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Published on August 15th, 2014 | by Guest Contributor


OK, Sooner or Later Everyone Will Have Solar. So What?

August 15th, 2014 by  

By Michal Bacia

It really is a really big deal. Before you know why it’s such a big deal, you have to know the big secret. Ready? OK, here it is: ENERGY IS FREE! That’s right. It is. Not only solar and wind energy, but oil and/or coal are also basically free.


Image Credit: Rayson Ho.

The gas and/or electric bill you pay are costs that are only related to the harnessing and using of the energy. Traditionally, Big Utility works like this: the facility extracts energy in the form of fossil fuel (but also renewable energy – think about a huge dam), converts it into electricity, and then transmits it to consumers. All of these activities require large capital investments, because traditional power plants are incredibly expensive, $300 million and more. Utility business models were able to convert those costs into fairly affordable monthly payments for thousands of consumers. So, these facilities recover their money from you, by sending you a monthly utility bill. My question is, how old is your power station? Are you still paying for infrastructure that was paid off long ago?

Distributed generation also requires capital investment to purchase technology. However, the investor is also the consumer. Instead of sending money to finance another investor’s return, the consumer recovers his own capital expenditure and invests in his own assets.

Costs related to harvesting energy are typically monopolized, concentrated, and managed by global organizations. Energy prices are then controlled by the global market and influenced by factors such as currency exchange rates, the stock exchange, and global politics. Because these costs are operating expenses, they are generated continuously and infinitely.

On the other hand, a distributed energy harvesting technology, like solar, can be localized and owned by the consumers. Once installed, the costs related to the energy systems are defined and fixed. Your energy bill is now part of your capital expenses and energy becomes an asset, not a liability. Once fully paid, the energy systems continue to harvest energy, making the energy to run your business and/or home ABSOLUTELY FREE.

Here is the Big Deal: instead of supporting energy companies with your money, you now have the opportunity to support yourself and to make your money start working for you!

Sounds very nice and kinda Star Trek, but it’s too expensive… isn’t it?

No, it’s not. In 2013, rooftop solar energy reached grid parity in several markets in the world; or, to put it another way, the cost of energy generated by rooftop solar was the same or lower than the cost of energy delivered by the utility company. Moreover, costs of solar will continue to drop while the grid energy costs will continue to rise.

A major driving force to this is a phenomena called “peak oil.” “Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of petroleum extraction is reached.” The only debate now is when peak oil will or did occur. Some researchers claim it was in 2005 or 2006. Others claim it will happen by 2020. Nevertheless, peak oil is a fact. Growing oil demands from emerging economies (China, India, Brazil) and a falling supply will definitely result in rising energy prices. The only questions are how big of an increase and how soon will that increase occur? Some reports suggest “the increasing price of oil… is likely to reach $500 a barrel by 2040….” (Note that this primarily matters in developing countries and on islands, but it also becomes relevant if someone switches to an electric vehicle.)

Another driving force is the economies of scale. Mass production allows for substantial reduction of the unit cost (and price) of goods. The same economic principle responsible for cheaper, more powerful computers each year, is now driving the efficiency and pricing of solar panels. Because solar panels are standardized, easy to transport and install, they can be purchased from any place in the world and delivered to site. So the supply of panels is a globally competitive market, just like microchips or LCD monitors. The more a company manufactures and sell panels, the cheaper the unit price can be. Consequently, the cheaper the price, the more it can sell.

Previously, solar energy required heavy government support because it couldn’t compete with grid electricity. Panel and inverter technology was not efficient enough and unit costs and prices were to high. Now, thanks to support programs, like the one in Germany for example, a substantial market has been created, allowing solar technology to mature and expand rapidly. These support programs got the ball rolling and now solar energy is a cost-efficient alternative in several markets. As solar prices continue to fall while grid energy rises, more and more energy markets will adopt solar.

Solar energy might still be more expensive than the energy generated by a coal-fired or nuclear power plant. But, this energy then has to be delivered from the power station to consumers. Once those costs are included in the electric bill, solar can already be a cost efficient solution. Installing rooftop solar does not require using transmission or distribution power lines and covering related costs.

The above excerpt is from “How to choose the best solar system and financing offer for you,” a solar energy book explaining the ins and outs to the every day user. It is a step-by-step guide showing people how solar is beneficial for them, the process of going solar, and the key aspects of solar financing.

The ebook is available on Amazon. More information, including reviews and a free chapter, can be found here.

About the Author: Michal Bacia is a solar energy project manager and consultant as well as an author. He recently completed 3 solar sites in the UK (20MWp in total) and published this book about solar energy for anyone who uses electricity.

