Friday, May 28, 2010

Solar Power: Projections Fall Short

In the December 1974 issue of Popular Science Magazine, there was an article titled "Solar Cells: When Will You Plug Into Electricity from Sunshine?" that discussed the future of solar energy. The article predicted that by 1986 the cost per watt at peak power would be down to $0.30 ($0.60 in today's dollars) based on projections from the National Science Foundation.  There were also predictions for giant solar-cell systems that would provide solar energy to towns and utilities by 1990.

By 2007, solar prices were actually about $3.66 per watt (about six times higher than predicted), and were predicted in this 2008 article to fall to $2.14 per watt in 2010.  And we still don't have any of those giant solar-cell systems yet.   

HT: Mike Salmon

42 Comments:

At 5/28/2010 9:24 PM, Anonymous Daniel said...

That's amazing. I read the exact same article in '74.

 
At 5/28/2010 10:22 PM, Blogger OA said...

This is why I hated those BP commercials with those people on the street saying that oil companies had to look at alternatives. Alternatives are already here, but they cost more.

How are windmills and solar going to replace oil when those cost more than regularly generated electricity?

If people don't buy electric cars when we're using cheaper sources, why would they switch if electricity is generated from more expensive sources?

Solar will be cheap enough at some point, but rather than handing out tax credits, they should fund basic research and have a prize for the first team to hit a certain efficiency per square foot, and another prize for output per dollar.

The X Prize and the DARPA Grand Challenge showed that people will spend more money than the prize money just to win.

 
At 5/28/2010 10:41 PM, Anonymous gettingrational said...

"And we still don't have any of those giant solar-cell systems yet."

Here is a listing of the 400 largest solar farms in the world starting with the largest first.

The projections do fall short, and it is expensive requiring subsidies, but solar is accelerating with better software and cheaper cells.

 
At 5/28/2010 10:47 PM, Anonymous Lyle said...

Its interesting if you look at the price per kwh of rooftop solar, the economics depends upon where in the country you are based both on solar insolation and electricty price. If you run the numbers in CA its close to cost competitive at the meter with top rates running upwards of .20/kwh. In particular in the South Central Valley and the Inland Empire area. In Texas, right now its not, because natural gas is so cheap. (IT takes 30 years to pay out) Now that partly depends upon if you are in the municipal or de-regulated utility area, it takes less in the de-regulated (old investor owned area). The Southeast looses because of cheap electricity and clouds. Leward Hawaii should be a big winner due to the high cost of power there.
In summary you have to look both at the local insolation, as well as at power prices to see what works.

 
At 5/29/2010 2:52 AM, Blogger Tim Worstall said...

Yes....the time scales were out. But the general prediction not so much.

The manufacturing cost (ie, not including installation) of solar PV is decreasing at 4% per quarter....for both CdTe systems and Si systems. 4% per quarter, 20% per year....doesn't take all that long at these sort of compound rates for the numbers to start looking very good.

I work on the fringes of this field (a different renewables technology) and grid parity....unsubsidised solar PV being equal in price to grid electricity at the point of consumption....looks like a reality, a general reality, at some point in this coming decade.

We've still then got many problems to overcome (storage being the biggest) but we are indeed getting there.

 
At 5/29/2010 11:11 AM, Blogger juandos said...

Gee! I'm (if you'll pardon the pun) shocked!

Ask Spain about the pain in part due to their pursuit of 'alternative energy sources'...

 
At 5/29/2010 12:41 PM, Blogger Richard Rider, Chair, San Diego Tax Fighters said...

I put in a home solar power system an it's working fine FOR ME.

But half the installation was paid for by the taxpayers, and electricity costs here in sunny San Diego are among the highest in the nation.

Payoff is at about the 8 year mark (including subsidies). 16 years without the subsidies. And the system has a slight degredation per year (optimistically estimated at a half percent a year).

I did what I call a "split tier" installation -- knocking off only the most expensive 3rd and 4th tiers that (with SDG&E) total costs approach 35 cents a kWh, but continuing to pay for the less expensive two lower tiers (about 17 cents a kWh).

