Florida: The Sun State with Hardly Any Household Solar

Snow "sheets" above some solar panels; pushed by the rain, they are sloping down folding themselves like real sheets

Snow “sheets” above some solar panels; pushed by the rain, they are sloping down folding themselves like real sheets. By Syrio (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

The Guardian has published a revealing piece about how Florida has low household solar penetration compared to some Northern states, because households can’t sell their energy back to the grid. My question – why are buyback schemes needed to make Solar attractive?

Sunshine state shuns solar as overcast New York basks in clean energy boom

Despite its natural advantages, disincentives mean Florida has few solar panels but the Empire state’s policies have boosted installed solar capacity by 800%

 in Miami and New York @olliemilman Monday 27 March 2017 18.00 AEDT

If you were to fly a camera-laden drone several hundred feet above Pani Herath’s house in south Miami, Florida, it would become clear his rooftop is an oddity compared with virtually all of his neighbors. Despite living in a part of the world that bakes in the sun throughout the year, just a few thousand people across Florida, such as Herath, have installed solar panels.

“Unfortunately, not many people know about solar. That’s why nobody around here has solar at all,” said Herath. He has become an object of curiosity in his tidy neighborhood, where watering the manicured lawn and scooping debris from the pool is of greater concern.

“I was telling my friend next door about it and he was wondering why I would want to go solar,” said Herath, who has had solar-heated water for the past six years and is now looking to lower his electric bills with more panels. “I wish that everybody would know about it.”

In many states, a solar company can lend panels to a homeowner and then sell the cheap power generated directly to the owner. But that isn’t allowed in Florida. Nor is a homeowner able to sell on his or her generated solar power to anyone else, such as a neighbor or tenants.

By Florida logic, anyone with rooftop panels is providing a utility and therefore must be able to provide power 24 hours a day. And as only the state’s vast monopoly utilities, such as Florida Power & Light, can do this on demand, households are barred from this sort of third-party ownership.

“It’s ludicrous that Florida outlaws such a thing,” said Justin Hoysradt, chief executive of Vinyasun. His West Palm Beach company has instead attempted to boost solar sales through loans structured like car or mortgage repayments.

“Places like New York, Massachusetts and California have recognized the jobs and environmental benefit of solar. We have more of a challenge.”

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/27/solar-power-florida-new-york-renewable-energy-policies

If the raw economics of solar made any sense, buyback schemes would not be needed to make household solar attractive. Householders could simply switch off the grid supply, and switch their house to cheaper rooftop solar supply, to reduce their electricity bills.

According to the CDC Wonder site, Florida receives an average of 18,581.94KJ/m2 of sunlight every day, but New York State only receives 13,933.79KJ/m2. Solar panels in Florida receive 33% more sunlight than solar panels in New York State.

If solar panels don’t help reduce household bills in a sunny state like Florida, where owners receive 33% more return on investment, how can they possibly make economic sense in New York State?

The reason has to be market distorting government subsidies and energy policies. Government subsidies and energy policies in this case are self evidently causing tremendous resource misallocation, motivating the installation of solar panels in less sunny states. My evidence for the resource misallocation is the simple fact that if market signals were working properly, nobody would install solar panels in less efficient northern locations, until they ran out of optimal southern installation opportunities.

Of course, even sun drenched Florida households are not installing solar panels – because without generous taxpayer funded power buyback schemes they don’t make economic sense. Without subsidies, solar panels can’t compete with cheap, reliable, 24×7 fossil fuel or nuclear generated electricity available straight out of the wall socket.

This gross resource misallocation is a big deal. The money wasted by market distorting government subsidies in New York State could have been spent on hospitals, police, or badly needed infrastructure repair. Or it could simply have been left in the pockets of taxpayers.

Worse, the subsidies for solar panels tend to disproportionately hit poor people. The recipients of these market distorting subsidies are the rich and middle class. Whether they pay through state taxes, or the cost is passed on via electricity bills, poor people who don’t own a home with a nice big South facing roof get slammed – they end up helping to pay everyone elses electricity bill in addition to their own.

The Guardian wishes Florida would follow New York State’s example, by implementing regressive taxes on poor people to subsidise the electricity bills of the middle class. Let us hope Florida sticks to their principles, and continues to refuse to impose this cruelty tax on the poor.

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219 thoughts on “Florida: The Sun State with Hardly Any Household Solar

    • Well there could be a bright light at the end of the solar tunnel, since they can’t SELL their excess free power to their neighbors, they could always give it to them…it is free after all.

      • I wouldn’t put solar panels on my roof, unless I could also take my whole electric system, and lighting OFF THE GRID.

        Natural gas for all hotting of things, and low voltage DC with battery backup for all things electric; like lighting (LED) and toothbrush.

        Come to think of it, who needs an electric toothbrush.

        So it would be low voltage DC solar, to batteries, to dc low voltage LED lighting. NO AC in the house anywhere. NO electric grid connection.

        G

  1. In the UK (which is cloudy or raining most of the time/ sarc added not to offend anyone) there were generous subsidies and a lot of pressure from the solar panel installation salesmen. On at least four occasions I had to tell them putting it politely to ‘go away’.

    • The insanity is that solar PV in the UK is such a joke that they do not even meter it. They just assume what you may earn with a given installed capacity. This means that you can use the solar power to heat your own water ( a dumb thing to do with electiricy ) and still “sell” it to the grid.

      Ecolunes like the Guardian love to applaud a futile waste of resources.

      Of course the main reason for these contracts is to provide a guaranteed income to the householder, which enables him to get a loan at the bank and instantly increase the “capital” of the bank.

      That is what the UK solar program was about : more taxfunder bank bailouts.

    • Vukcevic: In Newcastle upon Tyne where i spend some of my year, there are hundreds of the things despite the fact that in the winter the Sun is only above the horizon for about 7.5 hours mid-winter at a maximum elevation of 12 degrees. As you so rightly say, that is assuming the sky is not overcast.

      • Forgot to add, that in Southern Spain where I spend the rest of my time, there are a similar amount of solar water heating devices on roofs (not solar panels). The majority of the renewable power comes from wind turbines. This region is called the Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun), not the Costa del Viento (Coast of the Wind). This is the reason government (EU?) interference by subsidies, simply does not work.

    • When my near neighbour in my Midlands village had PV installed on his roof (facing SE!) I suggested he might as well run an extension lead into my house and run off my power, seeing as how I was pretty much paying for his ‘free’ power anyway.

  2. Rooftop solar is a subsidy-mining scheme by the installers and manufacturers. Even if there is no direct payment (one sense of a subsidy), the mandatory purchase rules overprice the power produced. As it is not dispatchable, solar should sell, if at all, for a deep discount compared to other sources.

  3. florida is one of those hot sunny places where, should solar power be economical, it would find a niche running air conditioning during the day with a minimum of storage.

    • I looked into this, electricity in Australia is quite expensive. Unfortunately most rooftops simply don’t produce enough power.

      Consider a 10,000BTU unit available from Walmart.

      10,000BTU is just under 3KW. According to the description, the 10,000BTU unit can cool a 450ft2 room – a small to medium living room.

      We have 5 similar air conditioners for our house, a total of 15Kw when they are all going (not very often – usually only have 1-2 running, but not impossible).

      Thats a lot of power.

      We had a 2Kw solar installation on a rental house a while ago, but it only produced the rated power under optimal conditions – any clouds or slight haze, or more than a few hours away from midday, and the power drops right off.

      Power requirements simply don’t match power generation capacity.

      • As a solar owner myself, I can confirm what you say. It is worth pointing out though that there’s likely to be a good match between when the power is produced, and when it is required. You would therefore be be using all the power you generate, with none left to go into the grid, so that incentive would be a moot. point.

      • It is worth pointing out though that there’s likely to be a good match between when the power is produced, and when it is required.

        Not really. Peak usage usually starts around 3:00 PM and runs to about 8:00 PM. OTOH, solar peaks at noon.

      • That isn’t how it works in Australia. What happens is that the power you generate is put into the grid at a very high payment rate. Then you consume power to run your aircon at a much lower cost rate. Even if you are consuming far more than you generate, you still make money from the subsidy.

      • you still make money from the subsidy
        ==========================
        and who pays for the subsidy?

        reminds me of the folks that go to the store and see a white elephant on sale, and end up buying two. they saved so much buying one, that they had to buy a second one. if they had enough room to store a third they would have bought it as well, and used the money they saved to pay off the mortgage and all their credit cards.

      • Absolutely…if you want to power your whole house and be comfortable, you need about 8 – 10 times that amount of generating capacity. If you want to charge a night time battery that can a also run your whole house, not just keep the refer running and turn on a 40w bulb in a single room at a time, you will need to almost double that again.

      • I humbly accept the thanks from all those who I have helped to install and profit from solar power by way of subsidies.
        Subsidising solar and wind power is far better than giving increased pensions or building schools, hospitals and roads.

      • Greg,

        It is possible to move that peak to later in the day by facing them a few 10s of degrees (15 per hour) to the west of due south (N hemisphere) or north (S Hemisphere), but while you lose in total hours of production, you could crank the temperature down in the 2-4 time frame to stay comfortable later when solar fails. You also lose a little efficiency due to the added atmosphere attenuation the more off zenith you place your panels. Place them 45 degrees west and get that 2-4 peak while losing anything before 9am and not really generating much until about noon.

        Of course, the panels could be free and the electronics will still cause this to be too expensive to be cheaper than wall power. Only by robbing Peter to pay Paul can government make this happen.

