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Wind & Solar Are Wrong Path

Discussions of conventional and alternative energy production technologies.

Re: Wind & Solar Are Wrong Path

Unread postby baha » Mon 12 Jun 2017, 04:43:54

Sorry, I say that because I have a co-worker that annually volunteers to build small PV systems in Africa.

We are on the cusp of major changes. Small off-grid PV systems are already cheaper than other options. I think as the trend continues more FF projects will be abandoned in favor of alts. If the battery trend is as dramatic as the PV trend has been, the next five years will reverse everything you thought you knew about personnel power plants.

Technology has a way of leading us off in directions we never expected. And once the ball is rolling it goes faster and faster.

The grid and supporting infrastructure has been around long enough for it to become almost idiot proof. There is an entire industry out there that has the knowledge and capability to allow you to ignorantly plug in your toaster. Just because you don't understand doesn't mean there isn't a whole shitload of people who've spent their lives supporting the grid. This and the huge amount of infrastructure in place biases us toward a grid-based solution.

But technology has no bias. The cheapest, easiest, and most convenient solution wins. The fact that someone thinks hooking up a few solar panels in the backyard is harder than building and supporting a nationwide FF'ed grid just shows how little people understand energy in general.

I see the rise of the personal power plant in our future. Plug and Play is entirely possible with good design. One day you could call up Duke Power and have your service disconnected so you can replace it with a few panels and a cabinet. I am already approaching that and it costs much less than my last FF powered car and will last twice as long.

The design and installation is the hard part. Once I'm done my system will operate without any inputs from me. Except for the high-voltage science experiments I plan to do :twisted: After a few years of data I will consider forcing Duke Power to allow me to go off-grid, or not...But I will make the choice, no one else.
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Re: Wind & Solar Are Wrong Path

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Mon 12 Jun 2017, 06:20:44

baha - I have a friend that travels to Africa every year with her group of volunteers. Since I'm no good on the ground any more I help a little with her traveling expenses. The big projects are developing good potable water from new wells. Lack of water: a very common and widespread problem in Africa. This does not require nighttime solar: fill water tanks during the day and draw at night. No batteries required.
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Re: Wind & Solar Are Wrong Path

Unread postby baha » Mon 12 Jun 2017, 07:04:01

Thanks Rockman,
Simple is better.
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Re: Wind & Solar Are Wrong Path

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Mon 12 Jun 2017, 07:24:30

baha - Just remembered: works in Texas also. Several years ago drilled a shallow dry hole in S Texas. Also drilled a shallow water well to supply the drilling ops. SOP gave it to the land owner. Who then installed a solar powered low volume water pump in it: cattle get real thirsty during summers in S Texas.
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Re: Wind & Solar Are Wrong Path

Unread postby vtsnowedin » Mon 12 Jun 2017, 08:25:41

This weekend I drove by Smith &Wesson's main plant in Springfield Mass. They are covering large amounts of their parking lots with solar panels mounted high enough for the cars to park under them. Some have EV chargers. No more cleaning snow off your car after work and all the power can be used right there in the plant judging by the size of the substation that feeds it from the grid.
Of course if the State wasn't subsidizing it there would be no profit in it at this time.
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Re: Wind & Solar Are Wrong Path

Unread postby GHung » Mon 12 Jun 2017, 08:51:09

ROCKMAN wrote:baha - I have a friend that travels to Africa every year with her group of volunteers. Since I'm no good on the ground any more I help a little with her traveling expenses. The big projects are developing good potable water from new wells. Lack of water: a very common and widespread problem in Africa. This does not require nighttime solar: fill water tanks during the day and draw at night. No batteries required.


That's how we've been getting our water for 20 years. A spring fills a cistern down in the 'bottom', a solar-powered pump sends it to a cistern buried up on the ridge, water flows down to the house and, voila! Hot and cold running spring water at every tap.
Total cost was less than drilling a well and reliability has been near perfect, unlike my siblings who have drilled expensive to maintain AC well systems.
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Re: Wind & Solar Are Wrong Path

