184: Catching up – Fully Charged, Heat Pumps, and the Rise of Solar

Matt and Sean play a little catch up after some breaks. Matt talks about his experience at Fully Charged Live in Vancouver, the rise of CO2 heat pumps, and solar power’s incredible climb to dominance.

Watch the Undecided with Matt Ferrell episode, How Solar Power Got So Cheap … So Fast https://youtu.be/-ykE9ei3c3M?list=PLnTSM-ORSgi7uzySCXq8VXhodHB5B5OiQ

Watch the other Undecided with Matt Ferrell episode, Why CO2 Heat Pumps Are The Future Of Cooling https://youtu.be/npqzHpeIvhM?list=PLnTSM-ORSgi4dFnLD9622FK77atWtQVv7

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On today’s episode of Still To Be Determined, we’re going to be talking about everything from conference panels to solar panels. As usual, I’m Sean Ferrell. I’m a writer. I write some sci fi. I write some stuff for kids, including the recently released The Sinister Secrets of Singe, which is available now.

And I’m just generally curious about technology and luckily for me, my brother is that Matt of Undecided with Matt Ferrell, which takes a look at emerging tech and its impact on our lives. Matt, how are you doing today?

I’m doing great. Um, you’re doing great despite all these starts and stops I’m getting back in, but yeah, the third time that we’ve gone through the intro of this episode, cause we’re having technical difficulties and brain difficulties.

It’s going great. So here we are.

But you were saying you’ve had a little bit of back and forth in and out of studio and getting things settled. Yeah.

Yeah. Yeah. It’s like I was just on that trip to Vancouver and I’m back and I’ve still getting the studio set up. There was a lot of echo, so I’ve been setting up more soundproofing and then I’m still need to figure out the lighting and all that kind of stuff.

But you’ll see this evolving over the next few weeks, but, uh, it’s, it’s going well. It’s like getting settled in, getting back to normal. It’s nice.

Your most recent episode where you actually previewed your new studio partway through the episode. You. Said, excuse me a moment and stepped out and stepped into your new studio and then stepped back and I thought it was funny how many people in the comments were like, you got to re soundproof that room.

You got to like, and I read all those comments thinking like, I don’t think Matt’s done, but

no, not even close. So

you just mentioned Vancouver. Uh, so that was fully charged live. So, we wanted to talk a little bit about that. And my first question to you is, how did you first come into contact with Fully Charged?

What was the interaction there that led to you being invited? And this is also not your first time, right?

No, it’s not my first time. It was probably, I don’t know, maybe four years ago or so I made contact with them. I can’t remember who reached out to who, but a fellow named Dan Caesar, who’s the CEO, he kind of runs Fully Charged.

It was created by Robert Llewellyn, who’s a… Actor from England. Uh, he started it. Dan Caesar came in as the c e o and has been growing the business since then. They’ve been doing these live events and they reached out to me, uh, probably in 2019 asking me if I wanted to participate in the first US, uh, event in Austin, Texas.

And so I went to that one, uh, January, 2020, right before the pandemic . It was the last thing I did for years . So it was, it was a, a really fun event. Um, Unfortunately, I was really excited to meet Robert, but he got very ill and wasn’t able to be at the event. And then between then and now, I’ve actually been a guest on his podcast on Everything Electric and Fully Charged, um, so we’ve had some back and forths.

But, uh, this is the first time I’ve been able to meet more of the broader team in person at the Vancouver event. So it was a, it was a lot of fun. It was really cool.

How many people were in attendance that you could estimate at?

Oh, thousands. I have no idea that the exact number, uh, what Dan said to, uh, uh, me was for the, for a first event, cause when they go into a new city, um, like the UK one that they do, they’ve been doing it for several years is absolutely massive.

You’re talking 20, 25, 000 people that show up at that event. Maybe even more at this point. Um, when they launch a new event in a new city, like in Austin or in San Diego or in Vancouver, you expect a smaller size than what you get at one that you’ve done numerous years in a row. And he said that Vancouver is the best initial launch they’ve ever had at any, Um, New City that they’ve done.

