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Solar panels on the roofs of downtown Lawrence buildings ready to start cranking out electricity


A fellow can see lots of unusual things in downtown Lawrence: A honk for hemp guy; a gauntlet of street musicians of varying skill levels; and occasionally — thankfully — a man who walks around in nothing but a full-body suit of Spandex. (Please tell me I’m not the only person who has seen that.)

But have you seen the new downtown machine that can light up 400, incandescent 100-watt light bulbs all at once? Chances are you haven’t, unless for some reason you spend time on the roofs of downtown businesses. As we previously reported, downtown landlords David and Susan Millstein had a plan to put solar panels on their Liberty Hall and Sunflower Outdoor buildings in downtown.

Well, that plan has materialized. There are now about 200 solar panels on the roof of Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St., and about 65 on the roof of Sunflower, 804 Massachusetts St. Look if you want, but the panels aren’t visible from the street. If all goes well, the solar panels are scheduled to start producing electricity today.

The folks at Lawrence-based Cromwell Environmental helped with the installation. Chris Rogge, director of solar design for Cromwell, said one way to look at the installation is that the system will generate enough power to light about 400, 100-watt incandescent light bulbs. (But, of course, you would have to be some sort of environmental heretic if you are still using incandescent light bulbs, right?)

Another way to look at it, though, is that the system will produce about $5,000 worth of electricity per year, Rogge said. And that’s based on the price of electricity today. Each year, the value of that electricity is going to increase. (Unless you think the power companies are suddenly going to lower their rates, in which case, you’ve perhaps stuck your finger in the light socket one too many times.)

Kansas now has a law stating that businesses or residents can install solar panel systems, and the electric provider in the region must buy back the electricity it produces. In other words, your monthly utility bill is offset by the amount of electricity the solar panel system produces.

Lawrence has become a bit of a hotspot for solar projects. The Poehler Lofts building near Eighth and Pennsylvania streets has an entire roof full of the panels, and the new Hy-Vee convenience store along Clinton Parkway also has solar panels on its roof.

But this project is a first for downtown Lawrence. I haven’t yet talked to the Millsteins to find out whether their experience with it leads them to believe that other landlords may follow their lead.

I know the Bowersock hydroelectric power plant expansion on the northern edge of downtown has caused some people to think about how Lawrence can better promote itself as a standout in the green energy field. Having Massachusetts Street lined with solar panels may be part of a strategy.

Or we could all just start wearing green, full-body Spandex suits.

UPDATE: I chatted today with David Millstein about the installation of the solar panels. He's estimating that the system will break even in about seven years. He's hoping that the system will reduce his energy bills by 20 percent to 30 percent.

He also hopes that in a few years he'll be able to report some success back to other downtown landlords who then will give the solar systems a try. Millstein said he's been looking at the idea of solar energy since at least the mid-1990s.

"Back then the price was so prohibitive," Millstein said. "It was like a 29-year payback, and the panel only lasted like 20 years."

But as technology has improved and prices have dropped, Millstein said he started looking at the project again because the environmental appeal of solar power has always stuck with him.

"Essentially, if you scratch an old hippie, there is a solar panel under there somewhere," he said.


gr 5 years, 5 months ago

(But, of course, you would have to be some sort of environmental heretic if you are still using incandescent light bulbs, right?)

But of course you would have to be some sort of environmental heretic if you spreading mercury contaminants around, right?

If the allusion is that light bulbs really costs energy and therefore is associated with great amounts of environmental pollution, there are many more things which would save much, much more money and energy. Such as adjusting your thermostat. Or not eating meat. Or any of a number of things people will say no way, but yet will pat themselves on the back by saving pennies using mercury lights while spreading toxins.

