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How home solar arrays can help to stabilize the grid, Part 2 of 2

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Editor’s Note: Scientific American’s George Musser will be chronicling his experiences installing solar panels in Solar at Home (formerly 60-Second Solar). Read his introduction here and see all posts here.

In the first installment of this post, Arnold Mckinley of Xslent Energy Technologies described how "reactive power" — that is, power stored momentarily by electrical appliances and then released — destabilizes the electrical grid. Here he explains how home solar arrays can help.

Electricity has traditionally been distributed using a wheel and spoke grid: power travels from a large central generator to loads distributed around it. In some cases, energy travels very long distances, perhaps 500 to 1,000 miles, before being used. That model is changing. Since solar and wind inject energy at numerous local points, the grid is coming to look more like a network than like a wheel — making it even harder than it already is to keep power flowing smoothly. Two recent developments promise to help. The first is a new generation of microinverters, and the second is the growth of the interconnected smart grid.

A solar panel generates DC power, which gets converted to AC power by a device known as an inverter. Most inverters require a certain minimum threshold voltage to work. Therefore the panels must be wired together in electrical series to raise the voltage high enough. Experience has shown that this setup is less than optimally efficient, as an earlier Solar at Home post talked about. A cloud shading a single panel reduces the efficiency of the entire string. Moreover, each panel has slightly different electrical characteristics, creating a mismatch that reduces the power generated. Finally, if the voltage from the string is too low, the inverter never turns on; so on rainy or foggy days, the system generates no power at all. The solution to all three problems is to fit each panel with its own low-voltage inverter, or microinverter. It turns on as soon as light falls on the panel and automatically compensates for the panels’ electrical differences.

But if microinverters were also able to produce reactive power, they could ship the excess over the local load consumption back into the grid, as they do with active power now, and help out the utilities.

The figure at left gives an example of a basic setup where household appliances draw 1000 watts of active power and 600 volt-amps of reactive power. If a solar array can generate 1200 W of DC power, then it is capable of producing 1200 W of active AC power and 1200 VA of reactive AC power. That is enough not only to power the house but also to feed some active and reactive power into the grid. All it requires is the right microinverter.

When the ordinary inverters and microinverters were first developed, the designers paid no attention to reactive power generation. Because consumers pay only for active power, the goal was to produce as much of that as possible. Today it is clear that reactive-producing solar can help stabilize the grid, and microinverters are being designed to produce both. In fact, physics is helping us out here. Since no energy is required to produce reactive power, an inverter can produce it without sacrificing active power or requiring more solar panels.

When I first learned that reactive power can be produced without affecting the active component, I was surprised. To see that this is reality and not fantasy, the figure at the right shows two days of power production at a typical solar facility. On the first day, the microinverter was set to produce both active power (green line) and reactive power (red line); on the second, it was set to produce only active power. The switch did not affect the active power production at all. My company’s website has more details on this issue.

In the past, the big problem preventing microinverters from producing reactive power was the need for weighty capacitors to store the energy temporarily. But new designs pull off the trick simply by changing the shape of the AC wave. This significantly reduces the cost and the size of the devices.

What is more, microinverters are also evolving to communicate with other grid devices, much as smart meters are already doing. Networked microinverters can report data for display on internet browsers, but some also have two-way communication, allowing operators to control their active/reactive power generation mix. Eventually, on-board intelligence will adjust the mix on the fly, providing the best economic benefit to consumers based on their rate structures (which will eventually include reactive power pricing). Such intelligence will allow these distributed networks to separate from the main continental grid and form localized microgrids, so that all the electricity we need is generated where we need it.

Photo and Diagram courtesy of Arnold Mckinley

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  1. 1. jtdwyer 7:40 pm 06/1/2010

    If distributed solar arrays offer a realistic alternative to increasing investment in centralized generation and long distance power transmission capacity, this offers an alternative investment strategy for public power utilities.

    Rather than requiring homeowners to personally invest in capital equipment necessary for public power distribution management, why don’t public utilities simply invest in distributed management technologies?

    Link to this
  2. 2. hawkeye 10:42 pm 06/1/2010

    That’s an excellent idea, and I imagine that is what we will eventually wind up doing. The messy part, of course, is getting from here to there.

    Imagine what it would be like; just about every roof in the country producing photovoltaic power, which is then distributed and/or stored, as needed, by a computer controlled intelligent grid. We are already moving in that direction, but considering the amount and complexity of infrastructure that needs to be built, I have to keep my impatience under control.

    Our local utility made a ground-breaking step a couple years ago, when it enabled so-called "net metering". We can now generate photovoltaic and/or wind power at the supply voltage, and sell what we don’t use to the power company; if we generate more than we are using, the meter runs backward.

    This is a big deal, because now we don’t have to go off-grid to use solar power, and there is no need for a large, expensive bank of batteries and their associated charger.

    I can hardly wait; I just hope we don’t destroy human civilization before that can happen. Of course, that brings another interesting question to mind; who gets paid for the energy produced, and who and how do we pay for its distribution? This is a whole new situation, and we are back to where we were a hundred years ago, when Edison and Tesla were calling the shots.

