How not to do a solar power project – great moments in solar engineering

Regarding this article, I think I’ve found a simple reason for this failure, and the reason will shock and surprise you.

tampa_solar_taylorIn the article, a news report by TV station WFTS is cited:

WFTS News in Tampa obtained copies of the courthouse’s electricity bills and confirmed the savings are no more than about $2,000 per month. WFTS also confirmed the panels are reducing electricity bills by only 15 to 18 percent, instead of the promised 40 percent.

You can watch the news report here.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ve got one of those. First, look closely at the picture in the news story above…now look at this picture and note the arrow.

tampa_courthouse

I think the government dufuses and the solar company missed the shading from the nearby tall building (the Hillsborough County Center Building), seen in the photo above which you can inspect yourself at Bing Maps here:  http://binged.it/1tqPjnf

It looks like a little over half of the panels would be in the shade during the afternoon based on my comparison to the article photo, a larger version which exists here:

Hillsborough-Solar
Source: http://www.naco.org/newsroom/countynews/Current%20Issue/10-18-10/Pages/OldMainCourthousesolarphotovoltaicproject.aspx

That afternoon shade will kill solar panel efficiency big time. The problem will be greater in the winter, at low sun angles, further reducing the efficiency of solar panels which appear to be placed flat on the roof, rather than tilted for maximum efficiency. In fact if you watch the WFTS i-team video, you’ll see that the panels are in fact laid directly on the roof surface. Here is a screen cap showing workers placing flexible panels flat on the roof:

tampa_solar_flat

The effect of array tilt angle on solar PV energy output may be up to 20% compared to that of flat installations, depending on latitude. Typical rooftop arrays with tilt look like this:

Piscataway-Conackamack[1]

You can read more about tilt angles and panel efficiency here.

But the tilt issue is small compared to the shading issue by the tall building to the Southwest. using Google Earth’s timeline feature, I found an image from Dec 26, 2012 that shows the peak shading near the winter solstice, it also shows the solar panels in place. Clearly, the shadow will cover a significant portion of the solar panels on the roof for a period of time.

tampa_courthouse_GE-shadow-decemberThe next thing that needs to be done is a public records request to get the hourly solar power system output data over the past couple of years, it should be an easy matter then to note when the output drops significantly, and to line that up with sun angles and times.

On a daily basis, you can watch the real-time output page here:

Tampa_solar_RTpageSource: http://www.hillscty419piercepv.com/

Below the big dial gauge, if you choose “select gauge” and the “Interval 2-hour Avgs.” you’ll get a bar graph plot of solar output by hour, though there is no facility for getting anything but today’s data. From my observations, it seems that at this time of year, we get a bigger drop-off in production in the late afternoon than we should, which should be almost symmetrical with the buildup in the morning towards peak insolation. The afternoon production seems to have a larger gap.

It will be interesting to see what the public records request for the hourly solar power output data brings.

Full disclosure: I have a solar power system on my own home.

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198 thoughts on “How not to do a solar power project – great moments in solar engineering

  1. A recent headline from the increasingly useless Chicago Tribune:

    “Rules prevent solar panels in many states with abundant sunlight”

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-rules-prevent-solar-panels-in-states-20140809-story.html#page=1

    After reading the article, the headline is a complete lie. People can install all the solar they want (providing of course it meets local building codes).

    But shucky darn if it ain’t just too expensive if it isn’t funded by taxpayers !!!

    • Absolutely, spot-on! The problem is all about subsidies and forcing others to take on the problems and costs of your decisions. The economics are just not competitive …. unless you use regulations to rebalance the playing field.

      If someone wants to go solar, they should be able to remove their house or part of their house from the grid. Then there is no cost to the utility, only a reduction on its power sales as people go off grid. Same as when you turn off your oven, washing machine and power saw in the workshop. But it is the attraction of selling “excess” electricity at an above-market price, that makes the whole project attractive to the homeowner. Let them eat their own bread, I say; I don’t want to have to buy what they call cake.

      Now that I’m thinking …. the Florida building SAVES only a small amount of money, but does that number include what they SELL to the grid? Perhaps that is in a separate account. Perhaps the project is actually very worthwhile in toto.

      • What interest is being paid on the capital cost of $1.2M. The payback with the $60,000 projected saving is 20 years (Not including interest) but PV panels do not last 20years.

  2. average annual savings $27 thousand, investment $1.2 million. 2.25% return.

    not enough to pay the cost of money, let alone maintenance and lifetime replacement. even if the output was doubled.

    • That’d only take 44.5 years to pay off. Although with the way government is printing money, and the cap and trade that will eventually go into effect, that will be about 6 years….

      • Useful life is 20 to 30 years – so like all solar installations they can never pay back.

        Germans are now making projections to go away from nuclear and toward coal but then be 100% alternative by 2050 when energy costs will consume 50% of the German GDP.

    • My understanding is that solar panels have to be maintained and the cost is not small. So we also need to know how that factors into the equation.

    • Yes, Ferdberple, even using your generous figures, SOLAR WILL NEVER BREAK EVEN. It is always a NET NEGATIVE ROI.

      Using their figures: @ an annual interest rate of 2.3%, the Present Value of $24,000/yr. for 350 YEARS is only about $1,043,000. And after that, the rate of return diminishes so rapidly that even in 1,000 years they could NEVER RECOUP THEIR INVESTED COST of $1,200,000.

      What a scam.

      • Well, I just used the word “sk-a-m” (spelled correctly). And I’m in moderation. Sigh. (posted this for just FYI)

  3. The “large building” is the county office building. It was built as part of a private, upscale office development that fell through and the county, under G Karl, a very competent administrator, acquired it on favorable terms.
    It was, of course, in place when the solar project was built, but not when the courthouse that carries the panels was built.
    TECO has a solar project at their Manatee viewing center at the Big Bend Power Plant. It is designed to set a baseline for what an optimized, fixed panel array can deliver. It is on pedestals about 20 feet above an open parking lot.
    Among the findings is that there is about a 2% per month decrement due to dust. You would think with all our rain that wouldn’t be problem — but the “dust” may actually be salt encrustation as the project is on the shores of the bay.
    Corrosion at the panel edges is already evident 4 years in.

    When this project was built a survey was done. The primary solar usage in Tampa, which one would think would be a solar energy hotbed, is swimming pool heating. Black plastic tubes on the roof and a small pump turn you to be pretty cost effective. Solar electric — not so much, but then we have pretty reasonable electric rates.
    The aforementioned Big Bend Plant is a four turbine coal plant. Fuel is provided by a 100 car unit train running to and from Ky a couple of times a week (seems like 500 cars when you are stuck waiting for it at the crossing on US 41). Most of our other plants are coal, with few natural gas conversions.

    Far and away peak loads here are mid-summer Air Conditioning. This is when there is the most sun, so a well designed project might actually do some good here — certainly a more favorable situation that peak loads on winter nights. Can’t make the numbers seem to work though, especially in the low government subsidy environment that is Florida.

    • How many of those plants will be affected by the upcoming EPA rules? In Missouri, we have mostly older plants and it’s not looking good.

    • I can attest to the efficiency of the solar pool water heating in central Florida. It can easily take a 10 meter pool to we’ll over 90 F and a hot tub to 110F. Although that is not entirely electrical power free, as the pool circulation pump needs to be running.

  4. Looks like a great DYI episode with that guy who comes in after the last remodeling company had screwed things up. I love to hear him tear the heart out of the job the last company did.

    • I can’t imagine that a public works project like this didn’t have a Professional Electrical Engineer provide stamped drawings. Did they raise the issue? They should have. Some FOIA might shine some sunlight on these panels. Officially or unofficially, it’s probable that the engineer was told to not ask any questions.

  5. I’m surprised that the government doesn’t require the building that is blocking their light to be taken down or pay for the lost power. /sarc

    Amazing incompetence. No one bothered to check to see how much actual sunlight and power they could get before building that white elephant? Must have used a climate model instead.

      • Don’t give them any ideas. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit to find out they did sue themselves… and we’ll be paying for both sets of lawyers out of our taxes.

      • Anthony,
        Maybe they can install some wind powered lights on the offending building and aim them at the panels. This type of idea makes sense to many people, lets call them idiots.

    • It would seem prudent to install a photometer first, followed by a small pilot unit to verify that the project is indeed feasible. Failing that, how about a money-back guarantee from the contractor if performance falls below specs?

    • Why didn’t the installers make a note that it sure was nice working on this roof, as every afternoon it was shaded and much cooler?

  6. The power drop is particularly bad if the panels are tied together at the panel output. Using micro-inverters on each panel allows the unshaded panels to output full (sun angle and temperature limited) power instead of affecting the whole array output caused by only a part of a single panel being shaded.
    Max power rating of a solar panel is measured at STP conditions with the sun angle at 90 degrees. From there the output power drops as sun angle, temperature, age, dirt and shade all take their toll on output.

  7. A Comprehensive Review of Solar Access Law in the United States by Colleen McCann Kettles, 2008, found that in Florida, based on Caton & Kettles, 1980:

    A landowner does not have any legal right to the free flow of light and air across the adjoining land of his neighbor.
    The English doctrine of Ancient Lights has been unanimously repudiated in other states where that question has arisen and has no validity in Florida.
    Because there is no legal right to the free flow of light and air from the adjoining land, there is no cause of action for nuisance, damages, or injunctive relief even though a building or structure interferes with the passage of light and air to adjoining premises. . . .

