Proposed changes to tax credits set to expire Dec 2016

Here are some highlights from a recent article in SOLAR INDUSTRY MAGAZINE.

If several recently introduced legislative bills give any indication, Congress has heard the call from solar energy advocates to modify the investment tax credit (ITC).

The ITC, which expires Dec. 31, 2016, currently pays a credit of 30% for qualifying projects. If no changes are made, the credit shrinks to 10% in 2017.

In recent months, both the House and Senate have introduced legislation that not only calls for an ITC extension but also stipulates that solar projects should qualify for the tax incentive based on when they start, as opposed to when they are placed into service.

On Feb. 6, Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Michael Bennett, D-Colo., co-sponsored the Renewable Energy Parity Act of 2014, which would allow developers to qualify for the ITC if projects are under construction before the credit’s expiration date, rather than having to wait until those projects are completed and in service.
In August, Rep. Paul Clark, R-Calif., introduced H.R. 3017, the Renewable Energy Construction and Investment Parity Act of 2013, which also extends the energy tax credit to solar energy, fuel cell, microturbine, combined heat and power systems, small wind energy, and thermal energy properties – the construction of which begins before Jan. 1, 2017.
While the ITC push appears to be gaining traction – as evidenced by the support of House and Senate Republicans – sources express doubt that any of the bills by themselves could pass, given the grid-locked Congress.

Ohio Senate Bill 58 puts solar RPS at risk

If you live in Ohio and own or are considering installing residential or light commercial PV solar, please contact Governor Kasich at his office and tell him you want him to oppose SENATE BILL 58, currently in discussion.
I’ve encouraged everyone I know to do so, and I emailed his office last week. Below is the email response I got:

Dear Joseph:

Thank you for writing with regard to Senate Bill 58. Your letter has been forwarded to me for my review. We appreciate that you took the time to share your views about this important piece of legislation.

Senate Bill 58 is currently being debated during the 130th session of the Ohio General Assembly. Please be assured Governor Kasich will keep your views in mind if Senate Bill 58 is passed by the General Assembly and forwarded to the Governor for his signature. I encourage you to share your concerns with your legislators, as your input will be important as they review this legislation.

Once again, thank you for writing to Governor Kasich. Please do not hesitate to contact the Governor’s office if we may assist you in the future.

Sincerely,

Dave Ward Director of Constituent Affairs

We must all pull together to RAISE the percentage of the RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standard) upon which the Solar SREC values are tied, if we want to preserve the extra value that this represents to the smaller producers of solar energy!! It’s currently pegged at a max of 1/2%, and should be more like 2% of the total 12% renewable energy long term goal.

Thanks!
Joe

Our power costs are CHEAP here in the MidWest!

I just read a blog at my friend’s website (www.runonsun.com) and learned that folks in California are paying 22 Cents/Kwh for their electricity. That’s over TWICE what we pay here in the MidWest. This is very likely the reason there’s so much residential solar built up out West. Our energy prices here in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Pennsylvania are all around 10 cents/Kwh, and we are blessed. But don’t think that our prices won’t go up. Coal fired plants are being closed every week because they are old, obsolete, or simply can’t meet the new EPA standards for particulate emissions. Yes, there are new gas turbine power plants being built, and yes, we are using LESS electricity (as a Country) than ever before, but this is not a balanced equation. Our prices have been held low due to coal subsidies from the government, and these will disappear with the coal plants. Solar panel pricing has bottomed out and prices are stabilizing in the 79 to 90 cents/watt range. We might squeeze a few percent out of inverter costs, but for now, we are riding near the all time price lows for residential AND commercial solar PV systems. It might be time to plan on installing that dream system in the early Spring, before demand begins to force component pricing to rise…

Best wishes and sunny days!
Joe

Serious grid-tied/grid-backup system!

DIY Solar grid backup system

Ground mounts are an attractive alternative if you don’t have much roof space and want a system that allows you to live comfortably WITHOUT the grid!!

