Author Topic: Going Solar  (Read 1818 times)

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Offline BilLumberg

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #30 on: September 19, 2018, 10:30:43 AM »
5 Years does not sound bad. Are there any websites that you would recommend for learning more about solar power. I have been interested for a while, but have yet to do the homework.
What are you looking to learn?

While the technology for domestic application will be similar across the world, there would be considerable differences in the local legislative environment, financial returns and the arrangements for connection of your domestic solar to the grid.

Basically I would like to have a good understanding of the current equipment available for residential use. What, if any, options are available as far as installation and integration with the existing power grid, adding a battery, expanding the system in the future if needed, and such. Then when I talk to installers I will have some basic knowledge about what they are proposing. It is starting to look like solar has reached a point where the cost of changing over can be recouped in a reasonable time frame for it to be a viable option.

Offline BilLumberg

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #31 on: September 19, 2018, 11:28:25 AM »
It looks like the state I live in (Oregon) has some good incentives for solar. My power company will pay $0.45/watt directly to a approved installer with a max of $3600 to help with installation costs, and extra energy is credited at the same rate they charge for usage. Than there is a 30% federal tax credit as well. There was a state tax credit, but it expired last year. Even so it still looks like it is worth investigating.

Offline Alex Simmons

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #32 on: September 19, 2018, 04:27:13 PM »
5 Years does not sound bad. Are there any websites that you would recommend for learning more about solar power. I have been interested for a while, but have yet to do the homework.
What are you looking to learn?

While the technology for domestic application will be similar across the world, there would be considerable differences in the local legislative environment, financial returns and the arrangements for connection of your domestic solar to the grid.

Basically I would like to have a good understanding of the current equipment available for residential use. What, if any, options are available as far as installation and integration with the existing power grid, adding a battery, expanding the system in the future if needed, and such. Then when I talk to installers I will have some basic knowledge about what they are proposing. It is starting to look like solar has reached a point where the cost of changing over can be recouped in a reasonable time frame for it to be a viable option.
As far a technology goes, you need photovoltaic panels to collect the photons and convert them into DC current, an inverter (or inverters) to convert the DC current into AC suitable for your home and to synchronise the AC power with your grid's AC frequency. The size and type of inverter depends on the size of the system and a few other technical things (e.g. like in my less typical case I have 3-phase power). Depending on your existing electricity metering, you may also require a smart metering system to be installed.

Aside from the racks used to hold the panels on your roof (or other structure) and the wiring, that's about it. One option is for the system to have a wifi enabled monitoring system so you can log on and see exactly what's going on at any time, as well as create detailed reports on your energy flows.

Panels and inverters do come in a range of quality levels, so choosing quality level suitable for you will matter.

Batteries come in various types and capacities and what is suitable for you depends on many factors. If your state has generous feed in tariffs (and an electricity company paying you the same price per kWh that you pay them for electrical energy is very generous), then batteries likely won't make financial sense. It's far more cost effective to simply export any excess power and for that to offset the cost of power you use during low/no light times. In effect, the grid becomes your battery and you have no need to spend $ on your own.

Here's two Australian websites with a range of information about going solar, as well as lots of information about all the various elements involved and ratings of the various technology available. Obviously your local regulatory environment will be different (and your panels will face south, not north) but the technology is essentially the same. The major brands and quality ratings will apply worldwide.

The quality of the local installer will of course be a variable so how you choose a suitable installer will be something you'll need to research locally.:
https://www.solarchoice.net.au/solar-power/solar-power-installations-overview
https://www.solarquotes.com.au/learn-about-solar-energy.html

I ensured I got three quotes from reputable installers.

It will help any solar installer to have an idea of your actual electrical energy usage over the course of a year (or years). Easiest way to do that is to give them copies of your electricity bills, or to compile the information yourself and give it to them. If you have smart metering already then you may have access to quite detailed electricity use data, which is preferable. The big factors are:
- total electricity demand
- seasonal variation in electricity consumption
- time of day usage patterns.

That will then help with the sizing of a system suitable for you, and any installer should make a visit to your location to assess the specific factors with your home. They can do a little online research to get satellite images of your rooftop so they can assess the alignment, available roof space and any shadows from trees etc, but visiting to make a decent assessment is important. They should be able to provide the expected annual energy output per kW of PV panel installed at your location for panels with a given alignment and angle of inclination.

