Sunday, November 17, 2013

String vs Micro-inverters... I found a pretty good comparison.

Aussie Made Solar has a pretty good pro/con size-up of the micro-inverters (usually one per panel) and traditional string inverters (just one for the whole shebang.)

The biggest difference to me is the lifespan. The micro-inverters should last as long as the panels (25 years) while the string inverters are considered a success if they last 20% of that. But that is just one of the issues - they do a good job of thinking out several issues including the crew size.  Take a look and let me know what you think.

Oh, uparmoring the conduits for the highvoltage DC runs is also an expense that does not jump out until, well... it jumps out.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Securitizing Solar Backed Assets. Nice to see the rates are so reasonable

SolarCity announced some good news on their efforts to rap up parts of their business, sell them off as Securities and roll the money forward.

Street Insider has the story. They frame it as good news for SunPower and I suppose it is. Beating the rate you expected by 2% over a 13 year period is a pretty strong indication that your credit is good. So Congrats to SolarCity. I'm going to let them off the hook on predicting because it is a new market and until a match is found, it is just guess-work...

I'm foggy on how those instruments wrap up at the end. Who owns what. The security holders have their money back with the interest. I guess the contract for Power Purchase is still in play so the income still flows to SolarCity and there is no more debt to service... Maybe they can do it again?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Meyer Berger - Welcome to the Thunder Dome!

check 'em out:

A new flat panel hybrid from the Swiss company Meyer Berger.

One of the selling points is that they are made in Thune (Switzerland.)  In one of the press releases they are promoting its use as a geothermal probe recharge method. Smart. That would mean lower temps which means more electric production but the pumping cost are non trivial: 50 to 100 liters per hour (per panel) to keep it down to 80c. Obviously lower temps would require more pumping. The fittings are 10 mm diameter.

They reference vacuum technology but I do not see where it is folded into the design looking at the PDF cited above. It is patented but the patent may not be held by them? I could not find it.

Some more digging is in order I suppose.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Back in 2011 I should have listened to my own advice and shorted a bunch of CPV

In an email (I wrote) I just saw again today, I read this:
 I wish I could find some time and some speculative money to short them as a group. Not just based on your reservations but my own. Such huge engineering inputs and robust gear waiting around for Spectrolab to get the triple junctions price down. And all that front-side risk just to hand themselves over to utility companies (who have access to cheap aperture and have to mark it up for retail) to get roughed up. And the redundancy of the work from company to company. They all have their own proprietary but indistinguishable stuff it seems. I have a licensing exit as my goal but most of these VC types want to build a soup-to-nuts company. So I considered (as an exercise) just suggesting we develop my product while staying as virtual as possible and then buy a concentrator company for pennies on the dollar when we need a manufacturing arm. While we work on our value - we'd let them grow wild (and let the herd thin while we got our act together.) Finally, we'd harvest the best bargain when and if we needed it.

Grim, I know, but there you have it.

SolFocus spins out...

I was reading one of their reports on progress to the NREL. Serious development on many fronts. But being beholding to fickle investor pools and on what I call the "wrong side of the meter" finally caught up with this pretty classy outfit.

more over at PVMagazine

Here is the report I was reading. I wonder what IP they have and for what price?

Monday, October 21, 2013 pretty good at laying out their case!

Nice slide share

I've been stalking them. May be time to pounce.

CPV leaders, we need better answers than this! I'm looking at you Amonix and SolFocus...

From the fine folks at PV-Insider' recent round-up "is CPV meeting expectations?"

According to Amonix, benefits of this installation include the zero percentage of water used in power production, flexible scalability enabling quicker energy and revenue generation, and the minimal usage of land – only five acres were used per MW of installed capacity.  In addition, the dual-axis tracking that was employed prevents permanent land shading.

No water use, Lower acreage of land and prevents permanent land shading? Wow. LCOE is nowhere to be seen...

I was going to grouse about the shade issue but in stand alone settings consistent shade is not necessarily a benefit like it is on a building top. Keeps dust down to have plants growing below. Maybe goats to keep them in check and provide some dual use. Still. This is weak medicine.

Here is a more comprehensive report on tangential costs and considerations for CPV vs others

Berkeley CPV Environmental Report_05_16_2012

 Been too long between posts. Sorry fans.

