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Author Topic: Future of Solar Power  (Read 7664 times)

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Offline Gary_C

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Future of Solar Power
« on: April 19, 2016, 01:23:46 pm »
How cheap does solar power need to get before it takes over the world?

An interesting story about the downside of commercial solar power. Turns out that since solar power only is generated during the day, it tends to replace very expensive peak power costs and that lowers the overall cost of electricity. So the more solar power that is generated, the less valuable the electricity becomes. That means the solar equipment has to become doubly more efficient to keep growing.

Of course you can change those numbers with batteries but that adds a second cost and efficiency. 
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Offline florida

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2016, 09:00:58 am »
It can never be cost effective measured against fossil fuels or nuclear energy. The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that any energy transfer is accompanied by increased disorder so there is always a conversion loss. In solar, aside from its terrible natural inefficiency, that loss of energy or disorder happens where the panels and other components are built.  In physics out of sight is not out of mind.

Solar panels rely on complex chemicals like polysilicon and nitrogen triflouride, both horribly polluting and deadly. The infrastructure, copper, glass, steel, aluminum, controllers, etc. all take large amounts of energy to produce so no matter what you do a solar panel will never produce enough power to pay for itself, much less any excess.

 
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Offline Gary_C

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2016, 09:58:30 am »
The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that any energy transfer is accompanied by increased disorder so there is always a conversion loss.


That is a different way of stating the Second Law so please explain what disorder you are talking about?

The basic premise of the original link was economics was against the future of Solar Power, now you say it's also physics? Please tell us more.
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Offline elk42

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2016, 01:10:09 pm »



Once fast-growing solar company SunEdison files for bankruptcy




Reuters April 21 2016





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Offline ljohnsaw

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2016, 01:18:53 pm »
My comments will be a little scattered as the article covered a lot of ideas.  I worked for a power company and out here, the main electric company's pricing is compounding the problems identified.

While solar offsets the expensive peakers, it does not eliminate them.  When a cloud bank moves in, the peakers need to go, NOW!  What happens is the fixed costs on the peakers remain the same but the run time drops.  The "cost" of the electricity is the sum of the fuel burned + the fixed costs.  If the peaker were to run all month, the monthly fixed cost would be distributed over the month.  If it runs 1 hour, then it gets charged there.  Simplistic example but this is what happens.  So to say that the expensive peakers go away is flat out wrong.  Solar drives up the cost.

Power companies try to offset this with big, efficient "base load" plants.  These monsters typically don't vary much in their output.  They cannot react quickly to power demand changes.  They usually can't due to thermodynamic reasons.  So that is where the peakers come in.  When solar power gets so big that it pushes the base load units to reduce output, then there is more reliance on the peakers.  A vicious circle!

So my electric provider is switching EVERYONE to time of use by 2019.  That is supposed to make people shift their usage to the evenings or early morning, keeping the base load units on line.  But what is happening is people are buying solar so they don't have to change their lifestyles.  It is just making the price for non-solar users go up, up, up!

In the mid-80's, a paper was written about "dark silicon".  It was silicon wafers treated with some nasty gas and changed the physical structure of the wafer.  I left a microscopic surface that looked like millions of steep cones.  The sunlight would be absorbed on all sides of the silicon, effectively making it look black because almost no light reflected.  The conversion to electricity was phenomenal, like 10 or 20 times more efficient that what it was back then, IIRC.  I was hoping it would have been main-stream by now :-\
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Offline florida

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2016, 01:54:14 pm »
Economics and physics are related. If physics proves that you can only get $50.00 of power from a $100.00 photo cell array it's easy to see.

It's true that the costs of photo cells is going down but it doesn't matter because the cost of all the other components are going up. No matter how you slice it a 10K photo voltaic system is going to run between $50,000 and $60,000 installed with no storage. In sunny Arizona it will run at about 19% efficiency which translates to 16,644 kw annually. At the average market rate of $.12 a kw that means it produced $1998.00 worth of retail power. Borrowing the $60,000 cost means a monthly payment of $317.00 for 25 years or $3804.00 a year. That means you paid over $1,800 more for your power than  you did before you had a solar system on your roof.

If you're in Vermont the efficiency of your system drops to 6% and provides about $600.00 worth of power a year versus the annual cost of $3804.00, a $3,200.00 annual loss.

The Federal government loaned the developers of the giant Crescent Dunes Solar plant in Tonopah Nevada $1,500,000,000 of our money. So far it's produced about 1/4 of the power the developers had projected and now they want us to loan them $560,000,000 more to make the payment on the original $1,500,000,000 loan we made them! Guess how this is going to work out for the taxpayers of America?
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Offline Ianab

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2016, 06:19:28 pm »
Quote
It can never be cost effective measured against fossil fuels or nuclear energy.

Currently in the US, this is probably true.

But that's not to say that future development in solar panels, or changes in the price (or restriction on the use) of fossil fuels wont change that.
Consider if a company came up with solar panels that didn't cost much more then roofing shingles? They don't have to be super efficient, because you just use them on the roof in place of the tin / shingles / tiles you use now. If that was the case, every new house or re-roof would use them right?

Fossil fuels? Yes Nat Gas is cheap now. But that's not the case everywhere.  We holiday in the Cook Islands, which are some tiny tropical Islands way out in the middle of the Pacific, thousands of miles from anywhere.The power station is Diesel, and the fuel needs to be imported from NZ, so it's not cheap. Power there is ~70c (NZ) a  unit, or maybe 50c US. Redo your calculations using that number, bearing in mind they do have plenty of sun.  They still need to keep the diesels as backup, but they are hoping to cut fuel use by about 80%

So I agree that it's not cost effective compared to a Nuke or big combined cycle Nat Gas plant. But if you don't have those things?

The maths also changes if you aren't on the grid, or it's going to cost too much to get new supply lines run.

Solar power hasn't really caught on here in NZ. You can buy the similar grid tied systems, and you see some around, but I have to wonder about the cost effectiveness, same as you do. No one has gone with a large commercial installation, which suggests that the numbers don't add up.

Large wind generators are common, and operated by the large power companies. In the right locations they seem to produce well, and complement the hydro power. Hydro has the advantage that it can be run as base load, or peak, and has some ability to STORE energy as water in the holding lake. But again, you need the special situations (geography and climate) that make Hydro practical.

The rain that makes hydro work tends to put a dampener on the solar side.
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Offline Brucer

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2016, 11:28:16 pm »
There is far more to solar power than photovoltaic cells.

Solar collectors can heat water, with a higher efficiency than PV cells. That water can be stored for use when the sun isn't shining.

There is an experiment going on right now in Alberta where a community was built that uses hot water to provide winter heating. There is a central building that contains individual garages for parking vehicles. Solar collectors on the roof heat water which is pumped underground to heat a large mass of earth. In the winter, water is circulated to recover the heat and heat the houses. It's expected that the system will supply 90% to 95% of the annual heating needs of the community.

It's also possible to concentrate solar energy on a collector using mirrors. This produces enough heat to produce high pressure steam that can drive a generating plant. The exhaust steam from the turbines has to be cooled, but it's also possible to circulate it through an adjacent community to heat houses. The excess heat can also be used in lower temperature manufacturing processes.

There is also a hidden cost to fossil fuels that is going to come out of our pockets. Coal mines, for example, are supposed to be cleaned up after they're shut down. In the US companies were expected to set money aside for future cleanup but in practice they just place a charge on their balance sheets. Cleanup was to be paid for by future earnings. However, when the company goes bankrupt (e.g., Peabody coal), the fictitious charge has no value. The taxpayers are on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Something similar is happening in Canada with abandoned oil wells. The wells are supposed to be capped and the sites cleaned up when the well is deactivated. But many companies left unused wells "active" at least on paper. When the company goes out of business, the well is abandoned, to be cleaned up by the government. Canadian regulators were a bit smug, claiming that the Peabody situation can't happen here, because oil extraction companies are supposed to pay into a fund that will cover the cost of re-mediating abandoned wells. It now appears that there is nowhere enough money to cover the costs.
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Offline Brad_S.

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #8 on: April 21, 2016, 11:28:58 pm »



Once fast-growing solar company SunEdison files for bankruptcy




Reuters April 21 2016
I work for SunEd. The company's failure is not due to the viability of solar and wind power, it is completely due to arrogant, terrible and possibly criminal management.
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Offline Gary_C

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2016, 04:26:53 am »
What the original article is telling us and I believe is confirmed by the comments here is that solar power simply can't compete with any other power source without talking storage solutions. Then when you talk storage solutions, the laws of thermodynamics tell you to expect conversion losses that are going to be difficult to overcome.

In short, higher solar collector efficiency and lower costs are a small part of the needs for improvement for solar to become mainstream. Sure every home may have a solar collector on the roof but what is going to be the cost for a standby power source for when the sun doesn't shine. It's a fatal flaw.
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Offline Ianab

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2016, 04:50:27 am »
Quote
There is far more to solar power than photovoltaic cells.

Solar collectors can heat water, with a higher efficiency than PV cells. That water can be stored for use when the sun isn't shining.

Yes, that's another big one in the Islands. Almost every house has a Solar water heater, with an electric boost button if you run out. 99% of the time the solar keeps up as it gathers some heat, even on a cloudy day. If you do get a lot of cloudy days, you can hit the button and the electric gives you hot water again, for a cost.

They also don't need heating or air-con. It never actually gets that hot or cold that you HAVE to have it. Most cooking is with propane.