      • Try a large air-sourced heat pump. Ours is an older Trane XL 18000.
        House is all electric.

        [Much of Florida is filled with old folks in single-wide trailers. They sit under trees to stay cool and drink, go to bed early, so don’t need much light, and consume nutrition drinks ’cause being old is a pain. Trailers don’t have much roof space for solar panels. I just described my … . Never mind.]

      • Mr Worrall, I don’t think this post from you makes any sense.

        What is the purpose of arbitrarily picking a 3KW system, and making the statement that it couldn’t run all your air-conditioners at once?

        Why 3KW? What is the importance of running all your stuff at once just from the solar?

        Who decided that being able to run all your stuff at once all the time from the solar on your roof was the point?

      • “Who decided that being able to run all your stuff at once all the time from the solar on your roof was the point?”

        With grid instability due to other wind and solar issues, such as we have witnessed in South Australia this past year, being able to run your home during the daytime off solar rather than toss it into the grid, where it may or may not be used, depending on the state of the grid, makes a lot of sense. If the grid goes down, so do you. If you have a switch to enable self powering from solar, the 3KW target for a single home makes a lot of sense.

        You probably don’t have a solar system on your home like I do, so you probably don’t see the importance. Of course, being the foil here, you may just not want to.

      • And it’s not a constant rate of usage. A residential AC unit’s amperage (how much current is going through it) spikes whenever the thermostat turns on the compressor to start cooling. I’ve had circuit breakers throw when two units on the same line kick their compressors on at the same time.

        So the power source you plug into needs to be able to cover those usage spikes. Or all you have is a $600, 150lb fan.

      • I think Hivemind is living in the past with high feed in tarrifs in Oz, they were phased out a will go and unless you have an old contract your are only getting a few cents/kW depending what State you are in. We have a 3kW system + evacuated tube solar hot water. All seems to work well we have very low bills summer, spring, autumn and higher bills in winter. I didnt register for feed in so whatever we dont use they can have for free.

      • “toorightmate March 28, 2017 at 6:09 am”

        Me too. My power bills subsidise those who have a roof to install solar on to.

      • Anthony Watts said:

        “With grid instability due to other wind and solar issues, such as we have witnessed in South Australia this past year, being able to run your home during the daytime off solar rather than toss it into the grid, where it may or may not be used, depending on the state of the grid, makes a lot of sense.[/QUOTE]

        Yeah, and if you buy a 3kW diesel generator it won’t run all his air con during a blackout either.

        “If the grid goes down, so do you. If you have a switch to enable self powering from solar, the 3KW target for a single home makes a lot of sense.”

        If you know you need more than 3kW of energy, then why would you use 3kW as a target? And why would you do it without batteries if being able to run off grid the purpose of the system?

        Who exactly buys a solar system to produce enough power, without storage, to cover the handful of hours a year that the average Australian house is without power from the grid?

        “You probably don’t have a solar system on your home like I do, so you probably don’t see the importance. Of course, being the foil here, you may just not want to.”

        Wrong. Producing 4kW right now, and it’s overcast. If I turned on our 7.5kW air-conditioner right now, it would only be sucking 3.5kW from the grid. And the rest of the time we’re feeding power back.

        Nobody ever claimed that rooftop solar without battery storage was a solution for running off the grid.

        I live in a stormy region where blackouts are common, and unrelated to generating capacity, and I don’t know anyone who has a diesel backup generator for their house.

        Exactly what is the point of picking out a 3kW system without storage and pointing out that it can’t do what it was never claimed or designed to do?

        And, couldn’t you just do without the aircon occasionally? Just keep the fridge and lights running? How much does this really matter?

      • Anthony said:

        “Like I said before, you don’t want to see it.”

        What exactly don’t I want to see, and when did you say that before, and where? I’ll read what you’re referencing if you can specify exactly what?

        “How much does this really matter?”

        Exactly, your comments don’t matter at all.

        Well, wow, you burned me there. That really deals with the issue, and isn’t at all just a cheap insult.

    • I live in N. Arizona. Lots of sun and wind. I’m off grid with 5.6 Kw of solar panels and 1 Kw wind generator. I have to forgo on air-conditioning because the system doesn’t produce the electricity needed.

  4. Should Florida become reliant on solar power, I can well imagine the extra chaos that would ensue in the wake of an hurricane, when everyone’s solar panels have been blown into the Gulf of Mexico. It would take months, if not years, to get the grid back to normal.

  5. Grid-tied solar can avoid the investment in a large battery bank that must typically store 2-3 days of electricity, so it is quite a bit cheaper of an investment. And if you cannot sell back your excess during times of high production, that also makes it more expensive. More expensive, so fewer invest. Solar is not THE solution. But it can be a one of many solutions.

    • It can be one of many solutions, as long as it doesn’t become too great a percentage of the total, in which case the grid becomes unstable.

      • Plus shedloads.

        A short, pithy, entirely accurate comment.

        Auto – noting the difficulties of South Australia . . . . . . . .

      • Exactly…once a large number of people have it, the buyback scheme becomes unworkable.
        With reverse metering, consider the case of a person who breaks exactly even…he sells back enough to exactly balance what he uses and his bill is therefore zero, or just the minimal customer charge.
        This person is getting a free ride because the cost of building and maintain all the lines and the power plants is not shared by him.
        Unfair and not right.
        If that person got a huge tax break and wound up paying little net cost for the panels, and installed them himself, then everyone else is buying power for him for the life of those panels.
        And regarding installing them yourself…my understanding installation is about half of what it costs to get solar on your roof. The installers are doing quite nicely it seems.

      • So, to make solar a great thing for everyone, it seems it needs to get cheaper, much lighter and perhaps in a form that could be rolled up for storms, easy to set up and connect so that is not a huge cost any more, and lets toss in some method for allowing the panels to track the sun…that would help hugely.
        And the we need efficient storage for a large amount of power which is also cheap and long lasting.
        Then it will be a different ball game.

      • I’ve seen some electrical bills where they have a flat charge for everyone, that attempts to cover fixed costs like capital expenses and labor costs, plus a per/kW charge to cover the incremental costs of the electricity that you use.
        Nothing’s perfect, but such a scheme would be a bit closer.
        There are some who say that those who use more electricity should cover a higher fraction of the capital costs, and there is merit to such a view.
        So the mix of flat vs. variable costs is as much a political as an economic problem.

    • I vacationed as a snowbird in beautiful Florida for many years. There was absolutely zero recycling. Everything ended up in the trash to be trucked away and presumably buried in some landfill site. In Montreal, we recycle plastic, paper metal etc. Even food waste is picked up and processed. Although I’m not an enviro-nut, I can’t see wasting reusable resources. I think Florida has a poor mindset in this case. Fossil fuels are a precious resource, and if solar would help in some small way to diminish their use, that’s what we should be doing, regardless of the CO2/global warming debate.

      • Where in Florida and how long ago? You seem to be painting the entire State with your limited info.

      • From what I’ve read, the majority of that sorted and “recycled” waste ends up in the same land fill as the rest of the waste.

      • I’ve seen a study that the only thing, from an energy basis, worth recycling is aluminum.

      • One of the few efficient things we have in the county (Texas coast) is the waste transfer station. They recycle batteries, refrigerators, A/Cs, metal, aluminum, brush and plastic bottles. They do not recycle wood and with an active construction and renovation business, it appears it is a substantial amount, by weight. We also have Formosan termites. We have elected officials that mostly think things ecological means spend money, which they then can justify with all the national propaganda. All this needs to be put into the carbon cost/benefit

        We have had a useful solar panel on a RV for two decades. To increase the capacity substantially it would require covering the roof, then some, add batteries, then far exceeding the capacity of the trailer to be moved. Coast is becoming well populated with trailers. None in quite a while but last hurricane they went like dominoes. We have a new coastal master resiliency plan, but afraid to look at it.

      • Recycling is another one of those good intentions bad idea kind of things. Look at what is involved.

        The labor of house holders separating out types of trash.
        The labor and expense of cities picking up the separated trash. (taxpayer paid)
        Transportation to the recycling plant.
        The recycle process to new raw materials which is energy and process intensive.
        End result more expensive (even with the free homeowner labor and taxes subsidizing) and often inferior product.

        So the question is why? There is not a shortage of raw materials and there is nothing wrong with landfills unless they are used to dump toxic chemicals. It just seems like a feel good exercise in stupid, which too much of the environmental movement has become.

      • In my West Australian local government area we had fixed rates for rubbish in our bill from the council each year. Many years back recycling was introduced with the promise of helping the environment AND earning a return from recyclables. For the first few years they did indeed make a profit.. it turns out this money was generated by charging nearby councils who did not have a recycling station to use our councils one.

        that didn’t last long.. Now years later we pay an additional $700 a year above the normal refuse fee for ‘recycling costs’. When something costs more it means money, effort and time is wasted. The idea was to reduce waste – they clearly have failed spectacularly.

      • Pre-sorting trash for the purpose of recycling is naught but eco-penance for one’s supposed sins against Planet Earth.

      • There’s plenty of recycling here in FL. We have hybrid buses. We do have solar panels. We have wastewater treatment plants powered by landfill gas. We have wastewater treatment plants that produce natural gas to be used by vehicles. My county is a “zero surface discharge” county for wastewater and has been for maybe close to two decades. We reclaim/reuse treated wastewater instead of dumping it in rivers like most places (such as Montreal…speaking of Canada, take a look at the years of Victoria freaking-out over the central treatment of ANY wastewater).

