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Clean Power solar resources map NREL

Published on February 8th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan

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Fox News: Can You Get Any More Insane? Germany Is Sunnier Than The US? (VIDEO)

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February 8th, 2013 by Zachary Shahan 


–>Update: You may also like “Fox News Fails BIG TIME On Solar Subsidies” and “10 Huge Lessons We’ve Learned From Germany’s Solar Power Success.

Fox News astounds me. It’s like the Onion, except that it thinks it isn’t joking. I’ve seen a lot of crazy lines from the puppets over on Fox, but this week’s statements on solar may take the cake. On Fox & Friends this week, co-host Gretchen Carlson embarrassed herself again by claiming that the future for the fastest-growing US energy industry “looks dim.”

Reality Check: Solar just had a record-crushing year of installations and costs continue to fall fast. It has hit grid parity in Hawaii and parts of the Southwest. If subsidies for coal and natural gas were taken into account, it would surely have hit grid parity in many, many more regions by now. But even without a price on pollution and cut in fossil fuel subsidies, solar is projected to have an extremely bright future. Solar growth is expected to continue at a breakneck pace. And this is one key reason why nearly every major economy is making solar power investment a top priority — everyone wants to lead the world in this industry.

But let’s not get bogged down by reality, let’s get to the fun! Beyond the dim-witted claim by Ms Carlson, the statements by Fox Business reporter (and apparent solar expert) Shibani Joshi are what took the day. They’re also the kind of statements that make the rest of the world think the US is full of morons who don’t know anything about geography. Ms Joshi commented (and apparently not in joking way) that Germany is “a smaller country, and they’ve got lots of sun. Right? They’ve got a lot more sun than we do.” Ummm….


 
Going on: “The problem is it’s a cloudy day and it’s raining, you’re not gonna have it. In California, it’s a great solution, but here on the East Coast it’s just not going to work.”

Wowza!

The US Southwest has some of the best solar resources in the world, which Ms Joshi didn’t quite seem to know. The US, as a whole, is significantly more solar endowed than Germany. When it comes to sunshine, Germany doesn’t have anything on the US. I’ve lived in Poland for about 4.5 years. Poland, right next door to Germany, is extremely similar in respect to sunshine and climate. The hardest thing for me living here is probably how dark and grey it is. It’s a world of difference from basically the entire US (if you remove Alaska — and hey, even Alaska has a better solar profile than Germany). But you don’t have to take my word for it. Take a look at this solar resources map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL):

solar resources map NREL

I could go on and on about this hilarious joke (tragic comedy, I guess, given that it wasn’t a joke and probably influenced a few million people). However, let’s get to the crux of the matter — the differences between Germany and the US when it comes to solar power and solar policy.

For some perspective, here are a few standout stats to put Germany’s solar capacity into perspective:

Furthermore, these disparities are sure to have grown in the past year. While the US has installed a tremendous amount more solar power in the past year, Germany has installed an even greater amount… and still has less electricity demand, less electricity production, less GDP, and fewer residents.

So, let’s get back to the question Fox & Friends started with — why does Germany have so much more solar power? Luckily, this is a topic CleanTechnica has covered many times. There are a few key reasons (which are quite interrelated):

  • Germany installs solar power for about half the cost the US installs solar power.
  • Germans get much more profit out of their solar power systems than Americans.
  • Germans install solar systems much more quickly than Americans.

The next question, naturally, is why there are the above differences. Solar panels themselves are a global commodity, the prices are essentially the same all across the world.

The thing is, due to Germany’s better solar policies, permitting is much cheaper in Germany, and achieving a permit to install a solar system is much quicker. Also, due to the country’s feed-in tariff (a simple policy that requires utilities pay solar power producers of any size a set rate for the electricity they generate), greater financial benefits are available to the common household and more residents have seen the value in installing solar.

With greater market penetration, a much simpler government incentive, and faster installation times, customer acquisition costs are much lower than in the US, supply chain costs are much lower, labor is much cheaper, and overhead costs are much lower.

