Volt Wars: Why Your Neighbour’s Solar Panels Are Cooking Your Computer & Blowing Your Lightglobes, Etc

Electricity generation started off as an extension of science. These days, it’s all about vanity and virtue signalling. Not least those millions of shiny solar panels, which we’ve all helped subsidise – to allow our neighbours to bask in their own virtuous glow.

At the theoretical level – when the sun is up and the sky is cloud free – solar panels are generating electricity around 6.5 hours a day (on average). During their most virtuous cycle, they’re dispatching power back into the grid, and reducing their owner’s power bills (attracting feed in tariffs multiples greater than the value of the electricity itself – initially some states were paying figures in the order of $540 per MWh – coal-fired power costs less than $40).

Those without panels pick up the tab for the subsidies gifted to their neighbours (whether in the form of feed in tariffs or renewable energy certificates), as well as the network costs that allow the virtuous to dispatch when the sun is in the right quarter, and to receive electricity from the grid, when the sky clouds up or the sun sets.

The ‘risk’ of sunset and cloudy weather is offset by their ability to draw power from the grid, the cost of providing insurance against that ‘risk’ is covered by those who pay full tote odds for their electricity, and with it carry the entire network costs. Solar panel owners only pay network costs when they’re drawing from the grid.

But these matters are mere nitpicking about the costs of an enormous middle-class welfare scheme.

What’s caught recent attention, however, is the grid chaos served up every day, whenever the sun is at its zenith. Here’s JoNova delving into a much more troubling aspect of our ‘inevitable transition’.

White elephant solar panels: “force-feeding” high voltage, raising costs, breaking things, shutting themselves down
Jo Nova Blog
Jo Nova
9 November 2018

Some days I wonder if I should spread stories that make us sound like a recidivist third-world backwater struggling to maintain our voltage. But the ABC is already smashing away.

Just when you think there couldn’t possibly be another drawback to solar panels, lo! Solar Panels are pushing up the voltage at midday often as high as 253 Volts when it supposed to be more like 230 to 240V. This means appliances are using more electricity, that makes bills even higher. It may also be breaking appliances (making other bills go higher too). We’re not really sure about that, but when that study is done, it’ll already be 1.8 million panels too late.

Non-solar users are paying for this surge (and the appliances) — for every 1% increase in voltage, the costs go up 0.7%. Then, to ice that gravy-cake, the inverters on solar panels are also shutting off at 253V, meaning that poor home owners who paid thousands are not generating power for the grid. All up, solar is bad for you, bad for them, bad for our light-globes.

The warning comes from groups running the electricity networks in Australia.

Spot the key word missing from the ABC headline — starts with ‘s’, ends in ‘lar’:

Power bills up? Appliances burning out? You may have a voltage problem
Liz Hobday, ABC

Travel 40% of the way through the article to find the key point:

Andrew Dillon, spokesman for Energy Networks Australia, the peak body for Australia’s poles and wires companies] said the rapid uptake of rooftop solar systems was a particular issue for the networks, because solar systems are supplying extra electricity to the grid, and boosting voltages.

But to be fair, the ABC did highlight “solar” in the three key points at the top — wait for it: “Voltage” can be a problem, but solar panels can only be victims. No sacred cows are sacrificed in this story.

Key points

  • Higher voltage on power supply to homes is a major concern, researchers say
  • Impact on home appliances and potential ‘burnout’ needs more research
  • Could be causing a significant amount of solar energy to be wasted

Solution: give us more money, try another experiment

“There are technologies we could adopt today, to be able to manage the voltage challenges we have from solar better than we are now,” he said.

“The problem we have is we are not willing to pay billions of dollars further on the network … [we’re] after a smart, cost-effective transition.”

Some poles and wires companies are trialling voltage reduction on a large scale, and there is evidence that this could cut electricity consumption.

Don’t mention the third way: Stop subsidizing weather-changing-white-solar- elephants, and ask solar owners to cover the costs to stabilize the system as is. We could make a case that solar owners should be subsidizing bill payers who have been carrying the cost.