(OH I know... SolFocus is gone so they have nobody to answer the call)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Buried lead : Los Angeles Utility to pay a premium for peak watts to Distributed Generators

First off DUH. From page 2 of this Inside Climate News story. (never heard of them either but this story had a pretty good level of detail.)

"Farrell pointed to programs by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and Austin Energy in Texas as leading examples. The Los Angeles utility recently rolled out a 100-megawatt feed-in tariff program for distributed solar projects, with a twist. The utility will pay developers 17 cents for every kilowatt-hour of solar electricity. But solar power produced in the middle of the day and during hot summer months—peak demand periods—will earn extra money on top of that, as much as 2.25 cents more per unit."
I mean really, duh. If you don't pay users for those watts they'll just use them themselves and you'll have nothing to resell, and you'll have to get back on that grid building treadmill - in a time when more folks push back and say "don't charge me for long transmission lines - I don't use them." And they are finally right to a degree and that degree is growing.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Counting - what do we count? watts? watts peak? Wm^2? GWhr/Acre/yr? $/W? LCOE? ROI?

Moving targets everywhere when it comes to counting and accounting for solar.

Here is a summary of land use rates for solar power:

Really neat to have it run together in one place. It has a huge utility bias of course. Rooftops have so many other services they are offering that disentangling the cost of land for those installations is a no go. There might be some way to compare by using parking cover structures... Anyhow, lots to learn here I think:

First was something called Direct Area

which is weird... (you can't build without ancillary-land slop so why analyze direct?)
so instead lets attend to the TOTAL AREA. (shown next)

That right-hand column is the meat and seeing the direct (whatever that is) vs total land. I think total land is more important. And 2-Axis CPV is looking pretty impressive. Even to me a CPV skptic (unhybridized at least) it is neat to see aperture (basically) given some respect.

OK... there is plenty more there to read and learn. More when I have had some digestive time.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Seeing around corners - NYT opinionator on letting go of nukes

I'm back at the grindstone.

first up:

I'm not sure about all the cost figures but the overall gist "let's remember nuclear has many many expensive and unsolved problems" strikes me as right on.

It makes me think about how by now, if it were going to really be safe we'd have seen the cost  and risk curves go in the right direction but nobody in the private sector is interested in underwriting the risks of new plants both energy wise nor disaster wise.  The formula is supposed to be
1) we produce a product/service for X and
2) sell it for X+
where X+ is enough to justify the risk of doing it in the first place.

YES that is an over-simplification. But if we get too far from it... we get in trouble.  I do see there is a place for keeping the door open to innovation by stimulating experiments and disturbing monopolies.  But the long history of subsidizing nuclear power plants and putting off the disposal issues strikes me as not the same thing. I could be wrong. But the point of the opinionator piece I think lands either way: renewables and distributed power and conservation are all growing fast are mutually reinforcing and could just fill in to address our load with carbon neutral juice and leave conventional plants with less and less to do. If those plants have, wrapped up in their fundamentals a bunch of thousand year poison - that we get if we run the plant or not... seems like we should think twice or thrice.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Just got to keep your eyes out for groovy reports... like this one

Working through the ARPA-E FOE FOCUS Funding Opportunity Announcement and this turns up:


Just read the abstract. I'll wait... 

Pretty darn cool no? It was done with 2008 data but it is not terribly time sensitive information. And I think it over simplified the uses temperature vs the advantageous delivery temperatures (you'll want to  have, in most cases a higher temp on the sources to deliver energy to the "thing to warm." You can touch the hot toast (thing to be warmed) but not the toaster element.  But still, the high quality dense energy we generate at such losses (energy system losses are huge - see the report!) are misused when we drive even "efficient" low-temp loads. Solar thermal is a great (zero emissions) source for low temp heat and a good source for medium temp heat. This report shows how broad the need is for low and medium temp heat and is enticing as to how much in the way of greenhouse gas displacement it can accomplish.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Concentrator PV (CPV) companies notably absent at Intersolar SF

Maybe they are just saving their powder for the September CPV conference in SF?