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  • Mike Shurtleff

    “As we learned on Cleantechnica about Tesla trying to work around or fast track or avoid environmental impact study.”
    I saw the irony immediately and was just poking fun at this with some friends. I remain a Musk fanboy, as accused.
    “In conclusion, his mousetrap is better, but he shouldn’t be doing
    workarounds and influence peddling like O&G and utilities.”
    I agree, but also say let’s see how he handles that. Most have to be forced to env conscious and that is the purpose of an env impact statement. In fact, I can give you local examples where that processes is followed and the intent perverted. Maybe Musk/Tesla will be environmentally conscious voluntarily. Lord knows he has made a huge dent in Solar, EVs, and Space launch at his own expense. Yeh, I’ll give him a little time.

    I also agree with the rest of your paragraph. Life is full of imperfections, ain’t it? What about you yourself? I don’t think paypal is exactly breaking anyone’s legs. I don’t think Musk is quilty of Peter Thiel’s sins. Jealous any?

  • Bob_Wallace

    I’ve run the cost, Michael. I have educated myself. No one is interested in paying you in order for you to catch up.

    “Let’s say EVs grow to 60,000,000 by 2020”

    What you’re missing here is that most of the 60 million would be recently purchased. In 2013 there were just over 110k EVs sold worldwide. Annual global production of vehicles is about 60 million per year.

    To get 60 million EVs on the road by 2020 the market would have greatly shifted from ICEVs to EVs.

    To hit 60 million by 2020 would mean that tens of millions of EVs are being sold per year and tens of millions less ICEVs are being produced.

    The those 95% belchers are going to age out over the next 10 to 20 years.

    If we hit 60 million EVs on the road by 2020 we are well on our way to ~100% EVs by 2040 or sooner.

    • I’ll have to assume my order of magnitude jump is reasonable. I like making jumps by multiples of 10s. I’ll even agree with your analysis. That’s a lot of lithium in ten years. Getting back to the sub-original point of this thread – mining and processing of metals and manufacturing of things has to have environmental controls. At least those as stringent as when we worried about environmental issues. And getting back to my original comment above, as we improve efficiency and switch to alternatives, the peak in peak oil gets pushed out in time.

      I’m OK if people flag my comments. I also enjoy a rousing and engaging discussion, which this is.

      I’m not sure how much other’s have intertwined themselves in environmental and energy issues here at cleantechnica. However, almost all energy platforms are using environmental or security as a marketing spin. Nuke uses carbon free(ish) emissions. Fracking shale for gas uses a 50 percent reduction from coal. Hydro uses emissions issues as well.

      Oil (the liquid) simply slithers through many of the environmental issues these days, given the world is highly dependent upon it and so much money is made of it.

      It was environmental groups that gave oil and gas needed support on fracking without federal regulation and oversight. For instance, NRDC, Sierra Club, EDF, three of the major and well funded enviro nonprofits, supported natural gas as a bridge technology. Both dems and repubs supported it. Many (not all) of the enviro nonprofits feel burned by O&G. Basically, they were used for cover on policy steering. EDF on the other hand is working with O&G as an extraordinary environmental agent to measure methane emissions from natural gas exploitation. EDF also is well funded by the family trust of the father of fracking, George Mitchell. His daughter is on EDF’s board. Elon Musk may want to put some folks on enviro nonprofit boards.

      • Mike Shurtleff

        “It was environmental groups that gave oil and gas needed support on fracking without federal regulation and oversight.”
        You’re describing a manipulation and perversion of purpose. …and this is all related to Elon Musk. Crazy stuff.

      • Mike Shurtleff

        You’ve made some good comments at times elsewhere on cleantechnica. I have to think you’ve argued yourself into a lot of foolishness here. You can take a position that nothing is ok to do, but it doesn’t make much sense to me.

        Waste of my time, but entertaining for a while. Caio

  • Bob_Wallace

    Whoever is flagging Michael’s posts – you are very much out of line.

    Not agreeing with someone is not a reason to flag.

    Flag spam, name-calling and other problems covered in the site guidelines.

  • Bob_Wallace

    “or avoid environmental impact study.”

    That seems to me to be your incorrect reading of the article you linked. There is zero in the article about Tesla or Musk trying to avoid any environmental impact study or any environmental regulation.

    All Tesla is asking is to be allowed to start construction as the report is being completed. Tesla has stated that they will make any corrections that might be found to be needed.

    There’s no risk here for the environment. Tesla seems to be assuming all the risk. If they made a mistake in their plans which is caught by the review process it will be on them to make the correction.

