Tag Archives: photovoltaic

How Much Electricity Will My Solar System Produce?

By the beginning of September I should be generating electricity from the solar photovoltaic panels mounted on my roof.  The system will be comprised of 16 290W panels mounted on a nearly directly south facing roof (270 degrees azimuth give or take a degree for those of you into these things).

Using a variety of calculators online I averaged out the estimates of “peak solar hours” for my system as designed and came up with the following chart to estimate my solar system’s output:

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The output is based on taking the system size (4.64 kWh) times the peak solar hours and reducing it by an assumed system yield (65%).

The system yield is probably the trickiest number to estimate.  I went as low as 65% because that level would still allow me to meet my annual electricity consumption based on a 400 kWh per month rolling average, which dipped to 390 kWh the past few months and which I hope will drop even further with some forthcoming household changes.

The yield is a function of so-called system losses and general lower production due to siting issues, shade, cloud cover, dirt, etc.  My hope is that on balance I see a system yield in the 75% range.  This would give me a little breathing room above and beyond my average annual consumption.

The worst part right now is the waiting.  The solar installers are ready to go and the panels have arrived but we are waiting on the power company and the city to sign off on the system design.  Every day that I see the sun out shining bright is a day that I feel like I have missed an opportunity to generate clean electricity from the sun.

Beware Solar Panels and Homeowners Insurance

Do you know what has been the hardest part about getting my new solar photovoltaic system put on my house?  Homeowners insurance.

How often do we really think about our homeowners insurance?  For me, not very often.  Like once in fifteen years when I made a claim after a massive hailstorm left almost every house in the area with a need for a new roof and siding.

So, there I am a customer of fifteen years with one claim to my name looking to switch insurance providers.  Why?  The company I had been with does not insure homes with solar panels installed on the roof.  Ground mount installations would be fine.  Even an installation on a non-attached garage would have been fine.  However, mounted on my west facing attached garage roof was a bridge too far for the insurance provider.

How far?  Like no consideration at all of insuring a home with solar panels even with a policy rider or similar insurance vehicle.  Like no consideration for the fact that I was a long term customer with multiple policies.  No way, no how.

The problem with all of this is that the solar installer requires a certificate of insurance to begin an installation.  If your insurance company will not insure your home when it has solar panels you are forced to switch providers with all of the relevant switching costs and hassle in order to begin the installation.  Consider it another hassle or hurdle to the broad installation of solar panels across the United States.  Every impediment is a step backwards on the path to a cleaner future.

This is the challenge for distributed rooftop solar.  Balance of system costs and hurdles, e.g. those costs and impediments that are not directly attributable to the PV panels or related hardware, will be what determines the ultimate penetration rate of distributed solar.

Signing on the Dotted Line for Solar

The contract is signed.

By September I will have a solar photovoltaic system on my roof generating electricity for the next twenty five years or so.  I consider it my fairly large middle finger to anyone who wants to keep digging coal out of the ground and burning it like some bad parody of the birth of the Industrial Revolution.

The system will be installed on a west facing (almost exactly 270 degree azimuth for those of you into that sort of description) roof that is a large single pitch with no protrusions.  Due to my relatively low electricity consumption the maximum system allowed the power company was under 5 kWh.  My system will be composed of 16 SolarWorld 290W panels for a total of 4,640W.

Gross system cost is $2.35 per watt installed.  The applicable federal and state tax credits take that figure down to $1.29 per watt.

Based on the system size, orientation, and projected system losses I figure that this system will generate slightly more than my annual electricity consumption assuming no changes in consumption patterns.  This would all get thrown out the window if I traded in my truck for a Chevy Bolt.

The most frustrating part is that if it were not for the various hoops that the power company makes everyone jump through this process could have been completed in weeks if not days.  Now that the cost for the solar panels and inverters have dropped so dramatically the biggest impediment to widespread adoption will be the balance of system costs and the permitting hassles.  Although my power company is obligated to allow me to install solar panels and the feed that power back into the grid via net metering it is their intention, in my opinion, to make the process as onerous as possible in order to deter other people from signing on the dotted line for solar.

