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Solar Power Eliminates Utility Bills in U.S. Home

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the i-have-a-raid-tonight-can-i-borrow-a-cup-of-sunlight dept.

Power 743

skyhawker writes "Yahoo! News is running an article about a New Jersey home that uses solar power to provide 100% of its energy needs, including fuel for the owner's hydrogen fuel cell-powered automobile. From the article: 'Strizki runs the 3,000-square-foot house with electricity generated by a 1,000-square-foot roof full of photovoltaic cells on a nearby building, an electrolyzer that uses the solar power to generate hydrogen from water, and a number of hydrogen tanks that store the gas until it is needed by the fuel cell. In the summer, the solar panels generate 60 percent more electricity than the super-insulated house needs. The excess is stored in the form of hydrogen which is used in the winter -- when the solar panels can't meet all the domestic demand -- to make electricity in the fuel cell.'"

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743 comments

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17682182)

f1r$7 |>0$7!!!1

At $500,000... How long to pay back the cost? (3, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682210)

Hmm?

And this is the reason so few people (including me) are "green".

 

Re:At $500,000... How long to pay back the cost? (-1, Offtopic)

pklong (323451) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682302)

You're just jealous cos you couldn't the state and a bunch of companies to stump up $400,000 for your leccy.

Philip

Re:At $500,000... How long to pay back the cost? (3, Insightful)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682326)

Actually, the reason so few people are green is because greens act like you're a terrorist if you suggest that maybe, just maybe, you might be irritated by fluorescent lights, even if you're willing to cut back in a zillion other ways, and even if the FL's would destroy productivity that could be used to research or construct earth saving solutions.

That said, keep in mind that $500,000 is the cost of one person doing it, the first time. Once returns to scale and all kick in, it would be less, and you have to figure in the relative dollar value you'd place on e.g. not depending on the grid or gas prices.

Re:At $500,000... How long to pay back the cost? (2, Insightful)

Itchyeyes (908311) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682436)

Once returns to scale and all kick in, it would be less, and you have to figure in the relative dollar value you'd place on e.g. not depending on the grid or gas prices.
This is the line that people have been saying for 20 years now. The fact of the matter is that solar power hasn't yet reached a point where cells are efficient enough to pay back the initial monetary cost in a reasonable time frame. Prices have fallen a lot, and will continue to fall. However, there is still a long ways to go. It will likely be yet another 15-20 years before solar power is a viable option for the average homeowner.

Re:At $500,000... How long to pay back the cost? (5, Funny)

AnotherHiggins (925608) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682672)

You pulled that number out of your butt very authoritatively.
It will likely be yet another 15-20 years before solar power is a viable option for the average homeowner.

Re:At $500,000... How long to pay back the cost? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17682448)

If you reject leading an environmentally friendly life because "the greens" annoy you, you're a complete twit.

Re:At $500,000... How long to pay back the cost? (1)

MrAnnoyanceToYou (654053) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682524)

LED's are better than Fluorescent lights anyways.

Re:At $500,000... How long to pay back the cost? (1)

jridley (9305) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682722)

Yeah, they flicker even more and have weirder color balance.
Honestly, fluorescents don't bother me at all, I have them in almost every fixture in my house, except for a couple of low-wattage desk lamps. But one of the biggest gripes about fluorescent is color balance and flicker, and LEDs are worse in both respects. It's possible to overcome both with LEDs but I haven't seen many fixtures that actually do.

Re:At $500,000... How long to pay back the cost? (4, Insightful)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682590)

>the reason so few people are green

I think the reason is the one you suggest lower down in your post - The cost.

I should really improve my insulation, but don't. Why? Because there's no payback in natural gas savings.

I could install solar heat, but I don't. Why? No payback.

I could buy a hybrid car. I don't. Why? No payback

...so I do the things I can afford: Recycle, fix dripping taps, take the bus when I can. I realize there are often higher-purpose reasons than cost savings, but many people simply can't *afford* to be green.

I'm a green (5, Interesting)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682680)

Yes, I'm a green and I act like an entrepeneur, not a terroist. From the article:

"You need to make the financing within reach of real people," Wentworth said.

That part is done as you'll see at my home page: http://www.jointhesolution.com/mdsolar [jointhesolution.com]

You can get solar for no more than you're paying now for electricity, no installation fee, no permit hassles, and no rate increases for up to 25 years.

I love what Mr. Strizki has done but I wish he'd heard of this opportunity first.

Re:At $500,000... How long to pay back the cost? (5, Informative)

n2art2 (945661) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682376)

Read the whole article, please people. . . .