    • Sorry Bob, it doesn’t look good for Musk credentials as an environmentalist. Here’s doing exactly what all other industries have been doing to skirt environmental regulation. Shale fracking is a perfect example.

      “According to state officials who said they were familiar with discussions but not authorized to speak about them, Tesla also might be allowed to start construction and mitigate any potential damage later. Also being discussed is whether to limit lawsuits that could slow the project.”

      This is exactly what O&G did with fracking. Playing one state of the for plant siting is kind of a douche move on Musk’s part. He’s pretty much doing the old trust us. There are many superfund sites from mining, metals processing and auto manufacturing. That’s why one does environmental audits, assessments, impacts etc. Technology from smartphones to EVs are already causing enormous environmental damage throughout the world.

      • Bob_Wallace

        ” Here’s doing exactly what all other industries have been doing to skirt environmental regulation.”

        In my opinion, you are very wrong.

        I’ve laid out my case. I’ve found nothing to indicate that Tesla wants to avoid regulations. That, in my opinion, is something that you have created and are pushing.

        ” Playing one state of the for plant siting is kind of a douche move on Musk’s part.”

        A douche move or good business? What’s the difference between shopping for the best location and shopping for the best tire supplier?

        • By playing one state off another? For tax breaks. For cheaper labor. For lesser environmental regulation. That’s no different than everyone else. So sell Tesla as an alternative to ICE. May the best car win. But don’t drag environmentalism into the sales pitch, if environmental regs are cumbersome to your business. Green marketing is done all the time by oil and gas and even coal (i.e. “clean coal”) and that’s why we have environmental problems right now. I realize Cleantechnica focuses more on sales than environment and that’s fine.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Being a smart business while doing good? Why are the two incompatible. Do you think green companies should compete while wearing leg irons?

            Come on. Car companies play one state off the other all the time. States trade lower direct taxes for the increased jobs and income taxes created. Why should Tesla be held to a different standard?

            And you continue to imply that Tesla is trying to get around environmental regulations. Something that you seem to have made up in your head.

            Furthermore, if you think Cleantechnia is more about business than minimizing climate change you’re simply stupid.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Major side track. Major nonsense.

      • Mike Shurtleff

        Wow, you just went from avoiding an environmental impact statement to being responsible for superfund sites. You’re nuts.
        “Technology from smartphones to EVs are already causing enormous environmental damage throughout the world.”
        Really? So landlines and oil mining/refining is cleaner? …better? OK, let me just slide quietly out of the room here before you get upset or something. Yousa.

  • JamesWimberley

    A misleading analysis. Capital costs are costs in anybody’s book. The grid has costs. Unless you as distributed generator own your geothermal or biogas plant, or have a truly massive amount of storage, your output will not be perfectly synchronized with your consumption. So you will become a trader: selling electricity to the grid at some times, buying electricity from it at others. Interdependence does not go away.

    It’s true that as the transition advances, the financing of the grid infrastructure and backup will shift to a capacity model rather than unit charges. It’s entirely possible that energy will end up cheaper than it is today, but there are no free lunches.

  • MarTams

    It is wrong to assume that energy is free, even if you only count the equipment and work needed to exploit them. For the fossil fuels, sometimes you have to pay royalties to the residents there, also royalties and leases to the government even if they are dirt cheap prices. The same with solar installed in some deserts, you pay dirt cheap leases. That is where solar PV on your roof stands out as there is no royalty to pay in the sense that no one owns the sun and where it’s radiation falls, it is your lot in life, may not be a lot, but it is free for you to exploit.

  • MarTams

    Sorry to burst your bubble but the Solar Leasing company are poised to exploit the victims of corporate utilities by playing on their conscience. The Solar Leasing is the new fleecing corporation. You have to own your solar panel and let us hope the solar leasing company will soon go the way of the dino. At the rate they are charging if you want to buy the panels from them are stratospheric compared to third party retail stores, so they want you to feel good by zero down and a tiny bit of savings per month on the first few years, while in fine print, they escalate the prices, it’s in the contract. They inflate your savings thru the years compared to utility’s rate without even assuming the effect of competition that the utilities will be forced to lower their prices, so the leasing model is very lucrative, in fact the company doing the solar leasing will earn at least 300% more money than the retailers. The solar leasing are exactly following the model of fleecing by the current utilities like discussed here, with the pretense of being better for the environment, which is on the net actually better for our planet, but the end goal is the same: corporate profit. It is just switching a different master of profit greed, from polluting greed monster to a less polluting greed monster, and you, the victim end up paying for their assets and bottomline, not the dream discussed in the article. so better save some money and own your panels rather than lease.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Let’s see if we can simplify this…

      If you lease a solar system then you pay less for your electricity and the leasing company makes some sweet profits.