So they’re extremely happy with how it went. Um, and just seeing from attendance, there were a lot of people there. That’s great. A lot of

people. Yeah. So you were on, uh, at least one panel that I know of was, were there a couple or was it just the one?

I was on four. Um, there was a couple, there’s one home energy hacks.

There’s another one on home energy kind of things that you can do your house. And then there was, uh, one of how, uh, good batteries, how good will batteries become was another event that I was a panel that I was a part of. And then there was a fireside chat I’d had with Robert on, uh, the last day. Um, it was the initial kind of like keynote thing that he would do every day.

He had a fireside chat with Robert where he had a guest and I was one of the guests on the final day.

And was there anything that came up that you was surprising to you? Did you see any new tech or hear anybody discuss anything that you? Hadn’t been

already aware of. There were two things. Um, I got to partake a Polestar, which is an offshoot of Volvo.

They had, it’s their electric vehicle company. Uh, I had a chance to ride in a Polestar 2 and a Polestar 3 which are their kind of like crossover sedan car and then the full size SUV. And then they also took me out on, uh, there’s a company called, uh, Candela, which. I think it’s Swedish, and it’s, they have, they make electric boats, and so I got to ride on the Polestar edition of a Candela, um, and it has the, it has the same battery pack from the Polestar 2 in it, and it’s a hydrofoil, and unfortunately, When I got to ride it, the hydrofoil wasn’t working because in transporting it from Sweden over to Vancouver, a sensor got damaged and it wouldn’t allow them to run in the hydrofoil mode.

And I was very disappointed because I wanted to go really fast and couldn’t do it. But it was, it was still a really cool experience. Um, the second thing was I actually got to see some really old tech. There was the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association was there and they had, uh, one of the very first electric vehicles that, you know, existed that was like from 1920 or 1917 or something like that.

It was like really old. Um, and it was there. And one of the guys walked me through the whole vehicle about how it worked, how it steered. It didn’t have a steering wheel. It had like a bar that was in front of the driver that you’d push forward and go forward. And you’d pull it back or go back. And then it had another like bar that you’d, you’d push forward and it would turn left and you’d pull it back and it would go, go right.

It was, it was a really weird kind of contraption that would make it go, but it could drive for, I don’t know, 30, 40 miles on a single charge. And this was a car that was made. Yeah. Like a hundred years ago. It was really cool to see it in person. It was very, very neat.

And what kind of battery did it have to store that power?

Um, they used, I believe it was some, some form of, um, acid battery back then, but what they have in it now is more modern batteries today, um, to, to make it work. Um, but it was, I think it was just lithium ion they had in there. I can’t remember if they were still using. And, uh, lead acid battery or something like that, but, uh, the fact that it still operates shows how well this kind of tech can last because it’s, it’s very, ultimately it’s very simple technology, so it can last for a very long


And it has fewer moving parts, right, than a, than a combustion engine. So exactly. That’s remarkable. That’s fantastic. This is really, really cool. So in your conversations, the panels that you had, um, what were some of the connections you made with other panelists? Was there anybody there that you had met before or were you meeting entirely new people and were they global or were they Canadian and U.

S. centric?

There was a, there was heavily on the Canadian side, uh, but there were people from France, uh, Canada, UK, um, uh, United States. There were people from all over the place and most of the people I met were new to me. Um, I made some interesting connections in the building industry. Like I, I made a connection with a passive house company that, um, I’m going to be having conversations with.

Going into the future, uh, so there were, there were some really good connections. I made other people in the solar industry, uh, make connections with people in the Canadian energy, uh, sector that were, uh, really fascinating to talk to because it’s interesting to see how. Um, different regions are handling rolling out solar renewables, all those, you know, energy storage and what the different tactics are that they take in different markets.

Um, one thing that I thought was really funny was one of the panels I was on, uh, the, uh, I can’t remember what the name of the, uh, British, it’s the BC, um, Energy. Utility for Canada. There was a gentleman from that on one of my panels about, it was about home energy hacks. And, uh, I felt bad for him because near the end, when they’re in the Q and A session, there were some extremely angry pointed questions like coming at him.

