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Utilities Fight Back Against Solar Energy

timothy posted about 8 months ago | from the this-again dept.

Government 579

JoeyRox writes "The exponential growth of rooftop solar adoption has utilities concerned about their financial future. Efficiency gains and cost reductions has brought the price of solar energy to within parity of traditional power generation in states like California and Hawaii. HECO, an electric utility in Hawaii, has started notifying new solar adopters that they will not be allowed to connect to the utility's power grid, citing safety concerns of electric circuits becoming oversaturated from the rapid adoption of solar power on the island. Residents claim it's not about safety but about the utility fighting to protect its profits." We mentioned earlier the connection fee recently approved in Arizona. Do you have a solar system? If not (or if so, for that matter), does this make you think twice about it?

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There must be a very good reason... (5, Insightful)

benjfowler (239527) | about 8 months ago | (#45791007)

I don't understand why the utilities simply don't build out their grids to accept feed-in from customers' solar rigs, and then split their pricing structure into 1) grid access, and 2) net power supplied? Or is this too simple?

Re: There must be a very good reason... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791019)

We do exactly that in australia.

Re: There must be a very good reason... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 8 months ago | (#45791225)

But here the grids are separate from the generators, so home solar only really has to interface to the grid. Not sure its the same in Hawaii.

Re: There must be a very good reason... (1)

innerweb (721995) | about 8 months ago | (#45791707)

I get the feeling it is not about the separation of grid and supply, but rather power companies and extra dollars. Maybe I am wrong, maybe not.

Re: There must be a very good reason... (4, Insightful)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 8 months ago | (#45791715)

in CA all the utility power is "decoupled", which means that electricity is sold at cost while the utility makes all of its money of off its installed infrastructure. This way they don't give a hoot if you get your electrons from a power plant or a solar panel. in fact, every person who installs a solar panel needs a utility upgrade to connect it to the grid, and the utility makes $$ off of that in perpetuity.

Re:There must be a very good reason... (5, Informative)

thesupraman (179040) | about 8 months ago | (#45791053)

Because they are usually required to pay customers a lot more for feed-in power than they can generate it for, with no allowance for their internal cost overheads, etc.

Basically they become a free power storage and backup facility only paid for any extra usage) for the customers, which is great for adoption, but means that non solar customers are adding further subsidy to the solar customers (over and above the common subside via taxation/government grants).

Not that I am against private solar - I have it myself, but using the grid as backup/storage is somewhat unfair in the big picture.

Some pricing plans are a bit more in line with reality, but regulators push hard to make it 'simple for the consumer' which really tends to end up meaning
'subsidize the solar users'.

Re:There must be a very good reason... (1)

phrostie (121428) | about 8 months ago | (#45791091)

I've been watching/considering solar panels as a backup to the grid.
just waiting for the price to be right.

Re:There must be a very good reason... (4, Informative)

Mashiki (184564) | about 8 months ago | (#45791293)

Because they are usually required to pay customers a lot more for feed-in power than they can generate it for, with no allowance for their internal cost overheads, etc.

Of course, and this in turn is offset by higher electricity prices. Surprise, and welcome to Ontario, Canada. Where electricity prices will jump 33% in the next 3 years thanks to "green energy." [financialpost.com] This will make it one of the most expensive places in North America to buy electricity. And what's funny? These "green energy retrofits and FiT programs" account for under 14% of generation.

Re:There must be a very good reason... (5, Insightful)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 8 months ago | (#45791619)

More accurately, it's going up because of corrupt government and bad management.

Re:There must be a very good reason... (2, Insightful)

fredprado (2569351) | about 8 months ago | (#45791643)

There isn't any other kind of management when governments are involved.

Re:There must be a very good reason... (5, Interesting)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 8 months ago | (#45791319)

Mod parent up – and Hawaii has some specific issues.

Hawaii has basically hit the saturation point of renewable energy until a decent storage system is developed. Renewables output tends to be erratic. If the wind is up or the sun is out the utilities has to bring down their gas generators, wind dies down or the sun sets and they have to bring on the generators. In other parts of the world they could export the electricity but that’s not an option here. Basically they have hit the saturation point. If you added more renewables the utilities would leave the power plants because they could not bring them up fast enough.

Fun fact – Germany this summer charged customers who exported renewable energy onto the grid. They mainly have coal plants which take hours to take off / bring online. A few days of good wind and low demand meant there was nowhere for the electric to go. I think Germany is trying to fix that with more transmission line but it gives you an idea of the problem.

Re:There must be a very good reason... (5, Interesting)

rahvin112 (446269) | about 8 months ago | (#45791333)

That's not an entirely fair assessment. Solar feed-in is during peak power rates and the owner is at best reimbursed at the fixed residential rate which is frequently 1/4 to 1/8 of the peak rate. I agree that solar users are going to need to contribute to the grid but the power companies are being very short sided here.

Without the feed-in of peak solar output and the credits that generates there is no reason not to install the batteries needed to go fully off grid where the homeowner won't be contributing anything to the grid. There is a very fine line here where battery storage becomes viable and we are approaching it rapidly. Solar continues to fall in cost, it's already approaching price parity with nuclear power without subsidies. If it continues to fall to $0.50 a watt it's going to reach cost the amortized cost of coal generation. It's beginning to hit critical mass, the more demand the steeper costs will drop which lowers costs and increases demand more. After years of subsidies priming the pump solar is finally gaining momentum and it scares these power companies to death because they are invested almost entirely in hydrocarbons. They are fighting solar because of these investments.

The scary thing here is that if they don't turn things around and realize the potential of solar and embrace it they are going to get displaced by battery storage and then the power company is out of business. There is a very real possibility that by 2030 solar is going to be THE source of power.

Re:There must be a very good reason... (2)

Trepidity (597) | about 8 months ago | (#45791693)

That's not an entirely fair assessment. Solar feed-in is during peak power rates and the owner is at best reimbursed at the fixed residential rate which is frequently 1/4 to 1/8 of the peak rate.

They should really be paid at the going wholesale rate, though, since they're selling electricity into the grid, just like any other power plant is. I don't get why the feed-in tariffs are based on retail rates, rather than wholesale rates.

Re:There must be a very good reason... (5, Informative)

Mike_EE_U_of_I (1493783) | about 8 months ago | (#45791443)

Because they are usually required to pay customers a lot more for feed-in power than they can generate it for, with no allowance for their internal cost overheads, etc.

Basically they become a free power storage and backup facility only paid for any extra usage) for the customers, which is great for adoption, but means that non solar customers are adding further subsidy to the solar customers (over and above the common subside via taxation/government grants).

