Solar WILL take over all other energy sources

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Mots's picture
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Solar WILL take over all other energy sources

Some people in the Energy Department realize that solar electric has become so cheap that it has become THE energy replacement answer  that many are looking for:

see: http://insideclimatenews.org/breaking-news/20130822/ferc-chair-jon-wellinghoff-solar-going-overtake-everything

Energy return on investment for solar electric only gets better with time as advances occur (for example, replace monocrystalline silicon with polysilicon) (this is the OPPOSITE from the future of fossil-based energy).  For those who are worried that silver is needed for solar panels and that silver will run out: a korean company and a European company have already replaced silver in solar panels with copper (and if copper runs out aluminum likely will be used).........  MOST solar energy use can avoid energy storage by simple scheduling.  This is easy to do because solar is most available when people are awake.  Even during rainstorms and cloudy days a significant amount of energy is available)

generating hydrogen (from water) directly or indirectly for transportation energy is the next major hurdle in this area of technology.  

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Sigh

Solar is NOT base load energy. Therefore it will not take over (from) all other energy sources until some way can be found to store the energy for use when the sun is not shining. Wind energy faces a somewhat similar limitation in that the wind does not always blow.

Even if solar were perfected within the near future, a major breakthrough in battery technology will be required in order to store the energy until needed. So called flow batteries (with the electrolyte stored externally) seem to hold promise, but further development work is needed.

Until that happens, solar has some limited utility as a supplementary source of energy. In off-grid applications with limited power needs, solar is viable. As for wind, those giant turbines are a blight on the landscape. They also slice and dice a lot of innocent birds.Here in Texas we have a lot of wind turbines in the western part of the state, but insufficient electricity transmission lines to get the electricity to major cities in the eastern half of Texas.

I just saw yet another nauseating headline claiming that America is the new Saudi Arabia. Pul--eeze! Saudi Arabia is an energy exporter, while the USA must import oil in order to meet domestic needs. Tight oil has simply narrowed the gap a bit between consumption and production.

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new (old-pre-oil age) attitudes are required to use solar

"Even if solar were perfected within the near future, a major breakthrough in battery technology will be required in order to store the energy until needed"

with all due respect, this parroting of MSM dismissal of an independent (not controlled by govt/big banks) energy lifestyle is wrong.  Our new post collapse world will NOT be American Growth Standard anymore and daytime only solar works fine, just as it did for our grandparents.
Even the intended detraction of solar that "by 6 p.m., panels are producing only about half their maximum" in my opinion is misleadingly optimistic, and might possibly be true only on the longest day of the year, yet highlights how valuable solar electric is NOW without any further advance except in using out of the mainstream. If you have 10,000 watts of installed power (half the cost of an average new car if you avoid  utility and government incentive based control) and get 20% of maximum power at 6PM, that means you have 2000 watts of power at dinnertime in WInter months (or maybe as little as 500 watts, enough to make coffee or toast if cloudy and you did not prepare food in advance based on forethought).  It is very helpful to use appliances that can accommodate differential power inputs and to be patient with their operation time.  Plants have evolved to do this, and humans are certainly capable of learning to do this too (and in fact have, before the oil age changed  their behavior).  Presently you have to make your own circuits because The Technologies that Be are all based on American Growth Standard instant gratification.  Many things such as induction stoves and water heaters can be modified to run fairly directly from  solar panels with varying output without buying lots of very inefficient but heavily hyped equipment from traditional  American Growth Standard companies.   Food certainly can be cooked during daylight hours, so can hot water  heating, dish washing, clothes washing, clothes driers, car charging, and fertililizer manufacture (based on improvements already made to the electrical processes used last century before the natural gas process of nitrogen fixation took over).  Furthermore, ALL of these things are easily done DURING CLOUDY days when you have enough solar panels (my example above 1/2 the price of a car is enough to get much energy during CLOUDY days.  Electric boats were invented before fossil fuel boats took over, are about 5-10 x slower, but much quieter less pollution and require a little patience and require 10 x less energy which is readily available by solar. We have forgotten that our grandparents /  great grandparents farms worked on a solar cycle and that they used to get up and work when the energy became available and adjust their activities throughout the year according to solar insolation.

we need to change our thinking and to think outside of the mainstream media box

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Old versus new

I see this dynamic surface everyday.  Struggling with what the future will look like (here, making new energy tech fit into the current system versus evolution towards a new system).  Capitalism, which many parts of the world see as colonialism with a thin coat of whitewash, requires constant growth.  The US targets 3% year over year.  Solar, nor any other source, will give us this.  In fact, the point of this site is PEAK.  No more growth.  It isn't much of a intellectual jump to see that the current system will not stand.  To me, it seems to be in its dying convolutions.  So trying to fit alternative energy into the context of the current system is pointless.

