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A month of solar electricity – Renewable Journal for 11/27/2014

My home’s SolarCity solar panels have been up and running for nearly a month now and while there haven’t been bumps along the way, there have been some interesting discoveries.

For more posts in this series, please click here.

On this Thanksgiving day, I’m thankful that the solar panels are up and running. In fact, they’ve been up and running since October 30, nearly a month at this point. While I’m still very satisfied with my solar lease, I’ve discovered a few things about the panels in that month. Continue reading

Colorado’s Amendment 67: cynical and cruel, not compassionate

Colorado’s latest zygote personhood amendment is a cynical ploy to use a tragic accident and a now closed legal loophole to ban all abortions in the state.

Via Jen Caltrider at HuffPo

Via Jen Caltrider at HuffPo

They’re at it again. Amendment 67 in Colorado seeks to redefine both “person” and “child” in a way that include zygotes and fetuses, or what the text of the personhood folk would prefer we called “unborn human beings.” You’d think that Colorado’s zygote personhood crowd would have got the message in 2010 when Amendment 62 was voted down 71% to 29%, or back in 2008 when Amendment 48 was voted down 73% to 27%. But apparently not.

This time the zygote personhood supporters are being a little bit sneakier. Continue reading

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An electric car means partial immunity to gas prices – Renewable Journal for 10/18/2014

My Nissan Leaf means that I don’t really care much what gas prices do. It’ll be a good day when most people have this same freedom.

For more posts in this series, please click here.

I was listening to NPR yesterday when a story about dropping gas prices came on. The reporter interviewed a couple of people filling up at a gas station and they, quite understandably, loved that gas prices were going down. While I was thinking about the story and how falling gas prices are not the good thing that the reporter indicated they were (more on that another time), I had an “electric car moment.”

I realized that gas prices don’t matter to me, at least not directly. Continue reading

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How to avoid Solar Home Inc’s online presence

If you find comment spam, domain speculation, cybersquatting, and sockpuppetry to be as unethical as I do, here’s how you can more easily avoid conducting business with Solar Home Inc.

Solar Home

Solar Home

Click here to see all the posts in this series.

Over the last three days I’ve shown that Solar Home Inc uses comment spam, domain speculation, cybersquatting, and sockpuppetry as means to boost their business. If you’re someone who thinks it’s OK to conduct business using these practices then there’s no need for you to read any further. However, if you have read through the evidence I presented over the last three days and concluded, as I did, that Solar Home is behaving unethically, then I invite you to read this final post about how to quickly identify the vast majority of Solar Home’s websites. When you’re done you’ll be able to more easily avoid conducting business with them or their affiliates.

First a word of caution – Solar Home has demonstrated itself capable of maintaining 6,300 websites with some degree of automation. Given the fact that changing the appearance of a website is relatively simple and inexpensive, especially with automation, I have no way to know how long the examples below will remain representative of Solar Home’s websites. Continue reading

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Solar Home Inc engages in online sockpuppetry

In addition to its comment spam, domain speculation, and cybersquatting, Solar Home Inc also engages in sockpuppetry

Solar Home

Solar Home

Click here to see all the posts in this series.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines “sock puppet” as “a false online identity used for deceptive purposes.” Wikipedia’s entry describes a sock puppet as “an online identity used for purposes of deception” including but not limited to using the extra identity to talk to/about the original, praising/defending/supporting people or organizations, and bypassing site bans.

As part of my investigation into the online practices of Solar Home Inc, I have read dozens of comments on blog posts, news articles, online solar tech articles, and investor notices written by Solar Home’s founder and CEO, Ray Boggs, and a Solar Home employee named Ron Winton. In only two cases did I find either acknowledging that they work together. This makes Winton a Solar Home sockpuppet himself. In one case, a mistake by Winton in Motley Fool comments revealed that at least one of the three usernames affiliated with Solar Home was a sockpuppet. And I found several additional usernames that are also supporting Solar Home’s resale business, but no indication that any of them acknowledge their connection to Solar Home. Continue reading

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Solar Home Inc uses domain speculation and cybersquatting to support its business

Solar Home Inc has not only supported its business with four years of comment spam, it also engages in domain speculation and cybersquatting on other companies’ trademarks.

