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Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/14/2009 11:48 AM

What is the break point below which alternative energy is NOT cost effective? While working up an estimate for a customer, I realized the proposed system simply could not be justified on a cost basis and probably not on any other basis either. Customer wanted to switch to a wood burning boiler for hydronic heat. He lives in a forestry mill town in Northern Canada. He has ample free scrap wood. But he wanted to power the circulation pumps with solar power, not utility power. He is at present connected to the grid and plans to continue using utility power for other things but wanted to be "a little less dependent on them". After determining the electrical loads and calculating the amount of solar panels needed, inverter plus batteries to run the inverter during no sun at night and of course during the long winter at latitude 54 with little sun, I concluded this project just did not make economic sense. Cost of the electricity is 8 cents per kilowatt and amounts to $2 per day to run the circulation pumps. Cost of equipment came to $7000 approximately if you used code legal equipment. Meaning certified and approved equipment product instead of just functional and technical suitable equipment.

For instance he wanted an automatic transfer switch in case the battery got depleted, in which case he would switch back to utility power. The only approved transfer switches cost many hundred of dollars and are designed to transfer a whole household power supply. This application only required switching 10 amps at the most. A $15 DPDT Potter and Brumfield relay would suffice. Except it would not be certified as approved for that use. In which case you would have to pay for a 'special inspection' which cost $200.

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#1

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/14/2009 12:15 PM

Canada is an unusual case in that over half your electricity comes from hydro. Normally, you can factor in extra costs such as carbon, unreliability, politics, and so on to see the real cost of grid energy. But, Canada gets less than 30% of it's electricity from fossel fuels and is (I think still) a net exported of electricity. So, you might round up the 8 cents/kWh to, say, 15 cents and then make the comparison on a straight dollar for dollar basis, using some appropriate measure for the value of future money. In this economy, I'm clueless how to do that, but I'm betting Canada is reasonably stable economically?

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#4
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/14/2009 2:43 PM

Okay so the cost to run the hydronic circulation pump increases from $1.92 to $3.60 per day. It will then take 5.3 years of savings to equal the original cost. However, with a minimal system the few batteries used will require replacement at least once and maybe twice due to very deep cycling each day. Add more $$$ to initial capital required. That now pushes the free power day further into the future. Adding sufficient battery capacity to reduce depth of discharge to a point where the bank will last 10 years pushes the point of free power even further away.

It has been calculated by experts that th ebest lead acid battery contains enough lead to last no more than 10 years if cycled per manufacturer's recommendation. Given that many if not most electronic equipment is obsolete in less than 3 years and typically wear out in less than 10 years this becomes a losing proposition. If the break even point becomes 10 or more years the equipment is worn out and you start over again.

The bottom line seems to be the cost of self generated power will always be way moer than utility power. And the vested interests aim to keep it that way by using regulations, restrictions, and other means like artificially high pricing for equipment and permits.

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#6
In reply to #4

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/14/2009 3:02 PM

Thew permits get you every time. I had a job inspected a couple of years back, $250.00 for the permit, the inspector maybe spent five minutes looking at the job, that is $3000.00Hr outrageous.

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#8
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/14/2009 3:13 PM

Yes, but...

At least that part is a level playing field, and your competition has to pay it too.

And the less they look the better, for everyone.

So be glad he didn't feel compelled to "earn his money"?

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#7
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/14/2009 3:08 PM

Yeah - what you said

This is one of the reasons grid-tied systems will continue to make sense.

The cost of getting through the night or several cloudy days is a huge step function on the curve.

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#26
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/15/2009 8:31 AM

The bottom line seems to be the cost of self generated power will always be way moer than utility power.

The economies of scale will get you every time. Except for situations where you have no alternatives, the use of alternative energy sources is not cost-effective.

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#42
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/16/2009 9:00 AM

Let me start out by saying I'm no math master or whizz kid. I'm just a guy who grew up it the town Edison built one of his labs .. My house was just outside the first estate to have electric lighting, DC powered of course.

Good point about the economies of scale. I'm and A/V engineer working in consumer electronics or communications plant Low Voltage applications since 1967 .

10 years ago I was installing a Fujitsu 42'' "HD" TV , yea right, panel for $12,000 US!

Now you can go to Costco and buy any number of 50" "True HD" for $1,200.

If the Grid is as some say only 17% efficient consumers are buying the wrong flat panels.

  • So long as Mining interests can bulldoze off a mountain top into a stream
  • haul the coal 400 miles on trains a a mile long.
  • Then burn it without any real effort to deal with the Carbon ramifications.
  • Transmit the power over thousands of miles of Tesla AC lines
  • Then we literally BURN what is left in 3-5% efficient 19th century Edison lamps..

Does anyone think this is sustainable?

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#43
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/16/2009 9:11 AM

Not too sure this one is Off Topic!

And we haul around 1200 miles to get it to Arizona and sell the output at $.15.

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#44
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/16/2009 11:56 AM

The original question was how to determine what is cost effective compared to other methods of getting electric power. Talking about the alleged efficiency of any given process ( distribution grid) goes way off track. In the original question the comparison was cost of local solar power compared to grid supplied power.

However the post by boogieman does suggest a new thread. ( how do we start that from this). Every protest group with a political agenda seem to twist statistics to suit their own agenda.

I worked in the power industry and we used 5% - 8% as a distribution line loss value. Hydro-electric is probably the most efficient generating source. but then certain activists have tried to portray dams as the biggest evil to happen to civilization.

They claim it interferes with fish habitat. They claim it stops the flow of silt ( and ignores the fact it also stops uncontrolled flooding) They argue that having to dig out the trapped silt is wasteful and expensive. They argue that dams destroy the environment because access roads must be built to transport construction material to the dam site. All of the above claims are true to some extent. However it also ignores the fact letting the water run unchecked to the sea is a total waste since no benefit is derived. It ignores the countless benefits gaineds made by building these same power dams.

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#45
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/16/2009 12:16 PM

The original question

sorry, shiny object syndrome

But great idea - what I do not know about grid economics would fill books (EE 101 et. al.)

But now that they are finally admitting that wind will not be sufficient it would be good to start re-examining the practical aspects.

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#47
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/16/2009 12:29 PM

Practical aspects! Ah yes. We collectively as a society have been baffled by the 'experts' into thinking only of one magic solution as 'THE ANSWER" to all our energy needs. Then there is that phrase 'economies of scale'. It suggest that bigger is better because it brings down the per unit cost so therfore even bigger must also be even better.

In a high density urbanized area it does make sense to have extensive grid distribution. Areas like the eastern seaboard can and does benefit from extensive grid tie networks. However there are also areas where the cost to run any distribution lines makes it not cost effective to do so. These islands of power use would be better off with something independent. Where I live a power outage can take anywhere from half a day to three days to repair. Its a question of how many crews do you keep on call in case an emergency happens. Stand-by cost money. People are demanding municipal agencies cut costs.

So what is practical?

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#46
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/16/2009 12:27 PM

elnav-

Most of the viable hydro sites have long since been utilized, but here in Panama there is an active pursuit of this technology. The only problem is, the appropriate sites are mostly in the rain forest areas. Based on four project studies for hydro plants here in Panama, it looks like it takes about 5 hectares of land per megawatt generating capacity with hydro-electric. That's 5 hectares of rain forest destroyed. That's 5 hectares of land that can't be used for anything else. And that is a whole lot of water that is no longer available for irrigation projects for indigenous farmers...

Wind and solar are also very demanding of land- and once these installations are in place, subsequent use of the land is seriously limited (even the large solar concentrator systems, such as the one going up in Spain) demand a lot of land. Nuclear and conventional hydrocarbon fueled power stations require a whole lot less land per megawatt...

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#48
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/16/2009 12:33 PM

I think part of the question revolves around HOW you use the hydropower.

Single, centralized dams and generation stations have a lot to offer, but they bring tradeoffs.

Are there not other methods of achieving the same?

