Let’s be honest, most people can’t read past the headline, especially if it’s in 28 point font. I mean, they wouldn’t make it a headline if it wasn’t 100% true would they?
I see what you did there.
The natural gas generator here at my house automatically kills feedback to the street. Solar systems could easily incorporate a switch like this, I suspect this is about not wanting utility customers switching to solar after seeing their neighbors enjoying AC and having ample power.
It isn’t that simple. Your generator is designed to only operate when you lose power. It won’t run your house UNLESS you open the main breaker.
Solar is designed to parallel with utility. It is designed to operate with the main breaker closed. It has to have smart logic to detect power outages.
As I have said, you can buy an even better inverter that can do both, it just costs a lot.
Or, you could run it ONLY during power outages like you run your generator. But that would be stupid
I have to open the main breaker?
It opens the connection to the street before starting itself in seconds, a precondition for having an auto starting generator.
Welcome to bOINGbOING, Michael.
I hope you find us interesting.
Oh hey welcome to you too, David.
David, the connection to the street is called your “main breaker”. Or you might have an ATS. My point still stands. You are perfectly free to hook up your solar in this config.
You will only use solar during emergencies?
Of course I have an ATS, the state wouldnt have allowed me to hook up an auto starting whole house generator. Home, Business, whatever, you HAVE to have a automatic switch.
I wonder why you couldn’t have the same for solar?
Well, because people with solar tie their solar to the grid. That way they don’t lose all power to their house 2-5 times per day.
Your idea sounds fun. So, you must like resetting clocks!
No, It would backfeed to the grid untill the grid is down, then open the connection to the utility lines. I have intermittent power, because winds and drunk drives down the power lines, wish they would bury them, but it would eat into their profits, i suppose.
And, from a safety perspective, how would the inverter know if it was back feeding a dead utility line or your house?
Your generator is locked. It is physically impossible for your generator to back feed utility. But you are proposing a smart switch. One that doesn’t currently exist. And you are gonna bet people’s lives on it. Cool idea!
Your idea is technically possible, but dangerous as hell
MY generator keeps an auto switch closed from the utility to the house.
When the utility goes down, it switches to the generator line, and starts the genset.
Why not the same for solar?
Do you know how an ATS is connected? Do you think I have to switch off the mains power? that I have to manually intervene at all? The switch exists, it automatically protects linesmen, the state requires one for every standby auto starting generator.
Either that, or the utility workers in my state are suicidal.
It’s not dangerous, its a requirement for all automatic generators. How is it a danger? just use solar in this situation instead of a propane or nat gas gen set.
FROM WIKIPEDIA, article about Automatic transfer switches.
"As well as transferring the load to the backup generator, an ATS may also command the backup generator to start, based on the voltage monitored on the primary supply. The transfer switch isolates the backup generator from the electric utility when the generator is on and providing temporary power. The control capability of a transfer switch may be manual only, or a combination of automatic and manual. The switch transition mode (see below) of a transfer switch may be Open Transition (OT) (the usual type), or Closed Transition (CT)) .
For example, in a home equipped with a backup generator and an ATS, when an electric utility outage occurs, the ATS will tell the backup generator to start. Once the ATS sees that the generator is ready to provide electric power, the ATS breaks the home’s connection to the electric utility and connects the generator to the home’s main electrical panel. The generator supplies power to the home’s electric load, but is not connected to the electric utility lines. It is necessary to isolate the generator from the distribution system to protect the generator from overload in powering loads in the house and for safety, as utility workers expect the lines to be dead."
That’s where the OP is kind of misleading:
The law winds up forcing residents to remain reliant on the state’s private power companies.
It seems that it is not all residents, but rather residents who are customers of FPL who are thus affected. That doesn’t make it any less an arbitrary restriction. But for some, being truly “off grid” means avoiding centralized utility companies precisely to avoid being beholden to their capricious rent-seeking terms. Too many people read the fine print only once things have gone wrong.
Your generator is safe. The ATS keeps it from ever back feeding the utility line. GREAT.
Solar back feed utility by design. The opposite of your generator.
You are allowed to hook solar up to an ATS and it would work perfectly during a storm. It just wouldn’t work the rest of the time.
Your ATS for solar idea defeats the entire design of modern solar. Solar is designed to back feed the grid. Which is why it has a shutoff feature.
The ATS would have to be connected differently than the one for a gen set.
NC (normally closed) when there is grid power, and it would open when the grid is down. Like my ATS, I cannot connect it back to the grid when the grid comes up, potentially killing utility workers. My ATS is only automatic turning on my gen set. The same would be true of a solar set up.
The problem with “connecting it differently” is that it is dangerous. There is no safety system.
What safety system makes sure that your inverter doesn’t back feed the grid when it isn’t supposed to be feeding it? What if your switch fails to operate? You just kill a lineman?
You asked if I knew anything about ATS. I know a ridiculous amount. I even know how to wire up the system you are proposing. You can actually back feed your generator to the grid as long as you put in a safety circuit. All it requires is quarterly inspections by the utility company and annual testing by a certified engineering outfit of the assortment of high-end protective relays you will need to install. A 67/32 relay is typically required.
So yeah, some large facilities with heavy generators do what you are describing. They don’t mind the invasive testing.
Why all the testing? Because of safety. Not money
Oh wait. The genset also needs an EPO and typically some other requirements. Fun stuff!
So you agree that ATS exist, and that they are smart switches?
“And, from a safety perspective, how would the inverter know if it was back feeding a dead utility line or your house?”
How does my companies ATS know? Its on a delay, it waits untill power has been up for a while, and switches itself back to mains.
Because you seem to doubt this.
The utility company does not.
My system locks itself out, and has to be reset by the utility.
This is also safe.
I assure you, despite your above incredulity.
These systems can also be safe