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Solar Power Still Sucks in a Big Way

I spent $100,000 to save $20!My numerous (and very vocal fans) will remember that I already wrote a post on how much solar panels suck. But someone who “works in the industry” told me how totally wrong I was. That post was from 2008 so technology should be totally different now right? Almost everyday there’s a story about solar panels reaching new and incredible limits in efficiency.

Please Solar, PLEASE!

I want it to work so bad. I would love to get rid of my electricity bill. Understand, I have a vested interest in solar power being awesome, if it were awesome then I could just throw some panels up and free myself of the utility company. Maybe one day that will be possible, please I wish it were. Even if I could cut it in half I would be thrilled.

So, let’s figure out what that would take. Because if it’s cost efficient, I will do it right now. Luckily for me there’s an organization that has done all the work for me and created a calculator using the latest in technology and current industry costs. Great.

Right now I use an average of 37 kwh per day. That’s slightly above average in the US (don’t ask me how my 1800 sq/ft home does that). Now to get half of that, now remember I’m using this calculator, I need about a 4.1 kW array. So how much does that cost? Luckily they have a calculator for that too.

It’s Totally Cost-Effective

think about how much money they'll save on storage!

So you're an investment banker huh?


So, the grand total is $32,800 to get rid of half my electric bill. But don’t worry, there are tax breaks for this, the federal government will give me almost 10,000 dollars so it ends up being 22,960.00 (I said almost 10,000).

Great, so now if I spend $22,960 to save $35 dollars a month I will recoupe my investment in about 60 years. That doesn’t include stuff breaking, or what happens if we get less than the optimal amount of sun. In reality it’s probably twice as much.

Sorry solar, until the cost is low enough that the investment can be recouped in a year, maybe two, you’re just not worth it.

Actually, I’ll go one step further and say that the government should stop paying people to throw their money away on a technology that isn’t ready. I’m all for more efficient panels and more research but right now it’s just burning money on a technology which probably is way worse for the environment to make than just burning the coal for the electricity.

Prove me wrong and I will love you. Until then, sorry solar, you suck.

Posted Thursday, June 17, 2010
61
124 comments
pduke33
pduke33

If you use 37kWh per day that = 13,500 kWhs per year = 1,125 kWhs per month.  If you bill is $35 peer month then you are paying $0.03 per kWh the us average is $0.125 per kWh. (New England has just been hit with 10% to 20% increases in their utility rates due to Natural gas price increases).  Your bill based on your usage is more like $125 to $150 per month Not sure where you live but looks like you calculator is broken.  The cost of 4.1KW system as I type this (Jan 2014) is about $15K (vs your your $32K) before any incentives etc .


Between 1970 and 1998, global energy use rose close to 70% and demand for energy continues to rise at a rate of about 2% each year. While energy use and resource extraction fuel the global economy and development worldwide, they pose serious security risks to the United States. Increases in fossil fuel energy use, increases emissions, including greenhouse gasses, aka: smog and global warming effects, means more risks to human and environmental health.

The use of traditional feed stock (Coal, Diesel Natural Gas, etc.) to produce electricity exposes the end users to commodity market price fluctuations.Commodity markets are influenced by limited supplies, growing demands, distribution capacity, and environmental restrictions, which drives prices.

To the contrary: the use of Renewable Energy has no feedstock cost in and very low operating cost.Due to the benign operations and lack of emissions from Renewable Energy it can be deployed close to the users of electricity.This is referred to as Distributed Generation (DG) and is gaining adoption as smart-grid infrastructure investments are being made.This is creating a dramatic shift in how our energy is delivered to markets verses the traditional central power plant with radial distribution. When deployed properly, this provides better quality of electricity, stabilization, and reliability to the grid

Unfortunately, Renewable Energy requires large capital investments, which can make the adoption restrictive.Incentives by the federal and state governments are provided to de-risk projects and promote adoption for the good of the United States and society as a whole.