You cite factors that fall against solar, but miss all the ones that fall in solar's favor. The biggest is peak shaving. In many areas, usage peaks coincide with when the sun is shining. Peak power is the most expensive power. Imagine building a power plant and running it seven hours a year. Welcome to peaker plants. That's some hellishly expensive electricity. In places like Hawaii, Texas, Arizona, and southern California, when people put more solar PV in, the utility needs fewer peaker plants. This is HUGE. You know how much credit most utilities want to give to solar for that? Zero.

    But if the utility does something to eliminate the need for a peaker plant, you can bet your entire net worth the utility will be asking the rate commission for higher rates to reward them.

    The best work on this subject (trying to figure out what price has no one subsidizing any one) is coming out of the Rocky Mountain Institute. A good starting place is their survey of existing literature (http://www.rmi.org/Knowledge-Center%2FLibrary%2F2013-13_eLabDERCostValue). Austin electric also appears to have done really good work in establishing what they call a "fair value of solar". By their measure, the fair value of solar in Austin is currently higher than the retail rate. As more solar is added, this rate will fall. The rate is assessed annually.

Re:There must be a very good reason... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791551)

When power companies are paying for right of way to land owners, then I will be more sensitive to arguments about free power storage and backup.

Re:There must be a very good reason... (5, Informative)

TrumpetPower! (190615) | about 8 months ago | (#45791569)

Because they are usually required to pay customers a lot more for feed-in power than they can generate it for, with no allowance for their internal cost overheads, etc.

Absolutely false -- horribly false.

On a day-to-day and month-to-month accounting basis, my utility (Salt River Project in Arizona) gives me a kWh-for-kWh credit. If I generate 20 kWh during the day, use 15 kWh during the day, and another 5 kWh during the night, I have net zero usage.

Surpluses are carried over day-to-day and month-to-month. If I have a net debit at the end of the month, I'm charged the regular rate for that electricity. If I have a surplus, it's carried over to the next month.

Once a year, in the spring, if I have a net surplus, SRP credits my account and resets the surplus to zero. And I generate about half again as much as I consume -- enough to power my not-yet-purchased electric vehicle -- so they credit me a fair amount every year. It's enough to pay the basic connection fee for about half the year, in fact, so I only even pay that for about six months per year.

But.

Rather than crediting me at the $0.12 / kWh typical residential retail rate, or the $0.25+ / kWh they purchase peak summer power (which is when I'm generating most of my surplus electricity), they pay me about $0.02 / kWh.

By my rough back-of-the-envelope calculations, they're now profiting from me almost as much as I used to pay them in total. As in, what used to be their gross receipts from me is now their net.

What business wouldn't be thrilled with such a business model?

So, do please stop spreading the lies of the Koch Brothers. The poor widdle utilities aren't being hurt by the solar meanies -- quite the opposite. They're making money from us, hand over fist.

They're just a bunch of greedy sick fucks who want to roast the goose that's laying the golden eggs, is all.

Cheers,

b&

Re:There must be a very good reason... (1, Insightful)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 8 months ago | (#45791639)

If I generate 20 kWh during the day, use 15 kWh during the day, and another 5 kWh during the night, I have net zero usage.

You are then paid exactly the retail price for the electricity. So if that is the case, how is his statement (which you quoted, fucker) false?

Re:There must be a very good reason... (1)

fredprado (2569351) | about 8 months ago | (#45791671)

On a day-to-day and month-to-month accounting basis, my utility (Salt River Project in Arizona) gives me a kWh-for-kWh credit. If I generate 20 kWh during the day, use 15 kWh during the day, and another 5 kWh during the night, I have net zero usage.

You have just shown how right the GP is. If they pay to you the same you pay to them they can produce cheaper energy themselves. If you manage to get even at the end of the money, for example, you are using their grid as a power storage facility and paying nothing for the trouble.

Re:There must be a very good reason... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791055)

I can imagine insurance would be a big deal... as it is, the electric company controls everything, so that unless you go out and damage their equipment, their problems are their problems. Now you want to connect to this network? Okay, maybe you're a genius, but what about the next gal? When your equipment screws up the power for the entire city, who pays?

Re:There must be a very good reason... (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 8 months ago | (#45791229)

A spade's a spade.

It is a subsidy for an alternative energy discriminated against by a recent monopoly that is now being given a job in an affirmative action to redress past indiscretions.

Suck it up... any sentient life form is aware these cost burdens borne by the poor electrical provider will be passed right along to existing customers, those electrical consumers most likely to benefit from delivery innovations.

Re:There must be a very good reason... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791295)

Um, wow that's a lot of words. Okay, simpler version -- you have a diesel engine that you want to hook up to the electrical grid. What if your diesel engine gets hit by lightning, or shorts out, or does other nasty stuff to the power grid? I don't want to prepare my grid just for you, as you make up such a tiny fraction of my customers, and if you damage something for the whole town, I get all the blame, and even if I can get you legally, I doubt you have the money to pay for all the damage you could cause.

Re: There must be a very good reason... (1)

guruevi (827432) | about 8 months ago | (#45791073)

They already do. There are charged for energy generation, energy transport and the connection itself. Energy generation can typically be swapped out for different companies connected to your utilities' net or those buying/selling it on the commodities market. The rest is pure profit for your utility (hint: access and transport have typically been paid for by an array of governments). If you cut into both their transport and generation fees, you're left with the monthly connection fee (~$20 around here)

Re:There must be a very good reason... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791103)

The reason is that solar panels likely are installed without consideration for self sufficiency, ie, battery space.

The panels themselves are cheap, but installing the batteries and storage necessary arn't, so people appear to just put up the panels, run what they can, then take the rest from the power company.

This means the base load the power company has to supply at night is probably significantly higher than during the day, meaning their capacity for peak wattage doesn't change, but they sell less overall.

So they pretty much have to up their prices, and well, that puts those without solar into the red.

Re:There must be a very good reason... (1)

djrobxx (1095215) | about 8 months ago | (#45791375)

> The panels themselves are cheap, but installing the batteries and storage necessary arn't, so people appear to just put up the panels, run what they can, then take the rest from the power company.

Almost. We run what we can, and sell the excess generation to the power company. We buy it back when our demands exceed our generation (mostly at night).

> This means the base load the power company has to supply at night is probably significantly higher than during the day, meaning their capacity for peak wattage doesn't change, but they sell less overall.

A utility's peak power demands are typically from 3pm-6pm A solar customer is likely selling power back to the utility during this time (or at very least, using less than they would have), so the utility's peak requirements should certainly be less. The only issue I see is that you might have have so many solar customers, that off-peak (say 1pm) generation won't be consumed by the remainder of the non-solar customers. This energy would need to be stored, but it's still energy that they don't need to generate themselves. With plug-in electric vehicles replacing gasoline, I don't think there's much danger of solar customers ever generating too much energy.