FTA: "While the cost may deter all but wealthy environmentalists from converting their homes, Strizki and his associates stress the project is designed to be replicated and that the price tag on the prototype is a lot higher than imitators would pay. Now that first-time costs of research and design have been met, the price would be about $100,000, Strizki said."

But then again it is more sensational for you to use the R&D cost of $500,000 right?

Re:At $500,000... How long to pay back the cost? (1)

Itchyeyes (908311) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682660)

Even at $100,000 over a 25 year lifespan you're paying anywhere from 5-10 times the cost of energy from conventional fuels. The project is entirely un-economical with current technology and energy prices, no matter what way you want to look at it.

Re:At $500,000... How long to pay back the cost? (3, Informative)

inviolet (797804) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682708)

Now that first-time costs of research and design have been met, the price would be about $100,000, Strizki said."

The TVM ("time value of money") on a $100,000 investment is $5,000 to $10,000 per year, depending on your investment preferences. That means that it costs the owner of the house ~$7,500 per year just to own the house. That is to say, the house costs its owner an amount of money equal to the wealth that the $100,000 could've created elsewhere (such as in a small business that needs money to expand operations).

I pay an average of $150/month for electricity, $50/month for natural gas, and $200/month for gasoline. That's $4,800 per year in energy costs. So even if this guy's solar house could provide all of my energy needs, it wouldn't be worth the investment even at the discounted price.

And this doesn't include the maintenance costs of all that stuff. Electrolyzers wear out. Solar panels get broken by hail. Batteries degrade. I wonder what the annualized maintenance costs are? The net annual cost of ownership, including TVM, could be $20,000 a year!

Proof of concept - cost is a side issue (5, Insightful)

AJWM (19027) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682492)

Sure it's not cost effective. Prototypes and one-offs rarely are.

As a proof-of-concept, though, it's highly successful. This guy is demonstrating, not just hand-waving, that one can be entirely energy self-sufficient through solar power, even with the crappy efficiency of current mass produced photovoltaic panels.

Find a way to increase the efficiency and/or drop the price of the panels (and H2 storage system, fuel cells, etc) and it starts to look really attractive. More so if you want to build somewhere way off-grid. And without some of the attendant problems of a windmill.

The next time somebody argues that you can't live off-grid just on solar power, you can point to this guy. Then the argument comes down to cost-effectiveness, which depends on a lot of other factors.

Re:Proof of concept - cost is a side issue (4, Insightful)

Stewie241 (1035724) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682638)

But what really needs to be looked at is the OVERALL cost. What I mean by this, is: What are the environmental costs of producing the panels? What byproducts does this produce (i.e. another poster mentioned product of hydrogen vehicle... H20 - on a small scale this has negligible effect, on a large scale, what would this do?)? What happens to the panels when they eventually degrade? Is this safe waste? I don't know the answers... just raising the questions. Ian

Re:At $500,000... How long to pay back the cost? (1)

adamstew (909658) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682520)

true....right now it is outrageously expensive...but as the technology develops, prices come down

Once the price of oil gets so high (because we've tapped the wells dry) and the cost to produce energy using the conventional methods becomes high enough... ...Once the panels and other required equipment are produced on a large enough scale, prices will come down further.

Right now, every solar job is a custom job, so prices are high. Once it becomes mass produced and mass marketed, you might start to see entire systems ready to go for about $20,000. (i'm just pulling a number out of the air).

Same thing happened with every new technology...computers used to cost a million dollars apiece back when each one was a custom job. Now you can get a mass produced POS for $250, including a monitor, that is a million times faster than the $1 million dollar computer.

Just give it some time.

It's a pilot project - of course it's expensive (1)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682540)

It's proof-of-concept. Now that we know it can be done, the next step is to figure out how to mass produce it.

Think of your car, for example. If you went to a machine shop and had them custom grind every single part for your car, it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Once you get a factory stamping them out...well, not so much.

This guy is one of the first. Of course it's going to be expensive.

Re:At $500,000... How long to pay back the cost? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17682698)

Solar panels are often mistaken for green, even though they are not. For several reasons.

1. The energy that a solar panel converts from the sun's rays will exceed the energy used in making and later disposing of the panel.
2. The chemicals used in producing solar panels are a very serious environmental hazard.
3. As has been noted, the cost of solar panels exceeds the cost of purchasing energy because mass centralized energy production will always be more efficient than decentralized home-by-home production (due to the extreme efficiency of high-voltage transmission and large power plants).
4. Implementing low-energy appliance standards across the world, requiring increased insulation in homes, and a move to high-efficiency automobiles will have a substantially greater environmental benefit than solar panel use.