    Link to this
  3. 3. jtdwyer 12:27 am 06/2/2010

    hawkeye – There would be some new issues. From a general accounting standpoint, I’d expect that all energy produced would be fed directly into the local distribution network and that all consumers would pay the standard rate for its usage.

    While that may not sound very interesting to enthusiasts, it wouldn’t preclude anyone from investing in private solar panels, for example, as has been previously envisioned.

    The primary benefit is that areas populated by those unable to acquire credit for capital improvements could still benefit. along with the power utility, from local distribution management.

    For established areas, with above ground distribution, perhaps a standard pole mounted unit could be developed, avoiding likely legal issues of ownership and liability with personal property installations. For below ground distribution areas, perhaps some discrete configuration of panels could suffice. If not, those are the areas more likely to support private capital investment and private installations.

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  4. 4. slih 9:01 am 06/2/2010

    As a resident of south Florida an idea-breaker is whether or not these panels, their complete assembly and their installation on a non-leaking home roof can or is registered as "Dade County Hurricane-Proof" and if installers are certified to perform their jobs. Does anyone know the answers?

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  5. 5. slih 9:05 am 06/2/2010

    As a resident of south Florida, a primary consideration is whether or not any such device is Dade-County Hurricane approved and whether or not installers are (or even must be) certified for such installations. If not, then insurance will not cover the cost of damage to such units, and we have no way of knowing if they will blow off our roof at the first puff.
    Does anyone know the answer(s) to these questions?

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  6. 6. 12:05 pm 06/2/2010

    Friends: I am a retired State Certified Roofing Contractor (37 years in Tampa), and for the last 7 years have devoted my life and skill set as a conservative environmentalist (they always make me sit in a corner). I am the only roofer in this state (out of 20,000) to ever be nominated for a "Sustainable Florida" award (3 times), "Sustainable Schools" judge, and "Sustainable Florida" judge in the "Leadership" category.

    I believe our solar collection devices will soon be from nanotechnology carbon tube technology. I’ve also patented a fully synthetic shingle roof system with titanium underlayment that exceeds Miami-Dade wind requirement.

    The system produces 100% clean stormwater runoff (400,000 people in New Zealand alone depend on roof catchment devices as their only source of water. It would greatly reduce the contaminants you may be receiving in storm water or cisterns.

    Back to solar. The roof prototype was placed in the Florida sun (July) for 5 hours. Ambient temperature was 92F, and the prototype had a total heat gain of 2F which astounded me. I found I could create a highly wind resistant Tthermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) commercial grade (exact specification as Wal-Mart) system that would be the FIRST SHINGLE TO BE LEED COMPLIANT, and qualify homeowners for rebates. The SRI is .96 according to Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories "Heat Island Group".

    11% of the United States consumption of oil is by roofing materials. My system contains no oil in it’s finished form, no plasticizers, and is 100% recyclable.

    According to the Asphalt Roofing Materials Association (ARMA), this country produces an average of 12.5 BILLION sq. ft. of asphalt shingles each year which are more than 50% petroleum. With support, I could change that today.

    I am the " Language and Technical Terminology Compliance Consultant" for a Belgian legal firm that does infrastructure reports on third world companies through a team of French Scientists. Recently, I completed design phase on a 25,000 sq. km. National Park in the Republic of Cameroon.

    I’ve written many monologues on these topics from a scientific, yet "common sense" approach.

    Please email me directly at if you have any interest in what I’m doing, or if you’d like any commercial roofing project assistance.

    "You get the best out of others when you give the best of yourself" (Harry Firestone)


    "Maximizing Sustainable Assets"


    Robert R. Solomon, CPRC
    Director of Commerce

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  7. 7. sethdayal 12:43 pm 06/2/2010

    Another poorly researched piece of BS from Big Oil’s propaganda outlet here at Sciam – push solar and wind, sell more natural gas.

    If every household in the US installed a $25K 5 kw array – 40 cents a kwh average, less than 3% of US energy needs would be provided at an enormous cost. Mass produced nuclear power would supply all of the US’s energy needs for the same cost.

    What possible good would it be for the utilities to have a reactive load sink in the summer and then have to buy the regular capacitor banks in the winter.

    Just utter nonsense.

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  8. 8. jtdwyer 12:03 am 06/3/2010

    sethdayal – As I understand, this article suggests that distributed secondary power generation capacity can reduce total centralized power generation and transmission requirements.

    Your old counter-propaganda is directed at a specific configuration using centralized solar or wind power generations as the primary power source, with gas turbines as secondary generation capacity.

    It seems your old counter-propaganda doesn’t apply to this new propaganda – you’ll have to find someone to come up with some new counter-propaganda for you.

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  9. 9. lakota2012 1:28 am 06/3/2010

    sethdayal says, "just utter nonsense."

    jtdwyer says, "It seems your old counter-propaganda doesn’t apply to this new propaganda – you’ll have to find someone to come up with some new counter-propaganda for you."

