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175 comments

Something wrong with this picture! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44313271)

I know.. SOCIALISM!!!!

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (3, Insightful)

Xicor (2738029) | about 9 months ago | (#44313353)

solar energy installation is incredibly cheap.... like pennies. the only reason why every houshold in the US doesnt have solar panels is because the energy companies lobby our government to increase the cost of them thousandfold. .there have been many recent cases in certain states where you have to go through months of bureaucracy and thousands of dollars to install a few feet of solar panels due to all the restrictions and paperwork and permits and whatnot, while in other countries, or even some states, it is as simple as buying the solar panels and having someone install them. . i believe there was an article about this on slashdot a few months ago.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44313405)

stfu.
PV is a hippie pipe dream.
and taking money from person A to buy votes from person B is bullshit.
ehhhh... energy companies or so evil... never mind that many municipalities own their own power generation infrastructure.

please show us a PV cell factory that itself runs entirely off the grid.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

Xicor (2738029) | about 9 months ago | (#44313451)

noone would be entirely off the grid. solar panels wont keep your house running with maximum power during cloudy days or nights... that being said... solar panels CAN decrease the cost of your energy bills by a lot... and this amount of money would easily pay the cost of solar panel installation over a decade or so.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (2)

SolitaryMan (538416) | about 9 months ago | (#44313507)

It would be especially awesome if you could also pump the extra energy "into the grid" so to speak during the day. That can even make it profitable. I heard they have some program like that in Germany. Too lazy to google to verify.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (4, Interesting)

gnoshi (314933) | about 9 months ago | (#44313797)

This exists in Australia, and it is very common indeed to see PVs on house roofs (in Melbourne at least). Originally, there was a feed-in subsidy so you got paid very handsomely for the energy you fed into the grid (~3x the price of purchasing electricity from the grid).
Having rooftop PV is not a bad idea, but without subsidies it never pays for itself at current electricity rates. It may well in future, though, with emissions trading schemes etc. The problem is that feed-in subsidies are a very inefficient way to reduce pollution production. Spending the same money on developing offshore wind etc gets a much better bang for buck.
One advantage of high feed-in solar rates is that you can supply local houses and so reduce peak load on the grid (because supply doesn't need to be drawn in from distant locations). However, it is not clear to me whether the decreased peak load on transmission leads to enough of a decrease in cost of building distribution capacity that it offsets the money put into the feed-in subsidy. I doubt it.
That isn't to say that rooftop PV is a bad idea: just that subsidising it is not a good way for government to spend their clean-energy money.

This case, of course, is totally different.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (2)

icebike (68054) | about 9 months ago | (#44314427)

That isn't to say that rooftop PV is a bad idea: just that subsidising it is not a good way for government to spend their clean-energy money.

But it might be that subsidizing it is a good idea in some locations, such as where bringing in commercial power is very expensive, or is likely to involve gas fired or diesel generation. Also in very rural areas, or where the current system is already overloaded, or where ever there is likely to be public spending for additional infrastructure.

Things like new schools or other large public buildings, built at tax payer expense, could and probably should get subsidized solar roof tops, because that type of structure ends up being all public tax money anyway.

Also if the government is subsidizing home cooling/heating loads for low income people, its a simple dollars and sense (see what I did there?) calculation to see if it would ever pay out. (The likelihood of the household being off the dole before the installation is paid off).

Still you have to wonder about the maintenance of rooftop solar, and the risk of Joe Sixpack trying to "fix it".

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 9 months ago | (#44314441)

This exists in Australia, and it is very common indeed to see PVs on house roofs (in Melbourne at least). Originally, there was a feed-in subsidy so you got paid very handsomely for the energy you fed into the grid (~3x the price of purchasing electricity from the grid).

So who pays for the building and maintenance of the grid? Who pays for the power plants that supply you at night or during storms? Certainly not the peopl with PVs as they make a profit.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

Sabriel (134364) | about 9 months ago | (#44314659)

Note the word "Originally". The high feed-in subsidy was an "early adopter" program, to build up the nascent residential PV industry.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44314679)

If the powerplant doesn't exist, and the distribution network doesn't exist, then the economics of rooftop PV is very different. The original electricity networks expanded by having the entire existing network subsidise the extension of the network, a process that took the best part of 100 years for most countries.

However this is peru, solar rooftop installations will be stolen, and peruvian rooftop installations will eventually even show up in different countries. That is even if they put it on every single house as some people will view a thousand dollars worth of stuff on their roof, and on others roofs as a lot of food, alcohol, guns, drugs, hummers or whatever.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (4, Interesting)

cusco (717999) | about 9 months ago | (#44314867)

solar rooftop installations will be stolen

These are for households in rural areas, not Lima. Peru may as well be two totally separate countries, Lima and Everywhere Else. The further you get from Lima the nicer it is.

people will view a thousand dollars worth of stuff on their roof

These are a single small panel, probably worth about $50, and a basic battery, designed to run a few lamps, a radio, charge some batteries, and the like. These people aren't going to be running a central heating plant, refrigerator, hot water heater, etc. We have a house in Paruro, near Cusco. A thousand dollars worth of panels would provide electricity for several square blocks in Paruro, which has been on the electrical grid three decades. In a truly rural community like Misqabamba or Pukapuka a single solar panel would probably serve a couple or three houses.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44314451)

They have programs like this all over the USA, even con edison in NYC will buy energy you produce. When you produce net energy your meter will run backwards. If you produce so much that there is a surplus at the end of the year, the power company cuts you a check.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44314791)

A few areas will cut you a check, most simply let you bank kilowatt-hours through the year. If your home uses the same number you produce overall, or uses more, then each kWh produced credits one you used. Of course you still pay flat-rate fees and taxes also present on the bill, you can never pay $0. If you produced more than you used, the extra are lost at the end of the year - you made a free contribution to the utility company.

