams Nuon and Tokai.
In 2013 I hope to be able to report on the WSC from even closer. I’ve already made contact with the organisation to explore the possibilities.
After the intense WSC-week a was a little ‘website-tired’ so by the end of November I did something that I should have done ages ago: cavity wall insulation. I started with asking all neighbours in our block (eight households) if they were interested in having their cavity wall insulated. To my disappointment no one was interested. That did not stop me and I have signed the price quote. I hope it can be done soon. Of course I’ll report extensively on it, including photos and possibly also video.
A very nice acquisition in 2011 was a solar cooker, which I hope to experiment with during the 2012 summer.
Something that didn’t work out as well as I hoped in 2011 were the test drives in alternative vehicles. The Leaf test drive was awesome but I’d like to add the Opel Ampera and Renault Fluence Z.E. to my list. I would also like to test more electric scooters, but I just did not put enough effort in it.
In the area of politics/sustainability 2011 wasn’t a very good year in the Netherlands. The PVV keeps pushing to raise the maximum speed on ever more Dutch motorways to 130 km/h and deputy prime minister Maxime Verhagen keeps trying to rush the building permit for an unnecessary nuclear power plant through procedures. It’s my opinion that in the current financial climate the Netherlands is much better off without the maximum speed raise (why not lower it? Spain did…) and with a much more streamlined permit procedure for wind turbines and wind parks. Unfortunately I don’t see that happening in 2012. The push towards a sustainable society by citizens will still encounter resistance in 2012 from the government – which was elected by these same people. That’s rather odd, isn’t it?
In 2011, as in many years before it, the CO2 concentration was again higher than the previous year, 390 ppm. 350 ppm is generally seen as a ‘safe’ level with regard to climate change and its consequences. A worrisome development about which we don’t hear enough in the mainstream media.
2011 was also the year in which the prices of solar panels fell to an historically low level. In 2006 I paid around € 3000 for 555 Wp which amounts to € 5,50 per Wp. It is now easily possible, depending on installation size, to buy a DIY-installation for around € 2,50 per Wp.
On christmas day Queen Beatrix pleasantly surprised me with her christmas speech, it had sustainability in every form as its central theme.
Of course I’ll write an article with extensive energy usage and production graphs but I can already reveal that despite our horrible summer 2011 saw very nearly as much solar energy produced as 2010.
Traditionally at New Year a look back should also be accompanied by a look forward.
The Netherlands is ‘officially’ in a recession, which could mean a lot but not much of it good. Usually a recession also means a reduction in energy demand, which depresses energy/oil prices. This low price level doesn’t offer much incentive to save energy.
A 2011 trend which I expect to continue into 2012 is the lowering of solar panel prices, although certainly not quite so strong. Because of these low prices an number of solar cell and solar panel factories went bankrupt and I do expect this to happen in 2012 as well. Perhaps some companies can avoid bankruptcy by merging with other companies, but I certainly do expect much movement on the market.
Anyway, if you don’t have solar panels installed yet, 2012 is the year to have the installed. I don’t see them getting much cheaper and even worse, increased demand and the possibility of producer bankruptcies might even see them rise.
Of course we’ll participate in the open door days of the Solar Days in the summer of 2012. I don’t know the date yet but I’m sure the organisation will publish that some time in the spring. I truly hope we’re going to have good weather so that I can demonstrate the solar cooker.
Our solar panels will receive a small extension in 2012 with the installation of a 120Wp panel that I’ve had in the shed for a while. In the past year I’ve collected the parts I needed for it to work (inverter, console) and I expect to install the panel by the end of the winter of in early spring. Because this panel will face due south it might very well become the best performing panel of our installation.
To be honest I can’t think of anything else that might happen in 2012. I have no doubt we’ll be surprised with many unexpected and interesting events, both positive and negative, about which I’ll certainly write on this website.
No matter what happens I wish every one a healthy, prosperous and sustainable 2012.
As a last note a technical announcement: somewhere early in 2012 this website will me migrated to a new ‘platform’ at my hosting provider Zylon.net. I’m going to make use of the opportunity to do a large maintenance operation. As a result of that the look of this website will change slightly. For the technically inclined: the website as it is now uses an adapted version of the old Kubrick theme. This theme is functional but it can’t make use of new functions modern versions of WordPress offer. I have therefore developed (this sounds more exciting than it is) an adapted version of the Twenty Eleven theme which offers much more flexibility regarding the placement of menus etc.
All this will mean that sometime in January 2012 this website will be unavailable for probably one evening (probably in a weekend) while I migrate the contents. I will of course announce this in advance.