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Published on October 8th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan

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Advantages & Disadvantages Of Solar Power

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October 8th, 2013 by Zachary Shahan
 

Originally published on Cost of Solar.

Everything has its advantages and disadvantages, its pluses and minuses. So, naturally, there must be a number of solar power advantages and solar power disadvantages too, right? It’s been awhile since I ran down a list of solar power advantages and disadvantages, so I figured this topic was ripe for a refresher.

Solar Power Advantages


There are many solar power advantages worth noting. In no particular order (well, perhaps simply the order in which they come to mind), here are some of the top advantages:

clean energy sources

Solar power helps to slow/stop global warming. Global warming threatens the survival of human society, as well as the survival of countless species. Luckily, decades (or even centuries) of research have led to efficient solar panel systems that create electricity without producing global warming pollution. Solar power is now very clearly one of the most important solutions to the global warming crisis.

Solar power saves society billions or trillions of dollars. Even long before society’s very existence is threatened by global warming, within the coming decades, global warming is projected to cost society trillions of dollars if left unabated. So, even ignoring the very long-term threat of societal suicide, fighting global warming with solar power will likely save society billions or even trillions of dollars.

Solar power saves you money. Putting solar PV panels on your roof is likely to save you tens of thousands of dollars. The average 20-year savings for Americans who went solar in 2011 were projected to be a little over $20,000. In the populous states of New York, California, and Florida, the projected savings were over $30,000. In the sunny but expensive paradise known as Hawaii, the projected savings were nearly $65,000!

Beyond solar PV panels, it’s worth noting that solar energy can actually save you money in about a dozen other ways as well — with proper planning and household design choices.

Solar power provides energy reliability. The rising and setting of the sun is extremely consistent. All across the world, we know exactly when it will rise and set every day of the year. While clouds may be a bit less predictable, we do also have fairly good seasonal and daily projections for the amount of sunlight that will be received in different locations. All in all, this makes solar power an extremely reliable source of energy.

Solar power provides energy security. On top of the above reliability benefit, no one can go and buy the sun or turn sunlight into a monopoly. Combined with the simplicity of solar panels, this also provides the notable solar power advantage of energy security, something the US military has pointed out for years, and a major reason why it is also putting a lot of its money into the development and installation of solar power systems.

Solar power provides energy independence. Similar to the energy security boost, solar power provides the great benefit of energy independence. Again, the “fuel” for solar panels cannot be bought or monopolized. It is free for all to use. Once you have solar panels on your roof, you have an essentially independent source of electricity that is all yours. This is important for individuals, but also for cities, counties, states, countries, and even companies. I was recently in Ukraine touring various cleantech initiatives and projects. While there, I discovered that Ukraine in recent years has saved approximately $3 billion in reduced oil and gas imports from Russia thanks to the solar power plants developed by a single developer. Impressive.

Solar power creates jobs. As a source of energy, solar power is a job-creating powerhouse. Money invested in solar power creates two to three times more jobs than money invested in coal or natural gas. Here’s a simple chart on that point:

solar energy advantages jobs

So, there are 7 big solar power advantages that you should remember and share. There are actually several more, but I think we can leave it at that for today. Let’s move on to solar power disadvantages….



Solar Power Disadvantages


Solar power disadvantages are actually not so plentiful. In fact, there’s only one notable disadvantage to solar power that I can think of. That disadvantage is that the sun doesn’t shine 24 hours a day. When the sun goes down or is heavily shaded, solar PV panels stop producing electricity. If we need electricity at that time, we have to get it from some other source. In other words, we couldn’t be 100% powered by solar panels. At the very least, we need batteries to store electricity produced by solar panels for use sometime later.

However, there are a couple of key things to note regarding this solar power disadvantage. Firstly, the sun actually does shine when we need electricity most. As humans (not vampires), our days more or less follow the movement of the sun. Society more or less wakes up when the sun rises. At the time of the sun’s greatest height and visibility, humans tend to be most active. At this time, we are of course using much more electricity than in the middle of the night, so electricity is in greater demand. (This also makes electricity more expensive in the middle of the day, making electricity produced from solar panels more valuable.)

Another important point worth noting on this front is that, with storage, solar power could theoretically supply the world with all of its electricity needs. In fact, nothing on earth compares to the energy potential of sunshine:

solar resource potential

Annual energy potential of renewable energy resources vs. total known recoverable reserves of non-renewable energy sources.

So, those are the solar power advantages and disadvantages that I think are most notable. Feel free to chime in with something else if you think I missed something.

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • Illogicbuster

    “Putting solar PV panels on your roof is likely to save you tens of thousands of dollars.”

    Incorrect. I had 3 diferent quotes for my home in SoCal. The BEST one had me breaking even on the COST of the system vs. saving on my electric bill. Welcome to the REAL world.

  • myakka54

    my only comment is that global warming is a myth perpetuated by the Left to raise taxes. While this is not a negative comment on solar, I do see the advantages, please don’t use the myth to sell it. We have actually cooled the last 5 years and all of Al Gores predictions from years ago all proved false. If you are doing it to save money and increase the value of your property fine. You should do well, but don’t think it will change the climate if you do. Again a unproven scientific fact

  • poop

    my dick hurts, i blame solar power

  • David

    I came across this article researching for a solar project. Solar definitely has its place. This article made a few interesting points, but there are a number of inaccuracies. I’ll pick on the one bugging me the most: Jobs.

    This is a disadvantage. I want my friends to have a job as much as the next guy, but doing the same amount of work with more people is actually a negative. I think this is fairly intuitive so it irks me that it’s completely backwards.

    More jobs means there’s more cost associated. More polluters required to get the job done. Something that takes less workers means we can have a higher (or the same) standard of living with less burden on the environment (using solely jobs as a comparison.)

    I can set people digging and refilling holes & raise taxes to pay for it. Is that a good thing? A job is only a good thing if its self-sustaining. I.e., it produces value worthy of the effort.

    This is actually similar to the reason that “energy independence” is an advantage. If a community requires more work (jobs) to produce food than the food it requires to survive, it dies. Same principle with energy, but in a more complex system involving competing economic systems. Likewise, if a community is starved for energy, the cost of that energy may exceed the economic systems ability to purchase it. In an economic system that needs energy to produce value, this will lead to economic death. Energy independence makes it harder for an enemy to hurt you on this front.

  • kewldood

    sup guys

  • nadeem

    hygienic is only our life
    otherwise u r sick person in your life

  • logeshs

    Solar technology is much cheaper than all other electricity resources like fossil fuels by reducing money and makes our society pollution free and it is most useful thing in rural areas.

    http://www.efficaenergy.com/solar-chennai.html

  • logeshs

    Solar power does not depends on fossil fuels or any other energy resources and it does not have any limitations like all other resources on generating electricity. It will more beneficial one for every home and companies.

    http://www.efficaenergy.com/solar-chennai.html

  • http://www.theadvancedgroup.co.uk/ brokejame

    I find many useful information here regarding solar energy. To know something more you can visit this link of the advanced group:

    http://www.theadvancedgroup.co.uk/solar

  • bob

    coool

  • yrenery25@yahoo.com

    just want to ask. what if 1 portion of your panels is covered by leaves or something, does it affect the whole panel???

    tnx

    GOD BLESS

    • Bob_Wallace

      Depends.

      If you’re wired to a central inverter the shaded portion will bring down the performance of the entire array.

      If you have micro-inverters on each panel then the panels covered with leaves will contribute only a little to the output but the non-shady panels will give you their full output.