That's the way it is here, thus why I didn't bother going grid-tied. I don't use enough power to make it worthwhile, especially after adding the extra $15/mo fee just for the privilege.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (3, Informative)

djrobxx (1095215) | about 9 months ago | (#44315011)

It would be especially awesome if you could also pump the extra energy "into the grid" so to speak during the day. That can even make it profitable. I heard they have some program like that in Germany. Too lazy to google to verify.

That's exactly how it works here in the US! It's called "net metering". The power company doesn't have to do anything special to enable it. Even my 15 year old mechanical meter simply started spinning backwards when I turned the PV array on, though it's since been switched to a smart meter that tracks incoming and outgoing power separately.

My PV array often generates more than I can use. That goes into the grid (my neighbors end up using it). If at the end of the month, I've generated more KwH than I've used, my power company, Southern California Edison pays me 22c per kwh. SCE's Net metering customers typically get switched to annual billing. So, I get 1 electricity bill per year. California recently passed a law that the power company has to give you a check if you generate more power than you use in that year. Prior to that passing, you would "lose" any excess generation at the end of your 12 month billing cycle.

I've had my system for a couple years now. I "make" money in the spring and fall, and use up the credit in the summer and winter. It's a no-brainer if you live in an area with high electric rates.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44315367)

...It would be especially awesome if you could also pump the extra energy "into the grid" so to speak during the day. That can even make it profitable. I heard they have some program like that in Germany. Too lazy to google to verify....

I think that would be extraordinarily dangerous,Peter!

Germany's grid is collapsing at the moment due to unstable grid inputs. A grid is NOT a storage mechanism - you need to put the same amount of electricity in at any moment as you take out. If you start putting extra energy in in variable amounts at variable times, someone else has to track that and take out energy in a controlled way to match your inputs.

That can be done to an extent, but it makes the grid unstable, and the main electricity generation hopelessly inefficient if it's constantly having to be turned on and off...

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44314193)

So because of that every house in Arizona running the AC 24 hours a day with over 300 days of perfect light should go without.
It is a crime I tell you.
One set could power my house in the day another set could charge my batteries for the night.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1, Offtopic)

djrobxx (1095215) | about 9 months ago | (#44315081)

AZ is great for generation, but homeowners would need a very large system to offset those ACs that run "24 hours a day". Because of the power demands, I don't think AZ can get away with having high electric rates without bankrupting its citizens. A quick Google search says that AZ customers in Phoenix pay around 9 cents per kWH.

In California, it's much easier to make the numbers work. We also have a lot of sun, but we pay up to 3 times what AZ does for power which makes the return on investment faster. We have less demands because the temperature is more moderate. We can fully offset our usage with a pretty reasonably sized system. I paid around $14,000 to save around $2000 per year. The system just about fully offsets our yearly power usage. I'd like to say I get the most satisfaction from being "green" but really - what's priceless is not paying out the nose to our crooked utility company.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (5, Interesting)

cusco (717999) | about 9 months ago | (#44314225)

Peru has huge areas where it is impractical or just plain impossible to run electrical lines (wander around the Andes in Google Earth and you'll quickly see why). We have a house in Paruro, near Cusco. Step out the door, turn right, and by the time you've gone a horizontal mile you've climbed most of a thousand feet. Walk as far as Pukapuka (2 1/2 hours, vertical rise of 2500 feet) and you'll see why rural settlements are called "communidades" (communities) rather than "pueblitos" (villages). The 150 or so residents are spread out through the valley, with almost none of the houses closer than several hundred feet away. This area is not atypical in any way, except that Paruro is close enough to Cusco that they've had electricity for 30 years. Cusibamba Baja, down the valley, has only had electricity for 10 years, Cusibamba Alta, across the Apurimac River, still doesn't.

Wind power would seem like a good solution, except that wind generators need maintenance and get demolished by the "vientarrones" (big winds that come out of nowhere) in August. I saw a vientarron rip a chunk of corrugated metal roofing off a house, toss it several hundred feet in the air, and drop it a mile or more away from where it started. Water power isn't viable either, since in most of the altiplano not a drop of rain falls from June though August.

That leaves solar power. We're not talking about large power draws, just a few LED or florescent lamps, a radio, possibly a very small TV, a D-cell battery charger, maybe an OLPC. No refrigerator, , washing machine, blender, electric stove, water heater, or furnace, just a few things that seem like luxuries to them.

There are already a few houses with solar panels scattered around, mostly homes of folks like Marco, who has a guinea pig ranch and sold half a dozen of them to buy the panel since it gives him the extra light to tend them later in the day, after he gets home from the fields. There are enough of them that the government knows that this small investment will make a large difference in the life of two million families.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44315137)

Do the vientarrones come from uphill or downhill?

Paruro is in a temperate highland valley (~3000 m plateau) which is itself in the rain shadow of the Vilcabamba cordillera (~6000 m mountains). The valley walls in your part of the country are pretty much perfectly aligned for foehn winds (chinooks) to tear up and down the slopes depending on the season and the general direction the air is moving over the plateau.

In winter when the air over the high ground cools, it slides downhill and heats up from its own compression while picking up significant speed as it goes.

