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Solar Business

06/01/2010 5:29 AM

Which are best priced products available in market for residential/commercial solar application?

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#1

Re: Solar Business

06/01/2010 5:36 AM

Sun block cream...

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Power-User

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#2

Re: Solar Business

06/01/2010 10:36 PM

The best return on investment for lower cost solar is definitely solar water heating. This particular segment of the market is also the most competitive and generally the easiest to manufacture. Just don't forget the conservation part. Its always best not to use the energy in the first place.

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#4
In reply to #2

Re: Solar Business

06/02/2010 12:48 AM

Right - conservation is almost always the best deal. Today the dedicated heat pump water heater is an even better deal than solar thermal over the life time (13 years) of the system.

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#3

Re: Solar Business

06/01/2010 11:24 PM

Your query is quite vague. For what are you looking?

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#5

Re: Solar Business

06/02/2010 5:46 AM

Define "best priced products" a bit more clearly. The cheapest product on the market most likely is not going to give you the best return on your investment- there are usually reasons a product is offered at lower prices than the median. The highest-priced products are also likely to give less return on investment, because, most likely, any improvement in performance over the mean is likely to be worth less in the long term than the additional cost.

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#6

Re: Solar Business

06/02/2010 11:01 AM

I am currently designing a solar apartment (4 plex) that will work with my engine (solar thermal and NG ability) when I get it done. After you honestly run the numbers on PVs, solar water, solar air, wind... you will find that all "off the shelf" production products are not within any distance of economic reason, and all are at least 5-10 times more costly than they should be to make any economic sense.

For example...PVs... Cost $6,000/kw installed.

Amount of electricity...factors... 5.3 solar hour / day x .8 (20% clouds) x 365 day/year = 1547 kw-hr/year potential from that 1 kw PV.

Avoidance cost...$0.05/kw-hr... 1547x0.05=$77.35. 20 year depreciation = 6000/20=$300. Cost of money at 5% = 6000 x .05= $300

So, that $6,000 will make you $77, depreciate at $300 and have interest of $300. $600-77= $523 NEGATIVE cash flow. Hmmm. Great way to go belly up, I'd say...

To break even, electricity has to be $523 more expensive... $523/1547=$0.33 /kw-hr. Add in 0.05/kw-hr...total = 0.33+0.05=$0.38/kw-hr. Say 40cent/kw-hr. Now this does not include any maintenance or risk factor of equipment failure outside of the 20 year "life cycle" of the PV.

In short, as Obama stated, electricity would need to triple to make current renewable energy technology work...in many State it must go up by 5 times.

Moreover, you cannot get any "tax credits" on renewable equipment unless it has been approved by some authorized testing agency...which basically makes anything that is built into a new building (non UL listed) not likely to get you that desired tax credit incentive. If, however, you put down that 5-10 times over price, the government will give you back 30% or so. In essence tax payers are funding ideas/technologies that make no sense.

In short, there is NOTHING on the market now that makes any economic sense. When the government stops funding their friends (who funded their campaigns usually), most of these "products" will go out of business, just like in the 1980's.

Your question is really a moral question. Are you willing to sell people overpriced junk that makes no sense? Are you willing to do full disclosure of the real numbers?

That leaves you where I am at...designing new equipment that makes sense (if you are honest...).

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#7
In reply to #6

Re: Solar Business

06/02/2010 11:21 AM

In the right place micro-hydro is very cost effective. Also solar H2O heating. Nothing as cost effective as conservation. A lot of the installs I do are off-grid where running utilities to the property is way more expensive than PVs, etc. So, it has its place. Suburbanites using it to buy their conscience is not one of them.

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#8
In reply to #7

Re: Solar Business

06/02/2010 11:59 AM

My research says 90% of the fuel loads can be removed from an average "American's" lifestyle. In northern cold latitudes, thermal loads are more than electrical loads.

