Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sunny Statistics 2010

The PV Solar System has completed it's 2nd Electric Year (2009Dec17 thru 2010Dec19). As comparison, look to the results for the 2009 Electric Year found hear.

For the 2010 Electric Year:
  • The system was in place for 368 days (29 days of which there was no production due to equipment issues, snow load prevented access to equipment repairs in Feb/Mar).
  • The average system output was 330kwh/day.
  • The average consumption of our operations was 295kwh/day.
  • Highest daily electricity generation was May10 with 724kwh
  • 112% of consumption was generated from the PV Solar System.
January, November and December (and March due to equipment shutdown) were the only months when the PV Solar System didn't generate more than our entire operations electricity consumption. Since the system was installed on 2009Mar23, enough electricity has been generated on-location to power all of the company's operations.

Recognizing the excess generation capacity, during this year, items that were powered from other sources were replaced to electricity fueled such as hot water heaters and one vehicle vehicle. A sewer pumping station that was operated separately from our company previous to 2010, but which served our property and that of 3 adjacent parcels, was connected to our infrastructure and is now powered by solar generated electricity.

With there still being an excess of power after these changes, further avenues of efficient utilization and conversions will be examined in 2011.

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Solar Panels on Frosty Morning

An interesting thing regarding solar panels is their configuration or setup. Our 525 panel array is configured so that several panels are connected in series as a "string", and then combined with other strings to send their DC current to an inverter where the output becomes AC current.

One design challenge is that the panels in that string need to be working well together. If 3 out of 7 panels in a string are not functioning - the entire string is unable to make production. On Nov1, we had an exceptionally clear and cold day. The panels had a frost that settled on them, and with the early morning sun rising clearly and slowly, the melt of the frost followed the shadow line as the sun rose in the sky. As you can see by the above photo, that meant that some panels, though being struck by sunlight, were unable to pass along their energy generation because other panels in the string were not producing energy due to frost blocking the light.

One solution to this is micro-inverters that would convert the DC current on each individual panel into AC current. It is an interesting concept, which this NYTimes article discusses more.

The photo is from 8:30am, and the array kept going in and out of operation as the sun glinted just enough light and energy on the threshold of operating. During the day total, there were 452kwh generated, the most in nearly a month.

As of Nov1, the array has generated all electrical needs for the company, even with us switching gas heaters to electric and adding an electric car that charges it's battery here. In fact, the array generated all the needs, and created excess of over 14,000 kwh. The credit of kwh generated and pushed to the grid beyond our consumption pulled from the grid, will be drawn down upon during the winter months when we do pull more than is pushed to the grid.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hot Water Heater - Electric vs Gas

The hot water heater in the manufacturing area serviced wash basins and a bathroom. It was gas fired, 50 gallons, and needed replacement. We switched to a 6 gallon electric which we believe will yield substantial savings.

A physical review revealed that use of hot water occurred only at end of work periods (break-time, lunch, end of day). Otherwise, the system was maintaining 50 gallons of hot water during off periods (such as evenings and weekends).

An on-demand system would not work due to the heavy load that occurs upon lunch time as an example, when all the workers are using actively washing up before a meal.

A 6 gallon tank was found to be the right size for our peak use. The tank takes up less room, and doesn't require the venting like the former natural gas fired tank.

The comparison of costs and determining payback of investment is offered via this government website.

The system has been in place for 2 months, and functions as projected. We have ample electricity surplus from our PV solar array, so we have eliminated a natural gas purchase for the energy, as well as have eliminated the pollutants from burning the gas. All hot water in our facility comes from electric heaters, with electricity gathered from our Photo-voltaic array of panels.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Electric Vehicle Delivery Truck

Electric delivery vehicles are a possibility of the future, which is why we are currently testing the feasibility via the electric passenger vehicle (the only pure EV available is the Tesla Roadster).

Our typical market served requires a 150mile round-trip capability. Currently the trucks being tested or shown in auto-shows have a 100mile range (and that is not descriptive of the load they may carry).

This link provides a glimpse at what may be to come for larger vehicles, and this link shows that smaller delivery vehicles powered by electricity (solely) are becoming available (to fleet owners).

Images drawn from and copyright

Friday, September 24, 2010

Emergency Preparedness

The location of our operation in Derby, CT has had quite a history. It was a cannon factory, then a munitions factory, and just previous to our residence, a dye and print factory of fabrics. There was a fire at the location in the mid 1980's that devastated the property. You can see the canal alongside the property from which previous occupants tapped it's kinetic energy for powering machinery. In recent years, it powered a turbine to generate electricity for McCallum Enterprises, who have a similar facility on the Shelton side of the Housatonic River.

