The Academy of Natural Sciences will host a panel discussion on how we can learn from 2012′s super storm Sandy in improving city planning, disaster preparedness planning, engineering, and policy.
The event takes place this Thursday, 6pm-8pm, February 21, 2013.
Mid-Atlantic Residents May Consider Backup Power Options in the Wake of Super-storm Sandy
Since 2008, Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Rebate Program has provided rebate money as a flat figure per unit of installed capacity, for residential and commercial solar photovoltaic (solar PV: at $0.75/Watt up to $7,500 for a 10kW system) and solar hot water (solar hydronic) systems.
According to a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article, PECO will temporarily hike prices 21% starting Monday, October 1, 2012. This is a legally required quarterly adjustment to cover changes in bulk rates PECO is buying at, and especially in this instance, under-collection of ratepayer dues.
Whatever the reasons, the increase in the generation portion of electricity costs for PECO customers is yet another perfect motivation to switch to a new provider for generation of your electricity. Most alternative providers offer a lower rate than PECO’s default rate, and you still get the same solid, strictly-regulated distribution and billing network operated by PECO as the area’s default provider and transmission-line operator. Even providers offering premium green-portfolio energy tend to come in at prices lower than PECO.
Pennsylvania Electric Company (PECO) has finally begun its full scale roll-out of smarter meters. Its slowness to implement the recently-mandated 15-minute increment bi-directional reporting meters may have to do with the fact it invested millions of dollars of rate-payer funds in now-outmoded ‘smart’ remote-readable meters only a few years ago, in what was probably just a matter of unfortunate timing for the ratepayers.
The new meters will help PECO and its customers better understand their electrical use, and adapt behavior to the actual cost of generating electricity, as alternative generation providers offer time-of-use tariffs with different prices different times of day, or even spot-market tariffs that could change price every 15 minutes.
PECO’s new smart meters fail to achieve compliance with PA’s Act 129 for grid-tied solar PV
When our state legislature instituted a program to encourage development of a solar PV industry in Pennsylvania, we responded with a resounding ‘YES!’. So much so that we built more solar than the new AEPS program had hoped to foster, and now we need our legislature to respond with tweaks to its long-term incentive plan.
A mix of options for residential backup power when the grid goes out
Automatic Standby Generators
Probably the lowest on initial cost, and most-reliable residential system for backup power, LP- or natural-gas powered standby generators can be sized to maintain a few critical circuits, like refrigeration and a basic lighting circuit, or maintain the entire house at full normal consumption. Load-managing automatic transfer switches (ATS’s) permit a compromise, where a small list of critical loads are satisfied at all times, while additional loads are connected (and disconnected) automatically to the extent that the installed generator can handle them. Read on to learn about solar PV, micro wind, and mCHP as backup power sources
‘Grid Parity’ or price-per-kilowatt-hour that can directly compete with commodity pricing on the grid, without subsidies, is the holy-grail of renewable energy policy, so a major blue-chip corporation announcing that it’s 4-5 years away is a very big deal. Basically, it means anyone with decent credit and a patch of sunlight on their property should have ample reason to switch to solar PV — such as protecting the global environment from greenhouse gases and the local environment from toxic emissions and asthma-inducing particulate emissions from fossil-fuel, and developing national energy independence and local grid stability.
- SolarCities (U.S. DOE) graphic visualization tool for consumer residential and commercial PV levelized cost vs. grid energy cost, does not seem to incorporate GE’s projections, but does include subsidies and tax credits for 25 cities around the country on an interactive graph.
An interesting article from the online magazine Electric Lighting & Power on PV’s developing role on utility electrical grids has swerved my thinking on distributed, small solar PV (capacity denominated in kW, or thousands of Watts) vs. utility-scale large solar PV (capacity denominated in MW, or millions of Watts). Having been a part of installations ranging from tiny 2.5 kW to pretty-big 150 kW in DC generating capacity, I began thinking the economies of scale on the larger installations undercut the rationale for offering incentives to individual homeowners for the 2-20 kW installations typical on these smaller properties. Electric Power & Light points up the fact, though, that as PV becomes a significant portion of total energy inputs to the grid (at least 0.5% by 2021 rather than the even more-paultry .0203% today, under the AEPS renewable energy portfolio standards enacted by PA legislature), it will need to play better with the grid. Especially large solar farms over 1MW will need to act more like conventional power plants, delivering energy when expected, or, at the minimum, not suddenly dropping off even when a big cloud rolls by. Distributed solar solves these problems inherently by averaging a cloud-spotted day over a land-spotted deployment of solar collectors.
Small, Distributed PV + Smart Grid = Dynamic Duo for grid support
If you are considering an investment in solar PV this year, some timing you will want to consider includes:
- PA DEP’s Sunshine rebate program, featuring a $0.75/Watt incentive ($2.25/Watt for low-income participants), is currently wait-listed, so there are funds remaining but even qualifying projects are not guaranteed funding.