Unread postby kublikhan » Mon 12 Jun 2017, 18:49:05

baha wrote:The grid and supporting infrastructure has been around long enough for it to become almost idiot proof. There is an entire industry out there that has the knowledge and capability to allow you to ignorantly plug in your toaster. Just because you don't understand doesn't mean there isn't a whole shitload of people who've spent their lives supporting the grid.
This is exactly what I was talking about when I said the grid requires very little in the way of education, for us consumers. Yes professionals that build and maintain the grid require education. But they then do their job so well that the grid is idiot proof as you say. But your proposal of living off grid changes that. Now all of the education and all of the work needed to be a power provider falls onto the shoulders of the consumer. Instead of having a small group of dedicated professionals who do their job so well the system is idiot proof, we have a hodgepodge of amateurs who if we are lucky took a class or two on load sizing. While the rest got a 15 minute lecture from the guys who installed the system. Sure you will get some highly competent ones who do everything correctly. But on the other end of the spectrum you have people who do things very poorly and see their batteries die in a year or two. Or worse, create a dangerous situation where they potentially expose themselves to corrosive acid, explosive hydrogen, electrocution, etc.

In My 27 years as a system supplier, I have seen serious battery-related mistakes made repeatedly, by amateurs and professionals alike (and I've made a few myself). The results can be expensive, hazardous, and damaging to the reputation of RE.

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Re: Wind & Solar Are Wrong Path

Unread postby kublikhan » Mon 12 Jun 2017, 18:51:16

baha wrote:The fact that someone thinks hooking up a few solar panels in the backyard is harder than building and supporting a nationwide FF'ed grid just shows how little people understand energy in general.
You are oversimplifying things here. Going off grid is much more than "hooking up a few solar panels in the backyard":

Installing solar panels on your roof doesn’t mean that you’re off the grid. Most solar systems can’t consistently generate enough electricity to be a home’s only power source, which is why the vast majority of solar homeowners maintain a connection with their utility company. By truly going “off the grid”, you would need to sever your connection to your utility company. By doing this, you would lose the ability to purchase electricity from your utility in low-sunlight periods. This is why your home would need solar batteries installed to stay powered at night. Going off the grid is more complicated than you might think, particularly if you live in an area with significant climate variation.

According to EnergySage marketplace data, the average solar shopper offsets 86% of their electricity use with their solar system – a significant amount, but not enough to go off the grid. Preventing total power loss in the event of a winter snowstorm or extended overcast days would require a lot of storage capacity, a very large solar panel system, and a significant financial investment to install. While it is technically feasible to go off the grid with solar batteries, it’s rarely cost effective. More often, solar shoppers maintain their connection with their utility company, even when they choose solar-plus-storage solutions. While you might not be able to completely go off the grid, solar panels are still a strong investment, and solar battery technology is becoming cheaper every year.
Can I go off the grid with solar batteries?

And while it does cost a considerable amount of money and effort to build and maintain a national transmission and distribution system, it is still cheaper to do it this way because of economy of scale and other advantages:

The cost gap between utility and residential-scale PV
The large gap in per-MWh costs between utility- and residential-scale systems results principally from two factors.

The first factor is the lower total plant costs per installed kilowatt for larger facilities. Analyzing price trends for the last decade through mid-2014, the study estimated the installation cost for PV systems in 2019 to be $1.43/W-DC for utility-scale systems and $2.25/W-DC for residential-scale projects, indicating that utility-scale system costs are lower by nearly 40% compared to residential-scale systems. Recent price data indicate that prices could be even lower

The second factor is the difference in power produced from the same PV capacity (300MW-DC) due to optimized panel placement, tracking and other economies of scale and efficiencies associated with utility-scale installations. For a representative year, assuming identical solar irradiance conditions in the greater Denver area, the utility-scale system is estimated to produce nearly 600GWh of power while residential-scale systems production would be slightly above 400GWh, resulting in a nearly 50% difference in power production.

On the longer term planning horizon, a larger production will likely lead to lower needs of capacity of other generation resources for resource adequacy (i.e. ensuring there is enough generators to serve the peak load). Literature research indicates that avoided transmission and distribution costs advantage by residential-scale systems (if any, which may depend on where and how densely they are located) are not large enough to significantly impact this gap in benefits of utility-scale PV system from generation quantity and overall costs discussed earlier.

the findings of the study illustrating the difference in utility- and residential-scale PV systems can have various policy implications.

First, utility-scale PV systems can be installed at a significantly lower cost – about half the cost - for achieving a given level of solar penetration, regardless of the ultimate goal.

