Power in the Greater Depression (Ch 1.)

Since UrbanSurvival and Peoplenomics have been solar-powered since 2008 (a fact I mention only once in a while) we do know more than a thing, or two, about robust home power stystems.

Toss in living almost 11-years on a 40-foot boat – which had its own, special kinds of power issues inlcuding a wind generator and more solar – and I think it’s fair to say I’ve forgotten as many people will ever learn about alternative energy, except for the working pro’s who design and install such systems for a living.

Thanks to reader inquiries, I’ve been saving up the questions so that in coming weeks, our Peoplenomics readers will receive a real education in robust home power; something that can be mighty damn useful should the second depression drop by.  Send in questions along the way!

After our morning helping of headlines, commentary, charts,  and financial kibitzing…

It has been a while since I wrote a book and this is one that begs to be written.  Not a fantasy or a “what-if?”  No, this is nuts and bolts how to do everything we need to cover.  Today we look at the economic angles.

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12 thoughts on “Power in the Greater Depression (Ch 1.)”

  1. “Going Solar” (photovoltaic) doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing project.

    Refrigerators and central air systems use huge amounts of power, but radios, a TV, and a few lights can run on a VERY modest home-rolled solar electric system that you can easily DIY.

    “Let not the ‘perfect’ become the enemy of ‘good enough.'”

    I have four 100-watt class solar panels, mounted vertically on the south-facing wall of the house — to avoid damage from big hail, which we get some of in thunderstorms. These feed two charge controllers (Schottky diode “and-ed” into two pairs of panels). These feed two 120 amp-hour deep discharge lead-acid batteries. I give up some collecting efficiency by not having the panels dead-right-angled to the sun, but the safety from hail damage outweighs this in my engineering trade-offs decision. (YMMV)

    In practice, this set-up runs all my radio and TV devices and a few LED lights with plenty of margin for several cloudy days.

    Point being: You don’t have to run EVERYthing at first — just your high-priority mission-critical info-systems. In a Big Bad Deal, your first questions will be, “What’s going on?” and “What’s probably going to happen next?”

    Get a ham radio license, a GREAT AM radio (longer range than FM), and some simple VHF ham gear for your local repeaters. You can be well informed. I haven’t done it yet, but I’m planning a satellite TV service to run off the solar power as soon as I can manage it. “RV” class sat services are affordable, and mostly DIY. Power consumption is small — easily run via solar. …and the fascist, evil killer, running-dog, imperialist, war-mongering, enemy-of-the-people Kable Kompany has been ripping me off for FAR too long. Can’t wait to yank THAT jack! (I’m in remote countryside — there is zero TV through-the-air. I’ve tried.)

    As you gain confidence and experience, this method can be built out incrementally to any limit you set.

  2. LOL I love solar power.. I am trying to talk my wife into letting me put up another three or four kw LOL..
    I just wish I could get a deal like I got on the last set.. after all company rebates and free shipping.. the total cost was less than I would spend on fruit in one month LOL

  3. PGE is a case where the Governor Gavin Newsom May take over the reigns of the company and make it a community owned utility like Nebraska’s. Nebraska has a system of cooperatives that has no stockholders, and thus, no profit motive. That means Nebraska, a heavily GOP state…can focus on keeping electric rates low and customer service high.

    35% of California’s energy is from renewable sources…2% is coal and that is about to become 0%…The rest is from natural gas…and that is shrinking. The key to California’s success is our technology…sun baked deserts, the states thermal power in Sonoma, Napa and the northern parts of the state and dozens of hydro-electric producing dams.

    The tech comes in the form of storage. That’s the missing link in electricity worldwide. The wasteful power plant/grid system is a century plus old technology that needs to be updated. Tesla, Fluence, Siemens, Panasonic and many more German, Swiss and Chinese companies are quickly jumping in on the use of Batteries, flywheels, etc to produce, enhance and store our power. Installation is cheaper, maintenance is minimal and thus, power becomes a cheap commodity that no private company would want to own…due to low margins.

    Therefore…the ability to have citizens create their own proprietary systems for energy production and storage could open up without the utilities breathing down your neck wanting an “inconvenience” fee…I know a few tech execs people who are 100% reliant on their own power production through solar and storage and even kick back power to PGE…and PGE still wants them to pay $75 a month for the inconvenience of not having them pay a bill or some stupid reason like that.