So you have taken away pretty much all the high drain applications. Heating, hot water, air-con, cooking..... What's left is manageable as you don't need to be able to supply 20kw to the house.

Quote
what is going to be the cost for a standby power source for when the sun doesn't shine. It's a fatal flaw.

I wouldn't call it fatal is such, but it is a problem. Battery technology is still improving, just not quite as fast as we might hope.
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Offline florida

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2016, 07:43:04 am »
Ianab,

I was addressing the future of solar taking over the world which would have to  be grid tied.

What you say about remote locations is correct. Those locations with no or few other options for power are the only places where solar and wind make any sense. When you have no power solar and wind start looking good.

I also agree that if the price of fossil fuels went up, way up, solar would look better but I don't think it will ever be able to compete with grid power.

Here's an article about how the island of Eigg in the Scottish Herbides uses hydro, wind and solar to provide electric to its 87 residents. If you parse down through the date on their electrical generation you'll see that the wind and solar provide a tiny percentage with the majority generated by hydro.

http://www.windandsun.co.uk/case-studies/islands-mini-grids/isle-of-eigg,-inner-hebrides,-scotland.aspx#.VxoMEEdrNxs

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Offline florida

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #12 on: April 22, 2016, 07:54:22 am »
Brucer,

Heating water with solar can work in some locations cost effectively but the key word is "cost effective." You can do anything with enough money but even then it won't work for the larger population. I'd like to see more details about that Alberta plan. I can't see anyway that they could economically store enough hot water to heat a significant number of homes all winter. Mother Earth News was trying projects like that 40 years ago but they fell off the map.

I'm in south Florida, hot and long days of sun but virtually no one uses solar hot water because it will never pay for itself. We use solar heaters on our pools but a $4,000 solar pool system will only heat your pool from maybe 75 to 85 for 2 or 3 months a year, hardly enough to heat your house.

As far as the concentrating collectors please read the information I posted by Crescent Dunes project. If the Feds can't  do it with unlimited resources no one else will be able to either.
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Offline Ianab

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #13 on: April 22, 2016, 08:36:15 am »
I  wouldn't discount wind totally.

5% of NZ power generation is now wind.  Not just "capacity", but actual power produced. Capacity is ~7%, but the wind doesn't always blow, so actual power produced is less. OK, small percentage wise, but not insignificant. 2000 Gwh has to count for something. Having about 60% hydro helps, and another 15% geothermal which is a reliable base load.

None of these things is a magic solution. And I agree that solar power is still marginal on the economics for mainstream power generation. But to say that solar or wind or whatever "Can't work" is a bit short sighted. To say that it wont work in the current economic climate is probably true.

But 20 years ago a practical electric car and a rocket that could launch something into orbit and land in one piece was Sci-fi. Now they are on the news as a happening thing.
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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #14 on: April 22, 2016, 11:03:16 am »
No matter how you slice it a 10K photo voltaic system is going to run between $50,000 and $60,000 installed with no storage.

If you are paying $5 or $6/watt installed for a 10kW system with no storage (i.e. grid tied), you are paying way too much.
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Offline ljohnsaw

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #15 on: April 22, 2016, 11:08:11 am »
Brucer,

...
I'm in south Florida, hot and long days of sun but virtually no one uses solar hot water because it will never pay for itself. We use solar heaters on our pools but a $4,000 solar pool system will only heat your pool from maybe 75 to 85 for 2 or 3 months a year, hardly enough to heat your house.
...

$4K for a solar pool system?  It was installed on my house when I bought it but I doubt it cost anywhere near that.  Just mats of fine tubes.  My pool goes from 70 to 90+ (If I want it to) but I cap it at 88.  There are weeks where it shuts down every afternoon in the late summer.  It extends my comfortable swimming temperature from 3 months to 6 or 7.  I have tremendous loss of heat on a windy night.  I can lose 5 degrees overnight.  Someday I might invest in a solar blanket for the pool.  I can see easily reaching 120+ in a insulated storage unit and I'm talking about 30,000 gallons in my pool.  That is a LOT of thermal storage.
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Offline florida

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #16 on: April 22, 2016, 01:26:43 pm »
How many conventional power plants have been shut down in NZ due to increased wind power?

I'll tell you how many the US. Zero. Same in Germany and Denmark, the 2 most developed green power countries in the world. The biggest problem with wind or solar is that they are both intermittent so don't produce power on a regular schedule which means they have to be backed up with conventional power. The cost of wind and solar is not substituted for grid power, it's a cost on top of grid power and always will be until aliens swoop in and give us some new battery technology.

"2000 Gwh has to count for something." At what costs?  Was any of the wind power projects in NZ built without government subsidies?

 

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Offline florida

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #18 on: April 22, 2016, 01:34:06 pm »
Was any of the wind power projects in NZ built without government subsidies?

Is ANY energy infrastructure in the US of ANY type built without subsidies?
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Offline Ianab

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #19 on: April 22, 2016, 07:00:33 pm »
How many conventional power plants have been shut down in NZ due to increased wind power?

I'll tell you how many the US. Zero. Same in Germany and Denmark, the 2 most developed green power countries in the world. The biggest problem with wind or solar is that they are both intermittent so don't produce power on a regular schedule which means they have to be backed up with conventional power. The cost of wind and solar is not substituted for grid power, it's a cost on top of grid power and always will be until aliens swoop in and give us some new battery technology.

"2000 Gwh has to count for something." At what costs?  Was any of the wind power projects in NZ built without government subsidies?

Several older gas / coal stations have been decommissioned. OK they were old and would have needed a major refurb or rebuild. But the companies built wind instead.

When the large hydros where built the power generation was completely run by the Govt. Whether we paid for them via taxes or power prices I'm not sure, probably both.  :D

The Govt power department was restructured in the 80s as a Govt owned corporation, and since then has been split into several different companies and partly privatized. They are now listed on the stock exchange although still part owned by the Govt. But they operate as commercial operations (not Govt subsidized) and actually pay a dividend on their shares back to the owners (inc the Govt)
This is one of the main companies power stations.
https://www.genesisenergy.co.nz/generation-assets

The commercial wind generators have been installed on a commercial basis to make a profit.  Not paid for via Govt subsidies.

But again NZ has a different set of circumstances. The wind becomes more practical when you have an abundance of Hydro and the geography and weather patterns to give pretty consistent wind power. Most of the hydros are fed from large storage lakes so they can hold days of full power generation in reserve. That's the 'battery" you are talking about. Now without that the system would be much less practical.
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Offline Brucer

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #20 on: April 23, 2016, 01:08:29 am »
... I can't see anyway that they could economically store enough hot water to heat a significant number of homes all winter.  ...

I agree. But they don't store the water -- they circulate it through holes that run deep into the ground, thus heating up the earth. They can raise the temperature of the earth up to 190°F.

The place was in or near Okotoks, Alberta. I'll try to find the link.
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Offline Brucer

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Offline Gary_C

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #22 on: April 23, 2016, 03:48:57 pm »
The cost of that system was $7 million for 52 homes so it cost $135,000 per home. Plus there is the added costs of a R-2000 insulation standard in each home. Of course they say there would be economy in scaling the size of the project up to say 1000 homes but those savings never seem to materialize.

It would not be feasible here because of the problems associated with punching that many holes in the fractured limestone and the water table. and it only saves 60 per cent of your heating costs that are 60 per cent of the total energy costs for a home. Does nothing for air conditioning.
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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #23 on: April 23, 2016, 07:59:51 pm »
It's an experiment. I expect the up-front costs to drop on the second and third effort.

Economy of scale will probably kick in for the heat storage portion of the project. The perimeter of the storage mass will not increase in proportion to the heat storage mass.

Lots of people build R2000 homes just because they want to ;D. I built one in 1981 (yes, I know, there was no R2000 designation back then -- I still built one). My brother just had one built a couple of years ago.

This is obviously not applicable everywhere. As you point out, geology will limit where you can build this type of system. I expect we'll see a lot of new ideas springing up in the next few years. Some will turn out to be impractical, some will be viable.
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Offline florida

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #24 on: April 23, 2016, 08:46:15 pm »
Brucer,

It's government money all the way. About 6 of the initial $7 million was provided by several government agencies. The monthly payment  on a 30 year loan just for the solar system would come out to just over $800.00 a month. The homeowners are paying $70.00 which leaves you and other taxpayers  footing the bill for these special 52 families eternally.  The politicians that gave your money away bought themselves some nice campaign contributions and support from the rich guys that got the money.

There is no scale that will make this 12 times cheaper than what it would have to be for everyone to have a legitimate $70.00 a month heating bill.  If this were such a good idea no one would need to subsidize it, you'd be installing it on your house tomorrow as would everyone else. I also note that Drakes Landing was completed in 2007,  9 years ago and as far can find no more have been built since.
 
My prediction is that someone did the math and that Drakes Landing is a one off.
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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #25 on: April 24, 2016, 02:14:46 am »
You are probably correct that the economics math didn't work out on that project. That's not to say that the principle didn't work, just that it costs too much. OK, we have learned something, now back to the drawing board. Can it be improved or what's been learned adapted to work in some other scenario.  Sometimes spending the money on a pilot project, prototype or simply research is money well spent. Starting 100 of these schemes before you have one working? Now that would be plain stupid. Building one small scale system so you KNOW how well it works? That's called R&D. Maybe it will be the next big thing, maybe not. At least you then KNOW.