Solar Home

Solar Home

Click here to see all the posts in this series.

In the process of investigating Solar Home Inc’s comment spamming, I came across dozens of websites that were all linked to Solar Home, either in the copyright notices on individual pages or on the About/Contact Us pages. Since most businesses don’t bother to maintain more than a handful of websites, the fact that Solar Home seemed to have dozens caught my attention. When I broadened my investigation into Solar Home’s websites, I found that Ron Winton (as “Ronwiserinvestor”), an acknowledged employee of Solar Home, admitted in a Motley Fool comment that Solar Home controlled “800 active websites” as of April 2014.

I also found that the 800 acknowledged websites actually represented a small fraction of the nearly 6,300 solar-related websites registered by Solar Home. Of those 6,300 websites I personally verified that over a hundred of them were explicitly tied to Solar Home and that, by offering several of those websites for sale, Solar Home is engaged in domain speculation. I also identified a few websites that contained the trademarks of other companies, including one that could be a Solar Home competitor, indicating that Solar Home also engages in cybersquatting. Continue reading

Solar Home

Solar Home Inc’s business supported by comment spam, domain speculation, and sockpuppetry

Solar Home Inc controls over 6000 websites, cybersquats on other companies’ trademarks, posts hundreds of cut-and-paste comments on news, technology, and investing sites, and posts those comments using at least eight separate usernames.

Solar Home

Solar Home

Click here to see all the posts in this series.

On my first Renewable Journal post, a commenter by the name of Ray Boggs dropped a list of reasons not to go with a solar energy lease like the one I have with SolarCity. I briefly looked into his points and found that some were valid while others were not. In addition, I discovered that Boggs is the founder of Solar Home Inc, a Victorville California solar system reseller. This makes SolarCity and other solar lease providers Boggs’ competitors. So I responded in the comment thread, pointed out that Boggs was a biased commenter, and left it at that.

On July 16, National Public Radio (NPR) ran a story about solar leases and how they might not be all they’re cracked up to be, and when I glanced at the comments on NPR’s website, I noticed that the very same Ray Boggs had posted another comment attacking solar leases. But the fact that his comment at NPR was nearly identical to the comment he posted at S&R got me wondering if Boggs was more than just a businessman trying to undercut his competition. It got me wondering whether or not Boggs was essentially a spammer. So I did some digging.

What I discovered is that there are hundreds of nearly identical comments posted on solar articles and websites going back to September 2010. I discovered nine distinct usernames and/or individuals responsible for posting those comments, usually without acknowledging their connection to Solar Home. And I discovered a network of literally thousands of nearly identical websites controlled by Solar Home that serve the dual purpose of attacking solar leasing companies while also promoting Solar Home’s products. Continue reading

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Leaf owners – beware the gas station car wash! – Renewable Journal for 10/6/2014

Renewable-Journal-1For more posts in this series, please click here.

A couple months back, I gave my Leaf a bath in a gas station car wash. I came out of it complaining that it didn’t get all the bird poop off my pretty new car, but that happens sometimes – some car washes are just not that good. The thing that stuck with me, though, was that it was hard to get the car positioned right in the car wash, and even harder to get the car out of the wash at all. Continue reading

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The solar panels are up, but not yet on – Renewable Journal for 10/1/2014

The SolarCity solar panels took six weeks to schedule, two days to install, and it may be another two months before they’re finally turned on.

For more posts in this series, please click here.

Six weeks ago my family got back from a vacation and my wife called SolarCity to schedule the installation of solar panels on our roof. She and I expected it to be a week or two, but were surprised to find that SolarCity is busy enough in the Denver metro area that it would be six weeks before their installers could get to our roof. We weren’t exactly thrilled – we’d been hoping to get the system operational as fast as possible to start saving up energy credits for the winter, when we’ll generate less electricity and yet consume more.

