The Green Mirage

Review of Forbes On-line Magazine Article “Solar Energy Revolution: A Massive Opportunity”

By: Tom Tamarkin Founder FuelRFuture & President USCL Corp


This paper discusses a recently published business magazine article projecting massive growth in the solar industry over the next 20 years. We have analyzed the business, scientific, and engineering backgrounds of two well-known gentlemen quoted in the article and searched for business interests that would benefit from such growth either by way of early investment and subsidy capital or long term net revenue. We have analyzed the utility industry’s need to replace an existing 440 GW of fully operational and cost effective generating capacity in light of its projected retirement of plants due to age coupled with the potential increase in demand based on partial electrification of the transportation system. We conclude with the analysis of the feasibility of powering the U.S. electricity needs by a solar-only generation infrastructure based on system components and the feasibility of extremely large volume manufacturing, capital costs and the huge land areas required.

Key Concepts:

· 29.3 billion 1 square meter solar panels are required for 100% solar power in the U.S. based on current demand 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.

· 29.3 billion 1square meter panels would cover 29,333 km2 which equals 7.2 million acres, or almost all of Maryland and Delaware.

· If 1 square meter PV panels were manufactured at the rate of 1 per second, it would take 929 years to manufacture 29.3 billion panels

· The cost of a solar only approach exceeds $15.27 trillion

· To meet all energy demands for transportation, industrial, and commercial-agriculture would require 176 billion solar panels and 5,574 years to produce

· Moore’s Law is not applicable to the production or deployment of solar panels

· Increases in “solar cell efficiency” have little impact on land area to produce utility scale power

· Unsubsidized Solar has applicability in rural areas and developing countries with low population density

· Google’s Green Energy Project RE<C was canceled; “Renewable energy technologies simply won’t work; we need a fundamentally different approach; Suggest “A disruptive fusion technology…”

Important Additional Supportive Papers

Going Solar

Solar Power Technology & Economics


Peter Diamandis, Co-Founder & Executive Director of Singularity University, in Moffett Field, California recently wrote an article published in Forbes on-line magazine titled “Solar Energy Revolution: A Massive Opportunity” The article starts off by stating Singularity Co-Founder and Google Director, Ray Kurzweil, “projects that the U. S. will meet 100% of its electrical energy needs from solar in 20 years.” Mr. Diamandis also states that Elon Musk, Chairman of the electric vehicle company, Tesla Motors, SolarCity and SpaceX “expects solar power to provide 50% of America’s electricity in 20 years.

Peter Diamandis is probably best known as founder of the X Prize Foundation. In 1980 he enrolled at MIT to study biology and physics where he graduated with a degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering. In 1989 he graduated from Harvard Medical School.

Ray Kurzweil graduated from MIT in 1970 and worked closely with the famed Marvin Minsky in the field of artificial intelligence. He is the recipient of the MIT-Lemelison award in innovation, and has received the National Medal of Technology from the White House as well as the National Inventors Hall of Fame under the U.S. Patent Office. He has received 20 honorary doctorates, and honors from three presidents and is the author of 7 books. His acknowledged area of expertise is in artificial intelligence and machine learning. In 2012 he was appointed a Director of Engineering at Google, heading up a team developing machine intelligence and natural language understanding. Google has since acquired Nest Labs which developed and sells the Nest self-learning thermostat for home use.

Elon Musk received a BS in physics from the University of Pennsylvania and a BS in economics from the Wharton School. Mr. Musk is the respected founder or catalyst of Zip2,, SpaceX, Tesla Motors, and SolarCity.

Discussion & Analysis:

All three gentlemen are well educated and extremely accomplished in their fields. Mssrs Musk and Diamandis in physics & engineering; and Mr. Kurzweil in the field of artificial intelligence, computer sciences, and IT. Mr. Kurzweil is well known as a “futurist” and has an excellent record of predicting technology development paths. All three are rock solid American citizens who have spent a life time building a better future for all of us.

These track records make people assume these predictions must be true. But are they? Should large institutional investors risk substantial capital based on these predictions? Should individual and family investors bet their retirement savings on these predictions? And perhaps most importantly, should public policy and national security be based on these predictions or is further due-diligence in order? The numbers are deceptively enticing to any business person.

Since Mr. Diamandis did not reference specific statements with relevant context, an internet search was conducted to review these “quotes” and their contexts.

We start with Ray Kurzweil and a review of business and consumer publications. Many were found quoting Mr. Kurzweil to say “in 20 Years virtually all power in America will come from Solar.” The news publication published an article so quoting him. The article indicates Mr. Kurzweil’s predictions are based on his “law of accelerating returns” which he derives from Moore’s Law in the semiconductor industry. Moore’s law is often used to define technology development cycles and follows:

Moore’s Law:

As has been observed, over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years.

The law is named after Gordon Moore, co-founder of the Intel Corporation, who described the trend in his 1965 paper. Sometimes the time frame is shortened to 18 months based on Intel’s experience in increasing chip performance and speed primarily through the release of the next generation microcomputer chip.

Another article also published in the 9billion,com says:

such progress has led futurist Ray Kurzweil to project that solar technology will compete with fossil fuels, and will be able to provide 100% of the world’s solar energy by 2030. The basis of his projection is the continual doubling of solar power every two years for the past 20 years. IT professionals might recall the concept of “Moore’s Law” in reference to computer chips.


Mr. Kurzweil is a consummate IT professional. However he does not have a solid state physics background and has not concerned himself with the fundamental parameters surrounding Moore’s law. One is chip die size. More transistor junctions cannot be put on a chip unless the silicon die is increased within certain practicalities. This issue is limited by a fundamental matter of physics based on atomic issues having to do with molecular cross sectional diameters of atoms and the interaction with free electrons traveling across a gap, as well as interconnection issues.

In April 2005, Gordon Moore stated in an interview that the law cannot be sustained indefinitely: “It can’t continue forever. The nature of exponentials is that you push them out and eventually disaster happens”. He also noted that transistors would eventually reach the limits of miniaturization at atomic levels:

It is projected that the end of Moore’s law in terms of junction density will be reached no later than 2016. That is an altogether different issue than the ability to increase performance and speed of microcomputer chips based on design optimization and investment in process capability.

A recent article suggests that IBM and others are looking forward to the “post silicon” era and making significant investments based on the future needs.

The use of Moore’s Law to describe the photovoltaic solar business in terms of market penetration, fabrication and marketing and the appropriateness of solar to replace grid level baseload power generation does not apply; in fact, it confuses and misleads people who are not skilled or studied in the fundamental science. There three principal reasons:

1. The appropriateness of solar to replace grid level baseload power generation. Solar in general, regardless of the collection system: – photovoltaics or PV, concentrated PV, concentrated solar driving conventional steam turbine generators and thermal — are extremely inefficient in comparison to their enormous size and cost. It has been noted that the earth receives more energy from the Sun in just one hour than the world’s population uses in a whole year. The total solar energy flux intercepted by the earth on any particular day is 4.2 X 1018 Watt-hours or 1.5 X 1022 Joules (or 6.26 X 1020 Joules per hour). This is equivalent to burning 360 billion tons of oil per day or 15 Billion tons per hour. However the earth is spinning sphere close to 7,925 miles in diameter at the equator. Thus a fairly small amount of energy falls on a specific surface and for only a few hours at a time. Details are provided in Solar Power Technology & Economics.

People often hear that up to 1,000 Watts of energy are available per square meter of surface area and that all of it can be converted from infrared and visible electromagnetic radiation produced by the sun into electricity. That is a serious misunderstanding. Even Robert Muller, Ph.D. author of “

>Physics For Future Presidents” accidentally made this mistake in his book. David MacKay uses 5-20 watts of electricity per square meter of collection surface in his landmark book “Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air,”.

We put an expert to the task of defining just how much electricity on average can be generated per square meter (1 meter = 39.34 inches.) The number is 37.5 watts, averaged over 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, factoring in historical weather factors such as cloud cover, fog, etc., and in extremely well suited areas in the Southwest United States. A detailed report has been provided based on converting the current 440 GW generation capacity plus required margins with battery storage. The required amount of square land area to collect the required power is 29,333 km2 (7,248,342 acres); that is larger than the entire country of Israel and 50% larger than the state of New Jersey in the USA – or nearly equal to all of Maryland and Delaware. It also equates to a square having sides 171.3 km in length. In practicality the required area would be much larger for allowance between panels to allow construction crews access and to periodically clean the panels as dust and dirt significantly affect conversion efficiency. This requires 29,333,333,333 (29.33 billion) solar panels and 4.4 million battery modules contained in a number 40 shipping container (40 feet X 6 feet 8 feet,) covering a surface area of 130.8 km2 or a square with sides of 11.4 km with zero space between modules. This data is presented in a straightforward fashion for nonscientists in the publication “Going Solar.”

2. Manufacturing considerations. Twenty nine and 1/3 billion is a very large number of panels to manufacture. As pointed out in “Going Solar” it would take 929 years to produce this number of panels if they could be built at the rate of 1 per second. For comprehension, today’s commercially available PV panels are standardized at 1.46 square meters and weigh about 40 pounds. Fabrication is a multistep process involving silicon crystal fabrication, cell construction, interconnection, back plane and frame. Each panel needs to be inspected, tested, and certified to meet specification.

If a manufacturing rate of 1 panel per second could be achieved, it would take 929 years to produce 29.3 billion panels one square meter in dimension. Today’s current production panels weigh approximately 40 pounds and are complicated multi-component assemblies. To be clear this analysis is based on a panel 1 square meter in size. In reality panels differ in size according to the manufacturer and customer specifications. What does not change is 29,333 billon square meters of active semiconductor solar cell collection surface area must cover a similar amount of land area exposed to the Sun.

3. Misapplication of Moore’s Law to solar cell efficiency Improvements.

The issue of solar efficiency is incomprehensible to the average person to say the least. First, available energy from the Sun’s electromagnetic radiation per a given amount of surface area is a function of many factors. This is explained in “Solar Power Technology & Economics”. Because the amount of “harvestable energy” varies drastically based on longitude, latitude, prevailing weather conditions, and day of the year a series of charts has been prepared by NREL (and others) providing a simple bottom line Watt per square meter as averaged from all these factors. This is commonly referred to as insolation.

Thus, the simple increase of solar cell efficiency does not have a proportional increase in electricity produced per square meter. In “Going Solar” the insolation number used in the analysis of a 100% solar replacement of the current U.S. generation capacity is 37.5 Watts per square meter. No amount of wishful thinking can alter this fact. Thus marginal increases in cell efficiencies have a negligible effect on the tremendous land size and number of solar panels to be manufactured. The following data sets illustrate this point.

15% “panel efficiency” This is the current state of the art for most production panels

29,333,333,333 (29.33 billion) 1 sq m panels:

29,333 km2 1 @ second = 930 Years

1,100,000,000,000 ÷ 37.5 = 29,333,333,333 sq m ÷ 1,000,000 = 29,333 km2 v29,333 = 171.3 km X 171.3 km square

22% “panel efficiency” This is the midpoint in published numbers for Silevo/SolarCity

20,000,000,000 (20 billion) 1 sq m panels:

20,000 km2 1 @ second = 634.2 Years

1,100,000,000,000 ÷ 55 = 20,000,000,000 sq m ÷ 1,000,000 = 20,000 km2 v20,000 =141.42 km X 141.42 km square

40% “panel efficiency” This is only achievable in complex 2 gap cells with special optics

11,000,000,000 (11 billion) 1 sq m panels:

11,000 km2 1 @ second = 348.8 Years

1,100,000,000,000 ÷ 100 = 11,000,000,000 sq m ÷ 1,000,000 = 11,000 km2 v 11,000 = 104.88 km X 104.88 km square

55% “panel efficiency” This is the maximum theoretical efficiency based on physics.

8,000,000,000 (8 billion) 1 sq m panels:

8,000 km2 1 @ second = 253 Years

1,100,000,000,000 ÷ 137.5 = 8,000,000,000 sq m ÷ 1,000,000 = 8,000 km2 v11,000 = 89.55 km X 89.55 km square

The Shockley-Queisser limit states that the maximum solar conversion efficiency of an ideal solar cell is around 33.7% assuming a single p-n junction with a band gap of 1.34 eV.

The maximum practical limit for a tandem or dual cell is 47%.

The Physics of Solar Cells,” Nelson, Imperial College Press, London, 2002, page 300, figure 10.9, states that the maximum theoretical efficiency of a tandem four terminal solar cell is 56%


Solar cells work by converting sun light and infrared radiation into electricity. This involves a high energy photon striking the semiconductor portion of the solar cell and transporting electrons across a band gap boundary. For a comprehensive understanding of the physics involved see “The Physics of Solar Cells”, as posted as a screen readable downloadable PDF.

For simplicity the following explanation is offered. Visible Sunlight is composed of a broad spectrum of colors which correspond to increasing photon energy levels. The lowest energy photons come from infrared merging to visible red. The highest energy electrons come from violet and ultra-violet. The following is a graph of the visible electromagnetic radiation from the Sun.


The chart below provides a specific photon energy value across the electromagnetic radiation spectrum starting with low frequency radio waves and ending with Gamma rays. The area of interest for solar cells is in the wavelength area of 800 nm to 350 nm. This represents an energy level of 1 to 1.6 electron volts. An electron volt is a very small amount of energy at 1.60 X 10-19 Joules. One Joule is a Watt second. As can be seen it takes a strong energy flux density to make the solar cell produce useful amounts of electricity!

clip_image009The amount of work done per captured photon energy flux can be increased if photons of different energies could be absorbed preferentially in cells of different wavelength band gap. If the solar spectrum could be split up and channeled into photon-converters of different band gaps, then more of the solar spectrum could be harnessed. Nelson describes this in pages 298-300 in “The Physics of Solar Cells,” Impearl College, UK, World Scientific Publishing Co. Ltd., 2003-2008. Nelson’s Figure 10.6 below shows a power available from optimized one, two, and three band gap systems.


Nelson’s Figure 1.07 below illustrates one possible scheme for exploring multiple band gaps, where sunlight is split up by means of dichoric mirrors and directed on to cells of different band gap.


Nelson’s Figure 1.08 below illustrates two and four terminal configurations for tandem cells. In either case, short wavelength light is preferentially absorbed in the top cell, and longer wavelength light in the bottom cell.


A complete copy of “The Physics of Solar Cells” may be downloaded here as a PDF.

> clip_image017

The most efficient solar cell yet produced in the laboratory is 44.7% as shown in the above graph.

Clearly Moore’s Law has no application to the use of solar cells or the production of them. The fundamental limitation is the surface area of the cell or external lenses in the case of “concentrated PV” required to intercept a specific flux density of sunlight. As shown above increases of efficiency can be made with dual cells and even three cells which have a theoretical maximum efficiency of 55%. However this requires breaking down the spectrum into discreet energy bands which are then focused on semiconductors that are spectrally “tuned” to generate maximum voltage. This requires specialized dichroic prisms or filters and lenses. It also requires exotic semiconductor materials in terms of elemental components. This technique is sometimes referred to as “concentrated PV solar.”

A more common use of the term “Concentrated PV” applies to the use of individual lenses which are used to focus or concentrate great energy flux density onto a smaller surface area of solar cell silicon semiconductor. The purported advantage of this approach is a reduction of the cost of silicon and other fundamental elements used in the semiconductor portion of the cell. This can be accomplished with lenses or parabolic reflectors. This results in a considerable price disadvantage when the cost of power per square meter is considered and the assemblies are complex and do not lend themselves to mass production; certainly not at one per second. Additional cost disadvantages of this approach are the extremely high temperature the solar cell is subjected too which must be dissipated by water cooled metal heat sinks. Whereas some advocates of this approach suggest the hot water traveling through the heat sinks has value, the fact of the matter is it does not. The water will never be hot enough to drive steam turbines for power generation and the solar sites are too far away for use in building heating systems.

clip_image019Examples of a lens and a mirror concentrated PV system are shown below.

In the case of lens based Concentrated PV Panels, the use of lenses requires a separation between the lenses and the solar cells based on the focal length of the lenses. This contributes to the complexity of the structure as well as to overall weight and cost. And the fundamental bottom line is that the mirrors or lenses DO NOT increase the amount of collected sun radiation per square meter of land. If anything they significantly increase the amount of land required because of the exotic construction. As can be seen Concentrated PV is not an appropriate solution for grid level power generation.

clip_image021Follow this link for an example of a government subsidized study to determine the feasibility of a concentrated Photo Voltaic solar configuration.

Concentrated Solar should not be confused with PV Concentrated Solar as it was in one popular article in the9billion site where in the last paragraph they made reference to the Gemasolar plant in Spain.

clip_image023Concentrated Solar works by creating water steam pressure, or in some case vaporized salts pressure, by focusing sun rays captured by tens of thousands (or in the case of the Ivanpah project in California, 170,000+) of mirrors and focusing those beams of collected sunlight on a coil located in a tower several hundred feet high. As the liquid or salts vaporize the high pressure turns a steam generator just as in a coal or natural gas fired plant. The initial benefits were thought to be the liquid or molten salts would stay warm for some time thus “building in” natural storage capability and reducing the need for battery storage. However, experience with Ivanpah has shown this does not work and its owners recently petitioned the State of California Public Utilities Commission to allow it to produce up to 30% of its electrical energy output from natural gas. Google is a principal investor in Ivanpah as well as in a molten salts Concentrated Solar project called Crescent Dunes in Nevada. Operating experience is not yet available from Crescent Dunes.



clip_image025Moore’s second law.

In the case of solar panel manufacturing Moore’s second law is of far greater significance given the huge amount of manufacturing capability needed to produce solar panels in the required multibillion quantities. In the semiconductor business which is the core of the individual solar cells on each panel, as the cost of computer power to the consumer falls, the cost for producers to fulfill Moore’s law follows an opposite trend: R&D, manufacturing, and test costs have increased steadily with each new generation of chips. Rising manufacturing costs are an important consideration for sustaining Moore’s law. This has led to the formulation of Moore’s second law, which is: “The capital cost of a semiconductor fabrication facility also increases exponentially over time.”

We have not found statements by Elon Musk providing percentage of electric power market share predictions. We have found numerous references to his vision and plans: notably, this short article of June 2014 stating that he wants to deliver 10 gigawatts watts of solar panels per year. But what does this mean? Does it mean panels will deliver 10 gigawatts of power 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to electricity users – or does it mean he wants to install 10 gigawatts of panels which are specified to deliver that amount of power under controlled STC (standard test conditions?) There is a big difference.

An examination of a Solar World Sunmodule SW 250 panel shows it to consist of 60 cells 156 mm X 156 mm producing a solar panel approximately 1.46 m2. The panel is advertised to deliver 250 Watts of electricity under laboratory STC conditions. The specification provides an IV curve– where I is current in amperes and V is voltage. Current (amps) X voltage = Watts. Their curve shows that at STC laboratory conditions when the panel is illuminated at 1,000 W/m2 it produces slightly over 250 Watts. The curve also shows that at the assumed insolation defined in Going Solar the amount of electricity is 50 Watts as defined in the insolation averages. Our precise calculation puts the true value at 54.75 Watts.

Thus the actual power generated from one panel averaged over 24 hours, 365 days, is only 21.9% of the output advertised.

Production of 10 gigawatts of power based on the STC maximum 250 Watt capability of the panels would require 40,000,000 panels to be manufactured and delivered each year for Solar City to meet its goals. At a production rate of 1 panel per second they would require 1.27 years to produce.

Production of 10 gigawatts of power based on the insolation factor of 37.5% Watts/m2 with operating panels in the real world would require 250,102,040 panels to be manufactured and delivered each year for Solar City to meet its goals. At a production rate of 1 panel per second it would require 7.93 years to produce.

This is another example of Moore’s second law at work:

SolarCity states they want to deliver 10 gigawatts of solar panels yearly. The capital required to build the process capability to manufacture at the run rate of 40,000,000 panels per year is enormous. Note this is for the solar panels only. Additional requirements apply to the electrical inverters required to convert the low voltage DC to 240-120 volts AC required by electricity users.

In actuality the number of panels required to provide 10 gigawatts of power 24 hours a day 7 days a week is much larger. The capital required to build the process capability to manufacture at the run rate of 250,102.040 panels per year is astronomical. And no consideration has been publicly stated about the DC to AC inverters and batteries required to support 24 hour, 365 day electricity generation.

Mr. Musk originally conceived the idea of solar power to market his Tesla Motors products based on “green” PR. This white paper from the Tesla Motors web site shares that vision. The business plan was developed in 2005 on a trip to “Burning Man” in Nevada with his cousins and Mr. Musk agreed to fund what became SolarCity and remains Chairman and major stockholder.

Tesla Motor’s website indicates that its Model S has a minimum range of 302 miles based on a fully charged 85kWh battery. Representative curves of range and electricity consumption in kWh are provided on their website although there are no specific curves relating to acceleration and the slope of the road meaning grade or going uphill.

Driving up hill requires considerably more energy than static elevation driving. And it relates to the velocity or speed and the slope of the hill in combination with the amount of weight in the car. The greater the load, the higher the velocity and the greater the slope, the faster the batteries drain. Add acceleration while going uphill and the batteries are drained even faster. The relationship between mass, time, slope and velocity is a complex one requiring calculus to solve and plot.

Tesla Motors website claims that a small carport sized solar panel configuration can provide enough electricity for a typical days’ worth of driving and still contribute power to the grid. Based on Tesla’s stated range of 302 miles per charge of 85 kWh, the car would obtain a range of 36 miles assuming a home solar panel system of 11.1 square meters (119.5 square feet) of panels based on the 37.5 Watt insolation factor providing 10kWh per twenty-four hours. As can be seen it would take over 8 days to fully charge the car’s batteries assuming zero use. This is opposite Tesla’s inference that the small carport solar system can support all the car’s electricity needs apart from the power grid. The cost of a 11.1 m2 solar system with batteries rated at 10 kWh (in the event a home owner wants to be independent from the grid) would cost over $10,000.

Google has been shown to have a direct and significant business interest in “green energy” and specifically solar. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested and government subsidies obtained.

Google’s Chairman, Eric Schmidt, was a campaign advisor and major donor to Barack Obama and served on Google’s government relations team. President Obama considered him for Commerce Secretary. Schmidt was an informal advisor to the Obama presidential campaign and began campaigning the week of October 19, 2008, on behalf of the candidate. He was mentioned as a possible candidate for the Chief Technology Officer position, which President Obama created in his administration. After President Obama won in 2008, Schmidt became a member of President Obama’s transition advisory board. He proposed that the easiest way to solve all of the problems of the United States at once, at least in domestic policies, is by a stimulus program that rewards renewable energy and, over time, attempts to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy. He has since become a new member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology


Tesla has likewise been shown to have a direct and significant business interest in “green energy” and specifically solar. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested and government subsidies obtained.

SolarCity also has a direct and significant business interest is “green energy” and specifically solar. It too has invested hundreds of millions of dollars and obtained major government subsidies.

It is to be expected that key personnel such as Mr. Kurzweil and Mr. Musk would be passionate in their position adopted by each company.

Cost of 100% solar PV Generation

A simple worksheet showing the system component costs for the 1100 GW solar-only generation system involves over 20 years, assuming the system has a 25-year life cycle due to solar panel degradation, and requires two battery replacement cycles, based on the life expectancy of Lithium ion batteries in ruggedized application. Labor has not been calculated due to the uncertainties of installing a system in which over 900 years are required to manufacture core components. It is obvious however, that a large work force will be required to install the yearly run rate of 31.5 million panels based on a turnout of 1 panel per second.

29.3 billion 1 m2 equivalent PV panels at $125.00 each = $3.67T

4.4 million battery modules as defined in “Going Solar” at $750,000 each = $3.3T

Steel, mounting material, and assorted electronics controls, transformers = $1.5T

Copper and Aluminum for wiring and interconnection = $50B

Land acquisition of 58,666 km2 or 14,496,368 acres at an average price of $5,000 per acre = $72,481,840,000

Steel and related construction material = $750 B

First battery change out $3.3 T = $16.59T

Second battery change out $3.3T = $20.55T (3,260 batteries per year) for 20 years

The total 20 year “overnight cost” of the system is $15.93 trillion dollars

The Utility Industry:

The United States has a current generating capacity of approximately 440 GW meaning at any point in time 440 GW of electricity are available plus a plant margin of 20% to cover maintenance, breakdowns, unplanned peak demands and other emergencies. The following chart shows estimated plant retirement based on age. The utility plant life cycle for a large 500-MW-and-up plant is 60 years meaning the plant must be designed and built to last 60 years with continuous around the clock operation and minimal downtown for maintenance.


As can be seen above the utility generation capacity is relatively stable for the next eight years. Given the regulated nature of utilities and wholesale power providers there is little incentive to invest in more plant capacity other than that required to maintain parity at 2014 levels. By 2025 a significant percentage of the nuclear generation capacity will be off-line as will much of the natural gas (and coal) generation capacity. By 2035 an additional 50 GW of plan capacity must be on-line. The utility plant licensing application to operations cycle is about 10 years. Utilities’ first choice is to have additional coal plants built to carry us through 2050 at present capacity, with a 50% increase to cover demands from the partial electrification of the transportation system. However the EPA’s opposition to coal power under the current administration creates too much risk for investors. Thus natural gas plants will be the preferred choice. The technology exists today and the cost of construction and operations fits the needed profile.

Utilities at the CEO level are not swayed by the social movement and Silicon Valley trends of “going green.” The industry is part of an annual energy industry with annual revenues in excess of three trillion dollars and is well run based on 100 years of business experience and attention to the demands of both regulators and shareholders.

In 2005, the Department of Energy in partnership with green industry firms and environmental groups issued a report partially set forth in the form of an 18 FAQ report. Roughly one half of the Q&As relate to perceived global warming based on CO2 emissions from the utility company. The chart below, produced in October 2014 indicates there has been no appreciable “global warming” over the last 18 years. It should be noted that there are serious errors in physics and the presentation of data in this Q&A. The most obvious is their statement that it will require 185,000 square kilometers to produce all electricity in the U.S. from solar and they compare that to the size of the state on South Dakota. The true number is 1/6th of that, as demonstrated in “Going Solar”.

Yet many solar companies link directly to this extremely rosy and optimistic FAQ, in so far as solar energy goes. Oftentimes, as is the case of SolarCity, this is done on an investor’s section of the web site and is meant to influence the investment community.


This detailed tutorial shows the thermodynamics of Earth’s atmosphere to have great tolerance for carbon dioxide with no increase in atmospheric, land or ocean temperatures.

