Hack a Day
Fresh hacks every day
some unnamed hackers show us how to clandestinely install a solar array system that feeds back to the grid. it’s very likely that this is _not_ legal where you live without the proper permits
In Victoria, Australia, this type of thing is legal with the correct forms, and people have received negative electricity bills before becuase of it!
It is also quite legal in the good old US of A.
This is an easy thing to do legally and safely. I doubt that one or two solar panels are going to spin your meter backwards, unless you live in the worlds smallest house and use only an electric shaver and small toaster with your electrical service.
this is legal everywhere in the USA.
anyone can feed power back into the grid in the US and the power companies MUST pay you the same rate you pay them for the power. with a small investment you could be getting checks FROM the power company every month.
The link to the Homebrew Fuel Cell is a PDF dating back from 1993. Is there an update? One would think that it should be a lot easier now.
BUT the totals are disheartening-
An average of slightly over 10KWH per month??
The utility companies charge about a buck for that. Will the equipment last long enought to offset the investment?
Don’t just assume this is legal… I live in canada and I do naturally feel like I’m free to do something like this. However, when I recieved a negative phone bill due to a computer glitch at good old ma Bell I thought I was going to recieve a check instead of being charged with fraud. (Not convicted, I had nothing whatsoever to do with it.) That said, you shouldn’t have a problem if you install a panel to feed the grid, just make sure you check with the three branches of government and your utility co.
Why would this ever be illegal? Is it even possible for a power meter to go backwards?
Plenty of people living in the middle of nowhere run generators from creeks, solar, or wind. This isn’t some big illegal practice that ‘fights the monopolies.’
no, there’s nothing illegal about using solar power, but you should probably check with your local authorities and power company before feeding back to the grid. in addition to permits and such, there are probably liability/insurance issues that need to be addressed. for instance, what happens if your setup takes down power for your area or electrocutes a line worker? anyway, the authors of this article ignored these technicalities to bring you this great hack.
more to the topic, though, do you folks know of any other neat hacks involving alternative energy or energy conservation?
Feeding power back into the grid can be very dangerous and you should not be doing it unless it is done correctly and the power company knows about it.
For those many people that don’t understand the dangers involved: lets say you have a generator kick on when the power goes out, feeding back into the power grid in the process. The power company shuts off the power to those lines to allow the workers to repair them, but your generator is still feeding power back causing the lines to still be live when they should be dead. You’ve now lured someone who just got dragged out of their home to repair your power right into a dangerous trap.
Of course… this isn’t much of an issue in densly populated areas as other houses near yours would be grabbing all the power leaked from your generator.
To expand on Jason’s comment, A big part of the permit structure is to ensure the installation is safe, both for occupants in the dwelling and lineworkers. The problem with many hodgpoge installations is that some people don’t install a special breaker to prevent power from being fed to the lines if the line power goes out, a potentially deadly setup for lineworkers who may not be expecting the line to be charged. Get the permits and inspection if needed. You will probably have to go through the utility company to get a meter that reads backwards anyways.
I dislike pimping other sites, but http://www.homepower.com is a worthwhile place to go if people want to read about lots of real world installations complete with schematics and payoff charts. Their semi-monthly magazine is a free .PDF to boot!
Funny how a mundane, not-exiting thing can be jazzed up by adding a guy in a mask and the word “guerrilla”.
Coming soon “guerrilla” tire changing and “guerrilla” cat-box cleaning.
RE: More electric conservation hacks
This site has details on building windmills for electrical generation, which includes a homebrew alternator, turbine, and all else involved. Very interesting read, at the least.
After reading the articles I thought I’d add.. I’ve read that hydrogren fuel cell article before, note that this was a long time ago (1993) and prices/availability/optimal chemicals are much different now.
Note that for 100W of electricity (not that much at all – a lawn mower is comparitivily more powerful) they paid over $1k installation. Build a windmill instead. :) More time, more power, more fun.
This is fascinating, but unfortunately doesn’t make economic sense. If my solar panel installation costs $1000 and puts out 100 watts for five hours a day, that’s half a kilowatt hour per day. Let’s say each kilowatt hour costs me 8 cents (here in Minnesota.) At that rate, it would take 68 years of operation to get to the break-even point. Let me know if I’m incorrect, but solar panels are, for now, an affectation.