We were quite happy to see the SolarCity installers when they showed up yesterday, and over the last two days my home went from having a bare roof to having a full set of solar panels. In addition, all they upgraded the electrical box and installed all the electrical systems required to support the system. While I spent most of that time at work, it was still cool to come home today to find out that they were done and that we were now waiting on Xcel Energy – the electricity supplier for most of Colorado – to come out and install the net meter.

It was less cool to find out that it could take Xcel as much as two months to get to us. Again, we’d really like to store up some electricity credits before winter. Unfortunately, I’m no longer convinced that’ll happen. It’s not like we were banking on it or needed it financially, it just would have been even nicer financially than having a solar on the roof will be regardless.

If you look at it from Xcel’s perspective, they have no incentive to come out and hook up the solar system any sooner than they absolutely have to. Sure, they’ll want to have it hooked up before the end of the year so they can claim the system for their renewable energy requirement, but they more they can delay it without breaking the law, the more money they make from my utility bills. Still, maybe we’ll be one of the lucky ones that get hooked up faster than that.

I’m not holding my breath.

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How much range do you get on a single charge? – Renewable Journal for 9/27/2014

The way I drive my Nissan Leaf I get about 90 miles on a single charge, but it varies.

For more posts in this series, please click here.

FAQ #2: How much range do you get out of a single charge?

Since I bought my 2014 Nissan Leaf in June I’ve got about 90 miles per charge. But as with driving most gas or diesel-fueled cars, my range can vary quite a bit depending on the way I drive and the weather outside. Continue reading

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Top Gear meets electric cars – Renewable Journal for 9/1/2014

I’m not a fan of Top Gear to start with, but at least Top Gear America gave electrics some respect in 2013, unlike the unrepentant snarkfest that was Top Gear BBC’s 2011 electric car episode.

For more posts in this series, please click here.

Both the original (UK) and American versions of Top Gear have spent some time with the Nissan Leaf, and neither was tremendously impressed with it. In one way that’s OK – as I’ve said before, electric isn’t for everyone right now. It’ll get there, though, as the range of relatively inexpensive electrics like the Leaf and as the price of cars with long range (like Telsa’s cars) comes down. But in another way, both series treated the electrics they drove (Leaf and Peugeot IOn on the UK version, Leaf and Fiat 500E and Ford Fusion electric for the American version) rather unfairly. Continue reading

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I may never buy another internal combustion engine vehicle – Renewable Journal for 7/23/2014

Tesla expects to release their all-wheel drive, 7-passenger SUV/minivan crossover in Fall 2015. Others will follow, prices will fall, and going all-electric will soon be more viable.

00.jpgFor more posts in this series, please click here.

A week after we bought my all electric Nissan Leaf, my wife and I also purchased a brand new Nissan Pathfinder. We needed one vehicle capable of supporting a family road trip and with all-wheel or 4-wheel drive so we could use it as our primary skiing vehicle this winter. The Leaf isn’t capable of either at this point.

A few weeks ago my wife pointed out something that I hadn’t really thought about, but have since thought about a lot. Given how long we tend to keep our cars (10 years or so) and the pace of both development and deployment of all-electric vehicles, the Pathfinder may well be the last internal combustion engine vehicle we ever buy.
Continue reading

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Gas stations with an electric car – Renewable Journal for 7/20/2014

Why would an electric vehicle need to visit a gas station?

For more posts in this series, please click here.

I park my car outside at work, and as a result my Nissan Leaf is covered with dust, splatted bugs, and bird poop. And when I bought the car, the salesperson pointed out that bird poop can eat through the clearcoat finish if it’s left on for too long. So I need to give my car a bath sooner rather than later.

I generally don’t wash it by hand, however. Sometimes the kids will “wash” the cars, spending more time spraying each other with the hose and washing perfectly good soapy water down the driveway than actually scrubbing the bug carcasses off the windshield and grill. But historically, when I really wanted a properly cleaned car, I’d buy a car wash when I was filling up my tank.