    California’s Solar Shade Act does not apply in Florida.

    The Solar Shade Act (AB 2321, 1978) provides limited protection to solar energy system owners from shading caused by trees and shrubs on adjacent properties. The law seeks to prevent a property owner from allowing trees or shrubs to shade an existing solar energy system installed on a neighboring property, provided the shading trees or shrubs were planted after the solar collecting device was installed.

    • And, needless to say, even if that building were privately owned there would be no cause of action because it was THERE when the solar panels were added. When we added solar panels to our house (thanks to the government subsidies), we took down a tree that would have shaded the roof. This is just common sense.

      • So…you took down a tree that provided shade in summer to produce a little bit of electricity that probably won’t cover the increased AC costs from the increased lack of shade?

  8. Government 102 – Tips on Using Eminent Domain to Justify Demolishing Buildings Shading Solar Arrays

  9. it seems that at this time of year, we get a bigger drop-off in production in the late afternoon than we should

    This time of year in Florida, we get frequent, almost daily, afternoon thunderstorms.

  10. If this doesn’t work in Tampa, imagine how bad it is in Ottawa (Ontariowe) Canada. They have been installing solar panels on the roofs of schools here — promising similar types of cost savings. Of course trying to verify the results (how much money we are losing) is difficult. There is one school that, for the time being, has a portal for monitoring the performance: a 10 kW system that for the past 30 days has produced 1,382 kWh — saving $1,108 or 326 lb of CO2. Pretty pathetic return since this is the summer (peak performance season) and the school is closed (so what did they really save). This system was installed in November 2011 (cost unknown) and has produced 32,000 kWh and saved $25,000 — what a scam!

    • They do it for the same reason Hillsborough did it: politicians want to get Green creds. The money doesn’t matter – it’s not coming out of their wallets. The politicians probably received Green creds, so I’d say the projects were successful.

    • I am puzzled by these numbers. Who is claiming a $25K saving? Claiming this amount for 32000 KWH implies a rate of $.78 per KW>

      • It is from their portal…I didn’t bother to do the per kWh calculations since the amount was so low. But now that you point it out: our retail cost in Ontario is about $0.13 / kWh; wholesale is $0.05. What these scamsters seem to be promoting is the savings based on the amount they get paid based on the FIT for solar which was around $0.78 when their contract was signed…unbelievable.

      • You would need to know what peak demand (kW) savings are estimated for lowering the demand ratchet before you can take the rest and divide the remaining kWh. Demand penalties can be significantly higher than the summation of the kWh.

  11. I like to say, “Humans have much the same capacity for intelligent thought and rational decisionmaking as chickens have capacity for flight: we can do it; we don’t do it often and we don’t do it well, but every once in a while we get in a gorgeous soar and, hot damn! we think we’re eagles!”

    This is one example of that.

    If you’re gonna solar — personally, I hate open parking lots; I hate having my car turned into a solar cooker. Panels mounted (with tilt; I ain’t no engineer and even I know that one) to shade a parking lot, even if it didn’t produce much power, would spare my car’s A/C a bit of strain and I would be very grateful.

    —-

    As to solar access law — any lawyer serious about his work can find a counter-precedent to just about anything. The verdict goes to whichever side has the better “performance artist” for a lawyer. In the right (or wrong) hands, there is pretty much no such thing as “what the law says”. Excellent article reprinted here:

    http://www.copblock.org/40719/myth-rule-law-john-hasnas/

    • The US Dept. Of Veterans Affairs spent $57.6 Million installing solar parking lot covers at VA complexes around the nation.The Oklahoma City VAMC’s $4.6 Mil solar parking install has lifetime warranty as part of cost, for the full 20 yr life of the solar panels. Published figures for cost savings to date, show the installation will pay for itself in as little as 45 years, but the panels will degrade with time, while per Kw prices will rise.

      OKC is famous for high winds and knockout hail, but that’s ok, many Vets are adept at hittin’ the dirt when the shrapnel starts flying.

  12. she is exploring paying cash to buy one outright for three of the cottages she owns. The cost: $106,000.
    ==============
    It will cost the homeowner about $1000+/month to borrow $106,000 and pay it back over 10 years. A lot more if you factor in maintenance. You can buy a lot of electricity for $1000 per month, and if something goes wrong the power company pays for repairs.

    The leasing arrangement works because of taxes. The leasing company gets to deduct the cost of the lease at their corporate rate, something the homeowner cannot do. If your large business corporate rate is 50%, then the taxpayer is picking up 1/2 the cost.

    • And the fact that the power company is NOT being forced to buy expensive, subsidized power form the homeowner.
      It’s all about the tax credits

  13. Decades ago PNM installed properly latitude angled water circulating panels on their new building in Albuquerque. I figured during the summer afternoons the cars in the parking lot south of the building would get over 140 F in the reflected light. Last time I was through town, the panels are all gone, as are, I presume, the absorptive chillers and water storage in basement. Money plus politics = deafness.

    • UV eventually degrades the panels and they disintegrate. The home we bought had solar on the pool that turned into a roof sprinkler after about 3 years, which was ~10 years after install.

  14. Concerning the Dec 26th photo, it is late afternoon. December temps in Tampa do not require much A/C so it is more relevant that these panels work when they are needed most, April- Oct. I am not defending this array but Tampa has a latitude of approx 29 degrees N so during summer the Sun is almost directly overhead. Shading shouldn’t be a problem as much then. I think the real issue is that solar panels never produce the amount of power as advertised and are not cost effective. But what the hell, it was taxpayer’s money so nobody cares and it made County officials feel good about themselves for helping to save the Planet. Perhaps those using the building should be required to use only what is produced by those panels without supplementation from other sources.

    • The PV panels are flexible panels as well. The rigid panels are about 18% efficient. The flex panels are about 6%.The installer was smiling after that job.

  15. @ $2000 savings a month, that’s 50 years to pay off the 1.2 million dollar cost. That building won’t even be there in 50 years. I know because I live 20 miles from there. We like to rip buildings down & rebuild down here in Florida. It’s cheaper than fixing most times.

  16. OK, so maybe governments aren’t too good at solar power. Maybe they should try something else like… oh, healthcare. /sarc /snark /Tampa-jump-the-shark

    (Headed to Tampa Bay area next February as a climate refugee escaping Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming. The hot is too cold for me. Will swing by courthouse in person just for the belly laughs. Mrs. H.R. has pre-approved the side trip. Need protest slogan suggestions for my 12″x18″ cardboard sign. Graphics limited by IHOP crayon selection. That courtyard looks like a nice place to sit for an hour or so while swilling an ice-cold carbonated soda. Might as well hold a sign while relaxing.)

  17. Thunderstorms are not without value – they clean the solar panels, allowing greater solar radiation absorption.
    Tampa is at 28 degrees latitude and laying the panels flat would have probably reduced
    power obtained by less than 12 % from optimal, and tilting would have added cost to the system – providing
    the structures to tilt the panels is not free. However, it’s likely that tilting would also provide greater
    air circulation beneath the panels, allowing for greater panel output (panels lose efficiency when
    they get hot). If the major losses occur in the winter due to greater shading as a result of lower
    sun angles, then the optimal tilt angle for a fixed tilt array (as is the case here) will change and be
    biased more towards optimizing summer performance, since that’s when the most radiation is received.
    From my rather extensive readings of solar panel systems, people often have exaggerated beliefs in
    how much power they will get. As I recall, a panel system lab rated at 6KW, will likely produce a max
    output much closer to 4 KW (panels have two output ratings – go by the lower one). And the power inverters (which change the direct current output by the panels to AC current) can cost about as much as the solar panels themselves these days – panels have come down in price, while inverters (especially micro inverters) have gone up in price.

    • Good points,
      I wonder how much consideration is given to high winds during Hurricanes or significant tropical storms especially in FLA. Are insurance rates increased for solar roofs or are they even covered?
      I know that many homes in NJ had roof damage due to Sandy, which was not even a Hurricane as it struck NJ. Also it seems that tilting would further exasperate the problem to stay on the roof. Also how expensive is it to repair a roof with panels in place? I would never put solar panels on an old roof as President Carter did, which had to be removed when the roof required replacement. DUMB!

    • Another (dumb?)question,
      When the solar panels blow off the roof as will happen some day in Fla, is there any Hazmat considerations for clean up?

  18. Perhaps they could have installed Sun-tracking panels in an appropriate sunny place. However, I’ve read that very high winds, such as during a hurricane can damage upright panels.
    Did they choose light weight panels because of the building’s design? Does flat placement that provides some sun early-to-late compensate for a tilted and fixed placement that restricts sun early and late?

    The nearby tall building (the Hillsborough County Center Building) should have solar panel windows and sides. Morning and evening the E & W sides get more direct sun and in the low sun season the large side gets more direct sun. (More shading also, but, they are using OPM and it’s the gov’s good intentions that matter.)
    ———————————-
    Your own project, AW, continues to look good. I ran a few calculations about 10 years ago and again when you first explained your setup. Our electrical rates in rural Wash. State with hydro and latitude of 47o N make for a non-economical situation. One new house a few miles away has been built with full-roof solar. I don’t know the economics of that.

