[amsat-bb] Satellites and Solar (a)

Jim Sanford wb4gcs at wb4gcs.org
Fri Apr 8 21:51:38 UTC 2016

Every time I think about a battery solar system, I remember just exactly 
how much time, money, and effort the submarine force spends on battery 
maintenance  . . . . .  Bob is right on this one.

Long ago solar systems did not last as long as the payback period. (I 
did the analysis, in the '80s, and again in the '90s.)  Economics have 
changed -- DIY systems can be had for around $2/watt, arrays last 
longer, and electricity is ever more expensive.  If the economy ever 
recovers, it will get a lot more expensive, at least until the rotating 
blackouts start.

Your biggest obstacle may very well be your local municipality.  I know, 
because I'm reviewing a proposed new zoning ordinance for the rural 
township where I live, and it will make DIY solar virtually illegal, and 
commercially installed systems much more expensive.

For emergency power, get a generator.  When I lived in VA, the 
performance was like Bob describes, and every time I wanted a generator, 
I had to ask, "How many times have you been without power for how long?" 
and didn't.

Where I live now (rural, so I can have a tower and antennas) outages are 
frequent and extended (days) so a natural gas whole-house generator made 
sense.  Went for several years with a "portable" generator (used at 
Field Day) manually connected when needed.

Grid reliability may be changing -- have a friend who lives in Northern 
VA who got tired of frequent outages long enough to ruin the food so 
they put in a 25KW whole-house natural gas unit.

Good luck!
wb4gcs at amsat.org

On 4/8/2016 4:23 PM, Robert Bruninga wrote:
>> Talking solar with my non Ham friends...
> That's a problem,  Anything they were sure they knew before, is these days
> almost obsolete a year later.  I too had misconceptions all based on my 50
> year ham experience with solar (and batteries) for remote digipeaters,
> etc.  My historical background was WRONG on the most basic concepts or
> modern solar..., hence my sounding "born-again! "
> That is, FORGET the batteries.  The economical revolution in solar is
> grid-tie.  Has nothing to do with batteries (and nothing to do with backup
> power).  Getting rid of the batteries got rid of half the cost and all the
> lifetime maintenance. It also greatly relaxed the pointing requirements
> and angles...  A true revolution.  Solar generation now costs less than a
> coal plant.  Even the Saudi's are building all new energy as solar.  Since
> solar is cheaper than coal or oil, they want to use Solar for all their
> own energy needs because they can save their oil for export where they can
> sell it for higher prices.
>> and there is a misconception that solar can be
>> used for emergency power... Solar inverter
>> shuts down once the utility main sense is lost.
> Yep, same as always.  The backup power issue has nothing to do with
> economical power.   Providing emergency power is a totally different
> function and financial problem no different from what you currently do.
> Around here the grid is 99.95% reliable.  That means, it goes out on
> average about 4 hours a year.  For a 1kW average house load, that is about
> 60 cents of power loss per year.
> Adding TEN THOUSAND dollars of "whole house backup battery system" to
> replace that 60 cents of power per year is not economical... Especially
> since 5 years later, you will have to replace all those batteries after
> having only used them maybe 20 hours in 5 years..  No,  The answer to
> "backup" is no different whether one has solar or not.  One easy way to do
> backup, is the same $200 generator and $6 can of gas one might use now.
> Or plug into the 50kW generator in your Hybrid car, or the 24 kWh battery
> in your EV, or maybe $400 worth of marine batteries and a $200 inverter
> form Home depot.  All far-far less than a whole house battery system added
> to solar for 60 cents worth of back up power once a year.  AND... the
> knowledgible Ham who still has 10kW of DC solar power can always find lots
> of ways to use it even if the grid is down.
> See http://aprs.org/alternative-energy.html
>> I have also heard.. rumors that the panels go bad
>>   just after the cost of the system has paid for itself.
> Solar panels degrade over time.  After 25 years they will have lost 20% of
> their capacity.  But, in 25 years I think I can guarantee that one's
> appliances and electric loads will be 20% more efficient.  Hence no change
> in life style.  Just look at the 4-to-1 drop in power needed for lighting
> in just the last few years.
> Anyway, yes, they degrade, but less than 1% per year.  But they are still
> producing power.  After another 25 years (50 years from now) there will be
> another 20% loss down to 60% of original power.... but in 50 years you'll
> be dead or one probably won't need all the power we waste now.  And
> lastly, the cost of 20% more panels to bring your array back up to snuff
> 25 years from now will cost pennies.
> Hope that helps.  Solar power is cheap, clean power (now costs less than
> coal.  Even the Saudi's are going to all new solar power
> Bob, WB4APR
>> On Apr 8, 2016, at 9:35 AM, Robert Bruninga <bruninga at usna.edu> wrote:
>> Solar Rant:
>> Last night I gave a talk to a local Ham club about Emergency Power
>> (solar) for the Ham.  Turns out, I had given a similar talk on the
>> same topic to the same group 6 years ago (2010).
>> But the world has CHANGED (and most of us (and them) have not.
>> except get older)..
>> I began "How many of you pay about $200/mo for electricity?"  Most
>> hands went up
>> "How many of you went solar since my last talk?" (one hand went up).
>> "Why not?" I ask.
>> General response was, ".. it costs too much."
>> I went on, "Do the rest of you with the $200/mo electric bill realize
>> you have spent almost $15,000 to the utility since my last talk, and
>> did not also take the $5000 tax credit, so you have wasted over
>> $20,000 and have absolutely nothing to show for it except another $200
>> a  month for the rest of your life, and another $24,000 thrown away
>> every ten years (probably twice that with inflation)."
>> "Don't tell me it costs too much.. It costs too much to do nothing!"
>> "This other solar guy hardly pays anything now, or the last 6 years or
>> the rest of his life!"
>> Most people in the room said they would probably go solar "someday".
>> But now they are starting to realize that every single month they send
>> another $200 to the utility, that is another $200 thrown away.
>> when instead it could have gone for their solar investment which
>> remains EQUITY in their hands, on their roof, or in their yard and which
>> pays back over 10% annual return on the investment every year for the
>> rest of their life.
>> Sorry for the rant.  Every AMSAT station needs power.  Are you going
>> to continue to burn coal to supply your energy and pay the utility
>> forever, at higher cost, or are you going to do something about it now
>> and start getting free power forever and breath cleaner air.
>> See http://aprs.org/solar-now.html
>> AMSAT TOO:  I just looked it up. I gave this talk at the AMSAT/TAPR
>> Dayton Banquet in 2011.  In the 5 years since, you (with $200 electric
>> bills) have spent over $12,000 in electric bills and have not taken
>> the over $3600 tax credit either.  How many more years are you going
>> to throw away good money every month and do nothing?
>> Sorry, if you have shade, you are out of solar luck, but hug your
>> trees and birds instead!  In some states, such as Maryland, you can
>> still invest in community solar where your solar panels will be credited
> to your bill.
>> Also in Maryland and some other progressive states, if you have some
>> remote land or antenna farm somewhere else,  You can install your
>> solar panels there, and get that electric meter to provide 100% credit
>> to your own home bill.  Neat!  Its called "virtual-net-metering".
>> It's a whole new world of energy changing under your feet.. Every day..
>> Bob, WB4APR
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