"Another way to look at it, though, is that the system will produce about $5,000 worth of electricity per year, Rogge said. "

Well, that sounds like a lot. Could you tell what the installation costs were, the expected life time is, and the maintenance costs? While this may be a splendid demonstration, a novel idea, exhibiting the available technology, and a good marketing thing to do, by stating it produces dollars of electricity implies some sort of payback efficiency. I believe if the facts are revealed, the implication would be found to be misleading.

Chad Lawhorn 5 years, 5 months ago

Ah, I knew the incandescent light bulb comment would get people going. When I get a chance to talk to David Millstein, I plan to ask him about how much it cost to install the system. I'll pass that along if I get the information. Thanks, Chad

Hooligan_016 5 years, 5 months ago

That's why you're supposed to recycle CFLs instead of just throwing them in the trash ... Depending how you use your lights, switching to CFLs or LEDs can really save you a substantial amount of $$ and energy usage..

I agree about more information regarding installation costs, maintenance etc., but we should keep in mind that these kind of projects are important to keep moving the technology forward regarding renewable sources. While fossil fuels "seem" abundant right now, there is going to come a time where those sources will be exhausted and all we may have available is solar and wind technologies.

gr 5 years, 5 months ago

So where do YOU recycle the CFLs and do you think it is ok for the government to force people to buy something which they have to spend more time and energy to get rid of it when the savings are hardly anything? Substantial!? If you would compare the savings of setting your thermostat down a degree and the amount saved by converting over to mercury bulbs, we could discuss it. Why doesn't the government force everyone to have a thermostat police the forces no one to set their thermostat above 70 in winter and below 85 in summer?

We'll see some real savings then and "save the earth" to boot. Not sure how to increase taxes on that. Guess that could be the problem for some of you.

Hooligan_016 5 years, 5 months ago

They last for years, but I've taken a few to Home Depot (https://lawrenceks.org/wrr/hglamp). And the government isn't forcing people to buy CFLs, but really CFLs are an interim technology (like Beta-max :P) LED lights are becoming much cheaper and will be the future primary lighting source.

Do you not remember the outcry about Westar installing new digital/smart meters? By signing up for one of their programs, you were/are essentially giving a private company the means to limit your energy usage during peak loads. I think the program is great, but many others thought this was just another way for someone to spy on you.

elliottaw 5 years, 5 months ago

They do not last years, I find myself replacing the new lightbulbs every couple months, they are crap.

riverdrifter 5 years, 5 months ago

Then you've got a problem in your wiring. I have 6 CFLs in my home and they will be 5 years old in April.

Hooligan_016 5 years, 5 months ago

I've moved a couple of times and taken my CFLs with me, still working! Either you got a bad batch or as riverdrifter said, there is another problem somewhere else.

elliottaw 5 years, 5 months ago

we have moved a lot I don't think every house I have lived in and used them (4 so far) has bad wiring, they are junk and a waste of money

Water 5 years, 5 months ago

If David can keep a video rental joint open in this day and age, and still make enough money to install PV on the roof of his business, he knows what he's doin'.
With the exception of a few vanity lights in one bathroom, every light in my home has been of the fluorescent type for at least 10 years. The one's I purchase come with a 5 year guarantee. I've mailed two bad bulbs to GE and they've sent me a new free replacement both times. I've still got some of the original style with the separate ballast and bulb that flickers and clinks for 30 seconds before providing steady light. They're still in place 'cause they irritate the right person.

streetman 5 years, 5 months ago

I agree -- the claimed life span of these things is grossly over-stated. Like most "green" benefits. I'm OK with some "green" things, but would appreciate truthfulness -- exaggeration does not help the cause. The biggest fib has to be the benefits -- environmental and cost -- of ethanol gas.

gr 5 years, 5 months ago

Do all people recycle them? Ever break a light bulb? Do kids play basketball in the house? Do people ever move tall objects which might strike the fixture? Do you ever drop things?

interploy 5 years, 5 months ago

@gr: You have a couple of valid points, but you lost me at government forcing people to buy CFLs. Are Walmart and Target now smuggling in their incandescent bulbs? There was talk about a ban and about raising efficiency standards to the point where 100w bulbs could no longer be used, but both measures were defeated. Keep your rhetoric up to date if you're going to go around ranting.

gr 5 years, 5 months ago

There was talk about banning normal light bulbs and last I heard there was a plan to ban them in a few years. I was referring to those who desire to ban them, the legislators who propose it whether or not others agreed and passed it.