    • Sun trackers have become uneconomic in 2008 due to falling panel prices – mechanics of trackers stayed constant in price. Since 2008 it’s more cost effective to increase the number of panels instead of buying, installing and maintaining the tracker system.

  19. rakman August 30, 2014 at 7:31 am is correct… shading has a very negative impact on PVC production. Any unit whose voltage drops significantly below the system average ceases to add current to the system and can potentially create a sink rather that a source. It all depends on the way the units are connected and of course it is more expensive to provide for the greatest possible granularity and reverse current protection.

    I suspect that this system suffers not only because it was installed flat on the roof and is shaded by the nearby tower, but also because equipment on the roof will partially shade panels and thus render those shaded panels ineffective (see the tilted panel photo for an installation which takes this issue in proper consideration). This is a lesson the boating community learned decades ago but the county is just now re-learning the hard way. Perhaps county officials should have strolled to a local harbor and talked to a few boat owners about such things before squandering a million or so of taxpayer money.

    BTW, there is another issue with an installation flat on the roof. Depending on the cell design, this will often lead to much higher cell operating temperatures and reduced life. I will also be interested to see how long the cells survive the repeated thermal shock induced by cold rain showers after several hours of baking in the Florida sun. Ask any Floridian who bought a new German car with clear coat paint in the 1980s and they will be familiar with thermal shock damage.

      • Solar panels ARE diodes.
        The problem is, one panel delivers approx 50V; you string about 12 of them in series to get 600V for efficient DC to AC conversion (might also be 700, 800, depending on inverter design). If one of the 12 is shaded the voltage breaks down at that panel and drops to 550, wrecking the efficiency of the conversion.

        Micro inverters work on a single panel but are overall more expensive because you need such a lot of them.

      • Yes they are made of gallium arsenide for the most part. All PV devices have a half life like all semiconductors – that is the time that they are only 50% efficient. Each day they produce just a little less than the day before or the year before. Again adding to the total design cost and the required overdesign if you want 20+ year set KWH output.

      • profitup10
        August 30, 2014 at 11:41 am
        “Yes they are made of gallium arsenide for the most part. ”
        No; silicon for all the non-thin-film (18% efficiency) solar cells.

      • Traditional PV cells as described you are referring to the new thin film which has problems also.

        There are three main types of thin-film solar cells, depending on the type of semiconductor used: amorphous silicon (a-Si), cadmium telluride (CdTe) and copper indium gallium deselenide (CIGS). Amorphous silicon is basically a trimmed-down version of the traditional silicon-wafer cell. As such, a-Si is well understood and is commonly used in solar-powered electronics. It does, however, have some drawbacks.
        One of the biggest problems with a-Si solar cells is the material used for its semiconductor. Silicon is not always easy to find on the market, where demand often exceeds supply. But the a-Si cells themselves are not particularly efficient. They suffer significant degradation in power output when they’re exposed to the sun. Thinner a-Si cells overcome this problem, but thinner layers also absorb sunlight less efficiently. Taken together, these qualities make a-Si cells great for smaller-scale applications, such as calculators, but less than ideal for larger-scale applications, such as solar-powered buildings.
        Promising advances in non-silicon thin-film PV technologies are beginning to overcome the issues associated with amorphous silicon. On the next page, we’ll take a look at CdTe and CIGS thin-film solar cells to see how they compare.

        There are health concerns with the use of cadmium in thin-film solar cells. Cadmium is a highly toxic substance that, like mercury, can accumulate in food chains. This is a blemish on any technology that fancies itself part of the green revolution. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory and several other agencies and companies are currently investigating cadmium-free thin-film solar cells. Many of these technologies are proving themselves to be just as efficient as those that require cadmium.
        So how are these next-generation solar cells manufactured? Read on and find out. ­

        Gallium arsenide (GaAs) is a compound of the elements gallium and arsenic. It is a III-V direct bandgap semiconductor with a zinc blende crystal structure. Gallium arsenide is used in the manufacture of devices such as microwave frequency integrated circuits, monolithic microwave integrated circuits, infrared light-emitting diodes, laser diodes, solar cells and optical windows.[2]

        GaAs is often used as a substrate material for the epitaxial growth of other III-V semiconductors including: Indium gallium arsenide, aluminum gallium arsenide and others.

      • “Traditional PV cells as described you are referring to the new thin film which has problems also.”

        No, traditional non-thin-film PV cells are silicon.

        “One of the biggest problems with a-Si solar cells is the material used for its semiconductor. Silicon is not always easy to find on the market, where demand often exceeds supply. ”

        Not since the big price decline since 2008 – which was caused largely by massive new silicon fab capacities coming online.

      • I manufactured those for 30+ years . . all technologies have and use doping and heavy metal or other toxic items in the manufacturing process and the disposal process. There in no such animal as a pure silicon semiconductor device. The silicon is a substrate to deposits metals and to dope with compounds creating junctions. Read the link I provided and it will show a many layered structure.

  20. So, how old is that roof they installed this array on? If you get 15 years out of any roof in Florida you’re doing good.

    By the looks of the installation methodology, one tropical storm and most of those panels will reside in a new location.

    This gives the word incompetent a whole new meaning.

  21. The roof pic from my phone, isn’t a white roof. The panels output will be reduced further as the roof surface temps climb on warm, sunny days.

  22. There was a very interesting article here 4 days ago introduced by AW, which involved the concept of EROI , or EROEI, Energy Return On Energy Invested , where it has been proposed that power plants should achieve , over their lifetime, a figure of at least 7 , to give back to society the resources used in constructing the power plant.
    It seems an obvious way to grade projected conventional or “green” energies , provided one’s premise is that the existing quality of life throughout the society is to be maintained.
    If it is permissible to equate energy with money , then the EROI figure for this installation , over 50 years life is 1, or 0.4 if Bobby Davis is correct in predicting the building’s demise after 20 years . To compensate society for this installation it should be generating a financial return of at least 14% annually, not 2% .
    Of course one could artificially increase the value of the power generated , but ultimately society would suffer.
    Or you could argue that this is just one small installation and that much larger installations elsewhere compensate with much larger EROI – which no doubt is true . However might it not be useful if planning authorities made more use of the EROI concept.
    In the old days in industry (ie the old days when there was industry in Britain) we called it cost effectiveness
    but it is basically the same concept surely but embracing society as a whole and not just an individual company and its shareholders.

    • Is that really necessary? So, you must come from a place where you’re so damn smart you can just pass judgement on millions of people.

    • Would you like to tell that to the scientists, engineers and technicians at NASA Spaceflight or Boeing or Lockheed Martin or SpaceX or how about the ladies and gentlemen of the 45th Space Wing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station? How about all those dummies at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory or the UF Veterinary College in Gainesville? Would you like to go up against the folks doing research at all those air and military bases that you can’t get near without getting arrested?

      Now let us knop where you live so that we can pick the lower class, lower income areas run into the ground by Democrats and liberal Republicans to see how they stack up against Miami/Dade… ’cause you don’t want to go up against my hick rural neighbors… whose offices are on the Space Coast.

  23. And, some people actually believe paving the roads with solar panels would pay off. No shade problem there, among many other…/sarc

  24. Have installed solar panels for remote stock tanks and they work well and are economical considering the alternatives. We average 270 days of sunshine. Looked into it for irrigation and the costs are prohibitive due to the high wattage requriements of the pumps on that particular job and the resultant solar array required. And this was compared to a system costing $50,000 per year for power from the utility company supplying the area! Until someone comes up with better more economical systems, solar is strictly a special situation solution.

      • Better to stoke up your wood stove if you have one, if you have wood available, if you have a generator for everything else, if you can get fuel for the generator. That’s my plan. The way I see it, the sooner people start freezing in the dark the sooner we will be rid of the imbeciles running things in DC.

  25. Seems like a hell of a price for the installation. I guess those putting in bids have to allow for a few backhanders to secure the contract.

    Looking at the flexible nature of the panels it is probably thin-film which has about half the conversion efficiency of poly- or mono-crystalline.

    Maybe someone in the administration just ordered “solar” and got delivered thin-film instead of crystal silicon.

    Tilt would not make much difference here. You still only have the cosine of the flat area available. You could economise a bit of silicon but you won’t get any more power out of the same surface area. Worse you will end up shading in winter and could get less.

    One thing that does not look good is mounting flat on what looks like black rubber mats. Those unventilated panels will be getting damned hot. Likely 80-100 deg C !!

    Efficiency gets quite a hit with temperature. 4-5% per 10 deg C.

    The installer will have economised by not having anything more complicated that dropping a few mats but that could be a bit hit on the production.

  26. We have to remember that the whole purpose of subsidies was to encourage development of cost-competitive solar energy systems. The sun-to-power was supposed to become equal to coal/oil power, at which point the socially desired choice could be made easily and without additional cost to society. I say “we”, but by that I mean all of us, including the eco-greens.