Higher voltage means higher bills

The results of a recent trial, by the Victorian network United Energy, showed that when voltage was reduced at 20 substations in and around Melbourne, every 1 per cent reduction in voltage saw, on average, an estimated 0.69 per cent reduction in demand for electricity.

But there is also research by the Queensland network Energex showing the scale of the problem the networks are facing.

When Energex reviewed almost 34,000 of the electrical transformers on its network in 2014, it found 76 per cent of the transformers were set too high, and were sending too much voltage through to households.

”Lucky”, a quarter of transformers in Queensland might be working properly. Err, “congrats”.

High voltages turn solar PV in white elephants
Above 253V solar panel inverters themselves shut off, making the panels into white elephants just at the point when they are generating the most electricity.

High volts could mean wasted solar
There is one area where high voltage is definitely causing headaches, and that is for people who have installed rooftop solar systems.

Pensioner Paul Ryan installed solar panels on his house in the Victorian town of Warragul more than a year ago, but for much of that time they have not been working. The system often has to shut off to protect itself from high voltages coming in from the grid.

“It turned out to be a bit of a white elephant in a sense,” Mr Ryan told 7.30.

Rooftop solar systems are designed to operate at a few volts higher than the grid, so they can feed electricity back into the local network.

But with network voltage supplied to households already running at the high end, solar energy feeding into the grid can boost the volts even higher, and over the 253-volt limit — causing solar inverters to shut off.

The whole point of solar panels is to stop storms and hold back the tide which makes them a white elephant from the moment they are installed. The high voltage cut-off makes white elephants into double elephants.

Not something you want on the roof.

With 1.8 million solar systems installed in Australian homes and businesses, a significant amount of renewable energy may simply be wasted.

Not to mention the significant billions used to install equipment that was never going to achieve anything bar making expensive green electrons that we didn’t need in the first place.
Jo Nova Blog

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. A home is where you live. It is where you sleep.

    It is not a bloody power station!

  2. When is this ‘free’ or ‘cheap’ energy going to be so?

    It was a rhetorical question. I know it will never be so!

    If the government stayed out of the market place, everything would run a whole lot smoother and cheaper.
    I am loathing politicians more and more every day!

  3. Reblogged this on ajmarciniak and commented:
    Electricity generation started off as an extension of science. These days, it’s all about vanity and virtue signalling. Not least those millions of shiny solar panels, which we’ve all helped subsidise – to allow our neighbours to bask in their own virtuous glow.

    At the theoretical level – when the sun is up and the sky is cloud free – solar panels are generating electricity around 6.5 hours a day (on average). During their most virtuous cycle, they’re dispatching power back into the grid, and reducing their owner’s power bills (attracting feed in tariffs multiples greater than the value of the electricity itself – initially some states were paying figures in the order of $540 per MWh – coal-fired power costs less than $40).

    Those without panels pick up the tab for the subsidies gifted to their neighbours (whether in the form of feed in tariffs or renewable energy certificates), as well as the network costs that allow the virtuous to dispatch when the sun is in the right quarter, and to receive electricity from the grid, when the sky clouds up or the sun sets.

  4. Ertimus J Waffle says:

    This story is total rubbish. Hasn’t STT ever heard of the Voltage, Amperage Wattage triangle. I suggest you do before sprouting total Bullshit. Voltage and Amperage are multiplied together to give the wattage which is the product of the resistance of the appliance or electrical equipment which never changes so if the voltage goes up the Amperage goes down and if the Voltage goes down the Amperage goes up. The only limiting factor to the Voltage is it’s insulation that starts to breakdown as the Voltage increases above acceptable levels and the ability of the conductors to handle high Amperage which usually cooks the insulation if it gets too high.

    • Which part of it? Bear in mind most of what appears is drawn from an ABC story, the treatment of which comes from JoNova. Are you suggesting that rapid surges or drops in voltage are consistent with the system’s design?

