Goldman Sachs: Global Solar Power Installations Will Crash 24% in 2018

UT’s solar farm located on Pickle Research Campus UT Cockrell School of Engineering Communications

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

h/t James Delingpole – This is a bad year for renewable energy.

Goldman Sachs Puts a Grim Number on Solar Slump for This Year

By Chris Martin
20 July 2018

Anyone following clean energy knew this could be a tough year for solar. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. just put a grim number on how bad.

The pace of global installations will contract by 24 percent in 2018, Goldman analysts led by Brian Lee said in a research note late Wednesday. That’s far more dire than the 3 percent decline forecast by Bloomberg NEF in the bleakest of three scenarios outlined in a report earlier this month. Credit Suisse Group AG is forecasting a 17 percent contraction.

Read more (paywalled):

The Bloomberg story cites news from June about China cutting back on Solar;

Solar Prices Nosedive After China Pullback Floods Global Market

By Chris Martin
21 June 2018

Solar panels were already getting cheaper this year, and then China pulled the plug this month on about 20 gigawatts of domestic installations. The result was a glut of global inventories, and now prices are plunging even faster.

China, the world’s biggest solar market, on June 1 slammed the brakes on new projects that would have had as much capacity as about 20 nuclear power plants. With a global panel glut it’s a buyer’s market and developers in other countries are delaying purchases, holding out for even lower prices.

Read more (paywalled):

China is not alone in pulling back on Solar. The new government in Ontario cancelled $790 million dollars worth of contracts a week ago (h/t JoNova).

Ontario to Cancel Energy Contracts to Bring Hydro Bills Down

Keeping election promise will save $790 million to help lower electricity bills
July 13, 2018 2:00 P.M.Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines
TORONTO — Ontario ratepayers will benefit from $790 million in savings thanks to the Government of Ontario‘s decision to cancel and wind down 758 renewable energy contracts, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines Greg Rickford announced today.

“We clearly promised we would cancel these unnecessary and wasteful energy projects as part of our plan to cut hydro rates by 12 per cent for families, farmers and small businesses,” said Rickford in making the announcement. “In the past few weeks, we have taken significant steps toward keeping that promise.”

All of the cancelled projects have not reached project development milestones. Terminating the projects at this early stage will maximize benefits for ratepayers.

Read more:

An Australian industry group recently warned that solar power is destabilising the grid. (h/t JoNova). This has not yet translated into substantial cutbacks, but its likely only a matter of time.

Too much of a good thing: Solar power surge is flooding the grid

By Cole Latimer
6 June 2018 — 4:42pm

The rising number of solar rooftop installations is creating concerns that too much energy is flooding into the electricity grid, and could cause blackouts as the system struggles to control the excess power.

“Solar spill”, when high levels of energy are generated by rooftop installations in the middle of the day when demand is low, is becoming a problem for Australia’s electricity networks, according to Andrew Dillon, the head of the grid representative body Energy Networks Australia.

Read more:

Government subsidies have done a good job to date of shielding solar enthusiasts from business reality, but the election of President Trump, and waning political enthusiasm across the world appear to have combined to create a severe contraction in demand for this useless form of electricity generation.

132 thoughts on “Goldman Sachs: Global Solar Power Installations Will Crash 24% in 2018

  1. OK, so, do they mean 24% more than they have already crashed? I was wondering exactly how much sunshine Ontario gets on an annual basis when I first read about their solar power plans, apparently someone else got around to asking that question, too. And I thought roof top solar in Oz was supposed to have substantial storage battery systems in order to lessen the “spill over” effect to the grid, seems like an easy fix.

    The drop in price on solar panels will probably expand installation by homeowners, just need to be sure to have sufficient battery storage onsite to maximize their utility for each home. Economics, in the end they always win.

    • Several years ago, after our local utility installed controllable meters I researched and cost out installing solar panels on my roof. I live in Florida and had the perfect area on my roof. Yet there were two significant impediments. First was the return on investment and the second was battery storage. It was the last that kept me from following through since a good portion of my garage would have been taken up and the hazard of having a battery array under my roof.

      • florida is the perfect niche for solar in the summer to run air conditioners and that’s all- you use the power when you need it and only enuff battery to keep it smooth if a cloud goes by

        • I’m not sure what your background is, but the vast majority of residential solar panel systems are grid-tied. That means that the inverter for your solar DC converts the power to AC and, this is very important, pumps it back in phase to the general grid, where it pretends it’s a little fossil-fueled power plant. You get a credit for each kW-hr you feed the grid. This credit can be one or more forms. First, each kW-hr you generate offsets each kW-hr you use. There may also be a feed-in tariff, at or above the retail price you pay your local power company (POCO). Usually they won’t let you sell them more power than you use. There may also be renewable energy target (RET) credits you get paid for apart from the feed-in tariff. The usual residential setup is the solar company gives you a ridiculously good price on your system, but they get to keep the RET credits, so most people don’t deal with that.

          Now, the moment that the inverter detects there is no exterior grid power, it shuts down and you stop pumping your power anywhere, INCLUDING your own home. So much for chortling at your neighbors discomfort during a blackout. The way around this is, as you may suspect, putting in batteries. Why do you need to do that? Because your house is a miniature power grid. Devices are turning on and off all the time, and you are NEVER using a flat amount of power on a millisecond basis, and that’s the level at which power available from the array has to match the power being consumed in the home. The inverter, which is capable of controlling the power output to some degree, cannot react fast enough to follow the changing loads. What it CAN do is react fast enough to recharge or float charge a battery bank that supplies a second inverter that pumps power into your house. The battery bank has to be “stiff” enough to look like an infinite source to your loads in order to keep the voltage from sagging out of range when a high inrush load (your AC, or almost any motor load) kicks on. Even though you might be able to run all your loads steady on a 4 kW battery bank, you might need a 12 kW bank to handle the inrush. Additional battery capacity (kW-hr, not kW) is needed for however long you need to carry the loads until the sun shines again. Did I mention that your PV array needs to be large enough (in this case) to carry your daytime loads AND charge your batteries?

