1. Solar Power and Batteries

    May 20, 2013 by Max

    Battery bank

    When some people think about solar, they might think that they will become free from the electric company because a battery will allow them to store any excess power they generate, thus taking them off the grid. While this is possible with solar, it does not make financial sense for most people. Batteries are still very big and bulky. They are also expensive and need to be replaced every five to ten years; depending on the type, and how well you take care of them.  Battery technology is evolving and batteries may become more viable in the future, but for most people right now, it’s more practical to simply tap the grid in off hours and use the grid (like a battery) to store any excess power.

  2. Grid-Tied? What’s That?

    May 9, 2013 by Max

    Grid-tied: A “grid-tied” solar array is one that is connected to the power grid. It is actually connected to your home’s circuit breaker panel the same way all of the other circuits are connected. The power from the solar array gets used “first” and is “added” to the power already coming in. This is an over simplification but is a good way to picture what is going on. If the array produces more than the house is using, the excess passes through the electric meter in reverse and is recorded by the power company (hopefully) as a credit to your account. You can find more about net metering and grid-tied solar at this link: https://www.comed.com/customer-service/rates-pricing/interconnection/Pages/net-metering.aspx

  3. On the cost of solar power.

    February 20, 2013 by Max
    There are two ways to harness the power of the sun. We can collect the heat and use it directly for heating domestic water or even to heat the home by placing a “radiator” in the furnace plenum or we can use photovoltaic (PV) panels to convert the sun to electricity. Solar PV has come a long way and with modern micro-inverters can serve up the same AC voltage as the house without a large central inverter or fat DC wiring. Just hook up to your breaker panel and you’re good to go. Solar PV has no moving parts and we know the Sun will come out tomorrow. (Sorry…it’s playing in my head too.) Once the solar array is paid for, the power is basically free.

    So, where is the down side? With solar PV it come down to money. The initial investment can seem excessive and standard ROI calculations don’t really apply. The problem is that none of us can predict the future. If you think your electric bill is high, try doing a return on investment calculation with solar. For example, a small, eight panel array would be about 2kW and produce about 3000 kWh per year. If you are paying ten cents a kilowatt hour for power, that is about three-hundred dollars a year. At an cost of say, six bucks a watt for installed solar PV, and taking into account the thirty percent federal tax credit, it will take over twenty five years to get your initial investment back! But wait… that assumes the cost of power stays at about ten cent a kilowatt and there’s the rub. With the numbers above, over it’s thirty year life span, the power produced by the array will cost about nine cents per kWh. Do you think we will be paying the power company a dime per kilowatt-hour in the year 2043? Me either.

    One analogy might be; buying a new car and paying for all the gas it will ever use at the time of purchase. That would be one expensive car, but you will never pay to fill tank again and you bought the gas at the 2012 price! It’s the same with solar power. Once you know how to look at it, The initial investment starts to make sense and the environmental benefits to the planet, are just icing on the cake.

  4. Farewell 2012

    December 28, 2012 by Max

    Welcome 2013

    With the new year just around the corner we are as excited as ever about the future of renewable energy. There will always be disagreements and political wrangling but, as technology improves and new ideas become a reality, renewable energy sources are becoming more efficient and less expensive. Wind, solar and geothermal are becoming more common place and we look forward to a time when neighbors can compare notes “over the fence” about how great their renewable energy systems are instead of how high the electric bill is.