Of course the power companies are crying. No monopoly wants competition. Edison wants us to pay 3x the national average for power, and they wonder why solar is so popular?

Re:There must be a very good reason... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791127)

ConEd does this already and the charges for delivering the electricity are usually more than the cost of generating it.

Again, with the petro profiteers fighting renewables, economics trumps reason.

Re:There must be a very good reason... (5, Informative)

ChumpusRex2003 (726306) | about 8 months ago | (#45791239)

Because it is exceedingly expensive to do so.

The issue is that of voltage tolerance. The grid is designed to supply power form central to peripheral. The central voltage is held higher than peripheral, so that the expected voltage drop through supply impedance will result in a voltage at the customer premises which is within tolerance.

If current flow is reversed through the high impedance "last mile", then you can get severe voltage elevation at the point of connection of the generation. This can result in equipment damage (usually the customers) and legal problems for the electricity network operator.

The only way to deal with this problem is to increase the "prospective fault current" of the customer circuit by reducing the system impedance. This isn't something simple like replacing transformers, it is extremely expensive and requires repalcement of cabling with heavier gauge wire, upgrade of safety equipment to withstand the higher fault currents, and may require uprating of transformers and switchgear to handle the magnetic and thermal forces of a fault on the now upgraded circuit.

There are other issues too. Grid transformers are often not designed to operate in reverse power - the tappings are designed for voltage drop in the direction of HV to LV. Under reverse power, there may be insufficient tap range to get satisfactory voltages. Only way around this is to replace the transformer.

Finally, there are second order effects, such as reduced efficiency of transformers when operated in reverse power, due to higher levels of flux leakage from the secondary (primary windings usually go nearest the core, so that stray flux cuts through the secondary and transfers power).

Re:There must be a very good reason... (1)

SlashDread (38969) | about 8 months ago | (#45791371)

So bascially what your saying is, even if the customer has all the latest upgrades, and perfection in his local house energy-grid + two way energy connection, the incumbent last mile is still crap?

Re:There must be a very good reason... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791595)

It sounds more like a no-win scenario for the power provider:

If the last mile is not having magical power pumped in, then to meet the required voltages at the periphery of the service zone, a high power input is required to overcome the impedance.

If the customers are injecting an unregulated and unpredictable backflow current into the system, then the density of power generation at the trunk becomes problematical; it would need tobe able to raise and lower dramatically, literally based on something as unforgivingly fickle as the weather, or people's power at the consumer side will brown out unexpectedly from drifting clouds, or will blow up expensive TVs and such if supplied power is too high.

GP mentions that the transformers themselves will experience unavoidable inefficiencies with reverse delivered current, because the transport voltages are waaaaay higher than the consumer draw voltages, and only ONE set of coils can be near the core inside the transformer. (So, pick which way current delivery is going to be efficient. It's a physical limitation imposed by that dread spectre called reality.)

In order to deal with that, substations and pals need to be able to deal with the current being delivered to them varying a LOT, and need to be able to condition the power being supplied in both directions, or there will be hell to pay, and even then, after upgrading the equipment, who's to say Mr Fusion won't be on the market in 50yrs time, and that the power profile of the grid one once more get thrown into chaos?

It isn't so much that "the last mile is shit", it is much more to do with "look, there's a price to pay for not having a coal fired power plant in every neighborhood. Room temperature superconducting wire just isn't a reality right now, and you have to compensate for that."

Re:There must be a very good reason... (1)

Bruce66423 (1678196) | about 8 months ago | (#45791613)

The British have introduced widespread solar power generation from roof tops without a sniff of this issue, although people DO install specific meters that record their input / output as part of the installation of solar power. So I assume that's resolving those issues? Or is the issue being ignored by the British grid operator? Or is this a technical issue in theory - but in reality for small scale producers not significant, as in practice the power will be used by local consumers, not actually reaching the first level of substation? And is it made worse by the US 110v standard, against our 230v?

Re:There must be a very good reason... (2)

ChumpusRex2003 (726306) | about 8 months ago | (#45791629)

This is true. However, you cannot install grid-connected solar in the UK without permission from your local electricity distribution network operator (DNO).

There are now significant parts of the county where the DNOs routinely deny permission because the grid is saturated.

Re:There must be a very good reason... (1)

RatherBeAnonymous (1812866) | about 8 months ago | (#45791313)

It is too simple. If everyone had solar panels the power companies would go broke, unless they jacked up their connection fees. But, that would unfairly impact people who can't afford to put solar panes on their roofs. It would be better if power companies bought the power from homeowners at wholesale costs during peak production hours and sold them power at normal retail prices when the sun is down. Net-metering, like the system you describe, is codified in many state's laws, including Hawaii, but I don't think it will be sustainable as solar panels become more common.

Connection fee (1)

Mspangler (770054) | about 8 months ago | (#45791325)

My electric bill has two lines, the connection fee ( a straight 41 cents per day) and the actual electrical usage fee.

Clearly the utilities can do it this way, but not all of them do.

Re:There must be a very good reason... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791395)

I don't understand why the utilities simply don't

If you actually WANT to understand why this isn't a matter of "simply", then I'd suggest you take some physics and electrical engineering classes so that you DO understand.

Re:There must be a very good reason... (1)

luther349 (645380) | about 8 months ago | (#45791459)

they do have that system the problem is they have to pay you the same they charge you for the power. people with very large arrays can aculy have a 0$ bill.

It's more complex than you understand (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791507)

The power grid generally runs on AC (many countries, like the U.S. use 60Hz, many others use 50Hz)

The power grid is supposed to provide a consistent, reliable source of power to all customers. Millions of consumers expect to be able to turn things on and off whenever they want without any problems

This means power companies must increase or decrease generation of power moment-by-moment to match demand (already a complex task). To make this work, large generation capacity that can be ramped up and down as needed must be available to fill-in the gaps of any unreliable sources (Nuclear, coal or gas backing up hydro, big wind farms, etc) When you add-in millions of small solar and wind sources on the properties of individual consumers (that are the types of sources that are in constant flux) the problem becomes FAR more complex. On top of all that, ALL those energy sources hooked into the grid need to be generating their power in the proper phase. If you have multiple generators hooked to a common grid and they are not in phase, things get very exciting in a hurry...... and NOT in a good way

Re:There must be a very good reason... (1)

Aighearach (97333) | about 8 months ago | (#45791701)

Here in Oregon the standard practice is to allow customers to connect any approved inverter (no gimmick, all the main brands are accepted) and then whatever you feed into the system is discounted from your bill at wholesale rates. They don't have to build anything out, the power flows directly to the nearest other customers who are drawing power. They just see the power draw go down at the substation, and the generation and use on the meters.