The principal drivers of the “green energy” movement today are the public and political leadership’s perception of climate change. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested by industry, environmental groups and foundations to mold the need for green energy in the public’s mind and hence its leadership. However over the next few years this “green fad” will likely have dissipated.

As a matter of economics, solar is immediately disqualified as a suitable material energy source based on its extremely low energy flux density, as shown in this comparison of conventional fuel energy sources. (Scroll up for future fusion energy comparisons and scroll down for current green energy comparisons.) Today a 2.5 GW nuclear (fission) power plant can be built for 2.5 billion dollars. The entire US 440 GW generation capacity with 20% margin could be met with 212 nuclear plants sited on existing coal and natural gas plants without major land acquisition costs and for an overnight cost of $528 billion. The “giga solar plant” defined in “going Solar” would have an aggregate cost of over $8 trillion dollars, excluding the cost of construction, and the acquisition of roughly 59,000 square kilometers or 22,780 square miles needed to site 29.333 billion 1 m2 solar collection devices.

Replacing battery modules will cost $3.3 trillion dollars every 10 years — and operating costs as well as panel life cycle and MTBF are incalculable today. In a most likely scenario, the solar panels would all have to be replaced every 25 years due to the effects of solar radiation and weather.

The utility industry is “risk averse” in every sense of the phrase. No utility CEO in the country would support solar on such a grand scale. Today utilities embrace solar only because of regulatory demands and the positive PR value — and then, only for very small amounts of power, such as that supplied by First Solar and its Topaz project in CA, the Aqua Caliente project in AZ, and the Silver State North project in NV. These supply what the industry refers to as “peaking” levels of power and oftentimes a symbolic statement encouraged by the local politicians.

First Solar was the leader in installing large projects for grid level use. In a December 2012 RenewEconomy interview with First Solar CEO James Hughes, he made the following comments regarding utility grid level parity:

“Everyone wants to talk about “grid parity” – I’ve banned that phrase from the lexicon of First Solar. Electricity has value only at a point in time and a geographic place. There is no magic number that describes the true economic cost of electricity. You may have a tariff structure that describes it that way, but that is not the reality, and frankly, sophisticated power markets don’t operate like that. So you have to look at time of day, season and location to determine the true cost of power, and there are lots of times of day, seasons and locations where solar is economic today without subsidy. So our focus is to find those places, find those times of day, and find those market structures where we can apply ourselves.”

The government’s role, past, present, and future.

Over the last decade, the government has principally focused on the possibility of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (AGW) or climate change caused by man’s use of fossil fuels. This focus, in conjunction with the asserted need to stimulate the economy with “green jobs,” has led to tens of billions of dollars being invested in solar research, tax credits and subsidies. Furthermore, it has shaped government policy with regard to energy policy and the EPA’s effective cap on the construction of new fossil fuel plants and a push to limit per capita energy availability of energy as expressed in the MOU signed by the EPA and the United Nations Environment Programme.

More recently, the government has taken note of other viewpoints and the connection between green energy and financial abuse as exhibited in a recent United States Senate staff report.

clip_image031The EPA must be made aware of the fact that energy demand will increase significantly as companies like Tesla Motors and Nisan Leaf begin selling statistically meaningful numbers of electric vehicles. The only current solutions to meet this demand is through fossil fuel utility-scale generation plants and the installed base of operating nuclear plants. The government should be discouraging “fossil fuel disinvestment,” as it is counterproductive to the nation’s national security, industry needs, and and economic health and growth.

clip_image033In “Physics for future Presidents”, Dr. Robert Muller made note of Tesla Motors and the emerging electric car. Tesla has made great strides in its battery module since that book was first released. The fact that Tesla has achieved the range it has is of merit. One gallon of gasoline is equivalent to 36 kWh of electricity. A typical 18 gallon automobile fuel tank is equal to 648 kWh of electricity; the Tesla Model S has an 85 kWh battery module. However, all those batteries must be charged from clean, abundant, affordable, and reliable electricity.

Similarly the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has issued a report calling for Critical Thinking on Climate Change in light of new scientific findings and inaccuracies of the IPPC predictions.

Focus should now turn to the viable replacement of fossil fuels this century simply because they are finite and the national security, and financial wellbeing of the country…indeed the entire world…depends on it. This is an issue of enormous importance, yet few policy makers are aware of it and little effort is being placed on potential (non-solar) solutions.


Public perception.

The perception of the public has been heavily influenced by the media and by the large number of “solar companies” selling home solar systems to augment grid level power: largely subsidized by government subsidies to both the solar companies and end users through tax credits and high “feed in tariffs”.

The public is largely disinterested in science and hence lacks the knowledge to properly evaluate solar’s place, but has nonetheless embraced a false solution that has a negative cash flow solution funded by their tax dollars. That level of enthusiasm poured over when a “Solar Road” project was launched on one of the “crowd source funding sites which raised over $2 million dollars for the project’s sponsors.

The solar deception (for grid level base load electricity generation)

In Mr. Diamandis’ article he set forth his concept of the 6Ds as Digitized, Deceptive, Disruptive, Dematerialized, Demonetized, and Democratized.

Solar is indeed in a deceptive phase. Much misinformation abounds:

· In Dr. Robert Muller’s “Physics for future Presidents” well publicized book he states both directly and through a contrived “ideal student named Liz” that “there is a gigawatt of power in a square kilometer of sunlight and that’s about the same as a (small) nuclear power plant.” Non-scientists would take that statement at face value. 1 km X 1 km = 1 million square meters X 1,000 Watts = 1 billion Watts or a gigawatt. A civil engineer would say “we can build that…in time.” However, in reality you must take into consideration the fact that the Sun is only shinning 12 hours per day, plus regional insolation factors, and then add in margin for maintenance, emergencies and losses in battery charge discharge cycles. Thus all of a sudden, our 1 million square meters only provides an equivalent of grid base load power of 37.5 megawatts which is 8.5% of U.S. current on-line generation capacity. For the record, “Liz” is Dr. Muller’s daughter.

· Dr. Lewis, Dr. Tsao, and Dr. Crabtree prepared a report stating “To supply the power that the U.S. consumed in 2001 (3.24 TW) with similarly efficient solar conversion systems would require a correspondingly smaller surface area, (6) A3.24TW = A15TW · (3.24/15), = 858,792 km2 · (3.24/15) = 185,500 km2. This is roughly 1.9% of the surface area (9,631,418 km2), and 2.0% of the land area (9,161,923 km2), of the U.S. (CIA 2005).”

· Neither is correct. If Lewis, Tsao, et al, were correct it would require 185 billion 1 square meter solar panels to produce our current 440GW generation capacity 24 hours a day 7 days a week. If these panels could be produced and installed at the rate of 1 per second it would take 5,886 years to complete the fabrication and installation.

· The correct required solar collection surface area is 1,100,000,000,000 ÷ 37 sq meters, made up from 29.333 billion, 1-meter-square panels, covering an area of 29,333 km2 (7,248,000 acres, or nearly the area of Maryland and Delaware combined) or a square with sides of 171.3 km long. If these panels could be produced and installed at the rate of 1 per second, it would take 929 years to manufacture 29.3 billion panels.

It is easy to see how people can become blinded and deceived, given the media exposure of the “go solar” campaign, coupled with difficulty in obtaining scientifically correct information and then analyzing it.

It is also easy to see how corporate interests and subsidy seeking are best served by letting the ambiguities remain unsettled.

And we can forgive Mr. Musk, Mr. Kurzweil and his boss Mr. Schmidt (who took this vision all the way to the President of the United States), who in turn made available huge sums of money to fund the vision. In all likelihood they simply did not calculate the numbers associated with the manufacturing run rate, necessary land acquisition, and installation issues. It is easy to be deceived when so many zeros are involved in the mathematical calculations, and that is coupled with wishful thinking.

Both Google and Tesla are making enormous contributions to our society and economy, which will require enormous amounts of clean, abundant, practical energy. Google is perfecting its “machine driven” car, using the research and expertise of Dr. Kurzweil in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Undoubtedly these cars will be electric to a large extent. And Tesla Motors is increasing sales of its electric cars and its battery production.

All those cars and batteries will place an enormous strain on our electrical generation capacity.

Google is in the business of connecting people and making information broadly available to everyone. It would be prudent for both companies to look beyond solar, wind, and the other available green energy sources — and help educate the public and political establishment, promote an informed collaborative effort to define and develop the next generation of green energy, as well as exploit those currently discussed.

To Google’s enormous credit, two of its “green energy project” scientists, Dr. Ross Koninstein & Dr. David Fork authored an article titled “What It Would Really Take to Reverse Climate Change; Today’s renewable energy technologies won’t save us. So what will?” published by the IEEE Spectrum on November 18, 2014. The article concludes with a section stating:

“A disruptive fusion technology, for example, might skip the steam and produce high-energy charged particles that can be converted directly into electricity. For industrial facilities, maybe a cheaply synthesized form of methane could replace conventional natural gas. Or perhaps a technology would change the economic rules of the game by producing not just electricity but also fertilizer, fuel, or desalinated water….”

Investor’s Business daily published an on-line article titled “Google Scientists Admit Renewable Energy Can’t Work” on November 11, 2014. The article noted “…the most remarkable admission from Google is that the technology just doesn’t work — at least not now. Two of the lead scientists on the RE<C project, Ross Koningstein and David Fork, both with Stanford, wrote the following devastating critique of the future of green energy in an article posted at IEEE Spectrum: “At the start of RE<C, we had shared the attitude of many stalwart environmentalists: We felt that with steady improvements to today’s renewable energy technologies, our society could stave off catastrophic climate change. We now know that to be a false hope….”

“Google’s setbacks in green energy were even more embarrassing when the company also had to admit it couldn’t even power its own data centers with the solar paneling it had installed. According to the company statement:

“The plain truth is that the electric grid, with its mix of renewable and fossil generation, is an extremely useful and important tool for a data center operator, and with current technologies, renewable energy alone is not sufficiently reliable to power a data center.”

Try lighting up a whole city.

Not to be out done, Tesla recently announced its Powerwall product which is available in 7 kWh or 10 kWh configurations.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration states that the average annual 2013 electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,908 kilowatt-hours (kWh), an average of 909 kWh per month. Louisiana had the highest annual consumption at 15,270 kWh, and Hawaii had the lowest at 6,176 kWh. However that average figure is annualized and does not allow for peak power used on days when the clothes are dried or the air conditioner is running. Furthermore a residential electricity user who averages 909 kWh per month uses 30 kWh per day which is three times the Tesla 10kWh Powerwall. And this places even more demands on sizing the solar panel array as it must generate an equivalent amount of power (30kWh) over say five to seven hours to be available to the customer over a 24 hour period.

However it gets even more complicated and expensive, depending on one’s geographic location. Why? Because many people do not live in the sunny southwest but rather live in areas of the country which may have several cloudy days in a row. On cloudy days the solar system produces a very small fraction of its normal power. Thus, one would have to have enough Powerwall batteries to provide household power for multiple days when it is cloudy and the Photovoltaic panel array would have to be sized sufficiently large to fully charge all the Powerwall batteries. Thus a $20,000 system rapidly becomes a $200,000 system. This is a very important point because no one wants to wake up with food in the freezer thawing and being unable to cook it in their microwave oven.

As explained in our “Going Solar” analysis, the solar energy industry has detailed regional information it refers to as “insolation” which correlates the actual number of radiant watts per meter squared on a yearly averaged basis. This takes into account latitude, longitude, climatic conditions and length of sunshine per day. Generally speaking the further north one goes the less radiant energy there is, due to atmospheric absorption. Likewise, areas of fog and high relative humidity preform less well.


So in reality a considerably larger battery Powerwall is required if residential electricity users are to maintain their current standard of living and “go off grid.” A publically available report on the Powerwall explains details and a review published by the AP.

And it should be stressed that the above analysis is for home power only. It does not consider charging the batteries of a Tesla or other electric car which is described in an earlier section of this article.

On May 1, 2015, a video was published by Tesla Motors titled: “Elon Musk Debuts the Tesla Powerwall.” In the video Mr. Musk explains that Tesla company is “basically Tesla Energy” and that their mission is to replace all fossil fuels with power obtained from “the handy fusion reactor in the sky” using solar photovoltaic panels and batteries to store the power when the sun does not shine.

A Complete written transcript of Mr. Musk’s presentation is available as a PDF download

The point is made that this requires only a small land area he refers to as the “blue square.” The blue square is shown superimposed on a map and located in the Northwest portion of the Texas Panhandle. The image cannot be reconciled to the numbers we have calculated based on our analysis of the required land area.

Professor Andrew Smith of the University College London Energy Institute posted that the “Blue Square” appears to be reconciled at 10,000 km2.

clip_image037Our analysis shows something very different. The fact of the matter is that 29,333 km2 of active surface area solar cells (the solid state electronic component which converts photons from sun energy into electricity) are required to provide U.S. baseload power based on 2013 generation capacity 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This does not include the inert solar panel area nor the spacing between rows of panels to allow installation and maintenance of panels and site location for battery modules with low voltage DC to high voltage AC converters. In reality considerably more land surface area than the 29,333 km2 is required.

Near the end of the video, it is inferred that the solar panels and batteries would be installed on a distributed basis meaning on residential homes and businesses and that no large land area is needed. The article referenced and linked above points out this is cost prohibitive many times over based on today’s current electricity prices. Moreover the PV panels have a life expectancy of less than 25 years and the battery life is less than 10 years at best.

From an engineering standpoint Tesla will in all likelihood state that the best configuration is a hybrid based on the disintegration of the strong, resilient, robust, power grid regulated by public policy for the public good. Their solution would be to replace the current power grid with “micro grids” of interconnected homes using solar panels and battery packs which would average out local supply and demand. However, the power distribution system is complicated and the solar generated power must be converted from low voltage DC to much higher voltage AC power using the Tesla power pack. Such a proposal would demonstrate a lack of understanding of AC power theory and the difficulty of AC parallel circuits where power is injected at multiple points in a network. In such a configuration a tremendous amount of the home generated power injected on the “micro grid” would be lost in heat due to dynamic real time changes in power factor or reactive power considerations, and the inability to precisely match frequency and phase angles as we explain in this technical article’s “engineering challenges” associated with storage and distributed generation.

Perhaps a better use of Tesla’s “giga factory” and their management capability would be to manufacture very large battery modules needed for power grid use as discussed in the storage technologies article. That could justify investment by the utility industry and supported by the rate base under full disclosure with transparent bidding and sales contracts.




· Mssrs Diamandis, Kurzweil, and Musk are all patriotic high achieving citizens.

· All three have business reasons to promote green energy based on the perceived belief that utility CO2 power plant emissions affect the climate and that in today’s world of scientific state-of-the-art solar is the best solution.

· Tesla Motors is a great company and the electric car is a great idea. However as more and more are built, we must generate much more electricity to charge their batteries. Today, setting nuclear aside due to public perception, fossil fuel electricity is the lowest cost, and most reliable.

· Solar in fact is not an appropriate utility baseload grid level solution based on cost, required land area, operational expenses, and short life cycle.

· Solar can be effective for individual corporate and a small percentage of residential customers willing to pay the high up-front costs and long payback periods.

· Unsubsidized Solar has applicability in rural areas and developing countries with low population density and extended time before they will be connected to a power grid.

· Allowing the public to develop a false sense of security, believing solar is going to meet the country’s energy demands, is neither prudent nor responsible.

· The financial well-being of the country in two to three decades depends on energy decisions that must be made over the next 2 to 5 years.

· The National Security interests of the country are not best served by solar or even the suggestion that it may be a viable solution.

· A definite need exists for a scientific breakthrough in a very high energy flux density energy source.

· A corresponding business opportunity presents itself to an entity(ies) that are willing to take the risk and fund the science, engineering, and R&D leading to such a breakthrough and subsequent commercialization. Atomic fusion is the only realistic solution to the extent we discount nuclear fission.

· On November 9, 2006 Google recorded a presentation made by Dr. Robert Busard at their facility. Dr. Busard explained the need to solve fusion before fossil fuels run out. At 2 minutes 45 seconds, Dr. Busard makes the point that most of the very bright and talented engineers at Google do not have the physics and math background to understand fusion because Google is an IT company, and hence most of its technical staff has a computer science and IT background. The Google Talks presentation is on-line.

· Google is in the business of bringing information to people throughout the world. Google should augment its investments in solar and other current green power by bringing people, knowledge, and a crowd source like a project to “solve energy” for the world as Dr. Busard mentioned.

· Google must provide honest, accurate, non-utopian, apolitical information to the public and political establishment, so that we can make informed decisions that will best serve the vital and complex needs of our entire nation – and not merely the selfish or ill-informed interests of certain industrial, political, financial or environmentalist factions.


[This essay has been updated to correct some punctuation and formatting errors  along with a new more accurate spectral chart on 7/31/15]


400 thoughts on “The Green Mirage

  1. What a great post. Thank you so very much.
    I would add that if the government would get out of the way and let a free market decide, then there would be plenty of inexpensive electrical power. I would guess that coal, gas, and thorium would dominate the market with thorium mostly winning in the long run. (sorry, I don’t know what I mean exactly by “the long run”)
    I do know one thing for sure and that is that we were told here in Florida way before the current CO2 hysteria that solar was the cheapest way to heat our pools and homes. That proved to be untrue in the real world.

    • I agree this is a great post. Will take me some time to digest the different aspects but at least it is a great starting point.

    • I do not understand the fixation on thorium. Thorium is just a nuclear fuel as is uranium. We have plenty of both. The real discussion should be on nuclear technology. There is the current water cooled reactors, different types of breeder reactors, pebble bed reactors, high temperature liquid cooled reactors, and my favorite, liquid fuel reactors.
      China is working on all of the above. They seem to be the only ones who are willing to make the investments necessary to make it happen. It will be interesting to see what rolls out of China in the next 10 years.

        • “Silver ralph” The Thorium community is fond of saying that Thorium has a less aggressive radioactive waste series. However, the actinide decay chain is similar to uranium & plutonium and is, in fact, complicated by heavy gamma ray radiation. This is very problematic in reactor design and instrumentation as well as in the disposal of the radioactive waste. Furthermore, Thorium is a fertile material not a fissile material which means it must operate in conjunction with uranium in a thorium/uranium fuel cycle. The thorium community will also say that thorium cannot be used in weapons programs. However uranium 233 can be breed from thorium which in turn can be weaponized. Thorium is no fission utopia. Fission is fission. It is a bridge now to the future but it must be replaced by fusion sooner than later. Edward Teller and Ralph Moir wrote a definitive paper on the potential use of Thorium in Molten Salts Reactors in 2004. A PDF is available at: To learn more about the facts regarding Thorium see: See also this Scientific fact based report on Thorium from the World Nuclear Association:

      • You are correct, Tomer. Thorium breeding may have a role to play hundreds of years from now. Now, it is just a very expensive way to produce uranium.
        I must point out that the gamma problem is undefined. U.S. experiments with thorium in neutron flux did produce small quantities of the ultra-nasty, gamma-emitting U-232. These experiments used thorium targets in conventional fission reactors. What will happen in other types of reactor configurations is unknown. It may be no problem. We won’t know til it’s tried. It is possible that U-232 may kill a $10,000,000,000 project. It’s good that the Chinese are going to try it out for us. Meanwhile, we have conventional sources of uranium for centuries.

    • Thorium is a fertile element not a fissile element. It can only be used in fission reactions in a thorium/uranium fuel cycle. The actinide decay product chain (radioactive waste composition of radioactive elements) is very similar to that of U233 and U235 however thorium has a very heavy gamma radiation component that is problematic in reactors and very dangerous in the waste products. The “thorium community” says thorium can not be weaponized, however uranium 233 can be breed from thorium in reactors which can be weaponized. Fission is fission. It is a good bridge to fusion over the next couple of decades. In the future fusion can be used to transmutate a hundred years of accumulated radioactive waste from 400+ reactors around the world to non radioactive waste as well which is in it self a huge business revenue producing opportunity. For the REAL FACTS on thorium please follow this link to:

      • Fusion power is “pie in the sky”. I have been waiting for more than fifty years for fusion. At this point what is the longest fusion reaction? Is it still measured in microseconds or have we made it to milliseconds yet? Let’s face it we won’t be able to control a fusion reaction until we are able to control gravity. It is the only possible way to contain the plasma. Since we have no idea how to control gravity this won’t happen soon. Thorium reactors have been made and they work.

        • “Matt Bergin” To learn the current status of fusion power go to my website. It is an extensive site taking many years of work to produce. Note my article “Who Killed Fusion” and its derivative 8 part series I wrote with pat Boone in Hollywood for non-scientists. Find the Science section and Fusion science section. Drop down to Innovative Confinement and the PJMIF (Plasma Jet Magneto Inertial Fusion) section and my white paper (I am co-author along with about 7 others…) See also the fusion news section and the fusion video section.
          Regarding your comments about thorium please note that the Thorium community is fond of saying that Thorium has a less aggressive radioactive waste series. However, the actinide decay chain is similar to uranium & plutonium and is, in fact, complicated by heavy gamma ray radiation. This is very problematic in reactor design and instrumentation as well as in the disposal of the radioactive waste. Furthermore, Thorium is a fertile material not a fissile material which means it must operate in conjunction with uranium in a thorium/uranium fuel cycle. The thorium community will also say that thorium cannot be used in weapons programs. However uranium 233 can be breed from thorium which in turn can be weaponized. Thorium is no fission utopia. Fission is fission. It is a bridge now to the future but it must be replaced by fusion sooner than later. Edward Teller and Ralph Moir wrote a definitive paper on the potential use of Thorium in Molten Salts Reactors in 2004. A PDF is available at: To learn more about the facts regarding Thorium see: See also this Scientific fact based report on Thorium from the World Nuclear Association:
          If you have any specific questions on fusion please feel free to direct them to me at or call me at +1-916-482-2020. Thank you for your comment. Regards, T. D. Tamarkin

      • But if the amount of money that has been wasted on Climate Science/CAGW had instead been invested in nuclear, who knows whether fusion would now be a reality.
        We have wasted vast sums of money on what was obviously a non issue, or an issue where adaption would be the best response, to the detriment of future generations.

      • Tomer D. Tamarkin I didn’t ask a question.

        I just pointed out to Matt Bergin that “fusion” has been available for decades.

        It is not a net energy producer, but can occur in devices called “neutron sources” for laboratories and other applications.
        Breakeven in a confined reaction hasn’t happened yet….there are a few competing ideas being tried, but the only net release of significant amounts of energy here on earth from fusion has been uncontrolled detonation.

      • But if the amount of money that has been wasted on Climate Science/CAGW had instead been invested in nuclear, who knows whether fusion would now be a reality.

        The accountants and politicians who run our society like to think that technological advance is purely a function of money – that you shop for new technology like buying things at the supermarket; as if all we need to do is decide to put solar power or fusion or whatever in our shopping cart to make it happen. The reality is that money is not usually the main constraint blocking technological advance, and throwing money around often doesn’t help. It just confuses matters by inflating the number of people running fruitlessly around in circles pretending to look for a solution for a problem they don’t know how to solve. Technological advance is constrained mostly by the limits of what is possible. In many cases breakthroughs are required to enable new technology. Those can’t be purchased on some kind of schedule.
        Still waiting for my flying car.

      • Matt Bergin
        July 29, 2015 at 11:38 am
        Thorium reactors have been made and they work.
        Can I get some of what you are smoking?

      • I have never seen it claimed that the fusion energy extracted from the LL Nova “whack-a-mole” machine has yet exceeded the energy required to build the fuel packet that they scrunched.
        I would consider break even to mean that they extract more (usable) energy from the fusion reaction, than it took to fire the laser beam.
        I’m a little puzzled by the paper that said the D-T fusion reaction yields 14.1 MeV neutrons, but the D-D fusion only gives about 2 1/2 MeV.
        55 years ago I built a neutron detector (scintillation) and also a “Tissue Equivalent” neutron monitor, to use in a lab that fired Deuterons, at a heavy ice target, deposited on a copper heat sink, with a 600 kV Cockroft Walton accelerator.
        I’m pretty darn sure that the fast neutrons that were produced were 14 MeV, and not 2 1/2.
        I think you also got reactions that produced protons. Maybe they were the 14 MeV product.
        The monitor used a proportional gas counter, that responded to neutrons equivalent to the tissue damage in human tissue, and covered all the way from thermal neutrons to the 14 MeV range.
        The Physicists were studying the polarization of the proton and neutron beams; while the theorists, were trying to calculate all of that from models, or QM.
        Detection of the neutron by scintillation operated by generating a “knock on” proton in the scintillator crystal (Stilbene or Anthracene). Gammas are also detected from electrons emitted from the material. My detector, could discriminate between alpha, beta, and gamma or neutron radiation, and count each one independently of the others.
        Well I didn’t get too far into the actual D-D collision reactions, so I don’t recall exactly what the reactions were. But I don’t recall us having any T around anywhere.

      • Well, the heavens may split open and take me, but I am lining up with Joel Jackson on this one.
        Never thought I would see the day.
        I just cannot get behind the pessimism of this article. Sorry.

  2. Being smart/educated doesn’t guarantee good decisions. Look at (the otherwise genius) Edison backing DC for electric utilities despite all the evidence that AC was the only reasonable option.

    • Or IBM deciding not to go into the personal computer market because they didn’t foresee anyone needing or wanting a personal computer.

      • Wrote a printer driver for Kodak in c.1997. Smartest customers ever, by a long shot. Predicting the future is difficult.

      • You’re thinking of DEC, not IBM. IBM “legitimized” the personal computer, especially in commercial markets.
        They are now out of that business, because the profit margins are too low. Lenovo (in China) bought it out and is doing okay. My primary computer at work is a Lenovo Thinkpad.
        I really wish DEC had put forward an LSI PDP-11 running RT11 in the late 1970s, but they wouldn’t consider that because it would impact sales of larger systems. I was at DEC then, in the PDP-10 group, and left around then to join a startup. It occurred to me that while DEC didn’t want to compete against itself, other companies would certainly do so. Some 20 years later, Compaq bought DEC.

      • IBM still underestimated the popularity of the desk top and the willingness of people to buy them from companies not named IBM. The drop in sales of mainframes came close to putting the company out of business in the late 80’s.

      • Or radio shack not recognizing that it could have been the best buys of the 80’s for all computers.

