The Big Allure of Cheap PV

first_imgThat’s too good of a deal to pass upGBA Senior Editor Martin Holladay finds it hard to argue with the numbers. “Given the figures you have just been quoted, you’d be nuts not to jump at the chance to install the 10-kW PV system,” he writes. “It’s money sitting on a plate. So take it.”McCombe could always borrow money later to make energy-saving improvements on his house, and the money he’s saving on his power bill should make that easier to pull off.Holladay’s one caveat is to check the fine print on the net-metering contract with the utility carefully. Some contracts reset the clock every 12 months, so homeowners won’t get paid for electricity produced above and beyond what they use. Other utilities will pay homeowners for the excess power they generate.“If your local utility won’t pay you for surplus production,” Holladay adds, “you don’t want to buy a PV array that is bigger than your family’s needs.” As the installed cost of solar electric continues to fall and subsidies remain in place, this is a choice many other homeowners could be facing. That’s the topic for this Q&A Spotlight. Net-metering rules are bound to changeGrid-tied photovoltaic systems draw on utility power when output is too low to meet demand, and put electricity into the grid when the system makes more power than the house can consume. That’s where the battery analogy comes from, but there’s a point where this arrangement makes utilities nervous.“As PV penetration rises, and utilities struggle with real time loading and the effects on their distribution system protection schemes as related to heavy penetration, they will be (already are) adding storage/buffer schemes and they are going to want more money,” Chatum writes. “Storage is going to be a huge issue. Using the utility as a rechargeable battery is cheap now but it ain’t gonna stay that way.”Duke Energy plans to ask North Carolina regulators to reduce net-metering rates for homeowners, and utilities have raised concerns about the effects of net-metering rules in Arizona and California as well.In the future, Chatum says, even net-zero energy houses could see the distribution portion of their power bills go up.“The reason is because they are effectively using the utility as a storage battery, sending power to the ‘battery’ on sunny days and drawing power from the battery at night or on cloudy days,” he writes. “Well such PV systems are pretty much using the grid as much as non PV customers, so even if they are net zero and currently only paying something like $7 a year as a ‘customer’ fee, they wont continue to get away with paying that little.“In addition to being expected to pay for grid maintenance like regular customers do, they will be asked to help pay for changes in the distribution system that are needed to accomodate PV.” Until now, Patrick McCombe has believed that improvements to the envelope of his home should come before an investment in photovoltaic panels. Now he’s weighing a deal that seems too good to pass up.McCombe lives in Connecticut (he’s an associate editor at Fine Homebuilding magazine) and he recently attended an informational meeting sponsored by an organization working to lower the cost of PV. Panels could be purchased or leased, but the bottom line was that with federal and state incentives, McCombe could buy a 10-kilowatt array for $15,000.“I’ve always believed that envelope improvements make more sense than PV,” he writes in a Q&A post at GreenBuildingAdvisor, “but the state and federal incentives and super low prices of PV coupled with our very high electric rates has me considering an installation.”McCombe heats his small house with fuel oil, a relatively expensive fuel common to New England. Even though he doesn’t use that much oil, the prospect of weaning himself from this fuel entirely is very attractive.“Am I silly for installing PV first without significant envelope improvements to my very small but not terribly efficient home?” he asks. “In the three years we’ve lived there we’ve needed three tanks of heating oil, so our heating costs are much lower than most folks in New England. Our house is small and reasonably airtight. If we lowered our plug loads, it’s conceivable we could also heat our house with heat pumps or resistance heaters using our 10 kW array.” RELATED ARTICLES Use that money for a ductless minisplitThe offer may be very attractive, writes Dana Dorsett, but installing a type of air-source heat pump called a ductless minisplit would be a better deal.“If you’re burning 250 gallons of oil a year, at $4/gallon (recent-years’ pricing), that’s $1,000/year,” Dorsett says, “It’s very likely that for an investment of $4,000 to $5,000 you can heat with a ductless minisplit at about half the cost of heating with oil (even at 20 cents/kWh) which would have an even better [internal rate of return] than a 10-kW PV array at a post-subsidy cost of $1.50/watt.”Whether McCombe buys the PV system or not, a ductless minisplit is a “no-brainer type of investment,” he adds, that’s a better option than heating with electric resistance heaters powered by PV.As Dorsett sees it, McCombe could meet his heating needs with a 1-ton Fujitsu or M-series Mitsubishi minisplit. The electrical power consumption of those units would be the equivalent of fuel oil at $2.22 per gallon, and McCombe could reduce his heating costs by $445 per year.“This is a very rough cut, but it’s the right ballpark,” he says. “Assume that you’ll replace both the minisplit and the inverter in 20 years, and the PV panels in 40 years — the short-term internal rate of return isn’t the same as a lifecycle cost. But there’s no up-side to sticking with oil heating at the current price/performance point of minisplits, quite independently of the PV question.”For further thought, Dorsett refers McCombe to a a research paper published by the Rocky Mountain Institute.center_img PV Systems Have Gotten Dirt CheapAn Introduction to Photovoltaic SystemsGreen Basics: Ductless Minisplit Heat Pumps Just Two Minisplits Heat and Cool the Whole HouseHawaii’s Solar Battle Major Utility Wants Lower Net-Metering Rates Arizona Approves New Fee for Solar Customers Hold the phone: What happened to green?