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Power United States

Running Your Electric Meter Backwards 526

Posted by kdawson
from the power-to-the-peeps dept.
kog777 writes to note a story in International Business Times about "net metering," or generating your own power without disconnecting from the grid. Forty states have laws allowing individuals to do this, and many of them offer subsidies and tax breaks for people who do. From the article: "When the sun shines bright on their home in New York's Hudson Valley, John and Anna Bagnall live out a homeowner's fantasy. Their electricity meter runs backward. Solar panels on their barn roof can often provide enough for all their electricity needs. Sometimes — and this is the best part — their solar setup actually pushes power back into the system."
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Running Your Electric Meter Backwards

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  • by Centurix (249778) <centurix@NoSPam.gmail.com> on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @03:27AM (#17720664) Homepage
    With a Ferarri when you stick it in reverse.
    • by killa62 (828317)
      Imagine a Beawulf cluster of those!
    • by ear1grey (697747) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @10:33AM (#17723158) Homepage
      Note however, that if your car is not actually a Ferrari, but an elaborately styled MG with Maranello accoutrements [imdb.com], then reversing does not work. Also, if you discover this and get angry widway through the exercise, under no circumstances should you kick the front fender.
  • What is the story? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @03:29AM (#17720674)
    Err, this has been mentioned countless times. I really fail to see how this story adds anything. Yes, you can put power back into the grid and get paid. This is not new, and this is hardly a little known fact.
  • realities? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @03:37AM (#17720698) Homepage
    I live in Southern California, and one side of my roof faces south, so I should be a prime candidate for this. However, I have some concerns about actually doing it. For one thing, when we bought the house, 10 years ago, the sellers were just in the process of replacing the roof, and while they were at it, they removed the solar water heater for the pool. If you figure we have 15 years left on this roof, I have to wonder whether an expensive photovoltaic system will end up going the same way as the solar water heater. Another question in my mind is the uncertainties related to the craziness California has been seeing in electric rates, as well as uncertainties about when is the right time to buy photovoltaics, given that the technology is advancing rapidly. And then there are all the other things that might be easier and more practical than installing solar panels. I replaced a bunch of incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents last month. I've never been able to get power management to work properly on my Ubuntu box. One of the big electricity hogs in our house is the pool pump, and there's not much you can do about that; if you don't pump long enough on the pool every day, it turns green.
    • Re:realities? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by scoot80 (1017822) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @03:50AM (#17720748) Journal
      One big issue is: how long will they take to pay themselves off? They aren't cheap. All you have done is pre-paid your electricity for the next 5-10 years (however long they end up paying themselves off over), and that is only on the sunny days. Unless you have energy storage (maybe you can fill the roof with lead acid batteries...), on every bad day you'll be draining juice back from the electricty company, so the time its taking to pay itself off is just getting longer...

      In the end, I think the choice is whether you want to help make the world greener, or you just plain don't give a rats.. most people don't give a rats ass, and so solar panel prices will stay up. Maybe the goverment should make it mandatory that new buildings have solar panels installed (does that already exist)? Here in Aus, new buildings have to have solar powered heating and sunlights.. but then again, we live in an oven of a country..
      • by Mongoose (8480) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @04:25AM (#17720900) Homepage
        ...and that is only on the sunny days.


        Have you ever lived in Southern Califorina? If there is ever a could in the sky people run off the street to take shelter in the nearest building. Don't ask what happens in a freak rain shower! Drizzle of doom...
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by LordKronos (470910)
          Have you ever lived in Southern Califorina? If there is ever a could in the sky people run off the street to take shelter in the nearest building. Don't ask what happens in a freak rain shower! Drizzle of doom...

          I've never lived there, but I learned about this "drizzle of doom" phenomenon a few months ago when I stumbled across the following article on a San Diego news website:

          0.02 inches of rain pummels the area [signonsandiego.com]
        • by JacksBrokenCode (921041) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @12:05PM (#17724256)

          Welcome to KCAL 9. We're sorry we had to cut away from this evening's high speed pursuit but we have received word that Ventura is experiencing scattered sprinkles. Johnny Mountain is down in the trenches, reporting from the eye of the storm. We'll hear from him after this break, if he's still alive!