      • Lee county recycles everything.
        My understanding is that their modern sorters make the job quick and easy…all metal and plastic and paper goes in one bin, trash in another, yard waste in others.
        Yard waste is composted to make great soil which they sell, and chipped to make free mulch that they dump in piles here and there and people come and take what they want.
        Refrigerators and other “white goods” are noted and called in…they send a special truck for that stuff.
        it is said to reduce the cost of our county trash removal hugely, makes for far less volume and hence saved money in tipping fees at the few landfills (which as noted are bioreactors which are designed to produce and collect methane) and hence reduce costs. Tipping fees are high here because landfills are all above ground due to the water table.
        In large amounts, metals, plastics and paper are all commodities which are traded on open markets…there is a market price for everything.
        They are all sold, not dumped in with the trash.
        It there is no sorting, just two trash cans, which anyone can easily get used to using.
        My trash is usually far less volume than my recycling bin.
        I suspect many here are quoting old info from many many years ago.
        Things have changed.
        As far as scrap metal…these is a huge business. Scrap yards have lines of people all day long bringing them scarp metal of every description, and for each there is a price.
        If you have large amounts, you can call around and get a price for your scarp not much below the wholesale price…bare wire, insulated wire, brass, electric motors, white goods, radiator cores.
        I let mine accumulate until I have several tons, and get thousand of dollars for this worthless junk.
        But I am in a business that uses large motors and electric cables and stainless and brass parts, and all need to be replaced at some point.
        Aluminum is the cheapest metal, and hardly worth anyone’s time…because it is also very light.
        Aluminum cans have become very light in recent years…less than 15 grams. And very bulky.
        But when you have a whole counties worth, well…
        Once they purchase the machine that sorts it, the cost goes way down for recycling.
        They have to pick it up either way…the recycling way they get money back for the commodity and then save on per ton tipping fees.
        Sorted materials are transported by flatbed rail cars carrying multi-ton bales of each thing.
        My understanding is that things like electric motors are shipped to India and other places with cheap labor and taken apart to separate out the different materials.

        https://iscrapapp.com/yards/us-florida-fort-myers-garden-street-iron-metal/?view_pricing=1

      • “Scrap plastic prices is judged by the type of plastics that are being recycled. Whether you choose to recycle your water bottles and milk jugs, one may find that they will vary with the color of the plastic, and ranging from $.27USD to .$82USD. The higher the price of the plastic is judged by the quality of the plastic, like being PVC or an industrial quality of plastic. The more common plastics will of course have a less price range, generally ranging $.27USD to $.40USD, yet with all the plastics that we utilize in our everyday lives, this does add up.”

        http://scrapplasticprices.com/per-pound.html

        As for paper and cardboard, prices are all over the map, but generally between $50-250 per ton depending on location and amounts but mostly type of paper. Mixed is the least, sorted high quality paper like office paper the most, and baled corrugated cardboard the item dealt in the largest volumes.
        It is a lot cheaper to make cardboard out of old cardboard that out of fresh pulp.
        These are billions dollar businesses, and individual scrap yard owners are generally very wealthy people.

        http://www.recycle.net/Paper/waste/xv120600.html

        This is not 1975.
        Pre 2008 was the heyday…commodities were through the roof.
        Scrap yards are cash cows.

      • Waste Management gave every house a recyclable bin and a garbage bin several years back, and there is a lot of recycling going on. As far as the solar panel thing, Florida Power and Light, FPL, has very low rates, and sales pitches stating that they can lower your electric bill by X percent don’t interest when the bill is only $100-$150 a month. It is more important to have good windows.

      • Michael, so your city takes water out for drinking, but doesn’t put any of it back when done.
        Good way to dry up your rivers.

      • Trebla says- “There was absolutely zero recycling.”

        No. Here are the waste recycling rates for numerous Florida counties in 2015. Florida’s overall recycling rate in 2015 was 54%.

        http://www.dep.state.fl.us/WASTE/CATEGORIES/recycling/default.htm

        Pinellas 89%
        Palm Beach 72%
        Hillsborough 72%
        Lee 69%
        Pasco 65%
        Collier 63%
        Alachua 61%
        Monroe 61%
        Sarasota 61%
        Charlotte 60%
        Brevard 59%
        Martin 58%
        Marion 57%
        St. Lucie 57%
        Broward 54%
        Leon 54%
        Citrus 52%
        Orange 52%
        Manatee 52%
        Duval 50%

      • We live in Hernando county north of Tampa and recycle paper, plastic, cardboard, yard waste, metal and glass and aluminum cans. Please update your knowledge.

    • Grid-tied solar can avoid the investment in a large battery bank
      =========================
      We lived on solar panels for the better part of 20 years sailing around the world. It is only people that have never used solar panels that talk about how wonderful they are.

      Feed in solar is worth nothing to the grid. Typically solar feeds back into the grid when the wholesale price is near zero, or even negative, but the solar producer gets a guaranteed tariff of $0.50 or some other ridiculous amount. While at the same time, the reliable producers only get the wholesale price. It is madness paying high prices for unreliable solar, and low prices for reliable 7×24 power.

      Averaged over the year you only get about 6 hours of power per day (9-15) best case from a fixed installation. Of the other 18 hours, 18-6 are dark and 6-9 and 15-18 the sun angle is too low. And at the same time, it takes a HUGE amount of panels to generate anything close to what comes out of your wall outlets in your house.

      To make solar practical you need batteries, but once you add batteries the cost goes from very expensive to ridiculous, due to the problems with battery lifetime and cycling. Your batteries are often 1/3 the cost of the system and need to be replaced every 3 years. So unless you are looking at a 2 year payback on your solar system, it doesn’t make sense. No sensible business would ever invest in something with a 20 year payback, there is too much risk that something will go wrong before the 20 years are up.

      • Agreed. People who are so enthusiatic are rarely the one living entirely off-grid. There’s a very small percentage of people who actually do well living with only wind or solar, (no grid connection) or no electricity at all. Yet there seem to be many who think it’s the way to go.

      • Saying that you want to go “off grid” seems to be the on trend thing to blurt out these days. A local off grider ran a seminar recently, turns out he was a retired electrical engineer who was going to be charged $55k to get power to his remote house. Now he presents it as something anyone can easily do, and glosses over having to set aside $ for routine replacement over time.

      • In Oregon as well as some other states, excess solar, or any other alternative form of power is required to be purchased by the local utility [I retired from Portland General Electric] at the ‘avoided cost of power’ rate. This theory – written into law by the State Legislature – assumed all such power would, on average, have to be provided by the utility anyway by increasing investment and capacity. The utility regulation board enforces implementation. It thus is supposed to lower the utility’s investment and operating expenses. Of course, it doesn’t really work that way because the utility is required to meet ALL power needs, ANY time it is desired. Sun shining or wind blowing has no part. Therefore the needed capacity mus always be present.

    • “Solar … can be a one of many solutions.”

      To what problem? Excessive prosperity?

    • I don’t mind the concept of Grid-tied solar as long as:
      1) the guy producing and selling the solar back into the grid pays for the hook-up equipment.
      2) the electric company is not required to pay more than market value for the electricity.

      Other rate payers and tax payers should NOT be subsidizing anyone else’s desire to save the world from CO2. If I want to save the world, I should do my own part; the government should not be forcing me to subsidize some other guy trying to save the world.

  6. By Florida logic, anyone with rooftop panels is providing a utility and therefore must be able to provide power 24 hours a day.

    Which makes sense.

    Otherwise the critical utilities that ar required when the sun isn’t shining have unfiar competition. They need to cover their costs as a business – not a perk.
    With less sales when the Sun is shining their costs must be covered when it’s cloudy.
    That’s higher prices for the consumer or they go out of business.

  7. Eric Worrall:

    You quote the Guardian article as saying:

    Despite its natural advantages, disincentives mean Florida has few solar panels but the Empire state’s policies have boosted installed solar capacity by 800%

    If it is cheaper to buy power than to generate power for use with rooftop PV then the rooftop PV is uncompetitive.

    An incentive is provided by offering to buy the uncompetitive PV generated power.
    No disincentive is provided by not offering to buy the uncompetitive PV generated power.

    Richard

  8. The solar thing, like windmills and especially biomass, is indicative of incredibly naive, simplistic & childish thinking.
    Why I say that, esp. about biomass and tree burning?
    Yesterday in Notts was a sunny mostly blue-sky day and I went exploring. Paths, bridleways, farm tracks etc and being effectively in Sherwood Forest, there are a few trees around. Otherwise it is Big Farming Arable Country. And lots of farming is going on right now. Springtime innit.

    Out across the fields it was warm, dry, slightly breezy and dusty.
    1000’s and 1000s of acres round here are brown. Dark brown and very low albedo.
    In the trees it was cool, damp and calm. There was mud and puddles of water on the lanes and tracks under the trees.
    Simplistic thinking says vast areas of trees (biomass also) must be cut, pelleted and burned (in Drax esp, not far from here) to try save The Planet from overheating. Anaerobic gestation is the same as burning, make no mistake.
    Excuse me please, which planet is this you’re supposedly saving?

    And where are we here at WhatsUp on ‘rural pristine’ weather stations. There are no such things compared to 100+ years ago.
    Someone take a look.
    The temps (and the CO2) started rising when John Deere wheeled his steel plough out of his workshop and set it to work……

    • “The solar thing, like windmills and especially biomass, is indicative of incredibly naive, simplistic & childish thinking.”