Yeah. Because the people were very unhappy with some of the policies that have been shifting and the way costs are done. And I’m just sitting there going, Oh, I would hate to be in his shoes. Cause it was, he was, he was answering them deftly and he was taking, hearing the feedback and he was giving a really good answers, but I just felt bad that, you know, he became the lightning rod a little bit for some of the people in the audience.


And that comes with the territory, I’m sure. Yeah. They probably go through all sorts of training to get him ready for combative. Audience response if he’s out there as a spokesperson. And my hope would be that he would take honest feedback back to the company that as an interface to the public, he’s bringing that back and, and they’re owning that and processing it in healthy ways.

Yeah. So, listeners, if you have any questions about Matt’s experience in Vancouver and as being a part of the panels, please drop them in the comments and I’ll try to visit those in a future episode, but now let’s transition over to talking about Matt’s most recent episodes. It’s been a little while since we recorded an episode because of .

It’s been a wild couple of weeks with house moving, uh, somebody involved in this podcast had his son go off to college, um, illness, unfortunately, some people may hear it, frogginess in my voice, but there’s been some shifting of the calendar. So Matt and I did not have a chance to talk about two of his most recent episodes.

We’re going all the way back to September 5th, 2023, how solar power got so cheap. This is… A very interesting turning of the worm that suddenly everybody’s looking around and saying, Oh, this is no longer a speculative outlier. Investment. This is the future of power production. This is a comp, this is a brick in the foundation of how we make our society work.

And I found it really, really fascinating. Some of the stuff that you talked about going back to 19th century solar tech, what sort of levels of solar production and the devices that you were showing in your video look So, my retro sci fi brain couldn’t, couldn’t have enjoyed that portion of the video more.

Like, the thing that looks like a giant umbrella that’s capturing sunlight. What were the things that they were trying to do with these? Were these speculative inventions where they would capture sunlight and simply show, look, we’ve produced energy here? Or were they actually trying to say, like, ladies and gentlemen, here’s a way to heat water in your home.

What were they doing with these

things? It was speculative. It’s kind of like the early days of flight. We talked about this in a recent episode where it’s like that contraption with the umbrella going like this. And it’s like, that’s never going to fly, but somebody tried it. It was, it was a lot of that going on.

It was a lot of learning, speculative stuff. Look what we could possibly do. Um, we didn’t come across anything that showed that there was any kind of real traction in like, here’s a new possible industry that we can power. Our homes with this or anything like even remotely close to that. Uh, but it was definitely, there was a lot of showcasing of, we can capture the sun’s energy and turn it into electricity.

Right. I know that a lot of the early inventors too were effectively, I mean, they were engineers before engineering was engineering, right? So in some cases it was a lot of. Either somebody who was a merchant or a crafts person who also had knowledge in other areas that led them down the engineering routes.

Do you know too much about the 19th century inventors as far as what they did professionally? Were they working in related fields or was this just something that somebody who had time and money to be able to go off into a workshop and tinker on things that was driving this tech?

That’s a really good question.

I don’t know. It’s like, I want to look into that now because something tells me some of these inventors, you know, they had a day job. Yeah. It’s not necessarily what they were doing. Um, some of this was probably coming from passion projects. Others were probably coming from, well, the Wright brothers were.

Yeah. Bicyclists.

Doing their own. I mean, that was, you know, like, so there are elements of understanding how machinery works and knowing how to build machinery. The Wright Brothers famously had a partner who was a, basically a tool and die guy. And he invented some of the first. Motorized engines in planes.

And so, um, the crafts aspect of all of this, like the earliest propellers would have been built by people who are familiar with building things for boats, aerodynamics and fluid dynamics being so similar. So, I think it would be perhaps an interesting video, uh, to investigate the earliest backgrounds of some of these inventors.