Nestled in the middle of a 26 acre plot is this cozy updated farmhouse with almost 6KW of solar power. The home is well insulated, and fitted with all the high efficiency goodies. Propane fired DEMAND water heater, wood stove for heating, LED lighting and more! At first I assumed he wanted a ground mount to keep it away from the house, but when I arrived on site I knew right away the real reason – no room on the roof! But seriously, this setup goes way beyond just a large array. The owner wanted plenty of AUTONOMY – that’s lots of days of off grid operation without worry of running the battery bank down. And plenty of power, so that if he wants to do laundry while off grid, it won’t be a problem. So we got together and discussed the options and the owner decided to DO IT RIGHT the first time. I explained that batteries would be a large part of the project cost, and he would have to understand and CARE for the battery bank if he expected it to last 10 years or more.  He was more than willing to listen, read, study and understand the care and feeding of his battery bank, and as a result is VERY pleased with his installation.

 

DIY Solar ground mount everything in place and ready to add panels

Trench backfilled, horizontal pipe (3 inch galvenized) added front and back, and vertical rails to carry the solar panels installed. Ready for panels and wiring. Owner and a few helpers accomplished this in 2 days of hard work. Not much daylight in December, but DIY folks are not afraid to work sunup to sundown!!

While all this activity was going on outside,  I was busy in the basement, hanging the TWO Sunny Island inverters on the wall, mounting the small EMERGENCY POWER breaker box and running conduit between the inverters, the main breaker box and the new Emergency power box. I’d come up for air once in a while to check on the ground mount work, just to make sure it was square and plumb, but these guys knew what they were doing and got it all right on the very first pass!  Looking at the pics below, we chose to use TWO Sunny Islands for several reasons. 1st and most important was that the Sunny Island is without question the best BATTERY TENDER around. It can use the grid or the array charge the batteries, and it has sophisticated software to monitor the battery health and adjust things as needed to optimize the battery care. It LEARNS over the 1st 8 weeks how the battery supplies power and how it accepts charge and then adjusts itself for the best possible care. We used TWO Sunny Island inverters so that we could SLAVE them together and create 240VAC “split” phase. The Sunny Island is a 120VAC unit and would otherwise need a lossy transformer to boost the output to 240VAC.   We doubled the available continuous output power to 13,000 WATTS by doing this. That is a LOT of backup power, and will allow completely normal living in an off grid situation. The owner wanted lots of autonomy (days of power off grid) so we went with the largest batteries withing the budget – Rolls FLA 6 volt 820AH.  EIGHT of them to reach the 48VDC the Sunny Islands need.  That’s almost 40KWH of backup power. And remember, when off grid, the sun on the array will recharge them, as well as power the house!  I didn’t have time to hang around while a battery BOX was built, so we put up a poly tent and connected the vent fan. This was only a temporary fix and has since been replaced by an appropriate battery box. The exhaust fan is programmed to come on while the batteries are charging – since this is when they give off Hydrogen gasses which are explosive in small amounts.  The owner has since also installed RECOMBINATION CAPS which reduce the outgassing by 99% and reduce fluid losses considerably – making it only necessary to check acid levels in the battery every two months or so, rather than every 2 weeks. A wise investment – since it minimizes outgassing of Hydrogen if the vent fan were to ever fail! Batteries are a VERY serious bit of hardware and you MUST care for them if you expect to get 10+ years of service!  Always wear safety glasses, a rubber apron and rubber gloves when checking/filling the cells!

DIY Solar grid-tied backup system connected and ready for power!

Some of the AC lines have been moved to the emergency breaker box, all covers are on, and temporary poly cover over battery box has been connected to the power vent fan. When the battery bank charges (at 38 amps DC) the batteries bubble up hydrogen gas and without the fan and cover, the room would reach explosive hydrogen levels in less than 1 minute. NEVER power up a battery system without a vent system!! A 4% concentration level of Hydrogen gas is highly explosive.

