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Why Morgan Stanley Is Betting That Tesla Will Kill Your Power Company

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  • by SeaFox (739806) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @07:33PM (#47610143)

    I'd believe in small-scale power systems in basements that run off natural gas, or all-in-one nuclear reactors being more likely to disrupt the power industry/grid complex than solar and stored charge. Wind power still has a chance in rural areas were people have larger backyards, though.

  • $107.3 Billion (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rmdingler (1955220) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @07:46PM (#47610241)
    ...that's what Morgan Stanley got vis-a-vis bailout money when the US housing bubble burst.

    They topped even Citicorp ($99.5 Billion) for the dubious distinction of top dog in the bonus round at the Bailout Games.

    They're crooks of the highest order, and anything they ever utter again will fall upon jaded ears.

  • Heads in the Sand (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kf6auf (719514) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @08:20PM (#47610515)

    The utilities are sticking their heads in the sand and trying to pretend that technology won't move forward. In some places they are trying to add an interconnect fee for those with solar panels that's as large as my electricity bill. They also are requiring solar panel inverters to stop working entirely when the grid goes down, instead of just providing power for the house and still leaving the grid upstream unenergized. All this, and the price of electricity keeps going up. And they expect people won't move forward with batteries as technology improves?

    Disconnecting from the grid entirely is large investment: people need a large solar array, several days worth of batteries, and probably smart appliances (mainly air conditioners and refrigerators). Or the utilities can make money helping to create a lower-investment intermediate option: staying connected to the grid with a smaller solar array and half a day worth of batteries which both help the utility with load balancing and can keep the house powered when the grid goes down. If they do this right, they will be able to remotely control when the system is storing energy or sending it to the grid, which probably means it's in their best interest if they write the software and maybe even make and sell (and install?) the hardware.

    Plus, they can provide monitoring services and, if they want to really diversify, insurance services or financing options. Otherwise, as more people abandon the grid, it will become more expensive per person to maintain it, creating a downward spiral of grid usage.

  • By comparison, solar power is still the clear winner, according to ecology.com

    That sites like "ecology.com" declare solar to be a winner is not surprising. That they even ask a question, however, is a sign, that things aren't as obvious and clear-cut, as some would like the rest of us to believe.

    Just twenty years ago we were lead to believe, growing more corn for conversion to ethanol would save the Earth and otherwise make the world a better place. That turned out to be a lie [ap.org], but you wouldn't find a mention of it on ecology.com [google.com]. Or, maybe, you would nowadays [ecology.com], but it is hardly trumpeted the way "progressive" politicians were praised for pushing ethanol and the "kkkonservative" ones — lambasted [democratic...ground.com] for opposing it.

  • Solar city model (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @08:33PM (#47610607) Journal
    One of the main stumbling blocks for residential solar is that a typical home owner is ill equipped to make the decision, (investment needed, financing, amortization schedules, expected future price of grid electricity, sizing etc) and find the contractor to execute it. Also resale, value of home etc etc come in. The solar city model is where they own the panels, they install it, you only pay metered electricity, you get to keep the grid for back up. In the end they pack it and take it away when you want to sell the home if the buyer is not interested in it. Suddenly the home owner can try solar for very low risk.

    Even without subsidies, this model has reasonable pay back period in places like Arizona or Hawaii. Of course storage technology is very bad at residential levels. Solar thermal has better storage using molten salt. But not viable at homes. But home storage does not have the size, weight and crashworthiness requirements of auto batteries. The flywheel storage mechanical batteries might become viable. But almost all the proposed storage have issues.

  • Re:Heads in the Sand (Score:5, Interesting)

    by roc97007 (608802) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @08:49PM (#47610739) Journal

    > The utilities are sticking their heads in the sand and trying to pretend that technology won't move forward. In some places they are trying to add an interconnect fee for those with solar panels that's as large as my electricity bill. They also are requiring solar panel inverters to stop working entirely when the grid goes down, instead of just providing power for the house and still leaving the grid upstream unenergized. All this, and the price of electricity keeps going up. And they expect people won't move forward with batteries as technology improves?

    True. I'm experimenting with a different approach. There's one circuit (pilot project so far) that's solar / marine batteries only, and the rest of the house is connected to the grid. The two feeds don't interact in any way. If the grid goes down, most of the house power goes down, but a few sockets, including the one the freezer is plugged into and the one the fridge is plugged into, continue to operate. (Be careful to pick a properly spec'd sine wave inverter for this application.)

    What I'd like to do eventually is have parallel wiring in the house, one string coming from the inverter, and one coming straight from the batteries, (through a fuse box of course) so that things like lights and electronic devices that don't mind working on 12 volts can use the native voltage, and things that need 110 will have 110. (Did you know that you could get CFLs that run on 12 volts?)

    My concern at this point is that I don't really have a feel for how many charges the batteries will take, or whether the battery creation/disposal lifecycle is any better than a coal fired electricity plant, for the environment.