The backgrounds not only of, of 19th century inventors, but the backgrounds of some 20 and 21st century. Uh, people who’ve broken new ground. Did they come from a terrain of, Oh, this is somebody who was working in chemical engineering and went into this science, or was it somebody who as a side project ended up having a breakthrough that took people into new terrain?

I think that’d be really interesting. I agree. On that video, there were several comments that stood out, but this one in particular caught my eye. Danny wrote. The incentives were indeed quite important, but at least in Europe, solar adoption increased greatly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent energy crises.

Suddenly people realized how important it is to be energy independent and electricity is the energy that can be created by anyone. And also other countries as well realized the importance of being energy independent. This tied into a question that I saw in some other comments and that occurred to me as I was watching the video.

Is solar energy, uh, capture and energy storage really more of a local tech or is there an export component? Are some places just more Uh, solar adaptable and able to hold onto that energy and transport that energy. Are we looking at potentially solar export countries that may be able to support those countries with less solar, uh, options?

As of

today, the majority really is local, you know, energy independence. You’re doing it yourself, uh, for the generation. But that there it is a growing sector to do the exporting. Um, I actually did a video maybe a year ago, um, about how there’s like some Northern African countries that are building out large, huge solar farms.

And they’re going to be trying to export that up into Europe. Um, the, for the energy generation they’re making, because they’re prime country for Just generating gobs of solar power because it’s a desert. Yeah. Wintertime, summertime, doesn’t matter what time of year it is, they’re going to be generating huge amounts of energy because they’re so close to the equator.

Uh, there’s definitely an opportunity for that. The flip side of it though, is you’re ending up in a similar situation that we have today, where it’s like you have centralized. Uh, energy generation that’s being exported, which can then be, um, taken advantage of, manipulated. Uh, prices can be jacked up because you’re totally dependent on this other country giving you their energy.

And so suddenly they can just start ratcheting up the costs. Um, so it’s like, there is a factor of solar power that I think is incredibly important for around energy independence because it’s a really good point that commenter brought up. It’s, if you’re completely in control of how the energy is being generated.

At your location, you don’t have to worry about that side of things, and there needs to be a mix of all of this. So it’s, it’s, it’s a very important topic for sure. There’s

also the developing nation aspect that I think is important to keep in mind that a country where, uh, developed nations might come in and say, let’s build these power plants for the, these, uh, solar panel farms and these storage facilities, and we’ll work on ways of getting that energy over to our country.

What is happening with the local population? Are we, are we ending up re re concretizing unfair, unequal development? And, uh, for a country to be reliant on solar farms as a means of income, but that income does not go to the local population is no different than the poverty we see around oil developed nations, where specific groups of people hold all the power and wealth and the mass.

The, uh, of the population, the, the greater part of the population is extremely poor and are forced as a labor force to work for these interests that aren’t even supporting their local economy. So, uh, that inequality is also something to keep an eye on. I think one of the things that is really interesting about that though, is you as an individual have the ability to tap into that kind of production.

Whereas for Petroleum, you know, Matt’s not building a new house and putting an oil rig in the backyard. Well,

this is, this is, uh, this is a paradigm shift in how energy is generated today. The renewable energy has changed the game completely. And so we’re, we’re seeing utilities who have held all of the cards.

You know how they’re all reacting differently to how this transition is happening. Some are kind of rolling with it and trying to evolve with it because they see where it’s going and others are trying to prevent it from happening and trying to slow it down. Um, so it’s, it’s an interesting thing to see how it’s playing out between individuals like myself.

That are able to do myself and what the old, the old guard are doing as it’s

evolving. There was also this comment from UDEC who jumped in to say, imagine if the cost to install solar on your roof also dropped as substantially. It’s roughly the same here as it was seven years ago when I first looked into it.

I’m not sure where UDEC is when they say I looked into this. Um, but I wondered. In your research, are you aware of installation costs? Have those been going down? Have they stayed flat? And as production is going up so much, what does that mean for those people who want to jump in now where those incentives from government are, a lot of them are expiring.

So the tax breaks that people used to be able to get are no longer as available. So. What does that mean as far as cost to the consumer who wants to jump in?