  • Jesse Katsopolis

    well I think that makes sense! I see what Your trying to say, but next time a little more ORGANISED

  • anasja

    up andat it

  • anasja

    solar energy can be hard to understand

    • Bob_Wallace

      Ask questions. Someone here can probably help you.

  • Ali Asghar

    Safe

  • mimz

    lovely but the disadvantages could have been more helpful.:)

    • Bob_Wallace

      Well, other than the Sun not shining 24/365 what are the disadvantages of solar?

      • Illogicbuster

        Well, that is HUGE. It makes non-viable as a Base load supply.

  • I have a ?

    Can you store this electricity?

    • Bob_Wallace

      I do it every day the Sun shines. I’m posting this right now using solar produced electricity I stored yesterday.

      Storage is the least developed part of our future renewable grid. But there are lots of new ideas that are starting to pan out and it looks like we’ll have very good, affordable storage methods quite soon.

      • I have a ?

        okay thank you

      • Tom

        So when you create the electricity, if you create more than you’re currently using, it goes back to the grid. So when you do need it, you can use the electricity you’ve basically “banked” with the grid, correct?

        • Bob_Wallace

          I’m off the grid and use batteries to store. It’s not as cheap as using grid power but in my case hooking to the grid would have been quiet expensive.

          For people with grid access and “net metering” they can send extra power to the grid and get credit to use for purchasing electricity when their solar isn’t working.

  • jesse

    ;alsdkfja;sdlfkjas;dflkaja;slkdfafeadf

  • lance

    Solar power is changing the world and can save our beautiful plant. With so much government funding pushing this technology it is easy to get a solar system installed.Find out a good solar energy consultant in your area and get a Free
    Home Energy Audit by Clicking Here

  • Emily

    Me again… Can someone post a link to or the name of the source for the jobs graphic? Thanks.

  • Emily

    Don’t forget about the environmental footprint associated with manufacturing solar panels. That certainly is a disadvantage that the industry and its proponents shouldn’t ignore.

    • Bob_Wallace

      It’s not forgotten. But, thankfully, it is so much lower than the environmental footprint of coal, nuclear, petroleum and natural gas.

      If one puts it in perspective and considers the avoided messes solar allows then it should be clear that solar produces immense advantages.

      • Emily

        Of course. But it’s a criticism that will be raised by skeptics and those looking for an excuse to discount solar. The industry would do well to acknowledge it and proactively address these issues when it can. That’s all.

  • jburt56

    The kicker is that 23000 TW!! It’s like Godzilla–SIZE. . .DOES. . .MATTER!!

  • DocScience

    A simple test.
    Go to the bank, borrow $100,000 at 30 years (the lifespan of a solar panel)

    Install $100,000 worth of solar panels in your yard.
    Then see if your electricity output pays the principal and interest on the loan.
    In most of America, it will not.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Give us the rest of your model. Install at what cost per watt?

      Post that and I’ll run the numbers for you.

      • DocScience

        Installed commercial PV at $4100/kw peak, residential at $5000

        PVWATTS solar return calculator,
        4.4% interest rate.

        Run the numbers, there are only very few places where the cost of money is LESS than the electricity produced.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Please, quit using fake numbers.

          Last request.

          • DocScience

            The Federal NREL PVWATTS calculator is fake numbers for generation?
            US mortgages aren’t running 4.4% for 30 years?
            US installed solar commercial rooftop isn’t $4100?
            Residential isn’t $5000?

            Please, tell me the correct numbers as you see them.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The national average price for all classes of solar declined 11.1% from $3.43/W from one year ago to $3.05/W . That is a 31.5% two year drop from the Q2, 2011 price of $4.45/W.

            From Q2, 2012 to Q2, 2013, residential system prices fell 11.5% percent, from $5.43/W to $4.81/W. Common residential system prices ranged from less than $3.00/W to almost $8.00/W.

            Non-residential system prices fell 14.7% percent year-over-year, from $4.35/W to $3.71/W.

            Utility system prices declined 19.2% year-over-year, down from $2.60/W in Q2, 2012 to $2.10/W in Q2, 2013.

            Greentech Media Executive Summaryhttp://www.greentechmedia.com/research/ussmi

            Prices are continuing to fall.

          • DocScience

            So, close enough that your remarks that I was using “Fake numbers” is WAY off the mark.

            An apology?

          • Bob_Wallace

            None earned

          • mds

            Read this: http://www.solarserver.com/solar-magazine/solar-news/current/2013/kw39/lazard-us-utility-scale-solar-pv-costs-have-fallen-to-usd-0071-0082kwh.html
            - September 2013 “Lazard: U.S. utility-scale solar PV costs have fallen to USD 0.071-0.082/kWh”

            “Costs to fall to USD 0.051-0.054/kWh in 2015”
            “Generally speaking, costs for utility-scale thin film PV plants are lower than crystalline silicon, at only USD 0.071-0.078/kWh after subsidies. Lazard also expects utility-scale PV costs to fall to USD 0.051/kWh for thin film 0.054/kWh for crystalline silicon by 2015.”
            “Wind, solar cheaper than conventional power”
            “Wind is the cheapest form of electricity from renewable energy measured by Lazard, at USD 0.023-0.085 after subsidies, less than combined cycle gas turbines at USD 0.061-0.087/kWh.”
            “Even without subsidies, utility-scale PV is generally cheaper than nuclear power (USD 0.086-0.122/kWh) and much cheaper than gas ‘peaking’ plants (USD 0.179-0.230/kWh).”

            …and the cost of Solar PV just keeps falling. Any new coal and new nuclear will be DOA by the time they come on line.

            Solar PV provides a virtually unlimited supply of clean (no CO2) energy AND will be doing so more cost effectively. It is already less then half the price of end-of-grid electricity in Australia, Hawaii, the Caribbean, Saudi Arabia and other MENA countries that use oil for electricity generation, Greek islands, rural India, and others. In the continental USA Solar PV is significantly cheaper than end-of-grid peak rates in areas of Southern California that have tiered rates. In Texas Solar PV is becoming popular because it’s a good way to keep from baking to death in the summer if the grid fails.
            …and on and on…

            You are wrong. Solar is cost effective in many areas right now. It is obviously going to be much more so in the near future. Please take a look at the data on Solar PV costs currently and the trends into the future. Please look at the data on improving Solar PV technology. What kind of Doc of Science does not look at, read, and understand the data? I don’t think you fit that moniker much.

            In two years our USA installations costs should be getting
            close to Germany’s. Our solar resources are wwwaaayyy better. Our demand for air conditioning wwwaaayyy higher. Solar PV fits that very nicely, wwaayyy nicer than in Germany. Solar PV demand is going catch on fire when we catch up to Germany. No breakthroughs required. Solar PV is just getting started. If you don’t see it now, you certainly will in a few more years, as will many others.

    • Marion Meads

      If you need a $100,000 solar PV system, I am sure you are in the top tier when it comes to rate of electricity.

      I would rather say that in most populated areas of America, it will pay off better, it depends upon how you bargain with the solar installers or install the panels yourself. I can get the panels, net to me just after Federal rebates at $2.00/Watt installed. It would be a lot lesser in other parts of America where they have State and Local rebates. So at most, I would get a 50kW peak panel for my $100K. the 50kW peak panel generates 100,375 kWH electricity on the average per year. At top tier, it is worth $0.30/kWh, so saving me $30,112.50 per year! Medium sized wineries for example typically spend $35,000 per year on their electric bills alone, so they can be paid off in slightly less than 4 years time.

