Grace and Stuff.

Yesterday I dropped Grace at the airport, she has a full time job now, with limited time off.

(Me and Grace… Halloween a gazillion years ago)

Grace had only been here a grand total of 6 days before she had to go back north to Pittsburgh… this was her first Christmas home AFTER college, and her college breaks the last few years would give her a very casual 3 weeks back in Florida.

This past Sunday Grace and I went to the beach, then had a nice lunch in Tarpon Springs… we also stopped at a nursery to look at plants, at Grace’s behest. Grace is really into plants.. on past trips home she went around to neighbors, asked them for tropical plant clippings, then took the clippings north to Pittsburgh and sold them for hundreds of dollars!

Grace always plants stuff in my gardens, everytime she comes home, and gets mad at me if anything dies in the months she’s gone. This kid!

Grace was home for 2 months in the Spring of 2020, when Covid shut down Carnegie Mellon and the entire planet hit the PAUSE button. Grace helped me repaint the living room, we went to St. Pete to look at murals… it was a weird time, even a turtle wandering across the street was exciting:

After I dropped Grace at the airport yesterday I realized how little time we really have with our kids once they become adults, and that’s when time really starts to accelerate… I know that when I was in my 30’s and lived 1,000 miles away from my parents I only saw them twice a year.

Mom and Dad live here in Wesley Chapel now, so I see them all the time. We go to the same wild ‘n crazy Methodist church… which is full of folks in Mom and Dad’s generation. Church for them is also their social circle.

Grace just turned 22 this week, so Mom and Dad were there to celebrate with me, Claire and Grace.

I know that Pittsburgh is where Grace needs to be right now, she has a great job up there, she just moved into a nicer place with better roomies… and her degree from Carnegie Mellon will open doors for her, especially in the Northeast.

There are cheap flights from Tampa to Pittsburgh on Spirit, so Grace comes homes every three months or so, especially during the winter months!

She’ll probably buy some plants next time she comes home.

Ben Alexander

December 29 ::: 2021

400+ mile range EV’s

(from the blog at TampaBaySolar.com)

(The Lucid Air sedan.)

Here at Tampa Bay Solar we love plug-in electric vehicles! 

Most of our employees use the solar array on their homes to charge their electric vehicles. 

Over the last six months we’ve been adding a 240 volt outlet to the garage wall of any new client who buys rooftop solar. A 240 volt outlet is needed to fast charge an electric vehicle, so our clients not only enjoy a “solar home” but their home is also “electric vehicle ready”.  

The price of sunshine never changes, and solar panels will last 35 to 50 years, so it makes sense to fuel your transportation off your roof! 

Most consumers are worried about the total RANGE per charge if they buy an electric vehicle, so we’ve looked at the longest range electric vehicles that are available for purchase in 2022.

One caveat here; the longest range EV’s tend to be in the top price brackets, but like any new technology these prices will go down and become more affordable over time.

#1. The Tesla Roadster: 620 mile range. This is a 2 seat sports car that Tesla unveiled in 2020. One of the reasons for the longer Tesla Roadster range is the lower weight and better aerodynamics of the vehicle. 

#2. The Lucid Air: 520 mile range (see picture above). The Lucid Air is a 4 door luxury car developed by former Tesla engineers. The long range of the Lucid Air is attributable to superior aerodynamics and the efficiency of the overall design.

#3. The Tesla Cybertruck: 500 miles. This is Tesla’s first SUV, with a three motor option and the long range battery it should have a 500 mile range. The Cybertruck uses a much larger battery than other EV’s on this list, thus resulting in better range, even for a heavier vehicle.  

#4. Tesla Model S Long Range: 412 miles. This is the long range version of the popular Model S four door sedan that is commonly seen on roads everywhere.

#5. Audi E6 E-tron: 400 miles. This is the new Audi SUV with an extended range battery. Both Audi and VW are spending billions of research dollars on EV technology.   

Of course, Tesla dominates this list because Tesla has been the leader in EV innovation for the last decade. While all the vehicles on this list exceed 400 miles of range on a single charge there are many electric vehicles for sale that feature 300+ miles of range, from the Ford F-150 Lightning to the new BMW IX SUV.

