RIP Philo

Okay, why doesn't this work?

http://www.redferret.net/?p=8452

Besides the price, of course.
Permalink Send private email ~~~x 
March 21st, 2007 3:06am
Well, the site is a mess, for starters...  About 2 paragraphs of content, and about 10 times as much space taken up by ads and links and crap.
Permalink Send private email Ward 
March 21st, 2007 3:09am
Gah, my brain hurts.  What a stupid waste of bandwidth.  Everything on the main page is crap - a whistle/compass?  WTF?  An oddly shaped mouse?  BFD.
Permalink Send private email Ward 
March 21st, 2007 3:14am
OK, I've now read the -- passage?  It's too small for an "article".

It makes sense for an island -- self-contained, expensive (or just PITA) to bring in fuel for the generator, noisy generator even then, and higher energy costs for transporting stuff to the island.

And, since it's ON an island, I assume the person owning it has $50,000 of disposable income they can spend to set this up.

And it IS quite clever to use solar to split water into hydrogen and oxygen (a pretty efficient process), and then recombine them in a fuel cell (another efficient process).  This gives you very efficient storage of what could be huge amounts of energy, and the ability to use that energy very slowly, as needed.

The big show-stopper here for most people would be cost.  But as costs rise for power in the future, and the technology of fuel-cells becomes cheaper, it could make a lot of sense.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
March 21st, 2007 9:34am
The real key is the recent article he links to:

http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0315/p12s01-sten.html

You can go off the grid and be self sufficient for 25 years by buying $500,000 worth of solar panels.

That comes to $20,000 per year of operation, to provide an average amount of electricity, which, without the panels, would have cost $1,000 per year.
Permalink Practical Economist 
March 21st, 2007 10:11am
"we have a pollution-free, carbon-neutral electric system"

Sounds great until you start asking how the hydrogen they bought came to be brought to them neatly bottled in its little high pressure container.
Permalink Practical Economist 
March 21st, 2007 10:15am
> That comes to $20,000 per year of operation

Spending $500K today is like spending $35K over 25 years, at 5% interest. No wonder so few people see it as a good investment.
Permalink Send private email sour grape snowflake 
March 21st, 2007 11:02am
Thanks, I forgot about the lost investment cost as well.

The current problem with solar and hydrogen is that solar still takes more in energy inputs than it gives out during its lifetime, so it mostly makes sense for very remote areas where the cost of running poles or shipping barrels of oil is prohibitive (this is likely the case with the article here where the person is on some remote island), or energy is just not available, like for Mars rovers and Saturn probes. It's very possible this will change though with the thin film solar technologies. It's important also to compare the ratings, which typically will state output at noon on a cloudless day in Hawaii during the summer, with actual nominal output, which might be 100 times smaller. And we should look at the toxic waste the solar production process produces, which is substantial.

Hydrogen has similar problems. Electrolysis extraction is very inefficient, and is just throwing your electricity away basically, and the industrial method of extracting it from natural gas is foolish because you'd be better off just burning the natural gas in a turbine.
Permalink Practical Economist 
March 21st, 2007 12:12pm
One thing people need to start doing is thinking in terms of amelioration instead of replacement - cutting electricity usage by 10% is better than nothing.

- make sure the house is well insulated
- make sure your windows are well insulated
(check these two with an IR viewer in winter - is there a service that offers that?)
- replace filament bulbs with CFL
- put dimmers and timers on lights you regularly turn on and off
- replace old appliances with energy star and improved appliances (this doesn't make sense for new appliances, but if they're 10-15 years old and getting to that point anyway...)
- get a wattmeter and understand where the power is going in your house
- evaluate solar water heating - that is absolutely a benefit.
- cut usage during peak hours
etc, etc, etc...

It's a fairly safe bet that a large chunk of society could easily cut power usage by 25% without really noticing. That's a hell of a lot better bargain than 2% of the country getting off the grid. ..
Permalink Send private email Philo 
March 21st, 2007 12:31pm
>>> - replace filament bulbs with CFL
- put dimmers and timers on lights you regularly turn on and off

Note that these are contradictory - you can't put dimmers on CF bulbs.
Permalink Send private email Ward 
March 21st, 2007 1:06pm
>> Our system uses solar power to run electrolyzers, which
>> split water to make hydrogen.

> Sounds great until you start asking how the hydrogen
> they bought came to be brought to them neatly bottled in
> its little high pressure container.

Sorry. Try again. Reading comprehension is key here.




>> if you’re prepared to work for it. And spend around $50,000.

> You can go off the grid and be self sufficient for 25 years
> by buying $500,000 worth of solar panels.

> That comes to $20,000 per year of operation, to provide an
> average amount of electricity, which, without the panels,
> would have cost $1,000 per year.

So since this costs a mere $50,000 we're talking about $2,000 per year of operation, which merely doubles your (plucked out of thin air) cost of electricity.




>> And it IS quite clever to use solar to split water into
>> hydrogen and oxygen (a pretty efficient process), and
>> then recombine them in a fuel cell (another efficient
>> process).