    Uh oh…..seems as if the old political rhetoric is dead!

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  10. 10. SuperPeter 8:40 am 06/3/2010

    to the first two posters in this thread.
    You might take a look into how Germany exactly did this.
    Proving it can be done.

    Link to this
  11. 11. lakota2012 9:24 am 06/3/2010

    "Today it is clear that reactive-producing solar can help stabilize the grid…"

    Yes, along with micro-inverters helping to form a smarter grid, and knowing that we use much more peak energy during the day when solar energy is available, the grid can be stabilized better with additional clean and green solar power.

    Link to this
  12. 12. sethdayal 11:10 am 06/3/2010

    If the distributed source is intermittant then it is useless as reactive power balancing tool which must be available 24/7.

    There’s propaganda and there’s engineering. You pick.

    Link to this
  13. 13. jtdwyer 1:03 pm 06/3/2010

    sethdayal – As I understand, to the extent that local power is available, centralized capacity is not required. While there’d be some times when solar, for example, would not be available in some areas, most of the time on most days there would be some local contribution.

    I don’t have any personal bias towards solar, except that it could be engineered as discreet, robust units for mass distribution. Perhaps the microwave cell towers could be covered with panels, anyway. I personally wouldn’t want a micro-fission-reactor in my ‘hood, though.

    Re. propaganda, I simply didn’t see where anyone was selling propane here as you charged.

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  14. 14. sethdayal 3:03 pm 06/3/2010

    Propane – Online you sometimes get a Shell or Chevron popup but most of us have popup blockers. Leaf through the magazine though and see all the Big Oil glossy ads.

    Solar can have a contribution producing real power, but the utility can’t use intermittent sources for reactive power as the article contends. Capacitor banks are at least available 24/7.

    Link to this
  15. 15. sunrun_nami 3:58 pm 06/3/2010

    Distributed renewable energy, such as solar panels, would definitely ease the strain on the electricity grid. It’s amazing how a smattering of solar homes can prevent enormous blackouts. Check out this infographic ( on how solar can save the grid – it’s calculated that 80,000 additional solar homes could have prevented the 2003 Northeast Blackout.

    Link to this
  16. 16. ArniMcK 6:03 pm 06/3/2010

    Sethdayal, you have raised a couple of issues. With regard to the costs, you are right that solar is very expensive now, but its cost can only go down with more research. Nuclear costs will be going up, and you may not have added in the costs of storing the spent fuel (if we could find a place to keep it) or the costs of dismantling a nuclear plant. It is also true that a large centralized plant can produce a lot of electricity, but it is centralized, not decentralized and not capable of micro-grid distribution. Nuclear also gives terrorists a nice target. Give solar time; we haven’t see the best of solar technology yet. Second, solar reactive production is not intended for winter; it is intended for the summer peak, when reactive forces the kVA demand up near capacity and the utilities need to call on ancillary spinning reserve that has been sitting idly by waiting to be ordered up by the ISO operators. That costs something, and the process isn’t green. The solar solution suggested here is green, is inexpensive, and it can now be ordered up almost immediately on those hot summer days. Ancillary carbon-based generators need a 12 hour lead time before they can come on-line.

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  17. 17. Keller 7:41 pm 06/3/2010

    Would it not be more economical and easier to simply have the power generating stations manage grid stability, as opposed to little micro-generators? The logistics (and cost) of imposing the grid’s regulations on an army of Lilliputian generators is hard to fathom. It’s bad enough as it is if you’re a run-of-the-mill independent power producer. Ever looked at the cost of protective relaying? Not cheap.

    Power plants can easily put VARS on the grid for stabilization purposes. However, a lot of power contracts only pay for the "real" megawatts, as opposed to VARs.

    Link to this
  18. 18. Keller 7:47 pm 06/3/2010

    Would it not be more economical and easier to simply have the power generating stations manage grid stability; as opposed to little micro-generators? The logistics (and cost) of imposing the grid’s regulations on an army of Lilliputian generators is hard to fathom. It’s bad enough as it is if you’re a run-of-the-mill independent power producer. Ever looked at the cost of protective relaying?

    Power plants can easily put VARS on the grid for stabilization purposes. However, a lot of power contracts only pay for the "real" megawatts, as opposed to VARs.

    (please excuse if this is a duplicate comment – this has always been a quirky website)

    Link to this
  19. 19. ArniMcK 8:36 pm 06/3/2010

    Keller, Currently the ISO’s determine who produces power for which region, and how that power is gets there. The transmission system was separated from the power generators in 1996. So now reactive power is produced by the main source generators and, when needed, by "ancillary services", i.e. third party power producers distributed around the grid. The ancillary services come on-line when asked to by the ISO under strict operating conditions, usually during the summer months when kVA capacity is reaching its peak. Currently FERC has ordered the ISOs to develop rules allowing non-spinning generators and renewables to act as ancillary services. CAISO, for example, put new draft rules before its Board for approval last month. The rules are rather strict as you suggest, but have been customized for solar. The first big test of the rules will come with solar fields (>20MW fields). So we are a long way from having an "army of Lilliputian generators" producing reactive power on order from the ISO. But some form of that is coming. Just how that is going to play out will be interesting to watch. The point is that solar micro-inverters can be controlled now, automatically by algorithm or by remote control, to produce whatever mix of active and reactive power the ISO wants any time they need it. How this "army" will grow to be useful is an intriguing question, but one that the technology is ready for.

