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Thread: Does solar power need batteries in Edmonton?

  1. #1

    Default Does solar power need batteries in Edmonton?

    I imagine batteries are a large part of the cost of a solar installation in a building in Edmonton. Would eliminating the batteries, or most of them, save a lot of the cost and make it more economic over the long term, though stretching out the pay back period?

    Moreover, do batteries need replacement before the solar panels need replacement in that the initial capital cost of batteries has to be, say, doubled over the life of the assembly?




    As an aside, I've also wondered if it wouldn't be cheaper to wire a solar system (with batteries) into say a house as a secondary, independent, supplemental or even parallel system from that connected to the grid and requiring one of those costly controller /switching units. (Sorry, I'm a layman so I have no idea what they are called).

  2. #2
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    Very few solar installations in edmonton use batteries. Most will be grid tied as use the grid as a 'battery'. Batteries are expensive, toxic, dangerous, etc. I would much rather be tied in to the grid and use the grid/power meter as a savings bank.
    When you generate more than you need, your meter goes backwards, creating a credit. When you use more than you generate, it goes forward, creating a debit. Just like a bank account.

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    Perhaps your best payback is far thicker insulation. You might consider vacuum solar tubes for heat generation over solar cells for electricity.
    http://www.apricus.com/html/evacuate...m#.Ut1xshBlCHs

    I read an article a while ago about a student project which used the electricity from solar cells to decompose water and they stored the resulting hydrogen gas. Later when needed they used a fuel cell to convert the hydrogen and air back into water to generate electricity. Of course hydrogen is flammable but even lead acid batteries generate hydrogen.
    http://iris.nyit.edu/solardecathlon2005/
    Last edited by sundance; 20-01-2014 at 01:05 PM.

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    ^ The ROI on insulation is likely to be higher than the ROI for a solar installation, but I don't think thermal is any better than PV. Even though PV panels only convert ~15% of the energy in sunlight to electricity (compared to up to 60% to useful heat for vacuum tubes), the cost of grid electricity is approximately 10X the cost of heat from natural gas so the value of the heat is actually lower than the value of the electricity. You also can't sell any extra heat back to the grid.

    ^^Batteries are a needless expense if you are still connected to the grid, and unless you can shave your electricity consumption well below average you probably won't be able to install enough panels to go off grid. The cost of batteries for an off-grid application will far also outweigh the extra expense of grid tied inverters compared to standalone inverters.

  5. #5

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    Unless you are using the batteries as a UPS or emergency back up I agree with the above.

  6. #6

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    All the homes our clients do that have solar are 'grid tie'. Batteries just don't make economic sense. You can do a reasonable grid-tie solar array for an average sized home for around $15-18k.
    www.decl.org

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by nobleea View Post
    Very few solar installations in edmonton use batteries. Most will be grid tied as use the grid as a 'battery'. Batteries are expensive, toxic, dangerous, etc. I would much rather be tied in to the grid and use the grid/power meter as a savings bank.

    When you generate more than you need, your meter goes backwards, creating a credit. When you use more than you generate, it goes forward, creating a debit. Just like a bank account.
    There must be limitations or I'd expect acreage owners and farmers would be putting up great banks of solar panels. Or for that matter, commercial building, strip mall, large mall, and warehouse owners could be turning their roofs into profit centres.

    In my first post I wasn't thinking of production for the grid but as a direct feed to a commercial building's daytime power needs for lighting, computers, heating, cooling, etc. I guess grid-tie is essentially the same thing.
    Last edited by KC; 21-01-2014 at 09:01 AM.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by GreenSPACE View Post
    All the homes our clients do that have solar are 'grid tie'. Batteries just don't make economic sense. You can do a reasonable grid-tie solar array for an average sized home for around $15-18k.
    Off topic, because off-grid needs batteries but... It seems it's not easy to get off the grid and break free of the system fixed costs/charges here in Alberta. Hybrid wins again.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by IdriveaSubaru View Post
    Unless you are using the batteries as a UPS or emergency back up I agree with the above.
    Hmmm, just thinking out loud here... Is there any role for off-grid dedicated systems if you still need the grid for night time use?

    Could, say, a commercial building with primarily daytime computer users be able to run a separate dedicated off-grid solar system to power only the computing needs of its users to any cost advantage? (I guess with the move to laptops this may not make sense.).

    Maybe a dedicated off-grid daytime LED lighting system with just a few batteries for cloudy days or mid-winter days? Any cost savings potential?

    Again, with grid-tie in I'm guessing nothing else makes much sense.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GreenSPACE View Post
    All the homes our clients do that have solar are 'grid tie'. Batteries just don't make economic sense. You can do a reasonable grid-tie solar array for an average sized home for around $15-18k.
    How big of an array would that buy you? Roughly how much annual output?