      If you purchase a solar system then you pay a lot less for your electricity and you get the sweet savings.

      Either way, the world gets more solar panels on roofs and cuts back on fossil fuel use.

      The way I see it – someone I don’t know will make or save some money. No one will lose money. And the planet gets some help.

  • vensonata

    This is an excellent article. Many people have not considered the points mentioned. For others it is simply a good reminder.

  • Sounds great. One little quibble. Don’t use peak oil and solar together in an analysis. Yes, there is peak oil. Just not in this and the next generation. More importantly, “oil” is a transportation fuel. Solar is power. Yes, EVs are going like crazy and competes with oil. But the more EV takes over, the less oil is used for transportation. So the peak gets pushed further out. Giving oil nuts incentive to say enviros are anti this or anti that. We’d like to think that tar sands won’t be exploited. Nope, it’s flowing already like crazy to the US and beyond. Or ultra heavy Venezuelan crude stays in South American. Nope. Or Iran ramps up its production. Yes, China’s making sure about that. Or Exxon and Russia starts drilling the Arctic. That already started as reported six days ago. Or Illinois coal get’s in situ retorted into liquids and gases. Solar is awesome on its own merits.

    • Kie

      Peak oil is right now, fracking is a blip on the scheme of things, it hasn’t even caused the price of oil to drop. Saudis oil has peaked, many countries conventional oil output has declined to a fraction of peak.

      More importantly, “oil” is a transportation fuel. Solar is power.

      It’s all energy, solar is near-infinite, oil isn’t.

      • I’m not arguing for or against peak oil. I’m saying it’s a silly metric to use in an argument supporting solar power. Peak oil is essentially the point in time an oil well when rate of production flattens out – extrapolated to global proved reserves and production rates. This was figured out by that Hubbard dude. Peak oil for conventional reserves did seem to occur, as the author said, in 2005 through 2008. But as we produce more unconventional oil from tar sands, shale, deep ocean, arctic and put some conventional reserves on hold like in Iran, peak oil moves out in time. This is how oilmen tie renewables enthusiasts and politicians into knots. And impact governmental policy. Likes O&G is successfully doing right now.

        There is a big difference in energy and power. Energy is force x distance and power is energy / time. This is true for electricity as well, just takes longer to reduce down to the same elemental units.

        Based on this, solar energy is limitless. Solar power is dependent on storage to do much of the useful work here on earth. For instance, EVs required batteries. Batteries use natural resources like lithium. We could easily reach peak lithium at some point in time. At that point we’ll have to find something else to store energy. Who knows maybe we’ll figure out how to use hydrocarbons as a battery, rather than just burn it.

        Oil, as say gasoline, is chemical energy stored in a tank and does about what a battery does. Only the IC engine mineralizes all that chemical energy into useless CO2 and water.

        So it all comes down to finite resources, whether we’re talking solar or oil. And no, I’m not going to bring asteroid mining for natural resources.

        • mds

          “We could easily reach peak lithium at some point in time.”
          That is a false statement. You cannot “easily” reach peak lithium. There is a hell of a lot of lithium available. It is very a very common element on earth. Yours’ is a common misconception.
          By the time peak lithium could be reach we will be capable of mining the dry lake beds on Mars (thank you Elon and Spacex) and there will be other chemistries available …as you suggest.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The oceans are full of lithium. It would be more expensive to extract from seawater than from salts flats, but the amount in an EV is so small that spending 5x as much for lithium wouldn’t drive up the car price very much.

            And at some point it become economically feasible to recycle the lithium in worn out batteries. We might start recycling regardless of cost simply to lower the amount of stuff going to landfills.

          • Man, Musk just might be the new Jim Jones, Bernie Madoff, or half the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. His supporters have similar levels of enthusiasm. There’s peak everything. Colorado School of Mines has been studying mining in space since I was an undergrad in the early 1980s. We can mine, process and sell anything. It just takes money.

            mds, have you ever done an engineering feasibility study? The reason why I’m asking is renewables have to come under fossil fuels in effectiveness, implementability, and cost or this whole EV or cleantechnica endeavour is for nothing. Right now EV is scoring pretty low on all three criteria, without help.

            Also, if you want to get people supporting (i.e. taxpayers and investors), the less you sound like a 15 year old Apple iphone fanboy the better. You may have put renewables back 15 years with that comment. Heck, why not just mine and process more uranium and thorium while where at it? There’s tons of spent nuclear fuel to reprocess for several lifetimes.