      • Re:realities? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Stephen Samuel (106962) <`samuel' `at' `bcgreen.com'> on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @04:48AM (#17721002) Homepage Journal
        There's no need to store energy if you have an agreement with the power company -- When you have extra power, they pay you for it. When you need extra power you pay them for it. You are effectively 'storing' your extra power in the power grid with near 100% effectiveness (better than batteries -- unless the power grid collapses).

        Although solar cells aren't cheap, the prices have come down, and efficiency has gone up over time. It's kinda like buying a computer... If you're waiting for the fastest computer to come out before you buy yours, chances are you're reading this on a TI57 programmable calculator.

        If you buy now, your savings start now. If you cover the cost of the cells in saved energy bills and rebates from the power company, then the fact that a 'better' system comes out later doesn't hurt you that much.... Once you have covered the original cost, you can always replace the system with a new one, and you really don't lose anything. (but you get the satisfaction of preventing the waste of a few barrels of increasingly precious oil, and slowing global warming by just a smidgen).

        Before you do something, ask yourself "what would happen if a million people did this"?

      • by arivanov (12034)
        7-11 years depending on the region, installation, etc for a suitable system. Usually longer than most people own a house. This is the primary reason why they are so rare.
      • by choseph (1024971)
        Every time an article like this comes up, people are nice enough to point out problems with solar (gunk to create, $$ to invest, wears out). Still, I have to say the idea continues to be exciting

        The appeal comes with the similarities to computer evolution and balance (mainframe/personal) and the internet (grid computing). People can keep telling me it isn't worth it or will never happen (or will be super-inneficient), but I'm always going to hold out for that internet-like energy grid. All your Googles
      • by patio11 (857072) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @05:47AM (#17721198)
        >>
        All you have done is pre-paid your electricity for the next 5-10 years
        >>

        60 months worth of your electric bill, call it an average of $100 a month, is $6,000. If you "pre-pay" that by rolling it into your home loan ("Build me a house and make sure it has a pool and solar power!"), it will end up costing you more (rough guesstimate is $7,300). If instead of buying photovoltaic cells you buy shares in your local electric company, you'll get about $120 to $240 a year in dividends (power companies often have a 2-4% yield), and your while your photovoltaic cells depreciate every year and require maintenance, your shares will probably appreciate and you'll never have to patch them up. (You'll have to pay the electric company for those 10 months of the year that dividends don't... then again, you get the security of knowing you'll never have to pay them extra just because its cloudy.) When you move in 15 years, rather than uninstalling or replacing them at your expense, you can just sell them and take your profits.

        >>
        In the end, I think the choice is whether you want to help make the world greener, or you just plain don't give a rats
        >>

        I don't give a rat's hindquarters for Green theology but don't mind conservation. Thats why I buy shares in companies which own nuclear power plants. Its cleaner than solar and has economies of scale. Yes, I said cleaner than scale: the energy cost from constructing solar panels keeps them net-energy-negative for about a decade (!) and when they die out after just over a decade (!) you have to dispose of them, and per megawatt hour generated you'll have to dispose of a heck of a lot more solar panels than radioactive waste. I don't invest in solar companies because at the moment they still haven't licked the whole "Making our products net energy producers" problem and until they do my only hope to profit from that investment would be hoping solar's massive government subsidies continue and expand. While I think that is certainly possible, I feel that if the current or a future administration wants to dump a couple billion into the solar industry, my nukes will get a similar largesse.