Doubtless solar will make sense some day. But not today. Only foolish massive taxpayer subsidies make it economically viable at the retail level.

 
At 5/29/2010 1:06 PM, Blogger Marko said...

Part of the problem is that sunshine doesn't provide much electricity per square meter. Even if solar panels were 100% efficient, meaning they convert all solar radiation directly to electricity, it could only produce around 300 watts per square meter. Current panels are less than 40% efficient. Add to that the sun does not shine at night, most places get significant clouds and the efficiency drops much further. As a result, you need a very large amount of panels to completely power a house, likely more than the size of the house. You also need a massive batter shed, like the size of a garage filled with batteries. You also have to keep the cells clean, washing them off once a month (I think Cato estimates more people die falling off roofs cleaning solar panels than the number killed in all other types of power combined).

Add to that heavy metal use, such as Cadmium, and the mining issues. Just doesn't sound that great.

Here is a nice summary of the current problems. http://www.answersroom.com/2-5/771-Solar.html This guy assumes you are using gas appliences and don't use air conditioning (a particular problem in places with lots of sunlight) and the solar panels and batteries still cost over $100,000 for a typical home!

Nuclear power!

 
At 5/29/2010 1:11 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"The manufacturing cost (ie, not including installation) of solar PV is decreasing at 4% per quarter....for both CdTe systems and Si systems. 4% per quarter, 20% per year....doesn't take all that long at these sort of compound rates for the numbers to start looking very good."

Tim Worstall, a minor quibble with your math. A 4% quarterly reduction equates to an approximate 15% annual reduction, not 20%.

 
At 5/29/2010 1:45 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"I work on the fringes of this field (a different renewables technology) and grid parity....unsubsidised solar PV being equal in price to grid electricity at the point of consumption....looks like a reality, a general reality, at some point in this coming decade"...

Well Tim Worstall that might be true for solar sources of electricity in the UK today and it might become fact sometime in the future here in the US but 'renewable energy' is only a drag on the taxpayer in the US today: NTU Creates Map Showing the Economic Damage of Renewable Energy Standard

The NTU map: Renewable Energy Standards and Unemployment In the United States

Do pay attention to the links at the bottom right of the map please...

Personally I'm all for renewable energy but I don't want to have the federal government force us to pay more for energy when its NOT necessary and its NOT the federal government's business to pick winners and losers in the energy market...

 
At 5/29/2010 2:33 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Richard Rider said: -

"Doubtless solar will make sense some day. But not today. Only foolish massive taxpayer subsidies make it economically viable at the retail level."

And there's the rub. This only works if there are taxpayers who DON'T install solar, and only then where electric rates are high, as in CA.

You didn't mention how long you have had your solar power system, but I would be interested in hearing from you in 10 or 15 years.

I understand there is a useful life expectancy for solar panels, and I'm wondering how that compares to the payoff period? Will you ever actually experience a positive cash flow from this system?

Of course your payoff period could be much shorter as we can expect our electricity rates to "necessarily skyrocket".

 
At 5/29/2010 7:31 PM, Blogger Gnana said...

