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Old 04-19-2015, 10:04 AM   #61
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Some practical experience with solar panel at my camp with no utitlity power at all.

I have 2 140 W panel mounted vertically under short eaves. And a three panel harbor freight on the the roof set at about 65 degree angle. With typical 6 to eight inch snow cover this winter a few times up to a foot, the roof mounted panels were totaly covered much of the winter, generating zero output.

The the vertical panels one on a south east wall and the other at on West northwest wall kept working, their bottoms are about 12" above adjacent roof lines of addons.

I do not measure power use, do use camp frequently year around. Most lighting is LED or 12 Volt fluorescents plus a 3 KW modified sine inverter for microwave, electric drill, power saws etc, Ipod touch and cellphone charging. Always had enough juice for my needs. Four marine batteries of about 95 AH each in parallel. Battery voltage never dropped blow 11.9 Volts even avter several totally cloudy days. Typically they stayed at 12.3 even with heavy uses.

And never ran any of my generators all winter. Last Saturday the was the first time I cranked one up.

The takeway:

Roof mounted panels unless mounted vertical and at least 12" off the roof surface are useless in the moderate snowy environment such as SW PA. The roof mounted panels will be moved on to a vertical wall, some output is better none.

Sunlight reflected from adjacent surfaces and snow covered roof does add to the power utput. Someday I might actually make some measurements. At this point it is a very low priority.
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Old 04-19-2015, 10:15 AM   #62
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In my RV travel, I have seen many wind tower farms in the West. Many are in open plains, and I cannot imagine much hazard caused to birds. Wind power complements solar energy very well, they say. Plus you've got no solar power at night, while the wind can blow 24 hrs/day.
I've seen those windmills while driving south into Texas. They sure are ugly (IMHO) and have an eerie sort of post apocalyptic aura to them. But Texas is now, as of Jan, 2015, apparently, getting 10 % of its electricity from them, which is a good thing.
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Old 04-19-2015, 10:31 AM   #63
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While this isn't practical yet I think it will be a game changer in ten years. Imagine large skyscrapers with clear solar windows.


A fully transparent solar cell that could make every window and screen a power source | ExtremeTech


Unfortunately my home state of Nevada has a 3% cap for solar power. It seems like this is a protection for NVEnergy (Berkshire Hathaway). Most utilities have a monopoly because they are so heavily regulated.


Sandoval, NV Energy mum on net metering after meetings with solar officials - Las Vegas Sun News

A lot of the Utes, are now focusing on increasing the monthly base charge to protect the integrity of the system, by making sure the solar people are help paying for the infrastructure needed for when they are occasionally using the grid.
Being one who enjoys receiving the nice dividends utility preferred stocks kick out, I applaud that. But as an additional protection, I only buy "cloudy area" utility preferreds.


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Old 04-19-2015, 10:41 AM   #64
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A lot of the Utes, are now focusing on increasing the monthly base charge to protect the integrity of the system, by making sure the solar people are help paying for the infrastructure needed for when they are occasionally using the grid.
Being one who enjoys receiving the nice dividends utility preferred stocks kick out, I applaud that. But as an additional protection, I only buy "cloudy area" utility preferreds.


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Actually where the electric industry has be dis-integrated (de-regulated) you find bills have 2 components 1 for energy and one for distribution. Do this and much of the problem is solved, you pay rooftop owners for the energy they supply but not the distribution charge. The utility still gets the distribution charge for the energy when some other consumer uses it, so the rooftop solar owner is in exactly the same position as a generator delivering energy to the utilities substation.
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Old 04-19-2015, 11:25 AM   #65
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I agree with you about ending the subsidies for solar power, but at the same time I'd want to end subsidies for nuclear and carbon-based power....
+1
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Old 04-19-2015, 01:33 PM   #66
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Some practical experience with solar panel at my camp with no utitlity power at all.

I have 2 140 W panel mounted vertically under short eaves. And a three panel harbor freight on the the roof set at about 65 degree angle. ....

The takeway:

Roof mounted panels unless mounted vertical and at least 12" off the roof surface are useless in the moderate snowy environment such as SW PA. The roof mounted panels will be moved on to a vertical wall, some output is better none.

Sunlight reflected from adjacent surfaces and snow covered roof does add to the power utput. Someday I might actually make some measurements. At this point it is a very low priority.
Very interesting. At first, I was thinking, vertical? That's not efficient. But here is a case where you are off-grid, so you are much more interested in effectiveness (getting the job done under all conditions), than efficiency (maximizing total annual output). Many people (and most 'journalists' it seems), don't understand the distinction.

About the sunlight reflecting off snow - I can't quantify it either, but it is a big deal. We have a 3-season room, no HVAC, but well insulated, and decent windows. On a cold, but sunny day with snow on the ground, it can get 30-40-F higher than ambient in there. Not nearly so much gain when the snow is off the ground.

-ERD50
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Old 04-19-2015, 02:50 PM   #67
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Originally Posted by Originally Posted by AllDone
I agree with you about ending the subsidies for solar power, but at the same time I'd want to end subsidies for nuclear and carbon-based power....