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

The article says he expects the system to pay for itself in about seven years.

tomatogrower 5 years, 5 months ago

But they might have electricity at the next outage, and others won't.

elliottaw 5 years, 5 months ago

Would be nice to know how much they spent in the project to know how many years it will take to pay for itself 1, 2, 10, 20? Need to know some more about it.

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

Read the article again - he says the system should break even in about seven years.

gr 5 years, 5 months ago

Read the article again. It says "update".

And it says "estimating" and "hoping". I'd like to see the facts and let me estimate and hope. Different people make different estimates and have different hopes. If we could see the facts, then we could reach a "consensus" of estimates and hopes.

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

You're right, my bad.

Well, that's easy to do - do a little research and find out how long various solar systems have taken to break even - I imagine it varies depending on the size (ie. does it produce enough for all of your needs or only part of them), and the cost of electricity in the region.

He can't possibly know for sure before installing it and using it exactly how long it'll take.

gr 5 years, 5 months ago

I guess I wasn't so worried about how soon he'll recover but if we could see some facts, we each could see how long we could recover the cost if we were to put them on our houses.

Different people use different amounts and his may be high compared to an individual. Assuming the story is supposed to inspire the rest of us to think about putting a solar collector on our house, then knowing the costs, the amount generated, and we know our rates, would could calculate how long it would take. I doubt most would use as much as he uses. Therefore his recovery time is not much relevant. If we had all the facts, then we each could come to our own conclusions of how long it would take. But, if he hasn't used it, not all the facts are really there and all there really is, is hope.

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

Don't be lazy and do a little research.

You can find a variety of solar energy sites on the internet, with calculators to let you estimate your costs and payback period.

I think your mistaken about recovery time though - smaller systems are less expensive, and larger ones more so, so it tends to balance out. The greater variation would be electricity costs in the area, I'd say.

UltimateGrownup 5 years, 5 months ago

Seriously? 265 solar panels will generate only $5,000 in electricity per year? Not sure which model they used, but a Grape Solar 250 retails for $679 at Lowe's. If they used the Grape Solar 250, then the cost was $179,935. Add in shipping, installation, insurance, and maintenance costs, and we're looking at a gigantic loss of money on a technology that does not produce much power. That said, if the Millsteins spent their own money, then that is their right.

Chris Rogge 5 years, 5 months ago

UltimateGrownup: This system is using UniSolar 144 Watt panels that were installed when the buildings were re-roofed. They were able to achieve some cost-savings here. UniSolar, unfortunately, could not compete with the huge drops in price of conventional crystalline solar modules and they closed up shop earlier this year. Dave was able to take advantage of this and got a great deal. They are a good product that should perform well for Liberty Hall and Sunflower, but I know the Milsteins got them for far, far less than the $2.72 per Watt that the Grape modules cost at Lowes. If people are buying panels at that price, please tell me where so I can go sell them and retire early! The Milsteins were able to obtain enough spare UniSolar modules for any replacement in the future as well. I do know that they carefully evaluated the financial performance of this investment and they were able to make it work. Most of our commercial systems sold in Kansas these days are projected to pay for themselves in 8-12 years. The solar industry has made significant advances in technology and reduction in costs in the last 5 years and is only getting better. You can expect to see many more homes and businesses incorporating solar power in the years to come!

tomatogrower 5 years, 5 months ago

Keep up that mass production and try and bring some of those factories to Lawrence, please. I can't wait to get solar for our house. The price is getting closer to our budget.