Given that emergency personnel in Derby (ambulance and fire) are volunteers, it's important that they be aware of our operation's layout and the hazards to be aware of within. When responding, seconds can make quite a difference and rather than require someone to call up drawings and files and radio them to the responders, we thought - why not make it available to them via the internet?

We created the most simple of webpages:

This should be accessible from most smart phones or a laptop that has internet access. The page contains only text so it's easily readable, but contains:
  • instruction on where utilities access the property
  • emergency contacts of property owners
  • basics on the construction materials and layout of the structures on the site
  • chemicals that are typically stored and their location on the property
We even created a QR (Quick Response) code posted on signs at our location for those who have such software on their phone. Snap a photo, and go direct to the webpage with the data.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Electric Vehicle Public Charging Station

Just this month, we installed a weather proof outlet to charge our Tesla electric vehicle at our Derby location to harness the "free" solar electricity rather than power a car by hydro-carbon fuel.

As early adopters to such means of transports, the challenge for electric vehicle drivers is finding places to charge up quickly. After we installed our equipment, we thought: why not offer free charging to other electric vehicle owners? One hour of charging on our 220v 40a outlet would only cost us about 40 cents. If someone were to spend an hour charging their vehicle, it would put another 25 miles in their "tank", and while they waited they could enjoy some food and bring business to our favorite pizza joint across the street, Apollo Pizza (tell Gus we sent you).

We put together a webpage describing our charging location and what we offered, and made mention of it on the forum pages of the Tesla owners website. To my knowledge, IDA International is offering the first free public charging location for electric cars that is powered from the sun in the State of Connecticut - maybe the USA?

It didn't take long!! On 2010/Sep/20 we had our first visitor with Mike from New Jersey! On his way toward home from Massachusetts, he stopped for a quick top-off while he toured our factory where we explained how the solar array functioned that was currently filling his car with energy.

Visit our Derby location and we will offer you free electricity for your car that we've gathered from the sun. And you might enjoy a good pizza!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Electric Vehicle Charging

If you read this blog, you will know that the company's operation in Derby, CT has a solar array that provides all our electricity needs, and then some (114% of our consumption since the installation went live in 2009Mar).

Rather than sell that electricity to the utility (in March the electric company sweeps out any kwh we have "banked" and pays us based on the average rate of the New England Regional market, which is about 5cents per kwh), the value is in deferring buying electricity from the utility (which in total of all the line items on your electric bill is about 21cents per kwh).

As mentioned earlier, we have a diesel powered delivery fleet of light-duty trucks. With a round-trip delivery of apx 150 miles, they might one day be served by electric power. We are testing the viability of this with the only pure electric vehicle available to non-fleet owners as a purchased vehicle, the Tesla Roadster. While not a "delivery" vehicle, it is a real-world case study in how electric vehicles perform in hot or cold weather, and the reality of their charge time that yields miles driven. Our methods and purpose is not unlike Google's fleet of vehicles.

An issue often raised is that there needs to be a charging station infrastructure for people to adopt to such vehicles over internal combustion engine power. While there are outlets most everywhere (the Tesla can charge on 110v 15a), a quick charge requires power and that comes in 220v 40a or higher.

The defining characteristic is power (kilowatts) input into the batteries. Returning to your basic science: Watts = Volts x Amps. Thus, 110v x 15a = 1650w, or 1.65kw. Plug in for an hour and you have 1.65kwh. Go with a 220v x 40a for an hour and it = 8.8kwh, which equates to substantially more miles from the contribution to the battery's storage of power.

To put this in real world terms from our actual experience and data, charging a Tesla for 1hr at 110v = 5 miles of driving. 1hr at 220v = 25 miles of driving.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Vehicle efficiency

Our fleet of vehicles is primarily for delivery of finished product. Given that there is little storage on construction sites in Manhattan, our deliveries are almost daily for the material that will be installed promptly. The weight and size of materials being delivered results in diesel powered trucks proving to be the best vehicle choice.

Looking to the future, there is a possibility that delivery vehicles could be electric. To test this concept, a real-world case study is underway. There are very few plug-in electric vehicles available unless you participate as part of a large fleet. At the current time, the only plug-in electric vehicle readily available is the Tesla Roadster.

Having driven one from home to work this morning, it took 788 watt hours of energy. This is the same energy as a 60 watt light bulb left on for 13hrs and 8minutes. At peak generation time of our solar array, that much energy is captured from the sun in 28.4 seconds. If purchased from the electric utility, it would have cost 17 cents.

