The Future Is Electric

rows of solar panels
Plumas-Sierra’s 2.5-megawatt solar project in Herlong at the Sierra Army Depot. Photo by Dean Bryant of Berry Construction

As Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative (PSREC) and other electric utilities across the nation shift to more renewable energy sources and make existing generation technologies cleaner, electricity production has used less fossil fuel per kilowatt-hour of energy produced.

Environmentally beneficial electrification means innovations in energy technology are creating new ways to use electricity instead of on-site fossil fuels, such as propane, natural gas, and fuel oil.

The Natural Resources Defense Council recognizes the many values of electrifying the grid.

“Beneficial electrification will continue to play a big role in accelerating this transition in an effective and economic way, to the benefit of consumers, energy resilience, and the environment,” says Sheryl Carter, co-director of the NRDC Energy Program.

Heat Pumps

If you are looking for a more sustainable way to heat and cool your home, consider a heat pump. Heat pumps do not generate heat—they simply move available heat from one place to another, providing year-round comfort. The technology has advanced over time, resulting in one of the cleanest, most energy-efficient ways to cool and heat your home.

How it Works: A heat pump moves low-temperature heat absorbed from outside air, the ground, or water through condenser coils. The heat is released inside through an evaporator coil during the heating season. Refrigerant flows through a closed system between these condensing and evaporating coils.

When cooling your home, a heat pump works much like a refrigerator. It transfers heat to an outside heat sink via a reversing valve controlled by the home’s thermostat. The heat pump now pulls warm air from inside your home through an air handler while refrigerant is pumped by a compressor from the condenser coil to the evaporator coil. The colder refrigerant absorbs the heat from the indoor air. This leaves behind cooler, dehumidified air to circulate through the home.

Heat pumps can last between 15 and 30 years if maintained properly. While the initial cost of a heat pump may be higher than other systems, the U.S. Department of Energy reports heat pumps can reduce overall heating and cooling costs by as much as 40%.

Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative offers many rebates for heat pumps and other HVAC equipment. Consult a licensed HVAC contractor. Energy efficiency projects may require building permits, so contact your local building department prior to beginning work. To learn more about PSREC’s rebate program, visit our Rebates page.

Electric Vehicles

The electric vehicle market has been booming, with sales growing 25% in 2018, and the network of EV chargers expanding significantly each year. EVs are becoming more affordable, and battery technology is improving, allowing drivers to go farther with each charge.

There are two basic types of electric vehicles: the all-electric vehicle and the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, which can run using an electric motor or a gas engine. A PHEV can run solely on electricity for about 15 to 50 miles depending on the model—a great option for those with a shorter daily commute.

Despite the range anxiety many consumers have, EVs typically can get you to and from work for your daily commute with no problem. According to the Federal Highway Administration, the average American drives 25 miles a day—for rural areas, that average is 34 miles a day. Most electric vehicles on the road today have a range of more than 100 miles. Ranges of up to 200 miles are becoming more common.

There are different types of electric vehicle chargers: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 (also known as DC Fast Charging). Level 2 and Level 3 chargers are much faster than Level 1 and are what you will see at most public charging stations. Electric vehicles are generally able to travel 3 to 4 miles per kilowatt-hour.

Level 1 charging units distribute charge to the battery at 1 to 2 kilowatt-hour (kWh), giving the battery roughly 3 to 5 miles of range per hour of charging. So, if you drive your car 40 miles or fewer during the day, charging for 10 hours a night will probably be adequate. Level 1 chargers are typically included in the purchase of an EV or PHEV.

Level 2 units supply power levels from 3 to 19 kWh, depending on the amperage of the circuit and the EV’s accepted power level. This means Level 2 chargers will provide between 10 and 20 miles of range per hour of charging. Residential Level 2 chargers range in cost from $400 to $2,500. A Level 2 charger plugs into a 240-volt outlet, which is not common to many homes. The additional cost of installing these outlets is typically between $500 and $2,700. Be sure to hire a licensed electrician if you need a 240-volt outlet installed.

PSREC offers its members a $500 rebate for the purchases of plug-in electric vehicles or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Qualifying vehicles must be registered in Plumas, Lassen, Sierra, or Washoe counties. For more information, visit our website. Call us at (530) 832-6032 with any questions.

Community Solar

PSREC is pleased to offer community solar to its members. PSREC has built a 2.5-megawatt solar project in cooperation with the Sierra Army Depot. Output from this array is available for members to purchase.

PSREC’s Community Solar Program is a great option for members who may not want the large up-front investment in a solar system, rent, or live in an area with shading where a solar system would not produce optimal energy output.

Community solar is a way to access renewable power without solar panels on your roof. It eliminates maintenance costs and concerns that can be a hassle for those who own and maintain their own residential solar systems. PSREC offers members the choice of a monthly adder to their existing rate or a one-time up-front fee. For more information on this program, call (530) 832-6032.

Across the country, electric co-ops are paving the way. They are purchasing and generating more renewable resources, whether it be wind, solar, or geothermal energy. As the energy sector continues to grow and evolve, PSREC is committed to bringing its members safe, reliable, and affordable power.

Contact PSREC at (530) 832-4261 to discuss available renewable energy options and to learn about the latest ways to save energy.