“What in the hell happened to the original shade of green,” writes Sonny Chatum, “where people wouldn’t dream of using PV without first minimizing energy use?”His advice: reduce his electricity as much as possible first. Then add the PV. “Don’t join the hundreds of thousands of people who have just thrown up PV just to get some [solar renewable energy certificates] and they could care less about doing the right thing in terms of energy efficiency,” Chatum says.A 10-kW solar system is “huge” for a typical house, he says, and if McCombe has a small house he may not even have room for the panels on his roof. He could meet his electricity needs with a PV installation, but only by reducing demand to a minimum and using the utility as a “rechargeable battery.”“Ideally, you want the electric utilities out of the picture as much as possible,” he says. “Use them for a battery for now, but minimize that use partly by, again, minimizing your electricity need. This is because the utilities are starting to complain about being a free battery service, and, trust me, they will start getting heavily paid again for heavier battery use, so use them as little as possible.”A deep energy retrofit helped Chatum cut his electricity use almost by two-thirds, and he’d probably be able to meet the demand with a reasonably sized rooftop array.“I think it’s disappointing,” he adds, “that Green Building Advisor has to a large degree lost sight of the original shade of green.”Responding to Chatum, Holladay notes, “If a PV array provides residential electricity for cheaper than it costs to buy the electricity from your local utility, it’s obvious that homeowners will choose it. Remember, I advised Patrick not to install an array that is any larger than necessary to meet his family’s annual needs. And if you read GBA regularly, you’ll realize that we still stress conservation and efficiency.”McCombe explains his motivation to Chatum: “It’s just so darn cheap to buy PV panels right now.” But he adds, “One thing I fear: the utilities will start charging PV owners surcharges or higher rates for grid power. Isn’t there discussion of this in California?” Our expert’s opinionGBA Technical Director Peter Yost had these thoughts:I decided the best thing to do on this one was check in with Mark Sevier, my good friend, former colleague at Building Science Corp., and now an energy efficiency and renewable energy engineer in Massachusetts. In his “spare time,” Mark has built a zero-energy home, and is currently working on an electric car conversion project based on the original Honda Insight. Most of his efforts at work and home have been related to understanding the key criteria to reducing environmental impact for the good of future generations.Here is Mark’s cut on this issue:“I agree that it makes sense to review the cost of conservation in relation to generation, especially if a home is in reasonable shape from an energy perspective and applicable enclosure retrofits pencil out as very expensive.“I first came across this issue on a superinsulation retrofit project, where the addition of 4 inches of foam on the top of the roof (increasing the assembly from about R-40 to 60) yielded only an additional ~$20 per year in energy savings, for what was probably $10,000 of capital cost (a fairly complex roof assembly, as you might expect). Take that same $10,000 and spend it on $4/watt PV today (even with no incentives) and it would roughly yield ~$500/year in electric savings in Massachusetts vs. the $20/year in gas savings from the extra roof insulation. PV paybacks can be short in comparison to “over-conservation.”“Conservation measures like insulation have diminishing returns, while generation from a PV system yields nearly linear returns. The conservation returns curve is steep at low R-values, but is rather flat by the time it gets to R-20 or 30. Each doubling of R-value provides half the savings of the previous one, so it’s worth looking at what it costs for each next R, and comparing it to PV on a lifetime basis. Because this isn’t simple, it isn’t usually done; “expert” intuition takes its place.“If your house has insulated wall and ceiling cavities, double-glazed windows or single-glazed windows with storms, and all reasonably accessible and major hole air sealing has been done, it’s probably time to look into PV if you have good solar access. My intuition is that Massachusetts code is probably close to optimum on conservation (that is, if builders actually and completely meet the code), and the next step is on-site generation. But don’t take my word for it, take a look at the math on the projects you’re looking at.”Mark made one last point:“It is true that someone has to pay to maintain the grid infrastructure and keep the lights on when it’s nighttime, so the current net metering situation will have to change at some point. If people don’t want to pay for grid support, they can go buy the hardware necessary to get along without it, and in so doing realize how cheap it was to just pay for the grid.“Consider as well that PV penetration is so small right now — and the utilities and their regulators are slow moving entities — that most PV installations that go in today will probably have paid for themselves before the rules change, and the rule change probably won’t be retroactive to those who put in systems under the past scheme.“In Massachusetts, regulators specifically changed the net metering structure in 2010 to help get more renewables in place faster, so I don’t see this being reversed anytime soon in states where there is a push to add renewable generation.”last_img read more

