Pitch

Distribute Plug & Play solar panels to home owners, and apartment renters to make clean energy on site where you use it.

Description

Summary

The Good - Solar panels can last a long time, anywhere from 10-25 years. When embedded on buildings they can have the lowest environmental impact of any electricity generating device. About 92% of respondents in a survey on solar power said they would want them. It's clear as day that solar power if implemented on a mass scale would most easily mitigate the carbon emissions from fossil fuel fired power plants.

The Bad - Unfortunately only 1% of all energy in the US comes from solar power currently. This is likely due to a lot of the regulations that are in place from state to state, and the "soft costs" imposed when installing them. Solar panels are typically installed on roofs, and can be complicated which requires skilled labor, and solar contractors which can be expensive to hire. Even though the cost of a solar panel has plummeted in recent years, a lot of the other costs needed for installation like mounts, inverters, building permits, and skilled labor are what make typical solar installations cost $20,000 or $30,000. Not to mention you are required to own your home or property before you can apply for building permits which can take 6 months to a year before being approved before you can hire someone to install solar panels on your home.

How do we simplify solar power? We make an easy to install, and affordable Plug & Play Solar Panel. You can mount them over a window or a wall, as well as on roofs, and in backyards. They plug into a building's existing wiring using a standard plug and receptacle. Our solar panels can be installed by laymen, handymen, and Do-it-Yourselfers for home improvement. We make it so the solar panels can be picked up, brought home and installed that day from a home improvement outlet like HomeDepot, Ikea or Lowe's. The Solar Panels since they can be mounted over windows like a window treatment can help to block heat from entering the building so they can also reduce energy used on Air-conditioning.

www.insitenrg.com

Category of the action

Reducing emissions from electric power sector.

What actions do you propose?

The reason why more people aren't installing their own solar panels is because they don't realize how easy it is. Or that such systems do in fact exist, or that they can be legally installed by a home owner without applying (and waiting 6 months) for building permits or having to hire a solar contractor.

The systems do exist, there are just few manufacturers on the market who supply them, the Department of Energy even had Grant opportunities available for companies to make Plug & Play solar panels.

What we propose is more people educate, inform, and recommend these solar panel systems to their friends and others. If 5 people each install a 240 Watt solar panel that's more than a 1000 watts of clean energy added to the grid, yet each one only paid $650 for a single solar panel.

https://insitenrg.com/shop/240-watt-plug-play-solar-panel/

 

*Unfortunately varying requirements exist between different building authorities, for instance: To interconnect a Photovoltaic system to JEA in Jacksonville, FL regardless of the size of the system 100 Watts to 5,000 Watts the utility requires a redundant AC disconnect switch be installed so as to disconnect the solar panels in the event of an emergency. This requirement is difficult to abide by as a plug and play solar panel can easily be interconnected to any power receptacle that’s available, although outdoor power receptacles with a GFCI breaker would be the most safe, and convenient. Furthermore if a new consumer wishes to install many solar panels it may be recommended that they have an electrical contractor install an AC disconnect switch, and GFCI outdoor power receptacle for the interconnection of their new Plug & Play Solar Panel System. We have gotten estimates for this service for around $500 that would allow someone to install solar power on a dedicated circuit with solar power outputs from 100 Watts to 7,200 Watts.

*We have tested grid interconnection using utility interactive microinverters to the best of our ability and we believe the technology should be allowed to be installed in a similar manner to other appliances without the provisions of an isolating AC disconnect switch. We also believe that on a federal level there should be a universal code of requirements for the interconnection of photovoltaic systems to the electrical grid, but that the code should have provisions made in it for different tiers of power production. For instance a consumer may buy a solar panel from a store, or online, and wants to install it on their wall, window, or backyard, they can install it and plug it in immediately so long as the total wattage of the solar panels they are installing is less than 1,000 Watts. Going beyond this level steps into a second tier which requires an electrical contractor to install a dedicated GFCI receptacle, and AC disconnect switch. Beyond these two consumer level tiers any installation that exceeds 2,400 Watts of solar power requires a solar contractor to install and approve. Having such a universal code would finally open the door to wide-scale mass implementation and integration of solar power while ensuring installation is done safely.

*Cultural perception needs to change for people to see a solar panel as an appliance like a personal computer, instead of a system that's out of their reach. That's why we're making an all-in-one solar panel kit anyone can pickup from a store and install that day. This is why we're pricing our solar panel affordably for around $650