workinghard 5 years, 5 months ago

Change of topic, but I've been waiting for this to happen. A friend went to put trash in their city trash can and it was filled when it should have been empty.They had been tagged last week saying they have overfilled multiple times and one more time and they would have to pay for a larger can. Now they know why. Had to take their trash back into the house. Hope the city has a plan for things like this.

gccs14r 5 years, 5 months ago

How about not leaving the can at curbside all week?

workinghard 5 years, 5 months ago

They don't, but they do leave early for work and put it by the curb at six.. Wife just happened to go in later for work this time. That doesn't excuse what the neighbors are doing.

gccs14r 5 years, 5 months ago

No, but how is it that they didn't have room for their own trash, which presumably was already in the can when they rolled it to the curb?

workinghard 5 years, 5 months ago

Maybe I should have said nearly empty, maybe the husband put it out by the curb in anticipation that his wife would carry the trash out but not have to deal with the can. Who knows, that was not really the point of the original post and really doesn't matter. No they don't let it sit by the curb. Obviously the neighbor waits for them to leave and then put their extra trash in so they don't have to pay more. People should not use other neighbor's can and cause them to be charged more so they aren't.

LadyJ 5 years, 5 months ago

Next time they should look for something with a name on it and identify them and then let the sanitation department handle it.

Keith 5 years, 5 months ago

Chad, you should go look at the yard on Monterey Way near 15th street. There's a good sized solar array on the west side in someone's back yard. I wonder what the output is from that system.

Andrew Dufour 5 years, 5 months ago

God I love Lawrence commenters. Is there anything in the world that makes the commenters here happy? The Rec center is a waste of money and should be put to a popular vote. The popular vote that voted for the K-10 connector should be overturned. Solar panels that should save money in the long run and reduce our need for fossil fuels aren't good enough. Any and all development is bad. Somehow lightbulbs that do reduce energy costs are bad as well.

It's unreal. I get that no solution is perfect but I really thought that a town like this would be on board for some green energy powering downtown but still gotta find something to quibble with.

gr 5 years, 5 months ago

" Solar panels that should save money in the long run"

And that's what's under discussion. "Should" and "hope to" are not facts. They are wishes.

"Somehow lightbulbs that do reduce energy costs are bad as well."

Lightbulbs with toxins in them are bad no matter how much energy they save. Which they don't save much. How much energy would you save in one year by adjusting your thermostat one degree?

CRAH50 5 years, 5 months ago

It's not hard to find this - this is from Wikipedia; "Compared to general-service incandescent lamps giving the same amount of visible light, CFLs use one-fifth to one-third the electric power, and last eight to fifteen times longer. ... Like all fluorescent lamps, CFLs contain mercury, which complicates their disposal."

Note: LIKE ALL - fluorescents have always contained mercury - it's integral in how they work - and the newer ones have less than the ones we sat under in grade school.

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

Also, by using less electricity, they generate less mercury from the electric utility.

gr 5 years, 5 months ago

And how much less mercury do they generate from the solar panels if they were used?

Do you see the problem?

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

I don't understand your question.

If one has a solar electric system, then the lower the electric load, the smaller the system is, and thus manufacturing it will be more environmentally friendly. So, either way, CFL bulbs are a good idea.

gr 5 years, 5 months ago

I guess not. What you say would be true if all we used were lightbulbs. But lighting is a very insignificant amount of electricity use. Maybe you could show how much "smaller the system" would be with CFL versus normal light bulbs, given one that supports an average household. Then show how that translates into a less of an environmental problem.

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

You're right that lightbulbs aren't the largest electricity hogs.

Are you incapable of doing basic math or research? All of your questions can be answered by those.

CFL's use about 1/4 the electricity of incandescent bulbs, so if you add up the wattage of all of your incandescents and divide it by 4, you'll get your answer.

There's no good argument for using more electricity if you're trying to be environmentally friendly, no matter how you try to make one up.

