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The cost of solar power

Post in 'The Green Room' started by begreen, Jul 7, 2010.

  1. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    This is an encouraging trend. It's startling how much the cost per watt has changed since just 2004.

    http://tinyurl.com/24npek4

    Why is this important? In the energy independence thread it was brought up that Spain is having problems with a glut of wind power as a result of offering very high incentives based on tax breaks and premiums for their energy production. The program's temporary problem is that it was too successful. Over 50% of Spain's power is now generated by wind. I say temporary, because as electric vehicles come on line, the load on the electrical infrastructure will rise, perhaps dramatically.

    So why not here? Well it is happening, but some big utilities and energy producers are fighting it because the energy produced is very cheap and it pushes down the more lucrative revenues gained from gas, etc. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-04-22/windmill-boom-curbs-electric-power-prices.html The gist of the article is that some folks are worried about the stock market value of the company going down because it is succeeding at delivering cheaper power.

    I still think this is a temporary issue. We will see some countries developing systems to store energy in the human infrastructure via their cars and homes. But what an upside down world. Why should the stock market dictate common sense efficiencies with the energy infrastructure. This is where the private sector goes amuck. Their values get switched from their core customers, the ones paying the bills, to an abstract paper customer, the shareholder. This is an intrinsic conflict of interest. These conflicting needs are often in opposition to each other.
    http://greeneconomypost.com/wind-makes-power-too-cheap-10939.htm

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  2. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    I keep re-reviewing solar electric. I have over 6000 sqft of roof on two buildings that is covered with tin or shingles. I wish they were covered with solar panels. >:-(
  3. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Seems like a natural. What state incentives does Illinois offer?
  4. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Not enough. I have calculated the payback time to be about equal to the life expectancy of the panels. And with a LARGE initial outlay of cash. Part of the problem is the expensive install. They won't certify a DIY guy for installation, even though I have mucho skooling in electronics/electricity/computer control stuff.

    Quite simply - for me, it doesn't pay (yet).
  5. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    So I've got a question:

    If I could grow my own food, heat my own house, light my own house, how is my boss going to get me to leave my house to get me to come to work so he can make money at my expense?

    That may be why it will never happen.
  6. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    You have to pay the property taxes somehow. Unfortunately, they never go away.

    Matt
  7. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    With broadband, a growing portion of the population is already working at home. Boss visits them virtually or vice versa. My accountant did our taxes out of Arizona this year. Not every job needs a body on location. But more importantly, if you grow your own food, have no energy bills to speak of, why do you need a boss? Better to be your own in that circumstance.
  8. oldspark

    oldspark Guest

    You have to buy all that stuff to do that and it isnt cheap so back to work.
  9. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    This is great news. What I'd like to see in addition to the financial analysis though, is the energy analysis. Ie. Not just how many years till you break even on cost, but how many years till it produces more energy than was consumed making the panel.
  10. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    I understand your interest, but the fact that a 20 year break even point for a large investment is equal to loosing money. Take the same capital investment and actually INVEST it at a measly 5% and you come out WAY ahead. Thats my problem, I can't seem to make the math work in favor of the solar panels.

    Simply stated: A large investment for a 20 year period of time better do more than break even - or its a failure in my eyes.
  11. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    I should have been more clear on the intent of my query. I was not thinking so much of the personal payback to me - but thinking of the bigger picture in light of the green economy thread. PV is being proposed as a possible long term alternatives to fossil fuels as oil/gas/coal run out. The detractors of PV often point to it as being no more than an "oil extender" In order for it to be a true replacement for oil it has to be not only cost effective, but make more power than is consumed in manufacturing of the system.
  12. Delta-T

    Delta-T Minister of Fire

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    what an interesting dilemma. Solar is tough. Pretty pricey to make those little cells out of magic sand. We need a universally adaptable DC-AC conversion pack to plug into your meter (I'm sure there are plenty of "proprietary" inverters that you "must" buy from the maker of the unit you are installing). Everyone needs a bit of J-Channel or C- channel on their roof for sub-stucture and then the race is on. I wonder what the relationship is for cost vs. longevity if you decide to make the panels out of less durable materials, or out of recyclables and expect them to become obsolete and to be upgraded in say 6-10 years. I see that there are some integrated shingle/PV systems that should hit the market in the next year or so. Maybe thats the leap we need to make this stuff sort of ubiquitous. I still think commercial applications make far more sense than residential apps just for the sheer size of the operations. Malls should all be topped with PV and lil windmills IMO.
  13. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

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  14. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Thin film panels are what are taking off. They are printed, not built on silicon chips. That's one area that is driving the price down significantly. I posted here a few years back about this technology being developed. Now the plants are on-line and producing. Problem is that the demand for these panels is highest in the industrial and utility market so they can be hard to get.

    http://www.firstsolar.com/en/product_design.php
    http://www.uni-solar.com/uni-solar-difference/technology/

    nice how they blend right in with the existing roof:
    http://www.uni-solar.com/products/residential-products/
  15. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

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    Invest in a copy of Home Power magazine. This will dispel your idea about propietary inverters.

