Full Transcript: In this solar mini class, we will consider the benefits of including an energy storage system as part of your renewable energy system.
For most systems the cost to make your own energy is around five cents per kilowatt hour. For a utility to generate energy from a large-scale solar array is around four cents per kilowatt hour. Net metering programs have helped solar to grow in the United States by allowing owners to pay for their systems in four to five years, after which the next 20 plus years of energy bring a great return on investment, paying more for energy than it costs them to generate it themselves. This has caused the utilities concern because it is not a sustainable model for them. This has resulted in a number of rate changes and additional fees being imposed on owners of renewable energy systems.
Let’s talk about another reason Solar causes the utilities heartburn. This graph shows the typical energy supply for a utility base load generation. This is what the utility needs to supply 24 hours a day seven days a week and is usually provided by coal oil and nuclear generating facilities which are expensive assets with a long return time on investment and cannot easily change the amount of energy they produce. Intermediate generation is provided by spinning reserves and purchases from other utilities on-the-spot energy market. Load following and peaking are generally provided by gas fire generators or diesel generators. With renewables like hydro, wind, geothermal and solar fitting in where they are available, perhaps the most talked-about problem with solar energy is the duct curve the issue of solar providing its maximum output at a time that does not easily meet the load profile. Experienced either by the homeowner or the utility, notice how the load curve is pushed lower and lower as more solar production is added to the grid. Leaving the utility with the choice to turn off expensive assets that are difficult to restart try and sell the excess energy to another utility who needs it for the moment or the most common choice which is to curtail the renewable energy production. This is the easiest solution, but then the benefits of the renewable energy, which is cheap fuel, is lost.
Here is the solar production curve in green, and a typical home energy use curve in blue. Most homes have a peak in the morning and a bigger peak in the evening. As you can see, the main portion of a home’s usage falls outside the solar production window. This is where the deepening belly of the duct curve comes from as production exceeds demand during the solar production window. The following graphs will help illustrate the problem in adding renewables to the grid in areas of the U.S. Solar energy has reached a five to ten percent penetration in the energy mix. It seems small and we wonder why it would cause the utilities such problems, but unlike other generation assets, renewables are not available 24 hours a day, unless they include storage. Currently, 95% of new solar installations are grid interactive only. This graph shows a contribution of 5% to the energy mix from solar generation looked at over 24 hours. In reality, we see that a 5% energy contribution from solar without storage actually provides 30% of generation during the main solar production hours and nothing outside that window. A 10% contribution of solar without energy storage provides 55% of generation during the peak of the day, which pushes into base load generation and forces the utility to ramp down or turn off other generation elements and sell the extra energy on the spot market if possible. The other option is curtailment. This is where the renewable generation is turned off or throttled down, which is much easier for the utility to do but then the benefits of the renewable generation are lost.
So how do we fix this problem? This is the same energy curve we looked at before, only with energy storage added to the home. Notice that the extra energy is now stored during the solar production window; instead of being sold back to the utility and time shifted for use during the homes high use times. The utilities like this energy shift from the batteries as it allows your home to appear to them as net zero, in other words no effect since they need to predict with some accuracy the load profile for their system to operate as efficiently as possible. Time shifting of the energy production does not equate to battery backup, unless the renewable energy system includes a smart inverter which can isolate the home from the grid during an outage forming its own micro grid. The top two pictures show systems with lead acid and nickel-iron batteries. Notice the size special containment and venting requirements. The bottom pictures show systems with new battery technology. Notice the size difference of these systems. They do not require special containment venting or security.
