Wednesday, May 20, 2009

World Community Grid Clean Energy Project

You might have heard of the SETI@Home project which for the last ten years has used internet connected computers to search for signals with other worldly origins. That project has evolved over time, and now its success has spawned countless other projects that either search for things out there in the universe, track near earth objects, model climate change, look for cures to diseases, and others. This is possible due to a program called the Berkeley Open Interface for Network Computing, aka BOINC.

The original Seti@Home site is here if you want-

The BOINC site is here

You may ask what this all has to do with this blog? Well, if you go directly to a site called World Community Grid you will be able to download a version of BOINC to process data for the Clean Energy Project which is looking for the next generation of materials to use in cheaper solar panels. Of course, there are other projects you can support too. I will just concentrate on the Clean Energy one because it relates to the subject of this blog.

From the World Community Grid Clean Energy Project page, “The mission of the Clean Energy Project is to find new materials for the next generation of solar cells and later, energy storage devices. By harnessing the immense power of World Community Grid, researchers can calculate the electronic properties of tens of thousands of organic materials – many more than could ever be tested in a lab – and determine which candidates are most promising for developing affordable solar energy technology.”

If you are not familiar with the concept of network computing, once you have downloaded BOINC and chosen a project, your computer will download segments of data to process. This entire process will be done in the background as you do other things on your computer. When a segment is complete, your computer will upload the results and request more data to process. You can do as little or as much as you like, and designate your projects as you want. If you have more than one project, BOINC will distribute the computer time between them, again in the background.

Read more about the Clean Energy Project here at Green-Energy_News.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cost Comparison of PV Array 2007-2008

The 2008 True-up bill has been calculated for our electricity use. It is higher than last year, as anticipated. I think this is due to the pond pump running extra for a few months. And we have been home more this year. The pump is bound to be a continuing factor, but since we are now generating more each day, it may not make that much difference in the long run.

Our electricity cost has gone up from 4 cents per KWh in 2007, to 5 cents per KWh in 2008. This is based on increase use, and potentially a bit lower production due to the system being down for a few days to move the panels. The base rate for residential customers around here is around 15 cents per KWh.

In 2007, our total cost for electricity including all fees and taxes was $90.39. The total cost for electricity use that we did not generate was $17.78.

In 2008, our total bill for the year was $125.36 and of that $19.95 was for electricity we used but did not generate.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Cleaning and Maintenance of PV Panels and System

One thing that is great about a PV System is that it requires almost no work to get the PV energy. Once it is installed, as long as you do not have to shut it down and move it to another side of the house, you should be OK for a long time. Most of the inverters I have seen have a lengthy warrantee. The panels themselves should outlive the longest investment payback. Most of them are guaranteed for twenty years. I know of panels near here that have been in use longer than twenty years, and are still producing close to what they did initially. Of course, in that same time replacement panels have made real gains in power output and efficiencies. Aside from the panel move earlier this year, we have only had one time our system was “down” for any problems, and that was for a simple part replacement for our inverter. That leaves only one real issue that I have been concerned about, cleaning the panels.

At least once a year, your panels could benefit from a good cleaning, especially if you are in an area that has a lot of dust or windblown pollen. This stuff can get stuck to the panels fairly easily, and although a lot of it is washed away by rain that happens in a time of year you are not really thinking much about production. Therefore, at least once a year, you need to think about cleaning the panels. If you are Ed Begley Jr. or otherwise do not have a problem climbing all over your roof at least once a year, or you have relatively easy access to the panels from the ground, you should have no problems doing your own cleaning. If you fear heights, or simply are older than Ed and your days of roof running are or should be over, what are you going to do?

After the first year of so our panels were up, our neighbor volunteered to clean the panels for us. That was great. It only cost us a six-pack. But, that is not the sort of thing we feel right about asking for repeat service the next year, or the next. I have asked a couple of solar installers in the area for their advice. They either say they do not bother cleaning their own panels, so I should not worry about cleaning mine. Or they say I could try a window washer service. I have not called one yet. Usually my experience asking a company to work outside their specified qualifications has not been good. So, when we moved our array recently, I asked the guys on the roof if they would be interested in making a bit extra money cleaning my panels. They seemed to want to do it when they were here. They told me to call them so we could arrange it. I called. I stopped by the place of business and left a message. I called again. I stopped by the place of business again and talked to the manager to ask if it was appropriate for me to ask. He said as far as he knew, it was something they could arrange to do, or if I wanted, I could contact his installer directly to ask him. I asked the manager to have the installer contact me. That was the last I have heard anything from them.

It seems to me there is a growing demand out there, or there could be a growing demand- for a service company that specializes in PV Systems maintenance. I am not quite up to getting up there and cleaning the panels the right way. The guys who could are missing an opportunity. Or, hopefully they are busy putting in more systems and just can’t get back to me. The thing is, it either forces me to live with dirty panels or to try to do it myself. Either way, the panels are not going to be as clean as they should be. And we will lose a certain amount of production. How much, and is it worth worrying about?

It is odd that I now know the answer to this. I have looked on the internet from time to time trying to find out how dirty PV panels impact production. I have not found it. Maybe I did not know the right terms to search for. What is the answer? What is funny about this is that earlier today, I went out to just hose off my panels. I thought that would help a little anyway. But as I said, it is not a complete cleaning, and there is still residual dirt there blocking my production a bit. I will check later to see if I had much gain over previous days.
Just now, I received a letter in the mail from a person who is doing PV system maintenance in our area. I do not know the cost yet, but he does PV panel cleaning, system module maintenance, system performance overall testing, warrantee troubleshooting and repairs, and will install a security system on the modules. This is just what I had been talking about earlier.

Oh, and the answer for how much dirty panels can cost you come from a study done by PV USA in Davis, Ca. They claim that after a dry rainy season dirty panels can impact your performance by as much as 7%. That seems pretty close to what I have seen here actually. Prior to my neighbor cleaning our panels, we were producing a bit over 9 Kilowatt hours a day. After cleaning, our production went up to a bit over 10 kilowatt hours. I guess it would be up to the individual owner to determine how clean is clean enough. And also it depends on the price of the service. I may call for the free estimate anyway.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

All solar panels need is the sun- and the correct orientation for your area

Location is everything in placement of solar panels. Last year, we would be lucky if we were producing a couple of hundred watts by 3 PM while they were pointed to the southeast. What numbskull decided to put our panels on the southeast side originally? I want credit for those lost years of production, not to mention the more than a thousand bucks it cost to move the array. Now with the array towards the southwest, today at 6 PM we were still producing a bit over 1,000 watts. For the majority of our high cost time between noon and six, we will be in maximum production. In fact, at noon the production is 1,300 watts. So, we could be making between 7.5 to 8.5 kilowatt hours during the expensive pay back hours. Last year, we were lucky to get a total of 8.5 to 9.5 kilowatt hours in a good day, and since the sun was for the most part off of them around by 3 PM, only three hours of that was in the on-peak hours.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Here comes the sun- Not

Well, as of the first of the month, we are back on the prime time schedule for rate E7. So, after noon and prior to 6 PM, we should be making extra credit at the higher rate mentioned before. If only it was true. It is not sunny at all here, and has not been since the start of the month. I know we need rain, but the little amount we are now getting is not really going to help anyone- and it is hurting us. Beware those who want to go the way of trying to be more green. Things like this- or mileage decreasing on many short trips, etc, did not used to matter to me. Now, I worry about losing any ground to the weather, or to the tires being wrong, or to other things I may not have thought of yet. We need rain, but the time for that is past. Let there be SUN!