# Do the Math: Solar Panels and Hockey Sticks

Guest essay by Chris Yakymyshyn

Vermonter Bill McKibben was recently quoted in Salon Magazine:

“The roof of my house is covered in solar panels. When I’m home, I’m a pretty green fellow. But I know that that’s not actually going to solve the problem.”

This is a very interesting comment. He had solar panels installed on his home, even though he knew it would not ‘solve’ the CO2 problem.

One goal of installing solar PV is to reduce CO2 emissions associated with generating electricity. Ideally, this would be achieved at a cost that is less than the social costs of CO2 emissions, estimated by the EPA to be somewhere between \$12 and \$117 per ton in 2015. To minimize the cost of avoided CO2 emissions, ideally a residential solar PV system replaces utility energy that is supplied by burning coal, since coal produces the highest CO2 emissions per kilowatt-hour. Likewise, adding solar panels in a location that already receives 100% carbon-free electricity will result in an infinite cost per ton of avoided CO2, since no CO2 emissions will be avoided. The reality at your wall outlet will lie somewhere between these two limits.

I decided to calculate how much it costs to reduce one ton of CO2 emissions by installing a residential solar PV system in Vermont. I then repeated the calculation in every other U.S. state and Canadian province or territory. This estimate assumes that electricity generated within a state, territory or province is consumed there, and that electricity imports constitute a small percentage of total electricity consumed within that state, province or territory.

The first step is to figure out roughly what percentage of today’s wall-plug power is provided by coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, biomass, etc. The Energy Information Agency (EIA) tabulates, by year and by state, the total amount of electrical energy (in Megawatt Hours, or MWhr) delivered by each type of generating source. For the most recent year available (2011) in each state, the utility and IPP (Independent Power Producer) electrical energy generated by CO2 emitters (coal, natural gas, petroleum liquids) and non-CO2 emitters (nuclear, wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal and biomass) was extracted, with the assumption that biomass was carbon neutral. The ratio of fossil fuel to total electrical energy produced was then calculated for each state in 2011. The results ranged from 0.14% fossil electricity in Vermont, to 98.7% fossil electricity in Delaware.

The same tabulation was performed for Canadian provinces and territories using 2011 data from Statistics Canada. In Canada the results covered the entire range, from essentially 0% fossil electricity in Prince Edward Island up to 100% fossil electricity in Nunavut.

Next, the CO2 emissions per MWhr were calculated using the following emissions estimates: 1.4 tons/MWhr for coal, 1.0 tons/MWhr for fossil liquids, and 0.47 tons/MWhr for natural gas. The total CO2 emissions were estimated by multiplying the energy in MWhr produced from each source, by the CO2 emissions per MWhr for each source. The resulting CO2 emissions in 2011 ranged from <0.001 million tons CO2 in Prince Edward Island, 0.008 million tons in Vermont, up to 279 million tons in Texas.

The average CO2 emissions associated with electricity generation in each state, province or territory in 2011 was then calculated by dividing the total CO2 emissions by the total amount of energy generated. The resulting averages ranged from <0.001 tons CO2 per MWhr in Prince Edward Island, 0.001 tons CO2 per MWhr in Vermont, 0.567 tons CO2 per MWhr in Nevada, to 1.36 tons CO2 per MWhr (almost 100% coal) in West Virginia.

The amount of solar energy generated by a solar PV residential system was next estimated. The annual averaged hours per day of full sun for a South-facing fixed solar array tilted at latitude was extracted from the National Renewable Energy Labs (NREL) Renewable Resource Data Center. The values ranged from a low of 2.5 hrs/day in Yukon Territory up to 6.5 hrs/day in Nevada and Arizona. Assuming a 10 kW(AC) system with a 20 year service life and no aging, the total energy delivered by the rooftop solar PV system was estimated in Nevada to be (6.5 hrs/day)*(365 days/yr)*(20 yrs)*(10 kW(AC)*(0.001 MWhr/kWhr) = 475 MWhr of electricity. All of the generated electricity was assumed to be used somewhere in Nevada. This calculation was repeated for every state, province and territory.

The cost of the residential solar PV system was needed next. A recent article at Solar Panels Review gave 2013 price estimates for a contractor-installed system using several panel choices. The average unsubsidized cost was \$5.57/Watt AC, or \$55,700 for a 10 kWAC system. This unsubsidized cost is assumed to be the same everywhere.

The cost of CO2 emissions avoided using residential solar PV can now be estimated. The cost per ton CO2 avoided is given by the solar PV system cost divided by the total CO2 tonnage avoided over the 20-year life of the system. For example, using the previous estimates for Nevada, the avoided CO2 emissions cost is given by (\$55,700)/(475 MWhr*0.567 tons CO2 per MWhr) = \$207/ton CO2. This calculation was repeated for every state, province and territory and, as shown in Figure 1, plotted versus the fraction of generation that is free of CO2 emissions.

First, notice that the vertical axis is a logarithmic scale, ranging from \$1/ton CO2 (well above the 5 cents/ton that traders at the now-defunct Chicago Climate Exchange determined was an appropriate price), up to \$10,000,000 per ton CO2. Several horizontal lines indicate the California carbon exchange price of about \$12/ton CO2 and one EPA estimate of around \$60/ton CO2. A vertical line marks one widely discussed goal of 80% CO2-free electricity generation.

Note how the use of residential solar rapidly escalates the cost of avoiding CO2 emissions as the power grid moves towards a ‘low-carb’ diet. Also note that even in ‘high-carb’ states at the left side of the graph, residential solar PV is an expensive way to avoid CO2 emissions associated with electricity generation, never breaking below \$100/ton CO2. Substituting DOE’s 2020 SunShot goal of \$1.50/Watt installed cost for a residential system shifts the curve down, but retains the highly coveted hockey stick shape J.

So, Bill McKibben’s solar panels in Vermont are indeed avoiding CO2 emissions in Vermont (one of the data points at the far right side of Figure 1), at a cost of around \$155,000 per ton CO2. This is equivalent to paying a carbon tax of \$2.00 for one teaspoon of gasoline.

Figure 1- Semi-log graph showing the cost of avoiding one ton of CO2 emissions using residential solar PV, province or territory, as a function of the carbon content at the wall outlet. Several U.S. states and Canadian provinces are indicated. The two horizontal lines represent two official estimates of the social cost of carbon dioxide emissions.

References-

Salon magazine article-

http://www.salon.com/2013/09/15/bill_mckibben_being_green_wont_solve_the_problem/

Solar insolation data from NREL-

http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/old_data/nsrdb/1961-1990/redbook/sum2/state.html

Electricity production in the U.S.-

http://www.eia.gov/electricity/data/state/

Solar PV system costs-

http://solar-panels-review.toptenreviews.com/

## 110 thoughts on “Do the Math: Solar Panels and Hockey Sticks”

1. Anyone who buys solar panels and installs them in vermont for CO2 avoidance purposes ends up with a net negative as it is doubtful that the power generated by the panels over their lifetime exceeds the cost of energy to produce, transport, and install them.

Even in southern CA that factor is only about 3-5x.

2. JK says:

Did you account for the fact that solar panels do produce some electricity? The way I would approach the calculation is to first find out how much (unsubsidized) solar costs above and beyond what you pay at present. Surely it’s that additional cost that is what you are paying to reduce CO2? Does it make much difference?

3. Tom E. says:

From, http://www.climal.com/solar-power.php
“but are not very effective on overcast days. “

Isn’t that always the bottom line on solar?? So, you always have to have an equal amount of backup solar generation, and it always has to be on, so it is always running at idle. So you have to double up all of your power generation, and yet somehow, solar is more cost effective. By definition, if you only have the backup solution you only have to pay for a single solution. And thus, since it will be used 100% of the time, it is cost effective to make it as efficient as possible.

And as always, I’ve got to throw a bone at Thorium based liquid sodium reactors. Where it has been estimated that it we could get all the money wasted on wind and solar back, we could have replaced the baseload of coal plants with Throrium nuclear plants. But, then again, that would have not made the special interests group who donate a lot of money to political funds the billions of dollars they have enjoyed making.

4. gnomish says:

great job. bravo.

5. Rod says:

I think the only useful solar power is when used for heating hot water. Last I calculated it was about a 10 year pay off period (for 38 degrees south) and from then on increasing returns as electricity costs continue to go up. Evacuated tube systems keep efficiency to end of life as it’s cheap and easy to replace any cracked or discoloured tubes.

Overall a much better return than shares!

