L. A. Times article on excess California solar incredibly misleading

Guest essay by Larry Hamlin

As is usually the case with all Los Angeles Times climate alarmist and renewable energy advocacy articles this latest one hyping the wonders of highly subsidized and unreliable solar energy is full of propaganda claims extolling the alleged benefits of solar energy.


The article claims that California in 2018 achieved the goal of having 34% of its electricity provided by renewable energy.


This claim is completely wrong. Actual energy use data from the CEC clearly shows that in both 2017 and 2018 only 29% of the states electricity was provided by renewables versus the 2018 planned target of 34%.


Even more significant the state has been falling behind its targeted renewable energy growth time table since at least 2012 by only achieving 15% renewables that year versus the planned 22% target. The state has continued behind its highly touted politically driven plan ever since then.


The Times articles completely fails to mention the huge tax payer subsidizes paid to solar plant builders who receive Production Tax Credits (PTC) of $0.023 dollars per KwH for a period of 10 years which pay for the capital costs of these plants.

These huge and lucrative renewable subsidizes are why Warren Buffet would like to partner with California to mandate changes in the western U.S. transmission network rules to allow greater access to other western states so unusable solar in Ca. could be forced upon other states so he could receive increased subsidizes for his production from his Ca. renewable projects.


Also unmentioned in the Times article are the many other major shortcomings associated with renewable energy plants that significantly undermine both the stability and reliability of the electric system grid.

Renewable solar and wind projects cannot provide required electric system stability needs associated with voltage, frequency and synchronization control, regulating margin needed for rapid load changes, load ramping capabilities needed for large grid operation nor can they provide spinning and standby reserves for unexpected load changes.

Only dispatchable and reliable fossil plants can provide these functions. The unreliability of renewables coupled with their inability to provide grid stability functions dictates that significant amounts fossil backup must always be available to maintain grid stability and reliability. This is an ineffective and high cost way to operate an electric system grid.

The Times article minimizes the significant environmental damage done by renewable projects which ravage huge amounts of land because of their need to tap into very low power density energy sources.



The Times article conceals the fact that the unusable solar energy problem clearly demonstrates these plants unreliability which dictates how these resources must be used because they cannot be operated in a dispatchable manner which allows the building of power plants to be optimized so such waste of resources is avoided.

Renewable energy is both costly and unreliable and only built because of lucrative tax payer provided government mandated subsidizes as well as ill-conceived government mandated requirements dictating its use.

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Mark Broderick
June 7, 2019 6:12 am

Larry Hamlin

“The Times articles completely fails to mention the huge tax payer subsidizes ( subsidies )? paid to solar plant builders “

Larry Hamlin
Reply to  Mark Broderick
June 8, 2019 9:20 am

Noted .Thanks.

Mark Broderick
June 7, 2019 6:20 am


“These huge and lucrative renewable subsidizes ( subsidies ) are why Warren Buffet …”

“Renewable energy is both costly and unreliable and only built because of lucrative tax payer provided government mandated subsidizes ( subsidies ) as well as ill-conceived government mandated requirements dictating its use.”

Auto-correct can be a bitch….

Great post !

Larry Hamlin
Reply to  Mark Broderick
June 8, 2019 9:21 am

Noted. Thanks.

Jeff Alberts
June 7, 2019 6:37 am

“The Times articles completely fails to mention the huge tax payer subsidizes paid to solar plant builders who receive Production Tax Credits (PTC) of $0.023 dollars per KwH for a period of 10 years which pay for the capital costs of these plants.”

I thought tax credits weren’t subsidies.

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
June 7, 2019 7:34 am

According to many economists they indeed are not:
“Simply put, being permitted to keep your income is not the same as taking it from competitors.”
However, that does appear to be a very fine distinction. A distinction that relies upon narrow definitions as to what constitutes an income pressure forced by government. It is the difference between two choices one an incentive and the other a disincentive.
“If your perform act “A” you get to keep your money. If you don’t do “A” you pay taxes.” The two statements are not the same, however the effect is essentially the same. The government is coercing you in either case to perform the act they chose.

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
June 7, 2019 8:01 am

Standard corporate tax deductions available to all industries (what greens try to claim as oil / coal subsidies) are not subsides.

Special tax credits just for solar plant builders are most definitely subsides.

Reply to  MattS
June 7, 2019 10:27 am

Agreed. This is a special tax credit not available to any other industry. So it’s not really a tax credit.

Reply to  MattS
June 7, 2019 10:29 am

MattS, I concurr. “Special tax breaks” or “Targeted tax breaks” are indeed subsidies in all but title. So are “loan guarantees” as they allow the corporation to save money they otherwise would have had to spend they obtain financing without governmental underwriting.

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
June 7, 2019 8:23 am

Just what would you call the near billions in “Tax Credits” that Warren Buffett gets credit for Berkshire Hathaway’s Federal Taxes for the thousands of wind/solar facilities and the electricity they generate? Would he be building them if he was not getting these tax breaks? He has repeatedly said “The Only reason that wind solar makes economic sense is the tax credit.” (paraphrased)

Reply to  Usurbrain
June 8, 2019 12:29 am

Here’s the exact Warren Buffet quote:
“On wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

Patrick B
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
June 7, 2019 9:05 am

Ecomomically very different in that, so long as the credits aren’t transferable, the company has to have earnings to make use of the credits and gets to keep money it has earned. Subsidies are a handout.

