Change in utility’s solar energy plans prompts ideological pirouette

By Tom Baxter

How inconvenient, for the power company to change its tune on solar energy in the middle of an election year.

As recently as last week, Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers was predicting to the Athens Banner-Herald that renewable energy will still be only a “sliver,” maybe two to four percent, of total electrical generation, a half century from now. Georgia Power and its parent, the Southern Co., have long resisted any government efforts to mandate renewable energy efforts, and stoutly opposed any efforts to establish solar energy operations even distantly in competition with their monopoly.

But sometimes it’s necessary to play the competition’s game. Only two days after a Macon-based startup, Georgia Solar Utilities Inc., (GaSU) submitted a petition to the Public Service Commission last month to sell power from a projected 80-megawatt solar facility to be located near Milledgeville, Georgia Power announced its own plan to acquire 210 megawatts of solar power over the next three years.

That represented a tripling of the electrical provider’s previous commitment to solar. By 2017, it would push solar production in the state to 10 times what it is now, although it is not much now. The power would come from small operators like those Georgia Power previously spurned, but not GaSU, which Georgia Power executives suggested should cut back to a tenth of its currently planned output and sell to them.

Because this competitive business decision involved a considerable policy shift for the utility’s political allies, it was preceded by an op-ed piece/press release, “A Conservative Argument for Solar Power,” by Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton, wherein we learn that he’s been working with Georgia Power on its new solar “program.”

“Solar energy has become a polarizing ideological debate, with many on the left treating it as a religious crusade, while many of us on the right believe it’s a boondoggle designed to favor Obama supporters,” Eaton writes.

But solar energy isn’t “inherently liberal,” the commissioner continues. Although criticized by “the left” for dragging its feet on solar development, the PSC has actually saved Georgians millions of dollars over states which implemented it when it was more expensive.

“By being cautious and responsible, instead of following liberal special interest groups, the PSC can now consider adding solar to our power portfolios at much lower costs to Georgia families,” he writes.

It would be hard to find a more bald-faced argument for complacency than this. Does anyone seriously believe, given the railroads, the telegraph system, broadband coverage and so many other obvious examples over time, that states actually profit in the long run from being slow to embrace new technologies? By this logic, William Hartsfield should be taken off his pedestal. Didn’t it take years for the airport to become the economic engine of the region?

As thin as Eaton’s ideological argument may be — substitute “charter schools” for “solar energy” and see what you get — it does signal a major shift in fortunes for alternative energy production.

Notwithstanding Bowers’ “sliver” comment, Georgia Power’s petition to acquire more solar-generated power is only part of a broader corporate move to acquire a bigger position in renewable energy. What we may be seeing is the emergence of Big Solar, and its even more desirable sibling, Big Wind.

The Southern Company has partnered with Ted Turner – how’s that for an ideological pretzel? – to work on renewable projects, and last week announced the acquisition of its third major solar project, a 30 megawatt plant in Nevada.

Alabama Power, Georgia Power’s sister, has won PSC approval in that state to buy 404 megawatts of power generated on wind farms in Oklahoma and Kansas. According to news reports about the sale, that amounts to three percent of the electricity used by Alabama Power’s customers, meaning that renewable energy will have as great a share of overall power consumption in that state in a couple of years as Bowers says Georgia will have 50 years from now.

Obviously, the many-tentacled utility has decided that the costs of producing renewable energy has come down to a point where it can’t be ignored. But forget liberal or conservative, in the sense that any politicians might throw those terms around. What the power company really wants are renewable energy sources that it can understand, which fit the model of a highly capitalized monopoly utility like the one it operates. Big wind farms out on the High Plains, producing power delivered over a complicated electrical grid, fit that model. Upstart competitors like GaSU and small-time tinkerers up on their rooftops trying to take a bite directly out of their profits, don’t.

You can expect the political articulation of that principle in the not too distant future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Baxter has written about politics and the South for more than four decades. He was national editor and chief political correspondent at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and later edited The Southern Political Report, an online publication, for four years. Tom was the consultant for the 2008 election night coverage sponsored jointly by Current TV, Digg and Twitter, and a 2011 fellow at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. He has written about the impact of Georgia’s and Alabama's immigration laws in reports for the Center for American Progress. Tom and his wife, Lili, have three adult children and seven grandchildren.

