Thursday, February 08, 2007

Sheila's solar power plan - good we get to talk technology.

As you go through Sheila's plan, at some point you run into the solar power stuff. I'm pretty interested in this and I'm going to do a full solar electric generation system on my next house. It is great for a "fat cat" like me to install a solar system, but it will not pencil out. For those of you who don't do business, not penciling out means that you can't justify the cost with the return. When dealing with solar power, you just can't justify the expense right now if you are in business because you will lose lots of money. I guess you can get a grant and waste the money, but I'm not sure that is ethical either.

The good news is that it looks like we will lick the solar power issues in the next 10 to 20 years. There is an interesting article in this month's issue of Inc. Magazine written by Ray Kurzweil (your know, one of the great technology inventors of our time) that is worth reviewing on this issue. Kurzweil claims in this article that we are only 10 years away from solar systems that pencil out, based on nano technology.

As a supporter of solar technology, I think Sheila's idea of having the city use renewable energy to be admirable. The problem is that it is a really stupid idea for the next 10 or more years, because the technology you install today will be obsolete almost immediately, even on a 20 year horizon you will cost the tax payers money and it will prevent you from installing the right system in 10 or 15 years.

Once it pencils out, everyone will be installing it and it will no longer be innovative or stupid. That day isn't now and will not be coming in the next decade.


Aur J Beck said...

I have to comment on this.

The technology is the same since it was discovered in 1873 by British scientist Willoughy Smith and in 1880 when Charles Fritts developed the first solar electric cell. The only difference is the efficiency of the cell has gone up. The modules (or panels) that where installed in the 1950s are still producing today.

I am tired of people saying they support solar but can't afford to buy it. The average home system costs the same as the average car and NOBODY asks what the payback on that car is. Basically now with the great loan programs there are you can pay off the system instead of paying your electric bill. On a commercial system there is also the accelerated depreciation of five years on the 25 year equipment.

That’s right; all modules come with 25 year equipment. Tell me any other electronic equipment that has even close to that warranty. Business payback is much more rapid than residential because businesses use more power during the hours of solar production so it gets directly used.

If you are interested in solar not to cut your energy bill but for environmental reasons there is always green tags. Basically you spend a few more dollars a month and that money goes directly to having renewables installed.

Maybe everyone isn't installing solar but solar is a very fast growing industry with 40% growth every year for the last 5 years. No other industry is close especially if you factor in the wind industry with a 200% growth every year for the last few years and that’s just in the US.

Now just on cost solar currently does not compete with subsidized energy although utility grade wind can and does. But when you factor in steady power source supply, health and environmental cost, nothing compares to renewables.

Why is Germany (with not much sun mind you) the leading country in solar installations? Because they have decided that they needed their energy independence. What keeps our nation from installing renewable energy?


Aur J Beck, Chief tech

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Peter in Carbondale said...

Always good to hear from a religious zealot, your points are well taken here. I'm just priced out a solar electric system, price looks like $28,000 for 3kw or $22,000 for 2kw. Looks like a $6,000 tax break too, so that is nice.

Soon, so soon in the life of the city, solar is going to pencil out and when it does the world is going to change. Until then, the city should not install a $500k system.

Your growth rate is high because the base is so low, but it is a good sign.

Tell you what, when an mayor candidate installs a full solar electric setup at their home, I'll get behind this plan.

For right now, this is proposal to waste $200k or more of the city's money for political gain.