          All of this is not a trivial exercise. For a fascinating journey through the trials and tribulations you can encounter, the following link will take you to an electrical contractors’ forum where you can read along. You can’t post unless you are “in the business” and they absolutely won’t answer any DIY questions, but the information will be an eye-opener to many.

          • Thanks for the link but I think he meant “direct use” which means no output to the grid and no storage. You need air conditioning on a hot sunny day and that is when solar works. Solar panels run the air conditioner directly (DC) or buffered with ultra caps (AC).

            The ROI then goes way out the window because you don’t live in the world where you can force other people to pay for your intermittent energy source.

          • obviously i meant the cheap solar panels coming as the surplus vultures clean up what died of subsidy deficiency.
            they also make a great awning that shades your mobile while they run the A/C.
            dj isn’t interested – he’s all about subsidy and compliance – you know- the loot.

          • @TRM, @gnomish;
            I am not “about the loot”. I’m about trying to get people to understand what can and can’t be done. You CAN NOT take a bunch of panels, run them to an inverter, and then run ANY KIND of AC equipment. Can. Not. Happen.

          • @gnomish at July 25, 2018 10:08 am Not straw man. D. J. is right. To do what you say takes everything D. J. said it takes. Sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting, “La, la, la, la, I can’t hear you…!!!” still hasn’t changed facts. Your little pipe dream, well, it could happen if you install all those things D. J. said, along with the panels. And what’s the simple payback on that? Hmm?

    • The problem here 2hotel9 is that battery storage is very expensive, however you look at it. And not very efficient. Certainly not “an easy fix” where the grid is concerned; but possibly a niche solution in remote off grid situations.

      Generally:- If you supp with the government, best supp with a long spoon.

    • There will be no government-subsidized battery storage in Ontario. The new government has been taking an axe to anything resembling government support for green energy. Even the window installers are complaining that government subsidies for energy efficient windows ends in October.

      The previous government (that now consists of just seven seats in the legislature) played some very dirty pool. During the election they approved a new wind farm, 38 turbines. The new government passed legislation late last week canceling it. Now the crony capitalists and their friends in the press are squealing that this will be bad for business.

      Long and the short of it is that it’s going to take years to sort out all the rubbish that the Liberal government foisted on Ontario over the past 15 years. There will be howling from the expected quarters for years to come.

    • Economics, in the end they always win.

      For the individual consumer, solar only makes sense if she’s off the grid. I’m on the grid. I own an inverter (part of an emergency backup). I can do all the work myself. My area has stupidly expensive electricity. I still can’t save money by installing solar.

      I can imagine a scenario where solar would be viable. With the current supply of cheap coal and fracked natural gas, that won’t be the case for many years.

      • Ironic, because they installed so much renewable power, electricity has gotten so expensive that solar becomes economically viable.

    • If economics was winning, solar and wind would gone even sooner than they are goung to be.
      Battery storage is neither simple or cheap.
      BTW, having a room full of batteries is not without hazard.

    • See my post elsewhere in this thread. Battery storage is a non-starter everywhere except the tropics.

    • “2hotel9

      And I thought roof top solar in Oz was supposed to have substantial storage battery systems in order to lessen the “spill over” effect to the grid, seems like an easy fix.”

      No. Most systems have no backup, other than being connected to the grid. The spill (Feed-in) goes to the grid. Feed-in tariffs are being (Or have been) cut. There are some battery installations, like someone in Queensland installed AU$60,000 worth of batteries IIRC. That’s just not possible for everyone.

      South Australia is unique in the fact the Govn’t installed the Tesla Battery, the biggest in the world apparently. That’s a boon for Musk and the SA Govn’t, but for everyone else it’s a joke, an expensive joke.

      Another issue facing solar/battery installations in Australia is that more and more people rent and more and more people rent apartments without any possibility of installing rooftop solar power. It just is not an option. Some property owners/managers are considering it but that throws new levels of complexity in to how to share the power generated from a rooftop installation in a building across 30, 40 or 50 apartments. There might be enough to power the lights in the stairwells.

      We here in New South Wales have state elections coming up next year. Australia will have a federal election next year too. Any politician who is not fully focused on reliable, secure and affordable energy won’t be a member of a winning party to form Govn’t.

    • “….just need to be sure to have sufficient battery storage onsite to maximize their utility for each home…”
      rolls off the toungue so easily doesnt it? makes it sound like a trivial expense compared with a basic grid connected solar scheme.

    • Guys? I am just going by what the greentards have been telling everyone for decades. Y’all ain’t trying to say they are lyin’, are ya!?!?! 😉

      Having done a couple of rooftop solar power installations, 2 with battery storage, I know how expensive they are and what a pain in the ass they are. And a big bank of batteries is not just hazardous in a building they are an over all pain to maintain.

      Patrick MJD, what I had read a few years ago about solar in Oz was each structure was supposed to have battery storage as part of their system. At the time I thought “OK, if you can convince that many people to spend that kind of money then more power to you, cobber.” I did not really think it was going to happen that way.

      Here in rural western PA solar does make a small degree of sense. Done solar on farms and hunting camps. Power interruptions are a fact of life out here in the boonies, that said generators are by far the better solution, especially one that runs on that Evil Marcellus Shale gas. A substantial drop in price of solar power equipment will bring more people into it.