  • Re:Good, I say (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jason Levine (196982) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @08:51PM (#47610751)

    I can personally attest to this. Our house was built in the 1940's. When we were fixing it up, we asked our contractor's electrician how much it would cost to replace the kitchen light fixture on the side. He looked quickly and, figuring it would only take ten minutes, said $25 which we paid him up front. When he took off the old light, however, he found that the wires kept crumbling in his hands. He kept needing to pull new wiring until he could hook it up. The job wound up taking him quite a few hours. That's the best hourly electrician rate we're ever likely to get.

  • by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @09:10PM (#47610869) Homepage Journal

    Why did the power company build a wind plant at a place where regularly is no wind?
    Bribery? Subsidies?
    Germany produces roughly 30% of its power with wind now ... Denmark about 60% or is it even more? Did not check recently.
    The Titanic sank, nevertheless we all know ships work. Perhaps you should check your attitude regarding wind.

  • Scaling usage (Score:5, Interesting)

    by physicsphairy (720718) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @09:16PM (#47610899) Homepage

    It's quite believable that technology will develop toward helping people reduce their energy costs. What's not quite so believable is that it will be enough to reduce demand.

    If energy was cheap enough, maybe you would use your excess electricity to get free water instead, extracting it and/or producing it from air and hydrocarbons, or otherwise recycle your waste. Maybe you will have some of the latest computer modules chugging away simulating your entire antatomy to anticipate future medical problems. If I had free electricity right now I would be using as much of it as possible to mine bitcoins. Who would have anticipated that 20 years ago?

    I don't see the end to domestic energy demand until we see the end of people wanting wealth, because technology is increasingly a way of translating energy into things of value.

  • by rahvin112 (446269) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @09:24PM (#47610939)

    That's great that you believe it. Too bad your beliefs and reality are so different.

    A few facts for you, installed solar PV per year is growing at 400% per year for the last 5 years. Costs are declining about 20% per year. You can currently go out right now and find a company in your town that will provide, install and maintain PV panels on your roof for a guaranteed electricity price that is LOWER than what you currently pay and is fixed for 10 years (the loan is a monthly payment that will be cheaper than the power cost it offsets over a year). At the end of the 10 years you own the panels outright and all the power generated until they fail is FREE. PV panels routinely come with a 25 year warranty that guarantees they will provide 80% of their rated power for 25 years. Most PV panels lose about 0.5% of power output per year with no known lifetime, they could in fact last 100 years for all we know.

    Right now, without subsidy Solar PV is cheaper than nuclear power per KW/hr. If the price of panels continues to decline at the same rate it has for the last 5 years by 2020 Solar PV will be cheaper than Coal without subsidy. The absolute only thing holding back Solar PV from storming up and down our grid is the up and down nature of it's generation. Tack reasonably priced storage on and that goes out the window. As solar gains traction manufacturing capacity will ramp up and costs will continue to decline. There are a lot of very rich people betting on solar. Companies like Solar City are routinely turning down hundreds of millions of investor money because they simply can't hire enough people to install that many panels.

  • Re:Solar city model (Score:5, Interesting)

    by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @09:32PM (#47610981)
    Supercaps ought to fare better than batteries - as far as I understand it, the price per lifetime energy storage should be lower. And bulkiness is of little issue in stationary applications. I've even seen a proposal to develop caps with very long lifetimes and then use them as structural elements in the buildings (which are bulky anyway), although that sounds really adventurous. And last but not least, you don't need any exotic materials such as lithium, cobalt etc. Only aluminum, carbon, some organic chemicals.
  • by Slick_W1lly (778565) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @09:46PM (#47611049)

    Got an anecdote for you.. :)

    I live not altogether too distant from you. ( weather-wise). I have solar panels on my roof. Had 'em since like.. 2008.

    Snow isn't that big of an issue. Sometimes they get covered, sure. But wierdly they *still* work, even when covered with snow. Not enough to generate anything much worthwhile, but *enough to heat the panels*. I find the snow melts from the underside up, causing a slick undermelt which then causes all the snow to slough off and fall off the panels. Bingo! Panels are working again.

    Even in cloudy weather and winter weather - they still produce a significant amount. I was surprised.

    And I've never had to clean them. In summer any bird crap on them simply 'burns off' and the rain keeps them clean enough that I've *never* had to go up with a brush, and I've certainly never had to go up with a rake.

    Might wanna watch out on the snow days though, in case you get dumped on when the snow falls off - but that's no worse than standing by my front door and getting the ( other, non-solar covered) roof dump its contents onto you.

  • Re:Good, I say (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Electricity Likes Me (1098643) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @09:48PM (#47611061)

    Ballistic conductors are not super-conducting in the usual sense. They only occur in tiny 1-dimensional conductors, and are a result of the free-path length of electrons in the material being longer then the distance to the materials edges. They also only work if the electrons entering them have allowed energy levels for the free path which any electrical current does not - hence they present resistance at the ingress points.