6. TomL says:

Building a gas pipeline to displace all the oil used for heating in those frigid winters would make a real difference. “Biomass”, which means woodstoves, is only remotely sustainable because Vermont is mostly forested and has a tiny population.

The reason the electricity supply is nearly CO2-free is because most of it comes from nuclear, and most of the rest from hydro, plus a little wind.

7. Bruce says:

Firemen are not fond of solar panels. They make fighting a fire in the building that has them more dangerous. They are slippery especially when wet!

8. Alan Robertson says:

Tax of \$2/teaspoon? Please Sir, can I have some more?

9. RACookPE1978 says:

A “key word and tricky phrase” emerges in your excellent article. Thank you!

“The annual averaged hours per day of full sun for a South-facing fixed solar array tilted at latitude was extracted from the National Renewable Energy Labs (NREL) Renewable Resource Data Center. The values ranged from a low of 2.5 hrs/day in Yukon Territory up to 6.5 hrs/day in Nevada and Arizona. “

Now, we need electricity 24 hours per day, and cannot store electricity with anything except “magic” right now. No, there are NO pumped storage sites “allowable” for use right now. NONE. Even NY’s small ” artificial pond” just north of Niagara Falls – essential in maintaining the waterflow over the Falls as a tourist destination for all time – was bitterly protested for years as early as the 1970’s!

Notice that “6.5 hours per day” is for TWO BEST SOLAR SITES in the country Nevada and Arizona

So, assuming 100% efficient storage of some kind, you need 4x (four times!) the “noon” amount of solar panels to create the power you need all day and all night: Realistically, there are losses from the panels to the storage device, within the storage device from electric power to stored energy, from the storage device back to electric power, and then from that electric power supply back to the grid. So, you need to install 5x your “average” noon electric bill just to create enough power to run your average electric load for ONE DAY for ONE HOUSE.

However, bad weather comes frequently, and lasts several days each event.

Assume you need a 3 day electric supply to make up for just two days of cloudy days, rainy days, storms, dust, haze, or snow cover. If so, you need 15x the area of solar panels that you need for your “average” electric load at noon. …

10. John F. Hultquist says:

Sometimes things just don’t work the way they are supposed to. The State of Washington is well to the right on the curve in Figure 1 but low in the bend. But there are 2 Washingtons. One is the dry side, the other the wet side. This week, and for several weeks, there is a high pressure ridge (see story at link below), causing a foggy marine layer west of the Cascades and dead-calm everywhere. This will be a really bad week for both solar and wind power in this region.
Full disclosure, Me: all electric and 100% hydro.

http://www.komonews.com/weather/blogs/scott/Northwest-to-be-hit-by-virtual-anti-wind-storm-228533431.html

11. Greg says:

Solar thermal is about 4x more efficient than PV.

Most households use hot water. Why the obsession with PV?

12. Phillip Bratby says:

Just like wind turbines, solar panels degrade as they age and so their capacity factor falls with time. How many will last 20 years. In the less-than-sunny south of the UK, the initial capacity factor of solar farms is around the 10% figure. For roof-mounted solar panels it is around the 6% figure.

13. Chip Javert says:

Interesting \$/ton CO2 numbers, but wait – there’s more:

I have just retired to Florida, and am installing a \$36,000 10KW solar system sized to eliminate my \$3,000/year electrical bill from Florida Power & Light. Why would I invest in something having a 12 year payback?

Well, I say \$36,000, but I get a \$2,000 rebate from the HW manufacturer, \$20,000 (yep, \$20k) from FPL (actually, their rate payers…), and a \$10,800 federal tax credit – net installation cost to me after 90 days of filing forms & having stuff inspected is \$3,200.

As might be expected, the demographic that can pay \$36,000 and wait 90 days to collect \$32,800 in rebates/credits tends to skew “upscale”. Oh yea, and the value of my house goes up almost the full \$36,000 which (by law) does not increase my taxable property value. Go figure.

Largely because of the feed-in tariff, the solar panels on my house in Chico, California, have reduced my electric bill by roughly 60 percent, for a 1.4kW system, on a 2,800-sq ft single-level, well-insulated house. But that savings is due to the feed-in tariff because there is enough sunshine here even in the wintertime for the panels to produce enough electricity for the meter to run backwards much of the time.

Rooftop solar doesn’t have the habitat destruction issues that large arrays have, but it is being subsidized by other ratepayers and by the taxpayers. You are forced to chose between accepting that or having a humongously larger electric bill – not a very comforting choice..

15. george e. smith says:

“””””…..Viktor says:

October 21, 2013 at 7:46 pm

There are other ways of using solar energy to generate electricity though… http://www.climal.com/solar-power.php……””””””

Why do people keep bothering us with these rubbish articles they giggle up on the web.

Why don’t YOU calculate the Watts of solar electricity per square meter OF THE LAND taken up by a reflecting mirror solar furnace power station. You can get more electricity for the space, by riding your gymnasium bicycle turning an alternator.

16. Greg says:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/21/uk-nuclear-power-plant-contract-deal-no-deal
Antony Froggatt, from the Chatham House thinktank, said EDF’s costs projection had already increased markedly. “In 2006, its submission to the government’s energy review stated [the type of reactor to be used, a European pressurised water reactor] would cost £28.80 per megawatt-hour in 2013 values,” he said. “This more than threefold increase [to £92.50], over eight years, puts the cost of nuclear electricity at about double the current market rate – higher than that produced by both gas and coal-fired power stations, and more costly than many renewable energy options.”

17. J Martin says:

@Greg. higher than that produced by both gas and coal-fired power stations, and more costly than many renewable energy options.”

Yes, but more reliable and improves energy security, another country cannot turn off the tap, or stop coal shipments, etc. And it provides 24 hr electricity unlike many renewables.

But for me the real issue here is why did the UK, a once world leader in designing, building and running nuclear power stations, allow that technological base and industry to die. Short sighted.

18. Perry says:

All the 50 & 35 watt, 240 volts, halogen downlighters in my house have been replaced with 4 watt & 7 watt LEDs, a total of 37 luminaires. At a cost of nearly £400-00!!! Has my bill decreased? Not really, because the electricity consumed does not exceed expensive units I have to pay for as part of the “green” surcharges……………………… Granted that the LEDs will probably last 20 years, but will there be electricity then? Plus, all the heat that was generated by the halogens has to be supplied by the central heating…… that requires electricity to power the pump.

Thank goodness we installed a Rumford open fire & have access to free wood. Candles are useful as well. The best part of the equation is the insulation. That really does give the best financial return. Way better than PV.

19. StephenP says:

The UK lost bits lead in nuclear technology because for much of the time the government in power had fellow travellers who equated nuclear power with nuclear weapons.

20. karl says:

@ RACookPE1978

I don’t think off-grid was proposed. Grid-intertie obviously negates your spurious “15x the area of solar panels that you need for your “average” electric load at noon.”.

All one need do, if they wish to use solar PV (and save/make the most money), is size the system to provide the KWh consumed yearly plus whatever overage the utility allows (many limit the system size allowed to net meter). Sizing the system is old-hat to installers across the country from Baltimore to San Diego.

When the panels produce more electricity than needed — the meter runs backward. It is quite simple.

FYI panels are available for well under \$1/watt http://www.sunelec.com

21. Brian H says:

And, of course, what makes it ludicrously worse is that the Social Cost of CO2 emissions is actually negative.

22. 30 years ago I did the math for a self-installed passive solar array in Kalamazoo, Mi. About 30 years. Average sunshine was 183 days per
year, most of it not in the winter. Insulation upgrades had a much quicker pay back. I’m not sure solar electricity is much different, unless it is heavily subsidized. Subsidies are nothing more than wealth redistribution schemes. We let the IRS and the utilities go to our neighbors and collect the money. If solar really made economic sense, then you would do it without the heavy subsidies.

23. Dodgy Geezer says:

…“The roof of my house is covered in solar panels. When I’m home, I’m a pretty green fellow. But I know that that’s not actually going to solve the problem.”

This is a very interesting comment. He had solar panels installed on his home, even though he knew it would not ‘solve’ the CO2 problem.

Um… he has said precisely what he means. The key is in the first two sentences.

– He has his house covered in solar panels.
– He is therefore ‘pretty green’. (this means that he is in tune with current social beliefs)

Whether or not this solves any problem is moot. That is not the point. The point is that he is fashionable, and the ‘right’ sort of person for Salon magazine readers to be reading. What he has said is much the same as if a celebrity in the 1970s had said: “I have lots of flared trousers…”.