Making and using your own energy connects you to the environment much as our ancestors were. When the Sun was shining they did laundry and when it was cloudy or rainy they waited for a sunny day. With a solar plus energy storage system you will be more mindful of how much energy you are producing and how much you are using. Often, upgrades for energy efficiency are part of a total solar system installation allowing a smaller system and reducing costs. Knowing how your home uses energy provides valuable information. We believe that system energy monitoring will be part of solar powers systems moving forward. At the beginning of the solar revolution, the grid was able to accept the power generated from renewables with little effect. At the levels now being added to the grid, the utilities face major changes to their infrastructure, rate schedules, asset management, and future planning. Most utilities are not opposed to renewable energy. What they want to do is slow down its adoption to a rate that allows for better long-term planning and control. For the energy market, solar is a disruptive technology. It gives customers choices never before available and forces dramatic changes in the way utilities plan and operate storage systems. It provides a number of benefits to the utilities in addition to the homeowners, even if they are not coupled with renewable energy sources like solar or wind. Batteries have been the weak link in storage systems. with the best and least expensive options being the lead-acid related technologies, which have not changed much since their invention over a hundred years ago. The industry is now seeing increased research and development with breakthroughs in battery technology, largely driven by the desire for longer life in cell phones, laptops, and other personal electronics. The solar industry has benefited from this research and along with electric vehicles. They have helped to increase the demand for better battery storage options; this is something that we’ll look at in a future solar mini class. I hope you will join me then. Thank you.
Hi my name is Cecil Harrison. I’ve been a nationally certified solar design engineer for the last 14 years. Welcome to this series of mini classes on solar power. I hope to answer in these videos most of the questions that homeowners have as they consider installing a solar power system.
Let’s start with a quick review of the different system types and some strengths and weaknesses. Grid interactive systems come in three types: string inverters, micro inverters, and optimizers. All of these systems produce and sell energy to the grid. They are the cheapest to install. They have the quickest payback time, but they provide no power. In an outage, if the grid goes down they go down.
Grid interactive with storage – there are two types. The first provides storage for load shift load shape, but again if the grid goes down it goes down. However it does give you a net zero home. Net zero means your home makes and uses all its own energy without buying from or selling to the grid. The second type provides backup in an outage. These systems have the ability to isolate from the grid forming a micro grid. They do have a longer payback time. Stand-alone systems are usually not grid connected and most often use a generator. The thing is backup these systems are the most expensive with the longest payback time.
While utility bills do not all look the same they all contain the same information. This is an example of a Rocky Mountain power bill. The graph in the upper right corner shows the average daily usage for each month of the year. By adding up the amount from each month and then dividing by the number of months (in this case 13) will give us the average daily usage. You can also add each month’s actual usage from 12 months bills and then divided by 365 days to get an accurate daily usage. The first question that you need to ask when considering a solar power system is “how much do I need?” Some companies are happy to fill your entire roof with solar panels; however there is no reason to install more solar than you actually need. If your bill goes to zero with 12 panels it will go to 0 with 30 panels; however you don’t know the difference and the power company gets all that extra energy for free while you have the added cost of solar panels (which will never pay for themselves since these systems are modular). It’s best to install only what you need. If your lifestyle or electrical needs change (like adding an electric vehicle) more panels can be added at a later date. Let’s look at numbers from a real project. The cost for this homeowner to generate their own electricity is a little over eight cents a kilowatt hour figured over its 25-year warranty lifetime. Most systems however will continue to provide this cost savings beyond that 25 year period. Using the available incentives can make a huge difference in the lifetime cost of the power produced. These incentives have started ramping down and will be gone by 2024. If we look at the actual out-of-pocket cost for this homeowner, the cost of generating energy is about five cents a kilowatt hour. To compare this to the cost of the power that you purchase from the utility company, you will need to take your bills total cost divide it by the total kilowatt hours used during that billing period. To get a true cost per kilowatt hour, since your utility bill includes taxes, multiple rate tiers, franchisee and other fees, you don’t get a true cost by just using the stated cost per kilowatt hour. For the customer in our example, it is 11 and a half cents. This customer saves 6 and a half cents per kilowatt hour by generating their own electricity. To show you how we figured the actual cost per kilowatt hour here is the customer’s bill. If we take the total cost $95 and divide that by the total usage 823 kilowatt hours we come up with a cost of eleven and a half cents.
As you can see, a properly installed system can save you money over its lifetime. These numbers are based on projections and what you personally experience will be different, but you will certainly realize the savings. If this customer were to purchase their next 25 years of energy at the current cost with no rate increase their solar power system, it would save them a little over $17,000. If the utilities continue to receive their normal rate increases their solar power system will save this customer over $94,000 in that twenty five year period. I hope that the information in this video has been helpful and that you will join us for the other mini classes in this series. Thank you.