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+1
I would tend to agree with that, level playing fields that are at ground level, rather than the various ones being propped up at some dizzying artificial level. It is understandable why initial seed money might be distributed in some fashion, whether it be consumer rebates, industry subsidies, or direct involvement in R&D for critical needs, but for consumer-driven goods and services, at some point the marketplace can decide well enough on its own.

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Old 04-19-2015, 03:06 PM   #68
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Vertical panels? A co-worker was involved with streetlight poles that had a flexible PV material wrap. They had built-in batteries and were off grid - seemed like a good idea where there's lots of snow or typhoons.

A few years back, researched PV streetlight panels for installation on Guam which had to withstand 170 mph winds. A few mfrs could build them, but at 4x the cost.
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Old 04-19-2015, 03:17 PM   #69
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Speaking of payback term, here is an article about the "mortgage burning party" for Hoover dam, with a payback period of 56 years. Of course this was a tax subsidized plant.

Hoover Dam--It Will Be Paid Off in Full Today - latimes

Today the Six Companies would be expected to "Design-Build-Operate-Finance" and lastly, indemnify BuRec of every risk anyone could imagine.

I suppose the fair accounting as ERD50 mentions would include costs for peaking plants in the case where Lake Mead is no longer high enough to do the deed.

Hoover Online • Digital Archives
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Old 04-19-2015, 03:24 PM   #70
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Vertical panels? A co-worker was involved with streetlight poles that had a flexible PV material wrap. They had built-in batteries and were off grid - seemed like a good idea where there's lots of snow or typhoons.

A few years back, researched PV streetlight panels for installation on Guam which had to withstand 170 mph winds. A few mfrs could build them, but at 4x the cost.

AFIK Guam gets no snow. In my case vertical panels are bolted to a building's wall. If the wind is strong enough to blow my building away there is not much need for solar panels.

In my case as ERD50 noted Effectiveness is far more important than maximum efficiency. BTW getting batteries recharged with the early morning sun (low angle) and using power in late afternoon early evening (low angle sun) again is very practical.

Mid day power use is minimal or very short bursts for Inverter use of power saw, drill etc. I did spend a good bit of time analyzing power use types and times BEFORE mounting the vertical panels. My Harbor freight 45 watt panels were the first to be installed on the roof for one or two LED lights early on. Was good enough for that purpose oriented for nearly optimal fall and spring solar noon.

Conventional theories are of little use when one depends entirely on solar panels for power. I hate to run generators as they disturb the peace and quiet regarless of how welll muffled, and I hate lugging gas cans. Just a personal peccadillo.
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Old 04-19-2015, 03:55 PM   #71
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...

I suppose the fair accounting as ERD50 mentions would include costs for peaking plants in the case where Lake Mead is no longer high enough to do the deed.
From what I understand, most hydro act as their own peaker plants. I was reading up on this recently, and came across comparison of utilization rates for different power source. IIRC, ~ 80% for coal, 90% for nukes, and obviously low numbers for the gas turbine peaker plants. But I was surprised to see hydro at some low number like 25%.

Turns out, they keep it low so it can be used for peaks. So it runs at some low % of max all night, which allows the head to build, and then they are ready for daytime peaks, and can go full throttle if needed. In some cases, they pump water back up at night, so it is available for the daytime peak.

That works out well, but hydro has other environmental issues, no free lunch there at all.

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Old 04-19-2015, 03:55 PM   #72
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AFIK Guam gets no snow. In my case vertical panels are bolted to a building's wall. If the wind is strong enough to blow my building away there is not much need for solar panels.

In my case as ERD50 noted Effectiveness is far more important than maximum efficiency. BTW getting batteries recharged with the early morning sun (low angle) and using power in late afternoon early evening (low angle sun) again is very practical.

Mid day power use is minimal or very short bursts for Inverter use of power saw, drill etc. I did spend a good bit of time analyzing power use types and times BEFORE mounting the vertical panels. My Harbor freight 45 watt panels were the first to be installed on the roof for one or two LED lights early on. Was good enough for that purpose oriented for nearly optimal fall and spring solar noon.