It looks like the economist as usual are working on many unknown assumptions. Please consider the subsidy hidden in all thermal fuels GAS, OIL and COAL. The number of death in each industry and the cost of medical fees due to the sickness arising from all the pollutions from emission from Power plants and the cost of ASH clean up from US COAL plants. Please account for the Environmental costs in the cleaning up of the recent disaster on the Deep sea accident in the Gulf OIL well. The total number of deaths in the Coal mines and the problem with the Mercury released from GAS and Coal power plants. As the GAS wells go deeper to the bottom of the well more Hg comes with the Gas.
The recent Solar cells/panels have shown life times higher than 30 years and the degradation in the efficiency is very very small! drop to 80% of the original efficiency after 30 years of use. The strict Internationally reputed test Lab testing certificates give rise to these guarantees.
With all these test certificates the Chinese QS Solar Panels of the thinfilm variety is now available for more than last 7 months at a price of $1/Wp FOB China 55 Watt variety. The prices are dropping down further. First Solar's Malaysia production costs are less than $0.78/Wp and coming down further. No wonder China has signed for 2000MW of Solar project with them when they will start the manufacture in China itself.
B oath China and India have plans to have 20GW of Solar Power by 2020. I am sure they will achieve same
The Electricity price is very low in China and India compared to US and still they plan for renewable as they have started importing COAL!
China had the cheapest Coal(Very poor quality high ash content) in the world and they were exporting same earlier.
When one takes into account the Carbon costs that will come into effect soon and the steep rise in Electricity Tariffs renewables with special reference to Solar will be the future!
Ontario Canada with much cheap Hydro's and nuclear Power plants is going in a big way and soon will see the 200MW solar power plant operating before the end of this year.
The CdS in some of the cheaper printable type of solar Cells/panels are guaranteed by the manufacturers that it will be taken back at there own costs for recycling!
Most of the old unserviceable electronic items computers LCD TVs laptops and cell phones are now collected at recycling centers like bottle and plastic/tin cans but at very attractive price
Going by the trends Solar PV will be like the Laptop computers and cell phones. "India has more number of cell phones than the number of toilets"
As an Economist please study all these aspects and with your wonderful writing skills give publicity to these facts. Such bad advice from such educated people will lead US for further economic down turn and may allow China and India to to be leaders very soon.

If proper FiT are designed then with rooftop Solar distributed Generation we can reduce distribution and Transmission Investments and improve on the electrical system losses as well! This will eliminate the need for costly investment on the storage batteries mentioned by some commentators.
Very soon long life organic dye Nano solar cells and Panels will come into the market and they will be much cheaper and can just be applied to your windows to generate Electricity at very low costs!
You may follow my Twitter-- Gnanal -- https://twitter.com/Gnanal --for the latest on Solar Energy
Also see my personal link--
http://ca.linkedin.com/in/gnanal --

Please read more on The Para on Economics in-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photovoltaics --where the LCOE details are shown for different Insolation with 20 year life period for the solar cells/panels. This costs will reduce further if the true life of the present day solar PV is taken into account. It is finally the LCOE, Levelized Cost of Energy that matters.
Wish to see more of your articles on this subject soon
Kind regards
K.Gnana
Now in Canada

 
At 5/29/2010 8:35 PM, Blogger Richard Rider, Chair, San Diego Tax Fighters said...

Ron H. I mentioned the projected degradation of 0.5% a year. Supposedly tested and found true by a reputable agency, but I'm always suspect, and have assumed double that rate.

Actually, Ron, I DID say when I bought my solar system. Last year. October was operational start date. Please read a bit more carefully before writing.

Since the deal pencils out to pay off in 7-8 years at present rates, obviously the positive cash flow begins at that point. And let's assume that this is an asset that will at least partially recapture its cost via a higher resale price on the house.

BTW, under AB32, our insane CA global warming bill that passed a couple years ago, electricity cost is projected to rise at least 30% in the next 6 years or so.

Fortunately we are putting a measure on the ballot to effectively rescind that bill (I'm active on this measure -- it will be on the November CA ballot).

 
At 5/29/2010 8:52 PM, Blogger Richard Rider, Chair, San Diego Tax Fighters said...

Marko, you make bold, confident assertions without first -- ya know -- actually learning anything about solar. Reality trumps your ruminations presented as fact.

No, you do NOT have to cover your roof to power a home. Our roof (a two story house) is at most 20% covered with our solar array, and that provides about 60-70% of our electricity. As my earlier comment explained, it makes good sense to put in enough solar to cover the high-cost portion of one's electricity usage.

And no, you do not need batteries -- unless you are going "off the grid," which makes no sense unless you live in some impossibly remote location. NO ONE puts in batteries -- a ridiculously expensive cost both to purchase and to periodically replace.

Solar power usually REVERSES your meter during the day, giving you credit as the power is fed back into the utility grid. Then in the morning and evening, you draw from the grid. In one form or another, you get a net bill for the month (assuming you don't produce more net power than you consume -- which, while unwise, is quite possible).

