Sunday, June 30, 2013

Heat Pump vs. Nerd

Although efficiency has been improved by a factor of 2.5 over the past decades, an additional increase of 20-50% is expected between now and 2030.
Heat Pumps - Technology Brief
One of the guys I work with has a masters in chemistry. You'd think an expert in thermodynamics would understand how heat pumps work. When I told him that 1 unit of electricity can "make" 4 units of heat he got all robo nerdy does not compute.
Hal: But the conservation of energy...
Me: The electricity doesn't create the thermal energy - the sun puts the energy in the air - You're just setting up a situation where the solar energy in the air wants to transfer to a low boiling point refrigerant in your heat pump loop. Under the right conditions 1 unit of electricity can pull 4 units of solar energy out of the air.
Hal: But the conservation of energy...
Me: It's not a closed system. You've got solar energy coming in. Don't draw the boundaries around the heat pump. Draw the boundaries to include the sun.
Hal: I've just picked up a fault in the AE35 unit. It's going to go 100% failure in 72 hours. 
Me: So great to have you as a new power system operator.
Hal: My instructor was Mr. Langley, and he taught me to sing a song. If you'd like to hear it I can sing it for you. 

Me: No thanks.

Hal: Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I'm half crazy all for the love of you. It won't be a stylish marriage, I can't afford a carriage. But you'll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

But Maybe...

I recently read a paper called, Do Heat Pump Clothes Dryers Make Sense for the US Market? To my dismay the study found that heat pump clothes dryers (HPCD) don't make economic sense unless you do over 700 dryer loads a year. The problem that HPCDs run into is similar to the problem that hybrid cars have. Namely, high upfront costs aren't justified by lower operating costs unless you operate a lot.

But maybe... What if you used the HPCD as an auxilary space heater when it wasn't doing the laundry? If you were like me and could use the heat pump heating to offset resistance heating you could quickly save a pile on your heating bills. I've been golluming a heat pump space heater for years but I don't really have the room for one. I googled high and low but I couldn't find an example of an appliance company like Bosch, GE or Whirlpool working on something like this. I thought WTF... Do I have a gross conceptual error (GCE) or something?

So I started writing letters... Dear Bosch... Dear LBNL... Dear DOE... Dear Energy Nerd.... Dear Top Ten... I really wrote five letters. In the end one of the authors of the original paper I mentioned got back to me. After some back and forth Mr. X agreed that given the right configuration (see picture) the idea of using a HPCD as an auxilary heater would work. He added that this sort of venting configuration is being considered with heat pump water heaters as well. So there you have it.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Big News Flying Under the Radar

Look at this little doll
EU rules household PV systems exempt from VAT

Austrian homeowner successfully argued he should not pay VAT when purchasing the system as it is used as an economic activity. Luxembourg based court agrees that regardless of profit or loss, a system which feeds into a grid for payment on a regular basis constitutes an economic activity.
It would be wonderful if the US, Japan, Australia etc. followed suit and made residential photoelectric systems taxless as well.

1.1 Euro/Watt Plant Planned for Spain

Tentusol to build 250 MW PV plant in Cadiz, Spain

Mac Bandy

Sometimes I write letters to various people and organizations. Sometimes they respond.

I met a guy tonight... Tony... He writes fake letters to you name the company. One of his letters was a complaint to a soap company about how he only has 96 parts to wash with Lever 2000. They sent him a letter back and two cases of soap. He did 36ish other fake letters in three months before he got bored with it... Sometimes he got you're an idiot responses back... sometimes he got real deal PR responses back. He's got millions of hits... Six million hits? 16 million hits... I can't remember... Either way for fuck's sake.. The guy knows how to talk.

I tracked down one of his letters.

And then... The gang met up with Tom and Michelle tonight. They were out from Chicago for a look see. Last time we saw them was in Mexico 2010. When I say we I mean there were 10 of us - that's the gang. After Mexico we'd always promised to get together again and here we were doing it. And then we drank. And then we watched the Blackhawks beat the fucking Bruins to win the cup in a crazy ass finish. And then we drank. And then we had a dance off. Yeah... From soap to dope... Good times. And scene..

Monday, June 24, 2013

7.23 cent/kWh FIT

China plans large-scale distributed PV pilots

Details are still sketchy but it looks like the new subsidy program rolling out in China has some notable qualities.

The NEA requires that the chosen parks should be financed by a single development team, using a ‘self-generate/consume’ model, and that the demand of the subsidies should be no more than RMB0.45/kWh.