32 replies
  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    I for one am tired about the newfound solar energy religion in this state with its one-sided press overage. Consider this, if you will.
     
    A large data center in North Carolina is adding a 20 megawatts solar energy farm to supply electricity for its data center. What could be more green, environmentally friendly, and trendy to boot? What they don’t tell you is that they are eliminating 170 acres of trees (over 1/4 square mile) to make room for the installation. This lessens conversion of carbon dioxide to oxygen and increases stormwater runoff – both environmentally unfriendly acts. They also don’t tell you that the average power output will be only 5 megawatts over the course of a year, and that the efficiency of the farm will decrease 1% per year. The farm is primarily for public relations and corporate image, since they are buying electricity at $0.045/kilowatt-hour – about 1/3 of what you pay at home.
     
    The cost of electricity from solar energy will increase Georgia Power’s cost of business and they will pass that cost on to their ratepayers (spell as you and me), along with a sizable profit included. Georgia Power has decided that they can get religion and get paid to do it.Report

    Reply
  2. KyleSager says:

    Bloomberg recently reported a DARA study that climate change now claims 1.6% of global GDP (expected to conservatively ascend to 3.2% by by 2030) and currently $1.2 trillion of GDP annually. Worse: The study pointed to 5 million deaths in 2010 alone from climate change. Southern Company’s efforts are a day late and 50 dollars short.  They’ve got their head in the sand on climate change. Not a single respected national or international body denies climate change any more (Amer. Assoc. of Petroleum Geologists stopped denying way back in 2007) The ONLY noncommittal bodies on human cause are geological bodies (Surprise surprise they get all their money from mining.  They’re NOT climatologists.)  Dozens of more respected bodies endorse the IPCC without condition.  So the 210 Mw is a heavily tempered effort to spin the need for serious change. It is a pathetically weak effort.  We need a lot more rooftop solar and wind starting right now. 
     
    In August this year the American Meteorological Society joined the mainstream with a formal statement that not only acknowledged climate change but also stated quite firmly that it is caused by humans: In line with the IPCC. Koch Funded Berkeley physicist Richard Muller went as far as to do a complete 180 this year and state categorically that climate change is occurring and also people are causing it.  The data is just too strong.  A slew of world-renowned scientists have stated clearly that this year’s unprecedented continent-wide drought was deepened by climate change (It was really a global phenomenon of extremes).
     
    At this point: ANY voices strongly denying climate change exacerbation by human activity are frankly subject to “escalation of commitment.”  …The position looks stupider and stupider as each minute passes (mind-numbingly stupid)  and deniers have dug a hole by taking a position of extreme opposition in the first place.  Game, set, match.  Time to move on.  Fossil energies are killing the planet.  Our grandchildren are going to have difficulty farming because of our persistent selfishness in looking the other way; and Southern Company’s obstinacy is starting to kill people when you consider the 5 million global deaths currently attributed to climate change: The Southeast United States is the worst region in the world’s second most offensive country.Report

    Reply
  3. KyleSager says:

    Oh…And GREAT article Tom!  Keep it up.  Well done indeed.  I’ve seen work like yours start opening eyes in Georgia.  People are finally learning to ignore the lathered up antagonists who increasingly make themselves wholly irrelevant by dismissing the truth the rest of the world is increasingly coming to terms with: We’re messing with food security in a very big way.  Our excesses with fossil energy now amount to causing HUGE socialized damages  for the sake of privatized profit.  Same “stuff” different day.  EXACTLY what Wall Street did in 2008: Public Companies shoving MASSIVE damage & risks out onto society while raking all the profits into themselves. They pontificate allegiance to shareholders while cooking the planet: SOCIALIZED DAMAGE indeed.  Thank you and please share more great reads.Report

    Reply
    • Burroughston Broch says:

      @KyleSager If you think me one of your “lathered up antagonists”, then refute with reason what I posted below.
      Put up or shut up – pick one.Report

      Reply
      • KyleSager says:

        @Burroughston Broch @KyleSager NREL says a mere 7% of extant structures (“rooftop”) can supply sufficient energy to supply the nation’s needs. I’m not going to go in silly circles on this any more. You’ve proven yourself repeatedly willing to basically flat deny the destructiveness of fossil fuels. Arguing with you is like arguing with someone in the Tobacco industry denying that tobacco causes cancer or somebody in the asbestos industry (still around) denying that product kills its miners or users. It’s a waste of time.Report

        Reply
        • Burroughston Broch says:

          @KyleSager 
          We’re not discussing fossil fuels or tobacco here – we’re discussing solar energy. Please stay on topic and not respond like a politician.
          I’m making the points (1) solar energy is not an environmental free lunch because it can damage the environment, and (2) Georgia Power buying more solar energy will increase their profits and their ratepayer’s power bills.
          I challenged you to refute my points and you declined. I presume that you cannot.
          I will continue to be antagonistic towards oversimplistic, Gee Whiz! promotion of solar energy until it makes economic sense for me and most Georgians.Report

          Reply
        • KyleSager says:

          @Burroughston Broch I’ll humor you once.  Last time:
           
          (1) Everything…EVERYTHING you asked is already responded to clearly in one form or another with my posts above and below, including a quite direct refutation to the very weak data-center anecdote that feebly attempts to whimsically counter all solar energy with one sketchy example.
           
          (2) Climate change IS the debate.  That is largely why this article was written in the first place.  That is the main driver for a shift to clean energy.  If fuel sources destroy our ability to produce food or otherwise put us at insanely high risks, those fuel sources must be left behind.  Period.  Clean energies have been repeatedly shown to both contain enough energy and have the capacity to reduce net carbon.
           
          (3) There you go again: You DID IT AGAIN: You blew off discussion of the most important driver for the inevitable shift to clean energy: climate change.  “Stay on topic” is not a response. It’s childish rhetoric to sweep under the rug the single most important problem in our history as a species.  This is about our kids and especially our grandkids even being able to produce enough food.  As it stands most scientists that have a clue say that even if we froze average annual CO2 levels  tomorrow symptomatic impacts will continue growing as much as 30 years.
           
          You can have the last word whatever that may be.  I’m done with you.Report

          Reply
        • Burroughston Broch says:

          @KyleSager  
          Before I begin, I think that some disclosure is in order. Kyle Sager is a solar power advocate who makes his living promoting solar power and supporting others of a like mind. He has a vested financial interest in increasing solar power equipment sales and is not an objective party. I am an engineer and my company designs solar power systems as part of some of our projects. I am involved as part of a team that analyzes the finances of solar power on projects and advises our clients whether they meet the client’s financial objectives. I feel that I am an objective party, but I leave each reader to make his own decision.
          In response to Kyle Sager’s last post:
          1. The data center is a fine example, and there are plenty of others, such as the MARTA solar power system on the roof of the Armour Shops and a New Jersey installation that only makes a profit because 60% of the construction cost was paid by the taxpayers and the utilty company buys the power at $0.385/kWH – three times the going rate there. The plain truth is that, with the present efficiencies and prices of solar energy systems, they are not feasible in most Georgia locations unless they receive (A) heavy governmental subsidies during construction and (B) heavy utility subsidies during operation. The taxpayers pay for the governmental subsidies and the utility’s customers pay for the utility subsidies, plus extra profit for the utility.
          2. Climate change is not relevant to this subject. The original post is about Georgia Power’s change of heart regarding solar energy purchases. This is fog injected by Kyle Sager to try to change the subject.
          3. This is a repetition of 2. Enough said.
          Please review my earlier post and notice that Kyle Sager has yet to directly refute the two points I made. That is because he cannot, so he wants to change the subject.Report

          Reply
        • KyleSager says:

          @Burroughston Broch
          Why am I wasting my time here!  OK you got under my skin:  I am still going to give you the last word, Promise! Since you like to basically repeat the same arguments for emphasis without  any additional contributions then I will as well:
           
          >> WE HAVE TO STOP USING FOSSIL FUELS.  We have to shift QUICKLY to harnessing clean energy. It’s not about costs or per-watt efficiency calculations.  It’s about destruction of our long-term capacity to make food (we’re already damaging that TODAY.  Fingerprints were all over continental US drought) and scientists grow more alarmed every minute. 
           
          >> Additionally: EVERY cost you detail must be offset against a growing global drain of $1.2 trillion in economic damages (1.6% of global GDP from global warming).  That is what fossil fuel costs today by damage in addition to 5 million deaths.
           