    • stephengn

      $100,000 worth of solar panels? You could power a Walmart with that

      • Bob_Wallace

        The “doctor” has not replied, so let me help him out.

        First, if you’re going to install $100k worth of solar you’re getting into the utility size range. And by working back from recent PPA numbers we are pretty sure that installed costs are dropping into the $1.50/watt range (after subsidies).

        So using the standard EIA financing assumptions of 6.6% for 30 years for large scale projects and 4.2 solar hours (17.5% capacity) of the not very sunny Northeast US we find the LCOE of electricity 8.6c/kWh. That includes the EIA estimate of 0.9c/kWh O&M.

        The average cost of electricity in the lower 48 is 11.75c/kWh.

        8.6c is less than 11.75c. More than covers the principal and interest on the loan.

        We have experienced Doc-failure….

        • Omega Centauri

          I think you are comparing against retail cost. The utility is unlikely to offer that much. They would consider you to be offering bulk power, but bulk power which is not firm (i.e. not always available). But they might also cut you a break for helping meet renewable requirements, or because daytime power is more valuable.

          I suspect your city/county zoning department would take too much to make it pay. That’s one reason that larger utility is favored (more megawatts per permit and inspection dollar).

          • Bob_Wallace

            It’s cheaper than peaking power.

          • DocScience

            Depends on where.
            Peaking power in the mid-Atlantic, with a fairly decent rotating reserve of cheap conventional power is low, averaging 15 cents/kw-hr in summer according to my utility, Dominion Power.

            In California, where greens have shut down numerous plants, peaking power is VERY expensive indeed.

            And VERY expensive is what you need to make solar appear reasonable.

          • A Real Libertarian

            So the government making fossil plants not pollute is bad how?

          • DocScience

            It’s the 80/20 rule and the VALUE of energy.
            Look at pollution from a 1940 US (or a 2013 Chinese) coal plant, pretty gruesome. Particulates, sulfur compounds, nasties.

            Today, in the US, one can live near a coal plant and hang your laundry outside and it stays white. And acid rain, seems to have disappeared. Black smoke has turned to mostly white vapor.

            But as we tighten the rules to ZERO, what happens is an extreme increase in costs with a much lower value. the 20/80 and 10/90 rules come into play.

            And those extreme increases in energy costs LOWER the standard of living for the poor and middle classes.
            And THAT is the bad how.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The answer is simply to quit burning coal. That’s where we’re heading.
            And you left out the cost of climate change….

          • A Real Libertarian

            Bob, since DocScience can’t see it, it doesn’t exist!
            Don’t you know anything about science!

          • DocScience

            And greens routinely leave out the COSTS of expensive power in reduced standards of living, loss of jobs, loss of industry. And yes, loss of life as well.

            Britain has tens of thousands freezing to death in winter because they can’t afford to heat their homes. This is something which hasn’t happened since the 1800′s.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “And greens routinely leave out the COSTS of expensive power in reduced standards of living, loss of jobs, loss of industry. And yes, loss of life as well.”

            No, we try to stop that by making the generator and consumers pay the cost instead of hiding them through externalities and letting the costs fester and spread in the dark. After all if you have a malignant tumor where do you want it: on your face and impossible to miss or deep in your guts and hard to find?

            Why is the death of someone who dies of hyperthermia (incidentally where solar shines) more tragic then the death of someone who dies of emphysema?

            “Britain has tens of thousands freezing to death in winter because they can’t afford to heat their homes. This is something which hasn’t happened since the 1800′s.”

            Maybe they should have invested in insulation instead of pouring money down the Hinkley Point C rat hole?

          • DocScience

            Maybe they should have not followed that green advice as to make energy expensive so you won’t use as much.

          • A Real Libertarian

            Question, who controls the UK’s energy supply?

            P.S. Anything you got out of The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Gaia is unacceptable.

          • DocScience

            Ok, who controls UK’s energy supply?

          • A Real Libertarian

            “Ok, who controls UK’s energy supply?”

            Not environmentalists.

          • DocScience

            No government control at all?

            How libertarian. I had no idea.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Britain has tens of thousands freezing to death in winter”

            Back up that claim, please.

          • DocScience

            http://www.poverty.org.uk/67/index.shtml

            Can’t research it yourself or is your ideology in the way?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sorry, you link does not support your claims. Deaths are not rising as the UK installs renewable energy.

            Respiratory illness rates are higher in the winter.

          • DocScience
          • Bob_Wallace

            Renewable subsidies do not apply to gas prices. UK gas prices are up simply because the cost of gas has increased.

            “Since the turn of the century, householders have seen their energy bills almost double.

            Research published last month showed the average cost for gas and electricity last year altogether was £1,339, which was 85 per cent more than the £710 paid in 2000.

            The figures – adjusted to 2012 prices to take inflation into account – show that gas bills went up by 119 per cent and electricity bills by 47 per cent between 2000 and last year.

            In the past two years alone, gas bills surged by 19 per cent and electricity by 11 per cent.

            According to the study by the House of Commons Library, the worst offenders were British Gas and the former regional electricity monopolies.”

            http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2451656/Energy-company-SSE-raise-gas-electricity-prices-8-2-cent.html

            I’m afraid you’re trying to use correlation to infer causation.

            Here’s the load put on electricity by renewable subsidies…

            “Every British household will pay an average of more than £400 in higher bills over the next six years to pay for subsidies under controversial Government plans to hit green power targets.”

            http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10357189/Green-energy-to-cost-consumers-400-over-next-five-years.html

            £400 over 5 years. £80 pounds per year. £6.7 per month.

            $10.72 per month.

            Now, you’re trying to tell us that tens of thousands of Brits are dying each year because they can’t afford $10.72/month?

            Then there’s this…

            “The British Gas Energy Trust, which incorporates the Scottish Gas Energy Trust, is an independent Charitable Trust established in 2004. It was the first national utility Trust of its kind.

            The Trust contributes to the relief of poverty, with a particular
            focus on fuel poverty and helping those who are struggling to pay for their consumption of gas and electricity.”

            Sorry Charlie….

          • Bob_Wallace

            OK, here are total deaths by month in the US for 1995 to 2002.

            Notice how the numbers are higher in the winter?

            Do you think that’s because the UK has put a small surcharge on electricity prices in 2012?

          • DocScience

            Contact the UK Pensioner group and let them know that they are wrong that high energy prices are killing their members.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Furthermore, the UK has some of the very lowest residential natural gas and heating oil costs in Europe.

            http://www.energy.eu/#Domestic-Gas

          • A Real Libertarian

            The Daily Fail?

          • mds

            OK, at this point you prove yourself a purveyor of false information. …and point your nose in the air at the same time. Well, professor maybe your a little over-full of yourself …and off your nut!
            “tens of thousands” yeh right. I was in Scotland last year. Lots of wind power, lots of Solar PV, no sign of anyone freezing, not on their news either.

          • DocScience
          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m going to try hard to not call you the names you deserved to be called.
            No one in the UK is dying over a <$11 increase in electricity costs. Especially when the UK has support programs for those who have trouble paying their utility bills.

            There is a problem with rising utility bills, as your links point out. Fuel costs are rising, as your links point out. Renewable subsidies do not add to the cost of natural gas or heating oil.

            You're a fount of misinformation "Doc". Can't believe that you actually might have earned a degree that requires a basic understanding of cause and effect. Being dishonest about that as well or did you just purchase your title from some diploma mill?

