Friday, May 08, 2009

Solar Pork

Have to love the title, what's all this about? Well, our little local paper published the strangest article about solar and wind power I've ever read in my life, and if you want to read it, try this link.

I must be fair, I wasn't at the meeting with SPI GO GREEN, a new company that wantonly promotes solar power, and the story writer did as best as he could. But gosh, such laughable statements as to say there's no wind here! By gosh, it's been blowing over 20 the last month or two and the average even for July is 12 MPH winds. We have wind, sir.

And then these chappies as the unmitigated audacity to claim that solar power is 20 percent cheaper than wind power! Now that's a lie - it should be the other way around. Hey, I think solar power is great but don't lie about the costs. Fortunately, the company also sells wind turbines so don't get me wrong.

But there's more. The newspaper article claims that when the power goes off - which it did 40 times over the last month, none of the solar or wind turbine stuff would work. What a crock! If you had installed switchgear you could at least run 1,000 or 2,000 kW if the sun or wind was working pretty good. That's only a few hundred bucks - the generator, solar panels, or wind turbine is what costs the big money. I mean really, nobody uses batteries, Mr. Ferrario.

Hey I love alternative power of all kinds but something about this story put me off. I do have to say the last sentence of the article really drove me crazy - that our area "is unsuited for windmill generation simply because the wind velocity is not reliable enough ...." The only time the wind stopped last year was right after Hurricane Dolly as I recall, and with 30 years of climatic data I can show how SPI is a prime area for wind power generation. As a matter of fact, the Texas General Land Office has been promoting it up and down the coast. Why are huge wind turbines being built on the King and Kennedy ranches if the wind is no good?


Rob Nixon said...


Great post and remember that Carl wrote the article so what was actually said and what was printed could be quite different.

To be fair to Carl and the Go Green outfit though I think he may be right about your system shutting down in a power outage if you don't have a storage battery. This would be a standard safety precaution so that your house doesn't back feed the power lines and electrocute whoever may be working on them. this is why you are not supposed to hook your generator straight into your main power center in your house.

On the solar note, have you seen the new semi-conductor paint that you cane just paint onto any surface and turn it into a solar cell. They haven't been able to figure out a way yet though to jack it into the grid.

Sam said...

Good point ... but there are ways to get power during a black-out, brown-out, or some freak outage.

The Bahamians who live on the out-islands are possibly the best at this. The Bahamas Electric Company is known for being off more than on! So people wired a second panel next to the main panel that contains one or more load-sensing switches. Your alternative power (generator, wind, solar) can then feed into your house although you get less number of "hot" outlets depending on your power generated.

For example, let's say you have 2,000 kW from a wind turbine (through an inverter). If clean the power to 110 volts and know how many amps you have, you can figure which lights, refrigerators, or whatever you want to run. It's an engineering wonder and fully automated. If you're trying to draw too much power as compared to what is generated, the load-sensing switch will simply turn off. When the street power comes back on, the system puts you "back on the grid."

No, your alternate power supply isn't going to run "whole house power." That might be well over 10,000 kW although the Bahamians are very stingy with power because it is so expensive there, and are possibly more "green" than most American enviro types.

This is done by a people that are generally uneducated, poor, and lack electrical training. Like SPI, their environment is also harsh with lots of salt air. They figured it out - why can't we?

And no, they don't use large batteries, either.

Everett said...

Hi Sam, Well I've had a 10 kw WECS up and running for 28 years now and I don't have any batteries either. The first one needed the 110 v from the power co to run and put out power, so when the grid went down so did I with NO possibility of back feeding the grid! The next one, the Bergy that has been there since '91, doesn't need the power from the grid to work, but when the power goes off it disconnects from the grid till it senses that they are back up and running again. I could have another circuit board installed in the Inverter that would let it continue to put out juice, but I would have to have a place to "dump" the excess that the house couldn't use. Like big assed water heater, a pool heater, or the old battery trick.So not wanting to incur the cost and care necessary for a battery bank I haven't used that option---YET!!
If I can find the article someone sent me recently, I'll forward it too you. It is about the "spent" fuel rods from all our nuke plants. It really is an eye opener.
The rain has finally stopped for two or three days! It has been a steady, daily occurrence for the last three weeks! See Ya!

Sam said...

Everett great to hear from ya and I got the nuke message and sent back probably too long a message.

But there are ways to "dump" power. At 10 kW (sorry I had my units wrong earlier, 10,000 watts = 10 kW), you might be over-powered if the wind is high. Usually one has the opposite problem, not enough power! So plug in the refrigerator, freezer, laundry machine, and dryer - an electric dryer can suck down more power than you can imagine.

I'm sorta kidding. But you can make it work with these load sensing switches so you won't burn anything up - I'll ask my Bahamian friends which models work best. Seems like they're about $300 to $400, one or two needed.

As far as dumping power after that, have you thought about "Cyber Sniper" and some of the nastier Wardens? LOL, it's like raising carp from a pond using an old crank telephone! -sam