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The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Discussions of conventional and alternative energy production technologies.

Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby Ibon » Sat 16 Sep 2017, 10:50:24

baha wrote:Also, you can daisy chain up to 4 powerwalls on one panel. That gives an instant output of 20 kW. Overkill in my opinion. I have never seen my house use more than 3 kW at any time...but I don't have teenagers :)

We just installed a two Powerwall system at a very large house with 10 kW of solar. He may not be very efficient, but he is now grid free :)


Thanks Ghung and Baha.....

We now have 2 employee cabins, a lodge with restaurant, 2 cabins, soon to be tree cabin and a coffee processing building with 4 guest rooms and my wife and my personal lodging. 21 beds.. All of this powered with 7.6KW....

WE gave up heating water with electricity and use propane gas for hot water last year.

The sudden peak usage is when you have those moments when many smaller appliances are all in use which is easy to happen with all the refrigerator compressors, power tools, restaurant appliances, coffee roaster etc. This battery back up to take care of momentary surge is something we will need to add soon.

You have better control of usage when all your power is within one building but our mini grid covers 6 buildings.

Thanks again for the inputs. Something I will invest in within a year......
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby GHung » Sat 16 Sep 2017, 11:05:30

"WE gave up heating water with electricity and use propane gas for hot water last year."

Why aren't you using your dump loads for hot water? Easy to do. I dump our surplus PV production to a 450 gallon tank.
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby Ibon » Sat 16 Sep 2017, 11:33:45

GHung wrote:"WE gave up heating water with electricity and use propane gas for hot water last year."

Why aren't you using your dump loads for hot water? Easy to do. I dump our surplus PV production to a 450 gallon tank.


We do. There are 8 dump channels each 1500W. Channel 1 & 2 are wired into an electric hot water tank. That is the only hot water tank we have remaining. The rest were replaced with propane. Channels 3-8 dump into a 6000 liter cistern that is close to the generator. I sometimes get a bucket and take a lukewarm dump shower with that slimy green algae filled warm water. When I have time I will put a thermostat and cold water line and grow tilapia in there!

Too many projects.... not enough time!
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby Outcast_Searcher » Sat 16 Sep 2017, 11:39:55

baha wrote:Hi KJ,
I will pay $12 to connect to the grid. If they raise the minimum I will disconnect.

I think both KJ and baha have a good point here. I agree with KJ that if you're connected to the grid, you should pay your share of the connection fee. After all, the utility (i.e. all the people connected) are benefitting from the utility maintaining the grid, and the power the utility provides from the grid).

However, what I believe will happen over time as more people go mostly solar, is the utility will raise its prices for electricity AND connection, to ensure they (and their shareholders) have a profit -- no matter how little net electricity they provide. (Even negative, if the politicians will let them get away with it).

I believe the prices will get truly outrageous, and the politicians will let them do this.

And if the politicians do pass net metering everywhere, it will just be harder on the utilities' bottom lines.

But I think Baha has a point. If he's producing plenty of electricity for the utility, he should be paid for it. I don't agree he should get the full rate the electric utility is charging -- but I think he should get a high percentage of that -- maybe 80% or so. (I'm not married to that number if someone has figures that demonstrate why the percentage should be, say, 70% or 90%). However, I am wedded to the principle.

Eventually if there is enough solar, the utility COULD be transformed into something that is 90+% about storing excess power from the community in batteries, pumped hydro, hot rocks, or whatever, maintaining the grid, and just keeping the lights on. If the community it serves produces enough excess solar and wind on average to keep the lights consistently on with their total setup -- great.

The biggest problem I see is imagining how in ALL circumstances, there won't need to be FF powered standby central power, at least in some climates. But I'll freely admit that may just be a lack of imagination. Maybe it's just a matter of a critical mass of people having solar roofs or wind turbines and it's done.

This isn't happening this year, or IMO, in one decade. But we're moving that direction, and policies and laws should be moving to prepare for and reflect that. Ir seems to me that overall reliability should improve from a decentralized system. No single point to hack. No single big production system to go down. Power produced for much of the community (or maybe all) whenever the sun shines.

Oh, and if Tony Seba's solar cost curve is remotely correct, electricity prices should decrease a lot in the next two to three decades. So the key thing will be keeping corrupt politicians and the utility lobby from making the mandatory grid fee outrageously high, for people who choose or need to stay on the grid.

(As corrupt as the system is, I'm concerned that piece won't happen). Will a cost "death spiral" occur as outraged customers leave the grid en masse entirely at some point?)
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby baha » Sat 16 Sep 2017, 12:09:18

You are absolutely right OS,
That has been my point all along...They have two choices, cooperate or be put down by their own x-customers. There are utility cooperatives out there that see this pattern and are preparing. And there are those that are fighting it tooth and nail.