PV insider conference 
(I can't embed a vimeo video... sorry)

Amonix High Concentration Photovoltaic and Solaria Low Concentration Photovoltaic presentation are pretty interesting. I'd forgotten about the Solaria approach, they slice Silicon cells cell up and attach those slices to thick and shaped glass panels that lens the light down to the slices at a 3 x concentration. Like me they want to leverage the Silicon supply that the flat panel industry has created. They do, as a result of the lensing, need 1 axis tracking, but they get some extra strength from the thickness of the glass. Enough to ditch the module frame (some non trivial aluminum expense.)

That conference sounds like a winner to me. I'm off to mark up the calendar.

"Curtailment of PV" or revenge of the Orphan Watts...

The famous uneven distribution of the future prompts us all to look around for what might be the shape of things to come. Germany and Hawaii are both at the leading edge of solar PV uptake. So I sat up and took notice when I saw this:
"A recent analysis finds that a new German program offering up to 660 EUR/kW subsidy for storage tied to PV will not lower battery payback periods enough to induce new investment.(10) Germany’s solar incentives now require PV systems to have a curtailment capability, to allow shut-off during periods of grid instability.(11)
here are the citations:
10 Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Will Germany’s energy storage subsidy spur investment?” London. (2013) p. 1.
and 11 Fulton, M. and Capalino, R., “The German Feed-in Tariff: Recent Policy Changes.” New York: Deutsche Bank (2012) p. 21
(I found it in the FOCUS FOA from ARPA-E (link later in this post)

So... what is "curtailment" in the context of PV? Curtailment is throwing away energy that cannot be matched to demand at that moment (Electricity has a fierce stale date: basically immediate.) Because of the unbidden rise and fall of the PV output it cannot easily be responded to by the various base-load supporting generators. Those generators need to ramp up and down. Those are mostly not built for throttling etc.

Down in the weeds it gets ugly. Here is a pretty good paper on it in the context of storage of CSP (Concentrating Solar Power - the current term for high temp solar thermal collection): Enabling Greater Penetration of Solar Power...

The FOA that tipped me off to the issue is here at ARPA.

Load management (and yes, storage) is looking like a great place to be. The smart grid cannot come soon enough if we hope to keep the gains that come from PV and other renewables.  For instance: freezers that go extra-cold when there is spare electricity available (a prepaid expense.) How about a clothes washer that sits waiting to pounce on extra watts? Same for a dishwasher and so-called "vampires" the small standby loads and converter boxes - if they could get a tiny bit of smarts they could wait for the scrap watts. OH I like that, "scrap watts." Or how about, "orphan watts." I'll keep working on that. What do you think?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Smart grid one day... Smart house maybe sooner.

Here is a neat story about efforts to improve what they gracelessly call "self-consumption."

The buried lead is here:
With IBC SolStore Pb Home, IBC SOLAR not only presents the newest generation of its proven battery storage solutions, but also allows customers to take advantage of German government incentives for solar storage systems: the IBC SolStore Pb Home complete system fulfils all current requirements of the German government’s storage incentive programme that entered into force on May 1st 2013 and that covers up to 30 percent of the acquisition costs. Inter alia, IBC SOLAR offers a seven-year guarantee.

I guess there are worse behaviors to incentivize. And they deserve credit for emphasizing smartening up the use of electricity as a way to get more out of the batteries and the system overall. PV forecasting I find especially neat. By having effectively a home energy Operating System and developing on that as a software platform they might be changing things in ways we are not yet understanding.

check them out:

Or the pdf of the press release

I, for one, will watch this space.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Quick update for the bots reading this blog :^)

Thing one... Thermocouple wire is some stiff grumpy stuff and I do not appreciate "creativity" in the color coding of the insulation.

Thing two... In the category of "the perversity of inanimate objects" the cute little type K male and female plugs are far less cute when they are missing their screw terminals... who knew?

Neat stories out there on the changing economic landscape.

Islands! are a great market for Solar. Makes lots of sense.

Japan is an island nation. A HUGE island, but an island. And since Fukushima they've had a renewed interest in solar and all things not nuclear. Here is a story about how they are poised to be the biggest market for solar.

Monday, May 27, 2013

More future think... PV for export AC for rent (and income diversification)

Like I wrote last time, I'm thinking about how a high temperature hybrid could change the way the economics work. It is a real exercise in imagination and takes me to some exciting possibilities.