This alternative vehicle does have limitations due to the charging time nature of the batteries storing energy, so more testing of the concept is required.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Water and Sewer Efficiency

The City of Derby Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA - sometimes called a Sewer Commission) bases their Sewer Meter Bill, not on an actual meter of effluent, but rather on the metered amount of water that is consumed from the water utility (formerly Birmingham Utilities, now "South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority" or SCCRWA).

The SCCRWA measures via meter and bills on a quarterly basis for the amount of water consumed at the premises. The WPCA takes that measurement of cubic feet consumed, converts it to gallons, calculates the average daily gallon usage, and bills at a rate set by the Authority.

If we could be efficient in using water, we would save on both a water bill and a sewer bill, a double whammy! As we start this effort, we will first look where we have been.

The WPCA follows a "water year" of April till March. Thus:
2009/mar/13 - 2009/may/27 = 2000
2009/may/27 - 2009/aug/27 = 3200
2009/aug/27 - 2009/dec/28 = 2000
2009/dec/28 - 2010/mar/05 = 3600
Total = 10800 cubic feet or 80,790 gallons for the year (apx).

This is 221.34 gallons / day as a current consumption rate. While we don't use water in any manufacturing process, we will examine what can be done to keep this consumption down.

Water cost: $1387.87
Sewer cost: $792.67
Total from consumption: $2180.54

If we could see a 10% reduction, this would be $218 in savings. In looking for an 8 year payback on the costs of improvement investment, we would be considering a project in the $1600-$2k range. Suggestions welcome.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day 2010

Earch Day is meant to bring awareness to environmental concerns that impact the planet. Decisions that benefit the environment often are related to efficiency and thus can also yield financial benefits.
  • Raw materials are delivered on wooden pallets that we can't re-use for shipping our product. These are made from yellow pine 2x6 and can be 20ft in length. We offer them to the public for free pick-up, and in 2009 this avoided (2) 30-yard dumpsters of waste.
  • Finished curtainwall panel product can vary in size and shape but is delivered with minimal packing materials. The products are assembled in shipping boxe "cubes" which are made from galavanized steel and sheet excess which is re-used as often as possible. At times, product is shipped in wheeled carts for transport on the jobsite and these are re-used also. There has been virtually zero expenditure for packing and shipping materials.
  • Scrap or "drop" waste from processing raw materials is minimized with optimization programs to efficiently cut items from raw sheet or extruded lengths. The amount of raw materials purchased for a project has thus been reduced.
  • All aluminum and steel is recycled with a company located within 20miles of our operation. The revenue from recycling goes toward employee recognition of providing meals during weekend overtime work, and the food during holiday parties.
  • Our storage racks were purchased at auction of a local lumber company rather than constructed from new. The savings were 50% of a new equipment purchase.
  • Our engineer's desks and furniture were purchased from local office of Phillips Medical Systems when they vacated their space. The savings were 10% of a new equipment purchase.

Our photo-voltaic solar array is the largest commitment to the environment. The NYTimes has an Earth Day article about the subject of Solar Power.

These are all small items on their own, but collectively make quite a difference. We encourage everyone to make a small difference to the environment, not only on Earth Day, but every day.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

PV Solar - Excess generation payout

Ever wonder what the utility would pay if you generated electricity for them?

In Connecticut where our facility is located, utilities (electric, water, etc) are regulated by the Dept. of Public Utilities (DPUC). Photo-Voltaic generated electricity is considered a Class 1 Renewable Energy Resource, and the DPUC has a ruling on how generators of such energy should be dealt with.

In our region United Illuminating Co. is the electric utility. UI delivers our electricity, and in our case we also purchase our actual electricity from them as a provider (since deregulation, you can also choose to purchase electricity from other providers, re-sellers or aggregators - but everyone must deal with UI who owns the poles, transformers and "grid" infrastructure to deliver the power).

UI has a "Class 1 Renewable Net Energy Rider (NEC1)" to accompany their tarrif schedule and abide by the DPUC ruling. The rider states:
  • Net energy billing shall be performed monthly, and payments for excess sales to the Company shall be made on an annual basis, for the period from April of each year to March of the following year.
  • During the annual period, if energy sold to the Company in any month exceeds energy purchased, the excess sales will first be credited to the customer in the current billing period and any remaining net sales will be carried forward for crediting on a per kwh basis in the next billing period or a subsequent billing period within the annual net energy period.
  • Any excess kwh remaining at the end of an annual period shall be paid at that time according to the Average hourly Connecticut ISO-NE real time locational marginal price (RT-LMP), for the hours 10am-4pm during the annual period.