  3. This is the reality with all the B*ll Sh*t removed, it just goes to show that these people right up to the President have absolutely no idea what they are advocating.
    Or do they?
    Is it all about the Money and nothing to do with “Saving the Planet”, you bet it is.
    Talk of withdrawal of the Green Subsidies has the UK “Green Investors” fleeing like rats from a sinking ship.
    As will happen everywhere once the massive subsidies and Loans stop coming.

    • The money is in the scam, even Warren Buffett knows that – worse yet he is gong to invest $100 Billion into the Green Scam. I would sell my BH stock unless you know of some government program to help insure his profit.

  4. what was originally:
    Clean Power Investment Slumps 28% in Quarter Amid Market Turmoil
    Highly Cited-Bloomberg-10 Jul 2015
    somehow became this in updated Bloomberg piece:
    10 July Updated 14 July: Bloomberg: Clean Power Investment Declines ***0.2% to $73.5 Billion
    Global investment in clean energy slipped slightly in the second quarter to $73.5 billion…
    ***the figures were pretty well detailed in the original, it would seem! on Energy Live News on 10 July, u had the 28% drop to $53 billion:
    10 July: Clean energy investment down 28% on 2014
    Global clean energy investment fell to $53 billion (£33.3bn) in the second quarter of this year.
    That’s 28% less than the same period last year, according to a new report…
    Michael Liebreich, Chairman of the advisory board at Bloomberg New Energy Finance said:
    how did Bloomberg overlook a full $20 billion of “clean energy” spending in a single quarter when they first wrote the piece?
    more detail below, incl especially ***”Most dramatically, venture capital and private equity investment in specialized clean energy companies which totaled a measly $564 million, which was down 31% on Q1 and down 60% on the second quarter of 2014″. obviously the Green Mirage is looking for more public money or for the institutional investors in control of pensions, etc., to get on board. desperation:
    11 July: CleanTechnica: Joshua S. Hill: Q2 Clean Energy Investments Continue To Lag Behind 2014
    Bloomberg New Energy Finance has released figures showing that clean energy investment sat at $53 billion in the second quarter of 2015, continuing to lag behind 2014 figures.
    Investment numbers for Q1 were revised to stand at $54.4 billion, dropping a little bit further to Q2’s $53 billion mark, which itself was a catastrophic 28% down compared to the $73.6 billion recorded in Q2’2014…
    There continue to be bright spots in the overall darkness, but these are difficult to focus on considering the seeming negative shift in investment figures…
    ***Most dramatically, venture capital and private equity investment in specialized clean energy companies which totaled a measly $564 million, which was down 31% on Q1 and down 60% on the second quarter of 2014. These figures are in fact the weakest in any quarter since the third quarter in 2005 for the VC and PE segment, and distressingly far below the peak of $4.2 billion in the third quarter of 2008…
    “The low VC/PE total reflects the fact that technologies such as wind and PV are now far more mature, and less open to challenge from young companies,” said Luke Mills, clean energy economics analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance…

    • Well, Robin, the local village idiot left a comment on that report in full support of the solar farm. He reckons it will make the village virtually carbon-free. As if. I just wish people like that were made to live with the consequences of their beliefs.

      • I didn’t think Chailey was big enough to warrant an idiot, but it is flat and everything drains through one narrow channel at Lewes, have they thought this through. It doesn’t bother me what they do at Chailey, the cows would probably enjoy it, nosey things cows. If it wasn’t on a flood plain you might think they wanted to convert green field to brown field so they could build on it.

    • Ric Werme.
      DEC had some really nice hardware and a lot of it is still running 40 yeRs on with third party support.
      Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s a bunch of back room boys where I worked got tired of the high “cycle” costs of using the company PDP’s and VAX machines and figured out they could run the same or similar engineering programs on Trash 80’s and Victor 9000’s though it took much longer. It didn’t take long for us to figure out using the big hardware for intensive work and using the desktops for terminals and lower level computing. The Victor 9000 (pre IBM PC) could do pretty much everything the big iron could do with not too large a penalty. For more intensive computing, we would set the desktops up to run over night. Paid the cost of using the desktops in a couple of months. When the IT guys noticed their cycle time was down and figured out why, they had a bird and tried to stop it with a corporate driven mandate that “banned” such “unauthorized” computer use.
      That worked for about as long as it took to write the memo.
      Fun times.
      I started my career with a slipstick and ended it with about as much computing power in a hand held as that old big iron.
      Thanks for the memories

      • Batteries already can do it for individual homes. It’s simply a matter of cost. Why would you want to pay monthly fees to a central solar installation when buying your own for no more than the cost of new fridge you would then have zero energy costs?
        And just as for solar power, the costs for batteries are also dropping exponentially.
        Bob Clark

  5. This is an excellent post – many thanks.
    It supports the UK Government’s move to stop subsidies for solar installations. Hopefully the money saved will now be directed towards research into energies that have the potential to replace fossil fuels in the future — fusion, thorium, and newer forms of nuclear fusion.
    I wish more in the Green movement would understand what is possible and what is not!!

  6. A couple of years ago, someone posted (not on this site), that covering a desert the size of Morocco with solar panels would provide enough electricity to power the entire globe. I pointed out to them maybe it would, but a facility the same size would be needed in the Southern Hemisphere to produce electricity when the Sun had set at the NH site. It would not bear thinking about if it was cloudy at one or both sites or if a volcanic eruption reduced sunlight or a sandstorm covered the solar panels I also pointed out that is there enough rare earth materials on the planet to manufacture this number of panels?
    The whole suggestion is ludicrous and based on the erroneous AGW scare. As Mark Stoval has said Thorium reactors are the way foward.

    • Um: not sure if you’re aware that when the sun shines in the NH it is also shining in the SH. I presume you are referring to the day-night at opposing longitudes, not latitudes.

    • Paving Morroco over with solar cells might work, but there are bigger troublemakers on that side of the world that deserve that treatment more. Having visited Maryland and Delaware, I’d be happy to pave both of them over with solar cells – good riddance (except for the western end of Maryland, where some sensible people still struggle to live under the tax burden imposed by the east end). The real problem would be how to move them to a sunnier spot after we’ve paved them?

      • Maryland and Delaware are small and heavily populated…and not very sunny a lot of the time.
        But there are places in the US where this same amount of land would be one mostly barren county, and with a lot more sun to boot.
        I hate it when anyone uses phony argument techniques to make a point, no matter what side of a fence they are on.

    • So just what rare earth materials do you know of that go into solar panels ?
      Silicon is NOT a rare earth.

  7. With the advent of molten salt nuclear reactors, it is quite impossible to make the case for any other type of power generating technoiology. Molten salt reactors dispel even the most absurd safety concerns about nuclear power and their low build costs and virtually insignificant fuel costs provides economic power production cheaper than any other technology. The fact that these generators donot need to shut down for refuleing and can load-folow, means they can provide power for almost the entire range of demand situations.

    • OK, now I’ll be serious. Molten salt reactors are definitely appealing – the design looks very safe, and you can use Th, U, Pu, or all three (Thorium’s only real advantage over Uranium is that it is more plentiful). Even spent fuel from the Light Water Reactors and various High Level Waste materials can go in there. The liquid fuel allows continual clean up and reprocessing – that allows the source term to be managed to a very low amount for the life of the plant. Reprocessing the fuel to capture fertile & fissile material for reuse means we can really extend the amount of nuclear fuel available on this planet (from less than 100 years to thousands of years worth – maybe we can figure out fusion by then, but what would be the rush?). I really like the atmospheric pressure on the reactor side of the plant – no big driving force behind leaks or fission product releases, and it makes for much lower reactor side structural material costs (reactor vessel, containment, etc.). Emergency Planning would be very simple. The operating temperatures proposed can support thermal to electrical conversion efficiencies in the 40-45% range, and the secondary side (steam plant) would be no more expensive than for a supercritical fossil plant. – Just think, small footprint (no need to pave entire states with more expensive solar cells), low power cost, no nasty smokestack emissions, and a lot less radioactive waste than we produce now for the same amount of power. The real hassle will be to get through the NRC licensing process – the entire bureaucracy there was based on Light Water Reactors (PWRs and BWRs) – there were few exceptions, like the Ft St. Vrain High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor – a very safe square peg jammed into a round hole (too bad we didn’t follow thru with improved versions of that – General Atomics had some sweet ideas left on the drawing board).

      • The Thorium community is fond of saying that Thorium has a less aggressive radioactive waste series. However, the actinide decay chain is similar to uranium & plutonium and is, in fact, complicated by heavy gamma ray radiation. This is very problematic in reactor design and instrumentation as well as in the disposal of the radioactive waste. Furthermore, Thorium is a fertile material not a fissile material which means it must operate in conjunction with uranium in a thorium/uranium fuel cycle. The thorium community will also say that thorium cannot be used in weapons programs. However uranium 233 can be breed from thorium which in turn can be weaponized. Thorium is no fission utopia. Fission is fission. It is a bridge now to the future but it must be replaced by fusion sooner than later. Edward Teller and Ralph Moir wrote a definitive paper on the potential use of Thorium in Molten Salts Reactors in 2004. A PDF is available at: To learn more about the facts regarding Thorium see: See also this Scientific fact based report on Thorium from the World Nuclear Association:

      • Tomer – I used to make my living operating LWRs and solving their problems. I see no reason to avoid adding Thorium to the mix. Its more abundant than Uranium, which is why it will have to be included if we are to have a long term nuclear power future (Thorium is used to make U233, which having a smaller ‘beta fraction’ – delayed neutrons vs prompt – is a wee bit touchier than U235 in a thermal reactor). The molten salt reactors with continuous cleanup & recycling will greatly reduce the waste produced by fission, and result in shorter-lived actual high level waste (300 year isolation needed instead of 100,000 years to drop to background rates). Fusion does not get away from dealing with high energy gammas or radwaste. The isotopes produced with fusion ( for fusion) will be different, and may require different handling – hopefully less difficult than for fission (expect mostly tritium and various neutron activation products – depends on what the eventual confinement devices / energy capture materials are, and tritium is not always trivial).
        Fusion has always been promised as the future, but practical implementation in power plants was 40 years away in 1960, 40 years away in 1980, 40 years away in 2000… Fusion physics is well understood – in the 1950s we proved we can make fusion happen in ridiculous quantities as long as we don’t care about confining it or capturing the energy for practical use or operating a self-supporting sustainable process. We have plenty of examples of self-supporting sustainable process devices, but the closest one is 93 million miles away, has a huge footprint, and we can’t make small ones to carry around yet. Confinement needs a breakthrough – either we have to get very good at controlling high energy plasma at high densities, or some amazing material science breakthrough has to occur – that’s why its always 40 years away – until the breakthrough happens – then its suddenly 10 years, or however long plant permitting and construction takes.
        The molten salt reactor processes have all been demonstrated. We don’t need new knowledge or materials. All we lack is the political environment and the will to build them commercially. Using U/Pu/Th in molten salt reactors could provide clean power for the entire world for a thousand years – which should be plenty of time for your fusion breakthrough or something better to come along.

        • “notfubar” Thank you for your comment. You are preaching to the choir on the use of fission now. And unlike many, you present a reasoned and knowledgeable view on the thorium/uranium fuel cycle. Dr. Edward Teller and Ralph Moir wrote an excellent article on the use of MSR with Thorium (or uranium) in 2004. We have it available at:
          Fusion has suffered from a lack of responsible and cohesive management in the U.S. since 1985 when our fusion program was allowed to be diverted by the Russians and the notion of ITER was first proposed.
          See: for an extensive fusion related resource of science, history, and politics. No hype, just lots of solid facts, videos, and scientific papers.

  8. “Mr. Kurzweil is a consummate IT professional”
    Please, most of Ray’s work is limited to telling clever stories, and most of the uses of what’s been framed as AI are limited to simple feedbacks, like production line speed, regulation of flow rates, and the now famous home thermostat. The use of AI in complex systems that require contingency management is a pipe dream. I’ve seen the same thing in the so called “intelligent data mining” algorithms of the past 20 years. All we do as we research these approaches are find out how little they can do and how easily they fail.

    • Do not forget Ray’s “singularity”…the moment in time that he has calculated it will be possible to download a person’s consciousness into a computer, and hence become immortal.
      It is astounding how much traction this idea has gotten…considering that no one has the slightest idea of how it is that we have a consciousness, where it resides, or any clue as to how to “pour” it into a machine…which seems quite impossible to me, ever.
      Maybe copying it would be a better description of the process they seem t have in mind.
      Think about this: If someone made a perfect copy of your mind, would it be you? I say no. Not even slightly. I would no awareness of this mind. Although it may know everything about me up to the point it was created, I would have no awareness of it, before or after.
      Kurtzweil is sophist and a dreamer. Very smart I am sure,
      So are a lot of people.
      We already know that being smart does not give a person bulletproof ideas.
      The opposite seems to often be the case.

  9. Lovely “numbers” article. Now, would anyone care to do the “weather” article?
    Last 2 years America has had huge snow/temperature problems. What provisions need to be made to clear the panels (even just washing off the dirt/bird crap every now and then). What is the average cloud cover, how well do PV panels work in Northern States at temps of 0 Degrees C and below. What happens during a thunderstorm when all has gone dark in the daytime.
    It really amazes me that clever people think such silly thoughts.

      • And solar panels really suck at night … just when you want to switch on some lights and watch TV 😉

      • I suppose that the “covered in snow” argument may have convinced a lot of people that cars and trucks were a silly idea.
        And windows can break, so why put them on the walls of houses?

      • Cars and windows have a useful purpose that they perform very well. Which entices people to put up with their shortcomings.
        The same can’t be said of solar panels.

      • For Joel from 54 N: I have to clean my solar panels almost every day in the winter to keep them operating effectively. In one case, I tripled the area of the panels so I didn’t have to clean the frost and light dusting so off of them as often. But that still doesn’t help a lot if it is snowing and/or blowing. Plus at 30 below it doesn’t matter if the panels are more efficient if your batteries are frozen. And let’s not talk about using battery powered heating to keep the batteries warm. Cascade effect. Endless do loop. SPV works, but it requires maintenance.
        But in Utah, Nevada, etc, they work well – most of the time. Still need cleaning.

    • I suspect hail storms would require panel replacement on a regular basis (every 2nd or 3rd year) in our part of the country. ‘Course you could always keep them covered with some soft absorbent blanket…that would do the trick!

  10. Solar is great for small, local applications, such as recharging lantern, watch, mobile phone and laptop batteries, lousy for powering factories and cities.
    Electric cars could work standalone, with solar recharging of batteries, with a simple bit of engineering: when you need a recharge you swap your flat battery for an already charged one, rather than waiting hours for your flat battery to be recharged.

    • Was taking a camping trip in a national forest. Got an EXPENSIVE solar charger for a cell phone. 8′ X16″ that had loops for tying to back pack. It only added about 10 % battery per day while hiking w/ it on. Spent one full day in a camp and even with frequent repositioning it did not full charge the phone w/ a 2400 ma battery. Don’t waste your money, buy a second battery and keep it in your pocket with tape on the terminals for the needed emergency.

      • Was the solar charger really 8 feet by 16 inches or 8 inches X 16 inches … if 8 feet it could double as a hammock … hook it up to a motor and it could rock itself 😉

    • You cannot swap over just one battery.
      My dad had an electric car in the early 1990s and it had about 80 batteries weighing about 750kg. It is impossible to swap a fully charged set to replace a spent set. the batteries have to be charged in situ. A fast charge shortens the life of batteries, so ideally they need to be charged slowly.

    • How many sets of batteries do you plan on having at home? It takes at least 3 days to recharge them.
      Not to mention the fact that the battery pack weighs some 500 to 600 pounds. How were you planning on swapping them out?

  11. Aside from the cost, using all green energy would be hellish on our environment.
    “…Using a model of global circulation, Kleidon found that the amount of energy which we can expect to harness from the wind is reduced by a factor of 100 if you take into account the depletion of free energy by wind farms. It remains theoretically possible to extract up to 70 TW globally, but doing so would have serious consequences.
    Although the winds will not die, sucking that much energy out of the atmosphere in Kleidon’s model changed precipitation, turbulence and the amount of solar radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. The magnitude of the changes was comparable to the changes to the climate caused by doubling atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (Earth System Dynamics, DOI: 10.5194/esd-2-1-2011).”

    • Just think of thousands of square miles of sunny land carpeted with devices specifically engineered to absorb as much sunlight as possible. Can you say UHI on steroids?

      • Bart says: “Just think of thousands of square miles of sunny land carpeted with devices specifically engineered to absorb as much sunlight as possible.”

        There’s a word for that

        They call it “ASPHALT”

      • Imagine how hot a completely unshaded, unrelentingly contiguous black asphalt surface 30,000 square km in area would get.

      • I am guessing that 100 years ago, someone could have written an article similar to this pointing out what a bad idea cars are, compared to a horse and buggy.
        Imagine how long it takes to build a car. If we build one car a day, it will take 27 million years to replace all the horses with cars…
        What does the math of one solar panel per second have to do with anything, except that it is a nice sounding made up number to argue against?
        This article is crammed full of straw man arguments.
        But what really is steaming my clams is the amount of effort spent implying that anyone with a financial interest in anything cannot be impartial.
        Whether that is true or not, the fact is that all this work and study and effort was done to shoot down solar for the purpose of promoting a crowd source funding campaign for Mr. Tomarkin’s fusion project.
        This is a primer for a hand out t help fund the single biggest black hole for money in history.
        I am all for fusion, and will be all in on it…the day it is shown to actually work.
        Being against something is easy. But being against something that at least works, while only being for something that may, in fact, never return a single watt of power into a grid above what was used to produce it, is the same thing as the warmistas do.

        • “Menicholas” The fundamental issue is how much energy is received in the way of energetic photons from the sun per square unit of surface area per period time with secondary issues relating to system reserves and storage. The figure of merit is not the production run rate of one “panel per second” but rather the total amount of active PV cell surface area required to produce baseload power. My colleague, Barrie Lawson in the UK, and I have defined this in the “Going Solar” section of our work as linked at the top under “Key Concepts.” A direct link is: If you can point to any specific “straw man” arguments please do so. And if you can find any errors in our “Going Solar” system requirements please point those out. In terms of the comments regarding financial interests, that is absurd. My email address is and my cell number is +1-916-482-2020. Please bring those to my direct attention. In terms of any interest I have in fusion energy development please see our very extensive website at: Fusion is still in the experimental science stage. In all likelihood we can look forward to a demonstrate a sustained positive net energy gain greater than 10 over the next decade. Commercialization must follow extensive R&D and some non-trivial applied materials science and engineering. Anyone who says they “will do fusion” on a traditional crowdfunding campaign is less than honest to say the least. I certainly would not state that! Feel free to send me any factual errors based on science and mathematics in The Green Mirage article and we will analyze them and revise the article if so required. Thank you for your professional courtesies. Regards, T. D. Tamarkin

      • Menicholas the “one panel per second” meme is a familiar technique used with a crowd of numerically challenged people. What Tomarkin fails to mention is that in 2014, about 50 GW of panels were produced in existing factories. If you do the math, that equates to about 1 panel every 13 seconds.

        That fact will put the “one panel per second” result into perspective.

      • “If you do the math, that equates to about 1 panel every 13 seconds.

        That fact will put the “one panel per second” result into perspective.”

        Hmmm, so 13 times slower than one per second, which requires 930 years, so 12,090 years. Of worldwide production at current rates.
        “Menicholas the “one panel per second” meme is a familiar technique used with a crowd of numerically challenged people.”
        Were you trying to be ironic?

      • Yes, if we build a second factory, that one per second becomes two, and all the numbers are cut all the way in half, just by a snap of the fingers!
        Build ten such plants, and whoa…now we are cooking.
        Come up with a way to do it better, cheaper and faster, and from that moment a=on, every panel will be cheaper and faster to build! Forever!
        Look how long it used to take to sequence a genome…it was thought impossible to ever be practical.
        Things change.
        Things that need incremental improvement are likely to improve faster that something which has never been made to work!

      • PS, even with the solar panels, you are still going to need every inch of asphalt, since none of those electric cars have learned to fly yet.
        So we are talking in addition to, not instead of. Sheesh, try thinking for once.

      • Menicholas, if you are going to come up with an analogy, at least try to get one a little less stupid?
        Read up on the many problems with horses and how cars actually solved that problem for most people.
        People voluntarily switched to cars because they wanted to. They didn’t need massive govt programs to force them to buy a product they didn’t want.

      • The one panel a second point was in response to the claim that we can be 100% solar in 20 or 30 years.

        • “MarkW” The fundamental issue is how much energy is received in the way of energetic photons from the sun per square unit of surface area per period time with secondary issues relating to system reserves and storage. The figure of merit is not the production run rate of one “panel per second” but rather the total amount of surface area required to produce baseload power. My colleague, Barrie Lawson in the UK, and I have defined this in the “Going Solar” section of our work as linked at the top under “Key Concepts.” A direct link is:

      • “Yes, if we build a second factory…”
        No, if we double worldwide production, then double it again, etc… He wasn’t talking about one factory, he was talking about one world.
        Such activity, even were it possible (which it isn’t – we’re talking so much material that the bottlenecks would be insurmountable in any reasonable length of time), would have dire environmental consequences.

      • Mark, my point had nothing to do with cars, it had to do with production numbers, and extrapolations.
        If it makes you feel better about something to call people stupid, by all means knock yourself out.
        Back in the early twentieth century, no one had any idea how many cars would be sold, or where all the gas would come from.
        Without knowing it, you make my point even stronger…when people decide they want something, when there is demand, supply will follow. An examination of how many cars could be produced, judged by someone in 1910, might have sounded exactly like the point made in the top article.
        And I must have missed something…who is forcing you to buy solar panels?
        Are you simply referring to your tax dollars subsidizing something you hate?
        Relax…it is all borrowed money! Your taxes and mine do not even cover the postage for the checks they mailed out to people scamming the gubnamint, for yesterday alone!

      • It is just silly to argue that, even if we wanted them, we could not build them in less than hundreds of years. Let alone almost a thousand years.
        If there was demand, they would be built…fast!
        Has there ever been anything that could not be built fast enough…for more than time it took to build a factory?
        Which is the same as the amount of time to build a thousand factories.
        The US went from the great depression to the largest manufacturer of military hardware the world had ever seen in about 18 months or less.
        Touch screens went from a curiosity to a run rate in the tens of millions per month nearly overnight.
        I would venture to say that smartphones are a lot more complicated to build than a solar panel.
        Solar panels are different , of course.
        Everything is different.
        But the motivation to profit is the same…supply will meet demand, and do so quickly.

      • Menicholas July 29, 2015 at 4:07 pm
        “I am guessing that 100 years ago, someone could have written an article similar to this pointing out what a bad idea cars are, compared to a horse and buggy.
        Imagine how long it takes to build a car. If we build one car a day, it will take 27 million years to replace all the horses with cars…”
        Horses were DANGEROUS. In 1900 more people were killed in traffic accidents in New York City, by runaway horses or being kicked by hoses, than were killed in traffic accidents in 2000 in New York City.

  12. Elon Musk’s Powerwall is an attempt to reduce the cost of batteries by increasing the number of batteries built. The trouble is that there is a better technology for stationary batteries.
    Aquion is producing non-HAZMAT batteries at around the same cost of as lead-acid technology. The batteries are larger and heavier than the Powerwall batteries but, for stationary applications, that doesn’t matter much. Aquion has their first large scale customer so we should have real data on the economics and reliability in a couple of years.

  13. One almost good news solar story.
    I work for a very large shopping mall owner. The owner decided to install a very large solar panel array on top of one of the malls (which is located within the tropics).
    The array powers the whole centre during daylight hours. Any excess is fed to the grid – when the authorities allow. Obviously the centre requires grid power after daylight hours but so far the subsidy gained by the excess power flowing into the grid during the daylight hours has amortized the night.
    The system will pay for itself within four years.
    Now the bad news.
    If the grid feed in subsidy disappears then night time grid energy use will need to be paid and the four year cost recovery will go up.
    The fire services may not be inclined to put out a fire on the roof with so much voltage up there.
    The mall is in a tropical area close to the sea. experience has shown that corrosion is a problem.
    The grid may in future refuse to accept any feed in because the amount generated unbalances their system.
    One advantage is that the tenants in the mall get almost free power during daylight hours.
    This makes the centre very attractive for tenants – i.e. for the owner no vacancy in the mall.

    • There’s a lot in your comment that doesn’t rattle right. Particularly this:
      The fire services may not be inclined to put out a fire on the roof with so much voltage up there.
      Tells me you don’t really understand solar cell technology.

      • “So much voltage up there” is an amateurish and meaningless phrase. How much voltage? Numbers please. Between what two physical points is it measured? Where is the DC inverter (or inverters) located in the described installation?
        I’m an electrical engineer. I’m somewhat acquainted with “research on the net”.

      • There’s usually lots of electricity on any commercial roof … airconditioners, air exchange, heaters, transformers. If the electricity comes in via the roof, there are many kV. Neon signs have around 2 – 15 kV. Firefighters should not be deterred by typical photovoltaic voltages, they’re trained to deal with worse.

      • Some of the high capacity systems wire panels in series to get 300 – 400 volt DC voltage for simpler conversion to AC. Since this is a Mall, they probably want 3 phase etc. Peak-to-peak single phase 120 VAC is 340 volts. .

    • A mall near me could not get a good rate without paying for the ten mile extension of the necessary HV line. So, they installed a NatGas powered diesel generator to make their electricity. The water heated by the diesel was used in a Water-Lithium Bromide Vapor Absorption Refrigeration System. This cooled the building. The cooler could be bypassed and the heat of the diesel heated water used for heating the mall in the winter. Cost of this system was less than the charge for the electric co. extending the required service. Annual cost of NatGas, maintenance/service including a fulltime maintenance engineer averages less than the preferred electric rate. Thus as the maintenance engineer explained to me “They get Free HVAC, jus by making the electricity required for normal operation of the Mall.

      • Make the mall big enough and you don’t need heating. Case – Mall of America in Twin Cities, Minnesota. No heating system installed. Bodies and lighting supply all that is needed even in Minnesota winters.

  14. The heat is beneath your feet, using a venture system (cold water in hot out ) would not require the billions of solar $ to design and operate

      • BUT ! when ” logical” minds throw a few billion $ at a problem it is normally resolved!It does not need a trillion more to keep it afloat !

  15. “in 20 years virtually all power in America will come from Solar.”
    We were told by highly-qualified, advanced-degreed “experts” that cancer would be cured within 20 years.
    That was 50 years ago.