The energy market, in general, whether it’s renewable, oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear, etc. are capital intensive but serve the greater good to society.Therefore, the incentives are used as tools to de-risk capital investment to insure long-term investments in projects and endeavors that benefit the United States. Incentives come in many forms, such as: Grants, Tax Credits, Accelerated Cost Recover, Master Limited Partnerships, and guaranteed market share and returns.The United States has been able to bridge markets that are driven by capitalism and when faced with endeavors that capitalism cannot solve intercedes with mechanisms that ensure long-term investment in our country and society. These mechanisms built the Hover Dam, created the largest, most reliable energy grid, phone system, and postal service, and put a human on the moon. As these markets develop and evolve they transition to a capitalistic model thus creating companies such as Sprint, FedEx and SpaceX.Contrary to industries that have made these transformations the electrical Energy Grid has not.The lack of incentives and mechanisms prompt invest infrastructure and lack of competition has keep this industry stunted.Deregulation has helped move this industry towards transition but the implementation of independent Distributed Generation and technology developed outside of Walls of Utility companies is pushing this industry to make this transition. A new dawn has arrived and this is the first step..............



syosoft
syosoft

This is a crazy narrow minded point of view. I just installed a 24 panel array. After state/federal kickbacks, it's going to cost me 13k (equip + install). My previous "high" electric bill was $130/mo. My loan repayment is $130/mo. My local power company is attempting to raise rates 3.5% in the coming months. I sell my power to them at 20c a KWh, I buy it at 14c a KWh. I expect to overproduce in the summer months and just break even in the winter. On the horrible days, I'll be pulling power from the grid I've already fed into it.

Also, lets stop all this whining about how the government is providing funds for solar. I'm so much better knowing tax payer money is going to green[er] tech vs war, war machines, etc. You want a cause to bitch about? Try the over funding of police forces - http://www.aclu.org/militarization.

An 1800sqft home is nothing (mine is 2800sqft, and it's still nothing special), and it doesn't directly correlate into requiring more power unless you're running 4-5 tv's, 2 dish washers, have electric heat, have a server in the basement, run 4 monitors constantly, 6 wifi routers, etc.

You're being really disingenuous to the technology, you cannot be this ignorant.

I just checked -> my meter is spinning backwards at a pretty good clip, what's yours doing?

checker99
checker99

@BobLippman Please research *before* posting. Utility companies in many states (indeed in many *countries*) are regulated. Most if not all areas require utilities to subsidize solar arrays by buying power from them at rates far above what they sell power for -- meaning your fellow utility users are being forced to pay for your solar array. This means forcing the poor and working middle class to pay for the rich's solar follies.

checker99
checker99

@Dan Awesome FALSE. Many utility companies are forced to pay a premium for the electricity you sell them to subsidize individual solar and wind power projects. Even the commenter above acknowledges he is getting paid far above the going electric rate to sell power back to the grid.

BobLippman
BobLippman

@checker99 @BobLippman  Not only have I researched this, but I own 20 solar panels and so I have personal experience with this to quote from.  I can't speak generally to what many countries might be doing.  But I can tell you that in liberal "blue" New York you sell to the utility at a rate that is less than what you buy at.  No one but me is paying for my solar array at the end of the day.  The utility is getting power from me for cheap, and then reselling it for profit.

Dan Awesome
Dan Awesome moderator

 @syosoft You'd be forgiven for getting mad at this post since it doesn't show a date up at the top. But it's over 3 years old and the solar options have changed a ton since then. In some cases it's starting to actually make sense.

 

I'm not being disingenuous future man, you're just yelling at the past.

syosoft
syosoft

 @Dan Awesome That's some kinda funny. I wasn't sure when this stuff was posted because for some reason, that tidbit of information is conveniently missing from each post. So yea, it could've been horrid 3 years ago, who knows, I wasn't a home owner at that point.

And my comment shouldn't have read as thou I were angry, I was trying to match the tone of the post.

checker99
checker99

 @syosoft Don't you feel the least bit guilty that US Taxpayers and other electric consumers are footing the bill for your solar folly? You should -- its Robin Hood in reverse and its a ridiculous way to make unfeasible energy alternatives appear feasible.

syosoft
syosoft

 @checker99 You're joking right? What's ridiculous is playing world police and spending what we do on defense when no one dares attack us because our country is run by war mongers.