For me, in my native/instinctive pattern of thought the problem is efficiency. I've taken to saying that 20% efficiency in PV systems (which is on the whole generous) "chaps my little green heart." But I should admit it is as much my thrifty/cheap heart as my green heart that feels the pangs. But that is just MY personal launching : cheat more from the sun.  But there are other perspectives. And they have some important contributions to make.

So let's give them a go...

Among the other, very important, perspectives I have considered over the last two years are those of installers, manufacturers and building owners.  They seem natural constituents to keep an eye on, right? But yesterday some other constituencies came to mind: utilities, PPA providers & aggregators. (PPA's, I should add, are Power Purchase Agreements and they have played an important role in the roll out of solar power in the US market.) Those financiers and their machinations are surprisingly important. Even more so in this cash strapped period. ( I understand that I should set aside China in this discussion since, I'm told, they have a much more straightforward finance approach: save and then buy gear to save more.)

But here in the USofA, and elsewhere, the financiers have a place at the table. And a similar place exists for power companies and a new breed of project developers that have moved in to drive the specification/finance and building of PV and wind farms in fields all over the place. But also on roof tops. These independent operators see the opportunity in creating powerplants and inserting them into appropriate places on the grid and they take care of the finance and management issues to capture the accelerated depreciation and then get into contract with the owner of the building that needs the power. Fairly complex but then so are a lot of modern economic arrangements.

But a hybrid, a hot-hybird at least, creates another opportunity: A virtualized power generation company could be created using this technology to diversify the income base.  A company of this type could agrigate a bunch of roof-tops in the following way...

Create a PPA with many building owners that sells them Shade, Heat and Air Conditioning Services... creating a mulit-source income stream (in effect, negative rent for the rooftop space/aka solar aperture.) The second income stream comes from selling the electrical production from the whole fleet of arrays. A fleet installed all over an incumbant power distribution utility's service area. The PPA company negotiates this product as a renewable insertion to the power supply (helping to meet renewable goals) and ties to it some sort of dispatchable power source (like a gas plant) to make it perform more like a base supply than a fluctuating renewable supply (and demand a higher, albeit wholesale, price.) As the market evolves, having the watts generated at or near the demand locations may allow for better deals on energy grid transport costs (short grid hops) or conversion to meter-bypassing hookups (to get retail prices.) 

What would be a meter-bypassing load? A shop with lots of air power tools could have two compressors (one DC and one AC even) and use the grid AC driven one as a backup. The renewable watts that drive the compressor would never have to touch the grid. Just one private transaction.

Additional streams of income can also come from:
  • credit for demand reduction from the HVAC services 
  • carbon credits etc 
  • and who knows what else different markets might provide
  • roofing service?
Yes, this is more economic complexity, but it is added to mitigate at least some of the hazards of a singular income/customer-base in the very competitive energy sector. Much nicer for a company to be on both the wholesale side as well as the retail side of the energy business. It also rationalizes things a bit in that almost nobody wants a power plant. What they DO want is power to do their work. So this puts the power plant onto the books of (and into the care of) those who really do want to make and sell power.  If you want to make money in power, doing it on a hobby-scale is a lousy business. At a larger scale it can work. This approach, to my surprise, makes the hot hybrid scalable to a degree I had not anticipated.

A while back, as an exercise, I thought about how a district heat system might work as a way to justify a large-field, utility-style array. Classic inventor-guy fantasy of their product paving acres and acres of land as far as the eye can see... But the relatively low temps and the infrastructure demands did not strike me as an obvious big win (a lovely fantasy but economically a bit dim.) And so I thought I'd have to leave the utility-scale installations to the flat panel PV folks. But now that I can see the role of mediators and aggrigators in the scene, maybe that is not too crazy after all! In the sunbelt, an array that runs efficiently even when the ambient temp is at its worse is worth a good deal all by itself. If it also supplied a small ice business or food processor with chilling and sanitary heat for water, how cool would that be? Plenty cool.

Do you have a thought about how a hot hybrid might be employed? Let me know!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Batteries are to PV what Tanks are to Thermal - Expensive Extras

My project is to develop a high temperature thermal collector that still generates respectable voltages (and thus maximized watts) for electrical service.