So true, solar will not replace fossil.  Nothing will.  Has anyone considered that ALL forms of alternative energy are heavily subsidized by fossil fuels?  The materials needed to make a panel or a windmill all require serious inputs of energy.  Then the energy needed to manufacture and assemble.  I have yet to see any figures for a solar panel on net energy output.  The excess energy, if any, created after the energy inputs have been subtracted.  I suspect that there is a net energy output, but it will not be the 'free' boon that advocates proclaim.  Whatever place they have in the future will depend on how great their net energy surplus.  And just as our lifestyles changed to take advantage of the 24/7 bright lights afforded by fossil fuel, they will again change to fit into whatever our future energy sources will allow.

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Solar WILL take over all other energy sources -- perhaps in time

Hi, Mots. First of all, understand that my rebuttal was not personal. Here on the Peak Prosperity site there is an understanding that civilized discourse is the standard. You make some reasonable points. But I think you understand that we are bound by certain constraints at present. Perhaps those constraints will lessen over time with advances in technology and let us all hope that is so.

The last couple of days have been especially busy for me, and I regret that, for I spotted a post in the Daily Digest a couple of days ago that intrigued me – but I was too busy to post a follow up right then. The gist of it was that an Arizona public utility figured out a way to store the sun’s energy for short periods by focusing it (through an array of mirrors) on sand, which absorbs the energy by heating up. Then, that heat energy is tapped early the next morning to provide energy to the grid.

I’m all for innovations like this, but I’m also an old guy who is intensely practical and I’ve seen so many announcements over the years of problem-solving “solutions” that once announced, are never heard from again. So please forgive me for being rather skeptical; it tends to come with advancing age (I’m a geezer).

The fact is that the sun provides far more energy than we need at present and this is likely to be the case for eons to come. The problem, of course, is capturing that energy in a way that can meet our electricity needs. This is the challenge. After all, the earth is dark half of each day (let’s keep it simple, please, and not introduce latitude right now for in the off season that tends to compensate.)

So back to what I posted in response to your original (thoughtful and interesting) post): The sun provides plenty of energy – far more than we need. But we need an effective means of capturing that energy and providing it to end users when they need it.

My thesis was and is that we need some kind of storage medium. It does not have to be long term storage, keeping in mind that a “day” consists of 24 hours, of which sunlight is present for varying amounts of time depending on the latitude. I’ve looked into this for the past five years and flow batteries still stick in my mind as posing considerable promise. More research is needed.

Present energy storage solutions are pretty inefficient. I’m thinking, for example, of pumping water uphill to storage reservoirs overnight, and then releasing the water to power turbines the next day to meet energy needs. This is – ahem – not an elegant solution.

I am not happy with your assertion that my previous post parrots MSM views on energy. You could not be more mistaken. My contempt for the mainstream media is complete. So please erase that from your mind, and in turn I will agree not to be offended. This is fair.

You make some good points. I accept them in good faith. But I’m a skeptic and will reserve judgment due to my years of careful consideration of these issues. What is needed at this inflection point in history is thoughtful discussion by reasonable people, in the hope and expectation that we can together influence the outcome. On that particular point, however, I’m a pessimist. We will likely have to accept what is imposed on us by those who feel they have superior wisdom and the power to command.

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Solar

BSV, thanks for your kind and thoughtful reply.

I am an electronics guy who does things with his hands and then enjoys the benefits of the technology.  I am also a patent  attorney in this area and spend many hours enjoying new technology made by companies that actually build and sell the stuff (not American, by the way).  I can see what is happening by riding on new developments, that is my job.  And you are absolutely right, virtually all "advances" crowed about in the media are real bullshit.  I discount unless (in rare cases) something will or is taken to market with a price tag.  Fortunately my clients are in the latter category.

Economically, solar has won hands down.