          How much are those 5 million annual deaths worth, Broughston?  Can you give me a per watt cost for each life?  Because fossil fuel is killing people today.  Coal, oil, natural gas: Greenhouse gases are killing people today via climate change impacts.
           
          So work us up a spreadsheet on the per-watt value of a poor person’s life in, say, Indonesia.  That could be handy.  $5?  $75?  $100?  Tell us Brock, what are they worth?  We can punch that value into a Southern Company spreadsheet, decide the value we deign to bestow upon those “lesser people” who’s atmosphere we share.
           
          If you can not quite grasp how your actions directly contribute to killing someone  else 5,000 miles away (Takes imagination.  Might be a stretch) perhaps a river analogy would help.  At least three Southeastern states are fighting over water rights from the Chattahooche.
           
          …Similar thing on a global level.  Our actions here now contribute to a growing debt of human life: Droughts, floods, hurricanes – All kinds of nasty side effects made more severe by human GHG’s that grow with time; and thanks to Southern Company and Selfish Southern Apathy – The Southeast United States remains the WORST GHG producing region in the 2nd worst country in the world.
           
          I totally get that you somehow must believe we should not concern ourselves with impact to others on other continents when making local utility decisions.  You also make it harder for your own grandchildren to produce food.  Scientists estimate conservatively a 30-year frame of growing impacts if average GHG levels are frozen.
           
          See, Burroughston, the whole line of reasoning that diddles around childishly with per-watt costs of production when long-term global food production is on the line…The foundation of your entire rationale is flawed.  You want to conveniently just skip right over the most important motivation for shifting to clean energy.  You want to pretend the problems don’t exist or that they’re not your problems.
           
          I’ll finally repeat: We need to incentivize clean energy and we need to attach costs to fossil fuels analogous to tobacco taxes.  We need to move aggressively away from those destructive sources.  Lastly: We need to stop listening to people that dismiss or dispute the truth of climate change.  The science is in.  Start Ignoring the people that continuously pretend like these aren’t real problems.  They won’t stop stamping their feet.  (“Escalation of commitment”).
           
          You have the floor Burroughston.  In case Burroughston somehow has a sudden turn of heart and decides to address climate change — He’s wisely elected to avoid the worst problems where he clearly lacks expertise to this point — Knowing I really won’t return to this thread he’s quite liable to suddenly perk up (I really am not going to return to this thread): I strongly suggest any readers turn to other sources for information on climate change.  Push beyond the sources like Richard Muller: “I was wrong before but start listening to me now.”  Rrright.  Start listening to people like James Hansen who the world’s scientists have increasingly acknowledged has been right for 30 years and who never missed the mark.
           
          Tom: I apology for hijacking your comments.  Guess I just wanted to point out the idiocy of bickering about per-watts and profits when we’re very seriously screwing around with how we conduct agriculture.  People are learning they can ignore those childish lines of reasoning and move on to the real problems.  I just want them to know: It’s OK to focus on the real problems like climate and to use economic incentives to help solve those problems.Report

          Reply
        • KyleSager says:

          @Burroughston Broch
          Why am I wasting my time here!  OK you got under my skin:  I am still going to give you the last word, Promise! Since you like to basically repeat the same arguments for emphasis without  any additional contributions then I will as well:
           
          >> WE HAVE TO STOP USING FOSSIL FUELS.  We have to shift QUICKLY to harnessing clean energy. It’s not about costs or per-watt efficiency calculations.  It’s about destruction of our long-term capacity to make food (we’re already damaging that TODAY.  Fingerprints were all over continental US drought) and scientists grow more alarmed every minute. 
           
          >> Additionally: EVERY cost you detail must be offset against a growing global drain of $1.2 trillion in economic damages (1.6% of global GDP from global warming).  That is what fossil fuel costs today by damage in addition to 5 million deaths.
           
          How much are those 5 million annual deaths worth, Broughston?  Can you give me a per watt cost for each life?  Because fossil fuel is killing people today.  Coal, oil, natural gas: Greenhouse gases are killing people today via climate change impacts.
           