This is the first step in the newly coined #myPersonalParis where I am going to control as many aspects of my life to align with a significantly reduced emissions footprint as possible in solidarity with the Paris climate accord which our dear leader decided was too onerous because…reasons?

What are you doing?

Friday Linkage 6/23/2017

Rick Perry is not a scientist.  Just ask him, but he apparently “knows” that carbon dioxide emissions are not the main driver behind climate change.  Okay, but what does the former Dancing with the Stars contestant and multiple time presidential candidate failure actually think is driving the climate to change?  Good luck deciphering that opinion.

The part about the “debate” over climate change is that no one asks no-talent ass clowns like James Inhofe what his thoughts are about the issue when it is too hot for planes to take off in Phoenix or the temperatures reach 90 degrees in Siberia.  Sure enough the media is ready to put him on television holding a snowball in the freaking winter—like the presence of snow in winter is proof of anything other than it being winter.

On to the links…

Renewable Energy Just Passed a Major Milestone in the United States—10 percent of the electricity in the United States was generated by renewables in March.  Wind power is now the fourth largest source of power in the United States behind coal, natural gas, and nuclear.

Solar Power Will Kill Coal Sooner Than You Think—We have reached the tipping point where the costs of choosing solar power are the same or better than coal.  Why tether yourself to an outdated fuel?

Forget Coal, Solar will Soon be Cheaper than Natural Gas Power—When this happens a lot of people are going to be gagging on their ribeye steaks across the natural gas basins of the United States.

This Case Could Upend America’s $29 Billion Solar Industry—Everyone loves the free market right up until the moment it impacts their own business.  It’s the same in automobiles, agriculture, and even solar panels.  The reason solar is so cheap right now is that China is selling panels extra cheap.  Each time I get an estimate for a solar PV system on my house the cost has gone down, which is directly attributable to reduced panel cost.

LED Lights are Taking over Households at a Meteoric Rate, but Some are Slow to Make the Switch—Prices for LED bulbs are down 90% since 2008.  LED bulbs are having a measureable impact on electricity consumption.  Even with these crazy numbers there are still a lot of households holding on to inefficient incandescent bulbs and horrible CFLs.

Nevada Boosts Solar Power, Reversing Course—It’s a little bit of good news coming out of the Silver State.  Eighteen months ago Nevada killed net metering which slaughtered its solar industry.  Now it is back.

Texas Is Too Windy and Sunny for Old Energy Companies to Make Money—Am I supposed to feel bad for fossil fuel companies that built business plans under the assumption that they would have control over their markets into the forever future?

California Invested Heavily in Solar Power. Now There’s So Much that Other States are Sometimes Paid to Take It—The LA Times has done some great reporting on the growth and development of California’s entire electrical grid, including the construction of unnecessary power plants to the tune of billions of dollars.  Now it looks like they cannot contain the solar either.

Tesla is Changing the Electric Grid—It’s all part of Elon Musk’s plan.  Sell you a car that is really just a giant battery on wheels and sell you a house covered in solar panels with a Powerwall to tie it all together.  Suddenly Tesla is the company that can help the electric grid manage its peaks and valleys in demand and generation.  Talk about power.

Scientists Sharply Rebut Influential Renewable-Energy Plan—So if we cannot get to 100% renewables—which is a debatable assertion given that much depends upon the timeline and technology developed during that time—what is the number we can get to economically and technically?  I remember a time when a lot of influential people were saying that 10% seemed out of reach.  Well…

Rick Perry Just got Scooped: New Report Shows Cleaner Grid Provides Reliable Power—Is there a bigger knucklehead in government than Rick Perry?  Trump is a bully and I fully believe that Steve King is some kind of demon sent from hell to torture anyone with good sense.  But Rick Perry?  What a knucklehead.