The Technologies that Be are not designed for using solar efficiently because everything is designed for batteries and American Growth Standard ways of using energy.
I designed my next paradigm dwelling-system based on how many watts I get on overcast rainy days (600 watts for my house presently-I hope to improve soon, 200 for my garden) and then I get tons on normal days.  There is a lot of stuff recently that is very cheap and very effective but are not on the mainstream possibly because they eliminate a big source of income for power companies and collective organizations such as big banks.  What I am doing is NOT mainstream and I have no more time for mainstream media old fashioned ways of thinking.  Your recent post is very thoughtful but aside from that it seems that most posts on this site are not really free of mainstream thinking driven by CNN and big corporate designed lifestyle.   Saying slogans like peak prosperity and internet chit chat crap are not the same as studying technology-which is THE demoninator for everything! and not the same as doing, particularly when the chit chat crappers dont have a deep understanding of the technology and dont have your insight that most media pronouncements of technology are bullshit.  The change human advancement such as the present paradigm shift is always based on TECHNOLOGY - new ways to deal with the physicall universe and very little internet chit chat crap addresses this.

Anyone who understands electricity (or is learning) and wants to pursue this topic please message me.  I am done chit chatting on this thread.

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Please do not give up on us,

Please do not give up on us, Mots. We need this kind of discussion. I hope that I did not drive you away from this website, for I would regret that greatly. Your comments were thoughtful and rational.

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Solar Specifically

Ok, thanks.  In that case I will delve into this a bit more:

A few specific comments on baby steps to better energy resilience from solar electric

1. for 200$ (a 200 watt panel) where else can you get a machine that will give you tens of watts (if not up to 200 watts) of electricity during the day, without further fuel for years to come?  To get reliable gasoline generated energy for your computer for example, what does the equipment (motor/generator) cost over a 10 year, or 20 year period and how reiiable is it?  (a 55lb battery at Costco for storing 100 watts 5 hr or more (nominally 1 kilowatt hour) costs about 85$ to run bright LEDs or computer at night) This is why so many people are getting into some kind of low wattage solar energy easily.  Because LEDs are very very efficient you can buy an 85$ battery for some very bright lights at nighttime that will not seriously wear down the battery.  Electricity originally was developed for lighting, and use for LED lighting is extremely low cost even with batteries.  

2. By the way, you should use all low voltage DC circuits  and only maybe one or two MOSFET junctions/diodes between the solar  panels and the lights/equipment.  Technologies that Be dont allow  this.  You cannot easily do this  (buy off the shelf DC bright lights at low cost) and have to cut and solder yourself, although alternative LEDs are starting to be sold.to save energy, I had to buy 18 watt (equivalent to 75-90 watt incandescent) LED lights from Costco/Home Depot and rip out the inefficient transformer/inverter circuitry to run these bright lights directly off DC without losing much efficiency via running through many transistor junctions to boost and convert DC to AC and then back down to DC. (the Technologies that Be sell you a box that loses energy by converting solar panel/battery DC to AC, and then sell you a box that loses energy by converting AC back to DC again, and this sells lots  of circuitry and boxes that all heat up and waste energy.  Inefficiencies add up, 25% loss for one step plus 25% loss for another  step = 50% loss and the lower cost boxes you buy at Harbor Freight, Walmart etc seem to have the lowest  efficiencies.  

3. But large systems (kilowatts) are dominated by either 
A. grid tie thinking (supply electricity to power company who usually makes you pay 3,000$ for extra equipment for hook up and other things) OR
B. a battery system, which is extremely expensive due to batteries that have to be replaced.  

4. An alternative not provided is to wire up cheap solar panels directly to equipment via a minimum of boxes and with no batteries for ca. 5x less electronic equipment circuitry cost.  why is this important:: when you look at the specs on inverters (convert 24 or 48 or 96 volt DC into AC and charge controllers, the specifications dont even cover below 20% maximum solar power because the inefficiencies are horrible (typically 25% or far worse energy loss just for this one step).  If you charge batteries, you lose 10% inefficiency just in the charging step alone.  Equipment from the Technologies that Be are not designed to run at any decent efficiency at low light levels (cloudy conditions) and such conditions are given up as hopeless by the Technologies that Be who provide either a. sell to utility at high light levels (equipment designed to work at high light levels) or b. expensive battery systems (nothing in between!).  