Sometimes I have to "game out" imagining how my new kind of collector would behave, once installed into the economic and energy ecosystem of today and tomorrow. And I find crazy (surprising) implications all the time. It makes communicating to people presently in the solar business tricky. They have a pretty darn good grip on what IS (to the detriment of seeing what could be.)

Take the title of the is post. In a thermal system the storage tanks are the batteries. Which is a fine analogy. Might not even be an analogy as battery is a word for storage and we've only recently confined it to electrical storage. Anyhow, storage is tricky. It is good if you gain (whatever it is) slowly and then use it in bursts. But there are losses in the movement to and from storage. The longer the storage the greater the losses. There is probably a law somewhere about the loss factor in storage and academics cranking out ways to reflect that loss factor into larger calculations. But first and foremost amongst the losses in storage systems is the cost of the container and collection system itself. What if you could do without? Then for the life of the system you don't have that cost (or the losses.) You get to skip buying it, financing it, disposing of it in the end, maintaining it, securing it, even thinking of it in some cases. This is the wisdom behind Just In Time ______ (fill in the blank.) It is trickier to manage in most cases but cost cutting on something you didn't really need is a big win if you can swing it.

That is an obvious thing these days right?

How does this apply to my hot hybrid? Well, if the coolant can run up to a high temperature then those BTUs can drive a chiller right away. No need to store the heat - put it to work immediately. This does two things:
1) Chops down the size of the storage requirements in the summer since the work is extracted as it becomes available.
2) Reduces the size of the thermal storage required in the winter (as the temps are higher the same energy can be stored in a smaller space.)

It gets better.

This same "higher temp is better" and "use it now" approach can be used in the winter as space heating support. High performance buildings might need to store the energy in classical tanks and "sip" the BTUs overnight but still others could load that heat into thermal mass within the building envelope and let it radiate through the night. By now you know I like dual purpose things so walls that store energy on the cheap (another value of mine) are winners in my book.

The big win on this immediate use is in the summer, however.  Many solar thermal systems have to be downsized to prevent summer stagnation and blowouts. But an immediate, high value use for those BTUs changes the game for what the solar specifier would pitch:

1) Less storage - AKA overhead.
2) More collection area with over-heat worries gone and a "more is better" model - AKA new income.

I wonder what else we don't have to buy if we re-imagine with abundance in mind. Nobody wants any of this gear - they want what it  produces: service. Are there other services heat can do beyond the HVAC world?

Also, are there better deals for a grid tied system owner than selling to the grid? This is part of the future we need to think about. If the generation during the day grows and subsidies go away it might be better to use the energy than sell it for too cheap. What if your house was smart enough to hold back electrical loads for some functions until the PV array was going full tilt? Or your system predicted the production and ran a mini-auction for the juice? (I'm starting to sound like an Enron Exec so I'll stop there) ugh.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Paul Saffo had a neat talk about forecasting.

Hey All,

Paul Saffo  SVForum about forecasting... One of the great pull quotes is "If you want an easy overnight success - find a technology that as been failing for 20 years." I wonder where we are on the 20 year curve for PV? and more importantly on distributed power and smart(ish) grid stuff.

If I am in the concentrator business, which I guess I am kind of am, the 20 years for this is pretty ripe (cf Amonix's history.)

OH i can save you a click:

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Another PV-T Hybrid pops up (and in the US of all places)

Solar Zentrum

They placed an article in "North American Clean Energy Magazine"

It looks like the print version is ahead of the online version (and that the author works at Solar Zentrum.) I had hoped to link to the story if they had posted it but maybe we have to wait.

I wanted to point out that they snuck in a very odd special case for their impressive info graphic, one that kind of points out the trouble with conventional hybrids. To generate their flattering "20% more" they used very cool rain water to knock down the heat. This is not uniformly, or even commonly available as a resource "in any climate zone." And it makes a huge difference. Getting a panel down to 77 degrees from 145 (F) is not a trivial thing. 1 gallon of water every two hours or so and remember it needs to exit at 77 (or below.) Rainwater turned into less cool rainwater, now what? water the greenhouse? Hardly a common scenario.

Kinda casts an unflattering light on on the magazine too. That info graphic is (along with being done with too small print and low contrast) troubling. Like why is the irradiance shown on such a small vertical scale? and why did it run for such a short time? Did they, like me, run out of rainwater?