    • Eustace Cranch
      July 29, 2015 at 7:06 am
      ““So much voltage up there” is an amateurish and meaningless phrase. How much voltage? Numbers please”
      In typical installations with separate inverters mounted within the building, it’s not uncommon for the DC input to be as much as 700 volts – and that’s under load. Now imagine what it might be on a sunny day with the isolator switched off. In light of that would be happy aiming a fire hose up at a burning roof? There are already plenty of instances where the fire brigade have taken one look and simply stood back and let the building burn down. Roof mounted panels can also be a problem before the roof itself catches fire – in large warehouses they will often want to cut holes to let the smoke escape, so as to aid their searches inside. With a roof covered in solar panels this becomes difficult if not impossible. A friend has personal experience of this, when an adjoining unit in the building he shares suffered a machinery fire. The unit in question had a 60Kw array up top. Not only did this make the fire more difficult to deal with, the following morning (as the sun rose) wires inside started sparking…

  16. There’s mention of David McKay and his book SEWTHA.
    It is a Must Read, especially where he calculates the energy gathering/conversion efficiency of plants, aka biomass – under UK conditions.
    It is 2 watts per square metre.
    If, all UK farmland was to grow canola (rape-seed) for conversion to biodiesel, it would only make ~350 litres per car in the UK. Good for maybe 4000 miles when the average UK car goes 10,000 miles per year? That is sooo going to work. not.
    That does not include trucks, buses, trains, tractors, construction plant etc etc
    Again UK conditions, the rule of thumb for solar panels is that they generate, on average over a typical UK year, 10% of rated power. Manufactured panels are usually 150 watts per sqm so solar PV is maybe 7 times more efficient than biomass.
    That 37 watt figure is a fairy tale dream come true for this part of the world – even very sunny/dry southern England gets maybe 20 watts per sqm. (I eavesdrop on a renewable energy forum where they compare solar PV results every month, I can back that up if needed)
    Its worse than we thought, it really is.

  17. A super article which will require some time to digest properly.
    Under ideal conditions, almost all PV power is generated during a 5 hour window each day, so about 75% of the power required must be stored or transmitted over great distances from excess capacity in remote regions. Storage is structural problem number 1 which must be resolved before considering PV for 100% grid supply, and storage has a serious recurring cost in the same price range as fuel for coal/gas generation, along with significant environmental impact.

  18. An excellent article!
    I am a retired nuclear engineer. I have calculated, demonstrated and posted many of the bullets listed in the leading paragraphs on numerous web sites. The vitriol I get in return would heat the average size home for a year. Like the insane idea of CCS – where are their brains? Even a HS kid with HS chemistry can determine that the mass alone will be more than twice the mass of the burned product. The volume of the CO2 will be many orders of magnitude worse. The cost of compression of that volume would be at least 1/2 the profit of the power plant. Then you have to transport it – that means it would cost twice as much to move it away as it did to haul in the coal, oil, etc. Where are their brains?

  19. I think perhaps a key quote is:

    To Google’s enormous credit, two of its “green energy project” scientists, Dr. Ross Koninstein & Dr. David Fork authored an article titled “What It Would Really Take to Reverse Climate Change; Today’s renewable energy technologies won’t save us. So what will?” published by the IEEE Spectrum on November 18, 2014. The article concludes with a section stating:
    “A disruptive fusion technology, for example, might skip the steam and produce high-energy charged particles that can be converted directly into electricity. For industrial facilities, maybe a cheaply synthesized form of methane could replace conventional natural gas. Or perhaps a technology would change the economic rules of the game by producing not just electricity but also fertilizer, fuel, or desalinated water….”

    As this shows there are some people thinking that solutions may not yet have been invented.
    Who, in 1960, say, would have a clue about how flat screen TVs would work – and be so ubiquitous – 50 years later? And so it is with electricity generation: it doesn’t have to always involve steam. Not that I can see solar as the answer.

    • What the heck Harry? Why didn’t they just say let’s get on with conventional nuclear and start deploying thorium reactors and solve the issue of waste disposal!

      • The Thorium community is fond of saying that Thorium has a less aggressive radioactive waste series. However, the actinide decay chain is similar to uranium and is, in fact, complicated by heavy gamma ray radiation. Furthermore, Thorium is a fertile material not a fissile material which means it must operate in conjunction with Uranium. The thorium community will also say that Thorium cannot be used in weapons programs. However uranium 233 can be breed from Thorium which in turn can be weaponized. Thorium is no fission utopia. Fission is fission. It is a bridge now to the future but it must be replaced by fusion sooner than later. Edward Teller and Ralph Moir wrote a definitive paper on the potential use of Thorium in Molten Salts Reactors in 2004. A PDF is available at: To learn more about the facts regarding Thorium see:

        • Tomer the issue is: nuclear is a major part of the transition away from fossil fuels game, set, match! We should stop pussyfooting around about it! I think that Ed Teller has probably been saying just that for about 70 years

      • Mark, Tomer’s whole point in writing this article is misdirection. He is not anti-solar, he is profusion, and everything is towards that aim.
        Professional courtesy was requested, but I am merely asking for being straight up about one’s purpose.
        Fusion will be great…if it ever can be made to work.
        A big if, considering the time and money and brainpower that has gone into trying.
        Some of the top people in fusion have flat given up and declared it impossible.
        And it may be.
        I have not seen one thing, or heard on new fact, which makes me think anything has changed regarding fusion research.

        • “Menicholas” your comment is far off the mark. I am absolutely dead set against any national movement to deploy solar for material amounts of baseload power. Solar is NOT appropriate for baseload power. In the Green Mirage article we demonstrate that it takes over 29 billion square meters of PV surface area to provide 440 GWH 24 hours a day 365 days a year. That is not feasible. At the run rate of 1 per second it takes over 900 years to fabricate the panels; at ten a second over 90 years. And the life expectancy is less than 25 years. My point in writing the article is to get the facts out to the public and to the politicians who have been corrupt beyond measure when it comes to the AGW-climate scare driven ‘green energy scheme.” Today solar is extremely heavily subsidized by the government and the ratebase. That is not sustainable. It will bankrupt the country. And there is absolutely no way solar can ever provide more than 10% of baseload power in the U.S. unless, of course, we ration power and dramatically limit its availability to both industry and consumers which is death to America as the last remaining superpower. Simply put the only realistic solutions to energy beyond fossil fuels are nuclear fission which is available today and fusion which can be available by 2050. Solar for baseload power is a waste of time and a waste of tax payer’s money. I have asked you to submit any math or physics errors in our calculations summarized in the “Key Concepts” section of the article and predicated on the “Going Solar” and “Solar Power (Technologies and Economics)” Do not mischaracterize my comments and intentions. Following a solar program for baseload power would destroy America as we know it today. And do not continue to mischaracterize plasma physics and fusion science. We have a decade of experimental science ahead of us before we demonstrate a sustained net energy gain in a controlled environment and another 1 to 2 decades before it is deployment ready. And I fail to understand why you continue to deflect the subject matter of the “Green Mirage” and its facts into discussions about your personal view of fusion energy. I am in no way misdirected.

      • Tomer, nipping at the heals of solar advocates is a waste of time, IMO. The real problem is the CAGW movement. Unless and until this lie is exposed for what it is, you might as well be barking at the moon.
        If I am wrong then I apologize, but everything I have heard from you is anti this and anti that, except for fusion. And fusion is completely unproven. I hope your project succeeds, but surely you can agree that betting the future of civilization on something which has never been demonstrated to work is not a very good idea.
        Solar may be expensive and inefficient, but it makes power. Fusion may never.
        Fission works, but people are afraid of it…irrationally in my view. All of your comments are negative on this energy source as well.
        And I am saying what I am saying based on the last time we spoke, over several days and at great length…you were trying to talk me and some other people into helping you crowd source funding for your fusion research.
        If that is no longer your line of business, then I am mistaken and I am sorry.
        2050 is a long way off.
        I am sorry, but I am sick of hearing pessimistic moaning about what will not work.
        Considering you want to direct research towards the most iffy power source ever to have billions spent on it, I find it grating to hear about how unfeasible everything else is.

        • Menicholas” If I understand you correctly we absolutely agree on the AGW-climate scare issue. Fabrication resulting from the UM Rio Accords later transformed into Agenda 21 and the Sustainability Movement. You will never find me using the AGW scare as a reason to move away from fossil fuels or advocate nuclear fission now as a bridge to fusion in the future. My position on AGW-climate change is summed up at:
          To quote the opening:
          “PowerRfuture and its sponsors are not aligned with the pro-Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) or climate change scientific or political community. Nor are we aligned with the scientific or political communities supporting a lack of AGW or man caused climate change (climate deniers). We have endeavored to present scientific views which are not easy for the average person to see because they are not promulgated by the media. We provide a balance between Proof of AGW and Disproof of AGW through peer reviewed and published scientific papers in our Great Climate Debate section and we demonstrate through an authoritative article by Dr. Roy Spencer that the common phrase “97% of scientists believe in climate change and the IPCC findings” is a false claim. We also provide a “Climate Change Tutorial” entitled “Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) The Science, Climate History, and Politics”, which is meant to teach non-scientists the basic scientific concepts surrounding “climate change” and related political and corporate interests. We have also provided linkage to the possibility that AGW has been manipulated by International intergovernmental organizations for geo political reasons as well as corporate and philanthropic institutions. The unintended consequences of the UN – IPCC and the UN’s Agenda 21 and related Sustainability Movement have, in our judgment, spawned the Green Energy corruption and taxation scheme.
          Considerable amounts of money, in excess of 100 billion USD have been spent over the last decade researching and re-researching climate change, cause and effect as well as mitigation steps. Is this the best use of our money? Absolutely not. The strong and robust debate in the scientific community concerning the cause and effect relationship of climate change and man is inconclusive at best, and politically driven by a divergent set of rogue players at worst.
          In our view the preferred use of the enormous amounts of money being dissipated in climate change abatement is in the direct and immediate investment in science and technology that will simply replace fossil fuels and ultimately nuclear fission over the next few decades. Fossil fuels are a finite resource. Today they are an absolute requirement given their exceedingly high energy flux density or specific energy. The fact that fossil fuels are finite, and that their cost to extract significantly increases as traditional reserves are depleted, further underscores the need to use the monies now spent on climate study and potential mitigation, on developing fusion instead. Developing fusion is a multi-decade proposition from laboratory demonstration, to grid level prototype generation stations and subsequent commercialization and infrastructure replacement.
          Under these conditions, climate change caused by man is a moot point and removed from serious discussion. With fusion energy, mankind will then have the benefit of unlimited, inexpensive energy, potable water, and plentiful food for eternity. The only realistic solution is fusion energy given the negatives associated with nuclear fission; i.e. radioactive waste management, safety concerns, and fissile fuel black market profiteering and arms trading.”
          This section is followed by a large number of articles counter to the IPCC and the established climate change position.

      • “Tomer the issue is: nuclear is a major part of the transition away from fossil fuels game, set, match! We should stop pussyfooting around about it! I think that Ed Teller has probably been saying just that for about 70 years”
        This I agree with completely.

      • “…The only realistic solution is fusion energy given the negatives associated with nuclear fission; i.e. radioactive waste management, safety concerns, and fissile fuel black market profiteering and arms trading.””
        If producing safe, usable and inexpensive power from fusion is possible, then it will be a game changer for the world.
        But I do not think that it is a safe assumption to make, that it will be possible anytime soon, and it may not ever be achieved. I am not saying this because I want to…I am saying it because it must be said.
        Saying that it is the only realistic solution will not alter the laws of physics. I hope this statement is not true, because the implication is that if fusion is impossible to achieve, civilization will eventually collapse, and never rise again.
        I think it is more true to say that a realist must acknowledge all the facts which are relevant, and not decide what is true or false based on feelings or wishful thinking.
        To be truly realistic is to see that that which has never been achieved has no guarantee of eventual success.
        This is not pessimism.
        Saying that nothing else is realistic is pessimistic and not realistic, in my view.
        I find it baffling that someone can be 100% optimistic about something so incredibly difficult, but so negative on the possibilities for anything else.
        In fact it makes no sense.
        It is not based on anything knowable (or is it…please do tell), so it must be based on faith. Or it is merely advocacy based on the hope of fortune or fame.
        Nothing wrong with faith, or fortune, or fame, if one is honest about it.
        I wonder why it is not seen as a better idea to advocate for the 10% of our needs that can be met by solar, and achieve that as soon as possible, if one views other resources as finite and/or undesirable…in order to stretch out the supply and keep prices low.
        Prices for fossil fuels skyrocketed back about ten years ago due to demand exceeding supply by a few percent.
        Ten percent here, ten percent there…what is wrong with that?

      • Tomar: The article you reference specifically states that the nasty stuff has a half-life of 27 DAYS! But thanks for the reference.

      • Fossilsage…I do not drink. I was a little sleepy. Not a very well written comment, I agree.

    • Use nuclear energy to make then ionize steam with heat and blast it through a coil, presto electricity. After it has cooled, burn it, make steam.

  20. only 21.9% of the output advertised
    we spent 20 years using solar panels as a power source while living in the tropics. over that time the power output of the panels slowly dropped off as the panels become “sunburned”, so that in the end they were producing only a fraction of their rated power.
    the actual amount of power you get from solar panels is minuscule as compared to a small 2 HP 1000W generator. The real issue is batteries. The last about 3 years and cost almost as much as the fuel to run the 1000W generator for 3 years.

  21. A really first class article with plenty of realistic numbers. I admit what is here astounded me, while I was a non believer in solar solutions but had no numbers to work with, not that I am sure I can get my head around some of it, especially the costs, mind boggling. Thanks a billion for posting.

  22. The major problem I see is that this is a subsidized technology, and subsidies stifle innovation.
    The government is notoriously poor at picking winners. With unlimited money to flush down the toilet you would think that they would be able to solve the containment problem and come up with viable commercial fusion reactors.

  23. ” the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. The law is named after Gordon Moore”
    This is an astoundingly silly thing to apply to efficiency which can never exceed 100%. The Law of Diminishing Returns is the applicable law – not Moore’s.
    And speaking of transistors, my 6 transistor Emerson model 842 radio still brings in AM stations and sounds as good as new ones built with ~100 (?) transistors on an AM radio chip. Good enough is the enemy of better.

  24. “Tesla Motors website claims that a small carport sized solar panel configuration can provide enough electricity for a typical days’ worth of driving and still contribute power to the grid. ”
    So, if you buy one and drive it to work how do you charge it? Are you going to have a carport solar panel at work? May work for those that can afford a Tesla as they are probably in upper management, and most likely upper, upper management. More goodies for the 1% more expenses for the 99%.

  25. Your solar spectrum with the ” narrow emission lines ” is actually the spectrum of a mercury vapor fluorescent lamp, the bright lines have nothing to do with hydrogen or helium. Please find a real solar spectrum and Delete the text misexplaining the narrow lines.

    • Leon, the graph you are referring too was to explain the correlation of the increase in energy level of photons as wavelength becomes shorter. Nothing more. Under the graph the following explanation was given: “The chart below (above)provides a specific photon energy value across the electromagnetic radiation spectrum starting with low frequency radio waves and ending with Gamma rays. The area of interest for solar cells is in the wavelength area of 800 nm to 350 nm. This represents an energy level of 1 to 1.6 electron volts. An electron volt is a very small amount of energy at 1.60 X 10-19 Joules. One Joule is a Watt/second. As can be seen it takes a strong energy flux density to make the solar cell produce useful amounts of electricity!” If you have further comments, ideas or suggestions please contact me by email at or call me at 916-482-2020. Thank you for your comment. Regards, T. D. Tamarkin

      • Received the email, Leon, and thank you. A recap is: Interesting. I pulled my reference out of a text book on plasma physics coming from Princeton Plasma Physics Labs. Someone else made the mistake as well with respect to attributing the peaks to H and He. Your chart as attached is good. I will have to go back to that text and later I will update the online version. Not sure if Anthony will allow a correction to his posted on WUWT but I will ask.

        • One Watt second equals one joule. For non-scientists this means in electrical work one volt times one ampere (Watt) for a one second duration. The differentiation of energy and power units needs to be understood as well. In physics refer to this Wikipedia entry for Si units Several people have pointed out that I had a typo somewhere in the article. Thank you for reporting this. It would be helpful if you would email me with the paragraph number and line number and it will be corrected. Thank you and regards, T. D. Tamarkin

  26. In France, the load factor of solar ferms is only 13% (production in TWh/installed power). Intermittent production is always a problem, and the main unsolved problem is that the production is 0 during nights. The best solution for a long time is surgeneration power plants (238U and 232Th).

    • Thorium is problematic. The Thorium community is fond of saying that Thorium has a less aggressive radioactive waste series. However, the actinide decay chain is similar to uranium and is, in fact, complicated by heavy gamma ray radiation. Furthermore, Thorium is a fertile material not a fissile material which means it must operate in conjunction with Uranium. The thorium community will also say that Thorium cannot be used in weapons programs. However uranium 233 can be breed from Thorium which in turn can be weaponized. Thorium is no fission utopia. Fission is fission. It is a bridge now to the future but it must be replaced by fusion sooner than later. Edward Teller and Ralph Moir wrote a definitive paper on the potential use of Thorium in Molten Salts Reactors in 2004. A PDF is available at: To learn more about the facts regarding Thorium see:

      • Fusion is more problematic…it has to give back more power than was put in, and pay for the cost of the machine, and be able to supply continuous power in a reliable way…none of these things has ever occurred.
        You know that, right?
        (And I am not talking about measuring liberated energy, but captured and usable power.)

  27. solar becomes practical when off-setting diesel consumption, but nearly all other applications have cheaper and more reliable alternatives. an eg of how it can work is in Tonga where the grid is/was only diesel generators. where coal is available and coal burning power plants are affordable such as Australia, subsidising solar is just throwing money away.

  28. Perhaps I missed it, but I don’t see any analysis of the necessary “backup” generator requirement (or the equivalent energy storage requirements) to go 100% solar. The fact is you’d need backup capability equal to the installed solar generating capacity — and that backup needs to be available ALL of the time.
    The only feasible backup for solar is the existing generating installations (fuel based, hydro, and atomic).
    So … we’d be idling (not replacing) the extant facilities — and we’d still be burning “coal” at night.
    But, assuming we solve the storage problem, we’d still need additional solar capacity to charge the vehicles that will replace our fuelies — so add about 30% more to the requisite capacity.
    So, folks — we’re back to atomic energy as our panacea.

    • I do not think anything will be supplying 100% of our power needs. That has never occurred, and is thus a non-argument.
      Do not get me wrong, I am not an advocate for solar, but neither do I think that pretending it is a waste of time makes sense.

      • That was the argument made by Musk and others, that the author was arguing against.
        Regardless of how you feel, solar is a waste of time except in isolated and limited situations.

      • Says you.
        It will cease to be when it is no longer more expensive than alternatives.
        I am wondering about your extreme position on solar.
        You seem to have a need to call anyone who is not 100% pessimistic, an idiot.

      • So wait…we should let the market decide, except with solar?
        That you will decide for us, right here and right now?

  29. Two points:
    The high efficiency solar panels may be easier than expected. Recent research publications have highlighted successes in combining low energy photons into high energy ones that can be used by existing solar panels. May be good for a 30% increase in output with minimal cost.
    The interplay of solar power and electric cars is a very important one. Solar pushes down the value of energy at mid day. California is considering changing their time of use rate structure to reflect this. Adding a large EV charging load during these hours with even rudimentary controls to respond to grid needs could simultaneously solve the problems of where to get the energy to charge an electric fleet and how to deal with the excess solar energy. Without EVs, solar can probably never account for more than 20% annual energy penetration. With EVs, we can do a good bit more.

    • There are PV materials that use two photon absorption to get higher Voltage. (not dual band gaps) But those materials are not silicon. So that idea doesn’t work with existing solar panels, and the materials that do are quite inefficient anyway.
      The triple junction triple band gap solar cells that give circa 45% solar spectrum conversion are typically used with efficient 3-D non imaging optics collectors, So the high cost of the cells is not necessarily a problem. And 3D steering is quite easy to do.
      Still takes lots of collector area though.

  30. At the end of the second paragraph above the RSS graph there is a confusing sentence “!/6th of that…” I seems to me that the whole point of the paragraph is the opposite of that conclusion.

  31. Good article, but it has one glaring omission. Namely the energy cost of production of the solar electric system including the PV arrays, supports, interconnection lines, inverters, batteries, and maintenance. When this is factored in, I would be surprised if the system had a positive net energy balance. At least with hydrocarbon and nuclear power, the high density fuel source greatly exceeds the energy cost of the rest of the production systems.

    • One thing is for sure; we bootstrapped ourselves from picking figs up in the trees to modern fossil fuels, without any energy subsidies from other non existing energy sources.
      But you are correct; going forth to all solar is likely an energy consuming exercise, rather than energy producing. (available energy that is; I know it isn’t created or destroyed; but it does slowly go down hill to end up as heat; the sewage of the energy spectrum.)

    • The article mentions “inert solar panel area”. This occurs about 5 lines down from the photo of the “Blue Square” array. A few lines above is mentioned “active surface area solar cells”. This latter I take to relates to the surface area of the panels that is ‘active’ ie, comprising active cells, while the former I consider means that the panels are fixed in the field, ie, each facing one direction relative to the earth’s surface. This is plausible in a household array, but it means that the power production is zero at sunrise and climbs in an “S” shaped curve to local noon, then falls likewise to sunset. In an industrial array designed for commercial sale of the power produced this is inefficient; power is low during the morning demand peak, is maximum at noon when demand may well be less, then falls as demand rises for the afternoon and evening peak. Maximum efficiency needs each array to be facing the sun as near as possible from sunrise to sunset, so the panels have to be rotated 180 degrees during daylight hours, and then returned during the night. This necessarily takes energy to drive the motors.
      The problem is not as bad as for the solar thermal array which must accurately reflect light to the energy collector, and where a mismatch of half a degree would mean complete loss of power (2.6 metres off target for a mirror 300 metres away from the collector). The solar electric could feasible generate near max power with a mismatch of perhaps 25 degrees, so is barely affected by the change in the sun’s declination from 23 degrees 27 minutes north to the same figure south; the solar thermal array must be moved during the day to accommodate the change in the sun’s declination during the day.
      Sir, you say:
      “The greater the load, the higher the velocity and the greater the slope, the faster the batteries drain. Add acceleration while going uphill and the batteries are drained even faster. The relationship between mass, time, slope and velocity is a complex one requiring calculus to solve and plot.”
      With respect, no. At the base of the hill the car has potential and kinetic energy. At the top it has differing values of potential and kinetic energy. The difference between the sum of these at the base and the sum of these at the top is the energy to climb the hill. This energy must be drawn from the battery in the electric car. To make the calculation more accurate, add in the energy absorbed by the air at the average speed of the car during the ascent (air resistance), plus the energy absorbed by the tyres (rolling resistance) and you have the total energy withdrawn from the battery. These latter two will not normally be separately available, but can be obtained from the change in velocity (change in KE) of that car when rolling without power on an identical horizontal surface (zero change in PE) at the average speed of the car when climbing the hill. Standard fifth form Applied Maths – or Physics is you prefer.
      All this goes to show that three scientists, brilliant in their own fields, are no better than the average intelligent layman with a good grasp of physics and maths, when in another field of science. This shows why the “average intelligent layman” can often reach more sensible solutions than any climate scientist, in the climate science field not well understood at all, and very often much more sensible solutions than professors of history, law, psychology or marine science, or PR flacks, or journalists, or churchmen, in the field of climate science. We have nothing to be ashamed of in rejecting silly ideas.

  32. Replacing fossil fuels with electricity means replacing internal combustion engines, combustion turbines, space & water heating burners with electric equivalents. How much copper will that take in a world where copper is already becoming a scarce commodity?

      • Almost every transmission line is made of aluminum. Look up at those overhead power lines…all of them are aluminum.

      • Not true about corrosion Joel.
        Aluminum house wiring caused a lot of fires before this was recognized. All terminals must be coated with a antioxidant paste. Aluminum oxide forms a coating which is hard to see, but is not a conductor. This causes extreme heating of the wire and catastrophic failure.
        Trust me, I know. I repair high voltage electrical machinery, and train others in electrical safety.
        I have a bottle of the paste in my truck for when I run across aluminum wire.
        Just sayin’.
        Like radial tires, early problems have given it a bad rep which is difficult to overcome.
        “Problems with aluminum wires[edit]
        Aluminum wires have been implicated in house fires.[5][6] There are several possible reasons why these connections failed. The two main reasons were improper installation and the differences in the coefficient of expansion between aluminum wire used in the 1960s and the terminations.
        Aluminum oxidation[edit]
        Most metals (with a few exceptions, such as gold) oxidize freely when exposed to air. Aluminum oxide is not an electrical conductor, but rather an electrical insulator. Consequently, the flow of electrons through the oxide layer can be greatly impeded. However, since the oxide layer is only a few nanometers thick, the added resistance is not noticeable under most conditions. When aluminum wire is terminated properly, the mechanical connection breaks the thin, brittle layer of oxide to form an excellent electrical connection. Unless this connection is loosened, there is no way for oxygen to penetrate the connection point to form further oxide.
        Coefficient of expansion and creep[edit]
        Aluminum wire used before the mid-1970s has a coefficient of expansion that varies significantly from the metals common in devices, outlets, switches, and screws. Many terminations of aluminum wire installed in the 1960s and 1970s continue to operate with no problems. However, problems can develop in the future and some connections were not made properly when installed, including not wrapping wires around terminal screws and inadequate torque on the connection screws. There can also be problems with connections made with too much torque as it causes damage to the wire.
        Aluminum and steel both expand and contract at different rates under thermal load, so a connection can become loose, and loose connections get progressively worse over time. This cycle results in the connection loosening slightly, overheating, and allowing intermetallic steel/aluminum alloying to occur between the conductor and the screw terminal. This results in a high-resistance junction, leading to additional overheating. Although many believe that oxidation was the issue, studies have shown[citation needed] that oxidation was not significant in these cases. The problems related to aluminum wire are typically associated with older pre-1970s solid wire smaller than No. 8 AWG, as the properties of that wire result in significantly more expansion and contraction than modern day AA-8000 series aluminum wire. Older solid aluminum wire also had problems with a property called creep, which made the wire permanently deform or relax over time under load.”

      • One more thing about aluminum…it is the third most abundant element in the crust of the Earth, right after oxygen and silicon, and ahead of even iron. And it is concentrated in soils which are heavily leached, which abound in the tropics. Plenty of Al to go around.