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    Quote Originally Posted by KC View Post
    There must be limitations or I'd expect acreage owners and farmers would be putting up great banks of solar panels. Or for that matter, commercial building, strip mall, large mall, and warehouse owners could be turning their roofs into profit centres.
    The limitation is cost. The panels are very expensive. Farmers don't have 100K-millions$ to put up great banks of solar panels. The cost to generate is far more than the cost from the grid. So that will tell you why its rare on strip malls and warehouses.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by KC View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by IdriveaSubaru View Post
    Unless you are using the batteries as a UPS or emergency back up I agree with the above.
    Hmmm, just thinking out loud here... Is there any role for off-grid dedicated systems if you still need the grid for night time use?

    Could, say, a commercial building with primarily daytime computer users be able to run a separate dedicated off-grid solar system to power only the computing needs of its users to any cost advantage? (I guess with the move to laptops this may not make sense.).

    Maybe a dedicated off-grid daytime LED lighting system with just a few batteries for cloudy days or mid-winter days? Any cost savings potential?

    Again, with grid-tie in I'm guessing nothing else makes much sense.
    You could use the grid connection as your back-up. I know some green tech facilities that do this should their primary or secondary generation facilities have issues (say solar/wind and a fuel cell/battery backup).

    You won't find a specific answer I am afraid because each building is unique, and each tenant of that structure has unique needs. Could malls and large industrial buildings host panels on their roofs? Absolutely, would be awesome if they did in Edmonton due to the number of those structures and being one of the sunniest cities in Canada (despite the long winter nights) we would absolutely see big boost in production of green electricity and we could always look at technologies like super capacitors, and large scale battery packs at the small local substations (which I believe should be in existence anyways. Large super capacitors for very fast current draws, and battery packs for large brown out conditions. Also would provide some much needed filtering and line stabilization and prevent lots of the issues with large scale grids that we currently see).

    The batteries don't have to be lead acid either but recent advancements in Nickel-Iron batteries have made them a viable option for these sorts of things.

    http://www.changhongbatteries.com/Ni...13_m2.2.1.html

  13. #13

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    Does anyone know of any great sites or information on specific numbers and examples for solar panels?

    Cost, grid tie costs and revenues or consumption cost offsets/discounts, etc.

    i.e. We have a couple cabins on a large property where we pay monthly fixed charges for power on a normally vacant property. When we're there power consumption is next to nothing. A few lights and a fridge, power tools, etc. Everything is unplugged when we leave. No plumbing or a/c. We have a generator but no longer use it and it's no longer wired in. Generators are noisy and inconvenient but staying with it would have saved many thousands of dollars of utility charges over the years.

    So, similar to my farm post above, #7, could I buy/rent solar panels for out at the cabin, tie them into the grid and sell into the grid most days of the year and then for the few times a year that we use any real amount of power we'd draw power off the grid as we do now. How does the program work? Who's doing it? Any real world experience?

    Also, we'd like to shift more to electric heat out there since the old coal and wood stoves smoke away so a grid tie in is nice, clean and convenient. It would be high cost power but with low usage.

    Just wondering if solar panels on a low usage site could totally offset utility costs or even make some money.




    This doesn't look promising. See article below ... It's an old story however. Plus my thinking is that putting them on a roof over top of shingles is problematic. A dedicated surface would seem to be the safer route. Better to align with the sun as well.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgar...osts-1.1156817
    Last edited by KC; 16-01-2016 at 03:03 PM.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by KC View Post

    Also, we'd like to shift more to electric heat out there since the old coal and wood stoves smoke away so a grid tie in is nice, clean and convenient. It would be high cost power but with low usage.
    Have you considered a new wood stove?

    New ones apparently don't smoke away.
    Let's make Edmonton better.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by JayBee View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by KC View Post

    Also, we'd like to shift more to electric heat out there since the old coal and wood stoves smoke away so a grid tie in is nice, clean and convenient. It would be high cost power but with low usage.
    Have you considered a new wood stove?

    New ones apparently don't smoke away.
    Yeah. I've looked at them several times. Solar seems so much better especially if it can make money or at least a return.

    This is the replacement cook stove I'd picked out:
    http://woodstoves.net/cookstoves/la-...cook-stove.htm

    An then just a basic one for general heating. (We also have a propane wall heater.)

    Our other cabin has one of those old style chrome covered cook stoves. Classic look but ancient technology. Still hate to part with the old stoves.
    Last edited by KC; 17-01-2016 at 09:59 AM.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by nobleea View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by KC View Post
    There must be limitations or I'd expect acreage owners and farmers would be putting up great banks of solar panels. Or for that matter, commercial building, strip mall, large mall, and warehouse owners could be turning their roofs into profit centres.
    The limitation is cost. The panels are very expensive. Farmers don't have 100K-millions$ to put up great banks of solar panels. The cost to generate is far more than the cost from the grid. So that will tell you why its rare on strip malls and warehouses.
    Any thoughts on improved prospects for this going forward under the NDP climate plan?