All the current EV’s use lithium ion battery technology, but this will be replaced by solid state battery tech in the next 3 to 5 years. This further leap in EV technology will result in far longer EV ranges, perhaps in the 600 to 800 mile (per charge) range. Solid state batteries will also recharge much faster than current technology. The longer range and faster charge rate will make it more feasible to totally recharge your vehicle in 20 minutes to an hour.  

Solid State technology will also drive down the price of lithium ion batteries, making older tech lithium ion more affordable for battery back-up units in homes and businesses.  

The purchase price for brand new EV’s typically exceeds $45,000, but within the next three years many of these cars will be available as used vehicles for sale in the under $25,000 price range. The typical life of an EV is around 300,000 miles, so the used car market will make EV’s affordable to the majority of car buyers. 

As EV’s increase in range and more choices become available we think that many buyers will own 1 EV for shorter commutes, combined with a 2nd vehicle that is a gas / electric hybrid. Most drivers do not commute farther than 100 miles per day, so a married couple with 2 vehicles might still own a gas powered vehicle for longer roadtrips. 

The charger infrastructure across the United States is increasing rapidly; Electrify America and ChargePoint are installing charging stations at regular intervals all over the national highway system, and Tesla already has the largest charging network in the United States.

With a convenient phone app drivers can see where EV chargers are located along the next highway exit, and in many cases how many chargers are open for use at any given time. 

More hotel owners will add solar and some form of public charging in the next 5 years, here at Tampa Bay Solar we are installing solar on local hotel rooftops along with car chargers on the outer edge of those parking lots. 

Current EV drivers tend to be in a higher income bracket, with more disposable income, the perfect demographic for high end hotel owners looking to attract more business to their location.    

If your EV has a 400 mile range that’s the equivalent of 7 hours of driving, so using overnight charging at hotels makes logical sense. In this manner hotel clients are fully charging their EV for the next day of driving.   

Some of the newer EV’s are higher voltage (like the Hyundai Ioniq 5) so these vehicles can charge in far less time, making the case for more fast charging stations at restaurants.

Restaurant and hotel owners who install free EV charging can use that feature as a way to add value and attract customers who might not stop there otherwise. In the future we’ll see highway billboards that say “Motel 6, exit 220, FREE EV charging here”. 

We believe that rooftop solar and EV charging go hand in hand, not just for environmental reasons, but also for the bottom line profitability of any hotel, shopping center or restaurant. 

NOTE: In the next few years I’m working on PPA’s (Power Purchase Agreements) that allow a hotel owner the chance to get rooftop solar and car chargers on a long term lease, with no capital outlay.

More details will be posted in the next few months.

Ben Alexander

December 28th :: 2022

The area around NUKES is enough!

Check out what Musk says about solar around the 11 to 13 minute mark:

Forget the political stuff in this clip, the most interesting part (for a Solar Nerd) is where Elon Musk talks about the vast open land around nuclear power plants here in the USA and how that land area alone can be covered with solar… enough to replace the power generation from that nuke!

No one wants to live near a nuclear power generation facility, so covering no man’s land with solar makes a ton of logical sense.

Enough solar generation paired with energy storage in homes and vehicles, combined with a modernized power grid… the entire United States can be powered by 100% renewable energy in our lifetime.

The extra solar generated during the day can be stored in electric vehicles and also in stationary batteries installed in homes and businesses. As battery tech gets cheaper more and more homes will install a small battery bank, and power blackouts will become a thing of the past, even after a bad hurricane.

About 2% of my clients at Tampa Bay Solar have installed battery back-up systems, but we expect that number to climb as batteries get cheaper over the next 5 years. TBS is an authorized installer for the Tesla PowerWall storage device, which can easily be added to any existing solar array.

As individuals we can all put solar on our homes and drive at least ONE electric vehicle per household. Keep your gas sucking SUV for roadtrips, but buy an electric car for your 30 mile commute.

Or better yet, get a plug-in hybrid SUV that only uses gas if you drive more than 50 miles, which most people do NOT do on a daily basis.

