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Old 11-11-2008, 09:58 AM   #21
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They do get the last laugh, eh, Nords. Even if you're PV generates more than you need, your bill never goes to zero, 'cause of all the extra charges (like connection service). Maybe our elected officials will finally deal with this injustice. Naaaahhhh!
$16/month, whether we need it or not.

However ugly it may be, HECO invested an incredible sum of money in building the grid and then hardening it against hurricanes. It takes a lot of time & talent to maintain a reliable voltage that won't brown out whenever the fridge or a vacuum cleaner start up.

I've lived overseas where reliable power was considered a novelty, not a standard. We can always go off the grid via batteries and other voltage-management tricks, but I'm more than happy to pay $16/month...
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Old 11-12-2008, 12:40 PM   #22
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I remember something from about 30 years ago. I think it was called a "fusion" generator. It was going to be a little box down in the basement (or elsewhere in the home) which would power the house forever. Never saw that one come to life either.
It was cold fusion.
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Old 11-12-2008, 01:21 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Koolau View Post
I Still...It would be great to be able to stick it to HECO. They do get the last laugh, eh, Nords. Even if you're PV generates more than you need, your bill never goes to zero, 'cause of all the extra charges (like connection service). Maybe our elected officials will finally deal with this injustice. Naaaahhhh!
After reading Nords explanation - do you still feel the use of their grid for $16/month is an "injustice" that our elected officials should "do something about"?

Have you priced out the cost of batteries to go off-grid, and considered the environmental impact of replacing those batteries on a regular schedule? Personally, there are other things I'd like our elected officials to look after.

-ERD50
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Old 11-12-2008, 01:22 PM   #24
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Something like this: HowStuffWorks "How Nuclear Fusion Reactors Work"
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Old 11-12-2008, 02:16 PM   #25
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Nords and ERD50

Actually, I was being more facetious than reactionary in my original post, but I know it doesn't always come through in the written word. My apologies (to you - and to HECO, heh heh.)

Yeah, I knew that HECO has costs involved with keeping everything running smoothly and stringing lines, etc. I don't question their need to charge for that and am willing to pay it to stay on the grid.

I didn't say it well, but I guess my point related to excess generation capacity - well beyond what would be needed to cover HECO's line charges, etc. Even if a homeowner invested in twice the PV s/he needed (and gave the excess to HECO) there is no provision for HECO to pay for that "free" generation capacity except to zero out the actual electricity part of the bill. I would think HECO would encourage such generation (buying at wholesale and selling at retail as they do) so that they don't need to build more new generation plants. But currently, there is limited incentive to overbuild PVs, or add wind/water turbines, or heat/electrical co-generation systems etc. even if you can find an economical way to do it. (e.g., buy up a used system or design your own.)

I attended a seminar that HECO gave. THey were pushing their $3/mo rebate for the ability to remotely turn off your water heater in case they needed the extra capacity. (I thought it a great idea and signed up.) They stressed that this is one of the ways they were avoiding building new plants which burn fossil fuel. I asked why they didn't encourage people to overbuild PV systems or other non-conventional systems and then make a reasonable payment for the excess (once their $16/mo was covered, that is). The rep. was not programmed with an answer for this one, so I brought it up here - clumsily.

I'm not one who would deny a reasonable return to a utility (or any one else, for that matter) I'm just curious why HECO (and probably most other elec. utilities) would not encourage decentralized additions to their generation capacity. If they really want to avoid building new generation capacity - as they say they do - decentralized generation could be a part of the answer. Since most such generation uses little or no fossil fuels, it seems win-win-win. Maybe I'm naive. Yeah, that must me it.
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Old 11-12-2008, 02:36 PM   #26
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OK Koolau. Then just looking at it from economics:

Just a guess, I don't have the numbers, but I'd bet that it does not make economic sense for a homeowner to install excess PV to sell back at wholesale rates.

And I don't think it makes sense to give homeowners tax rebates to install excess PV to allow them to sell back to the utility. It would seem more efficient for the utility to just go ahead and do that.

IIRC, Nords system still had a pretty long payback period, even considering used panels, DIY install, tax breaks, and offsetting retail electric rates. At wholesale, where would the payback be? I think that is why the rep had no answer - so few would want to do it.

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Old 11-12-2008, 03:08 PM   #27
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ERD50

Actually, I've never been a big fan of govt. giving rebates for much of anything (taxes excluded, heh, heh). And, I don't particularly favor utilities giving rebates - I'll take 'em, but I don't favor 'em.

I'd rather see a push toward decentralized generation - with cooperation from utilities. Paying for excess capacity is a direct inducement for such installation of decentralized capacity. And remember, folks, most decentralized production is fossil fuel/CO2 neutral.