      • Wrt discussion about aluminium oxide, It is the thin coat of the oxide which prevents further oxidation of the metal, unlike rust (ferrous oxide) it is not porous so there is no further degradation of the metal. As Menicholas has said, the oxide acts as a resistor causing heat, other problems I would imagine are that whenever two dissimilar metals are in contact with moisture present an electric current is generated which speeds up oxidation of both metals. As an aside aluminium is difficult to weld because the oxide forms a;most immediately it is exposed to air.

    • Copper is not so scarce as the hype of ten years ago may lead one to believe.
      And it is very recyclable.
      Look at the bright side…need for metals may spur innovation that leads to other good things…mining asteroids, exploring deep in the Earth, etc.
      Hey, we can always use gold…instead of leaving it lie around looking pretty.
      Although silver is the best…

  33. It is ridiculous to push a scam (solar/wind with battery systems) that requires significantly more energy to construct than it puts out. Green scams do not work, if the objective is any reduction in CO2 emissions, even if there was a magic wand that could create surplus money to purchase them for every country in the world.
    Note there is insufficient money in the riches developing countries to purchase green scams to meet 40% of the electrical grid requirements, ignoring the fact that there is no CO2 emissions savings if battery systems are used.

    “beyond astronomical,”

    But that support must help technologies eventually stand on their own two feet, not encourage a permanent reliance on subsidy.
    The UK’s policy changes, though, are being noticed internationally.
    Previously the UK Climate Change Act has been regarded as a world-leading climate policy but critics say that accolade is now seriously in doubt.
    They ask if a country as rich as the UK finds clean energy unaffordable, what hope is there for most of the rest of the world?” (William: Duh?)

    Recently Bill Gates explained in an interview with the Financial Times why current renewables are dead-end technologies. They are unreliable. Battery storage is inadequate. Wind and solar output depends on the weather. The cost of decarbonization using today’s technology (William: Solar and wind power rather than nuclear) is “beyond astronomical,” Mr. Gates concluded.

    William: Beyond astronomical costs are costs are orders of magnitude more than a very rich country can afford. Green energy is comically unaffordable, if one attempts to scale it up to say 40% of total country energy usage. (i.e. Energy to run and maintain an entire country and to supply the materials for an entire country not just the electrical grid.)
    The big joke is idiot journalists and politicians do not understand the implications of that green energy is comically unaffordable if it is attempted to be scale up to 40% of total country energy requirements and the the fact that battery systems are required for more than 20% of electrical grid needs. It is practically impossible to run a steel plant or a cement plant on green energy.
    It is pathetic that the above facts are not discussed in elections campaigns and election commercials. A scam is a scam regardless of which party is pushing the scam.
    Excellent summary of some of the major practical engineering and economic reasons why solar will not work.
    Items that were missed are:
    1) The source of the energy must be near to the primary energy consumption centers the major cities. There are neither vast regions of land near major cities to install solar farms and/or the major city is in a location where there is insufficient sunny days. Same issue for wind. Utility power line loss for some of the ridiculous green scam schemes is 30%. The green scam power output must therefore be reduced by 30% and the cost for new super high voltage DC power lines added.
    The green scam solution for the above is the so called ‘smart’ gird where power can be moved vast distances ignoring the fact that there is an energy loss per mile which limits the length of power lines and the cost of extraordinary long high voltage DC power lines and conversion station cost and energy loss to convert the DC back to AC. Utility power line loss for some of the ridiculous green scam schemes is 30%.
    P.S. Super high voltage DC power lines required a vast strip of land which is practically impossible to attain in many regions of the US.
    2) Energy is required to construct the solar panels, battery systems, and new high voltage DC power lines. It is a fact that all of the green scam components particular the battery systems which degrade in the maximum charge per year and hence have a practical life of around 5 to 7 years have a finite life and hence must be replaced. If the battery systems are included the net energy to construct and maintain an off the grid power system significantly exceeds the total energy output. i.e. More and more energy is required for the country as a whole the more solar systems are installed.
    P.S. Battery systems continually self discharge, so energy is lost in the battery system, so energy cannot be stored for weeks in a battery. Battery system efficiency (energy in vs energy out) is 50% to 85% for a new battery system.
    If battery systems are not included which then requires 100% hydrocarbon power backup for the green scams, the net energy to construct roughly equals net energy out. There is therefore almost no net benefit to install the green scams, ignoring the fact that battery systems are required.
    The green scam energy calculations ignore the facts the wind and solar system do not produce at that there nameplate output. The German wind and solar system average power is less than 20% of the nameplate rated. The green scam CO2 emission saving do not include the energy input to construct the green scam components.

    • “Green scams do not work”
      On the contrary, they have worked to the tune of trillions of dollars of taxpayer money poured into the unscrupulous pockets of ‘green’ technologists.
      Of course they are no solution to power generation – any engineer with a 50 year old slide rule could tell you that in ten minutes, and many of us have, time and again.
      But that wasn’t what renewable energy was designed to do. It was designed to make money, not electricity.
      And its been outstandingly successful, at that.

    • Speaking of batteries. I have had to replace the sealed lead acid batteries in my PC UPS every 3 to 4 years. These are charged by a microprocessor controlled voltage/current regulating system to assure the best charging practices are maintained. YET THEY FAIL. And 99% of their use is on a trickle charge. Talk to any battery supplier that has a contract to replace batteries for the emergency lights in a large public building. They will give you the same story. If you have a PC UPS – un plug it from the wall and see how long it lasts. if more than 4 years old $1 says it will not give you nameplate time/power. It might help shut down your pc but there is a high probability that if it is during an important computing effort – it will fail.
      Working in the electric utility industry, I have experience with the large, glass jar (about 18 X 24 x 36 inch) batteries. These last 15 – 20 years but each cell costs as much as a small car. Then they require daily, weekly, monthly, annual, 5 and then 10 year tests, maintenance, special conditiong charges, etc., and periodic replacement of individual cells. Musks “Powerwall” will not allow this, does not have provisions for this and Is a waste of money. I would buy batteries that we had replaced for failure of one of the specification parameters before I bought those. They are nothing more than a sealed bundle of the exact same LiIon cells in the battery pack for that new expensive power tool you see at Home Depot. GOOGLE IT – the specs are the same.

        • “Ric Werme” My colleague Barrie Lawson in the UK has an excellent Website with an extensive treatment of batteries and battery technology for utility scale applications. This may be the best source of battery information available and Barrie is an acknowledge expert/leader in the field. See:

      • @Ric Werme July 29, 2015 at 11:37 am
        These look exactly like the ones we use but have a different chemistry. I retired 10 years ago and have not kept up to date with the new equipment – the free trade magazines could not be renewed with my home address. With the large Lead-acid cells you could exchange the acid. the dirt, etc., fell to the bottom and could be sucked out with a “turkey baster” and thus prevent shorting and keep them going many times longer than even the best lead acid auto battery. That company has spec sheets (the right column) that you could compare with similar Exide or other Lead acid batteries.

  34. “…the maximum theoretical efficiency of a tandem four terminal solar cell is 56%”
    Is it not interesting that the theoretical efficiency max of a perfect windmill is 57%?
    Is 57 the new 42?
    Why is Nature filled with so many constants that are so…constant?
    One of the constants is that no matter how you slice and dice it, you cannot run a modern industrial society by capturing solar power in real time. The future is nuclear.

  35. Great explanation of the issues. Thanks. By the way if anyone wants to see what real people who live off the grid can do with wind, wood, solar etc I’d highly recommend as a start. They make the generators themselves without subsidies. I’ve always loved their rationale:
    “Otherpower headquarters is located in a remote part of the Northern Colorado mountains, 11 miles past the nearest power pole or phone line. All of our houses and shops run on only solar, wind, water and generator power…not because we are trying to make some sort of political or environmental statement, but because these are the only options available. And we refuse to move to town.”

  36. After years of solar and wind in Europe it’s a disaster, with electrical costs it’s becoming a luxury for some in Germany to even have electrical power, utility companies in financial straights and most of Europe returning to coal and building new coal fired power plants.

  37. “solar technology will compete with fossil fuels, and will be able to provide 100% of the world’s solar energy by 2030”
    Uh? Solar technology already provides 100% of the world’s solar energy. It always has done, even when there was only one solar panel.

  38. Excellent article, Tom! The case against the Ivanpah solar tower electric power plant is even stronger. As Willis Eschenbach pointed out earlier on this blog, that plant is actually a natural-gas-fired power plant: “Instead of ramping up the plant each day before sunrise by burning one hour’s worth of natural gas to generate steam, Ivanpah needs more than four times that much help from fossil fuels to get plant humming every morning.” So half or more of the Ivanpah “solar” power is generated by natural gas!

    • Nest time, hopefully, I will answer you in person at LaPlacita in Old Town (again.) Note that because Ivanpah now requires so much natural gas, it has been decertified as a RES (Renewable Energy Standards) source in California. What are the investors doing? Demanding that the federal government pay off their federal government backed loans…

  39. Why did they authors leave out the other aspect of solar: Intermittency?
    Any fule can add up solar panel average output and get an ‘equivalent power station’ number: Indeed greens do it all the time.
    The problem is that its not equivalent to conventional power station, because it varies not according to the demand placed upon it, but according to the vagaries of the generating source: In this case the sun, which has this awkward habit of hiding behind clouds and under the earth at night.
    In order to ameliorate this, one needs storage, or inter connectors to somewhere the sun still is shining. Like the far side of the world.
    These inevitably cost at least as much, if not more, than the solar power – which is already absurdly uneconomic.

    • Good luck using this article against people promoting solar hot water, or solar space heating. Did you know that solar heating has been around since they first started installing glass windows on the south sides of buildings built in cold climates?

      • Joel— Yup. Built my house to take advantage of solar gain. Thirteen foot peaked ceiling, approx 500 sq ft of exposure to spring/fall sun. I see a lot of articles here about how greenhouses may or may not work with single or double glazed windows. All I can say is that when it is 20 below outside and the sun is shining, I don’t light a fire in the fireplace because the sun keeps the house above 20C. Don’t much care what theory people prefer, my house stays warm from the sun.

  40. Thanks very much for the article.
    If you’re going to recycle it–which I would very much encourage–it wouldn’t hurt to double-check some of the details. Like the 141-km square given for the 40%-panel-efficiency system. (That’s not the square root of 11,000 km^2.) And are you sure you got the comparison with, e.g., Maryland’s land area right?

    • Please feel free to write me at and/or call me at 916-482-2020 with any details, suggestions, etc. You are correct in that my original article did not mention Maryland; that was added by someone editing and I did not check his facts. Thank you for the comments and obviously any math typos will be corrected. Regards, T. D. Tamarkin

  41. It seems to me that they’ve approached this whole solar engergy thing from the wrong perspective. Remember LCD solar calculators? I still have mine. It works great. Start small with something like a small solar panel for folks that can recharge their cell phones, iPads, etc…, Then move up to solar barbecues and such. As the tech improves, who wouldn’t want a solar powered beer cooler to take on camping trips? Where are the creative geniuses of the past who did so much more beginning with much less?

  42. Smart Grid – BANANAS – double bananas! Everyone knows water runs down hill, most people know that electricity flows from positive to negative (actually the electrons flow from negative to positive) But very few know that you can not have the same voltage everywhere on the same grid. The electricity would not flow. With an independent, small, system with one generator and several hundred homes, a factory or so, and a school and some office building all works well. BUT, when you tie two power generators together, the one with the lowest voltage becomes a load. (that is why you can jump start a car). Now if all of your generators are on one side of town and the factory on the opposite side of town the voltage will be much higher for the homes close to the generator than those close to the power plant. Put a solar panel at the factory and when the wispy clouds float by the solar panel could become a load or more likely not even provide the voltage it generated as it is less than the voltage on the network. Throw some solar panels on random selected homes, and a wind turbine at the other axis of the plant generator axis and you have created even more problems and many of the systems will not be providing the full potential of the power they are producing. Now attach this independent network to two or three other outside generators trying to control the voltage on their network, each with all of the problems above. The Grid can not be Smart until every source of power applied to the grid has a means of controlling the output voltage of the power produced. And then you have to take into consideration how do you get all of that power from the massive solar farms in southern CA,NV, AZ to Kansas City, when it has to go past the power from the Wind Turbine farms in Texas and the Nuclear power plant in KS? Anyone with any intelligence sees that the problem becomes like the traveling salesman shortest rout problem.
    [And yes I know the flow is actually controlled by VARs but explaining that here is above the head of most reading.]

    • “when you tie two power generators together, the one with the lowest voltage becomes a load.”
      Wow….so when two coal fired power plants are both running full bore, one of them is a load for the other? That’s so impressive!!!!

      • YES THAT CAN HAPPEN!! And has caused extensive damage when the Reverse voltage protection circuits fail.

      • “when the wispy clouds float by the solar panel could become a load”

        That statement shows how little you know about reality.
        First the panels are DC, and not connected directly to the grid, so they never will be a “load”

        Second, you should investigate the marvelous technology incorporated into grid-tie inverters.

      • Solar Power Advocate logic:
        “my solar power system works all the time because it is attached to the “grid” and the other solar systems serve as a back up to mine”
        Note : But the cost of the grid does not enter into the cost of ownership of a solar system.
        “It is unicorn f@rt free. and the other solar systems are not subject to the same unreliability as my solar system”
        “You see in my solar power world, reality is just noise”

      • ” First the panels are DC, and not connected directly to the grid, so they never will be a “load”
        Have you worked on any industrial size grid-tie inverters?

        “Second, you should investigate the marvelous technology incorporated into grid-tie inverters.”
        Have you Measured the leakage current of any the larger the grid-tie inverters?
        Do you trust them enough to not isolate them from the “grid” when you are working on them or the solar panel leads?

      • usurbrain…..I guess you don’t understand the word “directly”
        “Do you trust them enough to not isolate them from the “grid” when you are working on them or the solar panel leads?” ….. yup. I especially like the circuit breakers they have……very nice feature to use when working on the panels.

        PS usurbrain…..ever hear of a safety item called “gloves?” They are recommended for working on any item that may be tied to equipment that has harmful voltages or currents in them.
        Paul Westhaver…….No reply to your comment is necessary, since you haven’t made a point.

      • PS usurbrain

        Ever see a bird perched on the high voltage wire on the utility poles around your home?…..They’re sitting on live wires, and the don’t seem to mind……..just saying.

      • @Joel D. Jackson July 29, 2015 at 11:03 am
        And do these new devices adjust the VARs to compensate for the lower voltage they are generating that is causing the “appearance” of a “load” on the grid” Where is that signal coming from? Does the dispatcher control every one of them or simply shut it off like he can the HW heater in some areas?

      • @Joel D. Jackson July 29, 2015 at 1:49 pm
        I have designed and built inverters and have tested Industrial size 3 phase solid state inverters with solid state 1/16th cycle bus transfer devices (a different engineer designed the transfer portion) OR in your terms a “Grid-tie inverter” It appears you are thinking micro and I am thing Macro, and in the end all of these small devices are going to bite the manufacturers.

      • usurbrain ” in the end all of these small devices are going to bite the manufacturers.”
        Funny you should say that. Please tell me how that will happen? My GTI has been functioning flawlessly now for over 10 years, and my net metering/utility billing is doing fine.

        PS, I”ve averaged about 4 kwh per day production now for 10 years.

      • @ Joel D. Jackson July 29, 2015 at 2:20 pm
        If you have had your GTI for more than 10 years then you have true galvanic solation of the ac from the dc. This was done with a transformer then. In 2005 they allowed transformerless (or non-galvanically isolated) inverters by removing the requirement that all solar electric systems be negative grounded and specifying new safety requirements. This allows what we in the electrical world call “sneak Circuits.” There “safety Requirements include, among other things, basically the same thing as the GFCI in your bathroom, kitchen and other “wet” areas. You are welcome to test a GFCI by putting your hand in a full sink of water and then a screwdriver in the smaller slot of the outlet nearest your sink. then touch the blade of the screw driver. If your GTI is less than 10 years old it probably has the transformerless design. and the potential for a serious shock exists. Yes, there are other “Safety Precautions,” but I trust them as far as I could throw the bolted down GTI. The majority are all Solid State devices, and these are subject to degradation by voltage surges caused by lightning strikes that could degrade the device enough to make it lose some of its safety factor but appear to continue to operate properly. Keep in mind, most of these that you see advertised at Sams Club, Costco, Home Depot, on the internet etc are made in China.

    • Umm.. but power plants generate 3 phase AC not DC. They add to the grid by adjusting the phase angle and by varying the AC voltage with transformers.

      • @ The Original
        Is this for me? Did you see where I stated [And yes I know the flow is actually controlled by VARs but explaining that here is above the head of most reading.
        I was trying to keep the post at a level for the basic Solar Panel lover/installer who, in many cases, has no idea what a VAR is or how power is transferred from one area to another. The ones that think like high school physics “it flows like water in a pipe kind.” This blog is not big enough to provide an informative explanation, at least by me, as I was never an instructor of the concept, just used it, and many many years.

    • “But very few know that you can not have the same voltage everywhere on the same grid. The electricity would not flow.”
      We use AC power. The current does not flow like water down a hill.
      I am not sure if you are light years ahead of my knowledge of AC power transmission, or light years behind. But what you are saying here make no sense to me.
      Are you an electrical engineer?
      I am not, but several of them call me when they need help with certain problems they are having, so I know that I know a little.

      • For electricity to flow there must be a potential difference. When you hook up a good battery to a low battery that will not start the car electricity will flow from the good battery to the low battery until they have the same (Equal) potential. Most people do not have the foggiest idea of how voltage is moved on an alternating current system. If you do then realize that I added a note at the bottom. If not then —>
        However on a grid you use VARS to get power to move. One of the comments just above has a good description of how power is moved with VARS. “Challenge Number 3.”

      • Did I miss the section on high voltage DC transmission lines that are popping up all over? (At least we stopped holding the high voltage DC ground return systems that were eating up our underground utilities and other metallic structures. )

      • usurbrain – that link you provided makes no sense to me –
        “The presence of the magnetic field is an essential requirement for the functioning of an inductive load such as a motor so the generator must supply two components of power, the “reactive power”, often called VArs (Volt Ampere reactive), to set up the magnetic fields and the “real power” to perform the work.
        Specifically the reference to “real power”; so the other is imaginary as in i^2=-1 ?

    • @#$&! over 200 years ago, Franklin had a 50-50 chance, and he got the polarity labeled wrong.

  43. AC Power. Don’t forget precise control of frequency and phase angle which changes dynamically as a function of inductive and capacitive loads…reactive power factor.

  44. Regarding the Google section of the post, there is a suggestion of a quid pro quo between Google and Obama’s team in that Google was actively holding down its tax liability of foreign earnings routed back to the U.S. via Ireland and needed a no-interrupt agreement from Washington to save billions in taxes and accomplish a near-zero tax rate. Tax liability on domestic earnings was further reduced by digging holes with taxpayer money at Ivanpah and Crescent Dunes. Due diligence on the part of DoE and Google was relaxed on both projects because what amounts to double losses to taxpayers from the campaign handshake agreement was more valuable than the project viability. Eventual loan default to taxpayers will be someone else’s problem by then. Acknowledgement of the foreign tax dodge by tech firms (aka donors to Obama) has been mentioned by Obama after the fact even to the extent of urging the EU to help close it. This amounts to a statute of limitations on a secret handshake that fleeced taxpayers twice. This is unofficially called win-the- day politics in DC and many courtrooms.

  45. Well, I have to say right off the top that there are certain portions of the post above that are pure (your choice) bullshit or error. Here’s one:
    This looks almost nothing like the graph above for solar power spectrum at the top or the bottom of the atmosphere. Does this matter? Well, if you’re going to criticize some pretty smart scientists perhaps you should publish accurate graphics instead of ones that exaggerate your point — it is easier to believe in your objectivity.
    Here’s another. Will solar cells follow “Moore’s Law”? First of all, let me say that I’m something of an expert on Moore’s Law. There have been repeated predictions of the demise of Moore’s Law made over pretty much the entire time since Moore formulated it. Every time we have approached one of the “fundamental” limits proposed by people using perfectly sound, but of course limited, reasoning, something has happened to give it more legs. There is a huge economic incentive to extend Moore’s Law in a competitive market place, and “nature finds a way”, be it parallelization, reorganization, or just changing the physical basis for things entirely, as is about to happen globally for memory with Intel’s recent development of a completely new memory type that is much faster and can be scaled much smaller/denser. Oops. Moore’s Law, extended yet again.
    A better way to think about this is to plot the cost of solar cells over time and not worry about why the cost decreases. Costs can decrease for lots of reasons. Economy of scale, changing phyical basis, new manufacturing methods that make “expensive” cell designs cheaper to manufacture. There is an enormous incentive to optimize cost/benefit, and will be even more incentive in the future as long as we maintain a competitive market. So here’s some historical data:
    I’m not going to bother trying to fit an exponential to this, but it is pretty obvious that the cost per watt has been dropping at least approximately exponentially since the late 70s. Is this “Moore’s Law”? No, but it is an exponential drop in price per watt that empirically has been sustained for whatever reasons “forever”. Will it suddenly come to a shuddering end, as has been repeatedly predicted for Moore’s Law for computers? Maybe, sure. But — and here is the point — would smart money bet on it?
    I’d have to say no. In fact, I’d say that smart money would bet that in a few years solar panels will cost half what they do now, and in a few MORE years they will halve again. Why? Who knows. Maybe new designs. Maybe more efficient manufacturing. Perhaps reduced costs in the supply chain. Maybe new materials. But however it happens, first to market will make a killing and everybody else will copy them as soon as they can, because for whatever reason there is a strong demand that is likely to only get stronger. So you can (no doubt) find learned pundits who will predict that solar cells are done falling in price. I’ve had this discussion with just this sort of pundit in online forums maybe a dozen times over the last decade. And you know what? The cost of solar cells, per nominal watt, is less than 1/4 what it was a decade ago.
    Anybody want to cover a bet against it being at least half what it is now in a decade? If you believe the article above, you should be willing to give me at least weak odds…
    Beyond that, I’d argue that the misrepresent the practical efficiency weakly, but that’s less than an order of magnitude mistake so we can ignore it. The one last thing that they fail to do is to compute the flat ROI for installing solar power in much of the US right now, in particular the amortization time for an investment. This is odd, since you’d think Forbes would be all about ROI and amortization times for any given investment in solar technology.
    In my own direct computations (based on things like “quotes” of installed power backed by measured returns of people who have installed it, not imaginary statements about what you can and can’t get out of the sky in any given state) the amortization time for private individuals is around 12 years. With a lifetime of 20 years or more, that leaves one with a healthy, but not spectacular, ROI over 20 years. Corporate installation is a bit better (or else there are serious problems with the corporation) — they can get solar cells cheaper and use larger scale technology with better economy of scale all around. Conservatively we might guestimate 8 to 10 years amortization at 4%, at least 10 more years of pure no-fuel profit afterwards. Again, not spectacular but hardly a loss or even a break even. Solar is moderately attractive, without subsidy, right now in many parts of the US including NC.
    Whether it is Moore’s Law or the last gasp of the physics and technology, if one gets just one more halving of solar cell cost over the next decade, the amortization time is going to drop to where it is essentially a mindless choice, automatic, the obviously cheapest way to get power when the sun shines, with a rapid amortization built with borrowed money followed by an extended period of pure profit. That profit may be further amplified if we estimate — reasonably — that fuel-based electrical power in general will get more expensive over the next 20 years, or, to be fair, if we have a breakthrough in fusion or in thorium fission and we start building fusion generation at 1/4 the current cost per delivered watt everywhere, it might be a dead loss and in 20 years we will have recycled almost all of the world’s solar panels. But coal will not compete with solar in any reasonable future.
    It has long been my opinion that if the US starts pushing solar and wind power by essentially guaranteeing a market for five to ten years, all sorts of prices will drop as a reliable market creates both competition and economy of scale. Solar and wind may or may not be “enough” to replace fuel generation in the foreseeable future because we do have serious problems, often geographically localized problems, with generation duty cycle and reliability. Every day the sun doesn’t shine (enough to make much electricity) more than perhaps 6 hours out of 24. On any day, anywhere, the wind may not blow.
    But the wind blows somewhere — wind becomes more reliable once one has a large, highly distributed capacity and a distribution system capable of moving the energy wherever it is needed. And the one thing the article did not really address at all is the unpredictability of an enabling technology, specific the possibility of building a reliable, high capacity, cheap to manufacture storage battery (or on a large scale, energy storage system). A breakthrough cannot be predicted, but people like Kurzweil understand that there is a continuous probability density of this sort of discovery in the history of science, and that it is just plain silly to base future investment on the proposition that “computers will never be smaller than large filing cabinets or faster than 1 MFLOPS unless you spend extraordinary amounts of money”. Again, where does the smart money go? Betting against the development of any critical enabling science or technology, assuming that we already know all there is to know in materials science and engineering?
    Don’t make me laugh.

    • RGB: That last para: “The wind blows somewhere..” etc – Was that really you? (shakes head….)

      • What is wrong with the statement Harry? He means that there may be days with no wind in zip code 90210, but there will be some wind in some zip codes on any given day.
        Not on board much with wind anymore…unless they invent a non bird chopping way to harness it.
        Not worth killing the birds off for.
        Wind is a form of solar anyway.

    • “rgbatduke” you are correct that the graph used to describe the spectral response of the sun was not accurate. Thank you for pointing that out. It has been corrected on the on-line published version of The Green Mirage and a correction will be sent to Anthony at WUWT later to replace the post on WUWT. With regard to your other points, they are best addressed privately between us via email or phone as we agree to disagree on them so far. My email address is and my phone is +1-916-482-2020. Here is the Green Mirage on-line as corrected:

    • I am skeptical that vast efficiency gains could be made at a reasonable cost. But, if so, then it doesn’t need subsidies.
      I am entirely against windmills. They are horrific ravagers of nature. Ditto reflective solar like Ivanpah. The manufacture of solar arrays is also not without terrific environmental cost.
      This stuff isn’t really “green”. One has to ask, what is the point? Why invest all those resources into something that really isn’t any better than what you already have?

