Question: My house is 2500 sq-ft-what size system do I need?
The size of a home does not determine the system requirement. The location, latitude, weather patterns and most importantly, the type and quantity of your appliances and services will dictate the amount of daily energy use. A 10,000 sq-ft house with more energy efficient appliances could actually use less power than a 2500 sq-ft home with conventional systems. If you chose to use electric heating or cooking systems, your home will use a lot more energy. There is no such thing as a “Net-Zero” home. When you have a high load profile and use renewable energy sources, you still use energy from the grid at night, which nearly always comes from the nearest coal fired power source due to the general nature of electrical circuits. If you home is virtually all electric and you choose a grid-tied (no battery) PV system to offset your loads, rather than changing loads to gas or other sources where gas is more efficient, you are not doing yourself or anyone a favor, not helping the environment and not providing for your future well-being.
Question: How do I determine the size of system I need?
The best way is to make a list of the appliances and services you need. For example, if your home is off-grid, you would list all electrical loads such as your well pump, fridge, freezer, washer, dryer, lighting and any major appliances. Do not forget to figure your electrical consumption for heating and cooling your home. Look on the nameplate supplied with all appliances for the wattage, amps and voltage of the unit.
A simple calculation using OHMs LAW will help you determine the load. AMPS x VOLTS = Watts. If your fridge is 5 amps, then 5 x 120vac is 600 watts. You can generally assume that items such as fridges and freezers run 8-12 hours daily. If you have chosen to use a ground-source heat pump, you can easily assume at least 10kw per hour in the dead of winter.
Question: Do batteries decrease system efficiency in grid tied systems?
Yes and no…Typical flooded lead acid cells have a shorter life cycle than AGM batteries (5-7 years vs. 15-20 years) and do have an effect on overall system efficiency, and generally are not recommended for grid tied applications where the sole purpose of the system is maximizing sell back power. These batteries operate at a lower efficiency level than AGM/VRLA batteries (80% vs. 96% for AGM) On the other hand, AGM batteries are typically 90%+ efficiency and should be included in any grid tied system as they not only provide backup power, but actually increase the amount of sell-back power available. This is especially true of our Power Package AGM/VRLA battery systems.
Question: Do grid tied systems help reduce utility CO2 emmissions?
Answer: To date, all the renewable energy systems installed including large and small wind generation, large scale solar farms and solar-thermal conversion systems have had virtually no effect on the actual power produced by the major CO2 emitters-coal fired power plants. In fact, coal generation has increased by over 30% and there are plans to add another 36 gigawatts of coal fired power plants to the existing grid. If any of these systems were having any effect, why would utilities need to beef up this resource. Also, coal as a commodity has increased in value and so has mining production of coal. Unfortunately with our current patterns of electrical consumption, and given the lackluster performance of all utility-scale wind and solar power production (less than 2% of mix) we will need coal and that means climate change will accelerate bringing more weather issues which will reduce the reliability of grid power in general.
Question: What is the cost of a system and payback or ROI on RE systems?
Questions like this are meaningless without a full evaluation of your current electrical use, implementation of a energy conservation plan and finally the application of a properly sized sytem based on local availability of wind or solar energy. It is your responsibility to know how much energy you use and actively persue energy conservation. If you are purchasing a system without doing any of the above, chances are you will regret it. Supplying a portion of your own power consumtion using Renewable Energy is both a right and an obligation.
How can we best use renewable energy?
The best way to utilize renewable energy is at the source. It is always more efficient to combine energy conservation with energy production from wind or solar and use or store that energy where it is needed, not 100 or 1000 miles away. We simply are not technically advanced enough to transmit billions of kilowatts over transmission lines from any one source. The problem is that every geographical location in the USA uses power differently with respect to intensity and time of day. This requires a 24 hour-a-day type of energy supply, not simply when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing, especially if that power is needed in New York and the source is Wyoming or Arizona. Anyone who thinks the US can afford a multi-trillion $ makover in transmission capability is definitly not well informed. Green-tags, Carbon cap-n-trade, these are just ways to make people feel better without tangible results, and to make more money for wall street with hedge funds and ponzi schemes. We need to make energy like we need to make our food, locally and with local resources.
How can I best use a renewable energy system?