Given the generous feed in tariffs available to you (but you should validate that) then many of the smarts are less important. Indeed sticking as much as you can on the roof will likely be the answer if the price is good.

I don't know about the US or individual states, but we have industry bodies and government agencies here which stipulate minimum standards of information each company must provide about their quote and it comes in a standard format so that you are able to make a direct comparison. Reputable providers use the same format when supplying this information.

The questions to ask are to ensure they provide you with everything you need to be connected, no surprises later (e.g. you'll need a special meter to do this, or an extra device to monitor that), what approval processes are required and what if anything you need to do, warranties on the installation and technology, and perhaps some advice with regard to which electricity company you are best to hook up with (if you have any choice).
« Last Edit: September 19, 2018, 04:35:21 PM by Alex Simmons »

Offline BilLumberg

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #33 on: September 19, 2018, 06:22:00 PM »
Thanks, all good information. Will continue doing research and most likely get some consultations in the next few weeks. I found a google map that shows solar installations in my neighborhood (provided by the city) and there are none near me, so hopefully the existing local wiring will be sufficient.

The feed in tariff information is from my power company. I think it may be mandated by the state as an incentive. I looks like they issue credits for the extra power which they use toward your grid power usage. There may be a catch because they say the credits do not roll over from month to month. Not sure what happens if you have unused credits. I need to look into it more.

Also unclear what happens if the grid power goes out. Would be nice to still have power if the sun is shining.

Lots of questions to find answers to. Looking forward to the research.

Offline Friendly Angel

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #34 on: September 19, 2018, 07:12:29 PM »
I was surprised at how common 3-phase residential power was in Spain.  As far as I could tell though, the only appliances that used it were air conditioners.

I did my own analysis for solar a few years ago - 6.5kW system, $25,000    10-15 year payback.

It was an interesting exercise tracking all my usage over the year even if I didn't have time of use data.
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Offline Alex Simmons

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #35 on: September 19, 2018, 07:29:31 PM »
Also unclear what happens if the grid power goes out. Would be nice to still have power if the sun is shining.
For safety reasons if you have a grid connected system and the grid shuts down then your inverter must shut down as well. If it doesn't shut down then the grid has live voltage when workers may be doing line work. IOW if there is a grid blackout, you won't be getting any of the power from your PV panels.

The only solution to that is to have a battery (with some stored energy) and a hybrid inverter with smart electronics that can manage the grid connection separately. They exist but the options are limited. If your feed in tariff is generous then all you have is a really expensive UPS. It'd be cheaper to have your own generator set up to provide emergency power to keep things like refrigeration running.

Offline brilligtove

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #36 on: September 19, 2018, 07:30:39 PM »
So much awesome info! Thanks!
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Offline Alex Simmons

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #37 on: September 19, 2018, 07:50:08 PM »
I was surprised at how common 3-phase residential power was in Spain.  As far as I could tell though, the only appliances that used it were air conditioners.

I did my own analysis for solar a few years ago - 6.5kW system, $25,000    10-15 year payback.

It was an interesting exercise tracking all my usage over the year even if I didn't have time of use data.
That's hideously expensive, like nearly 4 times more than it should be. It should be something closer to US$0.90 - 1.20 per watt for a system that size.

Offline Alex Simmons

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #38 on: September 19, 2018, 08:09:26 PM »
The feed in tariff information is from my power company. I think it may be mandated by the state as an incentive. I looks like they issue credits for the extra power which they use toward your grid power usage. There may be a catch because they say the credits do not roll over from month to month. Not sure what happens if you have unused credits. I need to look into it more.
Feed in tariffs are often subject to state legislation, and the amount of power you can feed in is also often limited (e.g. capped to 5kW) but that depends on the local power company's assessment of the type of lines, distance to nearest connection point, distance to and type of local transformer and so on. Line voltage drops are calculated along with the number and size of other grid connected solar systems in the area and all these things factor in to how much the local grid can cope with.