            Back here on earth, here’s what USGS says about lithium:


            We’re fine for now, but resources, like all resources get more dire as you begin to exploit them. Mining is very environmentally disruptive. As far as EVs for ICE transportation, we’re so early in the substitution game, I wouldn’t be declaring endless bounty of anything. Not with 7+ billion people on one planet.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Right now EV is scoring pretty low on all three criteria, without help.”

            Have you run the lifetime cost of running an EV vs. a similar ICEV?

          • Mike Shurtleff

            From your source:
            “Worldwide Supply of and Demand for Lithium”
            “There are over 39 million tons of lithium resources worldwide. Of this resource, the USGS estimates there to be approximately 13 million tons of current economically recoverable lithium reserves. Recycling of batteries is expected to play a key role in the supply of lithium in the medium to long term. Lithium is a resource that can be recycled repeatedly, thereby reducing future needs for new sources of lithium.”

            “To help predict where future lithium supplies might be located, USGS scientists study how and where identified resources are concentrated in the Earth’s crust, and they use that knowledge to assess the likelihood that undiscovered resources also exist.”

            Translation: There’s plenty of lithium and they don’t even know where all of it is yet. I have a number of other links on this subject. I’ve been following the lithium shortage FUD for years. You do far more damage than I by perpetuating this. Goofus.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Here are some odds and ends that I’ve collected re: lithium-

            Western Lithium claims the Humboldt County site’s deposits represent the fifth-largest lithium resource in the world. The Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development says the state’s overall lithium portfolio is even bigger.

            “Nevada is lithium rich — second only to the size of deposits found in Chile,” said Steve Hill, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.


            A big find was recently announced in Wyoming. The find could contain as much as 118 million tons of lithium. That would be enough for 59 billion Nissan Leafs. (If I didn’t experience a math failure.)


            Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, China, Portugal and Zimbabwe have roughly 13,000,000 metric tons of lithium that can be extracted.

            Bolivia has 5.4 million tons.

            Apparently there are massive deposits of lithium i Afghanistan.

            There are approximately 230,000,000,000 tons of lithium in seawater.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Thank you Bob.

            Please put this information in your pipe and smoke it. …and again, current concerns about lithium shortages are FUD. I will be accepting your admission of this when after you take your meds.

            Please don’t side-track (pun) me down and shoot me for saying it, but I don’t think Musk is the anti-christ. …of course maybe he just has me fooled. You know the anti-christ is supposed to be like that. Oh no! He IS. He’s the anti-christ!

          • That’s a lot of lithium. There’s also about a bazillion tons of hydrogen in the ocean. And a bazillion tons of carbon potentially available for graphite. Potential and proved are two different things. Proved is the feasibly (effectiveness, implementability and cost) recoverable amount. Those estimates you gave aren’t proved reserves. Proved reserves are what goes into the peak everything analysis. The main topic of this thread. This is why Wall Street wants Musk to get out of the car business and into the battery (minerals) business. Natural resources exploitation has and always will be the biggest money maker. Commodity traders are the billionaires nobody’s ever heard of.

          • Bob_Wallace

            South Korea is moving forward with extracting lithium from seawater.


            Japan reports success with extracting lithium from sea water using a ceramic film.


            Desalinization plants in desert areas may serve as lithium “mines”. The brine can be left to dry in shallow pools and the various salts separated.

            You seem to be very determined to find a problem, Michael. Why not turn things around and to a bit of research before sending others to do your work for you?

            If your goal is simply to “shake up” things with your posts then you need to understand that you’re verging toward troll-dom.

          • I was about to say something negative, but stopped myself. How much mineral is sitting there waiting to be mined versus how much is feasibly recoverable are two separate things. Cleantechnica branded commentors are using the exact same rationale oil and gas uses to push peak oil out further in time. We can get at any mineral you’d like, it’ll just cost the earth and society.

            Nissan leaf is reported to contain 4 grams of lithium in its battery pack. The pack itself ways about 300 kg. That’s a lot of other materials needing to be mined for each EV battery. Is lithium even the limiting factor? Should we discuss peak something else? What else goes into the present generation of batteries for Leaf’s and Tesla’s? I’m going to assume aluminum plays a big chunk. Batteries have about a 10 year life on the road. A whole lot of lithium and other things will have to be mined. School of Mines is already jumping on the green revolution.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Four kg of lithium in Leaf batteries. Four kg of lithium that will power most Leafs for 100,000 miles and then do years of service storing grid power.

            The copper, aluminum, manganese and plastics in battery packs can be recycled. The lithium is recycled by using potassium hydroxide which leaves lithium salt.

