alternative energy

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alternative energy

Postby firgela » Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:54 pm

Matt,
I was curious if your place is "on the grid"... and if you've given thought to an alternative energy source if so. What research have you done etc.? Just a guess but a solar system probably isn't ideal for your locale?

Here in Florida the past few years solar installations have been very much on the rise. I read meters for one of the larger electric utilities and just in our reading territory there have been 500-600 new photovoltaic accounts in the last year. The company has about 2 million customers statewide, and a rough estimate for just our region about 500,000+/- of that. The state has been offering a $20K rebate plus the feds tax break on top of it... so it's been quite affordable for those that can make the leap. One of the downsides is the company buys the power you generate at the wholesale price which kind of sucks, I think you should be able to recoup some of the installation costs the same way the company charges us at retail. The company pretends to be forward thinking, but I think they do it to appease regulators and get tax breaks...they started a biofuel farm, growing sweetgrass to generate power with.
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Re: alternative energy

Postby firgela » Thu Jan 12, 2012 2:00 pm

Maybe there are state rebates in your zone?
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Re: alternative energy

Postby firgela » Thu Jan 12, 2012 2:13 pm

Ooh, I heard about this company a year or so ago that offers solar system leases, which I think is brilliant. It makes it more affordable, if memory serves (suppose I could read the website to confirm) you pay the installation costs and a flat rate monthly but they maintain the equipment as part of a service agreement. Google invested a ton of money into them and they have a contract to fit most Wal-Mart stores...don't think they've gone public yet but if there ever was a stock tip to give out, I'm kind of watching to see where they go.

http://www.solarcity.com/
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Re: alternative energy

Postby pa_friendly_guy » Thu Jan 12, 2012 2:48 pm

That is interesting figela, I am surprised about the large number of new solar users in your area. With that kind of state rebates and the feds tax break I can see why people jumped on the band wagon. That is Great. You are in the " Sunshine State " and if solar will work anywhere it has to be Fla and Cal. I looked at solar 2 years ago when the feds had a nice incentive and the state of Pa had a $1500 rebate. It did sweeten the pot a bit but the pay back was still 10 to 15 years assuming that you did not have much in repairs or battery replacement costs. I did not have the spare $15,000 cash needed for the up front costs. I do like solar, and if you have the space and location for it I like wind power. Wind is noisy though, [ most people do not realize that there is a woop, woop, woop with wind power ] and the towers have to extend very high, 130 feet is what they were recommending when I looked at it 2 years ago. I live at the top of a hill and with that kind of high tower I would get a pretty steady breeze. Unfortunatly I am in the comtrolled air space of a local air port, so getting the premits for a high tower would be difficult. I am very interested in alternitive energy sourses and hope that we can continue this topic.
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Re: alternative energy

Postby firgela » Thu Jan 12, 2012 3:33 pm

I've wondered why wind hasn't been a bigger part of the equation in FL. We always have cross winds...tropical storms and hurricanes could fill up massive capacitor banks... perhaps the enormity of a storage system outweighs the benefit?
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Re: alternative energy

Postby eeldip » Thu Jan 12, 2012 3:55 pm

firgela wrote: One of the downsides is the company buys the power you generate at the wholesale price which kind of sucks, I think you should be able to recoup some of the installation costs the same way the company charges us at retail. .


you can think of the cost difference as equivalent to battery loss. depending on the rate of buyback, net metering can be a much less expensive deal than a battery system.
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Re: alternative energy

Postby firgela » Thu Jan 12, 2012 4:55 pm

Good point.

The few customers I've talked to that have it wouldn't go back. One retired guy said after the rebates he was looking to break even in 2-3yrs, his pension paid for the up front costs and he still budgets a portion of what he would be paying without it back into his retirement account. On the other side of the spectrum there's a newer account that seems like a waste of money, the house is maybe late 60s early 70s and being generous maaaybe 1000 sqft. They should've gone with new insulation and windows, best guess based on the neighborhood, the house couldn't be worth more than $70K right now. I bet a salesman got hold of them or they got the house way below market...still would've went with windows before jumping straight to a solar system.
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Re: alternative energy

Postby eeldip » Thu Jan 12, 2012 9:02 pm

recouping your upfront costs for a PV install in 2-3 years is amazing. i have a feeling his numbers are off.

PS: these are cool.

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/2 ... s-Declared
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Re: alternative energy

Postby firgela » Thu Jan 12, 2012 9:53 pm

That's rad. I wonder how long before they're on store shelves so to speak?

There's a place here that I believe teaches classes to licensed electricians on installations. They have a fairly big panel that follows the path of the sun throughout the day. Chatting with a guy I ran into there was telling me that panel is interfaced with a computer and it let's him know if there's bird shit on it... somehow calculates for obstructions...suppose the software monitors each cell's output? I'll get the name of the place, maybe there's a website.
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Re: alternative energy

Postby matt walker » Thu Jan 12, 2012 10:18 pm

Great thread Firgela. I design electrical systems for boats for a living, sitting here right now refining a CAD schematic package for a boat that has three AC sources, and three DC sources. 5 different voltage systems on board. Due to that, I do have some alternative energy sources here at the house that I've picked up along the way, uninstalling from boats as I put in new systems and so on. I'm lucky in that some of the expensive bits and bobs are stacking up in my shop, inverters, big cables, batteries, etc. This summer in my barn I cobbled together a solar package that includes a 50w panel, charge controller, 600 amp hour battery bank, and small inverter. I use it to run the stereo and lights in the barn when I'm puttering around down there, and I can hear the stereo in the garden too, which is great.

That said, I moved into a finished house, so I'm on the grid. I often wish I could start from scratch, as I'd do things very differently. Tiny house, alternative energy sources, etc. As it is, this house is pretty energy hungry, so I don't see myself getting this thing off grid anytime soon. I do have parallel systems set up for power outages, which happen all the time here. I usually spend a couple weeks a year without power. My water is gravity fed, so that's easy. Lighting I have some battery powered LEDs and a battery charger I can run off the solar panel, done. I heat the house solely with wood, and when the power is out I keep a big pot on the stove and have a few gallons of hot water available at any time. So, while I'm not off grid, I don't miss it much when it goes down. I have DSL for internet, so as long as the phone lines are up, I hook the modem and computer up to an inverter and run that off either the charged batteries from the barn or I have also just tapped into the tractor battery and let that little diesel idle along generating power for me.

I do have plans to install micro hydro at some point. I've done some research, and I don't have enough volume to create a lot of power, but again, I have enough batteries collected that I could charge up a large bank and use it for times when the grid is down, and run some lighting in my shop and stuff. I've got about 100' of head and maybe 10 GPM, so I could do a little something. More than anything, I just love tinkering with this stuff, so I've definitely got some more alternative energy systems in my future.
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