Solar panel

The Future of Energy: Solar Power


Today’s guest post by Whaleoil reader Bruce Alan Forbes is part of an article he wrote called The Future of Energy with predictions for 2040. As it is an in-depth analysis I divided it into six posts so that we could discuss each part separately.
solar power, Waikato


Solar Power

Solar power has a capacity factor of between 9% and 22% and generates no power at all at night. Cloud cover can drop the output by as much as 60% very suddenly. Consequently, solar installations need extensive backup generation facilities and even more transmission capacity per MWh generated than does wind power. In 2014, installed solar capacity worldwide was about 100 GW of photovoltaic (PV) power plus the relatively tiny 1.17 GW of concentrated solar power.

Solar power in the form of PV cells has been around for many years. Over the last few years, the cost of the cells themselves has dropped rapidly to about $1,000/kW. At this price, many manufacturers of solar cells have gone bankrupt. One of the most notorious is Solyndra, which tried to become a leading manufacturer of solar cells, but eventually it went bankrupt owing the US government over $500 million. In China, Suntech was once the largest manufacturer of solar panels in the world, but it went bankrupt with total debts of $1.6 billion.

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Guest Post – My route to a lower power bill – Part 3

In part one I concentrated on making sensible choices whilst renovating the house to minimise my power use. If you haven’t read it, now may be a time to look as I’m part way through a journey.

In part two I analysed whether I could achieve a sub 10 year payback on my investment and with the benefit of hindsight I was able to explain what was needed to do so.

Now it’s time for Part 3, the selection of a system and the install, followed by a few revisited items in response to comments on after my previous 2 articles.

Single String Inverter or Multiple Micro Inverters?

At the time of writing there are 2 ways of installing Solar Panels that connect to the mains. Each has its advantages and disadvantages and my choice may not be the most cost effective way for everyone. I chose to go with Micro Inverters for a number of reasons.

  • Each panel is optimised for best power consumption meaning the overall system gives a greater output per day. (In my case I calculate that over the last 4 weeks I’ve generated an additional 3.4% on the main 2kw array because I chose Micro Inverters)
  • The failure of a single inverter doesn’t take the whole system down
  • Easier safer cheaper install as there isn’t any high voltage DC to transport from the array back to the inverter
  • Nothing on the wall in the basement to fill with dust
  • All the panels don’t need to face the same direction
  • One dirty or shaded panel only affects that panels output
  • Expandable

They also have their disadvantages

  • They are out in the elements behind the panels so can be affected by weathering and summer heat
  • They are a relative newcomer to the market so their longevity isn’t yet known
  • They cost more to buy than an equivalent string inverter system

There are two main suppliers of Micro Inverter systems in NZ to choose from, Renesola and Enphase. Renesola apparently is more DIY friendly so that’s who I went with. The juries out on whether I made the right choice as you’ll see later. ?? Read more »

Guest Post – My route to a lower power bill – Part 1


I purchased a 3KW Micro Inverter Solar system from the sponsor of Map of the Day, What Power Crisis, back in March and now it’s been running for a while I thought I’d share my experiences over a few articles. Although What Power Crisis did me a decent deal on the system, I’m not being paid to write this.

I bought the system with 3 aims:

1) Cut my power bill which was heading towards $2800pa

2) Get payback on my investment within 10 years

3) Not make life miserable by compromising on comfort and convenience.

I’m not a believer in the great man-made global warming/climate change conspiracy so changes in CO2 emissions didn’t factor into my decisions. Even if this was a concern, much more than half of New Zealand’s generation already comes from renewable sources, so replacing one renewable source with another, especially as it has to be manufactured in the first place, no doubt using fossil fuels, won’t make that much of a difference in my book.

Having run the system since 25th March with an extra couple of panels added recently I’m on track to achieve my targets.

I never measured the power use before I embarked upon renovations so the $2800 is the before-solar cost of a renovated 60’s house, with a DIY solar-heated pool setup and a new well insulated small spa. I can’t quantify how much cheaper the house is to run per month due to the renovations, but it is much more comfortable than before with no mould or damp. We usually wear T-shirts all year round, and the lowest recorded temperature without heating in the living area is 16 degrees.