5.  It gets even worse when you want to use the "best" technology from sellers who will sell you 200 watt panels for maybe 100-200$ each and then sell you FOR EACH PANEL a specific controller for another 200$ (per panel!) that will improve efficiency a couple percent or maybe 5% depending on what panels are used. I have had discussions with an engineer who designed one such product and with a major seller who both told me that this is obviously a stupid idea (double the cost of panels by introducing a zillion more transistor circuit junctions to flow current through to slightly increase efficiency or slightly decrease installation time). The Technologies that Be  are having an equipment festival that should be avoided.  Even many installers  and designers dont really understand how solar panels are loaded for efficiency (they dont work like batteries)

6.  Representative Alternative:
A.   If you have electric hot water heater now, you can buy two large 200 watt panels for about 400$ and buy an electronic device (http://techluck.com/about.php) for 200$ that will connect directly (in parallel, dont have to remove anything) to your hot water heater and efficiently (seems to be in upper 90%s) loads the panels just right to send virtually all available power into your tank to drop your hot water costs possibly in half.  I have used this system and it works extremely efficiently, to heat hot water).  This works well when it is below zero outside.  very nice way to use solar for hot water when it is below  freezing outside.  I have no financial relationship with the inventor/seller but am just a very satisfied customer.

B.   If you have 400 or 500 watts of panels (about 500$) and want to inject their electrical output  directly into your house wiring very efficiently, the price for doing so has dropped dramatically recently.  I was very surprised to buy for 125$ (direct from factory in China) a box that will take the 500 watt solar panel output and plug right into a house AC plug to  essentially "grid tie" in a very cheap and convenient fashion.  The  Technologies that Be hate this and I understand may have made it illegal or  a rule violation. The excuse is (of course) safety in that if the power grid goes dark and your solar panels still inject power, then you will kill a power line worker: but this is nonsense for two reasons: 1. the  box only matches your solar power output to the AC line voltage and frequency, if no main power to copy, the converter box from solar panels  to your outlet cant work and 2. they are designed to specially shut off for this safety reason.  This (keep consumer unaware or petrified of death) situation is very similar  to what we had in the 60s when telephone companies were renting phones for 10$ per month and forbade consumers from buying 10$ phones from Taiwan for "safety" reasons (and finally had to give up because everyone ignored them).  If everyone could hook up 500 watts  (two large panels) for the price of only a 125$ injection box, their electric bills should be a little lower and the panels could serve as a nice backup power (connect to DC-AC inverter) if grid power goes down.  This was available on amazon.com a few  months ago and I have not checked prices  recently.

The above provides some details behind  my  statements that the main stream media presentation of dreams and desires is  good at enriching big organizations that are "in charge" of the equipment and of the dialogue.  I have an analogous rant with detailed specifics on how our drug industry is even more off track using the legal system to sell old drugs at extreme prices but dont have time to shift my focus off of solar.  These are reasons why we need to abandon the main stream weavers of life style aspirations and product buys and focus on local resilience by getting in touch with how the physical world works and rebuild everything at a sustainable and practical way DURING the decay. 

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Battery choice

Mots

Choice of battery for me was nickel iron. 100+ year old tech

One recent article I read was about some guys who dug up some 85 year old ones, put new KOH in them and low an behold, 50% of rated performance. not bad.

I am  KISS kind of guy.  If you do not have it it will not break down. so no charge controller, no inverter.

Nickel iron are not damaged by overcharging, ( but your consumption of distilled water goes up...)

More later....

 

Cheers Hamish

 

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12 Volt LED Light Bulb

Mots,

A neighbor has engineered and installed solar systems for many years.  He was very enthusiastic about the approach that you (Mots) outlined here for lighting, especially.  Staying with 12 Volts DC and Costco $85 car batteries (which were rated as the best car batteries by Consumer Reports).  

He pointed out this 12 Volt LED light bulb:

http://www.affordablequalitylighting.com/lightbulbs/led-series/led-medium-base/professional-grade-12v-led-a19-light-bulb/?gclid=CLeT5vjiqLoCFRGi4AodOTgAJw

He was unfamiliar with advantages for using PV for solar hot water heating and was hoping to find out more about how that is done.

Thanks for this discussion.

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using PV for solar hot water

thanks for 12 volt LED reference.  I notice that lowes and home depot just started selling 12 volt LEDs 2.5 watts (small bulbs) but the nicest looking best performance may be the  LED fixtures that home depot/lowes sells for 30-45$ and which are indistinguishable from  regular old fashioned single 3-5 inch diameter big lens light fixture.