    The situation is that cost-competitive solar energy technologies have not developed. The costs have gone down for the panels by (I understand) outsourcing their manufacture to China where labour, energy and associated (regulatory?) costs are lower than in the United States or Europe. Labour costs, not technological improvement, dropped costs. Big difference.

    The eco-green have, again, changed the goalposts. The subsidy issue is now socio-political-ideological: coal/oil/nuclear energy is not just carbon-rich, it is BAD. So paying extra for good renewable energy is desirable. We pay more for recycling for this reason, though we do save some money and difficulties with landfilling or dumping at sea.

    Cost competitiveness is what we were sold renewables on, but really it was a non-issue. The Birkenstocked eco-green has enough excess cash that energy costs aren’t as important as the feeling that they are morally upstanding and “saving the planet”. Morally upstanding and saving the planet are good things, BTW, but we should be calling a spade a spade when we do something, not what is going on in the eco-green movement.

  27. “I think the government dufuses and the solar company missed the shading from the nearby tall building…”
    ————
    They prolly knew – they just didn’t care. They were getting paid to put up a solar array – so what if it was inefficient.

    The outcome doesn’t matter, they were on a holy mission. Now they are holy too and will most likely get lots more such govt jobs.

  28. Florida might be a bit different from other places. AC demand creates very high electric use in the summer months, winter heating load is almost nonexistent. Also May through September, most days see heavy cumulus or cumulonimbus cloud buildup, generally sometime after 13:00. Mornings are generally clear.

  29. Ironically the first image shown above appears to have been taken from the Hillsborough County Center Building that is the source of the problem.

  30. I think they may have a problem with their monitoring system.

    Over the last hour it was averaging about 120 kW and then it just “lost” 14kWh on the counter !

    I’ve yet to see an solar panel EMITTING sunlight so I guess there must a screw up somewhere in the real-time monitoring system

    If they are not even counting the watts correctly I’m not surprised the output is lower than expected. I’ll keep an eye on it and see whether it happens again.

  31. At least this project appears to provide some data so its efficiency can be determined. Did you ever notice that all those stadium projects and similar projects advertise in advance what the project will generate, but never report generating data after installation.

  32. yep, today’s production total has been ramping up and down and just got back to 425 kWh where it was at 12:48 ( half an hour ago ).

    Looks like someone is stealing power from the courthouse !

  33. There’s also the little matter of a roof covered in electrical equipment if you’re a fire fighter on it. Water you’re pumping and electric generating equipment that can’t be turned off in an emergency, like a fire, are just too lethal.

    Get the people out and let it burn down.

    Pointman

  34. Hey this is getting good. In the last 5 mins it’s just produced 90 kWh !!!

    Whoever’s been syphoning off the power knows they’ve been rumbled and they’ve just put it all back. It must be a WUWT reader ;)

  35. It appears the taxpayers are truly left holding the bag. Shades of Solyndra on a county political scale. EcoSolar filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy on 12/07/2011. The case was Florida Middle Bankruptcy Court Docket 8: 11-bk-22419. Safest haven given the gap between contract performance and results.

  36. From article:

    On a daily basis, you can watch the real-time output page here:
    [pic]
    Source: http://www.hillscty419piercepv.com/

    Ah Come On Now! They hid in plain sight their announcement it’s all a big scam right in that ugly address name!

    And the only thing I’m finding on that “site” is a Flash object in a frame, source is http://www.dmssvr.com/dmsmon/mon/hillsboroughch__1834/. Why not just use that address? Obviously they were clearly hinting it’s all a scam.

    Oh great, the “monitoring” is a sham. Their clock shows my system time, the minutes tick over simultaneously. That does not match the minute tick on my cell phone, an accurate time standard.

    It’s showing the “System Output” tachometer needle moving, the odometers increment at not quite a second intervals. But Network Traffic shows only a brief pulse every minute. It’s just faked-up window dressing, not reality.

    419 indeed. “The forces of General Big Oil make us seek refugee with UN US help. You send us 1.2 mil USD we send you 60 big 1’s every annual for life. This backed by Obama, he give us your email to contact.”

    • “Their clock shows my system time” Thier clock shows EDT (whateverthatis), I’m on BST – 7hrs
      later. I would guess your cellphone is free-running until you make a call.

      • I just set my system clock three minutes ahead for a test, the “monitor” clock jumped three minutes. It’s showing my system’s time.

        My cell phone is continuously pinging towers to check signal strength, that’s when it can get the time signal. My cell phone is not going to “free run” more than a half minute difference between an 11:29 AM Eastern Daylight Time robo-call and about 1:30 PM EDT when I had checked it.

        The “monitor” clock is bogus and not tied to the actual monitoring system.

      • Just did a similar check ( see below ) the flash gadget is deriving time from the PC clock not the server.

  37. Most of the massive solar projects even solar farms fail to produce the stated design capacity. Clouds, grid requirements, and age all tend to reduce total output and utilization. Solar technology is just not economically and reliable feasible with our current PV and mirror furnace designs.

    Just ask how much tax credits, depreciation deductions, and then add in some very high rates paid by utilities which again raise our electricity bills – if all the subsidies at every level were included in the cost per KWH it would exceed $ .50 per KWH try that on your total use and see $ 400 to $ 800 per month bills.

    Now this does not even include the useful life of solar which is between 20 and 30 years whereas Nuclear, Gas turbine can last 50 + years providing 24/7/365 base load power – this capacity is required as solar and wind are not always available.

  38. I took a look at the Hillsborough County Courthouse locale via Google Earth It is around noon in the overhead view. That building to the southwest is around 26 stories tall and casts a looooooong shadow. I’d guess it blanks out about a third of the collectors in the PM hours. I will further guess that they installed the solar panels flat to make them less vulnerable to hurricane force winds.

  39. @A-Watts
    I’d be interested to hear if you are still happy with your installation at home.

  40. Just noticed that the real time is showing “mostly cloudy”. Now I know that thin film loses less under cloud than crystalline silicon but 72% under cloud? Odd. How often is that updated? Maybe it is pulled of a local weather service in the morning.

    Anthony, do you have some reliable weather info for that site for the last couple of hours?

    Here is the solar output for the last two hours.

    Not sure what this system is measuring but it is not the output of the solar installation.

    Firstly there is no way the accumulated output could go backwards ( twice ) nor is it possible for it to have put on a spurt of 90 kWh in 5 minutes to catch up again. That would be 1.08 MW out of a boilerplate 196kW installation.

    Either someone is rigging the data or the monitoring system has serious problems and can not be believed in the slightest.

    • It might be “going backwards” if the array is not generating enough power to offset use there? Say it had generated 425 kWh, then clouds come over or the array falls in the shade of the building, but the building continues to use power during that time that is greater than the production during that time. The net value would fall in that case.

      • Well in that case it is not measuring the output of the solar array, as I said.

        Maybe this is supposed to be what they are feeding back into the grid, they are displaying this figure as a percentage of the 196kW boilerplate figure.

        But then where did the 1.08 MW come from ?? This is supposed to be “Real Time Solar Monitoring” that system could never produce that, even for a second: it’s 5 times the boilerplate figure.

        The measurements I logged show 195 kWh increase in exactly 2h , that’s about 75% which is fairly close to the speedo gadget. That means it is supposed to be the solar output and it can’t go to 1.08 MW however you look at it.

        The numbers I logged are shown here:

        http://climategrog.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=1003

        Another thing I’ve seen happen twice now is a Flash “pause” icon on the speedo for about five seconds then a rush on kWh counter that quickly spins up 6 or 7 kWh.

        As KDK noted the clock gadget is not displaying server data but a time derived from the PC clock. It was synced to my clock like he had noted, I did an ntp update that shifted the system clock by -170s, the gadget is still in sync. It’s using the local clock.

        I think a lot of this supposedly “real time” read out is fake and is programmed into the flash gadget that is preprogrammed in ActionScript. It reloads about every 15min ( note the AC kW output changes ).

        That still leaves a problem. I saw 90kWh jump in two reading 5 mins apart. If the true data comes in every 15mins thats means 90*4=360kW

        That’s 183% for 15m, in a system that is averaging <75%.

        It still ends up looking rigged or undependable.

  41. Somebody probably got an award or promotion for this. Everybody involved should have the costs deducted from their paychecks.

  42. The worst part about solar is most installations will never recover the energy it took to produce and install it. Solar to often is like spending two dollars to save one people do similar thing all the time like driving across town to save a dollar on a five pound bag of sugar yet they spent five dollars on gas, I don’t mind that so much after all you cannot fix stupid and after all it is their money, I do mind my electric and tax bill supporting solar/renewable stupidity. If the idea is to save energy let us do that but when you waste energy and money on solar/renewable project you are doing no one any good, ditto for recycling, ditto for reusable bags.

    • Basically you are saying it is a battery that returns 50% of the power used to charge it, and on top of that, you have to put it in the sun to get any back at all.

      Lately enviros are claiming the return on power invested in a solar panel is positive. I would like to know if this system can be used to prove it one way or the other. Considering the extruded aluminum frames around most panels, I doubt it.

  43. Questions somebody should have asked first:

    What is the unsubsidized cost for a solar installation? Most of these project just shift the costs on to somebody else.