      • I have tried (because it was mandated upon me) to work up a Life Cycle Cost Analysis to justify solar installations, whether PV or thermal. And in most cases, I can’t show a business case for it, even if I calculate in all the subsidies. The only places it even has a chance is

        1) thermal installations with a really high hot water demand. This leaves out home heating because in the South of the U.S. you just don’t need that heat that much, and in the North of the U.S. you still don’t need heat year round, and there isn’t enough sunshine to do the job when you need it. So about the only places I can make it make sense is gymnasiums, dormitories or barracks, where you get a bunch of people wanting to take a shower at once.

        2) PV installations waaaaa-aaaaay out in the boonies somewhere, that would require several miles of electrical distribution lines to get to it. Or you could buy them a combination of solar panels and an Internal Combustion powered generator, and away you go.

        Funny thing on #1… I went to college with the intent to major in Solar Engineering, and quickly decided solar PV wasn’t it (somehow I couldn’t get excited about 2-4% efficiency, the efficiency of PV wafers at the time) and I went with a Mechanical Engineering degree, and even took classes on Solar Thermal design. We played with analysis of a number of situations, where I first encountered the limitations as I outlined above, and about the best we could do was a 9 year simple pay back (SPB). I thought that’s no problem, the price of oil will continue to rise, it won’t be long the SPB will come right down to 4 years. Well, time went by, the price of oil went up, the price of oil went down, I did analyses in Phoenix, AZ, in Houston, TX, in fact pretty much all over the South U.S. (think Mason-Dixon line, or just about, stretched right across the U.S.) and no matter what, it seems the best I can get is about 9 year SPB. It seems that there is enough fossil fuel required in the manufacture, delivery and installation of a solar thermal system, that the price of a completed in place fully functional system moves pretty much in lock-step with the price of oil, so when the cost to produce hot water from conventional methods rises, and I think this installation will pay back in a hurry, well the cost of the system rises as well, stretching out the payback right back to 9 years again. There it is, folks. That’s the facts. It has got to where I don’t really need to do the analysis anymore, I can just look at the type of building and predict what the SPB will come out to be if we go ahead with the analysis.

        • Yep, all the solar installations I have done were not tied into grid, all out in the real world with battery storage/inverter systems with backup generators. Very costly. And very worth it when grid takes a shit, which out here in flyover country is not an uncommon occurrence. Those who can afford multiple systems buy them, those who can’t keep a gasoline generator on hand. Everyone else just takes it in the a$$ till the power comes back on. Guess which group Democrat Party envirotards are pushing their energy lies onto?

  2. Uh-ohs, China is going to have some ‘splainin’ to do at the upcoming climate gabfest (aka COP 24) in Katowice, Poland. So will Canada. Especially China though, as they are the new “climate leaders”.

    • Don’t worry, they’ll just blame it on Trump and all the myrmidons will nod in agreement.

      • “…myrmidons…”

        From dictionary dot com:

        2. a person who executes without question or scruple a master’s commands.

        Thanks for the new word!

  3. So, the hollow promises haven’t materialized? Who have thought it? ….we did and we told you so.

  4. This summary and conclusion is half right at best. 1) China is dealing with overcapacity of solar mfg like a lot of other industries in that economy and lowering the FIT support price for projects. 2) Chinese solar firms continue to be de-listed on western stock exchanges and taken private. 3) Protectionist policies continue to be pursued in Ontario, India, and the U.S. in response to overcapacity and local lobbying. 4) Low prices from overcapacity and displaced markets will harm profit margins and make zombie producers go under, hopefully. But the conclusion from those observations is not correct. Solar will continue to thrive among the best of breed thanks to automation, R&D, and competitive power bids at least at the utility scale. The noise from rooftop solar advocates and political pet projects should not be confused with best of breed producers and bidders. You will be confused and disoriented if you think otherwise.

    • Until huge electricity users like, AWS (Amazon), Google, Facebook and Microsoft, no longer feel the need to make solar a required part of any new build outs, the pace will continue. Even here in Virginia, where we are usually quite conservative when it comes to power generation are seeing the effect. Both Facebook and AWS are building data centers in the Richmond area with on-site or separate solar a required part of these projects.

    • The article is about installation projects being cancelled. If there is over capacity, it is because demand has dropped.
      Solar will only thrive so long as someone else is picking up the tab.

    • Remove all the arcane regulations that favour solar usage in the grid and all subsidies and let us see how long solar lasts.

    • The information I have is that China is only expected to install around 30GW of solar this year – despite the cheap availability you cite – compared with 53GW in 2017. That’s quite some drop. The article is reporting on the GS expectation of a 24% drop. Global installations were 97GW in 2017, so the drop in China is almost equal to the entire fall globally. Some markets will see growth (mainly those with low historic levels of installation where they have recently decided to invest in some solar), but others may join China with reduced levels of installation.

      Already in 2017, new installations fell in a number of important markets, including the US (down 28%) Chile (down 50%) UK (down 64%) South Africa (down 68%) Japan (down 11%) Thailand (down 76%) – and there were also dramatic declines in a number of smaller markets. The outlook is for a glut of solar panels (hence some very cheap installation offers), and bankrupt manufacturers and installers in a number of countries.

      In several countries grid integration of large quantities of solar is becoming an issue that is at least on the watch list, if not limiting. The problems with dumping large amounts of unwanted power at midday in midsummer, yet providing none when it is most needed make solar a less than preferred choice for grid operators in several countries. For them, solar can only become viable when storage is so cheap that it can be done between summer and winter at acceptable cost. That means storage with a long service life (say 40 years) with a capital cost at under $2/kWh of capacity, which would still make winter supply alarmingly expensive.

      • “…where they have recently decided to invest in some solar…”

        Oxymoronic sentence, isn’t it?

