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James Kempf's Comments

February 14, 2013

Net Metering Debate Rages On Despite Calls For Calm

I pay $6.00 a month to PG&E even though I am a net metering customer. I would like to ask Ms. Burt to her face where this money is going. According to my solar bill, it is going to T&D costs, nuclear decomissioning, and my local municipal utility tax. Is the bill lying? What is going on here???

June 08, 2011

What the Geothermal Heat Pump Industry Can Learn From the Solar Pros

The lack of success for geothermal heat pumps in the market has nothing to do with the 'soft' marketing issues cited in this article. I recently did a system remodel on my home and had originally planned to incorporate a geothermal HVAC system. However, I cancelled the geothermal HVAC system for two reasons:
1) it was enormously expensive
2) the technology seemed very primitive, and not very well intergrated with other HVAC systems
The cost in California for geothermal for a 2500 sq. ft. house runs around $60-100K. That is far too expensive, even with the federal tax rebate. But the cost wasn't the worst problem. The worst problem was the primitive state of the technology. For example, I also had a HRV system put into the house, but it was impossible to integrate the air conditioning loop into the HRV system. I would have had to install a whole separate air handling system for the geothermal. In addition, I had to install a 80 gallon buffer tank to avoid having the heat pump cycle on and off. In California, the climate is so mild that the heat pump doesn't stay on for very long. This is a problem because the motor is not designed to cycle on and off frequently.

Contrast this with solar where rapid technical advances in panels and BOS components such as microinverters and DC power maximizers has resulted in a more than 2x increase in the amount of power available from the same roof area in the last 8 years, and a decrease in system complexity and installation difficulty.

Until these cost and technology issues are addressed, geothermal heat pumps will remain a minor component of the renewable energy solution.

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