    What is the expected serviceable lifetime of the panels? These panels degrade over time and their output is reduced each year?

    How many years before their is an actual ROI? (A lot of factors here, such as the local climate, and projecting future energy rates).

    • I is difficult to get all the numbers as they are divided among panel components makers, panel makers, federal, State and city rebates. Mandated use by utilities at very high prices for a number of years [some only 5 years] then there are accelerated depreciation deductions, direct and indirect tax credits.

      Then there are gird upgrade charges that solar and wind require so like CO2 there is no way to actually prove the entire cost of the policy. California is littered with closed failed solar and wind projects most are not even 20 years old.

  44. A nice graphic comparing per year per MW costs/benefits of wind, solar, gas, hydro and nuclear against coal baseload generation. Guess which has the greatest benefit? The analysis was “levelised” to include the cost of providing baseload energy for the “alternative” energies.

    See also

    http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/papers/2014/05/19%20low%20carbon%20future%20wind%20solar%20power%20frank/net%20benefits%20final.pdf

    http://economics.mit.edu/files/6317

    • Something that should be removed from all consideration involving cost analysis or ROI of “alternative” energy is any thing to do with emissions/CO2.
      Because it doesn’t matter

      • “Brookings report is to justify a political policy of no CO2 without cost being added. It appears to have loaded the cost on all forms of power. ”

        Wrong planet.
        Absolutely not what the original paper says.
        Just read it , OK?

      • I did read most of it and stopped when I found no individual data included to back up the generalities. If you have some parts that are supported then show them. Brookings is a left of center research Institute. Check their funding.

      • Yes, you are correct in that they are trying to justify zero based emissions.
        However, they did manage to point out the folly of their ways.
        It’s very obvious in the graphic, which BTW, was published in the Economist…

      • I read the Economist and have for 30 + years – it has drifted to the far left over the years. I find few articles there now that are factual without a political bend.

        E=GREEN supporters [believers] avoid actual full disclosure. They even got Congress to let them hold parts of the government paid research as proprietary when presenting their hypothesis for peer review. Now pray tell how is the peer reviewer suppose to attempt to recreate the findings without all the information.

        Thus they started their own Journals and appointed their own peer review scientists. Independent huh? This allowed thousand of papers to apply for government GRANT MONEY. They then claimed a new science – CONSENSUS OF SCIENTISTS – humm maybe they are referring to POLITICAL SCIENTISTS.

        There are only two hard science disciplines in political Science – PROCTOLOGY AND SCATOLOGY.

    • “The analysis was “levelised” ”

      Most propaganda needs to “levelise”. What are the actual costs?

    • How can wind and solar have “avoided capacity cost” benefit?
      They both need to be backed up 100% with other generation.

      • Their analysis is based on comparing capacity factors which is just wrong.
        Solar is at zero much of every day and wind can be down at any time.
        Neither can replace any dispatchable capacity.
        30% non-dispatchable does not replace any part of 90% dispatchable CF.
        Thermal plants are down only for planned maitenance.

  45. Hey, that’s cute. “Today”, “This Week”, and “This Month” odometers all have the same decimal value on my machine right now. Like at midnight both “Week” and “Month” had summed to exactly x.00.

    That’s 1:100 x 1:100 odds, one in ten thousand.

    I don’t think this “monitoring” is very honest.

  46. I think the government dufuses and the solar company missed the shading from the nearby tall building….

    Did they? ;-)

  47. This project was a loser/boondoggle from the get-go. Using their initial savings figures, it would have taken 20 years to get a simple payback, which does not include the cost of the money. If you add in the cost of maintenance, the figures are worse. Further, the output of those panels would diminish over time, even under ideal conditions. Even assuming the original figures were accurate, no sane person would invest his own money in a 20+ year true payoff. Only government – using other peoples’ money – could waste so much, from so many, for so little benefit.

    • The cost of the system seems excessive to start with. But most public contracts are much more ‘generous’. Leaves lots of room for kick backs.

  48. Maybe in the UK reality is sinking in at last.

    Guardian – 4 August 2014
    UK solar firms call for review over early end to subsidies
    Scrapping renewable obligation scheme for solar farms is unlawful and will result in job losses, companies say
    ….Solarcentury, TGC Renewables, Lark Energy and Orta Solar Farms are challenging a decision by the government to end its renewable obligation (RO) scheme for solar farms with a capacity greater than 5 megawatts from April 2015, two years earlier than planned. …..

    • No, I thinks it’s afternoon roll-off ( cosine of incidence angle ).

      High noon is 13:30 EDT around Florida , it’s now about 2.5h past it’s zenith.

  49. It’s becoming clear that most of what is displayed is artificial.

    It’s only updating about every 15m so I think even twitching of the speedo is a “special effect”.

    It probably loads new kWh figure from the server every 15min and animates some garbage to keep us all amused.

    Whether that 15m data is synthetic or real remains to be seen.

    It reports “mostly cloudy” which sounds like weather forecast for the day rather than a weather report. That’s probably pulled off an on-line weather forecast each morning.

    I don’t believe that this system is producing 75% its boilerplate max. under cloud !

  50. As stupid as that is, it beats the ass-clownery of trying to grow turf on the roof (as they have done on a number of Federal buildings in the DC area)

  51. A few days ago I mentioned that the font was problematical on my computer. It has evidently been changed because it is much easier to read now.

    Thank you, Anthony.

  52. You never lay solar panels flat! I said never! A greater angle is required in winter months.

  53. Seems even the Germans are having issues with passive sources?

    German Energy Push Runs Into Problems – NYTimes.com
    http://www.nytimes.com/…/energy…/german-energy-pus...
    The New York Times
    Mar 19, 2014 – BERLIN — It is Germany’s national goal: to have the bulk of its energy supplied by renewable power sources by 2050, without endangering the …
    German Energy Reforms Could Spell Trouble for Small …
    http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/…/german-e...
    Renewable Energy World
    Jun 2, 2014 – The problem, says the Merkel government, is that Germany is producing too much renewable energy too fast. In the first quarter of 2014, for …
    03 The Money Problem With Germany’s Renewable Energy …
    http://www.greentechmedia.com/…/the-money-problem-with-...
    Greentech Media
    Jun 5, 2014 – As the German government gets ready for a major overhaul of its landmark renewable energy act, the fundamental problem is cost.
    Germany’s Energy Poverty: How Electricity Became a …
    http://www.spiegel.de › … › Germany › German Energy Revolution
    Der Spiegel
    Sep 4, 2013 – High Costs and Errors of German Transition to Renewable Energy … with their dire warnings of chaotic supply problems and job losses.
    Germany and Energy Issues | The Energy Collective
    theenergycollective.com/…/germany-shows-renewable-energy-has-failed…
    Feb 4, 2014 – What has been obvious to me for a long time now appears to have become obvious to many others: Germany’s energy policy is a confused …
    Policy Network – Energy policy in Germany: Big problems in …
    http://www.policy-network.net › Opinion
    Policy Network
    Mar 27, 2014 – The coalition agreement between the German Social Democrats (SPD) and the Christian Democrats (CDU) has seen SPD leader Sigmar …
    GERMANY: Renewable Energy Policy “Complete Failure …
    srsroccoreport.com/germany…energy…/germany-death-of-renewable-en…
    Apr 28, 2014 – One of the major problems with wind and solar is that the projects … According to the article, Germany’s CO2 And Energy Policy — About To …
    Germany is a cautionary tale of how energy polices can harm
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk › … › News by Sector › Energy
    The Daily Telegraph
    Jan 16, 2014 – “For me, the most urgent problem is the design of the energy revolution,” said the German Chancellor in her first television interview after being …
    Germany’s Green Energy Disaster: A Cautionary Tale For …
    http://www.forbes.com/…/germanys-green-energy-disaster-a-cautionary...
    Forbes
    Mar 14, 2013 – However serious problems are caused when government starts … In fact Merkel has doubled down on Germany’s renewable energy push in …
    German Green Energy Bluster Running Out Of Wind – Forbes
    http://www.forbes.com/…/german-green-energy-bluster-running-out-of-...
    Forbes
    Aug 13, 2013 – The German energy industry group BDEW has said that the next government must make energy … The Problems Aren’t Just Blowing Offshore.

  54. 5:14PM EDT, jumped up to 94.0 KWh, tachometer showing 50 to 52%!

    It says on the page it’s a 196KWh system, 50% would be 98KWh, 94.0KWh would be only 48%. Which somehow is the lower amount of the shaded range, top is 54%.

    • Most of the info displayed is bullshit. It is all inconsistent. The two hours I plotted above the total energy was climbing at about 150kW averaged over two hours but the “actual” power reported was hovering around 130-133 kW.

      Plotting the rate of change of the daily total box it jumps all over going negative and then producing 5 time the boilerplate max rating.

      This “real time data” is BS. There is maybe one real value downloaded every 15min , the rest is made up to pretend to be real time.

  55. The reason for this nonsensical project is simply that greens don’t do science, math and engineering. Their reasoning stops at : It’s green it must be good.

  56. Why were those solar panels not installed in the basement? They would be protected from dust that way…

  57. Water for cleaning solar arrays is almost never mentioned. How much water does this require to keep clean? Is rain sufficient? As they are mounted flat against the roof I would say they need manual cleaning.