  5. No doubt the usual crowd will proclaim that the falling prices for solar panels is proof that solar is about to become economical.

      • As the article makes clear, the reason why prices have dropped is because demand has dropped due to all of these large projects being cancelled.

        • Yes, but it’s not a terminal view of the industry. Govt creates some market demand and abruptly changes market perception. That’s not an absolute condition of the whole industry. It is a one-year distortion much like the over build in silicon ingot capacity a few years back.

          • That would be Ontario. In China and India, solar was competing with diesel power costs and still does in India. Both countries have moved away from power shortages and unreliable grids that harmed mfg. operating hours.

          • Why are you comparing it to diesel? How many power plants run on diesel? Yes, I know Djibouti power production is 100% diesel, except for what they buy from Ethiopia, but where else?

    • I would tend to agree with you. the problem is, no one really is trying to explain how you get that midday overproduction to be used at midnight. So called renewable energy is great if you can use it as it’s produced, but you can’t stuff it into an empty box to use when the sun is down and so is the wind. There just isn’t enough education on it.

      I have thought about using solar may times as a source for my own independence, but it comes down to batteries, batteries, batteries, and they don’t make them with heavy enough plates to take deep discharge and come back for more, for year after year at a price I could hope to afford. If storage batteries ever come down to a point where I can afford to buy them and they last, I would certainly consider moving the house at least partially off the grid, leaving only things like refrigeration, heating, and the lines that support the refrigerator and freezer on it. If the lights went out and the computer and TV stopped working because of “in house brown out,” no big deal, but I sure would hate to have the heat drop out when its 30 below or the A/C quit when its 110 in the shade.

      • To use it at night, you’d need batteries to store the daytime excess. The batteries are very expensive ($400/kWh + installation for residences) and therefore impractical outside of tropical locations (e.g., Hawaii) with high electricity rates and limited seasonal variation.

        “Independence” is an illusion anyway. Even if you were off the grid, there are hundreds of other ways in which you are not independent. For backup power, a generator is far more practical.

  6. If DLR is so much stronger than DSR why not create cells that work off IR? Then they could function all day, and even better when it is cloudy.

    Ah, of course…

    • DWIR is so miniscule as to be unimportant. NASA measures it by assuming an emissivity of 1. The real emissivity is in the graph on pages 214-215 of the textbook by Dewitt and Nutter 1988 “Theory and Practice of Radiation Thermometry”. In the graph for CO2 on page 214 it gives a range of 0.02 to 0.2 depending on path length and density(partial pressure). Another important point is that no one has been able to separate out the DWIR caused by CO2 and the DWIR caused by H2O.

    • Yeah correct.

      If only their models worked as shown.

      A 1000 Watts of solar IR absorbed, gets re-emitted as Lwir with exactly the same thermal potential as solar IR.

      Simply because Trenbreth mann schmidt hansen et al are Mathematicians not physicists.

      All energy is equal, all photons are thermal, all photons are ”heat” to a mathematician.
      Only a mathematician could visualise the RGE, and take no account at the macro level of what is actually going on.

      So you end up with the absurdity of reverse thermal flow from cold to warm.


  7. If we connect the electrical systems of the whole world then it would be enough the solar energy alone. Obviously, in case of drastic drop in prices, installations will again increase. Strengthening storage capacity can also be extremely important in mobile use, for example in ships.

  8. Goldman has been known to bet against its own clients receiving opposite advise. They can switch trading sides in less than a second if the required volatility factor is reached.

  9. Remember all those new “clean, green” jobs Obama created? Me neither. Most of those jobs were telemarketing jobs attempting to sell solar panels. Lots of hang ups. Unemployment ensued.

    • Yes, the jobs claim was a lobbying/WH scam that was tailor made for rooftop tax credit miners.

      • Remember back in the late 70s Pvc windows doors etc came out, making double glazing redundant eventually with sealed units.

        Well it cost a 2nd mortgage to fit out with it, then by mid 80s still really dear, but product range had expanded into everything, weather boarding, conservatories.

        I made good money refurbishing tired upvc, instead of them installing new back then.

        Anyway it was called ”white gold”.
        Your comment, ”fooftop gold”

  10. This interesting in many ways. By reducing the call for new solar in China, the international pricing of solar panels will drop, encouraging new solar. Probably elsewhere, but maybe China too. It also means, any chance of US solar selling panels internationally has evaporated, along with any chance of US leadership in that industry. I have been guessing this “surprise” change in policy by the Chinese, to slow down their solar, is but an interesting response to Trump’s 25 or 30 % tariff on solar panels, specifically designed to target the industry that is protected in the US.

    • I normally give conspiracy theories a wide berth, but in this case you could be right on the money RS.

    • The solar industry is a faux industry, propped up by taxpayers and ratepayers, under the guise that it is “good for the planet”, when in fact, the only thing it is good for is lining the pockets of the Big Solar.

    • The US isn’t competitive internationally with solar panels, never has been, so it’s no loss. Any tariffs on foreign panels only make the home grown panels more attractive….. to the US.

    • Is it just me, or am I the only one seeing this all as bass-ackwards? The greenies are saying, make the government mandate solar, then the price will drop…??? *Cue Tim Taylor hungh?* See, high demand, even artificial demand created by the government mandates, makes prices rise. Low demand causes prices to fall. So, just as with education, when the government starts throwing money at it, the price will rise. So clearly, when these trade magazines keep telling me how the price of solar panels is going down down down, I always go to their charts and reports, and I can’t find the subsidies. All I find is the price the consumer paid. What is the real price of the panel? Or of the solar installation? Why won’t they show me that? So it’s my contention, and I’m inviting anyone who has actual figures to prove me wrong, that the actual price of solar has been rising for the last 10 years. Probably likewise for wind installations. I know that every place that has jumped in bed with unreliables has seen the price of electricity rise, that’s another data point that I believe supports my hypothesis. So, where are they? Where are the real figures? The real prices paid for the installations (include all money from all sources), and the real production, in actual kW and kWh, and what does that work out to be, in $/kW and $/kWh? Anyone? Buehler? Buehler? Anyone?