Also, most people who use CFL's also try to reduce their energy use in other ways, like by turning the thermostat up in summer - we try to keep our house at about 77. And/or by not using it in spring and fall when that's feasible. There's no need to choose between these sorts of things.

Since the CFL bulbs last longer, that means fewer resources are necessary to supply one's house with them, which also lowers the environmental impact.

So, they use less energy and last longer - a clear plus for the environment.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

Yep-- one of the dirty little secrets of coal-powered electrical generation. Lots of mercury and other heavy metals downwind, and most of us are downwind of one or many such plants.

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

And in the water, which might be even more of a problem.

gr 5 years, 5 months ago

Think any of mercury from those broken bulbs will leach out of the landfill into the water?

Or how about downwind from the garbage truck going down your street as it crushes them?

d_prowess 5 years, 5 months ago

Chad, in your story you say: "the electric provider in the region must buy back the electricity it produces. In other words, your monthly utility bill is offset by the amount of electricity the solar panel system produces."
My question is what if you generate more electricity than your monthly utility bill? Would Westar have to pay you the going rate for the electricity? I doubt this situation applies in this instance since I would assume that those two business use more electricity than the $5,000 annual estimate this system provides, but I am just curious of the answer if it were to happen.

PhilChiles 5 years, 5 months ago

Here's how it works: when you generate more electricity than you can use, the energy company buys the excess, but at a rate that's a lot less than the market price. They get to sell energy that costs them nothing to produce, that's why they don't put up much of a fight against these kinds of laws.

captainkgood 5 years, 5 months ago

Actually that is not true. My company installs these systems regularly on Westar's grid. They credit any overprduction at the end of every month to your next bill. So, by pulling from those kWhs first, you are being credited at retalil rate. At the end of the year, you would lose any excess left over. So you just want to design your solar system for your yearly use, no more. In this way, Westar allows their grid to be used as a perfect battery for your use. You just aren't allowed to sell them more than your annual use at your building. Kansas Net Metering law requires this. It is one of the better netmetering laws in the US.

Chad Lawhorn 5 years, 5 months ago

Captainkgood's explanation is how it has been explained to me too. The Kansas system doesn't create an incentive to build a system that would produce more electricity than your property could use in any one year. Thanks, Chad

PhilChiles 5 years, 5 months ago

The people I've talked to about it live in Missouri, is it different there? I guess I assumed it's similar in Kansas, guess not!

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

Different states have different net metering laws, and some don't have any, to my knowledge.

In_God_we_trust 5 years, 5 months ago

@Capt., How much does a typical residential solar grid tie system cost up front? How long does it take to "get ahead" of the cost of the system?

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

It depends on how much electricity you use, rather obviously.

Last time I checked, if we created a solar grid tie system, it would cost about $20K with tax credits and incentives, and would take about 5-10 years to break even.

But we're pretty conservation oriented, and use quite a bit less electricity than many Americans.

gr 5 years, 5 months ago

If so, Westar would go bankrupt if everyone produced more than they used.

gr 5 years, 5 months ago

But then, if Westar had their rate structures correct, they should be ok if no one used any power because their base fee would cover their base fees. But, it's obvious they do not have a proper rate structure or they wouldn't have this "weather normalization fee" which charges you for not using as much energy as they had hoped.

If it was structure right, everyone could supply power and they just wouldn't have to buy as much. The only issue would be whether they should sell the power to the customer at cost or if there should be a markup.

Bob Burton 5 years, 5 months ago

Remember that solar only works on sunny days. Germany has a problem with to many solar panel systems because they overload the grid in the middle of the day. This means to fix the problem you have to build the grid with larger wire to handle the load. I do not think that Westar will want to rebuild the grid for free. Solar is fine if you build it for your building so that you can stay off the grid most of the time. Wind is the same, but wind farms are bad. We just do not know how bad yet. Only time will tell. Stay warm & have a good day.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

"We just do not know how bad yet."