          So work us up a spreadsheet on the per-watt value of a poor person’s life in, say, Indonesia.  That could be handy.  $5?  $75?  $100?  Tell us Brock, what are they worth?  We can punch that value into a Southern Company spreadsheet, decide the value we deign to bestow upon those “lesser people” who’s atmosphere we share.
           
          If you can not quite grasp how your actions directly contribute to killing someone  else 5,000 miles away (Takes imagination.  Might be a stretch) perhaps a river analogy would help.  At least three Southeastern states are fighting over water rights from the Chattahooche.
           
          …Similar thing on a global level.  Our actions here now contribute to a growing debt of human life: Droughts, floods, hurricanes – All kinds of nasty side effects made more severe by human GHG’s that grow with time; and thanks to Southern Company and Selfish Southern Apathy – The Southeast United States remains the WORST GHG producing region in the 2nd worst country in the world.
           
          I totally get that you somehow must believe we should not concern ourselves with impact to others on other continents when making local utility decisions.  You also make it harder for your own grandchildren to produce food.  Scientists estimate conservatively a 30-year frame of growing impacts if average GHG levels are frozen.
           
          See, Burroughston, the whole line of reasoning that diddles around childishly with per-watt costs of production when long-term global food production is on the line…The foundation of your entire rationale is flawed.  You want to conveniently just skip right over the most important motivation for shifting to clean energy.  You want to pretend the problems don’t exist or that they’re not your problems.
           
          I’ll finally repeat: We need to incentivize clean energy and we need to attach costs to fossil fuels analogous to tobacco taxes.  We need to move aggressively away from those destructive sources.  Lastly: We need to stop listening to people that dismiss or dispute the truth of climate change.  The science is in.  Start Ignoring the people that continuously pretend like these aren’t real problems.  They won’t stop stamping their feet.  (“Escalation of commitment”).
           
          You have the floor Burroughston.  In case Burroughston somehow has a sudden turn of heart and decides to address climate change — He’s wisely elected to avoid the worst problems where he clearly lacks expertise to this point — Knowing I really won’t return to this thread he’s quite liable to suddenly perk up (I really am not going to return to this thread): I strongly suggest any readers turn to other sources for information on climate change.  Push beyond the sources like Richard Muller: “I was wrong before but start listening to me now.”  Rrright.  Start listening to people like James Hansen who the world’s scientists have increasingly acknowledged has been right for 30 years and who never missed the mark.
           
          Tom: I apologize for hijacking your comments.  Guess I just wanted to point out the idiocy of bickering about per-watts and profits when we’re very seriously screwing around with how we conduct agriculture.  People are learning they can ignore those childish lines of reasoning and move on to the real problems.  I just want them to know: It’s OK to focus on the real problems like climate and to use economic incentives to help solve those problems.Report

          Reply
        • Burroughston Broch says:

          Kyle, you really went off the reservation.
          Let’s focus on the original post, which is what I’ve been trying to do.
          Georgia Power has new found religion about buying solar energy. No, they haven’t had a Road To Emmaus experience and now buy into the global warming and climate change rhetoric. Instead, they realize they can make more profit by buying solar electricity and selling it to their ratepayers, with the PSC’s direction and blessing. The solar electricity will cost them more than electricity generated by other means, but they don’t care. They just roll the solar electricity into the rate base, tack their guaranteed profit (10% or 11%, I think) on top, and send us a bill. Our bill will be larger than it would be if they didn’t buy solar electricity, but so what? They will increase their profit, and that’s what counts to them. If their ratepayers complain, they will just point to the PSC and smile.
          To my mind, this whole affair has been a carefully planned charade by Georgia Power and solar electricity advocates on the PSC. Georgia Power played the part of Brer Rabbit, begging Brer Fox and Brer Bear not to throw him into the brier patch (read as solar energy).
          IReport

          Reply
  4. terence says:

