Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Excitement In and Practicality Of Micro Grids

Joe Joson , USA
October 25, 2012


Just what in the world are Micro Grids? Well , Micro Grids are electrical grids or electrical networks that are small as compared to the usually huge and wide spread electrical grids that tie up whole cities of a nation and sometimes even cross international borders to deliver huge amounts of electricity.

Electrical grids or electrical networks of today are composed of 'the power source' or power generating units (generators) , the transmission lines that are in thousands of volts AC (alternating current)  or DC (direct current) , (in some settings) , that go for hundreds or thousands of miles to deliver electricity.  You see them out there using these really tall electrical towers with multiple cables . These are high voltage wires that go for many miles just to deliver the power from the generators to the end users like you and me.

Another section of this high voltage grid are the sub-stations . These are the components that drop the thousands of voltages down to manageable and usable levels for re-distribution to communities after electricity has traveled all these miles.

And transmission lines are neat. They are the means with which our electricity are able to reach our homes , offices , malls etc  even as  generators are hundreds of miles away. But transmission lines become a pain when you see the fees that you pay as part of your electric bill or worse , when these lines are downed by storms and you are left in the dark , not just for a few hours but days , weeks and in some places ... months.

Now comes the Micro Grids.  These come in many sizes and configurations.  What distinguishes micro grids from the huge grids is its lower voltage , lower maintenance , a lot less components ,  independent nature etc , better efficiency , less money to maintain , a lot more flexibility . The advantages are indeed huge and becoming very hard to ignore . What do we mean by Micro Grids having  Lower voltage: For the most part , usable AC voltages range from 480 volts down to 120 .  America's commercial voltages are in the range of 480-220,  3-phase or single phase VAC (Volts AC) while its houses use 120 VAC. Europe and most of Asia use 220-240 VAC.

And why , you might ask , do we have high voltages at the transmission and distribution levels? The reason is simple. With AC transmission over long distances , the resistance or overall impedance of the wires reduce voltage levels where they are no longer effective after traveling all these huge distances .  In order to keep the high voltage for long distance transmissions , voltages are stepped up using transformers , then stepped down to usable voltages when they reach their destination.

Now, if your power generation sits right NEXT to YOU, the end user being supllied , such as the case with Solar Power-generated electricity production,  all that waste of transmission is eliminated. Solar Power generation provides that beautiful flexibility.  Solar power generation can be done just about anywhere where the sun shines. And with Micro Grids we only produce the voltage that we need ON THE SPOT. No more high voltages in the thousands of volts and no more transformers that are huge . No more transmission lines , no more transmission fees. No more heavy transformers . No more substations . And best of all, no more brown outs. AND YOUR ELECTRIC BILLS WILL BE A LOT SMALLER. 

Micro Grids will be the power configurtion of the future.  Small communities as villages, small groups of buildings , privately owned compounds ,  small neighborhoods , camps , military bases ,  hospitals can have their own Micro Grid totally INDEPENDENT OF THE BIG grid  or they could be tied up to it.

Micro Grids do not have to be over complicated. In its most basic configuration , a Micro Grid could be nothing but two buildings or two houses hooked up together on a common power source using Solar.
Connections and monitoring do not all have to be automated .  Disconnects could be manual .  

We are not trying to get rid of the huge grid. With the huge grid , power generating plants of all sizes and with differing distances from one another , with their strategic locations , give the whole network full flexibility.  When some power generating units are down or in repair,  the rest can take over and continue to supply power to their respective end users or loads.  Unfortunately our dependence on this very same flexibility could be our own weakness in times of great turmoil in a region .  If huge power generating plants are rendered inoperable due to natural calamities or civil disturbance , that whole region then pulls power from those that are still in operation . Now , if the transmission lines are destroyed, that whole region is 'dead in the water'.

With Micro Grids designed to supporting key locations , cities using PV or solar power systems, this equation radically changes.  As the huge power generating units are rendered inoperable or are cut off from the main grid, the small units stay online by themselves , supporting their own needs or even the needs of their immediate neighboring Micro Grids.   Communications are intact , key governmental functions continue to operate ,  homes can be supplied .  Hospitals will run un-interrupted.

The present high voltage infrastructure can continue to serve a purpose.   They can continue to serve as a simple link to all the Micro Grids. Links are in the form of locally and remotely operated circuit breakers .  They can be manually or electrically operated huge circuit breakers.  This gives communties and whole nations true flexibility in times of emergencies. 

In nations comprising of many islands like the Philippines , Micro Grids are ideal.  Most of the far flung villages and towns are separated from  each other by oceans and mountain ranges.  As we speak , Mindanao is still operating separately from the main grid of Luzon and the Visayas.  The HVDC (High Voltage DC)  systems that have been continuously adding high voltage lines to the islands of the Visayas and Luzon have yet to connect Mindanao to the main grid.  This explains why Mindanao is the hardest hit with brown outs . Mindanao is unable to tap into the energy sources of Luzon and the Visayas.  It is short of some 400 or so Megawatts. With Micro Grids the whole of Mindanao can be self-sustaining with its own power needs whether it ties up directly to the main grid of Luzon or not.

With Micro Grids , islands like Catanduanes which catches national attention every year for its very high power rates and an almost predictable power outages especially during the summer months , will no longer have to experience this perennial pest called brown outs.

Small villages , small groups of homes , housing developments can set up their own Micro Grid and be truly power independent and save energy costs over the long haul.