This is going to happen. If we work together and just let momentum continue we will be driving solar powered EVs in 10 years. If we let monopolies and commissions dictate the future we will have to wait until they say oops...no power left...sorry.

My boss went to the Solar Energy International conference in Vegas. He said there was a whole isle devoted to battery systems. The most recent 60 cell panels like my 280's are now all over 300 watts and some are over 400.

Duke, Stop struggling before I get out my EMP weapon :twisted:
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby Outcast_Searcher » Sat 16 Sep 2017, 12:18:33

baha wrote:Also, you can daisy chain up to 4 powerwalls on one panel. That gives an instant output of 20 kW. Overkill in my opinion. I have never seen my house use more than 3 kW at any time...but I don't have teenagers :)

I'll second that. When I had my whole house generator installed 5 years ago, we tested "heavy power use" to see how to break up the power into two different 100 amp panels (which my electrician was assuming should be done. The generator to power the essentials, and everything else on a separate panel, as I had just upgraded to a 200 amp service, thinking ahead to selling the house some day).

So I basically ran around the house and turned on EVERYTHING I could think of, except space heaters. Multiple computers, lots of lights, hair dryer, microwave, oven, central air, washer, dryer, 3 ceiling fans, etc.

Did manage to get to about 35 amps, so a smidge over 4 KW's. (Generator is 90 amps max, 75 sustained, so the electrician laughed and said it would be "loafing" unless I installed an electric kiln. Oh, and the one 100 amp panel would be PLENTY for the house. (If someone bought the house and wanted electric kilns, THEY could add another panel. LOL)

So for me, 2 powerwalls would be overkill on the peak power needed, even at night.

The problem is the total power I'd want to endure a long outage (say after a big storm with many power lines down, which is 95% of why I bought the whole house generator), would take roughly one Powerwall of capacity a day, if I'm careful, if the weather is nasty. (Looking at my power bill, apparently I use most of my power running the furnace or AC a lot during the extreme weather months).

So for a long outage (with no solar roof), batteries still aren't economically feasible. So it's still about economics and when the total package (including solar roof), installed, is cheap enough -- all costs considered, to be worth it for the non-enthusiast.
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Sat 16 Sep 2017, 15:58:57

Outcast_Searcher wrote:-snip-
I think both KJ and baha have a good point here. I agree with KJ that if you're connected to the grid, you should pay your share of the connection fee. After all, the utility (i.e. all the people connected) are benefitting from the utility maintaining the grid, and the power the utility provides from the grid).

However, what I believe will happen over time as more people go mostly solar, is the utility will raise its prices for electricity AND connection, to ensure they (and their shareholders) have a profit -- no matter how little net electricity they provide. (Even negative, if the politicians will let them get away with it).

I believe the prices will get truly outrageous, and the politicians will let them do this.

And if the politicians do pass net metering everywhere, it will just be harder on the utilities' bottom lines.

But I think Baha has a point. If he's producing plenty of electricity for the utility, he should be paid for it. I don't agree he should get the full rate the electric utility is charging -- but I think he should get a high percentage of that -- maybe 80% or so. (I'm not married to that number if someone has figures that demonstrate why the percentage should be, say, 70% or 90%). However, I am wedded to the principle.

Eventually if there is enough solar, the utility COULD be transformed into something that is 90+% about storing excess power from the community in batteries, pumped hydro, hot rocks, or whatever, maintaining the grid, and just keeping the lights on. If the community it serves produces enough excess solar and wind on average to keep the lights consistently on with their total setup -- great.

The biggest problem I see is imagining how in ALL circumstances, there won't need to be FF powered standby central power, at least in some climates. But I'll freely admit that may just be a lack of imagination. Maybe it's just a matter of a critical mass of people having solar roofs or wind turbines and it's done.

This isn't happening this year, or IMO, in one decade. But we're moving that direction, and policies and laws should be moving to prepare for and reflect that. Ir seems to me that overall reliability should improve from a decentralized system. No single point to hack. No single big production system to go down. Power produced for much of the community (or maybe all) whenever the sun shines.

Oh, and if Tony Seba's solar cost curve is remotely correct, electricity prices should decrease a lot in the next two to three decades. So the key thing will be keeping corrupt politicians and the utility lobby from making the mandatory grid fee outrageously high, for people who choose or need to stay on the grid.

(As corrupt as the system is, I'm concerned that piece won't happen). Will a cost "death spiral" occur as outraged customers leave the grid en masse entirely at some point?)