    I have been working in the solar energy industry for 25 years.  I have installed systems in 18 countries.  Back in the day, most of these systems were subsidized by the government, oil companies, the UN development programs, international development banks and national governments in the developing countries where I was working.  Today, most systems are financed by banks.  But PV modules and the balance of system component prices have been steadily coming down over the past two decades.  The trend is clear and unstoppable.  During this same time period, I think everyone reading this article knows what is happening with the price of fossil fuels.  And the more science we gather, the harder the nail is pounded in regarding the health costs we pay for using fossil fuels.  The actual costs of using and securing our fossil fuel supplies from the Middle East is being watched by television viewers everyday.  I don’t need to get into arguments about the fact that fossil fuel supplies are limited on this earth and that 7 billion humans are capable of climate change. Bottom line is that US is about money.  PV will be used by Georgia utilities and other utilities across the country for one reason and one reason only; it makes them money.  PV module systems will hit grid parity soon enough (its already there in some expensive markets) and the utilities will make the switch over.  Simple.  Lathered up antagonists, liberals, conservatives, gee whiz promotion are nothing but wasted words.  Get used to the new paradigm in energy production.  Actually, you are not required to get used to it.  Money will make the decision for you.Report

    Reply
    • KyleSager says:

      I am sincerely comforted that your daily work advances the solar industry; Your work is phenomenally important and your help is invaluable in moving us all  in the right direction. I also agree completely that an eventual shift is inevitable due to cost factors.  Unfortunately, we don’t have time to sit around and wait for competition to magically end ghg production.  We need to aggressively structure  changes to incentivize clean energy and disincentize fossil fuels.  Respectfully: I sense that you may vastly underestimate the fossil fuel lobby’s power and willingness to use any and all methods to erect barriers, obfuscate, and otherwise greatly delay the shift. I also think you underestimate the utility industry’s willingness to similarly prevent production shifting to rooftops wherever possible.
       
      That delay will be important.  Rex Tillerson has expressly stated Exxon has zero interest in clean energy and clean energy absolutely competes quite directly with Exxon’s foundational revenue streams and business model.  Voilà: Your business directly chisels away at the most profitable industry and company in history.  You’ll probably disagree with me on this also…I’ll respect your view and leave us with likely irreconcilable difference:
       
      My position is that any communication calculated to diminish the urgency of climate change is a very big mistake.  In my camp this entire conversation ultimately revolves around our children’s ability to dependably and predictably execute agriculture year after year sufficient to feed more than 7 billion people; and time is of the essence.  The cheapest form of energy is no longer the core issue or driver.  Thank you for your work.  You are extremely important.  I do understand if you think climate change is not an urgent driver.  The world’s best scientists overwhelmingly advance the notion we have a serious problem.Report

      Reply
  5. James C Desmond says:

    Nice column.  And a very informative debate here in the comments!  Thanks.  
     
    To Sager & Broch:  You’re both right.  Subsidizing Solar PV leads to many market and political ills (Solyndra, and now Abound Solar is being criminally investigated on corruption grounds).   But letting Brown Power interests poop into the fish bowl in which we all live and NOT pay some dues for that privilege?  No.  That unfairly advantages it over Solar PV, which spares multiple levels of economic and ecologic and political costs despite its embedded pollution cost in manufacturing it.
     
    There’s too much upside to Solar PV, despite its variability shortcoming (and yes, I do hope the free market truly is valuing it as a peak-power displacer), to not give it some credit for the net good it does (i.e., reducing the number of peak-power, brown-power plants that need to be built, thus less pollution).  I thus favor a simple pricing strategy, as driven by tax policy, over subsidization.  
     
    My bottom line: Don’t hand out public largess to Solar and other Green Power producers, and certainly not to Brown Power producers.  Instead, manipulate pricing (thereby making Green Power more competitive) via taxation.  In short, tax Brown, don’t tax Green.  
     
    And when (thanks China!) Solar PV falls to $1/watt installed (unsubsidized), it will take off at the residential and back-yard grid-tied level (I erected my own 10KW system for $1.40/watt 2 years ago, there’s a reasonable shot I can do it, unsubsidized, at $1/watt by 2016).  My system makes/saves me $1000/year at MARKET pricing (I pay $.13/KWH for the power my home consumes at night, and my utility pays me $.08/KWH in “avoided cost” for the power my array feeds back into the grid during the day).  
     