The goal for using many cheap panels is simply to load them JUST ENOUGH to drop the output voltage to the maximum output voltage.  A good PWM circuit will do this with only a single MOSFET junction standing in the way between the solar panels and the heater.  THe problem with electric water heaters is that the AC voltage thermostat switches cannot handle DC and will melt -self destruct if you use plain DC instead of AC. The reference I gave uses a simple MPPT maximum voltage circuit (loads just enough to extract maximum power from panels) AND also converts DC to pulsing DC at a high frequency that DOES NOT melt the contacts.  You need to mount his circuit near the water heater or else suffer high power RF noise from the line to the water heater. I run up to 2000 watts through mine and it seems to generate only about 25 watts of heat (I dont recommend using his device for more than 500 watts- I happen to have mounted mine on a gigantic  heat sink which works because he uses a gigantic (very high  voltage and current IGBT (he calls it a MOSFET) that is only limited by heating up

hope this helps

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using PV for solar hot water

thanks for 12 volt LED reference.  I notice that lowes and home depot just started selling 12 volt LEDs 2.5 watts (small bulbs) but the nicest looking best performance may be the  LED fixtures that home depot/lowes sells for 30-45$ and which are indistinguishable from  regular old fashioned single 3-5 inch diameter big lens light fixture.

The goal for using many cheap panels is simply to load them JUST ENOUGH to drop the output voltage to the maximum output voltage.  A good PWM circuit will do this with only a single MOSFET junction standing in the way between the solar panels and the heater.  THe problem with electric water heaters is that the AC voltage thermostat switches cannot handle DC and will melt -self destruct if you use plain DC instead of AC. The reference I gave uses a simple MPPT maximum voltage circuit (loads just enough to extract maximum power from panels) AND also converts DC to pulsing DC at a high frequency that DOES NOT melt the contacts.  You need to mount his circuit near the water heater or else suffer high power RF noise from the line to the water heater. I run up to 2000 watts through mine and it seems to generate only about 25 watts of heat (I dont recommend using his device for more than 500 watts- I happen to have mounted mine on a gigantic  heat sink which works because he uses a gigantic (very high  voltage and current IGBT (he calls it a MOSFET) that is only limited by heating up

hope this helps

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Solar Hot Water: Thermal or Photovoltaic panels?

Hi again Mots,

My solar engineer neighbor (who has been out of the business for about 6 years) did a bit of research this evening based on your post and concluded that with the low cost of the new solar panels ($1/watt) and the newer heat pump type of electric water heaters that the PV type of hot water heater now seems to make sense to him, too.  He forwarded a recent summary article of this debate to me.

 

Solar Hot Water: Which Is Better PV or Thermal?

 

Hal Slater, Contributor
September 11, 2013

Solar thermal water heating is a temperamental thing. Water weighs a lot, it expands when it freezes, and it can cause scaling damage to pipes when it boils. Solar thermal systems are wonderfully efficient [extracting about 50% of the energy in sunlight], and some systems work just fine for decades, but even these need regular inspection. When a solar thermal system fails, however, it sets about destroying itself, and it has been clear for some time that solar thermal water heating is not the way of the future except for very low-end heat usage, like swimming pools.

Recently, however, reductions in solar electric (PV) costs and maturation of air-to-water heat pump technology have provided a new model: solar-electric assisted heat pump water heating (HPWH). HPWH comes with fewer drawbacks than solar thermal, with a smaller price tag for residential applications. 

PV Advantages

Lower upfront cost

Easier to install.

 

Uses less space.

Needs no maintenance

 

Cannot freeze.

Cannot overheat.

 

No scale build up.

No CO2 emissions.

 

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emergency use of grid-tie solar panels; how to do?

Mots -

I have always been irritated at the concept of having 2 kw of generating power on the roof and yet, if grid power vanishes, somehow I'm not able to flip a switch and make use of all those electrons.  I'd love to have some mechanism for providing the grid-tie when its available, but then isolating the house from the grid and just receiving power from the panels when the grid goes down.  And of course if its dark, no power is produced.  Your description of the current offerings: "only grid-tie solar" and "solar off-grid with batteries" is quite accurate, and it definitely has never really satistfied me.  There should be something in between.

I'm not enough of a hardware guy to know the implications of that sort of setup though; how do all my devices work when in aggregate the panels aren't supplying enough power is one question.  I know computers don't like brown-outs.  Presumably there could be some sort of adapter that cuts off load when the power drops below what is required.