            Balance the materials mined against the constant, daily need to extract fossil fuels as happens with our current system. We’ll replace major petroleum extraction with minor mining. And mining is much easier to keep “clean”.

          • Is it kilograms? I read it was grams. That seemed low, but I went with it. Lithium, though a metal, is as light as a feather, molecular weight just three times that of hydrogen.

            Here’s the sources I got about lithium in a Nissan leaf battery pack:

            Here’s a long paper I couldn’t find total weight of lithium.


            Apparently, the Leaf’s battery is lithium manganese. Lithium has a molecular weight of 3 and manganese 54 g/mol. Lithium seems to be the active ingredient more than the weight. Like a platinum catalyst in a catalytic converter is mostly ceramic, but wouldn’t work without that little bit of platinum.

            Peak manganese!

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m starting to wish for peak Berndtson….

          • Don’t fret, I’ve peaked. I’ve gotten the gist of cleantechnica. It took commenting to get it. It’s salesmenship and that’s cool. In the tradition of other technology blogs hawking product, I.e. techcrunch, gizmodo, and BGS. Cleantehnica uses environmental as a foot in the door.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Turn the ads off if you don’t want to see them. (However you might want to contribute something for the information provided. Ads are how it’s paid for.)

          • So is it grams or kilograms? The superfluous musings of both you and mike never answered the question. If its kgrams someone should talk to

          • Bob_Wallace

            “According to Jon Hykawy , a researcher at Byron Capital Markets, the Nissan Leaf contains about 4kg of lithium metal, equivalent to 21kg of lithium carbonate. According to the USGS [pdf],
            lithium carbonate in 2009 cost $4.47 per kg. Hykawy states that the price of battery-grade lithium carbonate is actually more like $5.70 per kg.
            Thus, the Nissan Leaf contains $120 of lithium carbonate.

          • Per the hybrid cars article I linked above:
            Weight of a pack: 300 kilograms
            Amount of lithium in the pack: 4 grams

            Someone should probably tell to correct that. It’s in a frequently asked question post. If we’re talking kilograms, that brings peak lithium closer to the present, rather than year 3535 A.D.

            No wonder Wall Street wants Musk to get out of the car business and into batteries. The money is in the mining and processing. If lithium is in the sea, the money is in the recovery technology of lithium. The car business is hard, the gasoline business is easy. And we’re only talking cars.

            Using 6 million EVs in 2020, that’s 24 million kg of lithium or 240,000 metric tons. MBs optimistic 60,000,000 EV vehicles would be 2.4 million metric tons. There’s presently 13 million metric tons of proved reserves, according to the USGS report summarized for me above. Neat stuff.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            “Should we discuss peak something else? What else goes into the present generation of batteries for Leaf’s and Tesla’s?”
            No you are already peak happy. You want me to find other peak material problems with Lithium batteries for you? (Bob’s comment on “verging toward troll-dom” above. You’re there.) Are you a nut or troll?
            You think the EV industry is not considering this. Take an hour and listen to this talk:

            Bob is more accommodating than I. See his response below. And your response to that is?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Avoid name-calling Mike.

            (Yes, I do remind myself of that site rule. Often out of necessity. ;o)

          • It’s not about me. I’m sorry you’re frustrated Mike. You should screen my comments or ban me from the site, if that would make you feel better. Just whining about me isn’t very becoming.

            Road transportation is roughly 20 percent of the total carbon dioxide emissions globally. EVs will become a more enticing option to ICE, but EVs won’t stop climate change acceleration. So that issues out. EVs may simply spur nuclear power. So that issues out. Metals mining has been and continues to be one of the most environmentally and socially destructive enterprises. A metals boom for EVs and battery materials would only accelerate land, water and air pollution. And power of third world dictators. So security issues are out. Whining about environmental concerns while selling an environmentally marketed product is anathema to me.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’d say you’re engaging in some twisted thinking, Michael.

            To claim that “EVs won’t stop climate change acceleration” must be based on some very unusual assumptions.

            EVs run on electricity. Electricity is being produced by very low carbon technologies.

            If we burn less oil then we put less CO2 into the environment. If we use less coal and natural gas to produce electricity then we put less CO2 into the enviornment.

            “A metals boom for EVs and battery materials would only accelerate land, water and air pollution”

            We are already mining and refining materials to build ICEVs. We would be mining and refining materials to build EVs. But petroleum would largely drop out of the equation.

            “And power of third world dictators.”