We have a pretty good idea how bad fossil fuels are-- they're going to lead a planet that can only support a fraction of the current population within the next few generations, and some of the really nasty things they will bring are already starting to happen.

In_God_we_trust 5 years, 5 months ago

Agree with @SouthWestKs, Solar panels are expensive and produce well only under full sunlight. Cloudy days make them produce very poorly. At night time, solar panels produce nothing, which kills efficiency. Night time is when you mostly need the light. Wind generators produce during 10mph minimum wind or higher. Under 10mph wind, the generator does not produce well or not at all. How many days do you see a wind generator just sit there, not turning? Quite a waste of resources. Both Solar and Wind Generators need charge controllers and battery banks to store the charge in batteries for later use. Batteries often need maintenance, wear out and need replaced, which is another great expense and not very "green". The DC battery source needs a power inverter to convert power from batteries, or solar, or wind generators, into 60hz AC power to be compatible with the appliances and the power company, to feed excess power back through the meter, to the power company. It is still cheaper to buy power from the power company. The cheapest setup is with solar panels feeding into a "grid tie" power inverter. This feeds solar generated power (during the day) to the grid tie unit, which then converts DC power to AC sine wave power that is in sync with the power company, which is then fed back through the power meter, (if there is excess power) which lowers your power bill. This omits the battery bank expense and is a cheaper setup, using the power company as your supply when you don't produce enough power at night.

JackMcKee 5 years, 5 months ago

If solar made sense (and cents) you'd see them on every building in town. I keep a close eye on solar power rates. At current rates you're a sucker or stupid to install them. I'm not surprised Cromwell is behind this ripoff. When I do install wind/solar, Cramwell will be the last person I call.

blindrabbit 5 years, 5 months ago

After seeing the photo of the "Sunflower Building" installation, a couple of thoughts come to mind! Why are the panels installed flat on the surface of the roof, and not oriented to the Southwest at the best angle for maximum gain? The "flat" installation does not allow/prevent snow coverage during those events! The flat installation would seem to make the required clean-up/wash down much more difficult than a angled installation! Roof maintenance would seem to be much more difficult, and does this "flat" mounting create a problem with overheating of the roof system and prevent moisture evaporation. Familiar with solar installations, but my comments have been dealt with with those. Great concept, hope all works out!

RDE87 5 years, 5 months ago

I think this is such a wonderful idea! I hope more building owners downtown install these solar panels!

lunacydetector 5 years, 5 months ago

the panels generate enough electricity for the perimeter electric fence to keep people off the roof who might damage the panels.

CaptainE 5 years, 5 months ago

I wish the Millsteins would now invest in new sound systems for their movie theaters!

bearclaws 5 years, 5 months ago

With 35mm going away, they will have to invest in brand new digital projection equipment as well. I hope they are able to swing it.

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

It says it's grid tie, which means no batteries, as far as I know.

And, wouldn't it be Westar, not KPL, since this is downtown Lawrence?

The way it's explained above is that Westar credits your account for any excess production, carries that over into the next month, for a year's time, at which any excess is zeroed out.

You pay for whatever your system doesn't generate if it falls short as well - I don't know whether that's monthly or annually.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

The insurance industry won’t insure against conventional power plant accidents. Conventional power plant operators rely on a government-backed "Price-Anderson" insurance scheme that limits their liability in the event of an accident or attack.

Which places taxpayers on the hook in a big way.

Coal is largely composed of organic matter, but it is the inorganic matter in coal—minerals and trace elements— that have been cited as possible causes of health, environmental, and technological problems associated with the use of coal. Some trace elements in coal are naturally radioactive. These radioactive elements include uranium (U), thorium (Th), and their numerous decay products, including radium (Ra) and radon (Rn).