One big advantage of solar is that it provides maximum power during the more expensive "peak" period -- noon to 4 PM. With variable time of day pricing, that's when the savings are worth the most, while evening power can be far cheaper. Utilities are starting to offer time of day pricing, but it's spotty so far.

 
At 5/29/2010 9:52 PM, Anonymous Hydra said...

rather than handing out tax credits, they should fund basic research and have a prize for the first team to hit a certain efficiency per square foot, and another prize for output per dollar.

Excellent idea. Forward it to the adminsistration.

Incidentally, solar cells used for spacecraft are much more efficientand last much longer. They are enormously expensive.

We already know how to do this, it is only the price keeping us away.

If you buy solar power, youare buying solar power and cleaner air. The price is higher because you are buying more service.

Oil and cola combustion does what it can to clean the air, but it is not as much, so the cost of oil is the dollar cost plus the dirty air cost.

What has not been resolved yet is that solar will have huge costs in space and transmission. Plus, someone is going to have to clean and maintain all those cells, which degrade over time.

Roof space is often cited as a place to put cells, which strikes me as a terrible idea. Now, if you have roof leak, you have toremove the solar array to fix the leak. And leaks will be more prevalent because of the solar array attachments.

And solar will need expensive back up or peaking support, which is not yet reflected in the price.

 
At 5/29/2010 9:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As my earlier comment explained, it makes good sense to put in enough solar to cover the high-cost portion of one's electricity usage.


Maybe. But at least you arfe on the right track and honest about the results.

What do you figure the payback is onthe high cost portion, absent any government subsidies?

In my area there is a well known and honest solar installer. He will tell you that solar is NOT an economic investment, but a political statement.

Despite such brutal honesty, he is doing a pretty good business. He does not recommend roof installation, if y0ou have enoug space for some other option.

 
At 5/29/2010 10:01 PM, Anonymous Hydra said...

And let's assume that this is an asset that will at least partially recapture its cost via a higher resale price on the house.

That might be a big assumption.

I have geothermal heat pump on my house, and I find it scares a lot of people off when it comes to talk about selling.

And its payback was like, two years.

 
At 5/29/2010 10:09 PM, Anonymous hYDRA said...

Gnana makes good general points, but I believe he/she falls into the trap of assuming exgternal costs are effectively infinitely high.

Under that scenario, ANY price for solar is OK, which obviously cannot be the case.

Gnana obliquely refers to the cost of death but that is a price we have yet to agree on, generally. We have a lot of evidence as to what people will actually sell their lives for, but very little of that evidence is yet popularized in the price of social policy.

 
At 5/29/2010 10:13 PM, Anonymous Hydra said...

I understand there is a useful life expectancy for solar panels, and I'm wondering how that compares to the payoff period?

Solar panels last a long time and have good warranties. (Assuming the solar comapny is still in business. I'd want my warranty in the form of an insurance policy.)

On the other hand, they degrade in output over time, which partly counteracts the argument that conventional power costs will increase over time.

 
At 5/29/2010 10:32 PM, Blogger Marko said...

Mr. Rider, you may have misunderstood my intent - I was attempting to show part of the reason why solar power was not as widespread or cheap as predicted in the 70s, you know, the point of the original post. Some people seem to think that solar power can be used to go off the grid, I was making the indirect point that that is not feasible. Your statements seem to support my argument. Thanks. If you need to be on the grid to use solar power, than we still need to discuss what combination of power sources power the grid. I believe this is best determined by more market oriented forces than at present, and I believe much of that would be nuclear power. I am looking forward to local micro reactors.

I am glad you find my writing bold and confident, I try.

 
At 5/29/2010 11:11 PM, Blogger Mark said...

solarsipper.com is a site that helps lower the price of solar through collective bargaining.

"QA" is wrong about solar being too expensive, it is not. Financing a solar system is possible with equity in your home or great credit, and with $0 down you can save money with solar energy your first month and pay off the system in 10-15 years. Each month you pay less for solar than the utility, and after it is paid off your energy is free.