On unrelated solar news...

http://www.stuff.co.nz/travel/news/79268368/solar-plane-reaches-california-after-flight-across-pacific

If you had said, even 30 years ago that a solar powered plane could fly around the world, you would have been laughed at. Everyone KNEW that a solar powered plane couldn't fly at night, even if you could build one, which you couldn't. OK, it's not really ready for commercial use as it cruises at ~30 mph and can't take off if the wind is blowing. But the millions they have spend isn't wasted. Cellphone and internet access to remote areas supplied by a solar powered drone that just circles at 50,000 ft for months on end? Suddenly looks more practical...
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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #26 on: April 24, 2016, 05:52:41 am »
The city of Sault St. Marie has several sources of renewable energy, not relying on any one source.

https://www.sault-canada.com/en/ouruniqueadvantage/renewableenergy.asp

I think the rate is around 0.175/kwh on peak demand for residents, $0.083 off peak. The heavy users pay $0.099   .

Pre-commercial thinning pays off. :)

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Offline florida

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #27 on: April 24, 2016, 10:38:47 am »
Swampdonkey,
Interesting stuff but it all proves my point.
 
The Prince Wind Farm has a nameplate capacity of 189 MW but an actual  capacity of 27.5% or about 51 MW.  51 MW has a whole sale value of  $1,814,400 annually. The cost of the project was $400,000,000.00 which, if financed over 30 years, means an annual cost of  $2,552,000.00.  They also employee 15 technicians on site to keep  the windmills running. I know from other reading  that they cost $75,000.00 a year each so there is  another annual expense of $1,125,000.
 
Doing the math means an annual loss of at least of $1,862,600.00 not even including the cost of replacement parts, trucks, etc.  Once again the politicians have curried favor with the rich guys and the rich guys are laughing all the way to the bank while you pay the bill.

The solar farm is even worse. With a nameplate rate of about 90 MW and a cost of $360,000,00 it will be magnitudes worse than the wind farm since the  capacity factor will be about 6% of nameplate.  In other words it will produce about  5.4 MW of power  or less than $200,000.00 annually   at $.37 a kw   The annual payment will run about $2.2 million  for a dead loss to taxpayers of $2 million a year not including the maintenance  labor and material.
 
Cogeneration- The steel company is using the same gas turbine technology as every new power plant uses.  It does save the utility from building more power plants but does not directly reduce rates or qualify as "green."

Hydro certainly works but for Sault-Ste-Marie to take credit for creating "green energy"  through dams that have been there 100 years is a bit disingenuous.

Reverse Polymerization looks interesting. If they are doing it without taxpayers money even better.

Keep in mind that the $760,000,000 of wind and solar is on top of the cost of conventional power, it does not replace or reduce it.  The taxpayers and ratepayers are basically paying for nothing they didn't already have but at 3 to 4 times the cost.

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #28 on: April 24, 2016, 11:31:00 am »
The extra cost of clean energy.  ;D

Not quite the same thing, but another comparison on heating.

$4000 for a flu, $2500 for wood fired furnace and duct, monthly bill for electric around $100-130, firewood $280/cord delivered 6 cord. Flu lasts decades, furnace 25 years

$10,000 for heat pump and electric furnace combination. $300-500 during cold months, we got 8  of'm. $200 for 3 months if used for A/C..... we don't really need much in the north. 10-15 year life.

Pre-commercial thinning pays off. :)

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #29 on: April 24, 2016, 11:53:09 am »
The solar farm is even worse. With a nameplate rate of about 90 MW and a cost of $360,000,00 it will be magnitudes worse than the wind farm since the  capacity factor will be about 6% of nameplate.  In other words it will produce about  5.4 MW of power or less than $200,000.00 annually

Array size is usually measured in watts (or KW or MW). Production is usually measured in watt-hours (or Kilowatt-hours or Megawatt-hours, depending on the scale). So I assume when you say it will produce about 5.4MW you mean 5.4 MWH?

I'm curious where you are getting your numbers, particularly the 6% number. When we install solar PV in Vermont, a fixed mount system (not tracking) produces about 1200 KWH per year for every 1 KW of solar panels we install (assuming they are mounted at the optimal angle and orientation for our area, and are in a location that gets good solar exposure). This is not just theoretical numbers, this is actual performance history.

For example:
  • 50KW system we installed on the roof of a school a couple of years ago has averaged over 1100 KWH per year for each KW of panels installed. This roof has some partial shading, and is also shallower than optimal angle and not facing due south, reducing it's output both from its angle to the sun and the fact that it does not shed snow as well as it would if it were at the steeper angle
  • A 3.825 KW roof-mount system we installed 3 years ago is averaging 1266 KWH per year for every KW of panels installed. In fact, in the 3 years and 3 months this small residential system has been in operation, it has already put out 5.8 MWH - more than the annual production you calculated for a 90 MW system.

So either I have completely failed to understand the numbers you put out, or your numbers bear some checking and recalculating. Assuming it's properly designed and installed, 90 MW "nameplate" rated system would need to operate for about 5 minutes in full direct sunlight to output 5.4 MWH.
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Offline Gary_C

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #30 on: April 24, 2016, 03:33:24 pm »
John, your numbers are similar to the numbers florida is providing.

For example, your 1KW installed capacity could produce 24 KWH per day or 8760 KWH per year. Since your system is producing 1200 KWH per year, the system is producing about 13.7 per cent of full installed capacity. Yes, I know the sun doesn't shine 24 hours per day but when you compare a solar system to the installed capacity of a conventional power plant, you have to look at the total installed capacity and the cost of installation.

This sun doesn't shine 24 hours per day is exactly the disadvantage that solar power needs to overcome by some means or it cannot be competitive with other power sources and it's a double whammy. Not only do you have to install the peak instantaneous capacity you need but you also have to have a backup system of equal instantaneous capacity available when the sun doesn't shine. Or a storage system to get you through the nights and cloudy spells.
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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #31 on: April 24, 2016, 05:09:08 pm »
Gary -

I'm well aware of the pros and cons of solar and the need for storage or other means to produce when the sun is not shining (Vermont is not exactly the "sunshine state").

What I'm taking issue with is that a 90 MW "nameplate" rated system only puts out 5.4 MWH per year. I'm not sure if I'm just misunderstanding the units he is talking about, but nobody ever claims that the the expected output of a 90MW system is 90 MW x 24 hours/day x 365 days/year. I also don't claim my car, which probably has a top speed of 100 MPH is capable of an annual traveling distance of 876,000 miles either.

As for solar not being able to compete without subsidies: I'm all for removing ALL subsidies from ALL forms of energy, as well as having the true costs of generating or using each form of energy born by the generators (and passed on to the consumers) of such energy. Subsidizing (or allowing users to dodge the full costs of) oil, gas, hydro, solar, etc just lessens the incentive to use it efficiently. However, the US (and the world) is so far from such a system that I doubt it will ever happen.
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Offline Gary_C

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #32 on: April 24, 2016, 08:25:50 pm »
Power plants are nothing like cars and the power plants we depend on for our grid electricity do absolutely run 24 hours per day 365 days per year. In fact one coal fired plant that I know of ran for nearly 10 years without any downtime. At the five year inspection it was determined it needed some work and the parts needed were not available for almost four years.

My nephew is a operator at a nuclear power plant and down times are scheduled for years ahead and every minute the plant is down is very well planned and extremely expensive to the owners. With that kind of investment you can't have idle capacity.
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Offline tmarch

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #33 on: April 27, 2016, 11:18:14 am »
"No matter how you slice it a 10K photo voltaic system is going to run between $50,000 and $60,000 installed with no storage."
How many of this size system cost this much and why?  Right now I can find a 10K system installed for $25,000 that will have all the best components available.  Take the tax credit and it's less than $20,000.
Personally I have a 6K system at the ranch and it offsets all my usage yearly.  Not that we use that many KWH anyhow, but conservation is key.
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Offline esteadle

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #34 on: April 28, 2016, 11:33:09 pm »
There are a series of interesting graphs of Wind Energy Production Capacity by year at this link.
http://apps2.eere.energy.gov/wind/windexchange/wind_installed_capacity.asp

There was a post above in this thread, where someone asked a somewhat rhetorical question about "what plants did they shut down". That's not the way it would work, actually. Its more likely that additional capacity would not be built based on the availability of additional capacity provided by the energy technologies coming onto the market. This is avoided capacity.

There is also the consideration of the advancement of energy efficiency at the point of consumption. New technologies like LED lighting, smartphones, and energy efficient appliances, programmable thermostats, alternate power buses (DC) -- these make capacity demand considerations a much more manageable problem. An axiom of the energy industry is every watt of avoided consumption saves many watts of generated capacity. By avoiding the consumption of energy, alternative local power generation becomes a more realistic situation.

Traditional power generation technologies have costs that are typically unaccounted for. Their effects on the environment are usually not reflected in the rates that energy consumers pay. If carbon emitters were to pay for the effect they have on climate, and the severe weather effects that manifest as a result, all of the economic considerations change.
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Offline maple flats

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #35 on: May 01, 2016, 08:01:02 pm »
It sounds to me that florida is so against any form of green energy that he makes up or mis-interprets the numbers.
For me, I'll take solar PV anytime, which I have at 6.32KW strong. On a yearly basis it supplies all of my energy, thru net metering. I just paid up front for the electricity for the rest of my life, and for others after that.
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Offline Gary_C

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #36 on: May 02, 2016, 01:34:04 pm »
It's not accurate to portray florida or myself as "against green energy" as this topic is all about pointing out the difficulties solar energy has to face to become economically viable. All "green energy" sources have to compete with each other to be the choice for capital investment and solar has an inherent disadvantage because the sun does not shine all day. In fact there are only about eight hours daily you can expect production for a solar investment minus cloudy day losses. That third or less production limit is a severe handicap when considering investing in energy production and thus either requires significantly lower costs of investment per KW capacity or you have to look elsewhere for the capital to be invested for energy production.