And therein lies the problem – I have no reason to go to a gas station, and thus no opportunity to buy a car wash with my fillup. Continue reading

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Is the Nissan Leaf fun to drive? – Renewable Journal for 7/14/2014

Electric motors provide instant torque. So yes, the Leaf is one hell of a lot of fun to drive.

leaf-dash-display-610.jpgFor more posts in this series, please click here.

FAQ #1: Is the Nissan Leaf fun to drive?

Hell yes. In fact, it’s by far the zippiest car I’ve ever owned. Able to go 0-60 in 6.2 seconds, it is more than capable of getting out of its own way merging into traffic, unlike some cars I’ve driven and/or owned in the past.

Having a car that could accelerate into traffic was important for me. At this point there’s so much road construction on my commute every day that I wanted to be able to put my foot down and fit into traffic going at 55+ MPH even when contending with a short merge lane. I had to do that this morning, in fact, since I got stuck behind two big trucks and needed to get out and around them and then up to highway speed quickly.
Continue reading

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Talking about my electric car – Renewable Journal for 7/11/2014

For more posts in this series, please click here.

I was eating lunch with some coworkers recently when the topic of cars came up. As someone who has recently purchased a new car, I mentioned that I had bought an all electric Nissan Leaf, and that kicked off a 10-15 minute discussion of the particulars of charging, the economics of it, pollution, how quiet it is, why I bought it over a Volt or some other electric, expectations for bad weather driving, the confusion between a 100% electric vs. a hybrid, and so on. Continue reading

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Why I chose the Leaf over the Jetta TDI – Renewable Journal for 7/4/2014

Tax credits and rebates, low cost of operation, and reduced air pollution all made the Leaf the better choice for my family.

[MotorTrend]For more posts in this series, please click here.

I know I’m going to get asked why I spent over 30k (before all the crazy tax rebates) on a car that only goes 80 miles. My father especially will ask at some point, and he’s already called it a “toy” car.

He’s not entirely wrong, either. I’m in my 40s now, and it’s actually quite a bit of fun to drive around in a car that can go from 0 to 60 in just a tad over 6 seconds. I’ve never had a car that has this kind of acceleration. Continue reading

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Electric vehicles are everywhere! – Renewable Journal for 6/28/2014

Tesla Model S [from Motor Trend]For more posts in this series, please click here.

Actually, they really aren’t everywhere. The fact that I’m seeing electrics all over the place now is actually a simple psychological phenomenon related to familiarity. I own an electric car, and so I’m more in tune with what other electric cars look like, and so simply happen to notice them more.

I did drive by a nice red one on my way home from the dealership, however – the two twenty-something women in it were laughing and pointing at mine as I zipped by them. Continue reading

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Two weeks of owning an electric car – Renewable Journal for 6/21/2014

NissanLeafBAFor more posts in this series, please click here.

Today I had what can only be described as an “electric car moment.” I was driving back home from my kung fu lesson and passed by a gas station that’s under construction. As I passed it, I thought was “hey, that’s getting close. I’ll be able to get gas there… wait a second….”

No. No, I won’t need to get gas at that station. Continue reading

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The Nissan Leaf and SolarCity – Renewable Journal for 6/8/2014

On June 7, one Colorado family took a leap into unfamiliar waters with both solar panels and a Nissan Leaf.

NissanLeafBAFor more posts in this series, please click here.

Yesterday morning, my wife and I bought a new Nissan Leaf. And yesterday afternoon, after careful review of the terms, we signed a solar power lease contract with SolarCity.

Talk about diving into renewable energy head first. What the hell are we – I – doing? Continue reading

Cynical foreign policy thought for today

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has said that Russia will “respond” (read that as “attack Ukraine”) in the event that Russia’s “legitimate” interests, including Russian citizens, are attacked.

Assume for the moment that the Ukrainians are right and the various masked occupiers of towns in eastern Ukraine are, in fact, Russian special forces. If that’s the case, then Ukrainian action to drive off the occupiers would potentially result in the death of one or more Russian citizens (the alleged special forces).

And if we take Lavrov’s words literally, then we would have a situation wherein Ukrainian self-defense against Russian incursions could be used to justify a Russian invasion of Ukraine.