 
At 5/30/2010 12:32 AM, Blogger Richard Rider, Chair, San Diego Tax Fighters said...

"What do you figure the payback is on the high cost portion, absent any government subsidies?"

In our San Diego area with the parameters I mentioned, the subsidized breakeven is 7-8 years. Absent the CA and federal subsidies, the payback period literally doubles -- making it a marginal investment at best.

Just to be clear, politically I oppose all such subsidies.

 
At 5/30/2010 12:37 AM, Blogger Richard Rider, Chair, San Diego Tax Fighters said...

Marco, nuclear very likely is a great choice for powering the grid, but we need the unsubsidized cost. I assume the Price Anderson Act is still in place, which I believe limits the power provider's liability to $600 million in a nuclear accident.

Like BP in the Gulf of Mexico disaster (where I understand their liability is limited to $75 million by federal law), this liability subsidy hides the true cost, while encouraging less safe practices by the business.

 
At 5/30/2010 12:43 AM, Blogger Richard Rider, Chair, San Diego Tax Fighters said...

Here's an interesting solar wrinkle. I wanted to be able to use my array off the grid if there was a major power disruption (terrorist attack, earthquake, etc.). But the govt and electrical utility won't allow it if I'm also hooked to the grid.

The utility has legitimate concerns about electrocution dangers from a residential solar array feeding power back into a supposedly dead power line under repair. But it is possible to set up a safeguard that would cut off such feedback if the line went dead, with a manual restart. Not allowed.

Hence such a local array is, oddly enough, useless in a power outage.

 
At 5/30/2010 12:47 AM, Blogger Richard Rider, Chair, San Diego Tax Fighters said...

RIDER: And let's assume that this is an asset that will at least partially recapture its cost via a higher resale price on the house.

HYDRA: That might be a big assumption.

Rider response: Actually, solar has been around long enough in San Diego that it's already been shown that such an array enhances both the desirability and price of a home. You won't get 100% back for it, but it's likely that one can recapture 80%-85% of the subsidized outlay upon resale.

 
At 5/30/2010 12:52 AM, Blogger Richard Rider, Chair, San Diego Tax Fighters said...

The loss in efficiency from an unclean solar panel is real, but minor. Dust, etc can accumulate, but rain cleans most of it off. And to the extend dust and stuff sit on the array, the efficiency seems to be reduces only 2-5%.

I figure that it's enough of a degradation to OCCASIONALLY clean the panels (perhaps once or twice a year), but it's a waste of time and water to clean them monthly -- and a bit dangerous, as previously pointed out.

 
At 5/30/2010 1:04 AM, Anonymous grant said...

Gnana:
I appreciate your post and I think you got it pretty well right.Good Work.
Just a couple of points.
There is a new type of sola panel to hit the market that uses magnifiers to intensify the suns rays by about 10% and is supposed to increase cell output by 30%
There is an inventor in CA that has invented a new type of sola cell that is very cheap to make and is placed on roofs and walls like tiles I do not know the output or workings but it is made from silica sand and is opaque.
Your point on distribution infrastructure is very valid cost's point overlooked by other posters.

 
At 5/30/2010 3:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, the mental gymnastics that it takes for people to talk themselves into solar is amazing.

The fact remains it is workable only in a portion of the country and hardly anyone buys systems without huge incentives.

Unless there's been a huge improvement in the systems in just a few months, it takes years for the payment on the loan to be less than paying for regular electricity. Only with tax credits does that get to a reasonable number of years.

If people want to do that, it's fine. Except utilities are now being forced to get a certain amount of their power from alternative sources, which will force prices up for everyone. Which then makes individual solar more competitive.

 
At 5/30/2010 3:24 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

>"Please account for the Environmental costs in the cleaning up of the recent disaster on the Deep sea accident in the Gulf OIL well. The total number of deaths in the Coal mines and the problem with the Mercury released from GAS and Coal power plants. As the GAS wells go deeper to the bottom of the well more Hg comes with the Gas."

