a real live Austin electric bill (with solar)

We were as excited as a herd of bonobo monkeys at a Viagra conference this week when our first electric bill with solar arrived in the mail! How did we do?

Looking at the bottom line--the dollars involved--it's easy to see how we did: We reduced our final bill by slightly more than half. Our final bill was $28.22 after being reduced $30.85 due to the solar credit. With all the "reads" (and the lack of paperwork explaining what it all means), it's a little harder to figure out what's going on.

The first thing to note is that the bill refers to two meters because we (ahem) now have two meters: One connected directly to the solar system and the other connected to the city supply.

Solar PV Read is easy enough: That's what we generated from the photovoltaic system.

Whole House Consumption is easy enough as well: That's the total amount of electrical use for the billing period.

Based on adding, subtracting, and comparing, Delivered Read is the amount of electricity delivered to the house via the city.

Received Read is the amount of electricity we generated that went back out onto the grid. In other words, we were generating more electricity than what we were using. This is the electricity the city received from us.

Net Read is the difference between Received Read and Delivered Read and is what the city delivered to us when we're given credit for the extra we gave them. Net Read plus Solar PV Read equals Whole House Consumption.

The way the billing works is that we get billed for the total amount of electricity we used (Whole House Consumption) as if we didn't have a solar system. That means we "benefit" from all the associated fixed charges and up-charges from typical power consumption. However, we then get credited with the Solar Credit. Tier 1 charges (for the first 500 kWh) come in at $0.06575 per kWh (building in the regulatory and power supply adjustment charges). Tier 2 (for use greater than 500 kWh) comes in at $0.1038 per kWh. The Solar Credit clocks in at $0.113 per kWh (not sure what it's tied to, but it seems to be the fully adjusted Tier 2 cost). That's a pretty good deal for us since we're getting paid twice for what we would have gotten charged for 159 kWh. Once we hit the cooling season, it's doubtful we'll continue to see that benefit.

The other interesting thing about the billing this month is that the bill from the city only includes electricity: No water, sewer, or solid waste charges. Did we get a Solar Credit for that (I know: I'm dreaming...)? Did they forget? Or is it coming under separate cover?


modern maven: Peter Behrens

Peter Behrens (1913)

Who: Peter Behrens 
What: German architect
When: b. 1868 d. 1940; key active time 1907 to 1912
Where: Berlin and Vienna
Why: Designed the AEG Turbine Factory
How: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Adolf Meyer, and Walter Gropius worked in his office.

Similar to Le Corbusier, Peter Behrens' first love was painting. He attended art school and then, after joining the Jugenstil (Art Nouveau) Movement, worked as a poster and graphic designer. His first stab at architecture came when he designed his own house in an Art Nouveau style after joining an artist's colony in 1899. Not only did he design his house, but he designed everything in it including the furniture, towels, and art. 

Along with a dozen other folks, including Josef Hoffman, he formed the German Werbund. The Werkbund was inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement but with the goal of bringing good design to the masses through industrial mass production. AEG was a supporter of the movement and hired Behrens to design almost everything related to the company, including its logo, products, font, marketing, and buildings. Between 1907 to 1912, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1908 to 1911), Le Corbusier (1910 to 1911), Adolf Meyer, and Walter Gropius (1907 to 1910) worked in his office. During this time he designed and built the key building of his career: the AEG Turbine Factory.

The AEG Turbine Factory was built in 1909 in Berlin and is notable for its lack of ornamentation and use of steel and glass. The building is considered transitional in the overall Modern oeuvre because of the non-load bearing masonry at the corners. Nevertheless, key budding minds in early Modernism were in his office when the project was realized. The factory somehow managed to escape destruction during World War II and is now owned by Siemens, who still makes turbines there. 

In 1922, Behrens accepted a teaching position at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna as well as retaining his position in Berlin, a position he held until his death.

Peter Behrens, woodcut (1898)

Peter Behren's House (circa 1899)

Front door of Peter Behren's House (circa 1899)

Inside of the AEG Turbine Factory (1909)

Peter Behrens, promotional materials (1912)

New Ways House in England (1926)


modern quilting at quiltcon 2015

A number of years ago, the quilters of Gee's Bend, Alabama, came through town via the Austin Museum of Art. We gawked at the quilts and, by happenchance, got to meet some of the quilters. The remarkable thing about their their work is how beautifully abstract it is:

Inspired by these modernistic quilts, the Modern Quilt Guild formed to carry forward the art of Modern quilting. And as happenchance would have it (I love getting happenchanced...), their 2015 international show and conference, QuiltCon 2015, was in Austin this past weekend.

The show was impressive, and the quilts were fabulous. Hard to say how many quilts were there, but it had to have been around 250. Below are some of the better ones (by my eyes...).

I sewed a kittycat using this awesome machine...

I've been wanting to quilt Mies van der Rohe's brick house for a while now...