Conventional theories are of little use when one depends entirely on solar panels for power. I hate to run generators as they disturb the peace and quiet regarless of how welll muffled, and I hate lugging gas cans. Just a personal peccadillo.
My big concern about solar panels is hail. Hail has destroyed the roofs of neighboring houses 3 times in 25 years (twice on my house then a metal roof was put on). Just yesterday in nearby places up to 1 inch hail was expected. What would the insurance on the solar panels cost if you insured them against hail? No one talks about this but in Tx it is a big thing.
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Old 04-19-2015, 06:21 PM   #73
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RE: Hail. I think you just made another case for vertical mounting. Easy enough to cover up if hail is expected. Like windows, a piece of plywood will suffice.
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Old 04-19-2015, 07:56 PM   #74
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RE: Hail. I think you just made another case for vertical mounting. Easy enough to cover up if hail is expected. Like windows, a piece of plywood will suffice.
If those of us in fly over country put plywood over our windows every time hail was predicted, that would be all we would do for two months a year.
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Old 04-19-2015, 08:52 PM   #75
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A good case for actually useable working and functional shutters, instead of the decorative plastic crap many houses sport.. Open and close as needed. In central europa they are found on most old houses.
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Old 04-19-2015, 10:05 PM   #76
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A good case for actually useable working and functional shutters, instead of the decorative plastic crap many houses sport.. Open and close as needed. In central europa they are found on most old houses.
Actually if they could build solar panels that worked as good as Class 4 impact resistant roof material it would be ok. That material is tested with 1 to 2 inch inch steel balls dropped from 12 to 20 feet UL 2218 standard. But I have not heard that panels are so rated.
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Old 04-20-2015, 08:37 AM   #77
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Right, if solar was as cost effective as some people are telling us, all us financially literate posters would be jumping on it, but few are, and no one that I know of that didn't get the subsidy (other than for off-grid applications - RVs and vacation homes, etc).
-ERD50
I calculate the payback on my solar panels at about 14 years absent any subsidies. I think this represents a reasonable return equivalent in some respects to a 5% CD. Any subsidy is gravy.

Obviously there are a lot of variables and investing in solar panels is not as simple as buying a CD. YMMV.
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Old 04-20-2015, 12:58 PM   #78
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We got a proposal for solar in 2013. The upfront cost was $23k, but reduced to $14k after state and federal tax credits. Annual energy savings was about $800 in the first year.

The payback assuming 0% cost of funds was about 14 years (it is less than $14k divided by $800 because the annual savings are expected to increase with rises in electricity costs). However, if I include cost of funds of 5.5% (which is my assumed portfolio rate of return) then the payback was 23 years (when we are 81).

So I wrote to the guy and said:
Quote:
Just wanted to get back to you that it is unlikely that we will move forward. The economics just don't seem very attractive after considering the time value of money. I'm hopeful that over time the pricing will improve and the economics will become more attractive.
He wrote back and said:
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Thank you for letting me know. I certainly understand where you are coming from. Many people share your thoughts. However, I would like to take a moment to address it:

The cost of solar has two parts; product and labor. Although it is true that product prices my drop, labor prices will not, in fact it is safe to say that labor costs will only go up year to year based on increasing wages. Solar in [my state] is made affordable by the help of several factors; the first is the [my state] State Rebate. This rebate is based on a pool of money that the legislator designates towards renewable energy projects. Currently, there is only about $x million left. We expect this to last maybe another two months. When it is gone, we do not know when or if it will get re-filled. Currently this is a savings of $1,863. Second is the Federal Rebate. This is good for 30% of the total system cost, or in your case, $6,955. Although this is good till 2016, it is unlikely that it will continue beyond that.

In short, in order for solar to be more affordable in the future, we will need to see the cost of product to reduce by significantly more then 30% from where it is today. Although we would love to see this, history suggests that product costs will not decrease by this much in this amount of time.

This is just food for thought. But to be honest, this is the best time to move forward with solar.
I replied something along the lines of "Does that then mean that solar really isn't economically viable without taxpayer subsidies?" and I never heard from him again.

Without the tax credits, the payback with 0% interest would have been a tad over 20 years and with 5.5% interest would be almost 50 years.

As an aside, our small local electric cooperative gets over 50% of its power burning methane gas from a large landfill at a cost of less than 6 cents per kwh. I have often wondered why every landfill in the country isn't used to generate electricity since many landfills just burn off the methane anyway.
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Old 04-20-2015, 01:11 PM   #79
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A lot of the Utes, are now focusing on increasing the monthly base charge to protect the integrity of the system, by making sure the solar people are help paying for the infrastructure needed for when they are occasionally using the grid....
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Actually where the electric industry has be dis-integrated (de-regulated) you find bills have 2 components 1 for energy and one for distribution. Do this and much of the problem is solved, you pay rooftop owners for the energy they supply but not the distribution charge. The utility still gets the distribution charge for the energy when some other consumer uses it, so the rooftop solar owner is in exactly the same position as a generator delivering energy to the utilities substation.
Utilities in our state instituted that about a year ago. My bill includes charges for the power I use and a charge for using the grid. Someone with solar that generates the same amount as they use would only pay the charge for using the grid.
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Old 04-20-2015, 01:31 PM   #80
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Our highest payback in energy savings has come from very simple changes, like turning off lights, switching to LED bulbs, getting rid of the air filters and using plants to clean the air instead. Having the soil in the house might be healthier, too. For white noise I use a docked iPod playing a white noise "song". For making pasta I found a pasta thermal cooker at a thrift shop that works great. No more waiting for a big pot of water on the stove to make pasta any more. I just use an instant electric pot. It saves time, too.

I like collecting little ideas like this. Added up we now use half the electricity of average homes and we have many more ideas to implement. It is not cost effective for us to go completely off grid yet with solar panels for some of the reasons posters mentioned above, but we have viewed it as kind of an interesting logic / engineering project to figure out how to get our energy bills down to the nubbins without spending a huge amount of money.
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