Friday, April 26, 2013

Now IBM wants to play the hybrid game

So Google Alerts is out there sniffing out occurrences of "Hybrid Photovoltaic Thermal" and sometimes brings back a big prize.

Yikes does this look expensive! They say it is not an expensive design concept. I see a part that requires a crane and microchannel (some cooling scheme) multi-junction cells and 2000X concentration - all expensive literally or by implication.

I'm living the "Lean Startup Dream" here at Muppet Labs, so when I see this:
Such a system is currently being developed by researchers at IBM Research, Airlight Energy, ETH Zurich, and Interstate University of Applied Sciences Buchs NTB, after winning a three-year $2.4 million grant from the Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation.
Oh, and the video too, where more $ worth of people and gear is on display than I have deployed in the entire course of my project:

OK gotta sleep. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Who will own the gear?

Here is a discussion about the future of Solar Leasing as the ownership model for solar gear.

PPA's and equipment leases and the Tax Equity manipulation (sorry, my bias is showing) and the arbitrage of the accelerated depreciation available to the companies rather than the roof owner. They all get a quick touch here.

It seems like they agree on the math (yay, always a good sign) but the psychology is another matter.

There is a standing problem here which is that NONE of today's solar companies really have the deep roots that give a customer a strong sense that they are very likely to be around in 10 years. We saw the auto companies almost evaporate and gigantic banks and investment houses that sounded like household names vanish. The psychology issue is an interesting one to think about. What company could lend its name to a system that would act as a "you will not be stranded" message.

OR, like cars do we bring down the cost such that in 10 years you just feel like the extra miles are bonus for a lucky pick. To take the win but had it gone the other way you'd just figure you got a good 10 years and move on? Furthering this car analogy - what if you knew that the parts in the system were pretty available and that mechanics that could work on your car were pretty populous... Would you worry as much? This could be a great side network effect of the shrinking of the industry's supply of brands. It feels like i am taking a bigger risk of being stranded when picking between 200 brands but if I am picking from a group of 6 or 10 and they are all pretty big it seems less perilous.

Amazing how many forces are at play. I look forward to having somebody else looking forward... :^)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Johnson Controls Cogenra and York team up!

OK we learned a little more and yes...

This IS what I've been talking about!

Dear Reader, this is the moment. Possibly our moment.

Are you are reading this because you are seeing this double whammy of increased efficiency AND reduced load / demand reduction as a game changer?

Do you compete with Johnson Controls or York? or both? We should talk. They have a neat offering, for sure, and it is game changing. But there is a still better way. I'm working on it.  Let them go educate the public about the value and role of hybrids in the generation, conservation plus the air conditioning space.  While they do that we'll generate the version that wins the day. Seriously, I can layout the advantage that I present in about 20 min.

My guess is you are reading this because you understand the problem with temperature and Photovoltaic materials.  And that you get the frustrating "loss" of the thermal potential in most PV collection schemes.  Cogenra makes sense to you but the limits on where they can install and the scale and the granularity and the temperatures seem just short of the win. And 10X suns? is that all?

Ping me.

OK not a hybrid but neat way to stack the Air Conditioning and DC power cards

These guys have a different spin on running Air Conditioning on solar power: just make a DC air conditioner.  Nice. They run it at 24V. I am not sure why they did not go for a higher voltage to sneak out some more efficiency.... I'll leave a question and see what comes of it. But they skip the inverter losses and seem to have made a tidy little unit.

13,500 BTUs... a small RV AC unit size. Not too shabby. The additional goodies (grid-tie option and battery carrier area) seem to be in the "technically feasible but lots of regulations to contend with" category. But the "stand-alone, grid-free AC while the sun shines" part is good to go. I'm guessing there are plenty of customers for that.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cogenra keeps chugging along

Here is a more detailed than usual story. In the Ventura County Naval Community newsletter - you go to source for energy efficiency news evidently.

Take a look at how burly their mounts are. 100 mph winds they say are no problem... I'm ready to believe it.