24. Old Ranga from Oz says:

A projected twelve years to pay off my solar panels here on the coast of southern Victoria – with no subsidies and minimal feed-in tariff. Just helps me avoid the worst of our Greens-inflated electricity prices. One thing I forgot to factor into the original budget was the annual cost of cleaning the panels, which is necessary given our salt-laden coastal air.

In Europe there area a number of Vermont-countries. Sweden is one through 45% nuclear and 45 % hydro. (he remaining 10 % are mainly the “by-product” of central heating). Never the less we are busy trying getting more green. And the bureaucracy in Brussels have ambitions for the European average and we are thus supposed to contribute to the greening of Europe by producing electricity that we do not need. Yakymyshyn’s calculations would do a lot of good by us, but will have probelms in reaching MSM ( as in the US).

26. Leonard Weinstein says:

You missed a major point: The storage of energy for nights and cloudy days. While using power from the utilities to replace lost solar power can be used, and as mentioned in one response, requires large backup capacity, at some level, stop/start of the utility backup system is impractical (once solar use becomes a major part of the daytime source for the system). In that case, local storage is the only solution, and the only current practical storage is battery. However, battery use is far more expensive than the solar cells. A combined battery and solar system fully independent from external hookup would be 3 to 10 time the cost of utility power, with no ability to ever recover the cost just due to battery cost alone (even if the solar cells were fully refunded).

27. tim in vermont says:

Since they are closing Vermont Yankee, due to the competition from cheap natural gas. Yes, a nuclear plant is being shut down because of the advent of fracking, this calculation will no doubt change to a still risible, but marginally less ridiculous level.

28. Tom Mills says:

What about inflation? Over 20 yrs inflation at 3% p.a. a £10000 installation will cost £18000 to replace.

29. Your biggest error was in assuming that a 10 KW solar panel array actually can produce 10 KW at standard maximum solar irradiance levels (one sun). It cannot. There are two ratings for a solar panel – what can be achieved in the lab, without the effects of heat on output and other environmental problems (advertised rating) and the real output ratings , which tend to be roughly 12% less. There are also inversion losses of 3 to 5 percent in converting to AC. There are also losses due to panels not being free from dirt or film. There are also losses due to non-optimal orientation of the panels (not pointed optimally).
Deterioration due to aging is also an issue. There is also the fact that producing a solar panel
requires lots of emissions. Some studies claim the carbon footprint of a solar panel power is roughly half that of natural gas. Also, natural gas emissions depend a lot on whether the generating plant is a closed cycle or open cycle type. Open cycle plants produce the most carbon emissions.

30. One cost factor for solar panels is NEVER mentioned. The cost when the roof needs to be reshingled and the solar panel array has to be removed and then reinstalled. Installation costs are the greatest cost component of a solar array

31. John says:
32. Jimbo says:

I would never, ever install solar in order to reduce my co2 output. We need to get atmospheric co2 up to at least 600ppm before I’m happy. I have my reasons.

I would install it (if I could afford it) for heating hot water / to perhaps save money / if I’m in a remote area and off the grid. Some people install solar in combination with a generator or small wind turbine for the last reason alone, which makes sense. Saving money or co2 reduction is not a bigger concern to them than simply getting power. I’ve seen a few in operation.

Some small wind turbines can be used to draw up water from a borehole if you are off-grid.

33. Another solar panel cost factor never mentioned is the fact that uncontrollable power inputs to the grid generate additional costs in order to accept that power. Backup generating capacity must be available , and regardess of whether the backup capacity has to actually generate power, it costs quite a lot to have it available. The only costs saved by using solar rather than conventional
generation is the cost of fuel avoided. But that cost is generally the smallest component of a power plant’s operating costs. In the case of nuclear, it is generally less than 10%. When a utility buys solar or wind power, it is paying for that power more or less twice – payment to the solar/wind provider, and payment to the generating plant for being available. CAlifornia is building pumped storage facitlities to store wind/solar energy when not needed, but this in no way allows for the closure of backup pants, since wind/solar power can be absent for far longer than the pumped storage capacity can handle. IT mostly acts to allow for wind/solar power to be used a dozen or so hours after it is generated, thus avoiding dumping that power into the ground. There are significant storage losses with this (expensive) scheme – pumped storage typically loses over 25% of power sent for storage.

34. fred4d says:

Interested in why PEI has no fossil fuel use. Turns out it does have a lot of wind power but most of the islands power is imported from NB. http://www.gov.pe.ca/energy/js/chart.php list the power. This AM 24 MW wind power out of 170 MW total. Total wind generation is 176 MW, so they could be totally wind powered this morning with ideal winds.

35. I dont see the actual production of power from these panels compared to CO2, just the costs of installation. PV panels dont produce anything for 4-5 months in winter above the Arctic Circle.

Does this cost of installation also include the batteries, including their replacements every 6-8 years?

36. fred4d: “This AM 24 MW wind power out of 170 MW total. Total wind generation is 176 MW, so they could be totally wind powered this morning with ideal winds.” I guess for the few minutes its up there, but watch the output every hour, it’s all over the place. Jumps as much as 50% one hour to the next. That’s the problem with wind, they have no idea what wind will produce next hour, unlike every other normal power production.

37. David, UK says:

Yeah, but – for some, at least – you can’t put a price on Feel-Good (TM).
Smug, self-important b@s*@**s.

38. The BEST way to lower CO2 emissions in colder places with clean electricity (Canada, certain north east states), is to go geothermal. If you are unplugging a propane heating system to switch to geothermal you even save money, without any incentives.

If incentives were applied at the same level as solar, everyone would be on geothermal, as its useful for cooling too.

The rising cost of electricity in order to pay for ‘green’ energy like wind and solar is putting a damper on this actually useful technology.

39. Chad Wozniak says: “You are forced to chose between accepting that or having a humongously larger electric bill ”

But your FIT participation is what is causing those high power rates. YOU are the cause that everyone else is forced to pay.

40. Tom Andersen says:

The BEST way to lower CO2 emissions in colder places with clean electricity (Canada, certain north east states), is to go geothermal.

——-

Several years ago, when NG was 14c, I spent the money and switched my home to geothermal. Then fracking collapsed the price of NG, and the FIT program doubled my power rates. Geothermal is no longer cost effective.

41. John Bowman says:

I thought the sole purpose of installing solar panels on the roof was to make money, by taking it out of the bank accounts of all those electricity users who do not have solar panels, and transferring it into the bank accounts of those that do, via feed-in tariffs. At least that is the case in Europe.

A practice for which the term ‘daylight robbery’ is most apt: having solar panels on the roof is just a means to avoid it falling under the definition of theft according to Common Law.

42. harrywr2 says:

JK says:
October 21, 2013 at 7:25 pm
The way I would approach the calculation is to first find out how much (unsubsidized) solar costs above and beyond what you pay at present.

The problem with this approach is that you are going to pay for peak generating capacity no matter what unless the solar has 100% correlation with peak load.

In the US coal/natural gas fuel cost is at most 5 cents/KWh and in some locality’s as little as 2 cents/KWh.

The value of any ‘intermittent’ energy source therefore should only be compared to the cost of the saved fuel unless their is very strong correlation with seasonal peak load.

Therefore, anywhere that is a ‘winter peak’ load state…the value of solar can never exceed the cost of power plant fuel.

Even in summer peak load states with solar having a high correlation with peak load the amount of solar value is limited to the difference between summer and winter peak loads.

IIRC The difference between summer and winter peak loads in Texas is about 1 or 2 GW out of 60 something GW total.

43. Don K says:

Chris, It’s an interesting study, but I see some substantial problems with the methodology.
1. With fossil fuel electricity, it’s almost always cheaper to move the electricity from a generating plant near the fuel than it is to move the fuel to a plant near the customers. Thus for small jurisdictions with no native fossil fuel resources like Vermont and PEI, the numbers probably aren’t very accurate. Averaging over all of the US and Canada might give a better picture.
2. Solar is assumed to be photovoltaic. Even in Vermont solar hot water and, in some applications, space heating would seem to have substantially better cost factors than solar PV. If McKibben can add, or has a friend who can handle basic arithmetic, it’s likely that some or all of his solar panels are for heating rather than PV.
3. As it happens, Vermont is a rather cloudy place — especially in Winter — with a significant amount of snow (80 inches a year in Burlington). In fact it wouldn’t be shocking for the output of any solar collector in December in Vermont to be pretty much zero. It isn’t clear that a solar availability correction is included in your computations.