For example: My house used 1500 gallons equivalent of NG in one year for heating and hot water. Electricity use was 12500 kw-hrs....=341 gallons. But to generate 12500 kw-hr takes 3-4 times that depending on generation efficiency and grid losses....say 1200 gallon.

House thermals 1500 gallon. Electrical 1200 gallons.

Cars: 30,000 mile/year at 20 mpg is 1500 gallons.

Total = 1500 + 1200 + 1500 = 4200... That does not include all the products my family buys. ... Perhaps 2x ... or about 8400 gallons of fuel to run my family (six kids, wife, self). I would day that 5000 gallons per family is not unreasonable.

Cut 90%...down to 500 gallons.

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#9
In reply to #8

Re: Solar Business

06/02/2010 12:30 PM

You just defined the term WAG quite well. Though such calculations are very popular on green sites they don't mean all that much. For example - where İ live we do not have natural gas available. All is electric and in the cold months we used about 1800 kWh/month for a very large house - in April 900 kWh. The house heat was at an absolute minimum. We don't use much diesel for the car - maybe fill up once a month. Road fuel including LPG costs in excess of 10 USD per gallon. Not many people anywhere that İ know could make a 90% cut.

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: Solar Business

06/02/2010 1:48 PM

Russ123,

It depends a lot on a lot of factors, where you live, etc. I only gave my personal experience, and my belief that my new technology/designs can drive out 90% of my personal usage of fuels, and not the industrial part of my consumption not in my control. I won't be cutting out things, just using less fuels.

For example: If you can get 60% efficiency instead of 13% that a GM car gets, you can drive use 79% less fuel for the same miles driven. If you had an engine that charged off of solar when parked, you could get perhaps 1/2 of the remaining fuel gone (90% total) and still drive the same distance.

If my house can cut out 90% of the fuels needed to heat things by using solar air or solar water heating, then I still "consume" the same amount of energy, but the source is solar and not fuels that cost money.

The USA used around 100 quadrillion BTUs or about 2700 gallons/ person-year. I have 8 people in my family, so 2700 x 8 = 21600 gallons. That would seem to be very high since my children are still young and none drive cars.

Our lifestyle is supported by industry, so our personal consumption is actually much higher than our personal energy use, by perhaps 2-3 times. When you buy a cell phone, someone used a lot of energy to make that phone. The average strawberry travels 1200 miles from farm to store.

It all comes down to solar (or other source), energy storage and efficiency. No commercial PV panel system is cost effective and none includes a cost effective energy storage system. Methane gas IS the storage system now via nature.

Put another way, if you consider the price of a PV electric panel, you are only looking at part of the real cost. Storage and retrieval on demand must also be considered.

Only 10% of the installed wind turbine rated power across Europe can be considered "base load" power. That means you must build 10 times as many wind turbines to equal 1 coal powered plant. Ten generators, ten transformers, etc. Not good.

If each turbine had energy storage, then it could be rated on the average 24 hr output on demand. Typically wind is good for 1/4 the time on a production basis, so at least 4x is needed. If you divide 4/10 you get a 40% value factor. If a coal plant gets 5 cent/kw-hr a wind turbine should get no more than 40% of that, or perhaps 2 cent/kw-hr. Any way one figures it, wind power without on demand power is NOT as valuable as on demand power...same for solar. Energy storage is REQUIRED to make it par to coal power.

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#11
In reply to #10

Re: Solar Business

06/02/2010 2:41 PM

Agreed - at least in part. However İ won't be buying an electric car until the batteries become more reasonable priced and the car companies have dropped the opportunity cost. Zero percent of the turbines can be considered baseload unless there is a new definition of 'baseload'. You are 100% correct about RE energy needing storage to make it effective. Wind turbines claim a capacity factor of maybe 35% but if the wind blows and there is no demand then it don't count. The real capacity factor is probably closer to 10% than 35%.

