Clean Power

Published on July 9th, 2013 | by Dr. Karl-Friedrich Lenz


New Breakthroughs in Anti-Solar Propaganda

July 9th, 2013 by  

Christian Roselund kindly wrote a debunking article about a post published last week titled “How Fast are the Costs of Solar Really Coming Down?“.

BRAKETHROUGHjpgIt was written by staff of the Breakthrough Institute, and it is full of false statements, but I’m repeating myself.

One of the false statements says that cost of solar in Germany is at “$2250/kW today.” Actually, it is already down to €1000 a kW, which is around $1,300/kW.

And that’s in Germany. Many locations worldwide have at least double Germany’s solar resources. That of course means solar could cost double the amount per kW in such a location and still match Germany’s price per kWh. You would not know that from the Breakthrough anti-solar propaganda piece, of course.

Anyway, it’s progress that the enemies of solar like the Breakthrough Institute are now reduced to hoping that other countries will be unable to match Germany’s cost reductions. A couple of years earlier their tune was still “solar is too expensive.” That talking point has been retired.

They then try to ride the usual intermittency talking point, and manage to write this:

Without costly energy storage technologies that do not presently exist, Germany will not be able to generate much more than 10% of its total electricity from solar without curtailing or exporting not only its entire non-solar energy generation capacity, but also much of its solar generation capacity on sunny days.

powertogasActually, storage technologies already exist, and are deployed right now. Batteries for households become increasingly competitive on a market where generating solar electricity costs half of buying it. Power-to-gas projects are sprouting up all over the country.

And while it is true that there will be more and more time slots where demand can’t keep up with supply and “Germany will need to curtail non-solar capacity,” that’s kind of the idea (except the curtailing won’t be for “non-solar,” but for “non-renewable” sources). We want to get away from fossil fuel generation. And Germany has rejected nuclear with near unanimity. So of course we want to curtail fossil fuel generation and replace nuclear with renewable, and that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

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About the Author

is a professor of German and European Law at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo, blogging since 2003 at Lenz Blog. A free PDF file of his global warming science fiction novel "Great News" is available here.

  • globi

    Why do you need day time storage, when electricity is cheaper at night?

    Despite the fact that the Germany is already above 5% solar electricity, and despite the fact that electricity is cheaper at night, coal power plants are still producing more power during day time than at night.

    Introducing day time storage would be very unwise, since it would only increase coal power demand!

    • Hans

      Half true, on clear summer days the daytime prices on the German spot market are often lower than the nighttime prices

    • Bob_Wallace

      Solar in Germany has wiped out the midday peak on sunny days, leaving a morning peak and a late afternoon/evening peak.

      Storage is cheaper if it is used more frequently. More income is produced.

      Moving late night electricity to the morning peak and solar into the late day peak means that storage would get used twice a day.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    Karl-Friedrich writes “And while it is true that there will be more and more time slots where demand can’t keep up with supply and “Germany will need to curtail non-solar capacity,” that’s kind of the idea (except the curtailing won’t be for “non-solar,” but for “non-renewable” sources). We want to get away from fossil fuel generation.”

    Here I was under the impression that energy in Germany was being sold at peak hours to neighboring countries at outrageous prices. Making Germany rich rich and richer. And anything that can’t be used or sold is being taken up by the power-to-gas projects to supply the transportation industry. Germany is just laughing all the way to the bank while we try to justify what they do as “possible”.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    Christian Roselund’s states “I don’t make that argument, because the cost of PV does not need to continue to collapse at the current rate for the industry to grow rapidly. In fact, as far as component costs, it would be a good thing for all of us in the industry if they didn’t, because they are currently below the cost of production.”

    We have seen articles here in Cleantechnica on how Germany is attempting to compete against China by automating the entire fabrication of PVs. Apparently Germany feels they can recapture the market and produce the PVs with machines cheaper than China can with slave labor. How then can the author Christian Roselund claim China is dumping when Germany thinks they can still out compete them fairly?

  • Matthew

    You know what is hysterical to me? The companies paying to distort the facts to you and I. Listen, Solar isn’t going away, it is getting cheaper, that won’t change. So why do smart companies pay millions of dollars to lie to you? Why don’t they invest that money into the technology and diversify their product offering making themselves even more powerful? Guess what, solar is making regular German richer and their economy stronger. And that just makes sense because the wealthier everyone is the better the economy will be. Makes you wonder what the oil and gas companies are trying to accomplish doesn’t it?