Unbelievable (1, Interesting)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | about 8 months ago | (#45791021)

If you can't connect backfeed to the grid, you can't connect new load to the grid, either.

It shouldn't matter which way the watts are flowing for a particular customer.

Re:Unbelievable (3, Interesting)

mythosaz (572040) | about 8 months ago | (#45791083)

Except as mentioned above, the power company becomes free off-site "storage" for your off-peak power. You generate power you don't need in the morning, and you get it back "free" from them in the afternoon when you get home from work.

Re:Unbelievable (2)

djrobxx (1095215) | about 8 months ago | (#45791409)

Except as mentioned above, the power company becomes free off-site "storage" for your off-peak power. You generate power you don't need in the morning, and you get it back "free" from them in the afternoon when you get home from work.

And this is still beneficial to the power company, because generally, when you get home from work, it's no longer peak usage. This gives them more peak capacity to satisfy the rest of their customers, without having to build an expensive new plant.

Re:Unbelievable (1)

James Sarvey (3348883) | about 8 months ago | (#45791481)

And in return for providing this service, they're protected by the government as a natural monopoly. They have no competitors and there is no free market for electricity. It's completely reasonable for tax payers to compel a utility to do some things for free in exchange. Having no competition is a tremendous boon, and it's not something that we should give away freely.

Competitors (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 8 months ago | (#45791607)

And in return for providing this service, they're protected by the government as a natural monopoly. They have no competitors and there is no free market for electricity. It's completely reasonable for tax payers to compel a utility to do some things for free in exchange. Having no competition is a tremendous boon, and it's not something that we should give away freely.

Oooh. Oooh. Wait a minute. Remember back in the old days of DSL, where the telephone company managed the infrastructure but multiple companies provided services? I think the alternate DSL providers had to pay some of it back to the phone company for managing the last mile.

So, before some laws changed and some technical issues were solved, only the owner of the last mile could provide internet services over the wires they owned, but eventually other companies could offer competing services over the same infrastructure.

You see where I'm going with this? What if, let's say, a homeowner's association that has made a heavy commitment to solar has decided to form a co-op or an LLC and sell their excess power -- not back to the power company, but directly to other homeowners?

I think part of the mechanism is already in place -- you can pay extra for power from "green" sources, for instance. (Although part of me thinks that what they're buying is coming out of the same bin as those of us who are paying regular prices for dirty power.) Why couldn't you buy power from some other power source, perhaps a co-op close to you, using the existing infrastructure?

Re:Unbelievable (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791101)

If you can't connect backfeed to the grid, you can't connect new load to the grid, either.

It shouldn't matter which way the watts are flowing for a particular customer.

Load is typically rectified, which is a simple process inherently protected by diodes. "Backfeed" as you call it, requires precision phase alignment or kablooey. Huge difference. I still think it's total BS and not a safety issue though, since the equipment manufactured to do it has to follow the same standards no matter where it's placed. Additionally, the safety, if anything, is compromised for the homeowner themselves, not the grid. The kablooey, if it happens, will happen right at the feed point, and will be proportional to the amount the user is trying to feed in. So why would the utility care if someone incinerates their own house?

To whom the Watts flow... (1)

Announcer (816755) | about 8 months ago | (#45791107)

It matters to the Utility, because of the watts are flowing OUT, then they have to PAY YOU for that power. They don't want to do this.

It all boils down to this simple axiom: "Follow the money."

Re:To whom the Watts flow... (0)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 8 months ago | (#45791265)

Most generated excess power occurs in off-peak hours, exactly when the additional power is of no use to the power company.

(A food analogy, you say?)

O.K. It's the equivalent of someone attempting to sell you dinner right after you've eaten.

Re:To whom the Watts flow...ummm no! (1)

zlives (2009072) | about 8 months ago | (#45791477)

considering solar is during the day. the peak usage is from 830am to 9pm, so basically the energy company is getting cheap solar from consumer, selling it at the highest peak rates and then complaining to get more of a handout.

  http://www.pge.com/en/mybusiness/rates/tvp/toupricing.page?WT.mc_id=Adwords_peak%20electricity%20hours_b_c [pge.com]

Re:To whom the Watts flow...ummm no! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791555)

You're completely ignoring how the billing works. During that peak time, they would be charging $x * high_peak_rate to those customers, and the solar customers. In comes the solar customers producing excess, giving energy to the energy company. The energy company has to pay $y * high_peak_rate to the solar customer. This means they collect total ($x-$y)*high_peak_rate. If $y > 0, then the company is losing money, not getting a handout. This was 3rd grade math when I was in school many moons ago...it's probably kindergarten math by now.

Re:To whom the Watts flow...ummm no! (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 8 months ago | (#45791605)

I'm just saying, I would buy dinner right after I've eaten.

Re:Unbelievable (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 8 months ago | (#45791337)

It shouldn't matter which way the watts are flowing for a particular customer.

So you think you can run an entire factory off an extension cord? Afterall, it shouldn't matter "which way the watts are flowing", right? A simple application of common sense here would reveal that those giant overhead power lines probably carry a bit more juice than the USB charger you have hooked up to your computer. But the electricity flows along each of those conduits until reaching its destination.

Load balancing is incredibly important to the stability of a power grid, especially a small one, like, say, what you'd find on a chain of islands. Power distribution networks are continuously monitoring loads and adjusting plant output and opening and closing circuits continuously to keep the flow stable, and -- importantly, in phase. Within the United States, there are only about a dozen peer points between the various regional grids where very expensive and purpose-built equipment provides coupling between the different networks by providing phase correction -- an out of phase load will create destructive harmonic interference, resulting in radical spikes in voltage. At the energy levels a power plant produces, we're talking about the equivalent of a half ton of TNT's worth of thermal shock suddenly coming out of the equipment. It would cause a huge explosion.

My point is this: It's not a small problem for Hawaii. Hooking up backfeeds into the system that do not have the ability to be shunted to ground or disconnected have the potential to not just destroy the home owner's equipment, but quite possibly everything near that home as well: The sudden application of a large amount of electricity out of phase could cause sudden electrical failure in dozens of homes and office buildings, triggering fires, electrocution, and equipment damage.

You do not just hook up a generator, flip the switch, and call it a day here. These are complex networks that, even with proper computer controls and monitoring, occasionally flip out with serious consequences for society. Our power grids aren't currently designed to peer with houses -- they are loads, not sources. It would require a major overhaul of hundreds of billions in infrastructure and a radical rethinking of how to insulate and protect equipment, homes, and lives, from private owners who simply aren't going to have the level of competence and training to always install the equipment correctly. And if they screw it up, the consequences can be fatal.

Terminology Nazi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791037)

Yes, I do own a solar panel, but it doesn't quite have enough mass for nuclear fusion to spawn my very own solar system.

