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Swift
2010-Aug-18, 06:41 PM
From CNN.com (http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/innovation/08/17/plug.in.solar.energy/index.html?hpt=Sbin)

Imagine outfitting your house with small, affordable solar panels that plug into a socket and pump power into your electrical system instead of taking it out.

That's the promise of a Seattle, Washington-based start-up that is working to provide renewable energy options -- solar panels and wind turbines -- for homes and small businesses. The panels cost as little as $600 and plug directly into a power outlet.

The company, Clarian Power, aims to be the first to bring a plug-in solar power system to the market, in 2011.

Clarian's president, Chad Maglaque, says the company's product is different from existing micro-inverters, which convert solar panels' power into AC current. Maglaque says his system has built-in circuit protection, doesn't require a dedicated electrical panel and plugs directly into a standard electrical outlet.

The article is mostly an interview with the company's president.

Very cool idea if they can get it to market.

NEOWatcher
2010-Aug-18, 07:38 PM
Great for entry level. While still not that great for some areas, it at least breaks the entry level market.
The drawbacks are:
- It needs power to generate power. (probably so it's able to sync with the power and sense the load)
- There's no storage of backfeeding of the grid. (but I'm sure there's plenty of devices using standby power to take advantage of it)

So; minor drawbacks, low entry price, no wiring or installation. Looks good.

In our area the back of the napkin payback would be about 7 or 8 years assuming about 50% overall sunlight (probably very optimistic), average of 12 hrs/day, the 30% tax rebate, utilizing all of its output, and current rates (somewhere around $0.10/kWh around here). Not too bad.

Swift
2010-Aug-18, 08:36 PM
In our area the back of the napkin payback would be about 7 or 8 years assuming about 50% overall sunlight (probably very optimistic), average of 12 hrs/day, the 30% tax rebate, utilizing all of its output, and current rates (somewhere around $0.10/kWh around here). Not too bad.
Yeah, if I'm a company trying to calculate the ROI for such a project, it would not be worth doing. But most ordinary citizens don't think that way. If you are a tree-hugger who is trying to do your little part, without a major financial burden, its a nice entry level thing you can do.

And if that's the return for Ohio, for Arizona or someplace like that, it is even better.

They also mention in the article they are working on a similar wind-power system (a 4 foot high unit), but it didn't sound like that was as far along.

Van Rijn
2010-Aug-18, 08:57 PM
- It needs power to generate power. (probably so it's able to sync with the power and sense the load)


Also, safety - you don't want to feed power to a circuit that is supposed to be off. This is also an issue for large solar installations: They don't want to feed power back onto the grid if it goes down, so installations take that into account.

Ara Pacis
2010-Aug-19, 06:21 AM
I think power systems like this should go hand in hand with energy storage technologies, to even things out.

neilzero
2010-Aug-19, 11:22 AM
For several times the usual inverter price, inverters are available that shut down if the utility is not supplying power, so the pair of pins would not be energized if unplugged. Neil

NEOWatcher
2010-Aug-19, 01:31 PM
...And if that's the return for Ohio, for Arizona or someplace like that, it is even better...
Like I said, I was being optimistic for Ohio thinking cloud cover.
What I don't know is if the 200W is only at high noon in ideal conditions with the performance diminishing towards dawn/dusk.
I would think that latitude would not be much of a difference if you can angle it properly with only the amount of atmosphere penetration being the difference.

Swift
2010-Aug-19, 06:23 PM
Like I said, I was being optimistic for Ohio thinking cloud cover.
What I don't know is if the 200W is only at high noon in ideal conditions with the performance diminishing towards dawn/dusk.
I would think that latitude would not be much of a difference if you can angle it properly with only the amount of atmosphere penetration being the difference.
I remember reading an article about a solar power system developed for developing countries. It was designed for something like a little African village, so they have just enough power to run the pump on the water well, for example. They went with as low tech as they could, so they eliminated all the tracking motors and such, to follow the sun, which you would use to maximize output. They basically just had an adjustable stand, with a couple of settings, and you picked the right setting for your lattitude. Yes, it didn't give you maximum output, but the difference (which is the point of my story), was less than 10%. So I suspect the adjustments needed for latitude and time of day (and season) can be ignored unless you are really trying to squeeze out every watt.

tlbs101
2010-Aug-19, 06:43 PM
I have looked in to grid-tie solar systems up to and including speaking with the engineer-in-charge of this type of thing at my local power company (a friend of mine, btw). My power company would probably not allow that system to be plugged in to their grid for electrical safety, fire-protection, and liability reasons.