Ah! Those pesky externalities. It's impossible to have a meaningful discussion on economic terms when these unqualifiable and unquantifiable intangibles keep poppoing up. How can a meaningful comparison of unlike power sources ever be made?

gnana makes one excellent point, however:

>"With all these test certificates the Chinese QS Solar Panels of the thinfilm variety is now available

First Solar's Malaysia production costs are less than $0.78/Wp and coming down further."


Most solar panel components are made in China, Malaysia, and Mexico. So, those "green jobs" being created or saved by massive infusions of stimulus money are in fact jobs in other countries. It's no wonder that China is enthusiastic about our "jobs" programs.

 
At 5/30/2010 4:20 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

>"Actually, Ron, I DID say when I bought my solar system. Last year. October was operational start date. Please read a bit more carefully before writing."

Please reread your previous comment, Richard, There is no mention of a start date. Perhaps you should take your own advice, and read a bit more carefully before instructing others.

In addition to the degradation rate you mentioned, there is also a life expectancy claimed for the panels. Since asking about it earlier, I have found various claims of between 20-40 years, so positive cash flow appears likely after break even.

Your efforts to rescind AB32 are appreciated. I too live in CA, but I'm not sure how much longer I can continue to do so.

 
At 5/30/2010 4:21 AM, Anonymous Ian Random said...

I think the bloom box, a natural gas fuel cell, has more of a chance of replacing grid power than solar. I don't care about the arguments that they only need so many days of light or hours of wind to maintain a charge. No one is going to install a ton of lead to store juice to power their house. Maybe the Panasonic whole house battery might work. But at that point I'd just use it to cost shift grid power.

 
At 5/30/2010 8:35 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"Please consider the subsidy hidden in all thermal fuels GAS, OIL and COAL. The number of death in each industry and the cost of medical fees due to the sickness arising from all the pollutions from emission from Power plants and the cost of ASH clean up from US COAL plants. Please account for the Environmental costs in the cleaning up of the recent disaster on the Deep sea accident in the Gulf OIL well. The total number of deaths in the Coal mines and the problem with the Mercury released from GAS and Coal power plants. As the GAS wells go deeper to the bottom of the well more Hg comes with the Gas"...

Please consider how ALL these supposed problems have already been priced and built into the final price of fuel via taxes, insurance rates, government fees, red tape, and other assorted 'nanny state' restrictions placed on the free market of energy...

 
At 5/30/2010 9:00 AM, Blogger Richard Rider, Chair, San Diego Tax Fighters said...

Ron H, I humbly apologize from my chippy remark about having given my solar installation year. I was writing on two comment boards at the same time, and got confused what I said on which.

I HATE it when I make a smug retort and I'm the bumbler.

Again, my apologies.

 
At 5/30/2010 12:24 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Richard, Daniel, and others...

Cost is only one part of the equation... that cost can be spread around15 years and make solar more affordable than paying an investor owned utility from month 1

solarsipper.com
mark

 
At 5/30/2010 12:35 PM, Blogger Richard Rider, Chair, San Diego Tax Fighters said...

Actually, Mark, cost is not just "one part" of the equation. It is the equation itself!

A $1,000 solar system that saves $500 a year obviously makes sense. A $40,000 system saving $500 a year makes no sense. So it's just a matter of the cost of the system vs. the electricity cost savings.

There's some fine cost points to consider -- such as degradation, repairs (the electrical panel has an expected lifespan of 15 years), possible roof damage cost, risk of sub-par performance, etc. Most important is the assumed cost of electricity in future years -- an uncertain variable, of course.

 
At 5/30/2010 12:39 PM, Blogger Richard Rider, Chair, San Diego Tax Fighters said...

I cranked all the variables into a fairly sophisticated spreadsheet I built. With the huge subsidies and my particular set of variable (high upper tier electricity cost), I figure my IRR is about 13% or a bit better. It is FAR less without the subsidies, or with lower electricity costs.

One important point to consider is that the return is tax free for a residence -- all savings are after-tax utility dollars.

 
At 5/30/2010 2:02 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

RR,C,SDTF, apology accepted. No harm done.

