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Your Story Ep 54 : Ken. Domestic Solar to Grid Reality Check


Today’s Episode 54 of Your Story is about looking at what we are told regarding domestic solar power generation and how viable it is as an environmental and economic alternative to base load power generation such as coal, gas, hydro, geothermal and nuclear.

Domestic Solar Electric Generation

From a personal interest in energy and a desire to share what he knows with society in general and other members of the University of The Third Age (U3A), Ken Harrison has set about looking at the viability of solar generation and has come up with some surprising and disturbing facts relating to the viability of using grid connected domestic solar panels to augment and replace power generated by the coal fired power stations in New South Wales.

Ken’s interest in managing power developed while he was responsible for strategising the energy usage of the Australian National University immediately after the first energy crisis in the 1970’s. Because of his hard work,  ideas and understanding of the use of power around the university he was able to reduce the ANU’s energy costs and consumption by elimination its usage of fuel oil in favour of electricity and by computer controlling that usage in the most cost effective and efficient manner. This hands-on understanding of energy usage in actual situations is the foundation of his interest in wanting to understand how the new system will work and how efficient it will be.

To my surprise, despite what we are told, the introduction of such systems does not have any guaranteed effect on reducing carbon dioxide production and could very easily make the electricity grid unworkable if the scheme is extended to the levels envisaged by some of its proponents. The scheme will also increase the cost of power in direct proportion to the extent of its adoption. They are only a waste of money that could be used in better ways. Ken suggests that spending the same amounts of money on stand alone, off the grid domestic power generation would have the positive financial and carbon benefits that are desired

If you would like to read his papers or wish to contact Ken send an email to chat@yourstorypodcast.com and I’ll pass it along to him for a reply.

In summation of his paper Ken recommends the following:


There is no way that any of the renewable energy systems can replace our coal fired steam turbine generators.

There are only two options that can do this, namely gas fired steam turbine generators or nuclear powered steam turbine generators. The latter is the complete answer to carbon dioxide emissions as well as any other nasty emissions at the point of generation; however, there is some CO2 release through the mining and processing phases. Its only drawback is the very serious one of waste management.

Geosequestration seems unlikely to be a solution for NSW even if it is ultimately shown to be viable. IGCC is the only developing technology that may be useful to NSW.

NSW has to do something about future generation very shortly – it is possibly already beyond the critical time for planning to be complete.

Since I have no expectation that any government will do the right thing I set out for your consideration what I would do if I were a dictator.

  1. Introduce a scheme to eliminate or, at least, severely reduce our wastage of electricity. This would give a breathing space of several years with reduction of emissions to levels lower than any mentioned so far at Kyoto or Copenhagen.
  2. Withdraw the present subsidy scheme on domestic photovoltaic generation and replace it with one that offers a generous subsidy for anyone prepared to go off the grid entirely i.e. a “stand alone” system.
  3. Continue with research and the introduction of renewable energy generation wherever it has some engineering viability.
  4. Build our first nuclear reactor as a matter of some urgency.
  5. Plan the longer-term close down of coal-fired plant replacing it with nuclear where alternative systems couldn’t do the job.
  6. Fund infrastructure schemes that can make good use of the skills of those who would become redundant with the demise of the coal industry.
  7. Modify the ETS to give it real power to achieve emission reduction.
  8. Scrap our existing financial system and replace it with something based on more rational considerations than the fear and greed, of an extreme minority, that characterises our present system.
  9. Introduce methods toward achieving zero population growth by 2015.

March, 2010

What do you think?  Write a comment below and share your thoughts on what Ken has mentioned.

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The Airmen of Note
“Blues for Mundy” (mp3)
from “Today”

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