    The Ivanpah Solar plant in the Nevada desert is proud that they only use a little water for the cooling cycle in their thermal system. However they make no mention of the amount of water required to keep their mirrors in prime bird cooking condition.

    • Flat mounted I’d say there would be some loss if they are not cleaned. Otherwise the fairly frequency Florida rains would be enough.

  58. First let me point out that I am one of the few (probably less than 10% of the population) that have the right conditions to make this work.

    System located at Lon:-97.27 Lat: 32.42
    Installed Dec 27, 2011. 25 panels, added 3 identical panels in Jan. 2013 for a total of 28 panels.
    Name plate power 6.7 Kw.
    No tax credits, grants or subsidies used to buy and install system and only 100% American made products were used.
    My actual installed per/watt cost was $3.58 or $24,000 all in.
    Average utility charge for 12 month fixed rate billing = 0.102 cents per KWH at time of installation.
    Total production through Aug 2014, 27.3 MegaWatts.
    Net metering is legal in this location and the system currently has a $340 credit on account

    https://enlighten.enphaseenergy.com/pv/public_systems/3Fzt45951

    Question: Will this system every payback the original investment* and beat the investment return of a 20 year US treasury bond bought in January 2012 @ 2.67% (ie. the safest investment instrument)?
    * Assuming retail electricity rates remain fixed at 0.102/KwH for 20 year life of the system.

    • Are you assuming your panel output will decline 1% per year from radiation damage?
      Are you assuming replacement of your inverter between year 10 and year 15?

      • I assumed panel degradation so I oversized the system so that after 20 years my system would be producing close to 90-100% of my average 2011 usage. Right now the system is producing 102% of PVWATTS (http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/calculators/PVWATTS/) rated output thanks to being a ground mounted system with a adjustable tilting system I designed for the main array. I haven’t paid a electric bill for over 2 years. As to the microinverters, I was hoping to get 15 years out of them because they are mounted for optimal air cooling unlike a typical roof mount. 2/3 of the total cost of the system were the modules and inverters and the costs for these items have dropped over 15% since I bought them while the performance and efficiency has increased. Who knows what this stuff will cost in 15-20 years but since it’s electronics I assume Moore’s law will keep the replacement costs less than inflation at least.
        So what do you think? Am I going to beat the 20 Tbill rate of return?
        If the retail electricity rates ever drop below to 6 cents a KWH there is no way this system will save money.

    • $24,000 invested at 2.67% APR over 20 years gives about $24,000*(1+0.0267)^20 = $40,650.

      Based on your 27.3 MWh generated over about 970 days, this gives 10.3 MWh per year, or $1050 per year of electricity savings. After 20 years, assuming flat utility rates, no maintenance costs and no panel degradation, your system generates about $21,000 of electricity, and will still not break even. You will have foregone about $19,700 of cash by investing in solar panels rather than T bonds.

      Assuming your utility generates electricity with 100% coal at 1 ton CO2/MWhr, your $19,700 of foregone revenue is equivalent to paying to avoid about 206 tons of CO2 emissions, to the tune of about $95/ton CO2.

      Just what the EPA wants.

      If Obama is successful in necessarily skyrocketing utility rates, then you will have made a wise investment.

  59. Damn the consequences (especially when it takes a Google search to spell such a word).
    You might expect more sun during drought and less during more humid times.
    What does that say about heat capacity ?

  60. 10:15pm EDT, “monitor” says panels are making 0.2 KW, Today it has made 0.01 KWh, This Week 0.01 KWh…

    Whoops, about 10:18:30 it budged a notch, Today is 0.02 KWh, This Week is 0.02 KWh. Oh, and This Month’s decimal also ticked over, also ends in x.02.

    10:21:30, now they’re up to 0.03.

    10:24:30, 0.04.

    What the…? 10:27:15, got the “downloading” symbol on the tachometer, and the odometers zeroed.

    10:30:20, up to 0.01.

    10:33:20, up to 0.02.

    So deep inside the Flash fake monitor-like thing, it is set with a minimum amount that it displays, increments the odometers based on that minimum amount, but the downloading resets the local accumulated amounts to what the monitoring equipment says.

    10:36:24, up to 0.03.

    10:39:28, up to 0.04.

    10:42:10, download, reset to zero.

    Hey, the tachometer just said 2% for a second! Florida must have some very large very strong lightning bugs.

    • Yep that “monitor” is huge fake. Like Al Gores lab experiment it’s all done with mirrors.

      I’m pretty sure it has programmed “noise” element to, to make needle wobble a bit a make it look more “real time”.

      I followed it until about 7pm EDT and the only thing that looks mildly credible is the daily total which clearly gets downloaded with some new data every 15 minutes.

      The rest is a sham. Pretty good for court house to producing fraudulent information with a faked “real time monitor”.

      Good spot with 419. Was that a freudian slip or are they blatantly taking the piss?

    • From the heartland link: “It is very light-sensitive and can produce energy at low-light levels, including the moon,” said Tanner.

      I guess there was strong moon last night ;)

  61. Hard to beat much of the above. Let me just point out, BOZOS RULE. There’s so much drivel (drool?) out there, it’s depressing.

  62. As far as the shortfall in production goes, I don’t think the shadow is a major part of it. It probably masks ‘up to’ half the roof for most of December and early January. With those long shadows even the illuminated sections will only be about 50% peak at mid-day due to low incident light. I doubt it costs more than 5% of annual, if that.

    What is more important is with the sun high now it only near 75% peak at high noon.

    This is very likely due to high panel temperatures amplified by flat non-ventilated mounting.

    That could account for a shortfall of 25%. The rest of the shortfall probably comes from ‘optimistic’ estimations provided by the enterprising enterprise that sold them the system.

    They certainly made a packet rolling out the black mats and plugging it all in.

    Perhaps Anthony knows some on-line tools for cost estimation of a grid-tied system of this surface area. As a very rough guess, at current prices thin-film about 60c/W add $1 per watt for accessory hardware….. $300k

    The resting going on wages, executive bonuses and kickbacks … yeah, $1.2 million would be about right. ;)

  63. Even best case I am not getting the financial math.

    Best case it is 20 years to break even at the $1.2 million investment.

    Invest the $1.2m in a simple savings account (with current miserably low interstest rates) and after 20 years of compounding you have earend Florida tax payers $1.1 million.

    To summarize – Solar panels 20 year return, zero dollars. Simple savings $1.1 million.

    I guess the argument is there are environmental benefits. Fine, even accepting that, it still is completely dishonest to suggest there is financial benefit. I am not sure why these people are not in jail.

    • The finalcial maths is simple. None of this is about ROE. It is about yet another way to bail out the banks.

      A domestic solar installation has a guarnteed revenue. If you have a revenue, you can ask for a loan. When a bank grants a loan, it creates 90% of the money it will lend you from nowhere, thus creating “wealth” and raising the banks assets.

      Thermal solar is far more efficient than PV if you want to save energy but it does not create a revenue stream and bank loans. That is why even in the UK where the amount of sun won’t even get you a tan most years, they are pushing domestic PV in installations that do not even have a metre to measure what they are feeding into the grid. You just get paid a forfeit rate.

      They know it’s not worth measuring and would be an embarassement that everyone is going to see, so they don’t install metering.

  64. I read an interview with a fire chief who said the panels on a roof are so dangerous to his men that he won’t send them onto a roof during a fire–but fighting a fire from the roof is crucial. The problem is that the panels are very difficult to disconnect from the power. They also add weight to the roof which is also dangerous. win-win all around: useless and dangerous.

  65. @ profitup10 on August 30, 2014 at 2:21 pm:

    Didn’t you notice your cut-and-paste listing came through with crap links that didn’t work?

    Notice how no one bothered to tell you yesterday they were crap, indicating there was very little interest in your long cut-and-paste listing anyway.

    If you can’t take the time to get working links, don’t bother to hack up someone else’s stuff from elsewhere.

  66. Mostly Cloudy, Temp: 89F, Humidity: 63%, Wind: 7 mph

    Wasn’t that yesterday’s “Current Conditions” as well? Ah heck, I seem to recall that was also the overnight conditions.

    For added fun, the EcoSolar people decided to make the web site a Flash object, which conveniently prevents anyone from copying and pasting the displayed info. You might be able to do screenshots, but a programmer could have faked up what the monitor was showing, and as the display shows the computer user’s time and not that of the monitoring system it’s therefore not definitive.

    Yup, nothing screams “honesty and accountability of government” like making sure your vote-getting newsworthy Green project doesn’t voluntarily disclose evidence admissible in a court of law.

  67. Anthony,

    The Flash object’s link went to http://www.dmssvr.com/dmsmon/mon/?id=1834

    Shortening to the home address got a redirect for Data Monitoring Solutions:

    http://datamonitoringsolutions.com/

    Halfway down, they show the “real time monitor” as a product, the sample image has a NOAA logo. Wow, it’s used on federal government solar projects, most impressive.

    MONITOR

    Add personalized high impact monitoring to your product list and stop selling other brands’ monitoring services. Sell your own…fully customized for you.