Second, utility-scale PV systems can produce nearly 50% more power replacing generation from traditional generation resources and lead to larger environmental benefits.
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Re: Wind & Solar Are Wrong Path

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Mon 12 Jun 2017, 19:35:17

Egenerati (the article linked above) is a power industry web site. Need I repeat that power companies have a business plan that says that they generate or purchase bulk power and then sell it to retail consumers over the grid?

The distributed PV and wind generation eliminate most or all of the grid power bill to the consumer, and often result in a modest monthly credit instead of a bill. That does not fit into the classic business plan for a power company, which still must maintain the power grid, which the net zero energy residence is using in place of a battery.

I suggest that you avoid confusing one another by stating whether your analysis and opinions are arising from the perspective of a power consumer or a power supplier.
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Re: Wind & Solar Are Wrong Path

Unread postby kublikhan » Mon 12 Jun 2017, 19:50:26

We were not talking about going net zero with net metering. We were talking about severing the connection to the grid completely: off grid. So we are not talking about how power consumers benefit from net metering & solar subsidies while power companies get hurt by them. We are talking about if it is economical for a power consumer to go off grid with solar panels and batteries vs paying a monthly electric bill for grid electricity:

baha wrote:Small off-grid PV systems are already cheaper than other options.
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Re: Wind & Solar Are Wrong Path

Unread postby GHung » Mon 12 Jun 2017, 22:40:54

kublikhan wrote:We were not talking about going net zero with net metering. We were talking about severing the connection to the grid completely: off grid. So we are not talking about how power consumers benefit from net metering & solar subsidies while power companies get hurt by them. We are talking about if it is economical for a power consumer to go off grid with solar panels and batteries vs paying a monthly electric bill for grid electricity:

baha wrote:Small off-grid PV systems are already cheaper than other options.


Meh. We've been off grid for going on twenty years and I can assure you that living off of the electric grid goes well beyond the economics. I know people who don't even cook at home. Their kitchens are spotless.
The question is whether or not enough people, by choice or by necessity, disconnect from the grid to be disruptive, technically or economically. I don't really care. Been there, done that, while most of you still rely on 19th century energy sources.

Anyway, our second big battery set; still going strong.. I doubt I spend 15 hours per year maintaining them.

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Re: Wind & Solar Are Wrong Path

Unread postby baha » Tue 13 Jun 2017, 04:57:57

There are professionals out there who install solar and make it just as idiot proof as the grid, me :) A normal person may not see the savings I have in my own system but they can have an off-grid system that is hands-off.

Sure, there are people who will build their own and burn down, but that no different than the idiot who installed his own hot water heater and burned down. The world is full of idiots.

But I said Plug and Play. Today's developments are changing the game. The Tesla Powerwall is basically a cabinet with batteries, charger, and inverter built in. If you can back up your whole house (like me) there is no need for a critical load panel. You just unhook the main feed from the grid and connect the powerwall in it's place. As of now you then connect the grid to the powerwall and your done. But that step is optional. There is a port for connecting a grid-tied solar inverter. The powerwall becomes the grid. The Lithium batteries require no maintenance. The homeowner can go inside and forget it.

I decided to go with a 15 kW-hr AC coupled Tesla Powerwall 2. The LG Chem battery is not as capable or long-lasting. It will be expensive ($6000) and I will get one of the first ones delivered to the east coast. But I am going to evaluate it's performance myself so I can make good recommendations to my customers.

Consider 5 years from now when the price is $3000 and it has 30 kW-hrs.
Consider also that Duke Power is trying to get an 18% rate hike thru their bought and paid for committee. And you will see where this is going.

In 5 years these things will be flying off the shelves, and in 10 years it will be threatening the utilities. About the same time EV's are threatening the auto industry...Could be TEOTWAWKI 8O And the beginning of a better one.
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Re: Wind & Solar Are Wrong Path

Unread postby baha » Tue 13 Jun 2017, 05:09:19

BTW - We sent out a mass email to all our existing customers about the Tesla Powerwall availablilty and the next day 10 people signed up...
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Re: Wind & Solar Are Wrong Path

Unread postby Newfie » Tue 13 Jun 2017, 06:05:41

I'm not sure at all why it has to be on-grid or off-grid. There are advantages to both.