However, the production tax credit does not require any earning by the company. It simply requires the company produce electricity – even if it’s at an economic loss. Worse, the credits can be sold/transferred – so we, the taxpayers, end up paying for uneconomic activity.

Also, note that alarmists love to complain about oil and gas “tax credits” as they point at depletion allowances. Depletion allowances simply recognize a real world event.

nw sage
Reply to  Patrick B
June 7, 2019 6:59 pm

But they are transferable: Warren Buffet owns companies which get the benefits of the credits – if there are more credits than they can apply in a given year the company owing them can move them around to other companies owned by Mr Buffet similar to any other asset. Otherwise he wouldn’t bother owning them, no advantage.

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
June 7, 2019 10:03 am

Tax deductions are not strictly considered subsidies because they only allow you to pay less taxes (keep more of your profits). But since they are deductions against your taxable income, the most they can do is reduce your tax bill to zero. Credits work differently, they are subtractions from your tax bill. This means that if your credits are bigger than the bill, the result will go negative and the IRS will write you a check. For this reason, tax credits are generally considered subsidies.

Reply to  Paul Penrose
June 7, 2019 11:41 am

Another point is that deductions count against income. Thus if your tax rate is 30% a $100 deduction results in a $30 reduction in taxes.
A tax credit on the other hand is applied against taxes. Thus a $100 tax credit results in a $100 reduction in your taxes. If it is a refundable tax credit, if the tax credit drives your taxes below $0, the IRS cuts you a check.

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
June 7, 2019 11:53 am

Ah but some tax credits are more “equal” than others.

“I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire’s tax rate,” he (Warren Buffet) said. “For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

Tom Halla
June 7, 2019 6:38 am

Given the current and foreseeable state of energy storage, solar is nothing more than virtue signalling and subsidy mining.

Reply to  Tom Halla
June 7, 2019 7:20 am

Energy storage does nothing. It’s a head fake.

Sweet Old Bob
June 7, 2019 6:58 am

Hey , California : reality sucks , eh ?

Bryan A
Reply to  Sweet Old Bob
June 7, 2019 10:12 am

Not so sure Cali does but the State’s legislature and executive are certainly vacuous (For the record, I’m a 5th generation CA native)
Do nothing Gray Davis was probably the Best Democrat to serve in the last 50 years (since before Browns first term)

June 7, 2019 7:00 am

What the article also does not mention is that all of this “renewable” energy hasn’t reduced the amount of fossil fuels being burned to run power plants.

Bryan A
June 7, 2019 7:03 am

for me, the tell is that 9% of Ca energy was supplied by Nuclear.
According to the CEC, Ca has only 1 operating nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon.
Ca could scrap all the low density energy sources and all the carbon producing energy ssources and replace the entire production with just 10 more Diablo Canyons (just 150 acres of land needed). The state would have their vaunted “Clean” (aka CO2 free) energy supplies 100% in state generated and use less space than the either current Topaz Solar faciliry or Altimont Pass Wind Farm.

Reply to  Bryan A
June 7, 2019 9:53 am

Being from Las Vegas, years ago I wrote to then Republican Senator Ensign’s office to propose an incentive to accept the Yucca Mountain waste repository in exchange for the construction of 2 nuclear power plants on the Nevada test range. The capacity of one would supply all of Nevada’s needs, the second would be for energy sales to support the operation of both plants and the maintenance of the power distribution system. Nevada now having nuclear plants would have need for the long term storage and so would allow the completion and use of Yucca.

The response I received was “we don’t discuss accepting waste under any condition.”

As you drive on I 15 from south of the California border to Las Vegas, then north past highway 93, the desert is covered with solar power fields. Cali side with 3 bird frying collector plants, north with hundreds of acres of panels. Nevada has also mandated minimum “renewable” energy quantities for our electrical utility.

Google solar plant streamers, up pops a LA Times article from 2016 stating the thermal plant kills 6000 birds a year. Also 2 WUWT articles. That is what the feds apparently admit to, I would like to know if that is correct. BTW, they use natural gas to get the plant going in the morning.

The discussion of waste to Nevada is again in the news. Just a mater of time I think. And Nevada will probably get nothing of true value.

Bryan A
Reply to  Drake
June 7, 2019 12:42 pm

I believe they use Natural Gas to keep the Salt Molten during the Sun’s off-hours. About 8 of the 24 hours per day during the Summer Months and closer to 12-14 during winter.
A Molten Salt facility like Ivanpah can’t afford to allow their salt to cool and harden.

Reply to  Bryan A
June 7, 2019 10:54 am

Actually 2 nuclear plants. California gets part of it’s power from the Palo verde located in Arizona. Total California ownership amounts to about 27% so I assume they get about 1,000 mw plus what they pick up on the spot market. The power companies are always after us to reduce our peak power and I assume that’s because they want to sell more of our unused power to California.

Bryan A
Reply to  Dena
June 7, 2019 12:44 pm

Now THAT is an important point about Peak Power Sales spot market.
And of course the reverse, when Cali Solar produces too much we have to PAY Arizona to take the extra

Willem Post
June 7, 2019 7:07 am

Solar has a terrible habit of getting high at midday (when demand is low,) and then passing out in late afternoon/early evening (when demand is high), not to reappear for work until late in the next morning, somewhat like a habitual drunk sobering up.