Research "US Discretionary Spending" and you'll see where your tax money is going. Fact is, the huge amount of taxes I've paid on my modest income over the last 5 years is WAY more than they gave me back for this little project. I look at the kickbacks as a reduction in my personal taxes, as that's exactly what it is - an Income Tax Credit.

I sleep well at night knowing that as ass backwards as my government is, they at least offered me this slice of the pie for doing good.

Get educated. I didn't spend a dime of "your" money.

 

syosoft
syosoft

 @checker99 And just to make sure you're up to speed, this isn't money gifted to me by anyone. It's money I have to EARN and the Federal Government has told me that they won't STEAL it back from me, to the tune of 30% of my total install + equipment (just under 7k). Which allows me to apply that to the personal loan I had to first qualify for and commit to paying (should I not earn enough to cover the 7k earned income credit). If i break my fingers, go blind, etc, that money wouldn't be earned in the first place, and the government wouldn't steal it from me come tax time.

Those who say they cannot afford solar either don't earn enough money to take advantage of the earned income credit in a timely manor to reduce their loan payment or just haven't done the research.

Look at it as a tax loophole if that helps you feel better. Seriously thou, it amounts to about the cost of 4 toilet seats for a base in Iraq.

syosoft
syosoft

 @checker99 And yes, I'm ok with you having to buy those toilet seats instead of me.

checker99
checker99

 @syosoft  @checker99 To summarize, since the Gub'ment isn't good at spending tax dollars wisely, its OK for you to grab your share of that unwise spending? Hypocrite.

syosoft
syosoft

 @checker99 I can see that you're simply too thick to understand that the money I'm "receiving from the government" is actually my own money. You realize that, correct? Seriously, you get that? Your decision to summarize says a ton about your level of education on the topic.

How is a "green energy credit" worse then people having 5 kids and on food stamps (child tax credit + free money)? What about people who adopt children (you'd be surprised at the kickbacks)? Are those kickbacks unjust? I'm positive there are countless others - I just cannot think of any at the moment.

I think you're placing undue importance on the measly tax credit I'm (and others who installed a system similar to mine) being allowed for doing something positive.

How about you go after companies like GE? What about the sugar industry - they're highly, and arguably wrongly, subsidised.How about foreign aid? Seriously, look for causes that would have actual impact, not bitching about a small energy program.

Do you see solar as an easy target? I'm curious why, with all of these other vast amount of ACTUAL handouts, you're going after a tax credit - which is NOT your money (remember) it's mine.

You need to read up on, well, everything. Ignorance isn't cute, it's annoying.

Good luck.

checker99
checker99

 @syosoft Was this a lie? "I sell my power to them at 20c a KWh, I buy it at 14c a KWh." That's not tax breaks you're pocketing there ignoramus.

Dan Awesome
Dan Awesome moderator

@checker99 @syosoft maybe I can add some context to this misunderstanding. If you add power to the grid with your own power source it essentially moves your power meter backwards. Because you're contributing the power plant doesn't need to generate as much power and they pay you what it would cost them to make that power. Its not a subsidy, its fair pay for you becoming in a small way your own power company. For solar users there's another advantage in that during surplus production they don't need to store energy in expensive batteries. They store it on the power grid.

BobLippman
BobLippman

How can that be true? Net metering agreements always have the utility pay you a lower rate than what they charge you when your system fails to generate 100% off the power your home needs. The utility companies write those rules. Good luck trying to change that!

marvind88
marvind88

I agree with this article.   I think more effort and money should go into solar power research. I'm optimistic and think that eventually solar panels should become at least 70% efficient in the future. If this really happens then basically all of the world's energy problems would be completely solved (as well as costs going down dramatically).   So it's really worth it to research and try everything possible to improve the efficiency of solar panels.

marvind88
marvind88

I agree with this article.

 

I think more effort and money should go into solar power research. I'm optimistic and think that eventually solar panels should become at least 70% efficient in the future. If this really happens then basically all of the world's energy problems would be completely solved (as well as costs going down dramatically).