          • mds

            OK Bob I’m out. Not fun anymore.
            I seriously think this guy is senile or psychotic. Bye.

          • DocScience

            Thank heavens that you are so supportive of lowing the prices of energy. None of those taxes or artificially increasing prices to FORCE lower use as seems to be the rule for greens. Green policies in general seem to INCREASE the cost of energy. In Germany, the people just passed the TRILLION Euro mark in paying more for solar and wind. Perhaps you can point to a green policy that which DECREASES the price of energy. Ah yes, not using it. Using less. Conserving, as those pensioners are doing.

            Or as Candidate Obama said in a moment of truth: “under my plan, electricity prices will necessarily sky rocket”

            So, we have numerous reports in multiple sources and statements by the pensioner association that high energy prices are killing people. But it’s “misinformation”. Call the Pensioner Association and set them straight.

            Hey, don’t let your green pals know you support cheap energy, they might call YOU names and not let you play any reindeer games.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Drop the all caps Doc.

            You really are a tiresome person.

            You want examples of renewable energy lowering electricity prices? Here’s a few.

            Solar on the grid reduced the wholesale price of electricity by approximately EUR 5 billion in 2012.

            http://qualenergia.it/sites/default/files/articolo-doc/RA-January-2013_Germany-Wholesale-Power-Report-3.pdf

            Germany is saving EUR 8 billion a year in fossil fuel import costs right now

            http://cleantechnica.com/2013/03/17/germany-1-trillion-projected-fossil-fuel-import-savings-from-energiewende/#SeSqsbWCrdY4Pvbe.99

            Germany’s record solar output has kept sky-high European energy prices from surging even higher.

            European day-ahead electricity prices in July remained 12 percent below prices from a year ago even though a massive heat wave swept the continent with temperatures 10 degrees Celsius higher than seasonal averages, according to a release from Platts, an energy and resource research and reporting firm. The heat wave created tremendous electricity demand for air conditioning at the same time several coal and nuclear power plants failed or closed and there was a dip in hydropower production.

            http://www.cleanenergyauthority.com/solar-energy-news/solar-keeps-european-electric-rates-down-080613

            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!

            Basically, simple supply and demand tells you that supply kicks in at around the same time demand kicks in, making electricity prices lower than they would be if supply didn’t grow like that.

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

            Oh, the solar power haters* are going to love 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.

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

            Oklahomans will soon be paying less for their electricity because their utility looked at the market and decided that wind power would be the most cost-effective option.

            On Thursday, the 100-year-old Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) — a division of American Electric Power (AEP) — signed an agreement to buy 600 megawatts of power from wind farms being developed in the northwestern part of the state.

            Currently there is just one large-scale wind farm in the Panhandle and in almost two years, there will be three more.

            “The Panhandle of Oklahoma truly is one of the mother lodes of wind in this country,” said Clean Line Energy Partners President Michael Skelly.

            The initial plan was just to buy one 200 MW project, but PSO tacked on another 400 MW “after seeing extraordinary pricing opportunities thatwill lower utility costs by an estimated $53 million in the first year and even more thereafter,” according to Tulsa World.

            http://www.saveusgreen.com

            Adding more wind power to the grid in the PJM region can lower gas and coal consumption and reduce regional wholesale energy market prices, saving nearly $7 billion per year in the mid-2020s, according to a new study conducted by Synapse Energy Economics on behalf of Americans for a Clean Energy Grid (ACEG). The report found that doubling the wind generation already planned in the region would lower fuel costs and drive down prices by $1.74 per megawatt hour (MWh) in the largest wholesale competitive energy market in the world, PJM, which includes all or partsof 13 states and Washington, DC. The savings also extend into the regions interconnected with PJM.

            http://cleantechnica.com/2013/05/13/double-wind-power-save-nearly-7-billion-per-year-in-mid-atlantic-us/#SY035LVZHrF8XGQy.99

          • DocScience

            German electric power is 3x the cost of the US.
            They are saving negative 24 cents/kw-hr.

          • Bob_Wallace

            German residential rates are 36c/kWh. Industrial rates are 8.7c/kWh.

            The 27.3c difference is taxes and excess profits that are charged to residential users and not to large industry.

            That’s the way they’ve been doing it long before renewables were part of the picture.

          • mds

            Oh pleeezze, because of renewable energy costs? You really are a nutter. Bob Wallace has a calm and reasonable answer for you.

            “You IGNORE what disagrees with what YOU believe.”
            It’s on you dude. Get your meds checked man.
            “USE OF SOLAR AND WIND KILLS TENS OF THOUSANDS IN UK… EXPOSE AT 10:00″ Wow, what a nut.

          • mds

            “Britain has tens of thousands freezing to death in winter because they can’t afford to heat their homes.”
            BS – Reference please!

          • Bob_Wallace

            He posted some data which showed that deaths are higher in the winter.
            Old folks tend to die at a higher rate during flu season. Respiratory problems are worse in winter. There was nothing at all proving, or even indicating, that the increased deaths were due to “they can’t afford to heat their homes”.

          • DocScience

            The answer is to balance cost vs value.
            And include the cost of expensive alternatives in the decision rather than pretend it makes no difference.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “And include the cost of expensive alternatives in the decision rather than pretend it makes no difference.”

            Agreed! As long as you count the costs of the status quo and make no mistake, even if other people have to pay the costs they’re still costs.

          • A Real Libertarian

            So as long as don’t see it happening, you can ignore it?
            Yeah, hate to break it to you, but “if you can’t see it, it can’t see you” isn’t actually true.

          • DocScience

            Not at all.

            You want to compare coal? Check out China and the US.

          • DocScience

            I live in a 1970′s solar community, when we moved in, almost every home had panels on the roof.

            Now, lots of roof repair bills later, NOT ONE of the homes in my neighborhood has panels on the roof. ZERO.

            It rains a lot here.

          • A Real Libertarian

            Wow, that’s not like how I’ve heard solar panels work, it’s almost as if technology has advanced since the 70s or something.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I really doubt you live in a community that was solar powered and built in the 1970s. Panel prices were over $12/W. In those days’ dollars.

            I have no idea why there are no panels on your roofs today. Perhaps your neighbors are as ill informed as you?

          • A Real Libertarian

            Want to bet DocScience doesn’t know the difference between PV and solar water heaters?

            If not, want to bet DocScience doesn’t know there is a difference?

          • DocScience

            Let’s see, the size of the “wires”.
            Or is it the color of the panels.
            Or the thickness of the panels.

            It’s been so long.

          • DocScience

            They had 1 or 2 panels.
            And some had solar hot water, even worse.

        • DocScience

          I have a wealthy friend with a $250,000 system on his estate.
          They exist. And HIS was wiped out by a lightning strike last year. Fortunately he had the extra $50,000 to install a really nice lightning protection system on the replacements his insurance paid out.

          The absolute NUMBER makes no difference. It’s the paltry return vs the capital that counts.

          If you need to start cheaper, spend $10,000 on a system.
          I will spend that same $10,000 on dividend stocks.

          Check back in a few years and let me know how you all are doing.

          My assumptions…

          1. No exorbitant feed-in tariffs. You sell power at the retail rate, which is about 12 cents/kw-hr.
          2. Installed residential solar is going for $5000/KW in the US this year.
          3. You actually PAY for the system with your own and no one else’s money.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “3. You actually PAY for the system with your own and no one else’s money.”
            You counting bank loans as other peoples money?

          • DocScience

            With interest, of course.