My Chevy Volt runs on electric alone the first 42 miles I drive daily, before the gas generator kicks in. That first 40 miles of driving is using the kilowatts that were generated on my roof the day before. My solar is generating power RIGHT NOW as I type this at 11:30 in the morning in my home office.

…. I just walked out to my garage and looked at the lifetime energy production data on my SMA inverter bank…. 57,462 kilowatt hours… in other words, 57.5 MEGAwatts generated since the panels went up. My solar powered my 2013 Chevy Volt, which was smashed in an accident in 2019 and I replaced it with a newer 2017 Volt.

Almost 58 megawatts (58 MILLION watts) generated on my very average home over the last 4 years, most of that energy used in my home, but a large chunk also used to move my Chevy Volt down the highway.

Meanwhile, my neighbors who live around me have burned gasoline in their cars, and used multiple megawatts from the powergrid in that same span of time.

The cost of my (used) Volt was $20K, cost of the solar another $20K. My house is worth an extra $12K with the solar. Electric bill savings = $200 per month / $2400 per year / $24,000 per decade

Gasoline savings = $125 per month / $1500 per year / $15,000 per decade

Solar cost = $20,000 – $12,000 GAIN in home value = $8,000

yearly savings Gasoline $1500 + Electric $2400 = $3,900

Dead cost on solar $8,000 divided by $3900 per year = 2.05 year ROI on my rooftop solar.

Without the GAIN in real estate value?

$20,000 solar cost divided by $3900 per year = 5.12 year ROI on my rooftop array.

You know who doesn’t buy solar? Folks who can’t do math.

Ben Alexander

December 27th :::: 2021

10 Folks at Christmas Dinner…

Pics or it didn’t happen?

Below, my daughter Claire and her boyfriend Paul :::

Paul is a bit blurry in this pic… or did he just drink too much wine?

I love Claire’s smile here… if Paul doesn’t marry her at some point he’s a knucklehead.

Claire and Paul have been together 5 years, a virtual eternity at their age…

The older I get the more I lean in the direction of tradition and family… so it was nice to have a full house last night, with my parents, my daughters, some friends from Church, and Paul’s father and his wife.

Some families don’t get together, for whatever reason… but my parents have always had a tradition of getting together, cooking, enjoying the holidays as a family.

Hopefully I’m continuing in that tradition.

It doesn’t take that much effort to make a bunch of dishes, set the table up, buy some wine… and after the isolation from Covid19 I’m even more grateful to be able to get together, laugh again, eat too much food… Mom supplied the tablecloth and Christmas dishes, others brought flowers and wine and hot dishes and desserts, it was a collective effort!

I remember especially the Christmas of 2017, my parents had gone north for the holidays, my girls were at their mother’s place for Christmas dinner… and I was totally alone, on Christmas. Perhaps for the first time in my life?

I got Chinese take-out. That day really sucked.

No one should spend Christmas alone.

No one in my family needs to be alone on Christmas, my house and table will always be open on Christmas day.

December 26th ::: 2021

Christmas Eve 2021

Last Night I got to have dinner with 2 angels:

Claire on the left, Grace on the right.

I was blessed with these girls right around Christmas 24 and 22 years ago… I’ll always be grateful to their mother Rachel, I can’t imagine my life without my daughters. Both of my girls have finished college debt free, landed great jobs and they’re out there independently surviving in the adult wilderness, figuring out shit like we all had to do.

They call me for advice, and sometimes they actually listen!

Grace was born just before the turn of the century, so her age will always match the year; 5 in 2005, 40 in 2040, 75 in 2075…

We are living through an age of rapid change and massive challenges, but I feel like Claire and Grace’s generation is the the most progressive generation, the most tech savvy, the most forward-looking generation of humans who have ever existed, and that gives me hope.

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My generation was not as progressive, but I’d like to think that these solar installs I’m selling across Tampa Bay will have a positive ripple effect that will benefit the generations after me, because we need to make huge changes now.

I’m in Elon Musk’s generation, and he’s done more to electrify transportation than any other human being on this planet… not to mention Tesla solar, the 2nd largest installer of solar in the USA behind Sunrun.

