Comments
couldn't these solar panels be built on the barn roofs?
#1 Anonymous on 2013-11-12 20:11
No, the barns are not designed for the combined weight of snow and ice, solar panels, and their associated equipment.
#1.1 Jamie K on 2013-11-13 01:21
Where is going to be build? Part of the farmland the is currently leased our? Thanks
#2 Will on 2013-11-13 06:16
Actually sounds like an excellent money saving idea. Where would this solar farm be located on the property? I hope that it would be well properly be protected from vandalism. Again, the IRM planning for the future! KUDOS!
#3 Wally Unglaub on 2013-11-13 12:41
Somewhere on the West side of Olson Rd by the leach field. It will be surrounded by a 7 ft fence.
#3.1 Max Tyms on 2013-11-16 00:34
Site the array in the Mojave Desert. How do you transport the electricity to Illinois? 1. Sell the power to Los Angeles at 13 cents a kwh 2. Wire the money to Illinois 3. But Illinois power at 11 cents a kwh Over-unity? No prob.
#4 Robert MacDowell on 2013-11-13 14:02
Not sure about the numbers on this. The economics aren't there at all without the subsidies, and it still requires a lot of capital with the subsidy. Mainly I question the actual cash returns. There's investors looking for places to build commercial solar farms in the state, why not let them assume the risk?
#5 Chris on 2013-11-13 22:54
We had proposals from several investors. They would use our land, assume all risk, take the tax credits and sell us the electricity on a long term contract for 12 cents/kwhr. Our current cost is 8 cents all in. Also, partnering with investors makes IRM ineligible for both grants and creates tax issues. We've done our homework. Send a donation. If you can't then spread the word to supporters of green energy that you know.
#5.1 Max Tyms on 2013-11-15 23:14
I don't mean to crush the idea. If companies or individuals who normally wouldn't donate large amounts to the museum, funded the remaining balance of the project, it would be a huge benefit to the museum in utility savings. That way contributions from the typical contributors to the museum can keep going to the core activities.
#6 Chris on 2013-11-13 23:34
That is exactly how we can generate enough support, Good thinking Chris! Spread the word to corporations/individuals who support green energy. Not nessecerily railroad enthusiasts.
#6.1 Max Tyms on 2013-11-16 00:31
The economics here bother me a bit. It appears that the project has a total cost (accounting for the grants) of about $2.73 million. With an estimated savings of $90,000 a year, the total project payback is just over 30 years and the museum portion of the expense has a payback of just over 4 years, based upon the savings that is estimated. But that appears to be simply the raw capital numbers. I don't see any accounting for maintenance (and I recognize that this is a blog post and not a full financial analysis), insurance and repairs. I have to wonder a bit about the efficacy of solar in an environment where coal soot, diesel exhaust, and the usual rural dust and dirt are stirred up. That means cleaning, cleaning means labor, and labor means cost. Seems to me that maintenance on the array could be close to a full time job and that would easily eat up the annual savings. Any reduction in the annual savings means a longer payback period -- which is not particularly good to begin with. Don't get me wrong -- I think it is a totally out of the box idea and IRM has proven time and time again that out of the box works. But I worry a bit about the use of that level of capital -- regardless of the source of the money. I'm sure that the Board and the powers that be have considered this and alternatives, but I think I'd like to see something implemented with a payback before obsolescence.
#7 Patrick on 2013-11-14 13:41
The cleaning of the panels would be accomplished by the rain. Found this study http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/pressrelease/cleaning_solar_panels_often_not_worth_the_cost_engineers_at_uc_san_diego_fi In regards to the soot and exhaust a lot of homes and business's have solar in California and it poses very little problem. Most panels now come with a 25-30 year warranty and a lifespan of 30+ years. Inverters may need to be replace earlier after about 10 years. I've looked into getting them installed at my house but couldn't come up with the money. Hopefully IRM can.
#7.1 Shane on 2013-11-15 21:58
With grants, some volunteer labor, some donated materials IRM gets a $2.73 million solar farm for about $390,000. Maintenance amounts to cutting the grass. Rain and snow keep the panels clean. Snow and ice melt quickly in winter sun. Average annual production values were calculated by our professional designer using data from NASA. Warrenties cover repairs for the first 20-25 years. insurance has also been figured in. The Distributed inverter design we selected is extremely reliable and virtually maintenance free. Energy production is guaranteed for 20 years. With $390,000 this project will be paid for when it's turned on. Free electricity for the next 40-50 years. We've done our homework. As a future side benefit, the solar farm will produce 1,000 SREC's certificates/year. These have sold on the market for over $600 each. The Illinois SREC market is crap right now ($7/cert) but may improve with pending legislation. How big will your check be? If you can't send a check spread the word about this project to people you know who support green energy. Maybe they can send a tax deductible donation.
#7.2 Max Tyms on 2013-11-16 00:05
With investors, I was thinking that a commercial operator would sell power to the utilities and simply pay IRM for using some land. The project wouldn't be eligible for the grants, but that would be their problem. Commercial solar farms are still getting built with the normal subsidies and government loans. But I think the way to go might be for the museum to find one major corporation or philanthropist to fund the $390,000 and put their name on it. Its common for major museums, even the arboretum, though IRM might face some difficulty. I think it can happen and it would add to credibility too. The piecemeal donations might not come in or take too long and tie up funds that would have gone to barns and equipment. Knowing that the combination of rain and dust can cause slow mineral buildup and possible mild corrosion and abrasion, I don't see how polishing them up should be completely avoided.
