Solar power

Psst, wanna save $17,000 whilst saving the planet?

In what clearly has to be the deal of a lifetime (well 20 years, anyway), a company is promising a saving of $17,000 (Ts & Cs apply) for a subscription of just $85 per month.? ?Newsroom reports: Quote.

New Zealanders will be able to ditch traditional power companies and ?stream the sun? with an $85 a month subscription model for solar panels and storage batteries.

Solarcity, a solar power company, believe their offer will accelerate New Zealand?s goal of using 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.

Home solar systems have had some hurdles, namely due to the need for a battery to store energy for later use. Without batteries the energy collected by a solar panel can only be used during the day, when many people are at work. With batteries alone costing around $10,000 it?s put a dampener on the willingness of people to switch.

?Powering homes locally is just a lot more efficient and makes more sense. It?s 25% more efficient to power your home from your own rooftop than a lake down south.”

Solarcity say their new service, solarZero, could make powering a home greener, more affordable and end pricing disparities where a family in Kerikeri can pay 45 percent more for electricity than a family in Auckland.

The solarZero service include the panels and a Panasonic battery as well as an app to control usage and an Amazon Echo Spot connected to Alexa, which checks the systems [sic] performance and can be used to manage connected appliances. End quote.

Amazon Echo units can also be hacked to listen in on the home occupants – but that is a whole different story and hopefully the software has been updated by now. Quote.

Subscribers need to commit to a twenty-year contract and the panels and battery remain the property of Solarcity at the end of the contract. The overall subscription cost is $20,400.
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Solar panel roads a dumb idea: Who knew?

A road to nowhere? Credit: Robert B.D. Brice/Wattway reports on the results from solar panel roads.? Shock, horror – it appears to be a stupid idea. Quote.

Four years ago a viral campaign wooed the world with a promise of fighting climate change and jump-starting the economy by replacing tarmac on the world’s roads with solar panels. The bold idea has undergone some road testing since then. The first results from preliminary studies have recently come out, and they’re a bit underwhelming.

A solar panel lying under a road is at a number of disadvantages. As it’s not at the optimum tilt angle, it’s going to produce less power and it’s going to be more prone to shading, which is a problem as shade over just 5% of the surface of a panel can reduce power generation by 50%.
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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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This is what happens when you pour subsidies into stupid ideas

Embed from Getty Images

The Greens want us all to pour billions into “green energy” projects.

In the US they have been doing just that…billions of dollars of subsidies into green energy projects.

Where has it got them?

A federally backed, $2.2 billion solar project in the California desert isn?t producing the electricity it is contractually required to deliver to PG&E Corp., which says the solar plant may be forced to shut down if it doesn?t receive a break Thursday from state regulators.

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, owned by BrightSource Energy Inc., NRG Energy Inc. NRG, -1.86% and Alphabet Inc.?s GOOG, -0.02% GOOGL, -0.40% Google, uses more than 170,000 mirrors mounted to the ground to reflect sunlight to 450-foot-high towers topped by boilers that heat up to create steam, which in turn is used to generate electricity.

But the unconventional solar-thermal project, financed with $1.5 billion in federal loans, has riled environmentalists by killing thousands of birds, many of which are burned to death ? and has so far failed to produce the expected power. ? Read more »


Battle stations, the Green Party are under attack

When you think of the environment which political party do you think of? Most people would answer, the Green party but that is all about to change. ACT party leader David Seymour has gone on the attack, pointing out the Green party’s neglect of the environment.

ACT leader David Seymour is readying to fire shots across the Green Party bow, accusing them of “socialist economics” and neglecting the environment.

…The rank and file behind the single-MP party will gather at Auckland’s exclusive Orakei Bay this weekend for their annual conference, which is expected to carry a heavy environmental theme.

It’s understood Seymour will announce an environmental policy, geared around private enterprise playing a greater role in conservation.

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Congratulations to our loyal advertiser: What Power Crisis

What Power Crisis, one of our loyal supporters and advertisers, has something to celebrate.

MightyRiverPower is buying solar power business What Power Crisis amid increased demand for the technology.

