Earth Notes: On G83-Lite: Solar Nanogeneration For Everyone (2009)

Updated 2019-11-02 18:33 GMT.
Learn how plug-in solar curtain linings could trim your home power bill and footprint... #nanogeneration
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Why not generate your own electricity at home? No roof for solar PV? Don't own your home? Maybe those trifling details need not stop you!

Summary Questions and Answers

What is "G83-Lite" in a nutshell?

A way to let tenants and homeowners plug in small amounts of solar PV safely and cheaply. This could take the edge off their bills and help reduce electrical demand from homes.

What might be a typical G83-Lite device?

A blackout blind to hang on the back of existing curtains. When you shut out the light on a bright day you get some electricity instead!

What is the maximum PV power suggested for G83-Lite?

100W maximum each. And no more than 10 such devices in one home.

Is G83-Lite safe?

Yes. G83-Lite devices would be designed to be on a hair trigger to protect users unplugging them and when the home or the grid have too much energy available.

When did G98 replace G83?

2019-04-27. (And G99 replaced G59 for larger generators.) The change of name does not undermine the value of this proposal!

G83

In the UK, as of 2009 the "G83" standard allows any householder to connect microgeneration to the grid. That's usually solar PV, sometimes wind. G83 allows up to about 4kW; 16A per phase to be more precise. That's a bit more on a bright sunny noon than a fast electric kettle uses. A DNO (Distribution Network Operator) runs the mains electricity supply wires to your home. A G83 connection can't be refused by your DNO.

But that connection has to be made by a qualified electrician. And a new system usually has to be permanently wired in. Those two are expensive and annoying. And they don't work for a typical renter in place for a year or so.

(The US government estimated just the "soft" costs such as paperwork to be a bug chunk of solar costs as of 2011.)

Money and Space

Not everyone has the money or space for solar panels. Nor a wind turbine. Not everyone can make big property changes. Tricky for a poor student in a rented flat halfway up a tower block! But there might still be decent sunshine 'going to waste' in a southern window. And lots of people want to be part of the solution...

I'd like it to be easy for almost anyone to do their bit for grid and planet. It shouldn't be harder than buying a new kettle. They should be able to buy a cheap off-the-shelf nanogenerator gizmo. Then plug said gizmo into an ordinary mains socket at one end. At the other, connect a solar PV generating curtain liner or solar shutters. Bingo!

These should be cheap and safe and simple to use. They would make use of more urban land to generate renewable energy. It's hard to generate enough renewable energy within dense city "load centres". They would take the edge off electricity bills. They could also help make homes more comfortable by passively shading and insulating.

(2017 note: as more intermittent generation sources join the grid, "lite" devices should come lower in the grid's "merit order". That means that they would have to give way to other preferred energy sources sometimes. They could then help regulate the grid. How? By coming off-line eagerly (but randomly) when voltage or frequency rise by modest amounts for which normal generators stay on-line. Then come back on-line after random delays. It's not quite rocket science!)

Much of the G83 specification is about safety. It is there to protect the owner, the grid, and anyone working on the grid. A pluggable device would need extra safety features. For example, quickly stopping generation when unplugged to avoid delivering a dangerous shock to the user.

I suggest that for safety G83-Lite plug-in nanogenerators should be capped at 100W. This should not limit product design much. It may though avoid issues with bad contacts, long wire runs and old supply meters. 100W may be about the best available output from one square metre of consumer-grade solar PV material in good sunshine. Thus what a typical rented-bedroom curtain lining may be able to contribute.

G83-Lite Rules

The G83-Lite rules might be that each device is limited to 100W peak as above. It would also make sense to limit the number of such devices used in one home. I'd suggest allowing no more than about ten behind one single-phase meter. More could be allowed with permission from the DNO. But at that point maybe a bigger non-lite system would be affordable anyway.

Retail suppliers may have to allow G83-Lite devices on all their tariffs too, to make G83-Lite work. Maybe with "net metering", which is where the user gets paid retail prices for energy that they generate. It is often not the best policy, but it is simple.

(2017 note: more renewables are coming on-line and subsidies are shrinking. To avoid paperwork, it may be better not to pay the end user at all. Simply encourage them to make best use of what they generate to cut their bill. In any case, don't ding them for having nanogeneration in place.)
(2018 note: FiTs and export payments are due to go away entirely in GB/UK in early 2019. So there is even less reason to insist on expensive paperwork for solar systems if safety can be maintained. DIYed solar carports, for example, possibly signed off by a qualified sparkie, might be something to allow. In other words move under building regs or similar.)

Do you have with a south-facing room that needs the curtains drawn in summer? You could nip down to your high street and buy a solar shade to hang in your window and plug in. Voila! Instant renewables and cool. (In more ways than one.)

It's not clear if we can make such devices cheaply and simply enough to pay back financially and in terms of emboddied energy. Anyhow, I think that it should be made legal to try! This would be more green 'decentralised' energy. Almost anyone could become a small producer, not just be a consumer.

Some existing devices may already more-or-less meet the technical and safety requirements. But they would need a G83-Lite regime to come in to be used this way in the UK.

This suggestion has been raised, amongst others, with:

Sources and Links

  • 2018-06-14: EU strikes deal on 32% renewable energy target and palm oil ban after all-night session: The agreement between the European Parliament and EU governments establishes the right of European citizens, local authorities, small businesses and cooperatives to produce, consume, store and sell their own renewable energy, without being subject to punitive taxes or excessive red tape...
  • 2017-05-09: SolarGaps blinds generate solar electricity while shading your windows.
  • The G83 "engineering recommendation".
  • CAISO Study Backs Use of Renewables for Grid Reliability: These test results demonstrated how smart inverter technology can leverage PV technology from simply generating as a variable energy resource to providing ancillary services, such as spinning reserves, load following, voltage support, ramping, frequency response and regulation, and power quality.
  • The UK's National Grid plc.
  • The [archive] 40% House vision to deliver 60% carbon saving in the UK's residential energy use by 2050 (2005 report). See also the newer [archive] Home Truths report (2007-11) from the same group on how to deliver 80% cut in carbon emissions from UK homes by 2050. They suggest that homes will be net exporters of electricity and that there will be no base-load.
  • The [archive] Micropower Council, a newly established coordinating association for various types of small scale generation.