Re:Terminology Nazi (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 8 months ago | (#45791155)

Well played.... and you're both technically and physically correct. We are tens of years from using Sol for room temperature fusion.

Price parity (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791043)

I think at issue is that utilities are required to buy power back at the same rate they sell it. This does not take into account the cost of infrastructure construction and maintenance that the solar adopter does not have bear the burdon of. The average person NO COMPREHENSION of this and just gets mad at "the man", "big business" etc. Of companies want to protect their profit margins. They lose money on people selling back at the rate they sell that which takes into account infrastructure/overhead needs. They are a business after all. And if you think for one second the "state" would do it better they sure as heck wouldn't let their "reveneu source" (er... taxes) be nipped by solar adopters.

Re:Price parity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791577)

Well said, but in reality it is even worse. Not only are utilities forced to buy back the power at absurd rates, they have to sink it somehow when there is no demand. Solar and wind are unreliable, often producing vast excesses or nothing at all. Balancing the grid with a significant fraction of such sources is an enormous challenge. All of that capacity has to be backed up by reliable generators, which are typically low efficiency gas plants. When solar and wind have priority on the grid, it ruins the economics of those plants that are required to keep the lights on.

It is unreasonable that the utilities should bear the immense cost burden of integrating unreliable sources, while the latter make claims about cost parity. They are nowhere near competitive in the energy marketplace when the entire system is taken into account. It should be clear to anyone that massively overbuilding capacity to account for huge variations is going to be far more expensive than choosing a single source which provides reliable power. Renewable advocates promote the "all of the above" option, but that is meaningless when they can't pull their own weight and merely burden the more economical sources.

The only carbon free energy source that makes any sense on a large scale is nuclear. It is universally hated for good reason; it is the only source with the potential to replace fossil fuels, and will also relegate wind and solar to the tiny niches where they belong.

greedy niggers (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791063)

run the world

it's true, a bunch of smart, greedy, self serving niggers run the world

Yes, if by "Utilities" you mean "Republicans" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791065)

anything to protect corporate profits

drill, baby, drill

I'm torn... (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 8 months ago | (#45791067)

I live in Arizona, and I'm not quite ready to put solar on my roof. Getting my connection locked in and grandfathered before the new "tax" on selling solar back to the power company wasn't enough to sway me to jump. The technology keeps getting better, and the current break-even in initial outlay might recoup a lot faster in a few more years. That $30,000 worth of equipment might be $20,000 next year, and I'm a gambler. [This is the same reason I'm leasing a Leaf. Who knows how many miles the 2017 Leaf will get, or how many more purchase options I might have.]

As long as power companies are monopolies, the idea that they should have to buy back solar power to feed the grid makes sense -- but at some point, they'll have a bunch of off-peak power that nobody wants. Arizona's "connect fee" is mostly harmless. Hawaii just seems like they're being dicks.

Hawaiians can still put solar up, and still power their homes, and still fill batteries. They just won't be able to sell off-peak power back to their monopoly power company.

Re:I'm torn... (1)

BosstonesOwn (794949) | about 8 months ago | (#45791215)

I live in a municipality zone at the moment for power, and they don't buy back power at all, matter of fact they won't even give credits for what solar will put back into their system. How this is legal, I don't know but stuff like this needs to be addressed, and it's easily addressed by giving the customer credit for half of what they produce on the bill.

Re:I'm torn... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791427)

Sure, as soon as you pay for the infrastructure changes that will allow it to be done safely. Or, alternately, you can accept liability for the power fluctuations you cause.

Re:I'm torn... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791379)

http://www.plugincars.com/arizona-leaf-owners-selling-no-longer-option-124510.html

One sided analysis (4, Insightful)

OFnow (1098151) | about 8 months ago | (#45791069)

The utilities appear to be doing a one-sided analysis from what I have noticed. They complain about their lines being loaded by customers generating power and don't count the reduction in line use from the local power a home solar instatllation is helping to power the local neighborhood. Yes, we have a rooftop solar installation. Currently around 90,000 of them in California. Increasing fast. Local solar company is hiring 10-15 new installers *every day* according to local paper.

Re:One sided analysis (1)

Announcer (816755) | about 8 months ago | (#45791133)

Curious... how much does a "typical" home installation cost there? (Assuming a family of 4, average house around 2,000 SF)

Re:One sided analysis (1)

Verminator (559609) | about 8 months ago | (#45791315)

I've gotten two quotes from reputable firms - bids were roughly $32,000 and $35,000 for a 7.2kW grid-tied (no on-site storage) system. This is before various state (CA) and federal tax credits.

Re:One sided analysis (1)

funwithBSD (245349) | about 8 months ago | (#45791385)

It is considerably easier with SMUD, which is not a traditional for profit electrical company.

It was a lot harder to justify Solar power however, as 19 cents a KW at tier 2 takes a long time to earn back.

Re:One sided analysis (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791389)

A question like that is like asking how much a 2-piece suit costs.

Are you getting a greasy used car salesman special, or are you buying Armani?
Same amount of fabric, very different beasts in type of fabric, and quality of workmanship.

What kind of system are you thinking of installing? What kind of battery matrix are you intending to buffer it with? How much is your usual peak draw, and for how many hours? Are those hours during daylight, or nighttime hours?

*all of those* factor into the costs of ownership of a proper solar installation. If you want a good tailor made setup that fits you and your use perfectly, expect Armani prices.

If instead, you are looking for an ill fitting setup that only partially wears correctly, then you can probably get one for "greasy used car salesman" type pricing, but the money you "save" might not actually BE a savings. (Rather, its just a reduction in monthly bill, offset by a big one-time payment, and then soured by maintenance costs.)

The cheaper panels and charging systems really aren't made for powering a house; they are made to suppliment power use to reduce grid dependency, or, are intended to provide power for one-off applications. (Like powering a well pump, or opeing and closing gates, or for supplying low intensity grounds lighting.)

The cheaper panels tend to run on 12v charge controllers, in the 40W range, give or take. They are intended for use with lead acid batteries, and aren't intended to be deep discharged. The more tailored solutions use 14v, or even much higher voltage panels, are intended to be slaved with charge controllers intended for much denser storage chemistries, and are often much better suited to supplying a home with off-grid power reliably and efficiently for long periods.

On top of that, you have to consider storage losses in the charging process itself, (which varies wildly with the different battery chemistries and power flavors) which can be a niggly little problem as well, if costs re your biggest concern.

Basically, you need to ask a more informed question, or you will get bilked by less scrupulous contractors.