I agree that the payback is still not that great. But if PV companies (or wind turbine or cogeneration, etc. companies) thought that every Tom, Dick and Koolau was a potential customer, it might hasten the day when PV was the low (or at least acceptable) cost provider of generation. As you know, the primary impediment to viable PV is the efficiency of conversion. The learning curve to accomplish this increase in efficiency proceeds along a predictable line which is based on number of units built. When 'something' increases units built/sold (rebates or - better yet, IMHO - paying for excess capacity) then pay-back period should decrease. I think we're close to that inflection point when PV could break through. I'm just suggesting that - even if it's not yet practical or the pay back is not quite there - the utilities could hasten that day by offering to buy all the excess electricity produced by decentralized sources. Currently, there is somewhat of a disincentive - you can't run your meter backwards beyond zero - oops! make that $16).

Climbing down off my soap box now, think I need a frosty beverage - courtesy of HECO!

Much Aloha!
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Old 11-12-2008, 04:12 PM   #28
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Koolau - good points in general, one I disagree with. And I'll keep this economic related, not a soapy comment.

I don't think this statement is factual:

The learning curve to accomplish this increase in (conversion) efficiency proceeds along a predictable line which is based on number of units built.

Efficiency of PV conversion is not based on units sold, that is a fundamental technical issue. Manufacturing efficiency may improve with the # of units sold, and that might bring prices down some, but it does not change conversion eff. And the manufacturing curve levels off to diminishing returns.

I submit it is just the opposite - conversion eff will determine the # of units sold. Or more generally, $/watt - either lower cost or better conversion helps that. If they can get 30% eff for a small cost over 15% eff (or whatever the current numbers are), they become economical in many more situations, and more people will buy them.

Also: But if PV companies (or wind turbine or cogeneration, etc. companies) thought that every Tom, Dick and Koolau was a potential customer,

Trust me, they do. But they know they can't get them as customers unless the payback is there. That's one reason they try to promote the govt rebates (stopping at the soap line....).

Given that there is a long payback at retail rates, I just don't see how adding more panels and getting paid wholesale for the excess is viable.

It seems to me it would be more economical for all involved, to have the Electric company install solar panels which are distributed through the neighborhood. They would have economy of scale - one install that is 10x what a homeowner would install would not cost 10x as much. They would need the land, but I'd bet govt owned building would be sufficient and distributed enough (schools, police stations, offices, water supply/waste buildings, etc).

-ERD50
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Old 11-12-2008, 05:54 PM   #29
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You are correct. I misspoke. The PV conversion depends upon things more fundamental than economic. I should have said that the cost/PV watt (or whatever measure) will come down predictably based on number of units produced. I've seen it at my old company dozens of times. We actually used this "law" to predict how soon something might be profitable. Once you have enough data, you can almost always predict how many units you will need to start turning a profit. In some cases, this may prompt you to "hurry" that day along by doing something "really crazy" like selling at an even bigger loss up front - especially when patents and/or competing technology are involved, heh heh. (Got that T-shirt!)

I'm just saying that, rather than have the govt. give rebates to encourage purchases (which do ultimately speed the day when renewables are viable) instead have the utilities incentivize the process by buying excess capacity. A good argument could be made that every "new" watt a utility doesn't have to bring on line (through new power plants) is more valuable than any of the "old" watts which have already been permitted (and already built in somebody else's back yard). So I don't see why the utilities don't jump at the chance to get wholesale watts with no capital cost to them. I said it before. I'm naive.

Obviously, some folks, Nords, for instance, are willing to install PV before it has quick or even reliable payback. I'm just suggesting the utilities should encourage even more of us to do the same. Make a commitment to renewables before they are reliably economical to the end user. Right now, they are getting a near "free ride" from Nords, et. Al. They pay wholesale, sell retail and take the excess for free. Makes sense - except not many of us are willing to sign on for that - especially when you add in the relatively long break-even point. So I see it as short sighted. They get to take advantage of those "pioneers" who take a risk for reasons beyond just the economics. But it slows down the day - does anyone doubt it's coming - when renewables dominate.

Would you disagree that offering to buy all extra PV (or other renewable) watts would speed the conversion from fossil fuel usage to renewables? Maybe that's my real point here. The utilities can put their money where their mouths have been. Stop talking about renewables and help those who are willing to take a gamble on renewables do so. They can't loose, even if they pay for every extra watt.

You are also correct that the utilities would probably add solar panels to roofs if it were economically viable. Because of many factors - especially the 1/3 or so they lose in transmission from centralized power grids to the end user as well as the rental of roof space plus liability issues, I believe that this "renewable revolution" needs to be decentralized. Once it is, we won't have the huge transmission losses you get with the centralized units when we all start "fueling" our cars with electrons instead of hydrocarbon molecules. You can add as many PV panels as it takes to energize your "VOLT" and forget the utility company. Nords, et. Al. is going to be feeling pretty smart when that becomes a reality. By then, PVs won't be priced by what they cost to manufacture - which will be very little - but what you can save by not buying from your electric utility.

Hey, sorry for the rant!

Wheshhh! Time for another frosty beverage. Thanks, HECO, I needed that!

Much Aloha!
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Old 11-12-2008, 06:43 PM   #30
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Koolau - you are making some very good points, not naive at all.

I was looking at it from the homeowner view, and you are including the utility - which is every bit as important. I don't have time to respond more fully now - I will later. Time more my cold one - which I could thank our local climate for if I thought ahead

thanks - ERD50
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