Solar panels do not "produce" any energy, nor are the particularly efficient in converting the sun's energy into electricity or hot water. They are best used in areas where electricity is not readily available.

DAMMIT! (0)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682232)

*I* wanted to be the first person in the U.S. to do that!!! I've been in the research phase for the past year or so. Basically, I want to be able to sever my connection to the grid except for emergency needs. Especially where my technological needs are concerned. Oh well... I might not be the first, but at least I'll be an early adopter.

Re:DAMMIT! (4, Informative)

szembek (948327) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682306)

Don't sever your connection. If you have any surplus energy, the supplier will pay you for it.

Re:DAMMIT! (1)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682594)

In my research, I have seen that energy providers will buy some power from someone with a solar array. Usually in the form of discounted electric bills. So yeah... that's an option. I guess I feel that if the electric company is going to be benefiting from my investment/work, they should be paying me to build it. Oh well. Nobody said life is fair.

Re:DAMMIT! (1)

KokorHekkus (986906) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682386)

...Basically, I want to be able to sever my connection to the grid except for emergency needs...
It would make much more sense, as I see it, to keep the grid connection and sell back the surplus energy. Everybody doing the own thing would probably mean more over-engineered solutions and unnecessary duplication of effort. Of course it sounds a lot cooler to say that you have no grid connection but should we try to be "cool" or sensible?

Re:DAMMIT! (1)

adamstew (909658) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682658)

Plus then your surplus energy would be helping to make the rest of the power grid greener. Since all of your energy is 100% green, if you help to power a couple other homes for a while, then they use more green power, and less dirty power.

If enough people do this, then a significant portion of people who don't have a green power system would be using at least some green energy. That could go a long way to helping reduce emissions from coal and oil plants since they will be burning less fuels.

Re:DAMMIT! (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682678)

I'm not sure how this nut got to his 'first' claim ... I know multiple people who have actually severed their connection to the grid for more than a year now. Maybe his extra is the car, or maybe it's doing it in the northeast. In the southwest, lots of people who don't need a car at all or who can get by with an electric cart have done this (but they have the advantage of better year-round sunshine).

Re:DAMMIT! (1)

BLKMGK (34057) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682700)

*First*? you've got to be kidding right? You need to check around the WEB a bit and I think you'll find that quite a few people live happily off-grid. Home power magazine highlights many of these kinds of projects and Otherpower.com has a discussion board with a great deal of good information from folks all over the world. Some of th ewindmills being built on that site are also damned impressive IMO...

Total energy cost (2, Interesting)

babblefrog (1013127) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682246)

Given the high dollar cost of this system, I'd bet that the total energy cost of all the equipment isn't any lower than just running on the grid: In other words, he has saved no energy at all.

Re:Total energy cost (1)

TigerNut (718742) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682666)

Total energy cost is an interesting metric. If you look at the (total energy) cost of producing and operating an energy-efficient appliance vs. a 'dirty' appliance, the dirty appliance may actually not represent such a bad choice. The good thing about looking at things this way is that eventually people will figure out that solar PV arrays (for instance) are not helping anything if the energy and pollution required to build them exceeds their expected lifetime energy output and pollution savings. I'm not saying that is actually the case... but I also haven't looked into it in detail.

Props to the homeowner (and the NJ utilities, the municipalities and his neighbors) for putting it together though. Some folks are going to have to stick their necks out and pave the path on alternate technologies.

One small problem (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17682250)

He eliminated his electric bill, but couldn't eliminate the fact that he is in New Jersey.

Sounds great... (2, Insightful)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682252)

Until you learn that the rig cost 5x what he would have spent on energy over his entire lifetime even though it will probably wear out in ten years. Also, now that his insurance company has read the story and knows he has a big ol' tank of hydrogen in his house he id uninsured, and uninsurable. Additionally, if anything ever does go wrong, his neighbors are sure to sue him into financial ruin.

Good job showing everybody how infeasible this kind of thing is though!

Re:Sounds great... (1)

mabu (178417) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682360)

Prices for solar panels and equipment will become much lower when the government and media calls attention to the potential and promotes it. More companies will enter these fields and there will be even more innovation and lower prices. Right now prices are high because there isn't as much demand, and there aren't enough sources for the products. This will change. And like everything else, solar cells and other alternative forms of energy will become more efficient, and issues of size, appearance and cost will diminish.