The first thing is energy efficiency and this does not include the following: Electric ovens, electric hot water heating, electric dryers, electric heat of any kind including geothermal (ground source heat pumps) or any type of high-intensity electric resistance system like heat tape. Electricity is very inefficient at these tasks and there are more efficient ways of performing all the above functions with gas or solar options. A home using LP or Nat. Gas for cooking, heating, hot water (with solar assist), clothes drying will pollute less and be more cost effective than any other option. The second thing is choices in energy efficient products like refrigerators and washers and pumps. Always look for the running amps as the green tags or Energy Star label does not mean it is automatically the most efficient choice, it only means that it met a “minimum” stantard as tested by the manufacturer-no outside agency tests the test. And that water/ice in the door feature-that will cost you an extra 200 watts per hour in a typical fridge. The lower your initial electrical load, the less a system costs to supply renewable energy to your home and the better it will work to reduce your bills.
What is the SMART GRID
A better name for the “Smart Grid” initiative would be “Control My House” because that is what most of the technology is designed to do. The technology enables the utility to shut off your most high power loads, typically water heaters, heating load, fridges, etc in case of utility overload or for load control. The theory is that if we are relying on lots of wind and solar inputs, and knowing those are unreliable sources in most instances, they will need to be able to balance load on the grid. Most of the investment is in this area and NOT in improving transmission lines in any meaningfull way, so it is more of a bandaid than a fix. For those interested in privacy, these “Smart Chips” in appliances which do this work also allow other communications to take place, much like our government can find anyone using GPS on a cell phone. In our humble opinion, this is another “tech bubble” just like solar and wind a couple of years ago, mostly interested in attracting investment. You will have to ask if your next appliance has this “smart chip” and if you don’t want this in your home, don’t buy the appliance. The Brave New World is here and knowledge is power. I’d rather be off-grid and we are.
“GREEN” vs Sustainable
There is a very big difference. For one thing, “green” has simply become a marketing slogan, including everything from homeopathic medical cures (nothing wrong with these) to Bamboo flooring to solar panels. Truth is, much that is green is not really sustainable and vice-versa. For instance, making billions of PV panels will use up a lot of energy and materials, however alternate solutions for PV power also utilize harmfull chemicals and processes.
Generally, we use the common sense rule. It it takes someone with a PHD in physics to define the terms applied to any technology, it is probably neither sustainable nor cost effective. Sustainable includes things like buying local food, reducing your energy consumption in simple ways, and maybe using solar and wind technolgies on-site to make and store energy rather than expecting your utility to send the power to Delaware, where all the banks are.
Reality Check: Why are RE systems so expensive?
In fact, Renewable Energy systems are not expensve at all when viewed in comparison with other standard comodities. Take the Toyota Prius in comparison to our standard Power Package system. The Prius costs about $ 28,000 on average with taxes and title, has a battery bank about 1/4 the size of a Power Package system and over the life of the vehicle, will cost at least $ 6700 in gas plus maintenance, taxes, fees and a battery replacement in 5-7 years. A Power Package system with 3100 watts of PV and 25kwh in battery power with 6000 watts of AC power can provide power to a home for about 20 years at NO cost, with at least double the battery life; will produce over 100,000 kilowatt-hours of electrical energy; requires no fuel, imposes no taxes and 30% of the initial cost will be paid thru a tax incentive. The reality is that RE systems are a real bargain when the correct value system is applied.
UPDATE: Utility scale RE and CO2 reduction-the Facts
To date, there is a connected capacity in the US of 35,159 mega-watts of wind power. At the rated 30% capacity factor, that is 10,544 megawatts of available power. There is also an estimated 12 gigawatts of connected solar (PV) farms and solar-thermal power plants in the USA and counted in this are the many small PV grid-tie residential and commercial systems.
All of these system are limited by wind and solar resources. However, with all this connected power, there has never been, to date, any reduction in the actual output or use of fossil fuels by utility power plants according to the US Dept of Energy statistics. That means the effect is not proportional nor is it predictable or affordable.
Storing Energy on the Grid
There are a lot of claims out there, like storing energy on the grid and how wind farms can power 40,000 homes. All of these are totally false. Of course anyone can make any claim they want until someone sues them or they are forced to prove it. The claims and hype being brandied about currently are just hype by folks either trying to get approvals or trying to get investment money. You cannot store energy on the grid, and no wind farm has even had to prove the claims they make. The photos shows what happens to about one of ten wind generators, You can collect and store wind and solar energy, just not on the grid.
Utility Scale Wind and Solar Farms
Look, here comes giant wind and solar farms, brought to you by the same folks responsible for over 200 oil spills worldwide, several mine disasters, the largest polluting power plants in the world and most of the environment and financial problems in current times.
This time, they have a new game and it includes very large wind turbines (which you pay for)and large solar farms (daylight only) and this is what happens to a lot of these wind units at $ 1,000,000 each. Yes-it’s the same people with different brand-names and different spokes-persons. If you can’t trust BP to drill for oil safely, how can you trust these same folks to supply your energy safely and cleanly?