In summer when the ocean moisture is blown up over the mountains, the air dries out from raining on the other side of the mountain and you get hot dry air, which becomes even hotter and drier as it comes back down towards you.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44315251)

There are already a few houses with solar panels scattered around, mostly homes of folks like Marco, who has a guinea pig ranch and sold half a dozen of them to buy the panel

Un panel solar por seis cuyos? Me gusta

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 9 months ago | (#44314385)

noone would be entirely off the grid. solar panels wont keep your house running with maximum power during cloudy days or nights... that being said... solar panels CAN decrease the cost of your energy bills by a lot... and this amount of money would easily pay the cost of solar panel installation over a decade or so.

Melbourne/AU - 4.5 kW at peak installed PV. Saves me about $1200-$1350/y in power bills. If I include the money I get back for the power exported to the grid, they pay themselves in 5 years.>/p>

The reason for which in US is much more expensive: there aren't enough authorized installers (I can't find that link now) - the cost of installation [lbl.gov] is roughly twice the price of the installed modules [nrel.gov]

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (5, Interesting)

maynard (3337) | about 9 months ago | (#44313775)

AC wrote:

"PV is a hippie pipe dream. ...and taking money from person A to buy votes from person B is bullshit.

ehhhh... energy companies or so evil... never mind that many municipalities own their own power generation infrastructure.

please show us a PV cell factory that itself runs entirely off the grid."

This is a troll. OK. But so too does it present a position and value set that's common among Libertarians, so someone ought to respond. Because underneath the derision is a point worth debating. And that's, can a governmental body invest in infrastructure to the benefit of a common good? Peru (and many other nations) are buying PV infrastructure because they believe it the best option to electrify outlying areas. Those of the Libertarian persuasion view this as wasted money, for reasons that the AC listed above in quotes.

In Germany, peak production of electricity by solar has hit 50% at times. This is causing the unintended consequence that the centralized power plant model is failing [reuters.com], because peak hours of consumption coincide with peak production by solar. That is, at the very time when central power plants have long expected to extract the highest price per kilowatt - during business hours in daylight - is also the time when privately installed PV offsets those costs. Thus disrupting an old centralized energy production and distribution model.

The same has happened in Australia. (I'm currently living in Australia for a short time, so I see this first hand). Last year, government subsidies for solar PV and hot water installation were scrapped [abc.net.au] early, because too many people took advantage of the opportunity, thus - just like in Germany - affecting income and profit projections across the power industry. Just like in the United States, industry players lobbied to remove the subsidies and won.

Yet this hasn't stopped solar installation. People still rush to buy. It's a long-term price lock-in, because even in the U.S. PV is already close to grid parity [ieee.org]opportunity for those of the Libertarian persuasion?

Next, government subsidies given to central utility producers. There are massive costs involved in grid infrastructure that have to be amortized across its life, plus profit. This is then shifted out to customers, either through utility rates or by taxation if it's government run. As the AC notes, "many municipalities own their own power generation infrastructure." Doesn't that mean they're "taking money from person A to buy votes from person B"? That is, you can't have the argument both ways. If solar subsidies violate gains from a free market, then so does central power production and grid distribution.

Which is a red herring. Actually, the entire society benefits from grid infrastructure. The only question here is whether private interests can sustain investment to transition to new generation technologies like PV, or whether government subsidies are necessary to sustain this path. PV is already shown to be price competitive. If market forces work as Libertarians claim, then because prices are at parity and continuing to drop, grid upgrades and maintenance to support this new technology will occur whether they like it or not. And if the Libertarian 'free market' model fails, we'll know that by how well central producers throttle deployment of PV technology.

Finally, another red herring: Why must PV factories use self-produced electricity to manufacture PV cells and panels? Should aluminum factories be required to use aluminum in their production process?

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44314327)

"The same has happened in Australia. (I'm currently living in Australia for a short time, so I see this first hand). Last year, government subsidies for solar PV and hot water installation were scrapped [abc.net.au] early, because too many people took advantage of the opportunity, thus - just like in Germany - affecting income and profit projections across the power industry. Just like in the United States, industry players lobbied to remove the subsidies and won."

You can't be paying much attention during your stay, otherwise you'd know that it's the subsidies themselves that are unsustainable. Much as they are everywhere - Germany included. It has nothing to do with baseload generation. It's about customers being jack of paying increased power prices at the whim of green policies, business fleeing high energy prices, and governments going broke.

Still, it's not as idiotic a position as the moron above that said:

      "solar energy installation is incredibly cheap.... like pennies."

There won't be a more ignorant contribution to this thread.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (2)

maynard (3337) | about 9 months ago | (#44314429)

AC Wrote:

"You can't be paying much attention during your stay, otherwise you'd know that it's the subsidies themselves that are unsustainable. Much as they are everywhere - Germany included. It has nothing to do with baseload generation. It's about customers being jack of paying increased power prices at the whim of green policies, business fleeing high energy prices, and governments going broke."

Whether I'm paying attention or not, you haven't responded with any citations. In fact, the cites I provided show that PV electricity costs are already at parity with central electric generation by fossil fuel. Show some cites to say otherwise if you want to make your case.

Furthermore, as I point out, utility companies get significant subsidies as well. Take those away, and you'd see PV become significantly cheaper than utility production. What's the goal here, destroy incentive to connect to the grid by driving customers to home PV production? Because that'll be the outcome, which - ironically - would only increase society wide costs. Subsidies in this case, for both PV and central utilities, make sense.

But let's look at who is subsidizing PV production. That would be China. If you oppose PV subsidies because you believe they are inefficient capital allocation, would you not prefer that it be a communist country like China making the maladaptive investment? Every other country gains short term due to lowered PV production costs, at the expense of China. Why not reap those gains?