      • At least the LFTR reactor works. Unlike the majority of green anything. Spending money on a system that works but needs further development makes a lot more sense than wasting money on things like wind and solar generation that is known not to work. If power is not dispatch-able then it is worse than useless.

          • Here is a list of companies that are moving quickly to commercialize versions of LFTR and Molten Salt Reactors. All of the designs are modular – use mass production techniques similar to what are used in the commercial aircraft manufacturing industry. Units are built in factories and then shipped to their final destination in pieces on a barge.









            TerraPower is Bill Gates’ company.

            Sorry if your comments about Thorium groupies and bankrupt nuclear power companies was meant to be sarcasm or humor… I’m assuming you were speaking straight.

            Solar energy will never play a significant role in supplying our energy needs. Solar energy will never replace fossil fuels. At best, solar can play a specialized role in peak energy production in some areas where sunlight is strong and reliably present. Everywhere else it will at best be used in conjunction with natural gas peaker plants – which are expensive – and requires a completely new build out with dual systems. Batteries will never be able to play a significant role in backup. There are issues of battery size, cost and the environmental impact of battery production (toxic chemicals and lots of CO2 production). Solar farms will have to be scaled up many times peak requirements to handle parallel recharging of batteries. Solar is nothing short of ridiculous. Without governments creating economic incentives there would be little to no solar. Low energy density and low availability are fatal flaws of solar. Solar must be forever married to “fossil fuel” production, will only reduce “fossil fuel” usage a small percentage, will increase cost and complexity and reduce reliability.

            It’s clear to me that Climate Alarmists have no interest in an energy source that doesn’t produce CO2. Their interest is to insure the longevity and vitality of the “problem”. With the “CO2 problem” and “imminent climate crisis” they can manipulate people and gain power. Pursuing the dead-end journey to solar is a fine way to never solve the problem – but look good trying. If the Alarmists were really concerned about CO2 and other issues with “fossil fuel” power generation, then they would be demanding a Manhattan Project style effort on LFTR/Molten Salt reactors. Fortunately, the industry is already doing that without government interference – quietly hidden behind the noise of climate nonsense.

      • 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. Who in their right mind would want something that does that?

  11. Solar below 40N and where the Sun shines a lot can make some sense, especially in the desert and semi-arid areas like the SW US. How it is justified in Northern Europe the six months between September and April is beyond me due to Sun angle, short days and cloud cover.

    And ask California how wind power is helping provide relief during the current hot spell. Someone should tell the planners when a summer high pressure system parks over you there is very little wind and very hot air. Their solution is to turn the lights out.

  12. Just a thought for a bit of personal gain here:

    The electric company where I lived in Georgia above Atlanta wanted me to allow them to turn off my air conditioner when the grid was being overloaded. They were going to give me a small rebate for the privilege of being able to temporarily shut off my A/C.

    Why couldn’t we do the reverse with my hot tub? If they have extra electricity and need to get rid of it, and I want the water in my hot tub to be at max temp, we can do a trade. They can turn on my hot tub, I will consume the electricity to relieve the grid of the extra power and the power company can charge me a lower rate for the excess electricity I consumed. Its a win-win.

    • Just so long as you are happy for them to turn off the A/C when the temperatures are over 100F, and to take your baths at 3 a.m. when they have a surplus. Also, be repared to park your EV during your commute home to support a grid shortage, and then wait until after midnight before you can recharge it to complete your journey.

      • I think you might be confused by, well almost everything I said. Let me try again.

        In the offer to install the remote shut off for the A/C the electric company noted that they would never leave it off for more than 30 minutes. My house might go up by only a degree or two but then the A/C would kick back in and bring the temps back down.

        The proposal was to allow a second remote that would turn on my hot tub, not my hot water heater which was powered by natural gas. Jacuzzi would be another term maybe you are more familiar with. These tend to use a lot of electricity and when I installed mine the electric bill jumped $40-50 per month. My point was if there is extra electricity in the lines from too much solar and the electric company needs to offload it fast to stabilize then they can give it to me at a cheaper price for use in my hot tub.

        I am not sure where you picked up anything about an EV, nor am I sure why one would need to be parked during a commute. EVs tend to have batteries and operate independent of the grid once charged. I don’t own one so I can’t speak to when they get charged.

    • What are the economics of a real “heat pump” to move heat from your house air conditioning into the hot tub? I’ve heard of people heating their swimming pools by heat-pumping from the house air-conditioning.

      Another option is Ground-Source Heat Pumps (Earth-Energy Systems) The savings come from the fact that moving warm/cold liquids around is a lot cheaper than heating/cooling them in situ.

      • I think you need to re-read my original post. I never suggested anything about a “heat pump”. I took the idea of remotely shutting off my A/C to stabilize the power grid when there is not enough electricity available and reversed it for when there is too much electricity due to intermittent renewables.

  13. Homeowners receive benefit from rooftop panels, especially in the sun belt. Grid based solar panel farms are a solution looking for a problem.

    • If those homeowners are hooked to the grid and have net metering, then it’s at the expense of other ratepayers. That’s in addition to any rebates, etc. they’ve already received on installation. The whole thing is a giant sc@m.

  14. Until the Saudi 200 GW plant is built?
    From Daniel Burnham’s advice:

    Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work. . .

