1/11/21 – Hawaii Day 5: A little help from my friends
Nearly a week of just tooling around Honolulu, my sole battery that was pre-charged with solar energy from home was getting pretty low. I called Rolf at R & R Solar Supply in Honolulu. Rolf is known throughout the solar world on a first name basis. Everyone in America, Europe, and Asia for that matter, knows who Rolf is. I was flattered that he knew who I was, “Mr. Sun” from Portland, Oregon.
After a few minutes of talking shop, I told Rolf I had a problem. “I’ve been riding my solar powered electric bike to all 50 states but my battery is depleted and I need to recharge it with solar energy.”
Rolf was tracking with me, getting my drift, keenly listening.
“Do you have a photovoltaic system on your building?”
“Yes,” was Rolf’s reply.
“Are you a zero net energy facility?” I needed to stress that the building derived 100% of its energy from the sun. That’s what a zero net energy building is. It’s the only way I would be able to say with certainty that the energy to power Sunride came from the sun.
“We’re better than zero net,” Rolf enthusiastically replied. “We generate more than we use! I’ll show you our electric bills.”
“Perfect!” I exclaimed. I could use some of those surplus solar electrons.
We set up a mid-day meeting where I could plug in my bike and let it be charging while I toured his facility, had lunch, and talked shop some more. It would be great fun to visit with a renowned solar pioneer.
I traveled across town via my favorite route along the canal. I stopped at Wendy King’s, my publishing agent for the book I wrote about global warming, Footprint. She was happy to take photos and shoot videos of me and Sunride. As soon as I arrived at 922 Austin Lane – an address that sounds more like a residential location than industrial – Rolf showed me where to plug in my bike.
He gave me the grand tour of his facility where people were busy building solar thermal collectors. He showed me his production equipment and machines, some of which he’d built himself. “This one is 40 years old and still works great,” Rolf proudly reflected. “That’s the German in you,” I answered.
After touring the solar thermal portion of his plant, Rolf showed me his PV set-up consisting of both grid-tied SMA inverters, Enphase microinverters, and his new battery-based Sol-Arc system with all the bells and whistles.
After the tour we went up to his office where I met his daughter and son who also work with him in the business. They printed off a copy of the electric bill. Solar enthusiasts, take a look at this:
No, the graph isn’t upside down, Rolf is generating way more kilowatt-hours than he uses on an annual basis. The few bars above the “0” line are net kWhs purchased from the utility. The bars below the line are kWhs going back out onto the grid above and beyond the building’s use. That’s enough to perpetually power a home using 20 kWhs per day. It’s enough to power a Tesla 24,000 miles per year. (The math: Excess generation 7200 kWhs per year times Tesla 3.4 miles per kWh = 24,480 miles). It’s enough to send Sunride around the world 23 times! (The math: 7200 kWhs x 80 miles per kWh = 576,000 miles. Circumference of Earth at the equator 24,900 miles. 576,000 divided by 24,900 = 23)
I was definitely plugged in at the right place. Way to go Rolf! Way to go!
While Sunride continued to charge, I took a nice walk down nearby King Street into Chinatown. By the time I got back the battery was fully charged. Not wanting to distract Rolf and his crew from their work, I bid them farewell and headed back to Waikiki. My first week in Hawaii I logged 100 miles. Now I had enough charge to go another hundred. Woo! Woo!