      They have to concentrate all their mental focus on these things because they have no other alternatives. If solar, wind and biomass don’t get the job done, then what is their fallback position? Answer: They don’t have one.

      • TA, there is no thinking involved at all. It’s a group think driven by media an politicians lying and deceiving those who cannot think for themselves.

  9. Thank your for pointing out that just like the sales tax, subsidies for wind and solar are regressive policies that that provide no benefit for the poor.

    • A flat tax is not a regressive tax. This goes double for places that exempt food from the sales tax.

    • If you’re poor, you can avoid paying most sales taxes by not buying luxuries you don’t need (and probably shouldn’t be spending money on anyway). But barring living completely off-grid, you can’t really avoid paying an electric bill.

  10. There are a variety of state rules and regulations concerning solar power and the grid. Often credits received by dumping excess solar power onto the grid are classified as either peak or non-peak – they can only offset power extracted from the grid during peak demand hours if they were put on the grid during peak demand hours, etc. Still, essentially paying a solar panel user retail prices for power that was not requested or perhaps not even used or used and resulted in reducing capacity of a relaible power plant (thus increasing its unit costs) is absurdly stupid. Nuclear plants
    have had generated power thrown away as grids buy solar power in preference to nuclear,
    resulting in a loss of capacity and income for the nuclear plants, causing operating losses over the past several years. IN response, nuclear plant operators have threatened to shut down their plants,
    which would leave the grid at the mercy of unreliable power sources. So states have now started
    to pay nuclear plants higher prices for their power to keep them on line. This has to be the dumbest
    situation imaginable. Often renewable folks argue that a grid can accept larger proportions of renewable power “if they wanted to,” but avoid mentioning just how stupid and costly this would be.

  11. The price of power in Florida at least from FPL is one of the cheapest in the country. The ‘buy back’ of power is actually a tax on the poor taking money from them in higher bills to pay the more well off house owners with solar. However, what does make sense is solar water heating and many houses in Florida have solar water heating for domestic hot water – no batteries required and the energy stores well in the insulated hot water tank. Add an inline water heater and the electricity bills for domestic water heating are considerably reduced. Then add a separate roof top solar heater suitable for the pool and hot tub. They have survived several tropical storms and a recent hurricane.

    • If you live in “sunny” Florida, the cheapest solution to reducing the “cost” of heating water …… would be to install a 20-30 gallon un-insulated water tank in the attic of your home or garage …. and then disconnect the “feed” line to your current “water heater” tank and connect it to the “input” of the water tank in the attic ….. and then connect the “output” of the water tank in the attic to the “input” of your water heater. Most all Florida attics get way, way over 100F when that “blazing” Sunshine isa bearing down on them.

      So, a “freebie” junk water-heater tank, 30-40 feet of plastic pipe and a few connections …. and you get “freebie” water heating ……. and little to no maintenance required. .

      • Interesting idea, but you have to cost out reinforcing the rafters where the tank is located. If the house was built with trusses, it probably will not work on a load basis.

      • If the rafters are marginal, one could get a sag in the ceiling, which could also pop the drywall if nailed rather than screwed. Walking on the rafters is not a permanent load.

      • Tom Halla, a 30 gallon tank full of water would weight roughly 250 pounds and iffen anyone was silly enough to balance it on or hang it from a single 2” x 4” roof rafter …… then they deserve to suffer the consequences.

        Scrap lumber or plywood laid across 6 or 7 roof rafters makes for a fine “storage” platform for several hundred pounds of “whatever”.

        Roof trusses with included roof rafters are “designed” to support extremes loads.

      • A 250 gallon tank’s dimensions would probably span several rafters, but continuous loads will cause the rafters to sag (a 1/4 inch sag will be visible, and quite expensive to fix). I am not an engineer, but I was thinking of roof designs using trusses that have no load-bearing interior walls, where my sense of caution would encourage reinforcement resting on the wall plates.

      • Tom, I’m not sure what you are thinking ….. but slightly confused you are about the tank size.

        Your stated 250 gallon metal tank, if empty, would weigh 200+ pounds. And if you fill that tank full of water, at 8.34 pounds/gallon, the water itself would weigh 2,085 pounds ….. for a total of 2,285+ pounds. So, a one (1) ton plus weight on your ceiling rafters might be a bit too much.

        HA, go to Lowe’s or Home Depot, …. buy yourself a brand new 40/50 gal electric water heater, … take it home, …. strip everything off that heater and throw it away, …. saving only the tank itself …… and then sit that tank upright on a couple boards lying across your attic’s roof rafters.

        Total attic floor space required, 2 square feet max.

        The connections are already on that new tank so all you need is pipe to connect the two tanks together.

    • I was about to point this out as well. I had a family member living in a canal community in Punta Gorda, and every rooftop is partially covered with panels… water heating panels to heat the pool and/or home water supply. These are unbelievably effective – if unregulated the pool heater will make the pool unusable.

      Also, many of these homes have heat pumps for heat and air conditioning, another very effective and energy efficient method suitable for that climate.

    • Simple solar heat gathering and storage systems get short shrift versus high teky photovoltaics .

      Here in the CO Front Range where the nights are always chilly but the days most often intensely sunny , heat capture and storage makes a lot of sense . I’d like to have even a simple system to blow warm air down from our attic when its temperature is higher than our living area .

  12. Why not install back-radiation panels?
    Available energy on average twice as much as the sun delivers and available 24/7.

    /sarc

    • In principle it is perfectly possible, but you must find a material with a band-gap smaller than 0.13 eV. Which isn’t easy. Mercury-cadmium-telluride works but is very expensive an difficult to manufacture and the ingredients are decidedly nasty.

      • When putting together the quantitative argument that Hansen’s claim that Venus’s surface temperature was due to some GHG effect was laughable bollix I was pointed to this material :

        I don’t know what its cost is , but its solar gain is extraordinary . Surely in many applications it would make more sense than voltaics .

      • tty March 28, 2017 at 5:11 am
        If there is even the smallest chance that this would work, why isn’t a massive research effort going on?
        A stable, high power energy source, that also reduces the supposed warming effect of the atmosphere for every square meter that converts back radiation into electricity iso heat.
        A miracle solution I would say ;-)

    • The first time I saw that diagram I was amazed that “greenhouse gases” all preferentially emit all their LW radiation downward. How does that work? It was then explained that of course, it emits in all directions, and the diagram only showed the downward portion. But then either the down-welling part is only 115 Wm2, or there’s another 333 up-welling that is unaccounted for (resulting in too much energy being emitted to space). I never could get a clear answer.

      • Also they pretend that it is a one step process which it is not! A portion of the downward emissions are ultimately sent back upward, continuously, especially during the hours w/o sun. The energy is ultimately sent again upward much of which goes to outer space again. So the up-welling is a continuous process and the initial down-welling is continuously sent back up much of which goes to outer space.

      • Paul Penrose March 28, 2017 at 10:24 am
        The first time I saw that diagram I was amazed that a low density, low temperature gas could radiate almost as much energy as a hot, massive planet.
        Turns out it is not happening. The atmosphere DOES reduce the energy loss of the planet to space, just like any insulation blanket does. And yes, without atmosphere the temperature on Earth would be lower.
        But the explanation for our high temperatures is not the Greenhouse effect with its back radiation.

  13. What’s stopping Floridians using solar to (pre-)heat their domestic hot water?

    Every house & business uses heated water.

    • See above many do. This time of year until fall the in line top up heater will rarely be used. The pool is also heated by its own solar heating panels which can easily get the hot tub to 105F . PV cells are not worth the effort.

      • It’s amazing how effective solar can be for heating water. My wife’s uncle and aunt had a small above ground pool in their back yard, next to the garage. The garage roof had one southish-facing roof. Uncle John ran some black plastic 3/4″ flexible PVC hose on the surface of the white roof, maybe a total of 30 feet. He hooked up a simple, low volume centrifugal pump and circulated the water out of the pool, through the hose and back into the pool. The pool water came out of the pool at 75F and back in warm to the touch, probably about 100F. That’s an application for solar. Electricity? Pfffft.

    • When do you need hot water? In the early morning to take a bath. The sunshine is only strong enough at about 10 AM, so you’ll have to rely on stored warm water produced latest at 3 PM the day before, 15 hours earlier. It is only good for your evening bath (if it was not cloudy).
      Also solar water heaters flying down in a hurricane are much heavier hitters than most debris.

  14. If solar panels don’t help reduce household bills in a sunny state like Florida, where owners receive 33% more return on investment, how can they possibly make economic sense in New York State?

    Solar panels efficiency drops with temperature so the difference in output between New York and Florida would be somewhat less than 33%.

    • They also drop 1-2% per year. Solar PV really only makes sense in remote locations or where grid power is very expensive. Places like Hawaii.

      • engarpia,
        Actual use disagrees with the estimates/manufacturer claims from that website. We now have panels that have been in use for 20 years or more and they show that the useful life times of PV panels are much less than what has been advertised.

      • Show me your data Paul, here’s mine:

        There were less than 5,000 panels in field testing. I went looking for formal lifetesting, all I found was the panel industry was discussing more formal testing. That was a couple years ago.

        That’s a joke. I’m sure you can Google mil std 883 whatever version it is and see what lifetest requirements are. Panels operate in almost as bad an environment for electronics as there is.
        You can also Google MTBF estimator, 10 panels, with 40 year mtbf, parallel failure, is 8 to 12 years, now try with a half billion panels.