Imagine the energy we could save if the Chinese cranking out crappy plastic shit for Wal-Mart were repurposed to produce solar power equipment?

Re:Sounds great... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17682668)

"Prices for solar panels and equipment will become much lower when the government and media calls attention to the potential and promotes it."

This is a big part of the problem as the prices for the equiptment change and these changes are not reflected by either the media or the governments due to the normal lack of knowledge these bodies openly display to us all.

Solar (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17682270)

Greeat. It only cost a half a million bucks to avoid a
$100/month bill...

Re:Solar (1)

Jhon (241832) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682498)

Where do you live? The unibomber's shack? In power alone, I'm about 7x that. Our house spends about $100 alone on gas (car) each month.

That said, what he did was a neat -- but your suggestion is accurate. He spent way to much to save way to little.

Re:Solar (1)

eln (21727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682634)

How do you spend $700 a month in electricity? I spend $150, and most of my friends think my electric bill is ridiculously high. Do you keep all of the lights on and all the thermostats set to 50 degrees in the summer in your 15,000 square foot house? Were all of your appliances manufactured in the 1950s?

Okay, good idea, but this sucks (3, Interesting)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682280)

I just read all 37 pages of the Home Owners Association guide. While it doesn't strictly forbid solar panels on the roof, They are going to have to be the right color and anything visible has to be approved before construction. They definitely don't want any windmills, decorative or otherwise, not even as part of the mailbox!

So how, exactly, can I put some of this technology to work in stealth mode? Apparently this is not part of the neighborhood beautification plan?

Re:Okay, good idea, but this sucks (2, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682534)

Move to a neighborhood without a draconian HOA.

Seriously, I hate those things. A bunch of busybody housewives with nothing better to do than to stick their noses in other people's business. I'd rather deal with having a neighbor with a rusted-out trans am in his yard than have to deal with some harpy telling me my grass is 1/4" too long. I own the damn property, I don't need some jackass telling me it has to look exactly like everyone else's.

Re:Okay, good idea, but this sucks (5, Funny)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682626)

Move to a neighborhood without a draconian HOA.

And use a secure version of Windows, an honest attorney, or a Hooters franchise that doesn't debase women.

Re:Okay, good idea, but this sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17682546)

Simple...build up the "depth" of your roof, then inset the panels in the new depth. Your roof looks exactly the same, just is "deeper"....

but make sure to store the Hydrogen in a big ol' honking Propane tank in the front yard ;)

Re:Okay, good idea, but this sucks (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682548)

Personally, I'd recommend moving somewhere where your neighbors don't have control of what you do on your property.

Any type of subdivision or community that enforces idiotic standards on people living within is pure evil IMHO. I'm not one to harp too much on the whole "America the free!" tirade, but anybody who truly claims to be free while not having the choice to put a garden gnome out on their lawn or not needs to do some serious self-reflecting.

Re:Okay, good idea, but this sucks (1)

radarjd (931774) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682684)

Personally, I'd recommend moving somewhere where your neighbors don't have control of what you do on your property.

Amen! Restrictive covenants have simply gone too far in this country. They control so much of what a property owner can do on his or her own property and become so pervasive that it's difficult to escape them. About the only way to avoid the covenants is to buy isolated land far from civilization.

Re:Okay, good idea, but this sucks (1)

Apocalypse111 (597674) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682554)

Put a large fence around your yard - one of those nice looking stone ones that you can't see through, or over. Then just fill your yard with solar cells. Bonus points if you can cover enough of your yard to avoid having to mow ever again.

Re:Okay, good idea, but this sucks (1)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682572)

They do sell solar "shingles." This guy [umich.edu] built a grid-tied PV system with a battery storage for about $12,000. And the shingles aren't that noticeable.

Re:Okay, good idea, but this sucks (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682648)

Can you put solar panels on the back side of your roof. (viewed from the street) We have similar restraints, but as long as things aren't visable, they're allowed. Also, several of my neighbors have built structures and fences without getting permission. They are technically in violation, but no one has complained yet.

Re:Okay, good idea, but this sucks (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17682696)

Actually, depending on where you live, state law may prohibit your HOA from making any restrictions regarding installation of solar panels for the residence. I know California in specific does, and IIRC several other states do to. There was mention of a federal statute like the sat-dish for solar panels, but I don't remember if it passed.

huge savings (1)

cpearson (809811) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682292)

It only takes investment of $500,000 save approximately $80-100 a month. It could take 416.6 years to pay off at the current energy prices.