 

So it's really worth it to research and try everything possible to improve the efficiency of solar panels.

shalsaawebsite
shalsaawebsite

Photovoltaics is the field of technology and research related to the practical application of photovoltaic cells in producing electricity from light, though it is often used specifically to refer to the generation of electricity from sunlight. http://www.shalsaa.com/

shalsaawebsite
shalsaawebsite

Photovoltaics is the field of technology and research related to the practical application of photovoltaic cells in producing electricity from light, though it is often used specifically to refer to the generation of electricity from sunlight.

deepcyclebatteries
deepcyclebatteries

Solar power is the conversion of sunlight into electricity. Sunlight can be converted directly into electricity using photovoltaics (PV), or indirectly with concentrated solar power (CSP), which normally focuses the sun's energy to boil water which is then used to provide power.

hackettkm
hackettkm

Well I liked this article. It was very helpful for me an was also great for a con for solar power. I can see both points of view. It takes over 60 years to just equal out that is insane, and don't forget about hail and snow and plenty of other weather disasters. Though I would have say it is better than killing the world. My generation will have to lie with the choices made now. Fussil fuels, when burned, add carbon dioxde to our atmospher. It acts like a green house and traps thermal energy. The sun sends photons to the earth wich turn to thermal energy. Like a green house lets in sunlight and keeps the thermal energy to grow the food, the carbon dioxide keeps the thermal energy in. This will warm the earth's surface. When ice is heated we all know what happens. It melts. With Greenland melted, the ocean will rise 5 meters putting New york and other places under water for sure. Everyone will have to move inland creating major problems. So Im just saying it might be better to use solar panels! Thank you again, your blog was a real help.

hackettkm
hackettkm

Well I liked this article. It was very helpful for me an was also great for a con for solar power. I can see both points of view. It takes over 60 years to just equal out that is insane, and don't forget about hail and snow and plenty of other weather disasters. Though I would have say it is better than killing the world. My generation will have to lie with the choices made now. Fussil fuels, when burned, add carbon dioxde to our atmospher. It acts like a green house and traps thermal energy. The sun sends photons to the earth wich turn to thermal energy. Like a green house lets in sunlight and keeps the thermal energy to grow the food, the carbon dioxide keeps the thermal energy in. This will warm the earth's surface. When ice is heated we all know what happens. It melts. With Greenland melted, the ocean will rise 5 meters putting New york and other places under water for sure. Everyone will have to move inland creating major problems. So Im just saying it might be better to use solar panels!

Thank you again, your blog was a real help.

tomryannova
tomryannova

I'm in Virginia. Seems like treasuries are a better investment ( even in the low rate environment). That doesn't speak well of solar. I hope there's a tech breakthrough at some point, but it's a pipe dream for now. My bet is that the breakthrough will occur in some place a lot more desperate than us for energy -- like Japan or Germany. I think we should go with what works for us right now, use the money from the tax credits on bridges/schools etc, then buy in hard after the breakthrough occurs.

tomryannova
tomryannova

I'm in Virginia. Seems like treasuries are a better investment ( even in the low rate environment). That doesn't speak well of solar. I hope there's a tech breakthrough at some point, but it's a pipe dream for now. My bet is that the breakthrough will occur in some place a lot more desperate than us for energy -- like Japan or Germany. I think we should go with what works for us right now, use the money from the tax credits on bridges/schools etc, then buy in hard after the breakthrough occurs.

Jimminy
Jimminy

You ever heard of the saying, gotta spend a buck to save a buck. in this case your also saving the environment

Jimminy
Jimminy

You ever heard of the saying, gotta spend a buck to save a buck. in this case your also saving the environment

Jimminy
Jimminy

You are obviously retarded, You would not only save money over time as the solar panels pay for themselves because you would no longer pay an electricity bill but you would also be helping save the environment. Buying solar panels would also help fund more research towards them to make them more like what you envisioned. And have you thought that the average usage of electricity by americans was way to much in the first place, do you really need that TV selfish fat mutherfucker.

