[ExI] The silent PV revolution

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Thu Mar 29 21:01:22 UTC 2012

On Thu, Mar 29, 2012 at 01:14:39PM -0700, spike wrote:

> Ja, then what happens?  The power companies which have had legislative
> mandates to buy a certain amount of power from renewable sources gets all it
> is required to buy, forcing the price of any additional solar power

When the grid is overloaded, currently nobody is required to buy.
Same thing with wind power, they have to shut down feed-in at overproduction.
In fact, new legislation explicitly requires adaptation in feed-in.

> downward, which has an immediate impact on the value of solar installations.

No, it doesn't. It's long-term contracts. If you can feed-in you're
guaranteed your price. If they renegade, you can sue.

> Before they were able to know the exact price at which the full output could
> be sold, and also to make a very good estimate of how much power it would
> make, which yields a highly accurate estimate of the income from an
> installation.  Couple that with a highly accurate estimate of the cost to

Bugger-all income. It's about doing the right thing. I'll happily lose
money on doing the right thing. God knows people blow ridiculous amounts
on trinkets.

> install, and the cost/risk/benefit equation is well understood and easily
> modeled.

You're making this sound like we're all goddamned bean counters. We are not.
> Now, as soon as solar power saturates that market and the power must be sold
> at a lower rate, then everything changes.  You introduce a risk term and a
> reduction in revenue.  

No, you don't. The contract is long-term. Overcapacity feed-in is not
an issue, at this point. It only concerns new contracts. In terms of
asserting grid stability, it's only fair and proper. 
> I have a friend who is putting in a huge solar installation in eastern
> Oregon.  This concern (that the local power company will get all its needed
> expensive renewable power, then offer him coal-gen prices for any above

Something is wrong with your legislative landscape. If it's not predictable,
then it's shit. Fire your political representatives. They're not representing
you but somebody else.

> that) keeps my friend awake at night.  His PV farm is the first to go in,
> but if a neighboring farm decides to follow his lead (farmers are bad to do
> that) then both eventually go broke.  His long-term financial survival
> hinges on convincing all local land owners that he is not making money on
> those PVs.

I can tell you, if the roof goes, it's a 50 kEUR ticket. The PV would barely
figure, at 0.6 USD/Wp. It's the installation and inverters.
> >. or it's just me having unhealthy interests? :-)  Ciao, Alfio
> Healthy interests.  Think long and hard on this.  You are on something
> critically important: the first ground based PV installations are highly
> profitable, because they have legislated mandates for their product, they

Not highly profitable. Borderline profitable.

> rely on existing electrical infrastructure for load leveling, they can sell

The grid relies on supplying peak power. This is why nuke and coal, and
even gas peak power is dead. Solar is what's bringing the price down.
The consumers might not profit from it, but only because of monopolies.

I can tell you what the consumers are going to do at grid parity: blow
a raspberry in the general direction of the monopolies. And as for load
levelling, try micro co-gen swarm. Adaptive within 10 seconds.

> power to the local utility for peak prices and produce it at low cost.  The
> PV-farm owners provide baseline product and sell it at peaker prices.  Cool!

Not baseline, it's peak.

> But as more ground based PV infrastructure goes in, the value of it goes
> down.  The power company needs to supply power at peaker cost, and in some
> cases (rainy or snowy days) end up supplying power generated by peaker
> technology and selling it at baseline prices.

What's wrong with dynamic pricing? I've attended a security conference yesterday,
and they all were shitting brix about smart meter security.
> This will hurt those power companies, aaaannnnd.  the big mean power company
> is us.

No, it isn't. I'd rather make my own power, and only dip into the grid
rarely, if ever. The grid is power insurance, not operational source.
> Currently we talk so much about PV dollars per peak watt, and ignore the
> costs associated with load leveling, since at first, someone else pays for

No, we don't. Because we sell peak, where demand peaks.

> it besides the PV-farm owner.  As there is more of it installed, the PV
> owner pays.  Then she goes bust.

Doesn't compute.
> Alfio, fire up your spreadsheet, me lad.  Find out all this the same way I
> did: calculate your way to wisdom.

You can't calculate diddly squat jack, since it's politics.

Don't bother: just save up, and hit the market when there's grid parity.
Let the monopolies eat cake. They'll choke soon enough when cheap electrochemical
storage hits your cellar. Fuck'em. They've milked us for all there's worth
long enough. Fuck'em hard. 

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