Sometimes you can win, however... (3, Informative)

davecotter (1297617) | about 8 months ago | (#45791075)

a fantastic story from a neighbor of mine in Watsonville, CA. He fought PG&E over some years and finally won: http://www.solarwarrior.com/pgebattle.html [solarwarrior.com]

Re:Sometimes you can win, however... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791625)

Thanks, asshole. Now I'm paying for his damage to the grid when I charge my car. See, the grid is kind of built, I don't know, for distribution from a few sources to a lot of customers. Now, imagine what happens with the plumbing analogy when you try to make everything go backwards. It's not the same (yes, I'm an EE, and studied power distribution for my masters) but it sure give you an idea how this could be a "bad thing". What it really gives is horrible voltage fluctuations when clouds pass over your house. If PG&E could modulate how much power you feed back in, that would be a lot better and safer.

Does this make me think twice about it? (5, Interesting)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 8 months ago | (#45791095)

Why yes indeed... I imagine there exists some real progress if the utilities have begun to fear it.

Footshooting... (1)

mlts (1038732) | about 8 months ago | (#45791111)

Yes, utilities can refuse to accept power from people's solar inverters, but what that will result in is people still remaining on solar... but going with off-grid setups. Instead of the panels going to the inverters, then to the grid tie, people will be going with panels, charge controllers, battery setups, then auxiliary power panels to provide emergency power, or even just move some low current use circuits permanently off the mains.

Computers and electronics are an ideal candidate for this. A good PSW inverter would provide pretty much all the capability a UPS has. To boot, if solar doesn't get enough energy to keep up with the batteries, smarter charge controllers can tap mains voltage to (literally) rectify that issue.

As for the utility companies, there isn't much they can do about solar electric circuits that are in no way connected to their grid, other than demand code that all internal house wiring is mains connected, and no wiring can be 12/24/48 volts DC inside the house.

Re:Footshooting... (1)

Announcer (816755) | about 8 months ago | (#45791171)

I could see lawsuits (class-action) if they try to outright ban homeowners from installing DC power systems in their homes. I doubt they could ever do that.

Making a direct back-feed connection to the Grid illegal? They can most likely pull that off... for a time. An act of Congress could be forthcoming to change that, too. (Remember the old Ma Bell, where you couldn't connect ANYTHING user-owned to their network?)

Re:Footshooting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791175)

Most news reports of people going off-grid in America ends up with them being 1) evicted under some bylaw 2) being imprisoned for stealing something from the Earth etc etc or 3) not having proper safe level of quality of living.

Re:Footshooting... (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 8 months ago | (#45791303)

What might also happen is an electrical provider will step forward (Green Mtn?) in a highly competitive market and agree to purchase the excess to gain customer base.

Solar power is subsidy of rich (0, Troll)

InfiniteLoopCounter (1355173) | about 8 months ago | (#45791121)

Good old greenies are at it again. If you force taxpayers to subsidise solar power installations for people well off to afford them (e.g. most greenies) you are contributing to wealth inequality. At least if you want to do this it would make sense to use a more efficient means of power production. You have to wonder how we might be better off if instead research and development was not cut off from nuclear power technologies by these various rich greenie groups that often bring in 100 million a year in revenue [nrdc.org] or are endowed with large trust funds.

Re:Solar power is subsidy of rich (4, Insightful)

blue trane (110704) | about 8 months ago | (#45791247)

Why not fund research into energy storage technologies so when the grid is overloaded, the energy can be saved and used later?

Re:Solar power is subsidy of rich (2)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 8 months ago | (#45791277)

$100M in revenue is not "rich" in the corporate world, using average corporate ROI it equates to $5-10M in net profit. FF companies receive a hell of a lot more than $10M in government subsidies.

Re:Solar power is subsidy of rich (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791681)

If you force taxpayers to subsidise solar power installations...

Aren't taxpayers the ones who pay for the processing and long-term storage of nuclear waste? Why should the taxpayer be forced to clean up after nuclear power generation, the industry should pay for its own cleanup and storage.

I do have a solar energy system (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 8 months ago | (#45791131)

...but it's not connected to the grid. Instead, it charges a set of marine (deep cycle) batteries that power a circuit with noncritical demand. (Lights and electronic appliances.) It's a proof of concept, but my next upgrade still won't connect to the grid. My goal is not to sell power to the local electric company, but to have enough power to not be terribly inconvenienced if the city power goes away. Others may disagree, but I think coupling your solar with the city grid kinda misses the point of having your own power. Especially since the most common means of coupling still shuts off your power if the grid fails (to avoid the lines being powered when linemen work on them). (I've heard that there are systems that disconnect you from the grid in the event of grid failure, but they're not common yet.)

Anyway, point is, that the power company refuses to buy back your excess power is not sufficient reason to abandon solar.

But that said, isn't there some law that the power company *must* buy back your excess power if you generate and are synced to the grid? Or was that only in California?

Dear atavistic energy companies: (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about 8 months ago | (#45791137)

Fuck You. Fossil fuels are finite and getting more finite every day (by definition of being finite and subject to extraction). You need to embrace the future NOW. The future, whether you like it or not, is decentralised and localised. Fukushima's put paid to centralised nuclear systems, and renewables are within striking distance of price parity with fossil and nuclear. So, get over it, and adjust your business model NOW before someone adjusts it for you.

Ideas? SUPPLY the means of your reinvention. You've captured a large portion of the US Congress and the Canadian Parliament. They bark your bullshit at your pay and command. Pay them to sing a different tune. You and the fucking vampire squids that are wrapped around the face of humanity jamming their blood funnels into whatever smells like money, also known as the Banking System, basically own these pathetic weasels and the good little chimps of the MSM will dance to you money song.

Face it, the war in Iraq that dumped trillions into the squid^H^H^H^H^H banking and military sectors didn't pan out with the cheap fuel as you had hoped - oil is still around $90 - $100bbl no matter how much you try to pump out of the ground. So, face it, game over. So you now need to transform yourselves into something else. Rebuilding the grid and switching to renewables will be cheap compared to the road you're going down now. So, get over it, and get with it. OWN your own destruction, or be OWNED and destroyed. Stupid fucks.

Re:Dear atavistic energy companies: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791711)

The future, whether you like it or not, is decentralised and localised.

Tell that to Microsoft and the various cloud providers.

Maybe profit is one motivation... (3, Insightful)

ghack (454608) | about 8 months ago | (#45791161)

Excess energy on the grid is a real issue, especially if there has been a significant wave of people adopting these systems. If there isn't demand for all the electricity being pumped onto the grid, there has to be a place to dump the energy. This is an even bigger issue with wind and other intermittent sources.

If the grid is overwhelmed and there is no demand, should folks expect to get paid for that energy, which could actually cost the utility money to dump somewhere?

Something else to bear in mind- the utility has to operate base load plants no matter what.

