Solar more viable as Georgia’s new nuclear power plants face overruns

By Guest Columnist JIGAR SHAH, author of “Creating Climate Wealth: Unlocking the Impact Economy”

Georgia Power, a subsidiary of the Southern Co., is in the midst of building two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.  The projects are at least $737 million over budget which will up the total cost to $6.85 billion.

Instead of deciding whether to raise the budget now, utility regulators want to postpone that debate until the first of the new reactors comes online in January 2018 at the earliest.  Or have the debate when Georgia is way too deep in sunk costs.

This problem of sunk costs started when Georgia Power, not satisfied with the standard electricity utility regulatory process, went directly to the state legislature to provide it with new powers to recover “work in progress” expenses.  Under this new power, Georgia Power could raise rates during the construction phase, placing the full risk of cost overruns and eventual power plant completion onto the ratepayers in its service territory.

There is a silver lining. I am seeing Georgia’s nuclear financial woes starting to prompt a boon for distributed energy including solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, low-impact hydro, high efficiency cogeneration, and other sources of electricity.

Jigar Shah

Jigar Shah

In fact, the potential financial hit is so bad, that the AARP, the Georgia Solar Energy Association, the Georgia Tea Party, and other unlikely bedfellows have found common ground – in solar energy.

The main driver uniting these unlikely allies is a mutual dissent with the public utility’s lock on their energy choices.

The perplexing issue that I see time and again is that public utilities often “forget” that their first obligation is to the public.  While the public utility is a private corporation, it has a public supplied monopoly.  They should remember that their obligation to the public is more important than their obligation to shareholders.  The reason is that the minute the public can resist a mandated burden, it will.

In this case, Georgia Power’s desire to build an expensive nuclear plant rather than explore other, more reasonable options has prompted widespread resistance.

Georgia is not alone in this erosion of public trust by a public utility. In other markets, the area’s public utility has lost public trust through an over reliance on volatile natural gas.  In Washington D.C., the lack of utility reliability has left people without power for weeks in the aftermath of violent storms.

Whatever the reason, the antipathy to the local government sanctioned monopoly utility company has created an opening for solar PV (photovoltaic).  And it is precisely this burning desire by the people for choice that has elevated solar PV demand.

With radical cost reduction in solar PV, we are on the cusp of something truly transformational, a moment where electricity customers can generate electricity at a lower cost than the electricity provided to them from the government sanctioned monopoly utility company.

But it is not just solar.  Solar PV will be joined by wind, geothermal, low-impact hydro, high efficiency natural gas cogeneration, and other sources of electricity.  The reason we focus on solar PV is not that it is “the answer” for all power, but it so succinctly summarizes the difference between the corporate power of the utility and the desire on the part of ratepayers for freedom of choice in the energy market.

So, if energy choice is the driver, the question is: “What’s the future for solar in Georgia?”  If it is not the end-all savior, what is its role and how big can it become?

Today the lowest cost installations in the United States would make solar cost effective without state incentives in Georgia.  The partnership between the odd bedfellows of the Tea Party and the environmental organizations has resulted in a 525MW solar mandate for Georgia Power.

This amount of solar PV is more than enough to produce 0.5 percent of total electricity while allowing Georgia installers to match the best practices necessary to achieve cost effective solar PV by 2016.  All the while, electricity rates in Georgia will keep going up.  Why?  The nuclear power plant is not yet completed and won’t be until at least 2020.

In the end, most Georgians are not motivated by low-carbon resources, they are driven by choice.  They are driven by the “hedge-value” solar PV provides against paying for the mistakes made by the local government sanctioned monopoly utility company.

Dr. Sidney Smith, a dermatologist and a longtime solar investor, has called solar the “new cotton of the South.” Time will tell whether solar will live up to the economic power of “King Cotton,” but we can safely assume that no one will be praising nuclear that way anytime soon.

Jigar Shah founded SunEdison, one of the nation’s largest solar services company. He served as the first CEO and remains a board member of the Carbon War Room, the global organization founded by Sir Richard Branson and Virgin United to help entrepreneurs address climate change. 

55 replies
  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    The author glosses over a little-publicized problem with solar and wind energy. The output of these sources is intermittent, forcing the utility company to either (1) keep additional generation capacity on line (at considerable cost) to supply the load when clouds occur or the wind dies, or (2) provide stored energy (usually large battery plants) to support the load, or (3) a combination of (1) and (2).
    The advocates of solar, wind, and tidal energy do not include the costs of (1), (2), and (3) in the costs they quote, leading to artificially low costs. It’s time for some truth in advertising here.Report

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  2. moliere says:

    Burroughston Broch 
     Burroughston Broch 
    All I care about is the FACT that Georgia produces no fossil or traditional fuels. No oil, no coal, no uranium, and only a tiny amount of natural gas which is accessible only by fracking. (I have no problem with fracking when the yield is large, mind you, but when the yield is too small the negatives outweigh the positives, and apparently the free market agrees as there is no fracking boom rush under way to get at the relatively small deposits of natural gas available in a tiny sliver of far northwest Georgia, just a couple of companies kicking some numbers and exploratory proposals around because they know that the yield may not justify the investment.) 
    This means that relying entirely on nuclear and fossil fuels results in no jobs for Georgians. It only provides jobs in places like Texas, Alaska, West Virginia etc. that does produce those energy sources. There aren’t even any refineries or major pipelines for those things in our state.
    So my interest in alternative/renewable energy isn’t about the environment. It is entirely economic. If we can create tens of thousands of high paying jobs in our own state by switching from fossil fuels and nuclear to solar and wind, then that is worth the higher costs. 50,000-75,000 high paying jobs (the size of the entire workforce for places like Macon, Columbus, Savannah, Rockdale or Paulding counties etc) are worth a few more bucks on your electric bill.
    Incidentally, battery technology to store solar and wind energy is improving, becoming cheaper and more efficient. Stanford’s science department – no bastion for liberalism – has produced an economic study showing that batteries are already a viable economic solution for solar (though not wind) energy: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2013/september/curtail-energy-storage-090913.html
    More work needs to be done and is being done, but progress is slow. Why? Because America’s R&D efforts aren’t behind it. So the work is being done mostly in Asia and the EU, whose R&D is nowhere near as good as ours. And why is this the case? Conservatives have been slashing away at government-funded R&D for decades. Granted, liberals don’t help matters, because they would rather spend the money on social programs. Give them the choice between health care/preschool or R&D and the social programs would win every time. But the fact remains that we spend nowhere near as much on NSF, DOE, NASA etc. research as we did from the 1950s until the 1980s. The huge technological boom that we underwent that was driven largely by government-funded and sponsored research programs (no, it wasn’t the private sector, unless you call government-funded research projects at Stanford and MIT the private sector) would not exist in this political environment. It is debatable whether even the Manhattan Project would.
    So we are going to have to sit around and wait until the Chinese – which have invested hundreds of billions building a solar energy – make the new breakthroughs on batteries and then HOPE that they share the technology with us (which they probably won’t considering that we are their #1 economic and military enemy). Even if the EU beats the Chinese to it, they won’t be in a rush to provide the technology to us either, as the EU has long resented our technological and economic dominance over them and sees alternative energy as a way to become competitive and even the score. 

    But the main thing to realize is that you should not expect the existing energy industry to make this breakthrough. Why not? Because their money is now in fossil fuels. So they don’t have an incentive to do anything that would compete with their primary revenue source. Right now the advantages that they have over alternative/renewable energy is that the other energy sources are 1) far more expensive, 2) far less reliable, 3) much less scalable and 4) we don’t have the infrastructure in place for it. But eliminate any 2 of those 4 and people will start switching from oil and even natural gas (we are already pretty much abandoning coal) for the other sources immediately, leading to a huge drop in demand, which would cause oil prices to plummet and energy company profits to plummet. It is not a conspiracy theory, mind  you, just common sense business as to why ExxonMobil isn’t going to invest $100 billion in research on a project that will lead to the price of oil going from $110 a barrel to $30 a barrel. As ExxonMobil is not going to make anywhere near as much on batteries as they do on oil and natural gas, they would be spending all that money on something that will pretty much be the end of them. Which is why they won’t do it and we – meaning the government – should just as government research invented computers, imaging, wireless communications and practically everything else. (If only the government were anywhere near as good at solving social problems as they were technological ones). 
    If the folks running this state had any sense, they would be giving fistfuls of money at Georgia Tech to make next generation batteries (as well as solar panels and windmills), and a few leftover dollars to UGA to do some biofuels research. But alas, we would rather follow Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and every other “conservative” shill for the oil and natural gas industry. Georgia GOP politicians and voters know all about and are plenty outraged over Obama’s failure to approve the Keystone XL pipeline (which he should, and his failure to do so is a major black mark on his administration, although I still believe that he will approve it near the end of his second term), even though A) that project wouldn’t have brought a single job to Georgia even if it had been approved yesterday and B) the project requires the price of oil to be too high to be viable anyway. The Keystone XL pipeline NEEDS for the price of oil to be over $80 – some say over $100 – a barrel to turn a profit. We need to get the price of oil DOWN to less than $60 a barrel in order to make what is left of our domestic heavy manufacturing industry more competitive with overseas competition. But I guess stuff like that doesn’t get much talked about on talk radio, Fox News or Townhall.com does it?Report

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  3. diggdeeperr says:

    Despite holding distinguished business positions Jigar Shah cannot do simple mathematics. 

    The two new reactors being built in Georgia will create the same amount of energy annually as 10.8 GW of solar PV and will do so for a period of 60 years (PV has a useful life of about 30 years).