The drunk does not like to work much during rainy, overcast or snowy weather, and his work output jumps up and down with variable cloudiness. And that drunk-like behavior is heavily subsidized!!

Such a drunk is much loved by good-doers using other people’s money. He, an occasional “worker”, enjoys various generous government programs to bribe him to show up at all, such as upfront cash grants, upfront tax credits, low-cost loans, feed-in tariffs, production tax credits, and loan interest and asset depreciation write-offs to avoid paying taxes. What more could he ask for?

What kind of worker is that? There is nothing reliable or productive (“on demand”) about him!!
He does not deserve to be coddled.
No wonder he is behaving like a spoiled brat, i.e., disturbing the peace on the grid.
And the parents (the owners), whose children are disturbing the peace on the grid, complain they, after all these years, finally have to pay someone (the utility) to foolproof the grid against such unruly brats to maintain the peace on the grid.
Those parents would rather have others (ratepayers) do the paying, as usual.

Innocent bystanders (other ratepayers) have to foot the bill to clean up the mess, i.e., put more money into multi-millionaires’ pockets. Totally insane!!

That is what happens when a bunch of rosy-eyed bureaucrat idiots meddle in the electric power sector.

Reply to  Willem Post
June 7, 2019 9:13 am

Excellent and entertaining analogy. Solar is acting like a drunk.

Reply to  Willem Post
June 7, 2019 11:00 am

No problem…just mandate that workdays begin at 1:30 AM…and evenings begin at 10:00 AM.

Reply to  Willem Post
June 7, 2019 11:45 am

Such a drunk is much loved by good-doers using other people’s money. He, an occasional “worker”, enjoys various generous government programs to bribe him to show up at all,

Sounds like your average politician.

June 7, 2019 7:56 am

So will the worn out solar panels and wind turbines still be subsidized upon replacement or has that been calculated into the operating/maintenance cost? Rhetorical question.

Thomas Homer
Reply to  Markl
June 7, 2019 8:43 am

Rhetorical answer:

What’s the difference between a rhetorical question and a joke?

CD in Wisconsin
June 7, 2019 7:59 am

And as I like to point out (and have done numerous times here), solar panels have a toxic waste issue which is ignored and suppressed by solar advocates….


“…A new study by Environmental Progress (EP) warns that toxic waste from used solar panels now poses a global environmental threat. The Berkeley-based group found that solar panels create 300 times more toxic waste per unit of energy than nuclear power plants. Discarded solar panels, which contain dangerous elements such as lead, chromium, and cadmium, are piling up around the world, and there’s been little done to mitigate their potential danger to the environment…”

When you add in the massive land area required by panel farms because of solar’s poor energy density, you have a really effective propaganda campaign here that few people on politics, the mass media and elsewhere seem willing to stand up to. Thus, millions and billions of $$$$ continue to go down the drain because of a bad idea.

Reply to  CD in Wisconsin
June 7, 2019 8:13 am
Reply to  ResourceGuy
June 7, 2019 11:10 am

So the reality will be less than 75% recyclable (subtracting the normal sales lies…I mean hype)…and there is no mention of the reclamation costs or the pollution created in the purification processes…which are nearly as energy intensive and polluting as the initial ore refinement.

Hopefully there will be an adequate nuclear power base in place to recycle this crap affordably in a few decades.

Lee L
Reply to  CD in Wisconsin
June 7, 2019 10:54 am

“$$$$ continue to go down the drain because of a bad idea.”

This money ( wealth) does not go ‘down the drain’. In large part it goes to China as it has managed to attract the manufacturing plants that make the solar cells, glass, modules and wire.

It will be a massive transfer of wealth to Asia. That’s probably the most toxic problem of all.

Logic and Reason
June 7, 2019 7:59 am

Wait till next year. The next step is CA is MANDATING solar on every new lowrise residential house and apartment. Including the other changes to the energy code, this will mean that houses will need to be 52% more efficient than this year. It is estimated to add $12-15,000 to the cost of a home.
Next they will be asking why there is a lack of affordable housing.

June 7, 2019 8:00 am

How is solar ‘unreliable’?

It is perfectly predictable and can’t go offline…

How is it OK to industrialise a desert by using it for fracking or coal mining, but not for putting solar panels on it?

and ‘only’ 29% from just solar??

Tom Halla
Reply to  griff
June 7, 2019 3:02 pm

I am sure you actually know this, but it gets dark at night. Solar panels are intermittent, and don’t produce much when it is cloudy, either. And the “29%” does not displace conventional suppliers from the grid.
The question is why should one pay for intermittent and undispatchable power sources, and who pays for the required backup?

Reply to  griff
June 7, 2019 3:17 pm

Once constant with griff, no matter how many times he gets his questions answered, he keeps on asking them.

Solar is unreliable because from minute to minute you can’t determine how much of it you will be getting.

I’m surprised, I thought even griff would be smart enough to figure out the difference between a single well on multiple square miles of land, vs covering every square inch of that land with solar panels.
I guess I should never underestimate the ability of troll to become even dumber.

Bryan A
Reply to  griff
June 7, 2019 4:19 pm

Perfectly predictable to be able to produce around 22% of nameplate capacity AND can’t go offline except when prolonged cloudiness or nighttime occurs

Reply to  griff
June 8, 2019 4:20 am

Does the solar output also include the use of the power on the owners air conditioning during the peak of the California heat?
This use is not metered and only shows as a reduction in demand.