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#49
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/16/2009 12:48 PM

edignan-

Yes, there are other alternatives for other applications. I recently heoped with the installation of a mini-hydro system here in Panama- at $3,000 per kW of capacity, it is not a viable option for the "power challenged", but more a toy for the resource-rich elite...This system utilized natural flow, and did not interupt the flow of water to down-stream users, and required no significant land sequestration...

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#51
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/16/2009 1:10 PM

Charlie I am curious how that $3000 per kilowatt breaks down. How much of it was spent on over priced equipment that was imported at great expense and perhaps even charged a stiff tarif. How much went into local labor to prepare the site and install the equipment. How much was attributable to transportation costs to bring the equipment onto the site.

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#50
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/16/2009 1:00 PM

While I partially agree with your comments I would question the 'viable' part. When people talk about hydro -electric power they usually mean massive dams and huge reservoirs I agree this does take up lots of real estate.

But a new concept has gained credence and some support from alternative energy people. Its called by various terms but run of the stream is fairly common and is also an apt description.

This concept does not use dams in the traditional sense. It does not lend itself to scaling up for more power. It is by definition limited to small scale use. The concept is simple. A small waterwheel and in a few cases turbines is driven by the flowing water without use of a dam. Since it does not flood areas outside the boundaries of the natural water course it avoids that destructive element. Since the water wheel is undershot it does not intefer with fish migration. Such installations are mostly limited to 1kW - 10kW of output. This is enough for one or at most a few households but it does work.

Naturally the detractors will be quick to point out the capital cost is way more than simply buying power from the grid. That may be true. But if you are going to invoke capital costs then lets examine all such projects and include the non fiscal costs to the land and the society. Most public utility installation costs are amortized over decades.

You mention a power dam taking away from irrigation water. The Egyptians would argue the opposite view. The Aswan high dam was built partially to provide irrigation water to areas previously not watered by the natural river flow. Once the reservoir is filled all the water flow resume. Unless that is, when the reservoir is used to prevent uncontrolled flooding. I used to live in an area where most of the dams were ther strictly for flood control. In fact I found two dam sites with ruins of power generation structures could be found. These were viable sites. But not to the liking of the multi megawatt advocates. I doubt that any of them could produce more than 5 mega watts. And more likely only two megawatts. but I also know of a town that has an old power dam of limited capacity and that power station still delivers most of the towns power needs. Since the town never grew much being located in vacation country that was not a problem.

Although wind and solar can be demanding of real estate when you are talking o multi megawatt generation, it is not universally true. The solar array can provide welcome shade under the panels. In an urban environment the shaded area could be used for car parking. In fact a multi story parking garage could be placed under the solar array. I'm sure no one would argue the cars need to be left out in the sun.

On a ranch the shade would be welcome relief for cattle. I'm no botanical expert but some plant specie seem to burn in direct hot sunshine bu thrive well in cooler and less sunny climates.

Back in the seventies I came across a term "appropriate technology" It was referring to selecting a level of technology that was appropriate to a given set of circumstances. I think we need to get back to a diversified approach to energy creation and use.

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#52
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/16/2009 1:14 PM

elnav-

I am pretty much in agreement with most of your comments- and, in fact, am currently pursuing funding for an "in-stream" power plant (tidal flow-powered).

I have also done some solar installations- WHERE THEY MAKE SENSE. I don't see covering all of the urban roofs with solar panels as a "solution", although I see that as a viable application for certain tasks (I am really fond of solar outdoor lighting schemes, which would work nicely with your covered parking idea). Both solar and wind make a whole lot of sense for, say, pumping water into a stock tank far off the grid. I have also worked with a private citizen (NOT resource-challenged) to set up a solar power system for a residence far off the grid- where cost was the least concern...

As to the issues with current practices with hydro- yes, smaller-scale systems and alternative approaches can significantly improve the impact of smaller installations. Unfortunately, this is NOT the direction the industry is taking. Everyone wants megawatts, not kilowatts. One of the issues I am facing with funding for my tidal power scheme is that we are looking at "only" 5 megawatts (which is more than sufficient for the local demand in the islands we have targeted as the appropriate location), not 500 MW.

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#53
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/16/2009 1:29 PM

Charlie, your comments lend support to the notion of appropriate technology being applied more widely on a global scale; even in so called developed countries.

Yesterday I got side tracked while researching wood burning furnaces. There is something called a Top Lit Gasification burner. Its a simple sheet metal assembly that gasifies the solid fuel for more complete combustion. It can burn almost anything normally used for a cooking fire. It burns cleaner resulting in much less smoke. WHO has supported this initiative because so many third world countries have extremely high incidence of respiratory disease caused by traditional cooking fires. One maker was targeting for a production cost of USD $10 per unit. That makes it affordable to a great many people who could not afford a kerosene or propane powered cook stove. Never mind what the megawatt people would suggest such as electrical stoves. I belatedly realized I have seen one of these and it is really neat.

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#54
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/16/2009 7:07 PM

Somewhere, I had a reference for a similar cooking stove being developed in South America, with the same objective- reducing smoke through more complete combustion. The reference has gotten lost in all my other files for now. Anyone who has experienced cooking hour in an indigenous village where wood is the primary fuel can understand the need for something like this, but even $10 is excessive for some of these people who could benefit most...

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#55
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/16/2009 10:14 PM

From looking at the various models entered in a competition my guess is that once the design catches onl local metal smiths will be able to duplicate it for less. The $10 cost came from a modern S. African fabrication shop with attendant higher wage levels.

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#56
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/16/2009 10:20 PM

Have a look at this. http://www.bioenergylists.org/en/belonioccoaltlud This is where I started but kept meandering along the links provided. This guy Paul Anderson sem to be some kind of guru for the concept.

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#57
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/16/2009 11:02 PM

elnav --This gasification idea has been around for a while in the advanced design wood stoves that came out of Scandinavia in the mid 20th century. The popular understanding of this technology has gotten a bit lost in the current interest in making wood stoves emission compliant in developed nations. But the techniques are straightforward and would be easily understood by a bright entrepreneur in almost any part of the world where there was market potential. Some google searching and study is all that would be needed.

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#58
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/17/2009 2:06 AM

Ed I am quite aware of that. My father cursed them but it was all the occupation army would allow civilian drivers of busses and taxis. Real gasoline was reserved for the Werhmacht vehicles. But the old WW2 gasification generators were crude and bulky compared to these cook stoves. The resultant gas was dirty and gummed up the carburetion, on fuel intake systems. But at least it allowed for conversion of a piston engined vehicle. My father said he sometimes had to ask his passengers to get out and push it was so bad and the engines developed so little power.

After the war many people had the stoves you refer to. I grew up in Scandinavia. It was all that was available and coal was very expensive. So anything that was economical in fuel use was in demand.

The elegance of the new top lit units is the clean burn and reduced fuel consumption. Did you explore the various websites. Quite interesting.

We had one of the TLUD at our sales booth last year. It was intended as a gimmick to highlight our new pellet stove model, but so many people insisted on buying one for a camping stove we got cleaned out. Which wasn't the plan at all. The TLUD was so clean burning we had to put up a sign warning people it was lit. No smoke, no visible flame outdoors. Finally we scrounged a pot and boiled water to demonstrate the clean burn. Our pllet stove was also burning continuously and we would stand there talking to customers while leaning on the chimney. Yes it was a double insulated type. But the rain cap was still cool enough we could place a hand on it.

No comparison with the old gasification burners from WW2. That darn thing weighed nearly 200 kilos and took up as much volume as a water heater tank. It was mounted on the back bumper on most busses and taxis.

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#61
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/18/2009 9:32 AM

" Except for situations where you have no alternatives, the use of alternative energy sources is not cost-effective."

i can not afford the cost of dropping utility power. cost to install transformer, drop power run underground 50 feet was quoted by utility as $6,000. then there is the permits, the mains, the breakers and the wire.

i put in low cost poor mans solar for about $2,000. i live with the power available. when i need high power, i fire up my generator. usually not more than 20 gallons of gas per year.

it all depends upon how much wattage you normally really need. right now, i am getting along on about 1,500 watts per day.