Cutting power use is the cheapest way to shrink a bill! ?? Read more »

Just hose them off the building

Greenpeace eco-terrorists have stormed parliament and breached security and are atop Parliament house.

I think someone within Greenpeace is trying to sabotage the?organisation. Why else would they launch a protest on “Climate Change” the day?following one on the coldest days in New Zealand history?

Plus, if they are truly serious about solar solution then solar panels should point north, not south,?especially near the winter solstice. No wonder they need such a big?one to charge a cell phone!

Four Greenpeace protesters have scaled the roof of Parliament House in Wellington to deliver eight solar panels.

They have also unfurled a large banner aimed at Prime Minister John Key that reads: “Cut pollution, create jobs? Yeah, nah”.

The protesters are near the top of the building. Two are holding yellow signs saying “This is real climate action.”

The protesters are in jump suits and have secured themselves using ropes. They have also positioned a solar panel about two metres long on the ledge with them. ?? Read more »

More problems for the Green’s solar policy

The Green’s solar policy is reliant on subsidies…and as we know subsidies always blow out massively.

If you want to know how massively we only need look at a couple of examples…like Germany where the government is now faced with having to curtail the subsidies.

Two interesting stories that show, at least to me they do, that the subsidies offered to solar power were simply too large and too fast. The first is from Germany, where it looks like the European Union is going to take a very large bite out of a number of large companies. The second is from the US, where there?s a disturbing trend of solar cells failing after only a couple of years in the field.

Germany first: the basic story is that Germany has offered some of the world?s highest subsidies for solar PV installation. I work part of the time in eastern Germany and the place is festooned with them: in one of the climates least able to make efficient use of the technology. The method was that those installing PV were offered high and guaranteed rates for the electricity produced. These were paid for by inflating the electricity bills of users. The problem is that large industrial users simply could afford these rates (more like 28 euro cents per unit than the 10 US cents an American company might pay) for energy intensive processes. So, the German government created a system of opts out for large energy users: they would have to pay that extra to subsidise the solar installations.

That?s ludicrous, of course. You want all energy users to be paying for the installation of a new energy system (even if it is one as badly thought out as solar in Germany).

Germany is a silly place to push solar…I would have thought that New Zealand was too…given Aotearoa means “Land of the long white cloud”.

The other story comes from the US. It?s about the very shoddy quality of some of the solar panels that have?been installed:

All solar panels degrade and gradually generate less electricity over time. But a review of 30,000 installations in Europe by the German solar monitoring firm Meteocontrol found 80 percent were underperforming. Testing of six manufacturers? solar panels at two Spanish power plants by Enertis Solar in 2010 found defect rates as high as 34.5 percent.

The story here can be read two ways. There?s a lot of blaming Chinese companies in which case we might read it as just softening up people for the tariffs to be imposed upon Chinese solar panels. But this report is in the New York Times so it obviously couldn?t be something that politically nefarious. The other way is that shoddy production is an inevitable outcome of an industry expanding pell mell. Which would be an indication that we?re just trying to do this switch over to solar too fast. Which in itself would be an indication that we?ve set those subsidies too high: and also that it?s going to cost us a lot more than previously thought to replace those shoddily made components.

The ugly reality of alternative energy

The Green Taliban blight spreads over the world like a cancer. ?Hideous wind farms despoil the horizon; inefficient and ugly solar panels carpet the ground, the Amazon forests are levelled and burned so that green troughers can suck up biofuel subsidies and starve the poor.

Has there ever been a greater threat to the environment?

Row after row, this astonishing array of solar panels has completely engulfed an enormous 30-acre field in the heart of the countryside.

As this aerial photograph reveals, acres of beautiful Hampshire countryside have been blighted as a result, by 18,000 solar panels.

The solar farm covers a staggering 30 acres of land creating a massive eyesore in the centre of an otherwise picturesque view.


Solar farms like this one have sprung up in recent years as farmers collect up to ?50,000 a year in green subsidies – this site is made up of 18,000 solar PV panels, mounted on nine kilometres of frames using 5,000 ground screws

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