First, by THINKING off-grid and designing your home for that you will drastically reduce your energy needs. That's a huge win, even if it's as far as it ever goes.

If you do go off grid you can use the system to power just certain components, those things that are amenable to an intermittent system. May light your house with LEDS that run off a modest battery system. Pump up a cistern. Our house had a small diesel generator that could power the oil heater and some small additional loads, protection against freezing pipes. Maybe have a well insulated cistern where you store heat.

Having a grid connection makes a lot of sense for large intermittent loads like running a welder or if you are doing construction. The grid and off grid do not need to be connected nor load share. You could have a manual source switch if needed.

I need to be purist of either stripe. Lots and lots of options here.
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Re: Wind & Solar Are Wrong Path

Unread postby baha » Tue 13 Jun 2017, 07:12:15

Let me give you a glimpse into my future...call it 5 years.

I just finished up my last service call for the day. After spending 20 minutes showing off my electric classic VW to the homeowner, I drive home in complete quiet. Since I only did 50 miles today I still have 75% battery left. I get home and plug into my 50 amp DC charger port. Suddenly my house and car become one. I have 45 kW stored at home and 50 kW in the car. The PV charges at a 10 kW rate for the rest of the day. If I stay home tomorrow everything gets charged. If I leave, the house goes to minimal and I take most of the stored power with me.

OK, here comes a hurricane...I can't work on high-voltage equipment in the rain, or climb on a roof. So I just stay home in AC comfort using the car battery for home power instead. After three days I am down to 50% state of charge but the sun is out :)
I need to stay home for another day to let everything re-charge while I am cleaning up the tree limbs and waving at the linemen working their butts off. I may even offer to charge their phones.

Oh, there were long lines at the pumps before the storm...who knew? And now there is no power to pump anything. Cool...I get to drive around checking out the damage while having the roads to myself. I can help out where needed and then move on. I have a sign in the front yard "free phone charging and internet"...my neighbors love me.

Not only do I have independence, but I am now the rich guy in the neighborhood. My house is small but my heart is big.

Now, will you support me or fight me? Doesn't really matter, you will get out of my way or get run over.
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Re: Wind & Solar Are Wrong Path

Unread postby Hawkcreek » Tue 13 Jun 2017, 10:18:05

I hope it works out like that Baha.
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Re: Wind & Solar Are Wrong Path

Unread postby baha » Tue 13 Jun 2017, 12:42:16

Ha,Ha..I don't just have a big heart :)

This not plan A, This is AAA version A. A is all I ever had. When it goes to shit I will cry for a while and develop plan AAAA.
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Re: Wind & Solar Are Wrong Path

Unread postby kublikhan » Tue 13 Jun 2017, 18:55:13

baha wrote:Consider 5 years from now when the price is $3000 and it has 30 kW-hrs.
Consider also that Duke Power is trying to get an 18% rate hike thru their bought and paid for committee. And you will see where this is going.

In 5 years these things will be flying off the shelves, and in 10 years it will be threatening the utilities.
I can see batteries getting bigger and cheaper and taking away more and more business from the utilities. Already the average solar shopper offsets 86% of their electricity needs with solar. I can see this increasing in the years to come. But what about periods of time when there is extended periods of lower solar input? The average US power consumer is not as willing as you to go through long periods without electricity. And buying a big enough battery to get your house through those long periods is uneconomical. So IMHO, I still think grid connected solar is the better option. Even if you elect to go with some batteries like the tesla power wall.

Some claim that huge swaths of people can install panels on their roofs and unplug from the grid. They’re wrong. Customers aren’t going to take their solar (plus batteries) off-grid any time soon because doing so is very expensive, and current subsidies cannot scale up. If customers stay connected to the grid, anything they can do with solar and storage can be done at lower cost and more effectively by the utility.