Serge Wright
Reply to  griff
June 9, 2019 6:19 pm

“How is solar ‘unreliable’?”

There is an illogical belief among most climate alarmists that solar and wind are more reliable than fossil fuel gnerators. This belief system ignors all real-world experience that demonstartes the exact opposite. The real-world reality is very clear and shows that all countries embarking on a RE transition end up with very little CO2 reductions, and instead inflict society with massive increases in electricy cost and problems with electricity supply that result in the creation of severe social problems.

In the face of the damning evidence that REs are a complete and utter failure, most alarmist will loudly subscribe to the idea that more RE will somehow result in a cure. This logic could be compared with administering a healthy person with a chemotherapy drug which makes them unwell and as they become more and more sick, you give them more and more chemo in the belief that higher doses will make them better. Of course the person will eventually die due to poisioning unless you realise the mistake and stop.

The question people are now asking is “will we all collectively admit to this RE error or will be jump off the cliff ?”.

Kevin kilty
June 7, 2019 8:11 am

Why is small hydro considered renewable while large hydro is not? Just one of the mysteries of politicized energy I suppose.

June 7, 2019 8:12 am

You can have reticulated electricity or renewables electricity.
You can’t have both.

On the outer Barcoo
June 7, 2019 8:49 am

LAX went dark yesterday. What caused this black-out?

Reply to  On the outer Barcoo
June 7, 2019 10:03 am

According to our local news, PART of LAX went dark (Terminals 1, 7 and 8 – all at the east end of the terminal area). Both Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) and LA Department of Power and Light (LADWP) are trying to figure out what happened.

In addition, the emergency generators sort of worked to provide light in the terminal building. According to KNX, folks had to deplane through dark jetways.


Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
June 7, 2019 2:45 pm

as I understood the reporting, it was a “power bump” at a LA DWP substation nearby LAX which caused an outage across the entire LAX complex. Then T7/8 – United, and T1 – Southwest, had extra difficulty getting power restored, while the other terminals were only out for a few minutes those two didn’t get full power until after 10pm. The DWP never defined ‘power bump’… At any rate, every carrier had to reboot their servers. Then on Thursday morning, at T1 the TSA decided that Southwest had allowed some passengers to wander outside to the sidewalk prior to boarding the delayed flights, so TSA evacuated the entirety of T1 to re-screen thousands of passengers en masse, causing SW to cancel even more flights. I suppose if LAX was totally solar this would never happen… /sarc

Reply to  cali_dweller
June 7, 2019 3:19 pm

The servers weren’t on battery backup with diesel generators for when the batteries ran out?

Reply to  MarkW
June 10, 2019 8:58 am

“backend” servers probably yes, “front end” routers, ‘workstations’, gateways, CSU/DSUs etc. probably not …

Caligula Jones
June 7, 2019 8:55 am

I believe California, like many left-leaning jurisdictions, has a bit of a public-sector pension bubble. I stand to be corrected, but if so, here’s the solution: renewable energy.

Seriously, if it works so well, and is so efficient, than it will obviously not only pay for itself, but make a substantial profit.

So…take all the public pensions, invest them solely in renewable energy and multiple problem solved!

No, don’t try to bring any math into this solution, that simply would not be fair. I’m making money for hard working civil servants AND saving the planet. What are you doing with math besides harshing my buzz and yucking my yum?

June 7, 2019 9:04 am

What is the trend in kWh residential and commercial prices to California consumers?

Mark Broderick
June 7, 2019 9:05 am



“The drive to become more energy-efficient amid concerns over climate change, and the rush to develop mass market electric cars, are key factors in the crisis of Europe’s car industry. Germany’s once all-powerful industry is struggling to make cars compliant with eco-rules and output has plummeted.”

William Kotcher
June 7, 2019 9:26 am

Do we trust the operators to “self-report” the energy produced?  QFER CEC-1304 Power Plant Owner Reporting Form is the form they fill out. Who is to say they report anything less than nameplate capacity. I see they are still using data from the csp, Ivanpah, which burns natural gas 24 hours a day. As long as they include Ivanpah in the data we know they are liars.

Reply to  William Kotcher
June 10, 2019 7:33 pm

The “books” won’t balance; the energy flows ‘across’ the system, through the HV transmission lines are metered, and, flows into the ‘grid’ are all monitored and known in order to meet demand by customers on the system.

At least here in the Texas ERCOT system, “generators” on (those committed to produce power into) the system get paid for the electricity that is produced, hence, all quantities into/out of the grid are measured, recorded for eventual settlement (payment).

June 7, 2019 9:38 am

$0.023 dollars per KwH

Well done Larry, you managed to get every one of the letters in kWh wrong. That is that is the best “I know nothing about energy and science” claim I’ve seen so far.

June 7, 2019 9:54 am

The link provided by the author is just for 2017 data, which shows 29.65% renewables. The LA Times article is quoting 2018 performance. To go from just under 30% to 34% in one year seems rather plausible, actually.

Also, the author claims that solar power is unreliable? Really? When was the last time that the earth’s rotation stopped? I am pretty sure the sun rises every morning, just like clockwork, and sets in the evening. California also has some of the sunniest weather on the planet, particularly in the desert interior where virtually all of its solar generators are located. Not a lot of foggy days in the Mojave.