      • I just returned from a trip to Austria, where we drove all over the country (it’s a small country:-). They have installed wind capacity everywhere. Most of the wind turbines were turning most of the time we were there, driving past them. In aggregate they were making a LOT of power. They do not turn fast enough to be a serious risk to birds AFAICT — my car is a “horrific ravager of nature” having over the course of my lifetime wiped out several doves, a few sparrows, maybe three squirrels, and a rabbit or two. Would I give up my car? Would any of us? Have any of us missed ALL the birds and the squirrels on the road, lifetime? If so, kudos to you, but roadkill along any roadway exceeds what I could see littering the ground at the feet of the wind turbines (that would be none; as I said, they spin relatively slowly and most birds could dodge them more easily than they dodge my car).
        Reflective solar I’m not a fan of, but in certain locations it might work. Solar cells, as I said, are going to get built because there is a ton of money in building them. Again, there is a “terrific environmental cost” associated with building my car, my house, my clothing, my personal electronics, none of which stops me from buying them. There is an environmental cost to mining coal, uranium, thorium, rare earths, iron, copper, or to making concrete. Human life comes at environmental cost. It is balancing these costs, and real costs, that is tricky.
        In Europe in general (but Germany and France and Austria etc in particular) they are strongly committed to wind power, and they have sited the wind turbines in places that the wind almost always blows fast enough to harvest power.
        Are they ugly? I dunno. They’re certainly interesting. Are open strip coal mines ugly? Is a coal burning or nuclear power plant ugly? Is a solar array ugly? How about the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, horribly overbuilt, lined with power and phone lines, lined with ticky-tack housing, with giant strip malls, neon signs, billboards that are falling apart, and more? Europe (at least Austria) has way less of this than we do, and Vienna was safe enough that my 7 year old female cousin takes a tram ride with a change ALONE every day to get to and from school, and is pretty safe while doing so. In which US city could you do the same?
        It simply isn’t the case that these things are all automatically “evil” or “green” or “non-green”. The world is more complex than that. I didn’t find anything intrinsically ugly in them, and they did look productive and the Austrians I spoke to seemed to appreciate the power they generate, most days, at a very low marginal cost. I did not see much solar — I’m guessing that in the winter in Austria there isn’t enough daytime to make it as good an investment.
        As you (should) know, I’m not a fan of subsidies either. Nor do I support carbon trading, or huge government based pressure to “eliminate coal power plants”. However, I do think that in the long run many of the technologies being (possibly prematurely) implemented will make power that is both cheaper than coal and practically inexhaustible as a natural resource, and in the long run I think there are better things to do with coal besides burn it for power, such as use it to make concrete, or if it came to that methane or gasoline.
        I just don’t agree with the top article’s final cost-benefit analysis. It is unduly pessimistic about future costs of solar cells, and unduly pessimistic about our ability to produce more of them, faster, and cheaper, as time goes by. Deutche bank, for example, projects a continuing, immediate fall in cell/panel prices to under $0.40 US/watt by the end of 2016. Given an investment that is already no worse than my substantial personal investment in high efficiency AC and heat for my house (which cost me MORE than 5 kW of rooftop capacity would have, and which has as long or longer an amortization time) how much better does it have to be before it is worth it for me to eliminate all or part of my last major monthly energy expense, semi-permanently? In my case, longer than many because the things I’ve already done have my electricity bill down to well under $150/month, amortized, for quite a large house kept very comfortable year round — R40 or so in the roof and attic, energy efficient windows and doors, and uber-efficient AC and heat. I actually have too SMALL a power bill already to amortize solar as aggressively as I would like for the whole house capacity.
        Why are my personal decisions, at personal levels of economy of scale and using personally borrowed money, not reflective of the same decisions made at larger scales where one expects economies to be strictly better?
        What I don’t like about CAGW is that it misrepresents the science. So does a lot of skeptical “CO_2 is better than ice cream” argumentation. What is essential is honesty — don’t oversell it with religious zeal, or poo-poo it with equally religious zeal. Lay out the facts as best as they are known and let the public make the decision that suits them best. It may be that they choose solar and wind over more coal even if coal is nearly completely harmless. The public has every right to do so. It just doesn’t need to be coerced into doing so — or coerced into NOT doing so — by misrepresentation of our state of knowledge and pictures that are either absurdly pessimistic and overblown portrayals of risk or absurdly optimistic and overblown portrayals of benefit. This is not needed (either way) and insults the intelligence of the voting public (either way).
        I may be wrong in my list postings, but I’m honestly wrong and I’ve been known to change my mind. More people need to be willing to do the latter, I think.

      • “They do not turn fast enough to be a serious risk to birds.”
        They do. Your perspective makes it look slow, but tip velocities can be 200 mph. Planes in the sky look slow, too. They’re not.
        “…my car is a “horrific ravager of nature” having over the course of my lifetime wiped out several doves, a few sparrows, maybe three squirrels, and a rabbit or two.”
        Not the same. Those are small, rapidly reproducing creatures. The bird slicers kill the endangered and slowly reproducing raptors and carrion fowl (which, despite the lattar being not particularly pretty, are an important part of the ecosystem). And, bats that are critical to insect control.

      • Make sure to check out the links. Other egregious environmental harm is being done by the manufacture of these inefficient devices, but nobody is paying attention.

      • They do not turn fast enough to be a serious risk to birds AFAICT

        Doesn’t this guy ever think before he comments? I’m agnostic about how much damage wind turbines can do to bird populations, but even a high-school kid could determine that their speeds do not disqualify wind turbines from being dangerous.
        Maximum blade-tip speeds can easily be two to three times as fast as I hope you ever drive your car; some can reach Mach 0.3. And three-quarters of the turbine-path area can be swept out by blade surfaces moving faster than a car on the Interstate. Moreover, turbine blades attack from above and below. How does that make them easier to dodge than a car?
        This is what academia has come to: because he’s a physics professor a guy thinks he can tell by taking a drive in Austria that wind-turbine blades are slow.
        God help us.

      • They are not slow, it is true. And I have read reports which indicate that the pressure field they produce can kill birds without them even getting hit by the blades.
        In the denser wind farms, it may be impossible for a large bird to pass without being killed. And they are always there…so over time they may be 100% effective in wiping out large birds.
        The Altamonte Pass wind farm is said to kill huge numbers of golden eagles, as it is located in their primary breeding ground.
        And some want to create a continent wide wall of these things. I was more or less agnostic about wind before these bird deaths came to my attention.
        And none of this crap should be subsidized…that goes without saying.

      • “Doesn’t this guy ever think before he comments?”
        RGB thinks very deeply, which is why I see it worthwhile to engage with him. He just hadn’t given this particular matter much thought, I believe.

      • Bart:

        RGB thinks very deeply, which is why I see it worthwhile to engage with him.

        Perhaps; I had for some time indulged that notion. Dr. Brown spouted a lot of jargon that I didn’t understand, with apparent certainty in his position, and I must admit that because I usually found his positions congenial I was not as critical in considering them as I should have been.
        Eventually, though, I took the time to run down a few things he was talking about, found his positions groundless, and countered with, you know, actual facts? His response to actual facts: crickets.
        I sometimes criticize scientists in general. Being a lawyer, I look upon doing so as merely returning the favor 🙂 In all seriousness, though, I recognize that such a general criticism is unfair. I have had considerable experience in dealing with scientists and other experts, and despite a number of disappointments it was in many cases my good fortune to deal with scientists who were the genuine article. In those cases the scientists did not run when presented with facts; when they were wrong, they owned up.
        Your mileage may differ, but that has not been my experience with Dr. Brown. So far, his behavior on this thread has been no exception.

    • Moore’s law is irrelevant. If the cells were free, solar would still be unaffordable. The cost of thousands of square miles of land, wiring, maintenance (somebody has to dust the panels and remove the bird droppings), energy storage (the sun sets every day), and system back up (sometimes the sun is not visible for days on end) is not supportable.

      • I should add installation costs. I cost me $15,000 to put a new asphalt shingle roof on my house (about 2200 sq. ft.). I cannot imagine that solar cells would ever be cheaper than asphalt shingles. Now, add electricians to that number. Electricians are paid more than roofers.

      • I have a new series of inventions all lined up…automatic solar panel cleaning devices. Lots of ways to do it. If they are all on racks in neat rows, it is a no brainer to come up with a way to keep them spiffy.
        And as for free panels still being unaffordable…um, I would line my roof with them if they were, and I guarantee I could afford to do it. Land acquisition for my roof space will cost me zero.
        And if they cost the same as asphalt shingles, which is a better deal? I have a tile roof, so I am not sure…but I suspect that the shingles and the tiles are in a tie for putting electricity in my wiring, while solar panels will begin to pay me some money back from the first sunrise after I install them.
        So if they cost the same…the electricity producing solar panels are a hands down winner.
        Your turn, go ahead…tell me how stupid I am. Gotta have thick skin to comment here to begin with.

    • But the wind blows somewhere — wind becomes more reliable once one has a large, highly distributed capacity and a distribution system capable of moving the energy wherever it is needed.

      This bit of conventional wisdom has been around a long time and is simply wrong. Windless days often cover large geographical areas. At 4:00 pm EST today:
      I would also note that low wind conditions are quite typical at the temperature extremes which happens to be when demand is at its highest. See also:

      • Your picture of winds is of the continental USA….
        The Continential USA (48 states) comprise about 1.5% of the earth’s surface.

        Got a link that covers…..oh…..say 10% of the earth’s surface?

      • Joel wrote:

        The Continential USA (48 states) comprise about 1.5% of the earth’s surface.

        Which by electrical grid standards is quite large.

        Got a link that covers…..oh…..say 10% of the earth’s surface?

        No Joel. Perhaps you could point me to a single electrical grid that occupies “10% of the earth’s surface”. If you could then perhaps your comment would be relevant. Otherwise your just trying to obfuscate.

      • Eurasia comprises about 36% of the earth’s surface.


        How about you put up a picture of the winds over that area?

        Because nobody that is sane would propose supplying wind energy to the US from Eurasia.

      • I do not think Eurasia is 36% of the Earth’s surface. The southern hemisphere is 50%. So that would imply that Eurasia is 72% of the northern hemisphere.
        I do not even have to glance at a single chart or walk over to my globe collections to know this is off by a large amount…maybe a factor of at least three and maybe five.

    • Your exponential chart shows the price of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells going down since 1977, however the price of aluminum (for panels) has been going up since 1977, as have copper and other panel components. And that doesn’t even drag in cost of metals and rare earths used in batteries. And as demand goes up, prices go up.
      All you’ve shown is that silicon is no longer the dominant component of the price. Until photovoltaic panels get as cheap as shingles and batteries as cheap as siding, the price for solar has, as your exponential shows, plateaued out. Your exponential curves the wrong way.

      • Metals tend to go in long cycles. Cu and Al are nearing multiyear lows, and may fall much further.
        PS, do not listen to William Devane about buying silver! If anyone bought in when he first was on TV saying too…they would be down a very large percent of their investment.

    • RGB,
      I was beginning to think that I am the only one who is not a warmista who is not in love with this article.
      It was making me woozy (still is, really) to be agreeing with Joel Jackson, but what are you gonna do?
      I have a long rebuttal in my head, but I am thinking it would be a waste of time to begin to write it down.
      One thing I will say. and that is you are correct about the objectivity of the author. He should not paint himself as such, or spend so much time criticizing from the point of view of the financial conflict of interest of others.
      He himself is a fusion and fusion only activist, and every word of this article is intended for the purpose of promoting an agenda which is based on financing the authors own fusion project.

    • The low cost of solar panels is a consequence of overproduction coupled with reduction in demand as subsidies fall, rather than any engineering development. Thus, future pricing will depend on supply and demand factors which cannot be reliably determined. They may even increase once the surplus has been sold.

    • I often enjoy your posts but your 12 year return on SPV must be due to subsidies or a lot more sunshine than I get at 54N (~2000 hrs). I priced out wind and solar when I built my farm house in 2003. I was looking at doubling the cost of my house. I live 45 km from anywhere. It cost me $1,000 for a grid connection and $4,000 for a 12 kW propane generator for the frequent times of no grid supply during storms.
      Annoyed at my recent power bills, I priced out solar last month. A grid tie system wouldn’t even pay the interest cost to buy it and there would still be grid charges. A battery system off grid is just rediculous and even the supplier said it was only appropriate of no other option was available.
      Maybe with subsidies and more sun farther south your numbers are good. But up here in “sunny” Alberta the two suppliers I talked to said no go.

    • rgbatduke: It has long been my opinion that if the US starts pushing solar and wind power by essentially guaranteeing a market for five to ten years, all sorts of prices will drop as a reliable market creates both competition and economy of scale.

      It would be a highly useful experiment for determining just what methods are, or are not, technically and economically practical in transitioning to the renewables if the US Northeast and the state of California were to adopt a renewables-only approach to managing the green transformation of their respective electric grids.
      Over on Judith Curry’s blog, Rud Istvan and Planning Engineer have posted an informative article concerning the practicalities of using microgrids to enable and control renewable sources of electrical energy:
      Rud Istvan and Planning Engineer are skeptical of using microgrids as a technical enabler for greater market penetration of wind and solar.
      Suppose we did use the US Northeast and the state of California as places for conducting a large-scale experiment in finding the best ways to adopt wind and solar. As the course of the experiment progresses, microgrids may or may not prove useful in supporting wide adoption of the renewables, depending upon what balance each region chooses to strike among energy cost, energy supply availability, and energy supply reliability.
      However, someone has to be first in Going Microgrids, Going Renewables in a big way. IMHO, the state of California is the logical place to be the first pioneering region to seriously attempt it. The experiment is already half-way happening in California anyway, so it is simply a matter of pushing their experiment to Full Speed Ahead.
      If a decade from now, the cost of electricity in California is 2 to 4 cents a kilowatt-hour, as the advocates of the renewables say that it would be under their scheme, then California’s voters will have been pathfinders for the rest of us in seeing what works and what doesn’t. On the other hand, if the cost of electricity in California doubles or triples over what it is today, California is a rich state and can afford the added financial burdens.
      The key point here is that whether The Great California Experiment goes south or whether it doesn’t, those who are considering following California’s path into a renewable energy future will have a number of real-world data points to draw upon in deciding what works and what doesn’t when Going Microgrids, Going Renewables in a big way.
      At any rate, the majority of Californians say they are on board with going renewable, and California has more than enough financial resources to cover the risk that it doesn’t all work out in the way the advocates of the renewables say it will work out. Much profit can be made in giving the customers what they say they want; and there is no shame in doing an honest and professional job of helping California’s citizens make The Great California Experiment a reality. It’s their money; it’s their choice.
      With his recent Executive Order instructing all of California’s state agencies to take climate change issues into account when making public policy decisions, when doing infrastructure planning, and when making regulatory decisions, Governor Brown has given advocates of the renewables a golden opportunity to have it their way in the Golden State. They would be exceptionally foolish not to exploit the Governor’s executive order for all its worth.
      Meanwhile, in direct contrast with the public policy decision California is making, a different kind of public policy decision has been made in the US Southeast to pay a near-term premium in the form of higher capital costs for their nuclear plants in trade for a highly reliable supply of electricity at stable long-term prices.
      Twenty years from now, there ought to be clear evidence as to which public policy decision — California’s or the US Southeast’s — best served the long term interests of their respective citizens.

  46. Interestingly, for a climate-sceptical old green-man like me, these figures show it is not as bad as I thought! If I just follow the simple arithmetic, and have little time to check this – but $15 Trillion over 50 years is not a lot of money – it looks like 10% of annual turnover of the electricity industry (at 0.3 T per year), and in any case 400 GW would have to be replaced over that period and financed by the industry – say 400 B at 1B/GW (optimistic for nuclear – in Britain, the proposed next nuclear station works out at nearer $5B/GW). Clearly, however, the industry could not finance this solar transition. But at say $15T GDP/yr, the US economy would be faced with a bill of 0.3T/yr or 2% of GDP (much as Lord Stern thought it would cost). Green economists seem to think this is bearable – but right now, industrial economies suffer severely if GDP growth drops below 2% – so what would zero growth over 50 years mean for the financial system?
    I berate my fellow Greens not just for their AGW fixation, but also the cloud cuckoo land economics of the transition to a fossil-fuel free future. They don’t listen to either of these arguments – not because they are ‘green’, nor because they have got a new religion, but because they are politicians.
    And for those of the sceptic camp that wish the Greens would get real (I wish that too), I wish you guys would wise up to nuclear issues – most particularly nuclear fusion, and put the same kind of brains into a life-cycle analysis. The fuel is cheap, the engineers need are expensive but few, BUT the materials needed to contain the plasma are rare and extremely expensive. Way back in 1976, Dr Gordon Thompson, who is I think still running the Institute for Resource and Security Studies in Cambridge (Mass), joined my research group after resigning from the UK fusion programme, which he did liken to a religious quest – and 40 years on, not much has evolved! Fusion is pie-in-the-sky.
    And another request – how about a detailed exposition on US/global gas and oil supplies and depletion rates over the next 50 years? US gas supplies at current rates of depletion used to be – from memory, about 15 years, but fracking may have changed that. Oil – including tar-sands? And the global situation – with about 2000 billion barrels of oil (including non-conventional) at 30 bb/yr.current demand….comes to 70 years, so by 50 years hence, we could expect somewhat of a price hike – and the final 20 years to be very interesting times from a social and political perspective! That alone justifies public subsidy, don’t ya all think? Or are you all in favour of the free-market and its entrepreneurs deciding these things?

    • Hallelujah.
      Thank you Mr. Taylor!
      I spent a substantial portion of my young life intending to become a nuclear physicist, with the goa of assisting in fusion research.
      By the time I was in college, that dream had fizzled out, and I am glad I did not spend my life chasing the very promising illusion (so far at least…I hold out the possibility that it may be doable at some point) of generating cheap and clean power from nuclear fusion.
      Mr. Tomarkin, if you or anyone else is any closer to that goal than was the case twenty fie years ago, please explain it for us right here in plain language…not a reference to a website, not a link to a white paper…just a short and concise explanation of what has changed.
      If you can make a case for further reading…then do so.

    • I’m inclined to agree with you about Moore’s law’s relevance, And, like you, the numbers didn’t come out at bad as I had thought.
      But I think you’re amortizing over far too long if you’re using 50 years; solar-cell efficiency begins to degrade immediately, so the 20 years Mr. Tomarkin used may be better.
      If we then use his numbers and divide his $15.93 trillion total 20 year “overnight cost” of the system by 20 years and 3.8 trillion kilowatt-hours per year, you get an electricity cost of around $0.20 per kilowatt-hour, or about two-thirds more than what we pay now, although it’s slightly less if you back out the one-time real-estate-acquisition cost. But I think that’s just capital cost, and just for generation. I’m guessing maintenance is more labor-intensive than current generation. And I’m told the (largely one-time) cost of additional transmission lines would be significant.
      So, yes, it’s not as bad as I’d thought. But it still seems pretty bad.

      • Joe, all that assumes no improvements and no cost efficiencies and a lot of other pessimistic assumptions that may not be valid.

    • A point I am keen to make is that it would cost only a thousandth of that 15 trillion to test fusion. Yet, we won’t have a European test reactor until 2027.

      • Numbers aside, one is a test which will give some information only, and if we are lucky it will be good info and encouraging. The other is not a test…it is an infrastructure.
        The two are not comparable.

  47. Regarding First Solar, the CEO’s comment from 2012 is still generally true for variability of costs. But with any pace setting industry leader in an already fast moving sector you need to keep up on conditions. Herewith,

  48. Solar energy will always suck compared to nuclear power or hydro or coal etc.
    It is great for remote locations, or space applications.
    EPT$ = energy value generated during the lifetime of a solar panel.
    CPT$ = cost of ownership of the solar panel for its life time (subsidies removed)
    NET EPT$ = CPT$ – EPT$ Net value of solar energy.
    EOT$ = energy cost by coal & oil during the lifetime of a solar panel.
    COT$ = cost of ownership of oil energy conversion equipment for life of the solar panel.
    NET EOT$ = EOT$ + COT$ Net Cost of fossil fuel based energy.
    NET EPT$ << 0;
    In fact ABS( NET EPT$) < NET EOT$.
    In other words, fossil fuel use is cheaper than buying and using solar panels.
    So, we shouldn't be doing it for domestic use. A Watts likely got the hardware with an $ incentive so the true problem of solar is like masked in his case. I don't know for sure.
    On the other hand… we are paying for the incentive anyway.

      • You haven’t taken into account the fact that the sun goes down and that most people don’t live at latitudes where the incident radiation is optimal, the cost of energy & mass storage and cloud cover. Solar power is efficient at noon on the equator, on a sunny day to generate low quality heat with a government subsidized collector. And people may not use the energy at night. OK

      • “most people don’t live at latitudes where the incident radiation is optimal”

        Doesn’t need to be “optimal” to work well. For example, solar space heating has been used ever since glass was put into windows on the south side of a building.

      • Well… the obligation is on you to do the math to PROVE that heating water at night (when it is mostly needed) with solar energy is cost effective. Assertive conjecture on your part is irresponsible and a burden to you clients.

      • However, that does not factor in the cost of having a gas line to your house. I heat my water with NatGas. I have Gas HW, Gas furnace and no other gas appliance. For 7 to 9 months of the year my gas bill is the minimum payment. Three people with a son that takes hotel shower(no less than 20 minutes) at a rate of 1.5 per day. With the cost of gas being about a dollar or so, and the rest of the charges more than 10 times that amount. In the winter, the Hot water just help put me in the lowest gas rate. More than 75% of my annual bill is for stuff other than gas. If you were to give me the most efficient solar hot water system, I would save less than $25 a year. And after a few years the cost of maintenance would make collector rather costly. Call your local solar dealer and ask what they want to repair something on the roof. (Don’t have a solar dealer? Call an HVAC dealer and ask what it costs to have that diagnosed and repaired. It will be in the same ballpark)Few of the many “savings” for “renewable energy look only at the cost of actual Gas, or Electricity and completely ignore the many charges, taxes (St, County, muni), surcharges, maintenance, replacement, whatever. The sealed Circulating pump on a solar HW collector system costs over $250 plus man-hours to replace after (in addition to) the “Dioganistic” fee.

      • Paul Westhaver ……I am inviting you to come and visit my home. I think the 1000 gallon high insulated storage tank in my basement will impress you. Make taking a hot shower possible no matter how cloudy it has been in the past week.
        usurbrain……I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that you are too frightened to climb a ladder and do something as simple as wash the panels with Windex. Yes, some people are mechanically inept, and can’t do it themselves, but then, I know that some people are afraid of heights.

      • Joel,
        I have redundant systems in my house to back up the grid, to include both hot water and PV solar, wind, diesel and wood. But an advanced industrial society cannot run on wind and solar, or even hydro alone.
        Here in the PNW, we’ve turned vast stretches into death camps for birds and bats, at huge cost in public subsidies, and all this enormous squandering of wealth and mass murder has done is interfere with optimal use of our bounteous hydro, while raising rates and transferring wealth to China, further trashing the environment in the production of supposedly Green alternatives. Give me more high quality coal, which of course is still need to back up the so-called renewables.

      • That tank cost money, even if it was paid for by an Obama incentive.
        You haven’t taken into account the fact that the sun goes down
        and that most people don’t live at latitudes where the incident radiation is optimal,
        the cost of energy & mass storage
        and cloud cover.
        Solar energy works when you ignore the cost, the unreliability, the need to modify human behavior, geographic necessity, night time, bad weather, and socialism.

      • 1) “That tank cost money” …yup….and it’s been working fine, with zero maintenance for over 20 years. What you fail to realize is that 20 years of zero fuel costs for hot water with a family of five is a serious chunk of change.
        2) “Obama incentive” ….. Obama wasn’t around 20 years ago.

        3) “where the incident radiation is optimal,” ….guess what……it doesn’t have to be optimal to WORK!!!

        4) “Solar energy works when you ignore the cost”

        Nope… I have six 3×6 foot panels that provide space heating for my home. They sure were cost effective when heating oil was north of $3.00 a gallon. They paid for themselves in savings in less than 10 years.
        It is really a shame that you have such a negative attitude towards something that is really very inexpensive, and very easy from a “do it yourself” perspective. Maybe you should get a book and learn how to sweat a copper fitting. Or maybe install a bigger window on the south side of your home. Some people install windows purely for aesthetic reasons, you’ll find it amazing how warm sunshine is in the middle of January.

      • Nope Joel D Jackson, you are stubbornly and invincibly ignorant of the true costs of solar energy.
        Why would I spend money on oil if I could get solar for cheaper? I am more than capable of analyzing the entire costs related to domestic energy use. I did so for my own home.
        Solar power does not even come close to replacing my oil fired system. Even with obama subsidies.
        If you make promises to your clients that are contrary to that, then you will get sued for fraud when your broken promises hurt their pocket books. C’est la vie!

      • If you do the calculations for solar hot water, you’ll find using fossil fuels to heat your domestic hot water is more expensive than solar.

        At my last place of employment (a museum run by greenies) they had a seminar for all the local contractors promoting solar hot water heating. The presenters gave a ballpark figure for new construction installations of $10,000 (you should have seen the contractors eyes roll). As I use natural gas for hot water, heating, and our stove it is possible for me to make the necessary calculations. Since the furnace doesn’t run in the summer I can just use the most recent bills. I also have my natural gas bills going back a few years before we replaced the electric stove with a gas one enabling me to estimate how much is for water and how much is for cooking. Giving the solar hot water advocates the benefit of the doubt, I estimate heating my water cost about $28/month. That puts my break even point at just shy of 30 years without even considering opportunity costs.
        Now if I consider the opportunity costs it is unlikely I will ever break even. By investing that $10,000 at a annual return of a mere 3% at the end of 30 years that $10,000 will have grown to over $23,500.

      • You guys are all seeming to be arguing in absolute terms…makes no sense to me.
        Solar heating makes no sense in Alaska. Makes a lot of sense in Florida. My swimming pool is nice and warm thanks to my rooftop heat exchanger.
        In winter if it is cloudy, I need to use my heat pump.
        If it is sunny I just turn a valve and the water runs up to my roof after leaving the filter and before going through the chlorinator.
        All or nothing argumentation is dumb. Sorry for saying so, but opening up your thinking.