Interior Chief Ryan Zinke Wants to Shed 4,000 Staffers in Budget Cuts—Your government is going to look a lot different in four years and it is going to take a long time to rebuild the expertise that is going to be lost in these purges.  It is intentional to degrade the service and capability because it allows people like Paul Ryan to say, “See, government does not know what it is doing.”  No shit Sherlock.  When you staff it with incompetent toadies it is no wonder government does not work.

Thinking about Household Electricity Consumption

As I dither about installing a solar photovoltaic system on my home I also spend a lot of time thinking about electricity consumption in general.

When I first contacted a few solar installers in my area—who have all been very responsive which is a sharp difference from other home service providers lately—all of the systems were sized far in excess of my needs.  I have written before about my household electricity consumption and it remains something that baffles me well into 2017.

The twelve month rolling average electricity consumption of my household is approximately 400 kWh.  It has been stable within 20 kWh of this number for about three years.  What does that number mean in comparison to the average U.S. and Iowa household?

According to the Energy Information Administration the average U.S. and Iowa households consume approximately 900 kWh and 847 kWh per month respectively.  What the hell are people doing with all of this electricity?

It is not as if I live in a small house without the use of many electric appliances.  We have a large-ish French door refrigerator, chest freezer in the basement, electric dryer, and an electric range.  When I lived in a house with a gas range, gas dryer, and no deep freeze the monthly average was below 200 kWh over the course of three years.

We use the air conditioning in the summer, although it is rarely icy like in some houses.  We cook at home all the time using the electric range and small appliances like my beloved Instant Pot.  There are two elementary school aged children in the house so we run through a lot of clothes that often times use the electric dryer.  Sure we turn off lights in rooms, have LEDs in all but a few fixtures, do not watch very much television, and generally exist in a somewhat analog entertainment world (e.g. books that are actually printed on paper occupy many an end table spot).

It makes me question the urgency to install a solar photovoltaic system.  Yes, such a system would divorce me from the somewhat dirty grid in Iowa where even though a large percentage of our electricity is wind derived much of the rest comes from coal.  However, would I be better off investing that capital in something else that might have more of an impact ecologically speaking?

Furthermore, if I am living a modern life at half of the juice—so to speak—of the average household in my state doesn’t that mean we have a lot of room to become more efficient without really sacrificing anything in terms of modernity?  Just some random—kind of like the Tweeter in Chief going off in the morning—thoughts for a Monday afternoon.

Friday Linkage 2/24/2017

November 9th was a day of some serious despair, but I see a lot of potential in the awakening of a progressive spirit and an exposure of the right wing’s anti-people agenda.  Yes, it will be a lot of work to make any kind of meaningful change given the dynamics of elections in the U.S.  Yes, Donald Trump is a dumpster fire in human form that happens to inhabit the Oval Office.  However, there has been a spark that has ignited a liberal fire like no other time in recent memory.

On to the links…

U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Lowest Since 1994—A lot of this decline has to do with the replacement of coal with natural gas in the electrical generation sector and a recession that dampened demand across a whole host of industries.  Nonetheless, the data is compelling:

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The Future of Solar Power Technology is Bright—No matter what the political environment looks like in the future, the potential of solar is very real.

Record Wind & Solar Keep The Lights On In NSW As Coal & Gas Went Missing—Renewable energy can make the grid more reliable.  This should put the argument about intermittency to bed.

Wind Technician Jobs Growing, in Iowa and Nationally—The sooner that everyone realizes that there are more people working in renewable energy jobs, like wind turbine technicians, the sooner that we can get past the narrative of coal jobs being the only energy jobs that matter.

Drilling Experts Explain why Trump Can’t Bring Back Oilfield Jobs—The jobs will not be coming back because like coal before it automation and market changes are driving the need for actual human labor down.

