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Old 09-11-2011, 09:52 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by jamesqf View Post
I think there's a difference between funding basic research (the results of which are open to anyone who wants to use them), subsidies for startup businesses like this one, and ongoing subsidies for established businesses, especially when they're making substantial profits.
I agree. But to be clear, the root of my problem was not to disagree with such a point but with the article a few posts back that attempts, as usual, to blame a single administration for a long-term structural issue in the US political-economy. That kind of argument only serves the interests that want the status quo to continue: Congress has long forced us to fund the profits of corporations with substantial earnings in established markets: oil, corn, military hardware, banks ... and many more. So in Congress, the Obama Administration's policies regarding grants and incentives to these tiny startups has come in for a quite bogus "free-market" objection from a highly opportunist opposition. Also, start-ups in new technologies are different than established companies in established markets. Early rail, telephone, and automobile companies all received supports from government--even if indirectly through roads and rights of way. Without such supports the "free market" would never have developed the systemic public goods these technologies produced. I think I like the idea of such grants to small startups, such as these. It is really akin to what the Small Business Administration does. Are we going to eliminate the Small Business Administration too, just because many of those business fail?

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Old 09-11-2011, 10:00 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by NeilBlanchard View Post
Wave machines are good for Scotland -- there are some already; wind turbines, too. ;-)
Yep - all of them eating my taxes faster than an MP with an expenses to claim.
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Old 09-11-2011, 09:03 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Solar electric is working well for me and some other people I know. But my panels are Sanyos.

Which brings up an interesting observation: All these failing PV manufacturers are US based. They aren't failing in China, Japan, or Germany. Is it because we don't have the know-how? Or is it because of insufficient government support, at least relative to the other countries? Have our political leaders decided this market and capability isn't important? The world-wide market for PV technology is definitely growing. Abandoning this market does not seem like a good way to keep jobs in this country.
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Old 09-11-2011, 09:28 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sid View Post
Solar electric is working well for me and some other people I know. But my panels are Sanyos.

Which brings up an interesting observation: All these failing PV manufacturers are US based. They aren't failing in China, Japan, or Germany. Is it because we don't have the know-how? Or is it because of insufficient government support, at least relative to the other countries? Have our political leaders decided this market and capability isn't important? The world-wide market for PV technology is definitely growing. Abandoning this market does not seem like a good way to keep jobs in this country.
the big differance is that we have unions and not sweat shops. also the energy is corporation owned not by the gov. I mean California the tree hugger capital has a solar kick back to the people. but Texas dont. I mean I have had ZERO rain not clouds for at least 3 months now. Do you know how much power it would have saved if everyone in houston just ran one solar panel. Myself i am not looking for 100% off the grid. I will start with 4 home made panels and go from there.
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Old 09-12-2011, 03:19 AM   #15 (permalink)
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At the last estimate published here, Renewable energy in general generated less than 1% of the total required for the country. The cost per unit of energy produced is 10-20x that of conventional power.

In Spain they have one of the most advanced solar energy companies in the world - real pioneers in everything from the panels themselves to how to arrange them and how to store the heat energy (salt piles) so it can be used when its needed. But even the boss of that company readily admits that his company only survives from tax subsidies.

A study here in the UK (maybe even Scotland specifically) also calculated that because of the rise in energy costs to provide subsidies for that 1% of the total to survive, a number of companies were considering moving production overseas. The loss of jobs because of that outnumbers any "green" jobs created.

I'm glad to see the technology going and I would like to see governments encouraging it with SEED funding or even trials to see if it works. I object to the government spending billions on it, especially when I'm being told that everything else - education, healthcare and even defence - has to be the subject of spending cuts and these subsidies seem to be going to make rich people far richer for doing no good whatsoever. And also when something like 25% of households in the UK are already in energy poverty - the heat or eat decision.
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Old 09-12-2011, 05:50 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Solar energy was highly subsidized - and thus highly profitable - in Belgium.

To the point of 1 kWh bringing in 2.5 times the cost of a regular kWh - for the next 20 years !
In addition, the people who installed them, could also use up the generated energy, raising the benefit to 3.5 times the cost of a kWh !
For companies, it was the signal to start building huge solar farms, and greenwash themselves, while cashing in big time.

Add tax deductions for private installations, and you ended up with a highly profitable situation ... paid for by anyone else.

The tax deductions mean less state income.
The green certificates for solar energy are paid for by the electricity distribution company, who promptly pass on the cost to their (non-PV owning) private customers.

We pay more for energy-related taxes than for the energy itself.

The subsidies for PV are now coming down fast though, as it was becoming wildly expensive - and highly opposed.
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Old 09-12-2011, 12:08 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sid View Post
All these failing PV manufacturers are US based. They aren't failing in China, Japan, or Germany.
Is that really so? Or is it that we simply don't hear about a failing foreign manufacturer, 'cause they didn't get money from the US, and therefore the failure isn't news?

It'd also be interesting to know how many US manufacturers haven't failed, and the ratio of fail/non-fail for various countries.
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Old 09-18-2011, 12:58 AM   #18 (permalink)
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All of which-in a somewhat circular manner-leads to the main issue:

When are we, the consumer, going to get all these wonderful new toys at a price we can afford...said price adjusted for jobless, bank-fraud, undeclared multiple Billion-dollar wars, politically ravished economy?