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#68
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/19/2009 5:27 PM

I have run in to similar situations where the cost of running mains to a remote site are prohibitive, and where power demand is low enough that the cost of a solar system can be controlled. This is very much an appropriate application of solar energy. However, when energy demands are significant, it is difficult to justify solar as an alternative, mainly due to the cost of batteries of sufficient capacity (which seem to have a realistic life expectancy of something on the order of 4 years- mostly because most people don't understand how important proper maintenance and charging cycles are to battery life).

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#69
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/20/2009 2:11 AM

If grid power were available free to you then continuing to in your present mode would frugal but not cost-effective? this is accurate description of your argument??

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#74
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/21/2009 11:33 AM

hello b wire.

"If grid power were available free to you then continuing to in your present mode would frugal but not cost-effective? this is accurate description of your argument??"

no, i don't think so. i was just replying to another poster who was stateing that grid power is always cheaper than alternative power. in most cases he is correct, but not always. in my case the infrastructure cost has kept me from getting grid power, but i could afford the incremental costs of doing solar.

if you are just comparing the kw cost of grid power, then it is a little harder to compare, but can be done.

i have posted on here before the comparison between grid power and gas generators. the simplest, i have is my case.

to pump 1,000 gallons of water 200 feet uphill from my spring.

in gasoline, it is 1 gallon. in grid electricity it is 1 kw. no comparison.

infrastructure cost for same:

generator: $400

solar: $2,000

grid power: $7,000

it is very difficult for me to come up with $7,000 for infrastructure cost of grid power.

and mine is cheap. i have neighbors who have been quoted for infrastructure cost of grid power: $15,000 ---------$25,000-----------$35,000------------the cost of running power lines is quite high.

i do know that for $35,000 you can get one heck of a solar installation with all of the wiz bangs, and never have a utility payment again. that would be a system producing 8kw per hour for 6 to 8 hours per day.

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#75
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/21/2009 11:41 AM

I sympathize

The family owns a place fortunately only for summers that we run off Coleman lanterns and only fire up the genset rarely.

The quote from out local grid provider was $78,000 per pole to bring us power due to terrain. in 1978. I don't know what they proposed for a pole count, but it was 19 miles over a couple of mountains.

How much gasoline, propane, and "white gas" have I burned since? Not enough to pay for one pole.

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#76
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/21/2009 1:19 PM

Latitude also has a lot to do with it. Northern California gets a lot more sun that we get at lat 54. Wife's uncle still lives on the family homestead. Ten years ago the utility company quoted just over $35,000 to bring in utility power. Hate to think what it would cost today.

Instead he upgraded the generator to diesel that was also used to charge a battery bank. A 3000 watt inverter powers the entire house He also installed some solar and a wind gen. At this latitude solar is useless . At th ebest they deliver 1/2 the rated outpyut due to lower solar angle. During winter with 16 hours of night time we get only 4 hours of any usable sunlight - if it isn't cloudy. As for the wind. 75% of the time it doesn't blow. 10% of the time it blows so hard it shredded the turbine blades.

Everybody has a different set of conditions and the cost varies widely.

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#77
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/21/2009 1:47 PM

Winter solar may be useless, have you looked at ground sourced heat exchange?

They lay miles of cheap irrigation tube below the frost line, circulate hot water all summer, extract all winter.

Just a thought...no experience.

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#78
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/21/2009 2:53 PM

edignan -- "They lay miles of cheap irrigation tube below the frost line, circulate hot water all summer, extract all winter."

Emmett -- You or anyone else have any info, quantitative or qualitative on how efficient that process is in SW arid areas of the USA?

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#79
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/21/2009 3:00 PM

All the data I have seen concerned wetter climes, and I understand your concern.

I was looking at some data (years now - I gotta start hanging onto this stuff (and organizing it)) when I was looking into ground sourced heat pumps using standard residential "heat pumps" or heat exchangers that correlated ground moisture with efficiency. Dropped way off in desert climes.

Should apply equally to this as ground moisture substantially effects heat transfer rates, but I haven't seen definitive work.

But I'll kick you off with one of my favorite link pages - sorry I don't have more at hand

http://peopleinaction.com/archive/technology.html

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#80
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/21/2009 5:48 PM

In extremely rocky areas it sdosn't work. But some locations are suitable for geothermal and some people have used it. However it relies on a source of electrical power to work. Its getting the electrical power to start with, that is the challenge. Up here we have hundreds of thousand acres of beetle killed forest just rotting on the stump. Anyone with five acres or more of land has a life time supply of free heat.

The situation is this. Logging companies wil go in and log beetle kill trees provided they get a large enough parcel of land. Typically a 1000 acre plot. One processor can cut approximately fifty acres per day. Clearly it will cost more in fuel for trucking a processor to the job site that what a 5 or 10 acre plot will give in return yield. So properties of 10 acres and less are worthless commercially speaking and not viable for machine logging. These are hand logged by owner or wood cutter providers. Up here you can get one ful cord of cut and split fire wood delivered to your driveway for $100 - $120 depeniding on delivery distance. If you want birch wood it cost $130 per cord.

Home heating is not the issue; electricity is. What started this thread was figuring out if solar panels was cost effective for a wood burning boiler using free wood. As it turns out it simply isn't. Wood heat with a hydronic system requires a constantly running circulation pump. This power for the pump is enough to demand a 1kW solar panel array. Even a gasoline generator driving a battery charger / battery system to power the circulation pup is less expensive than solar power.

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#81
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/21/2009 6:26 PM

I sympathize - one of the things that had me looking far afield to things like "How do we power satellites and Your Backyard Nuclear Reactor"

This is going to be one of the things that is an unrecognized or unaddressed challenges to alt energy - it has to be local appropriate.

If there was a drop-in, one size fits all device someone would be selling it. Someone very, very large. This field is going to count on local pros.

If a fella had all day (and night) I suppose we could always do steam generation of electricity, but I don't think self-tending boilers are quite home-owner appropriate.

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#82
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/21/2009 9:18 PM

Eignan wrote: If there was a drop-in, one size fits all device someone would be selling it. Someone very, very large. This field is going to count on local pros.

If a fella had all day (and night) I suppose we could always do steam generation of electricity, but I don't think self-tending boilers are quite home-owner appropriate.

Here again this is where red tape rears its ugly head. Steam powered equipment is tightly controlled and regulated. Any operating steam powered equipment must be inspected and certified annually. Failure to do so leaves you liabel to all sort of punitive fines and sanctions. This area not to mention several others in Canaada has a past history of exploding steam boiler due to the oerpator pushing the equipment beyond its limits. Also due to some owner pinching the penny a bit too much. rumor has it fine electrical wire for telephones as invented by Dr.Graham Bell while working in his Baddeck summer residence was produced by two scotsmen fighting over a penny. Is it just coincicdence many of the early telegraph lines in our area wer set up by Scotmen?

Likewise woe betide anyone atempting to tap the runnign streams for power. It's fish habitat and the greenies have made sure the law prevents anyone from so much as putting foot in the water without prior permission. You cannot have a building within 100 meter of a natural creek. There have even been instances of people being forced to remove buildings that infringed on the new boundary defining laws that extended protection to the environment close to fish habitat. They changed the law from a 30 meter limit to a 100 meter limit.

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#83
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/22/2009 10:30 PM

elnav and endignan -- Thanks for your comments about the relationship of soil moisture to the usefulness of that medium as an energy storage sink for a heat pump system. That explains to me why the more mechanically inclined folks inthe Puget sound area are having good luck with ground source heat pump systems. I watch a Yahoo forum called "Seattle Metalheads" and occasionally these folks talk about the subject of heat pumps and energy usage. At least a couple of members of that group have tried ground sourced heat pump systems with success. But I guess it's probably too dry where I live to make ground source work.....except maybe around the septic tank and drain field..... maybe there is something to that. Like you're going to dig up the ground there anyway during initial construction.