Although these elements are less chemically toxic than other coal constituents such as arsenic, selenium, or mercury, questions have been raised concerning possible risk from radiation. In order to accurately address these questions and to predict the mobility of radioactive elements during the coal fuel-cycle, it is important to determine the concentration, distribution, and form of radioactive elements in coal and fly ash.

Abundance of Radioactive Elements in Coal and Fly Ash. Assessment of the radiation exposure from coal burning is critically dependent on the concentration of radioactive elements in coal and in the fly ash that remains after combustion.

A reason or two for moving towards cleaner sources of energy.

Removing or substantially reducing the sources directly related to Global Warming/Climate change is another reason for moving towards cleaner energy sources.

gccs14r 5 years, 5 months ago

Spain has a solar power plant that produces electricity overnight. The hint for how they manage that is that it's not a photovoltaic system.

gr 5 years, 5 months ago

interploy claims: "@gr: You have a couple of valid points, but you lost me at government forcing people to buy CFLs. Are Walmart and Target now smuggling in their incandescent bulbs? There was talk about a ban and about raising efficiency standards to the point where 100w bulbs could no longer be used, but both measures were defeated. Keep your rhetoric up to date if you're going to go around ranting."

Not sure if this is up to date, but: "Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) December 28, 2012 Starting January 2013, conventional 75-watt incandescent light bulbs will be phased out in favor of energy-efficient bulbs that use at least 27 percent less energy, as required by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA). ... The national phase-out of incandescent bulbs began last January with 100-watt bulbs. The 60-watt and 40-watt incandescents will be phased out in 2014."

Are you saying something changed after December 28? I did find something from 2011 saying it was delayed. Maybe someone else needs to keep their rhetoric up to date....

And if tigerarmy247 is suggesting that the government should both FORCE people buy certain lightbulbs and let them FORCE them to adjust their thermostat, I find that appalling!

gr 5 years, 5 months ago

jafs whined: "Are you incapable of doing basic math or research? All of your questions can be answered by those."

If double your interest rate to 0.02, are you happy? Doubling nothing is still nothing. You sound like the global warmers you don't take into consideration how much carbon dioxide is out there and think man increasing his small amount is making a lot more. Doubling nothing is still nothing. But wait! You are a global warmer aren't you!

I'm not saying it's a bad idea for people you want to take a risk with spreading toxins around. That's their choice unless the government says mercury is bad and we shouldn't be exposed to mercury. What I'm saying is don't force me to expose myself to toxins. Let me make that choice.

I thought some did research here, but guess it wasn't obvious enough for you. But you are correct, I did find something out!
http://www.wholesalesolar.com/Information-SolarFolder/SunHoursUSMap.html This shows the amount of solar insolation (full sun hours) for our zone. Manhattan was the closest I could find, but I'm assuming that latitude is more important than longitude. Therefore, we can expect an average of 4.5 full sun hours per day. Not sure if that takes in cloudy days or inefficiencies of the solar panels. So, my calculations would be less.

Looking for panels, it's quite obvious that trying to get something to supply all my energy is not going to work. But taking the idea suggested by some which you just sell it to the power company so you don't have to invest in batteries I think will work for our purposes.

Looking at the Home Depot Grape Solar 200-Watt Off-Grid Solar Panel Kit for $690, which would produce a maximum of .2kw per hour at an average of 4.5 hours gives .9kwh. Taking that .9kwh and selling it at 10 cents to the power company will give back 9 cents. For the year, that 9 cents per day would give $32.85. It would take 21 years to pay for it. Excepting the manufacture only gives a 90% power output for the first 10 years and an 80% power output for the remainder of the 25 years.

If you didn't take the inefficiencies into effect, then after 21 years, you could make $32.85 per year for 4 more years for a net total of $131.40! Now, if you invest in more panels you would make more. But tell me, does that make sense to you for payback after 21 years? And maybe you could enter in the inefficiencies and see how that works out? Of course, if you put that money in the bank, one would hope to make more than 0.0076% interest over 25 years.