Pricing to Win or Execute

first_imgIt’s easy to focus on pricing your offering to win your dream client’s business. You consider what your dream client believes they need in the way of pricing, and you consider what your competitors are likely to quote.When you consider what your dream client wants in the way of pricing, you end up dealing with their desire to have better, faster, and cheaper, an appealing idea that your competitors have been selling them for a long time. The lie that this is possible is why so many people still distrust salespeople, but they still hold onto the dream that merely switching partners will allow them to realize this dream (which might be more accurately described as a hallucination).When you consider your competitor’s pricing, you end up in all kinds of trouble.First, you have no control over what they offer. The problem with competing with someone who is willing to destroy themselves to win the business is that they are willing to go someplace you are unwilling to go. Trying to match them only means you destroy yourself instead of allowing them to destroy themselves. It’s a poor strategy.Second, your competitor’s price has nothing to do with the value that you create. You have to price your offering based on the value you create, and if you create more value, you have to capture more value. Which brings us to the truth of this issue.You have to price your offering to execute for your dream client. Your price needs to ensure that you can—and will—deliver the outcomes that you sell. It doesn’t help you or your dream client to price your offering to meet their expectations if it doesn’t allow you to deliver the goods. It’s also a mistake to match or beat your competitor’s price to win the business, only to fail your dream client because you couldn’t afford to serve them.When we sell, we help our clients understand the investment necessary to produce the results they need. This isn’t easy to do. And it is made more difficult when your prospective customer has unrealistic expectations and when your competitors are willing to sell a dream that won’t come true. But selling the value you create and the right investment is what professional salespeople, trusted advisors, or what I call Level 4 Value Creators do. It’s what differentiates and defines us. Essential Reading! Get my 2nd book: The Lost Art of Closing “In The Lost Art of Closing, Anthony proves that the final commitment can actually be one of the easiest parts of the sales process—if you’ve set it up properly with other commitments that have to happen long before the close. The key is to lead customers through a series of necessary steps designed to prevent a purchase stall.” Buy Nowlast_img read more

