NewEnergyNews: TODAY’S STUDY: A PLAIN OLD ROOFTOP SOLAR SYSTEM’S PERFORMANCE

NewEnergyNews

Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • LABOR DAY STUDY: CHINA NEW ENERGY MOVES AHEAD
  • NO QUICK NEWS TODAY. BACK TOMORROW.
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: The Economic Opportunity In The Climate Fight
  • Weekend Video: The Future Of Energy
  • Weekend Video: Advances In BioEnergy
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    GET THE DAILY HEADLINES EMAIL: CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS OR SEND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-CLIMATE CHANGE – IT GETS WORSE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-WHERE AND HOW WIND IS GROWING IN THE WORLD
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-CHINA TO LEAD SOLAR MARKET GROWTH DESPITE OBSTACLES
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-THE ENORMOUS POTENTIAL OF WORLD GEOTHERMAL
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, August 28:

  • TTTA Thursday-PRESIDENT TO TAKE ACTION ON CLIMATE
  • TTTA Thursday-BIRDS AND ENERGY, THE BIGGER STORY
  • TTTA Thursday-NEW CA LAW STREAMLINES SOLAR PERMITTING
  • TTTA Thursday-DATA CENTER EFFICIENCIES CAN SAVE U.S. $3.8BIL/YR
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: THE RISKIEST ENERGY IN THE WORLD
  • QUICK NEWS, August 27: VERIZON’S $40MIL SOLAR BUY; WIND PRICES HIT RECORD LOWS; NUKE INSPECTOR SAYS DIABLO CYN IS UNSAFE
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: U.S. WIND RIGHT NOW
  • QUICK NEWS, August 26: CLIMATE MODELS PROVE RIGHT AGAIN; ABOUT INVESTING IN SOLAR; GM VS TESLA IN THE 200 MILE RACE -

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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

    Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

    Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

    With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

    Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

    One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

    Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

    No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

    Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

    The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

    Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

    Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-butterfield). Thanks.

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    Your intrepid reporter

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      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.

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    Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

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  • Tuesday, September 25, 2012

    TODAY’S STUDY: A PLAIN OLD ROOFTOP SOLAR SYSTEM’S PERFORMANCE

    Output Performance and Payback Analysis of a Residential Photovoltaic System in Colorado

    Steve Johnston, June 2012 (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

    Abstract

    Cost of installation and ownership of a 9.66- kilowatt (kW) residential photovoltaic system is described, and the performance of this system over the past 3 years is shown. The system is located in Colorado at 40° latitude and consists of arrays on two structures. Two arrays are installed on a detached garage, and these are each composed of 18 Kyocera 130-W modules strung in series facing south at an angle of 40° above horizontal. Each 18-panel array feeds into a Xantrex/Schneider Electric 2.8-kW inverter. The other two arrays are installed on the house and face south at an angle of 30°. One of these arrays has twelve 205-W Kyocera panels in series, and the other is made up of twelve 210- Kyocera panels. Each of these arrays feeds into Xantrex/Schneider Electric 3.3- kW inverters. Although there are various shading issues from trees and utility poles and lines, the overall output resembles that which is expected from PVWatts, a solar estimate program. The array cost, which was offset by rebates from the utility company and federal tax credits, was $1.17 per watt. Considering measured system performance, the estimated payback time of the system is 9 years.

    INTRODUCTION

    Solar energy in a large portion of the U.S. is expected to become cheaper than conventional power from the grid by 2017. Costs of solar panels and installation continue to decrease, while the cost of electricity continues to rise. The solar market will be driven by grid parity within regions. While federal incentives provide a good foundation for the expansion of solar, state-level incentives seem to truly make solar energy competitive. At the moment, the U.S. is the 4th largest solar market in the world, and that market grew from ~900 MW in 2010 to 2 GW in 2011.

    PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEM PERFORMANCE

    A 9.66-kilowatt (kW) residential photovoltaic system is located in Colorado at 40° latitude and consists of four arrays on two structures. Two arrays are installed on the house and face south at an angle of 30° above horizontal, as shown in Figs. 1 and 2. The east array has twelve 205-W Kyocera panels in series, and the west array is made up of twelve 210-W Kyocera panels. Each of these arrays feeds into Xantrex/Schneider Electric 3.3-kW inverters.