            And there lies the issue. The cost of money exceeds the return for most of America.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sure, if you phoney up the numbers.

            You’ve played your game. Go elsewhere please.

          • DocScience

            Can’t take the heat, got it.

            Why not just have me banned. That way you don’t have to be confronted with opinions, logic and facts that disagree with your ideology.

            STFU, it’s the progressive way.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “Why not just have me banned”

            Because greens are arrogant enough to believe they’re always right and therefore prize free discussion? As opposed to anti-greens who are humble enough to admit they’re talking out their ass and therefore must shut up anyone who points out the obvious?

          • Bob_Wallace

            We do not tolerate people who post false information.

            If you wish to engage in the comment section please check your sources.

          • A Real Libertarian

            Yeah, you post lies, you got hit with the cluebat.

          • mds

            No heat just non-sense. What there were logic and facts somewhere in that mess? …not.

            “Why not just have me banned.”
            Uh, excellent suggestion, since you don’t have any LOGIC or FACTS or even a coherent argument. Seriously, you are not all there Doc. …and I’m not going to be nice while you’re picking UNFAIRLY and UNREASONABLY on my favorite technology.

          • mds

            You’re an idiot. Solar install companies like Sunrun and Solarcity are providing financing to put solar on homes out of money saved on their electric bills in Hawaii and in Southern California. Expect the savings to the customers to increase, along with demand, as the installation costs drop closer to what you see in Germany now.
            Solar PV is less than half the price of end-of-grid electricity in Hawaii …and the cost continues to fall everywhere …and cheap storage is now coming to the market. What planet did you say you were visiting from?

          • Bob_Wallace

            I can set up a weighted scenario as well. How about you invest your money in some stocks that fail? How would that work out?

            If you want to talk about the real world residential solar prices are now as low as $3/W. After the federal subsidy that would be $2.1/W, $2,100 per kW of installed panels.

            In the middle of the US, 4.5 average solar hours per day you’d produce 1,642 kWh which at $0.12/kWh would yield $197. A 9% return on investment.
            Even installing at the nationwide average cost of $4.81 would yield a 6% return. Not shabby on an investment with low volatility.

            Historic return on the S&P 500 is around 8%.

            “But!”, you exclaim, “You’re using other people’s money!!!”

            Big deal. Ever look at the external costs of oil and coal?

          • DocScience

            I use the NREL PVWATTS calculator. It uses real data for insolation and electric rates.

            It says that in Wichita KS, (pretty close to the middle of the US) a 1KW peak system will generate $107.88, not $197 of electricity per year.

            I trust NREL, do you?

          • Bob_Wallace

            You can pick a place where solar has not yet reached grid parity. Or you can pick a place where it has.

            I’m not sure what your issue is. What you’ve done so far is attempt to get away with using numbers that aren’t representative and compare a safe/non-volatile investment to a volatile investment.

          • DocScience

            When solar reaches “parity” it usually means that greens have artificially increased the cost of conventional power to that which makes EXPENSIVE green power seem ok.

            Hawaii, solar makes sense. They generate power with oil, ouch, painful, pricey, not that wise. Built those solar farms. Put up those windmills. And why exactly are there no cheap power nuclear plants there? Ah, green ideology, got it.

            Seattle, please, it RAINS almost almost the time, hydro is cheap, why waste the money on solar?

            We mentioned the MIDDLE of the country, solar makes little sense from an economic perspective there, but hey, the wind blows like crazy there, build turbines and create wealth. It’s ok.

            All I ask is a rational, not a ideological choice for power at the cheapest possible point. For the children.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Fine.

            Don’t ask for nuclear. The cost is extremely high and you end up leaving all that radioactive waste for your children and their children and their children and ….

            Don’t ask for coal. New coal is as expensive as new nuclear and it would help screw up the climate your children and their children and … will live in.

            Don’t ask for onshore wind in the middle of the day. The cost of storing it would make it more expensive than solar.

            Ask away. Just try to understand what you’re asking for.

          • DocScience

            I live an area where the electricity is created with nuclear and coal.

            Just got a notice from the power company, the rate is going down to 10.8 cents/kw-hr..

            Enjoy.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “The cost of large-scale solar projects has fallen by one third in the last five years and big solar now competes with wind energy in the solar-rich south-west of the United States, according to new research.

            The study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory entitled “Utility-Scale Solar 2012: An Empirical Analysis of Project Cost, Performance, and Pricing Trends in the United States” – says the cost of solar is still falling and contracts for some solar projects are being struck as low as $50/MWh (including a 30 per cent federal tax credit).”

            “Another interesting observation from LBNL is that most of the contracts written in recent years do not escalate in nominal dollars over the life of the contract. This means that in real dollar terms, the pricing of the contract actually declines.

            This means that towards the end of their contracts, the solar plants (including PV, CSP and CPV) contracted in 2013 will on average will be delivering electricity at less than $40/MWh. This is likely to be considerably less than fossil fuel plants at the same time, given the expected cost of fuels and any environmental regulations.”

            http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/big-solar-now-competing-with-wind-energy-on-costs-75962

          • A Real Libertarian

            “For the children”

            Except the children dying of respiratory illness or brain damaged by mercury, they don’t count apparently.

          • DocScience

            Unaware of chidren dying of mercury from US coal plants.

            Can you advise?

          • A Real Libertarian

            DocScience: “For the children”

            Me: “Except the children dying of respiratory illness or brain damaged by mercury, they don’t count apparently.”

            DocScience: “Unaware of chidren dying of mercury from US coal plants.”

            There you have it folks, the children dying of respiratory illness and brain damaged by mercury don’t count.

            “Can you advise?”

            Yes, my advice? Read what your opponent says and then answer.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “And why exactly are there no cheap power nuclear plants there? Ah, green ideology, got it.”

            Yeah, those filthy greens demanding the reactor shields be built out of shielding instead of plywood with a big-ass horseshoe nailed to it, how do live with yourselves? HOW?

          • mds

            “When solar reaches “parity” it usually means that greens have artificially increased the cost of conventional power to that which makes EXPENSIVE green power seem ok.”
            You mean like in Hawaii were we forced them to use diesel to generate most of their electricity …or in Hawaii were they don’t have much left for fossil fuel resources and have a terrible smog problem just from cars. Oh if only the silly Californians would import and burn coal down by the ocean, like the Chinese, then their air quality would just as fine as it is in those Chinese cities.
            Another nutter comment Doc. Have your Doc check those meds.

          • mds

            “…or in California” not Hawaii for the second example

          • DocScience

            Ever calculate the external costs of expensive energy? People die from it as well.

    • Omega Centauri

      You gotta get the PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) first. Depends of the price you can get for the juice.

      A few large utility grade plants have offered power for less than what fossil fueled plants do.

      But, you gotta get a lot of ducks in a row, low cost panels/mounting,inverters, don’t pay too much for permits and not pay too much interest. Not sure how well sub megawatt farms do.

    • mds

      DocScience = NewTroll
      Your moniker is ironic since you push dis-information.
      You’re nuts mon. Wind is getting so cheap that republicans and even tea party members are crossing the ilse to defend it in some states.
      Solar PV is less than half the price of end-of-gird electricity in many places including Hawaii in the USA. At current trends this will easily be true in Southern California before the end of this decade.
      Solar PV, Wind, and Storage will continue to drop in price. Coal and Nuclear cannot do this. Coal and Nuclear are doomed …and none too soon.
      NG is just a bridge fuel and will compliment solar and wind for a time.
      Bob Wallace is correct throughout your discussion below. You bring false arguments to the table. You are a liar and a cheat. A discussion with you would be fruitless, pointless. You are a troll and you are wrong.