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

If you insult me again, I'll ask you to stop responding.

I wasn't "whining", I was pointing out that you continue to ask questions that you can answer yourself with a little time and effort - why should I do that for you?

I've already been quite patient with your misconceptions, and spent my time and energy on responding to them.

Your first 3 paragraphs have nothing of interest to respond to, since they are simply character assassinations and misunderstandings - it's been pointed out to you several times that CFL's actually produce less mercury than incandescent bulbs, since they last longer and use less electricity.

Yes, grid tie systems are much cheaper than battery based ones, obviously, since you don't have to buy the batteries.

Nobody's ever suggested you can buy one solar panel and use it to meaningfully affect your electric use or bill - that's rather an odd thought. Also, your energy use isn't fixed, it's somewhat variable - you can choose to use less energy if you want to do so.

When I checked out solar systems to supply virtually all of our electric needs, the payback period was about 5-7 years, if I remember correctly. That changes depending on how sunny your climate is, and how expensive electricity is, clearly.

KS isn't at the top of the heap when it comes to solar power, but it's surprisingly not bad, coming it at about the second best zone, last time I looked.

If you're seriously interested in finding out about these systems, I encourage you to do more research, plug in your electric use numbers, and your zone, and find out how much it would cost to supply your energy needs. Also, I would encourage you to use less electricity when feasible, regardless of whether or not you are interested in solar power.

gr 5 years, 4 months ago

"Nobody's ever suggested you can buy one solar panel and use it to meaningfully affect your electric use or bill - that's rather an odd thought. "

While you may not have, others have. Others have said everyone should have one. But they don't have one themselves.

"Also, your energy use isn't fixed, it's somewhat variable - you can choose to use less energy if you want to do so."

Non-relevant to the issue.

"I've already been quite patient with your misconceptions, and spent my time and energy on responding to them."

Who are you that I should care? Are you the owner of this website? Or the one who wrote this article? Or somehow more important than I? Because I can say the same to you with my time and energy. And I sure can't see why you should care about me.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

This conversation seems to have come to the end of it's usefulness, if it ever had any at all.

If you're interested in solar energy, there's plenty of information available online if you do a little research. If not, fine.

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

Home Depot takes CFL's and recycles them, for those that have asked that question.

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

Another thought on electric prices - we can pretty much guarantee that they'll just go up, since that's what they generally do, with Westar getting most of the rate increases they request.

So, that would shorten payback periods for solar systems, as those costs increase each year.

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

A very quick google search reveals the the mercury in CFL's is at a very low level, about 100x lower than the mercury in an old fashioned thermometer, and that breaking them isn't that dangerous, and doesn't require a HASMAT team to clean up, or any such thing.

Also, you could just not break them - I've used them for years, and have yet to break one and release mercury into my environment.

Kirk Larson 5 years, 5 months ago

So little mercury is released from a broken CFL that one study I read showed that if all CFL's were broken after their usefulness, there would still be less mercury released into the environment than by the equivalent use of incandescent bulbs due to the offset in coal fired electrical generation. So if you're worried about mercury, and so don't use CFL's, you are actually releasing MORE mercury into the environment. Recycling will greatly increase the benefit since the consequences of making new mercury from ore will be reduced.

gr 5 years, 4 months ago

Cappy, you're too funny!

"So if you're worried about mercury, and so don't use CFL's, you are actually releasing MORE mercury into the environment. "

But not in my house! Also, none if I use solar panels. You will still be releasing mercury if you use solar panels and CFLs.

"since the consequences of making new mercury from ore will be reduced. "

That's the funny part! Why not get it from coal plants! Is any mercury made from ore for lightbulbs?

Kirk Larson 5 years, 4 months ago

What? Are you using solar panels? Didn't think so. No, they don't recover mercury from coal fired plants, they spew it out the smokestack then it rains down and gets into the water where it accumulates in aquatic life until you eat it in your tuna salad. You're the funny one.

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