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  20. 20. dwbd 11:07 pm 06/3/2010

    "…With regard to the costs, you are right that solar is very expensive now, but its cost can only go down with more research…"

    Yeah, So. Peter Lang does a thorough analysis of the cost of supplying all of Australia (one of the best locations on Earth) with Renewables. Conclusion:

    Solar PV with Pumped Hydro storage: $2,800 billion
    Solar PV with NaS battery storage: $4,600 billion
    Solar Thermal with storage: $4,400 billion
    Nuclear Power: $120 billion

    Just the cost of the Power Transmission Trunk lines to supply Australia with Wind & Solar Energy is $180 billion — 50% MORE THAN THE ENTIRE NUCLEAR OPTION!!

    CO2 emissions for all of Australia for 30 days:

    Solar PV: 71 million tonnes
    Coal: 219 million tonnes
    Coal with CCS: 33 million tonnes
    Nuclear: 3.3 million tonnes

    "…Nuclear costs will be going up…"

    Wrong. Solar costs have gone down by using factory production, standardization & scale economies. These methods have not YET EVEN BEEN APPLIED TO NUCLEAR! Even if Solar PV costs go to Zero, the enclosure, the support structure, the power electronics and the installation costs will still be > $2 per watt. A double paned window costs $1 per watt in equivalent area.

    So it is possible that some day Solar PV prices will fall to $2 per Wpk installed, after which material & energy price inflation will cause the price to rise again. But right now systems cost $7 per Wpk installed. As a matter of fact the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory lists the costs of Solar Installations in the USA:

    "…The capacity-weighted average installed cost of systems completed in 2008 – in terms of real 2008 dollars per installed watt (DC-STC)4 and prior to receipt of any direct financial incentives or tax credits – was $7.5/Watt, a decline from $7.8/W in 2007 following several years (2005-2007) during which installed costs remained relatively flat. From 1998 to 2008, installed costs declined by about 3.6% (or $0.3/W) per year, on average, starting from $10.8/W in 1998. Preliminary cost data indicates that the average cost of projects installed through the California Solar Initiative program during the first 8½ months of 2009 rose by $0.4/W relative to 2008…"

    $2 per Wpk installed is looking pretty dubious. But even that is upwards of $17k per avg kw for a perfect roof in sunny Los Angeles. That is not even close to practical.

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  21. 21. dwbd 11:35 pm 06/3/2010

    This reactive power crap is just hype. Generators can easily supply reactive power by simply increasing field voltage. The advantage to large reactive power consumers, which is almost entirely heavy industry, big induction motors being the culprits, is to generate their own reactive power to reduce line loss, reduce cable size (cables are really expensive) and reduce power demand charge, which is usually ratcheting for 12 months. So the big reactive power consumers use capacitors to correct power factor close to the source.

    It is no help whatsoever to have homeowners producing reactive power, except for the tiny amount of reactive power that homeowners consume (mostly the refrigerator & freezer motors).

    If you can produce reactive power with micro-inverters why not just do the same with the multitudes of large power inverters / motor frequency drives that are ubiquitous in industry nowadays. Who needs mickey mouse Solar Installations.

    Sunny Spain has just had a rude awakening, about Solar Energy, after figuring out that all they are getting for taxpayer costs of $26.4 billion is a miserable 450 MW average output or an ASTOUNDING $59k PER KW!! Germany’s Solar program has failed miserably, by 2013 it is expected to be 1375 MW avg. Which will cost the German taxpayer US$113 billion, that’s $82k per kw avg. See:

    You can buy the latest – most highest tech machine ever built – the Virginia Class Nuclear submarine – for $2B with a 50 MW nuclear reactor with 33 yrs refuel cycle. 5 yr build time – start to finish. That’s $40k per kw, and delivers reliable power 24/7 rain or shine, and made in the USA!

    "…Nuclear also gives terrorists a nice target…"

    Nonsense. You have ZERO knowledge to base that statement on. Nuclear would make a lousy target for Terrorists. Now your substitute LNG terminals & NG pipelines – now that it an easy, deadly Terrorist target. And at least 1,000,000X easier, better and a proven target is all these underwater Blowout Preventers on deepwater Oil Wells. A very simple guided missile would knock one of those out, completely safe & easy target for a terrorist, and multiply BP super $15B Oil Spill X10.

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  22. 22. jtdwyer 4:26 am 06/4/2010

    Isn’t there a fundamental benefit in producing reactive power requirements as close to the demand source as possible, minimizing overall grid capacity requirements?