        Sidenote: If you have an aversion to nuclear power, I understand and accept that. I don't eat meat on Fridays in Lent and we can both agree that our separate faiths are mutually harmless. One piece of advice though. Spend your money on a decent job of insulating your house -- you'll require less kwh from the grid, and on a per-dollar basis you'll save more kwh spending on insulation (and installation) than you will on buying solar power.
      • by marcovje (205102)

        Yes. Note that the articles
        - mentions putting it on the barn, not an house. Barn is probably way larger in roof surface.
        - no analysis of cost/benefit as you say.
        - falls into the pseudo environmental category. If the production of something with a green principle is quite environmentally damaging, and the "green" benefit is low, the net result can still be _more_ polution. That's about the first thing they learn you in any engineering course about the environment, yet journalists seem to miss that en-masse.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Lumpy (12016)
        There are two realities with soler living.

        1 - the stuff is expensive, but the cheapest way is the grid-tied no storage setup like this, It's very common and has been done for decades, only recently have laws been passed to allow it in most places. Many have done it anyways and simply stopped the meter from spinning.

        2 - It requires a lifestyle change. You cant be the typical American power pig. You have to reduce your consumption, replace things with higher efficiency, actually turn thing off. Having that
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by iminplaya (723125)
      ...as well as uncertainties about when is the right time to buy photovoltaics...

      Now, or you'll die waiting for the "perfect" system. You don't have to do it all at once. Start with some small panels to just run the pump for now.
    • Re:realities? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @03:54AM (#17720786) Homepage
      The reality is that on average, photovoltaics costs more to install and maintain than the power they produce is worth, thus on the average you're poorer *with* photovoltaics than without.

      This is however only true on average. If, for example, you live in an area where you get tax-breaks or subsidies for installing, then this can be enough to break even. In Germany, for example they have a "100.000 roofs" program where you're guaranteed a price about 3 times market-price for the power you produce for the next 15 years. That is *more* than enough to make it profitable.

      Solar water-heaters on the other hand are beneficial. Especially if you live in an area with plenty of sun *and* have a large family that likes to frequently shower in the summer, it can be a huge win. There are substantial savings from installing them at the same time one installs roofing, so your best bet is probably going to be to install them at the same time your roofing needs replacement anyway, rather than separately.

      The *most* beneficial investment however is building/buying a well-insulated house with balanced ventilation. This saves power in summer for AC, and in winther for heating. And a well-insulated house doesn't have higher maintenance-costs than a poorly insulated one.

      • Re:realities? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by TapeCutter (624760) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @04:25AM (#17720898) Journal
        "The *most* beneficial investment however is building/buying a well-insulated house with balanced ventilation. This saves power in summer for AC, and in winther for heating. And a well-insulated house doesn't have higher maintenance-costs than a poorly insulated one."

        From my own experience, I paid to get insulation pumped into the roof a couple of years after I moved into my first house in the early 90's, no tax breaks or subsidies at that time so I paid the full price. It cut my heating bill in half (well, almost) and it paid for itself in less than 2yrs. Not sure about this, but I think it is compulsory for new buildings to be insulated here in Australia, they all seem have it built in.
      • If I remember right the solar averaged $.25/kwh and I pay $.09/kwh for grid power. It makes more sense for me to store it for my own use. I'm in the Midwest.
        • I shouldn't post to Slashdot when I'm in a daze.

          I pay around $.099/kWh and around $.128/kWh with the facility charges, etc. figured in. If you're still on the grid while using solar, you'll still pay those facility charges, but will save a little on sales tax. Consider the facility charges as payment for using the grid as a battery as long as they pay retail for your extra juice. Ignore my babbling in the original post.

          http://solarbuzz.com/SolarPrices.htm [solarbuzz.com] shows residential solar power at $.37/kWh in a sunny
      • The *most* beneficial investment however is building/buying a well-insulated house with balanced ventilation. This saves power in summer for AC, and in winther for heating. And a well-insulated house doesn't have higher maintenance-costs than a poorly insulated one.

        Insulation is so good that these days, heating is the least of your problems. A friendly family of mine is living in a 2-story-energy-efficient (certified) house, they never need any heating (middle europe), normally they have cooling problems.

      • by dada21 (163177) *
        Bullshit. There are no free grants or tax breaks -- those are paid by everyone else.

