Monthly Archives: April 2023

19 04, 2023

Musings on Capturing Solar Radiation with Solar Panels

By |2023-04-19T20:26:10-07:00April 19th, 2023|Categories: Articles|

By Tom Mommsen & Risa Smith

Capturing solar radiation with solar panels makes sense for a number of important reasons:

a. Conceptually: Input from the sun is fairly predictable, entirely free of charge and will last for a long time.

b. Economically: Solar modules produce electricity for residents at about half the cost of electrons delivered by BC Hydro or Fortis. And while residential rates are going up, solar costs continue to drop.

c. Environmentally: Solar modules have a very small carbon footprint. Over its complete life cycle (from mining and transport, through purification, module manufacture, framing, to cabling and installation), a solar panel will produce less than 6 g of CO2e per kWh, and the embedded energy is repaid in about 8 months of the panels’ 35+ years life cycle. The carbon emissions are at least 50 times lower than those from the supposedly emission-free large hydroelectric installations.

Dozens of peer-reviewed research articles in the last decade have confirmed that large hydro generates at least 300 g CO2e per kWh. Further, hydroelectric installations generate substantial amounts of methane (natural gas), a gas with a global warming potential 85-times higher than carbon dioxide. PV’s life cycle does not involve methane generation.

d. Politically: Widespread adoption of solar energy empowers people to think about energy differently, points to the importance of local control and responsibility of power generation and consumption. It also provides local energy security, while putting decisions on energy issues under individual and local control. This takes decisions and control out of the hands of remote energy managers and bankers who have neither understanding of nor commitment to local needs .

The energy consumers will evolve into producers/consumers (prosumer) that should result in mothballing antiquated ideas about unidirectional energy generation from centralized sites, transmission and distribution. These will be replaced with a more equitable distribution of energy generation.

(Modified from an article originally published in Galiano’s Active Page – March 2023) What is Solar Energy? Live Solar System Monitoring Dashboard

2 04, 2023

Musings on capturing solar energy to provide energy for a battery electric vehicle (BEV)

By |2023-04-02T18:59:01-07:00April 2nd, 2023|Categories: Articles|

By Tom Mommsen & Risa Smith

With British Columbia phasing out the sale of vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICEV) in the next dozen years and switching to battery electric vehicles (BEVs), it’s interesting to look at solar in the context of ‘fuelling’ an electric vehicle.

On average, a personal car in BC travels ~15,000 km per year. Propelled by an internal combustion engine, the car will burn some 1350 L of gasoline each year, using 9 L/100 km, containing around 12,000 kWh of energy. Plus an allowance of about 20% is needed to get the fuel from the ground into the tank (pumping, cleaning, refining, transport etc.), for a total of 14,400 kWh year. This needs to be compared with the energy demand of a BEV that (a very conservative estimate) uses 18 kWh/100 km, plus another 15% of losses in energy conversions, for an annual total of 3200 kWh/15,000 km.

Figures 1a and bCalculating the cost of the fossil fuel is straightforward, multiplying the 1350 L/y by the average cost at the pump ($1.65/L) will give an expense of $ 2225/y, while the cost of BC grid electricity propelling a comparative BEV amounts to $ 403/y (3200 kWh @ $ 0.126/kWh; blended rate of tiers 1 & 2). This is 80% lower than the gasoline expenses for an ICEV (Fig. 1a): $ 1825 saved every year.

And, let’s face it, it may be a while before BC gasoline prices will reach as low as $ 1.65/L.

What if solar panels were installed to generate those 3200 kWh?

On Galiano, a 3.3 kW solar installation would be required, costing around $ 7500 (average), for 7 to 9 panels (depending on wattage), rails, inverter, cabling and installation. While this seems to be a rather large expense, one has to remember that annual savings of replacing gasoline with solar electrons (6.2 cents/kWh, i.e. about half the cost of grid electricity) amount to $ 2225/y.

In other words, the money for the solar installation would be paid back in 3.7 years, after which all transportation in the BEV would be free. Sounds like a sweet deal, that becomes even sweeter when the impending investment solar income tax credit (30%) is considered, which reduces the amortization period to 2.6 years.

With a life expectancy of 35 years for the solar array, one could drive the EV 32 years for free! You’d basically be pre-paying […]

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