> Electrolysis extraction is very inefficient

I'm going to take the word of the guy that works at NASA over the guy who... I don't know what his credentials are.




So what I'm getting here is:

"The big show-stopper here for most people would be cost.  But as costs rise for power in the future, and the technology of fuel-cells becomes cheaper, it could make a lot of sense."

Not so viable now, much more viable as cost comes down & the cost of fuel goes up.
Permalink Send private email ~~~x 
March 21st, 2007 1:26pm
Is there a link to someone who spent $50K and was completely off the grid now?

The only link I see is the $500K one. Why did he spend $500K when he could have spent $50K?

$50K up front ends up being around $300 per month in perpetuity (the panels will need to be replaced after 25-30 years anyway). That's not an awful number.

$500K is around $3000 per month. In perpetuity. If my landlord added that to my rent next month and told me "But you have no more energy bills, son." I'd be pissed.

I can see why many people are waiting for costs to go down ... a 50% drop in prices is not unlikely in the next 5-10 years. Which, I think if one plugs the numbers into a spreadsheet, means it's better to wait.
Permalink Send private email sour grape snowflake 
March 21st, 2007 1:40pm
http://www.siei.org/cost.html

Crunching the numbers it look closer to $80,000 than $50,000, but that's still within an order of magnitued.
Permalink Send private email ~~~x 
March 21st, 2007 1:46pm
Re: Dimmers with CFL bulbs:

>>
3. Can I use a compact fluorescent light bulb with a dimmer switch?

To use a compact fluorescent bulb on a dimmer switch, you must buy a bulb that's specifically made to work with dimmers (check the package). GE makes a dimming compact fluorescent light bulb (called the GE Longlife Plus Soft White Energy Saving Bulb) that is specially designed for use with dimming switches. We don't recommend using regular compact fluorescent bulbs with dimming switches, since this can shorten bulb life. (Using a regular compact fluorescent bulb with a dimmer will also nullify the bulb's warranty.)
<<

http://www.gelighting.com/na/business_lighting/faqs/cfl.htm#3
Permalink Send private email xampl 
March 21st, 2007 1:52pm
> Crunching the numbers it look closer to $80,000 than $50,000

Well, I'll like to see someone who had it done. Because I've seen lots of projects estimated at $X and ended up at $5X.

Also it says labor not included which is kinda slap in the face for IT service folks who are used to charging $100/hr.
Permalink Send private email sour grape snowflake 
March 21st, 2007 2:07pm
Notice with the island guy:

"10 x 165 Watt panels: $7500"

First, he got a good price. $850 per panel is the going rate right now, or $8500 per ten. The list price for the standard 165W module is $1106 per panel. Perhaps he'd like to tell us who is selling them at $750.

A 165 Watt solar panel outputs 140 watts at 24V at its peak production. (165W relates to theoretical conditions that are not possible.) The 140W will be seen briefly. The panel is brand new. It's perpendicular to the sun, which is directly overhead because it's noon. It's at the equator. There's no clouds. The 140W you will see for a period of about 10 minutes. The rest of the day the output is a lot less.

Because of this, a typical small house usually needs at the very least a 5600W array, and a 10kW array is needed if you do things like use an oven or run a hot water heater and a washing machine.

Because he is storing the energy in hydrogen form, he is also losing 50% of his off-hours watts by converting back and forth, so he would need an even larger array.

This particular case is of a guy living on an island where he previously used diesel in a generator. You would have great difficulty matching his consumption. Most likely, he has 12 or 24V DC lights and appliances and his normal electrical usage is 1/10 that of a small family on the mainland. Do not think that you can maintain your lifestyle with a grid this size.
Permalink Practical Economist 
March 21st, 2007 2:13pm
What, you mean I won't be able to run the large CRT, 15 computers in the server room, playstation 3, dozens of incandescent bulbs, an electric heater, and a wide assortment of sex toys off of a couple of solar panels?
Permalink Send private email ~~~x 
March 21st, 2007 2:19pm
Sure, why not. Photovoltaic solar produces an infinite amount of power at zero cost.
Permalink Practical Economist 
March 21st, 2007 2:34pm
You have a server room?
Permalink JoC 
March 21st, 2007 2:35pm
me: Electrolysis extraction is very inefficient

marktaw: I'm going to take the word of the guy that works at NASA over the guy who... I don't know what his credentials are.

You are right Marktaw, I was incorrect. I said it was 50% efficient. But the guy on the island who you are concerned with has posted his actual numbers:

http://www.siei.org/efficiency.html

18% efficiency, much lower than the commercial systems I was thinking of.

If you've got a system that is more efficient than 50%, please do let us know, you'll soon be a billionaire. I would be happy to invest in your startup.
Permalink Practical Economist 
March 21st, 2007 2:41pm
> I said it was 50% efficient.

Several posts AFTER the one you're quoting. You don't get to use something you said LATER to prove a point I made EARLIER.
Permalink Send private email ~~~x (channeling Brice Richards) 
March 21st, 2007 2:55pm
Nice try, but you fail. The 50% is from the article link that I posted which you were responding to.