The story has a prohibition on "redistribution" so I'll leave it over there and aim you.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Solar Industry Mag discusses the troubles of super abundance

OK kinda...

how to deal with the increasing saturation of PV in HI is a really interesting issue and it gets started here: Hawaii's Novel Approach To Solar PV Integration

Let us watch this space. Grid management and renewables is a problem covering up an opportunity. Many opportunities I think.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

quick link to a fun history of Invention in Oakland CA

Fun romp through Oakland California's inventive history. Kinda heavy on the food (sound right - we have serious foodies going waaaaay back. ) Not so far as he Miwok (they ate blanched acorns - yuck) but sometime after first contact things started getting yummy...

Take a look. Someday I could be on that list.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Why am I so posessed by Air Conditioning?

I finished some paperwork today and my reward is some time surfing the web looking at where folks see the energy market going... Lots of neat stuff. Like storage. Wow are folks sure storage is the next big thing. Will it ever be as cheap as demand management or load shifting? I would not have guessed so but the efficiencies some of the players are claiming and the low costs of some of these systems (liquid metal batteries and LightSail energy) might make a believer out of me. But even their new found passion for low cost seems like it might not be enough. I know, lots of "mights" in that. I'm an outsider so I need to hedge my bets.

I don't envy any of them trying to pitch that side (the utility side) of the meter. To me, bypassing the electric utilities has (if you can still keep costs down) the merit of one less middleman (or middlelady or, more likely. middlehorde) and a bit more profit to be had/split with the customer. Further you can diversify your customer base, potentially. But those guys need gear for sure.

But my sense of it is based on the broad energy appetite of buildings (and their inhabitants of course.) And that appetite can be served by electricity AND heat as a service and natural gas and heating oil and wood and even ground temperature differences.  Let's look at a pie chart, may we?

HOLD ON... Check out all the hits on Google Image search when you put in: "household energy use pie chart" Neato! It looks like everybody is doing their own work on this one. Sometimes I search for things and I find the same images used over and over by everybody. But on this, they are not just using their own colors and other decorative choices, they are using their own data too. Yay for regionally specific content... so let's grab some:

Texas? Are you there? Come in Texas! Yes I know you are the second largest State! And yes, I know you used to be a country. Can you show me your pie chart now? I'll bet it is the biggest, right?

Nice work. Y'all should have it made into silver belt buckles or something. Really smart looking...

Readers... (No Texas, I'm not making fun of you - I know you read, I want you to join in this part too) do you notice that all the parts except for appliances and lighting (aka the majority) are thermal? Half is straightup old fashioned heating things up. Water and air... then nearly 20 is cooling things off... (which can be accomplished, albeit inefficiently with heat.) The majority of the loads in Texas can be served with heat. Solar is awesome for heat.

OK... back to the pile o' pies... what looks good... ummm.... Florida? Florida!

Ok now we're styling...  tipped with a slice sliding down, how appetizing. This comes from United Solar. Florida? Why did you put in dollar amounts? Seems like it will make your graphic dated soon. But super for us, right? Again, we have all those heat serviceable loads hanging together and totaling some 77% Same 45% on the space heating and air conditioning. Something Floridians and Texans can agree on.  Lots of folks would round that up to 50%.

What might we learn from the wizard community? Wizards? What say ye? (and try to keep it in pie chart form, ok?)

Stylin'! Those drop-shadows really bring it home. Well played Home Wizard. And again, services that can boil down to heat are the majority.  Very wizardly exclusions too. What an odd batch: Kilns and digital video recorder boxes... you can't be too careful I suppose..

I'm all full up on Pie. Thanks Google, Florida, Texas and Wizards. Great work.

So, if a hybrid can address those thermal needs AND the electric needs it can earn its keep faster. But those air conditioning needs are special in the sunbelt. The are big, concentrated in just a few hours of a few months and they eat the most expensive watts the sunbelt makes: peak summer watts.

So that is why I'm on the lookout for others who would serve that market... and here is a neat story about some of the more interesting ones: Assuming you have been sedated. Which is not unlikely because here you are reading waaay down on my obscure blog. on air conditioning to watch out for.

Interesting that so many are aimed at shaving down the demand there. That is a good idea for sure but it runs the risk of joining lighting projects as the low hanging fruit of efficiency first, generation second. Great for customers, tough on me. I can take it I think. At some point, though as generation prices drop, buying prices rise and efficiency grows the lines will cross on the graph and we'll potentially have super efficient homes serving as widely distributed power plants rather than just lower net-energy users. That will be odd. Exciting and odd. IF we keep pressing.