Yeah, that could be playing a role in why the costs are shifting, but I’ve also noticed it’s in pockets with my own research and the people I’ve talked to, um, some areas are seeing greater decreases in costs where other places are not so much.

So I don’t, like you said, I don’t know where that commenter is, um, where they’re experiencing that. But when you look at the aggregate across the board, installation costs are dropping. They are definitely cheaper. The amount of money I paid for my solar panels on my previous house, if I got that exact sized system today on my new house, the new system I’m getting on my new house is way bigger than my previous one, but if I had gotten a smaller system that was equivalent, it would have been dramatically cheaper.

On my new house, um, than it was just, and that’s a five year difference. Just in five years it was, the price dropped dramatically. Um, so that’s apples to apples in your location, in my location. But granted on my new house, I’m getting a bigger system, so my system now is more expensive than my previous system, but it’s also like twice the size and

So it’s, it’s expected that it would be more expensive. But for, for like a apples to apples, I I’ve seen it in my area. The costs have absolutely dropped.

Moving on now to Matt’s other most recent episode. This was why CO2 heat pumps are the future of cooling. And this was from September 11th, 2023. This one was interesting because a lot of people in the comments, I think, were missing key aspects of what a heat pump does.

And I don’t know if there’s something about the way your script was written that you were reinforcing, like, It may be people hear heat, heat pump, and they hear heat pushing, heat production. Because a lot of the comments were like this one from Timothy Mine who wrote, you talked about its heating abilities, but as a person living in Florida, cooling is a little more important.

I do need a good heat unit, but I need cooling more. So My understanding of a heat pump is it’s not producing heat, it’s moving heat. So do you want to talk a little bit about heating versus cooling and cooling versus heating?

Well, heat pumps go both ways. So a heat pump can air condition just as well as it can heat.

A room. So like for me in my house, I have a geothermal system and it’s going to do double duty over the summertime and wintertime. So it’s like to address that commenter’s exact points, like this tech absolutely can do that. Um, the, the, the highlighting in this video, I, it, When I talk about topics again and again, like heat pumps, it’s like, I don’t want to go back to give it context.

I don’t want to go back to the well and do the entire two minute explanation of what a heat pump is every time, because it would irritate the hell out of everybody. So I tend to do shorthand of, if you want to know more about this, we did a previous video a while ago, or, you know, this is something we’ve talked about before.

So I’ll just do a really quick high level. Um, I may have done a disservice in this video because I didn’t go in depth into The tech, the how it works side, but this tech that I highlighted absolutely would work well in conditions where you have to cool your home. The benefit of the, the harvest system that I highlighted was how it can, you can also create, it divorces the time that you’re actually having to run the heat pump from the time that you’re actually needing the heat.

And so for that case, that specific use case, it is about. Heat. So it’s not about air conditioning. If you needed air conditioning, it would be generating it at the moment you need it. So to address that commenter’s comment, it’s like, it was like, I didn’t do a good enough job in the script highlighting all the details, and I may have glossed over some things, but heat pumps in general are great for both.

The harvest system specifically really is geared more towards heating than air conditioning because how it stores the heat and when it’s storing the heat and then you need heat it’s just giving it to you um from the the heat tank the the water tank but it doesn’t store cold so it’s not right it’s not going to give you the air conditioning in the same way

this may be a case where engineering’s use of the term heat may be confusing to some people and that if you thought of it more of a temperature pump Where you’re, you’re shifting things depending on which direction you want it to go, because if you’re taking the heat from your room and putting that heat into the ground, you, you’re technically it’s all heat being moved, but it’s hard to conceptualize like how this is helping


Yeah, from an engineering perspective, heat pump is the very accurate term. Yes. But from a public perception, just like Joe on the street, it’s a little confusing, and it probably could have a better term.

There was also this comment that I want to share from Christopher who wrote in to say, the issue with CO2 is that it requires 1500 to 2600 psi to work.