    The costs of 10.8 GW of solar PV and the necessary grid modifications associated with maintaining grid stability with it would be much more expensive than the nuclear plants. 
    Jigar is an industry shill, not an environmentalist.Report

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  4. moliere says:

    diggdeeperr 
    You are missing the real point, which was never about comparing the prices of nuclear to solar. Instead, it was about how the increasing costs associated with traditional energy sources are making alternative energy more economically – and politically palatable – in places where they would have been a pipe dream (for their advocates) otherwise. The massive cost overruns by the Georgia Power regulated monopoly plus gas being $3.40 a gallon makes looking at alternatives economically – and more important, politically – feasible. For example, Georgia Power was forced to back off on their opposition to a solar energy proposal before the PSC because killing it would have threatened their regulated monopoly status, or at least the terms under which they get to remain a regulated monopoly. And when more solar initiatives are proposed in the future – such as those which would allow property owners to sell their excess power back to the grid, I admit an economically unsound proposal when it comes to owners of single family homes but if owners of single story facilities with large square feet like warehouses and big box stores get into the game that could really change it – Georgia Power won’t be able to resort to the “it will make your power rates to up!” excuse to kill it like they did in the past precisely because of this nearly $1 billion cost overrun that will have to be subsidized by taxpayers and ratepayers (same people). 
    Just as high gas prices are making hybrids and electric cars feasible from a marketing standpoint (if  you don’t own stock in Elon Musk’s electric car company Tesla – and Musk is now the sort of corporate celebrity that Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg were in times past – then please acquire it) boondoggles like this are precisely what is making alternative energy more attractive.Report

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  5. diggdeeperr says:

    moliere 
    No I do not miss the point, the very title of the piece above is making a false claim in implicating that solar is more viable in GA, which is enormously false when all costs are considered. 
    The monopolistic nature of GA power has little to do with the cost overruns involved in building the Vogtle plants, the regulatory structure of the NRC is instead responsible and delays were unfortunately anticipated. The nuclear industry and US DOE are well aware of the cost overrun problem and are working at ways to alleviate it via the small modular reactor program etc. 
    It is true that the new nuclear reactors is making rates go up, but an equivalent acquisition of grid-compatible solar PV would be far more costly. I take it you don’t have a full understanding as to why variable generation sources make electrical supply more expensive. If we want to maximize emissions reduction then we must use money prudently to get the most emissions reduction per dollar invested. Energy efficiency, hydro, nuclear, and wind power are the most cost effective measures to cut emissions as of now, and nuclear is the only generation source which is completely scalable with current grid infrastructure and commercial technology. 
    PV contributes less than 1% of US electricity for sound economic reasons. Utilities are for profit and will adopt any generation sources that make sense, in this case the government backed loans for the new reactors made sense for GA power as they will avoid natural gas volatility and increasing regulatory costs of coal burning for 6 decades. Solar PV is not only far more expensive, but the reliability is very suspect for much of what is currently on the market.Report

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  6. diggdeeperr says:

    Also both reactors are actually on schedule to be completed well before 2020, despite what Jigar fabricates above. 
    Some environmentalist he is huh? Complaining about a state where 40% of the electrical generation will occur emissions free due to nuclear and the utility rates will continue to be low in relation to the US average. 
    This guy is a business man, he doesn’t care about the environment and uses little common sense.Report

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  7. Bob Wallace says:

    diggdeeperr 
    China is now installing large scale solar for just above $1/watt. 
    Given Georgia’s sunshine that works out to less than 6 cents per kWh.  By the time the Vogtle plants come on line we should have dropped our average large scale solar costs from the present $2.10/watt to where China is now.  (Europe is installing for about $1.50/watt right now.)
    If you run the cost, the LCOE, for the Vogtle plants based on their original cost and timeline you’ll find that the cost of electricity would be around 11c/kWh.  With the cost and time overruns the price is now approaching 15c/kWh.
    Onshore wind in the US is being produced for 6c/kWh and offshore should be 10c or less by the time Vogtle 3 and 4 get fired up.
    That’s a tremendous price difference.  Yes, the wind doesn’t blow all the time.  Nor does the Sun shine 24 hours a day.  But natural gas generation is well under 10c/kW.  A combination of wind, solar and NG is just as reliable and significantly cheaper than new nuclear.
    BTW, the average lifespan of a nuclear reactor is less than 40 years.  Thermal plants, coal and nuclear, get pretty worn out after 4 decades of use.  The average lifespan of US coal plants is 39 years.

     We have 40 year old solar panels in operation and they are still producing 80% of their original output.  
    The math for nuclear simply isn’t working any longer.Report

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  8. Burroughston Broch says:

    Bob Wallace
    China provides uninstalled solar panels in large quantities for about $1/watt, but that is far cheaper than a domestic panel. Labor is vastly cheaper in China. Current US costs for large installations are about $3.50/watt. A 100kW plant will cost $350,000, and will produce about 175,200kWH per year in Georgia. If you assume Georgia Power’s average business rate for medium business at $0.11/kWH, you would save about $19,000/year.
    You go right ahead and spend $350,000 to save $19,000/year, an 18 year payback. Be my guest and enjoy.Report

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  9. Bob Wallace says:

    @Burroughston Broch
    At the end of Q2, 2013 the average (residential, commercial and utility) cost of solar in the US was $3.05/W.  The average cost of utility solar was $2.10/W.
    You can download the Executive Summary at Greentech Media and check if you like.
    http://www.greentechmedia.com/research/ussmi

    The  average price of silicon solar panels in the US last week was $0.705/W.  The average price of thin-film was $0.604/W.
    http://pvinsights.com/

    By the time a new nuclear plant can be brought on line the price of solar will be even lower.  The cost of panels will fall and we will reduce our balance of system costs so that we are more in line with China.  Labor costs are only a very small amount of installation and we are starting to use robots for most of the work which greatly cuts costs.

    You are free to spend as much as you like for your electricity.  But some people would like to understand their options.Report

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  10. Burroughston Broch says:

    Bob Wallace 
    My local experience is $3.50/watt in the 10kW-100kW range. Smaller residential systems will cost more.
    I notice you didn’t reply to my cost and return on investment exercise. You know and I know that solar is not cost effective in Georgia at this time unless you receive a sizable incentive.
    Let’s suppose in a few years that solar falls to $1.75/installed watt and Georgia Power’s average rate rises to $0.13/kWH. A 100kW installation would cost $175,000 and would save $22,700 on your utility bill. That’s a 7.7 year payback that will not be attractive to most folks, absent a large incentive.
    It’s going to be a long while before solar becomes cost effective in Georgia, regardless of your wishes.Report

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  11. Bob Wallace says:

    Burroughston Broch 
    Your local experience is one data point.  National averages combine many data points.
    I didn’t bother responding to your investment exercise because it started with non-typical numbers.  Again, the US average cost of utility scale solar is $2.10/W.  Was $2.10 at the end of Q2, 2013, it’s probably down some now.
    And the cost will almost certainly continue to drop.  With Europe installing at $1.50/W ($1.20/W in Italy) and China at $1/W I think most can see where things are heading.
    Both Germany and Australia are now installing residential rooftop for $2/W.  That price (no subsidies) in Georgia would generate 9c/kWh electricity.  That would be a locked in price for life of the loan.  After that the price would drop to 0c/kWh.
    As for a 7.6 year payback not being attractive, that’s a 9.5% return on investment.  And a very safe, non-volatile investment.  I think most would find that very attractive.
    How quickly Georgia develops an efficient solar installation industry is not something I can predict.  The states which have invested in creating an active solar industry will reach the $2/W residential and $1/W utility levels in the next few years.Report

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  12. Burroughston Broch says:

    Bob Wallace
    This article is focused on Georgia, and it is not focused on utility-sized solar plants. You keep focusing on other countries, such as Germany where they have realized the folly of heavily subsidized solar energy and have removed the subsidies.
    Let’s get back on the subject. See if you can prove solar is cost effective in Georgia today or in the near future, without a subsidy. Prove means numbers and real costs, not pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by pipe dreams.Report

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  13. Bob Wallace says:

    Burroughston Broch Bob Wallace The article I read is about nuclear vs. other sources of electricity at the utility level.
    If you think Georgia is going to be unique and won’t be able to drop its cost of installing solar while everyone else is doing so, well, I guess that’s your opinion of Georgia’s capabilities.
     Georgia’s behind now because you’ve let your utility company have too much political power and keep solar largely out of your state.

    I expect that large installation companies will see opportunity and move into Georgia just as Home Depot and Costco look for markets.

    If you can’t look at how prices (non-subsidized) prices are dropping in countries which have comparable labor costs to the US and see where prices are headed there’s not a lot more I can do to give you a glimpse in the likely future.
    Utility scale solar in the US is averaging about $2/watt.  The NREL finds it a bit less than $2 and Greentech Media finds it a bit over $2.  If Georgia has the ability to install for average US prices then electricity will be 9c/kWh.  That’s cheaper than new nuclear.  And soon after prices will be down to $1.50/watt and then $1/watt which will take utility solar to around 5c/kWh.
    I can’t “prove” jack to you.  But I can strongly suggest that long before Vogtle 3 comes on line utility solar will be producing for far less than 10c/kWh, at a price V3 won’t be able to touch.

    Historically the US has trailed Germany’s price for residential solar by 2-3 years.  That suggests, to me, that within a couple of years we will be installing residential solar in the US for $2/watt which means that individuals can produce their own power for less than the retail rate.
    Georgia probably won’t get there as fast as states which have adopted a free market, rather than regulated system.  But I bet it won’t trail more than 2-3 years.

     If you want to live in denial of what’s happening in the world, well, that has zero impact on me.Report

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  14. diggdeeperr says:

    Bob Wallace 
    Vogtle will be online in 2017 and the installed price of PV will not be $2.10 in the US then considering the average installed price for PV isnt even $2.10/watt in Germany yet. Even at a price of $2.10 nuclear is far cheaper for the amount of capacity we are talking about. 
    You lack the necessary information to project the LCOE for Vogtle. 
    Nat gas with a little wind and solar is not nearly as clean as nuclear and will not provide the amount of fuel savings and stable prices/volatility hedging for 40-60 years.