Of course, the downside to this is that China builds a new industry and technical advantage in production. But that only matters if you believe investing in PV manufacturing is a rational choice. Still, can't have it both ways.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44314929)

"Whether I'm paying attention or not, you haven't responded with any citations."

Actually, your own ABC citation supports my post. I wonder if you even read it because it doesn't support yours.

"Furthermore, as I point out, utility companies get significant subsidies as well."

Oh, that old canard. Tax breaks are subsidies only to idiots. Thanks for your time.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

maynard (3337) | about 9 months ago | (#44314975)

"Actually, your own ABC citation supports my post."

In what way? That it quotes a source who claims it to be so? Then why do solar installations remain a hot item in the area? Could it be because it's a rational choice for homeowners to install the equipment regardless of subsidies?

"Tax breaks are subsidies only to idiots."

Such a pleasant fellow. Tax breaks aren't subsidies only if no one is taxes. Otherwise, tax breaks select winners and losers in the marketplace, and are chosen specifically to bend markets in one direction or the next.

Peaks (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 9 months ago | (#44314485)

In Germany, peak production of electricity by solar has hit 50% at times.

This is an issue with people who tout solar as the solution to our power needs. The fact that at some point 50% of the electricity was produces by solar is great. The more important point is how much can be relied upon to be there when needed? Sure, on a sunny summer day one gets lots of solar power. One gets a lot less than that when in the middle of storm. There is no way to turn up solar when one needs it. That's where conventional plants come in. These plants do not turn on instantly and need to be kept in standby mode. So while the solar panels are supplying the energy there are conventional plants still spewing greenhouse gasses just in case they are needed.

The output of solar power needs to be looked at at it's lowest day because conventional power needs to make up the difference.

Re:Peaks (1)

maynard (3337) | about 9 months ago | (#44315083)

jklovanc wrote:

This is an issue with people who tout solar as the solution to our power needs. ... ... There is no way to turn up solar when one needs it. ... So while the solar panels are supplying the energy there are conventional plants still spewing greenhouse gasses just in case they are needed.

It's not necessary that solar provide 100% of electric demand. Conventional power plants can dynamically reduce power production levels to meet base demand shortfalls. However, with a smart grid there are computer simulation models which show that it should be possible to provide 100% renewable production, [panda.org] cutting out fossil fuel power plants entirely.

This may be too optimistic. Regardless, the notion that coal and gas fired power plants must burn at peak on standby, thereby wasting power, is clearly false.

Re:Peaks (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 9 months ago | (#44315305)

This [panda.org] page shows how the WWF thinks it will happen. The problem is that the only mention of electric grid technology is the following statement

including a massive increase in capacity for generating wind, solar and geothermal power, plus all the new power lines and cables to transmit electricity over long distances.

They completely ignore that fact that there are limits on how far power can be sent. HVDC lines do help but one needs pretty big ones if most of the solar and wind powered generators in Norther Europe are down due to a long storm. I believe there should be much more research into storage technologies so we can store a few days power to get us through bad days.

I could not find a simulation on that page.

The fallacy that green electricity pundits state is that green power is zero emission. They forget that there are conventional plants burning at standby power just in case the green energy generators can not meet demand. Less greenhouse gasses are emitted but not zero greenhouse gasses. I laugh at the "But I am using wind generated power". That just means that instead of you and someone else using 50/50 wind and conventional power the other person is using 100% conventional power. It makes people feel good but has no impact.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about 9 months ago | (#44314689)

Finally, another red herring: Why must PV factories use self-produced electricity to manufacture PV cells and panels?

A red herring, but not even a particularly convincing one. It's perfectly possible to power a PV factory with PV. Nothing electrically or mechanically prohibits it. Eventually, it will happen, if you wait long enough. It doesn't even require on-site electrical storage, if the silicon wafers are purchased from somewhere else. That's the only process that has to run uninterrupted for more than daylight hours.

Someday there will be a PV-powered PV factory. Bet on it. It's not like fusion will ever work for power generation...

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44315349)

can a governmental body invest in infrastructure to the benefit of a common good?

Whoa. You're saying some governments might actually look after the needs and wishes of those that they represent? It's an outrage!

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about 9 months ago | (#44313951)

stfu.
PV is a hippie pipe dream.
and taking money from person A to buy votes from person B is bullshit.
ehhhh... energy companies or so evil... never mind that many municipalities own their own power generation infrastructure.

please show us a PV cell factory that itself runs entirely off the grid.

Would you could that a coal plant is not really a coal plant because the mining equipment, trucks, and trains that get the coal to the plant run on dieself, and the construction of boilers, turbines, and other components of the plant could have been fueled by nuclear power?

What matters is how much energy went into production and installation of the PV cells versus how much solar power it produces over its lifetime.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (4, Interesting)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about 9 months ago | (#44314763)

PV is a hippie pipe dream.

Uh huh. Germany, on a good day, can get 50% of its power from PV right now. That's like the entire state of California, or the entire state of Texas with enough left over to power all of Montana, Delaware, Rhode Island, and South Dakota, combined.

Installed and operating, today.

It's reality, not a pipe dream.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (4, Informative)

quenda (644621) | about 9 months ago | (#44313477)

No, the USA lacks solar panels because everybody is already on the grid.
Peru is using photovoltaics to provide small amounts of electricity without the infrastructure cost, which makes perfect sense.
PVs are still a very expensive way to generate large amounts of power. Only a wealthy country like Germany can afford to waste obscene amounts of money that way, where the benefits are mostly political.

