July 11, 2011
The Real Cost of Solar EnergyBy Alan M Aszkler
President Obama has thrown down the gauntlet, spending billions of dollars to chase the green energy alchemy of solar harvesting. Speaking at Georgetown in April of this year, Obama said that the United States needs to "change the way we generate electricity in America -- so that it's cleaner, safer, and healthier ... we also know that ushering in a clean energy economy has the potential to create an untold number of new jobs and new businesses -- jobs that we want right here in America." Obama is the self-appointed champion for solar power, dolling out billions for and energy source that has failed to run profitably anywhere in the world.
The economy of scale makes apparent the physical impossibility of solar harvesting. Using the sun to provide 50% of America's electricity needs would necessarily cover tens of thousands of square miles with solar panels and mirrors, with all of it costing tens of trillions of dollars.
From the study commissioned by the University of Juan Carlos and the Juan de Mariana Institute, since 2000 Spain spent €571,138 to create each "green job", including subsidies of more than €1 million per wind industry job. Two thirds of jobs were in construction, fabrication and installation, one quarter in administrative positions, marketing and projects engineering, and just one out of ten jobs has been created at the more permanent level of actual operation and maintenance of the renewable sources of electricity. The programs creating each green job also resulted in the destruction of 2.2 jobs elsewhere in the country for every "green job" created. In the end the price of electricity paid by the consumer in Spain will have to be increased 31% to be able to repay the historic debt generated by the deficit produced by the subsidies to renewable. [See Resources below.]
Once the panels are constructed, the cold, hard reality of solar energy's 33% efficiency shines as hot as the midday sun. One can clearly see the massive government subsides required to keep solar plants operating while never achieving anywhere near breakeven return on investment. Environmentalists still proudly promote the green advantages of solar while glossing over the facts:
Solar projects include a natural gas generation system to supplement the grid when the sun doesn't shine.
Solar turbines require the same amount of water as a thousand households to run.
Solar arrays have a huge footprint -- over five square miles of habitat to power 140,000 homes.
This same economy-of-scale farce holds true for small domestic solar panels. These installations require massive government subsidies and legislation, forcing the grid to buy electricity from solar providers -- which, in turn, increases the cost of electricity to every consumer.
In good faith, I can't refute the nonsensical advantages of solar energy without providing a true green alternative that accomplishes the same lofty environmental goals.
So, here is a cost/benefit analysis of installing expensive solar array vs. passive shading at significantly lower cost. Guess which one wins.
A 2,100-sq-ft home requires a two-ton AC unit with a rated power consumption of 3,500 watts. Running the AC unit eight hours per day uses 868 kilowatt-hours per month of electricity. The cost of electricity from the grid per year at $0.10 per kilowatt-hour is $1,044.00.
A 900-kilowatt-hour-per-month solar harvesting array installed costs $67,500.00 and covers 20 x 43 ft. This is the true retail cost without the rebates and incentives.
Solar energy efficiency with current technology is about 33% overall, taking into consideration the angle of the sun during the day, time of year, clarity of sky, rotation of the earth, etc.
The lifespan of the solar array has to be 21 years, because that is the amount of time needed to make the environmentalist crowd's amortization of the debt with government subsidies break even for the homeowner to foot the cost.
Cost of energy to run your AC unit for 21 years is $21,924.00. Cash return provided by a solar array at 33% efficiency is $7,307.26. Initial investment in Solar Array of $67,500.00 was amortized over 21 years at 0% interest with no upkeep or maintenance costs. Your return on investment: spend one dollar and get $0.12 back. Net loss: 88% of investment principle.
Passive shading is the low-tech solution to solar heat gain. Heat gain is the effect of solar radiation on your home during the day -- i.e., raising the ambient temperature your air conditioner is removing. By shading the two largest heat-producers in your home -- windows and roofing -- this shading method, based on all available research, will effectively reduce air conditioning costs by between 35% and 50%.
Initial investment in heavy-duty white vinyl tarp, bungee cords, white vinyl pipe connectors, glue, and screws to build simple awning shades and cover the roof with a tarp is $350.00. Expect to replace the tarp every three years (total of $2,450.00 over 21 years). The tarp is readily recyclable or can be used for moisture retention in farming. The savings provided by passive shading are represented by a reduction in AC costs by 33% over 21 years, totaling $7,307.26. Your return on investment: for every dollar spent $1.00, you get $3.00 back in your pocket. Net return on investment: 300%.
Now, we can all stare into the sun and wish our biggest wish for some pie-in-the sky green energy alchemist to develop the magic of cost-effective solar energy in our environmental fantasy world.
I, however, choose the take the path of American ingenuity and self-reliance, study the problem, and produce the simplest and most cost-effective solution.
AlanAszkler@aol.com is a Reagan conservative who believes it is time to get the politicians out of politics and allow American ingenuity to restore our economy.
http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/ivanpah/index.html -- Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System
http://www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/obj/irc/doc/pubs/nrcc46412/nrcc46412.pdf --National Research Council, Institute for Research in Construction
http://www.gresshasissues.com/2010/03/green-jobs-flop-spain/#axzz1PpxPwfI6 ; http://www.juandemariana.org/pdf/090327-employment-public-aid-renewable.pdf -- University of Juan Carlos and the Juan deMariana Institute
http://www.tarpsplus.com/ehitetarps.html -- 20 x 40 12 mill heavy duty white tarps $104.00
http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/solar.html -- solar panel cost and size calculations
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