Of course in isolated locations like yours, the lack of small scale alternatives may make solar the preferred investment. I actually run a isolated system in my camper where I spend many of my days while working in the woods and have a 3KW inverter, 4-6 volt batteries in a 12 volt storage setup, two solar panels for assist and a 3 kw Honda generator to recharge. The solar panels are not giving me much assist but they are many times covered with snow and it is just too dangerous to get up on the roof to clear the snow in the winter. That plus they have not worked well since one was damaged and replaced.

This does not make me for or against solar, just a realist about the benefits. 
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Offline florida

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #37 on: May 02, 2016, 04:46:26 pm »
Sorry for not being here to answer questions. Been down sick with a terrible cold.

John,

You're right about my confusion between MW and MWh although that is what I meant to be saying. I got my figures from another website that said the capacity factor in Vermont as about 6% which would mean 5.4MWh annually.

maple flats

I'm not anti green energy at all. It has an important role to play in places where grid power isn't available. I'm not even against solar as long as it's fairly represented and taxpayers aren't paying for it. Net metering forces the rest of the rate payers to subsidize your power because laws force the power company to pay retail for your solar power. That's what I'm against.

SolarCity is one of the if not the largest solar power retailers in American. Here's what they have to say about their business.

"SolarCity officials, including Musk’s cousins and fellow Obama donors Lyndon and Peter Rive, acknowledged the company’s dependence on government support  in its 2012 IPO filing. “Our business currently depends on the availability of rebates, tax credits and other financial incentives,” forcing other people to give us profits  they wrote. “The expiration, elimination or reduction of these rebates, credits and incentives would adversely impact our business.”




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Offline florida

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #38 on: May 02, 2016, 04:55:30 pm »
esteadle

Not true at all. Actually as more wind and solar is brought on line MORE gas fired generators have to be built just to back them up. It has to be gas fired because no other generators can ramp up fast enough to keep pace with wind and solars intermittent power production.

Also, wind and solar have a larger carbon footprint than coal fired plants since they are magnitudes less efficient. The trick is that the carbon production takes place where the steel, aluminum, concrete, copper, fiberglass and cells that go into them are made. A 3 MW commercial windmill will never produce enough electricity to pay its  construction cost whereas a coal fired plant pays for itself many times over.
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Offline ljohnsaw

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #39 on: May 02, 2016, 05:00:52 pm »
Net metering forces the rest of the rate payers to subsidize your power because laws force the power company to pay retail for your solar power. That's what I'm against.

I'm not jumping down your throat, but this is NOT true out here in the "other" sunshine state.  My power company only pays WHOLESALE rate for solar power - and it really isn't even that.  Their web site quotes that any over generation at the end of the year will be bought for "about 4 cents / kwh" and they typically pay between 2 and 3 cents.  My all-in average rate (First tier) is $0.1839.  Our rates go up to 45 cents so that is why I have solar.  The extra is the transportation charges, etc.  While I was working for a different power company, we would be happy to buy power at 50 or 60 cents plus transport charges.  My argument is that I should get credit for the power company not having to transport electricity to my neighbors when I am over-generating.  That is, I should get the full retail rate because that is what I'm offsetting, not the wholesale.  But, alas, that won't happen :-\
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Offline SLawyer Dave

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #40 on: May 02, 2016, 09:33:28 pm »
I am in the same boat as ljohnsaw.  Over generation of solar power from my solar system, nets me about .03 cents a kwh.  I believe my average cost to buy power from PG&E is like .35 cents.  Where solar makes sense economically for me, in that it drops me from a high tier cost of electricity, to that of only needing a very small baseline need.  So I save about $100 a month in total.

In Hawaii, where electricity is VERY expensive, (they have to import oil and natural gas to generate most of their needs), solar has been almost standardized and can be found in almost every home.  So as electricity rates go up, solar power becomes that much more affordable. 

Unless incredibly inexpensive ways to store solar power become available, solar will never be "the answer", to our world's electrical power generation needs.  However, it will almost certainly be a part of the answer for many generations to come. 

Out of all of the "green" energy options out there, I believe the most likely to be able to meet our future needs is Hot Dry Rock Geothermal.  It is the one technology out there that has the *potential*, to meet all of the world's electrical power needs alone.  A U.S. Department of Energy study a few years ago estimated that there is 10,000 terra watts of power available here in the Continental U.S. alone,  A single terra watt, is equivalent to all of the electricity produced throughout the entire world for one year.  So that equates to 10,000 years of supply at our current world wide usage.   

Offline florida

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #41 on: May 03, 2016, 08:12:06 am »
ljohnsaw

No offense taken at all but thank you for the warning! Lol!

I can't believe your rates! I mean I do but holy cow is that some expensive power!  CA is as bad as Europe. As a matter of fact the highest electric rates in Europe, $.45 to $.60 a k are in the countries with the most developed solar and wind systems. In Spain and Germany they encouraged solar with feed in tariffs of nearly $.60 a k so guess what happened? Solar went up everywhere and of course it wasn't  sustainable so the tariffs crashed leaving people on the hook for their systems. They found many larger solar systems  producing power at night! The owners were running gensets at night as even paying for fuel they made money.

Anyway, here's an article from Feb about how CA has just extended the law forcing retail net metering rates on the utilities until 2019.

http://www.utilitydive.com/news/inside-the-decision-california-regulators-preserve-retail-rate-net-meterin/413019/
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Offline florida

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #42 on: May 03, 2016, 08:29:06 am »
SLawyerDave

I don't know how you guys can pay those rates. I'd be broke trying to keep my air running! At $.35 my power bill would be $7 or $800.00 a month! But you're right, you're getting up into the rate area where solar does come close to being competitive. However, I thin your high rates are mostly due to politics, not a lack of available power. CA has a massive hydro system, thousands of oil and gas wells and import massive amounts of power from surrounding low rate states. There's no reason for your power to be so expensive except political manipulation of the market. Your politicians want you to pay more.

Here's a chart of average power prices across the US.  Here in Florida we have no hydro so almost all of our power is produced by traditional methods yet I pay less than $.12 a kh.

Never heard of Hot Dry Rock Geothermal, I'll have to look that one up.
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Offline Gary_C

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #43 on: May 03, 2016, 10:31:46 am »
Here is that chart from the EIA on electric rates across the country. Electric Power Monthly

Hot Dry Rock Geothermal is basically extracting heat from near the earth's core and requires a type of hydraulic fracking. They claim no leakage of the fluids but with the attention fracking for oil is getting, fat chance that method is going to get wide spread approval. Plus it just gets you hot water, not electric power that is relatively easy to transport.
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Offline ljohnsaw

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #44 on: May 03, 2016, 10:57:33 am »
There are several places that have or could have what we have in Northern California.  Geothermal steam plants.  My old company built their first plant in 1981 in the Clear Lake area.  There are a LOT of units out there - we just built two plants of two units.  They were supposed to have a life span (due to steam field depletion) of 30 years.  We innovated re-injection of the condensed steam.  A non-producing or very low producing well is used to start pumping water down the well.  Once it gets a little quenched, it starts to draw the water down.  They calculated it takes 35 years for rain water to get down to the hot rocks - we were short circuiting that.  We also built small retention dams to capture rain water (they get about 35" a year up there) to re-inject.  That added quite a number of years to the life of the steam field.  We also converted the turbines to work from lower pressure steam and they are still churning out power today.  The plants are taken off-line, IIRC, every other year for a month for preventive maintenance - sometimes a turbine replacement (spare on hand) to be rebuilt during the year.  The only down-side of these is that the seismic activity has increased in the area a little bit.
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Offline Larry

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #45 on: May 21, 2016, 04:52:15 pm »
Our electric utility, Ozark Electric Cooperative, just put a one megawatt solar power generation station on line.  I haven't read how it is going as of yet.  One megawatt doesn't seem like much, but maybe they get green credits or something.  You can read about it hear.

https://www.ozarksecc.com/press/pr/solar-facility/july-15-2015

We just had a thread about electric rates and it seemed I had about the cheapest, so I'll won't say nothing bad about our utility.

I have heard rumor of a new idea.  Invest in the utility company to install solar panels than get a break on your bill.  This would be in lieu of the homeowner buying and installing there own solar panels.  The idea is to eliminate net metering.
Larry

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Offline SLawyer Dave

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #46 on: May 22, 2016, 09:54:24 am »
https://www.yahoo.com/news/futuristic-device-helping-scientists-break-055236603.html?ref=gs


Above is an article about researchers in Australia coming up with a new kind of solar panel, prism design that doubles the efficiency of the panel to 34%.  Hopefully they can scale the technology and costs and make this an affordable alternative.

Offline Gary_C

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #47 on: May 22, 2016, 11:04:48 am »
Think of that method as putting a layer of diamonds (high purity optical glass) in the panel. I wish them well in making that idea cost effective.

