In Case You've Wondered

My blog is where my wandering thoughts are interspersed with stuff I made up. So, if while reading you find yourself confused about the context, don't feel alone. I get confused, too.

If you're here for the stories, I started another blog:

One other thing: sometimes I write words you refuse to use in front of children, or polite company, unless you have a flat tire, or hit your thumb with a hammer.

I don't use them to offend; I use them to embellish.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

An Electrical Question

I've read some articles over the years about how electrical suppliers were required to buy back any excess electricity you happened to have left over after your windmill, or whatever, generated more than you required. I can see the rational thought in this process, but haven't quite figured out the mechanics.

My house has a 200 amp service, which is supplied from a transformer that is attached to a pole. The electricity supplying the transformer is of a substantially higher voltage than my house can use, but the higher voltage is necessary to tranport the amount of electricity to more than one customer. This is the standard procedure, since the higher voltage allows smaller wire to "push" the electricity over further distances. Still the wire size is fairly large compared to all wiring in my house, except for the main feed. To add insult to injury, anything I'd generate for my house would be of the wrong voltage, so I'd have to use a tranformer to convert the voltage to the correct voltage for the grid and tie into the higher voltage cables, which are inaccessible to me as a consumer.

A windmill is an expensive critter to own and operate. Besides the subsstantial cost for construction, the additional wiring, converters and maintenance are well beyond what I'd be able to tackle. On a still day, or during downtime for maintenance, I'd have to be able to use the grid for electricity, so what I have would still be necessary. Otherwise, much of my electrical system would be repetitive and this would be expensive and there's no way I could justify the expense due to the fact I would lose money.

Generators are handy. They can supply everything I need for electricity, but since I've dealt with them before, there's no way I can use one at a cost that's less expensive than what I buy from the electrical supplier. I've done the math, so buying a large generator, making the necessary connection to the grid and selling it back to the supplier would be a huge loss over time. 

Solar might be an option, but I don't think I have enough acreage, or money, to justify the expenditure to gamble on the possibility of selling electricity back to the supplier; especially if I consider nothing could be sold at night.

Hydroelectric is out of the question. I have no water source.

So, now to my question: Has anyone ever actually sold electricity back to the supplier?


  1. I'm sure people have, but you won't make money from it.
    Like you said, it's cost prohibitive, and the whole mass production makes things cheaper goes with electricity, too.
    As far as pumping electricity back into the system- it's not like water where there's pressure you have to work against.

    Electricity doesn't know that it's supposed to go from the top down, it just goes where there's the least resistance, and if your system is making more power than you use, it'll slow down, or reverse your meter as it goes back up the drop.
    When it hits the transformer- the transformer doesn't know it's a step-down transformer and will bump the 120 up to 2700 without thinking about it.
    Then it'll go feed your neighbor kids thumping amp, because as long as it makes the meter spin the 'right' way the power Co. doesn't care where it came from.

    Hope that helped a little.

  2. Yes it does help. I've wondered about the mechanics of placing power back on the grid. I thought there would be some elaborate system, with the power company monitoring to insure you were completely in phase and the voltage was identical.

  3. As long as it's 120VAC at 60HZ there's no problem.
    If you were to try three phase, that's where it gets a little tricky.

    When I was learning generators in the navy, we used the "dark light" method of syncing one MEPS generator to another before taking one offline.

    What you want to do there is have the one you're putting online just a little faster (ahead) of the old one because if it's in phase or a little behind you turn the new generator into a big motor.
    I never have, and it's really no big deal, just kind of embarrassing.

  4. My parents let the City put solar panels on top of their barn. During the winter, most days, they generate more than they use. Since the City installed it, they handled all the connections and metering. My mother was quite proud the first time she got an electric bill showing that the City owed her $2.00!