Recent literature indicates that these issues can be overcome (one example from Utilities Policy [sciencedirect.com] ), but that the process will take time. Utilities are a very conservative industry and are often slow to adapt new systems because they have stringent boundary conditions.

Just playing the devils advocate here- I'm sure profit is a part of it.

Re:Maybe profit is one motivation... (1)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about 8 months ago | (#45791317)

You forget that the local grid isn't isolated, it's interconnected with other grids (see http://www.infrastructureusa.org/interactive-map-visualizing-the-us-electric-grid/ [infrastructureusa.org] ). If there isn't demand locally, the power will be routed across the interconnects to where there is demand, and the utility will get paid for that power. Since solar, wind and the like tend to have peak production at times when demand's also higher than baseline, any "excess" power wouldn't affect base-load plants but would primarily reduce usage of peaker plants (which is a good thing).

Re:Maybe profit is one motivation... (3, Insightful)

Xtifr (1323) | about 8 months ago | (#45791593)

You forget that the local grid isn't isolated [...]

That might be a valid point if we weren't talking about Hawaii!

Re:Maybe profit is one motivation... (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about 8 months ago | (#45791691)

Nonsense, we just need longer cables!

Re:Maybe profit is one motivation... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791331)

there has to be a place to dump the energy

cost the utility money to dump somewhere

What is this I don't even.

To "dump" electricity, you simply don't use it. You physically segregate the grid from the supply, usually with a switch. The electron flow stops. They don't overflow like water, they just stop moving. I'm not aware of any serious negative consequences of doing this if you just want the power to shut off. (I'm no power plant engineer, and I don't doubt large generators could run into issues. But a small solar array won't, so that's not the issue here.)

If the utility has "smart meters" (and they do) then why aren't those meters smart enough to simply disconnect the ones making the meter spin backwards during low demand?

No, this (dick) move simply reeks of profit motive and rent seeking on the part of the utilities.

Straw Man Article (2)

Chameleon Man (1304729) | about 8 months ago | (#45791233)

The click bait title makes it look like the utility is purposefully stopping solar power from feeding back into the system in an effort to stay pertinent in the industry. This is not true at all. If they REALLY wanted to screw customers over, they would buy back the electricity at little-to-no cost. The article probably got it's conclusions from some pissed off customers.
Meeting electrical demand is a far more complicated issue then this article makes out.

6 solar panels on my roof (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791263)

Yes, I have got 6 solar panels on my roof for a total peak capacity of 1500 kW, and about 1300 kWh per year. Total investment (DIY package): 1950 Euro. BEP is around 8 years, and the NPV over 15 years with net-interest-rate-after-tax of 0.4% is about 1500-2100 Euro

http://econews.com.au/news-to-sustain-our-world/energy-ceos-urge-end-to-renewables-subsidies/ says "The CEOs of 10 European utilities companies, which together own half of Europe’s electricity generating capacity, are calling for an end to subsidies for wind and solar energy." They are united in the "Magritte group".

FWIW: I did not get subsidy for my solar panels.

Utilities aiming at their own feet (3, Insightful)

TrumpetPower! (190615) | about 8 months ago | (#45791275)

I live in the Valley of the Sun, and most of the southern half of my roof is covered in solar panels. I generate about half again as much electricity as I consume. This is by design; the plan is to get an electric vehicle in the not-too-terribly-distant future, and my excess generation capacity is enough that I should be able to drive for basically free. And the whole thing will pay itself off in about seven years total; if you remember the Rule of 70, that works out to about a 10% annual rate of return on my investment.

My utility provider is SRP; it was APS who was taking Koch Brothers money to fuck over their customers.

I've got a really good thing going for myself, obviously, but SRP is also making a nice profit off of me. My peak generation coincides with peak demand here. At the same time as they sell my electricity to my neighbors at $0.14 / kWh, they're paying twice that to spool up diesel generators...and they're paying me about $0.02 / kWh for my surplus. And I've signed over all my green credits to them, as well. Sweet deal for both of us, and I'm glad for it to be that way -- that's how good business profits are supposed to work.

If, however, APS's original proposal went into effect and SRP adopted it or something similar for themselves...well, at that point, I'd tell them to fuck off, get a battery system, and drop off the grid entirely. Changing the equation like that would wipe out any financial advantage I get from my investment and hugely profit the utility -- and, remember, I'm already far and away the most profitable customer they have on the block. It would really suck to have to pay again for a battery system; I've got better things I could do with that money. But I'd much rather invest that money in real physical goods that provide me with actual benefits (including, in this case, having the lights stay on should the grid ever go down) than throw gobs of money for no good reason at greedy profiteering corporate CEOs.

I can assure you, if the utilities keep up this sort of thing...well, they'll "protect" their profits for a little while, but it won't be long before people start dropping off the grid in droves. And that will be a bad thing for everybody -- but, most of all, for the utilities.

Cheers,

b&

Re:Utilities aiming at their own feet (2)

luther349 (645380) | about 8 months ago | (#45791531)

that's whats happening in Aussie. they passed a bill where they don't have to pay the grid tie system's a dime for the power there sending back. so people are converting there grid tie system into off grid systems in droves. irs cheaper to do there because of having 11 hrs of sun nearly all year so they only need a array half the size of one in the states.

Re:Utilities aiming at their own feet (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 8 months ago | (#45791601)

And "dropping off the grid" is what it's all about.

The real "holy grail" will be when no grid is needed. We are not that far off, and it will change the balance of political power tremendously.

In the US, our economy is based upon everyone being "locked in" to a system of handing the fruits of their labor up the chain, ultimately to the top 1%. I imagine that we're going to see them going through some serious changes, the closer we get to the day when people will be energy self-sufficient. For us, it will be a great thing. For many at the top, in terms of wealth and power, it is a nightmare scenario. I don't expect they will let it go down peacefully.

Ridiculous situation, all the way around.... (4, Interesting)

King_TJ (85913) | about 8 months ago | (#45791327)

If we had truly privatized power companies, I'd expect this behavior. After all, it would only make sense. You invested a bunch of money to build a whole infrastructure for power generation, doing all of your cost calculations based on people relying on it for 100% of their electricity needs. You have no provisions in place to store incoming electricity for future resale to users. What upside would you have if your customers start to generate their own power?

But we don't. We have government regulated monopolies. I'm not trying to argue the merits for or against the arrangement right now, except to say this means to me, they should be required to comply with whatever the government believes is the best way forward. If government is going to issue tax breaks and incentives for installing solar power? Then it's clear it thinks this type of energy generation on an individual basis should be encouraged. So how can it sit by and tolerate the power companies imposing rules that run counter to that goal?