    See: This Planned Solar Farm in Saudi Arabia Would Be 100 Times Bigger Than Any in the World

    . . . if constructed, the newly-announced solar photovoltaic project in Saudi Arabia would break an astonishing array of records. It’s larger than any solar project currently planned by a factor of 100. When completed, nominally in 2030, it would have a capacity of an astonishing 200 gigawatts (GW). The project is backed by Softbank Group and Saudi Arabia’s new crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, and was announced in New York on March 27. . . .
    the nominal estimate for the budget is around $200 billion. . .
    The country’s Vision 2030 project aims to diversify its heavily oil-dependent economy by that year. If they can construct solar farms on this scale, alongside the $80 billion the government plans to spend on a fleet of nuclear reactors, it seems logical to export that power to other countries in the region, especially given the amount of energy storage that would be required otherwise. . . .
    Given that Saudi Arabia put up $45 billion of the Vision Fund, it’s also not surprising to see the location of the project; Softbank reportedly had plans to invest $25 billion of the Vision Fund in Saudi Arabia, and $1 billion will be spent on the first solar farms there. . . .


    • Hi David L. Hagen

      What a great big juicy target it will make. Yup the Iranians will be selling, gifting any whack-a-doodle group rusty Scud’s, mortar rounds and RPGs.


      • First thing i thought too.
        But looked at another way,………

        Theyr’e stored sunshine will run out, so use that to fund mining fresh sunshine from desert and exporting that…..

        Like pushing water uphill,……..potential.

  15. The article says; “when high levels of energy are generated by rooftop installations in the middle of the day when demand is low, is becoming a problem for Australia’s electricity networks”

    In the USA peak demand for electricity is during the middle of the day in the summer when everyone turns on the A/C. To me that seems like a great situation for solar. You get peak sun at the same time as peak demand.

    Don’t they use A/C in Australia?

    • In the USA peak demand for electricity is during the middle of the day in the summer when everyone turns on the A/C.

      Every demand curve I have looked at puts it late afternoon to early evening. People turn on the AC when they get home from work. Solar peaks at solar noon.

    • Just as the warmest time of the year occurs weeks after the longest day of the year. The warmest time of the day occurs hours after the sun is at it’s highest.
      And that’s without all those people getting home from work at 5 to 6 pm.

      PS: During the winter, the time of greatest energy need is in the middle of the night.

    • “when high levels of energy are generated by rooftop installations in the middle of the day when demand is low, is becoming a problem for Australia’s electricity networks”

      I keep reading that, this, that, or something else is a problem for “electricity networks.” Engineers are hired to solve problems and life goes on. As long as the problems keep getting solved and electricity keeps flowing nobody cares. Until the “problem is quantified” or it is obvious the network has stopped working, people assume engineers are just complaining about doing their job which is to solve problems.

      • Engineers are quite good at solving problems. The valid engineering problem here is reliably and cost effectively matching electrical generation with electrical demand. Engineers have been able to do this in every developed country but the optimal engineering solution has — not — included significant contributions from intermittent, non-dispatchable renewable sources. The mandate to include renewables is driven by politics, not engineering or economics. No doubt the engineers will be able to solve the challenge of integrating renewables as well, but the resulting solutions will be more expensive and less reliable than they could be.

    • The problem is that solar doesn’t offer grid inertia – the ability to adapt to changes in the supply/demand balance across the grid in short order, and adequate output control. Its output can be destabilising, varying sharply as cloud passes over.

      In order to keep supply and demand matched ftom second to second, there needs to be plenty of inertia (essentially the ability to store and use flywheel energy). In order to keep supply and demand matched on timescales of tens of seconds and longer, you need to control output. Grid inertia is normally provided automatically by the large generators and motors that have sufficient mass and diameter to offer higher levels of inertia (Inertia of a particle=mass x rotation radius squared, energy stored is proprtional to inertia x rotation speed squared). Close them down to make way for solar generation, and the grid frequency becomes unstable and outside normal bounds, which leads to blackouts. Even if you solve the inertia problem (which is a role that is being tested out for grid batteries – rapid response to fluctuations in the grid frequency that reflect smallish supply/demand imbalances), you are left with the wider control problem that is usually solved by varying the rate of fuel consumption in traditional generators. There is no such mechanism available for present day solar, which simply converts the sunlight it sees, and cares nothing for changes in demand or the output of other solar panels a few miles away as the clouds come and go, and as night falls. Batteries are far too small and expensive to handle the problem of larger swings in the supply/demand balance.

  16. Residential battery storage goes for $400/kWh + installation, and is guaranteed for only 10 years. This makes it uneconomical just about everywhere, especially once you start getting outside of the tropics. If I lived in Hawaii, which has hideously high electric rates, I’d consider panels + storage, but that’s about it.

    At my new house at about 46 deg N, an off-grid setup would’ve needed at least $600,000 worth of batteries to be truly independent of the utility.

    • And if they were lead-acid batteries, you’d need a separate building because of possible buildup of hydrogen gas. If they were lithium, I’d have a separate building quite far away…..

  17. I think the phrase “useless form of electricity generation” has a much too sharp an edge to it. Calling it “problematic” or “difficult to manage” may be better characterizations.
    Had the projects gone through, the …”new projects that would have had as much capacity as about 20 nuclear power plants.”
    That’s serious power. Granted, daylight power. It is at a time of low household demand, but does partially square with the daytime industrial needs of electrical power. Level? Reliable? Another argument.
    De-stabilizing the grid? This too, will pass, as grid management technology evolves to manage the incoming power better.
    The legislation needs to change for the grid to be able to not buy rooftop, solar farm, and wind excess capacity at times when it is not needed. At this juncture in time, storage (batteries) is not feasible. Water pumping to a lake above a hydro plant may be inefficient, but it is not wasted power.