The first thing that stands out is that this FiT rate of .45 RMB/kWh (7.23 cents/kWh) is extremely low by comparison to any other market. This FiT is half the rate that China was paying out only last year. Coincidentally this FiT rate is on par with residential retail electricity costs. The parity situation means the Chinese market is just on the edge of a self-consumption driven market. Any further movement up in retail rates and/or movement down in FiT rates gives consumers an incentive to self-consume electricity.

The second notable quality with the new subsidy program is the apparent focus on the "self-generate/consume" model. Perhaps it's no coincidence that the FiT rates were ratcheted down to be on par with retail rates? Maybe these guys actually know what they're doing.

Should be an interesting market to watch.

Monbiot vs. Leggett II

I got nothing. 
Leggett conceded defeat in a lame article today. If the math is on his side why'd he give up? I have a theory. A businessman can't very well claim solar has hit parity when the Feed-In Tariff payment rates are still north of 19 p/kWh compared to retail rates down around 15 p/kWh? If Leggett claimed that solar was at parity he'd be giving the government a perfect excuse to go in and trim the FiT rates. He likes the FiT rates where they are so he says we're close to parity but not quite there.

If Leggett were a normal business man selling coffee on the corner there'd be no reason for him to open up his books even a little. But Leggett isn't a normal business man, he's a business man working in a highly subsidized field. The subsidies are part of a social contract that solar businesses have made with the public.

Public:We'll help you get your shops up and running but don't overcharge us.

The social contract compels Leggett to tell the truth about the costs of solar - to honor the public's generosity. Unfortunately it looks as though greed has gotten the better of Leggett.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Monbiot vs. Leggett

Lie much George?

I just read Monbiot's squirmy attempt to get out of his bet with Leggett. He's claiming he and Leggett never agreed to a definition of Grid Parity. That's the lamest thing I've heard in a long time but George doesn't stop there. He goes on to offer up a sorry excuse for a definition of grid parity that no one has ever heard of and claims that by this retarded definition he won the bet. The argument he makes is so empty he has to lipstick his piggish drivel with some gibberish about the Government being SOBs and blah blah blah pay no attention to the bullshit behind the curtain. If words were turds George's performance here was a shit show.

I went to and looked up some price quotes for photoelectric systems in London. They range from 1.45 GBP/Watt up to 1.62 GBP/Watt for 4 kW systems. The quotes I looked at also had data for annual performance (837 kWh/kWp).

Here's a basic set of LCOE Assumptions:
System Price: 1500 GBP/kW
System Life: 30 years
Performance in First Year: 837 kWh/kWp
Performance Degredation Rate: .5% per year
Annual O&M: 10 GBP/kW
O&M Inflation Rate: 2%
Inverter Replacement Year: 15
Inverter Replacement Cost: 100 GBP/kW
Percentage Financed: 0% All Cash Deal
Discount Rate: 5%

If you plug these numbers into an LCOE calculator you come up with 14ish cents/kWh for your solar electricity costs. That's about a penny cheaper than the current retail price of electricity in London.

Leggett won the bet.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Note on UK

This week the UK's sub-50 kW market finally hit 10 MW per week. I expected this to happen by January so I was considerably off.  I thought they'd be at 20 MW per week by now. It's looking like a slow and hopefully steady burn there.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

6.9 cent/kWh PPA

When I saw Palo Alto's new PPA with the Western Antelope Blue Sky Ranch Solar project my first impression was - hwat? 6.9 cent/kWh? How can that be? Turns out this 20 MW project is expected to deliver a jaw-dropping 50,000 MWh per year. This is 2500 kWh/kWp - I'm used to using 900 kWh/kWp for the German residential projects I model. What a difference! The capacity factor of 28.5% is comparable to wind projects. The installed cost of this project is probably in the neighborhood of 2000 to 2500 USD/kWp so an LCOE of under 5 cents/kWh looks completely achievable. That's why these guys can sign a PPA for 6.9 cents/kWh and still be assured of making a 10% IRR. Nice...

Friday, June 14, 2013

Capacity Markets in Germany - Objects in Motion

My name is Newton. I live on the
Second Floor.
Recent estimates have solar on 5% of homes in Germany. As a ballpark guess that's 8.5 GW assuming 1.7 million residential systems at an average size of 5 kW.

FiT rates are Less than Retail Electricity Rates

If you install a system in June 2013 the FiT rate you get for each kWh is 15.35 cents/kWh. This is nearly half the retail electricity rate in Berlin - 29.65 cents/kWh. There's a clear financial incentive here to self-consume electricity because every kWh of photoelectricity you use presumably saves you from having to buy a more expensive kWh from the Big Bad Utility. Problem is how do you maximize self-consumption without living and breathing solar and scheduling your life around it? Simple... you automate it.