The success of Tesla pushed other car manufacturers into the EV tech race, almost too late in the game!

When I was Claire and Grace’s age there was zero rooftop solar, zero electric cars for sale… heck, the first Prius hybrid was still a few years away! Here I am, in 2022, with an electric car in my driveway powered by a massive solar array on my roof. However, I’m still one of the few homes in my subdivision utilizing technology in this manner. Most folks are stuck in the old ways of doing things.

My neighbors pay $220 per month to the electric company and still drive gas guzzling trucks and cars with huge V-8 engines. There is plenty of backward thinking still out there…

Yeah, ‘Murica! Freedom to not get vaxxed, then die soon after!

Grace will be my present age in the year 2047. I hope and pray that things will be better by then. There might NOT be a global solution to climate change until some truly terrible events take place…. then again, there might be advanced tech solutions that come into play in the 2030’s that we can barely imagine today.

Artificial Intelligence might really move the tech needle in a way that no one anticipates today.

Heck, back in 1997 who knew LED lights would become a thing? LED lights use 6 times LESS energy than the old incandescent lightbulbs, with a much longer lifespan. Back in 1997 Elon Musk was just starting Paypal… who knew he would leverage that fortune into the most innovative EV / rooftop Solar / Rocket company on the planet?

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I hope that the current political turmoil we see today is just a ripple in the pond, and not the precursor to a larger tidal wave just over the horizon.

I don’t think the January 6th insurrection was an isolated incident, and I’m worried about a much larger action in the next 24 months, especially after the next Presidential election in 2024.

Violent political action here in the USA could easily trigger a nasty economic recesssion, and we’re overdue for a correction not only in the stock market but also in the vastly inflated real estate market.

Remember the 2007 real estate bubble? Looks just like real estate today in 2021.

The folks who buy a home right now are going to be upside down by 2024.

I bought a house in 2003, for peanuts, Still live here, for peanuts. Might pay off my mortgage soon, depends on how many solar deals I can close in 2022.

As a business owner all I can do right now is help grow Tampa Bay Solar, pay off my home, be a good father to my girls, and a good son to my parents… the turmoil and change will come, no matter what we do in our personal lives.

I’m blessed and thankful to be in the solar business, with great partners in a great position.

I’m grateful to spend the holidays around my family and friends.

Tonight I’m singing this at church… but not as well as Jonathan Antoine:

And my outfit will certainly NOT be as fancy, that’s fer sure.

For Christmas Dinner I’m having a bunch of friends and family together, all vaxxed up, of course.

I hope you have a nice holiday, whomever you are!

Ben Alexander

December 24rth ::::::::::::::::: 2021

The Winter Solstice, Ugh.

The only song that makes sense for today :::

Just imagine if this song was the “Please Hold” music for the Suicide Hotline…

December 21… the day with the least amount of daylight, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere.

About 55 degrees and rainy here in Tampa. Last night’s rain shorted out my outdoor Christmas lights, they won’t work again until things dry out later today…

At least I’m not up North anymore, that 40 degree cloudy / rainy / snowy weather for 4 months in a row SUCKS.

I’m OK with the fact that my car is NOT covered in snow, ever.

I put up some lights last week… and plugged in my nuclear powered snowman:

That has gotta be the brightest Christmas decoration I’ve ever seen. It lights up the clouds above my house… the FAA just called and told me they have to divert incoming flights..

That damn thing is brighter than a room full of Asian math scholars…

Resurrected Jesus would be outshined by my snowman.

Very appropriate for the darkest day of the year.

My Pop bought the Nuclear Snowman from a Chinese slave labor factory in Xinchiang a few years ago, and it was too bright when he put it up in his front yard, so he gave it to me. I have a much higher Extreme Christmas Light tolerance.

Nothing says Merry Christmas like decorations made by forced labor Muslim minorities in China.

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Today is a great day to End It All, so if you are sitting at home loading your firearms and just feeling down get in your car and visit my Special Snowman, just remember, I’m not responsible for the light damage to your corneas.

Happy Solstice!

Ben Alexander

O Holy Night

Singing O Holy Night for both Christmas Eve services at my church:

I won’t be as good as Josh Groban… but I’ll try.