    I suggest that the solar generation of reactive requirements be implemented as a local service, perhaps at the residential block level. In this way local generation could satisfy at least some portion of local peak reactive power requirements without utilizing grid capacity beyond local cabling. To that extent, times the number of (residential) local generators, total peak period grid capacity requirements could be reduced.

    I’m sure someone can explain to me what I’ve misunderstood – thanks in advance.

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  23. 23. ArniMcK 5:51 pm 06/4/2010

    dwbd, let’s see if we can focus in on some of the issues that you raised in your two comments.

    First, 36% of electricity use in the US is residential based, 32% is commercial, about 30% is industrial. Each of these use electricity differently. An industrial consumer often has its own substation, or at least a transformer, and sets up capacitor banks to offset its reactive use. Solar is no good here. The density of solar output is too low. A large commercial consumer has its own transformer and again uses capacitor banks; again solar isn’t dense enough.

    Lets divide commercial percentage in half, that says that 36+16=52% of electricity use is residential and small commercial. Solar density fits these cases well. Both types of consumer also demand reactive, but not as predictably as an industrial consumer. So residential and small commercial are the causes of reactive fluctuation on the gird. The proposal is to develop solar to a point that it can inexpensively serve these consumers with both their active and their reactive needs. If that were possible, the US would not have to rely on either coal, oil, or nuclear for 1/2 of its needs. That to me seems doable if we let the scientists do their work and fund them adequately.

    Second, you seem to be in favor of nuclear. If you’d like to get into a discussion over the cost-benefits of nuclear, I suggest talking to a critic who has thought about this for a very long time, say Amory Lovins: He has more to say there on the issue than any one else on that side.

    Third, centralized solar is indeed very expensive, but it follows the old model, not the new one micro-grid decentralized model that I was talking about in the posts. Question is whether technology can ever bring solar energy density up to a point that residential and small commercial can decouple form the grid. That’s not possible now, but lots of folks are hoping it will be within 20 years or less.

    the notion of the decentralized grid
    transmitting solar long distances is contrary to the spirit of the decentralized grid notion. Moreover, solar is very expensive today. So arguments in this case are for or against a decentralized grid

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  24. 24. dwbd 1:48 pm 06/5/2010

    "…proposal is to develop solar to a point that it can inexpensively serve these consumers with both their active and their reactive needs…"

    That’s just silly. Reactive Power consumption is irrelevant. It is an absolutely NUTTY idea to pay $50k per kwavg for Solar Power just to locally produce the TINY amount of Reactive Power that Residential Consumers consume. Easier to add capacitors at residential area substations – who needs Solar for that?

    The big issue with Residential Power consumption is the high evening peak demand. Solar does not alleviate that problem. A sane idea, is to advocate & subsidize home battery banks. These would have the advantage of giving consumers an excellent emergency power source and eliminate or substantially reduce their peak demand.

    With a typical USA home consuming 1.3 kwavg, @ 240 v that’s 5.4 amps. So a tiny #20 awg, the size of speaker wire, would supply a homes electricity needs, rather than #8 awg Triplex, if a battery bank supplied peak load. The home battery bank is far more economical & far more sensible than Home Solar or Smart Grid technology. The home battery bank puts the consumer in control of their energy needs rather than the Utility, as Smart Grid does. Smart Grid is going to be a severe Rip-Off to the consumer.

    "…new one micro-grid decentralized model…"

    The use of home battery systems and nuclear power, especially factory produced small & modular nuclear reactors, is the optimal economical & practical decentralization that can be achieved. Home Solar is decentralized, only for residential areas, but the cost of home solar for one home would pay for home battery systems for 15 homes, and you still need the battery backup for the Solar to be effective anyway. Grid sized Solar & Wind are actually highly centralized power sources, located long distances from power demand centers. And these small building sized NG power plants that are called "distributed energy" are only decentralized when you conveniently ignore the long distance NG pipelines needed to support them. And LNG terminals, distributing NG from half-way round the World.

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  25. 25. dwbd 2:03 pm 06/5/2010

    ArniMcK says: "…the cost-benefits of nuclear, I suggest talking to a critic who has thought about this for a very long time, say Amory Lovins…"

    Amory Lovins, you got to be kidding. He admits to being financed by Big Oil. Just about every prediction he has ever made has turned out to be way, way off. Amory’s predictions:

    1. Renewables will take huge swaths of the overall energy market. (1976)

    Renewables produce 7.3% of USA primary energy, virtually unchanged since Amory’s predictions.