That said, there is no sane reason why countries like the US and Australia should not be use far more solar-powered water heaters, and build homes for passive solar heating. Huge amounts of fossil fuels are being wasted that way.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (2)

Xicor (2738029) | about 9 months ago | (#44313491)

i know a lot of ppl who would install solar panels on their houses in a heartbeat to cut down on their electricity bills if not for all the hoops they have to go through to do so.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 9 months ago | (#44313557)

I know not these hoops of which you speak. Citation?

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 9 months ago | (#44313707)

Ah. New York City. It figures. I think in that case, the decision was made that control was more important than acting responsibly.

I'm on the west coast, and I didn't even have to tell my homeowner's association before I put up the panels.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (3, Informative)

Cito (1725214) | about 9 months ago | (#44313873)

same goes for Georgia, we tried in southern Georgia to get solar panels but city ordinance, zoning commission inspection fees and licensing, state red tape and you have to notify the grid and since the city controls utilities here, we dont have a normal power company our power bill is issued by the city on the bill has power, water, cable, garbage all on one bill. They wont allow them to be fed back into their grid here. So far they refuse to allow it, but you can set them up and run them side by side so use the solar power for some things but it can't connect back to the grid in any form or fashion, therefore it doesn't really negate anything. Since city can just raise rates if you ever do get the ability to get them installed.

they raise rates on houses individually here, based on how many people live in the home and ages, etc.

its a racket

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 9 months ago | (#44313939)

So, is it a flat rate based on occupancy, then? Your electricity isn't metered? That would suck, because you can't lower your bill no matter what you do. You might as well draw as much as you can and,,, I dunno, use it to make artificial diamonds or something.

I'm in Oregon, and we *can* feed back into the grid, but the problem is the system is required by law to shut down if the grid fails so that power line techs don't have to work with live lines. (There are ways around this at significant extra cost.) So I've chosen to keep my solar and grid power circuits separate. At the moment solar only powers lights and shop tools. The next to be added will be the circuits servicing freezer and fridge, but that'll take more panels and batteries.

The stove has gas burners but electric oven, and I don't plan to generate enough current to power the oven. On the other hand, I have a wood stove and natural gas barbecue, either of which could be used in a pinch, so it would be reasonable to get mostly off the grid, and if the grid fails, still be able to live in moderate comfort.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 9 months ago | (#44314175)

There are ways around this at significant extra cost.

What, a $2000 switch as part of a $15,000 install is a "significant" extra cost? Every licensed installer I've ever seen includes that cost in the "basic" install and won't install without it. Grid-tie is cheaper than batteries and (unless you are planning for the apocalypse), more useful.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 9 months ago | (#44314215)

There are ways around this at significant extra cost.

What, a $2000 switch as part of a $15,000 install is a "significant" extra cost? Every licensed installer I've ever seen includes that cost in the "basic" install and won't install without it. Grid-tie is cheaper than batteries and (unless you are planning for the apocalypse), more useful.

Batteries are mandatory. Grid tie is optional. Again, I'm not trying for "green", I'm trying for self sufficient.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 9 months ago | (#44314321)

Planning on the grid failing is always funny. I'm sure you have lots of guns, but what do you do when the grids down for weeks and people see your lights and smoke and come knocking?

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 9 months ago | (#44315051)

Planning on the grid failing is always funny. I'm sure you have lots of guns, but what do you do when the grids down for weeks and people see your lights and smoke and come knocking?

Reminds me of the girl at Occupy Wall Street who was telling the reporter that we should all be forced to go back to subsistence farming. When the reporter responded that there would be mass deaths, the girl said "well, people die". A good followup question, I always thought, might have been "ok, so you're subsistence farming, and a bunch of armed men come and want your stuff. What then?"

A friend of mine is a firm survivalist, but he hasn't stockpiled any food, only weapons and ammunition. I asked him how that's supposed to work, and he said it's ok, whatever food he needs he'll just take from his liberal neighbors. What are they going to do, call the cops? Although I personally don't work that way, I have to admit, he has a point.

To answer your question, it doesn't really matter. I can't justify starving while my family freezes in the dark just because my neighbors are doing it. We're not even talking the typical urban fantasy of being the last survivor doing the Omega Man thing. There doesn't even need to be a complete breakdown of civilization for the power to go out for extended periods. Anyone reading slashdot for awhile knows how fragile and vulnerable our grid is. Why would you bet your life on that when relatively inexpensive means exist to make your own power? Moreover, it's green. Surely you're not arguing that I shouldn't make my own clean energy rather than use electricity from a coal fired plant?

Which goes back to my original point. If only the greens and survivalists learned to stop ridiculing each other, they might find they had some things in common.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

citizenr (871508) | about 9 months ago | (#44315125)

Planning on the grid failing is always funny. I'm sure you have lots of guns, but what do you do when the grids down for weeks and people see your lights and smoke and come knocking?

Is that a tricky question? You stand your ground.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 9 months ago | (#44315449)

So you kill them. Why can't you say it? Because you know it's wrong and evil, but you'll pretend to be a big man on the Internet.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, USA ... (2)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 9 months ago | (#44314239)

same goes for Georgia, we tried in southern Georgia to get solar panels but city ordinance, zoning commission inspection fees and licensing, state red tape and you have to notify the grid and since the city controls utilities here, we dont have a normal power company our power bill is issued by the city on the bill has power, water, cable, garbage all on one bill. They wont allow them to be fed back into their grid here.

You may want to read this ...

http://cleantechnica.com/2013/07/15/peru-solar-power-program-to-give-electricity-to-2-million-of-poorest-peruvians/ [cleantechnica.com]

Meanwhile, in the United States, Americans for Prosperity - a political lobbying group founded by billionaire fossil fuel industrialists Charles and David Koch - is currently lobbying the Georgia state legislature to reject a plan requiring Georgia Power, one of the largest energy utilities in the American Southeast, to buy more solar energy.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44314097)

It took me 5 months... in a red coal state...

