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Private rooftops to generate power for Palo Alto

Original post made on Mar 6, 2012

Private rooftops in Palo Alto could start generating energy for the Palo Alto Utilities Department under a program approved Monday by the City Council.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, March 6, 2012, 1:58 PM

Comments (5)

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Posted by More-Smoke-And-Mirrors
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2012 at 2:26 pm

A couple years ago, we were treated to the following claims--

Roche to install large solar power system:
Web Link

When the new system is operating at capacity, it will generate enough electricity to power about 172 homes. The system will generate about 1.4 million kilowatt hours in electricity each year.

The City of Palo Alto will provide an estimated $2.2 million in performance-based rebates to SSP over five years.

So .. what happened to this program? Was it installed? If not, why not?

> City Council member Pat Burt called it "an important step
> toward greater energy self-reliance since these renewable
> resources will be located within the city itself.

> "We will avoid costly transmission charges and reduce
> wasted energy losses from remote transmissions," Burt said.

Is Pat Burt for real? Palo Alto consumes about 1GWH/year:

Web Link

Just how many panels, on how many roofs, does he think the PAU is going to install? (And we thought that smoking weed was illegal in this town!)

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Posted by Michael Gross
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 6, 2012 at 5:08 pm

I think 'more-smoke-and-mirrors' asks a fair question. Seems like Pat Burt should take a shot at some kind of answer. Truth is, this geography is not the best place for photo voltaics. Why fight it?

The $2.2 million (plus indirect other costs?) might be better spent under-grounding some power lines. We know how to do that! From the looks of some of the frayed overhead power lines on Forest Ave it's only a matter of time!

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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 6, 2012 at 9:18 pm

We keep dropping those exponents. I believe 1 GWH/year in the first comment should read 1000 GWH/year or 1 TWH/year. That's about 115 MW constant load, or 2 kilowatts per person, but much less when you consider most of it is industrial and the daytime population is way higher than 60,000.

Note 2 kilowatts is only about 2 square yards of sunshine. (Ok, start multiplying by diurnal duty-cycle, conversion efficiency and weather, still not a real big number, but all those trees will have to go.)

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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2012 at 6:50 am

Without time-of-use metering, there's very little incentive to generate power for the Palo Alto Grid. If Palo Alto Utilities pays $0.056 per KWH, why bother?

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Posted by More-Smoke-And-Mirrors
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2012 at 7:54 am

> Without time-of-use metering

Not certain this is really an answer for Palo Alto. Somewhere between 80% and 85% of the power consumed in Palo Alto is consumed by commercial accounts, with residential/other using the rest. Commercial(daytime/office) use would not really be a good candidate for time-of-use metering, but certainly the larger accounts would be in a good position to internally monitor their power use to make that sort of decision themselves. A large commercial account could rearrange its work schedules to make use of the lower billing rates--saving considerable money. However, as we see with all of the PAU efforts at "conservation", once in place--the costs of the utility is increased to offset lower revenues. So, just about everything associated with the PAU becomes a lose-lose, from the consumer's point-of-view.

Home energy audits would be a first step to deciding how useful time-of-use metering would be. Heating, refrigeration, appliances, and "other" would give consumer a solid sense of whether time-of-use metering would help reduce their monthly bills. Generally, better home insulation can be predicted to lower bills than anything else. Recently an article appeared on-line energy trade publication that conceded that homes would be better off with "more caulking" than "smart meters".

Another thought about Palo Alto "energy independence"--Stanford generates its own power, and uses grid power from PG&E as a supplement, so the 1000GWH number provided by the PAU is really lower than the actual power consumed within the geographic borders of Palo Alto. And then there is gas consumption, which is also "energy". Heating can use either energy source, so price/availability becomes an option to consumers, and gas consumption needs to be added into any claims of "energy independence".

Another key point missing from this Weekly article is what the cost/KWH will be from these roof-top generation efforts. Generally solar power is more expensive to generate than grid power is to buy. So, what good is "local solar" when your electric bill goes up by 30%-50%?

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