(goes back to spraying soup cans with BBQ paint for his second heating unit-winter's around the corner y'know...)
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Old 09-18-2011, 10:31 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Arragonis View Post
The cost per unit of energy produced is 10-20x that of conventional power.
Of course it varies significantly from place to place ... and some places RE ( solar etc .. ) is much more expensive per unit energy than what the grid sells for... but in other places RE ( solar etc ) is already significantly cheaper per unit energy than what the grid charges.

My opinion is that is is better to crunch the real numbers for a specific proposed location and installation ... some will be a good investment others will not.

Let me know if you see an obvious errors in this line of thinking bellow ( or if you need additional detail of any parts ):
  • Most PV systems today come with ~20 year power warranties to 80% of initial rated power ... Although it will produce more than this we can be conservative and assume a ~20 year average of ~80% of Initial power rating.
  • The Cost of 'conventional' grid type power varies significantly from place to place ... According to the EIA, the average price per kwh of grid residential energy in Hawaii in January 2011 was $0.30/kwh , but at the same time was only $0.0691/kwh on average for North Dakota residential energy ... so there is a huge difference in what people pay for the same amount of a kwh of electrical energy.
  • There is a significant difference in RE potential , especially solar from location to location... the EIA yearly average of solar hours per day ( 5.8 Fixed position , 8.0 sun Tracking ) for Kahului HI , and ( 4.9 Fixed , 6.6 Tracking ) for Bismark ND.
  • 1 watt of installed PV power in Kahului HI will produce an average over the 20 years of it's power warranty of more than ~33 kwh for the fixed position system and more than ~46 kwh for the sun tracking system The same scenario in Bismark ND results in more than ~28 kwh fixed , and ~38 kwh tracking... so there is also a large difference in potential solar energy in the different locations.
  • To get the same energy the grid would charge you:
    • Kahului HI 33*0.3 = ~$9.90
    • Kahului HI 46*0.3 = ~$13.80
    • Bismark ND 28*0.0691 = ~$1.93
    • Bismark ND 38*0.0691 = ~$2.63
    So there is also a large difference in the break even point with the grid... In some places PV solar is already cheaper than the grid if it can get installed for anything under ~$13.80 per watt ... and other places it would have to get down to under ~$1.93 per watt to be cheaper than the grid.
  • Although the installed cost of PV per watt will also vary depending on the specifics of location and install etc ... the last I read ( 2011 Berkley Lab report # LBNL-5047E ... I've included a picture of the graph bellow if you don't have that report ) the 2010 average cost of installed PV per watt in the U.S. was ~$6.20 / watt ... which will make it more expensive per unit energy in some places ... like Bismark ND ... and less expensive per unit energy in other places like Kahului HI.

So my only point in the above is that ... it varies depending on the specifics of a given context ... RE ( solar etc ) is not always cheaper or more expensive than the grid ... sometimes RE is cheaper per kwh of energy ... sometimes the grid is cheaper per kwh of energy... it isn't a black and white issue anymore.

The other aspect of RE vs Grid ... is that as seen in the attached picture ... the $/Watt of installed PV has been going down at a significant rate.
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Old 09-18-2011, 02:43 PM   #20 (permalink)
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@Ian - Your argument works, but is based on the fact that someone else at the end of the pipe, wire or cable is ready to consume that energy. And that that pipe, wire or cable is inside a reasonable range to be able to use it - there is a limit to how far you can "transport" electricity. Otherwise it is wasted.

Unfortunately also at the times when Solar (and indeed Wind) are being productive the demand isn't there.

We could store it of course - the Spanish company I mentioned in a previous post (I think Neil Blanchard mentioned it too but maybe in a different thread) worked out a method of using salt piles to store energy as heat.

Other people have experimented with giant batteries and we have schemes (dating from the 1950s) such as Hydro produced by dams with two reservoirs - the upper one being filled by pumping using excess energy at low peak times. But these have limits in terms of the energy stored vs costs, and potential energy release vs the energy originally produced.

A conventional power station can be stoked up and added to the grid as and when the demand is needed. Even if you take into account the polution of this solution and the resources required, having something you can just pop-on when needed seems far more efficient that making too much of something and storing it and watch it decline until you decide you need it.

Argument - An idling power station does consume energy, but nuclear (at least) makes its own.

The argument the other way is of course that you produced that energy for 'free' via renewables.

But when I check my power bill and find a 5-10% levy added to fund this so called "competitive" energy source, and when I read things like wind farms being paid not to produce anything then I wonder if that energy is really all that "free" in the first place.

The debate of course is where the 'free' part comes from and what we include in the costs of conventional (including nuclear) energy. Thats tetchy and starts arguments about politics, so I'm not going there.

I remain optimistic about renewables and would agree with an investment in fundamental research into how this can be achieved but again I object to people in the UK being forced to decide between food and heat/light just so someone can make a lot of money from an artificial levy and subsidy. But this takes time. In Scotland we have research into wave energy, it has been going for 30-40 years now and is just about making something useful. Thats the kind of long-term boring but basic research that gets some results.

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