Windows Vista Help Forum [vistahelpforum.com]

Re:huge savings (1, Insightful)

AmericanInKiev (453362) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682530)

I think you should include Oil-War Casualties in your calculations:

Perhaps like

It will only take 415 years and 12,000 US dead and maimed soldiers to pay for the oil-related energy.

I'm not sure, you do the math.

AIK

Re:huge savings (1)

ROBOKATZ (211768) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682552)

Or if you instead put $500k into an interest-bearing account to draw the utility payments off of, it would take much, much longer.

Re:huge savings (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17682568)

He also uses it to run the cars so more than 80-100 per month. You also have to consider the size of the house it costs more like 150 a month to run a 3000 sqft house. We also forgot that they replaced all energy needs so no gas bill either granted thats only 30-80 bucks a month. Anyway lets run the numbers.

Electricity 150
Natural Gas 50 (lets average it)
Vehicle Fuel 300 (for two cars on a short daily commute and good fuel efficiency)

Total saved monthly energy cost 500.00

Cost of project $500,000.00

Year to break even 83 1/3

OK never mind now I'm just being pedantic. We can only hope that scaling this technology makes it cheaper.

Re:huge savings (1)

markwalling (863035) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682574)

he's also powering his car with that, so with gas prices ($2.379 last time i filled up, and i fill up about $30 every week) that would be a little less. and as others above have stated, $400k of that was r&d.

Re:huge savings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17682642)

There's no reason to think that current energy prices are indicative of energy prices even a few decades from now.

Re:huge savings (1)

adamstew (909658) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682716)

energy prices are only going to up. Sure they may have their day-to-day fluctuations based on stupid little factors like the weather...but in the long term, they are going up.

Especially when all the oil dries up.

Cost savings still a long ways away (3, Informative)

rockabilly (468561) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682294)

From the article:

"Caminiti argues that the cost of the hydrogen/solar setup works out at about $4,000 a year when its $100,000 cost is spread over the anticipated 25-year lifespan of the equipment. That's still a lot higher than the $1,500 a year the average U.S. homeowner spends on energy, according to the federal government."

Still interesting tho.

Re:Cost savings still a long ways away (2, Interesting)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682714)

He also runs his car off the hydrogen. That really changes the number, 1500 is something like $80/month for electric, the rest of the savings is from not buying gasoline!

Why not plug-in hybrid? (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682300)

Hydrogen seems a bit over the top in this situation, why not just use a plug-in hybrid car? You may not totally eliminate the need for fossil fuel, but it is probably a better use of that extra power they generated than using a hydrogen, cheaper too.

$500k Cost (1)

ranton (36917) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682304)

Well I am glad that he was able to reduce his electric bill by a few thousand dollars a year. Too bad it cost him $100k to do it (and $400k from donations). I guess it will probably pay off for him in about 30 years.

I would love to find companies (and government agencies) willing to give me $400k to put additions onto my home.

--

Re:$500k Cost (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682496)

I'm curious why you think it will pay itself off in a scant 30 years? From what I can tell he'll be dead before he starts realizing cost savings from this.

100,000 from his pocket! (1)

PadRacerExtreme (1006033) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682310)

FTA:
The New Jersey project, which opened in October 2006 after four years of planning and building, cost around $500,000, some $225,000 of which was provided by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.
...
The project also got equipment and expertise from a number of commercial sponsors including Exide, which donated some $50,000 worth of batteries, and Swageloc, an Ohio company that provided stainless steel piping costing around $28,000. Strizki kicked in about $100,000 of his own money.

And if you can't get all the grants and freebees, $500k! I want to have some green after I become green!

Payoff down the road (3, Interesting)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682316)

From the article:

Caminiti argues that the cost of the hydrogen/solar setup works out at about $4,000 a year when its $100,000 cost is spread over the anticipated 25-year lifespan of the equipment. That's still a lot higher than the $1,500 a year the average U.S. homeowner spends on energy, according to the federal government. Even if gasoline costs averaging about $1,000 per car annually are included in the energy mix, the renewables option is still more expensive than the grid/gasoline combination.

Mind you, once you've bought the equipment, there are only the maintenance costs over that 25 years, where as the price of energy will undoubtedly continue to increase. And the price of solar cells is dropping, so the cost may go lower than $100,000. I for one would love to have solar -- not having to pay for electricity, being able to run my Christmas lights 365 days a year, and not losing my power in a blackout. Also, if you generate excess electricity, you can sell it to the utility companies, and actually make a buck when you have excess power.