In other words, despite Germany’s much more limited solar resources, it is kicking our butts in solar power installations because it has implemented a simple policy that rewards residents and businesses for using their rooftops to improve the world. But hey, if you just came here for a quick laugh, here’s the video of Fox & Friends‘ illuminating chat:

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About the Author

spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as the director/chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of Solar Love, EV Obsession, Planetsave, or Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media. You can connect with Zach on any popular social networking site you like. Links to all of his main social media profiles are on ZacharyShahan.com.



  • Sally Johnson

    The solar PV system on my roof consists of 33 255W Bosch panels. From
    last July when I received authorization to operate it from the local
    utility company, my system has generated 11,946 KWh of electricity in
    3916 hours of operation, saving (so the meter says) 20,309 pounds of CO2
    from being created to produce that energy. It generated over 50 KWh
    yesterday alone.

    How anyone can oppose solar energy production is beyond me. It’s cheap and getting cheaper (especially when you consider the cost of dismantling a facility such as San Onofre).

  • Mickey Askins

    They could not be more ignorant if they tried. Solar parity is right around the corner and these idiots think it happens by accident. Fox and the GOP, the anti science anti progress society.

  • Pat

    We are SOLAR ENDOWED!

  • Power Plant Start Up

    Apparently you are so into solar power that you can’t see past the tip of your green nose. You missed the point as most of you left leaning smart people do. Fact, solar and wind cannot sustain themselves in the US without subsidies and Americans are not willing to pay the rates that are paid in Germany to support inefficient undependable electricity. As long as there is cheap natural gas or coal Americans will not be persuaded to pay for green electricity. If you would have listened to the whole report you may have understood that instead of focusing on the brunette having a blonde moment you have gotten that. BTW are you sure you don”t work for Chris Mathews, now that’s a guy who has his facts straight.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Looking past my green nose here’s what I see.

      New nuclear – at least $0.12/kWh. That does not include subsidies.

      New coal – at least $0.12/kWh. That does not include external costs which run more than $0.10/kWh, so over $0.22/kW.

      Old coal – actually if you add in what we pay in tax dollars and health insurance costs to treat those who get ill from coal pollution we pay around $0.20/kWh. Then there are the ~13,000 Americans who die each year from coal pollution illnesses.

      New solar – we’ve just seen a purchase agreement signed for $0.0579/kW which includes about $0.05/kWh in subsidies, so $0.11/kWh.

      New wind – $0.06/kWh. Add in transmission and it rises to $0.09/kWh.

      New natural gas – $0.06/kWh. But those prices won’t hold, NG is temporarily cheap.

      I lined them up from most expensive to least expensive for you.

      Germany’s high electricity prices are not caused by renewables nor by Germany closing down nuclear plants. Germany had high electricity prices back before renewables and closing nuclear became issues.

      Germany’s high electricity prices come from the lack of competition. Here’s an article from the conservative Economist, written in 2009.

      http://www.economist.com/node/13527440

      Funny thing is happening in Germany right now. Solar on the grid is making midday wholesale electricity on sunny days as cheap or cheaper than late night electricity.

      But the utility companies are not passing those savings on to their customers.

      • Tim

        Yes it is, Germany has the highest electricity price next to Australia and it because of the taxes that have been applied to electricity for renewables green energy like rooftop grid solar power. Germany now has “Energy solidarity tax” that apply to rooftop grid solar power to gain back lost revenue and this is the only way which you can lower electricity prices is to tax grid connected rooftop solar power

        • Bob_Wallace

          Tim, Germany has high electricity prices because the German government is letting a very small number of electricity producers control the price of electricity. This problem started well before renewables were brought on the grid.

          Read this 2009 article from the conservative Economist…

          http://www.economist.com/node/13527440

          Solar is lowering the wholesale cost of electricity in Germany. Those lower prices are not being passed on to retail customers. The wholesale price drops created by solar far exceed any renewable energy tax.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Oh, and you might find this fun reading. It’s all about how solar is cutting the wholesale cost of electricity in Germany….

      “We again see prices rise from the early morning to about 8 or 9am, but then look at what happens when the sun (and its 25 GW of power capacity from solar panels) kick in — the price drops off a cliff, diving even deeper than the price of electricity in the dead of night!”