      • Bob_Wallace

        How about holding back on the name calling a bit? (I know how hard that can be. I often have to rewrite my comments. ;o)

        Doc, not much of a scientist, does seem to have an agenda. He turns up around the intertubes making anti-solar arguments, using out of date/wrong numbers and looking for ways to convince others that solar doesn’t work.

        • mds

          Aaaawww, I can’t taunt the Troll?
          Sorry, if you say not to, then I’ll relent. The guy has no logical argument. As you yourself point out. He’s off his nut or he is in fact a Troll.
          I’m putting up one more thing then I’m out.

          • mds

            Sorry Bob, I lied. He got under my skin …and it’s fun! Fewer names per line though ;-)

        • DocScience

          I am a retired R&D director. I make comments where I see people arguing ideology over facts.

          Solar and wind just seem to be areas where greens go crazy. Capital is FREE, payback a farce. Repairs, equipment lifespans? Don’t exist.

          Solar PV works, just not cheaply enough to actually pay for itself in most places. I see people in rainy Seattle buying solar… insanity. Cloudy Germany where the electrical peak is in January, mad as hatters.

          Hey, Hawaii, sun up all the time, burning oil for electricity? Solar? Build it! The third world where the option is burning dung and kerosene, build it.

          Rationality over ideology. Try it. You might find it pleasing.

          • mds

            Seriously? R&D? When did your outlook get so fossilized?

            For me it is not ideology over facts, sorry. The cost trends for solar, wind, and storage are very clear. The problems with coal and nuclear are very clear. Solar PV is obviously extremely cost effective during the day in Hawaii right now for example. It is past parity in many places in Southern California and yes they could have lower power prices, but that doesn’t really matter. The cost of Solar PV is dropped and is becoming cost effective right across the Southern USA. I would think somebody with an R&D background might get that. Curious. I once saw Linus Pauling speak many years ago (30). At the end my buddy’s dad, chairman of biochem at the UW, asked what I thought. I knew he was brilliant and had contributed hugely to his field but I also commented that he seemed a little nutty when it came to vitamins. I think this later became widely recognized. Maybe you are the same?

            “Solar and wind just seem to be areas where greens go crazy. Capital is FREE, payback a farce. Repairs, equipment lifespans? Don’t exist.”
            Repairs I cannot speak to, maybe Bob can. The rest is nonsense, Oh, there are the usual cases of farce, as in any industry, but there are many cases of happy customers with reliable power delivered for decades. The economic viability of Solar PV is undeniable in a number of areas right now and you can expect this to increase.

            “Solar PV works, just not cheaply enough to actually pay for itself in most places. I see people in rainy Seattle buying solar… insanity. Cloudy Germany where the electrical peak is in January, mad as hatters.”

            I live in Seattle and advise friends Solar PV is not economical here. Germany has more expensive power because of their poor fossil fuel resources. They can become more dependent on coal imports, they can import uranium for more nuclear plants like France (don’t think they like that), or they can start building solar and wind and figuring out how to store. They seems to be succeeding at that. The idea that their electricity prices are higher because of their renewables is false. It is just the other way around Doc. Figure it out. Renewables are helping to keep their energy costs down. Their solar resources do suck compared to ours in the Southern USA, which can include Seattle when you consider we already trade HVDC power with California. Where ya been Doc?

            “Rationality over ideology.” Yes, I find it pleasing. Solar PV and Wind are already winning …and they are still getting cheaper. Lower cost storage is now coming to the market. These are the facts of the situation that YOU should be more aware of. Wake up Doc! Theoretical positions that are not backed up by real-world scientific evidence are just bs opinions and nothing more. A little R&D review for you their Doc!
            At least we can agree on Hawaii and the Developing World. 5 or 10 years ago my position was the same, but I was less sure of it. You would not have believed me. I’m telling you now that Hawaii and the Developing World were just start. In 5 more years Solar PV will be taking the Southern USA by storm. …even you will have figured it out by then. Maybe you can tune in and figure out where Solar PV R&D is actually taking us right now. chao!

          • DocScience

            They burn oil for power in Hawaii. Even more stupid and expensive than solar.

            And THAT takes some doing.

      • DocScience

        Ah the greens just can’t take the truth and have to demonize those who disagree with the dancing unicorn line.

        When solar is REALLY cheaper, I will be in line.

        We aren’t there yet.

        Wind is getting cheap in the central plains US, where there is no demand and the costs of backup power are foisted on others. No question.

        Liar and cheat? Look in a mirror and see it up close.

        • mds

          Just callin’em like I see’em. You demonized yourself. Solar already is cheaper, just not in your area yet. Yes, you will be in line and only thanks to those who did not listen to your nonsense. If wind is such a bad deal in the central plains, then why do they keep wanting to build more of it? Again, with the false information. The mirror says I’ve waited decades to make the claim that solar is cost effective and I try hard to be honest with the facts. If your not then it just helps build disbelief. Yes, I’m a green. Yes, Solar PV and Wind are now cost effective in many areas. Yes, you are a dirtbag. …under the moniker of science you proclaim arrogant to own the truth, yet your facts and claims are often false. Sorry, I don’t have pretty names for that. “What goes around comes around.”

          • A Real Libertarian

            Oh, there’s an easy explanation.

            DocScience does not refer to our puny Earth science.

            It refers to the glorious super science of the planet Nukina.

            Where the best way to learn something is to proclaim what you want to believe, to be true.

        • Tommy Maq

          Solar has been cheaper in many installations for a long time.

          Look at the RV, camping or boating market for an obvious modern example of solar being worth it.

          Similarly, Mexicans have been covering their roofs for decades…because they have lots of money to waste?

          Then Google “passive solar” for the evidence that disproved your claim thousands of years ago.

          • DocScience

            Solar makes really good sense where a small gasoline or diesel generator is the option. No question. It even makes sense where oil is burned for steam turbine electricity on a large scale, as in Hawaii.

            But that’s not what we are talking about, is it?

          • Tommy Maq

            “Ah the greens just can’t take the truth and have to demonize those who disagree with the dancing unicorn line.

            When solar is REALLY cheaper, I will be in line.”

            But didn’t you just agree that, really, solar is cheaper?

            “In the right spot!” you might object – but isn’t that also true every form of generation?

            Also, didn’t the largest solar power tower in the world just start up a while back? I don’t think they were doing that to *lose* millions of dollars!

            Meanwhile, I knew a guy who put a marine windmill generator above his home in Colorado, and he now sells back three times as much every month as he ever used. So he put up another one.

            High prices aren’t the only thing motivating people to adopt. Shoddy electrical grids in developing countries also create a strong incentive for people with sensitive operations like hospitals or police stations.

            Passive solar and geothermal for home use has been around *forever* – since the first neanderthal that thought to build his house facing east.

            Distributed power, wind and solar, is the mouse that roared. What’s great is that the same grid that was intended for production and distribution still works great for distributing what everyone can create.

            OTOH, electric cars are a joke, even if they aren’t rigged up to the regular grid. Much better to burn the oil locally for that function.

            But, you know, if some eco-pagan wants to run their Prius off their own private installation who am I to complain?

            More power to them!

  • mk1313

    An advantage somewhat alluded to but not specifically stated is the use of distributed generation on mile upon square mile of currently wasted roof space. Thus a lot of the land use is double purposed.

