Solar Realities and the Electric Company

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Rob Lister
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Solar Realities and the Electric Company

Post by Rob Lister »

First a counter-intuitive reality:
Conventional wisdom says that if you put solar panels on your roof in the Northern Hemisphere, you should point them within 30 degrees of true south to generate the most energy in the course of a year. But a new study by Pecan Street Research Institute, an Austin, Texas-based research and development organization, suggests that most people may do better at covering their own electrical use and reducing stress on utility grids during summertime peak demand periods if they aim the panels westward instead.
http://energyblog.nationalgeographic.co ... direction/

So, facing the panels south maximizes overall efficiency, but does so at a time when you're not using it and the electric company doesn't need it.

Facing the panels west reduces overall efficiency, but maximizes it at a time when demand is highest.

But power companies demand you face them south!
While solar panel installers have known that west-facing panels may be more effective for a while, utility companies still cling to the south-is-best rule-of-thumb, and refuse to give rebates to homeowners unless their panels are facing south, McCracken said. He’s hoping that the study will prompt them to rethink their opposition to west-facing panels.
No, it will not prompt them to rethink their opposition. Does McCracken actually think that solar panel installers know something the power companies, who have to host this program, don't?

McCracken has all the facts he needs to make the connection but can't quite put 2 and 2 together. He does get close to the answer:
“They’re not structured to handle high levels of electricity being sent back to the grid,” he said. “If they have to do that, it becomes a challenge to maintain electric reliability in an area.”
But Mr. McCracken, the energy being dumped into the grid with west-facing panels is less, not greater, than the energy being dumped with south facing panels. What does the power company understand that you don't?
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grayman
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Re: Solar Realities and the Electric Company

Post by grayman »

What about wind generators?

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Rob Lister
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Re: Solar Realities and the Electric Company

Post by Rob Lister »

Indeed. Different alternate energy source, same understanding by the power companies.
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Re: Solar Realities and the Electric Company

Post by sparks »

Enlighten us.

Just what do (you think) the power companies understand that the rest of us just don't get?
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Rob Lister
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Re: Solar Realities and the Electric Company

Post by Rob Lister »

sparks wrote:Enlighten us.

Just what do (you think) the power companies understand that the rest of us just don't get?
One more clue and I'll be ashamed of you.
Spoiler:
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Re: Solar Realities and the Electric Company

Post by sparks »

Evasion noted.

Save your shame for yourself. :)
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Rob Lister
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Re: Solar Realities and the Electric Company

Post by Rob Lister »

sparks wrote:Evasion noted.

Save your shame for yourself. :)
My shame is the stuff of legend.
Last edited by Rob Lister on Sat Nov 23, 2013 11:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Rob Lister
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Re: Solar Realities and the Electric Company

Post by Rob Lister »

sparks wrote:Evasion noted.

Save your shame for yourself. :)
Evasion?

The solar contribution is a fart in a hurricane. The utilities do not like it, they do not need it, they do not want it. If they had their dithers, they would forbid reverse metering altogether. Removing the 30 degree southern exposure mandate means more solar construction potential, more money out of their pockets, more pain in their ass.

They don't want the load to be less, they want the load to be even. Stable. Predictable.

From a home owners perspective, it is also a stupid move. Facing your panels west means less total energy, longer payback time. And it is going to be a long, cold winter. ;)
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Re: Solar Realities and the Electric Company

Post by Abdul Alhazred »

I was waiting for sparks to check in on this thread. Now he has, and I still don't know what this thread is about.

Is it about anything? It seems to be about the power companies being in business to make money, but not in an especially nefarious way.
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Re: Solar Realities and the Electric Company

Post by sparks »

While I recognize and enjoy Robs technical ability, I don't always agree with him. This much must be clear to just about everyone here. In this case however, I do agree with him: Solar (energy) is a fart in the wind. My opinion is that it always will be: Too damned expensive, nowhere near efficient enough, and talk about a technology that (currently at least) trashes the fucking environment..............

I was merely having a problem with his presentation you see.................. :wink:
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Rob Lister
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Re: Solar Realities and the Electric Company

Post by Rob Lister »

Abdul Alhazred wrote: Is it about anything? It seems to be about the power companies being in business to make money, but not in an especially nefarious way.
Nefarious is giving me a rebate if I let them put a remote switch on my water heater. "You'll never even notice!"

After a week of cold showers, I bypassed their fucking switch. But kept the monthly rebate 'cause that's the way I roll. I nefarioused them right back.
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Re: Solar Realities and the Electric Company

Post by Bruce »

sparks wrote:Solar (energy) is a [Hippy] fart in the wind.
FIFY, wanker. :D
Such potential!
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Re: Solar Realities and the Electric Company

Post by sparks »

Thank you! :)
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Re: Solar Realities and the Electric Company

Post by whitefork »

Rob Lister wrote: If they had their dithers, they would forbid reverse metering altogether.
They do have their dithers, Rob. Image
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Re: Solar Realities and the Electric Company

Post by Anaxagoras »

Question from a layman:

Is there a prospect that solar may become economical in the near future?