OS, there are two problems with your analysis:

One missing piece of informat is that about half the population (52%) lives and works in high density urban environments, where rooftop solar and wind turbines are not possible. The 48% that live in rural or suburban homes which CAN utilize distributed power generation is really what this thread is about. Note also that with the new lower cost Chinese PV panels, the batteries - especially a premium product like a Powerwall - are the highest cost components, and the cost per kWh with batteries is typically doubled vs. simple grid-connected renewables.

Demographics are US Census figures from 2010: https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2016/cb16-210.html

The urban populations in high density housing are suited to large central power plants. The place for distributed power is the 48% in lower density rural areas and suburbs. The trend is also clear: as time passes, more and more people are packing themselves into smelly cities.

Secondly, as time passes and the demographics tilt more from rural to urban environments, the power plant economics also change. I don't know where you got the idea that electricity will get cheaper over time, as solar/wind/etc. is relatively expensive compared to FF power. The infrastructure costs are also higher in rural areas, cities are amongst the lowest connection costs per grid consumer.

Although in the recent past many large central coal power plants have converted to gas/coal operation, this trend is about played out, as the power industry has met or surpassed EPA goals from coast to coast, at least in the lower 48.

What I see are population and power statistics in flux, but long term, the needs of the cities will be paramount. That is not what the thread is about, we are discussing the shrinking minority in rural/suburban environments.

Before you chastise me again for being obsessed with money, that is after all what we use to measure feasability.
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby Ibon » Sat 16 Sep 2017, 18:33:43

Here is an image of our buildings and the position of the pelton wheel. Distances indicated to the farthest structures from the Pelton Wheel.

Image
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby baha » Sun 17 Sep 2017, 04:35:43

Sorry Ibon, I don't see anything.

Yes, the price of electricity will go down. PV is at parity with the grid and will continue to go down. If grid prices try to go up much, it will justify more PV installs. Battery prices will come down fast if EVs catch on like they think. The utilities are stuck between a rock and a hard place. I will predict most utilities become cooperatives. It's going to be very hard for Coal fired plants to make any money at all so they will just stop.

This is why transition planning is needed. Dukes refusal to accept and cooperate with alts will eventually leave them bankrupt and unable to operate the grid or decommission old PPs. (and make a profit at the same time). The big dirty central plants will be shut down and local communities will take up grid maintenance.

Duke will give the entire Raleigh area grid away to avoid paying to decommission Sharon Harris Nuclear power plant. The public will be left to clean up.

If the utilities are able to create a new business model that centers around transmission instead of production they may survive. But this is a free market, I am not going to pay much for a grid connection I don't need. About as much as it would take to run an extension cord to my neighbors house.

Cities can have solar too. As panels get more efficient array size goes down. A 5 kW array takes up half the physical space it took 7 years ago. Someday 5 panels may be enough.
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby Tanada » Sun 17 Sep 2017, 09:53:45

Ibon wrote:Here is an image of our buildings and the position of the pelton wheel. Distances indicated to the farthest structures from the Pelton Wheel.

Image


Ibon your image content doesn't show, I suggest you use something like tinypic or one of the other picture hosting websites.
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Sun 17 Sep 2017, 09:57:23

I did see a small map shortly after he posted his message. I don't see anything now, evidently it was visible only when he was still connected to the Forum.

As for the cost of electrical power, I just don't see it getting cheaper. The EIA figures say that the average US cost bottomed out at $0.022/kWh in 1964 and has been rising steadily to $0.128/kWh in 2017.

While it is true that the relative cost of PV energy has declined in recent years compared to FF energy, that is mainly because China has been dumping PV panels below cost to monopolize the US market. The cheapest power right now, even with solar and other alternative sources, is natural gas fuelled diesel plants, after the EPA made coal power relatively expensive with air quality standards.

I do not believe that baha will average $0.128/kWh for the lifetime of his Powerwall. I think he'll be lucky to get below $0.25/kWh. During the coming decades, I forsee that the relative cost of power will increase in rural areas and suburbs, due to the grid infrastructure costs we discussed before. At some point, the presently expensive power from a personal power plant will crossover and become cheaper than grid power. I also think that this is two decades or more in the future, looking at present pricing and trends.

In terms of reliability, there is no contest. I just experienced a 15 second power failure last week. I don't know why, but that is the only loss of power in over 3 years. Personal power plants are at least two orders of magnitude less reliable on average.

