Zach Says… Check the Math yourself.
At the end of the day, it is the ‘Hands On’ AE Enthusiast’s responsibility to validate some of the data we are given. If we make no efforts; we are perhaps more guilty that the people we call gullible.
The data I share below is from Saturday, a comparison of several Solar PV Power Plants and their output for a best hour expressed as a percentage of their rated output. What this means is we are looking at the KWHs that passed by the meter during that best hour. What might we do with the data we can find at EPE, and how valuable is it… read on.
We understand that clouds roll by, and there are many variables, but I believe if you return to these metering sites, you will indeed see a pattern between the advertised output and the actuals for the different types of technologies.
Here’s a power plants of interest, all of which EPE contracts to buy power from.
NAME TYPE MOUNT TYPE % OF RATING
Stanton Tower Mono crystalline Fixed mount 100%
Road Runner Thin Film Single axis 97%
Wrangler CPV Dual Axis 89%
Amonix Hatch CPV Dual Axis 58%
I couldn’t find any Alternative Energy websites that were following the actual performance of AE power. It’s as if the AE bloggers think any effort to put PV in the field is good, and therefore in alignment with their goals. The NREL plays a limited role, they are currently NOT focused on the total package of any technology in the field as far as I can see, or they’re not reporting on it..
It’s my belief that we must all work together to assure that the cream rises to the top, and if we don’t challenge the results of some of these manufacturers, we help destroy the credibility of the entire AE industry. It certainly has been harmed by Solyndra, and others, and the rest of the story has yet to be told.
El Pasco Electric, thanks for being the up front and responsible Company I’ve come to know through my research and probes into your company. What talent you have within your ranks, and how lucky your customers are.
Let’s hope the Power Companies that buy power from those who sell renewables (Like Congentrix) in other parts of the country follow EPE’s example of sharing energy facts with customers, and helping them make important choices.
EPE, you do more for us to know reality than all the rest together.
Here’s EPE’s great link where you can compare power production claims with the real figures..
Studying the past.. in this Martha link you’ll find some graphs of previous performance from Hatch.., the highs have gone from 42xxKW or less to around 3000KW, is this evidence of more equipment out of service, and why? Link back to Martha. Article
Here’s some of my thoughts. The best hour performance expressed as a percentage of the power plant’s rated capacity gives us a comparative figure we can use to check the health of the power plant relative to others over time. The weather underground provides us valuable information we might use to further analyze power production figures.
We’ve seen it all in other industries, projected costs of ownership, returns on investment, and far more. We’ve come to learn that nothing replaces the field test over the advertised lifetime of the product.
What does it mean when you consistently see a lower power production number than expected? I think we might get a number of answers, but my top choice is the plant will likely be one that needs more maintenance and may not be getting it. It could be a simple fix, maybe a fuse blown on a tracker motor, a simple error like a fuse too low in it’s Amp rating, or one where a slow blow needed to be? but as time goes by, we assume that simple problems would have been rectified, and we’d see a higher percentage of power production.
In some Solar PV power plants, it’s important that you engineer for wind loading, and this can be important in fixed applications as well and of course the higher latitudes put more area towards the wind, and may require better mounting practices. Here in my Area, winds can come from nearly any direction, but the winter winds normally arrive from the south, and summer Winds from the North. I have seen flat panels mounted with gaps between them to assure the array was a less effective sail.
For us curious DIYers, we can’t leave the thought of gears alone. When trackers track, we know there’s a lot of ways to do it, and Vertis Shared in a comment about a trouble free tracker that used nothing other than a freon gas to steer a panel towards the sun. It was durable, it was trouble free. but we need be careful not to make assumptions, as some of these new and higher concentration CPV systems need to be very accurately pointed at the sun to work. Plus or minus 3 degrees would be great for some types of panels, but might deliver very poor results for the higher concentrating systems. so we need assure the tracker design can track with the required accuracy.
I’ve mentioned this over the years, but it is a fact that a very disruptive force showed itself here about a dozen years ago, a lot of companies got on the downsize bandwagon and stripped out a lot of the older work force. At Mazda for instance, the knowledge of a very costly engineering blunder was lost, and the mistake repeated. It’s all History now, and Mazda took care of their customers, same as they had the first time, but it was costly..
Exactly how was that knowledge lost, and where do you put the sticky note to never do it again? Apparently some things were carried forward in the minds of the work force that had the lead, the incentives to leave were tuned to encourage the brain trust to leave, and those who designed the plan may have had too little understanding of the value of that knowledge.
Many of us remember the British Cars that arrived on our shores, some of the designs were long in the tooth, but so attractive to some of us. One lesson that sticks in my mind… A popular British axle that fit a number of cars like the early Austin Healy Sprite fetched a fairly high price. I found out about this when I let out the clutch at a stop light, and went nowhere. Around the same time, Lotus was breaking drive train parts on the race course and decided to put a rubber donut in the drive train, troubles gone!
These are experiences we DIYers have stored in memory, and when we look at mechanical designs, we look to see if the designer(s) had access to these lessons of the past? We might even do this subconsciously.
What takes the brunt of the punishment in a tracker design? One of the problems with solar PV design is the entity who attempts to drive advancements in technology (the DOE) appears to be dangling a carrot for the low-cost bidder. If a tracker survived in a previous location, how much effort (money) will be put into beefing up the tracker for the new location when every dollar spent may take you further away from your initial goal… of getting that award from the DOE…
The DOE reminds me of a delay line in the learning curve. Reaching for that Carrot will just as often destroy the company as help it, all we need do is keep score.
What we now see in the Alternative Energy field is a Government awarding money to entities to build something, and then awarding money to other entities to buy it. Can you imagine a more effective way to stifle the development of a superior product that returns value to the investor? I think there’s reason to believe that what the DOE is effectively doing is allowing other countries to focus on the real goal.. developing products that provide a return on investment to humanity.
We saw our Government literally destroy the housing industry by placing people in homes they could not afford. I saw people who made half my wage settle into homes twice as grand as I would ever dare commit to mortgage. Zero down, Zero interest, and no reason not to default in five years when the contract ended. Our Government, (the DOE) applies the same destructive program to the AE market. Whatever errors they make is of no consequence to them, it all falls on our backs, same as the housing industry blunders that will plague our children for all their adult lives.
The proof is in the field for all to see, but who cares to note it? I say we start at Hatch, and see what Martha helped plant there?
Happy Father’s day..