WPC installs residential and commercial solar photovoltaic systems in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

Auckland-based MRP, which produces most of its electricity through hydro and geothermal generation, expects to sell the service through its retailer Mercury Energy.

It didn’t disclose the purchase price, which it said isn’t material. ? Read more »

Eh wot? Greenpeace lobbies for coal mine to stay open?

I know…hard to believe…but its true.

Greenpeace appears to be?lobbying for a coal mine to stay open.

They are criticising?Genesis for ceasing coal usage to generate electricity because it?jeopardises coal miners livelihoods.

Last week, Genesis, the company that runs Huntly Power Station, announced it was shutting down its smoke-belching, coal-fired boilers as competition from cheaper power like wind and solar is making it too expensive to run.

This is good news for our health and the future of our children, and an important step towards taking the pollution out of our economy.

But while we herald this as a victory for common sense and necessary to safeguard our planet, we must not forget that this decision will affect people?s livelihoods and families.

Small communities up and down the country have long mined for coal, and the industry has played an important part in the survival of these local economies. ?? Read more »

Where did all that green energy go?

The UK is facing power blackouts this coming winter…and all because of their much vaunted green energy solutions…which?don’t work.

Britain?s electricity supplies will be at their tightest level in a decade this winter, forcing the country to rely on emergency measures to ensure the lights stay on, according to official forecasts.

The closure of three power stations has increased the risk of blackouts since last winter, new analysis by National Grid shows.

The ?safety buffer? margin between peak winter electricity demand in and the output from Britain?s ageing power stations is likely to fall to just 1.2 per cent ? down from 4.1 per cent last year, it finds.

But an emergency system of backup power plants, first introduced last winter, will be in place again this year to help prevent blackouts, the company said.

Even with the backup plants in place, the effective spare margin last winter was 6 per cent and this year will fall to 5.1 per cent ? the lowest since 2007-08, Grid data shows.

The backup power plant operators will be paid ?37 million to guarantee they can fire up if needed in an emergency, and more if they are actually called upon.? Read more »

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 2

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.

Having achieved much with my renovations, including a living area that didn’t drop below 16 degrees in the depths of winter in Auckland before the heating kicked in the following morning, it was time to consider where to go next.

I’d previously looked at Solar water heating but dismissed it for 4 reasons

  • The sun being far away drastically reduced its output in winter as I’d discovered from my DIY solar pool heating. This meant that electric top ups would be needed in winter.
  • Our water heating bill was only $750pa due to the timer on the hot water cylinder limiting the cost.
  • Solar Water heating needed a building consent and I’m totally against giving any more money than necessary to Len Brown and his wasteful council.
  • It needs a licenced plumber to hook it up.

The maths for a 10 year payback in our situation were marginal at best

To reduce our bill further we had two choices, either rewind back in time until before modern life was invented and turn everything off, or look into Solar Panels.

On the face of it, solar power should suit us as we are at home for most of the day, and we have a pool pump that runs whenever the sun is out to heat the pool in summer. The question is how much generation did we need and how much benefit would we get?

Looking at the half hourly smart meter display on the internet gave us a clue, but to really work out what was going on something more accurate was needed.

After a few mistakes along the way I ended up with a product called Open Energy Monitor. This is an open source, make it yourself or buy a kit or buy a made up solution affair from the UK. Anyone that wants to read more can find the website here Be warned this stuff gets technical quite quickly once you go beyond the basics.

The power monitoring is achieved by a combination of plugging an adapter into a wall socket as close as possible to the meter box and either clipping a self adhesive sensor over the flashing light on the smart meter or clipping a current transformer around the incoming supply cable. Sadly the “unique” way Meridian wire their import / export meters up in Auckland means the light isn’t an option so it has to be the CT method.

In NZ / Australia if any of this involves opening an enclosure where live conductors are likely to be exposed such as in the back of a meter board, it needs to be done by a registered electrician. It’s an expensive way of clipping a mainly plastic device around a conductor but there you go.

Once installed Open Energy Monitor allowed me to see what we used, and when we used it.

Armed with the information I could move onto the next bit. ? Read more »