[clug] OT: Solar power recommendations and advice

Alex Satrapa grail at goldweb.com.au
Mon Apr 19 17:44:42 MDT 2010

On 20/04/2010, at 05:54 , Felix Karpfen wrote:

> I found that the solar systems …
> … generate more electricity than I use on summer 
> days (when my consumption is small), but … *no* electricity when I 
> use most of it (at night). 
> I also concluded that if domestically-generated electric power became 
> widespread, it might impact on the profit margins of existing power 
> generators; it would do little to diminish greenhouse gas emissions. At 
> best, it might contribute to putting a few highly toxic power generators 
> out of business.

You're approaching the problem the wrong way. You're not the only producer or consumer of electricity on the grid.

Once you consider that the grid that we're connected to here in Canberra is powered by
 - fuel burning power stations
 - Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme
 - Woodlawn wind farm project
 - Several dozens of homes running solar power

And then recognise that the highest consumption of power is:
 - 8am to 5pm

… you'll start to realise that your solar panels on the roof might not be generating the power that *you* need, but dammit, every kilowatt hour of solar power they produce is being used by someone instead of another kilowatt hour of coal fired electricity.

The Snowy scheme is basically our very own gravity storage power system. The excess electricity you produce during the day helps pump water up the mountains, then during times of peak demand the hydroelectric system opens its valves and pumps spike energy into the system while the fuel burning plants spin up to speed.

With the prominence of the Presidio, Texas energy storage scheme, I wouldn't be surprised to find people here in Australia talking about it soon, especially with the imminent arrival of the "smart grid". We'll be able to charge our batteries using really cheap off-peak electricity and discharge into the grid at highest peak cost, and make money by literally doing nothing (except living with a tonne of sodium salt or vanadium redox battery in the back yard).

All of this solar + storage means that fuel burning power plants can operate more stably (and thus more efficiently). Sure, they'll lose potential profits, but the sensible thinkers will realise that return on investment is higher when your plant can burn less fuel per W/h.

But seriously, considering that solar power is useless because *you* aren't using the electricity it's producing? It's making you money!

And if you aren't coming out the end of Winter with a surplus on your electricity "bill", that's a hint that you need to consume less power. Virtualise a few servers instead of having thirty five 486 PCs running 24/7.


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