    Three rows of panels are installed on a detached garage, as shown in Fig. 3. Each row is composed of 12 Kyocera 130-W modules facing south at an angle of 40° above horizontal. The rows are spaced apart so that, even in winter, panels are not shadowed by the row in front of them. The three rows are strung into two arrays of 18 panels each that feed into Xantrex/Schneider Electric 2.8-kW inverters. One array consists of the back row, shown in Fig. 4, and the right half of the middle row. The other array includes the front row with the left half of the middle row.

    Although the back row array is sufficiently spaced away from trees and poles, there are shading issues from trees, utility poles, and power lines for the front array on the detached garage, as shown in Fig. 5.

    In the winter, the snow slides off the arrays on the back garage quite easily, because for each row, there is open space below the panels. However, on the house arrays, there is roof space below the arrays where snow tends to pile up after sliding down the arrays. This piled-up snow continues to shade significant areas of the panels on the bottom rows and severely inhibits the performance of the array. Manual removal of some of this snow quickly accelerates melting and restores array production.

    Energy output of each array over the past 3 years (2009– 2012) has been averaged and plotted in Fig. 6. The plots show the average amount of energy in kilowatt-hours (kWh) per day over the course of a year.

    The modeled amount of energy is calculated from a program called PVWatts, which is available at www.nrel.gov/rredc/pvwatts. The 3-year-averaged data follow the modeled output quite well, with the exception of the detached garage’s front array. Integrated energy output over the course of a year is compared to that predicted by PVWatts. As plotted in the bottom graphs of Fig. 6, the house east array has an annual average output of 3503 kWh compared to the predicted value of 3556 kWh. The west array has produced 3555 kWh out of the predicted 3644 kWh. The periodically shadowed front array on the detached garage has produced 2823 kWh of its predicted 3400 kWh amount, while the back array, which is hardly affected by shadowing, has produced 3428 kWh of the predicted 3400 kWh. In total, the system has annually been producing 13,309 kWh of the predicted 14,000 kWh, which is 95%.

    The solar panels and system components were bought and installed between 2006 and 2009. At this time, the average prices paid for the solar panels and inverters were $4.13 and $0.74 per watt, respectively. With the recent rapid drop in prices for photovoltaic components due to economies of scale and fierce global competition, prices in early 2012 are down to $1.40 (modules) and $0.57 (inverters) per watt. Other costs (in $/watt) include installation hardware, such as Unistrut for mounts (0.438); wiring, electrical enclosures, conduit, and other electronic materials (0.211); shipping costs (0.174); sales taxes (0.0978); and permits (0.0632). Normally, installation would be a significant cost, but since this system was self-installed, there are no labor costs.

    In November of 2004, Colorado passed Amendment 37, which requires utilities to provide 10% of their electricity generation from renewable energy sources by 2020. In 2010, this goal was increased to 30%. The utility companies (Xcel Energy, in this case) have offered rebates to those customers that install solar to help meet this goal. Rebates have followed the cost of solar panels, so in this time period, the Xcel rebates received for these installed modules averaged $4.156 per watt. The federal government also offered tax incentives for renewable energy systems. The tax credit was 30% of the balance of the net cost, and these credits were $0.529 per watt.

    The total cost of $5.854 per watt less the rebates and credits of $4.685 per watt leads to a net cost of $1.17 per watt. This value is near to the $1 per watt goal of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, where the targeted cost of electricity is 6 ¢/kWh. Using the total estimated annual energy output of these arrays (including shading) of 13,309 kWh, and the current cost of electricity of 9.3 ¢/kWh, the annual revenue is $1,240 per year. System cost divided by annual revenue gives a payback time of 9.0 years for this system. If the system produces the annual amount of electricity for 20 years, the cost of electricity based on the $1.17 per watt system cost is 4.21 ¢/kWh, but the inverters may not last the 20 years expected of the panels. If inverters must be replaced after 10 years, and the cost is roughly $0.57 per watt, then the extra cost leads to a 6.26 ¢/kWh cost of electricity over the 20-year period.

    CONCLUSION

    Colorado’s state incentive has made the cost of photovoltaic solar energy competitive with that of electricity currently purchased from the grid. Including U.S. federal tax credits, the cost of a photovoltaic solar array was $1.17 per watt, which leads to a 9-year system payback and a cost of electricity ranging from 4.2 to 6.3 ¢/kWh over a 20-year period.

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