    • Steeple

      Hysterics like researchers at Cal Tech and Lawrence Livermore Labs? Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to hear other points of view.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Researchers at Cal Tech and Lawrence Livermore are saying that solar is going away?

        Or that prices aren’t coming down?

        Or that other countries won’t be able to install as cheaply as Germany can?

        Oh, and what areas might they work in? Not nuclear research by chance?

    • Ivor O’Connor

      Yes. Some places distribute “information” as if they were impartial while being bankrolled by large companies like Siemens. They find moles in large universities to spew the propaganda their way. And they muzzle the evidence to the contrary.

      One such place is the “The Energy Collective”. However it happens everywhere. Is there a centralized list of these propaganda sources?

  • Jouni Valkonen

    That $2250/kW is probably the average price of solar. My source says that average price of solar is €1650/kW in Germany. That €1000/kW is the lowest price of solar using cheapest Chinese solar panels with low efficiency, but people usually prefer to buy little more expensive panels with higher efficiency and longer warranty.

    • Bob_Wallace

      The €1000/kW is, I believe, the cost of ‘fill up the roof’ installations on barns. I’m not sure it’s with low efficiency panels, that might drive up BOS costs, but perhaps.

      Apparently being able to fill the roof with panels is one way to bring down the price per watt cost. It certainly spreads the cost of sale, setup and delivery costs over more watts. Getting labor and equipment to the site costs. A full roof array requires no more labor to run cable and hook to the grid than a smaller array.

      I think we need a model where companies lease entire rooftops from home/business owners, fill the sunny slopes with panels, and sell power to the utility. I suspect done right they could be competitive with utility sized solar. Line up a bunch of roofs in a small area and send in specialized crews to do the various parts of the job.

      • Ivor O’Connor

        What is “BOS”?

        • Bob_Wallace

          Balance of System

          All the stuff aside from the panels. Racks, inverter, wire, conduit, labor, permits, etc.

          Just a few years back panel prices greatly exceeded the BOS stuff, now it’s the other way around.

          • Ivor O’Connor


      • Chris Aloise

        Living in Germany, the price of 1 Kw runs between

        Euro 1500-1700.

  • Anothercoilgun

    Not fast enough. Perhaps if the vast amount of solar companies would stop starting a business year one, taking federal grants year two, and filing for bankruptcy year 3, the price would come down in good speed to a good price.

    • Shiggity

      Solar PV is a commodity, manufacturing commodities usually isn’t super profitable. It’s what you do with the commodity that matters. The money to be made in solar is developing large projects atm.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Solar panel manufacturing has matured to the point at which panels are not high margin products (not much profit per unit).

        That means that overall company profits will be made based on volume and volume will be determined by price which is largely determined by manufacturer efficiency.

        And that means that the weaker/less efficient manufacturers are being pushed out.

        It’s something that happens with almost any emerging technology as they mature. It happened with computers and with cell phones. There were a lot of players along the way but only the strong survived. And we got cheap technology out of the process.

        • Shiggity

          Solar PV is more like steel or glass or the chips that go into phones and computers. Phones and computers are the finished products, akin to a solar array, not the panel.

  • jburt56

    It the last desperate tsunami of lies before the solar millennium.

  • JamesWimberley

    British, Australian and Indian installation costs are quite close to German. It’s the US residential sector that is the outlier, with its market fragmentation, permitting red tape, and ever-changing rainbow of complex incentives. Even there, the costs are coming down, spearheaded by the solar leasing companies.

  • Ross

    So they think generating so much solar that it has to be exported is a problem? Where did they get that 10% number from. The Germans just did 40%.

    • Brian Richard

      That 40% at the given time of generation. You have to take a time factor. Where the power comes from at night and in the early morning and late evening. At that time stated in the article Germany was producing 40% of its power from solar but solar production would have to be sustained at higher levels for a long period of time in order to increase the over all production of electricity from solar to 40%.

      Eventually day time solar power production could be more than 100% of what is being used at that time. In that case the power grid would need to be changed to allow storage for later use.

  • DillWeed7


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