        Don't start spewing that garbage. If you make 3x market value, the taxpayer is paying the other 2x over market, plus the bureaucratic overhead, too.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by eric76 (679787)

        Solar water-heaters on the other hand are beneficial. Especially if you live in an area with plenty of sun *and* have a large family that likes to frequently shower in the summer, it can be a huge win. There are substantial savings from installing them at the same time one installs roofing, so your best bet is probably going to be to install them at the same time your roofing needs replacement anyway, rather than separately.

        Years ago, my grandfather had a steel drum painted black on the roof of the well ho

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by sireasoning (576345)
      You might want to check out the REnU program at Citizenre, http://renu.citizenre.com/ [citizenre.com]

      The gist of the program is that they will buy, install and maintain a solar electric system for your home. You then sign a contract and agree to pay them for the electricity generated by the solar system. You can sign a contract for 1, 5, 10 or 25 years and you get a fixed rate per Kilowatt throughout the contract period that is your current rate off the grid at the time of sign-up. So if you are currently paying 10 cents a
      • "REnU program" - That is a fanfuckingtastic idea! When will it get to Australia...oh wait...***rushes of to bank with bussiness plan***

        From thier FAQ: "You do not pay the security deposit [$500] until after the solar engineer comes to your house and designs your system. They will show you exactly what the system will look like and only after you sign off on the design do you pay the deposit."

        Like any contractor they send a guy around, he gives you the speil and you pay a deposit, so I guess you can ju
    • Re:realities? (Score:5, Informative)

      by edwardpickman (965122) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @04:33AM (#17720926)
      Do your own research. Some of the information given you is bad. The life expectatncy of photovoltaics is 25 to 30 years, potentially more. The general rule for payback is seven years. If you aren't prepared to pay in advance for that long I guess don't do it but you will get 20 to 25 years of free power so you do the numbers. I'm not sure if California still has the tax credit but they were offering 50% of the cost of the photo volatiacs. Either way it's a good value. The bigger consideration to me is whether to go silcone or flexsible. Silicone cells are more efficent in bright sun but the flexsible cell are more durable and work better in poor light. The downside with silicone cells is if one breaks the panel goes down. The cells are very fragile. Flexsible cells can actually be punctured and still work, I've seen film of them being applied with staple guns. Even so silicone may be the better bet in Southern California due to all the sunshine. In the northern states I'd definately go flexsible Ultimately the descision maker should be how long are you going to keep the house? If you are going to move in five years I'd hesitate. If you plan to be there ten to twenty years go for it. Even if you do sell the house in twenty years the panels will have five to ten years life in them and add considerably to the value of the house. Power costs won't drop in the next twenty years. They have to go up during that time. Fusion ain't gonna happen in the next fifty years. Everyone admits that. Other than large scale coal there's no cheap replacement for current electric sources and even hydroelectric is threatened due water availibility and threats to fish stocks. Nuclear will take many years to get on line and there's still too many problems to make it a major source of power. A government study concluded localized solar was the best solution to Californias energy problems but that doesn't make money for the power companies so little was done to make it happen.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rbanffy (584143)
        Hydro power should be no threat to fish stock as, in essence, you are turning a valley into a lake, increasing space for fish to live. It may be a threat to certain species of fish who will find it difficult to swim upstream to lay eggs. There are some (bad) solutions for that, though.

        The only time when they should have a negative impact on the population of fish is when the reservoir is filling and you force a drought downstream.

        But I agree - we need all the energy we can get and any combination of zero-em
    • Windmill (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Flying pig (925874)
      I don't know about your wind levels, but have you considered using a windmill to drive the pool pump? This is far simpler and more efficient than using anything to generate electricity and then using electricity to drive a motor, and inherently more reliable. You do need a positive displacement pump so it will work at any wind speed enough to turn the vanes.