      You really need to look at the pretty pictures in this article.

      http://cleantechnica.com/2012/03/23/german-solar-bringing-down-price-of-afternoon-electricity-big-time-more-charts-facts/#R5sl3RdYCZgZedlS.99

      And this one…

      (A) recent study by Germany’s Institute for Future Energy Systems (IZES), conducted on behalf of of the German Solar Industry Association (BSW-Solar), has found that, on average, solar power has reduced the price of electricity 10% in Germany (on the EPEX exchange). It reduces prices up to 40% in the early afternoon, when electricity demand is peaking and electricity typically costs the most.”

      Solar reduces electricity price by 40% in early afternoons and by 10% overall.

      I’ll bet that’s not what Fox has told, er, misinformed you.

      http://cleantechnica.com/2012/02/09/solar-pv-reducing-price-of-electricity-in-germany/#4g3wlHu4Q70AkCc8.99

      • Danny

        German Propaganda that solar power drive down electricity price why did the price go up in Germany, why are a large percentage of German people can’t afford electricity, if the price went down?

        • Bob_Wallace

          1. Germany had very high electricity prices long before they started install lots of solar.

          Read this. It’s from a conservative publication.

          http://www.economist.com/node/13527440

          2. Solar has reduced the wholesale price of electricity in Germany. Those wholesale price reductions have not been passed on to retail customers.

          Remember what you read in the Economist article.

          I’ll bet you won’t read the article. Let me bring the important pieces to you. Remember this was written in 2009, before Germany had installed a lot of renewables. And before Germany decided to shut down nuclear in 2011.

          “The competition regulator is trying to work out why energy prices in Europe’s biggest economy are so stubbornly high, and in some cases still rising, even though oil and gas prices have fallen sharply. It suspects that generators may have been keeping prices artificially high by, for instance, shutting power stations in concert to limit supplies.”

          “The first sign that the market is not working is in Germany’s electricity prices, which are among the highest in Europe, even though it has access to abundant cheap coal.”

          “The main reason Germany’s electricity market is not working as it should is the lack of competition.”

          “A second problem is that Germany’s biggest electricity generators also own the networks that distribute electricity. Critics argue that this gives them a huge advantage over independent producers, which may struggle to gain access to the networks fairly….”

          And this little jewel at the end of the article…

          “And over the longer run, ambitious plans to increase the share of electricity from renewable sources may erode the dominance of the country’s four biggest electricity generators. Germany hopes to get as much as 30% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, and although few in the industry think the target will be met”

          Germany got 26% of its electricity in 2012. They’ll likely hit the 2020 mark seven years early.

          • Don

            Wind and solar is competition to drive electricity price.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Did you get that bit of stupidity from Fox?

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      haha. good try… well, not really.

      we read & write about this stuff every day. we’ve looked at the numbers and keep up with them obsessively. it seems you have a clear agenda. but if you’re genuinely interested in learning, we actually have 4 articles in response to the Foc & Friends clip, tackling different matters of the segment. please see:
      http://cleantechnica.com/2013/02/08/fox-news-fails-big-time-on-solar-subsidies/
      http://cleantechnica.com/2013/02/09/germany-solar-power-lessons/
      http://cleantechnica.com/2013/02/09/germany-has-more-solar-power-because-everyone-wins/

  • http://www.energyquicksand.com/ Edward Kerr

    Kinda makes one want to pull their hair out. I’m a peaceful guy but I couldn’t stop my mind from thinking ” If somebody strangled that woman they would be wrong?” arrgg
    Then I was reminded of a quote “there are only two things that are infinite, human stupidity and the universe and I’m not sure about the universe”! If you guessed Einstein you’d be correct. I’d be able to laugh at that sad little bit of theater if I didn’t know that countless folks will believe the drivel.

  • http://MrEnergyCzar.com/ MrEnergyCzar

    That was a funny one… do people still believe this as news?