"Strizki's method for making hydrogen is totally clean, but suffers from a different problem: Electrolyzers are only 50 percent efficient. By the time the electricity from his solar panels is converted into hydrogen, and the hydrogen converted back into electricity in the fuel cell, half of the clean energy he started with is used up."

This is the article about the $500,000 system.

Did you happen to notice that the $50,000 island system produces, according to the guy who uses it, ONE kilowatt hour of electricity per day? That's 30kW/hr per month.

Why don't you take a look at your power bill and let me know how close to that figure your own household comes. I'll wait until you get me that number, and then, if you like what you see, you can enjoy the tremendous cost savings from installing your own system. I'd love to hear about your personal experience, and then maybe we'd finally have two people on this chat board who are living off the grid.
Permalink Practical Economist 
March 21st, 2007 3:14pm
"The 50% is from the article link that I posted which you were responding to. "

Fair enough.
Permalink Send private email ~~~x 
March 21st, 2007 3:28pm
For reference for you all, the average cost of residential electricity was 9.86¢/kWh in the U.S. in 2006.

So you'd pay a total of $2.96 on your monthly electric bill if you ran your island home on the grid with that usage instead of your $50,000 or $80,000 solar-hydrogen system.
Permalink Practical Economist 
March 21st, 2007 3:29pm
All I'm saying is that most people can't convert to solar and have it make economic or environmental sense.

Exceptions are places like villages in Kenya where locals buy 14W panels, hook them up to a 12V battery, and now they can watch their b&w TV for an hour a day, or run a single small light bulb for 5 hours. Works in Kenya since they have some good daylight there, not so much overcast. Still more expensive than grid power, but in their case there is no grid power. Now a 14W panel, you can't do much with. The most energy efficient small refrigerator you can get will cost a fortune and uses 1KWHr/day. Any normal refrigerator uses much more than that. So, solar is good if there is no other alternative. But you have to be replacing 0W/day with a few watts, and this is improving your quality of life, if watching TV in your grass hut is an improvement.

For people relying on modern amenities, solar is going to cost a fortune and pollute the environment, though you can reduce that by going with hydrogen battery tanks instead of chemical. But there you are throwing away most of the electricity the PV puts out! So now you need more solar cells, 4-5 times as many to compensate for using hydrogen batteries instead of chemical, and you've got the pollution from those cells. So now we have thin film solar, which is much cheaper to make, like 100 times cheaper (though the sale price has not come down that much), although it puts out energy with 2% efficiency instead of the 14% of a good silicon cell, so you need 7 times the area, but that's ok since it's cheaper to build. But then you find out that thin film has a sixty percent failure rate in the field. Hopefully this will improve over time, but it's not sensible to pick any of this unless you are genuinely in an area that is simply not on the grid and that is your best option.

So should we just consume and enjoy? NO! We need to reduce consumption - that is the answer. You can build a home that requires NO heating and NO cooling, and that has its own water supply. You might, depending on location, also be able to make your own electricity as well, though that is extremely dependent on location, and going without batteries makes it a challenge that involves changes to your lifestyle. But heating and cooling are most of your electrical costs, so just doing this - with passive solar, and geothermal heat pumps if needed, and solar water heating, can reduce your consumption by 75% at least.
Permalink Practical Economist 
March 21st, 2007 3:41pm
This sounds promising...

http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/003956.html
Permalink JoC 
March 22nd, 2007 11:26am
>> So you'd pay a total of $2.96 on your monthly electric bill ... instead of your $50,000 [up front]

Even assuming a perfect system that never needs repair, $50K is way way too much money to generate/save $3 per month.

If you put the $50K in a 5% account you could have $200/month in perpetuity. Spend $3 on the power grid, spend the rest on carbon credits. Best bang for the buck.
Permalink blahty heartsheep 
March 22nd, 2007 11:56am
There's a number of companies going in the direction Boeing is http://www.boeing.com/news/releases/2006/q4/061206b_nr.html with higher efficiency cells. The listed technology converts 40% of photon energy instead of the 15% of silicon or the 2% of thin film. That's great, except that the Boeing technology costs 100,000 times more than the thin film per watt. It's just what is needed for a power generator on Mars where you can install the needed concentrator array, oops, except for those pesky daily duststorms, hope you have lots of water and a way to repolish the mirrors.

Most of the practical domestic solutions in solar are going in the direction of LESS efficient panels in return for substantially reduced cost of manufacturing.
Permalink Practical Economist 
March 22nd, 2007 12:40pm
This article has more details and claims the cost of the new Boeing cells is $3/Theoretical-Peak-Watt:

http://www.greencarcongress.com/2006/12/new_world_recor.html

So a 160W panel, like we discussed previously, would cost $480 to manufacture. I don't know what the markup is to retail of solar panels so I can't tell if that is cheaper than the $800 retail price for the 160W panel.

There's another article claiming the Boeing cells have an expected life expectancy of 5-10 years though, but I'd rather see that number from Boeing after the cells have had some field use.

Given these numbers, this technology could replace standard PVs and push the equation over the tipping point to where PV now produces more than it consumes, which is the key point.