Personally, I think as a homeowner, my ideal solar installation would be one where I don't need to be tied to the grid at all. Tesla is working on battery packs for homes that look a lot like refrigerators, which you'd couple to a solar panel installation to provide power at night or during bad weather conditions when the panels aren't capturing energy. I've heard that currently, they make the cost of the installation a bit prohibitive, but there's a good chance they'll become successful as part of a mainstream installation in the next 3 years or so. From what I've heard, reviewers of the setup said it was possible to run the entire home for as long as 48 hours or so on nothing but the battery pack, as long as power was used somewhat sensibly (not just leaving all the lights on in the house for no reason, etc.).
 

Re:Ridiculous situation, all the way around.... (1)

luther349 (645380) | about 8 months ago | (#45791575)

they wont obomas huge push for solar all it will take is someone to complane to congress and this idea will be shot down. as for storage its true you can run a home for weeks on a decent sized battery system using led lighting low draw devices etc. i run my rv on a 250 watt panel and 2 g29 100 amp batterys it can go for days if i watch it. you will have to lose thing like the 60 inch tv and always running the ac but it can be done.

You remember when... (1)

quonsar (61695) | about 8 months ago | (#45791335)

... the music, film and TV industries recognized that technology advances had rendered their business models moot, and so they faded away quietly and gracefully? Same will happen here.

BASELOAD: when success equals failure (1)

TorxHead (3476317) | about 8 months ago | (#45791339)

This doesn't surprise me in the least. Look at what's been happening in Germany for a few years now in respect to their struggle with maintaining the power plants. The risk of course is people accuse the power company of being greedy but to be honest they can only operate so long they have a minimum number of customers buying power. Coal and nuclear plants cannot just be turned off and on like your light switch at home, they take weeks if not months to heat them up or turn them off.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Base_load_power_plant [wikipedia.org]

http://www.ipautah.com/data/upfiles/newsletters/CyclingArticles.pdf [ipautah.com]

So when a ton of solar comes on the market, it drops the rates during peak times but doesn't supply power during darker days and night time. Baseload plants must always operate at a fixed level in order to be economical. If the baseload plants were not there most factories would not be able to operate, so we have a problem of how fast can we switch to solar and even if everyone put panels on their roofs what then? Where will the extra capacity come from? The average server farm needs a steady power supply that is reliable; the ones that do run on "green" power usually get their power from lager utility companies with diversified or steady power supplies, however those don't exist everywhere. I don't know of any large power generating dams in Hawaii.

It's great that so much solar power has come on-line but what does someone like myself do? I don't have solar panels on my roof, so when the local power company goes under will you supply me power from your solar panels?

Consistent buyback rates? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791343)

So does the energy company have to buy energy at the same rate that they sell it?

Why can't they just buy it for 50% of their selling price? They should be able to make a good profit off of people with solar panels this way, and the solar panel people would be able to offload their energy during the morning. This would also mean that they wouldn't need to invest in generate new power facilities... right?

Are the technical concerns legimiate? (1)

quantaman (517394) | about 8 months ago | (#45791349)

In the article the utility suggested that power surges and other grid problems could be traced back to the influx of new solar. Could it be a valid excuse that the grid isn't smart enough to take in a bunch of additional inputs and they need some time to upgrade?

HELCO (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791361)

I live in Hawaii. HELCO (not HECO) is very intent on maintaining their monopoly over power and dabbling with shutting down all alternative energy efforts, even though we have geothermal, wind, solar, and wave energy options.
You have to realize that many of the houses in Hawaii aren't tied to the power grid because HELCO won't run power lines out. A lot of people I know survive off generators, some small solar, water catchment, and sat-based internet and TV. It's not about profits for them, its about the basic tools to live.

I almost forgot.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791411)

I forgot the most important part...due to environmentalist efforts, we haven't been able to upgrade/build a new power plant since the 80s. Brownouts are fairly common, but the power company would rather kneecap the economy than allow any profit to go to anyone else

Sources (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 8 months ago | (#45791367)

Most electricity in Hawaii is generated using petroleum and coal fired plants. These plants are notorious for their slow warm up and cool down. With enough solar feeding in during peak times they will produce excess heat before the rising demand when the sun goes down and to compensate for the diving demand when the sun comes up. Coal and oil plants are not light switches. So in effect enough solar panels could produce power than can't be used but still has to be purchased by the grid companies and the grid companies still have to sell power to the solar produces when they need it. The solar produces pay nothing for the power produced grid maintenance and the cost for people without solar goes up. By the way, many people live in apartments without enough roof area to power them.

HECO is not denying Solar installations. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791393)

I work for Maui Electric which is a subsidirary of HECO. I am posting AC for this reason. I am copying part of a news release that we gave to these customers to help them understand. "On Sept. 6, the Hawaiian Electric Companies announced they were enabling more small PV systems (10 kW and under) to be added without a potentially time-consuming interconnection study and possible safety upgrades. The new threshold for a possible study was set at the point at which the PV on the circuit reached 100% of that circuit’s daytime minimum load, increased from 75%. At the same time, with a growing number of circuits with high amounts of PV, Hawaiian Electric also announced that customers who want to add PV on circuits that have reached the more liberal 100% threshold would need to await the results of an interconnection study to ensure their PV system can be safely interconnected into the grid. Previously, when PV levels were lower, O‘ahu customers had been allowed to interconnect their systems while they were awaiting final Hawaiian Electric approval of their net energy metering contract. Some customers with loans and/or contractual obligations for a PV system at the time of the announcement were caught in the transition, facing the possibility of being unable to get the benefits of a PV system they had committed to buy or had already installed" We are not denying any customers Solar, Hawaii leads the nation in KW generated per customer. (Solar Electric Power association Rankings). Hope that clears up some questions people may have.

Steeper tipping point (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 8 months ago | (#45791581)

The early adopters that the utilities are fighting now are few and far between and only nibbling at the edges of utility profits in most areas. Quite simply a good solar/wind setup is a bit of a pain in the ass. So by eliminating these few people it might even slow down development of better home energy technology a tiny bit. But quite simply solar continues to not only fall but the various flaws and other related technologies are getting better and better. The key technological lynchpin will be battery technology. But with today's solar/wind, LED lighting, and energy efficient appliances basically everyone is waiting on battery technology; if it were to get good enough, people won't have to worry about feed in tariffs they will just go off grid.

So what will happen is people will look at a one time up-front cost and just jump in and leave the power company behind. This is something that the utilities won't be able to stop. So instead of a stead decline it will be a shocking quarter by quarter disaster where the power companies will have problems making payroll.

This last will be a huge problem for those buildings that for various reasons can't go off grid.

Of ducks (1)

Bruce66423 (1678196) | about 8 months ago | (#45791631)

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck. This seems remarkably like a monopoly trying to sow FUD to prevent the destruction of their business model...

Solar system (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45791677)

I don't have one. I do live in one.

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