Would Solar have eased the effects of the East Coast storm?
Posted 04 July 2012 - 01:26 PM
For those living outside the US, a freak wind storm hit the East Coast of the United States last Friday. It toppled trees, destroyed homes, and left millions without electricity. 1.4 million homes still don't have electricity. It is sweltering in this region. Temps are toppling 100F in many parts. The humidity is high in this region. These people are living with no a/c or fans in homes that are over 90F inside. They've now lost the food in the refrigerator and freezer. Generators are sold out and they're having to buy ice.
Here is an article on the problems they currently face if you are not aware:
Robinson makes the connection between this storm and climate change. However, I think the important part came at the end. Robinson makes the conclusion that if all these houses had solar panels they would all have electricity right now.
"One other observation: As repair crews struggle to get the lights back on, it happens to be another sunny day. Critics have blasted the Obama administration’s unfruitful investment in solar energy. But if government-funded research had managed to lower the price of solar panels to the point where it became economical to install them on residential roofs, all you global-warming skeptics would have air conditioning right now. I’m just sayin’. "
It makes me think about what determines how much something costs. We are always weighing one thing against another for cost efficiency. Solar panels are deemed too expensive for most families. Yet, I look at these repair crews who go out regularly to repair electrical poles and wires that are demolished in these storms. From what I saw, most of the electrical wires are above ground, so it seems only logical that they will suffer damage periodically.
Add up the cost of replacing all that equipment, the cost of workers pay (especially overtime), then the losses the homeowners are suffering with the food and beverages they had to toss, plus any medical bills from heat related illness. The government will no doubt pick up most of the tab since the area will probably be declared a disaster zone which frees up federal dollars for repairs. Wouldn't it be more cost effective to slap some solar panels on these homes over the long fun? Wouldn't it be most cost efficient for the government to subsidize solar panels in these heavily hit areas if it would allow them to have electricity during these emergencies? Considering all the infrastructure that will have to be replaced anyway, it makes me wonder if we're spending our money the right way.
I guess my main question would be is Eugene Robinson right? Would the solar panels still be producing energy after this storm (provided they weren't knocked off buildings or destroyed themselves)?
Posted 04 July 2012 - 02:46 PM
Posted 04 July 2012 - 03:18 PM
If it was just supplemental, I suppose they could at least power their a/c and frig maybe.
Coal is the heat though, and until we stop it or force those producers to clean up their act (here and in China and India too)
we're just spitting into the wind regarding climate change. Cattle and cars add a massive amount too.
And Eugene is an intelligent man, so I lean heavily towards trusting him.
Posted 04 July 2012 - 05:22 PM
I saw old people trying to get relief
Is solar the answer?
Posted 05 July 2012 - 12:26 AM
It had happened with us here several times that a strong storm destroyed properties and cut power lines. And it will be great if there will be back up sources on those calamities.
Posted 05 July 2012 - 04:59 AM
hundreds if trees had to be cut down after snow weighed them down so much that they took out power lines.
But with so many facing shortfalls in their budgets, this is unlikely to happen soon.
Posted 05 July 2012 - 09:54 AM
Pat, my heart goes out to you and all those who are going through this ordeal. I have a friend who still doesn't have power at home, though she has it at work. I saw people on the news who were attempting to eat everything they could those first couple of days. You can only eat so much though.
Shortpoet, I thought about those above ground wires. We have them in our neighborhood, but we don't have storms anywhere near what the rest of the country experiences. If we get an inch of rain in 24 hours we call it the storm of the century. But, I wondered why on earth, in these areas were hurricanes, tornadoes, and major storms are a fact of life, do they have power poles above ground? If we are going to have to fix things every year, why not put money towards getting the electrical infrastructure underground? It seems to be it would be more cost effective in the long run. If we had a different Congress, repairing the ailing electrical grid would be part of our economic recovery. How much money is wasted every year in some areas to repair the same power lines?