      This is far from an impracticable technology. In the days of wooden ships, the Dutch used to buy English ships that had become waterlogged (yes, they do

    • However, I have some concerns about actually doing it.
      http://www.zelicoff.com/SMLR/default.htm#Environme ntally_Friendly_Energy_Systems [zelicoff.com]
  • yeah, but (Score:3, Funny)

    by macadamia_harold (947445) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @03:39AM (#17720712) Homepage
    Forty states have laws allowing individuals to do this, and many of them offer subsidies and tax breaks for people who do.

    Tell that to the boy scout who tried to build a reactor [amazon.com] in his backyard.
  • Non conventional (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheCybernator (996224) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @03:47AM (#17720734) Homepage
    When talking abt non-conventional sources of energy, solar power technology is yet become economic. I would rather install a wind mill on my roof instead a solar plates.

    while back here in third world countries we use other non-conventional ways to save on energy bills like
    Bribe the Electricity Engineer or
    Tap electricity directly from pole without any meter
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by scoot80 (1017822)
      You live in Holland?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by TheCybernator (996224)
        No. India. And why i would prefer wind mill over solar panels is because there is higher probability to find the wind mill still on my roof after vacation than solar panels :)
    • by Gordonjcp (186804)
      In the UK, you can buy a complete windmill set that will feed back to mains for around £1500. It puts out a couple of kilowatts, and is available in large DIY shops.
  • by BillGatesLoveChild (1046184) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @03:50AM (#17720752) Journal
    This is more widespread than you realize. Aussies have been doing it for a couple of years now. Just the thing for a desert country where it seldom rains:

    http://www.smh.com.au/news/National/Where-the-icy- cold-beer-is-on-the-house/2004/12/06/1102182229401 .html [smh.com.au]
    • by cute-boy (62961)
      G'day

      Sorry there is nothing widespread about use of solar energy in Australia. Nor is it likely there will be much incentive (beyond tokenism) for the home owner to invest.

      Here is Australia we have coal, and lots of it. We want to sell it. We have lots of uranium ore. We want to sell that too. Our government is reciting a mantra that these energy sources are clean, when handled properly, and there are never any problems. Our governments are prepared to rip up world heritage areas to get at these commodities
      • By widespread I meant that someone outside the US had done it first :-)

        Yes, that solar program is limited to Sydney and as the linked SMH.com.au article says the people in the program do it for the love rather than the money. I'm not aware of any other states that are doing it. The Aussie Government does give a $4K rebate for Solar Home Owners, but its chickenfeed compared to what they're investing the nuclear and coal industry.
  • It really does work. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Calibax (151875) * on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @03:51AM (#17720754)
    Back in 2003 I decided the time was right to go green. At the time I was paying about $2900 a year for 15,500 KwH, and I figured I could make the money back in a reasonable number of years. After many discussions with local solar installers I picked one and in December 2003 I had 48 panels, each 60 inches by 30 inches, installed on my roof and three inverters on the side of the house to convert the DC output to standard household AC.

    The panels generate approximately 7.5kW AC (8.8kW DC). The total cost was $65,000 but with a grant from the State of California and State tax credits, the total cost was reduced to just over $31,000. Since then I have been paying only the minimum price for electricity service (around $5 a month) to cover the cost of the meter rental. As electricity rates have increased a bit (and no doubt will continue to increase) I calculate that I will recover my costs approximately 8 years after installation, and I will then start to save money. The life of the panels should be around 30 to 40 years

    It's worth remembering that you need to make certain your roof is good for the years the panels will be operating, so for some it will also mean installing a new roof first. That wasn't an issue for me as I have an ornamental metal tile roof that should last much longer than the panels.

    Essentially, I use the power utility as my batteries - during sunny days I generate much more electricity than I use and the excess goes into the grid, and then I use power from the grid on rainy winter days and during nighttime. I get credited for electricity sent to the grid, and yes, the meter really does run backwards.

    One neat trick is that I don't have to generate the equivalent of all the energy I use to break even. I'm on a utility company plan where the electricity I use during peak summer times (noon to 6pm) is very expensive - around three times normal rates - but off-peak usage is about 70% of normal rates. But I get credited at the rate in place at the time of day the electricity is generated. Because my installation generates the majority of the electricity during the peak times, I get credited for those KwH at the high rate and when I need to use electricity at night I pay the reduced rate. As an example of how effective this is, last year I generated 12,400 KwH and I also used 3,600 KwH from the utility company. But at the end of the year I had a credit balance of $380.