Coupled with energy storage – either battery banks or by creating hydrogen gas from water – solar electric is both completely reliable and completely dispatchable. Indeed, it has a higher operating percentage than any conventional steam power plant which is down for maintenance on average from 5% to 15% of the year, while solar cells work 100% of the time for their entire lifetime, no maintenance needed.

Now wind turbines, they are indeed somewhat less reliable than the sun.

Tom Halla
Reply to  Duane
June 7, 2019 10:19 am

Duane, where is there an operating example of grid scale hydrogen storage to power, or a grid scale battery large enough to give 24 hours service?
On your unicorn ranch?

Reply to  Tom Halla
June 7, 2019 11:51 am

Both batteries and hydrogen drastically reduce the over all efficiency of solar power.
They also require huge increases in the number of solar panels that have to be installed, since the energy to charge these backup systems has to come from somewhere.

Christopher Chantrill
Reply to  MarkW
June 7, 2019 3:23 pm

Halla and MarkW, two words: Solar Thermal, as in Crescent Dunes

Tom Halla
Reply to  Christopher Chantrill
June 7, 2019 3:28 pm

CC, have you actually read any of the comments on this blog on the actual performance of Crescent Dunes? It is much more effective at torching birds that coming close to producing it’s rated power, and relies on natural gas for nighttime production.

Christopher Chantrill
Reply to  Christopher Chantrill
June 7, 2019 4:16 pm

Halla, the comments on this blog are slanted, so you should really look at the data before making statements about the performance. Did you know that Gemasolar in Spain, which uses the same solar thermal storage technology has achieved a capacity factor of 63% ? That’s 63% of rated power from sunshine, which on the average is only available 50% of the time.

Now, Crescent Dunes is more a “demonstration” plant than a “production” plant. If you’ve ever heard of the term “learning curve” that is exactly what is happening with Dunes. This is a new technology that engineers have little experience with, and are to this day still shaking out the bugs. The more they learn about harnessing this technology, the better subsequently built power plants will be.

Christopher Chantrill
Reply to  Christopher Chantrill
June 7, 2019 4:20 pm

One more thing Halla with regards to your concern about birds. There is another solar thermal storage technology that doesn’t use a tower, but uses parabolic troughs. It doesn’t cook birds, but does provide power when the sun isn’t shining from the stored thermal energy: https://www.mtholyoke.edu/~wang30y/csp/PTPP.html#US

AGW is not Science
Reply to  Duane
June 7, 2019 10:23 am

LMAO. “solar cells work 100% of the time for their entire lifetime, no maintenance needed”

I guess you conveniently ignore NIGHT, and the fact that the panels have to be CLEANED to operate efficiently or at all, depending how bad the “coating” and what it consists of.

Try heating your home in winter with nothing but solar panels for power. Let us know how that works out. Oh, and do it in a home in New England or the upper midwest, not some desert southwest dust bowl.

Reply to  AGW is not Science
June 7, 2019 11:14 am

Sunlight, particularly in the sunny southwest US of inland California, is 100% reliable, unless you want to pretend that the earth stops rotating from time to time.

As for night time, again, all that takes is energy storage, easily provided by battery banks – already in use in several locations worldwide, or by storing electricity in hydrogen gas via electrolysis, a very old proven process (all nuclear sub sailors like I used to be are extremely aware of that – that is how we make oxygen to keep our air breathable for months at a time underwater).

There is an argument to be made about reliability of wind, which depends upon variable weather. With solar, in a place whose sunniness is extremely well documented to be nearly 100% of the time, every single day of the year, there is no lack of reliability of the sun. We are discussing California here, not New England or the upper Midwest.

Reply to  Duane
June 7, 2019 3:22 pm

If the output varies unpredictably, then the power is unreliable, even if the power output never goes all the way to zero.
Solar varies every time a cloud crosses between the panel and the sun.

Have you ever calculated how many batteries it would take to provide power for an entire night?
Only the terminally clueless or those being paid to look that way would advocate batteries as anything other than an emergency measure to keep the power up long enough to bring the reliable fossil fuel plants fully online.

Reply to  Duane
June 9, 2019 10:54 am

The “Tesla super battery” in Australia can provide power for slightly more than 3 minutes. Big freakin’ whoop.

Reply to  AGW is not Science
June 7, 2019 11:53 am

They may work 100% of the time when the sun is up, however their efficiency starts dropping from the first day they are installed.

BTW, be careful when cleaning. Any scratches on the surface will reduce the panels efficiency.

Reply to  MarkW
June 7, 2019 12:04 pm


They may work 100% of the time when the sun is up, however their efficiency starts dropping from the first day they are installed.

No. They work part of the time at a modest efficiency while the sun is up and there are no clouds.
They work even less of the time at an even lower efficiency when the sun is up and there are clouds. Or dust. Or pollen.

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Duane
June 7, 2019 10:38 am

The term “unreliable” in the energy sector has a specialized meaning, which you would know if you had any real knowledge in that area. Reliability is more about the continuous availability of power than it is about unexpected outages. Since solar and wind vary considerably in output over a 24 hour period, they are not considered very reliable. Electrical power is much less useful if it is not highly available.

And while your storage schemes sound nice, you do realize that you need additional solar panels to “charge” them, otherwise you have no power to feed to the grid. So if your city needs 10Mw, you need probably 30-40Mw (or more) of solar panels so that you can keep the storage charged up. Despite your claims, no solar power source will produce power at night. And cloudy days do happen, even in “sunny” California. So you need reserve, and the system must be able to charge too.