    • fxk

      De-stabilizing the grid? This too, will pass, as grid management technology evolves to manage the incoming power better.

      And just what is this mythical unicorn-horn fantasy grid management technology? “Cut your power off at individual homes (rather than entire neighborhoods or cities) when the electricity can no longer be produced and transported” as fast as needed at that particular hour?

      • You missed the point, but nothing more was expected of you, RACookPE1978.
        Grid management is software and hardware to draw electricity from available sources when necessary, and disconnect those sources when no longer needed.
        Just for you, I’ll include an example. Hope you get this one…
        Hydro power can be turned on and off at a flip of a switch. Assume a coal plant is operating near capacity and would require some time to ramp up to full-tilt-boogie. A demand for more electricity NOW would kick the hydro plant in to make up the deficit in the grid requirement. When either the demand goes away, or the coal plant responds, the hydro plant is disconnected from the grid and power turned off.
        Having a relatively small number of electrical sources in the past, the grid software and hardware was sophisticated and sized for its needs.
        With thousands of rooftop solar installations (electrical generation sources), that extra electricity dumped on the grid (intermittently) would require a much larger and sophisticated control network – that is not currently (no pun intended) in place. That will be the “mythical unicorn-horn fantasy grid management technology” you refer to.
        We know via this site, coal plants are being used as “hot spares” for times the wind does not blow, and the sun does not shine – a duplication of costs. Solar, at this point in time, present the problem of surplus power, not browout or blackout conditions.
        This explosion of multi-point generation sources is causing the worry of grid destabilization now, as the new technology is not in place. New technology is still is just switching, but on a larger (number) and smaller (generator size) scale. I’m sure the utilities are not sitting, wringing their hands, thinking “woe is me!” hoping nothing will happen.
        Just as the technology has scaled up in sophistication, as well as physical fiber, wire, routers, etc. to meet the demand of the internet, so will the control measures of the grid expand – in time.
        Go back to your video games.

        • For someone with so much attitude, you really don’t know much about how the real world works.

          Power management is way more than just flicking a switch. For example you have to determine lead times, even hydro doesn’t turn on instantly. What about those many locations (the vast majority actually) where hydro isn’t an option? How much hydro do you believe is available in say, Kansas?

          Some problems just aren’t solvable. No problem is solvable by just declaring that spending enough money on engineers is all we need.

          • Mark – yes, grid power management is much more sophisticated than just switching – even though switching is the heart – management and procedures are the brain.
            I was not attempting to produce a doctoral dissertation on grid operation, design and dynamics – the example was an over simplified example of supply, demand and alternate power sources. Again, the example was a simplistic one where hydro IS available. I chose to use hydro as an easily understood example of where additional demand power can come from – a source that is used regularly as demand leveling tool. A tool that can (and is) turned on and off many times a day – unlike what can be done with furnaces. Of course, a very large portion of the country does not have hydro in the mix.

            Some problems are not solvable, as you say. Grid management is not one of them. 40 years ago, the internet was impossible. Even if we had the ideas of today, the technology then would not have permitted it. The internet run by Trash 80? IBM370? Punch cards? Physical “core” memory? Money and engineers (and a cast of thousands) made it is what it is today even without a clear end-point. Plans evolved, and leaps in technology fueled even more new plans
            IMO, the internet was a far greater challenge and accomplishment than the challenge posed for the upgrade of the grid to accommodate rooftop solar. As far as what needs to be done to modernize, do you believe the grid owners, investors, operators, engineers, and cast of thousands do not have a pretty clear set of requirements for the future? Do you believe those same people are blindly throwing good money after bad, expecting a miracle, and lose money on a pipe dream? Do you not think folks are working overtime to make it all happen, while not destroying the existing grid? Do you believe they are all chasing a “mythical unicorn-horn fantasy grid management technology”?

            The explosion of rooftop solar has nearly outrun the grid technology’s ability to manage the additional power and challenges they create.

            If one believes technology has reached its forever peak, and technology cannot respond to the challenge of adding solar to the grid, maybe that same someone believes the Earth is at THE perfect temperature, and is also arrogant enough to believe we, as the human race, can set the Earth’s thermostat anywhere we want.

            Battery technology is at nearly the technological limit, with small increments in capacity. Those improvements are not sufficient or cheap enough to make any difference. For all intents and purposes, a dead end. We’ve been waiting for fuel cells, since the 1950s. That technology 70 years later is still not feasible.

            Is solar the answer? Probably not, as efficiencies are near limits. One thing for sure, like it or not, there is no putting the rooftop-solar genie back into the bottle. Updating the grid is the application of existing technologies. Not magic. Not in direct conflict with the laws of physics. Trivial? Not by any means.
            Too late to pretend that changes to grid operation does not need to be done. Even with the projected 24% drop in solar installations, installations will still continue. Good or bad does not matter. It’s a fact.

          • “fxk

            IBM370? Punch cards? Physical “core” memory?”

            I’m sorry, but IBM’s SNA 370 architecture used virtual punch cards and were connected to, albeit, other IBM SNA 360, 370 and even 390 systems. They were internetworked computers.

            And, they still are!

          • FXK. The math does not change and disparate solutions to unrelated disparate problems do not balance the grid.
            GRID LAW NUMBER ONE..
            The more unreliable and variable your energy generation, the more expensive it is to provide reliable power when needed.
            The more unreliable and variable your energy generation is, the greater your total potential capacity must be to meet demand.