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#14
In reply to #8

Re: Solar Business

06/02/2010 5:00 PM

My monthly electrical bill (at something like $0.21/kW-hr, if I remember rightly, is on the order of $20 average, which is just above the minimum hook-up fee locally. I do not own an automobile- I spend something like $100-120 per month on public transportation- I am not sure how to calculate my percentage of actual energy use for public transportation, especially since they run whether I use them or walk (which is my preferred mode of transportation, weather permitting). I could not buy auto insurance for that. We buy one 25 lb tank of natural gas every three months for cooking- even though it is cheaper for the two of us to eat out at cheap restaurants ($1.75 to $2.50 per plate, but I prefer the wife's cooking, so we usually splurge on eating at home, which costs about 50% more per meal). I do have a major energy expense that disturbs me- most of my customers are in remote locations, so I spend a lot of time flying about in small aircraft. Turns out traveling to these remote areas by boat is considerably more expensive energy-wise than flying...

Now a confession- I did not develop this low energy life-style out of any conscientious concern over energy conservation. My goal was to develop a "low maintenance" life style, so that the free time I do have can be spent enjoying my wife's company, rather than fixing everything that broke while I was off on a job...

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#13
In reply to #7

Re: Solar Business

06/02/2010 4:48 PM

As you say, all of these technologies have there place. I have done micro hydro on top of a mountain where the only access was a 2-hour horseback ride, and I have done some solar pump installations and solar water heating where such are the only viable alternatives. (I have also done some installations that make no sense at all cost-wise, but the customer insists. I insure the customer understands the down side before I will accept that sort of job). But, they are expensive. As you say, sometimes running grid power is not a feasible option...

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#12
In reply to #6

Re: Solar Business

06/02/2010 4:44 PM

Last time I looked at the numbers for a full-house solar installation, payback at $0.19/kW-hr (then the current local rate) was 40+ years- on a system guaranteed for 20 years? and, if I recall correctly, I did not include replacing several thousand dollars worth of batteries every 5 years...

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#16
In reply to #12

Re: Solar Business

06/03/2010 1:54 AM

Unless you are so lucky as to have a stupid uncle (as in Uncle Sam) footing 30% of the bill - the state more and possibly the utility even more. İn 10 years when the money is gone but the repayment stretches out forever people will look back and ask, !What in the world were they thinking'.

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#15

Re: Solar Business

06/03/2010 1:39 AM

Here is an interesting video about solar thermal. It is the only type of green energy that can do 95% of the grid.

Solar Thermal Power

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#17

Re: Solar Business

02/03/2011 11:07 AM

To get back to your original question "best priced products", solar water heaters are probably the best for payback. In photo voltaic, the micro inverters are one of the newest improvements in the PV field. Each PV panel is fitted with a micro inverter instead of having one large inverter for the system. It's supposed to be a more effecient system.

If building a new structure, the best bet is lots of the correct type of insulation, and a carefully designed building; one that takes advantage of the sun and surrounding environment.

When my home was built 7 years ago, I had a heat pump installed with an attached heat recovery unit (HRU). The HRU captures heat from the heat pump and produces about 70% of my hot water. The HRU was about $400 installed.

I also have a PV solar system. Yes, the feds are paying for 30% and my state is paying for 50%. The batteries for my system are actually rated to last at least 10 years. I was thinking of installing a propane backup generator but that would have costs almost as much as my PV system. A couple of years ago we were without electricity for 10 straight days. And, as soon as I installed my PV system, I began selling electricity back to my utility company through net metering.

Something else I utilize on a small scale is a solar cooker. It may not seem like much but when it is 95 degrees outside I don't like heating up my home with the electric stove. The cooker cost about $2 to build and I can cook a meal for two in 6-8 hours as I'm doing other stuff around the house. And, the house won't burn down if you forget and leave the "stove" on. It's just about impossible to overcook in a solar cooker.

Bottomline, the best thing to do is carefully design your building and insulate the heck out of it. Of course this is more difficult if the building is already there. Good luck.

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Anonymous Poster (1); cwarner7_11 (4); Don in LA (1); lighthasmass (2); Rebuilt (1); russ123 (4); seaplaneguy (4)

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