HOA (Home owner's association) approval
City approval (lots of restrictions on appearance)
Utility company approval (can't over generate)
County building and electrical permits
Structural engineer analysis (for a modern house...)
Utility approval after construction
County approval after construction (they had a problem with 5 information labels instead of 6)
Net meter swap out

If I wanted to install and air conditioner or furnace that would be easy. If any of those agencies had an issue, it would put a stop to the whole process.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44313523)

Looked at the Solar water heating. (Oz).

Using a conventional electric heater and putting up solar panels would be more cost effective.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

Nutria (679911) | about 9 months ago | (#44313545)

Natural gas is cheap enough that there's no reason to replace it with a solar system.

Now... if my home were all-electric, then there might very well be economic justification to install solar water heaters.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44313827)

I don't have children either.

tiba! lol! /tr

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44314219)

There will be no grid in America soon. One of googles campuses has a fuel cell that converts natural gas to energy to run the whole campus
Every home and business will soon have one.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (2)

roc97007 (608802) | about 9 months ago | (#44313573)

> Peru is using photovoltaics to provide small amounts of electricity without the infrastructure cost, which makes perfect sense.

....indeed. I read somewhere that eastern block countries have a better cellular infrastructure than the US, because they started later, without all the baggage of powerful existing telecoms. It'd make sense for this to work similarly for other forms of infrastructure.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

Nethead (1563) | about 9 months ago | (#44313811)

because they started later, without all the baggage of powerful existing telecoms.

No, because the new telecoms didn't have to also support the existing legacy wire outside plant. Remember that most of the mobile companies grew out of wireline companies.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (2)

roc97007 (608802) | about 9 months ago | (#44313957)

Existing legacy wire is the baggage part, and mobile companies growing out of existing wireline companies is the powerful part.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

Nethead (1563) | about 9 months ago | (#44314505)

And to further the line of barons I can name two of those wireline companies that came out of the railroads. Sprint (Southern Pacific Internal Network Telecommunications) and Qwest (BNSF) used the railroad right of way to lay fiber. Back in the wire/fiber days, right of way was king.

McCaw did a trick with Clearwire. He, where he could, bypassed the wire. He built it up mostly using Dragonwave microwave links using both mobile-wireless and point-to-point wireless spectrum that he is so good at getting. Clearwire was made to be sold. It was really the first turn-key mobile spectrum sale. (I contracted to Clearwire for most of a year building out the network as a commissioning engineer, i.e. I would turn up data centers once they were built.)

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (4, Insightful)

crazybit (918023) | about 9 months ago | (#44313609)

Peru is using photovoltaics to provide small amounts of electricity without the infrastructure cost, which makes perfect sense.

That is EXACTLY why I consider this is an AWESOME idea. I have visited some of those locations, and the geography around them is extremely harsh. Many of these families live above 2500m altitude (some even above 3500m - 4000m), get their water from rivers, wells or old aqueducts (some of them made during the Inka's empire), and live mainly from farming and livestock. Giving them electricity from PV so they can use basic things, like led lights and small radios, will improve their quality of life A LOT. Bringing them electricity from the regular grid would be cost-prohibitive.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about 9 months ago | (#44314915)

You don't even have to look at undeveloped regions to see that "expensive generator" can be cheaper than "grid hookup + cheap generator".

I live in a fairly big American city. A state capital, even. Pretty far from a third-world country (or whatever Peru is - the term seems to be pretty vague, I'm probably using it wrong).

Just yesterday, one of the never-ending road crews installed some pedestrian crossing lights across a road I travel every day to get to work. And guess what? There's little solar panels to power them, because that's cheaper than digging up the road (for a third time) to get a grid hookup.

So if it can be too expensive to build the grid out another ten feet, I have zero problem imagining that building it out several miles in extremely mountainous terrain would be too expensive as well.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

jhol13 (1087781) | about 9 months ago | (#44315191)

If they got a river or like, they will get hugely more electricity from that. Probably cheaper too, especially if there are few houses who share the construction.
Just 10 meters height with 10 liters per second gives 1kW, and that is extremely small scale.

What the hell are you talking about? (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 9 months ago | (#44313527)

I can go down to costco tomorrow and buy enough solar to power my house and as long as my wiring meets code I'm good. And it's the same damn codes that builders follow wiring any other residential crap.

I've said this before and I'm sure I'll say it again: stop blaming the phantom 'bureaucracy' for all your woes. There's a bloody good reason we have regulations about how homes are wired. You know fire can spread, right?

Also, major citation needed on solar panels for pennies. Got the /. article. Seriously, I'd like to see your patent. You'll be rich.

Re:What the hell are you talking about? (1)

Xicor (2738029) | about 9 months ago | (#44313665)

they are currently pretty cheap... 50-100$ would be enough to power LED lights in a house... that being said, the price of them will drop dramatically once we have working graphene supercapacitors.

Re: What the hell are you talking about? (1)

donnie Freyer (2881319) | about 9 months ago | (#44313729)

I can go down to costco tomorrow and buy enough solar to power my house and as long as my wiring meets code I'm good. No you can't.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

Nutria (679911) | about 9 months ago | (#44313531)

There are too many trees around my house. One really strong wind (not enough to damage the roof) snaps a branch and there goes thousands of dollars.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44313561)

Umm, install a grate over them?

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44313687)

Umm home owner's insurance?

