Infinity shades of solar, an erotic analysis.

As keen observers duly noted, tucked in behind my “minivan” were no small number of south-facing solar photovoltaic panels.i Forty-eight of them, in fact.

What you could only catch a glimpse of, however, was the fact that the 9`600 kWpii system was the largest commercial array in the City when it was installed in 2012. With the Sunny Boy 6000US inverters converting DC incoming from the CanadianSolariii CS6P-200PE solar modules into utility-friendly AC, these panels provided, and continue to provide, some measure of the family building‘s electricity needs, likely a portion in line with the savings generated from the panel-bearing window shades themselves, and not a whole lot more besides.iv

But how’s the hard data on this “investment” look ? YTD and YOY, respectively :

Solar Panel Data Visualisation -1

Solar Panel Data Visualisation - 2

So the PV panels are definitely doing something, but how much relative to the whole pie ?

The most recent utility bill in front of me from EPCOR indicates that our building used just 16`200 kWh between March 24 – April 25th, which was still heating season in Edmonton, meaning that the solar array covered 6% of the bill, or just $56, based on electricity rates between $0.0365 – 0.04521 / kWh.v

Still, the average daily electricity cost for ~80 people occupying ~30`000 sq ft waaaay up north, the vast majority of whom have their own desktop computers and associated server space, and including a full-service kitchen as well as a full-time carpenter’s workshop with power tools galore was just $49.44. Those with sharper mental calculators will already know that this also works out to just 1.15 kW per person per office hour,vi or not quite half the Megawatt standard.vii This obviously doesn’t include each occupant’s personal consumption such as laundry, TV, cooking, and transportation to and from the office, so hopefully they’re all leaving their fridges slightly ajar overnight, but it’s really rather exceptional just how operationally efficient a 58-year-old building can be when it’s shaded properly, just well enough insulated for the wintertime, has operable windows to reduce cooling loads for the summertime, and is being buoyed by such eminently reasonable energy costs.viii

It’s equally noteworthy just how longix the ROI horizon is for solar power in Oil Country.

Infinity much ?

___ ___ ___

  1. This being the Far North (53.5444°N to be precise), our solar panels face south. Those of you whose non-low-flush toilet water circles counterclockwise obviously place them on the north sides of your buildings, if you place them at all.
  2. Kilowatt peak. In practise, PV systems attain only about 80% of this value due to heat loss. Though our winter climate is perfect for PV efficiency, even these angled panels are frequently covered by snow, and even when they’re not they struggle against the low sun and tall neighbouring buildings to trap more than a few hours of solar energy per day.
  3. CanadianSolar trades on the NASDAQ under “CSIQ” and is run by the Chineeziest “Canadians” this side of the local casino’s mahjong table.
  4. Passive solar heat gain, even with just two lousy single-paned aluminum slider windows in every frame, is no small matter in the summer months. This is, in this climate certainly, the strange cost borne by ultra-high insulating building envelopes such as those found on the newest high-performance buildings. I know of one commercial building in particular that requires active cooling (ie. A/C) when external temperatures are as low as -12°C, just because the envelope is so stellar at containing heat and because there’s so much glass area that the body+computer+passive solar heat is enough for the building to require significant cooling well below zero.
  5. The total bill for the period broke down to $631.20 for “Electricity Energy Charges” and $901.29 for “Delivery Charges,” the latter of which includes shadowy inexplicables such as “Transmission True-Up Rider J Jan2016 kWh”. Motherfucker the gall of monopolies, eh ? But would I do it differently were I in there shoes ? Not a chance.
  6. Average of 8 hours of office time in each of 22 office days per month. Consumption is markedly lower during off-peak times, and even if not quite zero as assumed here, it’s close enough.
  7. This is obviously still an alarmingly low fraction, and not alarmingly low in a good way either! But fear not, our diabolical plans to starve every last joule from die neue SS are afoot : we’re looking at adding multiple stories to the existing structure and working with the carpenters to add even more machines, air handling capacity, etc. to their operation. We will never surrender!!
  8. Something has to keep “inflation” low, right ? Because it sure as fuck isn’t prices for tangible, durable goods.
  9. And HARD! See ? I told this was going to be erotic.

4 thoughts on “Infinity shades of solar, an erotic analysis.

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  2. […] never had the priviledge of PV of your very own, let me tell you that the real-world numbers aren’t all that appealing. […]

  3. […] and monstrous footsteps of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Notley is presently closing down Alberta’s cheap energy tickets – coal-power generation plants – and paying out the private energy companies with whom she is […]

  4. […] : people who talk about buying cars love the idea of electric cars (because saves polars bears! hurr!) while the people who actually buy cars nod in polite agreement and then go buy pickup trucks […]

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