Selling Solar to Your Utility – Interconnection Agreements

Selling Solar to Your Utility – Interconnection Agreements

In many states, homeowners and businesses can now sell solar panel energy to utilities.
Doing so requires an interconnection agreement with your local utility.

Lowering Your Utility Bill

In a majority of states, homeowners using solar can take advantage of a concept known as net metering. Net metering essentially refers to the act of selling excess power produced by your solar panels to the local utility. While you are at work during the day, the energy produced by panels is fed directly back to the utility [your meter runs backwards] and then you use utility energy as you need it in the evening. The utility company “pays” you at the same rate per watt as what it charges you, thus creating a “net metering” situation. Practically speaking, it is a tremendous way to slash or eliminate your electrical bill.

If you intend to sell electricity to the utility company, you can’t just do it. Instead, you must get and sign an interconnection agreement with it. While the name can change from utility to utility, this agreement basically lays out the ground rules on how the process will work. Let’s take a closer look.

Federal and state laws require utility companies to supply you with standard interconnection agreements. The agreement specifies the terms and conditions under which your system will be connected to the utility grid. These can include your obligation to get any required permits, maintain homeowner’s insurance and meet certain connection specifications.

Sometimes set apart as a separate document, the agreement will also include the specifics related to the sale and purchase of power by each of you. Instead of installing multiple meters to asses the transfer of power, most utilities will simply let the existing utility meter run forward when you are drawing energy from the grid and backward when you are supplying energy to it.

If you supply more energy than you use in a month, must the utility company send you a check? Unfortunately, net metering laws do not require the utilities to do so. Instead, the company will credit the monetary equivalent of the excess generation to the next month’s electrical bill until you eventually use it during a cloudy or rainy month.

Interconnect agreements are fairly standardized agreements that shouldn’t cause you much concern. Just make sure you get one before hooking up to the local utility.

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Alternative Energy And The Need For A Proper Storage Technology

Alternative Energy And The Need For A Proper Storage Technology

Source: Flickr

A number of energy storage technologies have been developed or are under development for electric power applications, including:

* Pumped hydropower
* Compressed air energy storage (CAES)
* Batteries
* Flywheels
* Superconducting magnetic energy storage (SMES)
* Super-capacitors

This is the future that we can safely anticipate, especially when there is a rapid depletion of other energy resources. Of course, the most important energy resource still remains the sun from where we can derive solar power and fulfill various energy and power requirements. Off late, many companies have started to build mono-crystalline and polycrystalline solar cells, which can be used in several sectors like aerospace, the aviation industry, residential power generation, traffic lights, automobiles etc. Solar energy apart from other renewable energies is being looked at as one of the key areas because it is a clean energy source.

Pumped Hydro
Pumped hydro has been in use since 1929, making it the oldest of the central station energy storage technologies. In fact, until 1970 it was the only commercially available storage option for generation applications.

Conventional pumped hydro facilities consist of two large reservoirs, one is located at base level, and the other is situated at a different elevation. Water is pumped to the upper reservoir where it can be stored as potential energy. Upon demand, water is released back into the lower reservoir, passing through hydraulic turbines, which generate electrical power as high as 1,000 MW.

The barriers to increased use of this storage technology in the U.S. include high construction costs and long lead times as well as the geographic, geologic, and environmental constraints associated with reservoir design. Currently, efforts aimed at increasing the use of pumped hydro storage are focused on the development of underground facilities.

Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES)
CAES plants use off-peak energy to compress and store air in an airtight underground storage cavern. Upon demand, stored air is released from the cavern, heated, and expanded through a combustion turbine to create electrical energy.

In 1991, the first U.S. CAES facility was built in McIntosh, Alabama, by the Alabama Electric Cooperative and EPRI, and has a capacity rating of 110 MW. Currently, manufacturers can create CAES machinery for facilities ranging from 5 to 350 MW. EPRI has estimated that more than 85% of the U.S. has geological characteristics that will accommodate an underground CAES reservoir.

Studies have concluded that CAES is competitive with combustion turbines and combined-cycle units, even without attributing some of the unique benefits of energy storage.

In recent years, much of the focus in the development of electric energy storage technology has been centered on battery storage devices. There is currently a wide variety of batteries available commercially and many more in the design phase.

In a chemical battery, charging causes reactions in electrochemical compounds to store energy from a generator in a chemical form. Upon demand, reverse chemical reactions cause electricity to flow out of the battery and back to the grid.

The first commercially available battery was the flooded lead-acid battery, which was used for fixed, centralized applications. The valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) battery is the latest commercially available option. The VRLA battery is low-maintenance, spill- and leak-proof, and relatively compact.

Flywheels are currently being used for a number of non-utility related applications. Recently, however, researchers have begun to explore utility energy storage applications. A flywheel storage device consists of a flywheel that spins at a very high velocity and an integrated electrical apparatus that can operate either as a motor to turn the flywheel and store energy or as a generator to produce electrical power on demand using the energy stored in the flywheel.

Advanced Electrochemical Capacitors/Super-Capacitors
Super-capacitors are also known as ultra-capacitors are in the earliest stages of development as an energy storage technology for electric utility applications. An electrochemical capacitor has components related to both a battery and a capacitor.

Consequently, cell voltage is limited to a few volts. Specifically, the charge is stored by ions as in a battery. But, as in a conventional capacitor, no chemical reaction takes place in energy delivery. An electrochemical capacitor consists of two oppositely charged electrodes, a separator, electrolyte, and current collectors.

Presently, very small super-capacitors in the range of seven to ten watts are widely available commercially for consumer power quality applications and are commonly found in household electrical devices. Development of larger-scale capacitors has been focused on electric vehicles.

The future is something that we can’t predict but yes, as time passes, most of the current energy sources will reach a point from where we will not be able to use them. This is where alternative energy sources come into play and will be one of the major driving forces of the world energy requirements.

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Solar Chargers

Solar Chargers

Elk Falls Information Station at parking lot
Source: Flickr

Solar chargers are a great option for people always on the move.
If people are always traveling, a solar charger is a wonderful user-friendly option that won’t drain resources.

ICP solar chargers are an excellent brand of charger that is guaranteed to work. If you are dependent on your battery to operate machinery or vehicles, this guarantee is essential. Having a battery charger that does not work when you are stuck miles away from civilization is not a good thing. ICP solar chargers are also a great idea for backup power in a small home or cabin.

Solar power has often been commended for its environmentally-friendly capability to provide energy. One solar panel can charge a 12Volt battery in full with direct sunlight at a rate of 7 Amps or more. The power is then electrochemically stored within the battery.

ICP offers a range of chargers for devices like cell phones, PDAs, and other small electrical appliances. With these chargers, you simply plug the device into the solar charger and let it do its job. ICP also offers chargers for higher power machines like cars, motorcycles, heavy duty trucks, even marine and RV applications.

The ICP solar chargers range in price from $30 to $500. However, it is well worth the investment and there are no recurring electrical utility costs associated with charging.

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