There’s nothing illegal about using solar power, but it certainly IS illegal to hook your solar power setup to the grid without the proper permits. Having said that, while guerrilla solar is indeed illegal (since it is not “permitted”), it’s also about doing things safely.
Uh, am I the only person that has realized that this article was posted to gorilla.net over two years ago!!? why the hell hasn’t this surfaced before now!? it is a good idea though…
It may have decreased slightly over the years and of course it varies greatly depending on your expenses, but the last time I checked it averages about 20 years for the investment to pay off. Hopefully this doesn’t scare you away from alternative power, but there still is quite a ways to go before it is a very cost effective thing to do. Some states give you tax incentives up to %50 or so so YMMV. There are also some ways to increase the efficiency of solar panels such as using the extra heat absorbed (which reduces efficiency) to heat water but that is a whole other level of complexity.
Well, the state of CA will actually pay for over half your system. I have 15 167 watt panels on my roof, and indeed my meter goes backwards. There is no reason to try to do this illegally, as it’s very unsafe, and you don’t get benefits.
To everyone arguing cost effectiveness, that’s is really entirely missing the point. The point of installing solar power isn’t so much whether or not it is cost effective, but rather the fact that the energy is cleaner than power from the grid. So whether or not it will take 20 or 60 years for your investment to pay off is irrelevant.
DIY power – something very cool and very close to my heart. Just haven’t go to the doing part yet ;-(
Firstly – to restate some other comments – its vital to do what the article mentions proerply – else you will electrocute power workers when there is a blackout next in your area. (ie the ‘dead’ cable will be ‘live’ thanks to you)
If people are looking for something cheaper, then DIY windmills are very cheap (can be zero cost) and there is a stack of info on that. Just be sure you do it properly – exploding windmill props are very exciting in a bad way.
If are in australia then checkout rainbow power. If not then still check them out – they have a great email list with regular updates.
Here in Germany, this kind of thing is even supported by the government. You can get cheap loans for investments in solar-electric installations, and the utilities are required to pay you about 50ct/kwh, while average electricity charges are only about 15ct/kwh.
I wonder if its possible to have some kind of transformer take energy from the grid for 15ct/kwh and feed it back for like 50ct/kwh. Maybe you would need some fake solar panels (cardboard or so) for show. ;-)
I’d guess that most US utilities will do everything in their power to prevent you from hooking into the grid. One example from my state:
Solar panels are NOT good for the environment.
Solar panels will NOT make you money.
The only thing that makes a solar panel worth while is that it can be used for extended periods of time in remote areas where something mechanical (generator/windmill) may break down over time.
DO NOT DO this… they ought to be sued for putting this online.
People are going to get hurt. Imagine power is cut to the grid where someone has a cell hooked up… A lineman goes to work on the supposedly dead grid and pzzzzzzt… Dead.
Even if I were to save/make a buck an hour by feeding back into the grid, I think that’s substantial when you add it up over the course of a month.
Now, If I can just figure out how to harness the lunar power…….
Let me understand the full impact! 1000 dollars for 100 watts of power. So that would be 18000 dollars for enough power to run my wife’s hair dryer.
Now for the power company issues. FERC mandates that control authority areas (power utilities) are responsible for the nation’s 60 HZ frequency to prevent brown or blackout situations.
Is the power invertor provided able to provide 4 % power droop required to connect to the grid?
Do your homework people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I think solar panels have a negative expected lifetime power output. If you measure the energy needed to construct a solar panel (only including the energy once the materials have reached the factory) and the total energy that it is expected to produce over its lifetime, the net energy is negative. Solar cells have a useful purpose, powering the grid is not one of them. The best way to use solar energy to generate electricity would probably be to make steam and run a turbine.