Re:Payoff down the road (2, Informative)

Itchyeyes (908311) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682598)

Not to mention that his calculation of $4,000/year completely ignores any time value of money. There isn't a business in the world that would calculate the returns on a half million dollar investment over the course of 25 years with a 0% decline rate. Using a standard 10% decline you're looking at $11,000/year rather than $4,000/year.

Very nice, but solar power isn't all clean... (5, Interesting)

Tristandh (723519) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682336)

Solar power is nice since it does not pollute when in use and generating power. However, mass production of solar cells is very taxing for the environment. So I can't help but wondering which is worse: 1000 sq. ft. (which is, accounting for chip packaging and other overhead, still a HUGE silicon area) or heating the old fashioned way (e.g. with gas, which is less polluting than say coal, and using decent insulation) and using a car that is not a fuel-hungry SUV...

Agreed, less is simply more with energy (2, Insightful)

tentimestwenty (693290) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682566)

Generating electricity in cleaner ways is nice but not nearly as efficient or green as simply using less. Production is a very small part of the problem. Consumption is what we have to deal with.

Big deal, I eliminated all utility costs in my (3, Funny)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682350)

place by not paying the bill 6 months in a row. It's amazing, your monthly electric costs will drop to 0 very quickly!

Re:Big deal, I eliminated all utility costs in my (2, Funny)

That's Unpossible! (722232) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682652)

place by not paying the bill 6 months in a row. It's amazing, your monthly electric costs will drop to 0 very quickly!

As will your energy usage!

This would do wonders in the tropics (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682352)

This kind of setup would be wonderful in countries along the equator. I recently visited Uganda, a country on the equator. This country is plagued with power problems yet it has abundant sunshine.

Just for your information: This country is incredibly cool temperature wise due to its relatively high altitude. Problem is: Poverty.

Quit doubting it based on cost. (5, Insightful)

Lethyos (408045) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682356)

People are whining about how it costs a half-million dollars. It is so expensive because of low volume. We need early adopters like this guy to start the ball rolling. Once more people buy into this form of energy production, the cheaper it will become.

Re:Quit doubting it based on cost. (0, Troll)

IDontAgreeWithYou (829067) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682664)

I'm doubting it based on the two other "real" problems. 1. The overall environmental impact of solar cells is still worse than the equivalent traditional electrical generation would be. 2. Amateur hydrogen storage in my neighborhood, let alone in my house, no thanks.

Renu by CitizenRe (5, Interesting)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682358)

For those who don't want to bother with the expense of buying and installing your own PV system, there's Renu [citizenre.com] . With a $500 deposit, they'll design and install an grid-tied PV system for you and charge you only for what it produces at the current rate, which you can lock in for 5 or 25 years. And if you've got a 25 year contract they'll move the system when you move.

more efficient to buy hydrogen? (2, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682362)

It depends on New Jersey's rates for power sent back to the grid, but would it be better to put the excess energy onto the grid & to use the check they send towards buying hydrogen?

This might only be a practical idea in regions where the power company pays you more than the going electric rate for any power you put back into the grid.

Only expensive for now (4, Insightful)

tarlos25 (1036572) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682366)

Of course it will be expensive for the early adopters. But as solar panels mature, and more energy independence options become available, it will be much more economically feasible. The first people to do this don't do it for the monetary savings (or if they do, they're wrong), they do it to make a statement that it can be done.

Re:Only expensive for now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17682516)

Oh yes.. and of course all of us have 1000sq ft of unblocked real estate to put the panels up... Get real! This concept will only really ever be of use to those who: (A) Can afford it (or get sponsors) (B) Have the space and time to devote to it and (C) Can't think of more efficient/better alternatives.

Bloviating...While Losing Money (2, Insightful)

BoRegardless (721219) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682388)

It has been possible to do this since solar cells were invented. It was not possible to get a real break even versus standard energy sources "back then" in the 60's, nor is it possible to get to break even now today in the next 25 years, and I submit from the article my evidence:

"Caminiti argues that the cost of the hydrogen/solar setup works out at about $4,000 a year when its $100,000 cost is spread over the anticipated 25-year lifespan of the equipment. That's still a lot higher than the $1,500 a year the average U.S. homeowner spends on energy, according to the federal government. Even if gasoline costs averaging about $1,000 per car annually are included in the energy mix, the renewables option is still more expensive than the grid/gasoline combination."

So what is new here?

New Jersey vs. Arizona (1)

flaming-opus (8186) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682392)

I wonder how much better efficiency this technology might have in california, nevada, or arizona.
In the southwest you're gonna have more sunny days, higher solar intensity, and your energy usage is going to be higher in the summer (air conditioning instead of heating) when the solar energy is more abundant. You couple that with the booming population of pheonix, las vegas, and much of california, and your level of equipment costs might be considerably less.