I read somewhere that the price per kilowatt hour is an order of magnitude cheaper than it used to be. How much cheaper does it have to get to be competitive without any subsidy? And is it likely to get there in the foreseeable future?
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Rob Lister
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Re: Solar Realities and the Electric Company

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Anaxagoras wrote:Question from a layman:

Is there a prospect that solar may become economical in the near future?

I read somewhere that the price per kilowatt hour is an order of magnitude cheaper than it used to be. How much cheaper does it have to get to be competitive without any subsidy? And is it likely to get there in the foreseeable future?
If it were just the cost of the panels, it would be competitive now. It is a system, not a panel.

some costs are hidden, some direct. These costs can be more or less depending on where and how they are put to use. Four most significant costs are:

marrying the system with others (as an unstable system, you must have back up)
real estate on which to mount them (how many sqft of sunshine do you own?)
conversion to useful voltages and frequencies (110/220, 50/60) (a bigger box than you might think)
storing and smoothing the output over 24 hours (never mind a cloudy week, see first item)

There are other costs that seem trivial but add up: installation, maintenance, insurance, disposal, etc.

P.S. Don't think of me as anti-solar. For the right individual it can be fun and even if not wholly practical, cost effective in the very long run. As a societal energy solution, it is a clusterfuck.
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Rob Lister
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Re: Solar Realities and the Electric Company

Post by Rob Lister »

An addendum to the above, I did not touch of the largest hidden cost: the utilities have to keep warm iron. They can't shut down the boilers just because a lot of folk are reverse-metering their excess solar between 11 and 4. True, during that period they may use less coal but much of what they save during that period is wasted during the inefficient transition back to hot iron. Add to that: most of their costs are in distribution, not production. Those costs are not lessened because Joe Blow has a solar setup. They are actually increased.
Last edited by Rob Lister on Tue Nov 26, 2013 11:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Anaxagoras
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Re: Solar Realities and the Electric Company

Post by Anaxagoras »

Rob Lister wrote:
Anaxagoras wrote:Question from a layman:

Is there a prospect that solar may become economical in the near future?

I read somewhere that the price per kilowatt hour is an order of magnitude cheaper than it used to be. How much cheaper does it have to get to be competitive without any subsidy? And is it likely to get there in the foreseeable future?
If it were just the cost of the panels, it would be competitive now. It is a system, not a panel.

some costs are hidden, some direct. These costs can be more or less depending on where and how they are put to use. Four most significant costs are:

marrying the system with others (as an unstable system, you must have back up)
real estate on which to mount them (how many sqft of sunshine do you own?)
conversion to useful voltages and frequencies (110/220, 50/60) (a bigger box than you might think)
storing and smoothing the output over 24 hours (never mind a cloudy week, see first item)

There are other costs that seem trivial but add up: installation, maintenance, insurance, disposal, etc.

P.S. Don't think of me as anti-solar. For the right individual it can be fun and even if not wholly practical, cost effective in the very long run. As a societal energy solution, it is a clusterfuck.
If you put solar panels on your roof, you can't just forget about them, can you? You actually have to go up there frequently and wipe the dust off them?

A lot more high maintenance for the homeowner than a traditional utility.
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Rob Lister
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Re: Solar Realities and the Electric Company

Post by Rob Lister »

Anaxagoras wrote: If you put solar panels on your roof, you can't just forget about them, can you? You actually have to go up there frequently and wipe the dust off them?

A lot more high maintenance for the homeowner than a traditional utility.
Meh. Usually a garden hose from yard level will suffice. Spring cleaning with Windex is a must (tree sperm). So too post-fall cleaning if you have a lot of trees. Unless you're doing it for show. :)

It's that freaking leak from one of the mounting brackets that really irritates you.
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Re: Solar Realities and the Electric Company

Post by Anaxagoras »

Rob Lister wrote:An addendum to the above, I did not touch of the largest hidden cost: the utilities have to keep warm iron. They can't shut down the boilers just because a lot of folk are reverse-metering their excess solar between 11 and 4. True, during that period they may use less coal but much of what they save during that period is wasted during the inefficient transition back to hot iron. Add to that: most of their costs are in distribution, not production. Those costs are not lessened because Joe Blow has a solar setup. They are actually increased.
Suppose it is nuclear? Instead of coal.

Basically, it's a large kettle of boiling water, right? You can't let the water cool down, so you have to keep heating it.
A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.
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