And the notion that solar panels need no maintenance is absurd. They must be cleaned occasionally, cleared of snow in the Winter (for those of us north of the snow line), and repaired when damaged by the elements. They also lose about 1% of their capacity every year for the first 10, and then it gets progressively worse. A useful 25 year lifetime is a generous estimate, most will have to be replaced before they hit 20.

Reply to  Paul Penrose
June 7, 2019 11:19 am

Dude – no need for your super snotty retort. Buzz off.

As for me, I am a degreed licensed civil engineer with an advanced degree in environmental management with extensive experience in nuclear power energy production, both US Navy and civilian, going back 46 years. So yes, actually I do know a lot about power production.

Cleaning a panel does not require any shutdown of the panel whatsoever … literally, either blow off the dust, or pressure wash it off. Oh, and do that at night too. All mechanical power plants require extensive total plant shutdowns to perform routine scheduled maintenance as well as repairs which most certainly are required from time to time. Virtually everything electronic has a vastly higher reliability and up time than any mechanical system, no matter what you’re talking about.

Reply to  Duane
June 7, 2019 11:39 am


Fixed angle Solar panels in the real world produce usable power for only six hour per day on an annual averaged basis: You can get producible amounts from power from 9:00 AM to 3:00 pm each clear day. Slightly less in winter, slightly more in summer in each hemisphere.
This production goes up if you pay enormous costs for a constantly tilting panel frame, and more if you pay even greater amounts of money for tilted rotating panel constantly aligned with the sun each hour of each day.

NO MOUNTS but fixed panel, roof-angle only frames are cost-effective for a family home with the typical roofline. ALL are affected by nearby shadows or – heaven forbid! – trees on your own lot or the neighbors. (Loss of shade then increases air conditioning charges.)

Now, above I mentioned “clear days”.

California has a Mediterranean climate: Almost no rain at from mid-April through mid-September, then storms lasting 1-3 days every 5-6 days from mid-September to mid-April. While “some” solar panels do create “some” power from diffuse energy from radiation scattered by clouds, you now have 7 months of the years when even that minor amount is killed by the dark storm clouds regularly coming through.

So, to average 1000 kWh for 24 hours of “good clear weather”, you must buy 4000 kWh worth of panels. Then you need to convert and store that excess 3000 kWh you are paying for into ?????, then re-convert it for 18 hours of every day for your “average use”.

I applaud your claimed service in nuclear submarines. You apparently learned nothing from it.

Christopher Chantrill
Reply to  RACookPE1978
June 7, 2019 12:44 pm

1) You cannot buy “4000 kWh worth of panels.” Solar panels are not rated in kWh.

2) One doesn’t need to “store” the power as long as a grid-tie inverter is used with the proper net-metering.

3) 1000 kWh in 24 hours is 41 kW per hour. 41 kW in a home with a 100 amp service would blow the breakers (it’s about 173 amps).

Where did you get your engineering degree? You apparently learned nothing about basic electricity.

Paul Penrose
Reply to  RACookPE1978
June 7, 2019 2:34 pm

If one is not tied to the grid, then yes, one does need to store power for when the solar panels don’t produce (enough) power. In the case of the grid, if we convert the entire thing to wind and solar, then the same is true, just on a much larger scale. After all, that’s what this whole article is about – converting the entire grid over to “renewable” sources.

Christopher Chantrill
Reply to  RACookPE1978
June 7, 2019 3:17 pm

Paul, very very few residential rooftop solar installations are on buildings that are not tied to the grid. You are correct, but your assertion applies to only about 0.00001% of existing buildings.

Reply to  RACookPE1978
June 7, 2019 3:30 pm

Christopher, from the context it is quite obvious that RACook is talking about the amount of total power that the panels are required to generate.

Duane was the one who brought up the notion of using batteries to store power for the night.

When you seek to insult someone else’s intelligent, it generally is a bad idea to make multiple stupid mistakes yourself.

Christopher Chantrill
Reply to  RACookPE1978
June 7, 2019 4:10 pm


1) The “PE” in RACook’s handle stands for “Professional Engineer,” and as such he should not be confusing power and energy.
2) RACook is a big boy and doesn’t need you to clean up his mess.
3) Please elaborate on your accusation of “stupid mistakes” on my part.
Thank you in advance.

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Duane
June 7, 2019 2:44 pm

I’m sorry if you didn’t like my reply, but you made some completely incorrect statements that would be hard to excuse as simple mistakes. They told me that you don’t really understand how the national grid works and what their terminology means. Thank you for your service to this country, and I mean that sincerely. But if you continue to make factual misstatements, people will correct you.

Your interpretation of the term “unreliable” when talking about grid level power production was just plain wrong in that context. As far as maintenance goes, there are times that parts of a PV array must be disconnected/isolated in order to fix things like corrosion (usually from water leakage). There is a 1Mw array near me that is owned by the local cooperative, and I’ve seen them completely disconnect it from the grid in order to fix inverters (which have shockingly short lifespans).

Reply to  Duane
June 7, 2019 3:25 pm

Duane, when you say stupid things, expect people to treat you like you were dumb.

Anyone who declares that we could use batteries to buffer solar power overnight clearly has no concept of what he is talking about.