  • lockstockedd

    Her husband (Rahul Advani) also works for Energy Capital Partners which invests heavily in natural gas. (They do invest in renewable such as solar as well but is primarily focused on ng)

    http://www.ecpartners.com/principals.aspx

    Not saying that this directly affects what she says, but is worth noting

  • David Fuchs

    Hey you are wrong, Germany is sunnier. It is all that coal we burn in the US blocking out the sun. :D

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Ha. :D

  • David Fuchs

    I love how comments on that video have been disabled. Reminds me of RIAA’s blog.

  • anderlan

    Shibani MUST be trying to discreetly punk her employers. I mean “we have to ask ourselves where we want to go as a country.” That’s excellent. “100 years of nat gas energy” versus 1 billion years of sun–also a helpful point to make. Finally, somehow Germany is beating the crap out of us because it has more sun? It’s so blatantly insane that it makes fun of itself. Shibani is channeling Stephen Colbert! Bravo, Ms. Joshi.

    • Bob_Wallace

      It’s highly questionable if we have 100 years of natural gas available in the US.

      If we consider only the “known” and “probable” reserves we have slightly over 20 years of NG based on 2010 burn rates. We are now burning much faster than we were in 2010 and getting ready to export as well.

      Those other 80 years come from “possible”, “speculative” and “coal bed” sources. In the case of possible and speculative we’re talking about wishful thinking. That there might be some gas under the ground that we haven’t discovered and have no data to support its existence The coal bed stuff would, I think, be very much more expensive to extract.

      Even if that 80 years worth is discovered by burning it twice as fast as 2010 we run out in 50 years, not 100. In 2012 we burned 50% more NG for electricity production than we did in 2010. We’re just starting to burn NG in our cars and trucks. We could be out of NG in 10-15 years.

      Here’s a good read on NG…

      http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/future_tense/2011/12/is_there_really_100_years_worth_of_natural_gas_beneath_the_united_states_.html

      And here’s the NG industry’s numbers which agree with the Slate article supply numbers …

      http://www.naturalgas.org/overview/resources.asp

      100 years if we stop burning so fast. And win the natural gas lottery.

      • Bob_Wallace

        BTW, in January 2012 the US Department of Energy lowered the known and probable amount from 810 tcf to 482 tcf based on more detailed information provided by gas explorations in shale deposits in the preceding year.

        Both the 810 and 482 tcf numbers are DOE estimates. In 2010 we were burning about about 24 tcf per year.

        We might be about five years from soaring NG prices.

      • http://www.energyquicksand.com/ Edward Kerr

        You point out the obvious fallacy in their delusional thinking Bob but here is the bottom line. If we don’t stop with the insanity of altering the chemistry of our atmosphere we won’t be around in 100 years regardless of how much NG (methane) remains.

  • jburt56

    Speaking of losses the oil wars will cost $3 TRILLION according to Joseph Stiglitz–

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/03/AR2010090302200.html

    That money will not produce a single barrel of oil–in fact huge amounts were consumed during the wars. Here is a video of burning oil wells to jog the memory–

    • Bob_Wallace

      That $3 trillion was just for the Iraq war. And as Stiglitz states, likely too low. He now puts that number higher than $5 trillion.

      http://www.slate.com/articles/business/project_syndicate/2011/09/the_true_cost_of_911.single.html

      The Afghanistan war cost at least $1.2 trillion as of last summer.

      That does not include the cost of treating wounded soldiers nor the cost of financing the war.

      We’re at least 2x $3 trillion and counting.

      • jburt56

        Enough to put a 10kWp solar array on every home in America.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Bookmarking that one. Actually, need to add it to our oil subsidies post.

  • Amber

    Zachary,
    I am so laughing!
    Thanks for the hilarious video.

    Amber

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      :D

  • bill

    https://www.facebook.com/ShibaniJoshi

    you can leave her a little note..

  • mds

    Zach,
    Please stop bashing Faux News. We all know they are correct about the earth being flat. This Christopher Columbus stuff is just Spanish fabrications.
    The cowards and fools of the old energy gaurd continue to entertain. Great article!
    mike

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Haha, I wish someone over there would just admit one day that it’s all been a big prank, that they’ve been lying to us and feeding us fake news for their own entertainment. :D

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