Enough theory! I have lived with solar power in Hawaii for years at a time. Throw away energy-eaters and replace with alternatives. Use a gas stove and refrig instead of electric.Use DC-powered laptops, stereos(car cd/am/fm player), DC flourescent lights. Use cheap inverters for all your small AC devices. It’s easy to power a regular 27″ tv and dish tv system. Hang up your clothes to air-dry. Use a small Honda generator to run your washer once-a-week(and top-off your deep-cycle batteries while you’re at it). I don’t have an electric company to buy-back excess(as if I had excess). My entire system cost less than $1500. I don’t have to look at power-lines in my ocean-view. I don’t get a monthly bill from a utility. I even catch and purify rainwater, pumped by DC pumps. I don’t bother to purify water for my toilet, shower or plants. Solar power is coming down in price as usage increases. An unexpected benefit: my 4 year-old learned energy conservation. If she didn’t turn off her DC TV/VCR with the rocker-switch on the extension or walked away with the TV on, she wouldn’t have any power. She learned fast. Riversigns@yahoo.com
cannot get the link below to work for me any where to get pdf please?
you do the math david if you know how???? 4% droop huh LOL :) Where did you get that number out of the air?
Your sentence didnt make sense so I will disreguard it.
An average solar cells lifespan is 25 years I personally know of some that are 35 years old and still produce electricity.
Initial cost of solar is expensive if you move around alot its not worth it but if you plan on living somewhere for a while like myself then its a good investment.
Yes solar is expensive. BUT>>>>>>
over long term it is not. An average home solar setup pays for itself in 10 years and now sometimes less due to rebates and incentives.
Also I have to ask has anyones electicity bill gone down in the last 5 years? My electirc bill goes up even though I am using less electricity now than I did back then? Why because of inflation. My electric company addded a $25.00 fee to my bill because of gas prices going up. They said it cost more to come out and check the meters and to drive to do repairs. So they must add more to the bill. Well if you had a solar power system (PV array, Photovoltic) It wouldnt matter if the electricty got more expensive per kilowatt because your electricity would be free from the sun.
Its better for the enviroment.
It doesnt produce CO2
It doesnt use coal powered plants to power your home.
Its free energy from the sun.
I will say it is illegal to hook up stuff to the grid without a permit for safety reasons yours and the line workers. It is not illegal to have solar power.
Net metering is a solar panel that hooks to the grid and can give power back to the grid.
Other solar setups may not be connected to the grid at all these set ups use batterys to store the power when it gets dark.
Safety is a problem with the linemen, sure: but what do you do about synchronizing to the utility 60Hz? I would think that if you plugged your inverter into the wall and were 180 out of phase, you’d let the magic smoke out of your gear.
I’m looking for this article it was in a pdf format the link no longer works, I’m not able to find this article online or via homepower. If someone has this article please email it to me at email@example.com
Thanks everyone and hackaday! keep up the great work.
Everyone is complaining about the lineman’s safety. Every linemane knows to respect all wires as if they are live all the time…that is why they use all their protective insulated gear whether the wires are down or not and live or not.
Remember…it all boils down to money. Which way are the utilities going to make more…by net metering (buying your electricity from you at wholesale price but charging you retail price for your consumption, and they profit the difference from your hardware) or by reducing or eliminating your retail electricity consuption costs up front (you put a kwh in, then later you take a kwh out but no money changes hands)?
Hi everyone. That is my picture above. Myself and my friend Genny Freely are the original Solar Guerillas.
Many of you folks are missing the point. Way back then, G.S. was initiated because utilities and regulators would not allow us to put our safe, homemade energy on the grid. But, due in part to our actions, we prevailed — now every state and nearly every utility allows it.
The inverters we used, and those currently being used, our UL approved to not backfeed the grid if it goes down.
Here is Home Power magazine’s guerilla solar manifesto:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all energy is freely and democratically provided by Nature, that utilities both public and private have no monopoly on the production and distribution of energy, that this century s monopolization of energy by utilities threatens the health of our environment and the very life of our planet.
* We, the Solar Guerrillas of this planet, therefore resolve to place energy made from sunshine, wind, and falling water on this planet’s utility grids with or without permission from utilities or governments.
* We resolve to share this energy with our neighbors without regard for financial compensation.
* We further resolve that our renewable energy systems will be safe and will not harm utility workers, our neighbors, or our environment.
Solar Guerrillas of Planet Earth
Neat info , Will come back
Warning to all who read this blog. The home-made solar panel books and videos on the Internet are a total rip-off. There is no way that a person can make their own solar panel that can compare to a professional-made one.
Also, homemade solar panels are unsafe because their methods and products have not been tested for fire safety. In fact, I have seen photos of home fires started because of home made solar panels. Finally, they are illegal to use on homes and businesses because the home made products have not been tested for safety by independent agencies like Underwriters’ Laboratories.
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