    There are a lot of 5 year old solar panels which are failing in the field. I know first hand that PV reliability is an uncertainty from an industry standpoint, Nuclear reactor reliability is a much lower risk from an investment standpoint, it is only the construction delay which is a risk. 

    You are not an environmentalist, all you care about is PV this and PV that, not emissions reduction. This project will reduce more emissions at a lower cost then any other generation source possibly could at this point in time, that is a fact not a point of debate.Report

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  15. Burroughston Broch says:

    diggdeeperr Bob Wallace Buy a solar panel and the warranty is usually 5 years. Anticipated efficiency loss is 1%/year.
    And Bob, what do you envision powering our lives when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow? The cost of Li ion batteries in utility scale is $1million per mWH, not including the energy conversion equipment. Nuclear and fossil fuel are our present choices.
    I am all for alternative energy sources when they are cost effective, but I am not for jamming them down the public’s throat via governmental incentives (increased taxes) and utility incentives (increased utility bills).Report

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  16. Bob Wallace says:

    diggdeeperr Bob WallaceWhether Vogtle will come on line in 2017 is yet to be known.  So far the timeline is slipping as is typical of nuclear builds.
    In 2017 the installed price of utility scale solar will almost certainly be lower than $2.10 in the US since it already is and we have three years of learning how to install more efficiently as is now happening in Europe and Asia.
    Here are German solar prices.  August 2013
    € 1.510  $2.02/watt.  http://www.photovoltaik-guide.de/pv-preisindex 
    I have all the information necessary to calculate the LCOE for Vogtle based on its present announced cost and completion date.  Of course that number will increase with further schedule slips and cost increases.
    There are not a lot of solar panels failing in the field.  That’s simply bull.  There may have been some poor quality panels shipped as failing companies scrambled to unload product during the recent industry shakeup.  Now that we have independent quality testing agencies there’s no excuse for building a project with defective panels.
    I’m a combination of environmentalist and realist.  I recognize that since we have no price on carbon the decision of what generation to build will be based mainly on cost.  With no cost for its carbon, natural gas will be selected for its lower cost over cleaner nuclear.  That’s not me making that decision, it’s a market decision.
    Luckily for those of us who are concerned about the environment and climate change the price of natural gas is going up as the prices of wind and solar are falling.  That means that wind and solar, when available, will be used rather than gas.  Then, as better storage technology comes on line, gas will fade away.Report

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  17. Bob Wallace says:

    diggdeeperr Bob Wallace Burroughston BrochI was talking about average utility scale solar price, not the combined average of residential, commercial and utility. 
    The national average price for all classes of solar declined 11.1% from $3.43/W from one year ago to $3.05/W .  That is a  31.5% two year drop from the Q2, 2011 price of $4.45/W.
    From Q2, 2012 to Q2, 2013, residential system prices fell 11.5% percent, from $5.43/W to $4.81/W.  Common residential system prices ranged from less than $3.00/W to almost $8.00/W.
    Non-residential system prices fell 14.7% percent year-over-year, from $4.35/W to $3.71/W.
    Utility system prices declined 19.2% year-over-year, down from $2.60/W in Q2, 2012 to $2.10/W in Q2, 2013.
    Greentech Media Executive Summary
    http://www.greentechmedia.com/research/ussmi
     The NREL reports average Q4, 2012 prices as follows:  Residential = $3.69/W Commercial = $2.61/W Utility = $1.92.W

    http://emp.lbl.gov/sites/all/files/presentation.pdfReport

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  18. Bob Wallace says:

    Burroughston Broch diggdeeperr Bob WallaceYour numbers are wrong.  20, 25 year warantees are common.  Performance drop runs 0.5% or less based on numerous studies.
    Here’s a typical waranty –
    SunPower Corporation (“SunPower”) warrants that for 25 years beginning on the Warranty Start Date1 (the “Warranty Period”), its photovoltaic modules specified above (“PV Module(s)”), shall be free from defects in materials and workmanship under normal
    application, installation, use and service conditions, and the power
    output of the PV Modules will be at least 95% of the Minimum Peak Power2 rating for the first 5 years, and declining by no more than 0.4% per year for the following 20 years, so the power
    output at the end of the final year of the 25 year warranty period will
    be at least 87% of the Minimum Peak Power rating.
    Presently we have enough flexibility in our grids to allow more than 25% of our electricity to come from wind and solar with no adjustments to the grid.  That number is growing as we add NG and EVs.  The number is higher for some grids, with Hawaii getting close to 50%.
    We’re just starting to work on the most affordable storage solutions.  It is very unlikely lithium ion batteries will be anything more than a bit player, used for grid smoothing. 
    Currently pump-up hydro is our most affordable storage technology.  If we don’t develop something as cheap or cheaper we have thousands of existing dams which can be converted to pump-up storage.  And we can build closed-loop hydro.  But we’re years away from needing large scale storage.
    If you’re against spending public money for electricity generation then you should be delighted to know that we are almost at the point of no longer needing to subsidize wind and solar.  It’s very unlikely either will be receiving subsidies by 2020.
    And you should be outraged with what we’re spending for nuclear.  Taxpayers are on the hook for the loan if Southern Company decides to abandon Vogtle 3 and 4.  Georgia ratepayers are having money taken from them and used to build V3 and V4.  If those reactors come on line they will receive PTC for each kWh of electricity they produce like wind and solar now do.  And if a reactor fails in the US like has happened in Japan the nuclear industry will cover only a portion of the cost, most will fall on taxpayers. 
    And you should additionally be outraged by the millions, hundreds of millions we spend each day because of the health and environmental damage caused by coal smoke.
    We’ve spent a relatively tiny amount on wind and solar compared to the subsidies we’ve given to nuclear and fossil fuels.  
    The price of wind and solar have rapidly dropped.  Wind is down from 38c/kWh to 6c/kWh over the last 30 years.  That’s a 6x drop.  The price of solar panels has fallen form over $50/watt to under $1/watt in the same time frame, a 100x drop.  
    These are investments which have paid off.
    We have invested far, far, far more in fossil fuels and nuclear.  Their prices keep increasing.
    Smart investors understand those basic facts.Report

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  19. diggdeeperr says:

    Bob Wallace 
    The average installed price for utility scale solar is not $2.10 in the US currently. If it were it would still not be a viable option to create the same amount of annual energy for the same time period as the Vogtle addition.

    No you do not have the information necessary for the LCOE of Vogtle. The economics of a nuclear plant are complicated due to the amount of capital involved and the varying costs of operation and capacity factors among plants and the dynamics of the electricity market. 
    There actually are a lot of PV failures in the field, I know first hand as someone who worked in procurement and reliability testing for a multi MW PV integrator. The only thing that is bull is a bunch of speculative commentary coming from you, someone without experience in the PV industry or any energy industry at all for that matter. It is well known that there is a reliability issue in the PV industry, claiming otherwise makes you lose credibility.

    The viability of wind and solar are tied to natural gas and/or coal. A battery bank cannot act as a simple proxy to a natural gas turbine due to costs and limits on the rate of discharge. A grid system completely free of fossil fuels would need a very sophisticated network of flywheels/capacitors for rapid response along with battery banks/compressed air/pumped hydro for sustained response to variable intermittency. Transmission networks would need to be greatly expanded to draw from renewable resources in different geographic areas. The economics of all of this are not realistic at the moment, If you were a realist you would endorse nuclear along with PV and wind as all parties in the UK have done, the US president and DOE has done, Bill gates, George Monbiot, Stewart Brand, Mark Lynas, James Hansen, Valclav Smil the list goes on and on. 
    Gunther Oettinger, the EU commissioner of energy recently stated that new nuclear plants are essential in order for Europe to meet its climate goals.
    You are in minority faction in your opinion that nuclear is not needed to limit global warming. It is nearing a consensus in the scientific community that nuclear is needed.
    You are not a realist, but rather a stubborn idiot who lacks a sound understanding of energy generation yet persistently insists to have an expert opinion.Georgia will produce 40% of their power cleanly, and with much lower utility rates than CA, yet you think this should be protested.Report

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  20. Bob Wallace says:

    diggdeeperr Bob Wallace Digg, I’ve dealt with you before and I know that it’s a waste of time for any rational person.  I’m not going to reply to you further after I finish this comment.
    I gave you two sources for the current cost of utility scale solar in the US.  You simply handwave them away.  
    I calculated the LCOE for Vogtle based on EIA heat rates, capacity, and fuel costs.  I used publicly available current cost and time to completion dates.  That’s how one calculates an LCOE.  Obviously that number can change if Vogtle’s budget and timeline slip further.
    You have your head up your neither regions on PV failure and storage.
    You also are in deep denial about the cost of nuclear energy.  But you keep on pleasuring that chicken.
    Have a nice day.Report

    Reply
  21. diggdeeperr says:

    Bob Wallace
    Degradation depends on a host of factors, the most important of which are humidity and average operating temperature. I would agree that 0.5% is an average but there are real reliability issues in PV.
     Unless you procure panels from Sun Power or First Solar a warranty doesn’t hold much weight as there is a high uncertainty as to whether many vendors will exist 5 years from today to back the warranty, let alone 15 years from today. SunPower makes great product, and there are other suppliers with proven reliability, but the price point is above the market average. 
    “Presently
    we have enough flexibility in our grids to allow more than 25% of our
    electricity to come from wind and solar with no adjustments to the grid”
    This is false. Wind and solar PV contribute 12% of all electricity in Germany, and many significant transmission and distribution upgrades were needed along with sharply decreased utilization of essential generation and transmission infrastructure. The result is an enormous increase in electrical rates and periods where excess RE supply is dumped into neighboring countries causing grid stabilization problems. One of the biggest topics of the upcoming election in Germany is a reform and restart of Energiewende due to the undesirable results.

