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If we were serious about solar PV

Doug Houseman's picture
Visionary and innovator in the utility industry and grid modernization, Burns & McDonnell

I have a broad background in utilities and energy. I worked for Capgemini in the Energy Practice for more than 15 years. During that time I rose to the position of CTO of the 12,000 person...

  • Member since 2017
  • 270 items added with 97,674 views
  • Feb 21, 2023

If we were serious about solar PV:

We would change some of our practices, and create new requirements, including:

1)   Ensure that all the PV was installed to gain maximum solar irradiance and make maximum power. Priority would be given to south facing roofs, and new housing would require roof pitches that maximized winter solar production.

2)   Panels would be backed with a coolant that would then be used to make hot water or space heat. Most panels have 3 times the thermal capability that they do electrical capability.

3)   Inverters would be required to be grid forming and transfer trip switches would be required to be installed.

4)   PV systems would be required to have storage and change to charging storage when the local voltage exceeded 130 volts (p.u.)

5)   Roofs would be installed in new homes, such that installation of PV would not exceed any of the limits of the roof. Retrofits of roofs, when done, would require structural investigation and upgrades (OBTW - this would reduce storm damage to buildings from roof damage in a storm).

6)   Panels would be assembled into 20-40-foot-long assemblies to minimize roof time for installers (Being on a roof is one of the most dangerous places to work according to OSHA). Assemblies would be pre-wired. Also develop robots to do the rooftop work.

7)   Wiring would be required to be sized such that the maximum DC current did not exceed 80% of recommendation. (Reducing losses).

8)   Install communications, cyber security, and remote controls in the systems. This allows maintenance contractors to clean panels and repair the system based on monitoring.

9)   Require only semi-dwarf trees be planted in the solar path to the panels. Full size trees should not be allowed.

10) Do trade off studies for cooling vs. energy production for any dispute related to trees vs. solar.

11) Require that any retrofit of a building or new building include enough solar PV to meet the average diversified load for the building.

12) License installers and create truth in advertising laws for the solar salespeople. Train and certify local inspectors for solar.

13) Create standard contracts that are state approved for solar installation and disclose interest rates, and other charges.

13) Require everyone up to the current national electrical codes.

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Feb 22, 2023

If the USA was serious these rules would not be needed. I feel FERC let us down on solar. They did not set the net meteribg rate nationwide. So each utility makes tgeir own rates and add extra charges for doing nothing. In Germany where they were very serious they set F.I.T. Feed In Tariff payment that was 8x more the you pay for the power you use.

    In Arizona I worked for a PHD Prof who tried to do solar and hot water in the same panels. It was a mess with leaks everywhere. My home has 2 separate systems and both work great. 

Doug Houseman's picture
Doug Houseman on Feb 27, 2023

I have and have helped build dual use systems that have zero leaks and work better than anyone could or would expect. 

As to 8 times the utility price for a feed in tariff, that may be why Germany has some of the highest costs for electricity in the world, and why they have so many families that live in apartments in energy poverty. 

Mark Allen's picture
Mark Allen on Feb 22, 2023

I would like to see every new neighborhood development set up specifically for solar, geothermal, wind, batteries, etc. with a small management company to run it all. Taking a holistic approach, and professional services to run it all, means that the development could be close to self-sufficient, and if there is an excess it can operate as a generation site to the local grid. The major issue is that the large utilities would fight this tooth and nail. However, the truth is we are close in technology to be able to do this whether the utilities support it or not, at least at small scales (individual homes and small businesses). At some point we will wonder why we didn't do such things in the first place. 

Doug Houseman's picture
Doug Houseman on Feb 27, 2023

Mark Allen - 

Have looked at seasonal load and supply from the various technologies? 

If you have not, it worth doing for your area, you may be surprised at the seasonal differences.

Also remember you will be shifting transportation and other fossil fuel consumption to electricity, so take that into account. 

As to self sufficient, maybe in your neighborhood, but likely not in a large percentage of neighborhoods. For instance take a neighborhood completely filled with 18 story apartment buildings with 600 to 800 bedrooms to a building. Where the occupants each have refrigerators, microwaves, consumer electronics, and high end engineering computers. The air gap between the buildings is under 40 feet. Demand exceeds both irradiance and wind energy, and the buildings are already using geothermal heat pumps. 

And the buildings don't have electric vehicles or many electric bikes.

No, it is going to be hard to make this happen in some neighborhoods.

Mark Allen's picture
Mark Allen on Feb 28, 2023

It has to be a holistic approach. As you state, each neighborhood is different and has its own geographic location. The intent is not to simply rule out the possibility of adding in something to reduce the overall load. As you point out, the current builds do not lend themselves to such efforts. Maybe it's time to take a hard look at what we are building and the infrastructure around the buildings. For instance, in major cities we have pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, buses, and heavy trucks all on the same level using the same road systems. This doesn't make sense to me just from the perspective of safety. I think some fancy engineering could be done to alleviate this.  

Roger Levy's picture
Roger Levy on Feb 27, 2023

Given all of the other standards you recommend, consider one more:  prewire all electrical panels and provide standard roof available connections that would allow panels to be plug compatible.

Doug Houseman's picture
Thank Doug for the Post!
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