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44313883)

Considering some home owners insurance policies have deductables in the 1-5k range, how is this helpful? Insurance isn't free money.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about 9 months ago | (#44314641)

There are too many trees around my house. One really strong wind (not enough to damage the roof) snaps a branch and there goes thousands of dollars.

Uh, no? Any solar panel made for roof mounting has a tempered glass top. It's hail proof. Random branches are nothing. A good full-roof solar panel installation stands up to strong winds better than asphalt shingles. Shingles get lifted and ripped off in strong winds. Solar panels, properly installed, do not.

Try again.

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 9 months ago | (#44313689)

solar energy installation is incredibly cheap.... like pennies.

Are you kidding me? An installation big enough to run a house would cost thousands of dollars in panels, wiring, mounting hardware, battery storage, etc. Show me where you can find 1000 watts of solar panels for under a dollar.

Another issue is that some houses are not oriented well to collect sunlight. For example, a house with a single slopes roof that slopes toward the north would be an inefficient place to put solar panels.

Re: Something wrong with this picture! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44315131)

"Hobbiests" who can install their own panels to code probably know where to gt them pretty cheap. There is a substantial difference between electrician in their off hours and the average homeowner.

Yes solar does cost pennies! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44313763)

About 1,300,0000 of them to do an installation for an average home. The national debt is pennies too...

China phobia ? (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 9 months ago | (#44314183)

solar energy installation is incredibly cheap.... like pennies. the only reason why every houshold in the US doesnt have solar panels is because the energy companies lobby our government to increase the cost of them thousandfold...

Methinks there is another angle to this matter - China Phobia.

China can produce PV panels cheapest than anybody in the world, and if USA is indeed serious into cheap electricity, the most rational action to take is to get as many solar panel as the Chinese can produce and install them in the U.S. of A.

But is that happening ?

Why not?

Instead of making US strong again by taming the power crisis, congress is more concern of "unfair dumping" or whatever fucking excuse they can come up with, and ban the import of the solar panel from China.

They claim that China has unfairly subsidize their PV industry, and I mean, so what ?

If the Chinese are going to subsidize $100 per solar panel that we buy, let us by 1 billion solar panels and the Chinese will end up having to subsidize $100 billion on the sale.

That's basic math.

If they are going to subsidize something that we can use for our OWN benefits, let us buy as many as we could possibly use, and in the meantime, bankrupt those motherfuckers who are doing all the subsidizing.

Simple reasoning like this our congress also cannot comprehend.

Please tell me, what's the fucking use to have a congress that can not think properly ?

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44313387)

I know right? Poor guys, soon some capatalist will go in their and fuck it all up for them

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44313445)

Ok so.. there's a lot of people without power, wouldn't you think, perhaps, maybe they don't have anything with a plug on the end ?

Re:Something wrong with this picture! (4, Insightful)

pwizard2 (920421) | about 9 months ago | (#44314211)

It's sad, but that is the prevailing mentality in the USA right wing these days. Helping other people and generally being a decent human being is decried as "OMG SOCIALISM!!!!!11" and is looked down upon because such actions just help a bunch of "lazy moochers". How are the poor supposed to haul themselves up by their bootstraps when they can't even afford shoes? Of course, those poor people have no one but themselves to blame because they weren't born into rich families, right? The rich people who act like that are fucking hypocrites because they often get corporate subsidies and tax breaks the rest of us peons can't exploit--and then they act like they fucking worked for it!

Not a crazy idea... (5, Interesting)

niftymitch (1625721) | about 9 months ago | (#44313325)

Two million times say $50 per panel is not crazy money.

a $50 panel can power LED lights for hours.

a $50 panel can power cell phones or mountain top to mountain top mesh networks.

Mountain top mesh networks can look like those old triangulation meshes that worked their way up canyons. Line of site Pringle-can style WiFi can support networking fully as rich as the Telebit modem networks that bootstrapped the computer age. Dust off the old store and forward protocols like mail and "bob's your uncle".

Re:Not a crazy idea... (3, Informative)

SolitaryMan (538416) | about 9 months ago | (#44313481)

Especially since this keeps them dependent on their *own* energy sources, I'd say it is a pretty great idea.

Re:Not a crazy idea... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44313515)

Get real. A $50 panel will be stolen and on the black market faster than you can say "ay carumba".

Re:Not a crazy idea... (4, Insightful)

niftymitch (1625721) | about 9 months ago | (#44313581)

Get real. A $50 panel will be stolen and on the black market faster than you can say "ay carumba".

Yes... yet the OLPC folk found that social pressure more than locks and chains protected their resources.

Many stable social systems are very effective in keeping shared commons resources protected. Libraries are a good example. Yes books are stolen but by and large they are returned. Extra books are donated for the good of the community.

In truly remote communities a thief would be days from a black market and a community resource would have Matt Dillon and Festus run the dog to ground.

Drug cartels and others might complicate this... yet investing for this is far better than investing in gun ships.

Re:Not a crazy idea... (1)

cusco (717999) | about 9 months ago | (#44314801)

No you racist prick, there aren't any Libertardians in Peru, rural people there have a sense of community and take care of each other.

Re: Not a crazy idea... (1)

Ricwot (632038) | about 9 months ago | (#44315465)

How is freely helping one another not libertarian?
It's only socialism if you're forced in to "helping" one another with threats of violence.

Re:Not a crazy idea... (4, Informative)

quenda (644621) | about 9 months ago | (#44313539)

Two million times say $50 per panel is not crazy money.