    They're an interesting phenomenon, but definitely not a large scale energy distribution solution.

  • by mrbcs (737902) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @09:52PM (#47611081)
    Perhaps you should do the math. 5 million dollar windmill @ $10 / mega watt.

    How long to pay that off?

    Generator or gearbox costs over a million dollars.

    The wind here btw is available 90% of the time and they STILL LOSE MONEY.

    The only reason they built them was for the green credits that they have since been screwed out of. The whole industry is bullshit. But if you knew anything about it, you'd also know that.

  • by Calibax (151875) * on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @09:55PM (#47611093)

    Solar energy provides all the electricity for my house, and has done so since 2003. Not a single electricity bill since that time.

    I installed 48 panels on my roof and I run the air conditioning, washing machine, electric dryer, dishwasher, and everything else electric from the roof panels. We do have gas heating and a gas range. I have a modern thermostat and I set the low point to 72 degrees and the high point to 76 degrees and let the system figure out how to keep the house in that range. I leave it set that way all through the year.

    In the the year before installing the panels I spent $2800 on electricity, and prices have gone up considerably since then. The costs of the installation (after California state subsidy and tax incentives) was $31,000 so I've fully recovered the installations costs. I expect the panels to continue producing all the electricity I need for the next 20 to 30 years.

  • by TENTH SHOW JAM (599239) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @10:43PM (#47611351) Homepage

    My old PC had a 400Watt power supply.
    My old Halogen downlights were 50 Watts each

    My laptop had a 90Watt power supply.
    My new halogen downlights are 35 Watts each

    My phone has a 1 watt charger. (also my tablet.)
    My LED downlights use 7 Watts.

    I'll stick with my gadgets and generate 1.5 KWh on average with the solar panels on the roof thanks.

  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @11:07PM (#47611447)
    The power industry can't just die, no matter how hard we try, but....

    This is where it is going to get interesting. At some point (probably quite easy to graph) the combination of cheaper solar, cheaper durable deep cycle power storage, and braindead easy inverter and other power management technologies will make it feasible to switch to fully off grid with very little pain. I suspect that there will be some adjustment such as not being able to run the washer, dryer, vacuum, dishwasher, and a bunch of 55" TVs all at the same time but that the average household will be happy at some point to go off grid. But the key is that some people will go off grid as this equation approaches balance for a variety of reasons ranging from green thinking, a more consistent power bill (simply amortized payments for the capital cost), it came with the newly built house, and my favourite: a big FU to the power company.

    So as this equality approaches a small number of fairly well moneyed houses will make the switch. While technically the load on the power company will marginally drop, their equipment service costs will remain steady. Thus as these customers leave the remaining customers will have to pick up the slack through rate increases. This of course will drive another handful of customers away; which is now driving a vicious cycle of rate increases. All this while the cost of the installed system will drop while the cons of having such a system will vanish. Also somewhere in this process that critical point will be crossed where it is cheaper to buy an off grid system than to stay on grid.

    But there are a number of customers who can't leave. Some are simply the poor who can't obtain the credit for the capital costs, others are people in poor solar/wind locations; and then there are the high density customers who simply can't obtain a sufficient amount of renewables from their property such as tall buildings and factories.

    So the rates for these remaining folks will be prohibitive if they have to carry the entirety of the power system capital costs alone. So even these folks will begin to look elsewhere for electrical power. I suspect a popular source will be natural gas generation, either through traditional generators or through some sort of fuel cell systems. This will push up the price of natural gas but will probably be much cheaper than grid power.

    So my prediction is that the power companies and large power consumers will try to bend reality, they will attempt to make it illegal to go off grid, or they will charge regular fees to any house that does go off grid. I can see other tactics such as charging a tax for every KWh generated with your own power system. This will be in defence of not only the power companies but of the landlords and factory owners who don't want to pay for their own problems.

    But this reality bending will simply be dealt with by the free market. Factories will move closer to power generation sites or will move the power generation sites closer to the factories. The same with high density buildings. I suspect that they will figure out some way to buy power. An interesting one would be to have containers with massive batteries that are charged at a power generation site and then trucked to the building. This might sound bonkers but it could end up being cheaper than paying for the unwieldy infrastructure of a power grid.

    On top of all that this will certainly drive a massive quest for efficiency. Right now it is stupid to have any incandescent bulbs in your house. Yet most people still do. But if these bulbs meant the difference between needing a $10,000 power system and a $20,000 power system; people would throw them out with their next trash. The same will go for nearly every appliance. People will look at the 150W 55" TV and instead and opt for the 120W 55" TV; this being something that the TV companies don't focus on much.

    On top of all that this will be another opportunity for third world countries to leapfrog over another technology as they did with landlines.

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