Break it Down

If you've got a 5 kW system on your roof you'll produce about 4500 kWh per year in Southern Germany. If you wanted to maximize your self- consumption which loads could you most easily automate? Start off with thermal loads and batch loads. Thermal loads have built in storage. A water heater charged up with noon sunshine will be ready to deliver hot water for a post-coital midnight shower.

- XXX Appliance (Average Power Demand, Average Annual Energy Use)
- Heat Pump Water Heater (600 Watts, 1850 kWh/year)
- Clothes Washer (500 Watts, 100 kWh/year)
- Heat Pump Clothes Dryer (600 Watts, 375 kWh/year)
- Refrigerator (800 Watts, 500 kWh/year)
- Dish Washer (500 Watts, 300 kWh/year)

Not strictly Batch loads but deserving of mention

- 2 Laptop (35 to 70 Watts, 200 kWh/year)
- Standby 25 Watts, 200 kWh/year)

The average residential electricity consumption in Germany is around 3500 kWh/year. One might ask, why install a 4500 kWh per year photoelectric system if self-consumption is so damned important? Short answer is... because it's cold in Germany. There's an 8 month heating season and the heating requirements can reach up to 12,000 kWh per year. Germans don't yet heat with electricity like the French do - they burn stuff. If Germany went with heat pumps for part of their heating requirements the extra heat pump load might look like:

- Heat Pump (variable speed: 500 to 2000 Watts, 1000 to 4000 kWh/year)

Recap: We've got 4000 to 7000 kWh per year of thermal and batch loads that represent 5000ish Watts of max demand.

What does any of this have to do with Capacity Markets in Germany?

If your home is starting and stopping devices to follow your energy production profile then your home is a form of capacity - scheduling capacity to be more specific. Scheduled load is equivalent to schedule generation as far as power system management goes. It's a resource like water behind a dam.

Germany already has 5% of their homes with photoelectric roofs. If the next 5% all add load following abilities in proportion to the added generation that's 5 to 10 GW of schedulable capacity coming into the system. If Germany gets smart and starts mandating schedulable appliances across the board then the capacity effect isn't limited to photoelectric households - all households and businesses will participate and you'll be adding several GW of schedulable capacity a year. Consider here that a non-solar home doesn't need to follow a photoelectric production profile, they can follow a dynamic rate schedule that offers cheap electricity in the dead of night when the wind is blowing full blast. Five years down the road the cheapest electricity of the day will consistently be at solar noon so even the non-solar homes will be following the sun. Millions and millions of heliotropic households. It's a wonderful idea isn't it?

Does Germany need a capacity market? Meh... Doesn't look like it. They need an attitude adjustment is all.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mac Bandy

Geronimo would be a great middle name.
Not as good as Danger but close.
There's a new life next door with healthy lungs.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Mac Bandy

I put in a 60 hour work week.
Our good friends Amanda and Steve had a baby. I held him 24 hours after he was born. Incredible.
Threw a b-day party at our place for JenJen - stayed up till 3:30. The guests agreed, after having a few, that our new abstract painting looks like a guy ice fishing.
Leila and Scott are having a baby... Next door right now.
Thursday's forecast is clear - Chris and I should fly the kite on the beach with Thor.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Get Serious

Wave and Tidal Energy Need Different Policies

Policy 1. Skyhook wave support paperwork into round file.
Policy 2. Use Request for Proposal documents to level uneven floor.
Policy 3. Make paper airplanes from Tidal subsidy forms and send off bridge.
Policy 4. Have deck party and use carve out memoranda to start BBQ.
Policy 5. Recycle whitepapers into roadway filler.
There's winning tech, losing tech, fighting tech and toys. Wave and Tidal go in the toy box. Engineering sculptures of wit and steel for senior projects, tourist attractions and Bond Films. These aren't serious energy options - not in this world. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Mac Bandy

I've got two markers on my car. Atheist... Lions fan... Guy like me can believe in anything.


Patrick Jenevein, chief executive of wind-farm developer Tang Energy Group, believes that research and development has been a casualty of the pursuit of subsidies - resulting in a less efficient product.

"Without subsidies, the wind industry would be forced to take a hard fresh look at its product. Fewer wind farms would be built, eliminating the market-distorting glut," Jenevein wrote in the Wall Street Journal in April.

"And if there is truly a need for wind energy, entrepreneurs who improve the business's fundamentals will find a way to compete," he added.  

Market forces demand lean, innovative future for supply chain

Saturday, June 1, 2013


We should measure the mileage of EVs in metric. i.e. km per kWh - kpk -  kayperkay.