  15. The conclusions drawn are complete garbage. Legislation, taxation and circumstance fundamentally shape personal and business decisions.

    Florida has chosen to apply legislation which makes it uneconomic to install solar, This may have been driven by careful analysis of the economics – but is more likely to bear on lobbying by the power companies and the difficulty of maintaining stable supplies.

    The wider issue may be that even with buy back of excess power generated, solar is still not economically competitive. But is is entirely plausible that within 5-10 years solar will compete on economic terms with mainstream sources. Leaving aside issues of climate change, pollution (both panel production and fuel) there is a very strong argument that Florida is denying the adoption and development of newer technologies likely to bring real benefits in the next decade.

    • Rubbish, Terry Warner. Other than refusing to enact a subsidy program, Florida’s state goverment is not doing anything to make solar unfeasible. I have lived in South Florida nearly my entire life (currently in the Florida Keys) and many people here heat their water and pools with solar, but photo-voltaic is uneconomical without significant government subsidies. I have looked into it on several occasions; if it made sense from an economic standpoint, my roof would be covered with panels. By the way, one of economic issues is that air conditioning is the main power consumer, but roof-top panels will, in most cases, be insufficient to generate enough electricity for that use in that house, so it is not possible to be off-grid and air conditioned.

    • Terry Warner:

      You say

      The wider issue may be that even with buy back of excess power generated, solar is still not economically competitive. But is is entirely plausible that within 5-10 years solar will compete on economic terms with mainstream sources. Leaving aside issues of climate change, pollution (both panel production and fuel) there is a very strong argument that Florida is denying the adoption and development of newer technologies likely to bring real benefits in the next decade.

      Nonsense! You admit that “even with buy back of excess power generated, solar is still not economically competitive”.

      What may or may not become possible in the future is no reason to subsidise uncompetitive PV now.

      Richard

      • “What may or may not become possible in the future is no reason to subsidise uncompetitive PV now.”

        I would go further to say that it’s a reason not to subsidize uncompetitive PV now. If truly will be economically viable newer technologies in the next decade, then the expected value of current PV installations are even lower.

      • True levelized cost of energy without all the bull, in 5-10 years, with a much stronger grid matrix may get it through the door at 14X cost of a guaranteed delivered electron compared to coal, nuclear, and, depending on price fluctuations, natural gas.

    • Terry Warner- “Florida has chosen to apply legislation which makes it uneconomic to install solar”

      No.
      Florida just recently passed a constitutional amendment that gives a tangible personal property tax exemption for solar PV on residential, commercial and industrial sites.

      Florida still has a subsidy for solar of $4.00 per Watt DC up to $20,000 per residential installation. However, it has been unfunded for several years, and has a queue of hundreds of applicants hoping to get their subsidy check someday for systems already installed.

      Florida utilities still allow net metering. If your PV system delivers more to the grid than is taken from the grid (integrated over a year), then the utility reimburses you for the difference at the wholesale electricity price, around 5 cents per kWhr.

      One challenge in Florida for solar PV is that utility rates are still low, around 12 cents/kWhr.

      Another challenge in Florida is the set of protected tree species that cannot be removed to improve rooftop solar exposure.

      Another challenge in Florida for solar PV is the set of large protected tree species like live Oaks that provide energy savings (through shading) that is comparable to the solar energy produced by a solar PV array placed on the same roof with no trees present.

      • Agreed, I own a home in Florida with a solar photovoltaic system and sell excess power to FPL at wholsale price as you describe. The legislation in question appears to limit third parties from installing their equipment on homeowners’s roofs. This may be a sensible way to manage the risk of collateral damage from roof structures in a region with high wind damage claims.

    • By not subsidizing solar, they have chosen to make it uneconomical?
      That’s some really bassackward thinking there.

  16. Today we expect POTUS to sign executive orders rolling back several Obama regulations including the Clean Power Plan. That should begin to restore a bit of market sanity to the electricity generation business. Interesting that the Guardian claims a clean energy boom for New York state. That of course is the language of pure boosterism which a serious newspaper would never indulge in.

    Good journalism like good climate science is
    is often proclaimed but rarely seen. The days of debating their beliefs are over. The days of deconstruction are here.

  17. Residents of Florida may not know about solar, but they do know about hurricanes. Solar panels are an excellent 4 X 8 foot stainless steel and glass sail that become missile hazards when the winds are high.

  18. Has anyone even considered the additional cost of wind insurance when solar panels are added to a roof? Will any company even insure solar panels against wind or lightning strikes? What about invalidating roof warranties?

    And thinking about insurance, does anyone know whether there is additional insurance required if your property adds storage batteries on site?

    • It’s expensive Tom…..we have several islands down here that are off the grid
      They use some solar….but mostly diesel

    • How can something “always be” if so far it has never been?

      That kind of logic is emblematic of arguments for global warming and renewables, disregard for the past and belief that the future has already happened and they have seen it.

  19. The problem is, that unlike in New York state, the Earth is not transparent in Florida, so it is dark at night and solar panels just do not work.

    Hurry up someone, with an unrelenting political will to fix this.

  20. 30 years ago, this held true, and it remains to this day:
    There are only three reasons to get solar PV for your house:
    1. You have a huge wad of cash burning a hole in your pocket.
    2. You want to save the world.
    3. It’s cheaper and more cost effective than having grid electricity installed to remote locations.
    Ridiculous subsidies from gullible politicians tilted the playing field, but those three reasons remain.
    I’ve watched the renewable energy market get twisted by subsidies. Solar water heating used to be the most effective method for renewable energy use. It still is, but subsidies have skewed the entire market to favor photovoltaic. Free market? Yeah right! (sarc) It’s a politically manipulated market.

  21. I *have* to call BS on this: “According to the CDC Wonder site, Florida receives an average of 18,581.94KJ/m2 of sunlight every day.”
    Solar variation is measured at 0.1%, meaning that only the first 3 digits are significant. The reported number SHOULD be 18,600 +/- 200 KJ/m2. The last 4 digits (“81.94”) are spurious and can only serve to mislead the naive into believing that the ‘scientists’ at CDC know much more than they really do.
    A classic case of the abuse of significant figures…

    • Florida receives an average of 18,581.94KJ/m2 of sunlight every day.”

      Those numbers sound fishy. The average of 7.1 million station records between 23.5 S to 23.5 N lat, across 75 years gets 7,200 W/m2 a day if the sky is clear, and this is facing the sun. The average Enthalpy is 73.8 kJ/m3, with a daily swing of 11.6kJ/m3.

      • 18582 KJ/m^2 per day works out to an average of 18,582,000/(24*60*60) = 215 Watts/m^2 continuously. With ground level peak solar of 1000 W/m^2, that works out to 215/1000*24 = 5.16 hours of peak sun per day. That agrees with NREL redbook data from sites in Florida (Tampa = 5.3 hrs/day; West Palm Beach = 5.1 hrs/day; Key West 5.5 hrs/day; Jacksonville = 5.0 hrs/day).

        The sunroof project at Google provides a simple tool to estimate payback years on a solar PV installation that uses local solar insolation and utility rates, and available fed, state and local rebates and tax credits. For a home in Tampa with a 4.25kW array (installed cost of $4/Watt DC), the payback time is 20 years.

      • A 20 years roi is a nonstarter, and the system will have likely have failed a couple of times that would need repaired. You watch, 10 or 15 years it’ll be a mess of systems underperforming and half broken, and people will rip them out, or just let them slowly fail.

  22. That they can’t sell power to tenants or others who want it is absurd.
    Just another example of government using it’s power to create and protect monopolies.

  23. It’s interesting that theguardian didn’t mention either batteries in general or specifically the Tesla Powerwall..

    The company released upgraded versions of both the Powerwall and Powerpack and also unveiled its solar roof product. Tesla is on track to begin producing and installing its solar roof during the second half of this year.
    http://www.businessinsider.com/15-tesla-powerpack-battery-projects-2017-3

    It is battery storage that can make rooftop solar practical. But … it’s pretty expensive and hard numbers might kill the story.

    • Is it just me or does it always seem Tesla/Musk is always on the verge/on track/slightly delayed/will do next year? I will be interested to see a solid year or two of just delivering stuff that works, that will be impressive.

    • It’s vaporware just like his batteries. Musk is like the Communists in the old Soviet Union (as opposed to the green communists in America today). They always advertised lower prices than what capitalists produced. Bread would be advertised as a dollar in Moscow if it were $1.50 in NYC. Of course the Soviets never had any bread on the shelves.

  24. Solar power is certainly viable, provided it does not generate electricity directly (which can’t be stored cheaply &. efficiently), but some energy rich, non toxic, neither explosive nor flammable chemical. Like sugar. Its is stored locally and converted to electricity on demand by fuel cells.

    Unfortunately the technology is not quite there yet.

    Otherwise it could readily be used to desalinate water, because we do have the technology for inexpensive storage of the end product.

    What is more, it is what nature does with sunlight, both sugar manufacturing from carbon dioxide &. water and a desalination process called rain.

    The only missing ingredient is cheap fuel cells running on sugar and oxygen, producing electricity. That’s what should be developed, before marketing it.

  25. Why such complicated units: “18,581.94KJ/m2 of sunlight every day, but New York State only receives 13,933.79KJ/m2.” The Greenees resort to such complexity so that it would be difficult to compare numbers and/or to remember them. Sunshine comes as power, so the units is the watt. The average sunshine reaching the US ground is 200 W/m^2. Thus 230 W/m^2 in Florida and 170 W/m^2. the North.
    And, BTW, there is no such unit as KJ/m^2 (or kJ/m^2). Let’s keep it simple and correct.

