Solar Confusion

I’ve been looking into the whole deal of installing solar energy systems in commercial buildings and, dang it, it’s pretty confusing. Not the question of whether it’s a good idea; that’s a clear yes. What I mean is, it’s confusing in terms of how to go about it in the most efficient way.

One logistical question I have about installing solar in Melbourne is this: what happens in the middle of winter? Is a couple of hours of sunlight each day enough to power a large building that uses electricity in a fairly heavy duty way? You see, I’m looking into this on behalf of my dad, who claims he wants to move the whole company towards running on renewable energy but has gaps in his schedule to research it for the next four months.

One obvious answer is that installing a solar system doesn’t necessarily mean that the entire load of electricity must come from the system. I suspect that dad feels that the system would be pointless if the grid still had to be in effect for providing some of the building’s power. I don’t see it that way, though. I mean, of course it would be ideal if the entire load of energy could be harnessed from rooftop solar, but in practice that might have to be the goal of a work in progress.

From what I understand, there are a few ways of moving closer to that goal. For starters, the company could take down their overall energy consumption by installing commercial LED lighting. Dad could also look into an AC-connected commercial energy storage system. Melbourne gets an abundance of sun in summer, right? If I’ve got this right, any excess energy can be stored in a battery for later use. The other option is to feed the excess into the grid, get paid the feed-in tariff, and then buy the energy from the grid during solar down-times, knowing that at least some of it is still coming from solar.

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LED, VEEC, ABC, etc.

Gah, so many acronyms. VEEC, ESC, AC, CFL, LED…  what does it all mean? In case you’re wondering what I’m on about, I’m researching what’s involved in improving the energy rating of a commercial building here in Victoria. There’s a lot to take in, and these acronyms aren’t making it any easier!

Let’s start with LED – I have a little bit of familiarity with that term, at least. My camping lantern runs on LEDs, as does my sister’s $600 hula hoop. Well, apparently, light emitting diodes represent a relatively efficient approach to lighting buildings, compared to what’s in incandescent, halogen and fluorescent light bulbs. This new technology also represent, it seems, pretty significant savings on energy bills. Commercial LED lighting suppliers in Melbourne, please step forward. Let’s talk.

What we actually need here at the workshop is new tube lighting – I’m over the constant flickering. So now I’m wondering if there’s such thing as LED tube lighting. I mean, I don’t see why this wouldn’t be the case – LED seems to be the way of the future, and tube-style lights surely can’t be going anywhere.

Okay, one acronym down. What else is on the agenda? Let’s talk how to install commercial solar – Melbourne what’s the story with that? It’s got to be better than the one around standard grid electricity, at any rate. Straight up, the workshop is probably going to go down the toilet in the next couple of years if we can’t do something about these insane energy prices, and fast. A rooftop photovoltaic rig seems like the obvious answer, but we really need it to be subsidised somehow, and I can’t make head or tail of what’s up with that.

I know that there are incentives out there from the state and federal governments, and even councils, to businesses to upgrade to solar and LED technology. Who wants to talk me through Environmental Upgrade Agreements and Victorian Energy Efficiency Certificates? No acronyms, please!

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The Time of Light Shall Come Again

25From now on, historians will divide the days of this office in twain. There will be the time of joyous light, when power flowed freely, hair was dried in the warm breeze, hot brews were boiled as kettles flowed like rain…and the dark times. Those are times in which we live now, where we are denied such a basic right. We claw out a wretched existence in the darkest of places, labouring without dignity or hope.

Yes, the office placing restrictions on the amount of power we use was cruel indeed, especially since the commercial energy monitoring was purported to be used for good. The greatest of tools can be used for good or ill, and they fell into the wrong hands.

And yet, a resistance thrives, hanging on by a thread. Whispers among the cubicles, clandestine lunchtime meetings in the old breakroom, discussions regarding the state of industrial solar and energy storage; any frail, glimmer of hope that will bring light back into our lives, hairdryers back to our desks, the toaster-oven back to the main breakroom. Oh, for the days when cheese toasties would spill forth from its gates in a torrent of dairy loveliness. Alas, it was deemed to be an energy drainer and cruelly banished. But now, hope has arisen. We are close, oh so very close to reviving the great days of light and plenty, and possibly getting charger privileges back because *come on*. Charging your phone? That’s like a human right now, seriously.

Anyway, yeah. Battery storage and industrial LED lighting has made great advancements in the last few years. Perhaps enough to convince the overlords to loosen their tight grip on the energy monitoring controls. At the very least we should be able to turn up the brightness on our computer screens, which would be great because I was talking to my optometrist and she said that people my age can get cataracts in low light, and I was like ‘yes, obviously!’

I just want to charge my phone…

-Byron

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