    There's one gotcha there - if you have a debit balance at the end of the year, you have to pay it. But if you have a credit balance, that gets lost. Ideally you want to generate just enough electricity so that your adjusted balance is zero, but that's pretty hard to judge. In any case, you want ample extra capacity just after installation as the panels reduce their efficiency by about 0.5% to 1.0% per year.
    • by nametaken (610866)
      That's really good info, but it's obvious that you're reasonably wealthy. You have room for 48 panels, can manage a 31k installation, handled swinging the 30k difference in tax credits, and have a decorative metal roof. This is not something your average Chicago suburbanite is going to be able to swing effectively.

      Is there another method that's more reasonable for joe sixpack?
    • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:24AM (#17721322) Homepage Journal
      And here is the reason you pay so much in taxes, folks. Those grants come from somewhere. Whether or not you like green power, if you live near this guy or in this guy's state (or worse, if it was a federal grant), you're paying for it. Out of your pocket. Today. If it was a federal grant, that money is debt money -- it could take a generation to pay off his grant, federally.

      Government has no right to steal from me, or you, to pay for this guy's pipe dream. If he really wanted to do it, he should have done it with his own dollars, not robbing the tax payer of anything.

      Of course the average greenie socialist here would mod me down, but I speak the truth -- there is no such thing as a free lunch, and this guy will get one after only 8 years or so. On your back.
      • by retrosteve (77918) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:49AM (#17721460) Homepage Journal
        Well, I'll be the greenie socialist then.

        The reason taxes work when they do is that some things fall under the "common good". If we just asked everyone to pay only for services that benefit them personally, we'd have only private schools, few medicines, and likely no roads or traffic lights.

        Some things just only work if everyone is forced to pay a bit for them. But look at the benefits in this case. If the government takes some of your tax money to pay all the people who want to make their own power, everyone benefits through lower load on power stations, decreased demand for power (which lowers prices!), decreased pollution and demand for foreign oil.

        Obvious win-win.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by kmac06 (608921)
          If everyone did this, it was just make taxes jump significantly, meaning EVERYONE would pay more for power. Oh, and no one would use the electricity grid, so you can forget power when a clouds in the way. The tax credit for solar power does not fall under the "common good."

          I fully support new power sources, and the very obvious cheap, long-lasting, safe, clean source is nuclear power. But greenie socialists killed nuclear power a few decades ago.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by bahwi (43111)
        Yes, what a terrible person, Robbing the people for electricity.

        In other news, this guys money compares nothing to:
        "Last week, the House voted 264-163 to eliminate about $8 billion in tax breaks for the energy industry. The bill also fixes errors in leases for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico that allowed some oil companies to avoid paying royalties to the federal government."

        I say use the $8 billion for grants to everybody who can get one and get a solar water heater for their home. So why shouldn't Joe Aver
    • Essentially, I use the power utility as my batteries - during sunny days I generate much more electricity than I use and the excess goes into the grid, and then I use power from the grid on rainy winter days and during nighttime.

      Have you considered replacing one of your inverters with one from Outback Systems to fee your critical load (bath, hall, bedroom lights, freezer, fridge, computer, & TV?

      They have a very nice grid tie system using batteries which is power outage proof.
      http://www.wholesalesolar.co [wholesalesolar.com]
  • by cerberusss (660701) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @03:53AM (#17720774) Homepage Journal
    In the Netherlands, farmers who plant crops in greenhouses always have petroleum gases driven generators to warm the greenhouse in the winter. In summer, these generators feed back into the grid.
    • by pipatron (966506)
      That sounds expensive, ineffective and unfriendly for the environment. If they are connected to the grid anyway, why not use the electricity directly instead of burning up fossil fuel in ineffective small-scale generators?
      • Re:Greenhouses too (Score:4, Informative)

        by Calinous (985536) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @05:10AM (#17721076)
        Because the total heat contained in the natural gas is used - some is generated as electricity, and the rest remains as residual heat in the greenhouses. 100% efficiency during winter
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by JaredOfEuropa (526365)

          Because the total heat contained in the natural gas is used - some is generated as electricity, and the rest remains as residual heat in the greenhouses. 100% efficiency during winter

          Not just that; they use the generated CO2 as well; the plants need it. The sad thing is that NL power companies pay really shitty rates for energy fed back into the grid, something like 1/5th of the regular rates.