    In a few years…I believe electric generation/storage systems will become more mainstream and we all may be able to purchase such systems to avert any shutdowns of power due to natural disasters…which California has a better than average chance of having than other parts of the country.

    • Mark….
      Solar was one of the best things I ever did..a friend of mine use to give me guff about it till a major power outage.. Then installed his. It paid for itself in less than a year. Out there there are groups renting systems which is stupid for them to do it.. Purchase own it..
      There are so many companies and rebates and discounts where you are I get surprised power companies and individuals just don’t see it. Our first set was when solar panels were way over a thousand a panel I think I paid fifteen dollars a watt..that system surprised me. It paid itself off in five years.. Even the bead of the power company came out. He was shocked it did so well..bought his own bs.
      They should be promoting it. For those not getting reimbursed for extra..no increases in fees for ten years..

  4. Here in the greater western Colorado Juniper Mesa Country, there’s is a group I belong to of mostly geezers . Your article today is dead on point . the purpose of our group is to brain storm the effects on our community of the unthinkable, an EMP, and then we try to come up with solutions to over come being thrown back to the 1850’s
    Once you really start to dig in to energy dependence and what could (would) happen when the electrons stop flowing, it is absolutely frightening, (bordering on not survivable for up to 90% of the population after 1 year) Yes it does make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
    One good thing that has come out of the group is 4 members who now see the advantage of open radio communications. (may be read as 4 new hams)
    Always recruiting.

  5. The Big Island of Hawaii has roughly 200,000 people spread out across lots of space, so it’s a small electric grid. The geothermal plant used to produce about 25% of our electricity, until the volcano eruption covered part of it with lava last year. Unknown if it will be reopened. Electric utility has reserve generating capacity, but is burning oil to do it. The Solar PV companies are installing as fast as they can. Oahu island with urban Honolulu has pretty much reached saturation capacity with daytime solar PV feeds, but here on the Big Island a new battery-storage scheme has been approved. The grid-interconnect PV system includes a 10KWh battery that runs the house power at night, If there is prudent night usage, and battery reserve in the wee hours of the morning the system will ‘sell back’ power to the grid, within the safe limits of the battery. At sunrise the PV panels recharge the battery and power the house. The beauty of these systems is that the power grid gets distributed storage capacity to draw on at off-peak hours. It’s a win-win for the power company and solar users.

    So this incredible system is available from SunRun as a leased system with no upfront costs (except meter box replacement for new meter… customer equipment) My lease payments are $78/mo and the electric company requires a minimum interconnect charge of $22/mo. So I have a flat power bill of $100 if I stay within the limits of the system. Presently my power bill runs around $155/mo, so I am saving about 1/3 monthly. Lease is for 20 years, SunRun does maintenance, replaces battery after ten years. Lease can renew or buy out af 20 years. Lease may transfer with house if sold to new owners. Sizes…. 290watt panels x11= 3,190watts charging power. Battery stores 9.5kwh. Main inverter rated 7500 watts peak power. I think I can keep the house within that. I have solar hot water also, so that saves on electricity. Installation is complete, electrical and building inspectors passed, and now I am just waiting for the power company to come for final inspection and replace my meter with the new ‘smart’ meter. I’m told they are kinda slow.. maybe another month or two.

  6. Oh, yeah… the SunRun system has a ‘PV power’ outlet we can use even when the grid goes down. The system will keep a couple emergency outlets alive for refrigerator and lights if the power grid goes down for an extended period.

  7. yeah I have a yellow rain jacket is it time to start wearing that ring jacket in public and if you see someone super rich a sitar to take that rain jacket and hang the super rich from the highest totem pole you can find because they are the criminals not us

  8. The problem with renewable power – Storage. Historically, Lead-Acid batteries have been the gold standard, but they have a hard end of life at about 15-20 years, they fall apart.

    Nickel-Iron batteries last longer, +50years, but the electrolyte wears out and it has to be replaced about every 10 years (KoH)

    (the above both need regular additions of pure (distilled) water)

    Lithium batteries (LFP) look promising, but factory warranty are in the 2-5 year ballpark, and are extremely particular about charging/discharging. Well cared for, you might get 10 years.

    Large scale storage batteries are starting to come on line (I’m watching Australia closely) to see how it works out, but old school pumped hydroelectric seems to be a winner so far, if you have the terrain for it.

    And I’m not sure how knocking down the hydro plant dams in the rivers in the West (USA) is going to help the situation. Fish ladders are a proven way to get fish around the dams, but taking dams out can’t make the electricity problem better.

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