Jimminy
Jimminy

 @checker99 Did you not read what i said?

checker99
checker99

 @Jimminy First, let me just say that you have come a long way despite all your obvious handicaps. Second, graduate high school, get a job, move out of your parents house and get your own place.  After that, take your own money and buy some solar panels, and let us know how that works for you. Using the Gub'ment as a proxy to tax the poor in order to fulfill your personal alternative energy fantasies is about as selfish as it gets.

checker99
checker99

 @Jimminy I'm sorry, I forget about your handicaps -- let me spell it out for you in a simple way so you can follow me. Solar Panels do not 'pay for themselves' unless you include the Gub'ment subsidies generously provided by taxing the children and grandchildren of the poor and middle class. Even with these Gub'ment subsidies, Solar to Electric only pays off in the 15 to 25 year time span, which is an abysmal ROI.If you're really looking at saving the environment, those dollars the Gub'ment spends on solar power could do much more good elsewhere -- for instance educating the children in this country about Return on Investment and Lost Opportunity Costs, or better yet understanding written English.Still, I fully support YOUR right to invest YOUR money into all the solar panels YOU can afford to buy, and I certainly hope you put your money where your mouth is and invest in the same folly you are advocating everyone else's money for.

Jimminy
Jimminy

You are obviously retarded, You would not only save money over time as the solar panels pay for themselves because you would no longer pay an electricity bill but you would also be helping save the environment. Buying solar panels would also help fund more research towards them to make them more like what you envisioned. And have you thought that the average usage of electricity by americans was way to much in the first place, do you really need that TV selfish fat mutherfucker.

checker99
checker99

 @Jimminy First, let me just say that you have come a long way despite all your obvious handicaps. Second, graduate high school, get a job, move out of your parents house and get your own place.  After that, take your own money and buy some solar panels, and let us know how that works for you. Using the Gub'ment as a proxy to tax the poor in order to fulfill your personal alternative energy fantasies is about as selfish as it gets.

checker99
checker99

 @Jimminy I'm sorry, I forget about your handicaps -- let me spell it out for you in a simple way so you can follow me. Solar Panels do not 'pay for themselves' unless you include the Gub'ment subsidies generously provided by taxing the children and grandchildren of the poor and middle class. Even with these Gub'ment subsidies, Solar to Electric only pays off in the 15 to 25 year time span, which is an abysmal ROI.If you're really looking at saving the environment, those dollars the Gub'ment spends on solar power could do much more good elsewhere -- for instance educating the children in this country about Return on Investment and Lost Opportunity Costs, or better yet understanding written English.Still, I fully support YOUR right to invest YOUR money into all the solar panels YOU can afford to buy, and I certainly hope you put your money where your mouth is and invest in the same folly you are advocating everyone else's money for.

syosoft
syosoft

 @checker99  @Jimminy So you believe that the oil industry should get a tax break because it's in the billions? Man you're thick. Use that thing between your ears once in a while. That 6b that the oil industry saved (if that's true - who knows w/ you) is about 6x what the feds are setting aside for the entire spectrum of "energy."

Once again, just so you're clear, receiving an earned income credit is USING YOUR OWN MONEY.

Damn, you're pretty stupid, eh?

checker99
checker99

 @syosoft  @Jimminy Yep, its that old double standard, isn't it. When you get to keep your tax dollars its fine because you're just not paying it to the Gub'ment, but when a corporation (which never pays taxes anyway -- all corporate taxes are passed on to that corporations customers as a hidden tax) gets to keep their tax dollars, then that's not fair because corporations aren't, well, they aren't YOU.

checker99
checker99

This article is EXACTLY RIGHT -- Solar is not and never will be the answer for electric power.  The Gub'ment should stop pouring money down this rathole ASAP because its all money wasted on solar that could be much better spent on other more urgent needs.

checker99
checker99

 @Jimminy Urgent needs such as attempting to educate the youth in this country ...

Jimminy
Jimminy

 @checker99 Urgent needs such as that bag of chips you are about to eat?

checker99
checker99

This article is EXACTLY RIGHT -- Solar is not and never will be the answer for electric power.  The Gub'ment should stop pouring money down this rathole ASAP because its all money wasted on solar that could be much better spent on other more urgent needs.

Jimminy
Jimminy

 @checker99 Urgent needs such as that bag of chips you are about to eat?

checker99
checker99

 @Jimminy Urgent needs such as attempting to educate the youth in this country ...