          A more interesting development for greenhouses is the heat exchanger. Greenhouses need tremendous amounts of h

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by cerberusss (660701)
        Actually, this is very environmentally friendly. Burning liquid petroleum gas is very clean, and cheap for the farmer. The grid would be severely loaded if directly tapped into for the scale that the huge greenhouses have.

        Also, the generators are thoroughly insulated and because of this particular application (greenhouse), the excess warmth is directly used. This results in an extremely high energy/warmth ratio.
  • Their electricity meter runs backward. Solar panels on their barn roof can often provide enough for all their electricity needs. Sometimes -- and this is the best part -- their solar setup actually pushes power back into the system.

    Augh. This doesn't make sense. No, not the whole solar setup, but the phrases above. If the meter is running backward, then the system is feeding excess power to the grid. If the meter is running backward while the system isn't feeding power to the grid, it's broken or manipulat

  • by Peter Cooper (660482) * on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @03:59AM (#17720800) Homepage Journal
    Back in the 'good old days' you could hack the meter and switch the wires around so that the meter would run backwards, even though you'd still be getting electricity. A one-time friend of the family did this in a shop he owned. He figured he'd switch it, operate for a week on, week off, so the bill would be low, but not too low. Unfortunately he forgot about this arrangement and the meter showed him to be $1000+ in 'credit' with the electricity board saying they were going to be visiting in a week or so. Panic ensued, and he bought a bunch of electric kettles and rigged them up 24/7 to suck juice from the grid to get back into the red.
    • A one-time friend of the family did this in a shop he owned. He figured he'd switch it, operate for a week on, week off, so the bill would be low, but not too low.

      Rewireing a meterbase often with aluminum wires is a great way to form high resistance points in the wire. Can you say house fire?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The people behind the current Solar Living Institute (www.solarliving.org) have been doing stuff like this for probably over 30 years, back when it was called "Real Goods", which sold solar electric panels and prided itself on "taking people off the grid".

    They sell a book Solar Living Source Book [solarliving.org] (now in its 12th edition) which tells you how to take your home off the grid using solar panels, plus they offer courses http://www.solarliving.org/workshops/ [solarliving.org]. They also run the Solar Living Center [solarliving.org], which is a sel
  • by viking80 (697716) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @04:11AM (#17720860) Journal
    The consumer is offered two choices from the utility:
    A. peak rate at $0.40/kWh and off-peak at $0.20kWh
    or
    B. fixed rate at $0.35/kWh

    Now two neighbours sign up for the two different rates, and start their own little energy trading:

    Off peak, Neighbour A buys at $0.20 from utility and sells to neigbour B for $0.35. B resells to utility.

    During peak hours, Neighbour A buys from B at $0.35m and sells to utility for $0.40.

    With a 400A service, they can 800,000kWh a year and make a profit of $80k!

    Have fun
    • Sounds great, except that both neighbors are plugged into the same grid. Run the wires == no movement. Nothing happens. Nada. You need to have a difference in electrical potential. Sounds great, but it just wouldn't work...
    • A 400 Amp service would be getting into the "small to medium business" catagory.

      At which point your meter would be read monthly and you only have one choice of rate (peak/off peak).

      I would give your suggestion only 28 days before the power company moves in and changes your plan.