TFA says "about 12,500 solar (photovoltaic) systems to provide for approximately 500,000 households at an overall cost of about $200 million."
So $16,000 per village system. They are not simply putting one small panel and a motocycle battery on each house.
The photos in the inhabit.com article are very misleading. Shoddy work, taking somebody else's article, and adding your own vaguely related stock photos.

Re:Not a crazy idea... (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 9 months ago | (#44313591)

Well, you still need to store the energy somehow for non-sunny times. Even if it's a pump filling up a big water tank during the day, and then letting the water turn a turbine at night.

Re:Not a crazy idea... (1)

niftymitch (1625721) | about 9 months ago | (#44314317)

Well, you still need to store the energy somehow for non-sunny times. Even if it's a pump filling up a big water tank during the day, and then letting the water turn a turbine at night.

A modest battery for LED lights to read a book (or kindle paper white).

A modest battery for a modest low power display and low power computer. The new XO tablet should run for hours after dark.

Lights out and go to bed at a decent hour. That is a darn good thing.

Sun rises and store and forward technology fires up a mesh WiFi and bob's your uncle. News and mail flow up and down the valleys. Yes West Virgina could too.

The flaw from the outside looking in is that folk want "Las Vegas" power budgets for them. When a lot less is needed to get them a lot more than they have.

Re:Not a crazy idea... (1)

cusco (717999) | about 9 months ago | (#44314761)

It will be a cheap, basic battery. The government is providing these because people don't have the $50 in spare funds to buy them. They certainly don't have several hundred dollars for a pump, plumbing, cistern, turbine and generator

Hmm (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44313335)

Problem: Poor people can't afford power.
Solution: Supply just about the most expensive form of power available... for free.

Re:Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44313511)

There are infrastructure costs associated with most other methods.

Re:Hmm (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 9 months ago | (#44313535)

Problem: Poor people can't afford power.
Solution: Supply just about the most expensive form of power available... for free.

Problem: The infrastructure build-out needed to produce cheap coal-fired electricity is never going to be justified by poor people as customers,and we can't afford it as a social or populist program.

Solution: As with so many things, the marginal value of going from 'nothing' to 'something' is a whole hell of a lot higher than the marginal value of going from 'something' to 'lots of something', so we can gain many of the benefits at a fraction of the cost by choosing a system that costs a lot per kilowatt-hour; but comparatively little in capital costs, and fuck-all in ongoing maintenance.

I realize that all the best insights fit on bumper stickers; but it is occasionally possible that ideas occupying several whole sentences are actually just elitist plots against honest common sense, rather than elitist communist plots against honest common sense and economic logic.

It's pretty mind blowing.

Re:Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44313579)

OP is just pissed that without the government spending trillions of dollars on the infrastructure, private businesses aren't going to be able to come in and take over after the hard work is done and make easy profit.

Re:Hmm (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 9 months ago | (#44313979)

OP is just pissed that without the government spending trillions of dollars on the infrastructure, private businesses aren't going to be able to come in and take over after the hard work is done and make easy profit.

Didn't that strategy experience 100% Great Success with the Latin American water systems?

Not bad. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44313371)

In Peru, 2 million citizens == 100,000 households.

A step in the right direction, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44313601)

First, this is aimed at the poorest people who still use oil for lighting, according to the article.

In no way is it documented they are on the grid and I'd suspect they aren't. If I had to guess, this is going to be a solar-charged battery system primarily for providing light. To keep the cost down, there won't be any fancy equipment for returning excess power to the grid.

This is entirely different than what's needed in the US. We want our power subsidized by solar, not strictly provided by it. That's more expensive and more complicated.

It's not that solar is cheap... (4, Interesting)

roc97007 (608802) | about 9 months ago | (#44313693)

Cheapness isn't really the point here. It's lack of a power grid, and the prohibitive cost, effort, and impact of building one up. (Ok, so cheapness is part of it.) The thing about solar is that it's not dependent on an existing power grid. This means it can be used anywhere there's a reasonable amount of sunlight and the power requirements aren't too massive. Caveat: It's not just the solar panels, there needs to be a way to store energy also, which usually means batteries, which have their own lifecycle issues.

Seriously, if they could put aside their differences, the greens and the preppers would realize they want the same thing for different reasons -- the greens because it's, well, green, and the preppers because it reduces or even eliminates reliance on the grid. It's all about marketing.

For instance, I'm not sure I buy into solar being all that green, when you take in the entire end-to-end environmental footprint including manufacturing and disposal at EOL. Nevertheless, I have solar panels and battery banks at my home, because they still work (at least until EOL) when the power shuts down, and that's valuable to me. At some point I would like to have enough panels to be completely off the grid, and the nice thing about solar is that you can do it in small increments, whereas power grids and centralized power generation needs to be done in much larger chunks, with MUCH larger start-up costs.

Well done Peru... (2)

bayankaran (446245) | about 9 months ago | (#44314615)

I have seen the benefits of solar power in rural, tribal communities of Kerala, South India. These communities are living in the edge of forests - sometimes deep inside forests - where conventional power distribution via any type of cable/wire is impractical and prohibitively expensive.

The government has provided a solar panel to power basic needs - lights, fans, radio and a small TV. This is the way solar power has to be harnessed at least till the efficiency of panels goes up and costs go down for this to be widely useful.

Another Nail In Our Coffin (2, Insightful)

b4upoo (166390) | about 9 months ago | (#44314757)

I realize that the public in the US is sort of zoned out, brain dead or zombie like. But really we just can not keep pretending that other nations are backwards or poorly governed when they so frequently do things that the US can not. If any claims about American superiority are true we should be more than able to do things like provide solar power for the poor, medical care, and countless other items such as decent educations for poor students.
                        We are appearing clown like to the world.

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