      • @Joel D. Jackson July 29, 2015 at 11:37 am
        “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that you are too frightened to climb a ladder ” Did I say I couldn’t? Why the Sarcastic retorts? Take the chip off of your shoulder. I have been using wind for more than 60 years. (Got first place in HS Science fair in 57) and solar HW for 55. Have been on a roof several times a year and a 100ft tower often.
        However the average person that is going to buy or fall for one of these systems sold from SolarCity probably doesn’t even have a ladder, thinks all black wires are ground, and has no idea how to replace a cartridge fuse let alone a GTI. They are going to PAY to have maintenance performed on their equipment.
        To sell, push, Solar you have to be honest about it. Yes it works, I use it, but it has it limitations. Without the massive rebates from the feds and st gov, you will still be money ahead if you invested what you spent in the typical guaranteed annuity – UNLESS, like you or me you can repair all of the equipment your self and have access to the parts at dealers cost. And the logs/spreadsheet I keep prove that. So get off your high horse and educate people not demean them. Or, as we said in the Navy, get the hair out of your …

  49. Unless I missed it. The production rate of solar panels will need to double very 25 years. Just to maintain that installation rate of one solar panel per second, if the life of a solar is 25 years. The battery production would have to double every 10 years.

    • Merlin, Don’t confuse the unicorn fantasy of solar power pie-in-the-sky with facts! How dare you!
      Rules of solar power fantasy:
      1) The sun never sets,
      2) people only need heat or electricity during daylight (preferably 11 am to 1 pm)
      3) Energy storage is infinitely available (lead storage batteries) and free.
      4) There is no bad weather
      5) Everyone lives on the south side of a building
      6) The government pays for you solar system
      7) The sun never sets, even above the arctic circle and below the antarctic circle.
      8) There are no cars, everyone works from home in white Steve-Jobs-esques chairless dwellings with no children.
      9) Solar panels don’t cost anything to manufacture.

      • yawn, the solar industry will continue to out grow any industry for decades. Good luck on your alternative investments.

  50. The greens lost their ecological argument for using solar panels as a viable alternative energy source the first time trees were cut down to install them. That isn’t “green” – it’s lunacy.

  51. The 37 watts per square meter number is optimistic.
    NREL has been measuring solar energy at the ground for many years. Eg at 40 degrees north latitude a square meter will receive about 14 megajoules per day of solar energy. A 15 percent efficient photovoltaic panel will then convert those 14 megajoules of solar into 2.1 megajoules of electricity. Thats 2100000 divided by 86400 seconds per day. Equals 24 watts.
    Moving that panel to the mohave desert will only increase that to 30 watts.
    The annual range of power varies by a factor of 3. If you consider that you want electrical power in the winter, the panel output will only average 20 watts. Adding a 2 axis tracker will improve that back to 30 watts but then you have to add the cost of the tracking mount.
    If solar photovoltaic power were competitive with grid power, then every power supplier would already be converting. They run the real world numbers and decide to build a coal plant.
    A Joule is a watt*second. The author states that a joule is a “watt/second” which is a gross error that any engineer would immediately recognize as the mistake of an amateur.

      • The power companies have good cause to object to reverse metering. It is no big deal when it is a few people, but if large numbers install systems with reverse metering, and force power companies to buy back power at the same price they sell it, while those same customers enjoy having the grid for when they need it, but pay none of the cost of the infrastructure due to credits they receive from reverse metering…it is obvious that at some point this cannot work for an industry that is so tightly regulated as power suppliers.
        Also, if large amounts of power are fed into the grid in unpredictable ways, it can destabilize things.
        On the bright side, huge advances have been reported in modeling and real time weather reports and using computers to deal with fluctuations more effectively.

      • @Menicholas, our power company, Holy Cross, buys surplus solar at 50% of their selling price.

      • OK. That is not reverse metering then.
        Some places mandate that meters run backwards when power flows from the home to the grid.

    • “The author states that a joule is a “watt/second” which is a gross error that any engineer would immediately recognize as the mistake of an amateur.”
      Chill out, dude. Anyone can make a typo.

      • This was a very long article. It has been reviewed by at least 25 Ph.D scientists, mostly physics majors (like me) and more than a few lawyers utility folks, and regulators. The initial article was published on-line in October 2014 and I updated it this past July. I expect given its length and the fact that it was not reviewed by a professional editor there may be a few more typos. I have already replaced one incorrect graph. I welcome all comments and suggestions at or you can call me at +1-916-482-2020 The article is published on-line at: and corrections will be made on this on-line version as we find them. In a few days when all comments are in, I will release a new version to Anthony at WUWT for his post. Thanks to everyone who has responded.

    • Moving that panel to the mohave desert will only increase that to 30 watts.

      The extra 20% output is just a bonus. There are more important reasons for siting a solar plant in the Mojave.
      1 – >90% sunshine (350 sunshine days for the Mojave desert)
      2 – Cheap land. A quick google finds a few lots at approx. $1000/acre.
      Major disadvantage: very long power lines.

    • Well modern solar cells designed by people who know what they are doing, typically get from 21 to 24 Wm^-2. So your 15% number is for toy solar panels, sold by the lowest bidder.
      And strangely the people who make those good solar panels see no need whatsoever to have taxpayer subsidies for their products; they are willing to stand on their own two feet.
      With PV panels, solar to electric conversion efficiency is the only thing that matters (land is not free).
      If you read any significant portion of Tomer’s extensive essay, just how did you reach the conclusion that the author was an amateur ??

      • Typos invariably lend to the incredibility of an article. I had three. (Thus I am an amateur.) 1.) 24 hours a day, 365 days a week. 2.) Watt second was styled as Watt/Second (where did that slash come form?) 3.) And in the comparison of PV efficiency’s versus surface area of active PV cells I had an correct value in the square area. All have been corrected. And I used a graph for the Sun’s spectral content which was in appropriate. That too has been corrected. The corrected article is on-line at: and a downloadable PDF will be linked up tonight. I have also submitted errata corrections to Anthony at WUWT for him to correct the version he posted.

  52. “bw” One joule is indeed a watt second and apologize for the typo. This is a long article and I am sure there may be other typos as well. For non-scientists the term watt second means one watt (in electricity one volt times one ampere) for one second. Note differentiation between energy and power units. Of line please email me at and provide the paragraph and line number where I allowed that typo to creep in. Thank you. Regards, T. D. Tamarkin

    • Greatly appreciate your article. After reading todays post on WUWT (7/31/15) on the European Renewable Energy fiasco I have coined a new term for renewable “The Green Plague.” The term seems to succinctly wrap-up exactly the aspects of the spread of this pending catastrophe of this misguided endeavor. Perhaps the title of one of your future articles.

  53. “Tesla Motors is a great company and the electric car is a great idea.”
    Ha! Tesla exists on subsidies that take money from taxpayers and transfers that money into the capacious pockets of Elon Musk.
    Simply search DuckDuckGo (google might be too biased to do a real search) for Elon Musk rent seeker.

  54. Point about solar PV that I find perplexing, is how does Germany arrange to have no overcast days, ever?
    -It seems like although Winter output is less, mid-day Summer output is never less than 50% of rated max. Anyone who’s used a solar panel knows that output in overcast conditions is more like 10%, not 50%, so how do they achieve an output consistently >50% of max?

    • Answer: Germany does not arrange to have no overcast days, ever. Solar energy supplin in Germany is very low, see:
      Solar has just overtaken hydro power, and is a little more than half wind and ‘other’.
      Coal provides about 45% or power output, 19% hard coal, 26% lignite.
      Nuclear provides about 17%.
      Renewables are said in the article to be over 25% in first half of 2012.
      Wind supplies 40%
      Biomass is about 30%.
      Photovoltaics about 16%
      Hydro about 14%
      Geothermal 0.015%
      The totals seem to add up to 87% – the rest is presumably natural gas for power plants, and perhaps oil
      Figures for total consumption of energy in 2009:
      Oil 34.6%
      Bituminous coal 11.1%
      Lignite 11.4%
      Natural gas 21.7%
      Nuclear power 11.0%
      Hydro- and wind power 1.5%

    • Your chart shoes a few sunny days in a row.
      We had several heat-waves in Western Europe in July. The interesting thing was that solar panels’ peak output was reduced 20 % on the hot, cloudless days.

  55. What is the impact on albedo, if this were to be done globally, ie., if all countries sought to become fully reliant upon solar PV energy?
    What impact will this have on weather patterns?

  56. If the future of solar power is as wonderful and certain as some claim, then it is inexcusable to take money from people (ie tax) to subsidize it. The fact is, that without subsidies, in the near term solar and wind would crash, except for some of the niche uses that have been mentioned.
    The markets, if freed, would efficiently direct investments and research into the various forms of energy production. No doubt if fusion is somehow someday feasible it will be developed. Meanwhile, there is plenty of coal, natural gas, and oil to get on with for decades, and maybe centuries.
    No net global warming for over 18 years. Nature has spoken. CAGW is a boogyman, not a real near-term threat. Fossil fuels work, are plentiful, and are not a threat to mankind, the earth, nature, not even to Gaia.

    • Also, think how many birds would be spared death or horrible injuries if they could avoid being fried by solar concentrators or chopped up by wind turbines.
      Isn’t it galling how we see all those sad, blackened birds every time there’s an oil spill, but never see the burned and mangled bodies of birds who run afowl, oops, afoul of “green” energy production.

  57. The details of the cost of converting away from fossil fuel never seem to include the trade-off point where fossil fuel power is still essential to a reliable grid but is no longer profitable to operate because of erratic schedules, hot stand-by conditions, and ever increasing costs of fuel for which production is dropping as demand drops. Such things as repairs/maintenance/staffing remain constant, but the ecosystem of fossil power generation is also going to fade with time. The cost of everything associated with fossil fuel generation will go up and outages will become more frequent and longer as the skill set and profitability to maintain systems fades as careers change direction. We see this happening in the medical industry as a result of Obamacare fallout. Lack of replacement parts alone will become crippling long before the last fossil fuel generator is dismantled (assuming they’re not abandoned like aging wind turbine farms).

  58. short story:
    the coasts of the solar cells, installation + maintenance are amortiziced in 12 ys.
    After 8 ys the efficency is sunk by 70 per cent; the market prizes for electricity have sunk too.
    the numbers may differ over time; fact is:
    manufacturers of renewables don’t rely on their renewables for their productions demands.

  59. condensed:
    after 40 ys subsieded development they don’t buy their sustainabiliters.

    • More condensed – written circa 2010:
      “Wind Power – It doesn’t just blow, it SUCKS!”
      “Solar Power – Stick it where the Sun don’t shine!”

  60. Anthony – it would be great if this post was added to your reference material. This is the most cogent analysis that I’ve seen on the topic. I will be using it as reference material for years to come I suspect.

    • Curiously, I seem to recall that Anthony has solar power on his own roof. Perhaps I am mistaken in my recollection. So it isn’t clear that he agrees that solar power is not a reasonable amortized investment. I certainly don’t.

  61. A couple of comments.
    First regarding the multi-gap panels. While they do increase efficiency, they do so at the cost of complexity and size. They will cost a lot more to produce and since they will take up more space, due to having 3 cells instead of one, they will actually take up more square meters to produce the same total electricity output compared to simpler solar panels. Additionally that extra complexity means more things to break. Which means more testing at the factory and a lower percentage of produced panels that will be ship-able.
    Second, another problem with using lenses to concentrate light on solar cells. They get hotter. That extra heat is going to shorten the expected life span of the cells.
    Third, Since it will take years to build out the total solar capacity, at any given time you will have panels that range from brand new, to approaching the end of their effective lives. Solar cells start dropping in efficiency the minute lights shines on them. The average efficiency of the entire network is going to be substantially less than the advertised, day one efficiency. Which means you have to build even more panels to compensate.
    Fourth, as soon as the panels go up, dust and bird droppings will start to accumulate on them. Even if cleaned off regularly, this will result in yet another drop in average efficiency. More frequent cleaning will reduce this average drop, but at the cost of greater maintenance expenses.
    Between the inefficiencies of storing electricity for when it needed and the inefficiencies involved in moving electricity from where the sun is strong, to where the people live, you are going to have to increase the size of your array yet again.
    All told, whatever you calculated, double it. At a minimum.

    • Wait a second…how can they be more efficient, yet need more space for the same amount of power?
      That is like saying my new car gets better mileage, but it uses more gas than my old car to do it.
      Does not efficiency refer to the amount of electricity produced for one unit of incident solar radiation?

  62. Another problem with the so called power wall, is it’s made up of lithium batteries.
    Can you imagine that battery pack, first being baked for 20 or 30 minutes by a fire, then getting hit by a stream of cold water from a firefighter’s hose.
    Can you say, boom?

  63. I suggest that grid-connected intermittent power sources like wind and solar require a “super-battery” to be economic.
    Six years ago (probably more) I proposed a super-battery composed of many electric cars, plugged in whenever they are not in use. Each car can be programmed to be adequately charged at the time you plan to drive it. The electric car fleet is your distributed super-battery. See my 2009 post below.
    Something like this super-battery concept may save wind and solar power from economic oblivion, but their current costs are so much higher than other, better power sources that wind and solar have a very long way to go to become economically competitive.
    Also, I suppose it would be too disruptive to fragile brains to point out that the current atmosphere on Earth is dangerously CO2-deficient – more CO2 is better, and within limits a lot more CO2 is a lot better.
    Also, I suppose it would be truly cruel to point out to such brains that CO2 lags temperature at all measured time scales.
    Allan M R MacRae (15:30:19) : [excerpt]
    Pierre Gosselin is technically correct re the need for (nearly) 100% backup of wind power by conventional electric power generation. From my earlier post on another thread:
    The biggest problem I see with wind power is the “substitution capacity”, the percentage of conventional power generation that can be permanently retired when new wind power is put into service. This number is typically less than 10%.
    The best report I’ve found on this subject is:
    E.On Netz Wind Power Report 2005, Germany
    Simply, the wind often does not blow when we need the peak power – so we need a ~same-size conventional power station over the hill, spinning and ready to take over when the wind dies… …the fact that wind power varies as the cube power of the wind speed is a further problem – power variations in the grid due to varying wind speed can cause serious grid upsets, even shutdowns.
    Just one such blackout in a cold winter could have devastating results – for a preview, look up a sampling of the mortality stats during the Ontario-Quebec Ice Storm of 1998.
    Storage of electricity is much easier said than done.
    One interesting idea for electricity storage is a “super battery”, consisting of many plugged-in electric cars. This should be possible in a decade or two.
    Wind power is supposed to work well in conjunction with (excess) hydro power, but I have not seen this clearly demonstrated.
    I have studied this subject and in conclusion I am not yet a fan of wind power.
    Regards, Allan

  64. I will have to change the subject a bit. Talk of switching to solar energy by these eminent personages makes the assumption that we must stop all electricity production that involves burning fossil fuels. There is no evidence whatsoever that any one of them has considered the validity of the science involved. The fact that they are rich businessmen tells me that they just happened to be lucky enough to find an unused niche for themselves, not because they are geniuses. The pseudo-science they get from the IPCC implicates carbon dioxide as the source of dangerous global warming which any minute may engulf us, or if not us then our grandchildren after us. I as a scientist can tell them now that the science about global warming is definitely settled. Not because IPCC says so but because carbon dioxide does not cause any global warming. The greenhouse effect that carbon dioxide is alleged to produce by absorbing outgoing long-wave radiation simply does not work as described. This does not mean that carbon dioxide does not absorb that radiation, it does. But the existence of the hiatus proves that despite absorbing this radiation it cannot warm the atmosphere. The explanation of this seeming contradiction requires understanding physics that Ferenc Miskolczi has worked out. MGT, the Miskolczi greenhouse theory, explains it His theory differs from the Arrhenius greenhouse theory that is used by the IPCC by being able to handle more than one greenhouse gas at the same time. This is necessary because the real atmosphere is not pure carbon dioxide but contains a mix of greenhouse gases. According to MGT carbon dioxide and water vapor, both greenhouse gases, establish a joint optimal absorption window in the infrared whose optical thickness is 1.87. This value comes from measurements of radiosonde observations. Its importance derives from the fact that according to Miskolczi the Planck-weighted greenhouse-gas optical thickness of earth atmosphere remains constant as can be experimentally demonstrated. If you now add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere it will start to absorb in the IR as predicted by the Arrhenius theory. But this will increase the optical thickness. And as soon as this happens, water vapor will start to diminish and rain out, the original optical thickness is restored, and no Arrhenius warming takes place. That is the end of the Arrhenius greenhouse theory which now belongs in the waste basket of history. And with it dies AGW. It was never anything but Hansen’s fantasy. What we actually observe now is that atmospheric carbon dioxide increases but there is no parallel temperature rise. They have named this phenomenon hiatus and there are dozens of papers out trying to prove that it does not exist. The latest one of these is the article by Karl et al. in Science. It is based on a complete rewrite of the recent temperature history of the world and it stinks to high heavens of scientific fraud. It does not show a graph of temperature increase. And only two of their data points in figure 1 show warming to compete with the hiatus. There is another scientific fraud, also associated with hiatus that you haven’t even heard of. It is the hiatus of the eighties and nineties I discovered it while doing research for my book “What Warming” in1988. I put a graph of it in my book as figure 15.The graph shows that from 1979 to 1997 global temperature stood still. That is an eighteen year period, same as the current hiatus. The reason you don’t see this in official temperature curves is that it was over-written by a fake warming called “late twentieth century warming.”. The three outfits that collaborated in this fraud were HadCRUT3, GISS, and NCDC. Fortunately they still do not control satellites and that is where I obtained the data that shows the hiatus. Michael Crichton once spoke to the Senate about global warming. He was appalled at the casual way temperature data were being changed and said so in front of the Senate. Nobody listened and what they did to justify Karl et al, now shows that they are still at it. If you are using temperature values only use satellite values if they are available. Now that they have two hiatuses to handle instead of just one as Karl et al. think we should ask what this means for global temperature. If you add up the time taken up by the two hiatuses you find that their no-warming time takes up 80 percent of the time since since the beginning of the satellite era in 1979. The remaining 20 percent is taken up by the super El Nino of 1998 and the short warming that followed it. It was the only warming during the entire satellite era and it raised the twenty-first century temperature up by one-third of a degree Celsius in only three years. Neither of these was greenhouse warming, hence we can declare that the entire satellite era since 1979 has been greenhouse free.

    • Hey, look, I just do not agree with the top article. I think it is fully of errors and hyperbole. This is not uncommon in discussions of solar power (probably on both sides). I’ve never supported the demonization of solar on WUWT, and have had extended arguments on the subject before with e.g. Willis and others. Its OK. We don’t all have to agree on everything.
      In the top article, I pointed out two problems. The first is that it is just plain wrong to assert that the costs of solar cells will not scale down in the future. They will. There is overwhelming evidence — and I do mean overwhelming — that cost per watt has scaled down following a roughly exponential trajectory in the past (presented in my reply above) and there are a whole lot of people who are heavily invested in the high probability that their cost will continue to drop in the future. I think there is little question that they will, in fact, continue to drop in price, as well a lot of the support electronics needed to implement them in a household.
      The second is that it is a simple matter of fact that one can pay off an investment in solar with an amortization of the installation cost over a decade and under two, well within the service lifetime of the hardware (which does not, generally, drop to 30% of its original efficiency in 20 years as somebody above has suggested, but more like to 90% of its original efficiency). Installing them on individual households in NC is a winning proposition over the lifetime of the cells. Is it the most profitable investment you can make? Probably not. Is it a money loser? No.
      Those two points alone make the objectivity of the top article questionable. It is interesting that it was reviewed by “25 Ph.D.’s” and not one of them noticed that the visible light spectrum in the article was egregiously wrong. It is also interesting that not one of them noticed that solar cells have followed an exponential curve (like Moore’s Law) in the past enough to comment on the danger of stating baldly that they “don’t follow Moore’s Law” and won’t continue to come down in price in the future. Of course they will. By a half, and half again. And maybe a half after that. The article wishes to convince you otherwise, obviously, but banks that loan hard cash to people based on projections in many cases think otherwise, and history provides absolutely zero support for the assertion.
      Am I going to do a line by line refutation of the article? Of course not. It isn’t all wrong. But do not mistake it for a scientific appraisal of solar technology. It is a mix of political commentary and some science selectively stated (and sometimes incorrectly stated) or argued to make a point. Other people in perfectly good faith might disagree with some of their conclusions.
      And don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of fusion power. When I was young I dreamed of solving the problem of fusion. As an Old Guy ™ I have an idea that I think would actually work for fusion, although I don’t have the energy to nag or beg for the million or so in capital I’d need to find out if the idea has any realistic chance of working (and I’m a theorist, so it would require twice as much mental effort for me as it might for some others:-). I sincerely hope that e.g. Lockheed-Martin’s Skunk Works has the problem licked. There is a fortune to be made, civilization to be stabilized into the indefinitely future, fame, glory, instant nobel prizes to be awarded, blah blah blah.
      But I see little point in shooting solar power down in order to promote fusion power research. We have plenty of money to do both at the research level, and there isn’t a single reason I can think of not to deploy solar anywhere that a fairly hard-nosed cost benefit analysis suggests that it would be profitable. Do I support massive subsidies for it? No, but no part of the energy marketplace is flat, and there are always going to be social, political and economic issues outside of the pure free market involved in generating and distributing it. Energy resources almost invariably come from the commons, and the regulation of a shared commons is one major reason for civilization. I can see a bunch of reasons to want to stop burning fuel for energy that are absolutely independent of whether or not carbon dioxide is likely to lead to any sort of climate catastrophe. Personally, I’m happy to live in a place where my electricity comes from a nuclear plant, although I’ll be frank — Duke Power is building solar plants all over NC, and I don’t think they’re doing so in expectation of some sort of loss. NC is already 2nd nationally in solar power generation, and is likely to increase a lot more. Solar plus nuclear, solar plus methane — that isn’t an insane combination. And it doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t rip out everything and redo it if LM has fusion licked. Or anybody else.
      But if you want pie in the sky — fusion has been promising us the pie for 50 odd years, but always ten years in the future. If you want a Moore’s Law Major Fail, try a technology that can only break even if you blow up a city with a thermonuclear device, so far. Is that any reason not to keep trying? Hell no! The payoff for success is enormous! But so is the payoff from continuing to improve solar, wind, storage, and distribution. And we are neither poor nor stupid. We can afford to cover all of these bets out of chickenfeed, compared to the cost of a single aircraft carrier. We can’t afford not to cover these bets — in my opinion. We should be betting more aggressively — investing more heavily — in thorium fusion and still more exotic possibilities. But we can only do most of this stuff with public money, as private investors simply can’t afford it or understand the science well enough to even assess the risks and benefits. Many of them are long shots, with a “profit” only if ONE of the long shots comes home. Many of them are long term long shots, and everybody wants a profit now, not twenty years from now.
      So fission, fusion, coal, solar, wind — don’t think that any part of the marketplace in this regulated public utility is “free”. It is not. And it probably shouldn’t be, not completely. What it should be is honestly laid out so the long-suffering taxpayer can make informed decisions when ten different people all tell them ten different things — climate catastrophe, no climate catastrophe, solar is good, solar is bad, coal is good, coal is bad, nuclear is essential, nuclear is evil. Politics is how people try to decide all of this stuff not resorting (often) to clubs. But underneath the politics there is a lot of money, and everybody’s objectivity gets bent when there is money on the table.

      • “””””….. It is also interesting that not one of them noticed that solar cells have followed an exponential curve (like Moore’s Law) in the past enough to comment on the danger of stating baldly that they “don’t follow Moore’s Law” and won’t continue to come down in price in the future. …”””””
        Well I would be careful about citing Moore’s law in connection with solar panels.
        Essentially Moore’s law was that the number of transistors on an IC would double about every year. He didn’t say much about cost.
        I saw my first real “planar” transistor around early 1961, something like a 2N709 as I recall.
        The die was about 2 mm square, with a roughly circular transistor diffusion, taking up most of that area. I’m guessing that the silicon wafer it was cut from was 30 mm diameter.
        The first real planar integrated circuits, in any volume, were the Fairchild RTL gates used in the Minuteman program , in an 8 lead TO8 package containing a pair of two input nor gates, so four resistors and two transistors, on a die maybe 3-4 mm square, and wafer size was probably 50 mm.
        40 years ago , we were building ion implanted PMOS calculator chips on two inch wafers, but the industry standard was more like three inch wafers, which we changed to in a couple of years. Those circuits ran on about 4.5 volts.
        Today the industry is using mostly 300 mm wafers, and SLR camera sensor chips can have 36 x 24 mm arrays with 36 millon pixels around 4.7 microns on a side.
        But memory and microprocessor chips are smaller than that.
        But the real gains have been in lithography where critical dimensions are now maybe 25 nm or less, and a whole logic gate maybe under a micron in size.
        None of that exponential Moore’s law explosion has helped the cost of solar panels much if at all.
        The sun is still at around 1,000 W/m^2 at best, and you still need acres of silicon, and real estate.
        So solar cells maybe got the full benefit of wafer sizes going from 30 mm to 300 mm.
        Whooopeee !! a factor of ten.
        Yes the technology has expanded more than that; but it is not due to Moore’s law.

      • RGB, as usual you have the patience and writing skills to say clearly what I can only think of, and only then while I am driving down the road.
        Thank you for your comments.

        • RGB, you have left out one important entry in these sentences:
          “What is the relative cost of replacing an old coal burning power plant that is no longer economically efficient to run with nuclear, with solar photovoltaic, with wind, with a mix of both of all three and methane on-demand generation too? What is the marginal cost, and what are the advantages, the risks, the benefits, the costs, the disadvantages, of various pure and mixed investment strategies?”
          What should be included is “new coal burning power plant”. At the risk of telling grandfathers how to suck eggs, I would remind those on this list that the intention of any power plant is to turn potential energy into electrical energy, whether the potential energy be chemical (coal, oil, gas), gravitational (hydro), atomic (nuclear), electromagnetic (solar) or kinetic (windmills). For chemical and atomic, the fuel is used to boil water (normally), turn it into steam, pass it through turbines which then power alternators. I doubt that there have been great gains in efficiency in the latter stages of the process, the turbines and alternators, and these are identical no matter the type of fuel used to boil water. Gains in efficiency can only come in the design, control and operation of the furnaces and boilers. Further, I would say that only low gains are to be expected, unless the original plant was designed on the basis of a certain type of coal which is no longer available. Plants are replaced because the steel may have been weakened by cycles of heating and cooling, the steel may have been gradually burnt away, and the machinery may be worn out. I would expect that most coal fired plants have multiple boilers, and it would be feasible to shut boilers off and replaced them one by one with the most efficient brand new boilers obtainable, adapted to the type of coal now available. Foundations, buildings, most of the power plant will be usable for centuries, barring earthquakes and meteorite or aircraft hits.
          It is plausible that a coal fired plant would be too small for the demands, and in that case there would be need to consider whether to install additional coal, gas, oil, or nuclear furnaces to boil more water for more turbo-alternators.
          Note that some nuclear power stations are said to be coming to the end of their life. So it is feasible to install new reactors, which would be very likely a step up in efficiency, or it may be better to install coal burning furnaces and boilers – doesn’t matter where the heat comes from, the steam does not worry! Provided you have the land for the rail yards and a feasible rail connexion, that is.