    • Sweet Old Bob says:

      @ Ertimus … No . When voltage increases and the resistance stays the same , the amperage INCREASES .
      E over R equals I .

    • Bill Quinn says:

      Dear Mr Emeritous Waffle. You are obviously ignorant of the facts surrounding Domestic Solar Generation. What STT is pointing out here is a very well known problem. My daughter lives in a small country town and has outlayed $20,000 for Solar Panels and one of these much touted Home Battery Storage systems. Due to the low demand in this small town of about 50 people the Sun Panels generate until about 11 AM and due to the other systems in the town also producing High outputs the inverter senses excess grid voltage and shuts down the solar generation.This happens on a regular basis through the day until the Sun starts to dissapear over the Horizon. The output of this system looks very much like the Chaotic graphs of Wind Generation available at aneroid.com. The Solar Supplier is well aware of the problem and quietly told us that this is a very widespread problem that SA Power Network acknowledge but aren’t to keen in changing the Transformer Settings to help to solve. Larger towns are not such an issue until the mad rush to Solar affect these areas as well. ReeNooables are nothing but a very expensive Grid Destabilising Nuisance that will NEVER provide Affordable Reliable BaseLoad electricity.

    • As Sweet Old Bob describes Ohm’s law tells us that for purely resistivity loads power consumed is proportional to voltage squared i.e. a 10% increase in terminal voltage will produce a 21% increase in power consumed. For appliances such as heaters this means they will create much more heat. With continued operation at the upper end of the allowable voltage range (253V) they are likely to run hot, shortening the life of the appliance. They are normally not designed or tested to operate at voltages outside standard tolerance limits.
      Motors are somewhat different, more like what Ertimus describes (a constant kW load), provided terminal voltage stays within say +5%, – 5% of nominal, if terminal voltage is lower than nominal the motor load current will increase, if voltage is higher than nominal the motor load current will reduce. The motor is more likely to overheat when the terminal voltage is below nominal but if the voltage exceeds say +10% above nominal then it will likely be susceptible to overheating due to magnetic core saturation. Either way, over or under voltage outside the design limits is likely to damage the motor.
      Overall for the usual mix of residential load the effect of resistive load tends to predominate so if voltage is above nominal more power (kWh) will is used, while if voltage is below nominal less power is used.
      Both over voltage and under voltage can have harmful effects on household installations and without question the injection of extra feed-in power such as that from rooftop PV solar makes it more difficult for distribution companies to maintain reticulation voltage within the required limits.

    • There are two equations to consider :
      Volts = Amps x Resistance (V=IR)
      Watts = Volts x Amps (W=VI)

      Combine the two to form :
      W = V x (I) = V x (V/R) = V squared divided by R
      W = V^2 / R
      It is the V squared term that makes matters worse than they might be..

      A voltage of 253 volts and a correct voltage of 240 volts gives a ratio of 253/240=1.054.
      1.054 squared equals 1.111.

      The voltage surge to 253 volts from 240 volts causes a constant resistance to dissipate 11.1% more heat. The temperature effects of that extra heat dissipation will be what they will be but plastic insulation can soften and degrade, and semi-conductor devices can easily be wrecked. It is this thermal effect that gets most things in a domestic context. Where plastic insulation softens, chars and starts conducting one hopes that earth fault relays (you do have them?) on the supply will trip before the fire starts.

      Overvoltage can be a fire risk e.g.
      https://trimbox.org/
      There are two main elements in electricity: current and voltage. For current-based problems, circuit breakers are used to protect in electrical systems. It is an amazing fact that even though the factor of current is under control, there is no efficient measure to control voltage.
      Trimbox provides solutions for following voltage problems:
      overvoltage by local electricity supplier
      Eliminates fire risk from electrical contact
      By constantly assuring that the right voltage reaches your wiring, Trimbox prevents arcing and
      overheating of electrical wires and appliances, and therefor eliminates the risk of fire.

  5. One good thing about rooftop solar – it is starting to eat into wind farm profits. Output from wind farms has had to be curtailed when output from rooftop solar is high in South Australia.

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