Axis Bank Q1 profit jumps 95 to Rs 1370 cr

first_imgNew Delhi: Axis Bank on Tuesday reported a 95.4 per cent jump in standalone net profit to Rs 1,370.08 crore for the first quarter of 2019-20 aided by a healthy rise in income. The bank had posted a net profit of Rs 701.09 crore in the April-June quarter of the previous fiscal year.Total income (standalone) rose to Rs 19,123.71 crore for the June quarter of 2019-20 from Rs 15,702.01 crore in the year ago period, Axis Bank said in a regulatory filing. Also Read – Thermal coal import may surpass 200 MT this fiscalThere was an uptick in provisioning for bad loans and contingencies at Rs 3,814.58 crore for April-June 2019-20 against Rs 3,337.70 crore in the year-ago period. However, the asset quality showed improvement with the gross non-performing assets (NPAs) standing at 5.25 per cent of the gross advances as on June 30, 2019, down from 6.52 per cent as on June 30, 2018. Net NPAs or bad loans were at Rs 2.04 per cent from 3.09 per cent a year ago. On a consolidated basis, the net profit jumped by 75 per cent to Rs 1,262.98 crore as against Rs 722.23 crore year ago. Income increased to Rs 19,409.09 crore as against Rs 16,126.05 crore.last_img read more

Interruptible 3D printing method wins Gehry prize w Video

first_img Robot arm at MIT will weave its own web (w/ Video) The prize is given to those who can demonstrate exceptional thesis projects. The couple won for their method of 3-D printing that allows the user to make changes to the design in progress.In 3-D printing an object is created by laying down successive layers of material that can render finished objects.3-D Printers make objects in three dimensions, layer by layer, which may be only microns thick. The model that is destined for replication has usually been fully resolved. The Phantom Geometry method allows the user, in contrast, to print outside the specifications of a given 3-D mode. Fundamentally the Phantom Geometry method is designed to create a physical model of streaming information. Using advanced robotic arms, the von Hasseln team proceeded to manipulate the model as it was being printed. According to their idea, as a printed product emerges, the designer can make alternations to the design in-progress, and in so doing change the downstream architecture of the printed product.Their system has a UV light projector, a special photo-sensitive resin, and controlled robotic arms from SCI-Arc’s Robot House. One robotic arm supports a projector at a stable height, while a second holds a vat of resin. 
The second arm moves the vat into the projector’s light beam of light. The designer tells the computer where and when to expose that vat to the projector’s rays. The designer is free to interrupt the process and change the model while it is being printed. As a result, one can work with a fabrication system that relies on real-time feed-back and feed-forward mechanisms, they said, and is therefore “interruptible and corruptible at any time.”As they explain in their own words, “The system uses UV light from a modified DLP projector to continuously and selectively cure photo initiated resin within a shallow vat system we developed for the project. The cured part is simultaneously and continually pulled away from the vat, allowing un-cured resin to flood in beneath it to be subsequently cured. The result is the material reification of streaming data that emerges along the motion path of the Staubli robot maneuvering the vat/projector apparatus.”SCI-Arc is an independent architecture school. The school’s Robot House is a cross between studio and shop, academy and industry, utilized as a research space for experimentation. Students have access to a multi-robot platform that includes six Stäubli robots, each with a full sphere of motion, operating in one flexible configuration, or in what the school calls a multi-robot work cell. This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. Explore further © 2012 (—A husband and wife architecture team have managed to turn 3-D printing into something that is less rigidly planned and more on the fly and have won a prestigious award as a result. Liz and Kyle von Hasseln are winners of the inaugural Gehry Prize from the Southern California Institute of Architecture (Sci-Arc) in Los Angeles. The prize is named after architect Frank Gehry, who is known around the world for his architectural wonders including the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain; the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles; and the Dancing House in Prague. Citation: Interruptible 3-D printing method wins Gehry prize (w/ Video) (2012, October 22) retrieved 18 August 2019 from read more