    If government taxed Brown Power at its origins (coal at the train load, oil at the ship load, and natural gas at the well head) and “un-taxed” Green Power (Solar), those numbers would move more favorably toward Solar PV.   Yes (depending on the amount of taxation), I’d pay probably wind up paying something like $.16/KWH but receive $.12/KWH, thus shortening my array’s payback cycle.  (I’ve always had a negative power bill since my array went live).  That, in turn, would cause my neighbors to erect their own arrays, and thus a virtuous market cycle begins, resulting in tens of millions of arrays in distributed electrical generation fashion — all unsubsidized.  Now we’re talking GW range, which is real (not feel-good, band-aid) change.  And if anyone ever finds the Holy Grail (cost-feasible electricity storage), then we’ll already have an ocean of Green Power sourcing (tens of millions of distributed Solar PV arrays) in place to exploit it and thus shut down even more Brown Power (coal, other base-load) plants.
     
    For more on taxing “bad behavior”:  https://sites.google.com/site/freemarketsolarpower/home/taxation-policy
     
    On the broader subject of grid-tied, solar power at the “Joe Six Pack” (me) level:  JamesChristopherDesmond.com (no, I’m not selling anything, not a commercial pitch of any kind, just a collection of research sources and commentary).Report

    Reply
    • KyleSager says:

      @James C Desmond What appeals to me so much about this example ==> http://grist.org/news/norway-to-double-carbon-tax-on-oil-industry-use-money-to-help-world/ :
       
      Unilateral action:  They don’t wait for other nationalities to start taking responsibility or barter.  They simply forge ahead and set an example.
       
      Its probably going to take some kind of unilateral action on our end nationally to start turning this thing around. Less likely in the United States because our culture tends to aggressively criticize collectivism. (“Seven Cultures of Capitalism” 1993, surveys hundreds of managers in United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Sweden, and the Netherlands. We behave EXACTLY like the book would predict.)
       
      Your array really looks fantastic.  Thank you for sharing it.Report

      Reply
  6. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ James C Desmond and Kyle Sager
    If you’re looking for the prices of PV installations to drop because of cheap imports from China, think again.The Commerce Dept. Oct. 10 lowered some anti-dumping duties and significantly increased anti-subsidy duties on imports of Chinese solar silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells.
    The Administration is all for PV, as long as it is not manufactured in China. But most of the domestic manufacturers are bankrupt or near-bankrupt, in spite of massive Federal subsidies. Remember Solyndra?Report

    Reply
  7. Cleanenergyauth says:

    Disclaimer: We work in the Solar industry and many of the world’s largest solar companies are partners. That being said we want to counter some of the claims here.

    Solar is getting cheaper. Yes panels have plummeted but a lot of the US’s cost are tied up in installation and permitting. The Utilities and local permitting are to blame for this. These costs will go down soon and get closer to Germany where it costs almost half as much to go solar due to less of these “soft” costs. Much if the DOE’s recent efforts have been to cut these costs to the Administrations’s national goal of $1/W. Some states and localities are leading the charge here: http://www.cleanenergyauthority.com/solar-energy-news/honolulu-starts-permitting-solar-online-093012

    Solar does NOT make bills go up. In fact many countries and states have so much solar and wind that the wholesale rate is going down which is causing problems for utilities. Georgia Power knows this. In Australia where now 1 in 10 homes have solar systems and wind farms are prevalent rates are going down. Texas is having similar issues with the installed wind power driving down the market to where power is being generated for free.

    Mentioning environmental destruction due to the installation of solar is a straw man. A couple of examples of trees felled is an oddity when most solar is placed on roofs, non-productive land, landfills and even farmland that can still be used for grazing. Lets not even go down that road when one considers the wholesale destruction that fossil fuel mining entails. Studies have shown that fossil fuel production takes up far more land when the mining, refining, production and transporting of it is taken into consideration.

    Lastly discussing climate change IS applicable when one considers we don’t at this time consider renewable energy pricing fairly due to the current lack of a carbon tax or cap-and-trade. Renewables have the ability to reduce the use of things that cause health and environmental issues for us all.

    Bottom line – free fuel will win the battle – it’s just a matter how long Georgia Power wants to delay it to preserve the status quo.Report

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  8. guest says:

    over changing on power bills is not right then your company want to cogress and told they you would take the bills down is not what happen they want up to the sky and now disabled people are haveing trouble paying their light bill you are taking food and meds from they because they need the lights and the food and the meds you see they did not ask to be disabled and did not want to be disabled so it is time to fix it rightReport

    Reply

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