The feed in tariff can obviously change if the state's policy or legislation changes, so that's a local political risk. In Australia in the early days of domestic solar adoption, feed in tariffs were very generous, but all states (other than the small population territories) abandoned such generous incentives over the past 5 years or so. Usually existing arrangements entered into are honoured for the life of those systems but it's something to keep in mind depending on your local political environment.

As for the no roll over from month to month, that's probably no big deal since the cycle of net power supply and demand will be daily, so the effect I guess would be confined to the day the billing cycle rolls over. But yes, definitely worth understanding how that works.

I guess what they are doing is simply working out your net energy usage for the whole month and charging on that basis, starting fresh each month.

Offline The Latinist

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #39 on: September 19, 2018, 08:34:48 PM »
Ugh.  I just learned that CT is eliminating net metering. It’s supposed to be replaced with a flat-rate tarring.  Those whose systems are installed before the tariff is set are grandfathered through 2039, but there’s just no way I’m going get solar installed before that happens.  Fuck, this is regressive.
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Offline Alex Simmons

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #40 on: September 19, 2018, 09:22:10 PM »
Ugh.  I just learned that CT is eliminating net metering. It’s supposed to be replaced with a flat-rate tarring.  Those whose systems are installed before the tariff is set are grandfathered through 2039, but there’s just no way I’m going get solar installed before that happens.  Fuck, this is regressive.
This is the sort of political risk I'm talking about when scoping the sort of system to have.

That said, net metering is a very generous arrangement - the grid is effectively your battery and at little cost to you.

Solar will still be financially beneficial in many cases without it so don't write it off just yet.

Online bachfiend

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #41 on: September 20, 2018, 01:10:13 AM »
Also unclear what happens if the grid power goes out. Would be nice to still have power if the sun is shining.
For safety reasons if you have a grid connected system and the grid shuts down then your inverter must shut down as well. If it doesn't shut down then the grid has live voltage when workers may be doing line work. IOW if there is a grid blackout, you won't be getting any of the power from your PV panels.

The only solution to that is to have a battery (with some stored energy) and a hybrid inverter with smart electronics that can manage the grid connection separately. They exist but the options are limited. If your feed in tariff is generous then all you have is a really expensive UPS. It'd be cheaper to have your own generator set up to provide emergency power to keep things like refrigeration running.

Another possible solution would be to have an electric vehicle and use its batteries as your backup power.  It makes more sense to me to use the batteries you would otherwise have instead of having storage batteries solely for the purpose of covering power outages, which occur very infrequently.

Admittedly, there are technical difficulties involved in using the car batteries for backup power, requiring modifications (I don’t currently have an electric car, but I’ll look at it when I buy one).

Offline Alex Simmons

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #42 on: September 20, 2018, 02:45:55 AM »
Use of battery for backup power for the entire home generally requires an intelligent AC coupled grid hybrid inverter and a battery with sufficient peak load capacity (many are not suitable and can only power a limited number of low power circuits). These are more expensive than regular inverters and not all batteries can supply sufficient power.

It's something I would be interested in as being rural area we get fairly regular grid power outages but this capability does not come cheap, in particular for supplying power to a 3-phase system.

Yes an EV's battery can be used - I'm not sure having it set up to do this on an automated basis has been designed yet for most markets (Nissan have a trial system in development) but the potential is there. Certainly there are products available now that allow you to connect a portable inverter to the car's battery to provide for some power during blackouts but that's not a lot different to having a generator on hand and a bunch of extension cords to keep the fridge and a few lights running. Then you need to make sure you don't drain the battery and leave enough juice for whatever driving you may need to do.

The other thing to consider when using an EV's battery as a home storage solution is it will increase the battery's charge/discharge cycle rate and lessen the life of the battery for its primary use - driving.

Offline Alex Simmons

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #43 on: October 11, 2018, 01:53:26 AM »
My application to the local energy distribution company for an 11kW solar system has been approved and I'm permitted a grid feed in of up to 9kW, which is pretty good given we are rural.

My current old school electricity meters will require an upgrade to smart technology, and is done by the energy retailer. Pretty sure they don't do that until after the solar system is installed.

So now it's a wait until installation which I guess is 6-8 weeks out. Then the meter change over and commissioning. By then we'll be into summer and the beginning of our highest electricity use period and hopefully this will accelerate the payback period.

 

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