    “If
    we don’t develop something as cheap or cheaper we have thousands of
    existing dams which can be converted to pump-up storage” 
    yes and I suppose those building those dams and associated transmission will be economical and will be great for the environment. You fail to understand the economic implications of usage rates.

    “If
    you’re against spending public money for electricity generation then
    you should be delighted to know that we are almost at the point of no
    longer needing to subsidize wind and solar.  It’s very unlikely either
    will be receiving subsidies by 2020” 
    Great.

    “Georgia
    ratepayers are having money taken from them and used to build V3 and
    V4” 
    And they will benefit from low and more stable electricity rates for decades as a result. The other benefit obviously is a huge contribution to emissions reduction.Report

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  22. diggdeeperr says:

    Bob Wallace  
    There is no real scenario where 10.8GW of PV, or any combination of PV and wind, could be integrated into Georgia’s grid at the same cost and last as long as the Vogtle additions. Its not a point of debate, its just a fact.
    Georgia Power is a for profit utility, if solar was indeed a more cost effective option they would have chosen it over nuclear at the ratepayers expense.

    What is your background? Who are you exactly? You spend a great deal of time patrolling cleantechnica and greentech media yet you seem to lack any real experience in energy. 
    Do you live in the San Diego area? Perhaps we could meet face to face.Report

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  23. Gary U says:

    In the 1980’s Georgia Power built a solar power operation south of  Atlanta. It never justified it’s cost of construction and operation. Solar has not come much further since the 80’s. Kill the tax reliefs and solar disappears as a viable option for most applications.Report

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  24. James C Desmond says:

    Excellent comments here, especially on cost, which is a term that packs a lot of political content (nukes, coal, gas — should not the pollution they create be assigned a market value so that a fair Levelized Cost of Energy calculation can be obtained, THEN compare those brown-power costs to green power costs?).
    In any event, I erected my own 10KW Solar PV array on October 1, 2010, in a rural, no-zoning, no-permit Georgia County.  I used primarily “barn-raising” labor (yes, Do It Yourself — DIY).  I got it up for $3.50/watt unsubsidized, $1.40/watt subsidized (fed and state tax credits).
    With an $.08 cent reverse-meter credit for every KWH that my array feeds back into the grid, my array has been making/saving me $1000/year since.
    It’s mounted on the roof of a 3200 sq. ft., 120 mph wind spec, recyclable-metal, positive energy (makes more power than it consumes) home that I designed and General Contractored.  Total cost of both the home and the array, including internal build-out: $87.50 a sq. ft.  You can see pictures here:
    https://picasaweb.google.com/115162333107690986192
    That home’s roof can easily accommodate 25KW of solar PV, by the way.
    I’ve been studying the Solar PV market ever since.  I’ve collected research and my own “mass-marketing” thoughts on how to get distributed, residential level PV down to $1/watt unsubsidized (7 year payback on a 30-year system, that sure works for me!) as quickly as possible:
    https://sites.google.com/site/freemarketsolarpower/home/pirate-solar-power-systems
    I agree with many here that all energy sectors should be de-subsidized and thus, the free market should naturally sort and sift the winners and losers.   I’ve collected research on that topic here:
    https://sites.google.com/site/freemarketsolarpower/home
    Still, the biggest problem in debating energy policy arises from how we define cost, and that includes grid-reconfiguration and storage costs required for green power, not just “waste costs” ascribable to brown power.  In that regard, I bring a government bias to this debate.  Still, I think it’s simply unfair to allow brown power to “compete” against green without also taxing it for the privilege of filling up our fish bowl with poop NOT generated by green.
    Yes, that opens up the carbon tax can of worms.  Here are some thoughts on that:
    https://sites.google.com/site/freemarketsolarpower/home/carbon-taxes
    I also believe that, due to the crazy-quilt of monopoly and non-monopoly power-system asset ownership in the U.S., it’s very difficult to formulate a rational, nationwide energy policy.  Still, few would argue with boosting, WITHOUT subsidies, residential conservation and electricity self-sufficiency now (at $1/watt unsubsidized, people will find a way on their own to exploit solar, and that will rocket upwards once cost-feasible electricity storage is developed)
    Finally, many Solar Fanboys fail to look beyond their own array, and thus their own meter.  They simply fail to grasp that all of the power they generate has to INTELLIGENTLY go somewhere.  Again, many of the comments here about associated green costs — re-doing the grid to handle all that variability, for example, resonate with me.  Here’s what I’ve collected on electricity storage and (its sub-page) variability:
    https://sites.google.com/site/freemarketsolarpower/home/electricity-storage
    For better or worse, my own state (Georgia) dragged its feet on solar and now is in a better position to (a) profit from deep discounted Solar PV hardware; and (b) avoid the costly mistakes made elsewhere (amazingly high power rates now in Germany and parts of “Kaleefornia”).
    Again, I thank all the commenters here for putting in the time to explain their positions.  This debate MUST happen, and must roll forward.  Please send any research you care to share: JamesChristopherDesmond.com (email address inside).Report

    Reply
  25. Burroughston Broch says:

    @Gary U They also put solar thermal on their headquarters building (aka the leaning tower of power) in 1981 but abandoned it after a few years when it was recognized as a maintenance nightmare. They’ve had bad experiences with solar and memories at Georgia Power are long.Report

    Reply
  26. GreenEnergyGuru says:

    Large scale PV is being installed at less than $1.85 a watt with panels at .62 cents a watt. As a developer
    Who has grid connected utility experience these numbers are good above 10 MW. Take into account the huge
    Decommissioning costs and dry casting spent rods, and the burden of stranded costs in the future, why would you go nuclear?Report

    Reply
  27. diggdeeperr says:

    James C Desmond  
    James, 
    Do you actually know how much waste a nuclear plant produces on a yearly basis? You might be surprised how miniscule the volume actually is compared to the energy produced. The raw material inputs from renewable energies likely have a greater environmental impact than the mining and storage of uranium. 

    Nuclear waste storage is in fact paid for by the nuclear industry, and in addition this waste has high inherent value as it will serve as fuel for fast neutron reactors in the future as our DOE secretary has alluded to. 
     Stored nuclear waste has essentially no environmental impact (aside from the mining operation), especially when compared to the raw material and land impacts that creating equivalent amounts of energy from solar PV would have. 
    When solar PV can create large amounts of energy at a similar cost to nuclear then we should use it. That is not the case currently. In addition to the large state and government subsidy you received for your system you also receive double the income (8c/kWh) for generated electricity that more conventional dispatchable generation sources receive (wholesale). This is an enormous subsidy and makes little sense due to the fact that you are still as reliant on grid infrastructure and dispatchable load following generators as your neighbors without PV.  It makes no sense that variable energy, a form of energy inherently less valuable than dispatchable energy, should gain more revenues per unit produced. Another large subsidy is grid access for PV and wind. Wind and PV electricity must have priority access to grids by law in many areas. This leads to lowered usage rates for essential generator and transmission assets, less efficient use of fuel by generators and more reliability issues for generators. 
    People think storing large penetrations of PV will be as simple as making battery technology orders of magnitude cheaper, but what they fail to understand is:
    a) batteries have limits of rates of discharge, meaning banks would have to be either largely oversized to meet load following requirements or rapid responding technologies such as flywheel storage/ultracapacitors/pumped hydro/compressed air would have to be used in addition to the sustained response of batteries.
    b) just as utilization rates of essential coal plants has decreased in Germany pushing costs up, the utilization of said battery banks would be very low meaning very high cost.
    Sure PV can pretty readily contribute a few percentages of grid electricity without additional costs, and for a state like Georgia this would mean many many rooftops would have PV systems. But PV is far far away from being able to do what nuclear can do – power entire cities, entire nations. Which is why this article is a disservice to the general public. Too many 18-30 year olds these days make voting decisions based on the faulty belief that PV and wind can realistically power a large developed nation. Meanwhile nuclear technology, our best chance to save what remains of global biodiversity, is continually beat up in the mainstream media.Report

    Reply
  28. diggdeeperr says:

    GreenEnergyGuru 
    dry cask storage and decommissiong costs of nuclear power are included in the total LCOE cost, which is still much lower than the average utility scale PV cost according to the US Energy Information Administration before considering essential and costly storage required to scale PV up to the level at which nuclear contributes in GA:
     http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/electricity_generation.cfm
    In fact, there is no country in the world that has achieved remotely close to GAs nuclear contribution using solar photovoltaics.Report

    Reply
  29. James C Desmond says:

    Burroughston Broch James C Desmond
    No, I wouldn’t.  And it was 65%, not 60% ($35,000 up-front, $21,000 back in tax credits).  
    Even with that 65% “discount,” and even crediting for the increased market value that my array added to my home, my Solar PV investment is still saddled with a 10-11 year payback cycle on a 30-year system (hence, a 19-year upside).  
    My “marketing gut” tells me that’s too long for “Joe Six Pack” (common folks like me).
    Which is precisely why I’ve been tracking the market since, and thus presented my “Pirate Solar Power” page, which supplies a marketing strategy to get the payback cycle down to 7 years — about the max that I think “Joe” will go on a car or truck note.
    And yes, that would be a 7-year payback on a fully warrantied, 30-year system — something I believe Joe WILL jump on.  Added emotional buzz: tax-free income.  That lure is unrelenting (yep, we’ve got moonshine stills and marijuana patches out my way; solar’s a lot easier to operate), and a 23-year pure profit upside with electricity rate-inflation protection — well that’s more than enough for those of us who shop at Wal-Mart.
    History will reveal whether the massive subsidy suck (of which I was a part) played a worthwhile role in generating the critical manufacturing mass needed to boost Solar PV up to the mass-commodity, Moore’s-law market cycle that we saw with PCs (I was one of the first to own a desktop PC, by the way, and I gladly paid $2000+ at the time because the productivity increase PC’s afforded me more than justified that expense). 
    Yeah, I know, Moore’s law isn’t precisely happening with Solar PV, but the cost-reductions have been impressive enough.  Many credibly claim that we would not be on the path to low-cost solar without the burst of subsidies consumed by people like me.  I welcome counter-argument on this, as subsidies generically offend me (basically, a government bureaucrat, with our money, forces us to “buy” stuff we otherwise don’t want by bribing our neighbors — again, with our money — to buy it).
    We know this much: Market momentum is now propelling us to $1/watt installed (at least, for Do-It-Yourselfers like me in no-permitting jurisdictions — Ahh, Georgia….) by 2017 or so.  
    Indeed, I’ve NOW got quotes for ground-mount racking for $.20/watt and Tier One panels at $.89 — retail.  Inverters and Balance of System numbers must be crunched, but I’m confident that I can get my array up now for under $2.00/watt — WITHOUT subsidies (again, I’m being spared installation labor and permitting costs).
    That’s still too high.  In fact, I use the “Rule of 10.”  My 10KW system, which makes/saves me $1000/year, should cost me no more than $10,000 or $1/watt.  Factor in an increased home appreciation value of $3000 (I’m being conservative here) and now my net investment cost is $7,000.  
    Hence, it’ll take me 7 years to complete the payback, not counting the lost opportunity cost on my $10,000.
    That works for me.  I’m betting it will work for 50 million+ other Joe’s — and Ground Zero for the launch of that market take-off is in my neck of the woods (DIY, no permitting, plenty of unused land), which is Central Georgia (we’re also “blessed” with plenty of abandoned factories and cheap labor).
    I thus conclude that $1/watt will trigger a solar ramp-up to the mass-commodity retail level, resulting in a “Solar Aisle” at Home Depot and Lowes.  It seems do-able to me within the next 4-5 years, at least in my neck of the woods (note: even though I am DIY and endure no-permitting, I built my array ABOVE national code) — especially if microinverter prices fall and plug-n-play panels become the norm (both are on their way, I’m told).Report

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  30. James C Desmond says:

    diggdeeperr James C Desmond
    Diggdeeper — thanks for taking the time to respond, I value your thoughts. But — as a follow-up to my response to Burroughston Broch — I think even you will agree that if it makes sense for millions of Joe’s to do what I did (7 year payback? I’ll take that deal!), and the 25% rule is true (my grid operator friend informs me no problem with solar PV grid penetration up to that level), then hey, let the free market flourish for unsubsidized Solar PV — especially if it can service some of the peak-load demand layer of the electricity market, and thus complement the base load supply sources like coal, gas and nukes.

    In that regard, I’m guessing most Joe’s will install up to their usage level only, and invest in apps that optimize demand-side consumption for their appliances (that’s being worked on now, and I project “smart appliances” to include that in the near future).
    Yes, that doesn’t mean (since I advocate only grid-tied systems) that there would be no variability problems and grid-accommodation costs.  That’s why I count on folks like you, digg, and my grid-operator buddy, for hard information here — I think we can all agree that there’s far too much solar fantasizing out there.  From what I’ve learned, however, accommodation will cost minimal in some areas and a lot in others.  It may just be a comparative advantage thing, which means solar won’t make sense everywhere on the national grid.  I need hard data on this.
    Digg, I’m aware of later-gen nukes, and that really smart guys like Bill Gates are investing in them.  I just hope your “cost” numbers and waste-management claims are true, as I’m not “religiously” opposed to nukes like many are.  It’s just that we’ve been fooled before on them (remember “too cheap to meter” claims from decades back?).  With the two new nuke plants in Georgia going up just 25 minutes away from my land, I’m going to demand hard evidence, just as people should on “clean coal” claims.
    But sure, there’s no denying that we need a secure base-load source NOW, and solar ain’t gonna supply anywhere near enough of it anytime soon.  Obama, for that matter, kissed up to $8 Billion in loan guarantees for the two new Georgia nukers, once again demonstrating that private capital doesn’t have faith in nukes, right?  (Add in the value of liability exemptions and future shut-down costs and my wariness grows about nukes being cost competitive grows ….) 
    I also agree with you on battery storage — my website does NOT advocate that, and I only assist “Joe’s” with grid-tied systems.
    Finally, I’m not sure I agree with your claim that the $.08 cent/KWH reverse meter credit that I’m getting is a de facto subsidy.  A healthy part of my array’s output is at peak load times, for which utilities pay more than the base-load rate (about $.04 – .05 cents/KWH) that you cited.  I should also get some credit for spared pollution costs, factoring in the 1-2 year embedded pollution cost that goes into making my panel.  I have not seen a good counter to the argument that we all live in a fish tank, and so those who poop up our water ought to pay us for the privilege and thus be motivated to find ways not to poop — solar’s now cheap, clean, easy, and produces pocketable wealth for “Joe.”
    I cover “avoided costs” and “net metering” issues, by the way, here: https://sites.google.com/site/gridtiedsolarpv/ 
    Bottom line for both of you to think about: Solar PV is basically the ONLY form of green energy in which the little guy can invest his OWN money and MAKE money (“meter gold”) by harvesting free fuel from the sun.  So if you’re instinctively against subsidies as I am, then you certainly must pause and consider how making it easier for unsubsidized, $1/watt Solar to occur will fetch enormous PRIVATE CAPITAL benefits and the spin-off (jobs, further innovation) benefits that flow from it, not the least of which is free wealth (free fuel from the sun) flowing directly in the little guy’s pocket.
    Added bonus: Millions of Joe’s and their bright kids will be tweaking and optimizing their rigs, which will mean millions of greed-driven, inventive minds focusing on higher and higher efficiencies (rather than mere hundreds from Big Energy R&D departments and DOE-grant suckateers).
    Put another way, distributed “meter wealth” AND distributive inventive synergies are a natural byproduct of mass-distributed Solar PV, and you just won’t see that while building 5 or 6 more nuke plants.
    Plus, we all like to point to collateral benefits from things like the Space Program and early computer/internet efforts.  Can you not imagine an even bigger payload from this?  Think how quickly we amassed 500,000 apps just from iPhones.  With millions of “Joe arrays” there’s a reasonable likelihood that similarly exponential innovation will follow, too.
    Solar PV, then, must be valued from ALL angles.  And yes, that includes the Big Picture angles — note the macro-scale problems confronting Germany right now:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/19/world/europe/germanys-effort-at-clean-energy-proves-complex.html?_r=1&
    Thanks again for your comments.  It’s a learning process for me, especially since I want to be the first to look over the mountain and profit from what indisputably is a trillion dollar investment channel just waiting to be cracked open (solar now is where gas was just before fracking was developed; I think it’s going to explode once we cross the $1/watt line).Report

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  31. diggdeeperr says:

    James C Desmond diggdeeperr 
    Thanks for the response as well. 
     I think solar PV has a niche in our energy mix, but the public is far from understanding its impact. Please bear with my long explanation which I believe to be straight-forward and unbiased.

     It is true that our grid system is inherently capable of handling 20% or so of interconnected variable generators such as wind and solar. However there is distinct difference between capability and economic viability. Even before storage is needed variable generation sources add costs to electricity production. It is commonly said by those in the utility industry that solar PV and wind have near zero ‘capacity value’ meaning that since they cannot be counted on (and there will inevitably be times of the year when neither produces much electricity at all), a watt of variable generation cannot straight away replace a watt of dispatchable capacity. What this means is that the utility must maintain the majority of they’re generator assets, yet utilize them much less as wind and solar have grid priority. Now many people claim that wind and solar significantly over lap in production, but in the real world this is not seen to be so true (look at Germany for instance), and if for even one second of the year the wind and solar resources do not sufficiently overlap the utility needs to maintain enough peak dispatchable generation to make up the difference – essentially the amount of capacity before solar and wind was the same as is required with solar and wind, the capacity is just used less.

    Just as utilization of manufacturing machinery is directly tied to ammortization schedules and overall cost the same is true for generator assets on the grid. Simply put variable generators make electricity more expensive because they do not reduce the amount of transmission or generation infrastructure needed on the grid, they instead decrease the usage of these assets and which increases the/kWh cost of their usage. In addition to this PV and wind increasingly lead to less efficient use of fuel by specific coal and gas plants which need to idle on stand-by to come online as needed and compensate for a lack of sun or wind. Generator assets compensating for intermittency of variable generation sources are more prone to reliability issues due to the need to ramp up and down. 
    This all amounts to greater costs, just as the kwikee mart that has to hire both a narcoleptic clerk and a backup clerk would have greater operational costs. Case-in-point Germany leads the world in wind and solar production with a combined 12% contribution from these two sources but they have among the highest electrical rates in the world and an annual emissions record that has actually increased in the last few years due to heavy reliance on coal. 
    Considering all of this the 8c/kWh value you receive for variable generation is a considerable subsidy. Hydro and nuclear generators don’t receive this despite providing predictable and clean energy. Peak electricity is expensive because underutilized plants are required to meet it. More solar means more under-utilization and more plants producing near peak cost rates.
    “I
    have not seen a good counter to the argument that we all live in a fish
    tank, and so those who poop up our water ought to pay us for the
    privilege and thus be motivated to find ways not to poop — solar’s now
    cheap, clean, easy, and produces pocketable wealth for Joe”
    That would be called a carbon tax, and in terms of avoided life-cycle carbon solar PV is pretty far below options such as Hydro, Wind, and nuclear in terms of emissions according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:
     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life-cycle_greenhouse-gas_emissions_of_energy_sources
    The US Nuclear Regulatory Comission does in fact require nuclear operators to cover the costs of waste storage and plant decomissioning. These costs are usually included in the /kWh rate:
    http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/regulatory/decommissioning/finan-assur.html
     “Added
    bonus: Millions of Joe’s and their bright kids will be tweaking and
    optimizing their rigs, which will mean millions of greed-driven,
    inventive minds focusing on higher and higher efficiencies (rather than
    mere hundreds from Big Energy R&D departments and DOE-grant
    suckateers)”
    While efficiency gains can and will continue to be made in PV, we know from the laws of physics that those gains will not be earth-shattering. The Shockley-Quiessier theoretical efficiency limit for crystalline silicon PV shows that we are nearing the point of diminishing returns in that regard. Cheaper PV substrates are going to do much more to make the technology more viable than more marginal efficiency gains. 
     Even if solar PV approaches $1/W installed it will still be an economic hurdle to implement it at the scales of fossil fuels due to the intermittency problems mentioned above. Contrary to popular belief storage doesn’t remedy that problem because more expensive storage mediums would take the place of under-utilized coal and gas plants as mentioned above. 
    It is good to have diversity in our energy mix, solar and wind will undoubtedly exist in the future, but nuclear is undoubtedly the real practical, economic, and scalable answer and it deserves the majority of public support for the sake of the environment.Report