Speaking of pressure washing the panels, even at night, the light of the moon and or area lighting is enough to energize the panels with hundreds of volts.

Reply to  Duane
June 7, 2019 11:03 am

“No maintenance needed”

The guy who washes dust off the PV panels every few days begs to differ. Also, your statement hinges on available storage, which does not currently exist in any kind of necessary scale.

Reply to  Duane
June 7, 2019 11:49 am

Duane, you are assuming no clouds, ever. Or dust, or bird poop, etc.

Reply to  Duane
June 7, 2019 11:50 am

battery banks or creating hydrogen from water.


Take an already expensive product, triple it’s price and decrease it’s reliability.
What a great idea.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Duane
June 7, 2019 12:57 pm

Duane wrote:
“Now wind turbines, they are indeed somewhat less reliable than the sun”.

what a trivial comment. And it’s not even true.
Ever heard of clouds? They are sometimes these white, puffy things in the sky that sometimes rain spills from..
Sometimes they EVEN cover the entire sky for days. They can cut optimal solar PV power output by 80% or more at high noon. Even a high, thin cirri-stratus cover can cut power output by 20%.

So no. Solar is not reliable, because it’s more than just the Sun.
And me, I like to have my lights, a/c, and TV and internet at night. And I don’t want to pay 3X current electricity rates so the GreenSlime can get rich off my solidly middle-class status.

Beta Blocker
Reply to  Duane
June 7, 2019 8:01 pm

Duane, I will repeat here a comment I made on Judith Curry’s blog several months ago concerning assertions made by renewable energy advocates that wind and solar backed by battery storage and by pumped hydro can do it all. You yourself have now added hydrogen dissociation from water into the wish list of energy storage technologies that can back the renewables.

My relatives in the San Francisco bay area — ardently anti-nuclear — tell me California doesn’t need Diablo Canyon because they’ve bought the ‘renewables-can-do-it-all’ Kool Aid in multi-gallon quantities. Moreover, as their opinion goes, the costs of wind and solar are coming down so rapidly we should have no worries about the future economics of the renewables.

They quote studies such as those produced by Stanford professor Dr. Mark Jabobson as proof. As further proof, they cite PG&E’s claim that reaching 70% renewable electricity in California by 2030 is easily done and therefore Diablo Canyon isn’t needed.

My admittedly complicated reply to their unbridled faith in the renewables goes like this:

At present, no truly realistic cost studies have been produced for highly ambitious wind and solar proposals which cover a large, specifically-identified geographic area, studies which use commonly accepted methods for doing engineering-level cost and schedule estimating.

As an illustration of what I’m talking about, let’s assume that California and Nevada agree to create an integrated 80% renewable electric grid for their two states. This mostly renewable grid is to be jointly developed and managed by a quasi-public corporation, the California-Nevada Clean Energy Corporation, ‘CalVada CEC’ for short.

A feasibility design for the CalVada CEC grid is developed to a level of engineering detail which supports a reasonably accurate cost and schedule estimate.

The questions to be studied are these: What will it take in time and money to build and operate this fully integrated 80% renewable electric grid system for the next fifty years? What particular cost trends in which particular technology areas will have the greatest impacts on the project’s total cost and schedule, both its capital costs and its total lifecycle costs? Using the study’s initial output as a basis for further analysis, what are the impacts of using a series of alternative baseline planning assumptions on the project’s total lifecycle costs?

The numbers and types of alternative planning assumptions might include the predicted costs and availability of renewable energy technologies, future changes in today’s grid reliability and performance requirements, future changes in today’s regulatory review processes, changes in our current methods of project financing and capital formation, and the inclusion of alternative scenarios for the evolution through time of the region’s overall socio-political and economic dynamic.

Here are the initial assumptions which are to support the study:

— Through legislation and agreement, California and Nevada jointly grant CalVada CEC carte blanche authority for overcoming any technical, financial, or regulatory obstacles which might get in the way of building and deploying this 80% renewable power grid.

— A list of grid reliability and performance requirements equivalent to what is now in force today is applied.

— The public and private lands needed for locating the solar arrays, the wind farms, the battery storage facilities, and the hydrogen gas production facilities are allocated and reserved through a process of eminent domain, with fair prices and rents paid to the land’s current owners.

— Other wind farms are located off California’s coast wherever they are best placed to maximize wind capacity factors. Using a process of eminent domain, pumped hydro facilities are located wherever they are best placed to support the integrated grid design. The hydrogen gas production facilities are likewise located wherever these are best placed.

— A fast track environmental review process for all elements of the renewable energy grid system is applied so that regulatory oversight of CalVada CEC’s energy facility siting, construction, and plant operations is minimized.

— The governors of California and Nevada are granted authority to modify or reverse any regulatory decision made at any level of state or local government if that decision might impede progress in siting, constructing, and operating the 80% renewables grid.

The feasibility design for the CalVada CEC grid includes specific engineering details for the particular solar arrays to be used and their proposed locations, the particular wind mills to be used and their proposed locations, the particular battery and pumped storage facilities and their locations, the routes and configurations of the power transmission corridors, and the configurations and locations of the power distribution and control facilities.

After the feasibility design for the grid is complete, and it is available in enough level of detail to reliably identify what each major phase and sub-phase of the project will cost, and how long each phase and sub-phase will take, then the cost and schedule risks for the entire project as a whole are analyzed in order to determine what range of total costs can be expected, and how long it will take before the 80% figure for both states can finally be achieved.