44. numerobis says:

You make a couple of simplifying assumptions that hurt your conclusions. First, that electricity is not traded between states and provinces. Vermont gets half its power from out of state.

Second, that solar would displace all other generation capacity equally. A smart utility would instead shut off the generator that costs the most to run, which will be first coal, then gas.

45. Rod Everson says:

We’re getting exactly what one would expect if you leave the design of the electrical grid to the politicians. And now they’ve moved on to Obamacare….

46. Rod Everson says:

jrwakefield says:
October 22, 2013 at 7:03 am
Chad Wozniak says: “You are forced to chose between accepting that or having a humongously larger electric bill ”

But your FIT participation is what is causing those high power rates. YOU are the cause that everyone else is forced to pay.

No jr, the politicians are the cause. Chad is simply one of the caged hamsters being forced to perform accordingly for his sustenance. However, if Chad voted for those same politicians, then you have a point.

47. Steve Keohane says:

I live in Colorado, sunny some 300 days a year. There are six hours a day for significant solar input to solar panels, solar noon +/- 3 hours. The average daily output expectation on an annual basis is 4.2 Kw per Kw of panels, in Colorado, from the engineers of the installation company. At \$.08/Kw for power from the power company, a Kw panel will generate \$.336 worth of electricity/day, or \$122.64 annually. In fifty years that 1 Kw panel will cover its installation cost of \$6000, should it live so long.

48. MarkW says:

The reality is that solar panels will never replace coal generation. Coal is base load since it takes a long time to ramp it up or down. Solar on the other hand can and will change dramatically on a time scale of minutes to seconds. In reality solar, if it replaces anything, will result in a little less peak power production, which is almost always either hydro or natural gas.

49. Rod Everson says:

Chip Javert says:
October 21, 2013 at 10:54 pm

I have just retired to Florida, and am installing a \$36,000 10KW solar system sized to eliminate my \$3,000/year electrical bill from Florida Power & Light. Why would I invest in something having a 12 year payback?

Well, I say \$36,000, but I get a \$2,000 rebate from the HW manufacturer, \$20,000 (yep, \$20k) from FPL (actually, their rate payers…), and a \$10,800 federal tax credit – net installation cost to me after 90 days of filing forms & having stuff inspected is \$3,200.

As might be expected, the demographic that can pay \$36,000 and wait 90 days to collect \$32,800 in rebates/credits tends to skew “upscale”. Oh yea, and the value of my house goes up almost the full \$36,000 which (by law) does not increase my taxable property value. Go figure.

Having already made my point about the politicians, you do, I hope, understand why few will sympathize with you if the panels you installed fail in two years, the value of your house drops \$70,000 due to the presence of the useless panels (but not the property taxes), de-installation harms your roof, and you’re stuck having to pay not just for electricity generation, but also for all the subsidies FPL has paid out on schemes like this? And then there’s the federal debt that we’re just leaving to our children and grandchildren to worry about, I suppose.

The solution to the subsidy mess is obvious, by the way. Any business that builds itself on a subsidy model undertakes the risk that the subsidies will end (see Spain). Once this nonsense comes to an end, the regulators should lower FPL’s rates to disallow recapture of previous subsidies and let them go bankrupt. The shareholders and debt holders who supported that business model with their funds took the subsidy risk and deserve to take a beating when it ends, not the ratepayers. The reconstituted FPL will then be able to charge a reasonable rate again, i.e., a rate based on the actual cost of generating electricity. (Gee, what a novel concept, no?)

To those who say this can’t happen, I’d reply that it’s just politics. If a politician promises, if elected, to replace the regulators with people who would do as I’ve described, could he get elected someday? Because that’s all it would take.

50. William Astley says:

The cost comparison is on the right track, however, it should be noted that the solar power scam calculates/quotes solar power based on peak energy generated on a sunny day, 10:30 to 13:30, in the summer, and ignores the problem that electrical power demand peaks at around, 18:00 to 20:00, when the sun does not shine.

Battery storage needs to be included with the solar case, as power is required at night for heating, lighting, air conditioning, refrigeration, computers, cell phone chargers and so on.

The cost of providing battery storage almost doubles the cost of the solar installation over 20 years as the batteries have a lifetime of 7 to 10 years and the solar panels a lifetime of 15 to 20 years. It should be noted that the necessary DC to AD inverter, has a lifetime of around 7 years.

The solar example also needs to address the problem of winter (less sun), snow, rain, and cloud cover. Battery storage is reasonable for daily energy shifts, it does not solve the problem of snow and multiple days of heavy cloud cover.

Another back of the envelop method to get a handle on solar costs is to compare actual commercial installations Solar vs. Nuclear. The cheapest new commercial German solar installation is four times more expensive the world’s most expensive new nuclear installation (Finland). The cheapest German solar installation is 12 times more expensive than the newest Chinese nuclear installation. The German solar costs do not include the costs for battery storage or the cost for electrical grid upgrades to transport the solar energy from the region where the solar power is generated to the regions where power is required. Battery storage and power grid up grades doubles or triples the solar costs.
http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/programs/energy-and-climate/cost-of-german-solar-is-four-times-finnish-nuclear/

If battery storage is not been included in the solar costs, solar can only reduce CO2 emissions by roughly 10 to 15%. As there is a practical limit to the ability of a country to pay for power (increases in the cost of power of say 12 to 15 times are ridiculous), solar power is not viable to achieve CO2 emission reduction of 50%. Nuclear power plants are the only viable engineering solution to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 15%.

It should be noted to reduce world CO2 emissions by 50% or more requires addressing other CO2 sources and hence, requires draconian policies such as the banning of air travel for tourism, the banning of recreation vehicles/boats, and so on. Reductions below 50%, requires forced population reduction as 50% of the CO2 emissions are due to the products that people purchase and the food that they eat.

Reduction in CO2 emissions of 50% only delays the eventual rise in atmospheric CO2. So if the long term is considered and the fact all developed countries are deeply in debt, the best approach (if facts and logic are used to make the decision as opposed to green scam logic) is to optimize nuclear power now (as sometime in the next 100 years we will need to change to nuclear power) and to address the problem of population growth in the developing countries. (There is roughly a billion years of fission nuclear power available from dissolve uranium in the oceans which can be commercially removed, using fourth generation reactors.)

51. Colin says:

Tom Andersen says:
October 22, 2013 at 6:56 am

“Incentives” as in subsidies? Taxpayer pays AGAIN?? We are going to go broke (See the U.S.) subsidizing all these “green” feel good energy policies. So a person installs \$36,000 in solar equipment and gets over \$32000 in “incentives” and can brag about how green they are and how much they have “saved”? Something is seriously messed up.

52. chemman says:

Leonard Weinstein says:

What you are saying is contingent upon external hookup costs. I was quoted 110K to bring power lines into my area which is 3 miles from the nearest access. A 3.5 kw solar system with batteries, passive trackers and a 20kw backup generator cost me 55K. I do live in NE Arizona so have lots of full sun days and the passive trackers gather more than the 6.5 hrs of noon equivalent sun.

53. chemman says:

William Astley says:
“The solar example also needs to address the problem of winter (less sun), snow, rain, and cloud cover. Battery storage is reasonable for daily energy shifts, it does not solve the problem of snow and multiple days of heavy cloud cover.”

Depends upon the system you have. I live totally off-grid and while I occasionally have snow and multiple days of could cover. Snow I deal with by immediately cleaning the panels in the morning although most times the snow falls off as the passive trackers move then from the evening configuration to the morning configuration. The charge controllers I have for my system maintain a voltage drop so that I can charge batteries even on cloudy days. I have a whole house 20Kw (16 kw because of altitude) backup system I have used it maybe 16 times in the last 4 years to supplement the solar system I have.

54. tony nordberg says:

Taking a leaf from those Climate modellers, I am thinking of producing a simulated solar panel installation.

I reckon it will take just two pieces of wire to hook up the electricity supply to the feed-in tariff meter. Whilst the electricity meter will whizz around like crazy, so will the feed-in meter. And, the end of the month I should get a really big cheque!

[BTW, those two pieces of wire could also simulate a wind-turbine ]

55. Quinn says:

One big factor I haven’t seen mentioned is all of the energy that goes into the manufacture of silicon solar cells, panels, support structures, etc. In many cases the total output of solar panels throughout their lifetime is less than the energy that went into manufacturing, transporting, and installing them.