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  32. Max says:

    diggdeeperr James C Desmond 
     diggdeeperr James C Desmond 
    The utility industry is currently having an ongoing discussion trying to figure out what the capacity value is of solar and wind are. It’s a moving target and the truth is we don’t know. The Balancing Areas with lots of hydro and lots of wind are in favor of higher capacity values. The BAs with lots of hydro and/or coal are in favor of lower capacity values. There’s regional conflict. 
    http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy12osti/54704.pdf
    “Our results show that PV, on average, can have ECPs (Equivalent Conventional Power) between 61% and 92% and ELCCs between 52% and 86%, depending on the location and sun-tracking capability of the plant and using the system’s AC rating.”
    61 to 92% is far from zero. 
    The debate on capacity value is far from over. A resource like wind will frequently produce electricity when the grid doesn’t need it. That’s a problem today because the resource drives down prices but demand doesn’t know that so it stays flat rather than increasing as you’d expect in a market with better communication. If there’s one thing that’s happened in the electricity market over the last decade it’s increased communication. If we’re able to better communicate the prices of wind on the market it will help increase the capacity value of wind. It’s not about moving the resource to match demand – it’s about moving demand to match the resource. Some demand cannot move. A kiln has to follow a baking recipe, it can’t stop in the middle of the cook. But something like data processing at a server farm can instantly respond. Many things are flexible and many are not. The things that can be flexible should pay a reduced price for electricity while the things that demand firm power should pay a premium.  
    With solar the resource/load balance is simplified. You don’t need a centralized computer sending price signals around. Your onsite PV system determines how sunny it is and schedules onsite load according to predicted output. If you understand how the Capacity Value determination works you can see that PV has an ace in the hole. It encourages localized load control technologies that increase its utilization and help it integrate into the system. This raises the capacity value of PV significantly making it comparable to a conventional power plant. PV is a new sort of resource – it not only creates a new way to supply electricity – it creates a new form of demand for electricity.Report

    Reply
  33. James C Desmond says:

    diggdeeperr James C Desmond
    Digg, we are indebted to guys like you who take the time to research and explain “the devil in the details.”  I’m going to reply to you in multiple parts.
    Part One:
    First, I’ll generally leave it to smarter, more knowledgeable folks like “Max” (below) to respond to your load balancing and variability arguments at the higher tech level, because I lack that expertise.
    But I will say this: that’s the one area of solar where it’s far too easy to exaggerate and bullshit the masses about.  I myself have repeatedly demanded, for example, at the town square held by a Georgia PSC commissioner this past May, a full accounting for ramp-up-down and other integration costs, since variability issues have been paramount in my mind but uniformly ignored by the Solar Fanboys who attend such meetings, and now the “Green Tea Party” events.
    I’ve said, essentially this at such meetings and seminars (your words): 
    “Simply put variable generators make electricity more expensive because they do not reduce the amount of transmission or generation infrastructure needed on the grid, they instead decrease the usage of these assets and which increases the/kWh cost of their usage. In addition to this PV and wind increasingly lead to less efficient use of fuel by specific coal and gas plants which need to idle on stand-by to come online as needed and compensate for a lack of sun or wind. Generator assets compensating for intermittency of variable generation sources are more prone to reliability issues due to the need to ramp up and down.”
    — The thing is, Digg, Georgia Power (the only utility we have in Georgia, and which is now being squeezed by our PSC to buy over .5 GW of Solar PV electricity) has NOT publicly aired that argument as an objection to being forced by the PSC to buy Solar power.
    Georgia PSC Commissioner Tim Echols, for example, said this past Spring that he’s convinced Georgia Power is “agnostic on solar,” and is open to buy electricity from the cheapest source it can find, which currently is coal.  He and GA Power have NEVER said, at least publicly, “but it could never be solar” because of your “Simply put” explanation above.  
    You’d think they would., no?
    (Cont’d in the Part Two)Report

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  34. James C Desmond says:

    diggdeeperr James C Desmond
    Part Two:
    Your explanation, for that matter, presupposes that the green/brown power generation mix can’t be “smartened” enough to run without “less efficient use.”  I’m not sure about that.  It seems to be that with THAT much free fuel (the sun) available, private and utility investors would invest in tweaking integrated systems to make them work in an economically viable manner. You seem to believe there’s no chance of technological progress with that mix.  I say that with a trillion dollar market there’s bound to be some positive change here.
    And just because a coal or gas plant gets shut off for, say, 4 hours during an excellent-sun day (and thus, it’s displaced by solar) — that doesn’t mean it’s a net loss.  Remember that the wear and tear on that plant is eliminated during those four hours, thereby extending its useful life.  Plus the coal plant is consuming fuel that must be paid for, while solar runs on free fuel.  So its wear/tear/fuel costs are eliminated when it’s shut down for solar.  
    I guess what I’m saying is that there seem to be more offsets than you’re willing to credit for.  Your explanation seems too simplistic.
    But sure, I don’t want to find out that the coal plant must be run 100% of the time ANYWAY to cover the “intermittency blips” Solar PV creates from passing clouds.  That would be just crazy wasteful.  
    It’s just that my grid operator buddy (he operates a huge, mostly hydro-based system out West) tells me the opposite of what you’re saying.  He says no problem integrating plenty of solar/wind sources.  Their biggest problem, in fact, is with drunk drivers running into telephone poles and thus jilting power lines, thus causing “manual intermittency.”  
    His words: The variability argument is tough for people. You just need to realize that the grid deals with plenty of variability as it is. A huge load starting up presents the same sort of challenge to the grid as a solar array but we consider load normal so we don’t question this. Someday we’ll consider solar normal. There are millions and millions of systems deployed. These naysayers have been claiming solar was going to crash the grid but it hasn’t. Where’s the beef? 
    Germany has had solar supplying 40% of the power on the grid. We’ve been told for years that 20% was some sort of limit. If you wanted to get above 20% you’d have to spend lots of money on upgrades. Apparently that’s just bunk. Hawaii’s grid is filling up with solar rapidly. On some of the islands half the circuits have reached levels which the utility considers serious. Interestingly enough they keep raising the limits.
    Storage would solve the problems but it’s an extremely expensive solution. Over $500 to store a kwh? That’s crazy.  Energy management costs a lot less. Not only that, energy management tends to make batteries significantly less cost effective. I don’t see batteries really catching on. We can rent the grid for much cheaper. 
    Like I said… I think the battery thing is going to blow over in the next 12 to 18 months. I don’t see them getting cheap. Nearly everything I read from battery companies seems shady. 
    *   *  *   *
    Anyway, Digg, I’m wary of explanations like yours.   Or, at least I want to see more evidence.
    But if you’re right (and I’ll research this, I’ve got someone smarter than I am looking at it), then sure, I would not want to see any more investment in solar, especially tax-dollar  and rate-dollar investment in it.  
    (Cont’d in Part Three)Report

    Reply
  35. James C Desmond says:

    diggdeeperr James C Desmond
    Part Three:
    Digg, it’s fair to cost-examine the $.08 cents being paid to me.  Note, however, that by statute, my EMC is not required to pay me any more than “avoided cost.”   My EMC has NOT been solar friendly — it took me a year just to get them to interconnect with me, and I had to remind them that I could take them to court if they didn’t.  So it’s hard to believe that it’s willingly “subsidizing” me, as you seem to think.    
    Maybe by de-subsidizing all power sources (brown and green), and NOT forcing utilities to buy solar, and fairly taxing brown-power (the “Poop Factor” argument further addressed below), we stand a better chance of the free market picking the winner here (hence, if GA Power finds a way to use solar, even with its higher integration cost factored in, especially since solar’s  fuel source is free, then solar wins, and if not then not).  To be a truly free market, however, we’d somehow have to insure against fixed-interest favoritism (preserving existing coal contracts) exercised by monopolist executives who are not fully incentivized to chase the best deal on power sourcing (that is, somehow prevent crony capitalism).
    By the same token, I know that a lot of the solar groups are solar producer/installer groups driven more by economic self-interest than by what’s best for all of us. So I don’t trust their reassurances that “gas-solar hybrids” and other technological fixes will solve our problems.  People lie and distort and muddy the informational waters all the time here (why I don’t even accept advertising on my website, and own no stock in any energy company).
    Bottom Line:  I’m not knowledgeable and smart enough to know if what YOU’RE saying is true, either (you may authentically believe it but that doesn’t  mean that it’s accurate). Put another way, I just don’t know, and I’m a doubting Thomas.  
    Unlike Big Tobacco and its decades of  propaganda that we could all easily see through, this area is so much more technologically complicated that it’s hard to discern the truth, and it’s so easy to snow-job the public about this.  Boiled down, “cost” and “workability” lie at the base of the debate here, with cost-feasible electricity storage (especially at the residential user level) apparently constituting the Holy Grail  (hence, the U.S. Dept of Energy’s “funding” of storage tech).
    There are a couple of other points.  First, when I said “poop” in the fish tank, I didn’t limit that concept to CO2.  As you know, there’s a host of other pollutants emitted from brown power that poops up our tank.   It’s fair and rational to tax that.  Solar yields a net benefit (consumes no water, emits no pollutants) when in the field, quietly (no noise pollution either) producing electricity all (sunny) day.  
    And the source you gave me, by the way, is quite instructive – the CO2 attributable to Solar PV is clearly higher than nukes, but the spread between the two is peanuts compared to the spread between Solar PV and Nat. Gas/Coal.
    Too, CO2 is NOT the only negative externality linked to brown power (nukes, gas, coal, oil), and so assigning a dollar value to those brown-power negatives seems fair to me.
    Yes, I knew about the theoretical limits to solar panel efficiency, but I also know that there are ways to optimize within those limits.  I’ve got guys right now working on cheaper sun-tracking mechanics for simple ground mount solar PV systems.  My array makes me money, and I like money, so I’ll find a way for it to make me “MO MONEY,” even if it’s as simple as downloading an app for my “white” appliances to optimize day-time consumption (when my electricity is free).  
    As I said, I own and operate a working, documentable 10KW Solar PV system where folks can some see for themselves that it make/saves me $1000/year. I’m privileged to be able to speak with provable data behind me, and I find that useful in this, an area fraught with political smoke.
    I thank you again for your time and input.  Rarely do I find such useful debate in comments to solar energy articles.  Please send any useful research to me at [email protected]Report

    Reply
  36. James C Desmond says:

    diggdeeperr James C Desmond
    Part Three:
    Digg, it’s fair to cost-examine the $.08 cents being paid to me.  Note, however, that by statute, my EMC is not required to pay me any more than “avoided cost.”   My EMC has NOT been solar friendly — it took me a year just to get them to interconnect with me, and I had to remind them that I could take them to court if they didn’t.  So it’s hard to believe that it’s willingly “subsidizing” me, as you seem to think.    
    Maybe by de-subsidizing all power sources (brown and green), and NOT forcing utilities to buy solar, and fairly taxing brown-power (the “Poop Factor” argument further addressed below), we stand a better chance of the free market picking the winner here (hence, if GA Power finds a way to use solar, even with its higher integration cost factored in, especially since solar’s  fuel source is free, then solar wins, and if not then not).  To be a truly free market, however, we’d somehow have to insure against fixed-interest favoritism (preserving existing coal contracts) exercised by monopolist executives who are not fully incentivized to chase the best deal on power sourcing (that is, somehow prevent crony capitalism).
    By the same token, I know that a lot of the solar groups are solar producer/installer groups driven more by economic self-interest than by what’s best for all of us. So I don’t trust their reassurances that “gas-solar hybrids” and other technological fixes will solve our problems.  People lie and distort and muddy the informational waters all the time here (why I don’t even accept advertising on my website, and own no stock in any energy company).
    Bottom Line:  I’m not knowledgeable and smart enough to know if what YOU’RE saying is true, either (you may authentically believe it but that doesn’t  mean that it’s accurate). Put another way, I just don’t know, and I’m a doubting Thomas.  
    Unlike Big Tobacco and its decades of  propaganda that we could all easily see through, this area is so much more technologically complicated that it’s hard to discern the truth, and it’s so easy to snow-job the public about this.  Boiled down, “cost” and “workability” lie at the base of the debate here, with cost-feasible electricity storage (especially at the residential user level) apparently constituting the Holy Grail  (hence, the U.S. Dept of Energy’s “funding” of storage tech).
    There are a couple of other points.  First, when I said “poop” in the fish tank, I didn’t limit that concept to CO2.  As you know, there’s a host of other pollutants emitted from brown power that poops up our tank.   It’s fair and rational to tax that.  Solar yields a net benefit (consumes no water, emits no pollutants) when in the field, quietly (no noise pollution either) producing electricity all (sunny) day.  
    And the source you gave me, by the way, is quite instructive – the CO2 attributable to Solar PV is clearly higher than nukes, but the spread between the two is peanuts compared to the spread between Solar PV and Nat. Gas/Coal.
    Too, CO2 is NOT the only negative externality linked to brown power (nukes, gas, coal, oil), and so assigning a dollar value to those brown-power negatives seems fair to me.
    Yes, I knew about the theoretical limits to solar panel efficiency, but I also know that there are ways to optimize within those limits.  I’ve got guys right now working on cheaper sun-tracking mechanics for simple ground mount solar PV systems.  My array makes me money, and I like money, so I’ll find a way for it to make me “MO MONEY,” even if it’s as simple as downloading an app for my “white” appliances to optimize day-time consumption (when my electricity is free).  
    As I said, I own and operate a working, documentable 10KW Solar PV system where folks can some see for themselves that it make/saves me $1000/year. I’m privileged to be able to speak with provable data behind me, and I find that useful in this, an area fraught with political smoke.
    I thank you again for your time and input.  Rarely do I find such useful debate in comments to solar energy articles.  Please send any useful research to me at [email protected]Report

    Reply
  37. diggdeeperr says:

    @Max diggdeeperr James C Desmond  
    I doubt that PV can have a capcity value anywhere near 62%. This would mean that  you could count on 62% of the installed capacity of solar to completely take the place of other generation sources. PV has a typical capacity factor of 15-20% so the suggestion of 62% Capacity value is completely erroneous. 
    Given idealized situations of HV grid interconnectivity spanning large geographic areas and demand side load management PV could have quite a capacity value nearing its capacity factor, but these things all cost money and don’t exist yet. As it is PV has a capacity value that is near zero.Report

    Reply
  38. diggdeeperr says:

    James C Desmond diggdeeperr  
    James, I don’t claim that solar PV can ‘Never’ be viable at large scales. I claim instead that at the current price point and with current grid infrastructure and available commercial technology it is not viable at large scales. Georgia Power, like most other utilities, will neglect to go into details about their operations. I would agree that this works against them. More transparency would be better for everyoneReport

    Reply
  39. diggdeeperr says:

    James C Desmond diggdeeperr 
    “Your
    explanation, for that matter, presupposes that the green/brown power
    generation mix can’t be “smartened” enough to run without “less
    efficient use.””
    Is it possible that the grid can be reinvented for large penetrations of variable generation? Sure. Is it economic in the short term? No.
    “And
    just because a coal or gas plant gets shut off for, say, 4 hours during
    an excellent-sun day (and thus, it’s displaced by solar) — that
    doesn’t mean it’s a net loss.  Remember that the wear and tear on that
    plant is eliminated during those four hours, thereby extending its
    useful life.  Plus the coal plant is consuming fuel that must be paid
    for, while solar runs on free fuel” 
    The revenues the plant gains during operation are much greater than the reliability costs or the fuel costs. Missing out on revenue generation makes the /kWh rates of the generator climb in order to cover the ammortized capital cost of the generator.
    Hydro plants are often more flexible regarding utilization. Most of these assets were government funded and have long since been paid off.
    “You
    just need to realize that the grid deals with plenty of variability as
    it is.” 
    Most Variable loads on the grid now are very small compared to the load swings that large PV and wind farms can create and these conventional loads don’t lower usage rates on generators or pose such a threat to their affordability and overall electrical rates. 
    It is good to be a doubting Thomas. To have a real opinion on this issue one must understand the how utilities work including the economics of their business. 
    Here you are, read this from a liberal German magazine:
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/high-costs-and-errors-of-german-transition-to-renewable-energy-a-920288.html

    “Germany
    has had solar supplying 40% of the power on the grid.”
    for brief periods. Annually solar in German produces only 5% of consumed electricity, which demonstrates the drastic swings in output and the low capacity value overall. 20% is the figure proposed for annual generation produced by renewables, not hourly peak. 
     I never said we shouldn’t invest in solar PV, I think we should, but we should realize that it will likely be limited to a niche in energy production and is not the solution to displace fossil fuel combustion at large.Report

    Reply
  40. diggdeeperr says:

    James C Desmond diggdeeperr 
    James, I in no way mean to deter you from your advocacy of solar PV, after all it is clean energy, something we are in need of a lot more of. 
    However, the idea that solar would at all be viable in a truly free-market is a completely mislead opinion. I think you likely misunderstand why fossil fuels receive subsidies and how their true subsidies compare to what solar PV and wind receive:
    http://theenergycollective.com/schalk-cloete/264701/energy-subsidies-and-externalities
    I instead urge you to take a closer look at modern nuclear power technologies.  Thorough comparison of all technical and economic aspects of clean energy sources thoroughly establishes that nuclear energy is by far the most practical way to displace large amounts of fossil fuels at this point in time. We should make sure the public is aware of this.Report

    Reply
  41. James C Desmond says:

    diggdeeperr James C Desmond
    Digg, information is power.  I think your strongest argument is on the variability and grid integration costs.  I welcome your points and info sources, and I think we both agree that bias pervades much of what it is written, and that it’s way to easy to exploit technological ignorance, mine not the least.
    Speaking of information, my grid-operator friend wrote me about solar, thought I’d share it:
    First, click on this: 
    http://www.solarserver.com/solar-magazine/solar-news/current/2013/kw39/lazard-us-utility-s cale-solar-pv-costs-have-fallen-to-usd-0071-0082kwh.html
    Here’s his distillation of that and commentary:
    *7 to 10 cents/kWh for utility scale solar in the US currently. 
    * 5ish cents/kWh for utility scale solar in 2015
    All these clowns fighting solar. This is why. The WSJ and Bloomberg are going to have to change their tune soon. I’ve got to think those greedy bastards are all going to start jumping ship. 
    Obama’s move against new coal is odd considering that these numbers suggest that solar can EASILY beat new coal in a straight up fight. Obama’s move is empty under these circumstances. 
    Now, I know you’re worried about the variability problem. For me it’s not an issue because when you aggregate lots and lots of small plants that are individually variable you end up with a smooth predictable output. It’s the same with load. If everybody turned on their hair dryers at the same time we’d be hooped but that just doesn’t happen. In utility speak we call that “load diversity”. Basic idea is that load is this million ups and downs that aggregate into a smooth demand. Someday we may talk about “solar diversity” in the same way.  
    Hopefully the tone of the solar conversation is going to turn soon. Maybe we’ll see a little if you can’t beat them join them action.Report

    Reply
  42. James C Desmond says:

    Digg,
    You also said this, in reply to my response about the economics of coal plants displaced by solar, specifically the ramp-up/down costs:
    “The revenues the plant gains during operation are much greater than the reliability costs or the fuel costs. Missing out on revenue generation makes the /kWh rates of the generator climb in order to cover the ammortized capital cost of the generator.”
    Well hey, you can say that about any displaced energy-generation source, and you don’t supply any hard cost numbers (understandably so, this is an enormously complex area) to convince me that hybridizing green/brown is economically and practically impossible (though, I suspect we’re fellow free marketeers and thus want to see private investors R&D this and come up with something that works).
    Speaking of energy sourcing that’s nothing short of a massive subsidy-suck, consider this (yeah, a bit of a “hit piece”) from the GreenTea folks, and don’t forget to read the nuker’s comment below it:

    http://tbo.com/list/news-opinion-commentary/the-next-solyndra-8-billion-us-loan-guarantee-for-nuke-reactors-too-risky-20130911/Report

    Reply
  43. James C Desmond says:

    Here’s another piece on the German solar program:
    http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2013/09/german-industry-calls-for-renewables-reform
    De-subsidizing (ditch the FIT) and let the free market sift and sort the winners and losers.  
    Again, it’s tough because there is only one grid and, unlike the internet with virtually unlimited access, there are structural impediments to you and I saying hey, coal, nukes, solar, gas, let the games begin.
    I agree with you that we need transparency, too, especially with our utilities. In exchange for public-granted monopoly status, I think we have a right to look up Georgia Power’s skirt and avoid $16 Billion boondoggles, if in fact that’s what it’s creating.
    I’ve collected more research on Germany here, btw:
    https://sites.google.com/site/freemarketsolarpower/home/germany-watchReport

    Reply
  44. diggdeeperr says:

    James C Desmond 
    James, If we de-subsidize the markets and eliminated the renewable portfolio standards the PV industry would fold in the US, the market share of natural gas would soar.

    If you haven’t already, please read the article below. I think you like many others have been mislead to believe that the fossil and nuke industries receive similar /kWh subsidies to wind and solar energy, but that is not at all true:
     http://theenergycollective.com/schalk-cloete/264701/energy-subsidies-and-externalities
     The wholesale rate of the electricity accounts for maintenance, fuel, staffing, and capital costs – in other words these costs are directly passed on to consumers. The capital costs and the staffing costs for the plant are the same though even if it is utilized less – the result is that the /kWh rate for its electricity goes up. Its not rocket science James, and you only need to examine the electrical rates of every area with significant amounts of wind and solar to conclude that these generation sources make electrical rates go up for the rate-paying base. 

    Germany will struggle to meet any of their RE goals, yet France has had 75% clean nuclear for decades. The German energy transition is far from well planned, in addition to costing hundreds of billions in USD and not yet reducing emissions at all, the heavy use of wind and solar is destabilizing the grids of neighboring countries such as Czech and Poland:

    http://www.ceskapozice.cz/en/news/czech-numbers/czech-electricity-grid-company-ready-block-german-wind-power
    And the utility players have become unprofitable and are threatening to move:
     http://www.forbes.com/sites/williampentland/2013/08/19/german-utility-revolts-against-renewable-energy-threatens-to-relocate-in-turkey/
    I appreciate you taking the time to discuss, but I’m not going to spend a great deal of time validating things which are well known by those with common sense and a value for objecticity:
    1. Under-utilization of high capital assets is uneconomic whether the circumstance is a factory floor, a professional sports roster, or an electric utility. 
    2. Before considering variability issues, residential rooftop PV and Utility scale PV are both a ways from being competitive with other clean energy sources such as wind and nuclear according to the US Energy Information Administration:
    http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/electricity_generation.cfm
    3. The rate at which PV currently receives government subsidy nationally and internationally is far above that of nuclear energy and fossil fuels:
    http://theenergycollective.com/schalk-cloete/264701/energy-subsidies-and-externalities
    4. The PV industry has significant reliability issues coupled with manufacturer stability issues making a large scale investment in PV a long term risk financially:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/29/business/energy-environment/solar-powers-dark-side.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
    Thanks for the time.Report

    Reply
  45. James C Desmond says:

    diggdeeperr James C Desmond
    I find your latest reply to be sound, convincing and sums things up nicely.   You make an excellent case for “defaulting” to nukes as the currently viable option for baseload power, and I’ve never disputed your claim that renewables can’t compete for that part of the electricity sector.
    And I think you join me in advocating de-subsidization of ALL energy sources. 
    On the other hand, I suspect you’d also join me in welcoming China’s subsidization of solar and its resulting downward pressure on Solar PV pricing to our benefit — so that at $1/watt installed, massively distributed residential Solar PV can unfold, as I have strategized here:
    https://sites.google.com/site/freemarketsolarpower/home/pirate-solar-power-systems
    To be clear: I’m not advocating or building any more Solar PV until it makes economic sense WITHOUT subsidies (hence, $1/watt).  But if China, via its tax dollars and underpriced labor, wants to transfer free wealth to us (via cheap Solar PV panels) so that Americans can invest in home-solar for $1/watt unsubsidized, then let’s do it. 
    You’ll note, within that webpage, that I plugged the NYT “warranty” article and in fact first wrote about that two years ago (advocating a blue-chip, third party warranty source) here:
    https://sites.google.com/site/freemarketsolarpower/home
    My point: A lot of your objections are fixable.
    To that end, I think you’ll also agree that $1/watt UNSUBSIDIZED solar PV (yes, charge guys like me an access fee to pay for my share of capital costs) in fact is a cost-competitive energy source (hence, I’m not advocating wildly inflated, but only fairly valued reverse-meter crediting).
    Meanwhile, note the 25% Western Interchange solar/wind penetration NREL has just reported as feasible:
    http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy13osti/55588.pdf 
    Finally, yes, it’s basic economics that “unused factory equipment” constitutes a loss, but even you must admit that that happens ALL the time when a disruptively more competitive system comes along and depresses utilization of the pre-existing generation capacity.  
    Yes, sure, government subsidies, RPS and other gov’t fiats muck up the free-market sifting we need to enable the winner to present itself.  But I wouldn’t be as quick as you are to write off Solar PV, for example, as a house of cards (i.e., that it will implode once de-subsidized).
    I value your “common sense and a value for objectivity.”   I also know that principled distinctions exist, and that it’s easy to develop a “Maginot Mind.”
    Thanks again for your insights and research sources (collected up in my website).Report

    Reply
  46. KeefWivaneff says:

    Burroughston Broch James C Desmond of course not.
    The idiotic business model of Readysolar which morphed into SunEdison was even dumber.
    Borrow a squillion dollars to put loss making panels on rooftops and then build idiotic solar farms even in places where the sun rarely shines.
    What an idiot!
    The SunEdison BUBBLE founded by “visionary” Jigar Shah is set to burst shortly.
    If it was such a good idea then why do they lose billions every year and sink ever deeper in debt?
    Why did Jigar jump ship.
    Was SunEdison already sinking!
    Why won’t Jigar answer the questions?
    http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/to-hell-with-the-govt-shutdown-lets-create-some-cleantech-wealth#comment-1078430996Report

    Reply
  47. KeefWivaneff says:

    James C Desmond diggdeeperr It’s a JOKE!
    Rooftop solar does not result in any fossil fuel savings.
    It is kept to 25% or less so that it won’t even be detectable at the grid level.
    It’s a gigantic BOONDOGGLE and you can thank “visionary” Jigar Shah for plunging you ever deeper in debt.
    The SunEdison BUBBLE founded by “visionary” Jigar Shah is set to burst shortly.
    If it was such a good idea then why do they lose billions every year and sink ever deeper in debt?
    Why did Jigar jump ship.
    Was SunEdison already sinking!
    Why won’t Jigar answer the questions?
    http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/to-hell-with-the-govt-shutdown-lets-create-some-cleantech-wealth#comment-1078430996Report

    Reply
  48. diggdeeperr says:

    KeefWivaneff  
    Bravo Keef,
     Keep being an honest and calling out these scams. You brought to light a lot of issues I was not even aware of on the greentech thread, such as SunEdison losing over a billion in the past few years….
     How can Jigar Shah still earn a livelihood as a business consultant when his track record shows that he has been an outlandish failure in that regard. How is he qualified to write a book called ‘creating climate wealth’ when all he has created are losses?

     How did Jigar get into the position as CEO in the first place? I suggest you update his wikipedia page to make it as accurate as possible regarding his actual accomplishments.Report

    Reply
  49. ps44 says:

    Germany is producing the energy-equivalent of 20 nuclear power plants (yes, 20!!) with Solar Energy alone!
    All of that cheap, clean energy that Solar Energy provides without any of the danger and radioactive pollution that nuclear energy entails.
    If anyone still doesn’t understand how dangerous and dirty nuclear energy is, then go to the highly recommended site called ENENEWS and read the headlines.Report

    Reply

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