I also wonder how much of the systems' cost is static, and how much scales with the size of the energy draw. Can I replace 80% of my energy usage for 50% of the cost, or will I have to pay 90% of the cost for a 40% drop in energy usage?

If I were a New Jersey Taxpayer... (1, Interesting)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682394)

...I'd be livid.

The New Jersey project, which opened in October 2006 after four years of planning and building, cost around $500,000, some $225,000 of which was provided by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

So, a quarter million of their tax dollars were used to help this guy set up a clear demonstration of how ridiculous this technology is and to eliminate his electric bill... Return on investment? Near zero... But had the same money been used to, say, help elderly people on fixed incomes heat their houses?

Oh well.

Re:If I were a New Jersey Taxpayer... (2, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682514)

"But had the same money been used to, say, help elderly people on fixed incomes heat their houses?"

Then 90% of it would have been misappropriated and used for personal projects of the administrators, and the other 10% would have gone to people who didn't really need it, but felt they were entitled to it.

Consider this an investment in science. It's expensive, and rarely pays out immediately. They probably learned quite a bit about how to manufacture and install these items through the mistakes found in the process. You won't see the improvements immediately, but you will within your lifetime. And no, I don't know what they'll be yet. I'm not psychic enough. Some research doesn't have a specific goal.

I guess the "early adopter" price is $0.5M (4, Insightful)

Proteus (1926) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682402)

Yeah, at $0.5M US, it's a steep price to pay just to be free of utility bills, or just to be "green". But please don't forget that it still has value.

This early adopter is proving that you *can* be self-sufficient using solar energy. That's a big deal. And, if a people -- and more importantly, organizations -- start seeing solar energy as having potential, more people will fund research into improving the technology and making it cheaper. At least, that's the hope.

Early adopters help drive the price of technology down, so don't be so quick to judge this guy's choice -- he's helping to make solar power more available to the masses, in his own small way.

Besides, in being the first, he'll probably make back his $500K in promotional considerations and/or the lecture circuit. ;-)

Cost (2, Interesting)

rumith (983060) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682408)

Caminiti argues that the cost of the hydrogen/solar setup works out at about $4,000 a year when its $100,000 cost is spread over the anticipated 25-year lifespan of the equipment. That's still a lot higher than the $1,500 a year the average U.S. homeowner spends on energy

Last time I heard, production of solar panels was creating a significant amount of very unpleasant waste in process. So much for saving the environment. Besides, when you say that something costs NNN dollars, that means that in order to produce and deploy that system, an appropriate amount of resources and other products has to be spent; in this case hi-tech components are probably used, which have a longer production chain if we compare it with the oil-driven power supply. And the production of these components [or rather anything in this world at the moment] outputs some greenhouse gases and other waste. So one must think twice if switching to solar panels will really decrease our pressure on the Earth's ecosystem, since [as far as I understand] "more expensive" == "requires more productive effors" == "creates more pollution".

That said, I don't consider the modern energy production cycle okay - it's terrible. I just wanted to stress that for the moment, solar panels probably aren't the final solution of our problems, and we have to keep looking for something better.

For $500,000 (2, Interesting)

RichPowers (998637) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682420)

I can buy 10,000 acres of rainforest ($50/acre), according to www.rainforest.org. Even if that's not a realistic cost, I could still buy 5,000 acres if land was going for $100/acre.

Regardless (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682422)


Despite the cost, this shows that indeed it is possible to make a home energy self sufficient.

The question is now, what would this cost if it were a *requirement* for all new homes? How low would mass production push the costs? Could the cost of new power plants that won't need to be built be used to subsidize this effort?

Many new revolutionary technologies (phones, electricy) required government regulation and subsidies (in many forms) to get past the chicken and the egg dilemma. Perhaps this is one of those times?

 

energy buy-back (1)

mabu (178417) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682460)

1. Installing your own solar array: $100k
2. Cost of operating most appliances: $0
3. Value of watching your power meter run backwards when you're giving power to the grid .... PRICELESS!

Effect of massive H20 emissions (1)

amightywind (691887) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682480)

The solar-hydrogen residence project provides a tremendous opportunity to reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming

Isn't H2O also a greenhouse gas? What effect on climate increased humidity levels have if H2O emissions where substituted for CO2 worldwide?

Re:Effect of massive H20 emissions (1)

mabu (178417) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682692)

Isn't H2O also a greenhouse gas?