A first cut at the CalVada CEC engineering study would produce a baseline feasibility analysis. That first cut analysis could then be expanded as a basis for further studies which might examine the effects of using different assumptions concerning the costs and availability of renewable technologies; different assumptions concerning grid reliability and performance requirements; different assumptions concerning the regulatory review processes; and different assumptions concerning the methods of financing and capital formation.

The initial data could likewise be used in examining the impacts of different assumptions concerning the sociopolitical dynamics of choosing where the wind farms, the solar farms, and the energy storage facilities are to be located.

For example, California has roughly ten times the population of Nevada. Is it possible to predict that Californians might eventually come to view Nevada as their renewable energy fiefdom, and to view Nevadans as their renewable energy serfs in harvesting green energy electrons?

Getting to the bottom line here, why does PG&E say that a 70% renewable power grid is easily achievable by 2030? First, because this is what California politicians and a majority of California’s voters want to hear, and second because the penetration of wind and solar will raise the price of electricity to levels much more conducive to making a larger profit from power generation operations, regardless of the energy technology.

Paul of Alexandria
Reply to  Duane
June 7, 2019 8:46 pm

Now go figure: 1) for a constant 24/7 1000 MW output, say, how many MW of solar panels do you need and how big are the batteries? Just becAuse a thing may be technically feasible doesn’t means it’s necessarily a good idea!

William Baikie
Reply to  Duane
June 9, 2019 10:28 pm

I live in the ‘desert’ of California. Solar panels are blanketing thousands of square miles of pristine wilderness already. This isn’t deep Saharan desert mostly devoid of life, it is mostly scrub land filled with life and CO2 absorbing plants. Seems odd to cover it over to handle CO2 emissions while inhibiting natural CO2 sequestering. Ever hear of the Californian Poppy? Rolling hills covered with bright poppies for miles in every direction? Now it’s solar panels. Good job ‘environmentalist!’ /sarc

Bruce Cobb
June 7, 2019 10:54 am

“California has too much solar power. That might be good for ratepayers”
Yes. Kind of the same way that having too much arsenic in the drinking water supply might be good for people’s health.

June 7, 2019 11:07 am

Any time you read a newspaper article you always have to parse out if renewables includes hydro or not. To the average reader renewables=wind+solar. Also when you are dealing with California you have to figure if they included out-of-state “renewbles” as most of the time California only meets its goals because it buys so much electricity from neighboring states.

June 7, 2019 11:54 am

Ah but some tax credits are more “equal” than others.

“I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire’s tax rate,” he (Warren Buffet) said. “For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

June 7, 2019 12:07 pm

Solar is great unless you need electricity at night and do not paying the massive Production Tax Credits (PTC). Much the same goes for those bird chopping wind turbines,.when the wind is not blowing (most of the time, that is).

Ethically Civil
June 7, 2019 12:38 pm

This duck (curve) won’t hunt…

Mike H
June 7, 2019 2:04 pm

All you need to know about Warren Buffett is he is a businessman out to make money. He is motivated by money and profits, and altruism does not enter into that equation.

June 7, 2019 2:31 pm

So now the LAT is conditioning its readers to go from “100% renewables are our future” to “Renewables plus storage plus fossil fuels plus conservation plus blackouts are our future” Bravo

Walter Sobchak
June 7, 2019 2:53 pm

“the wonders of highly subsidized and unreliable solar energy ”

It is highly subsidized, but it is not unreliable. Reliably, there will be no solar energy produced between 9 pm and 5 am, most of any day’s solar energy will be produced between 9 am and 5 pm, and there will be far more produced in June than in December.

It is reliable, it is just not very useful.

Reply to  Walter Sobchak
June 7, 2019 3:34 pm

You can include about 3 hrs before sunset and 3 hrs after sunrise as times when there is little to no useful energy coming out of those solar panels.

Kv s
June 7, 2019 5:23 pm

The times article says excess solar is good for rate payers. So excess solar is sold cheap. How does that lead to a sustainable system? A huge upfront financial investment that overproduces at the cheapest time of the day to the point that CA pays for someone to take it. What am I missing?

June 8, 2019 9:48 pm

The most hilarious thing about Solar Power in California is how the entire industry is about to be cratered by leftists.

One of the biggest subsidies that most people are unaware of is Senate Bill 871 from 2014 which granted solar developers an exemption from any property tax re-assessment upon the completion of a solar power plant.

This means that most utility-scale solar farms in California pay next to nothing in property taxes, because their assessed property values are that of the worthless desert scrub land they are built on.

But one of the big initiatives that leftists are pushing in 2020 is a ballot initiative to do away with Proposition 13 protections for commercial property. If it passes this means that all of these solar farms will be re-assessed at market value within 3 years.

Now while having to pay between 1% and 2% of the property value doesn’t actually sound like a lot, it is worth noting that solar power plants are grossly over-valued in the market and they tend to only generate less than 5% of their gross value every year as revenues. This means that under a property tax re-assessment, upwards of half of the equity cash flows could be expected to get eaten up by the new taxes. Also, given how much debt these facilities tend to carry I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few projects go bankrupt.

So when it comes to leftists and their subsidies for solar power I guess it’s apropos to say that The Lord Giveth, and The Lord Taketh Away.

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