You either believe in a doom scenario, or you don't. You either believe in being self-sufficient or you don't. If you live in a city, you only have grid power. If you live in a rural area, you may eventually make a decision to make your own power, and that decision will be justified by higher costs and declining grid reliability as your grid connection ages. The suburban dweller has the option of choice - I chose to make my own power several years ago when PV panel costs were 2X what they are today - my cost crossover is still a few years away, as I am saving only a few hundred $ per year.

Dollars and sense.
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby Ibon » Sun 17 Sep 2017, 19:34:23

Tanada wrote:
Ibon your image content doesn't show, I suggest you use something like tinypic or one of the other picture hosting websites.


Thanks Tanada... I did it with tinypic and I hope you guys can see it now. Here it is again

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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby baha » Mon 18 Sep 2017, 05:24:38

Nice looking plot Ibon,
That's a long distance to be sending 240vac. You must have some big wires, or transformers.

Yes, KJ, I already admitted I get carried away. Electricity rates will have to go up some in the short term to continue the momentum. I think .25/Kw-hr is a reasonable figure for my system. I could have done it cheaper and smaller but I wanted a robust system with room for expansion.

Remember I am not an early adopter, I am the first in my area. I wouldn't normally do that but the opportunity presented itself so I took it. I have been working my butt off supporting solar power for 7 years. Now it's going to support me :)

Solar and battery prices are only going down. Grid prices are only going up. The transition is upon us. I will stick with my 10 year projection for meaningful changes. I don't know where you get your reliability figures but it doesn't matter, they are both very reliable.

I don't necessarily subscribe to doom but I do feel the need to be self-sufficient. There are so many weaknesses in our infrastructure that I expect failures to occur. How much doom that causes will depend on how well you are prepared. Two weeks with no food is more doom than I can handle so I keep a supply.

City or country is a lifestyle choice. Some people think being surrounded by people and infrastructure is comforting. I think being surrounded by nature and wild animals is comforting. I can make power no matter where I live :)

I wish I could explain the comfort and confidence being self-reliant gives me. I cannot be threatened or manipulated by anyone. I can attack Duke Power ruthlessly and there is nothing they can do. I can champion Mother Earth and preach to the masses about energy from a position of strength, with confidence that I am right when I say there are alternatives.

I told you I inherited a bucket of money :) It all came from the oil industry. You can't imagine the satisfaction I get spending that money on alternative energy. If everyone did that, the transition would be over in two years.
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby GHung » Mon 18 Sep 2017, 08:18:52

KJ said; "In terms of reliability, there is no contest. I just experienced a 15 second power failure last week. I don't know why, but that is the only loss of power in over 3 years. Personal power plants are at least two orders of magnitude less reliable on average."

Citations? While people in my area have had numerous occasional power outages in the last 20 years, my family has had none. Not one since we've been off grid. The only two failures we've had was a cooling fan in one of 4 charge controllers and that controller never ceased operation or failed,, and another early charge controller was struck by lightning. Neither of these caused a power outage, or even much loss in PV capacity. Quick/easy fixes. Indeed, virtually nothing I've invested in has been as reliable as our PV system. Our first 3 panels are still producing at or near full rated output after 23 years. Look at the manufacture date at the bottom of the label. 10/94, and still working great after 22 years 11 months of constant use. No contest.

Image

How many things have you invested in that are as reliable?
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby Ibon » Mon 18 Sep 2017, 08:28:24

baha wrote:Nice looking plot Ibon,
That's a long distance to be sending 240vac. You must have some big wires, or transformers.

Yes, KJ, I already admitted I get carried away. Electricity rates will have to go up some in the short term to continue the momentum. I think .25/Kw-hr is a reasonable figure for my system. I could have done it cheaper and smaller but I wanted a robust system with room for expansion.

Remember I am not an early adopter, I am the first in my area. I wouldn't normally do that but the opportunity presented itself so I took it. I have been working my butt off supporting solar power for 7 years. Now it's going to support me :)

Solar and battery prices are only going down. Grid prices are only going up. The transition is upon us. I will stick with my 10 year projection for meaningful changes. I don't know where you get your reliability figures but it doesn't matter, they are both very reliable.

I don't necessarily subscribe to doom but I do feel the need to be self-sufficient. There are so many weaknesses in our infrastructure that I expect failures to occur. How much doom that causes will depend on how well you are prepared. Two weeks with no food is more doom than I can handle so I keep a supply.

City or country is a lifestyle choice. Some people think being surrounded by people and infrastructure is comforting. I think being surrounded by nature and wild animals is comforting. I can make power no matter where I live :)

I wish I could explain the comfort and confidence being self-reliant gives me. I cannot be threatened or manipulated by anyone. I can attack Duke Power ruthlessly and there is nothing they can do. I can champion Mother Earth and preach to the masses about energy from a position of strength, with confidence that I am right when I say there are alternatives.