    Main page has a Free Demo Monitor offer displayed. Sure, on mouseover it says “Solar Power International 2012 Special Offer”, but it has to be good or they wouldn’t show it, right? I wonder what the main solar project of “Watts Worldwide Weather” would look like…

  68. This makes me laugh. I put up some solar panels a few years ago, mainly to help pay for airconditioning. AC added roughly $5-600 a year to the electric.(thanks all for your generous help!) Part of the process was getting the site certified by the electric company. The guy that did that had a neat little gadget to measure insolation and compare it to the expected value for the day and time. Then he had to add in corrections for panel angle, exact azimuth, and shading. The house faces almost due south, the roof is 40 deg and there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING than can shade in now or in the future. But he still added a small correction for the trees on the horizon.

    The fact that no one apparently considered shading should be enough to put the county officials, the government folks that announced this”$Green” project in jail, and any engineer involved should lose their license. So woefully typical of magical “$Green”, which must mean the green of dollars.

  69. This just gets better.

    On a lark I did a WHOIS of the Flash object’s home site, see what dmssvr-dot-com (DMS server) dredges up.

    Update Date: 2014-03-21 07:39:50
    Creation Date: 2011-04-01 09:22:55
    Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2015-04-01 09:22:55

    Registrant Name: Conrad Eskelinen
    Registrant Organization: Divebum Studios
    Registrant Street: 294 St. Thomas Ave
    Registrant City: Key Largo
    Registrant State/Province: Florida
    Registrant Postal Code: 33037
    Registrant Country: United States

    DiveBum Studios does ‘Film Production, Photography, Visual Design’. Looks like they’ve filmed and produced some nice nature specials, as well as golf course and yacht videos for marketing.

    Is it just me, or do those dates really most likely show they only did a one year renewal on a domain which provides monitoring services for multiple government and business installations that will be around for decades with multi-year contracts?

    WHOIS datamonitoringsolutions-dot-com:

    Update Date: 2014-02-23 10:23:14
    Creation Date: 2011-03-08 15:37:48
    Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2015-03-08 15:37:48

    Registrant Name: Conrad Eskelinen
    Registrant Organization: Divebum Studios
    Registrant Street: 294 St. Thomas Ave
    Registrant City: Key Largo
    Registrant State/Province: Florida
    Registrant Postal Code: 33037

    WHOIS hillscty419piercepv-dot-com:

    Update Date: 2013-09-04 12:12:28
    Creation Date: 2010-09-23 13:29:22
    Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2014-09-23 13:29:22

    Registrant Name: Conrad Eskelinen
    Registrant Organization: Divebum Studios

    That sample graphic I posted earlier used idssvr-dot-com.

    Update Date: 2014-01-27 08:58:19
    Creation Date: 2014-01-27 08:58:19
    Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2015-01-27 08:58:19

    Registrant Name: Conrad Eskelinen
    Registrant Organization: Divebum Studios

    I’m sensing there might be a trend there.

    • yes, earlier I did whois on the defunct domain behind the links like “solar education center” that fail to connect for me. Same bum behind the name.

      I also tired to find the web site of Eco Solar to get some more info about what kind of installation this is at Tampa. Pretty hard to find but enventual it lead to ecotechnousa.com which seems to sell beds now.

      I guess after the $1.2 mil for the courthouse funds dried up.

      Bummer.

  70. just tried unplugging the connection. The “real time monitor” keeps spewing out fake output. The speedo is still twitching up and down the Today, This week and This month counters are still dutifully pretending to show “real time” totals, despite having been cut from the net.

    Look at source for the page in click through to the src of the flash; there you’ll find, line 70:
    ‘play’, ‘true’,
    ‘loop’, ‘true’,

    This whole interface is a total fraawd. It’s a con.

    • Like I pointed out right from when I started logging it, the “real time” readouts show impossible results: negative power or power 5 times the boilerplate max.

      They seem to be doing some linear interp between last and current values and adding some random variation to twitch the readout and make it look “live”. The trouble is, if you log it too often the random change take the incremental power outside what is physically possible.

      LOL

      • One more thing, the random numbers added to make the false ‘live’ data do not seem to be mean zero. They are 0 to N values. This explains why the speedo hovers around 4%-5% above what the kW counter shows.

        currently 138.5 hovering 74,75% should be 70.7% . This has been consistently the case since I started looking yesterday.

        Turn on “info hotspots” and it tells you the speedo is supposed to “demonstrate photovoltaic’s capabilities over other systems….”

    • Yes, the “meter” was bobbing up and down at 3 a.m. Tampa time, just like a real meter. There were some very low (down to 12%) excursions during the late afternoon that could be attributed to clouds, but overall, it looks like the programmer was told to go to Florida and Tampa with the algorithms to make the meter look more metery than it really is.

      • I now have proof that the whole “real time” thing is a fake, otherwise it would stop moving once the connection was cut.

        The hourly, daily and monthly counter and the speedo are false values created by adding a probably random number in ActionScript.

        The two-hourly average display option may be real as are possibly the “AC kW output” figures that do come from the server every 15 minutes.

        The time is off the local PC clock, not the serveur. If your PC clock is off the “time” in Florida will be wrong too. The weather conditions displayed are the day’s weather forecast that seems to be pulled in once or twice per day. Yesterday’s “mostly cloudy” seems to have been clear skies unitl about 16:48 EDT. Clearly this is based on whether _forecasts_ not weather _reports_. Rather beats the point of having it on a “real time” monitor.

        NEWS FLASH: weather conditions have changed from “partly cloudy” to “mostly cloudy”.

        Reloading the page does not even get the true current values. What is served only seems to change every 15m on the server. It is not even real time at the server.

        Last three values:
        time kWh kW
        15:05 770 115,9
        15:10 770 115,9
        15:28 771 115,9
        15:37 787 115,9
        15:39 813 74.9

        current total power for the day did not moved in 23min but it’s still claiming to produce 115.9 kW !!

        Not only is it a fraud, it is a fairly poor and buggy one.

        The question remaining is whether the only figures that seem reasonably credible are real or also faked .

  71. The pestilence, is FAR worse, than just a little (or in this case, a lot) of panel shading.

    Solar cell panels, operate in the forward biased photo-voltaic mode, where the silicon cell forward voltage, varies roughly as the logarithm of the solar irradiance. Typically, when loaded with the optimum load, for maximum output power, the cell forward voltage is about 0.5 volt., so you need about 30 cells in series to fully charge at maximum charge rate, an ordinary deep discharge 12 volt lead acid battery. Well you can cheat and get away with just 20 cells in series, but the maximum power output will be reduced.

    So let’s go with 30 cells in series, so at full sun it will try to put out about 15 volt, but a totally flat good battery might be as low as 10 volt terminal voltage, so it will start at about 333mV per cell, from the panel, or 167 mv less than the optimum 500 mv per cell.
    Now for silicon diodes double their current every 26 mv, or 60 mv for a factor of 10. So 167 mv , is 6.4 times 26 mv, so the starting current is 1/85.8 of the maximum charging current. Rather pp if you ask me.

    And that is the good news. If your neighbor’s building, or the aspidistra growing over your roof, should shade even just ONE of those solar cells, and reduce it insolation from 1,000 W/m^2, down to say 100 W/m^2, well that cell will only put out 60 mv less than what all the other cells are generating, or trying to generate. Well it’s much worse than that. The battery load, is going to determine, the total panel voltage and the fully illuminated cells will attempt to generate their full open circuit voltage, which is about 0.6-0.7 volt., and they will end up reverse biasing the shaded cell, which will shut it off, and the whole string, will generate no forward current. So shadowing a single cell, in a series string, will shut down the whole string.

    If you parallel, the cells instead to make a 500 mv supply, the shaded cell, will try to be 60 mv below the illuminated cells, so it will short circuit them, and waste a lot of the current they were putting out.

    No matter how you arrange the cells in a series parallel array, any illuminance non-uniformity, or even unmatched cells in the array, and the weak ones will hijack the panel.

    So this Tampa fiasco, is a real Bobby dazzler.

    • Two things wrong with that comment. This is a grid tied system not charging batteries. Second if you were charging batteried you’d be dumb to plug the panel straight in. The battery draws the panel voltage down to it’s charging voltage and your I.V product goes with it.

      Read up on MPPT regulators. ;)

      • Well so it’s a grid tied system, that’s the first thing that is wrong with it.

        So where did YOU read, that I would just plug the panel in, to charge batteries. I was merely showing what the consequences of shading are.

        And I don’t need to read up on anything. There’s always some workaround fix to compensate for a bad installation design. Is it any wonder that suppliers are unable to get the costs down; and the SYSTEM efficiencies up.

    • So shadowing a single cell, in a series string, will shut down the whole string.

      If you’re lucky. “Hot spot heating” can destroy shaded cells, or cause the destruction of whole panels.

      http://pveducation.org/pvcdrom/modules/hot-spot-heating

      No matter how you arrange the cells in a series parallel array, any illuminance non-uniformity, or even unmatched cells in the array, and the weak ones will hijack the panel.

