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I was looking at my electric bill the other day. Man, riders sure are a pain. I have about ten of them on my bill, at least two are credits but still. Why so many. From what I have gathered, it is a may to make more money from the customer. A nickel here, a dime there. But I have a problem with two of the riders. Rider 71 – Clean coal adjustment. Well, clean and coal don’t below in the same sentence but that is another issue all together. Rider 61 – Coal gasification adjustment. Here is the problem. From everything I have heard about “Clean Coal” it almost always points to gasification. So the two riders are the same thing!

On my last bill, rider 71 was $2.93 and rider 61 was $1.40. Not that much but I know this just goes right to the bottom line of Duke Energy. To top it off Duke wants to raise rider 61 because of cost over runs. You can’t win. So I took the “can’t beat them join them approach”. I purchase some Vectren Stock about a month ago. Vectren is my Gas company not my electric company. But they do provide electric to most of the southern half of Indiana. A few months ago they asked the Indiana board for a rate increase. Most of their case was based on falling revenue. But some of it was to cover equipment upgrades. (Just like Duke wants to do.) In the rate case documents they stated they wanted to maintain about a 10% ROI for their stakeholders. Who would not want a 10% ROI. So I purchased some stock. I figure that Vectren was a more stable company then Duke.

I guess everything is going a la cart these days. Just look at your trash bill. Mine has a fuel cost adjustment. I called and they said that anytime the average fuel cost is about $2 a gallon of diesel they charge the adjustment. When is the next time you will see Diesel below $2?

Maybe I should just buy a little piece of all the utilities I have at the house, then I won’t feel so bed when I have to pay more for the same service.

I need to call my friend over at Solarhome.org. Maybe they can run the numbers for me on a solar panel system??? Prices keep coming down on solar and up on electric bills.

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In case you did not know, I live in Indiana. Not really the sunshine state but we do alright. I was surfing the web and landed on a local COOP page. Hoosier Electric. They have a few solar sites in central Indiana. One is only 15 miles away. (I will have to visit this sometime soon).

Franklin, IN has a 3kW solar installation.

Dubois County, IN has the same 3kW solar installation.

I have been looking at the historical data from the site. Man, do the numbers look good. To get us on the same page, here are two “as perfect” (very sunny days) at two very different times.

Solar output on December 22nd

Solar output on December 22nd

Victory Solar output on June 29th

Solar output on June 29th

Total output for December 22nd was 18.86kW

Total output for June 29th was 20.83kW

The difference is only 2kW yet the total number of hours the sun is above the horizon being 6 hours longer for June! Don’t forget the more direct path thru the atmosphere too.

So what is going on. We know that temperature is a big factor. Also, with that, these panels are pole mounted. No heat trapping roof to slow down the air cooling of the panels. Even still there is something else. These panels are special. Sanyo Bifacial Solar Panels! They convert light into electricity from both sides of the panel! This means if there is snow on the ground the reflected light up into the panels will be converted. Now I am not thinking about putting panels on my roof but instead placing them on my south facing hill. With some white stone underneath I may be able to make this work! I will have to see if I can get some more data. I know the company that installed both locations. 🙂

So I am visiting Florida. It is hot and Humid. My first question, do people even have heaters in there homes? I am sure they have electric resistive heaters. I would think they get used very seldom. The next question I had, why doesn’t everyone have a solar hot water heater. Just running the water thru the collector without any sun would at least get it up to ambient temperature. Which right now is 91 degrees. The next question is, why doesn’t everyone have solar modules on their roof? With the great solar insolation that Florida receives it would seem to be an easy option. It is easier to cool down from 90, then it is to heat from 20. Since it seems to rain almost every day, a rain barrel would have you covered on the days that you get missed by mother nature.

I work with the Solar Power Forum quite a bit. Here lately, many people have asked about making solar panels. While this sounds like a fun project, it will not save you very much money.(If any)

You can buy solar cells from eBay for $2 a watt. This is only get you the material for the solar part of the panel not the frame, glass, bypass diode, or junction box. If you estimate this costs $50 for a 200 Watt panel, then you are up to a $2.25 per Watt.

Since you made these panel and they will not be UL listed you will not be able to do a grid-tie system. They will not have a warranty. And, you don’t have a warranty on power output. You can still use them for an off-grid system. But, if you mount them to your roof will your insurance company still cover them or your house if they caused a fire for some reason. I think not.

I know of a few places that sell blemished solar panels from Evergreen Solar for under $3 a Watt. You get a full power and manufactures warranty. And they are UL listed so you can claim the FEDERAL TAX CREDIT OF 30%. (USA only) If you use $3 a watt with a 30% credit, you get $2.10 a Watt. Now that cost less then making them yourself.

Don’t waste your time trying to make solar panels. Just buy them. Of coarse you could always just buy brand new Solar Panels . Then you would have full support from the manufacture and the dealer.

Florida is putting at least $50 million to all state universities in an effort to coordinate renewable energy research. One of these schools, Florida Gulf Coast University, won $8.5 million. With it they’ll be installing 16 acres of solar panels which may supply nearly 20% of all its electricity. Arizona State University will be the only other school whose solar power output can compare. This is all happening due to Governor Charlie Crist’s renewable energy emphasis.

Solar Power Panel

Solar Power Panel

It’s exciting to see interest in solar power technologies catch on in different states. To me, it seems like computer technology. I’m talking about how computers started out big and bulky and expensive but of great interest to schools and other institutes of research. But today, many American households have more than one. It would be fantastic to see solar power follow that same route.

Anyway, you can read more about that Florida article here: Florida pouring $50M into solar energy research at state universities

Marc A. Baldo of MIT has lead a team of engineers in designing a new technique for collecting solar energy. This technique involves dyed panels which lead the energy to their solar cell-lined edges. The previous need for covering entire panels with solar cells is one of the costlier factors of solar panel creation. This innovation should significantly decrease the cost of solar power- Possibly within the next three years!

For more info: MIT opens new ‘window’ on solar energy