I told you I inherited a bucket of money :) It all came from the oil industry. You can't imagine the satisfaction I get spending that money on alternative energy. If everyone did that, the transition would be over in two years.


well said Baha.. similar story with our situation. 20 years in the world of commerce allows us to do what we are doing today. in those 20 years I never bought a new car, always used, paid off our mortgages as quickly as possible, my main recreation back then was the used flatsboat i took deep in the everglades when i had time off

regarding failing infrastructure there are regular brownouts and blackouts in the province here where we live and it is immensely gratifying to be up here surrounded by wilderness with our 7.6kw humming along while the nearby towns experience power outages.....

unless you live this you cannot understand the satisfaction this self reliance provides.... everytime you toast bread, brew coffee, work with a power tool, turn on the rice cooker or microwave, look at your floor freezer you are acutely aware of where power comes from...this deep awareness only comes really when you generate it yourself

yes thick wires....aluminum not copper...transmission loss with 700 feet maybe 4%
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby GHung » Mon 18 Sep 2017, 08:42:07

Ibon: Where does the water come from?
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby Ibon » Mon 18 Sep 2017, 08:51:19

GHung wrote:Ibon: Where does the water come from?


our land is at the base of a mountain called Mount Totumas. It is 2630m high and in La Amistad National Park. The source of the water for our hydro is a stream in the park at the base of the mountain about 3/4 kilometer above our pelton wheel. The stream enters our property and the intake and the 8 inch PVC penstock is 150 meters long and a 40 meter drop. 2013 was the dryest year since we have been here and at the end of the dry season of that year in May our intake for the first time was sucking some air and for about a month our production dropped to 5kw. Otherwise since installed in 2010 we have had 7.6kw production year round.
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby GHung » Mon 18 Sep 2017, 08:59:17

Ibon wrote:
GHung wrote:Ibon: Where does the water come from?


our land is at the base of a mountain called Mount Totumas. It is 2630m high and in La Amistad National Park. The source of the water for our hydro is a stream in the park at the base of the mountain about 3/4 kilometer above our pelton wheel. The stream enters our property and the intake and the 8 inch PVC penstock is 150 meters long and a 40 meter drop. 2013 was the dryest year since we have been here and at the end of the dry season of that year in May our intake for the first time was sucking some air and for about a month our production dropped to 5kw. Otherwise since installed in 2010 we have had 7.6kw production year round.


I was asking because I don't see the stream in the photo. Wish I had that resource. We have several very reliable springs for potable water but not enough flow for hydro. We own the top of the water shed so at least no one can foul our water.
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby Ibon » Mon 18 Sep 2017, 10:22:37

GHung wrote:Where does your drinking water come from?


Separate source. A small spring at the base of the mountain. 5 gallon paint bucket layed flat , a little 3 inch high damn using cement, a 3/4 inch black polypropelene tubing attached to base of bucket then travels 500 meters to a 5000 liter cement cistern we built about 40 feet above the cabins..gravity fed pressure. cistern covered. from source to tap protected. basically untreated pure spring water coming out all the taps. tested in local lab 99% pure..

the only utility we pay here in Panama is internet service.

60lb propane tanks at $30 each supplements our hydro for cooking and heating water. Annual propane consumption about $800 . 21 bed capacity plus staff....5 buildings.
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Re: The Rise of the Personal Power Plant

Unread postby baha » Wed 20 Sep 2017, 04:48:48

The weather has turned against me :(

The humidity and temp has been up and we have been using the AC. Daytime power is ample. I can run the AC in the living room all I want. But the bedroom has become a refrigerator again. I know who's in charge and I accept it...my only condition is she keeps me warm :)

In fact we started running the AC in August. It took that long for the heat of summer to soak thru the insulation and heat the house. When your insulation is as thick as mine the average outdoor temp is what matters. NC is a wonderful place :)

I have been reserving 50% of the Powerwall for backup. Twice, after two days of rain and clouds, I have reached 50% discharge at 6am on the third day and failed over to the grid for two hours (seamlessly). So I am reducing my reserve to 45% until the next time I hit the limit. This allows me to be fully aware of my capabilities and plan accordingly.

The warranty is for 100% discharge. As KJ pointed out, the grid is very reliable, except after hurricanes. Limiting my discharge will increase the life of the batteries but limit the monetary return.

Am I a doomer who wants to maximize the lifetime so I am ready for the crash?

Or am I a Corny who can't wait to buy the next one in ten years, with three times the capability?

The drama is killing me :)

BTW - I got my latest electric bill...$13.29, but they still owe me a shitload.
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