I just signed up for 100 percent wind energy from my utility, Xcel Energy. But my electric car won’t be covered — because my townhome and my garage are metered separately in Highline Crossing Cohousing, and my garage is metered with 40 other garages by a single, collective utility meter.

From February 2014 to November 2015, I was living the solar-charged dream: 100 percent of my EV miles and 100 percent of my home electric use were being covered by production from a 5.5 kW home solar system on my home’s rooftop in Aurora, Colo.

Divorce hit in the summer of 2014, and, by November of 2015, I was selling our home as part of a divorce agreement.

In November of 2015, I moved from a home my now ex-wife and I had owned in Aurora, with a 5.5 kW solar system that, by the time we sold our house in November 2015, had over-produced by more than 2,000 kWh, or enough to drive my Nissan LEAF nearly 10,000 miles, to a small apartment near the University of Denver, where I am a journalism professor.

At 2480 South Humboldt Street, I could not put solar panels up on the roof, although the roof was, and still is, ideal for solar. This because I was renting and did not own the roof. I did the next best thing I had available to me: I signed up for Xcel Energy’s so-called Windsource program, for which I pay 1.5 cents per kwh extra. I signed up for 100 percent Windsource.

I indicated that my electric car will be drawing Windsource because: a) that’s what I was doing at my previous apartment; b) I want Xcel to see that EV owners want renewable energy, not coal or natural gas.

So, technically, and indirectly — far more indirectly than when I had solar on my own home’s rooftop — I continued to run my 2014 Nissan LEAF on 100 percent renewable energy generated electricity, by way of wind “offset”, rather than home solar “offset.”

I kept my custom Colorado license plate — SOLPWRD — despite the fact that I am technically WINPWRD instead.

I just moved into a new townhome in Littleton, Colo. a few weeks ago, where, ideally, some day I will get solar on my garage, a 240 outlet in my garage, and possibly a Tesla Powerwall — though, I will have to ‘politic’ all of these things by my condo association beforehand because I do not own my roof to the garage, or my townhome, the community does.

I just signed up for Xcel Windsource again, for, once again, 100 percent of my electrical use. However, technically I am not running my LEAF on Windsource like I was in my Denver apartment.

Why not?

Garages are not attached to individual townhomes in my “Cohousing Community”. They are deliberately not attached to townhomes in an attempt to create more opportunities to see, greet, and talk with neighbors.

All of the electricity used in the 40 or so garages in the Highline Crossing Cohousing Community in which I now live is metered collectively and paid for collectively via monthly HOA fees.

This means I currently cannot source my car-charging directly to Windsource, because, once again, I do not pay an individual bill for my electricity use in my two-car garage.

Yes, the fact that I do not have an individual meter in my garage — and neither does anyone else — does mean I am charging my  2014 LEAF essentially for free right now. Free fuel for my LEAF is not a bad deal.

However, on the downside, I am currently being forced to trickle charge at 120 volts because none of the 40 garages has a 240-volt outlet. Trickle charging, especially in the winter in Denver with an 84 mile Nissan LEAF can, and sometimes did, lead to me running out of charge.

With 120-volt charging you inevitably fall behind in your charging and are forced to start many trips without a full charge. This due to the glacially slow pace of charging a LEAF via 120 volts (it takes about 17 hours to charge my 2014 LEAF to 100 percent IF I start with a completely empty battery).

Free charging isn’t bad, even if it’s “just” trickle charging — and it will save me about $300 (yes, that’s ALL it costs me to drive my LEAF 10,000 miles in a year!).

However, the environment and promoting renewable energy — and actually living the renewable energy creed to which I ascribe, are far more important to me than money. I honestly do not care if solar-charging saves me money or not (it can, and DOES, save a lot of people A LOT of money) — because solar-charging allows me to drive without creating ANY air pollution at all, and air pollution is a SOCIAL COST that costs all of us via health problems that inevitably come from polluted air.

So, I’m hoping — really, crossing my fingers — that folks here in Highline Crossing will allow me to install solar on my garage’s rooftop, allow me to go to an individual meter (if this is possible), and allow me to install a 240 volt outlet, and a couple of Tesla Powerwalls as well. This all so that I can feel the personal satisfaction of individually creating my own fuel via 100 percent LOCAL, as well as air-pollution free, means.

Stay tuned…;-)

One Response

  1. 205guy

    Hi, I found your blog from a comment on Cleantechnica, and have been reading your latest posts. I like your SOLPWRD concept, because we have a similar setup: homeowner with 6KWh grid-tied solar on the roof charging a two LEAFs (2015 with 24kWh battery and 2017 with 30kWh) for a family of 3. We have a 6kW wall-mounted charger, the modified 220V charger, and the standard 110V charger. That lets us choose based on the amount of sunshine we’re getting. I can’t wait for a charger or car that does this automatically (I heard the Zoe in Europe can do this).

    Unfortunately, I don’t have any HOA experience for your current situation, but I like the idea of a cohousing community. I do think you shouldn’t be charging a car off of the shared garage circuit, it’s just not fair to the neighbors–and will likely cause conflict you probably want to avoid. You should look around for other EVs on the property and see how they do it. If you are the first, congratulations, you just became the community’s EV expert and advocate. I suggest you bring it up at the next HOA meeting, and perhaps brainstorm some possible solutions. Off the top of my head, they might allow you to put in a charger on an internally metered circuit, and you would have to pay for your usage. The only other solution I can think of is to charge at work. If you’re at a university, they should have chargers, and if they don’t, you again might have to become an activist to push for it.

    Same thing for solar. If the condo buildings are not set up for easy solar, it will be an expensive retrofit–too much to make it worth your while. And then how do you tie into the shared circuit? I’m afraid this will be an uphill battle for you, especially because anything that other residents have to pay for but not benefit from just isn’t fair to them. Even asking them to put the garage circuit onto wind-source will cost everyone. This is a sad side-effect of condos and HOAs, one I hope will be mitigated by future legislation (mandated chargers, allow solar on units, etc.)

    For Powerwall, I just watched a youtube channel called “Fully Charged” that had an episode about that. The app shows instantaneously how much the powerwall is charging or discharging and how much the house is getting from solar, the powerwall, or the grid. It can be used to charge a car, but it is also smaller than the car battery, so it won’t fully charge a low battery.

    Best of luck in your quest, I’ll follow your blog to see what solutions you’re able to find.


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