      ZombieEngineer
    • The energy utility would see though this scam immediately for several reasons:

      - The neighbors claim to be pushing 96KW of power onto the network, while in reality they're just shunting it from A's tap then back through B's tap, resulting in a net draw due to resistive and transformer losses. 96 missing KW won't go unnoticed.
      - Nothing you can legally put on residential property will generate 96KW of electric for any length of time. This will generate suspicion.
      - Funny, A's meter runs back while B's runs
      • by Ihlosi (895663)
        - Nothing you can legally put on residential property will generate 96KW of electric for any length of time.

        So you're not allowed to park a car on a residential property ?



        A car engine, if connected to a generator, could do it.

    • Any rational utility will only pay for at most, the avoided cost of the power, maybe 30% of the retial price. Anything else is madness.
  • by hyrdra (260687) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @04:28AM (#17720912) Homepage Journal
    What is to prevent people from storing electricity (in batteries) during off peak hours and then selling it back during peak hours and generating a profit?
    • Batteries are inefficient. The energy wasted on battery leakage would probably cancel out any profits. Or maybe not... anybody here qualified to work out the math on this?

      And even if people do it - so what? It just means that they increase the peak capacity of the grid as a whole. The power companies would want to encourage that sort of thing.
    • by Ihlosi (895663) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @04:52AM (#17721016)
      What is to prevent people from storing electricity (in batteries) during off peak hours and then selling it back during peak hours and generating a profit?



      The forces of nature. That is, physics and economics. Physics because it limits the efficiency of storing energy in batteries to impractical amounts, economics because batteries that size are frickin' expensive.

  • Catch Up (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CmdrGravy (645153) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @04:40AM (#17720958) Homepage
    I'm surprised the US hasn't been doing this before, I think we've been able to do this for years in the UK and it's a pretty obvious development really.

    I'm not sure how well Solar Power works here though ;-)
  • by rhesuspieces00 (804354) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @04:41AM (#17720966) Homepage
    My dad had a friend a while back that did this, I think maybe in Oregon or Washington, but I don't recall. He had a large property with a decent sized stream running through it, and set up a water wheel. It generated A LOT more power than he used, so he was constantly pumping power back into the grid, which his electric company paid him for, at something like one fifth of what he would pay for the electricity if he was drawing it. The startup cost wasn't that high, as he was an electrician and set it most of it up himself, and was way more cost effective than solar panels at the time (I don't know if that is still true, this was 10 or 15 years ago). He wasn't just saving money, but actually turning a profit of a couple thousand dollars a year.

    I think some time later the regulations might have changed and the power company would no longer pay him, but at least he still had electricity that was essentially free.
  • by Panaqqa (927615) * on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @08:10AM (#17721980) Homepage
    I've looked at the cost of photovoltaics, and the ROI, and my conclusion was that I'd rather go with a wind turbine. The same thing applies - in areas that allow it, your excess power runs your meter backwards and the power company pays you for it. A pretty good selection of small scale wind turbines can be seen here [bergey.com]. Of course, if you have 5 acres like I do, you can dream about these little darlings [gepower.com] that start at 1.5MW power generation and move up from there. No serious zoning issues if you are out in a rural area, and your ROI is as low as 3-4 years - assuming no unusually high maintenance costs and that the power company will pay you a decent rate per kWh not some pittance.
  • by CokeBear (16811) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @10:59AM (#17723440) Journal
    If a typical Nuclear power plant costs a billion dollars, what would happen if instead the money was spend on solar panels for individual homes, in the form of tax breaks and rebates for homeowners that put them up? Remember, economies of scale and distribution of the grid and all those other benefits too. Seems like a no-brainer to me...
  • Citizenre free solar (Score:3, Informative)

    by modemboy (233342) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @02:46PM (#17726694)
    There is a company using net metering laws as a business model to offer homeowners free solar panel systems. Basically you rent the solar panels from them for the price of the electricity they generate, based on your current utility rates and locked for however long you sign up for (1, 5, or 25 years). I really hope this succeeds as it is the first really workable business model for mass solar adoption that I have seen. Check it out here:

    http://www.jointhesolution.com/makepower [jointhesolution.com]

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