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#87
In reply to #83

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/23/2009 7:47 AM

Very good point, but my last septic venture required a septic well, still has possibilities.

And oddly, calling the State Ag dept in Arizona to ask a couple geo questions like that got me some strange answers.

All I wanted to know was if we had mapped ground moisture downward. If it was seasonal. Did we have temperature maps of subsoil, were they seasonal.

Or in both cases was there a depth below which they were NOT seasonal.

They mostly babbled and got off the phone

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#88
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/23/2009 11:20 AM

edignan -- When my house was first built the developer had two 36 inch diameter septic wells as you call them drilled for a drain field and backfilled. The first well was done the same way about 50 yards away upslope to a depth of 75 feet and cased with 36" diameter galvanized steel culvert pipe. (a terrible design for many reasons).

I wonder what would be the best type and way to install piping in such a septic well to transfer heat. Not that I have any plans to redo my drain field before I die.

"They mostly babbled and got off the phone" ....... That's what you get, Emmett, for fooling around on the cutting edge of technology. (LOL)

I've got to believe that somewhere there are some soils engineers that are studying this subject right now. David J.C. Mackay's book touches this subject on pages 301 to 305. Link to free text:

http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/withouthotair/cE/page_301.shtml

If I were the CEO of a company like Carrier I'd be scrambling right now to research this area for application of my heat pump product line. The future market for heat pumps for comfort heating based on energy savings potential is on the same order of magnitude as all solar or wind power generation taken in a general sense.

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#89
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/23/2009 11:37 AM

My septic well went awry as they usually chunked in uncased rock, also 36" 40' deep. Should take about 3/4 of a good size dump truck they tell me.

Unfortunately they hit sugar sand and I ended up with a three truck septic well!

I would think loops of irrigation line in the bottom, layer of sand to protect it and lay the rock on top? It *should* stay nice and wet

I assumed I got the wrong department, because ag schools track this kind of stuff elsewhere, or it just doesn't apply in the desert. OR as I have discovered here, knowing HOW to ask the question makes a huge difference

Carrier/Trane - ugh.

I think I mentioned my previous experience with them. As you are aware, the desert cools wonderfully at night. I brought out the Trane guy for an evaluation. I wanted a combined (hybrid?) system that resorted to "conditioned" air under the right circumstances, but predominantly I wanted to cool with evap and whole house fans.

He got snotty about fresh air and I tossed his ass. Kept the coffee cup tho

NOW Trane wants to talk about conservation and fresh air - I got mugged by a salesman in a BIG BOX store just a couple months ago wanting to sell me such a system.

I got to announce LOUDLY that his firm had voided my warrantee for exactly the system they were now selling, but now that I was in a new house we could talk - just as soon as they re-established warrantee for the last system. Interested parties around us faded away quickly

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#90
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/23/2009 11:44 AM

The advocates for semi buried homes say the ground temp below the frost line is at a steady 60 F temp almost year round. Obviously the depth of frost varies from area to area. In the areas I have lived in where winter temps reach -40F this frost line is around 5 feet in wet soil. Permafrost up north is six to ten feet deep. Is that the kind of information you were looking for?

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#91
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/23/2009 11:58 AM

Very similar, there is a line anywhere below which the temperature ceases to be seasonal (largely - don't take that literally). And from your example - to go underground someplace it is cold enough for perma-frost to a constant 60 would have huge advantages! That also works backwards, to go from an environment of 115F to one in the 60s would reduce the cooling load.

There is also another line - dryer than the water table but constantly moist - which you need for subgrade heat exchange.

Now that said - two points:

1. Trying to do that in an area with *actual* permafrost brings technical difficulties that may not make it worth it (I lost a 2 1/2 ton truck in the permafrost in Adak - one of many I was told)

2. A realtor friend in Phoenix told me straight out - only engineers BUILD subteranean or even earth berm houses, and only engineers BUY them. So if you want to cut your market to 10% before you even decorate - up to you

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#93
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/23/2009 12:23 PM

Not me. I know bermed houses are not popular. Technically it it an elegant solution but for other reasons people simply do not want them. I'm told adobe houses are also cool. Again due to earth mass. A friend who once worked in Dubai told me he visited the home of one of the local people. The house was old and built in the traditional style complete with a cooling tower. Crushed coral was used as the wall construction material. Walls were several feet thick. Being a very white reflective material the coral reflected the sunlight. The design minimized the windows looking out thus also reduced heat intake. The cooling tower created air circulation by taking advantage of the temperature differential between north (shaded) side and the south (sunny) side. Hot air rises and cooler air falls. the interior layout created a definite air flow path so the rising hot air pulled air from the interior and the cooler air dropped to replace what air had been pulled out. In addition long strips of cloth could be hung in the air channel of the north side. This cloth was soaked with water. Evaporation resulted in additional cooling. Granted this was not as cold as modern direct expansion air conditioner but it did make the interior comfortable and from 15 - 20 degrees cooler than the exterior air temp.

Best thing; it did not require any power whatsoever.

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#94
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/23/2009 1:07 PM

Thanks for the description!

I actually tried carrying some of these techniques into my current house (adobe) in New Mexico - but have to confess I found swamp coolers easier

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#95
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/23/2009 1:14 PM

Edignan could you please elaborate on how a swamp cooler works. I think it is an evaporative system but the exact details escape me.

TIA

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#96
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/23/2009 1:32 PM

Aaaagh! After just discussing colloqualisms and proper english - here I am embarrasing myself

You are correct - either fixed mount or window mount evaporative coolers, don't know where they got the nickname.

http://www.wonderquest.com/swamp-coolers.htm

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#97
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/23/2009 1:58 PM

Okay now I got it straight.

BTW I saw a real neat out door air conditioning system at the Ag fair . A big tent awning was set up, just roof no sides. Stainless steel piping of 3/8" diameter crossed the space along the support wires. At 3 foot intervals there was a misting head similar to what you see in green houses. A pressure washer pump was feeding the piping. Out of the nozzles came a very fine mist. In the summer heat, this mist evaporated within two feet of the nozzle. Since the piping was nine feet above ground no one got hit by water. However between the shade of the awning and the cooling mist the temp under the tent was 20 degrees cooler than out in the sun. A timer cycled the unit on for 15 seconds every couple of minutes. Tent has space to accomodate forty or so people at once. Some of the big luxury yachts also use this for cooling the aft cockpit area. Surprisingly it does seem to work in more humid locations. The AG fair tent install was down in Vancouver on the coast.

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#98
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/23/2009 2:17 PM

Widely used down in our desert for outdoor dining etc. the one downside to the damned things is they are no-goofing high pressure. 5,000 psi.

So not only are the pump units expensive ('cause I was going to use them out back) but the pressure almost demands hard line.

Lowest quote I got was about $3,500 for the pump.

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#99
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/23/2009 2:32 PM

Hmmm. Intersting. this unit had a pressure gauge showing 1800 PSI. It had three pe filters in series. Fed by municipal water it still revealed visible specks in the first and some graying on the second filter but the third looked pristine. Filters looked to be the 10 micron and 2 micron filters you get for well systems. I paid particular note since the pump motor was a 2 HP Leeson model, same as what I have at home, and I have a new 2500 PSI pump from a pressure washer. The nozzles looked to be laser drilled synthetic jewel types. Center was red like it was a synthetic watch /clock bearing. The size had to be less than 0.005" being smaller than a propane jet nozzle.

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#100
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/23/2009 2:50 PM

I hadn't (I looked some time ago) seen one that ran at that low a pressure - that should bring the price down.

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#101
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/23/2009 3:24 PM

One problem you can run into with these misting systems if you go DIY is that they will leave whatever minerals are in the water that evaporates all over everything nearby. I guess if the pros already have a high pressure pump in the system they might as well have a reverse osmosis last stage to pull out the minerals.

Another note on the sapphire nozzles. They are amazingly inexpensive. Bird Precision back in Masachusetts makes them. One of the neatest tricks is the wire lapping process used to size the holes after they are laser drilled. A quantity are loaded on the small end of several thousand feet length of gradually tapered wire wound on a capstan. That end is then attached to another capstan that gradually pulls the wire through the batch of orifices while they are submerged in a diamond slurry bath. Tolerance control and finish is way beyond anything you can get with a laser. I can only guess at how they make that mile long tapered wire.

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#107
In reply to #96

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

07/03/2009 4:01 PM

don't know where they got the nickname.

From the units interior aroma

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#106
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

07/03/2009 3:58 PM

something like a catheter?

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#111
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

07/04/2009 12:11 AM

Wouldn't work like a catheter. They fill those septic drain field "wells" with drain rock. For the heat pump source you'd have to install the heat transfer piping in the well first.

I haven't thought through the best way to do that. The piping array would have to be placed in the hole and dropped to the bottom some 30-40 feet. Then it would have to be able to withstand having drain rock dumped on it. It would be nice if it could be removed for service.

Somebody must have already figured out the best way to do this, best pipe material and size for heat transfer, corrosion resistance, cost, ease of installation, etc. Seems to me like the heat transfer calculations are straightforward though I'm unlikely to go there in this lifetime. Of course if PVC pipe turns out to be a workable method it may be as simple as drilling new 6" wells adjacent to the septic wells figuring that the ground moisture will be pretty good in that area. Casing the wells with 6" pvc pipe with perforation slots saw cut in the bottom (in the manner they do it around here; costs about $25/foot) means that almost any kind if pipe setup could be easily put down and taken out if needed.

My own well type septic drain field has held up very nicely for 40 years largely because we manage our septic tank operation pretty carefully. I hope to keep it that way. The last thing I need is for the county people to come around and take an interest in that stuff.

Well lots of speculation here ........ maybe when my current air sourced heat pump dies ......

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#112
In reply to #111

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

07/05/2009 5:15 AM

I was thinking of inserting a catheter like tube into the perforated piping the leads to the drain field, this piping isn't filled with rock.

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#105
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

07/03/2009 3:54 PM

Thinking of a pellet mill producing 38mm x 89mm slugs. Auger a metered deposit to boiler pot and auger out ash producing an unmanned steam system.

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#108
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

07/03/2009 5:22 PM

I know. that is the system we sell. And it is power hungry. I have not had any luck training hamsters to run in a cage to drive the pellet augers.

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#109
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

07/03/2009 6:13 PM

Okay I'll bite, why not use steam to power the augers?

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#110
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

07/03/2009 8:10 PM

I can't recall which post, but I replied to the issue of steam power in an earlier post. To build a steam pressure engine for sale to consumers involves so many regulatory certifications pertaining to steam pressure vessels and inspections etc. etc. it simply isn't worth while. You would never recover the cost of compliance to bureaucracy in a decade. Not to mention which; the buyer is then liable to annual inpsections which he would have to pay for. Granted this is likely a local issue and anything goes in other countries and places. But here it just isn't an option.

CHP has been around for a long time but only in big mill installations wher they can afford to pay for such inspections and compliance is part of their larger operations.

Micro CHP would require something like a Stirling engine. Silent electricity generation while the wood burner provides heat. Even in summer some heat can be used for domestic hot water systems.

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#113
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

07/05/2009 5:19 AM

Yes I recall now that you did explain prior oops!

Guess you may drive a generator with a make shift bicycle and charge the batts enough daily about twenty minutes workout instead and turn the auger too...

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#114
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

07/06/2009 1:14 AM

Speaking of alternative technology approaches. Somebody asked what are we going to do when the power goes out.

Well I have one solution for the cook stove. I used an old satellite TV antenna dish as a fire pit. Forest fire hazards are so great it is not prudent to build an open fire directly on the gorund. It could get into the humus and root system and spread that way. A fire pit is the answer. To hold pots and bake bread a flat plate is suspended over the flames using a ripod. See picture below

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#120
In reply to #114

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

07/17/2009 10:42 AM

hello elnev,

i like the direction you are going. a step up from this at fairly low cost is an above ground deep pit barbeque. if anyone is interested i will describe.

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#121
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

07/18/2009 5:27 AM

rolling rolling rolling keep those doggies rolling

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#122
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

07/18/2009 11:34 AM

. . . .Well? .. describe please? Curious minds want to know. Deep pit BBQ above gorund. Sounds like a contradition in terms. Deep relative to what?

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#123
In reply to #122

deep pit barbeque

07/18/2009 12:15 PM

hello all,

ok

first "deep pit barbeque" is a name for a style of cooking. usually done in a deep pit, but not always. let me describe two i know. at my "grange" they have a deep pit. it is approx 10 feet deep. it has concrete sides, but no bottom, which allows rainwater to perc. it is about 20 feet long and 8 feet wide. it has raised sides that reach above ground about 3 feet to keep drunks from falling in. it has steel pipes crosswise set about 14 inches down from the top. this is to hold the steel rack for the roasts. it also has one more lip about 1 inch deep on the inside of the top. this is for the plywood covers.

the process: starting about midnight the night before (while the dance is going on) the fire is started. altogether they put 2 cords of dry oak, into the fire. start with about half a cord. they finish putting all of the wood in by about 4 am. then they allow the wood to burn down to coals. at 7:30 am, they put the beef roasts on the grill. immediatly follow by covering with plywood. then two heavy canvas tarps are laid over the top. these are tied around the concrete structure with ropes to keep the steam in and oxygen out. the tarps are kept wet all morning. at 12:30 everything is opened up and they start serving about 1,200 people. start with 1,200 pounds of roasts the day before. injecting the roasts with their grange formula and piercing the roasts and sticking cloves of garlic in.

in arizona, a deep pit barbeque was to dig a pit with the back hoe. build a large fire. let the fire dye down to coals. place the meat on the coals and bury it. the meat was in chunks about 5 pounds and wrapped in burlap. the burlap wrapped meat was wet down as it was placed in. again about 5 hours of cooking time.. dug up and served.

above ground is usually a much smaller set up. about 3 feet square and 3 feet tall. concrete going into the ground about two feet. it has a double lip also. one for the grate about 14 inches down. another for the plywood to fit into. it is also covered with a tarp and tied down and wetted. cooking time is a little different than the large pit, but it does just as good a job.

the operative point of all of these is to keep oxygen away from the cooking operation while the meat is there. this is to prevent flareups from the grease dripping onto the coals. this way the meat is cooked slowly and not charred at all.

this system is sometimes also called "Hawaiian deep pit barbeque". it is how they roast their pigs and fish for their beach parties. they put wet seaweed on the coals, then place the meat and fish on the seaweed. the fish is also usually wrapped in large leaves to keep the fish from falling apart.

joe

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#124
In reply to #123

Re: deep pit barbeque

07/18/2009 1:15 PM

Hmmm? So the salient points are: keep oxygen away from meat being cooked and apply a heat source of hot coals ( temp = ??) for a duration equivalent to ?? ( how many minutes per pound of meat? ) To prevent over cooking, dampen down the wrapping around the meat. This presumably lowers the temperature and may also apply some steam to moisten the meat. I'm with you so far.

Now about the two cords of wood. Hey that's half a year's supply of fire wood to heat my whole house even at -20F below. Arrrgh! not exactly low cost.

The wetted down burlap presumably prevents the meat from browning. Its a deep infra red not a radiant heat application. BBQ by contrast being radiant heat for the most part. The wife does something similar with wet newspapers and campfire coals.

The tripod legs in my photos; from which hangs a flat disk of metal, is for bronzing or blackening (cajun style). The flat metal is heated over the coals til its nearly red hot. Then the meat is placed on it after being coated with cajun spice and perhaps a coating of egg and flour batter. Blacken for a few minutes till your nose tell you its done. Remove and serve for eating. Recipe given to me from a self described coonass down in Louisiana country.

The alternative is a George Foreman grille. From frozen in freezer to dinner plate is 9 minutes. If fresh about 6.5 -7 minutes. The heating element is 600 watts or 900 Won larger model. Duration of cooking amounts to 11.5 or 12 amp hours draw from my battery driven inverter that powers the grille. Put another way, it is about equivalent to one tenth of a kilowatt hour of energy from a solar panel.

Since we mostly cook for two, not 1200 I will stick to my George Foreman grille even when the power is out. The battery is always charged and the inverter is ready to go. But if all my friends show up at once I will keep it in mind.

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#125
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Re: deep pit barbeque

07/18/2009 1:26 PM

hello elnav,

ok, i wasn't trying to convince anyone of anything, except perhaps the taste test. i like your ideas for the blackened cajan cooking. hard to find good blackened cajan seasonings that are not all salt. any ideas?

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#126
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Re: deep pit barbeque

07/18/2009 1:48 PM

No salt. hmmm? Had not given any thought to that aspect. My 'coonass' friend sent me a five pound sack of his special mix. I wil have to look into that part. I tend to avoid salt as a matter of preference not health related. His mix did not taste salty. I do know it is at least 50% cayenne pepper. Bay Spice does have more salt and of course it does not have as much bite.

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#115
In reply to #110

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

07/07/2009 5:55 AM

Is there no size limitation allowing something to slip under the radar?

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#116
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

07/07/2009 10:29 AM

When you are talking about building a product for sale to the general public it doesn't make sense to try and fudge something that does not meet local codes and safety regulations. Especially if the customer is likely to have an inspector come in and have a look. In many cases homeowners must have a sign off by building inspector or similar before the insurance company will give coverage.

I am not talking about a one of a kind DIY home brew.

If you are talking about doing something illegal way out in the back woods and never plan to call in an inspector. Yeah sure, then its done all the time. What do you think the green thumb boys do for their grow op setups? But we aren't going there are we?

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#117
In reply to #116

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

07/07/2009 3:43 PM

No...

Actually I meant in our society for instance large facilities are subject to restrictions that do not apply to lesser fixtures.

But again hot water could be used as an instrument of pressure to drive a mechanism too.

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#118
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

07/07/2009 4:15 PM

In some instances that is true. A one megawatt generating facility requires 1 certified stationary engineer on duty to run the place wheras a big 100 megawatt facility required more certification levels and more people.

But a steam pressure container of 150 PSI requires as much safety precaution as a 150 PSI compressed air tank.

Hot water can transfer heat but not pressure as would steam or compressed air. It is not clear how you would use hot water to drive a circulation pump. A simple thermo syphon may not give enough lift at a fast enough rate.

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#119
In reply to #118

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

07/07/2009 4:21 PM

I may use a pump shaft extension/adapter + gear reduction to drive the augers...

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#104
In reply to #77

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

07/03/2009 3:45 PM

frost line 18+ feet

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#102
In reply to #74

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

07/03/2009 9:51 AM

make your numbers match 17 gpm for 1 hour 90 psi differntial is a 1 HP pump. A gasoline engine will use 1/12 of a gallon and an electric motor is .75 kw.

The gasoline genset is less than $400, fuel would be $.30. you can run lots of power yourself for that. A solar panel would cost nearly $8000 for that size.

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#103
In reply to #74

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

07/03/2009 12:25 PM

Hello,

I think we are contesting the same point.

It is I believe a difference of investment potential over lifetimes. If one were to develop a system by which their progeny realize a value then some alternatives are equal to or exceed the equation. Many do not consider in this vein though.

You I believe gain by bits and realizing the $7000 will never be regained if that route were chosen, so being the alternative may scale better in the end run.

Independence may bode well too, regardless a disparity of cost

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#5
In reply to #1

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/14/2009 2:57 PM

Yes very stable indeed, recession, what recession?

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#2

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/14/2009 1:31 PM

Sadly Elnav - a frequent topic of discussion has been whether in the U.S. you could make the economic argument even WITH various state and federal incentives.

We get metered coal-fired in the western states at under $0.14 per Kw - and even at double your customer's rates, this situation almost always turns on the emotional leg.

Either they want to be greener, or they want to be more independent, or...

And one of the problems IS the cost of approved materials.

Just taking solar water, the highly efficient rig I was looking at (from China) was non-maintainable, largely non-repairable, and roughly $8,000.

Del just built one not long ago - highly maintainable, totally repairable, and VERY inexpensive.

But I believe he had to slip it past his agencies added it under special "adjunct" rules because it had no expensive stickers on it.

A conundrum I fear you can only present to your client and ask how cheap/green/independant he wants to afford to be.

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#3
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/14/2009 2:28 PM

Edignan you touched on another part of the issue. I searched for but could not find the thread that asked if bureaucracy was hindering implementation of greener / alternative energy solutions.

I have come to the conclusion the answer is YES! I won't go so far as to say its a conspiracy but vested interests do have a strong lobby and extensive influence. Bureaucrats apparently take lessons on how to survive sucessive political administrations that change with each election. One of those survival skills seem to be to not upset the status quo. Even if that means quelling new developments that would be of societal benefit in the longer run.

I have heard that California does have extensive development in new housing using total solar power. Being part of the new build, the cost is part of the mortgage and thus amortized over many years. But what about retrofits? Typically these would have to be funded directly from the pockets of the end user. That is a very different proposition.

I also looked at solar hot water. I help a local company with estimates and sales support at trade shows and we sell these. But we cannot manufactuer them ourrselves without extensive testing and evaluation by CSA, the Canadian equivalent of UL. The cost of doing this would consume several years worth of profit from projected sales. It is also against the local municipal ordenances for a home owner to build and install his own. Only those who built a solar heat collector that sat on the ground as self supporting might be able to skate by the building inspection department. But with four to eight foot snow accumulations each winter this poses some challenges. As soon as the structure is raised on supports the building inspector can get involved and disallow it if engineering studies are not provided.

Ten years ago when I joined a company that became Xantrex; solar power was costed at $5 per watt. Normally you would expect cost to drop with improved manufacturing techniques Today that cost number has hardly changed. WHY?

Normally you would expect prices to drop as a benefit of economies of scale, volume of sales etc. Is it just coincidence most of the big solar panel makers are owned by oil companies like BP, Shell etc. and those who are not, have littel incentive to drop prices by much.

In BC you cannot touch the water in any waterway because it is defined as fish habitat. If you pay the government $10,000 and conduct extensive environmental studies and jump through the hoops dictated by various agencies you may get a licence to become a micro generating facility. that would allow you to sells power back to the province. But if you just want to generate your own power; no way.

In fact the government is trying to shut down a small local waterwheel that produces enough power for eight houses. The argument being he never got environmental approval to use the water running on his own property and using a waterwheel ( saw mill power) that was originally built before the region was electrified. This water energy is a vertical waterfall so no possible way can it be argued he is interfering with fish habitat or fish breeding.

It appears to me that bureaucrats recommend and support legislation that hampers individuals and small companies from developing anything that would reduce the dependence on oil and natural gas which is controlled by multi national corporate interests.

So the original question expands to become. How much power has to be created and needed before a proposed system becomes economically viable and cost effective? Is it still possible and in what juristictions would smaller power generation installations be feasible without being choked to death by red tape?

Do you use cost per kilowatt as a bench mark or the cost of certified appliances as the guideline.

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#9
In reply to #3

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/14/2009 3:15 PM

Not choked by red tape? On this planet?

besides the big corporations who have a vested interest in not having a reasonable price tag on alternates, you also have the tree huggers who will argue against any change to the total natural environment as it was when the first micro organisms crawled out of the ooze. One of those loose, loose situations. Green is only a political stance with no real substance. Everyone on the green side seems to have a solution, but they look no further, cost or efficiency never enters the equation.

Considering the installation is going to be in a commercial application, the cost is an expense that can be claimed against profits and written down over probably 5 years.

It may be less for the green stuff, i really havn't looked at the tax implacations yet.

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#13
In reply to #9

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/14/2009 5:26 PM

Who said this was going into a commercial application? Its a private residence. The person lives close to some saw mills where he can obtain scrap wood. And being in the north which has been devastated by Pine Beetle kill, there is so much dead wood still standing on the stump there is no shortage of fire wood.

In northern BC the logging companies must also replant the cut areas. But with the slump in soft wood trade, there is less cutting and thus less replanting. Meanwhile the dead beetle killed trees are still rotting on the stump and the blight is spreading.

Tree hugges get short shrift around here. You still see a lot of Tee shirts being worn with the text "Save a tree. Wipe your ass with a spotted owl" .

Every spring this region is invaded by a young work force of tree planters. These are for the most part university students looking to earn their tuitiion money. I doubt many of them are 'tree huggers'. If there was no cutting they would not have a job. but they are planting new trees to replace old.

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#15
In reply to #13

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/14/2009 5:57 PM

I got so pissed by the spotted owl legislation, ranted and posted so much about it; my family bought me one of my very own, stuffed.

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#10
In reply to #3

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/14/2009 3:56 PM

I sympathize (he says shifting from foot to foot) as I have heard the same from everywhere - at the same time I had a very good relationship with my zoning authority last place I lived - very customer service oriented. But brand new office that actually ran off of developers and home owner fees - so maybe they remembered who the customer was.

As for inertia...it IS a natural defense against constantly changing winds from Washington (in our case) AND the environmental lobbies (who think we should all live on air) AND the industries....and I would call it ALL a bunch of nonsense.

Except.

I have watched small firms with dynamic ideas come into aviation. They think we are all stodgy. Reactive, uncooperative, etc. But if your dynamic idea doesn't meet the safety requirements we have all paid for with tradegies, I really DON'T care that we aren't fitting your business model. But it undeniably does raise the bar, not for ideas but for small firms.

As for the small business with the truly great ideas? You would be amazed what a total factor of great is actually required to get investors interested. But that is the only way I know to get over the testing hurdles and costs.

But having watched the number of rooftop solar systems abandoned by the firms that created them, I have mixed emotions on how high the bars should be. In aviation we recognize that the lifetime of an installed system may exceed twenty years, and we want that firm around twenty years to support it.

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#11
In reply to #3

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/14/2009 4:01 PM

Ooops, nearly forgot

Canadian incentive calculator page - might help?

http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/corporate/statistics/neud/dpa/policy_e/programs.cfm

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#12
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/14/2009 5:14 PM

Thanks Edignan for the interesting calculator. BUT! it really doesn't help much for the small homeowner.

The last entry was for improving the system to reduce payback period. In very small print it say the program only applies where cost savings are >$50k Yeah right.

Speaking green political or otherwise. Many people try to go green but there are limits. I live in a modest sized house that is very well insulated. All our light bulbs are the curlicue energy savers except for the porch light which has to be tungsten filament because the energy savers simply will not ignite in cold weather. Our appliances are all new energy saving design and 'approved' by whoever as being energy saving. The original insulation is supplemented to the extent we sometimes do not turn on the heat even in winter. We heat with free wood but only burn 4 cords per year. Some people I know burn 4 cords per month or so. When I work I do so from home so do not waste fuel commuting. Our total electric bill is only $80 per month. The only item that is not done is the windows. I simply cannot afford the $5000 expense to install all new windows in order to qualify for a partial rebate. Even if they rebated it 100% I would have to pay the cost up front and that isn' an option. Nor is getting a loan since with no permanent work I do not qualify.

I'm not complaining, simply pointing out that some of these so called "going green" programs are only of use to those who least need it. Those who most need it seldom qualify because they have to low an income to take advantage of the programs. What good is it having a fully paid for survey to find where energy savings can be had if the cost of implementing the energy saving measure is too expensive; even with rebates.

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#14
In reply to #12

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/14/2009 5:51 PM

Didn't realize, our incentive programs go deeper, but are shallow for how much they help.

We took our propane bill from (I cannot say it) to about a cord and a half of hardwood a month. Sure helped.

And I got the same window problem. The place was built when propane was very cheap, so I'd need 50K to replace all the damned glass with more efficient - with a bit of re-design thrown in. Plus the house is stucco over adobe, so I ~want~ to do windows because you have to redo stucco after, but I can't afford stucco right now, and it keeps the water out.

Early '70s "garden bath" sunk two feet into floor the size of a king bed with a wall of glass beside it - facing north. Don't think hot water tank ever was big enough to fill it.

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#16
In reply to #14

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/14/2009 6:40 PM

While looking for the electric power rate for the locality of the prospective customer I discovered one of the energy alternatives explored by the power utility company was a gas fired whispergen. The idea being you heated the house with the propane fuelled stove/furnace and generated your own power with the whispergen ( stirling based generator) But naturally this technology is now locked up by the big corporations. I have bene trying to get hold of a whispergen by itself. After some early technical warranty problems whispergen pulled the product from the Notth American market. When I last contacted them they informed me thay would not be selling directly into the North American market.

So once again we have a situation wher appliances using only the expensive fuels are available to the North American consumer.

Back tracking to an earlier thread I subscribed to on wood fired boilers I found reference to a top lit updraft gasification burner with a manufactured cost targeted at $10 - $20. Further browsing showed a continuoous burn design suitable for house heat boilers. The fire box was fed by a screw auger similar to what is being used in some pellet stoves.

Wood in raw form is free but now local legislation prohibits wood fired heaters -except for pellet stoves. And you guessed it. Pellet fuel prices has doubled over the past year. Last year we could buy pellets at $100 per ton. This year is $200 per ton. Never mind that the company built yet another pellet mill just down the road. There are now around 45 pellet mills in BC from what I have been told. These pellet mils run 24/7 and consume so much sawdust they can't get enough from nearby sawmills. Now they are trucking in saw dust from a hundred miles away. One local sawmill is even contemplating grinding their cut and dressed lumber they cannot sell into sawdust for pellet production. Seems like every time we find a low cost source of energy the bureaucrats find a way to outlaw the low cost method and force us to use a higher cost method.

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#17
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/14/2009 6:59 PM

Hmmm

I hadn't heard about the whispergen, but had been hounding SES for one of theirs. Nothing so sneaky as gov't corps binding them up - they have pre-sold so many to California Edison (the electric) that they can't spare any. I actually

In New Mexico (and Arizona) were have no-burn days, but then not only pellets, but any EPA "furnace" is allowed.

SO...

One "might" pick up one of these for pellets, have the inspector out, then swap out the guts that eat logs instead...I'm just saying .....I might know someone did that with a fireplace insert, maybe

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#18
In reply to #16

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/14/2009 7:02 PM

I was wrong - I love those guys! (whispergen)

I'll go halves - we'll open a shop in Mexico, do 60Hz conversions, and grey-market them into Canada and the US.

You take the Canadian non-distributorship and I'll take the US non-distributorship

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#19
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/14/2009 8:34 PM

60 Hz ??? Huh? the units I saw charged battereis and then you got the AC from an inverter.

Since Whispergen is somewhat closemouthed about technical details, I am guessing but speed control may be problematic due to ambient temps and burn rate etc.

Lacking acurate speed control it would be difficult to maintain accurate frequency control of a direct to load alternator. Honda's very popular Eu series gensets use an inverter for the same reason as well as a throttle down feature to save fuel when no load exist.

Mind you; if current pricing matches the former 2004 price these things have a payback period as bad as solar panels. But at least they do work in the dark.

Last price I saw was around $11,000 per unit.

Ther is a Swiss company making pellet stoves married to a Stirling engine ( not whispergen) they were doing field trials and planned to go to market in 2010.

