12 September 2008

(Egg)Beating Down Power Bills

Apropos of My "Update on 'Turbine Farms' Ideas," The Insider commented: While I think the idea is great, you still haven't sold me on how these individual solutions that require effort or significant investment are going to make a much of an impact (since I anticipate extremely low rates of participation).

Woo-hoo! A challenge!

First of all, I don't see the ideas I've presented as achieving or needing widespread support. In the case of Turbine Farms or Vertical Windmills, local support at the government level (difficult, but manageable) would be enough.

Second, some of the ideas (barrel farming, urban plots) don't require much money, but they do require significant time and effort when compared to, say, watching novelas.

On the matter of impact, I'll use the Urban Windmill (Eggbeater) as an example, because the impact could be significant without massive participation and--in fact--would have a ready-made marketing campaign launching and bolstering support. The starting point? Solar water heaters.

According to the local Consumer Affairs agency (DACO), some 178,000 solar water heaters have been sold/installed in Puerto Rico. (Data is sketchy, but that number represents almost 18% of homes, though the heaters have been sold to businesses and light industrial sites and some sales have been replacements.) The big hook for solar water heaters was savings on the electrical bill, averaging 10-18%. 

Now according to the Electrical Power Authority (PREPA), heating water amounts to an average of 16-27% of an average home's electrical usage and the average home bill was $47.18...in 2005. (Again, data was sketchy.) Combine the three numbers and you can claim that solar water heaters saved buyers about $19 a month. (DACO claims $33, but offered Me no basis for that number.)

The average electrical bill has now gone up 115%, to about $92. Kilowatt usage is down, but the costs to consumers continue to rise. An Eggbeater Urban Windmill (given Our constant wind speeds) is capable of producing around 4,000 kilowatts a year, about 55% of what the average home uses a year. A solar water heater is a good investment...but an Eggbeater Windmill is better. (Ready-made marketing campaign.) Other benefits:

1) The Eggbeater would have a comparable value to a solar water heater, for although the Eggbeater would cost more, it would save more money. Solar water heaters were sold as "5-year investments," a similar notion to what an Eggbeater investment would be.

2) An Urban Windmill would provide a constant energy source that coupled with storage (battery) could power a small home without need of the PREPA grid.

3) Installation would be easy on the average house's flat cement roof, as a solar water heater weighs more (its tank of water) than an Eggbeater.

4) Esthetically, an Eggbeater looks better than a solar water heater.

5) Combine the two (sell to an already-invested customer--178,000 of them) and you could literally not pay for electricity every month (small homes/businesses).

6) With less than 178,000 installed, the Eggbeater would expand the energy capacity of the Island by reducing the demand on the groaning grid We now have, as well as reducing the need for fuel. 

Caveat: Permits and licenses would be a problem, eventually. Not because the Urban Windmill is dangerous or bothersome, but because it seriously threatens the Power Authority and its special interests. (It took 3 laws and 11 years to get PREPA to write out an energy buy-back plan...and it still isn't finished.) 

Can this be done? Can We buy into Urban Windmills that promise to save Us money in Our homes and businesses? I say yes. The next step is: Who will do it?

The Jenius Has Spoken.

P.S. -- Check out The Insider's nifty newsblog "Puerto Rico: A Paradise Lost?" I LOVE the one about Cabo Rojo building roads "at a billion dollars a mile." I hate Myself for not coming up with that one!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've thought the same thing, only where can I buy one? I want one, but can I buy it? What is the cost? I've done these calculations with solar and it's just ridiculous how expensive the whole set up would be. If I wanted to use tax incentives, I could buy one or two 125W panels a year (and get tax credits), but at that rate, I'm only saving pennies. Wind generation sounds great, but where do I buy one?