    • There is another advantage to their madness.
      18K is a much bigger number than 230.
      Saying that the sun delivers 18K whatevers is much more impressive than saying it delivers 230 something elses.

    • Does anybody think that Florida only gets 30% more sunlight than NY State? That number seems very low to me. Am I just being fooled by because Florida is much hotter than NY?

    • No…they resort to such complexity because they believe it adds a degree of “truth/precision” that isn’t there. “Hey…they measured it to 3 significant digits, so it MUST be true!”

    • Those panels that haven’t been ripped off the roofs completely are going to be cracked, or at a minimum extremely scratched. Any solar panel in an area hit by a major storm will have to be replaced.
      Insurance costs for those panels will have to be expensive to cover periodic replacement.

  26. While I’m not defending government subsidies of solar, it’s equally wrong to defend government *prohibitions* against being self-sufficient, or partially so, or selling power to others. It’s incorrect to conclude that people in Florida are not going off-grid because the solar is uneconomical. Economics isn’t the entire issue – suppose people value being independent over being dependent on a huge centralized power system? The thing is, it’s *illegal* for Floridians to go off grid, and that would include the case where solar was cheaper. See: http://wakingtimesmedia.com/florida-makes-off-grid-living-illegal-mandates-homes-must-connected-electricity-water-grid/

    • Yeah, but.
      That article just states the house has to be “connected”…it doesn’t say you have to use any of it. So technically, I guess you’re not off the grid, but in reality, you are. Yes, you have to pay for power/water/sewer to be connected, but that’s where it stops. Frankly, if I opted to love “off the grid”, I’d still want those connections. What if you get injured, and are incapable of doing maintenance, or for any other number of reasons.

      jb

    • Septic systems are for the protection of neighbors. So may be the other regs. IF the person has a septic system, and has approved heat and light sources, okay. These people don’t live on 35 acre lots away from everyone else. What they do can greatly affect their neighbors. If one wants to live “off-grid” then one needs to be sure the place they are buying or renting to live allows this. People just do what they want and then complain when they are found to be breaking laws. Do the research before you decide to live off-grid.

  27. A complicated topic requiring knowledge of engineering, economics, politics. This is above my pay grade. Still mere ignorance never yet kept an American quiet, so I will venture some random thoughts.

    Providing power to the public falls naturally into two sections: generation and distribution. Distribution, by its very nature, requires a monopoly. You can’t have multiple physical grids running all over town. The historical abuses of monopolies in turn motivate heavy governmental regulation of the distributor. So free market principles are already heavily compromised.

    Generation, by contrast, is open to substantial competition. There was a time when local utilities would generate and distribute power, in house. Those days are long gone. My city-owned utility (Azusa Light and Water) buys power from all over the West: Nuclear from Palo Verde, Coal (likely from Four Corners), Wind from who knows where….). I see no reason why home owners should not be able to enter this competitive market. This does not imply that they should be subsidized or given preferential treatment.

    On another subject, John at 2:19 am seems to suggest that 2-3 days of electricity would be useful for disconnecting from the grid. That amount of storage might be useful in a battery-buffered grid tie, as it would greatly reduce the in and out transfers between the grid and the local household. But it would be inadequate to actually go off the grid. Let me use my own installation as an example. It is a small, nominally 2KW, system that went on line on June 16, 2011. In the subsequent years it has produced almost exactly the amount of power that we have used (just 20 KWH under this morning). But that’s an average. Every year there are weeks during which we generate more power than we use, but there are also weeks (think winter) in which we use more power than we generate. To go entirely off grid without household rationing would require weeks worth of battery storage. Don’t see that becoming practical any time soon.

  28. While PV solar is not really economically viable without subsidies or cheap storage (which doesn’t exist yet), I still don’t understand why you don’t see passive solar heating water tanks in Florida. If you travel around the world from SE, Africa, to W. Indies, through out China, solar heating water tanks are ubiquitous and they work incredibly well (sometimes too well, when the water can be scalding). When I was last in China or W. Africa, you can buy these tanks are sold on street corners and a quite affordable. Not sure why they aren’t popular in the US. Does FL. have restrictions on these? Also, in NYC where I live, I power all my outdoor lighting with affordable PV units. Every street light in most W. African cities are now self contained solar units. Far cheaper and more reliable than centralized power. Contrary to some on this forum, under the right circumstance (low wattage, low storage requiremen, sunny location like FL or passive), solar can be viable.

    • I live on the Gulf Coast, near Clearwater. There are hot water solar panels everywhere. Our pool is heated during the winter with panels, supplemented by NG.

      For someone to say that people living in Florida would be akin to claiming that people in Maine know nothing about black flies.

  29. Another reason solar should be more attractive in Florida is air conditioning. A/C is much more of a necessity in Florida than in New York. And fortunately those hot sunny days when you really need A/C is when sunlight is most abundant to power your solar collectors. Use that solar power to run the Air during the day and just run off the grid at night.

    • One of the first things we learned when we moved to Florida 3yrs ago was how to run our A/C, which is actually opposite of what we first started doing.
      Initially, we would turn the A/C down to 74 during the day, and up to 78 or so at night. A friendly neighbor said: “You’ve got it backwards. During the day, you’re in and out, up and moving. Set your A/C at 78. When you go to bed, close everything up and drop it to 74. You sleep more comfortably, and you’re cooling your home with cheaper, non-peak power. In the morning, when you turn it up to 78, it’ll take a couple of hours for the interior to warm up, but by then, you won’t mind it.”

      He was absolutely correct, and the cost difference was amazing.

  30. “By Florida logic, anyone with rooftop panels is providing a utility and therefore must be able to provide power 24 hours a day.”
    Bingo! That’s because unlike South Australian buffoons, Florida policymakers know consumers want reliable electricity supply and you can’t make a reliable system from unreliable components. However it’s a bare faced lie that-
    “as only the state’s vast monopoly utilities, such as Florida Power & Light, can do this on demand, households are barred from this sort of third-party ownership.”
    because households with solar could install battery storage, thereby being able to provide a certain quantity of power 24 hours a day, allowing of course for worst case scenario cloudy days. But at what cost for such meagre returns and now you can see the pea and thimble trick with unreliables like solar and wind in South Australia. The spruikers always want a licence to dump unreliable electrons onto the grid and leave reliable thermal to pay the insurance cost of doing that. When they’re prevented from doing so with a level playing field tender, the results are clear for all to see in Florida vis a vis South Australia with thermal generators going to the wall (even more so with direct subsidies for unreliables).

  31. So much here that is wrong and misinformation. Really, dude (author) try spending 5 minutes on a Google search before you embarrass yourself. Ditto with the Brits.

    In Florida there is no law against contractors installing panels on rooftops and selling the power generated to utilities. Indeed, the big utilities sponsored a citizen constitutional amendment initiative just last year that would have had just that practical effect, though it was vaguely worded and really didn’t mandate anything. The utilities spent millions of dollars on TV ads extolling their amendment and touted it as promoting solar – but of course that was the opposite of their intent. The proponents of solar exposed the misleading utility paid ads in their own counter-ads, and most of the big news operations in the state panned the “solar amendment”. The “solar amendment” lost in the November election, with a slight majority in favor (50.77%), but constitutional amendments require 60% super majorities in Florida.

    The fact is that Florida utilities actually are investing in large scale, utility owned solar plants, with Florida Power and Light (FPL) being the biggest investor in solar … they plainly don’t want competition from the little guys. Indeed, a little ways from my home in southwest Florida a developer has created a “new town” that is solar powered, with a massive solar array, that it co-developed with FPL.

    Florida utilities are allowed, but not required, to offer net metering to homeowners and businesses. Some do, some don’t. Those that don’t allow net metering end up with relatively little rooftop solar, for obvious reasons.

    Florida is actually an ideal place for solar energy. We have abundant sunshine – our motto has been “The Sunshine State” for many years now. And our peak electrical consumption has always been in the warm season during daytime hours, when air conditioning loads are at their peak, unlike northern climates where the largest energy demand is in the winter during night time hours when there is obviously no sunlight.

    But as long as the utilities are allowed to deny net metering, adoption will be spotty, only taking place in those locations where the utility allows met metering.

  32. The average home uses 901 kWh per month. At 11.6 cents per kwh, this is $105/month. Without storage, Solar panels might cut this cost by a third, = $31 bucks a month savings, or $378/year. The system may cost $10k. How many years, at $378 per year, does it take to re-pay $10 k? 26 years. Average length of time a person lives in their home = 13 years.

    There’s your problem. Big up front, with repayment dribbling in over decades.

    • If you take into account that the output of PV panels declines by 1-2% every year, then it will actually take even longer pay back.

    • Bazinga.

      In Mass, several years ago a co-worker in high tech told me a story over coffee. Said he’d finally had to cave, and was having solar installed on his home. He said this while smiling over a cup of coffee.
      Do tell, said I :)
      He broke out his paperwork.
      The actual cost of his installation was a bit over $48k.
      The paperwork then subtracted various grants and subsidies, line item by line item.
      First one was an automatic $9k “grant”.
      In the end, his total out of pocket costs were a bit over $8k.

      $8k for a $48k installation of goods and services. It’s a government miracle.
      But wait…there’s more.

      The republic of Massachusetts, to promote solar, of course, then gave him a contract to buy additional power. He had 2 choices, a 12mo or a 24mo contract. The 24mo contract was for a lower rate, but for twice the term.