It seems to me these are all problems that are not all that difficult to fix if someone who knew basic electrical systems felt like doing it.  And certainly, having power during daytime with limitations (for instance, at dawn/dusk power generation will be quite faint) it is infinitely better than no power 24/7 during a prolonged blackout situation.

I'd prefer to have something like that in place prior to experiencing the emergency power situation too.  :-)

 

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off grid etc

As you guessed, this involves simple switching.  Equipment has this capability.  if you have only 500 watts, easy to do by switching yourself (plug/unplug).  Grid tie invertersfor high power (2-5 kilowatt) can have switches built into them and often will switch automatically.  Because this equipment tends to be expensive, I dont pay to attention to it but you can ask any solar equipment company and they should be happy to sell to you.

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Emergency Use of GT Systems

There is a way that can be done to run a pure GT inverter off-grid--But that requires a second True Sine Wave off-grid inverter, battery bank, and AC Transfer Switch (all of which have to be rated equal or greater Wattage than the GT inverter system).

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emergency use of GT systems w/o battery bank

oog-

I don't have a battery bank and lets assume for this discussion I never want to have one.

Let's further assume that I can deal with only having power during daylight hours - charging up my phones, UPS units, laptops, running the washing machine, etc when the sun is shining.

But I'm not a hardware guy, and so I don't understand the implications of what happens to my devices when they get "browned-out" as the sun starts to set and my power generators on the roof slowly stop feeding power to my house.

Assuming my devices don't get damaged by brown-outs, I'd prefer to have uncertain device performance under a variable power situation to having zero power provided from my functioning set of solar panels on the roof in the case of a prolonged (multi-week) power outage.

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PV and Solar Thermal

Sand Puppy,

    I couldn't agree more.  I have solar PV on my house and a GE hybrid hot water heater (heat pump).  The hybrid water heater was an easy decision as had to replace the old water heater anyway.  I did not want to deal with the complexity of domestic solar thermal system and it just made sense to add a few more solar PV panels for the hybrid water heater.   Have been running this for two years or so.  Costs for solar PV have come down a lot in last two years, so makes even more sense now.   I would consider this option a no brainer if you are on propane.  I am on natural gas, so ROI is a bit longer, but still worth while especially if your existing hot water heater is on the way out.

   One thing to keep in mind with the hybrid water heaters is that they are a bit noisy in heat pump mode as sounds like a small window ac unit when running (which it basically is in reverse).  So, great if you have room in garage or basement, but not so good if only place is in hallway or similar.  They also require a fair amount of space to draw air from.

Kman

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Dave
davefairtex wrote:

  I'd love to have some mechanism for providing the grid-tie when its available, but then isolating the house from the grid and just receiving power from the panels when the grid goes down.  And of course if its dark, no power is produced.

Dave .....have you seen these:

http://www.sma-america.com/en_US/products/grid-tied-inverters/sunny-boy/sunny-boy-3000tl-us-4000tl-us-5000tl-us.html

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SMA 4000
Denny Johnson wrote:
davefairtex wrote:

  I'd love to have some mechanism for providing the grid-tie when its available, but then isolating the house from the grid and just receiving power from the panels when the grid goes down.  And of course if its dark, no power is produced.

Dave .....have you seen these:

http://www.sma-america.com/en_US/products/grid-tied-inverters/sunny-boy/sunny-boy-3000tl-us-4000tl-us-5000tl-us.html

Looks good.

Here is how it works. If the grid goes down but the sun is out you go to the Sunny boy inverter and flip a manual switch mounted below the inverter. In 45 seconds it will power up a 1500 watt plug. You can then plug in a small device like a cell phone charger or a light or whatever. If you exceed  (draw more than) 1500 watts it will shut down until you reduce the load. As long as this auxiliary switch is on, the inverter will not self-restore to normal function even if the grid comes back up. You must manually turn off the switch to allow normal function to resume.

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sunny boy inverter

Ok, that seems good.  The manual switch seems like what I want.

Next question - and this is the important question for me: what happens when my rooftop panel production falls below (say) 500 watts, and my current draw is perhaps 750 watts - less than the 1500 watt rating, but more than the panels are providing.   Will the inverter cut off if my draw is greater than the supply?