Their method still does not address the sun does not shine all day factor that is killing the utilization factor.

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Offline SLawyer Dave

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #48 on: May 22, 2016, 11:09:41 am »


Hot Dry Rock Geothermal is basically extracting heat from near the earth's core and requires a type of hydraulic fracking. They claim no leakage of the fluids but with the attention fracking for oil is getting, fat chance that method is going to get wide spread approval. Plus it just gets you hot water, not electric power that is relatively easy to transport.

Just to be clear, Hot Dry Rock Geothermal, or HDR, does rely on heat coming from the Earth's core, but the "hot dry rock" has to be within 15km of the surface, (drill-able depth).  Typically this is a crystallized plutonic structure of heated rock that extends down many miles into the Earth's Mantle.  That crystallized rock, (think granite), conducts the heat emanating from the Earths core and mantle up close to the surface of the earth.

The sole difference between HDR and "wet" geothermal, (as ljohnsaw spoke about), is the presence of water at depth within these "hot rocks".  The Geysers Geothermal plant in Lake County California, taps into a relatively shallow area of hot rock, for which water naturally filters down to.  The water becomes super heated, (steam field), and then by that pressure is forced to the surface through small fractures in the overlying rock to create geysers.  The power company drills holes down into the steam field to take some of that steam, and turn a turbine.  So both "wet" and HDR geothermal give you "hot water" that is under high pressure, and when allowed to come to the surface, "flashes" into high pressure steam, which is used to turn a turbine and produce electricity. 

As to the "hot water" vs. electricity that Gary referenced, there are a number of low grade, (low temperature), geothermal projects around the world where people are piping geothermally heated water into buildings and projects as a heating source.  Due to their lower temperature, they are not considered a viable resource for electrical production, but can be economically viable over a small geographical area for heating purposes.

The availability of "wet" geothermal resources, is actually very limited.  There are only a few areas of such resources throughout the U.S. that have commercial viability, and almost all of those are concentrated throughout the western U.S. 

HDR on the other hand, only relies on finding Hot rock at drillable depth.  That occurs approximately 85% over the area of the entire world.  Due to the depth, pressure, and "dry" condition of these crystalline rock formations, they are isolated from ground water by their very definition.  Ground water can't get down to them, and neither can it escape upwards out of them.  Dr. Donald Brown, of Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos Labs, is considered the "father" of HDR as he and his team pioneered the concepts back in the late 60's and 70s.  His idea was to drill into these HDR and then using high pressure water injection, to open up naturally occurring faults and fissures within the rock that the water could then travel through.  Using very sensitive seismographs, the scientists could actually watch the micro-quakes that occurred and plot these three dimensionally, as the water infiltrated the rock from the well head.  The scientists would then drill a 'production' well into the area of the rock that the water infiltrated into. 

This concept has been repeatedly proven around the world in different experiments, (look up Fenton Hill for the U.S. 20 + year efforts).  The big issue to date, has been the lack of "flow through", meaning that the amount of water moving through the rock strata has not been great enough to make the process commercially viable).  There are a number of ongoing efforts around the globe, with different ideas about how to make this process commercially viable.  If this technology can be perfected, and made repeatable, then realistically, the world's electrical generation needs could be met literally until the earth's core cools down, or the sun goes nova. 


Offline SLawyer Dave

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #49 on: May 22, 2016, 11:33:53 am »

Their method still does not address the sun does not shine all day factor that is killing the utilization factor.

As I posted previously, solar alone will never be an answer to the world's energy needs, but it certainly can be a very large contributing factor.  Given that the world's energy usage is highest during daylight hours, the utilization factor is automatically eased.  Increasing electrical costs, along side higher efficiency solar panels and scaled costs of production, should make solar power even more affordable over the next 20 years. 

Electrical production has always been the big issue.  With the market pushing for electric cars, electrical storage and battery improvements have been making great strides in the last 10 years.  Now the electric power industry and researchers are starting to work on large scale power storage concepts.  If any of these concepts can be shown to be workable, then solar can take a giant leap forward. 

Hydrogen fuel cells show a lot of promise.  Imagine using excess solar power generated during the day, to disassociate sea water into oxygen and hydrogen.  The hydrogen will then be stored in fuel cells, and used to produce electricity during non-day light hours.  Or, using a direct conversion, store both the disassociated oxygen and hydrogen, and then recombine in a controlled and continuous burn to replace natural gas in a conventional gas fired turbine.  This reaction will also produce clean potable water, something that is itself very valuable in many places.  Yes, there will be loss of efficiency with both methods, but again, make solar energy cheap and efficient enough, and the conversion loss becomes affordable.

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #50 on: May 23, 2016, 12:08:52 am »
I have heard rumor of a new idea.  Invest in the utility company to install solar panels than get a break on your bill.  This would be in lieu of the homeowner buying and installing there own solar panels.  The idea is to eliminate net metering.

Not a rumour. It's being done in Nelson, BC (an hour's drive from me). The city owns the utility and the dam. I was asked to bid on the wood for the frames that will support the panels.

The project was proposed but did not go beyond the planning stage until all the panels were fully subscribed (which didn't take all that long).
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Offline Gary_C

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #51 on: May 23, 2016, 02:46:04 am »

Hydrogen fuel cells show a lot of promise.  Imagine using excess solar power generated during the day, to disassociate sea water into oxygen and hydrogen.  The hydrogen will then be stored in fuel cells, and used to produce electricity during non-day light hours.  Or, using a direct conversion, store both the disassociated oxygen and hydrogen, and then recombine in a controlled and continuous burn to replace natural gas in a conventional gas fired turbine.  This reaction will also produce clean potable water, something that is itself very valuable in many places.  Yes, there will be loss of efficiency with both methods, but again, make solar energy cheap and efficient enough, and the conversion loss becomes affordable.

Here is what Ianab said about that plan at reply 7 here: http://www.forestryforum.com/board/index.php/topic,77356.msg1173944.html#msg1173944

Main reason is that it doesn't work.... It's not that you can't make hydrogen with electrolysis, that's easy enough. You can run an engine on hydrogen (like pretty much any flammable gas).

The problem is that it takes more energy to split the water into hydrogen (and oxygen) than you can get back by combining them again. With the efficiency of the average internal combustion engine you might hope to get ~25% of the power back? It pops up again every few years, usually someone looking for investors or selling plans.  ::)

Same issue faces commercial hydrogen powered vehicles. It sounds great on paper because the exhaust gas is water vapour, so much less pollution from the car exhaust. But where you you get the hydrogen from? Make it from Natural gas, or build a new coal fired power station or a Nuke plant? Just creates more pollution (because of efficiency losses in the processes), in some other area.

There is no free lunch...


And then pineywoods said this at reply 26:

NASA spent a ton of money trying to find a way to store hydrogen. I had a neighbor who was on the research team. The thing that ultimately killed the idea was a process called hydrogen embrittlement. Hydrogen atoms are so small, they will seep through solid metal. In doing so, they make the metal extremely brittle. One experiment filled a cylinder with 2 inch thick aluminum walls with hydrogen under a few thousand psi. Came back later and most of the hydrogen was gone. Someone smacked the cylinder with a hammer and it shattered like glass.

Then I said this at reply 24:

And then there is the "Ka Boom" problem.

Fuel cell technology has been around for a long time and yet it has not been well adopted. There's three reasons why.
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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #52 on: May 23, 2016, 03:25:14 am »

As to the "hot water" vs. electricity that Gary referenced, there are a number of low grade, (low temperature), geothermal projects around the world where people are piping geothermally heated water into buildings and projects as a heating source.  Due to their lower temperature, they are not considered a viable resource for electrical production, but can be economically viable over a small geographical area for heating purposes.


I was actually referring to the large number of technical issues that exist in converting BOTH hot water and steam into electrical energy. For one, turbine engine blades do not like any free water in the steam they are fed so an uncontrolled steam supply is dangerous territory. Then you have to stop extracting energy from the steam before it starts condensing water, and then what do you do with the hot water or condensate. In order to get your efficiency up you need to deal with the leftover energy containing waste. Making electricity out of steam is not as easy as it sounds. 
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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #53 on: May 23, 2016, 08:24:11 am »

The problem is that it takes more energy to split the water into hydrogen (and oxygen) than you can get back by combining them again. With the efficiency of the average internal combustion engine you might hope to get ~25% of the power back? It pops up again every few years, usually someone looking for investors or selling plans.  ::)



Very true, which is why I specifically referenced that in my post, (generally called conversion loss).  The solar only is so efficient, the disassociation of the H2O loses more energy, and the conversion back to H2O, again loses more energy.  However, while all of this is true, the fact remains that we are only talking about when the value of the electrical energy produced, equals or exceeds the carrying costs of the investment and operation. 

As we obtain higher efficiency, and lowering of costs through scaling, AND the cost of electrical energy continues to climb, such a system will become both economically feasible and reliable.  Again, it comes down to what is the final cost of the kwh produced.  Even if it is only 8 to 12% efficient, (as measured against 100% potential conversion to actual), if the final cost of a kwh is economically competitive, then the system will benefit us economically.  This also ignores the potential production value of both the salt and potable water that can be produced from such a process. 