            Stretching so far once more that you’re going to strain yourself.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            A couple of other points:
            1. I don’t think you have even done the calculation to estimate how many lithium batteries might be needed for EVs/PHEVs and Power Storage. Musk has, and others have, and I’ve read through and followed this stuff. It makes sense to me. Maybe you should do a little more studying up before assuming peak lithium is something worth worrying about.”
            2. You said: “There’s peak everything.”
            That is a really dumb comment. Are you worried about peak silicon for Solar PV? If I like to sail, should I worry about peak sea water? Oh wait, we can’t use anything, Berndston says there’s “peak everything”. Take that one back please or reveal you have no humility.
            3. Why did you bring nuclear into the discussion? It’s a complete side track. I’m not going to get into solar vs nuclear with you. Yes, there is plenty of uranium et al for quite a while and we can probably mine more in the future on Mars. So? What is your point there? I don’t think the possibility of peak uranium has anything to do with solar vs nuclear and we’re not talking about that here. Your thought processes are undisciplined.

  • jburt56

    Whoa, no fuel for solar panels. Mindblower!!!

  • tibi stibi

    the prices of solar greatly depends on the lifetime of the solar panels.
    i’m very keen to see what happens when the solar panels from the last generation will celebrate their 30 years 🙂

    i think they will do just fine

    • Kie

      Think is generally know isn’t it? efficiency after 25 years is about 80%. Hopefully panels will become standardised, recyclable and ‘plug and play’ replaceable, they are already cheap enough that replacing them is not a major concern.

      With a well designed system one could envisage the panels on a small roof being replaced in under an hour.

      • Bob_Wallace

        90% or better after 25 years.

        There’s a video on line of a rooftop system being installed (from scratch) in about an hour.

        By 2114, when your panels are 100 years old and might be down to 60% of new we probably won’t think of labor costs. One of our home robots will do the job when they have a few spare minutes. ;o)

        • tibi stibi

          so after 30 years they still have a value, this must be taken into account.

        • Kyle Field

          Not to mention the massive improvements in efficiency we should expect in 100 years. Let’s say 50% efficiency…so they take down the 30 panels you had and put up 15 new panels with 99.9% efficient micro inverters 🙂

        • Ronald Brakels

          An typical installation time in Australia: Two people, two hours, 2.5 kilowatts. That’s 1.6 human-hours per kilowatt for a small installation, this figure gets better for larger installations which are more common these days. Note this is for a straight forward install. Some people’s roofs suck and will take longer.

    • Kie
      • Bob_Wallace

        Your line states “about 0.5% per year”.

        The latest NREL report states –

        “For monocrystalline silicon, the most commonly used panel for commercial and residential PV, the degradation rate is less than 0.5% for panels made before 2000, and less than 0.4% for panels made after 2000.”

    • Bob_Wallace

      Oldest know continuously operating array – University of Oldenburg.

      3,88% total loss over first 35 years. 0.1% per year loss.

      Those panels are now 40 years old.

      • tibi stibi

        thanks for the info!

        the catalogue information is always conservative, to avoid low suites.
        real life seems to be better 🙂

        so the price of salor also lower per kwh!!

        • Bob_Wallace

          Just a general thought about warranty years…

          Companies would want to see warranty lifetime high enough to keep people assured that if something is wrong with the product they will be covered. But also below the real lifetime of the product when expected failures start to occur.

          Additionally, there are always the claims against warranty that are not actually product failure but owner/operator faults but companies end up covering anyway in order to avoid (unearned) bad press.

          An example – I helped a neighbor put on a metal roof. The type with exposed screw heads. There’s a rubber gasket under the screw heads and the instructions are very clear to not over tighten the screws – to tighten just until the gasket starts to bulge.

          I put my roof on with a small ratchet socket handle. He grabbed the power drill, chucked in a socket, and started putting in the screws. Pieces of rubber gasket started falling off the roof. I told him what was happening, but he claimed that he knew what he was doing.

          A few months later a friend at the building supply store told me that the roofing supplier had replaced my neighbor’s roof at no cost to him due to the number of complaints he had been making about ‘defective materials’.

          They didn’t just replace the screws he had screwed up. They replaced the entire roof in order to shut him up.

          There’s motivation to keep warranty years down as low as possible. Best to not judge the lifetime of a product by the length of a warranty.

        • wattleberry

          Wonderful how typos don’t interrupt the discussion. For new readers, ‘low suites’ is nothing to do with WCs but means ‘lawsuits’ and ‘salor’ is not a badly spelt mariner but ‘solar’.

      • eveee

        I like to play this hail video for doubters. Not every panel is this good, but it does illustrate how much they can take. Caution. Do not try this at home.