        • Solar creates a number of problems, albeit that surplus power and large overvoltages on the local distribution network are the the most common. Some of those problems can and do lead to blackouts, because transformers blow, grid frequencies move outside limits, and there is insufficient inertia to maintain grid stability. It is also susceptible to high ramp rates when a cloud passes over, reducing and then increasing output dramatically in seconds. These problems can’t really be solved just by switching solar, because you will also need to control at least some of the demand as well – and in any case, the cost and complexity of controlling everything remotely is far from trivial, especially if every rooftop and domestic appliance needs to be hooked up. Solar power that is not used needs to be dumped: as friends know, it is enough to cause a fire that can burn down your home if that is not done carefully. All this adds enormously to cost – and consumes energy in and of itself. I think you need to stop playing video games that assume these problems are trivial.

          • In Ontario, our former leaders entered into contracts with wind and solar producers where the grid operator must buy all the power they produce. When demand is low, all the hydro plants are turned off but our three big nukes keep on turning, the grid is obliged to buy wind/solar at 18¢/kWh or more, and has to “dump” it on our neighbours in New York and Pennsylvania at whatever they will pay – 3¢/kWh or less. Although this was bad business, apparently it was good for the planet.

            Our new leaders are wisely cancelling many of those contracts. They (i.e. we) will have to pay big penalties for cancelling contracts, but it is better to pay once than keep on paying for decades into the future, which is what we were looking at before (especially with the liberal pre-election gimmick of borrowing money to reduce our power bills. That was just pushing it all further into the future).

    • Reminds me of the acolytes who assure me that if we only wish hard enough, the engineers will create magical batteries that will be able to stabilize the power grid at no additional cost.

    • fxk, do you realize how big a solar-farm putting out 20 nuclear plants would have to be? I won’t do your homework, but roughly the size of a small country, and yet STILL produces nothing at least half the time…..

      • Beng135. Yup. Big would be an understatement. I also realize that to solar power (during the day) Wash DC, somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 the area of the city would be required to do so with high density solar farm, not rooftop solar. Maybe they could use the National Mall – the open area between the Capitol and Lincoln memorial for the farm. Yup. That’ll happen.
        I suspect the original article was using a total of all solar panels distributed nationwide or maybe worldwide.

        Add to that, the solar farms steal the use of land – making it unusable for rain forest preservation, forestry, green space, agriculture, ranching, sports, building or any other use we would normally use the land for. But one still has to mow the weeds and clean the panels.

        Example: The 2,000 MW park, named as ‘Shakti Sthala’, spans across 13,000 acres spread over five villages. That is over 20 sq miles. As a comparison, Wash DC is about 68 sq mi.
        I’m surprised that India had that much land to spare.

        The Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Arizona is the largest nuclear power plant in the United states with three reactors and a total electricity generating capacity1 of about 3,937 MW. Day AND night. So 40 sq mi would be required to replace this one reactor? (daytime only?)

        Note to David A. I do not disagree.
        Solar is the darling of the masses. It’s here. It’s real. Face the facts. The grid needs to adapt. Maybe the subsidies to solar could be used to upgrade the grid. Closing our eyes and wishing solar power incursion weren’t so is the same as wishing batteries would last forever, and produce more power than was needed to recharge them. It all depends on which side of the aisle one sits.

        Note to Patric MJD
        Big IBM iron of 40 years ago could not run the net as we know it. Granted, some of that old, big iron is still at the far end of some of our web queries. Shall we say the big iron was adapted to the current environment?

        Note to Smart Rock – Yep, legislation (Canada, US, AU, etc) needs to change so utilities can refuse to buy power when it is not needed. I alluded to that in my op. Shuffling costs as you’ve laid out is, to use a popular word now, unsustainable.

  18. Middle of the day when electrical demand is low? Also, up is down, and water is fire.

  19. Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say Chinese installations in the headline? and who is going to track them anyway now that China is restarting stimulus efforts to counter trade pressure?

  20. Batteries . . . too funny!
    Big motive (forklift) batteries are the best value.
    1. Price primarily determined by cost of lead (LME).
    2. Charge cycles # = expected life.
    3. Sulphation; no one in the ‘industry’ talks about it (truthfully or with real knowledge).
    Anyone storing electricity in a big battery is:
    Mathematically inept.
    Running a golf-cart or forklift.

    • Yep.

      Also, how many days of backup do we want? Natural gas, coal and nuclear are available 24/7/365 – no matter what the weather is. Has it ever been rainy/cloudy in your area for 2-3 weeks straight? I remember times when the entire east coast of the US has been mostly cloudy for several weeks. How large must the battery bank be to handle that common scenario?!? Think about the recharge time and charging infrastructure. If you want a 10-day battery reserve for a large region then your solar plant needs to be sized 10X peak daily if you want to recharge in 1 day. The entire country would literally be covered in solar panels. If you scale that down to 2X – we still have a tremendous area covered by panels – but we now need to scale up the number of days to recharge. If we were to encounter a long series of cloudy days – or intermittent cloudy days that overrun the recharge capability, then the country or parts of the country would be brought to its knees. If we have a large-scale volcanic event – which does happen every so often – that blocked much of the strong sunlight – then a bad problem would be made catastrophic, as now the world would be without power. People need to dismount their unicorns. Solar energy is a very bad idea as a replacement for “fossil fuels”.

  21. From the article: “TORONTO — Ontario ratepayers will benefit from $790 million in savings thanks to the Government of Ontario‘s decision to cancel and wind down 758 renewable energy contracts,”

    Wow! That’s a lot of contracts.

    It looks like some common sense is starting to assert itself in Canada.

  22. Time to pull the plug on subsidies including tax breaks and mandated buyback of generated power at many times the cost of readily available power at a fraction of the cost

  23. Thank you for allowing us to edit. I have self removed my comment, but editor says I have to leave something here….

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