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Cost of War … Spent on Solar Power Instead

This is an awesome guest post from yet another one of our awesome readers, Rich Loomis. Rich offered the data and idea, and then, with a little nudge, actually went ahead and wrote the whole post. While he points this out below, I just want to highlight that while there’s an initial cost to the solar power alternative, the savings that result from it are tremendous, as well as the jobs that would be created and would feed back into the U.S. economy. Also, mass deployment of solar would bring the cost of solar down (actually, probably the best solution to bring the cost down at this point), so I think his 2nd scenario is likely to be much more realistic than the 1st.

cost of war solar

When the US engaged in war with Afghanistan, and then Iraq, the bill started running and hasn’t stopped. The wars have cost over $2.33 trillion and will cost over $4.53 trillion before they’re over. The cost is so unbelievably large, it’s hard to grasp.

In order to get some context on what $2.33 trillion means, let’s look at what the money could have achieved for Americans, if spent differently. Let’s use the money to install solar panels on every home in America. Is $2.33 trillion enough money to give every home in America a solar panel system? If so, how much solar power would every home in America get?

First, let’s look at the cost of a 3kW solar system for a single home. I’m using the Sharp NU-Q235F4 Mono-crystalline Silicon solar panel for price and efficiency calculations. The Sharp panel is made in the USA. The panel is neither the most efficient nor the least efficient panel on the market. I found the Sharp solar panel for $405.38 each. Using $3.85 per watt to cover labor and panel hardware/inverter, the cost of a 3kW system installed (panels + installation) would run $17,032 per home. This cost does not include tax incentives. The price is around $5.57/watt installed. There are 130,590,000 homes in the US. At $17,032 per home (retail price), the cost to install a 3kW solar system on every home in the US would be $2.22 trillion. Remove this cost from the $2.33 trillion we started with and we’re left with roughly $107 billion that could be used for government administration and fraud prevention.

OK, so the US decided to go down the fossil-fuel-energy-independence path instead of war and has installed a 3kW solar panel system on every home in the country. What did we get for our $2.33 trillion?

What does this mean to the average home owner? Using the Sharp solar calculator in a conservative solar radiation state, a single home will save 3,576 kWh/yr. Using a cost of $0.10 / kWh, the average home in the US will save $357/year in electricity for the next 20 years.

What do we get as a nation? Using Google stats from 2008 (the newest available)

   USA Solar panels manufactured 1,697,670,000
   Solar Nameplate capacity in MW 398,952
   Nationwide solar home electricity generation in MWh/yr 466,989,840
    Electricity usage per capita kWh/yr – 2008 13,654
   U.S.A. population – 2008 304,060,000
   Nationwide electricity usage in MWh/yr 4,151,635,240
   % of nationwide electricity generated from home solar panels 11.25%

Yep, that’s right. The United States would have manufactured and installed 1.7 billion solar panels and would have reduced fossil fuel energy used for electric generation by 11%. All of the numbers used so far are based on retail costs and current panel efficiencies.

The real fun starts when you look at what could have been done. What if the President said the US will only buy solar panels that are 40% efficient and will only pay $2/watt installed (achievable through economies of scale). The picture dramatically changes. Installing a 6kW solar system installed on every home in the US would only cost $1.67 trillion (which includes the 107 billion for administration). The home solar panels would generate 62.5% of electricity usage in the United States. Each home would benefit from a $1,986/year reduction in electricity costs for the next 20 years.

I’ll vote for the person pushing the $2/watt installed, 40% efficient, Made in the USA, 6kW solar systems on every home in the USA Act. References:

  1. Cost of War Watson Institute For International Studies Conservative ($2,331,100,000,000) Moderate ($2,657,300,000,000) Middle Ground ($2,494,200,000,000)
  2. Google population in 2008
  3. Electric usage per capita — Google
  4. Solar panel cost
  5. Solar panel efficiency

Image Credit: United States Marine Corps Official Page

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