- Federal Investment Tax Credits (ITC’s) of $500/0.5kW installed DC capacity up to 30% of installed cost, are set to expire in 2016. Commonly referred to as a “30% tax credit”, the subsidy will be more like a 20% credit for most buyers ($1000 / 1kW credit for systems installed at around $4,000 or $5,000/kW).
- Note that if you consider switching to a competitive electricity generating/transmission provider (EGC), be sure that they commit to voluntarily honoring PA’s Act 129 net-metering standard for the duration of your contract (typically at least one year), since these non-default energy providers are not required by the law to credit your solar generation at full retail value, as is the case for your default provider (EDC).
Read more >>
PA Sunshine Rebate Program a general success
The PA Sunshine solar rebate program is our state’s version of a common policy approach to incentivize investment in renewable energy technology up to the point where it becomes cost-effective on its own terms and can compete with environmentally- and human health-harmful fossil fuel energy sources that will be depleted in our lifetimes at the current rate of consumption.
The program has worked! Since its launch several years ago, the installed cost of solar PV has come down from $8/watt of DC capacity to $4.75/watt. The $2.25/watt initial rebate has come down with those savings, in exact accordance with policy, so that the effective costs have come down slowly but remained at a level that is just convincing enough to end-users, without wasting scarce state money to make it more convincing than it needs to be.
Unfortunately, although installed costs have dropped with maturing of the component manufacturing and system installation/integration industries, long-term benefits from installing PV in Pennsylvania have dropped sharply from a year ago, due to mismatch with another incentive policy known as the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS). As a result, the financial case for solar PV today is marginal for even the best-situated customer, whereas the case a year ago was strong for a broad range of potential customers.
Check “AEPS needs bigger proportion of SREC’s, today” for a detailed account.
Solar continues to benefit from federal investment tax credits, which expire in 2016 (unless renewed again before expiring).
More HELP available for energy efficiency upgrades
Looking to make your home more energy efficient? Pennsylvanians can now couple Keystone HELP energy efficiency loans with utility rebate programs for HVAC, whole house improvements and other qualifying energy efficiency products.
Read more at Keystone HELP.
Customer Resource Blog Categories
Off-site Links ->
- Annapolis Home Inspection, LLC Aluminum branch circuits, homes 1965-1972
- ComplianceAndSafety.com OSHA Electrical Safety Training
- Electric Monk TV (YouTube) Video channel for PhillyLicensedElectrician.com Robert Monk
- EnergyConservation HowTo A tinkerer genius discusses energy conservation and his ladder system for accessing the attic (where a lot of energy-saving work happens).
- PennFuture Energy Center Energy and energy efficiency news for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
- Phila area rife with building efficiency upgrade opportunities Philadelphia Inquirer article discusses recent study showing Philadelphia’s inner-ring suburbs stand to save from energy conservation retrofits.
- Philadelphia Row-house Manual A design, maintenance, and modifications manual for our most widely-used form of housing.
- Robert Monk Robert Monk’s personal blog
- SolarCities (DOE) Solar PV Levelized Cost Interactive Comparator Simple graph compares ‘levelized cost’ of energy from solar PV to conventional grid rates, with a time-slider interactive feature.
- The Circuit Detective – Solve Home Electrical Problems Yourself! Electrical troubleshooting procedures pitched to homeowners.
- The Energy Co-op Blog from a leading alternative energy provider in PECO territory, includes fun conservation tips.
- Weatherization: the anti-Solyndra Salon.com article praising the continued success of the federal Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), low-income energy-savings and job-creation.
- West Philly Tool Library Official site of WPTL, Philly’s own community tool lending library: like a book library, but tools!
- WestPhillyLocal .com Site name say sit all.
- Bartram's Gardens Founded in Philadelphia’s colonial era, today the gardens continue pioneering in horticulture and agriculture with a variety of herbs, trees and other vegetation in an arboretum/gardens on the Schulkill River banks, and a new farm abutting sadly neglected
- HiddenCity Philadelphia Surprising places it takes an adventurer to discover; events, too.
- Philly Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off Schedule City of Philadelphia dates and places for disposing of spent batteries, CFL lamps, unused paint and cleaning products, etc. LovePhilly: don’t pour these in the drain or send them out with the trash.
- Reading Terminal Market Purveyors of fine foods and foodie stuff, all under one roof downtown under the PA Convention Center
- Secret Garden on the Rails Jacques-Jean Tiziou shows some dramatic natural and urban and naturalized-urban scenes along abandoned rails of Philadelphia
- Sketch Burger, Fishtown A vegan-friendly burger joint with a #1 in Philly contender beef burger, best fries that somehow stay fresh for 1/2 hour while you tackle burger, and a vegan cafe vibe of friendly folks.
- WXPN: Philly sings in key of love Love songs by Philly artists