YouTube is really great for working on any singing piece, you can listen to different artists and how they interpret different songs.

This song reminds me that I have to get my tree and lights up…

I was at the tryouts for Once Upon a Mattress until almost 10PM last night; there was singing, dancing, and line reading. I felt like a teenager again, trying out for the high school play. I’m still awful at any type of choreography.

An audition is kinda like dating, if I’m a good fit for a part they’ll call me back and I’m in, but if I’m not a good fit for any part in the show life goes on. There were 4 guys at the audition and about 20 women, of various ages. The other three guys had lotsa talent, and decent voices. There are several male singing roles in this show, so we’ll see if they call me back.

As a singer I tend to have more overall volume than most people, but my voice is lacking in beauty.

More of a trumpet than a violin?

More of a “National Anthem” singer rather than “beautiful love song” type of singer.

Recently, in singing with our little church choir I’ve been trying to blend in more, sing more softly, support the soloist, that type of thing.

For now I’m going to work on my Christmas Eve solo work, and try to make that more beautiful.

The end of the year is typically pretty quiet in the solar biz, so I’ve got oodles of free time!

Ben Alexander

December 13 :: 2021

2022, the year to RENEW… NEW Beginnings!

Only in Florida do you see snowmen at the beach:

Later today I’m hanging out with my friend Marcus and several friends to have a “tasting” of different Latin dishes for a restaurant concept he’s thinking about launching.

Marcus took Goin’ Postal to 300+ locations, so if anyone has the resources and talent to build a chain of restaurants Marcus will probably make it happen.

Marcus is 50 years young, and he’s ready to build another Empire!

This got me thinking about new beginnings, the New Year, etc..

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There are a bunch of boxes around my house filled with my daughter Claire’s stuff as she prepares to move out in a few days, just shy of her 24rth birthday.

This is a New Beginning for Claire, and I’m happy for her taking this step, even though I’ll miss seeing her everyday.

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I’m trying out for a play on Sunday… if they cast me I’ll move into a whole new group with new friends, new experiences, etc.

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In the solar biz I’m moving into more work with larger commercial installs… and this dovetails into car chargers, different roof types, and different rate structures… I’m coming up on my 5th year with Tampa Bay Solar, but most of that time was working on the simpler residential side of the industry.

Tampa Bay Solar has moved to a larger (NEW-ish) warehouse right on rte 60 / Adamo down in Brandon:

The new building gives us room to expand, and 10,000 cars drive by and see our name every single day!

The previous HQ was located in a low traffic industrial area with limited parking… the new building is twice as large, and we have enough parking for 100 installers and 30+ trucks.

That’s a hell of a new beginning!

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I’ve been going out and doing stand-up comedy at open mic nights across Tampa Bay… and this stretches a dormant part of my brain in a way that nothing else does.

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In my personal / dating life I feel very optimistic about things, I’m ready to let my past relationship fade into the rearview mirror, where it truly belongs!

2022, the year to RENEW, the year to try new things, make new friends, go new places, close some solar deals, fall in love, have new adventures, etc.

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Let’s have a toast, to new beginnings!

Ben Alexander

December 10th :: 2021

Going to school on EV chargers ::

I have a client in Tampa who wants 200 solar panels on the roof of his business and 2 EV car chargers set up in his parking lot.

He shares his parking lot with a busy bar, so he was interested in making revenue on nights and weekends off his car charging stations.

For this reason I’m learning all about car chargers; public and private, rules and regs in Florida, and how they work.

With more solar on commercial rooftops it makes logical sense to use those kilowatts to fuel up electric cars. If a company uses solar to power an electric delivery truck they will see an instant ROI in terms of hundreds of dollars per month saved in gasoline costs.

The companies that run chargers like ChargePoint and Electrify America charge large fees for their charger stations… $10,000 to $14,000 to get a charger installed!

I’m still trying to figure out the revenue stream from a thrid party charging company…

For the most part it makes more sense for a business to use a private charger (maybe with a combo lock) to just save on fuel costs.

Gotta go now….

Ben Alexander

December 9th :: 2021