Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Net Meters for First Energy Customers

Customer-generator n. Utility jargon for your neighbors with solar on the roof

Seen the new net meters? New and old net metering customers in First Energy's MonPower and Potomac Edison service areas of West Virginia and Maryland are being fitted with improved metering equipment to help track customer generated power as it is pushed back onto the grid.

New net meter for a First Energy customer (note, the code is 01 and the reading is 00000 kWh). Being brand new it has not had time to record any energy, but the small arrow below the 01 points to the right indicating that energy is moving from the utility grid to the home.

The new meters began to appear in July. I've been asked by several customers about the different flashing codes on the new meters. The First Energy folks have been getting a lot of calls too. To help their customers get a handle on reading the new net meter they produced a nice pdf which you can view here. The pdf has illustrations and explanations for what the meter is measuring and reporting.

I checked my new net meter a couple of days after it was installed this past summer. It flashed through three separate screens. Each screen references a code and displays a reading (in kWh). Here's what the meter read and what it means:

Code Reading Meaning
01 4 Net kWh that I owe money for (14-10 = 4 kWh)
04 14 Total kWh that my home has pulled in from the utility grid (14 kWh)
40 10 Total kWh that my solar pushed back onto the utility grid (10 kWh)

Another cool aspect to these meters is the dial emulator which is really an arrow that displays at the bottom of each meter screen demonstrating the direction that power is presently traveling. As you look at your net meter the arrow will point to the right if you are pulling in power from the utility grid. It will point to the left if you are pushing power back. The arrow will display more or less quickly depending on the amount of power that is running through the meter. The old dial-style mechanical meters would spin to the right or left, faster or slower, in a similar fashion.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Solar Tracking Trio

What about those solar things that follow the sun.......................? I get asked about tracking systems from time to time. Above is a fantastic time-lapse video of a solar PV system that relies on three dual-axis Wattsun trackers. PIMBY Energy installed this system for Richard and Susan back in the fall of 2009. Their property has great solar exposure which the tracking motors help to improve by moving the PV panels so that they are directly facing the sun. The upshot is that the panels are able to produce 22% more power than they would without tracking.

Below are a few additional photos of the installation. All the different personalities and talents that helped out on the project kept the mood light and made for a great experience.

Align Center

Monday, July 18, 2011

Solar in West Virginia: Photon Magazine Article

Photon Magazine sent a writer and photographer out to the Mountain State last January to gather stories about the solar market in West Virginia. Photon is an international magazine read by professionals who deal in all facets of the solar industry including; solar panel manufacturers, utility-scale project developers, financiers, and installation experts. The article has just come out in print edition and it highlights three solar businesses in WV as well as a sampling of their customers.

Mike, from Photon Magazine, discovers the power of poultry at Taproot Farm in Capon Bridge, WV. Mike and photographer, Frederic, saw some stiff January temps in their multi-day tour of the state.

Beth and Tim, owners of Taproot Farm and customers of PIMBY Energy, pose here for one of the photos that appeared the magazine's article on the solar industry in West Virginia.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Solar Arrives at Davis & Elkins College

Do you know this gazebo? This gazebo is a familiar feature to anyone who has spent time on the campus of Davis & Elkins College. My friends who went to school at D&E remember the gazebo by Tolstead Lake as a common meeting place.

The student organization GreenWorks! just finished working with PIMBY Energy to add lighting to the interior of the gazebo to extend its use beyond daylight hours. The dusk-to-dawn lighting system uses low-profile LED strips which consume about 36-watts of power combined. The light is warm, but not glaring.

GreenWorks! received a grant to install the lighting system which is powered by an 80W PV (solar) panel. The students assembled the components in early February, but we had to wait until yesterday for weather that would allow for the completion of the installation.

Professor Russ McClain, Director of the Center for Sustainability Studies, sponsors the GreenWorks! group and spent more than his fair time with a shovel at yesterday's install. Russ and Bethany are pictured above with the PV panel and the electronics that control the lighting.

One of the hardest parts of the install involved the transplanting of an azalea. Barry and Russ spent almost two hours carefully digging and replanting it.

February weather proved too cold and snowy for outside work. Instead, the GreenWorks! group (Jennifer, Matt, and Bonnie) assembled the electronics cabinet and mounted the PV panel to the cabinet rack.

The final product.......Instead of disappearing at dusk the gazebo now looks like a welcoming place. I really enjoyed this project. Most of my work involves powering homes or businesses with solar - this is the first gazebo that I have had the opportunity to electrify!

Thanks so much to all who helped to make it a good experience - Russ, Bonnie, Jennifer, The New Guy, Matt, David, Bethany, Bob, Barry.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Alternative Energy - West Virginia Small Farms Conference 2011

Solar, Wind, Super-Insulating and Geothermal will be topics at the West Virginia Small Farms Conference this February 17.

The 2011 WV Small Farms Conference will be held at the Lakeview Resort & Conference Center outside of Morgantown, WV. The Alternative Energy workshop on Thursday includes a full day of presentations capped off with a field trip to visit a net-zero energy home that uses power from solar and wind as well as many green building materials.

Alternative Energy Agenda – February 17, 2011
WV Small Farms Conference – Morgantown, WV

8:00 – 9:30 Living Off the Grid in West Virginia (Panel Presentation)

Off-grid Homeowners: Sonny and Linda Jobe, Tom Berlin, Jim Sconyers

Ever think about what life would be like without a utility bill? Hear about what it takes to live off-grid from folks who live that lifestyle right here in West Virginia. This panel discussion will touch on various aspects of off-grid living including; appliance selection, solar power, house design, generators, and wind energy.

9:30 – 9:45 Break

9:45 – 11:00 Harvesting Solar Energy; Your Solar Investment

Did you know that investing in a solar power system yields a higher rate of return than most traditional investments? Come hear how harvesting solar energy can reduce your dependence on fossil fuels and produce a return on investment that you can brag about to the neighbors.

11:00 – 12:15 Geothermal Heating and Cooling in the Mountain State

Dan Halleran

Heating and cooling a home can be costly. Geothermal offers a solution to help take the sting out of this persistent expense. Dan Halleran, a 30-year veteran of the geothermal industry, will talk about the success of geothermal systems and what consumers need to know to make a good decision about whether geothermal is right for their home.

12:15 – 2:00 Lunch

2:00 – 3:15 Building the Net-Zero Energy Home

New home construction can be tailored to create a comfortable living space that enjoys few utility bills and the surety that power will always be available. Learn about the building design, materials, appliances, and power sources for one Net-Zero Energy home in the Morgantown, WV area. The featured home will be the focus of the afternoon field trip at 3:30.

3:30 – 5:30 Field Trip to Net-Zero Home

Registration for the Thursday workshop costs $50. You can register at the conference. Click here for more information about the other conference workshops, registration, lodging.