We also highly recommend that the burden to add solar capacity not be passed off to utility companies. The EPA mandates carbon reduction targets for power plants, and carbon scrubbers can only work so well, so the only way a utility can offset its carbon emissions is by installing solar panels or other alternatives. A utility company will buy a large plot of land like 10-100 acres, cut down all the trees in the field to install solar panels. This is really the only means they have to install solar panels. But by integrating solar panels into homes, we use existing land, we preserve the environment, home owners save money, we cut carbon emissions, and we save an additional 7% of the electricity that would normally be burnt off in power line transmission. This is another reason why we are interested in partnering with local power utilities because they would likely be able to lease solar panels to their customers which would reduce the utility’s carbon emissions in accordance with the EPA’s mandates, and would reduce the need for a utility company to import power to certain regions during peak load times. When applied effectively distributed renewable sources could effectively relieve some of the stress placed on the electrical grid by powering appliances locally you reduce the logistics needed to carry loads over longs distances. Many of these factors combined could save utility companies future expenses. Unfortunately there still appears to be unreasonable reluctance on the part of Utility companies, and building authorities to employ renewable energy sources like solar power. If you consider that the business model of utility companies make their revenue from the total amount of energy sold, it is entirely understandable why they would be reluctant to allow competitive local sources of energy to be employed. Currently every home that becomes solar powered is another lost customer of the utility company, this again is another reason why we are interested in working with utility companies because instead of our solar panels being competitive energy generators they become complimenting generating sources the utility company is still able to generate revenue from the solar panels which means they don’t have to lay people off as more renewable energy sources come online. This entire model switches incentives, and would actually encourage utility companies to take an interest in assisting customers install solar power in the case of regulations, requirements, and permits. This in turn would further improve the integration of distributed solar power into the electrical grid, and would promote the greatest reduction in greenhouse gases.

*The oil and gas industry receives $4 Billion in subsidies. If these subsidies didn't exist people would see that solar power is actually priced very reasonably. With all the subsidies removed and all the other economic externalities priced in that $3 Gallon of gas might actually be priced twice as much around $6 a Gallon. Similarly, the cost of electricity per kWh would also likely double from the national average of $0.12/kWh to $0.24kWh without energy subsidies, and with all external costs factored into the economy.

*A recent MIT study concluded that current solar panel technology was efficient enough to power the world. If this is true then the focus on photovoltaic technologies should be shifted from efficiency development to mass deployment and scale.

Who will take these actions?

  • Individuals - *have the freedom to plug in and install solar panels at any time, greatly removing the barriers and red-tape associated with solar power. With improved esthetics less homeowner associations would be reluctant to allow solar panels installed in their neighborhoods. Furthermore as people begin installing our solar products we hope that they might begin to catch on after being displayed prominently on buildings, and featured in home design guides, and home improvement shows more people might be inclined to install solar panels not only because it’s the “green” thing to do, but because of their desire to stay current with modern home design and architecture.
  • Businesses - *Commercial entities like HomeDepot, Lowe’s, Ikea, and other big box stores can finally offer solar products that consumers can employ themselves. Both Ikea, and HomeDepot have partnerships with solar installers, so it may look like you can buy solar panels from them, but to actually have them installed on a home you would have to hire one of the professional installers they partner with, which for most people defeats the purpose because they would have to still go the route of obtaining a loan for $20,000-$30,000, getting the permits, etc.
  • Governments - *At the federal level we hope that governments can work to produce a set of unified requirements and definitions for solar power so that time isn’t lost by installers having to investigate and learn about the local building codes, and the particulars of installing solar power in their area. This would greatly reduce the time to install solar panels.
  • Utilities – *Power companies can establish leasing programs with their power customers so that they can more readily install distributed renewable energy systems at a low upfront cost. A plan like this has never been implemented and the strategy is entirely novel to the power industry though similar models for car manufacturers and car dealerships.

Where will these actions be taken?

Any home or building with an electric bill

*In North America local building authorities defer to and adhere by the provisions set forth in the National Electric Code for safe practices regarding electrical installation. It is incredibly important to understand the distinction between permanently installed wiring, and non-permanent field wiring. Permanent wiring pertains to all of the wiring in the wall, or in a conduit, all the way from the utility service meter, to the breaker panel, to the receptacle in your building. Non-permanent wiring is anything you install on the outside of the receptacle, this includes extension cords, power plugs, power strips, etc. If we connect a solar panel system traditionally it means we need to connect on the Supply side of a breaker panel in a home, this requires disabling power for servicing and connecting all the necessary hardware, because it is also permanently wired it requires a building permit be approved before installation. Our system however being plug and play since we connect on the load side of a breaker panel, by plugging into a receptacle (which is permanently wired back to the breaker panel) our wiring is considered non-permanent field wiring. This means we can plug in solar panels just like you can plug in and use all your appliances today like TVs, radios, refrigerators, washers, dryers, etc. This very small change essentially means someone can immediately unbox our solar panels and plug them into an electrical receptacle without having to wait for building permits to be approved. A single solar panel may not be enough to sell electricity back to the grid, but it would slow the meter with the electricity produced locally by the solar panel. Additionally by adding more solar panels, someone would be able to further supplement their electricity until they overproduced and were capable of selling back to the electric grid.

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

Let's say 1 Million people in the US installed only one (1) 125 Watt solar panel.