    • Bob_Wallace

      We need to move to a model in which a non-road facing south/east/west roof slope is a building asset, a revenue generator. Make the entire roof electricity producing and let the building sell it to the grid.

      • mk1313

        Yes but there is a lot, a hell of a lot, that can be done with what is out there already so we need not wait for this ideal.

    • Matt

      And if there is an air gap between the panel and the roof, the roof should be cooler than without panels. So attic is cooler, so less AC load.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Panels need an air flow behind them as well.

        We could build a whole roof system in which the panels and racks were the roof and both panels and attic space ventilated.

        • Omega Centauri

          They would still work without the gap/airflow. But higher temps would decrease output, and probably decrease lifetime.

      • Marion Meads

        I’ve been thinking of using a guided air flow under the panels and sucking the heated air out for supplying pre-heated air to dry laundry, or for preheating the air during winter, or when you are not doing drying or heating, simply venting it out passively but more effectively using the guided air flow. This would have potential double purpose and it keeps the panels cool for better efficiency.

        • Omega Centauri

          There is at least one manufacturer who was making dual purpose panels, PV -and (I think) water heating. Don’t know about the cost. I also worry that if the cooling system leaked, could it damage the panels. At this point I’d be very cautious.

          Better airflow would help, output on windy days exceeds output on calm days.

      • Omega Centauri

        Gap or no gap, on a clear night the roof surface would be 10-20 degrees warmer. So under the right conditions it might marginally help keep your house warm.

        • Marion Meads

          It depends on your roof material and where you live and time of the year. Remember that frost first form on top of the trees and houses during the winter.

          During the summer, yes, the roof could initially be warmer in the early evening, if the roof has enough thermal inertia such as made of bricks. The roof temperature would then continue to plummet, much cooler than air temperature due to black body radiation especially on clear nights, into the first crack of dawn. The roof temperature would actually continue to cool down even as the air temperature warms up, even up to 30 minutes after sunrise because of thermal inertia, and that is how dew forms on surfaces.

          • Tommy Maq

            There is no such thing as thermal *inertia*. Temperature changes don’t carry momentum.

            That phrase refers to the way temperature changes slow down when temperatures are closer together.

            (And the dew usually forms in the early part of the night during the cooling, when the air still has a lot of humidity to deposit.)

          • Marion Meads

            you obviously did not have any agrometeorological classes. A land mass that has cooled down during the evening will continue to remain cool and have a cooling effect even when the sun is out in the early morning and the air has warmed up. Similarly during the evening, the body of water that has warmed up will remain warm even when the air has cooled down. This is termed thermal inertia because they continue to do energy transfer just by virtue of their large mass. That is why we have the breezes, due to thermal inertia. Intiendes?

          • Tommy Maq

            I understand the jargon.

            Do you understand that you weren’t using that term in that way?

            You’ve used it in the sense of momentum – that the roof will continue to cool down because it was cooling down, even when the air warms up – which is not true.

          • Marion Meads

            It depends on the roof material, such as roof tiles or bricks. Even your windshield in your car carries some thermal inertia, if you know the jargon.

          • Tommy Maq

            It doesn’t depend on the material – you were using the jargon as if temperature changes have momentum. But they don’t.

  • JamesWimberley

    Another pretty but confusing chart. Are the data proportional to the area of the circles or the volume of shaded spheres? Let me say it again: read Tufte.

    Solar on the terawatt scale does have the disadvantage of a significant land take. If you put the plants in the deserts of Libya or Rajasthan, you need expensive long-distance transmission, as with giant hydro plants. The US Southwest already has environmental issues with utility solar plants in deserts. We may be able to get enough electricity with covering sun-facing rooftops and car parks in cities, but what are the numbers?

    Solar, like wind, is only labour-intensive in installation. Greens should be the first to admit that panels need very little maintenance. Several decades from now, when we reach sustainability, solar jobs will shrink dramatically.

    An advantage you missed is long life. Panel manufacturers give 25-year guarantees of 80% output. But they are being conservative, the mean is considerably better. There are 40-year old panels still working fine. String inverters have shorter lives, microinverters similar ones to panels. The problem with these guarantees is that the life expectancy of panels is much greater than that of the companies that make them.

    • Marion Meads

      I’ve seen some installed cheap panels from China that began peeling off or have damaged internal wirings in less than 5 years time. They needed replacement as they are no longer producing electricity. Not all panels are made the same, considering that at massive scales, quality assurance and control are seldom practiced in China.

      • Bob_Wallace

        There have been some problems with inferior products hitting the market.
        That’s why labs had been set up to certify panel quality.

        You can’t stop people from manufacturing junk, but you can set up systems to identify good quality.

        • Marion Meads

          Even with quality checks, some bad apples will fall through the cracks. It is very prohibitive to test each panel, so random sampling and testing is used. And that is where you need the replacement warranty. Let us just hope that the manufacturers would still be there before the warranty expires. Silicon based with glass panels have proven their worth and are still functioning more than 50 years later, spewing out 70% to 85% of their original power. I can’t say the same for the new mass produced panels. At the rate the manufacturers are going belly up, it is no longer a guarantee that these companies would still be there when you found out the defective panels before the stated warranty expires.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Then purchase from market leaders. Don’t shop for bargain prices. Don’t buy “overstock” from manufactures that have gone out of business.

            While I recognize that there have been a few (out of the ~450) panel manufacturers who have produced panels with problems, I’ve heard nothing about a high rate of failures.

            A 30 year study of panels found that over the 30 years there was a ~2% panel failure. For the entire 30 years. I would expect that the industry has learned from those few failed panels and the best manufacturers are now producing even higher quality panels.

          • Omega Centauri

            It would be possible to set up an industrywide insurance like fund to back warranties -even for manufactuers who went bankrupt -provided they paid into the fund when they made/sold them.

          • Bob_Wallace

            There are “warranty” companies. Some manufactures purchase what is essentially an insurance policy that covers any warranty claims against their products. Since the premium is prepaid the warranty will be valid even if the manufacturer is no longer around.

            I seem to recall that at least one panel manufacturer goes that route, but I can’t recall a source.

  • Shiggity

    It is technically possible to go 100% solar power. We would need HVDC lines going across the pacific and atlantic oceans. Trading electricity across the globe is possible. Europe can trade electricity across 4 time zones.

    • Jouni Valkonen

      Yes, but it is not economically possible. HVDC lines are too expensive per GW per 1000 km.

      Instead we can go 100% solar simply using storage technology and adjusting electricity demand on daily solar cycle. It is not necessary to drive factories 24/7 and in three shifts.

    • DocScience

      Why not have unicorns carry the power across the globe?

      • A Real Libertarian

        You mean like how unicorns transmit data across the globe?

    • Tommy Maq

      The Bering Strait is sufficient to make that connection.

      http://www.geni.org/

  • technopundit

    Though I think we’re a long ways away from having to worry about it, it is worth noting that converting a significant portion of the earth’s surface to the purpose of energy generation (reducing the amount of earth’s surface area that absorbs solar energy) may also have an impact on climate and biosystems.

    Even deserts have ecosystems that depend on the sunlight that hits the area.

    • Grad

      That may be true for ground based PV which uses good land, but it is not true for rooftops and for PV on already degraded land (abandoned mines, highway fence, irrigation canals…).

      PV has a lot of room left.

