walkitout (walkitout) wrote,
walkitout
walkitout

Solar, battery, EV: why I care

Here's a little background on what happened. A few years ago, I saw solar panels sprouting everywhere around me, and a solar store over on Great Rd. I said to R., hey, we should get one. Or at least look into whether it makes sense for us. R. said, no, too many trees, bad angle, bad roof, won't work, too expensive, not worth it. I didn't care enough to push it. Time passed.

His sister and brother-in-law signed up with SolarCity and loved it. When they showed up on our door, we invited them in. All were skeptical, but the site audit came back fabulous, and we signed papers and after a variety of delays for a variety of reasons, our system got turned on this week. Whee! Meter running backwards. Yay.

My car is almost 3 years old, and that new crash test has made me dissatisfied. I wanted a new car. I was thinking maybe something with a third row, but probably not. M. said, the Tesla has a 3rd row. Ha ha ha. Well, if I'm gonna test drive a Tesla, I'll test drive the other electric car(s), too. So T. and I tried the i3 (which won), the Tesla (which I was surprised to actively dislike because of the reclined driver's position) and the Leaf, which is a very carlike car, inoffensive in every way, and if I didn't have more money than sense I probably would have bought. I convinced the dealer to take my deposit and they told me to expect the car in the middle of October.

I explained the electric car to people by saying, hey, we got panels. We need a car to go with them! Surprisingly, this was a satisfactory explanation to many people. Even more surprisingly, it is sort of true. Utilities are going to find solar very disruptive if adoption is widespread (and it can be widespread just within a particular area and really mess with the utility's economics in that area), and EV can mitigate/ease that transition by increasing demand on the grid to compensate for the loss due to us consuming our own power/making them buy the excess.

SolarCity said they were hoping to add a battery to the mix, the increase the amount of used-on-site power. We were excited! Maybe we could get rid of the generator. Speaking of which, can we use the power from the solar panels when there is an outage?

No.

Seriously? Yes, seriously. No, it could be clear and blazing and power raining down out of the sky, but if the grid is down, we can't use it. We can run the generator, but not the panels.

So I'm now obsessed with (a) a stationary battery and (b) better meters and other Smart Grid products to enable me to use the power we generate on site whether the grid is up or down. Ideally, I'd like to be able to share excess with the neighbors, but I get that balancing load is a Very Tricky Thing.

Also, here's a question for everyone. If you want a resilient power grid in the face of weather related outages, is it better to bury wires or to distribute generation? What do we need to know in order to answer that question? The metrics I have in mind are simple: I want power to be available as close to always for as close to everyone as can be done for a Not Outrageous price (defined as, better availability for more people than the current situation, for roughly the same or less cost).

My guess is distribution is better BUT to make distribution work at all, we'll need to do a lot of engineering and productization. And I do recognize that people who are my age are likely to think this way, while people older than me are likely to prefer centralization/hardening (bury the lines). I have no idea what the 20 somethings are thinking about this. Probably thinking about buying a bunch of batteries and recharging them when they can?
Tags: our future economy today
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