It turns out that Americans like to have reliable electricity, even at night. Which gives customers a choice: Stay connected to the utility or buy enough batteries to disconnect. The Energy Information Administration says that the average U.S. home consumes about 11,000 kWh per year (30 kWh per day). If you want to get this electricity from solar, you’ll need a capital investment of about $25,000. If you spread this over 15 years at zero percent interest, it works out to $140/month. That’s pretty good, but batteries are an additional expense. If you want relatively reliable electricity, through cloudy periods and winter months, you’ll need several days of battery storage. At $350 per kWh (the approximate cost of the Tesla Powerwall), five days of storage will cost $52,000, or $430/month if spread over the 10-year life of the battery (still at zero percent interest). If you had pretty reliable sunshine, you could get away with half of that: $215/month just for storage. While the rooftop solar costs you just $70/month, adding enough batteries to go off-grid will quadruple the monthly cost to $285/month for the smaller system. (And note that this calculation unrealistically assumed zero interest and neglected battery losses.).For reference, the average U.S. electricity bill is only $115/month. Thus, even if the utility charges me $50/month for net metering of my solar generation, this is still a bargain compared to the battery alternative.

But solar and batteries will get cheaper over time—won’t that change the situation? Not really. While we should expect the cost of both solar and batteries to decrease, to be competitive with average utility prices, both unsubsidized solar installation costs and battery costs need to drop more than 50 percent. That’s possible, but tough. And while I wouldn’t be surprised to see the price of solar panels fall 50 percent in the next decade, bringing down the installed cost is much harder because it involves lots things besides the panels themselves. More than half of the price tag of installed solar is due to these “balance of system” costs, which include lots of things that are harder to price compress: mounting hardware, wires, inverters, and paying some person to climb on your roof to install everything.

Let’s assume that this happens, though. Solar and batteries become cheap enough to compete directly with utility prices. Even this is unlikely to cause a mass customer exodus because those low-cost solar and battery technologies will also be available to utilities, which have superior technical know-how, can balance supply/demand across customers, and can borrow money at lower interest rates. (Banks love utilities because they are guaranteed a return on investment.) In other words, anything that you can buy/operate on your own can be done more effectively and at lower cost by the utility. If distributed storage makes financial sense for customers, the utility should be able to sell it to you as a service at lower cost. In fact, this is already being done by some more progressive utilities.

Even after all this explanation, maybe there is still a part of you that just wants to watch utilities burn. I wouldn’t blame you—utilities are not known for their high customer satisfaction. But it would be an expensive and inefficient outcome for society. Distributed resources, like solar and batteries, are a lot more effective when tied together over local areas. If your rooftop solar is connected to the grid, your excess energy can power your neighbors (and vice versa), essentially balancing generation and load over a local area and reducing the total need for both solar panels and storage. The Electric Power Research Institute calculated the relative costs and estimates that off-grid solar costs four to eight times as much as grid-tied solar. While I think that estimate is a bit high (note that EPRI is a nonprofit funded primarily by electric utilities), the point stands that going off-grid is an inefficient use of resources.
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Re: Wind & Solar Are Wrong Path

Unread postby baha » Tue 13 Jun 2017, 19:47:54

I admit my scenario needs assistance. Chances are not good at this point to get there fast. But there are things that would help.
Battery prices come down fast. PV already has and is now slowing. Lithium batteries could go down by half in 5 years...or not.
A price could be put on CO2 - Lots of bullshit being said, nothing being done...But a repeated hit by multiple major hurricanes or floods could change that attitude. Or maybe 120 degrees in NY...
A war that pulls away FF resources and crashes the ME- Probably the most likely outcome.
Yes, I hate Duke Power...if it's not CO2 or coal ash, it's cracks in the reactor. They are actually justifying the 18% rate increase by saying they will clean up the coal ash ponds that they have been under contract to maintain since they were built. Yes I will take them down and laugh :)
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Re: Wind & Solar Are Wrong Path

Unread postby GHung » Wed 14 Jun 2017, 08:04:54

kublikahn said; "The average US power consumer is not as willing as you to go through long periods without electricity. And buying a big enough battery to get your house through those long periods is uneconomical."

Hogwash. Unlike our grid-connected friends and family, we haven't gone without electricity for one minute in 20 years except during a couple of planned maintenance sessions and one battery change-out. Again; all planned. There are periods when we either have to reduce consumption or run the generator (rare), but that has become second nature. Of course, our home was designed for this; heats/cools itself most of the time, and with solar water heating and wood heat backup, lots of insulation, etc., off-grid is very doable. The problem is that people need to change their thinking a bit.

Our 52kWh battery set cost $5800 in 2007 and is still going strong. Those prices haven't changed much. $580 per year isn't going to break the bank and people are perfectly willing to spend more on other things.
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