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#20

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/14/2009 8:39 PM

Interesting thread! I have my own business and I am looking to get more into alternative energy systems myself. Like many of you it just irritates me to see the imposed limits and unrealistic codes required to have anything renewable and reliable installed.

Half the problem I see is the red tape the other half is the greedy price mark ups on equipment. Taking 20 years for a simple low cost of manufacturing device to pay for itself is nuts!

I built my own wood burning boiler about six years ago just to cut my heating costs down. ($30 a month now on average!) The total fabrication, install(with backhoe rental) and test and tune set me back about one good week out of my life and $2000.

The factory made wood burner units from Canada are pushing $15,000 and up after install for something like I have and not near as user friendly or robustly built! I have even been on a tour of the manufacturing facilities and their designs are over priced junk and the materials are common stock and cheap! I doubt they have over $1000 into the full manufacture of one! What a rip off!

I agree with the safe install of systems but what is the purpose of certification of systems any way? Or more to the point why are only the most expensive systems certified? even when they have no real gains or better design than the common ones?

Relating to the problem of the customers need for backup power and automatic transfer functions for the controls and pumps, one way around the problem of the system back up power is to use a simple off the shelf UPS systems. Just buy the larger commercial units that have the external battery packs! He will still be grid connected but he wont have the problem or cost related to having the transfer switch that was mentioned in the original post.

One way of getting around the install codes for AE systems is simple and always overlooked. If you design the whole AE system to be plugged into a wall outlet or a 240 welder outlet a load of code requirements get tossed right out the window!

Its no longer a hard wired system. Thus it fits into a different classification and solves a load of certification problems simply because its not considered permanently attached to the main electrical system of the place in question. It may not solve all code related problems but it will get rid of many cost prohibitive installation related ones!

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#21
In reply to #20

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative energy

06/14/2009 11:09 PM

I had proposed the plug in power cord option. So far no reply.

It was the customer not us that wanted the solar option. He wanted to 'feel green' I don't think the boss was too impressed with me trying to talk our way out of a sale but really, why make such a production of it.

As for the UPS. Good idea except for the fact when the utility power goes out it often takes a day or two - sometimes even three to restore power from the grid.

We are now talking of a 36 - 50 kwH capapacity UPS. Not exactly an insignificant expense.

Which is why many northern residents have a generator sitting in the garage. We all know this is horribly expensive on a dollar per watts. but if you only have five days of power outage per year the total cost of fuel is not too bad and if the genset breaks within the first five years they only cost $500 at costco or the local hardware store. Darn sight cheaper than going solar or wind.

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#22

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/14/2009 11:52 PM

I have customers off-grid that are always looking for a new alternative. The normal electrical generation system is a diesel-powered generator, and the diesel has to be shipped in by barge- thus, we are talking significant costs for generating electricity (typically in the $0.15 to $0.20 per kW/hr). We do not worry about red tape in these installations, because what few government inspectors there are can not find their way to the facilities.

We have looked at all the alternatives currently being bandied about- wind, solar, ocean energy. Wind is too unreliable, and doesn't replace the need for diesel generators- one still needs electricity when the wind isn't blowing. The last time I did a solar analysis for electricity, the payback was something like 50 years (maybe closer to 30 years with current fuel prices- still not good enough for a system that is only guaranteed for 20 years). We do use solar hot water heaters- but as a way to lighten the load during peak hours, not because they are economically viable (about $11,000 on the local market, as opposed to something south of $200 for an electric unit of comparable capacity). I also use solar for pumping water (in a system where I am pumping enough water to hold me over for a couple of days when the rainy season arrives), and I have used wind pumping water, mostly for stock tanks and such. These types of installations (and some solar-powered lighting systems) make sense because the cost of getting the grid to the remote sites is astronomical. I have also helped a friend install a mini hydro plant- $3.000 for 1 kW, when everything is put together. The problem I have with ocean energy these days is that no one is looking at units small enough for the systems I want to power...

My understanding of the solar panel price situation is that the demand is so high for the panels, there is no downward pressure on the pricing. If these companies can sell all that they can produce, what incentive do they have to reduce the price? It seems, at least into last year, most solar panel manufacturers in the world are running at full production...

It's nice to have a government to blame for manipulating the market in the wrong direction, but guess what, fellas- even without government meddling, this stuff still doesn't pay...

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#23
In reply to #22

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/15/2009 12:17 AM

Charlie,

How much could you lower the fuel burn of your diesel gensets if you could load it at a constant 80% - - 85% and shut it off in between runs. Maybe your loading is such it is fairly well loaded in the first place.

My wife's uncle runs a 10Kw genset to drive a 2.4 kW charger and occasionally the the deep well pump. Because hs doesn't listen to anybody he declined to get the 120V / 230V transformer recommended by the well pump installer. So he has to start the 10kW genset to run the 3kW 230V pump. Yeah I know. Not very efficient.

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#24
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/15/2009 1:24 AM

Elnav-

These are generally 100 to 250 kW sets, running 24/7, peak load is typically at about 5-6 PM at typically 75% rated capacity. We used to switch to smaller gen sets at night, but found that, due to the lower efficiency of the smaller units, we weren't saving any fuel (the larger gen sets, of course, use less fuel when not fully loaded). It seems like a perfect application for a solar installation (peak consumption roughly corresponding to peak insolation), but the economics just aren't there- the size of the systems are prohibitive...

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#25

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/15/2009 1:25 AM

A lot of the circulation pumps are quite small. Instead of the electrical transfer, why not use a second standby pump? Totally electrically isolated!

If he has all that free wood, PV power seems to make no sense. How about thermo electric, a Peltier device or a small steam engine? I remember seeing small peltier driven fans that sat on top of a wood stove and would blow the air around.

Less than a hundred years ago pumps were not used at all, but simply used the effect of hot water rising. I remember as a boy the hot water tank was in the upstairs and the coal furnace in the basement had a pipe coil in it that heated the water, the hot water rose, the cold water from the bottom of the tank settled to the basement and got re-heated. The larger the head, the greater the circulation. Just remember to insulate the hot return line or the system can "stall". This was even used in multi-story buildings with hot water radiators!

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#30
In reply to #25

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/15/2009 2:04 PM

Peltier cell is one option I am exploring. One truck manufacturer is offering a 1kw exhaust pipe mounted peltier cell generator. But very pricey.

A radio repeater tower near us is apparently powered entirely by a peltier system. The tower has two huge propane cylinders and there is a continuously running burner on the outside of the building. A visual examination gives clues but no details. Assuming the peltier cell assembly could deliver approximately 1 kW of power on a continous basis that will power a lot of radio gear. The waste heat can also be usd to heat the building in winter. This tower is located on a hill top fully exposed to winter winds a -40 F below. I have been unbale to trace the company name visible on the outside of the equipment.

Thermo syphon systems have draw backs. Low flow rate being one and that in turn means a limit on heat transfer rate. If the building needing to be heated is located lower than the boiler it really becomes a challenge.

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#31
In reply to #30

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/15/2009 2:10 PM

More data under Thermoelectric, seebeck, or thermopile.

They were/are used in remote locations and rough conditions where reliable power without huge demand was needed, but I found the threshold price too high for me.

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#27

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/15/2009 11:41 AM

Hello elnav,

Curious if it were feasible to attach a secondary heat exchanger or small boiler pot to produce steam to drive the pump instead of electricity.

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#28
In reply to #27

Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/15/2009 12:18 PM

bwire -- Neat idea. There are a lot of designs and even hardware kits around the hobby live steam/home shop machinist subculture for small steam engines and even stirling engines. There may even be some small steam pumps. These guys get into the minutia of boiler design, testing and certification; so a bit of digging may get someone lots of good information and maybe even a new useful hobby.

Ed Weldon

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#29
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Re: Cost effective breakpoint of alternative enrgy

06/15/2009 1:00 PM
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