56. Rod says:
October 21, 2013 at 9:19 pm

I think the only useful solar power is when used for heating hot water. Last I calculated it was about a 10 year pay off period (for 38 degrees south) and from then on increasing returns as electricity costs continue to go up.
———————–

I think you are right.

But there is another way of using solar power for heating hot water that will save you a ton of money in the “long run” that doesn’t require the use of solar panels ….. and is a one-time fixed cost to install and is basically maintenance-free thereafter.

Install a 30 gallon un-insulated “tempering tank” in-line between your water input source and your hot water tank.

One will realize a small savings if said “tempering tank” is installed most anywhere inside their home that is maintained at a comfortable temperature.

But now anyone who lives say south of 38 degrees latitude will realize a significant savings if said “tempering tank” is painted “flat” black and installed in the attic of their house where all that solar energy accumulates and will warm up the water in the tank. And in the summer months will heat up that water to 100+ degrees. (Unless they have a lot of ventilation to keep the attic cool)

57. Greytide. Middle England sceptic says:

How much CO2 is produced just to make the solar panels in the first place?

58. DirkH says:

Rod Everson says:
October 22, 2013 at 7:45 am
“No jr, the politicians are the cause. Chad is simply one of the caged hamsters being forced to perform accordingly for his sustenance. However, if Chad voted for those same politicians, then you have a point.”

GLOBE international controls the energy policy of EVERY established party in the West.
(You can of course vote for outsiders who will be kept out of the parliaments.)

59. John Bowman says:
October 22, 2013 at 7:17 am
I thought the sole purpose of installing solar panels on the roof was to make money, by taking it out of the bank accounts of all those electricity users who do not have solar panels, and transferring it into the bank accounts of those that do, via feed-in tariffs. At least that is the case in Europe.

A practice for which the term ‘daylight robbery’ is most apt: having solar panels on the roof is just a means to avoid it falling under the definition of theft according to Common Law.

————-

EXACTLY!

60. “Battery storage needs to be included with the solar case, as power is required at night for heating, lighting, air conditioning, refrigeration, computers, cell phone chargers and so on.”

Actually, the home only runs off the batteries, and during the day the solar’s job is to charge those batteries, unless you’re the kind of person who is willing to have no power when there is no sun.

The real dilemma is how many panels one needs. You cant use a day period of consumption, you need to be able to run your home off the batteries for several days with no recharging (for those long cloudy winter days). That means you have to have enough panels such that in one day they charge for those batteries for 3 or 4 days of usage. Good luck doing that here in Canada.

61. jai mitchell says:

1. Economies of scale have reduced cost of solar system installed in Germany to \$2.24 per watt, that is with a slightly higher labor cost:

2. You are not including transmission line losses in your MWh calculation. The EPA emissions are at the generator, the avoided emissions for a residential installed system are at the meter so emissions avoided need to be increased by about 8 percent.

4. The EPA shows an increasing cost over time even with a discount rate so that the 20 year average is much larger than the avoided cost value of 2015. (about 3X the 2015 value by 2035)

for example:

5. If CO2 avoidance was the only benefit of solar power then no one would install solar on their roofs. Many people have installed solar on their roofs and some are even making money doing it. The application of avoided emissions and societal costs for this calculation should be removed from the cost of the system as compared to the grid system. i.e. a carbon cost of a fossil fuel system is 4 cents per kWh and increasing over the life of the system (20 years) to 12 cents per kWh avoided. Therefore, over the over the life of a system the average avoided cost is 8 cents per kWh. for a lifetime generation of 475 MWh, the savings of the system of social cost of carbon is \$38,000

62. Mike Hebb says:

The real efficiencies of solar power don’t count here in Vermont. It’s sustainability is totally artificial.
GMP Solar is a net metering program that pays customers who generate solar energy. The amount a customer receives is based on the value of the energy that GMP charges the customer, plus an additional 6 cents per kilowatt-hour generated by solar arrays. – See more at: http://www.greenmountainpower.com/innovative/solar/faqs/#sthash.50dgXCT3.dpuf

So they pay \$.06 /kwh more than the going retail price for solar. No retailer can buy product for more than they sell it for without something fishy going on. It certainly will be sustainable as long as the rest of us are taxed enough to fill in the losses.

63. “(There is roughly a billion years of fission nuclear power available from dissolve uranium in the oceans which can be commercially removed, using fourth generation reactors.)”

Fission will never happen. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors is our future, iff rational minded people were running the asylum.

64. Sorry, meant fusion, is that that what you meant too?

65. Rod Everson says:
October 22, 2013 at 7:45 am

No jr, the politicians are the cause. Chad is simply one of the caged hamsters being forced to perform accordingly for his sustenance. However, if Chad voted for those same politicians, then you have a point.

———-

No, he is regardless. We have FIT here, but I refuse to get involved because I know my power savings will be at the expense of others, such as my own kids. So it’s a MORAL choice to suck on the FIT teat.

66. mkelly says:

RACookPE1978 says:

October 21, 2013 at 9:45 pm

No, there are NO pumped storage sites “allowable” for use right now. NONE.

Not sure what your definition of pumped storage is but here is a link to a pumped storage system in Michigan. http://www.consumersenergy.com/content.aspx?id=1830

I’ve been to the small lake sitting above Lake Michigan just out side Ludington, Michigan.

67. William Astley says:

chemman says:
October 22, 2013 at 9:04 am
William Astley says:
“The solar example also needs to address the problem of winter (less sun), snow, rain, and cloud cover. Battery storage is reasonable for daily energy shifts, it does not solve the problem of snow and multiple days of heavy cloud cover.”
Depends upon the system you have. I live totally off-grid and while I occasionally have snow and multiple days of could cover. Snow I deal with by immediately cleaning the panels in the morning although most times the snow falls off as the passive trackers move then from the evening configuration to the morning configuration. The charge controllers I have for my system maintain a voltage drop so that I can charge batteries even on cloudy days. I have a whole house 20Kw (16 kw because of altitude) backup system I have used it maybe 16 times in the last 4 years to supplement the solar system I have.
William:
You comment (an anecdotal comment of one person who lives ‘off grid’) is unfortunately one of the reasons why there is a myth that green scam energy is viable. It is not viable for the following reasons.
It is a fact that the developing countries have spent 2 trillion dollars on green scam energy and it has made no practical difference in world CO2 emissions.

Why is that true? How is possible to spend 2 trillion dollars on green scams with no practical difference in CO2 emissions? What is logically the reason for that paradox?

The term ‘off grid’ ignores the fact that 50% of the CO2 emission in every country is due to the goods we purchase and food we eat. Roughly 25% of our energy requirements are for the automobiles we drive and the air flights we take for holidays. The electricity used for a residential home is roughly 25%.
The problem of scalability (one person can live off grid an entire country including industrial production cannot live off grid), concentrated energy requirements for good production, and forcing uneconomic changes to take place by a deadline are just some of the show stoppers.
Green energy does not work due to economics (the amount of surplus funds countries have to spend) and engineering reasons (power storage is required, the energy input to construct and maintain the green scams needs to be included) to reduce CO2 emissions for an entire country and for all countries by say 50% by 2030 or 2050. It should be noted that the developing countries are developing. The people in those countries each want air conditioning, a refrigerator, television, computers, automobile, and so on.
There are a number of good books that have been published that start to address the reality of the energy issue rather than myths.
The following are two which I would recommend.
http://www.dieterhelm.co.uk/
http://www.dieterhelm.co.uk/
The Carbon crunch: how we are getting climate change wrong and how to fix it, by Dieter Helm
Helm is a true liberal academic. He admits that the money spent on green scams has made almost no practical difference in the CO2 emissions. He alludes to the fact that nuclear power will work, but adds that nuclear power is politically not viable in the EU. Helm’s solution to force a change on a time table is a draconian carbon tax, however, Helm neglects to explain the economic and political impact of increasing the cost of energy by a factor of three or four. The end of air travel for tourism for example, which is roughly 13% of the EU GDP, the transfer of jobs to lower energy regions unless all countries enact the draconian carbon tax, an increase in the cost of goods and food by roughly 50% to 75%. It is a fact that higher energy costs will result in a lower standard of life.