      Given his projections, he would put roughly $9k in his pocket at the end of the 2yr contract…so would be net +$1k on his initial $8 investment after 2yrs.

      So the obvious thing that solarites never want to address is that the missing $40k all came from a very common but seeminly unknown entity, OPM, (Other People’s Money), a.k.a. taxes.

      Why so many people continue to think this is a GOOD idea (other than the ones taking advantage of it) is beyond me.

      • Your friend got ripped. Typical rooftop solar installations here in Florida (around 9 to 12 KW) are selling installed for less than $20K these days … the prices have dropped a lot from just a couple years ago. If your utility allows net metering, they pay for themselves in just 3-4 years and then your power bills are next to nothing for the rest of the life of the system. In Florida most electrical usage is daytime (due to A/C use), so it matches well with the power output of the solar set up, and with net metering no storage is necessary. It actually does reduce required peak power generation by the utilities, again, because of the timing of power generation compared to timing of power use.

        And if you are one of the legion of millions of part-year Florida residents who spend the warm season up north, you end up being a net power/revenue generator, since use of A/C with an empty home in the summer is far less (not zero, though – you still have to run the A/C enough to control humidity).

      • Not sure how having the taxpayers pay for his entire setup except for $8k, which he recovered in 2yrs due to more subsidies points to him getting “ripped”.
        The taxpayers got ripped, plain and simple.

      • Also, if a minimal investment gives you free power for life, why isn’t every homeowner doing it?…without everyone else’s money, it doesn’t work, the math just isn’t there.

    • California has solved this problem by instituting tiered rates. The more you use, the more you pay. With the top tier now at $.40/kwh and low tier usage levels set unbelievably low, typical systems pay for themselves in about 6 years.

      California also prides itself on setting environmental standards for the rest of the country. So beware.

      • It actually costs less to deliver power to the big users. (Fixed costs are the same for everyone, so the more you use, the more KW’s to spread those fixed costs over.) (I’m thinking residential here, not commercial or industrial)

        This is just another example of those who have the votes, voting to force other people to pay for their stuff.

    • The money to install those panels was either borrowed, or it could have been invested instead. If you factor in the interest/foregone investment income, you will increase the recovery period by another 50%.

      Now factor in the fact that you will be lucky if your panels last 20 years, much less 26 to 40 years.

      (PS: Don’t forget maintenance costs.)

      • There is next to no maintenance cost for solar panels … just keep them clean, that’s it. Electronics have extremely long MBTAs (mean time between failure), no moving parts to wear out, no lubrication, no mechanical switches to replace, no need for anything, really. A 30-40 year lifetime is to be expected, and roofs themselves rarely last that long without requiring total replacement, typically every 20 years.

        That is one of the reasons that solar roof tiles are replacing solar panels in rooftop solar. Since every house has to have a roof anyway, replacing typically 1/3 to 1/4 of the roof tiles or shingles with solar tiles also reduces the net cost of rooftop installation, and solar tiles actually last far longer than asphalt shingles and last at least as long as concrete tiles.

        The panels only account for about 1/3 of the cost of solar installation anyway … most of the cost of rooftop solar is wrapped up in labor to install the electrical system (wiring, inverters, connections to existing house electrical system, physical installation of the rooftop panels, etc.), nearly all of which is a one-time cost.

      • Electronics have extremely long MBTAs (mean time between failure), no moving parts to wear out, no lubrication, no mechanical switches to replace, no need for anything, really. A 30-40 year lifetime is to be expected, and roofs themselves rarely last that long without requiring total replacement, typically every 20 years.

        You must not have calculated a mtbf of a bunch of panel,10 forty year panels has a mtbf in parallel of 8 to 12 years. And sitting in direct sun, outdoors, that’s a rough environment. And the panel manufacturers at least of about a year ago, hadn’t done any done(or published) and life test data.

      • Replying to Duane below. Yes, electronics fail. Enphase and SolarEdge had to learn this the hard way by putting electrolytic capacitors in their microelectronics, which, went on hot rooftops. Same holds true for inverters in a mechanical room. They lose tolerance with repeated heating cycles. And, yes there are mechanical switches in most e-panels and inverters… Go to any quality manufactures tech manuals: Outback, Midnite Solar, SMA, Enphase, SolarEdge…

  33. Amazing to me how many posts her consist of nothing but arm-waving theatrics.

    Want to generate your own power? go for it. No one is stopping anyone. Want to sell you power to the utility? fine, as long as both parties agree on the price.

    But here is the thing. Solar advocates are stupid – they want to be paid retail prices for a wholesale product. That is, the price of wholesale electricity is not 11.6 cents a kwh, it is more like 1-3 cents per kwh. That is for 24/7 reliable power. For intermittent supply of power? The value is zero. ZERO. That is why utilities won’t buy it – it has no value. It is not about monopolies, or government regulation – you are selling a product with zero value.

    This is very hard for solar advocates to understand – how is it the product has value to me, but not the utility? This happens all the time in economics. Frequent flyer miles are very valuable to fliers, but nearly valueless to airlines, because the incremental cost of filling an otherwise empty seat with a frequent flyer is so low.

    Let me give you another example. Say I like apples. I plant some apples trees in my yard. I end up growing a great many more apples than I can eat. What to do? I decide to go down to the local big chain grocery store and sell my apples. I tell them that I will bring over only as many apples as I decide not to eat, when they are in season, and when I have time to bring them over. Maybe a few dozen apples. And I would like to be paid the going rate for apples – the same price the store sells them for. Does this sound like a successful business proposition for the store? Besides being over priced, they want an apple supplier they can count on. They can’t just put of a sign and say “Tenn decided to eat all his apples today, so no apples.”

    Yes you an mitigate this if you have thousands, or millions of apple growers. But here is the other problem.

    For electricity, when demand is highest, that is the time when independent solar producers are LEAST likely to want to sell power to the grid. Hot sunny day at noon? Most homes will find they have no “excess” electricity to sell back, and this corresponds to the greatest demand. meaning they are useless to the utility.

    Utilities want to control generation not because they are greedy meanies, but because they want to ensure reliability of the system.

    • No – most solar advocates or users aren’t “stupid” as you say … but stupid straw man arguments like yours are still stupid.

      Net metering allows the utility to recover their indirect power generation/network delivery costs by reducing the retail rate. Anybody who understands economics has no problem that. Some states regulate that, most don’t and leave it up to the utility to decide (as here in Florida, where it is up to the utility).

  34. Rooftop solar levels. Pick one!
    1. Net meter no storage, who were promised they’d recoup their cost in a reasonable time. They won’t.
    2. Net meter no storage, who honestly thought they had invested in a system that was a few dollars and a screwdriver’s turn away from becoming one that would keep their lights on when the power goes out. It doesn’t.
    3. Meter un-spinners with some off the shelf “storage option” who are about to discover how inefficient every little thing is and how soon the music stops, and will be borrowing batteries from their neighbors to put into portable radios and flashlights.
    4. Rooftop solar system with storage and proper inverters and separate AC/AC-emergency/DC house wiring busses and computer server farm dual power supplies and most efficient LED lighting bankrolled by survivalists who already have solar water heaters and swamp coolers, knew exactly what was necessary, knew they could afford it and don’t give a hoot about the scrip that net metering saves.
    5. Environmentalists who won’t ever be able to afford any of this but write their Congress critter to demand it because, free green stuff.

  35. I would add to the discussion that the sunlight down here is damaging to most the solar panels manufactured – it is just absurdly intense. Enough so that oil systems running a small steam turbine are viable. I live just south of Lakeland, FL and the sunlight down here degrades plastic bottles and burns woodchips directly into CO2 and ash.

    Our grid has the added complexity of hurricane resistance AND lightning as well.

    • Solar panel installations have to meet Florida building code for your particular location as with respect to windspeeds and missile penetration, just like any other exterior component of any building. They’re treated like any other structural product.

  36. With another year or two of 20 to 30 percent cost plunge in utility scale solar among the low cost leaders in that segment, Florida will be miles ahead of the pack with no grid impairment from rooftop and hopefully no politically connected fake companies in the bid process. A few 500 mw solar array projects from the bonafide majors would leave a lot of demonstration states and nations looking pretty sad.

  37. When I worked at the Florida “Public Service” Kommissariat (the state government’s utility monopoly enforcement racket), the laws were such that, theoretically, solar, and natural gas, and waste combustion… co-generation was officially to be encouraged. In practice, not so much.

    Officially, the local monopolies were required to buy surplus electricity from businesses and residents. But there was a lot of scrapping over “system compatibility”, switching mechanisms (both automatic and manual). In essence, the monopolies were fighting a delaying action and grasping for silver bullets to block it from ever actually happening.

    The other problem is climate and weather related. Yes, officially it is the “sun-shine state”, but a lot of that “sun-shine” is liquid, to borrow a phrase from late governor Reuben O’D. Askew. It is rainy, cloudy, and humid over much of the state much of the time. Haze blocks solar collectors, condenses on and inside them, corrodes them, wreaking havoc on the whole scheme. And where it is not cloudy or hazy, there are trees and vines and mold and moss to grow over and through, and drop things on those panels. The same people who would be apt to want solar energy devices are the same ones hugging those trees and wrapping the vines around themselves.