      Current “best practices” is to use bypass diodes to minimize the problem. It is known among homemade panel makers to include them, commercially-offered panels are expected to have them.

      http://pveducation.org/pvcdrom/modules/bypass-diodes

      • Well, how can there be “hot spot heating”, of a cell that is shut down because of shading. And the benefit of “bypass diodes” is spectacular. For each shaded series cell, you have the benefit, of a two diode drop loss in output voltage, instead of one.

        So why not parallel each series cell, with a power MOSFET, driven by a computer program, to short out any cell that is not generating its full load voltage due to shading. The short, won’t harm the cell, and it should be trivial for any tinkerer to string all those shorting FETs to a microprocessor chip.

        Personally, I would want my solar installation to be done by somebody who understands the circuit physics; after all, aren’t these things supposed to last for 30 years. If conversion efficiency is not of any interest, you can add all kinds of band aids to what is a lousy installation.

      • From george e. smith on September 1, 2014 at 6:11 pm:

        Well, how can there be “hot spot heating”, of a cell that is shut down because of shading.

        Reverse bias breakdown. In many ways a PV cell is still a diode.

        http://www.ise.fraunhofer.de/de/veroeffentlichungen/konferenzbeitraege/konferenzbeitraege-2012/27th-eupvsec/geisemeyer_2do.3.6.pdf

        IMPACT OF REVERSE BREAKDOWN IN SHADED SILICON SOLAR CELLS ON MODULE LEVEL:
        SIMULATION AND EXPERIMENT

        1 INTRODUCTION
        In unfavourable conditions such as partial shading, silicon solar cells built into industrial solar modules are forced to operate under reverse bias. Those cells dissipate power rather than generate it. In the worst-case the resulting heat dissipation can damage the module irreversibly.

        Google “breakdown voltage diode solar cell” and you’ll find many references for it and the use of bypass diodes to prevent cell and panel damage.

        So why not parallel each series cell, with a power MOSFET, driven by a computer program, to short out any cell that is not generating its full load voltage due to shading. The short, won’t harm the cell, and it should be trivial for any tinkerer to string all those shorting FETs to a microprocessor chip.

        Basically already being done, without central computerization.

        http://www.digikey.com/en/articles/techzone/2012/dec/active-bypass-diodes-improve-solar-panel-efficiency-and-performance

      • Well this is a response to KDK’s post down there referencing the Digikey paper. Well the whole history of switching power supply design, has been full of ideas for “protecting” active (and passive) devices / components, usually from reverse voltage , which could be quite repetitive, in many designs; in other words, it is not a failure condition, but happens each and every switching cycle. And the chice has run the gamut, from zener diodes, to ordinary diffused junction diodes, to Schottky diodes, and eventually to driven MOSFETS, which have zero offset voltage at zero current, but do require often floating driver circuits. It was not my intention to teach an entire course, on semi-conductor power electronics; so no matter how much I say, you or somebody else can always find methods I did not put on my course. If that gives you a kick so be it.

        But back to the Digikey paper. Anybody who puts 1,000 solar cell diodes in series, thoroughly deserves to have to put a reverse protection diode across each and every series cell, and also deserves the manufacturing cost of doing that.

        Well made single crystal silicon solar cells, will normally have reverse breakdown voltages, well in excess of their forward voltage.

        But yes, if you use junk polycrystalline cells, with all of their local point defects, I can see that many of them will barely have a breakdown voltage greater than their forward voltage.

        Reversals in series strings, is a serious problem in multi-cell batteries as well; especially with deep discharge batteries (lead acid). These cells are bidirectional, and can be charged in either direction. Now modern design does make them asymmetrical, but they still will charge in reverse.
        A very simple analysis, will show that a simple charge / discharge cycling of a series string, will cause any capacity unbalance to grow like Topsy, until the battery is quite useless, even if it is not destroyed. The weakest cell will discharge first, and if the load continues, it will reverse polarity, and charge in the reverse direction.
        On recharge, the reversed cell, will have to be discharged before it starts charging in the correct direction, so when the other cells are fully charged, and their terminal voltage starts rising, the charger will shut off, leaving the weak cell, even less capacity, than it had before. This will continue, until the weak cell charges to about the same half capacity in each direction, on each charge discharge cycle..

        This can be prevented, if the individual cells can be isolated, and each charged individually.. The weak cell, will still discharge first, but if the load is then disconnected, so cell reversal can’t occur, and then separate cell rcharge employed, the weak cell will continue to function. It will set the end point capacity for the whole battery.

        The common 12 volt car battery, is about the longest series string that is stable, over the whole range of environmental conditions (with deep discharging.

        The longer the series string, the harder it is to sense the end point of the weak cell.

        With 1,000 solar cells in series, I would expect it is impossible to detect the voltage drop, that designates a shaded cell, reversing, so individual back diodes would be mandatory.

        So I would never put 1,000 cells in series, or even 100 cells.

        And the parallel current hogging failure, is every bit as bad as the serial cell reversal failure.

        I once made a “Merry Christmas”, sign out of red LEDs arrayed on a pegboard. The whole string of LEDs consisted of back to back pairs, so each LED protected its mate from excess reverse bias. Then the complete series string of back to back pairs, was connected to the 120 volt ac, with just a series mylar film capacitor. The peak operating current is set by C.dv/dt and no current limiting resistor is needed. you don’t want to have the LED string drop to be more than about half the ac peak voltage.

        So I wouldn’t buy anyones polycrystalline solar panels, in fact they couldn’t pay me to cart them away.

  72. It changed!

    Formerly around 9:00am EDT:
    Mostly Cloudy, Temp: 89F, Humidity: 63%, Wind: 7 mph

    Now at 3:38 pm EDT:
    Partly Cloudy, Temp: 89F, Humidity: 59%, Wind: 6 mph

    Such spectacular Florida weather. Even at mid-afternoon with the Sun beaming down for hours on dark solar panels with little wind, with less cloudiness thus more sun, with less humidity thus lower heat content thus the air should have higher temperatures for the same amount of inputted energy, the temperature hasn’t changed!

    Is there really a weather station on the roof reporting this, or is it grabbed from somewhere nearby? Perhaps a NCDC-reporting weather station at an airport?

      • Nope, same exact thing, at 3:38, 4:45, and now 5:12 pm EDT:
        Partly Cloudy, Temp: 89F, Humidity: 59%, Wind: 6 mph

        Although down to 20.4 KWh, 11% tachometer.

        That’s after a 5:12:15 download by my clock. No changes of weather or output.

        So, the guy sold “real time monitoring”, that only issues a report every 15 minutes.

        What is the extra capacity of all those monitoring systems, processing and network, doing? Borged together into a giant distributed hacking/cracking platform? Mining Bitcoins?

  73. What the…?

    Look close, and the odometer digits are seven segment displays with decimal.

    And they are turning like a mechanical odometer on an older car.

    Except they aren’t, they rotate upwards to higher numbers, until when the drums of a mechanical odometer would simply keep rotating from 9 to 0 and keep going, on these displays they rotate downwards to the smaller number.

    The stupidity, it burns, like sunlight in Tampa.

    • Why would they spin at all if this was a ‘real time’ ? They would just display the new data. It’s a all a great hoax.

      I can’t really define what they are doing but if you see them going backwards it is probably because these things are going backwards as well as up.

      this system produces negative power a lot of the time !!

      • Nah, that’s not it.

        In an old-fashioned mechanical counter, the numbers are on the outside surface of a cylinder. Thus the numbers were an endless loop. The cylinder keeps turning in the same direction, displaying 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.

        Here the odometer displays like a flat strip of paper, after 9 it has to be run back through the smaller numbers (8, 7, 6, 5, 4, etc) to get to the new lower value.

        Which in computer programming terms is stupid. But in graphics terms where the numbers really are on a virtual strip that is slid under a cutout window to reveal the desired digit, it makes sense, but still looks stupid.

      • On closer inspection you could be correct. I saw it go from 0 to 1 and got a glimpse of a 4.

        It’s academic really since it’s all bullshit graphics dressing up the fact that there is NO new data to display. There is one update from the server every 15m. The rest is a FAKE.

        Cut the network and it still carries on updating the display with fake data every second.

        It’s a charade.

  74. The problem is not solar energy but the people who promised cost savings without doing their homework. They need to measure daily solar insolation in the location for at least one year before they can estimate the performance of the solar panels to be installed. I bet they are marketing guys not engineers.

    • 4am “Fair”

      should be interesting to see whether it produces any more power under ‘fair’ conditions rather than partly or mostly cloudy.

      IMO, the last two days have been basically clear skies at this location until about 4pm.
      There may be masking from the aircon structures and more distant highrise buildings from about 5pm since it drops to nearly nothing.

      Significant late afternoon cloud is probably very typical in this sub-tropical location.

      Sunset is currently around 19:30 IIRC so 5pm is probably end of solar production anyway.

      • Mine is still the same. Still on dial-up, there are stretches where I am offline. I suspect I may have missed one or more weather updates, which are issued maybe once or twice a day.

        Just did 10:27:20 download. No weather change.

        It says Lifetime 1084.25 MWh. I wonder if that public records request will reveal DiveBum doesn’t keep the fine-grained records, only the running tallies for the displays and that “2-Hour kWh Averages” gauge.

        Oh, that “Averages” thing says Sunrise: 07:07 am, Sunset: 07:57 pm.

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