Energy Myths and Realities: Bringing Science to the Energy Policy Debate by Vaclav Smil
This is an article by Vaclav Smil that includes some of the basic facts concerning the energy policy debate which is discusses in more detail in his book. Smil is realist which is some what different than a skeptic. Smil lays out engineering reality for energy use and requirements on a country and world basis.

http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/renewables/a-skeptic-looks-at-alternative-energy/0
A Skeptic Looks at Alternative Energy, It takes several lifetimes to put a new energy system into place, and wishful thinking can’t speed things along, By Vaclav Smil

68. RACookPE1978 says:

mkelly says:
October 22, 2013 at 11:08 am (replying to)

RACookPE1978 says:

October 21, 2013 at 9:45 pm

No, there are NO pumped storage sites “allowable” for use right now. NONE.

Not sure what your
definition of pumped storage is but here is a link to a pumped storage system in Michigan. http://www.consumersenergy.com/content.aspx?id=1830

I’ve been to the small lake sitting above Lake Michigan just out side Ludington, Michigan.

I stand by my statement, but obviously need to explain my terms better.

I am referring to “new” pumped storage sites and to the “next generations” of pumped storage or a large-area-grid-supporting pumped storage that MUST be built/is planned to be built/is already designed and is being built if the grid is to remain stable when “renewals” are more common. Yes, there are several pumped-storage sites around the country – one is fairly close to me across the border in mid-Tennessee. How many more sites will be needed, and where are they to go?

BUT it – like all of the pumped storage units around the country – are already at peak use. IF solar or wind is implemented past today’s 2% generating “capacity” we will need thousands of pumped storage sites. Pumped storage requires essentially EVERYTHING a “normal lake” requires: A dam in a valley with suitable rock and geology to take the pressures of the dam safely; or a constantly-flowing, non-freezing river as a water source. An upstream/uphill “flat” spot ALSO suitable for a dam or looooong dike that the enviro’s will support and on land that is affordable and is NOT being used for something else. Needs to be on the existing grid – after all, ALL of its energy needs to be either coming in or going out every hour. Smaller requirements are access, area for the pumps, land rights and enviro permits for the pumps, transmission towers, switchyards, control buildings, transformers, repair sites, etc.

What I said holds true across the country: There are no plans for new pumped storage sites being pursued across the EPA/WWF/Greenpeace/Dept of Interior and all of their obstacles. There are no more available anywhere in the country sites for “new” or expanded pumped storage sites capable of storing any portion of today’s power needs.

69. mkelly says:

RACookPE1978 says:

October 22, 2013 at 11:29 am

OK.

70. JFA in Montreal says:

An argument usually brought forward is “give technology time”… (as if it already didn’t have enough time…). People dream of “cheap” solar with solar panels that cost almost nothing per sq.ft. However, they never realise that even if the panels were free, there is always a maximum efficiency and a limited quantity of energy from the sun. AND the system costs (batteries, inverters, cost of installation,etc) also represent a large cost of the system.
It would be great if you added to your analysis the most optimistic forecast for lower prices of solar panels. My hunch is that despite a solar panel cost of zero \$/sq ft, it would still be a loosing proposition.

71. Thirsty says:

Mike Hebb says:
October 22, 2013 at 11:00 am
“The amount a customer receives is based on the value of the energy that GMP charges the customer, plus an additional 6 cents per kilowatt-hour generated by solar arrays.”

Ah, this explains those large solar arrays visible on the fine drive up RT. 89. No limit on the transfer payment.

72. Don K says:

RACookPE1978 says:
October 22, 2013 at 11:29 am
There are no more available anywhere in the country sites for “new” or expanded pumped storage sites capable of storing any portion of today’s power needs.
================
Mostly, I think you might be right, but there is one exception on the relatively well watered East Coast of North America that looks like it might be feasible for pumped storage of a fair amount of power. That would be pumping water from Lake Ontario up 100 meters over the Niagara Escarpment to Lake Erie or Lake Huron. I did a rough calculation a few months ago that said that it might be possible to store a day’s electric power for the East Coast of North America without changing the lake levels by more than about 4 inches. Lake level changes of a few inches might not result in too many successful (and actually meritorious) lawsuits.

It’d be a VERY costly project. The permits alone would take years if not decades. The lawsuits …

73. ‘That would be pumping water from Lake Ontario up 100 meters over the Niagara Escarpment to Lake Erie or Lake Huron. ‘

Why do that, spending the money and energy when rain/snow does it for us? You’d still have to build the underground tunnel (The new one costs just over a billion) anyway to pump up to Erie, so why not just let it run down from Erie in the first place?

Madness clearly dominates the energy discussion.

74. Andyj says:

“The average unsubsidized cost was \$5.57/Watt AC, or \$55,700 for a 10 kWAC system. ”
GET OFF THIS PLANET!!!
“Was” is the operative word. Simply look on the Chinese selling sites, 1WAC is \$0.5c to \$3 max for a “professional” but not ripped off home fitted installation. Panels themselves are down to \$0.40/W

As it stood in the UK three years ago, (after the stolen carbon tax money is returned). Was an easy 20%~30% payback for a home fitted system. That’s 3~5 yr’s before it becomes back pocket money!
There is no better investment. Millionaires don’t do it because they are green. They do it because they are clever.
Removing all carbon tax rebates and going alone, avoiding the profiteers still pays back much, much faster than any tax free pension scheme.

That’s only the electric. On hot water I installed a vacuum tube panel in the summer of 2007 in the dark and grim North of England. The cost after I installed it totalled £500. The payback alone on that was 18 months. Another £2K (\$6) in my pocket to this date.

Then there are my space heating panels which keep knocking off my central heating… :-)
And my Electric car which returns (assuming no Solar or night rate) on money >200 mpg (UK).

I’ve not done this because I’m a Gore-botted carbo-nazi. CO2 grows the food on my plate.
I love my money, revere being independent, cannot beat the easy money. Hate anyone who tries to control or own me via contract and doing my bit to stymy the oncoming further oil wars.

75. Andyj says:

“I’ve not done this because I’m a Gore-botted carbo-nazi. CO2 grows the food on my plate.”

Good for you, Andy. I for one would never criticize anyone for taking free money. It is the free money givers who earn my wrath. They have no right to give away my tax money like that, and those who blithely excuse that theft by their enabling phrases, such as the “…social cost of carbon is \$38,000″ are excusing the confiscation of our money based on the outright lie that “carbon” is a problem.

CO2 is not a problem, and I challenge anyone here [lookin’ at jai mitchell] to show that the rise in CO2 is anything but beneficial.

76. Andyj says:
“As it stood in the UK three years ago, (after the stolen carbon tax money is returned). Was an easy 20%~30% payback for a home fitted system. That’s 3~5 yr’s before it becomes back pocket money!
There is no better investment. Millionaires don’t do it because they are green. ”

And is didnt bother you that that “easy money’ was throwing millions of Brits into energy poverty, FORCED to fill your back pocket, having to choose between keeping the lights on, or feeding their kids.

77. GoneWithTheWind says:

Not only can’t a solar panel ever generate as much power as it took to create it but most solar panels are made in China using coal fired electric generation. It is really ironic because if PV was practical there would be no better or more natural place to use it then a PV production facility. After all they could get the panels for cost.

• Andyj says:

GoneWithTheWind says:
October 22, 2013 at 3:59 pm
Not only can’t a solar panel ever generate as much power as it took to create it…

So China are selling them to the whole world at a loss? riiight!

In the ’70’s this was true. Panels were barely 5% efficient, hand made at great heat. Easily broken and used for high value items like satellites.

Now they literally print the substrate onto glass. The av. 20% efficient panel at top prices is \$0.8/W. The warranty is around 25 years! The UK averages around 10 Mj / m^2 per day.

So I absolutely disagree.

78. Andyj says:

Mr. Wakefield,
I can only half agree with you.
My yearly cash income is under £11K and I live very, very nicely thank you :) Please re-assess what really makes poverty..

A situation at the age of 18 forced me to get a mortgage. So my Dad was guarantor, (never had to pay a thing). I was on £23/week as an apprentice; soon after I moved in £28/wk (1979).

The first thing I did was sort out the freezing upstairs (ceiling!). Thank you Horwich tip!
Found huge drafts ran between the floorboards so cemented them up. Fixed the windows, doors, all sorts of things. Damp proofing cost me but well spent. Barely cost anything to put right for the gains. When I sold that property, I made a killing, moved in with sis and bought a Honda car before the £ plummeted and made Jap cars very expensive. Bought this house around ’89(?), months before house prices almost doubled around here. Was soo tempted to cash in, again.

Self enforced poverty existed in my first house for the prior 100 years. All the prior families suffered badly. If they got their finger out life would of been far nicer. Going to blame me for that too?

Don’t buy into what you hate when the blames are obvious.