        • Mike Shurtleff


    • JamesWimberley

      Actually, no. With discounting at say 5%, there is little difference between 25 and 30 years. Example. British government bonds with a maturity of 25 years yield 2.97%. Perpetual bonds – consols – yield 4.0%. To buy an interest stream of £100 a year for 25 years will cost you £2,474. To buy it for ever will cost you only £406 more, a mere 16.5% increase.

      The financial insignificance of the distant future makes it sensible for investors in capital projects to ignore it. Socially, this myopia contributes to our present plight.

      • eveee

        Nice comment James. Its a stupid result of our believing in compound interest. A new aqueduct is worth billions, but the Roman aqueduct that survived millennia is worth nothing. And we wonder why we have a disposable society. No mystery if you figure that out. From a sustainable planet point of view, compound interest is the driver of our demise.

  • Adc

    One reason for many developing countries to install solar in as many places as possible is because of massive theft of electricity from the distribution grid. I heard a figure of 30% for Bangladesh – electricity stolen.

    Same for India:

  • wattleberry

    About the inevitability of oil price rises, I’m not so sure. If the increase in demand can be balanced by the renewable source we could actually see a gradual decline in fossil prices.

    Perhaps we’re already beginning to see that at the moment-hitherto, given the turmoil in the Middle East, increases would have been routine but it doesn’t seem to be happening.
    The Second Industrial Revolution is under way.

    • Kyle Field

      That’s just not logical. The current trend of gasmobiles is in no way on the decline. Compare that to the fixed supply of oil in the world and the fact that we have already passed “peak oil” aka the point when we produced as much oil as possible at one time from the ground and you run into a barrier of simple supply and demand. Supply is fixed (or actually on the decline in terms of production) and the demand continues to increase. Any fluctuations we see are a result of minor imbalances or power players in those markets (OPEC, Exxon-Mobil, BP, etc) having an impact on the market.

      On top of that, we have passed the point of “cheap oil” where we can just extract crude from the ground. Yes, there are new drilling technologies that are helping extend and get the most out of each well that’s drilled (horizontal drilling, fracking (because we all love fracking), etc) but the fact is that we are moving on to other sources of oil which simply cost more – oil shale, tar sands, etc – causing that declining supply to not only be opposed to the increasing demand, but also to cost more, further exaggerating the pricing impact of the imbalance, driving prices farther up.

      Optimistically speaking, if renewables do quickly take a chunk of the market causing an imbalance in the current supply and demand dynamics of petrol, we will likely see fluctuations up and down in petrol prices as the market tries to stabilize…but inevitably, the prices will still end up higher than current due to the higher cost of newer sources of oil (on a per barrel basis) spread across lower volume.

      Source: dad works in oil…many years of renewables vs oil discussions

      • Bob_Wallace

        Take a look at what it happening to the coal industry.

        Demand is down and taking price down with it.

        • Kyle Field

          I’m not familiar with the coal industry to the point where I could intelligibly comment on it. I do know that the finite nature of cheap crude is coming to an end and is being replaced by more expensive, harder to produce crude as well as the other types of oil substrate (oil shale, tar sands, etc) which are more expensive. Prices will rise and fall as we make the transition to new energy sources for transportation but overall, oil will increase.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Right now Germany is importing coal from the US because demand has dropped in the US and our coal is being sold at a bargain price to Europe. Germany’s buying our coal rather than digging out its own.

          • Kyle Field

            I see that as a microcosm of the the global coal market with supply and demand leveling out…similar to what we should see with oil as transportation markets shift to renewables as supply and demand balances globally. Basically, what James dubya said below as a general theme. The awkward balance between developed, developing and under developed markets in our new global economy.

          • JamesWimberley

            Spike (as demand outruns supply) followed by crash (as shift to renewables accelerates at no-brainer prices much lower than oil). After the crash, high-cost drilling infrastructure (tar sands, deep offshore) is stranded and share prices crash too. I bet you that oil executives are nervously gaming this as we write. The Kochs are scared, with reason.

          • eveee

            James – I have to agree. Competitiion is not making utility electric rates lower, its increasing them because utilities unwisely invested in the old paradigm large centralized FF plants and nuclear. When conservation kicked in, stranded assets meant increased prices to pay for unused base load. Now add rooftop solar and a ratepayer population fed up with increasing electric rates and we get utility death spiral.
            In the ICE auto market, demand exists, but is not increasing anymore, as fuel costs are high and not falling. That means a shift to more energy efficient ICE autos… and ultimately to PHEV and BEV. End game for oil. At the same time, oilcos are having trouble with CAPEX, that is less return on investment. Watch Stephen Kopits video about how time is running out for big oil.

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