It was very refreshing to be able to have a company come out give you an estimate and they charged me exactly what they estimated. They sized out the power grids I guess for the solar panels that I would need. We had to talk about quite a few different options as to where things were gonna go and you know how it was all gonna work and they were really willing to work with me and make it happen the way I wanted it to happen. They worked hard on the install. They were very pleasant. Very courteous and professional and answered my questions. I wouldn’t consider even going to someone else. They’ve been fabulous to work with. We wouldn’t hesitate recommending them because we feel so good about what they do.
Full Transcript: Hello, my name is Cecil Harrison. I’ve been a nationally certified solar design engineer for the last 14 years. I hope in this series of videos to answer most of the questions that you as a homeowner may have as you consider the installation of a solar power system on your home or business. Today we will be looking at some purchasing considerations that you should take into account as you decide which solar company to hire.
When you go for a haircut the person providing that service is required by the state of Utah to have a license and to meet a continuing set of standards to maintain that license. The solar industry in Utah is unregulated by the state. Anyone who wants to install solar can start a business and provide that service. Because of the safety requirements in the National Electrical Code and the possibility of damage to your home the majority of states do require that solar companies have an electrical license and that they meet the national standards for solar installations provided by NABCEP. There are over 180 solar companies in Utah, however, only a handful of these companies have the licensing and certification that shows they have the knowledge and adhere to the standards required to design and safely install a solar energy system. Make sure you choose a company with the proper credentials. Many will tout their experience, but if their experience consists of installing hundreds of systems incorrectly that does not benefit you as a customer. Most solar companies have been in business for only a few years and many disappear after two or three years.
Many companies, especially those using door knockers, are sales only companies. They contract the actual installation of your system to someone else. This creates a situation where if you have problems it is very difficult to get your system repaired. The sales company will refer you to the install company who will then explain that you will have to go to the sales company to arrange for any additional work. A solar power system is an expensive long-term investment. Most customers want a company that will be there to take care of that system for its lifetime. Does the company provide a workmanship warranty, in other words do they stand behind the quality of their work. A workmanship warranty is different than the warranties provided by the equipment manufacturers. As I have looked at systems that are not working or not working as promised the equipment is usually fine 99% of the time. The problems are related to improper design and installation. Recently, I was asked to look at a system where the owners electric bill had not changed in the 11 months since the system had been installed. The owners had contacted the solar company multiple times only to be told their system was working fine and that their energy usage must have increased. When I looked at the inverter it showed an arc fault. An electric arc burns at 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit and can only be caused when a system is wired incorrectly. Before the NEC required inverters to monitor arc faults, solar power systems had been responsible for a number of fires. For this customer their system had not produced a single kilowatt hour of energy until the fault was found and corrected in February. I was at a Home Show when a lady walked by and said “I have solar and it doesn’t work. My electric bill went up, not down. I just wasted my money.” We offered to look at her system. The company who did her install did not obtain a building permit from the city. They simply installed the system turned it on and collected the final payment. The utilities require a signed inspection from the city before they will install a net meter, so this person had been paying for all the energy she used plus all the energy her system produced.
These examples, unfortunately, are not rare. Another important consideration if your system is installed by a company that is not licensed and certified and your home is damaged because of improper installation, your insurance company will most likely not cover the damage. Solar panels need direct sunlight to produce their rated output. It only requires a short drive to find a home where the panels are improperly installed. Panels that are mounted where the roof is shaded the majority of the day or mounted facing north will never produce enough energy to pay for themselves.
Avoid high-pressure sales tactics. Never sign a contract the same day as a consumer. You need time to research the company’s online reviews and Better Business Bureau ratings. Ask the company to provide contact information for customers for whom they have installed systems in your area. Ask those customers about their experience and satisfaction. Look at the quality of the installation on their home, is it something you would be happy with on your home. Get several bids and then compare apples to apples. Take the total price of each system and divide it by the size of the solar array in watts to give you a dollar per watt cost for grid interactive systems. Without battery storage this should be close to three dollars per installed watt. If the bid is higher or lower ask why. Some companies offer to get you 30% off a new roof heating system or more insulation. Make no mistake, the federal investment tax credit for solar is only for solar. If the install company uses the ITC for other things, they put you at risk. The IRS will apply any penalties or fines to you as the purchaser not to the installation company. Read carefully any financing paperwork. Many solar financing options are the most expensive money you can borrow. Usually the best financing options are those you can arrange with your own banking institution. The same is true for leasing or Power Purchase Agreements read them carefully. The good news is designed and installed correctly solar energy systems will last for many years providing savings and security to the owner. I hope that this has been helpful and that you will join me for the other solar power mini classes in this series. Thank you.