Posted 05 July 2012 - 12:20 PM
Because of the much greater expense, most opt for grid tie only, that's where the costs are only about $1.25/watt. The problem with grid tie only is it has to shut down during outages, otherwise you would be feeding power to downed power lines that utility workers think are dead. All grid tie inverters must meet this standard, I think it's UL1471 but don't quote me.
So, if you want to invest in something that powers you through emergencies you need grid tie with battery backup which doubles the cost. Grid tie and a generator would be cheaper.
Hope this helps.
Posted 05 July 2012 - 01:16 PM
It seems that one solution would be to get the power poles underground where they can't be toppled when a wind storm plows through town, right? I'm sure this is costly but I wonder how much the power company has spent on overtime, materials, and any other costs to replace the downed poles and other equipment that failed.
I did see something scary on the news. One family had their refrigerator hooked up to multiple extension cords. The cords went across the sidewalk and down to the neighbor's house where they had electricity through a backup generator. That does not seem like the safest thing to do.
Posted 05 July 2012 - 02:24 PM
Now is probably not the time but when things calm down a bit you might want to approach the company to do some research on costs. They might also go the bond route and just increase your power bill a bit. That seems like the best approach. If you have the ability to petition, get one started. Just remember, one way or another you will pay.
By the way, our utility uses above ground feeders up to the subdivison then buried every where else, so we do get an ocasional outage. Since they trim the trees, ours is usually someone slipping on ice and taking out a pole along the road. They have been moving the polls back from the road as well so hopefully outages will become more scarce.
Posted 05 July 2012 - 06:11 PM
Posted 05 July 2012 - 10:00 PM
It is much easier to bury in new subdivisions than to retrofit. As I mentioned, having to work around all the other systems dramatically increases time and complexity. What they typically do is dig to within a couple of feet of other pipes, wires, etc. then very carefully hand dig until they find the exact location.
As you said though, when we lose power it's the overhead feeders that bring power to the subdivision, not the underground wiring in the subdivison.
Posted 05 July 2012 - 11:07 PM
Speaking of going to solar as a community, I have heard that the utility companies in some states are trying to get the voters to approve their monopolies so that cities and counties won't ever get the idea to go off the grid as a community. PG&E tried it in California claiming that it would mean a new tax if their initiative wasn't approved. Thankfully, the people of California saw it for what it was--a power grab--and it lost. But, I've heard that the initiatives have been approved by voters in a couple of states making them beholden to their utility companies.
I veered off a bit there. I know that this problem is complex. But, it seems that as a country we need to start weighing the cost of change to the cost of yearly repair. We need something like the REA (Rural Electrification Administration) of the 1930s and 1940s.
Posted 06 July 2012 - 07:41 AM
The last thing we need is yet another bloated federal bureaucracy. You will pay either way but I guarantee the money will be better spent if the control remains localized. This is easy enough to solve with a petition and a utility bond issuance. That would spread the cost over 10-20 years. If it's done nationally, those who have already paid for buried electric will be forced to subsidize those who went cheap so those that bit the bullet and did it right the first time will be taxed twice.
Posted 06 July 2012 - 10:10 AM
Sorry for the rant. But, I don't have that much faith in relying on the local utility to do what is right or even do what is needed. I doubt PG&E is the rare bad egg. It is what you get when there is very little regulatory oversight.
Posted 06 July 2012 - 01:36 PM
We depend on the power companies to do the right thing and it is not working.
Posted 06 July 2012 - 11:01 PM
Both federal and state governments have a very bad habit of taxing for one thing, then end up dumping the funds in the common pool and spending it on something else. That's actually been in the news quite a lot lately. With a utility bond issue, the utility is on the hook amd the funds can't be diverted to some congressmens pet project.
BTW, I used to live in CA and had PG&E. No, they are not the norm. They are the worst I've ever had and I've lived in a number of states.
Pat, why is it not working? Is your power out? How often? Do you have a county or city commissioner? Do you have a petition process? Above ground lines are by far the cheapest. If you only have an occaisional outage, the repair is far cheaper than going all buried. If you want them buried anyway get a petition going, just remember you will pay.
Posted 06 July 2012 - 11:14 PM
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