    "…As shown, the only energy source that has displaced any fossil fuel is nuclear power. And yet, Lovins still claims that nuclear power “continues to die of an incurable attack of market forces…"

    2. Electricity consumption will fall. (1984)

    "…has jumped by about 66 percent since Lovins made his declaration, rising from 2,400 billion kilowatt-hours in 1984 to just over 4,000 billion kilowatt-hours in 2005. And to meet that demand, utilities have built dozens of centralized thermal power plants…"

    3. Cellulosic ethanol will solve our oil import needs. (repeatedly)

    "…Some 31 years after Lovins said that biofuels "now offer" the ability to run the entire transport sector, corn ethanol provides just 1 percent of America’s oil needs. And that ethanol production requires the consumption of some 14 percent of America’s corn crop…"

    4. Efficiency will lower consumption. (repeatedly)

    "…And yet, even though overall energy efficiency has increased dramatically since that time, "demand has risen apace." This passage explains why energy demand will almost surely continue rising…"

    Amory was also a big proponent of the Hydrogen Economy and the H2 Fool Cell Vehicle SCAM. That was used successfully by his Big Oil buddies to thwart the Battery Electric Vehicle mandate that began in California in 1990. If it weren’t for Amory and his ilk, there would already be millions of high efficiency EV’s on the road today. And decentralized home battery banks would be common, because high quality, reliable & inexpensive batteries would be common.

    Link to this
  26. 26. ArniMcK 12:43 pm 06/7/2010

    dwbd, There is no need to prove that you disagree with Mr. Lovins. I suggested that you look at his material, knowing that you were a nuclear proponent and he was not, so that you could hear views from the other side in case you hadn’t read them.

    The issue of the blog post is how solar can serve some of the electricity load in the country, active and reactive, and how that might happen. In the spirit of compromise, I have already agreed with you that solar energy density will not, for quite a long time, be able to supply industry and heavy commercial.

    It is common courtesy for you now to agree on something with me. Can you agree that solar can potentially, with some more technological research, be able to supply the low energy density required by residential and light commercial (52% of all US electricity demand)? If you can’t agree to that, and prefer to suggest that nuclear is needed to supply all electricity demand, then we do have very different world views for which there is probably no compromise.

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  27. 27. ArniMcK 12:53 pm 06/7/2010

    You said: "It is an absolutely NUTTY idea to pay $50k per kwavg for Solar Power just to locally produce the TINY amount of Reactive Power that Residential Consumers consume. Easier to add capacitors at residential area substations – who needs Solar for that?"

    I believe significant points of the blog post were missed. There are two: (1) The reactive from solar costs relatively little compared with static capacitors. The very same micro-inverters that serve up active power, serve up reactive power. So the criticism you make is moot. (2) Static capacitors currently are put on the local power lines. Those are not cheap; they add to your utility bill. Static capacitors really should go on the appliances. But if solar can produce it without sacrificing any active output, why not use the solar?

    It is true that industry uses the bulk reactive power on the grid, but the quantity is known, relatively stable, and already taken care of by the ISOs. The peaks come during the summer when residential and commercial buildings turn on their air conditioners. You can trace the peak everyday on you regional ISO’s website. You can watch the peak kVA requirement rise to meet capacity. These amounts of reactive power are not tiny, as you suggest.

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  28. 28. dwbd 8:16 pm 06/7/2010

    "…Can you agree that solar can potentially…be able to supply the low energy density required by residential and light commercial…"

    Sure it can – I do agree – in certain sunny, southern climate areas, like Arizona, New Mexico or California. But you would need at least 6 hrs battery backup in order to supply Shoulder Load and 10 hrs backup to supply Peak & Shoulder Load. And you would still need 100% fossil fuel backup power source, maintained & on standby for the 1 week lulls of bad weather, you will get, and low winter output. The cost of that system is going to be over $20k per kwavg EVEN IF Solar PV cell price goes to ZERO!

    ArniMcK, you should wakeup & realize that the avg American Family of Four uses 11 kw of energy (per capita energy consumption X4). So $20k per kw is $220k in investment every 20 yrs or less – JUST FOR ENERGY! You are talking ECONOMIC COLLAPSE – Starvation!

    "…In today’s industrialized world, it takes the energy equivalent of one-half glass of diesel fuel just to put a glass of milk on the table; two pounds of coal to produce a one pound loaf of bread; and three pounds of coal to produce one pound of hamburger…"

    So in answer to your question:

    "…prefer to suggest that nuclear is needed to supply all electricity demand…"

    No. We need Nuclear to supply almost all of our TOTAL ENERGY demand. There is no viable alternative. Solar & Wind may have niche applications, but those are trivialities. If we keep wasting precious effort, resources, manpower & capital on Renewables, we are going to pay dearly when either Peak Oil or Runaway Global Warming Crisis’ happen – and they will happen.

    If you can’t agree to that, and prefer to suggest that nuclear is needed to supply all electricity demand,

    Link to this
  29. 29. dwbd 8:34 pm 06/7/2010

    "…The reactive from solar costs relatively little compared with static capacitors…"

    Are you kidding me? Solar running at least $5k per kw peak output. And Power Factor Correction Capacitors running about $25 per kva, for a very reactive 80% P.F. load. That’s 0.5% of the cost. And I doubt, even during peak hot afternoon Air Conditioning periods, that residential & commercial power factors go less than 90%.