    • Marion Meads

      When the sun hits the earth, solar radiation are either reflected back directly or reradiated at different wavelength. Meanwhile some are transformed and captured into bioenergy, evaporating the water to give us hydroelectric, absorbed thermally by the oceans and the land masses to give us wind, weather, ocean currents…. But these are all transformed into heat ultimately, which are then re-radiated back into space by virtue of black body radiation. The biggest problem we have is the re-radiation portion when we have greenhouse gasses (GHG) in the atmosphere. The GHG serves as a thermal blanket that heats the air when black body radiation hits it, that is why we have the greenhouse effect. We need to stop loading the atmosphere with GHG. When we capture sunlight in solar thermal and solar PV, we don’t distort the overall energy balance because the captured energy would still all be lost as heat ultimately, which is happening right now, whether we capture the sun’s energy or let it hit the asphalt roads. It is true that there will be local microclimate disruption and changes in some ecology depending upon how large the installations are on massive scales. But utilizing your rooftops right now will even help cool the planet down because instead of heating up your rooftops and the air during the summer and running your aircon full blast, the energy is captured, while decreasing the thermal load on your house, and you wouldn’t need to run the aircon as much, and your aircon is being powered by solar instead of GHG emitting power sources. I am just specifying few cases, the dynamics is more complicated but it results in less use of GHG loading into our atmosphere when we use solar energy.

      • Omega Centauri

        PV energy is also converted to heat when the juice is used. A bigger problem is more light is absorbed by panels than natural ground, so humongous amounts of PV would heat the planet. [Not the amounts we use today, but if we then think there are no limits...]

        • Amy Clavero Real

          Many solar panels have smooth reflective surface especially at certain angles of incidence.

        • Bob_Wallace

          We panels we lose a bit of albedo, but we also avoid a lot of heat-trapping CO2. I suspect the math works nicely in solar’s favor.

        • Marion Meads

          There are limits because the surface area of the earth for solar interception is finite. We don’t need to cover the entire planet with solar PV either. There are areas where almost all unreflected solar radiation are converted into heat, the 70% surface area of the earth. Tapping into solar radiation for all of our energy needs will not disrupt the energy balance of the earth where it is receiving the same amount of solar radiation anyway, whether we redirect them for electricity or let it heat the oceans and the land, because even the solar electricity would still be ultimately end up as heat, which is already accounted for in the global energy balance. It is a matter of how significantly we alter the albedo of the earth’s surface with the use of solar PV for all the world’s energy needs, which would still be truly negligible in proportion to the total earth’s surface area exposed to the sun.

    • Bob_Wallace

      You’re greatly overestimating the amount of land required for solar.

      See that little green square on the US portion of the map? That’s the area needed if we were to get 100% of our electricity from solar. Which we won’t do.

      My guess is that solar will top out at about 30% of our total supply. (Wind ~50% and other renewables the other 20%.)

      So cut that little green rectangle down to about 1/3rd its current size. That would fit on existing rooftops and over parking lots.

      And if you want to worry about the ecosystems of deserts, worry a lot about what increased temperatures and decreased rainfall would do to them if we let climate change keep happening.

      • Brendan McEwen

        Also keep in mind that an area the size of the US state of Georgia is already paved. Urbanization is a massive project. Lots of room for PV.

      • technopundit

        Not at all — as i said, I think we’re a long ways from having to worry about it.

        However, when we discuss things like how much energy is available in terms of the total solar energy hitting the Earth, it is important to remember that not all, or even most, of that energy is actually available.

        Space-based solar power is another matter, of course, and as other commenters have noted, rooftops are largely wasted space.

        Don’t get me wrong: I think we need a lot more energy from PV sources, and it’s a far superior source of energy than most alternatives available to us at this point. But nothing’s perfect–especially considering the energy requirements of our civilization, even with conservation, will continue to increase.

        • mds

          Assuming 20% efficiency solar PV (PV production will average that in a few more years) and assuming global energy use of 15.7 TW.
          We’d need 1.4% of the Earth’s terrestrial (land) surface or 4.3% of the Earth’s desert surface. That’s replace ALL ENERGY currently being used globally, not just global electricity, all energy, with solar. I think it’s a little premature to worry about running out …sheesh. The solar energy available to us is many times what any other energy source can provide. Look at the scaled circles above.
          Also, I’d suggest orbital solar will become practical well before we’ll need it. (Especially with SpaceX developing space launch technology ultimately targeted to reduce material launch cost by two orders of magnitude, 100x.)
          Resident roofs, business roofs, parking lots, and brown fields can probably give us most of the solar electricity we need.
          …and yes, a very good portion of that energy is available, more than we’ll use for quite a while. You’re being a bit goofy. Is this what technoFUD looks like?

          • technopundit

            I’m afraid my simple comment may have been misconstrued.

            I am NOT against photovoltaic power.

            My comment was simply to note that deriving energy from an existing system disturbs it–even if, in the end, the energy ends up as heat anyway. Witness the fact that large-scale wind energy plants may cause changes in wind patterns.

            The conversion of a significant portion of the Earth’s surface–yes, even 1%–for the derivation of energy directly from sunlight may very well, cause some changes in ecosystems and the environment.

            Is it better than other known alternatives, in terms of environmental impact? I’d say most definitely. But nothing is free.

            I also agree with your comment about orbital solar power (and noted it in my own comment, to which you replied).

          • Bob_Wallace

            Change weather patterns?

            Yes, but to such a miniscule extent that it is irrelevant.

            Putting solar into orbit will change gravitational balance. Again, the amount would be miniscule….

          • technopundit

            There seems to be some research on it:

            http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1006&context=jpur

            http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120910143414.htm

            http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-wind-turbines-affect-temperature

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_wind_power

            The sum of the research seems to be that, at this point, wind power can affect local weather patterns, reduce humidity, and make it warmer at night/cooler during the day. That may or may not be significant, either to us or to the local ecology.

            Again (as I’ve stated three times now), I’m not against solar power (nor wind power, actually). They are infinitely better than burning fossil fuels and with their attendant greenhouse gas emissions (and other pollution). What ecological impact they have seems, at least at this point, to be far smaller on a per-watt basis.

            My only point, as I’ve said, is that nothing is without consequence.

      • Matt

        Yes, existing roof and parking lots. Which is close to where the power is needed anyway.

    • Omega Centauri

      We would have to grow our energy use manyfold before it becomes a problem. But obviously exponential growth can consume ant resource in short order.

  • mikgigs

    Actually, sun shines 24 hours per day, yes, nobody switches off the sun. :)

  • Amy Clavero Real

    If you live in a multi-storeyed dwelling, it is impossible to install your own solar panel and be energy independent.

    It is not accurate to say that solar is pollution free. Manufacturing and shipping the panels consumes energy and create pollution too although a lot less than fossil fuels.

    You forgot about the baseload solar thermal which uses molten salts to store energy and they can generate electricity 24 hours a day. These are now in operation for a $300M test case project. It is projected to be more reliable than nuclear.

    • jburt56

      There’s a solution–community solar that you can buy into. Here’s an article on California’s program–

      http://www.pv-tech.org/news/californias_shared_community_solar_bills_pass_committee

      • Marion Meads

        That bill is smoke and mirrors allowing the utilities to fleece you out all the more for you to clear your conscience. It will not give you capabilities to be energy independent, as in off-the-grid. Rather, by checking the box that you agree to a 20-30% premium rate, your conscience is hereby cleared that you are using clean sources. What a scam! It is not a solution to energy independence as it will still require the grid, and you pay the premium price when you can truly be free from electric bills when you go solar with batteries, and this cannot be done in multi-household community dwellings very easily.

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