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White elephant solar panels: “force-feeding” high voltage, raising costs, breaking things, shutting themselves down

Posted By Jo Nova On November 9, 2018 @ 6:37 pm In Global Warming,Renewable,Solar Power | Comments Disabled

Solar Rooftop panels, photo.Some days I wonder if I should spread stories that make us sound like a recidivist third-world backwater struggling to maintain our voltage. But the ABC is already smashing away.

Just when you think there couldn’t possibly be another drawback to solar panels, lo! Solar Panels are pushing up the voltage at midday often as high as 253 Volts when it supposed to be more like 230 to 240V. This means appliances are using more electricity, that makes bills even higher. It may also be breaking appliances (making other bills go higher too). We’re not really sure about that, but when that study is done, it’ll already be 1.8 million panels too late.

Non-solar users are paying for this surge (and the appliances) — for every 1% increase in voltage, the costs go up 0.7%. Then, to ice that gravy-cake, the inverters on solar panels are also shutting off at 253V, meaning that poor home owners who paid thousands are not generating power for the grid. All up, solar is bad for you, bad for them, bad for our light-globes.

The warning comes from groups running the electricity networks in Australia.

Spot the key word missing from the ABC headline — starts with ‘s’, ends in ‘lar’:

Power bills up? Appliances burning out? You may have a voltage problem

Liz Hobday, ABC

 Travel 40% of the way through the article to find the key point:

Andrew Dillon, spokesman for Energy Networks Australia, the peak body for Australia’s poles and wires companies] said the rapid uptake of rooftop solar systems was a particular issue for the networks, because solar systems are supplying extra electricity to the grid, and boosting voltages.

But to be fair, the ABC did highlight “solar” in the three key points at the top — wait for it: “Voltage” can be a problem, but solar panels can only be victims. No sacred cows are sacrificed in this story.

  • Key points

    • Higher voltage on power supply to homes is a major concern, researchers say
    • Impact on home appliances and potential ‘burnout’ needs more research
    • Could be causing a significant amount of solar energy to be wasted

Solution: give us more money, try another experiment

“There are technologies we could adopt today, to be able to manage the voltage challenges we have from solar better than we are now,” he said.

“The problem we have is we are not willing to pay billions of dollars further on the network … [we're] after a smart, cost-effective transition.”

Some poles and wires companies are trialling voltage reduction on a large scale, and there is evidence that this could cut electricity consumption.

Don’t mention the third way: Stop subsidizing weather-changing-white-solar- elephants, and ask solar owners to cover the costs to stabilize the system as is. We could make a case that solar owners should be subsidizing bill payers who have been carrying the cost.

Higher voltage means higher bills

The results of a recent trial, by the Victorian network United Energy, showed that when voltage was reduced at 20 substations in and around Melbourne, every 1 per cent reduction in voltage saw, on average, an estimated 0.69 per cent reduction in demand for electricity.

But there is also research by the Queensland network Energex showing the scale of the problem the networks are facing.

When Energex reviewed almost 34,000 of the electrical transformers on its network in 2014, it found 76 per cent of the transformers were set too high, and were sending too much voltage through to households.

 ”Lucky”, a quarter of transformers in Queensland might be working properly. Err, “congrats”.

High voltages turn solar PV in white elephants

Above 253V solar panel inverters themselves shut off, making the panels into white elephants just at the point when they are generating the most electricity.

High volts could mean wasted solar

There is one area where high voltage is definitely causing headaches, and that is for people who have installed rooftop solar systems.

Pensioner Paul Ryan installed solar panels on his house in the Victorian town of Warragul more than a year ago, but for much of that time they have not been working. The system often has to shut off to protect itself from high voltages coming in from the grid.

“It turned out to be a bit of a white elephant in a sense,” Mr Ryan told 7.30.

Rooftop solar systems are designed to operate at a few volts higher than the grid, so they can feed electricity back into the local network.

But with network voltage supplied to households already running at the high end, solar energy feeding into the grid can boost the volts even higher, and over the 253-volt limit — causing solar inverters to shut off.

The whole point of solar panels is to stop storms and hold back the tide which makes them a white elephant from the moment they are installed. The high voltage cut-off makes white elephants into double elephants.

Not something you want on the roof.

With 1.8 million solar systems installed in Australian homes and businesses, a significant amount of renewable energy may simply be wasted.

Not to mention the significant billions used to install equipment that was never going to achieve anything bar making expensive green electrons that we didn’t need in the first place.

h/t Pat and Dave B

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