    Besides, the idea of using home battery banks with grid-tie inverters, is <10% of the cost of the Solar PV microinverter route, and each home installation could easily supply the reactive power needs of a dozen other homes. A far superior method, the reactive power factor being a minor advantage. The BIG ADVANTAGES is that it would alleviate the evening peak residential demand & give homeowners the security of a Solid, Reliable Emergency power source. And if they want to add Solar PV to charge their home battery banks, as many would do, at their own expense – WITH ZERO SUBSIDY – that’s fine by me.

    Link to this
  30. 30. lakota2012 10:15 am 06/9/2010

    sethdayal says, "there’s propaganda and then there’s engineering"

    Yeah, and all you ever spew here is the propaganda side, unable to see that renewable energy like solar and wind, can surely offset the burning of ANY fossil fuel, whether it’s intermittent or not. You’re the one-trick pony that continuously supports ONE source of energy with inherent risks, yet vociferously attacks anything renewable, with the most absurd logic and propagandist style.

    Although I’m not a proponent of fossil fuels, and there would be much less burned when the sun shines and the wind blows, and by replacing those dirty coal-fired plants with both natural gas and nuclear, we would begin to cut our emissions over the long haul to almost nothing.

    Your endless attacks on clean and green renewable energy that is growing leaps and bounds in the 21st century, and spewing your endless one-sided propaganda, has grown very old and you need to step back to see just how ridiculous you sound on a daily basis. You are the outdated 45-single in a world of digital recording, totally screeching through the well-worn scratches your one-sided propaganda!

    Link to this
  31. 31. lakota2012 10:30 am 06/9/2010

    ArniMcK says, "Give solar time; we haven’t seen the best of solar technology yet."

    This is so true, and proves that those propagandists like sethdayal supporting only ONE kind of energy source, must have an ulterior motive.

    They are currently building a concentrated PV nearby, similar to something I worked on back in the 1970′s, before saint ronnie ended the tax credits, and helped offshore all the renewable energy technology the U.S. had started. No doubt, we have fallen behind the curve on clean energy production thanks to the lobbying by the fossil fuel industry over the past 30 years, but with intelligent leaders and a growing renewable energy industry, solar technology will continue to improve and the price will continue to decrease.

    Link to this
  32. 32. lakota2012 11:49 am 06/9/2010

    dwbd says, "…high evening peak demand….advocate and subsidize home battery banks…….so a tiny #20 awg would supply a home’s electricity needs."

    First off, peak demand for electricity is early afternoon when the sun is overhead, not in the evening. Just because someone is working in the middle of the day, they certainly haven’t turned off their AC units in the summer or the heaters in the winter. Most businesses are closed in the early evenings and nights, and with the advent of much more efficient lighting and appliances, demand drops considerably when the sun sets.

    You can wire your house with #20 awg, and push for home battery banks with a whole other set of problems (I have one, and apparently know quite a bit more than YOU!) but there’s a huge reason why the NEC does not advocate wiring homes with speaker wire! My home is completely wired with #12 awg and I use 2/0 to my battery bank and #6 awg to my wind turbine. Wiring is all about efficiency, just like appliances!

    You seem to get crazier with your ideas on a daily basis!

    Link to this
  33. 33. lakota2012 12:03 pm 06/9/2010

    dwbd says, "You are talking economic collapse – starvation."

    Quite melodramatic to say the least with your incessant "sky is falling" rhetoric!

    Link to this
  34. 34. dwbd 10:09 pm 06/9/2010

    lakota says: "… peak demand for electricity is early afternoon when the sun is overhead, not in the evening…"

    Wrong. Household Peak Demand is in the evening. We are talking about the integration of household Electricity demand into the Grid. See, Grid peak, around 9pm:

    Solar PV output Los Angeles @ 5 pm Solar is down to 20% of rated output & 3% by 6pm in June even.

    lakota says: "…advent of much more efficient lighting and appliances, demand drops considerably when the sun sets…"

    Wrong. Total Grid demand is fairly flat from afternoon into evening, only dropping significantly till after 9pm. So much for your Solar PV. You need a shadowing Fossil Fuel power supply or Energy Storage.

    Lakota says: "…You can wire your house with #20 awg, NEC does not advocate wiring homes with speaker wire…"

    Obviously, you have no idea about battery storage and don’t have a clue about home power demand. By having a home battery system – household loads DO NOT CHANGE – so how would you wire your home with speaker wire? What would change is Grid Demand, which could drop to a peak of a meager 6 amps for a typical home. A current that speaker wire could easily handle. The point being that the MAJOR issue with Household Power demand is the highly peaked demand profile, NOT Reactive Power demand – which is a triviality. The Home Battery Bank would solve that problem & eliminate the minor reactive power demand – a big advantage to the utility.

    lakota says: "…Wiring is all about efficiency, just like appliances…"

    Nonsense. Home wiring is about safety. Line losses in the short cable runs inside households are trivial. Wiring must be sized so it will handle peak load without overheating.

    Link to this
  35. 35. dwbd 10:19 pm 06/9/2010

    lakota says: "…melodramatic to say the least with your incessant "sky is falling" rhetoric…"

    Obviously, you have no idea about the harsh realities of Energy consumption. You should educate yourself by watching these videos:

    People like yourself, just burn up what’s left of our fossil fuels, greedily stealing from future generations. Polluting the air & water. And then put up a few Solar Panels, which won’t do Zip and pretend you’re part of the solution – when in truth you are a major part of the problem.

