Project Management

Power, Progress, and Optimism Bias

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Richard Maltzman
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Early in the year I posted “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” – to say that I’d be sharing with you the progress of our solar power installation and the ‘handover’ of that project to operation.

So, here’s  a  quick update on our solar power installation.

This week we got our system online and generating power!  So far we are averaging over 20kWh per day.  Vivint, the company which installed the system, has an app which provides details including the savings (earth savings, such as reduced carbon use).  See the screenshots below:

We had hoped to be generating power weeks ago, however a new standard was established in our town regarding the position of AC and DC runs into the system (see photo, with highlighted area of the two inputs which had to be swapped).

The installers were not aware of the new town requirement.  So the system failed inspection (even though it worked perfectly and would have passed if the inspector hadn’t happened to have gone through a seminar just a couple of days ago).

So, Vivint had to come back and re-wire the system, which they did fairly promptly, but now the town had to schedule a re-inspection.

Bottom line: this cost 3 weeks of unexpected delay.

This is a good example of estimation optimism bias.  There are also some communications issues here, right?

However, the good news is that the system is up and running and I hope to follow up next with an ability to talk about the monetary aspect of the project.  Yes, we did this for the right reasons: economic and ecological.  We have started to see the ecological benefits, but as they say: show me the money!

I should have that update in a month.  Or.... am I being too optimistic in that estimate?


Posted by Richard Maltzman on: January 31, 2020 11:05 PM | Permalink

Comments (12)

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It is wonderful.
I think the introduction of a smart electricity meter is very effective in sharing information effectively, quickly and accurately.
I think a society without energy loss is very attractive.

Dear Richard
Interesting your reflection on the topic: "Power, Progress, and Optimism Bias"

Thanks for sharing

Is this supposed to avoid delay if there had been a proper diagnosis of the situation and planning?

I think the following:
The installation company needs to be more aware of changing regulations and specs.
The town - or agency that changed these specs - should be more proactive in communicating them to all stakeholders.
Either or both would have avoided this delay.

Dear Mr. Richard, You are being too optimistic. Having specialised in Power Systems and also worked in Utilities sector over last 20 years, you can be optimistically biased up to 99.99%. For example, I have tested several LED bulbs which categorically states 8000 hours of lighting. But unfortunately it has not met the set expectations by manufacturers (only some coming close to it). Also if you go back to analogues way of estimating, I reckon we had similar measures based on land, meters fitted and other equipment installed. Thanks to digital disruption, what we see now a days is colourful graphs and readings. I am not against the technology evolution but fully against the amount of money being spent on that. Instead you can be smart and practical to know these things through analogous computations.

This optimism reminds me of the classification of the economic lamps and the indication on the packaging of the number of hours they last. Bearing in mind that they are much more expensive, what I notice is that they break down well before the expected hours of duration. Is this also an intentional partiality of optimism or a business.

Fantastic initiative from the Town for sure.. What a great initiative...I guess you got some "Lessons Learned" to put in your OPA.
Maybe it'd be a good idea to revisit the risk register if you had one.
Thank you for sharing...a good read for sure.


That is one thing I would love to install, it is not possible/legal here for now. For now, I have my electric car, power by renewable HydroElectricity.

The communication for the town should be improved, changing regulation is no small thing.

Interesting perspectives, thank you!

Great information, thanks for sharing.

Ah yes, scheduling resources is always a problem especially when work was not completed to full regulation the 1st time.

Enjoy your solar power. I hope to have one in the future attached to a battery. Hopefully technology and government will eventually allow us options to live off the electric grid.

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