 

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Oliveoilguy
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davefairtex wrote: Ok, that
davefairtex wrote:

Ok, that seems good.  The manual switch seems like what I want.

Next question - and this is the important question for me: what happens when my rooftop panel production falls below (say) 500 watts, and my current draw is perhaps 750 watts - less than the 1500 watt rating, but more than the panels are providing.   Will the inverter cut off if my draw is greater than the supply?

 

I'll try to check this out, but my guess is that the inverter will continue to function but a fault switch to the backup plug will cut off. It tries to restart the backup plug every 20 seconds until the load is below the inverter output and the load is below the 1500 watt threshold.

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sallyerickson
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nickel iron batteries

Hi Hamish, Do you have a preferred nickel iron battery supplier. We are in Maine and about to buy nickel iron for a small off-grid PV system....And how do you manage to eliminate the charge controller and inverter?  And will reverse osmosis water work instead of distilled?  Thank you! Sally

 

 

 

 

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gyrogearloose
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Posts: 537
nickel iron batteries

Hi Sally

We live in NZ and got out batteries from an Australian company 3 years ago.

But being in the states you may find using a USA based company has some advantages.

My Sister and brother an law recently built in an are where all their neighbors went off grid as getting the grid in was going to cost $45,000.

Some of their neighbors used 'professional' advice and ended up with a 3 kw solar panel array and a 1000 amp hr 48 v lead acid battery bank.

I suggested to my brother in law that as panels were now down to $1 per watt (  $6/watt 3 years ago ) he should look at having a large array and a small battery bank. My reasoning was that at $6/watt you would grab and store for later use EVERY bit of power from the panels as the energy was costly and the storage cheap, but with solar panels at $1 per watt, you only need a battery bank big enough to last the night if you have solar panel array big enough to provide enough power for your daily needs even on a cloudy winter day.

I also reminded him that I had brought Nickel Iron batteries.....

As a result he brought 10 KW of solar panels  and a 450 amp hour battery nickel iron bank ( a bit bigger than I thought he would really need........ but he is putting in an electric oven!!!!! )

His neighbor is now asking a number of questions and looking at switching to Nickel iron when his lead acid die.....

As for topping up I have stuck to distilled water.

Charge controller, well as they are not damaged by overcharging (unlike lead acid which will be destroyed by over charging ) it does not matter if the are fully charged by 9am, as all that happens is that you turn  water into H2 and O2. you end up going through more distilled water though.......( also though I have not looked, I presume almost all charge controllers are made for lead acid or lithium batteries, and nickel iron need to charge at a higher voltage, so finding one that will fully charge a nickel iron one may be a bit difficult )

Inverter.... well these days most devices are available in 12 v dc

I am an engineer with a philosophy of KISS and "if you do not have it it wont break down"

A friend has been using this site for LED lights etc and has been happy with what he has brought ( acknowledges that there is some cheap c,,,,p listed as well.... ) I just wish he had told me about it sooner.......

Best of luck, Hamish

 

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OldManOnFire
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Posts: 5
No solar takeover in the next several decades...

Solar electric cannot power 24/7 anything.

Solar electric cannot power a 50-story apartment building.

Solar electric cannot power a steel mill.

Solar electric cannot power an electric train.

This does not mean solar electric does not have positive applications.  It's great as supplemental power and in remote off the grid scenarios. 

Lastly, there is an economic factor which cannot be ignored which involves the power utility companies.  First fact is public power utility companies are not going away.  These companies are already lobbying governments to tax solar users in order to pay for infrastructure, etc.  Only so much 'free' solar can exist without altering the public utility business model and threatening profits...which are guaranteed in the regulatory agreements. 

This is an extremely complex issue, involving commerce, the economy, power users, and government and it will never be as simple as saying 'solar will take over all other energy sources'...

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rghall57
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Posts: 1
Back Up Batteries

Im looking at building a small 1-3kw off grid system but i will need batteries. There are many on the market but few have a good warranty.  The Surrette Rolls have some that come with a 7 yr warranty.  They are pricy but would rather pay more for if they will deliver as they claim.  Anyone have any suggestions concerning back up batteries.  Im new to this website.

Jim H's picture
Jim H
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Posts: 2379
US source for Ni-Fe Batteries for Solar PV

http://ironedison.com/

The operational life of these batteries is much, much better than Pb-acid. 

http://ironedison.com/images/Spec%20Sheets/Brochures/Brochure.pdf

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sand_puppy
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Posts: 1763
Tell us about Nickel -Iron batteries, Jim H

How did you find out about these?  Do you think they would be better than lead acid in terms of service life, cost, weight, capacity??   Are they ready for prime time?    Any idea of cost?