    With a carbon tax and a plan to eliminate low cost coal production (which will likely raise costs for early decommissioning payments to the utilities) could farms and acreages become profit centres using solar.

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    No.

    I've looked into it very seriously. I also looked at a complete off grid solutions. I have plenty of wood, efficient fireplaces and also masonry ones, and even offered 30 acres to a couple providers to allow them to capitalize on the potential opportunity.

    All declined, but they certainly wanted me to drop $180,000 on solar/geothermal... and then strongly suggested I still grid tie, both to 100amp and NG or a 1000 gallon propane yard bomb to provide a backup generator... a backup that given this cloudy and windless winter would have become my PRIMARY energy source.

    Nobleea is spot on. With the continued investment I'd have to make in maintenance and batteries, plus gas consumption, petrol for chainsaws and log splitters, there is zero ROI at the current prices. I'll never break even. This is notwithstanding fees I have to pay people like Fortis, AtcoPowerline, etc.


    I find it funny that I can burn wood with reckless abandon... aka young coal.... yet the latest technology in Genesee and Keephills 3 burns similarly... it isn't Wabamun.

    ....and missing the reality of industrial electrical needs... no one is talking about that.

    I've spent far too much time in the generation world... and seriously looked at alternate methods... to not find the hypocrisy in some of the arguments. Heck, to power basic consumer needs in Stony Plain I'd loose every acre of arable land I have... so much for the local food plan.
    Onward and upward

  18. #18
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    I'd say the 1st priorities would be to better insulate your home and increase the R value of your windows. That alone can reduce your heating requirements quite a bit in the article below this person estimated he will use 90% less energy than others.
    http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/...088/story.html

    Then afterwards consider solar heating, vacuum tubes can provide quite a bit of heat even in -40C (as long as it's sunny), far more efficient than snaking black tubing with a glass frame over top.
    http://shop.latitude51solar.ca/Evacu...ctors-s/38.htm

    If you have space in the basement you can store this hot water to use for heating or cloudy days or nighttime.

    You can of course reduce your electrical usage with LED lights, but still at the end you still need a stove and oven, they will always require quite a bit of energy either electric or gas for the most part, most people do not actually want a wood stove.

    At the end even without solar electric you will still use quite a bit less electricity or gas.
    Last edited by sundance; 23-03-2016 at 11:58 AM.

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marcel Petrin View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by GreenSPACE View Post
    All the homes our clients do that have solar are 'grid tie'. Batteries just don't make economic sense. You can do a reasonable grid-tie solar array for an average sized home for around $15-18k.
    How big of an array would that buy you? Roughly how much annual output?
    Sorry missed this post! Replying anyways

    Depending on how much roof area you have. 5kw system is pretty standard, around $18k installed.
    www.decl.org

  20. #20

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    ^^Agree. As someone who deals with this on a daily basis, insulation and good quality windows (fibreglass frames, triple glazed) are your best bang-for-your-buck. From there you can decide on solar or types of mechanical systems.

    There is no perfectly oriented house or design. Which means very few houses are achieving actual 'net-zero' operation. It can be done, but with fairly great expense or not feasible for the average family home. But if anyone has questions, don't hesitate to contact me.
    www.decl.org

  21. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by GreenSPACE View Post
    ^^Agree. As someone who deals with this on a daily basis, insulation and good quality windows (fibreglass frames, triple glazed) are your best bang-for-your-buck. From there you can decide on solar or types of mechanical systems.

    There is no perfectly oriented house or design. Which means very few houses are achieving actual 'net-zero' operation. It can be done, but with fairly great expense or not feasible for the average family home. But if anyone has questions, don't hesitate to contact me.
    That's long been my position too. Financially and environmentally, to me I nsulation is a wonder material.

    Why our building codes seem to be four decades old in term of insulation and better windows is beyond me. I'd have 12" thick walls and triple pane everywhere.

    However, cheap and reoccuringly abundant natural gas has always been our excuse to build cheap.

  22. #22

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    ^As of May there is new envelope efficiency requirements alluded to in other threads. Will change how we design buildings a bit.
    www.decl.org

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    I've noticed many houses in the UK with 8-panel arrays on the roof. Every little helps I guess. More here:
    http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/...c/solar-panels
    Nisi Dominus Frustra

  24. #24

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    No good deed goes unpunished:

    Spain's sun tax


    "The main problem with the new law, say solar advocates, is that it taxes self-consumption PV installations even for the electricity they produce for their own use and don’t feed into the grid. Spain's PV sector calls the new law a 'sun tax.’ ...

    "Finally, the law is retroactive meaning that all existing self-consumption PV installations need to comply with the new regulations otherwise face an astronomically high penalty fee up to €60 million. This sanction, UNEF notes, is double the fine set for radioactive leaks from nuclear plants. "


    http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/...-solar-pv.html
    Last edited by KC; 25-03-2016 at 06:47 PM.

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