79. Question says:

Imagine if all the products you enjoy consuming (eat, smoke, drink) were guaranteed not to cause cancer and at the same time fulfil all of your cravings … would you be willing to pay 100% or 200% more for them to ensure a longer life?

80. Crispin in Waterloo says:

I was surprised to find on a recent trip to China that their major wind electricity generating area in the midwest has the windmills shut down in winter when the winds are the strongest and most consistent.

This is done because the electricity is not needed. The coal-fired power plants that are connected to the home heating systems are running flat out to keep the home fires burning, so to speak. Combined heat and power (CHP) is very efficient in terms of the whole system. The temperature of rejected heat is on the order of 80 C. Homes are not equipped to be heated with electricity so the windmills are turned off for the duration.

That is the sort of thing that is not obvious to promoters who make acultural interventions.

81. Jimbo says:

Windpower is a clean, renewable and sustainable resource……………as long as it kills someone else. As long as the crime is out of sight and out of mind then it’s OK. As long as we feel green then we are green. That is the ticket.

Guardian – 7 August 2012
Rare-earth mining in China comes at a heavy cost for local villages
Pollution is poisoning the farms and villages of the region that processes the precious minerals
………..
From the air it looks like a huge lake, fed by many tributaries, but on the ground it turns out to be a murky expanse of water, in which no fish or algae can survive. The shore is coated with a black crust, so thick you can walk on it. Into this huge, 10 sq km tailings pond
…..
The foul waters of the tailings pond contain all sorts of toxic chemicals, but also radioactive elements such as thorium which, if ingested, cause cancers of the pancreas and lungs, and leukaemia……

A study by the municipal environmental protection agency showed that rare-earth minerals were the source of their problems. The minerals themselves caused pollution, but also the dozens of new factories that had sprung up around the processing facilities and a fossil-fuel power station feeding Baotou’s new industrial fabric. Residents of what was now known as the “rare-earth capital of the world” were inhaling solvent vapour, particularly sulphuric acid, as well as coal dust, clearly visible in the air between houses……….
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/aug/07/china-rare-earth-village-pollution

• Andyj says:

lol@Jimbo
You should of seen my local coal town 60 years ago. This is not pollution created, it is pollution released through cheap practices.

Rare Earths are not rare, can be easily removed from sea water… But who cares? the major supplier has cheaper labour.

I wish people on here stop being so myopic or others will have a field day.

Whole swathes of the US, AUS and Canada have succumbed the the ills of huge scale coal mining. Same for mass pollution from oil in Africa. The oil magnates don’t care. They know their workers leave work the same colour as they walked in.

Hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been crippled and killed because of oil alone:-
Iraqis, Afghans (supply pipes), Syria, Libya, Chechnya…. etc. etc.
Untaxing yourselves off liquid/gaseous fossils ought to be a no-brainer.

China is making and selling cheap just like Saudi. While our Gov’ts are granting eminent domain of your properties to pay off the debts.

82. “Whole swathes of the US, AUS and Canada have succumbed the the ills of huge scale coal mining. Same for mass pollution from oil in Africa. The oil magnates don’t care. They know their workers leave work the same colour as they walked in.”

There is no Utopia, there never will be. Compared to how people lived, worked and died in the historic past before fossil fuels freed us, we are the closest we will ever get to Utopia right now. Thanks to fossil fuels. Wind and solar will never replace fossil fuels and maintain this living standards. The world cannot prosper on expensive energy, and these “green” sources will never be cheep source of power. Why? The Energy Trap.

• Andyj says:

lol, I’m in utopia because my house and water is warmed most of the year for free and the electric meter runs backwards half the time.
As I’ve said before, as an investment they prove themselves to be a no-brainer. Stop guessing, do the maths!

83. observa says:

Andyj takes a box to the footy and skites how he can see perfectly so you low heeled dumbclucks should get with program. Cute Andy but most here understand the ‘fallacy of composition’ from Econ101 so you might look it up.

• Andyj says:

Very observa(not) of you.
Are all you people still refusing to put insulation in your attic? lol
I have already stated my yearly cash income is under £11K. Personal time and effort create incredible investments.

Econ101.. WTF?? I don’t use models nor care for opinions of others who also suffer from ‘fallacy of composition’ when actual data preserves the contents of my back pocket and supplies the facts.

No good tilting at my windmill. I don’t have one.

84. observa says:

Andyj, would you honestly purchase a storage-less car that is beautifully covered in flexible solar collection material and goes like a Tesla in maximum bright sunshine but its performance drops off commensurately with declining sunlight until it won’t run on moonlight? If your answer is yes I have this bridge to sell you, but please spare me the wonders of your particular bridge for sale.

• Andyj says:

jrwakefield,
I cannot ever be a net loser.
Being a Libertarian myself I’m totally behind removing all Gov’t interference. They should be responsible for base infrastructure only. Businesses ought to be in competition with them and not suck off each other, that gets stupidly expensive, (profiteering) and destroys value for money. It’s also a base principle of Fascism.

And to allay your self informed misinformation because you did not read my earlier posts properly I do not want nor use any Gov’t “help” whatsoever. However, buying the car and accepting to have an EVSE installed for free was not turned own. I pay taxes too.

The reasons are very simple.
1. Having anything assembled & signed off needs a guy who rips everyone off due to easy Gov’t money.
2. The electric company will alter my meter and change the rates. Will not allow my meter to read less than zero at any time, no matter how much they take. And the inverters they fit are “anti-islanding”.
3.The contracts suck.
4. I imported these items myself apart from a local supplier of the vacuum tube panels (£500 fitted by me, paid for itself in 18 months, no financial help.) and relevant building supplies for sundry items.
====================================
Observa. What’s this lunacy you are on about with “storage less” cars? You want cheap and easy energy storage? A written off Nissan Leaf sold for £2,850 a few days ago. That has a >20KWH pack of 350~393V. The cycle life as a “load balancer” (Go read up). It will outlast you.
The Voltage is easy meat for a nice inverter.

Here’s a simple fact.
25 years ago I bought a light for the living room. Nice light, didn’t cost too much maybe £15 at the time. Takes 3x 60W bulbs and it was on 10 hours/day (yearly average) for 20 years. Here electric is £0.15/KWH. That’s almost £2K I worked for 2 months off my life for the light! The past several years had 20W of CFL bulbs.
The bill is effectively 11% Rather £10/year than £200 eh?

Confusing simple common sense for a carbo-nazi is seriously stretching the boundaries of normalcy.

85. observa says:

No problem with your solar hot water collector and its storage system as long as you don’t ask me to subsidise it of course.

86. “As I’ve said before, as an investment they prove themselves to be a no-brainer. Stop guessing, do the maths!”

I’m on the Ontario Progressive Conservative Energy Policy Advisory Committee. We recently released a white paper on what we would do after the next election and we get into government. In that paper we outline a pricing system for the future. No FIT, it’s over. But what to do with current FIT contracts? Simple. Every wind and solar producer will have to get subscribers. That is, those people who feel guilty of their ecological footprint can sign up to get power from wind and solar, and pay the full price for them. Wind/solar producers will only be able to dump into the grid that power for which subscribers are willing to buy.

This will kill all existing FIT producers. So no, absolutely not is it an investment. It only appears to be an investment from your perspective because of the generous FIT pricing which forces people to pay. Kill the FIT and you’re stuck with panels for which you cannot get payments on.

The system is going to collapse, and you will be the net loser.

87. “Are all you people still refusing to put insulation in your attic? lol”

Tell you what, I’ll add more insulation, and you will pay for it. That’s what FIT is. Other people are paying for your power bills. It’s morally wrong, it’s economically unstable.

88. observa says:

No no you conservative trogs don’t understand. Left/greens have finally worked out the answer to their lack of popularity when they’ve drained everyone else’s hard-earned. Just print some more.

• Andyj says:

“Sooner or later the Labour Party run out of other peoples money to spend”.
My hero, Margaret Thatcher.

Hang on Observa. Was it Dumocrats of Repulsivans that stopped printing the M3 data? Let me answer for you. It was under Bush Jr. So he could allow the “Fed. Reserve” to print lots of \$ and party like a rock star. Stopping the M3 data hides the fact there are more \$’s than cash value. No wonder Hilary psychopath clit-ton cheerfully signed great gobs of the USA as “Eminent Domain” to the Chinese and arabs. Not noticed how things are changing?

But like any dumbocritter you love arabs and….. Let the oils wars begin!

