CGEB: Wind farms net positive on crop yield, big microgrids, local solar, more

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A solar power’ed technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news. Featured image from Nixon Peabody LLP‘s new installation – beautiful high efficiency vertical solar panel installation there.

Iowa State University Research Finds Wind Farms Positively Impact CropsTurbines take some of the wind energy, slowing it down but increasing its turbulence so it interacts with the crop more, possibly increasing evaporation from the crop or moving carbon dioxide down into the crop. Since fungus and mold like a wet environment, the shorter the wet period makes it less favorable for the growth of those potential pathogens. In the fall, the shorter wet period could speed up harvesting because farmers typically have to wait for soybeans to dry in the morning. Another factor is that turbines bring warmer air down to interact with the cool air near the surface. Throughout the wind farm, the surface is a little bit warmer which inhibits dew formation. Another plus is the air pressure fluctuation measured around wind turbines. Takle said there is a lot of carbon dioxide in the top few feet of soil — as much as two or three times what is in the air. The movement of air by the turbines pumps air down, and the movement draws carbon dioxide out of the soil so more would be available to the plant for photosynthesis. The air moving down also creates more plant movement, which increases sunlight penetrating the dense crop canopy. On the negative side is the tendency of higher temperatures occurring at night in wind farms. If we were to build a 3 million sq km in the north Atlantic Sea – it’d be enough to power the world during winter time, but it’d also lower the temperatures of the local Arctic region by 13°C!

Western Australia suburb to trial community battery ‘bank’ for rooftop solar deposits – Microgrid might have a development pattern where they overlap each other, and where certain locations can be under observation of multiple distributed energy sources. Already, there’s hardware that can be dropped in to take over an area’s energy responsibilities. The favored modern living unit of ‘gated suburban community’ seems a wonder model to have a building block of microgrids – this model breaks further down into, my personal favorite, the cul-de-sac battery. Lotta cars, lotta solar, lotta batteries, lotta buildings, lotta power within these suburban structures. Interestingly, people carry around giant batteries with them – cars, and if there’s a large chunk of energy users that show up with a huge energy reservoir – that must drive some system stability (assuming we’re smart in managing when people charge). Will the USA military start pushing microgrids starting at zip codes and working up to city/county level? When is it no longer a micro-grid – but just a, you know, power grid? Ultra-precise manufacturing facilities may one day pay a premium for many-grid managed positions if we show higher than average frequency consistency.

Sunrun Keeps Growing, While Prepping for a Whole New Grid Services Business – A few good datapoints from this article, but two in particular – “Overall, if I look five years into the future, it wouldn’t surprise me if 80 percent of solar systems had battery storage,” Executive Chairman Ed Fenster We all want batteries at home, and none of us seem to like that our solar system shuts down when the grid does down. We know Fenster is right eventually, this pragmatism that’s grown on me as I’ve aged is hesitant to say 5 years out loud – but optimistic that he’s right. CEO Lynn Jurich teased that the move into grid services will eventually produce a “customer-created utility” that could tap into the $500 billion market cap of the 20 biggest utilities.’ The article above – in Western Australia – is about a local battery bank, of connected homes. Sunrun is also trying to get in on that business. In the article it talks about grid services the company has won – grid services mean Sunrun is getting paid to do this with batteries and solar that coal and gas used to proclaim only a spinning wheel can do.

Solar Surprise: Small-Scale Solar a Better Deal than Big – The argument presented on this site aligns at a certain level with the letter I wrote to my local politicians recently, with a big velocity of money consideration. Cash going to local people seems to generate a whole lot of capitalism. As a commercial developer – I really like to see (since it lines up with my intuition) the 5-10 MW sweet spot. I’d bet modern 100MW+ systems (this report is based on 2015 data) will show a much better value with innovation (increasing capacity) starting there first. But the local wiring – integrating into local structures in particular – gives some of those small systems real benefits. And being able to install a solar power system right next to already existing power grid hardware surrounded by electricity uses – wooo – that’s a whole lot better than the losses that happen when we pump from the desert.

The tweet below gives solar PV capacity factors. Reporting on a North Carolina project showed me a 27% capacity, and that caught me off guard with how the value was. However, single axis trackers in utility scale projects make that happen – and it’s cool to see. I do wonder what exactly was built in South America to get that value.

A few years back, the federal government did some research on why the Chinese were able to lower the price of solar power so much – was it the labor? No – the supply chain.

Feature image comes from the Department of Energy. The Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, CA. Photo by Chris Allan.

If you’re interested in residential several quotes from a local residential solar contract, will connect you with that local talent so you can start a proper bidding war for your roof.

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John Weaver
Solar Power Plant Project Developer at Commercial Solar Guy
John Fitzgerald Weaver is a solar consultant - aka The Commercial Solar Guy. As a project developer and installer, he's sold and managed 50+ solar projects worth more than $10 million, ranging from 5kW to 1500kW. He’s been involved in many aspects of the solar supply chain - as a company founder, developer, project manager, manufacturer, permit runner, salesman, contractor and financier, climbs mountains, played football, enjoys an IPA or scotch, needs to get away, and really loves this strange connection between politics, energy, finance, environment, etc in the energy world, and likes run on sentences.

Current and occasional stock positions that I have written about are ASYS, TSLA, CAFD and TAN - plus Bitcoin and Etherium.

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