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|Subject: Austin Energy Net Metering - renters can produce energy, too|
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Date Posted: 06:30:13 11/04/06 Sat
In reply to: Mark Tirpak 's message, "Sustainability Resources" on 17:39:28 09/18/06 Mon
A few weeks ago, I sent out an email to this listserve regarding a new alternative energy inititative in Ontario, and its positive impact on small-scale / distributed energy production.
When I moved to Austin, I experimented with a very small solar panel array for my apartment - I placed a solar panel on my porch and ran the cord in under my door.
The system was "off the grid" - in the sense that it collected the solar energy with a boat battery (via a charge controller that regulated the charge coming from the panel and kept the battery from draining too low or overcharging) which I used to power (through an ac inverter and an aditional fuse box for extra safety) a small fan, my radio, and a reading light.
While the system made me feel pretty cool, it was awfully ineffecient - esp. in terms of the limited energy that I could store in the one battery (excess collected solar energy could not be stored) - not to mention the cost and space requirement of the battery. I also ordered the parts for this system mail order when I was living in rural Montana - including the 30 lb battery (yikes!). A lot of these parts can now be found at truck stops and hardware stores, including small and inexpensive solar panels (sold with the intention of topping off car batteries) that can be networked to collect more energy.
I also found out recently that I could have participated in Austin Energy's net metering program - where small solar arrays (and other energy production methods) can be wired into the energy grid and metered.
(there's more info about this program attached below)
The energy that I produced from my solar panel would have fed into the grid and been reduced from my monthly electric bills. I also wouldn't have had the cost of the battery (or batteries) or the ac inverter to worry about!
According to Austin Energy, renters can participate in their net metering program. The set-up and inspection costs are covered by the energy generation system owner (the renter), and there are strict safety guidelines (your system has to be inspected by the city). I'm trying to verify from them if it is the right of the renter to produce their own energy and feed it into their individual meter or if it is at the discretion of the landlord.
Regardless, it is something that I would like to experiment more with when I get back to Austin - and to help normalize the idea of renters (including dorm dwellers) in Austin participating in energy production.
I'm curious if the cost of setting up an Austin Energy approved net metered system will be cheaper than the cost of purchasing two boat batteries and an ac inverter retail for an off-the-grid system (about $200-$250).
I'm also interested in organizing a group to share information related to small scale energy production for renters - on the grid and off. This could include organizing to purchase materials (including solar panels) at bulk rates.
This is especially relevant as Austin Energy's GreenChoice renewable energy program is currently fully subscribed.
And as tuition has increased approximately 5% to off-set rising energy costs.
You can read more about net metering in Austin via the attachments below, or feel free to contact:
Manager, Solar Programs
Mailing: 721 Barton Springs Road
Office: 811 Barton Springs Road
Austin, Texas 78704
Beyond Austin, NC State maintains a database of renewable energy incentives in the US, by state. You can use this as a starting point for engaging more renters / students in energy production in your area!
Beyond solar, in Brazil, I am experimenting with developing a bicycle electricity generator utilzing an old exercise bike and a car alternator:
I'm also looking into the energy production capacity of spinning a normal house fan backwards by hand or crank - or, possibly through wind power - as more of a demonstration project / instructive than as a energy producer (but who knows!)
Both of these projects could be networked into a simple off-the-grid / battery charging system (described above) - and possibly be designed into an apartment or dorm room net metered system. Bicycle generators, especially, have been used in rural India to address lighting needs. Imagine if UT's fitness center was wired up?
Just some ideas! I hope that you will forward this email and feel free to get going with net metering and/or energy production for renters / dorm dwellers in Austin now! I'll see you in a few months!
PS - remember, you are playing with electricity, and, in some cases, moving parts, so be safe!
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