Battery bank, inverters and emergency breaker panel on DIY Solar installation

Two Sunny Island battery/inverters on the wall, eight 6 volt 820AH batteries below elevated off floor to make watering easier. DC cables connected and AC interconnections in Plastic conduit for safety. Ready to move some wiring from the main box to the emergency breaker box. Only items in the emergency box will be powered when running off grid. System cuts over instantly when grid drops out. Barely a flicker of the lights, it happens so fast! Same thing happens when power is restored. Back on grid in an instant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When a lead-acid battery is discharged, the electrolyte (sulfuric acid) and the active material on the plates of the battery (lead) are consumed to produce water and lead sulfate and current flow. The chemical equation for a lead-acid battery during discharge is: PbO2 Pb 2H2SO4 –>PbSO4 2H2O Ideally it’s just hydrogen gas, but when doing Equalization charging, you’re going to get some hydrogen sulfide as well – you’ll know it by it’s Sulfur smell and the stinging sensation to your eyes! Make sure the battery box power exhaust fan works BEFORE you turn on your system. In this setup, I programmed the fan to run whenever the batteries are charging. As long as the fan is running, there is negative pressure in the box (or temporary tent in this case) so even any holes or leaks will take fresh air IN to the box/tent and then OUTside the house through the white PVC vent at the left. Happy to say that the 1st charge cycle was free from problems and there wasn’t even the tiniest hint of any gas in the room. The use of RECOMBINATION caps is HIGHLY recommended. They will eliminate almost all of the outgassing and make the battery liquid levels go down MUCH slower.

What it takes to keep your power UP when the grid is DOWN!

It’s been a long time coming, and I’ve been hesitant to make the investment, but recent power outages caused by the weather, combined with the state of affairs around the globe, have given me the motivation to finally make it happen. Please come back here at least twice a month to check my progress on this project! I’m doing this at my “bunker” in the mountains of Ohio. I’ve already got a 2400 watt system running using the older Enphase M190 micro-inverters along with 12 assorted PV Panels, and it’s covering 90 to 100% of the electric bill. But, I lost a refrigerator full of food when the power was down for too many days… so, I’m adding all the parts to keep the power flowing when the grid is down! Here’s a list of the parts I’ve got on the way:

  • Magnum Distribution panel 250/30A-2P
  • Magnum MS-PAE 4024AE 4kW 240VAC Pure Sine Inverter
  • Magnum LCD Remote Panel (for programming and monitoring inverter status)
  • Magnum BP-MMP Metal Mount for MMP enclosure and inverter
  • ROLLS 6V 530AH Wet 40000S EKG Battery (X4=24 Vdc)
  • Battery Box fan 24volt, 6 CFM
  • ROLLS R+ Recombination Caps (X12) keeps battery watering to a minimum
  • Outback Spill Control Tray for the batteries – in case of a case crack or acid spill
  • #4/0 gauge flex wire with lugs for battery interconnections and inverter hookup

There’s also a whole house SMART SWITCH and some other parts to modify the incoming service wiring…

That pile of parts is worth about $4500 if you’re considering doing this. Well worth the price if the grid goes down for ANY reason! I’ll take pictures as I go and do updates to describe my trials and tribulations!
DIY Solar is affordable and reliable ( and a great way to prepare for Zombie Armageddon ) just kidding… and have a SUNNY day!

DIY Solar Heaven

Perfect Day for DIY Solar!

Perfect Day for DIY Solar in Cincinnati!!

Today in Cincinnati is a DIY Solar enthusiasts dream day. Blue Skies, and not a cloud as far as the eye can see. Temps below 20F mean HIGH EFFICIENCY for solar panels! I added panel #19 to a planned 20 panel layout last week, and if you have panels on your roof, you know it’s all about checking the power output every 30 minutes to see if you’re hitting a new peak!! I know, I know, that sounds silly, but that’s how it starts, and I’m still not tired of checking, and my array has been up since July of last year! Here’s a picture of my place in Cincinnati, and a link to the Enphase performance page so you can see for yourself!! What makes this week even better is that I signed a contract to sell my four 2011 SRECs for $315 each this past week! 5 year payback is right on schedule!! Here’s that link: Enphase Performance Link for my house in Newtown