#8 Chris on 2013-11-16 14:19
@Chris and Max. I put my complete confidence in the IRM with this project. The IRM has done a lot of things that others would have deemed as being impossible to do. I think that Chris is trying to hard to make this project look unaffordable and an uneconomical idea. Of course everything needs at least minimal maintainence. A good analogy to what Christ is saying is.....we can't afford to put aluminum siding on the house because it might just need washing someday down the road. I maintain that this is a great and innovative idea. I believe that Max and the IRM leaders have indeed done their homework, as they always do.
#9 Wally Unglaub on 2013-11-17 07:34
Actually my comment about mineral buildup was just a response to the idea that rain would keep the solar panels clean. Bird droppings don't dissolve that quickly in rain.
#10 Chris on 2013-11-17 20:16
If all Chris can do is post negative comments about the project, I will step away from responding to him. I am sure that bird droppings end up on all solar cells around the world. Minor detail. It is not like a swarms of geese and sea gulls hover over the IRM, Chris. I am all for this project and believe in the IRM that it can be done!!!!!!!
#11 Wally Unglaub on 2013-11-18 22:25
I don't think that Chris is trying to be negative about the project. I think he is just trying to understand the project in more detail. Personally, I think that this project is an excellent idea that will benefit the Museum greatly in the long run.
#11.1 Anonymous on 2013-11-19 21:03
I agree 101% with you, Anonymous.
#11.1.1 Wally Unglaub on 2013-11-20 07:25
I agree that building the solar farm is a fantastic idea. Having the grant money to build it makes it an obvious choice considering the projected savings for the museum but I would like to say that Chris is not being negative, but addressing valid concerns about the up-keep. He is right that the panels will need periodic cleaning and it will be likely that detergents will be necessary. As for anybody's concerns about the expense of cleaning and maintenance, this is inevitable like in ANY acquisition the museum makes. Even if the cost of maintenance and cleaning dirt and bird droppings off the panels periodically is as expensive a $5000 annually, the museum still saves $85,000 annually (I have no idea what the expense would be, I'm just throwing a number out there). That's a very large sum of money to save, especially for a non-profit organization who's main objective and thus reason for spending money is to preserve history. The bottom line is that it saves the museum money, and a lot of it.
#11.2 Anonymous on 2013-11-24 09:12
I think it is smart to do a thorough plan and financial analysis. That would be something more in depth than the rough payout numbers so far reported. But the bottom line is SHOW ME THE MONEY. Considering our membership rolls, it would come to maybe $200 per head, for everyone. Maybe sell a stock share in the project, and pay them back or redeem them with saved money from the cost of electricity. Just like the stock market, if the project does not work as planned, you lose your money, but gain a donation. Bob Kutella
#12 Anonymous on 2013-11-20 05:43
I think my intentions were misunderstood, so I would like to clarify and defend what I was saying. The commenter “Patrick” is who first inquired about the cleaning of the solar panels, not me. I became concerned about the suggestion in response to Patrick that rainwater would be sufficient to keep the solar panels clean, which is not necessarily the case. I never said this was a reason to not build the solar array. I just don’t think cleaning should be treated as optional. --- The fact is that things like dust, pollen, pollution particles, and bird droppings reduce the efficiency of solar panels. Even rain water itself contains dissolved solids that leave a crusty film on a surface when the rain dries. You can see this on your windshield after rain. These minerals may not fully dissolve again in more rain because of water’s saturation limits and the chemical bonding of the minerals to the surface, so they will build up on the surface over time. Some chemicals like soot and grease bond to surfaces and do not dissolve in water at all. Efficiency losses like this can be significant on a project the size of the one the museum is proposing. --- Furthermore, spots of nearly opaque grime- including but not limited to bird droppings- can cause individual elements of a solar panel to overheat, called “hot spots”. This is similar to how having a few burned out lights inside a streetcar can cause the rest to burn out faster. At best, it reduces the efficiency of the whole solar panel, and at worst, it can cause permanent damage. --- Please take all of this as the reason to have the solar panels cleaned at reasonable intervals with proper detergents, not as an argument for not building the solar array.
#13 Chris on 2013-11-21 00:59
I'm trying not to be a naysayer, just asking that there is a fair analysis of the project. I see a lot of ask for donations on a very capital and land-intensive project. I would hate to be in a position in a few years where the return simply isn't as projected and the Museum has made a $400,000 investment that isn't showing good payback. In addition, there is the matter of a $2 million grant. I think that this would certainly be an innovative use of solar, certainly worthy of consideration. And certainly, since the Museum doesn't operate very much in the Winter, the plan allows for "banking" the energy generated during the entire year, and not just on operating days. Those are good aspects of this project, but the investment against the payback simply makes me nervous, even accounting for the substantial grants. It is an interesting project, and, as I stated earlier, the Museum has proven time and time again that it can successfully think outside the box. As someone who does support the Museum out of my own pocket (and with matching funds from my employer), I do want the Museum to make good use of those funds. I, like many others who support the Museum, are not part of the everyday activities in Union. We're not able to attend Board meetings and it is difficult to know what discussions have been had on these matters. I get a little nervous about the efficacy of "green" energy initiatives, as well as capital-intensive initiatives which involve evolving technology. I look forward to seeing the grant application since that will likely answer the questions that I have.
#13.1 Patrick on 2013-11-24 14:27
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