    You can just hope that the AGW Deniers are right, and Runaway Global Warming won’t happen. So after Peak Oil occurs within 10-20 yrs max, we can always burn CO2 belching Coal, which will be the only Fossil Fuel left that is economical. And that is just what will happen, rather than starve, the 10 billion people on this Earth will burn Coal until the Skies are dark, the Lakes are poisoned, the Air is Acrid and Global Warming has transformed the Earth. That will be your legacy Lakota – because you just subvert Real Solutions by promoting NUTTY SCAMS that won’t do ZIP!

    And the other hand, we can just start a WWII style mobilization of Factory Produced Nuclear Power. Problem solved. The Lakota’s of the World, unwitting Dupes of Fossil Fuel lobbies, aren’t going to let that happen.

    Link to this
  36. 36. caiiyanxin 3:08 am 06/10/2010

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  37. 37. lakota2012 2:40 pm 06/10/2010

    dwbd says, "Obviously, you have no idea about battery storage and don’t have a clue about home power demand. By having a home battery system – household loads do not change"

    Actually, you’ve shown your utter ignorance about wire gauge, battery banks, power demand and household loads that change all the time.

    I do have a battery bank for storage from my hybrid system, that I designed, built and maintain, so please do not even begin to lecture me on something it appears you know less about than a 5th grader. Please take your nookular propaganda elsewhere, since one-trick ponies are a dime a dozen today, and your condescending attitude certainly does not help your argument in the least!

    Link to this
  38. 38. sethdayal 12:31 am 06/11/2010


    I can see how frustrating it must be for you to almost always end up on the wrong side of energy issues.

    Please don’t quit. It is a joy to respond to your commentary – you are such a comedian!!!

    Here’s a big giant man hug from me to you.


    Link to this
  39. 39. lakota2012 9:28 am 06/12/2010


    Actually, it’s your WWF tag team response with dwbd that’s gives us all what Comedy Central misses.

    You TWO continuously sing the praises of NOOKULAR energy while demeaning every type of renewable energy, but the fact remains that it is YOU on on the wrong side of the energy debate. Both SOLAR and WIND power have been growing leaps and bounds after being marginalized over the past 30 years, and there still isn’t one new nuclear plant in that time!

    You two tag-team nookular junkies are the ones totally divorced from reality, and continuously spew your negative comments about renewable energy and attack everyone mentioning them, and fail to realize that both solar and wind power are here to stay and installations increase exponentially every year. Live with it!

    Link to this
  40. 40. sethdayal 2:22 am 06/13/2010

    In the US you mean. Lots of new nukes in the rest of the world.New ones every year.

    Including India’s new 500MW fast breeder due late next year.

    Solar and wind have been growing leaps and bounds almost as fast as the low efficiency natural gas plant required to load balance them. Would be better to skip the not so renewables and put in high efficiency CCGT plant instead

    Link to this
  41. 41. bucketofsquid 2:22 pm 06/14/2010

    With the maturity level of the discussion here I would like to pony up my solution: 1,000,000 hamster wheels running during peak load times. Yay!

    Seriously, Why must it be an all or nothing option? Why not pursue all of them. They all have valid applications.

    Link to this
  42. 42. gibgnab 8:41 pm 01/12/2011

    <p><a href="">Solar Lease </a> – option championed by and other companies for residential solar use, with $0 down – has met a steady demand from cash strapped home owners. The program is rolling out to new states beyond CA in 2011 and is poised to grow rapidly. </p> this not only helps stabilize the grid – but also puts a cap on the ever increasing prices dictated by utilities.

    Link to this
  43. 43. Bill77 1:32 am 05/11/2011

    Assuming what I’ve read about the liquid fluoride thorium reactor is true, this seems like a safer way forward with nuclear energy. I think dwbd’s and sethdayal’s point that the rest of you are overlooking is that the amount of fossil fuel power generation that must be (or should be) replaced with low CO2 alternatives is VAST and growing. Solar/wind is expensive because it is not reliable as they have already pointed out. So you *still* need capacity (storage and/or generation to meet demand. If the energy demand is 5 TerraWatts and you install 5 TW of solar/wind, you still need 5 TW (or a significant fraction) of conventional NG or coal power plants for back up. Yes, they will often be mostly idle, but you still need to build and maintain them.

    If you have limited funds (as most/all nations of the world currently and usually do), you need the cheapest, most reliable bang for your buck that produces the least amount of CO2. *Unfortunately* that is nuclear.

    What saddens me is the trillions spent on the financial bailouts worldwide would have solved most/all the energy problems one way or another.

    Link to this
  44. 44. Yusuf chy 1:16 am 04/15/2012

    Home solar arrays are very important to stabilize the constant solar energy production. It’s also essentials to build a good arrays with suitable solar panels that serve energy production for long time.

    Link to this

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