That means the compressor will need three stages. And they would also require stainless steel lines, making it extremely expensive. This tapped into my question of, is there research into materials that might be made to make this more cost efficient? Are they looking at other materials or perhaps creating new materials that would be able to manage these types of PSI without it having to be stainless steel, without it having to be super


I mean, that, that is a high PSI, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that high. That’s not that, not that crazy. Um, but I have not seen anything that says there’s new material research being done to try to change that, um, for, for costs specifically. Um, is that because

the market is not the


Right. Um, exactly. I, I think it comes down to. This is, I, we brought this up in the video, which was one of the downsides of this system is that it requires more complex machinery. It requires more complex compressors. And because of that, it jacks the cost up a little bit and it makes it a little more .

Not difficult to manage, but like there’s more points, potential points of failure over the next decade or two that you’re running the system because there’s more things involved to get that, that, that to work. So as far as what we saw, there’s really nothing that’s going to change that. It kind of is what it is.

And we didn’t see anybody that’s kind of like reinventing the wheel, uh, for that side of it. Right. But it’s more of a, when a system can do double duty. really effectively, where it’s not just moving heat for air in the, for your, the temperature, but you can double up and get hot water out of it. Those kinds of double uses.

really start to kind of amplify the system and make it more cost effective and more, yeah, it’s more upfront, but all these extra benefits you’re getting from this one thing start to add up and make it make a lot more sense. And to tie back to, not to sound like an advertisement for Harvest, uh, Harvest Thermal, but it’s like the fact that their system, their, their innovation isn’t changing the technology of the heat pump.

But changing how it runs, like the whole idea that you’re storing the heat for later use, which means you can run the heat pump when energy is super cheap, store it, and then pull it out of storage for when you need it. That innovation right there. It helps to justify the cost of the system because you can save so much money just by doing that.

Right. So it’s like there’s, there’s innovations happening around the fact that there’s nothing really changing in the stainless steel and the compressors. It’s, it’s really just how you run the system. That’s the big innovation.

So this is not looking at, Hey, Joe, homeowner, you’re building a new house. Why don’t you put this in?

It’s more in the vein of, Hey, office building owner. You are looking to get that green certificate. So this is a system that might benefit you in being able to

get there. Well, sort of. I mean, like if you’re talking about like, there’s a reason why grocery stores are doing this, cause it makes so much sense for them because they can save gobs of money of how they use these heat pump systems, but for something like Harvest Thermal.

It is trying to bring it to the masses that is trying to bring it to the people that are building a new home and want to do it on their own. And here’s a system that’s geared towards them. That can make sense. Um, but it’s, it’s like, we’re early days on that kind of system for, for homeowners. Yeah.

It’s all very interesting.

So welcome back, Matt, after your travels. I know it was a pretty hectic journey for you, but you seem like you’re getting settled back in and it’s nice to see. This is not our first conversation with Matt in his new studio, but it is our first conversation with him in his new studio where it’s starting to look less like a blue box and more like a place that he actually lives.

So, welcome home. And to our listeners and viewers, don’t forget, jump into the comments. Let us know what you thought about this conversation. The comments really do drive the content of the show. And don’t forget to go back to Undecided with Matt Ferrell if any of the videos there, if there was discussion.

That you think we missed on some of his older episodes, jump into the comments, drop those comments in those episodes. I do go back through them and we try to pull them back out. They do help drive the content here. So thank you so much for your time in doing that. And don’t forget if you’d like to support the show, you can review us on wherever it was.

You found this, whether it’s YouTube, Apple, Google, Spotify, wherever it was, go back, leave a review. Don’t forget to subscribe and to share it with your friends. All of that really does help support the show. And if you’d like to more directly support us, you can click the join button on YouTube. You can also go to stilltbd.

fm. Click the become a supporter button there. It allows you to throw some coins at our heads. We appreciate the welts and then we make the podcast after the bruising has gone away. All those are great ways to support us. Thank you so much everybody for taking the time to visit us. And we’ll talk to you next time.

On today’s episode of Still to be Determined, we’re going to be talking about everything from conference panels to solar panels. Hi, everybody. Welcome to Trek in Time. Nope.

Oh, Sean, that’s great.

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