Your comments on your own experience as an owner of a solar power system are appreciated by those of us who have considered such a system. They tend to confirm my own overall take on the matter.

In your own example, using your numbers, there is never a break-even point except for the subsidies, as you pointed out.

Your comment to Mark raises some additional good points to consider, but I suspect that Mark is already thoroughly familiar with all that, as a promoter for solar installers through his own website, solarsipper.com.

 
At 5/30/2010 3:44 PM, Anonymous Lyle said...

Right now Solar makes sense on a number of Islands in the Caribbean, in Cayman power costs up to .40us/kwh, on Bonaire in the high .30s. At that price Solar makes sense, in particular because these are near desert Islands with lots of sun.
Note that on Cayman Brac they are building wind turbines with no subsidy because wind is cheaper than running diesel engines for power.

 
At 5/30/2010 6:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

and after it is paid off your energy is free.


This is financially incorrect.

 
At 5/31/2010 10:32 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

http://www.pvresources.com/en/top50pv.php

The projections do fall short, and it is expensive requiring subsidies, but solar is accelerating with better software and cheaper cells.


None of the solar installations are economic. All depend on subsidies to generate returns for investors. They have also been linked to criminal activity because the operators use diesel generators to create electricity that is passed off as being generated by the solar installations. The return is made by the difference between what it casts to make electricity by running diesel generators (cheap) and what is received for the electricity after the subsidies are added to the price (expensive).

Solar technology is a failure so far. Its use only makes sense in a limited number of applications.

 
At 5/31/2010 10:48 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

Please consider the subsidy hidden in all thermal fuels GAS, OIL and COAL.

This is a joke. All those fuels are highly taxed so there is no net subsidy. The same is not true of solar, wind and other 'renewables' being pushed by rent seekers who make money off the direct subsidies that consumers and taxpayers are forced to provide.

Please account for the Environmental costs in the cleaning up of the recent disaster on the Deep sea accident in the Gulf OIL well.

I suspect that BP will be made to pay billions to clean up the spill. I find it interesting that what is not being asked is why companies are forced to go into very deep water when there is plenty of oil available in shallow waters and on land. Could it be that idiots who kept talking about hidden costs and the environment scared Congress into allowing extraction in areas known to have reserves that could be exploited economically and safely?

The oil that washes up on California's beaches is not coming from wells drilled by oil companies. It is coming from natural sources that have been leaking hydrocarbons into the oceans for hundreds of millions of year. The same is true of a lot of the oil that goes into the Gulf of Mexico. There are hundreds of natural seeps that dump a great deal of oil into the water and have been doing so for millions of years. That oil did not have a negative effect on life. In fact, it was food for some specialized species that depend on it for their survival. While what happened with BP is tragic the energy sector has reduced spillage over the years and this too will pass without doing much in the way of lasting harm.

In fact, I would be willing to bet that there would be a lot more harm done to the area and the nation if companies were forced to stop drilling. Those $150K per year drill rig jobs are hard to find in a slow economy. And given the demographics in the industry, the service sector that has grown around the drilling outfits will have a hard time recovering. All those jobs will go with the rigs and the US will see its dominance in the sector fade.

 
At 5/31/2010 11:22 AM, Blogger Tim Worstall said...

"I think the bloom box, a natural gas fuel cell, has more of a chance of replacing grid power than solar."

Not yet it won't. No, I don't work for Bloom but I work with the same technology, solid oxide fuel cells.

They're not there yet but I have absolutely no doubt that they will be soon enough. Their problem (and every other SOFC manufacturer's) is a straight manufacturing one. We know what metals we should be using now, we know how to minimise cracking as the cell cycles up and down, we've a variety of possible fuels.....we just need to go through a number of iterations of making them in volume. Analagous to the sort of stuff Intel and AMD have been doing with computer chips for the past 35 years or so.

A truly intruiging propsect is of using solar and or wind to electrolyse water then use the H and the bloom box as the generator when power is required.

Get the various mechanical parts made cheaply enough and the energy loss of such a system would be acceptable.

 

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