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #54 on: May 23, 2016, 08:41:33 am »


I was actually referring to the large number of technical issues that exist in converting BOTH hot water and steam into electrical energy. For one, turbine engine blades do not like any free water in the steam they are fed so an uncontrolled steam supply is dangerous territory. Then you have to stop extracting energy from the steam before it starts condensing water, and then what do you do with the hot water or condensate. In order to get your efficiency up you need to deal with the leftover energy containing waste. Making electricity out of steam is not as easy as it sounds.

While I agree there are always technical issues that can be improved, I disagree with your overall premise.  Commercial wet geothermal energy has been being produced continually since 1911 when the first plant became operational in Italy.  Overall, direct "wet" steam energy has been used to produce electricity for over 150 years.  The first such generators used the principles of a steam locomotive to use steam pressure to drive pistons, which created angular momentum, driving a shaft which rotated the generator.  Modern stainless steel turbines are much more efficient and do not have the maintenance, corrosion, and short life spans that the first generations suffered from.  Further, there are a number of binary systems in place currently, where that same "heat source", (whether steam or super-heated water still under high pressure so that it will not flash to steam),  are used with a heat exchanger to heat a secondary isolated fluid, that then will actually be used to turn the turbine.  Not only is this process used in some geothermal applications, but such binary processes are at the heart of almost every nuclear power plant in the world.

Scientifically and technically, we know more about using steam efficiently to make electricity, then almost any other form of electrical generation.  Primarily because we have been doing that for so long, and have had a chance to make it ever more efficient.

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #55 on: May 23, 2016, 04:09:56 pm »
NZ now produces about 15% of if it's electrical power generation from geothermal heat now, via 8 power stations. So the technical issues are solvable, although how practical the generation is depends on the local geology. Having volcanoes nearby makes it more likely to work.  :D
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Offline Gary_C

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #56 on: May 24, 2016, 12:21:52 am »

While I agree there are always technical issues that can be improved, I disagree with your overall premise. 

I'm not really sure what "premise" you are disagreeing with but I think the confusion is about your term "wet steam." You are using the term to describe the label of the source of the steam being generated and mixing that with the quality of the steam from your source.

Steam turbines come in many sizes and designs depending on the application. Without getting into all the variations like condensing, non-condensing, etc. the enemy of all types of steam turbines is water in the steam because it will erode the blades and destroy the turbine in a short time. There is a secondary issue on a molecular level of what is called creep where the molecules of the material in the blades does not stay in place at the high temperatures found in steam turbines. To make a long story short, any water molecules in a liquid form that come from wet steam from a quality standpoint will cause serious problems.

That's not to say a turbine cannot be designed to match the source and quality of the steam, but the efficiency will depend on all the factors and situation available. As I said, It's not as easy as saying use a steam turbine. That's my "premise."
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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #57 on: May 26, 2016, 01:25:45 am »
Here's an interesting story.
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/vince-sharpe-inuvik-nwt-solar-power-bill-1.3599408

Keep in mind that electricity (and everything else) is very expensive where this guy lives.
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Offline florida

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #58 on: May 26, 2016, 09:10:52 am »
This is exactly what irritates me about solar, they have to lie to make it seem viable.  I agree that electricity is probably expensive  where Mr Sharpe lives but I also know that he lives in a very dark climate at 66 degrees north where solar is not ever going to produce any meaningful amounts of electricity.   We have no idea what size his system is nor what the total cost was. I looked and Canadians get a 30% tax credit for solar plus rebates from the power company and other incentives.  (This is all money that other people pay.)  I would imagine the real cost of his system would be more in the $50K plus range.  Add 4% interest to that and the 25 year cost will be more like $135,000.00 or $450.00 a month for 25 years.  Even if we use his figure of $33,000.00  the 25 year cost will be  $90,000.00 at only 4 percent.  That gives him a real energy cost of $300.00 a month for 25 years, double what  he's paying now.

I looked at one of the commercial solar arrays near him  in Colville, BC to see what kind of power they actually produce.  It's a 132 kw array that up until a week or so ago had  basically produced nothing this year. Yesterday they produced 293 kwh of power, worth $29.00 at their net metering rate of $.099 a kwh.   I checked random days all the way back to May of 2015 and about 350 kwh a day seems  to be the most they've ever produced  with production down to 0 from late August through early May.  Based on last years production they are on target to produce right around $3,000.00 of power this year.  They'll have it paid off in 2,599 years!

https://enlighten.enphaseenergy.com/pv/public_systems/xrDs481206/overview


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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #59 on: May 27, 2016, 01:00:44 am »
Out of curiosity, who is the "they" that is supposed to be lying in this case?

Some numbers for you ...

Inuvik's power used to come entirely from diesel generators. Two years ago they began operating an LNG powered plant, which cuts the need for diesel-generated electricity in half. The LNG is trucked from southern BC.

The electrical rate in Inuvik is  28.31 cents / KWh. Any amount in excess of 1000 kWh per month costs 60.83 cents / kWh. It actually costs the utility 60.83 cents / kWh to generate the electricity, so homeowner are subsidized for up to $325 per month before they actually start paying the true cost of power.

In winter, the sun does not rise for 30 days. However, in summer the sun does not set for 55 days (on average). During the summer period the sun will be roughly 45 degrees above the horizon.

In the NorthWest Territories, renewable energy receives a 33% subsidy, up to a maximum of $5000 per year. An earlier report put the actual installed cost at $50,000, which is consistent with a subsidized cost of $33,000 spread over three years.

Scaling off the photo, the panels appear to be either 3' square or 1 meter square. That puts the array at between 380 ft2 and 450 ft2.

The utility credits the net power at full retail amount, not at their actual cost. Any rebates are set to zero on March 31 so there is no carry-over of credits.
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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #60 on: May 27, 2016, 03:36:00 am »
Bruce, a couple of questions.

First what is the difference between LNG power and diesel power? Is it simply engines converted to burn LNG?

Second, suppose all the residents of Inuvik followed Vince Sharpe's idea and installed solar panels. Who then would be paying for the power during the night and when the sun doesn't shine?
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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #61 on: May 27, 2016, 04:06:14 am »
Quote
First what is the difference between LNG power and diesel power? Is it simply engines converted to burn LNG?

Basically yes, but in bulk Natural Gas is cheaper than diesel.

At night they still have to fire up the generators, but if you can cut the generation back significantly during the day (when power use is usually higher) then you reduce the overall cost. Main cost of generation like that is the fuel, use only 2/3 of the fuel, and your overall cost is much less.

If you have cheap mains power, the current solar doesn't really stack up. When you start paying 60 cents a unit, things start looking different.

Now solar power is not popular where I live, because it's not subsidised, we have relatively cheap mains power, and it's usually cloudy. So all the nay sayers arguments are valid.
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Offline florida

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #62 on: May 27, 2016, 09:40:16 pm »
The "they" I refer to is the entire solar industry and the government  that supports solar for political reasons.  All the large solar PV companies pulled out of Nevada last month because they cut net metering  rates to  back to wholesale. The president of Solar City, the largest PV company in American testified and said that without retail net metering solar made no sense. Of course retail net metering forces the power suppliers to buy PV electricity at the same price they sell it which passes on all the other costs to those who don't have solar.
You're correct about the net metering plan in Inuvik. The $.099 rate I used came from the power company website but must be for locations where power is not subsidized like it is in Inuvik.   I don't understand why power is so heavily subsidized there  but I suppose  that's down to politicians as well.
But let's look at Mr Sharpe's situation.  His system cost $50,000.00, he paid $33,000.00. According to him he used 8,000 KW last year and expects to generate 13,000 Kw this year.  He'll sell  the excess 5,000  Kw back to the power company at $.68 a KW or a total of $3400.00.  His base 8,000 Kw will be free to him at a value of $2,240.00 so he's $5640.00 to the good.  But the payment  on the $33,000.00 he paid is at least $300.00 a month for a total of $3600.00 a year and the other $17,000 the system cost will have to be paid by someone else at another  $1,800.00  annually for a total of $5400.00 out.  System maintenance and the cost of running a generator to back up his solar on cloudy days will certainly cost more than the $240.00 annual difference.  Of course Mr Sharpe isn't going to pay  that additional $1,800.00  annual interest so rather than reducing his electric bill he's just having someone else pay it.   I am casting no aspersions on Mr Sharpe, I'm sure he hasn't done the math, he just believed the salesman and the politicians who told him it was a good deal.
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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #63 on: May 28, 2016, 02:41:05 am »
...  suppose all the residents of Inuvik followed Vince Sharpe's idea and installed solar panels. Who then would be paying for the power during the night and when the sun doesn't shine?

They would, (unless they could wheel the excess power down to California in the summer :D).

That's the limitation on net metering with solar PV. It works great as long as only some of the population does it. If everyone starts to get on the bandwagon, then the utility will be forced to put a limit on how many households they will allow to do net metering.

... Main cost of generation like that is the fuel, use only 2/3 of the fuel, and your overall cost is much less. ...

And transportation is a major expense in getting the fuel to Inuvik.

...  He'll sell  the excess 5,000  Kw back to the power company at $.68 a KW or a total of $3400.00. ...

At the moment, he won't. Firstly, the utility resets the credits back to zero on March 31 each year. He'll effectively get enough credits to cover his costs but no more. Second, the utility only pays the retails rate for the power they buy from him.

He's not happy about the March 31 reset and is lobbying to get that rule changed.

Quote
... Of course Mr Sharpe isn't going to pay  that additional $1,800.00  annual interest so rather than reducing his electric bill he's just having someone else pay it. ...