Lim Solar ,  a Philippine corporation and a subsidiary of Mendoza Solar , LLC , a California and Nevada corporation has partnered with a new an upcoming player Lorenzana Solar , another Philippine corporation that is going to handle all the installations in the Philippines .  As Lorenzana Solar is in its first stages of development as a corporation , please standby for more exciting news.

A new kid in the block , and still under wraps , is our newly established partnership with an American firm that has developed a new breed of grid level inverters that are true 'kickbutt' inverters.  Their inverters are 90 percent lighter than the present closest competitors . This is great since the competition sells you inverters that weigh close to a ton and that is hardly deployable. And this is definitely great news for Micro Grid enthusiasts like you and me !

Joe Joson
Communications, Marketing, Consulting
Lim Solar Philippines 
Mendoza Solar , LLC -California/Nevada Corporation


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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How Much Do Solar Power Systems Cost

To view below article in its Word format , please click here:

This article was written to give us a basic idea just how much  residential solar panel electrical systems cost.  Not a problem.  Below is a truly basic presentation of how much your system will cost with a BONUS detailed math on why these systems make a lot of sense financially. 
Section I

ON-Grid (Grid Connected Solar) – Your Solar power is connected to and interacts with the local Elec Company such as MERALCO, ETC.

A.                The Electrical Consumption and Expense

Kwhr of electricity used   600 kwhr/month
Basic (Ave rate)                Ph 9.24/kwhr
Total Elec Bill                    Ph 5,544/month

B.                 The solar electric system needed to ELIMINATE  the expensive bill.

Solar System Needed   3500 watts (3.5kw)
Solar Panel Size 240 watts /panel
Solar Panels total  15
Solar Inverter size   - 4kw
Space needed to install  25 square meters
Load KG  292

C.                 Funding, necessary to acquire the system.

Loan Total   P225,658.00/41pesos =$5503.00
Loan Interest 8%
Amortization in years 15
Monthly  P2197=$54

D.                Day One of System in FULL OPERATION, the SAVINGS start :

1.                   Your electric meter starts to run BACKWARDS which means your system ,AS DESIGNED, produces more power than you are using. You are NOT using any electricity from Meralco.  Panel size and number are designed to produce a total kwhr more than you use during the day.
2.                 The excess power generated by the solar panels are ‘SOLD’ BY YOU to Meralco, through Netmetering.
3.                 At night time the panels DO NOT PRODUCE ELECTRICITY.  You then ‘BUY BACK’ the power from MERALCO.
4.                 In effect you simply used MERALCO as your FREE ‘STORAGE’ of electricity PRODUCED  BY YOU, during the day so you can get it back at night. 
5.                 At the end of the month , your electric bill is Zero Pesos .  And it is by LAW that you can do this if you have solar panels on your roof and you have Netmetering approved according to the Law.
Now, let us look at the rest of the excitement:

You used to pay P5544 per month for your electricity. Now your bill is zero. Your monthly payment to the loan is P2197 per month. Looks like a monthly windfall of P3347!

Being a smart guy that you are , you sink half or more of the windfall into the loan. Your amortization years (number of years you pay into the loan)  drop according to your aggressiveness in paying off your loan. 

Let us say you ‘killed’ your loan in 7 years. 
Day one after pay off of your loan is freedom day!  Your electricity from day one of year 8 is FREE.

Solar panels are known to last 30 to 40 years with the least efficiency loss and least maintenance or care. That is roughly 22 to 32 years OF GETTING FREE ELECTRICITY with the sunlight as your source!

The inverters (DC to AC) last between 10 to 15 years .  All these components are under warranty for a certain number of years.

The secret of inverters or NO inverters:
Replace all your equipment with DC (Direct Current) appliances and you get rid of the inverter. Solar panels produce DC. But DC appliances are hard to come by and expensive.

Section II

Off-Grid Solar Electric Systems

Off-grid systems are solar electric systems that are not tied up to the grid and are capable of sustaining their own electrical loads without the assistance of electric companies. This means YOU RUN ALL  YOUR HOUSE OR BUILDING ELECTRICAL TOTALLY FROM YOUR SYSTEM AND YOU ARE NOT TIED UP TO MERALCO!

This independence and self sustainability is achieved using back up power. Small wind power or windmill driven generators, diesel generators and batteries are the most common back up power.  I choose batteries as more reliable sources of back up power. 

They are very efficient , quiet, have minimum maintenance and very low cost to run. They are also powered up or charged by the solar panels during the day.  The batteries ‘give back’ the power to you at night when solar are not producing , through the same inverters that convert the DC produced by solar panels. The batteries which  are DC sources, convert your DC power to house AC.

Note: The cost analysis above is typical of small (low kw) systems for residentials . As your system gets bigger into the hundreds of Kilowatts to  MW(million watts) level , the price of the systems drop.

Solar power systems , whether installed on your roof or backyard, your farm , will produce power where you set it up. It has no ‘ electrical generators’ that have too many moving parts that break down, it makes no noise, very light and portable , scalable in size from the smallest power source to charge your cell phone, cook your food in the middle of the desert, power up your tv on the mountain, all the way up to the huge Multi-Megawatt systems that power up whole cities or province. No other electrical power source can even come close to this versatility.

And that includes its financial advantage over the rest of the power generating lot. It truly makes perfect sense to go solar.

Joe Joson
Communications, Marketing, Consulting
Lim Solar Philippines 
Mendoza Solar , LLC -California/Nevada Corporation


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