  38. Why would someone in Newyork or some other northern state put in solar? It’s simple. Over the solar arrays life it costs less money than utility power even if the owners don’t bother to take any government provided tax credits. Utility companies in the US have been fighting against the rising tide of solar installations around the country because they are worried it will erode their state sanctioned monopoly. The fellow that responded ahead of me didn’t take the time to do his research. There are two main types of solar electric systems. Battery based systems that can operate independently from the utility grid, and grid tie systems that feed power into your home when your home can use the power and run your meter backwards giving clean power to your neighbors when you don’t need the power. The numbers are simple. The cost of the system plus reasonable mantainence divided by the power generated over the life of the solar installation. Even in Oregon where I live solar power is less expensive than utility power. In Florida the utility companies have made it so no one can feed power back to the grid. It’s easy to understand why, they don’t want the competition.

    • It’s simple. Over the solar arrays life it costs less money than utility power even if the owners don’t bother to take any government provided tax credits.

      Not likely, I pay 7 cents /kWhr generation. And a 10 panel system (just the 10 panels), with a 40 year life have a MTBF of 8 to 12 years. And outside in the Sun and rain is horrible for electronics.

  39. The Hidden Cost of Wind and Solar Electricity Generation
    G A Keen 26/03/2017

    Residential , commercial and industrial customers of a grid supplier expect electrical energy to be supplied whenever needed by the customer , ie dispatchable energy is required . The grid operator may be expected (forced ?) to absorb intermittent renewable energy from generators . The onus to make this non-dispatcheble energy into dispatchable energy then becomes the responsibility ( read headache) of the grid operator . He has to scratch around to do so in various ways . However , this “scratching around” turns out to be quite costly , and the grid operator has to build this into the price he charges his customers , on top of the charges he has to pay the basic and intermittent generators – and the price of electricity goes up . This is the current modus operandi in most electricity services around the world . The price of intermittent renewable energy is artificially low to start with (only low when the sun shines or the wind blows), but in the end the customer has to pay more . Countries with a high penetration of intermittent renewables all have high electricity prices .
    An alternative modus operandi is suggested . The onus to make energy dispatchable lies with the generator of whatever technology , rather than the grid operator . The grid operator only purchases dispatchable energy from the generators and then transmits and distributes dispatchable energy to his customers . His contract with the generator might specify that the energy supply must be say 95% dispatchable . The intermittent generator must make his energy dispatchable by either storage ( batteries , pumped storage or heat storage) and/or standby generator sets (fossil fuelled or hydro) , which likely includes intense weather forecast scanning . All this is expensive . This proposal puts the hidden costs in full view right up front . The net result might be no more grid scale solar or wind generation at present , as it will be too expensive , unless there are massive subsidies from somewhere . Until storage becomes very much cheaper , intermittent renewables will now take their rightful place today 1) at an offgrid site where grid connection is prohibitively expensive or just not possible and 2 ) as an adjunct “fuel saver” in grid supplied buildings . The offgrid site has effectively no choice but to erect wind/solar generators and provide some form of storage and/or backup generators to supply rather expensive electricity to the site . There is no haggling about the cost – it is expected and accepted to be high . The “fuel saving” function in on-grid buildings might take the form of rooftop photovoltaic panels generating entirely for self-consumption – to reduce the cost of importing (but not replace significantly) grid energy for operating a factory , hospital , whatever . There would be no requirement for storage and the grid is not loaded with intermittent energy to be made into dispatchable energy . The grid supplied customers do not experience an artificially high cost of electricity . Time-of-use billing could reduce possible resulting peaking on the grid .
    Intermittent renewable energy has two significant disadvantages 1) it is intermittent and hence effectively non-dispatchable and 2) it lacks the buffering power of heavy spinning machinery . Without storage , the grid requires generation to exactly balance the load at all times and the frequency stability (50 Hz ) is a measure of this balance . When a heavy load is switched on to the grid , the frequency instantly drops a fraction and the inertia of the heavy spinning generators keeps generation going and they sense this frequency drop immediately and automatically “step on the gas” to keep the frequency stable very accurately and hence also keep the grid stable . The large inertial mass of a pumped-storage motor-generator spinning in air (without water in its turbine blades) can switch rapidly back and forth between absorbing and outputting electrical energy to act as an excellent buffer to stabilize a grid . Wind and solar have little or no inertia and cannot suddenly “step on the gas” at all , and high wind/solar penetration can lead to grid instability as has been seen in South Australia recently , with its high penetration of wind and solar . Germany , with its high wind/solar penetration on the grid , has also experienced more “wobbly periods” than in earlier times but friendly neighbours and the typical over-engineering of their grid has enabled them to come through largely unscathed ………….thus far . The wind and solar generators generally take their frequency from the grid ie they are frequency followers , and their disconnection from a stable grid setting the pace causes havoc , as the Australians have also experienced recently in stormy weather .
    Making intermittent renewables into dispatchable energy does improve both the above deficiencies : some storage can pretty well instantly “step on the gas “ or “step off the gas” for buffering in both directions .
    If grid operators are forced to accept preferentially wind and solar generation , then electricity markets are disturbed , and central base-load generators lose out and become less or non-viable unless subsidised . These base-load generators are needed for grid stability . In a way , this could also be considered a part of the “cost” of solar and wind electricity , but different (financial) from the technicalities outlined above .
    If intermittent renewables are to be valued for their “clean” generation , as many wish , then their true high cost must be accepted as the price of “cleanliness” . Whether it is worth it at present is a political/public decision that needs to be debated . There is at present a distinct lack of debate about the true (high) cost of intermittent renewables , there is merely a punting of how equipment costs have come down , which is of course true , but this is only part of the problem . The hidden costs of dispatchability and buffering remain . In the present state of technology , it is doubtful any country can run entirely on renewables , other than hydro . Cheap efficient storage would totally change this picture , but this is likely some way off .

    References

    May , Andy 17/03/2017 Exergy and Powerplants : Can renewables ever replace fossil fuels and nuclear ?
    https://andymaypetrophysicist.com/exergy-and-power-plants/ (Accessed 26/03/2017)

    Vahrenholt , Fritz Jan 17 2017 Germany’s Energiewende : A Disaster in the Making .
    (A presentation to The House of Commons)
    http://www.thegwpf.org/content/uploads/2017/02/Vahrenholt-20171.pdf (Accessed 26/03/2017)

  40. Has any coal, natural gas, or nuclear energy provider ever received a government subsidy?

    • Dennis, the federal government provides a significant subsidy to nuclear power plants. The Price-Anderson Act makes the Federal Government responsible for any/all liability beyond the fund set up by the act. Without this act, there is no insurance company in existence that would write a liability insurance policy for a nuclear power plant.

      • Since the chances of an accident exceeding what’s in the fund are close enough to zero that we don’t need to spend time talking about it. That’s a “subsidy” that doesn’t cost anybody anything.

  41. There’s lots of passive solar in FL…maybe all the leaks that spring scare people away from spending $$$ on the real solar.

  42. There aren’t any where near enough Solar installations in NY, or any state for that matter, to cause a disproportionate redistribution of a utilities overhead costs. That’s the drumbeat of a coal advocate. That, or your just uneducated.

    • If solar ever makes the kind of penetration that it’s advocates are demanding, then these issues will be a big deal.

    • This seems to me would be classified as an incentive, making the original article even more frivolous than I thought originally. This approach while better than forcing electric companies to buy excess electricity, it penalizes electric companies for electricity they provided in exchange for electricity they may not need at the time it is generated.

  43. “If the raw economics of solar made any sense, buyback schemes would not be needed to make household solar attractive. Householders could simply switch off the grid supply, and switch their house to cheaper rooftop solar supply, to reduce their electricity bills.”

    Good grief – many households are not occupied during the daytime because the owners/tenants are at work. Did this logic escape the author?

  44. Are you kidding? Are you saying that by not allowing clean energy producing homes to sell back their excess electricity to power companies, Florida regulators are HELPING residents???? “stick to their guns”? WTF is that?

    • All that glitters is not gold.

      The buyback scheme is a special interests scam. Electric companies are forced to buy the electricity at non-competitive prices and at times when the electricity is generated, not when it is needed. It’s like the government forcing you to buy gasoline at Sunoco at twice the competitive rate whenever Sunoco has some to sell. And if your tank is full and don’t need it, well then you still have to pay for it.

      Yes this is bad for residents since it artificially raises their cost of electricity and/or taxes to assuage a political fancy.

  45. “….disincentives mean Florida has few solar panels but the Empire state’s policies have boosted installed solar capacity by 800%”

    Not familiar with Florida’s alleged disincentives, but giving stuff away free is usually a pretty good incentive. The Empire States basically put up a sign “Free Stuff” and people lined up, not sure what this has to do with the efficacy of solar. If anything, it has to do with the state forcing poorer citizens to pay for free stuff for more affluent citizens.

  46. In fairness, there’s a strong argument that Florida also has problem with market-distorting policies. In Florida’s case, it’s a protectionism argument lobbied for by the incumbent utilities.

    The Florida utilities based their lobbying on a ‘stranded costs’ argument. While there’s a kernel of truth there, frankly, that should be a risk of doing business. The answer to a skewed playing field is not to skew it the other way but to level it. Both New York and Florida have a long way to go before their energy sectors can be considered even close to level.

  47. I partially agree with this article but must point out that the government has already distorted the market by creating energy monopolies.

    If the monopoly were removed, solar power generation would be attractive during peak hour power consumption when the sun is shining most brightly and ACs are running at full blast.

    • There are times, when, monopolies are the most cost effective solution. Remove the monopoly, or, oligopoly if not created via political favoritism, and, watch your electric bill rise.

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