Wow. Slashdot ain't what it used to be.

Re:Effect of massive H20 emissions (1)

nebopolis (953349) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682712)

water vapor is a greenhouse gas, but its effects may be overrated http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_vapour_feedback #The_role_of_water_vapor>

Yep. This stuff works. (1)

jpellino (202698) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682504)

We have a building with a 9KW system on an all-electric building that gets us a $0 bill for many months, and a 12KW system on a much larger all-electric (including heat pumps) building that saw a typical 60% decrease in its electric bill. They're both grid-tied and net-metered. Another 100 sq ft of panels and I could keep our Twike charged on solar alone!

Expensive (0, Redundant)

nascarguy27 (984493) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682578)

FTA,

Caminiti argues that the cost of the hydrogen/solar setup works out at about $4,000 a year when its $100,000 cost is spread over the anticipated 25-year lifespan of the equipment. That's still a lot higher than the $1,500 a year the average U.S. homeowner spends on energy, according to the federal government. Even if gasoline costs averaging about $1,000 per car annually are included in the energy mix, the renewables option is still more expensive than the grid/gasoline combination.
AND this doesn't include the half million for research and development so the actual cost is 6 times $4k per year or $24,000 per year. That amount seems ridiculous for Joe Average.

Still using resources (1)

Bandman (86149) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682600)

Until we find a fuel cell catalyst that isn't platinum, we're still going to have problems.

I don't believe that enough platinum has been mined to produce fuel cells for all the cars out there.

Our green home in Calgary, Canada (4, Interesting)

rjinbanff (69460) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682602)

Hi all,

My wife and I have been building a green, eco-friendly home in the heart of oil-city Canada - Calgary, Alberta. We have been blogging about our experiences at ramsayhome.com [ramsayhome.com] . We have had quite the experience so far...we had to fire our first contractor, dismantle some of the work, continue with a new contractor, etc. Everything is back on-track though and we will be posting some new pictures this weekend.

Not very envoronmentally friendly (3, Insightful)

viking80 (697716) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682616)

From TFA: the cost of the installation was about $500,000, including about $50,000 of lead acid batteries.

I would suggest that the environmental impact of building this house, and recycling the consumables far outweighs the lowered energy consumption.

Just recycling an estimated 1 ton of toxic, heavy metal, lead a year (assuming 10 ton installation with life expectancy of 10 years), has a big environmental impact.

Solar panel manufacturing also consumes a lot of resources, and end up not beeing so clean overall.

A $500,000 investment would probably give a thousand times better ROI if it was spent on pollution reduction in india or china, or to save rainforest.

HIAA - Heating Industry Association of America (0, Flamebait)

1800maxim (702377) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682624)

If there was HIAA, they'd slap "heat-theft" tax on every solar panel, then they would slap monthly tax on the heat that you're not buying from them, but they need to survive as a corporation for the good of other homeowners who happen to buy their heat from HIAA, blame foreign solar panel smuggling for lack of profits... wait. Maybe this WILL happen? In the global pursuit of corporate greed, I just don't see a way that houses coudl some day be self-sustaining when it comes to heating, electricity and solar power. Somehow the corporate greed will snatch this out of the people's hands.

Being "green" is not about saving money (1)

TheWoozle (984500) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682718)

I see a lot of posts scoffing at this because of the high cost. Let me propose that reducing our reliance on non-renewable resources is about more than economic efficiency.

Consider that in Asia and the Indian sub-continent that there are roughly 2.5 Billion people, an increasing number of which are gaining in wealth. In 20 years, these coutries will have by far outsripped the U.S. in the demand for energy and building materials.

I submit that it is in everybody's interest to head off the imminent clash of interests between the ultra-consumers in the U.S. and up-and-coming consumers in the rest of the developing world. If we insist that it is our right to continue our disproportionate consumption of resources, then we will have to fight for it (a prospect that I find frightening at best).

Learn to live better, not cheaper.

The perfect house! (1)

indriyas (683467) | more than 7 years ago | (#17682720)

This is great people are becoming climate-conscious.

Last month is was talking to my landlord about installing geothermal pumps to counter rising fuel costs because it's only 3-8 yrs investment before the payoff. To my great surprise, he didn't laugh at me!

Besides, sound economics have a long-term perspective. Imagine the impact of this on energy dependence, jobs, climate,... I guess Exxon and friends know that this could be much more beneficial than their actual business in terms of GDP, corporate profit, health, nature... even foreign policy! ...and what about future generations?

Great article!

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