Here's the main problem: You have your little 200W (or maybe two of them = 400W) system generating power, plugged into your house and by connection, to the grid. The grid goes down (some drunk ran into a power pole and knocked out a 10-block radius, or some contractor hit an underground power-line and knocked out a 20-block radius). Here is this poor little 200 or 400 W power system still connected trying desperately to generate current for dozens of households. If it is not designed properly or designed cheaply (counterfeit parts from China, anyone?), the inverter will likely get very very hot and start to smoke. If it is mounted to a stud... well now we have a fire hazard. In addition, the terminal voltage will be very low at the attempted charge rate. This will play havoc with all electronic gadgets and possibly damage some of them. Lawsuit, anyone?

The company who is planning on making these will have to jump through some serious hoops getting UL and CE to approve. THEN this company is going to have to spend lots of money to convince every local power company in the country that their units are safe, reliable, and fail-safe -- not to mention all the major home-owners insurance companies.

I say, "good luck gentlemen, you have your work cut out for you."

/

dgavin
2010-Aug-19, 07:03 PM
In addition to what tlbs101 said, in the USA it is a federal law that power companies -must- buy any power an indivdual person generates and does not use themsellves. This requires having a two way power meter on your house, which will cost you a pretty penny. About a $1500 installation to replace a normal meter with a two way meter.

The two way meter is also used to prevent the grid from over drawing from an individuals power source which tlbs101 was discussing also.

Not only that, the power you sell back to the power company (at the rate you purchase power from them) is subject to utility taxes and bussiness licencing fees.

200W solar panel? My computer alone uses 750w... Sort of pointless to get a solar panel to just ofset the cost of lighting a few incadenent bulbs. I'd be more impressed if the units were around 5kw, then it might be worth getting one.

Basically, it's against the law to connect your own power generator to the grid system, unless you have the two way meter, and plan on selling the ecess back to the power companies. Or if you have a grid disconnection pull swith for your house when you want to your own power sources, and then not chose to sell back.

These devices won't be UL listed for use on the grid withough the aformentioned two way meter, or with a way to disconnect house power from the grid before using them.

NEOWatcher
2010-Aug-19, 07:06 PM
...The grid goes down...
...and the system shuts down. It needs to sense the outside power to continue to run.

On re-reading the article, I did see this...

There are two primary components: We have our circuit monitor and web access point, which has to be on the same circuit as the power module.
Web access point? You mean it's talking on the web to work?
Exactly what is it comunicating?

HenrikOlsen
2010-Aug-19, 10:27 PM
Web access point? You mean it's talking on the web to work?
Exactly what is it comunicating?
Most likely power production statistics and status.
Anything requiring enough intelligence that it makes sense to use a micro controller can have a web server for a few extra $ to show its status and for several things, including this one, it makes sense.

cjl
2010-Aug-20, 01:24 AM
200W solar panel? My computer alone uses 750w... Sort of pointless to get a solar panel to just ofset the cost of lighting a few incadenent bulbs. I'd be more impressed if the units were around 5kw, then it might be worth getting one.


I'd be pretty surprised if your computer actually used that much. It may have a 750W power supply, but I would be willing to bet that it's under 200W idle (possibly well under, if you have reasonably recent components), and under 500W full load (and that's being somewhat generous).

dgavin
2010-Aug-20, 04:54 PM
I'd be pretty surprised if your computer actually used that much. It may have a 750W power supply, but I would be willing to bet that it's under 200W idle (possibly well under, if you have reasonably recent components), and under 500W full load (and that's being somewhat generous).

When idle it goes to sleep like a laptop, but when powered on and 3d-gaming the graphics casrds (2 GPU model) and Phenom 2 - 6 core cpu draw a good 600W. you are probably right about semi-idle being around 200w, but when I fire up the lastest 3-d games, this 6 core 2 GPU monstrosity eats power for lunch.

cjl
2010-Aug-21, 05:51 AM
Which graphics cards do you have? I have an Intel Core i7-965 Extreme (overclocked), and a pair of ATI HD4870x2s, and I still only pull about 780W full load. You might be right about the 600W if your GPUs are quite high end though.

Len Moran
2010-Aug-21, 06:42 AM
In the UK, several years ago there was a big start up of available wind turbines intended to bolt on to the house and plug directly into any mains outlet. I don’t think there was going to be any selling of surplus power to the grid, but I’m not sure on that - there was certainly no requirement to install a two way meter. They were going to be sold through a very large DIY chain, and there was serious talk about simplifying, or even removing, planning constraints in terms of the installation (they were quite large structures). The leader of the opposition party (now prime minister) even went out and bought one!

But it’s all gone by the wayside, I haven’t seen one of these installations anywhere, the DIY chain has quietly dropped them, and it’s all back to normal. Certainly I seem to remember reading that in urban areas, the winds were found to be too unpredicatable, but the marketing that went on at the time was really up for their use in that environment, and supported by the very large DIY chain I mentioned.

Ara Pacis
2010-Aug-21, 03:25 PM
I recently saw solar panels for sale in Menard's, a regional DIY chain in the US Midwest.