  65. There seems to be a typo: “averaged over 365 days, 24 days a year.” Shouldn’t that be “24 hours per day”? Which in itself seems like too much sunshine!

  66. Arno Arrak: If you will hit the Return key a couple of times every now and then, you will create
    paragraphs. . .
    and nice spaces between them. . .
    which will make your very interesting comments much easier to read.
    (Your Household Hint for the Day)
    /Mr Lynn

    • Cha-Chink! We’re up to maybe six times that observation has been made to him (2 or 3 by me personally) to no avail.

  67. Stepping back…
    Where is the division between the article and its criticism. The layout is haphazard and unclear.
    This article is a name-dropping PT Barnum sales pitch.
    The author throws names around like holy water on good friday.
    That is how the socialist money scavengers work.
    Elon Musk, Ray Kurtweil, Moore’s Law blah blah blah…
    Where is the cost benefit analysis?
    (Pssst, you’ll never get one from a green)

  68. Tomer,
    I see that you are still following the responses. Sorry for the late entry but there has been SO much to read that my thoughts are crowding my non-scientist brain.
    Thanks for your time.
    I have been using thin film solar panels as a “sensor” to monitor solar activity since Jan 2014. In between clouds, I have found a “peak” pattern that has befuddled me. So, the question came up “what am I actually seeing” when I graph the results. Your jpg Best Research-Cell Efficiencies is one of the best description I have seen. But again it does not tell me what I am seeing.
    The plot begins at about 5am (all local time of course) and ends about 8pm. It comes to a slow rise peak around 9am and at that time begins to slowly fall until around noon. After that time it sometime rises slightly (or remains fairly constant) until about 6pm where it begins to drop off.
    Because the recording end is not terminated and goes into a voltmeter, there is no load to interfer with the signal. The peak at this time is about 17.2 volts. When I first set the panel on the roof it was overloading the voltmeter that was setting on 20v scale. The peaks seemed to be dropping but at the time it was installed, my goal was to have a sensor to record sun up to sun down. After several different “arrays” of different gazes into the sky, I started recording three panels with their own meter. And after moving the gaze to follow the sun I chose two of the more sensitive panels to do my recording. One used at day and the other at night. The gaze was fixed to almost straight up and has been that way for about a year. At one time I tried the three looking at 45 degrees apart with the center looking at high noon. I even tried them in series which formed a step pattern.
    My plots seem to be against the common belief that the panel must be looking at the sun to obtain the highest possible efficiency. We have not had cloud free days this year (2015) until within the last week so as the sun continues to drop in activity, I may have a chance to see a “pure” pattern. My goal to to see IF the sun output is changing. I have have a hobby of raising very hot peppers and found some hybrids that are black (or maybe dark purple). Recently the darkness has become lighter and are turning back to green before they change to red for the birds to eat. I put shade cloth over my best one last year for about a week and they began to lighten just like they are doing now.
    So, I would like to know if what I see with my “sensors” that may be causing the plants to change. Since I live in the central part of the Hill Country of Texas, (about 30 degree latitude) there should be ample days to obtain a good pattern of the sun shine.
    I have asked these questions on WUWT for some time without having responses, so maybe someone out there can give me some hints.
    What a wonderful post, thank you Anthony.

    • Lee Osburn, please note that we have updated the on-line version of the Green Mirage article at: This now includes a PDF download button at the top. I believe we cleaned up all typos and changed the Sun’s spectral distribution graph. Feel free to download that PDF. And feel free to contact me any time at or +1-916-482-2020. I will speak with my colleague, Barrie Lawson, in the UK and together we will attempt to address your situation as described. In the interim please see the “Going Solar” link at: and the “Solar Power (Technology & Economics)” at: It would be helpful if you can send the text of your questions/comment to me at my email address as the WUWT site does not let me copy the comment text with MS IE-11. Thank you for your comments.

    • Lee, you might want to see if there is a correlation between the output of the panel and the humidity. Water vapor might be altering the spectrum falling on the panel, varying it’s output.
      Secondly, I have found from my own experience that voltage in a panel is pretty constant under varying sun angles, but current through a load varies directly with the intensity of sunlight falling on the panel.

      Lastly thin film panels react positively to heat, the inverse behavior of crystalline panels.

      • “””””….. Secondly, I have found from my own experience that voltage in a panel is pretty constant under varying sun angles, but current through a load varies directly with the intensity of sunlight falling on the panel. …..”””””
        Wow Joel; what a revelation. You have just discovered (for yourself) that the short circuit photocurrent from a silicon diode is (roughly) linear with incident solar irradiance; actually over several orders of magnitude, while the open circuit diode Voltage varies as the logarithm of the incident solar irradiance.
        in fact the current doubles for every 26 mV increase in terminal Voltage, or about 60 mV for every order of magnitude increase in the current or solar irradiance.
        Maximum power is obtained (at “room temperature”) when the cell is loaded down to about 0.5 volt forward voltage, whereas the open circuit voltage maybe 600-700 mV.
        It’s not from your experience Joel, it is just basic silicon semiconductor physics, that is to be found in any semi-conductor text book, such as Andy Grove’s book for example.

      • george e smith writes: ” It’s not from your experience Joel”

        No Mr Smith, I used an in-line ammeter when I was on top of my roof, diagnosing a shorted blocking diode in one of the 4 arrays up there. Easy to observe the correspondence between the occasional cloud passing overhead and the value on the ammeter.
        PS…..the shorted diode was easy to find… was the only one of the 32 that was hot to the touch.

    • Lee, I also forgot one item.
      If a panel is illuminated with direct sun shine, and there are additional bright white clouds in the sky, the measured output of the panel can actually exceed it’s rated output.

      • Yes, I have observed the increase of the signal when a cloud passes. I have also witnessed droplets of water vapor falling when this occurs. Just like humidity went to max within minutes….

  69. Writes Tomer D. Tamarkin:

    Simply put the only realistic solutions to energy beyond fossil fuels are nuclear fission which is available today and fusion which can be available by 2050. . .

    I am getting very tired of the constant refrain by so many (not just Dr. Tamarkin) that there is any urgency about getting “beyond fossil fuels.” That is of course the cry of the “carbon” demonizers promoting the myth of Anthropogenic Global Warming, but it seems to be uncritically accepted as a given even by skeptical scientists and engineers.
    In point of fact, it is widely accepted we have hundreds of years of coal available in the USA, and there are also very large deposits in the rest of the world. Moreover, new sources of, and techniques for recovering, petroleum and natural gas are constantly being discovered. The much-touted “peak” seems always to be receding into the future. It is even speculated that much natural gas is not “fossil” in origin, and may be virtually inexhaustible—if not, there are methane hydrates, and other sources, including coal itself.
    CO2 is a boon, enriching the biosphere, and not a problem, so we don’t need to stop using “fossil fuels.” And we’re not going to run out any time soon. So sure, let’s get back to building efficient and safe nuclear (fission) power plants, and let’s continue exploring nuclear fusion, and solar space satellites, and local solar, and any other inventions. The aim has to be cheap, abundant energy for all of the world’s peoples. Just remember, for the nonce, most of it is going to be coal, oil, and natural gas, so let’s celebrate those “fossils.”
    /Mr Lynn

    • L.E Joiner, for the record I do not support AGW-climate change. In my view this “managed scare” resulted resulted from the UN Rio Accords which became the “Agenda 21” platform and its associated “sustainability movement.” In my view, the principal UN goals are, 1.) a Malthusian like worldwide population reduction of an order of magnitude over the next 150 to 200 years, and, 2.) the destruction of world capitalism. Both goals can be met by depriving the majority of abundant inexpensive energy. Furthermore, I am a strong advocate of the continued use of fossil fuels over the next few decades. I have never said anything to the contrary. However fossil fuels are finite and the rate of depletion (of economically viable reserves) is a function of demand and how much is extracted from the Earth. Double the production rate worldwide and the remaining time to depletion is 1/2. That should be obvious. In connection thereto please see my article at: But please do not confuse me for a supporter of AGW-climate change. Note I make this point in the “Green Mirage” article and use Lord Christopher Monckton’s RSS graph. When I stated that fusion is the only realistic solution beyond fossil fuels and fission I mean exactly that. Fossil fuels are “king” today and nuclear fission needs to be expanded based on new modern reactor technology. Thank you for your comments.

      • Tomer D. Tamarkin: If you read my second sentence, you will note that I identified two classes of folks who see any “urgency” in finding replacements for “fossil fuels”: CAGW cultists, and some skeptics of CAGW. You clearly are not in the first class, but my impression was that you were in the second.
        I agree with you entirely about the neo-Malthusian UN ideologues. However, given that we in the US are estimated to have c. 400 years of coal reserves (at current rates of consumption), and given the rapid pace of oil and gas discoveries, I think we’ll have enough for more than “the next few decades”; the next few centuries is more like it. And by then we’ll able to bring back methane from Titan, if we really need it.
        Not that we shouldn’t use our equally large amounts of uranium and thorium as well; the fear of fission is entirely unjustified. But at this point I would leave fusion research to the private sector.
        /Mr Lynn

  70. The important point here is the nearly $16Trillion which is needed to accomplish this. This would absorb all of national savings for roughly 30 years, leaving zero for all other needs. A project like this could make us so poor we wouldn’t need the energy at all.

    • The important point here is the nearly $16Trillion which is needed to accomplish this. This would absorb all of national savings for roughly 30 years, leaving zero for all other needs. A project like this could make us so poor we wouldn’t need the energy at all.

      Or, like most investments with a finite amortization and a positive ROI, it could be paying for itself in around seven years, and could return maybe $16 trillion over the lifetime of the project. Probably not, to be honest, but there is no reason to think that converting a large fraction of our total generation capacity to (at least daytime) solar would be catastrophic or even cost us money out of pocket in the long run. There is a good chance — an excellent one — that it will save us, or make us money in the long run.
      But yeah, one does have to make the initial investment and commitment, and sure, there is risk. We could just get to where we should have been breaking even and Darn! Fusion that actually works might be demonstrated. Of course that would make everything else a dead loss, bankrupt the OPEC countries, wipe out the coal industry except for the smidgen needed to make concrete, force the retooling of the entire electricity industry and in even the medium run probably wipe out gasoline based cars. So there is no “guaranteed safe” investment path into the future, especially not for the technologically volatile energy industry.

    • Well don’t count on that 16 trillion to be able to accomplish anything.
      With the way the governments are printing fake money these days (in more ways than one) you might need that 16 trillion just for a loaf of bread (stale).
      And I said in more ways than one deliberately.
      The feds can run the printing presses flat out, and that is one way to print money.
      Or the White house can raise the minimum wage to $10/hr or 15, or 20 or even 50 if they want to. It won’t affect the economy they say.
      Well every Union contract is indexed to the minimum wage, so union workers get a pay raise when the minimum wage goes up. And the employers pass that wage boost cost on to their customer as a price increase, and to their workers as lower wages and salaries (over time) and to their shareholders as lower dividends on their stock investments.
      The biggest winner is the federal treasury as everybody moves to a higher tax bracket.
      And the poor sucker at the entry level minimum wage job, is no better off, because everything now costs more. Too bad, he already voted again for the crook who promised him a wage increase.
      So all these green energy subsidies don’t make more energy, or more affordable energy.
      And they waste existing energies that may be less infinite in availability, so it is counter productive to subsidize energy projects that don’t actually make more energy available to the system.

      • George, when you say, ” the White house can raise the minimum wage ” I think you forgot about something.. I believe there 535 other folks that have a say in the matter.

  71. Yes the technology has expanded more than that; but it is not due to Moore’s law.

    Which, if you read what I actually said (or looked at the graph in my first post, much farther up) is not what I claimed. I only stated that it is a fact that the cost per watt of solar cells has followed a roughly exponential law, much as Moore’s law expressed as the “cost per FLOP”, which has persisted in exponential reductions over a very long period, much longer than one expected the original all-things equal Moore’s Law to persist. The solar cell specific observation — it isn’t really a “law” — has been called “Swanson’s Law” but this is a misnomer as this short article:
    makes clear. It also shows a log-log plot that makes it clear that whatever you think about the future, it has been an exponential decrease over roughly 40 years. Well, for the last 12 years it has been faster than exponential (or exponential with a steeper time constant than the first 28).
    This is why the top article’s focus on Moore’s Law and offhand remarks by e.g. Kurzweil (who is, to be sure, a professional pundit and who may well have interests at stake) is puzzling. DId the author know about Swanson’s Law? If they did, why is the article blathering on about Moore’s Law. Kurzweil could be dead wrong by calling it Moore’s Law (although the cost scaling is as often referred to in that context as the technical scaling of VLSI, and has persisted even when die scaling has failed to keep up) and still be right that the cost of solar is going to continue to drop exponentially as it has for 40 odd years! It is also worth noting that neither Moore’s first nor the second law has proven to be an economic barrier to the continuing exponential plummet of compute power per dollar, and the entire argument is inadequate to address Swanson’s Law, which is empirical and which may or may not have any simple or glib explanation. Either way, arguing that Moore’s Law is doomed and so we cannot expect continuing reduction in solar cell cost per watt is wasting my valuable mental energy when a) it is a complete non-sequitor; and b) there is a named exponential scaling law that current solar technology is beating badly compared to its 40 year average history that — whatever its cumulative causes — shows no empirical sign of flagging.
    So why is this not clearly, and honestly, stated in the top article? Why did none of its “Ph.D. referees” point it out? Not that I’m not willing to step in and do the job, mind you, but I really ought to get paid for doing it.
    The answer, anyway, IMO is obvious. For the same reason that the author addresses converting everything to solar only. It is a perfectly lovely straw man he can beat up on “scientifically”.
    Again he shoots himself in the foot. Obviously — I say obviously — it is not at this instant in time feasible to force the entire US or the entire world to provide 100% of its energy via solar cells. I’d say it is equally obvious that we can’t do it with traditional uranium fission plants either, certainly not without massive investments on precisely the same sort of scale he deplores — trillions of dollars worldwide. a substantial risk (or at least, known problems with nuclear weapon proliferation in the case of a “wordwide” solution, nuclear waste disposal for use at any scale, and some risk of “meltdown”, whether or not you think it is a large one) and it is a finite resource, especially if you plan to use it exclusively for all the world’s power. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t build more uranium fission generation! It just means that it is not a one stop shop world-saving solution.
    Precisely the same thing is true for solar. The issue isn’t “everything has to be solar” any more than it is “everything has to be fission” or “everything has to be coal”. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t seriously consider building more solar generation capability and use it to (among other things) back off our use of other electricity generation mechanisms, especially during (for example) peak power demand times that might otherwise force the expensive development of new large scale generation facilities with their profile of risks, costs, and benefits.
    So arguing that it will cost umpty trillion dollars and take enormous amounts of land is a waste of time. It would cost us umpty trillion dollars to replace all of our generation facilities with anything, and yet over the next 60 years we will, in fact, have to replace pretty much all of our generation facilities if only because they wear out, if only in pieces. So it isn’t the absolute cost that matters, it is the marginal cost. What is the relative cost of replacing an old coal burning power plant that is no longer economically efficient to run with nuclear, with solar photovoltaic, with wind, with a mix of both of all three and methane on-demand generation too? What is the marginal cost, and what are the advantages, the risks, the benefits, the costs, the disadvantages, of various pure and mixed investment strategies?
    That’s the real probem. The top article is crap as far as economic analysis goes. It is useless — completely useless — for guiding any sort of public policy. It is a polemic (much as I do love a good polemic!) It contains no serious or balanced cost-benefit analysis of the alternatives presented on a realistic basis, without the straw men and irrelevant diversions into Moore’s Law and solar irradiance (that nobody cares about) instead of the one thing that matters — what is the (installed, amortized) cost, on average of a generated watt-hour of electricity produced by a solar cell? That number includes the cost of land, inverters, maintenance, insurance/rollover replacement, the borrowed money, and so on. It won’t even be one number — it would be a whole table of numbers, because the numbers won’t be the same in Alberta (Canada) and North Carolina or Arizona. It won’t be the same in a state where installation is on homeowner rooftops with utility buyback enforced by law and in states where power companies buyback at a discount or in a state that does either one where the panels are installed by the power utility itself or by a homeowner. This isn’t simple, it is complex, and the complexity isn’t even stationary.
    And finally, it shouldn’t be theoretical. Why bother? There is more than enough installed solar capacity, worldwide, in multiple contexts, to be able to simply cite “here’s how much it cost to build X generation capacity as large scale utility owned plants, here’s their average production, here’s the profit (or loss) on the investment”, and ditto for rooftop solar (probably even state by state, country by country), here’s the projected impact of expected reductions in cost per watt of the panels, cost of the inverters, cost of the land (which is “zero”, BTW, for rooftop solar). Even without indulging in Kurzweilian futurama or idealistic optimism about the future of he science, any banker or investor could do a better job of crunching the only numbers that matter now, which are can one install solar power in any context with a net positive return over the lifetime of the cells, and if so, by how much.
    Seriously. Look at:
    No comparison. Note well! They don’t even talk about the US as a player in the world market. It’s all about China! China is powering up right now to 21st century levels. They don’t give a shit about global warming. They do give a very substantial shit about cost and productivity and the increasing impact of coal pollution (not CO_2), including many of the costs of dirty old coal that go beyond the coal itself. And they have the full choice of technologies available to them — clean coal plants, uranium plants, natural gas — and yet they are building 10 GW/year in solar as well as investing in 40 GW/year in coal as well as investing in 10 GW+ in nuclear as well as 10+ GW in wind. Coal is only a fraction of their investment, although the largest fraction at 60% or thereabouts.
    Then there is Europe. The UK. And sure, slowly but surely the US. Whether or not you think electricity made from burning coal is the devil or the best thing since sliced bread, countries that have absolutely zero track record of ecological responsibility or being “Green” are pursuing a heavy mixed strategy of investment in building their first first world power grid. It isn’t about “only solar”. It is about solar being competitive with alternatives within reasonable bounds already, and the ability of small shifts in e.g. the costs of cells, the delivered costs of the other forms of energy to make it a good investment.
    Maybe I’m just biased because my daddy was a Ph.D. economist and made me learn how to work with spreadsheets back when they were on paper and forced me to learn about opportunity cost labor while working (for free) in the family garden, but to me the top article looks like pure propaganda and looks nothing like a sober economic appraisal of the costs, risks, benefits and long term prospects of solar power in different application contexts, and spends most of its time beating a dead horse of its own careful construction. I’d be embarrassed to hand it in as an undergrad research project on “the economics of solar power generation”.

    • I liked reading this comment, RGB, and it almost made up for all of the glowing praise I had to slog through upthread from about 85% of the commenters, many if whom wanted to frame this article as the last word in solar economics, use it as a slap hand for anyone who says they might like to use the sun for something besides a tan, play along with the idea that if it is not the final solution to all of our problems, then it must be a pure scam, and seem oblivious to the reality that incremental improvements all add up, and that costs can go down…way down, and also use it as an excuse to write the longest run-on sentence in modern history.
      Seriously though, I am looking with new eyes at who says what, and why.
      The list of people who can take a nuanced view of things seems to be shorter than I might have thought.
      Some issue tend to bring this into focus.

    • RGB, for some peculiar reason, my response to your sentences starting “What is the relative cost . . ” has ended up well above this, following one of Menicolas’s previous comment.
      This is a pest, I would like to see the alternative of being able to view all comments in consecutive order. I would if this could be made possible, while allowing those who wish to follow ‘threads’ to do so as at present?

    • rgb:

      . . . the author addresses converting everything to solar only. It is a perfectly lovely straw man he can beat up on “scientifically”.

      Many valid and interesting points, Prof. Brown, but to be fair: Dr. Tamarkin did not create the strawman; Ray Kurzweil did, in the first sentence of Peter Diamandis’s Forbes article:

      My friend Ray Kurzweil projects the U.S. will meet 100 percent of its electrical energy needs from solar in 20 years. . .

      The lead post takes down the strawman effectively, methinks. But you are right: it is a ridiculous proposition to begin with. The problem is, there are an awful lot of people in this country who naively believe we can just magically transform the entire US energy economy into a “renewable” one. So I think on balance it is worth knocking the props out from that idea, as Tom Tamarkin did very well.
      /Mr Lynn

      • Please note that “The Green Mirage” addresses the viability of 100% baseload solar power in the U.S. and is based solidly on the detailed analysis linked to “Going Solar” at: Scroll down to system requirements and review the calculations and methodology. The numbers speak for themselves. Once again, if anyone has actual calculations and/or data indicating any section of the “Green Mirage” article is in error please feel free to email me at and I will review the issues and make changes to the extent the new information is accurate. I have made this clear from the first posting of this article by Watt’s Up With That. Regards, T. D. Tamarkin
        Again see:

  72. Climategate had no substance – see below.
    Climategate Debunking Gets Less Coverage than Original Trumped-Up Scandal – Huff. Post 05/25/11
    In 2009, the hacked emails of climate scientists from the University of East Anglia spawned what has become known as “Climategate — a media tempest that briefly provided climate change deniers with what they believed to be grist for their mill: that climate change is some sort of worldwide conspiratorial scam. There was never a whole lot to hang a scandal on, but that didn’t stop the frenzy that pushed “Climategate” onto front pages and network news shows.
    Since then, the grownups have stepped back to the fore, and five independent investigations have, as Steve Benen points out, “concluded that the integrity of the science is entirely sound” and that the “deniers’ arguments were debunked.” Where’s the coverage, though?…
    Each of these [independent investigations] has, in turn, drawn coverage in mainstream media and independent blogs…. But only a few brief articles [about the debunking] appeared in newspapers and magazines, and they were usually buried deep inside….
    The story is primarily about the mounting rebuttal of assaults on climate scientists and their work, but also about how the scientific process and assessment of research can be improved…..
    On CNN, Howard Kurtz took note of the trend: “The New York Times, to its credit, put this British report on the front page. Most of the major papers stuck it inside. CNN’s ‘Situation Room’ did a full story on it, but there were not many mentions on cable news, nothing on the broadcast networks.”
    This is quite common. The right erupts with anger, the media treats the “controversy” as a legitimate story, and the public hears all about it. We eventually learn that the story was nonsense, but at that point, the media has lost all interest.

  73. Most skeptics of AGW take the wrong attitude towards solar power, as is indicated by this post. The most important fact is that thetotal cost for solar power is dropping at exponential rates. That’s not just the cost of the solar panels, but includes the installation costs. The reason for this is no great mystery. It’s simply due to the laws of supply-and-demand of the free market. The costs of the solar panels decreases. That increases demand and with more people needing to install them, those costs for installation show a comparable decrease.
    When you look at the cost and usage curves, within just a few decades the total cost for the individual consumer will be less than the cost of using fossil fuels. This means the individual consumer can buy their own solar installation. The cost will be no different that buying a new refrigerator. It will be well less than the cost of installation of the furnace for a new home for instance.This is not some horrible calamity that skeptics of AGW should be concerned about. It means a significant proportion of the expenses to the poor and the middle class will be essentially dropped to zero. It means a significant proportion of the expenses of companies will drop to zero.
    And all this without a single law enforcing green energy usage needing to be passed! The way skeptics of AGW should regard the question of solar power is to realize it’s going to happen anyway and well before the claimed dangerous effects of global warming occur. So there is no need to disrupt companies by forcing them now to buy more expensive “green” energy or cause the poor and middle class to be burdened further with higher energy costs.
    Long before the laws being floated about for when full transition to green energy has to occur, it will have happened anyway because it will be cheaper for people to do so.
    Bob Clark

    • Bob Clark, please note that “The Green Mirage” addresses the viability of 100% baseload solar power in the U.S. and is based solidly on the detailed analysis linked to “Going Solar” at: Scroll down to system requirements and review the calculations and methodology. The numbers speak for themselves. The issue is the over 29 billion square meters of active PV surface area required to replace todays generations capacity. And no one has addressed the solar PV live expectancy nor that of batteries in a 100% solar configuration. Once again, if you. or anyone have actual calculations and/or data indicating any section of the “Green Mirage” article is in error please feel free to email me at and I will review the issues and make changes to the extent the new information is accurate. I have made this clear from the first posting of this article by Watt’s Up With That. Regards, T. D. Tamarkin
      Again see:

      • You’re missing the point. The calculation of how many thousands of square miles of land you need to meet the U.S. needs is an irrelevancy. Each home would have its own installation with no greater cost than you would expend to buy a new refrigerator.
        Note that many middle class homes already meet all their electricity needs by solar power. It’s just too expensive now for this to be widespread. But it won’t be in couple of more decades of exponential decreases in price.
        Bob Clark

  74. Bob Clark says:
    “The most important fact is that thetotal cost for solar power is dropping at exponential rates.”
    no. The total cost is shown (vaguely) to be dropping at a log decremental rate. Each successive year yields less of a total cost but at a decreasing rate.
    you also say “And all this without a single law enforcing green energy usage needing to be passed!”
    That is simply not true. I know of many laws passed to FORCE utilities to incorporate “sustainable” or “renewable” into their generation portfolio, wherein they pass the inefficiencies onto the the consumer, hidden inside the power bills.
    You are hyping solar power. Solar power is pie-in-the-sky.

    • The law is unnecessary. By 2030 more than 50% of California homes will be powered by solar power, and the Governor and state senate will have nothing to do with it. It will be because it will be cheaper to do so.
      Bob Clark

      • Robert Clark, sir, you may be missing the point. The article makes it clear the analysis is for U.S. system wide baseload power. Residential electricity consumption in the U.S. in total comprise less than 26% of the total baseload. Yet there are over 110 million residential accounts. The practical effect of home solar generation is several orders of magnitude less than total baseload. Furthermore home solar is only economically viable when heavily subsidized by the government and the ratebase…both the PV manufacturers and installers, as well as the home owner. Finally the live expectancy of the PV panels and associated batteries must be entered into your calculations. See this analysis for science and engineering details : Regards, T. D. Tamarkin
        Again study:

    • Here is absolute proof that Tamarkin does not have a clue about “home solar”
      He writes: ” Finally the live expectancy of the PV panels and associated batteries ”
      If Tamarkin knew anything about home solar installations, he would know that they do not use batteries. They use grid tie inverters which dispenses with the need for ANY batteries.

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