The only green I follow is the green stuff in my back pocket. I make you look like Marx.
Hell, I have no idea what I’m worth. Went long on TSLA from <\$45 just before the orders were being fulfilled. So much it nearly gave Dad a heart attack. It reached \$192 then shorted it until one caught fire at around \$162. The money, 5x more in a few months is in a bank :P

Might be buying several thousand acres of Southern ex-soviet state now. It's not a debtor nation and bank rates/taxes are very good. Dreaming my next home to be part cave in a hilly region to equalise the yearly climate and full independence with excess. Dunno, better ideas?

89. observa says:

Take your point about quasi conservatives masquerading as real conservatives who do understand the lessons of Dicken’s Mr Micawber Andyj. As you know there’s a spectrum of views out there about how long printing IOUs can paper over the cracks appearing in the walls and foundations of willing taxation and fair exchange.

I also have FIT solar on my roof and as a result understand first hand the exact nature of such ‘reshiftables’ and am happy to explain that reality to anyone who wants to listen. When my Gummint put an economic gun to my head with FIT solar I stuck my hands up very quickly and surrendered, as is every citizen’s right to grab whatever pork is going down in the current age of entitlement. However I’m not kidding myself there’s no glaring fallacy of composition in it all and there isn’t a better way of us conducting our economic affairs. Like you, one does what one can to avoid the worst vicissitudes of the current ethos and regime, but I will still argue for a saner way and refuse to give up my BS detector.

• Andyj says:

Cloth ears!
How many times do I have to tell you, the only carbon tax rebate have been my car and charging point (evse)!

If I was a “survivalist redneck” you could equate to my actions. Instead you keep on inventing who you think I am.

90. observa says:

I think you’re naive Andyj IF you think your solar power, with or without FIT, is not costing those without solar power an increase in their power bills because it free-rides on ‘their’ grid. You know that implicitly because like me, you wouldn’t see the economics of investing in enough collectors and battery storage to be completely independent of the grid.

For your information, even if solar could achieve the green theoretical nirvana of 100% efficiency, at next to no cost, it would still be like that car I described with no battery. That’s where hybrid cars are the next best alternative but they’re strictly for wealthy Green poseurs as you know.(perhaps cabbies excepted). Should we all go down that path, soaring battery demand would worsen the already high price of hybrids. Full electric would be even worse in that regard so boutique market they stay.

• Andyj says:

Observa, WTF are you on about? Just because my (ie) hot water Solar panels saved me the price they cost me after 18 months has nothing to do with anyone else! I am claiming NOTHING!
They save me money. Get over it.
Same with the space heating panels for the house and the Solar electric panels to stymy my large electric demand.

As goes total independence, sure, my house area in this cloudy dank place is not enough and I have no wish to occupy any my garden but the difference to my bills against unit cost/life has been one of my more satisfying investments.

The fact it rewinds my electric meter half the time does not constitute theft. However, with FIT.. Take the US for example. They pay 11.3c/KWH but excess is bought by the company at 3.4c/KWH. Just like the UK.
So who is free riding off who?

Don’t answer. it will only be another daft reply. You keep on paying through the nose. The Gov’t needs sheeple for the carbon tax money.

• Andyj says:

Oh, by the way. My car consumes 1KWH for every 4.8 miles. In a land of \$9 gas don’t you think this non-free ride is a no-brainer either? Not to mention there’s little in the way of engine consumables too. Because doesn’t have an engine.
.
And if you are bothered about Lithium supplies. Don’t worry, just about every other US citizen and his children are eating it for meds. Tons per day. Which ends up down the toilet.

91. jai mitchell says:

Here ya go DB

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/inforeg/social_cost_of_carbon_for_ria_2013_update.pdf

Technical Support Document: Technical
Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis Under
Executive Order 12866

get that? Executive Order. . .don’t you just LOVE it???

———
we are right on track for a 4 degree C warming by 2070. You and I will be long gone by then so we won’t have to worry about it, but our grandchildren will be living the hellish reality that you, more than most, are directly responsible for creating:

http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/369/1934/217.full#T3

a 4°C world would be facing enormous adaptation challenges in the agricultural sector, with large areas of cropland becoming unsuitable for cultivation, and declining agricultural yields. This world would also rapidly be losing its ecosystem services, owing to large losses in biodiversity, forests, coastal wetlands, mangroves and saltmarshes, and terrestrial carbon stores, supported by an acidified and potentially dysfunctional marine ecosystem. Drought and desertification would be widespread, with large numbers of people experiencing increased water stress, and others experiencing changes in seasonality of water supply. There would be a need to shift agricultural cropping to new areas, impinging on unmanaged ecosystems and decreasing their resilience; and large-scale adaptation to sea-level rise would be necessary. Human and natural systems would be subject to increasing levels of agricultural pests and diseases, and increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

In such a 4°C world, the limits for human adaptation are likely to be exceeded in many parts of the world, while the limits for adaptation for natural systems would largely be exceeded throughout the world. Hence, the ecosystem services upon which human livelihoods depend would not be preserved. Even though some studies have suggested that adaptation in some areas might still be feasible for human systems, such assessments have generally not taken into account lost ecosystem services.

92. You cannot have the cake and eat it too..With most people using hot water daily I do believe that solar panels are the best way of utilizing natural energy to its best.

93. RandomChance says:

Problem with going solar in the neighborhood where I live is 1/2 the homes have only north facing roofs. No usable south face to the home as it’s all duplexes and town houses. Add in the worst wind comes out of the north, and now we have two reasons not to go solar.
2. The panels now become wind catchers for 70KMH + wind gusts and risk roof damage to the beating it will take.

94. Colonial says:

Greg asked (October 21, 2013 at 10:38 pm):

Solar thermal is about 4x more efficient than PV. Most households use hot water. Why the obsession with PV?

The return on investment for solar water heating is much worse than it is for solar electric power generation. Let’s look at the economics of solar power in my area first.

I have a 9.55 kW solar array on my roof. Generation each year for the past three has ranged from 9,500-9,900 kWh. System cost was about \$55K, minus about \$16K energy tax credit, for a net of \$39K. Our electricity price at the moment is about 10.4 cents/kWh.

Assuming 9,700 kWh of generation in an average year, my system produces about \$1,000/year worth of electricity. Assuming a zero percent interest rate, the system would break even in 39 years. In reality, it would die first, so it’s wildly ineconomical (for that reason and for others). The only saving grace is that I have a sweetheart deal (Feed-In Tariff) that will make it pay off in about 10 years. Good for me, bad for everyone else…

Now let’s look at the economics of solar water heating. We heat both the house and our water with natural gas. In July and August, no gas is used for home heating, so those bills are purely for water heating. On average, we pay about \$30/month in July and August. Subtract out the \$8 customer charge, which we would pay even if we used no gas at all, and the cost of water heating is down to \$22/month.

In this area, solar hot water heating would provide all our hot water in the summer and precious little in the winter. According to the folks selling the systems, we would be able to heat about half of our annual hot water with solar. Thus, we would save about half of what we spend for water heating each year: 1/2 * 12 * \$22 = \$132. A professionally installed solar hot water system is \$10,000-\$11,000. Assuming we get the “cheap” \$10,000 system, solar water heating would pay off in 10,000/132 = 75.75… years. It would take a little less time than that because the price of natural gas will probably go up (with fracking, maybe not), but it’s a good ballpark figure.

Thus, solar water heating would take twice as long to pay back as solar power generation. Further, there isn’t a Feed-In Tariff program available to bring the cost down. So no solar water heating for me. Feel free to take the plunge yourself!

• Andyj says:

Are you living in the Weimar Republic or something?
My local supplier for vacuum panels and he delivers them for free. “solarproject.co.uk”.
However, I installed a more “industrial strength” pump. £500.
To heat 100 litre tank +20C requires about 3KWH. £0.45 in English money. Include it’s all day “topping up” of heat and my money was saved 18 months from fitting.
Also saved reaching in the airing cupboard to turn it on and the times I forgot to turn it off.

My 4KWH panel array was £3200 plus invertor and sundries. Round up with invertor, could call that £5K..
Electric here is 15p/KWH plus taxes. It’s saving me about £1K/year. In two years I’ll be making a 20% PA return.

Don’t omit the fact the loonies have banned fracking in the UK. Expect old people to die of cold and energy prices to go ever higher and the £ to suffer from energy importation.

Today I could be buying the panels in at half the price. That’s three years and almost 30% return. It’s not my fault if people couldn’t wait to get ripped off :(