  1. 125 Watts multiplied by 5 hours of typical sunlight in a day = 625 Wh's (0.625kWh's).
  2. 0.625kWh's multiplied by 250 out of 365 average sunny days a year (0.625*250) = 156.25 kWh's would be produced per solar panel per home per year.
  3. Multiply 156.25 kWh's by the amount of pounds of carbon produced per kWh from coal power (2.07) = 323.4375 Pounds of carbon saved per solar panel per house per year.
  4. Multiply 323.4375lb's by 1,000,000 homes/apartments (There's more than 300 Million people living in the US so this is less than 1/300th of the population) = 323,437,500 lb's = 146708 Metric Tons
  5. Total capacity added from 1 Million 125Watt solar panels would be 125 Gigawatts. Current US capacity for solar is 18.3 Gigawatts, this would be an increase of 683%.

Energy efficiency, and energy reductions from A/C were omitted but may be equivalent to an additional 100 watt solar panel.

What are other key benefits?

  • Distributed and reliable renewable energy - 7% of all energy transmitted through power lines is lost. If a home generated some of its own power on site less energy would be transmitted and lost.
  • Peak Load Shaving - during the peak hours of the day during summer or the coldest nights during the winter we run our heaters and air-conditioners the most. Distributed solar power reduces A/C loads, and makes distributed clean energy simultaneously during the hottest hours of a day. To utility companies this means less energy it has to worry about generating, when a utility company has to provide more energy than it can generate it has to import or buy electricity from someone else before it can resell it to you. This increases average costs for everyone.

What are the proposal’s costs?

*We price our solar panels at $650 per 125 Watt 2x3’ solar panel system at retail; they are $455 after 30% federal tax rebate. This is our minimum viable product; we will then be able to produce larger systems, and custom made solar panels. Additional system will be a 175 Watt 3x4’ for $750 and a 225 Watt 3x5’ solar panel for $850. Our systems are completely all inclusive to simplify the process, so there are no additional costs aside from shipping. They are either DIY, or you can hire someone else to install. Some utility may still require an electrical disconnect and outdoor receptacle be installed which may cost $500 for a professional to install that would enable connection of 15 solar panels for solar power.

*Consumers can more rapidly invest in an appliance than institutions and governments can invest in large utility scale solar projects. For comparison, the recently unveiled Apple Watch was released 3 months ago and has amassed more than one and a half million sales. The Apple Watch is a consumer product that is also entirely dependent on other hardware (smartphones). It is also priced from $349 to $1,000 depending on options. The cost of some Apple Watch’s is more than what our 100 Watt solar panel systems cost after the 30% Federal tax rebates for our solar products ($455) had consumers had the same fervor and spent what they did on our solar products instead of Apple’s Smartphone Accessory the US electrical grid would have actually increased its capacity for solar power by more than 700% from nearly 20 Gigawatts of current capacity to over 125 Gigawatts in solar capacity from 1 Million units that also could have been deployed within 3 months. The reason solar panels aren’t currently selling like Apple’s Watch is because people don’t see them as having the same tangible utility, this is even though solar power has tangible effects in reducing greenhouse gases, and carbon emissions the benefits are not as immediate for instant gratification among consumers.

Time line

  1. 5-15 Years - Get plug & play solar panels into big stores and retailers. Get at least one 125Watt solar panel into 1 Million homes in 15 Years or more if possible. (This entirely plausible, personal computers really only got popular since 1977, in 30 years now almost everyone has a PC) 
  2. 15-50 Years - 150 Million homes in the US through greater adoption.Expansion to China, India, Africa, Europe.
  3. 50-100 Years - Integration into structures on Mars, the moon, spacecraft.

Related proposals

References

How are these systems safe and legal to install?

All microinverters are required to have anti-islanding circuitry as part of UL1741, if electric grid goes offline, the microinverter stops outputting power until line mine have serviced and restored utility electricity.

How much electricity does an American home use?

http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=97&t=3

What is U.S. electricity generation by energy source?

http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=427&t=3US energy usage chart

How much carbon dioxide is produced per kilowatt hour when generating electricity with fossil fuels?

http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=74&t=11

Solar Capacity in the US:

http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/the-us-installed-6.2-gw-of-solar-in-2014-up-30-over-2013

US Solar Survey:

http://www.seia.org/research-resources/polling-data-support-solar

How much electricity is lost in transmission and distribution in the United States?

http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=105&t=3

Load-Side Connected PV:

http://www.nmsu.edu/~tdi/pdf-resources/IAEI%20Jan-Feb%202013.pdf

Annual Days of Sunlight:

http://www.currentresults.com/Weather/Florida/annual-days-of-sunshine.php

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2015
Proposal summary
Distributed Plug & Play Consumer Solar Panels - Add Capacity, Shed Carbon
Team proposal: Only members listed on the proposal's Contributors tab will be able to edit this proposal. Members can request to join the proposal team on the Contributors tab. The proposal owner can open this proposal for anyone to edit using the Admin tab.
By:  InSite Energy, LLC.
Contest: Energy Supply 2015
What initiatives, policies and technologies can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation?