Cracker by Damian Christie

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Cracker: All Aboard!

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  • Damian Christie,

    Damien, I don't think I'm with you on solar power being the answer...While the power is 'free' you still have to pay off the capital and maintenance - last time I worked the numbers it was about five times the retail price of power.

    The people I interviewed worked out it would have paid for itself in 10-20 years. Not factoring in any massive increase in the cost of power in the meantime. It won't happen overnight etc. But what you're also getting, with a more comprehensive system, is *security*. No cold showers, no two weeks cut off from the grid while they dig you out from the snow.

    why use heat to make electricity to heat water?

    Absolutely. And why make electricity down south to heat the jug on my stove in Auckland? Home Solar hot water heating makes a lot more sense than solar electricity generation in the first instance. But if there's leftover, put it into the grid.

    And I don't think it's about having subsidies at all. The main guy I interviewed for the (plug) N&S piece is flat out in this industry, and says it's economical without them, he says the best thing the Govt can do is get rid of red tape, and the overpriced building consents some councils charge (like $1000 in one case) for putting solar up.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    If you look at Tiwai as exporting renewable electricity, then it's a good thing for the economy and a good thing for the planet. Unfortunately we aren't at 100% renewable, but we could get there.

    I think the answer is to close Huntly, not Tiwai. Genesis should have a business plan to do this. Solid Energy, on the other hand, should have a business plan to shut itself down. We can reconsider coal mining when the oil/gas has run out and we need alternative hydrocarbon feedstock.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    Jeez. I feel like I'm lining up with Damian for six of the best and I wasn't even at school that day.

    See? QED.

    :-)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1645 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Direct use of solar thermal has possibilites, but is reliant on good design and getting the kit installed at the right time.

    Are there any requirements to install solar water heating when building new houses? That would seem to make a great deal of sense, as that's when it is cheapest to do.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Graham,

    Are there any requirements to install solar water heating when building new houses?

    The answer is no. http://www.buildingguide.co.nz/

    EECA has an interest free loan that has been in place for over a year to encourage people to install and a total of 0 people (that's zero, nada, none) have made use of it. http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2008_02_01_archive.html/ "Embarassing" 16/02

    Long term (and notwithstanding the earth turning to molten lava (joke)), the issue for us in Auckland will not be heating in the winter but cooling in the summer.That's where good design comes in - passive cooling such as concrete floors and overhaning eaves.

    I understand Meridien have commenced a trial on roof mounted wind turbines for individual use.

    You do have to wonder, though, why we can't feed back into the national grid - where's the political fallout?

    But Damien, I thought the breakthrough thinking on power generation was smaller units located closer to final use. Obviously Hydro won't be what we use in Auckland - perhaps nuclear?

    And PS - teleportation is about the only Star Trek technology not really feasible - the computing power is currently unimaginable.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 215 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Stevenson,

    You can feed power back into the grid from a small home generation system. But you have the have a) the right equipment for power conditioning and safety b) agreement from the lines company c) a seperate compliant meter (or at least seperate register on your meter) for export d) a buyer for your electricity.

    A, b and c all cost money in some form or other - and this on on top of whatever you paid for the generating kit.
    The buyer will usually pay you a lot less then what it costs you to generate the power, all things considered.
    And what they pay will probably be below the price you pay for importing power from the grid, and the price of power from the grid will be less then what it costs you to generate at home.
    Thats why we build power stations and move the energy around using wires, its generally cheaper for most people that way.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson,

    Damien wrote:

    Home Solar hot water heating makes a lot more sense than solar electricity generation in the first instance. But if there's leftover, put it into the grid.

    I'm no expert, but afaik home solar hot water heating does not produce electricity. It heats water (either directly or, more commonly nowadays, indirectly). It may be possible to use this to somehow generate electricity, but you cannot do it with current home solar water heaters.

    So "putting it into the grid" is not a viable plan.

    We have solar hot water heating. We turn off the electrical supply to the heater from December to April. For the rest of the year we still need to use electricity to heat our water to ensure that we have hot water on demand (otherwise you could only have a hot shower after a sunny day, which can sometimes be few and far between here in Auckland). Sure the Solar still helps, but ...

    No cold showers, no two weeks cut off from the grid while they dig you out from the snow.

    ... is not valid. And of course, the further south you go, the less sunlight you get, due to the shorter days and the aspect effects (which is why the poles are colder than the tropics).

    The people I interviewed worked out it would have paid for itself in 10-20 years.

    Before we installed it, I did the math, and discovered that it would never pay for itself, if the cost of the capital is included. It was basically a break even scenario - ie the amount of money saved on electricity bills equals the interest costs on the $7000 required to install it (either paid on borrowed money, or not gained on invested money).

    But that was good enough for us.

    Cheers,
    Brent.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 614 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    the issue for us in Auckland will not be heating in the winter but cooling in the summer

    How many Aucklanders have aircon? Even the apartment blocks and (most) hotels I've been in don't.

    Or do you mean that with global warming, it'll become essential. Harden up. Or move to Wellington.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew C,

    Andrew

    I don't think I'm with you on solar power being the answer(suppose I will have to buy North and South to read the whole article - cunning marketing ploy). While the power is 'free' you still have to pay off the capital and maintenance - last time I worked the numbers it was about five times the retail price of power.

    Solar power cell creation has had real advances over the last few years and soon a new generation of solar panels will be ready for production. The key difference with these to the old ones is the cost, they have found much much cheaper ways to print the cells, which will flow on to a shorter capital payback period.

    Scientific America and New Scientist have had really good easy to grasp articles on this topic over the last 5 years, hunt them out if interested.

    Auckland • Since May 2008 • 167 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew C,

    How many Aucklanders have aircon? Even the apartment blocks and (most) hotels I've been in don't.

    I have done a small amount of power modeling in a few different countries, and peak demand side growth has almost almost always been driven by the increase in summer due to air con and heat pumps (in air con mode).

    It would suspect NZ will follow a similar pattern.

    Auckland • Since May 2008 • 167 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Stevenson,

    Rich
    They probably have heat pumps, which can be used in reverse as aircon, and is potentially a problem. Hot weather means low hydro storage, Huntly constrained out by river temperature, transmission lines thermally constrained... and now a new peak demand for power to run heat pumps in reverse. A lot of cities overseas have summer peaking problems and there is a good chance Auckland will join them.

    Andrew
    I will remain skeptical on this, the research I've done on solar has been more at the venture capital side of things. There has been a consistent outpouring of 'new solar panel just around the corner, give us some money' but no one has delivered the goods in terms of $/kW in the market yet. You also need to consider the balance of plant required, solar panels are roughly half the total cost of the installation, less when you add electrician time. So a price reduction in panels still means you have to pay a lot for your kit, not quite as much as before but still too much in my view.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    And of course, the further south you go, the less sunlight you get, due to the shorter days and the aspect effects (which is why the poles are colder than the tropics).

    While the south does have shorter days in winter, this is no barrier to solar hot water. You may need a bigger surface area to catch the same energy, but the price of panels is dropping rapidly. I'm pretty sure my Otago-based folks got theirs for around $4,000; and I think they mainly switch the electricity on for visitors.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 703 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Before we installed it, I did the math, and discovered that it would never pay for itself, if the cost of the capital is included. It was basically a break even scenario - ie the amount of money saved on electricity bills equals the interest costs on the $7000 required to install it (either paid on borrowed money, or not gained on invested money).

    Presumably this will change for the better if the units get cheaper (or you install when building), or as electricity gets more expensive.

    Personally I think they should be subsidised. The more of them we put in houses, the less new power generation we need to build.

    Do people with solar panels on their roof now - what do they do with any surplus electricity during the day? I can't imagine all of them put it back into the grid, do they sink it into batteries, or does it just get lost?

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    Do people with solar panels on their roof now - what do they do with any surplus electricity during the day? I can't imagine all of them put it back into the grid, do they sink it into batteries, or does it just get lost?

    They other don't generate more electricity than covers standby electricity use, store it in batteries, or managed to keep their old electricity meter. Older ones run backwards, which makes for far more satisfactory grid repatriation :)

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 703 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Stevenson,

    Kyle
    I'm assuming you mean photovoltaic panels for generating electricity as opposed to solar thermal panels for producing hot water.

    If you're grid connected you can feed it back in (see above), or you can store it in batteries (expensive, require maintenance and replacement) or even as heat in the hot water cylinder or thermal hmass of the house. You're probably better of burning $5 notes in wetback, but hey its a free country.
    If you're not gird connected then PV is a good part of the solution for you, but you will need the battery bank and charger/inverter etc

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie,

    Oh... so much to talk about.

    Right. First of all

    Brent: There is solar hot water heating, and solar electricity generation, two different things. So yes, if you have solar hot water heating, you can't put electricity into the grid. But you can have BOTH on the one house (or in the cases I studied, have the electricity generating solar on a farm barn roof).

    ... is not valid. And of course, the further south you go, the less sunlight you get, due to the shorter days and the aspect effects

    Right, well again, two of a number of the families I spoke to for N&S, who have gone completely off the grid, *are* based in South Canterbury. They were cut off for two weeks with the big snows when the grid. They now have total solar in one place, and solar + wind in the other. They both have diesel generators as a back up, but the system is designed so they won't need to use it. But yeah, Antarctica might be a different case, at least 6 months of the year.

    Andrew: Yes, you do need the equipment, the meter, a buyer, a seller etc. But that's really not that hard, and is commonplace across Europe, and increasingly US and even Australia. It will usually require the Govt to twist arms in the first instance though. And the power companies have to pay more than they do for coal, yes, but at the same time they don't have the cost of maintaining the plant on your roof.

    Mark: I agree, smaller generators closer to homes is part of the long term solution, but I also think the dams will continue to play a big part overall. As for the EECA loan, I understand there are big issues, such as locking customers into using certain providers (who in turn have their own issues), but perhaps that's another discussion for another day.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    I think the answer is to close Huntly, not Tiwai

    According to the government's latest figures, closing Huntly would pretty much deal with our Kyoto liability.

    Unfortunately they'll have no financial incentive to dothat (or switch it to gas) until 2010.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1711 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    There's a nice summary hereof home generation and feeding power back to the grid

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 703 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    And it seems like Scott Base could probably get reasonable use out of solar hot water in summer, which is presumably when their hot water demand is highest. And it would have to beat transporting in fuel I'd assume.

    Franz Josef seems to be the main mainland contender for being a crap place to install solar hot water, however.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 703 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Stevenson,

    Damien
    It is becoming commonplace overseas, and there are some small scale exporting installations in NZ too. I'm not saying it can't be done, just that it will probably cost more then power generated at a power station and delivered to your door... (20c/kWh ish) which is where the argument become pointless, or at least expensive.

    Retailers don't pay seperately for maintenance on any plant, generators build this into their price (7-8c/kWh long run). If you require retailers to pay a higher price for home brewed electrons (be it retail price or the actual cost of the home brew), then you are subsidising the home brewers. Might be a bit difficult to twist the arms of non SOE companies to do this.

    James

    In that article it said that the meter runs backwards when electricity is sold back into the grid. I'm pretty sure this is not allowed under the electricity metering and reconciliation arrangements (have to have a seperate export meter or register). Also ,IRD considers running the meter backwards (netting off) to be tax avoidence due to the GST and income issues.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    Hi Andrew,

    I know that running the meter backwards is not technically correct. I think perhaps 10 years or more ago it was occurring to a small extent and was largely ignored. I think it may depend on the extent to which you are still a large net user as to whether it gets noticed. Certainly, you wouldn't want to go away for a month and produce a negative power bill.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 703 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    In some European countries they do subsidise home generation. Typically, they do this as part of a subsidy on all reusable generation - which is partly a rort to make nuclear power appear an even slightly economic proposition. Because (some of) those European leaders really, really want to glow in the dark!

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

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