But hang on a minute. He's "selling" the power company 13000 kWh per year but they are only paying him $0.283 for the amount he uses -- 8000 kWh. The power company would have paid $0.608 to generate the total amount he's providing. That means the power company is ahead $5640 per year (if my math is correct). That means he is effectively subsidizing his neighbours rather than the other way around.
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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #64 on: May 28, 2016, 10:37:23 am »

He's not happy about the March 31 reset and is lobbying to get that rule changed.

Quote
... Of course Mr Sharpe isn't going to pay  that additional $1,800.00  annual interest so rather than reducing his electric bill he's just having someone else pay it. ...

My "Reset" date is my "true-up" month, April.  It is the anniversary of my install/startup - April 14.  I don't annually, over generate so I never have any "excess" anyhow.  I knew how much (little) the power company would pay and how "low" my baseline rates are so it did not make sense to zero out my bill.  Some of my neighbors just wanted the satisfaction of having a net zero payment for the year and "overbuilt" without considering the economics.  If your system is right on the edge of supplying your yearly usage, a "reset" would be a problem at times, it would be nice to bank for a "bad" sun year.  If you have way more than you need, it doesn't matter one bit.

But hang on a minute. He's "selling" the power company 13000 kWh per year but they are only paying him $0.283 for the amount he uses -- 8000 kWh. The power company would have paid $0.608 to generate the total amount he's providing. That means the power company is ahead $5640 per year (if my math is correct). That means he is effectively subsidizing his neighbours rather than the other way around.

I don't think so - with his excess generation and getting paid the wholesale energy rate, he is subsidizing the power company, not his neighbors.  The neighbors are NOT benefiting from his excess generation, the power company is not having to generate (saving the $.608 less what they paid him) and can charge his neighbors the full rate!  The power company makes money for doing nothing.

With my tiered rate structure, it gets a little complicated but if I were to receive the true cost of power for my excess, then I would have overbuilt so I could "make" money.  Someday that might work out but the poor saps that don't have solar power would be stuck paying exorbitant energy rates.  Something WILL change in the future.  The current model is not sustainable.
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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #65 on: May 28, 2016, 12:10:25 pm »
While looking for some costs of generating electricity I came across the EIA data and there are two tables that I found that tell an important story. First table is Power Plant Operating Costs and the second table is Costs and Avoided Costs of New Generation Resources.

In looking at this data it is apparent the government has little interest in promoting the most economical energy source. Their sole mission is about a de facto carbon tax or carbon credit and the subsidies and net metering schemes are a means to reduce our carbon footprint, nothing more. Fairness has nothing to do with it.

That being said, the economics right now are favoring (forcing may be a better word) a switch from coal to natural gas. The investment dollars thus are going into conversions to clean burning natural gas, not solar PV.

Geothermal is good on costs but not getting much attention probably because of the technology being a bit of a question along with questions about scale of production from any one location.
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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #66 on: May 29, 2016, 04:10:28 pm »
brucer

Good point about him subsidizing the power company. The math to figure out the real cost is incredible.

But wait! How could Mr Sharpe have an electric bill at all?  He claims to have used 8,000 Kw last year and to have had a $149.00 a month bill.  8,000 Kw keeps him well under the 1000 KW a month rate increase and he's subsidized $285.00 a month which makes the first 1000 Kw free.   Why would he have a bill at all?
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Offline florida

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #67 on: May 29, 2016, 08:32:43 pm »
Gary C

 ----------------------------------
"Their sole mission is about a de facto carbon tax or carbon credit and the subsidies and net metering schemes are a means to reduce our carbon footprint, nothing more.'

Not that I disagree at all but solar doesn't have a smaller carbon footprint.  The footprint of diesel is easy, you just measure it at the point of use. Since solar has no point of use footprint you have to go back to the manufacturing process to measure the footprint. In that case price is a good proxy  for the footprint since everything that goes into a solar panel has to be made which creates its own footprint.  Since the power density of solar is so low more land, steel and other raw materials go into manufacturing an equivalent amount of power.   


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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #68 on: May 29, 2016, 10:00:47 pm »
... But wait! How could Mr Sharpe have an electric bill at all?  He claims to have used 8,000 Kw last year and to have had a $149.00 a month bill.  8,000 Kw keeps him well under the 1000 KW a month rate increase and he's subsidized $285.00 a month which makes the first 1000 Kw free.   Why would he have a bill at all?

Remember, his credit gets reset to zero on March 31.

The temperature in Inuvik is described as "frigid" (which means below -9°C or 16°F) for 90% of the time between early November and late March. For a month during that time the sun will never rise over the horizon. It's quite likely that he will be into the higher rate zone for at least part of the time.

I expect his bill was for April, when the temperatures began to rise. I gather his system wasn't fully online until this spring.

If I did my math correctly, you were using an annual interest rate of around 10% to figure the true cost of his system. That seems a tad high (but I haven't borrowed money for a while). In any case, there is another way to look at this.

The guy is a contractor and probably did the installation himself. He paid about the same as some people do for a good quality hydraulic sawmill ;D. So what kind of return on his investment could he have reasonably made if he had invested the money? These days I'm seeing about 1/2% at the bank. With the money he is actually able to collect from the utility, I doubt that his payback period would ever drop to 7 years. But over a 15-20 year period, he'll probably make more than he would have by putting his money in the bank.

As for the cost of fuel, Inuvik is accessible by a "highway" that is only paved for part of it's length. The road is only usable in the summer and the winter. In spring and fall, the highway shuts down while the ice bridges crossing numerous rivers either freeze over, or thaw out. That means they can only truck in supplies (like fuel) for about half the year. The alternative is to fly it in.

There won't be too many days when it's too hot to saw. The record low was -56.7°C, or -70.1°F  :o)


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Offline florida

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #69 on: May 30, 2016, 08:47:51 pm »
brucer
I'm still confused. If I'm reading correctly all the residents of Inuvik are subsidized  for the first $325.00 of power they use every month. At the lower rate of $.285 per Kw that would be for the first 1148 Kw they use every month. So if he only used 8,000 total Kw for the year, even if he went  over 1,000 Kw some months his total power bill for the year couldn't have amounted to much could it?
I used 4% interest in my calculations which I expect is probably low.
As to the cost of fuel, no doubt is  high but I can't see why it would be $.608 a kilowatt. Diesel fuel is trucked everywhere. Until about 10 years ago our power was produced at a plant on the river 4 or 5 miles from my house. It ran on fuel oil which was brought  in on 2, 400,000 gallon barges every day from Gasparilla Island. At that time our electric rate was about $.09 a Kw. 
I had to make some assumptions  but I can't see any way it could be costing $.608 a Kw to produce power there. A 1500 MW diesel generator  which should satisfy Inuviks  needs will produce 1,080,000 Kw a month for about $.14 a Kw. Not arguing that it's not, I just don't see why.
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Offline Brucer

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #70 on: May 31, 2016, 01:34:45 am »
Wait, hold it, too many numbers! I'm getting confused ??? :D.

The subsidy is the difference between the cost ($.608) and the price ($.285), or 1000 kWh each month. Looking at the annual temperature profile for Inuvik I estimate that his surplus power demand is between 1000 and 2000 kWh per year. That puts his annual bill in the $2500 to $3000 range.

Here's a little road trip you could take. Drive from Fort Myers to Washington, DC. Then drive to Nashville. Then go back home. That's the distance from Vancouver BC to Inuvik. Only you don't get to drive on good roads. Here's a quote from someone who drove the route: "... Just a few kilometres shy of the [Dawson City, Yukon] is the start of the infamous Dempster Highway, a 750-km tire-eating, vehicle destroying gravel and slate road ...". There's also no backhaul to earn some income on the return trip.

It's not just fuel that has to go there. Spare parts, lubricants, tools all have to get there. And with the highway closed for up to 3 months at a time, spares for everything have to be on hand. If you overlooked something, the only alternative is to fly it in -- if the weather lets you.
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Offline tmarch

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #71 on: May 31, 2016, 10:19:32 pm »
All I know is that my 6000 watt system is saving me over $1800.00 a year.  That should simplify some of the math.
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Offline florida

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #72 on: June 01, 2016, 07:45:46 am »
brucer,

Should have spent more time on Google Earth! You're right, he's way, way up there! I thought he was n BC which would have been bad enough weather wise but he's in a different world. I can see where trucking costs would be high.
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Offline florida

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #73 on: June 01, 2016, 07:48:29 am »
tmarch

How about some more information? Where are you? How much did your system cost and how much of that did you pay?  How many Kwhs did you use before your system was installed? What's your net metering return?
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Offline enigmaT120

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #74 on: June 01, 2016, 01:28:52 pm »
Gary C
Not that I disagree at all but solar doesn't have a smaller carbon footprint.  The footprint of diesel is easy, you just measure it at the point of use. Since solar has no point of use footprint you have to go back to the manufacturing process to measure the footprint. In that case price is a good proxy  for the footprint since everything that goes into a solar panel has to be made which creates its own footprint.  Since the power density of solar is so low more land, steel and other raw materials go into manufacturing an equivalent amount of power.

Diesel's footprint certainly doesn't begin at the point of use, any more than a solar panel's.  That fuel doesn't come out of the ground, get transported, refined, and transported again for free.
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Offline Brucer

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #75 on: June 01, 2016, 04:36:30 pm »
...You're right, he's way, way up there! ...

The utility charges the same base rate in another community it serves, but the generating rate is not as high as it is in Inuvik. The difference seems to reflect the distance along the highway.