In plain english: If the array generates more kwh than consumed in a month, the credit kwh carries forward to the future period. If there is a kwh credit at the end of the annual period, the value is paid to the generator. Value is determined by the peak period prices posted by the Regional Transmission Organization (Independent Systems Operator - New England) for our location within their system.

From 2009April till 2010March (billing periods) Our Photo-Voltaic array generated 8480kwh in excess of what was consumed. The ISO-NE RT-LMP for that period is .04663 per kwh. Thus we made $395.42 for the excess power generated. The true value of our PV system is deferring purchase of kwh from the utility.

To put this into relational terms, 8480kwh is approximately 6months of electricity for the typical household.

Monday, March 29, 2010

PV Solar System - First year results

This is a press release of IDA International Inc.

Derby, CT (March 29, 2010) - IDA International Inc. today announced the results from 1 year of operating a photo-voltaic system at its facility in Derby, CT.

You can read the unveiling "operational" announcement of the system here. Data points:
  • First year operations period 2009-Mar-23 thru 2010-Mar-23.
  • System size is 525 photo-voltaic panels with a 100kw DC to AC inverter.
  • Generated 111,266kwh of electricity, thus providing in excess of all consumption needs for operations on-site.
  • Single day record of 695kwh was set on 2009-May-19.
  • Nine months had more electricity production than consumed by operations, the exceptions were Nov, Dec, Jan.
  • Based on data from the EPA for our electricity provider (United Illuminating), this clean generation avoided 103,032 lbs of carbon dioxide, 263 lbs of sulfer dioxide and 96lbs of nitrogen oxide from polluting the air.
  • The "credits" from our renewable energy generation (as opposed to generation from coal or gas) were sold to the Ct. Clean Energy Fund.

See how clean the electricity you consume is via this EPA webpage.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sunny St Patrick's Day

Today provided an opportunity to illustrate just what a sunny day is like in it's impact on the earth.

Our Photo-Voltaic Solar Array records all it's statistics on a server every 5 minutes. This data can then be analyzed, or for today's purposes graphed. If any educator / researcher would like the raw log data, please contact me via email.

PV System size: 525 panels.
Inverter capacity: 100kw DC to AC.
Date: 2010/Mar/17 (St Patrick's Day)
Weather: Clear, no clouds, high temperature in the 60's.
Begin civil twilight 6:33 a.m
Sunrise 7:01 a.m.
Sun transit 1:01 p.m.
Sunset 7:01 p.m.
End civil twilight 7:29 p.m.
Electricity Creation begin 7:04 a.m.
Peak Generation (88.8kw) 1:39 p.m.
Electricity Creation stop 7:09 p.m.
Total Electricity for day 597kwh

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sunny Statistics

The PV Solar System is currently down for repairs.

During the heavy snowstorm of late February, a disruption to our array occurred. The direct current generation was "off" and caused the inverter to trip a fuse (as it would normally do to protect it's electronics). The system as a whole has worked well with little down time since it's installation nearly a year ago. There were 8 days in 2009 where the system as whole was non-functional. Circuit boards in the inverter, or power outages from the grid caused such lack of output. Note that I don't say mis-function, as when their is a power outage, our PV Solar System will not push energy into the grid.

In 2009 electric year (2008Dec18 thru 2009Dec16):
  • Our system was in place for 269 days (8 of which there was no production).
  • The average system output over those days was 343kwh/day.
  • The average consumption of our operations in that same period was 301kwh/day.
  • Highest daily electricity generation was May19 with 695kwh.

November and December were the only months that the PV Solar System didn't generate more than our entire operations electricity consumption. Overall since operational, there has been more electricity generated from the sun than is needed to power all our lights, computers, and equipment in the entire office and manufacturing plant. Since 114% of consumption was generated from a "renewable energy" source, state regulations require that the excess kwh be carried forward as a "credit" on the utility account, to be drawn down upon in a future billing period.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Photovoltaic Energy in winter

The PV Solar array has some data from winter months operations we would like to share.

There are less daylight hours during the winter time, the angle of the sun is lower in the sky and at times there is snow covering the array. Still, we have been successful in generating significant amounts of our total electricity consumption.

In November we generated 98% of our consumption, December was 65% (due to an equipment problem), January thus far is 75%.

During the winter months, we draw down on the credit on our account due to excess generation from the summer months. In April, if there remains a credit of kilowatt hours, it is swept clean and paid to us at a "wholesale" rate based on the New England regional electrical pool's cost for electricity generation (ISO New England).

As of today, our credit, or "banked" kwh is over 10,000 which represents a month and a half of consumption. Our forecast is to easily complete a year of solar generation come mid March 2010, where we operated our entire manufacturing and office facility off the sun.