An 8-MW landfill gas project has begun in California’s Solano County:The landfill gas-to-energy plant uses advanced environmental controls to treat incoming landfill gas to reduce sulfur prior to combustion. Post-combustion catalytic reduction further lowers carbon monoxide and formaldehyde emissions.
In Conjunction with The Blue Sky Program:“The Magna Water and Sewer district will install green solar panels at its new water conservation demonstration garden for visitors to learn about solar power.”
Eagle Mountain Water Sustainability Plan:Eagle Mountain mentioned its in-progress comprehensive water sustainability plan, which is supported by Utah State University. Eagle Mountain is also part of a public/private partnership to preserve raptor habitat.
One Million Solar Installations:It took 40 years to get to one million installations in the U.S. but it will take just two years to get to two million.
Clean Renewable EnergyCoolPlanet focuses on transforming renewable, non-food biomass into hydrocarbon fuels like gasoline, jet, diesel and a bio-carbon soil enhancement called CoolTerra. Their proprietary energy solutions focus on building an improving agricultural markets. Elevance uses a new and proprietary technology called olefin metathesis. They create novel specialty chemicals from renewable feedstocks with the goal of delivering everyday products that exceed the performance of existing ones, while leaving a smaller environmental footprint.
Energy SupplyProterra is a manufacture of zero-emission, battery-electric vehicles enabling bus fleet operators to reduce operating costs and provide clean, quiet transportation to the community. The world’s most fuel-efficient bus, the Proterra Catalyst™, is available with on-route, fast-charge technology that enables infinite range and in-yard slow charging. Sonnenbatterie manufactures Smart-storage systems for renewable energies. They market to homes and small businesses that want to be independent from conventional power supply.
Solar InnovationsProgressive Power Solutions is a a pioneer in Utah for providing residences and businesses with clean emergency backup power. Solar generators produce power all day, storing it in batteries. They then supply that stored power to the connected appliances on a needed or “on-demand” basis.
No matter the real estate costs, solar energy can reduce your energy bill. You will also be prepared for the energy costs increases that are coming. This is why solar energy is a smart thing to look into. Here are a few simple things you can first consider when beginning to explore the idea of “going solar”.
The amount of energy produced depends on the efficiency of your solar panels as well as the number of solar panels installed. Be sure and crunch the numbers to see how many solar panels you’ll need to install. Progressive Power Solutions of Orem Utah believes it is better to buy the highest performance panels or what they call “investment grade” solar.
Do not think that taking advantage of solar energy requires you to completely tear off the roof. As a starting point, you can replace all exterior sources of illumination with solar powered lamps and light sources. They will charge during the day and provide plenty of light throughout the night.
When thinking about going solar, you can start out small. There are two different ways to accomplish this. You might seek out solar panels that can be mounted on or in a window for recharging portable electronic items. The second is to check out solar-powered camping supplies. Each solar option you choose is one you will not have to pay for on your electric statement.
Unlike just one or two years ago, there are now a number of ways to finance or lease a solar energy system. Just be sure you can transfer the lease should you choose to move out of your home in the future. This is critical, because in the event you decide to move, you do not want to keep paying for solar units that are of little use to you. When you have this option in your contract, you and your prospective buyers can both reap the rewards. Progressive Power will be happy to help you explore different options available here.
Your solar panels should be installed so that they can get the maximum amount of sun through the year. Investing in a sun tracker or an adjustable mount may be something you want to consider, so you can change the angle of your panels throughout the day or change their orientation for each new season. Depending on the layout of your home and the number of panels required this may or may not be needed, but again Progressive Power Solutions knowledgeable team will be able to discuss these options with you during a no obligation home or business evaluation.
Solar power is an amazing thing! It can improve your home, your energy costs, and help the planet! An expert at Progressive Power Solutions would be happy to visit you and do a complete solar evaluation, to layout options of moving over to solar energy and to answer any questions you have about installing solar on your home or business.
To learn more, contact Progressive Power Solutions today at (801) 367-7282 or go to www.ppswest.com.