Thanks for everything you know.  Basically I need the "Jim H, Ni-Fe" data dump on this topic.  :-)

I'm still attempting to formulate (and save $$) my 2-3 kw off grid system, too.  Enough to run a freezer, a fan, a few kitchen appliances (electric skillet), and a couple of shop tools.

A basic solar system seems foundational preparation for pandemics, Russian conflict, escalating oil cost, civil unrest, social disruption, collapse of social security payments and just about everything-- except maybe drought.

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Jim H
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Posts: 2379
Hello Sandpuppy... regarding Ni-Fe batteries

I happened to run across a reference to them and started reading a bit... never knew they existed before.  Some of the earlier posters on this thread mentioned them but there were few details, so I figured I would bring the topic back to life.  These things are literally Thomas Edison era technology, but happen to have a much longer service life (up to 50 years) than Lead-acid, as well as being much more robust.  Most importantly.. you don't have to baby them.. can run them to deep discharge cycles without harming their useful life.  They are a bit more expensive on a nominal amp/hr basis vs. Pb acid, but you actually don't need as much since they can be discharged more deeply.    

These seem the obvious choice for preppers... and there are several US sources now;

http://www.zappworks.com/index.htm

http://www.encell.com/uploads/ProductDatasheet%20-%20Alternative%20and%2...

http://www.microgrid-news.com/mn8-19-13-1.htm

Encell Technology, an energy storage battery and electronics company, recently announced the introduction of the Atlas 160 Nickel-Iron battery. The first production of these 160 Ampere-hour, front-terminal, 12 volt rechargeable batteries shipped this week.

The battery is designed to replace traditional valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) batteries in demanding microgrid energy storage applications. Batteries in this application are frequently cycled and may undergo deep-discharge cycles. The battery life of VRLAs is severely reduced by sustained deep-discharge cycles. Typical specifications show reduction from over 5,000 cycles at 20% discharge to just over 500 cycles at 80% discharge. In contrast, the Encell Atlas 160 NiFe cycle life under similar deep-discharge operating environments approaches 9,000 cycles, according to the company. For a typical installation, this extended deep-discharge performance can result in a significant reduction in the number of batteries needed without compromising battery life.

The Encell Atlas 160 weighs 120 lbs and is packaged in the standard, front terminal configuration with maximum dimensions (5.3 x 22.3 x 13.0 in) similar to comparable VRLAs. High-end temperature ranges for both operation (100 degrees C) and storage (60 degrees C) exceed VRLA specs. According to Encell, the float charge battery life of the Atlas 160 is up to 20 years - several times longer than comparable VRLAs. Encell notes that when energy available over the entire cycle life of a battery is considered, the Atlas 160 product cost is one-tenth that of a lead acid battery with similar name plate capacity.

Note that these batteries are not necessarily dead after 20 years.. but may need an electrolyte refresh at that time. 

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Trun87114
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 28 2013
Posts: 80
Moving from grid-tied to hybrid?

Very interesting thread.  I had a 3.5 kW grid-tied system installed two years ago.   I love it but I might have held off had I known about some of these advances.  Like Dave, I would be very happy to use my PV system as a back-up power supply during daytime hours.  In the event that the SHTF, my main concern is running my well pump and a few hours each day would be more than sufficient.  

The Ni-Fe batteries are promising and that SMA inverter that can function off grid I looks great.  However, my system was installed with Enphase micro-inverters.  At the time it seemed smart as one panel/inverter can fail while the others continue to work.  But...and this is where I hope some of you smarter than I am might chime in...it is my understanding that it is difficult or even impossible to convert a micro-inverter system into an off-grid or hybrid system.  

I hope I'm wrong about that. Does anyone know of a practical way to do that?

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Arthur Robey
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
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Posts: 3936
Nickel Iron.

From my apprentice days-way back when.

Nickel Iron batteries were invented by Edison. Some of them are still working. The disadvantages of nickel iron is that the are very inefficient. 60%.

But over the long haul they are choice. Make up for the decreased efficiency with more cells/wind power.

They take an alkaline electrolyte. Best way to kill them is to put acid in. Nickel dissolves in acid.

 

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