Quote
... I thought he was n BC which would have been bad enough weather wise ...

Hey! :D
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Offline florida

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #76 on: June 01, 2016, 05:11:28 pm »
brucer

Compared to Inuvik you're almost in Florida!
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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #77 on: June 01, 2016, 05:24:39 pm »
tmarch

How about some more information? Where are you? How much did your system cost and how much of that did you pay?  How many Kwhs did you use before your system was installed? What's your net metering return?
I'm in northwest Nebraska.  My system cost $25000.00 which is a net cost of $17500.00 after the 30% tax credit.  I withdrew the cost from an IRA basically tax free+ with the credit.  The balance of the IRA is presently earning .08% and even at the cost back when I installed it it's returning far more than the IRA.
Our rate when I installed it was .2151 per kwh for the first 500 kwh and then dropped to .1095 for the next 500 kwh plus a $17.00 "facility charge" per month.  My usage is and was less than most so I never really got much of the second 500 kwh.
As far as a net metering return, I have no idea what that means, but my April bill will be less than the "facility charge" and on average my bill is very close to that.
At todays prices for components I could do the same size system for .75% or less than the cost of mine.
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Offline florida

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #78 on: June 02, 2016, 08:04:54 am »
enigmaT120

Very true but all of those costs are included in the price when you buy diesel.
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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #79 on: June 02, 2016, 04:23:15 pm »
enigmaT120

Very true but all of those costs are included in the price when you buy diesel.

Florida - this branch of the debate was touched off by your claim in reply #67 to this thread:

... solar doesn't have a smaller carbon footprint.  The footprint of diesel is easy, you just measure it at the point of use. Since solar has no point of use footprint you have to go back to the manufacturing process to measure the footprint. In that case price is a good proxy  for the footprint since everything that goes into a solar panel has to be made which creates its own footprint.  Since the power density of solar is so low more land, steel and other raw materials go into manufacturing an equivalent amount of power.   

If you are going to compare carbon footprints, you have to compare the entire manufacturing and supply line of both products fro zero to point of use. You can't arbitrarily decide to include the manufacturing and supply chain of one product (solar) simply because it has no carbon emissions at the point of use, an dcount ONLY point of use emissions for the other product (diesel). The carbon footprint (or the costs of just about any other form of pollution) of diesel is not "included" in the sale price any more than it is included in the sale price of PV panels. Carbon emissions (at least currently in the US) are externalities - the costs are born by someone else other than the manufacturer or end user (in the case of carbon emissions, it is born by the world).

To the extent that a manufacturer is forced by regulation to reduce emissions (or simply by the chooses to do so), the costs of carbon emissions or other pollution will be reflected in their costs. However, unless that emission is reduced to zero, the selling price has not fully accounted for the true costs of that pollution and has thus not covered the full "carbon footprint" of the end product.

In the case of solar PV, that cost is essentially a one-time thing: you make the panels and install them. Panels are guaranteed for 25 years, and typically last much longer than that. (If you use a string inverter, you'll also have to replace that every 10 or 12 years, or every 25 years or so for a micro inverter.) In the case of diesel, there is a point-of-use cost, as well as a production and transportation cost every single time you use it.

For just about any product in the US the carbon footprint is in very large part an externality. A carbon tax would change that externality into something reflected in the price to the end user, but there are other problems with that approach (mainly that few politicians have the guts, the political will, or the desire/ability to figure out the appropriate level)

And before we get going on subsidies, keep in mind that the fossil Fuel as well as the nuclear power industry are heavily subsidized as well. Their subsidies just take a different form than a tax credit to the end user.
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Offline florida

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #80 on: June 03, 2016, 10:26:52 pm »
"If you are going to compare carbon footprints, you have to compare the entire manufacturing and supply line of both products fro zero to point of use"

The problem is the difference in power density. Let's use Mr Sharpe in Inuvik mentioned earlier in this thread as an example. He has a $50,000.00, 11 Kw  solar system that produces 13,000 Kwh a year. Over its life of 25 years let's assume Mr Sharpe can get 13,000 Kwh every year out of his system for a total of 325,000 Kwh. Over that 25 years Mr Sharpe is going to pay a total of $135,688.26 in principle and interest for his system. All that after tax money has to be earned which has its own huge carbon footprint.
For $6,250 off ebay I can buy an 11Kw diesel generator that will produce 13,000 Kwh in 1 hour 11 minutes on 1.1 gallons of diesel fuel.  My genset will produce that same 325,000 Kwh as Mr Sharpes solar system in 29 hours on 32.5 gallons of fuel.  Just to be fair I'll borrow the $6,250.00 for 25 years for a total cost of $16,961.03. Adding in my $80.00 in fuel gives me a total of $17,041.03.
 
In this situation the $135,000.00 solar system has the same power density as 32.5  gallons of diesel fuel worth $80.00.
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Offline Delawhere Jack

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #81 on: June 25, 2016, 06:10:17 pm »
Skimmed through this thread, didn't read every post but...

Within just a few miles of me there are several rooftop solar arrays that are either/or/and:

Oriented noticeably north of the latitude line.
Shaded for a large portion of the day by trees or other buildings.

I seriously doubt these arrays would have been installed if they were not being subsidized.

Plant some trees to shade your home in the summer. You'll have less need for AC, get some exercise cleaning up leaves and limbs, attract songbirds, and in 40-80 years have a reason to call a portable sawmill.  ;D
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Offline Larry

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #82 on: July 25, 2016, 09:34:48 pm »
Our electric utility, Ozark Electric Cooperative, just put a one megawatt solar power generation station on line.  I haven't read how it is going as of yet.  One megawatt doesn't seem like much, but maybe they get green credits or something.  You can read about it hear.

https://www.ozarksecc.com/press/pr/solar-facility/july-15-2015

We just had a thread about electric rates and it seemed I had about the cheapest, so I'll won't say nothing bad about our utility.

I have heard rumor of a new idea.  Invest in the utility company to install solar panels than get a break on your bill.  This would be in lieu of the homeowner buying and installing there own solar panels.  The idea is to eliminate net metering.

In this mornings paper it was reported that one could buy a solar panel from the utility for $340 (100 panels maximum) and receive $1.83/month credit on your bill.  Not enough information to determine if it would be a good investment.  Tax treatment and what happens when the panel expires.

Another interesting fact.  They oriented the panels to the west instead of the usual southerly direction.  At a complementary angle they have a mirror oriented to the east which reflects into the panel during the morning.  The intent with the west exposure is to generate maximum juice in the afternoons to knock down the peak caused by air conditioning.

This will be the utilitys only alternative energy project as there contract with there wholesale energy supplier only allows them to use one megawatt of alternative energy.  Interesting.

Larry

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #83 on: July 25, 2016, 09:56:23 pm »
In this mornings paper it was reported that one could buy a solar panel from the utility for $340 (100 panels maximum) and receive $1.83/month credit on your bill.  Not enough information to determine if it would be a good investment.  Tax treatment and what happens when the panel expires.

If that is just the PV panel (no inverters, other hardware or installation), that's not a very good price.
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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #84 on: July 25, 2016, 10:00:43 pm »
The power company installs and maintains the panel on there property.  The buyer (utility customer) does nothing other than hand over $340 in return for a $1.83 credit/month on there bill.

Larry

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #85 on: July 25, 2016, 11:14:43 pm »
The power company installs and maintains the panel on there property.  The buyer (utility customer) does nothing other than hand over $340 in return for a $1.83 credit/month on there bill.

Does it say for how many years that $1.83 goes on?

Figuring the net present value (NPV = value in today's dollars of all income less all expenses): If you assume 25 years at 3% discount rate and a fixed monthly payment of $1.83, you get a net present value of about $42 for one panel.  If the credit only goes on for 20 years, the NPV would be a net loss of $13.

Of course, you can make this calculation come out just about any way you want by fiddling with the discount rate. 3%/year seemed reasonable to me, but I'm no financial analysis guru.
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Offline Ianab

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Re: Future of Solar Power
« Reply #86 on: July 26, 2016, 02:56:43 am »
Is that $1:83 + the slightly reduced power bill?

I can see where the local utility might want to cut their peak demand, because that's what much of their charges is based on, and also the main feeder capacity has to be sized for. If they can knock ~10% off those peaks it saves them a LOT of $$. The savings of being able to trim that peak demand can be more significant than the value of the units of power generated. But if they only compensate the panel owner for the units generated, the investment in the panel isn't a good one. But work it out on value of the power + a share in what they save on the peak charges, the maths might work.   

And if those peaks come on hot summer afternoons, because of AC loads, then solar panels could take a significant bite out of those peaks. Because it's generated and used locally they don't have the costs of distributing it though the national grid. They don't generate much on a cloudy day, but that's days peak power is a lot less.

But they will also want to limit the amount of uncontrolled local generation. Otherwise they can get in a situation where one part of the grid is producing more power than it can distribute, and they don't have control of the solar panels to shut them down.

Now this wouldn't work locally because peaks here are on cold evenings when everyone flicks on electric heaters / heat pumps / starts cooking dinner. On a nice sunny day the power demand is lowest, and you would be generating some of the least valuable base load power. A lot of the local power suppliers keep smaller hydro plants in service for a similar reason. They leave them idle most of the day, and "bank" up the water. Then they can run them at 100% for a few peak hours. You can see the on-line river level gauges going up and down in a regular cycle.
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