University of Iowa Announces it will be Coal-Free by 2025—Each power generating facility or consumer that goes coal-free is another brick in the wall in eliminating coal from our energy infrastructure.  Yes, it will take a long time.  Yes, it is inevitable if we keep up the pressure.

Petcoke Piles Gone, but Another Dangerous Pollutant Discovered in the Air—If you think that there is no place for the EPA it is likely that you do not live in a community affected by this kind of pollution.  Low income communities are at the mercy of polluters because they do not have the political clout of the Koch brothers.

Which Ski Run Is Better for the Planet?—Ski hills go out of business.  What comes after is hard to imagine as you spend your days sliding.  However, the way we develop ski runs can make a major difference for the next stage of the land’s lifecycle.

Almost Every Packaged Food Comes from These Two Companies—The merger between Kraft Heinz and Unilever may have died, but this should give you some sense as to how consolidated the center aisles of the grocery store have become.

Olive Oil Shortage Looms as Prices and Demand Rise—Climate change has come for our coffee, chocolate, and hops.  Now olive oil is the crosshairs.  When will the larger populace realize that the impacts of climate change is here.

Fifth of World’s Food Lost to Over-Eating and Waste—Food insecurity is not a question of production it is a question of distribution, availability, and affordability.  It is a god damned shame that we live in a world where a significant portion of the world’s population is overweight while a similarly large portion of the world’s population is food insecure.

Friday Linkage 10/2/2015

The Tesla Model X came out this week and I want one. But, at a starting price of $80K I might be better off looking at used Nissan Leafs costing under $10K. When will the Model 3 come out?

Note, there will be no Friday Linkage next week since I will be spending the week in Los Angeles evaluating suppliers for my job.

On to the links…

Coal Mine Starts Continue To Decline—This is the second step on the journey to the death of coal. If fewer mines are opening than fewer mines will be operating further eroding the ability of the fuel to be effectively and efficiently pulled from the ground. Let’s kick coal while it is down.

Is Cargill Backsliding on its Promise to End Deforestation?—Few large corporations are as hard to pin down on issues than Cargill. As a privately-held firm it is not beholden to the same reporting rules that allow shareholders to extract information from publicly-held firms. Perhaps public pressure can take some of the slack and get Cargill to be a good corporate citizen. I am not holding my breath.

Nearly Half of U.S. Seafood Is Wasted Annually, New Study Shows—Food waste is the single biggest environmental issue that we have control of in our own homes and through our consumption patterns. Every piece of food that we throw away is a wasted opportunity to reduce our impact on the world.

Batteries May Curb Sales by Power Companies, Moody’s Says—If the large scale deployment of energy storage technology is truly able to reduce peak demand power companies may lose a major source of profit. Power becomes very expensive and profitable for power companies when it comes at peak times.

Solar Hit ~7% Of Spain’s Electricity This Summer—Damn, 7% from solar is impressive any way you slice it.

Brazil Doubles Its Solar PV Target To 7 GW By 2024—What is the target in the good ol’ U.S.A.? Right, we do not have a national target for solar.

North Carolina Passes 1 GW Of Installed Solar—That seems like a lot of solar for one state that is not known as a particularly sunny locale.

Fracking has a Big Water Footprint, but That’s Not the Whole Story—The extraction of fossil fuels is a story about water. Without a lot of water it would not be possible.

Electric Buses Could Lead to Significant Savings Even for Smaller Cities—Why the government is not pushing electric buses and garbage trucks I will never understand. These vehicles seem like perfect candidates for conversion.

Saving Electricity—Spend a few minutes going through the various categories to see where you could be saving a lot of watts. Since I cannot get solar panels in the near term—thanks homeowner’s insurance—I am going to try and reduce my rolling twelve month usage below 300 kWh.

‘Thirsty’ Concrete Absorbs 880 Gallons of Water a Minute to Minimize Urban Floods—Why is this stuff not replacing hard concrete and asphalt in southern climes affected by heavy seasonal rains?