Solar power = disruptive technology? (28 Apr, 2021)

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Solar power = disruptive technology? (28 Apr, 2021)

Postby aardvark_admin » Wed Apr 28, 2021 7:17 am

This column is archived at: https://aardvark.co.nz/daily/2021/0428.shtml

New Zealand's weather may not be as conducive to solar generation as Australia's (but then again, neither is Germany's but they do okay) -- but should we not be encouraging distributed rooftop solar as a mitigation for the massive increase in electricity demands that EVs are about to deliver?

Are we simply sleep-walking into a future where electricity rationing will become the norm due to our lack of foresight into the effects EV will have on electricity demand?

Might New Zealand be forced to build more fossil-fueled generation capacity to meet the growing demand, simply because we're ignoring the elephant in the room and those thermal stations are the quickest solution to a rapidly looming problem?
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Re: Solar power = disruptive technology? (28 Apr, 2021)

Postby Hiro Protagonist » Wed Apr 28, 2021 8:41 am

aardvark_admin wrote:Might New Zealand be forced to build more fossil-fueled generation capacity to meet the growing demand

<cough>Manapouri</cough>

Seeing the enormous wind turbines and fields of solar panels in Germany is a real eye-opener. We have massive scope for installing more of that in NZ, and as I've said many times in the past, every kw/h we generate via wind/solar is a kw/h we can save in our hydro lakes.
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Re: Solar power = disruptive technology? (28 Apr, 2021)

Postby aardvark_admin » Wed Apr 28, 2021 8:45 am

The problem with large-scale generation projects is that they take a lot of time and money.

Distributed PVAs are comparatively cheap and can be installed en-masse by workers with only a modicum of training.

ie: we could probably roll out more MW/H per man-hour and $ spent using domestic PVAs than wind turbines and centralised PVAs (especially considering the environmentalists and the resource-management overheads). Add to that the reduced load on the grid and it's a win-win situation.
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Re: Solar power = disruptive technology? (28 Apr, 2021)

Postby Hiro Protagonist » Wed Apr 28, 2021 9:35 am

aardvark_admin wrote:Distributed PVAs are comparatively cheap and can be installed en-masse by workers with only a modicum of training.

True. I also wonder if the power companies realise how close the gun is becoming pointed towards their own feet every time they push up the price of power, given the steadily increasing affordability of PVA alternatives.
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Re: Solar power = disruptive technology? (28 Apr, 2021)

Postby namartinnz » Wed Apr 28, 2021 10:07 am

You'd think the govt would be jumping onboard with a subsidy to encourage solar/electric car takeup. What happened to their subsidy to encourage EV vehicles last year that NZ First quashed? No NZ First, still no subsidy introduction...I'd be keen to go solar, seeing as I work from home. But the numbers don't add up for installation cost/vs payback (yet). Maybe if I fork out on an EV it might make sense. But when did this Govt make sense...Maybe subsidy for a horse and cart?
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Re: Solar power = disruptive technology? (28 Apr, 2021)

Postby aardvark_admin » Wed Apr 28, 2021 10:49 am

namartinnz wrote:I'd be keen to go solar, seeing as I work from home. But the numbers don't add up for installation cost/vs payback (yet). Maybe if I fork out on an EV it might make sense. But when did this Govt make sense...Maybe subsidy for a horse and cart?

Once the laws of (under) supply and (over) demand kick in, power prices will hike significantly so those with solar already installed will reap a rich reward. Of course this will also see a significant hike in the demand for solar so *new* solar systems may well cost more than those you'd get installed today, despite improving tech.
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Re: Solar power = disruptive technology? (28 Apr, 2021)

Postby Malcolm » Wed Apr 28, 2021 11:21 am

I have heard a rumour the buy back price may be increasing for grid-connected solar as well. Currently it is 8c/kwh Since most people don't use much power during the day it means most of their power will be exported at that rate unless they have significant storage. Then in the evenings they will come home and start using but paying the standard retail rate.
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Re: Solar power = disruptive technology? (28 Apr, 2021)

Postby granada29 » Wed Apr 28, 2021 11:44 am

Back in the day, before privatisation of the electricity sector, I worked for NZED in their Power Planning group. At the time the main constraint on modelling was security of supply followed closely by the long run marginal cost of expanding the power system to meet forecast demand. Proposed projects (e.g. the Clutha dam, new geothermal, gas turbines, small hydro etc etc) were added to the model and compared with the costs of alternative projects. The model took into account operational costs (fuel + maintenance), capital cost (i.e. building/installation). Of course there was also the political input, outside the scope of the model but often a deciding factor in what got added to the annual power plan and what didn't.

I'd be interested to know how home solar installations stack up against alternative means of expanding the generation network when considered in this model. It's all well and good to be king of your own castle but I think some serious number crunching needs to be done before the country commits to wide-spread home generation installations. Possibly this is already being done but I haven't actually seen a power plan for the country since the NZED was dismantled.
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Re: Solar power = disruptive technology? (28 Apr, 2021)

Postby aardvark_admin » Wed Apr 28, 2021 11:55 am

I strongly doubt that there is any serious forward-planning being done in the electricity sector. One clue to this is the claim that prices need to increase in order to fund increased generation capacity.

Excuse me but I run a much smaller business and I plan far eough ahead that I build in the cost of maintenance and expansion into my prices *well* ahead of those costs being incurred. To suddenly turn around and say "we need more generation so prices must go up" is a very clear indicator that nobody is looking any further ahead than lunchtime. :-(
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Re: Solar power = disruptive technology? (28 Apr, 2021)

Postby Malcolm » Wed Apr 28, 2021 12:46 pm

They are thinking ahead, it is just that no one wants to invest their money unless the return will be high enough. Why spend X million on a power generation scheme that will return Y when X million spent on some houses in Auckland will see a capital gain greater than Y?
The issue is expecting the generation to be made by the private sector who will want a nice profit margin as opposed to a government program where profit isn't the goal.
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