    The big problem right now is the one Jags described, the inability to get certified for DIY installation regardless of experience. As a marine engineer, I was responsible for installing and maintaining large complex electrical systems, multiple voltage, often ac and dc. I have speced and installed dozens of inverters on vessels up to several thousand tons and was licensed by the Coast Guard for such work. In spite of that, and many, many years in construction, I can in no way install my own system and qualify for credits, and believe me I can be a persistant SOB when I want something.
  16. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    There is truth to that, but with my own personal stuff, I could slap 6000+ sqft on rooftops at my residence. More than enough to produce all the juice I could use. Heck, I could cover a square acre of land and reduce my lawn mowing as well as produce enough electric to power everything - home, car, heat, etc. I just wished it made financial sense.

    Thanks for the links Dune: it was an interesting factoid.

    Those roof panels are cool too.
  17. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Thats the part that jingles my spurs. I could understand a "final" inspection or a multi-stage inspection during the installation phase, but to eliminate the DIY sector just eliminated the largest "fan base" and also pushes the costs WAY up. Have a licensed inspector -I get that, but I can run wires with the best of them. There is virtually no phase of the installation that I would not feel comfortable in doing and passing the inspection for.
  18. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    My understanding is that is the way it works in WA state. You can work with a contractor if they oversee the work. Here they are pushing for the technology to be adopted. Finally last year legislation was passed that clarified the incentives. First there is the 30% federal tax credit. Then no sales tax is charged. Then there is NET metering. If all the main components are made in WA state, you net meter .54/kwhr! If you get together with a few neighbors and set up a cooperative system the NET metering for a community solar system is a whopping $1.08/kw hr. You can see where the payback times start becoming very attractive. And remember, payback is being calculated at current electric rates. Want to bet rates go up, perhaps significantly over the lifespan of the system?
    http://www.seattle.gov/light/conserve/cgen/docs/SCL_ElectricSolarGuide.pdf

    Maybe contact some of the local solar contractors and see if they will oversee and permit the process with you supplying the labor? Do understand that the contractor may be reluctant at first. I expect that for every qualified person, they get about 20 yahoos that don't know what they are doing. There is a lot to consider, but it's basic mechanic and electrical when you get down to it.

    Thinking about payback only is missing part of the picture. By installing the system you are reducing fossil fuel dependency. That reduces the very dirty mining of coal and emissions from power plants all of which has some major long term benefits. If you have a family, you will be surprised at how good it makes you all feel that you are contributing, clean power from the sun. You'll get a giddy feeling from seeing the meter spin backwards. And this is infrastructure that increases the value of your property.
  19. oldspark

    oldspark Guest

    I'm all for green power but the USA won't even make an attempt to conserve energy let alone spend big bucks for green power projects.
    On another note what are the numbers for solar energy KW per dollar.
    Passive solar heated houses and conservation will have a bigger impact with less dollars spent-short term, long term-get our head out of our a$$!
  20. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Actually, in states that have taken an aggressive educational stance backed with incentives, people definitely are conserving energy. Look how compact fluorescent lights have taken hold. There are also some nice commercial incentives provided for companies that dramatically address their energy consumption. And they do it because it's a win-win situation. Reducing utility costs makes it more competitive.
  21. oldspark

    oldspark Guest

    Yes I agree on some stuff, but every time oil prices go down SUV sales go up. Been driving small cars for 40 years and been made fun of a lot (for other things too but not important) and still to this day people make fun of my honda. Usually people conserve when they have to because of cash problems not choice.
  22. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    My use of electricity won't change fossil fuel dependency. I look to the west and see this about 15 miles away.

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  23. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    That seems to be more the case in the midwest. Out here I would guess that 80% of the cars are small to moderate sized. It's actually pretty rare to see a big land yacht running around. However, we make up for it in SUVs and pickups which are very popular. But even there I see a lot of people downsizing to more fuel efficient models.
  24. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    It actually will. We are all tied into the grid. Your electrons may be coming from 200+ miles away at times.
  25. oldspark

    oldspark Guest

    I think it can be more than 200 miles in some cases the grid is a nightmare.

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