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Solar power will destroy us all

Martlark 23 April 2012 61

I’ve read Graham Downie’s excellent arcticle in the Canberra Times regarding the almost useless and expensive solar power system we Canberran’s have been stuck with.

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/high-price-paid-for-low-solar-return-20120422-1xfca.html

At peak radiation times, not even 1% of power is generated by solar.  And during peak demands, on cold nights, yes Sherlock, it’s 0%, not doubt due to the slackness of the sun having a few hours off.

For this hippy, green tinged, good feeling, all us lower class subjects of the ACT are charged $50 a year.  That money flows right into the pockets of the yuppies who had the spare cash to lash out on these things.

Using a back of the envelope calculation of $5k per system; the ten thousand systems in the ACT cost us $50 million dollars to install and an ongoing $5 million per year to subsidise.

I’m annoyed.  This money and effort could have been spent on more worthwhile facilities.


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CatlikeTread CatlikeTread 9:50 pm 25 Apr 12

PeterLang said :

CatlikeTread,

You asked the basis of the costs. Refer to comment #35 (all referenced)

For more information read this http://bravenewclimate.com/2012/02/09/100-renewable-electricity-for-australia-the-cost/ . If you want to dig deeper follow the links to the authoritative government sources. These provide the figures used by Treasury and the other government departments for the modelling of the CO2 tax and ETS and the Energy White Paper.

For a start the article you quote is talking about 100% of energy from renewables – that is nothing to do with the price of small scale (about 1% we were discussing) PV inputs and the relative costs and benefits. Secondly the assumptions used are way off the real world. Thirdly the projections seem suspect in the extreme because of the assumptions and simplifications used. Based on that there is little point in chasing down original sources.

Referenced or referred to does not equal good, I am afraid Peter. Do you have any associations with Ian Plimer and similar people that you would like to declare Peter? I can see that the website you reference is also part of the advocacy for nuclear energy – not that this is wrong but it is useful context.

aydee aydee 6:06 pm 25 Apr 12

I should also add… And this is relevant to the solar feed-in stuff.

The amount generated is meant to be 35MW/h avg.

Now this is RESIDENTIAL.. As a residential thing we typically use about 1GW/h..

However after all the fun of reliability during off hours and winter etc, we work out at approx 28MW/h (Solar is not 100% reliable).

But 28MW/h into 1GW/h is a significant bite. 2.8% (approx.. +/- and all that jazz)

Residential solar was never ever meant to counter industrial/commercial use of electricity. But it does put a significant bite in.

Now what does this REALLY do? Well it doesn’t reduce the amount of CO2 produced for one. I don’t pretend it does. I know it DOESN’T. What it does is ensure that there is free time at the plants to (As stated in previous post) bake the coal. If we can ensure that the coal being burnt has had more time to coke, then we reduce many MANY of the other harmful emissions. (Sulphers etc). These gases are far more harmful for the environment, especially the local environment, than CO2.

So, at the end of the day, we aren’t REALLY reducing CO2 (Because we can’t generate power at night and battery feedback is still in infancy) but we ARE reducing other harmful emissions by ensuring that they are captured in the first place.

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parle parle 6:05 pm 25 Apr 12

CatlikeTread said :

Sure thing. One of the easiest ways to understand the cost of providing peak power for airconditioning is the spot cost of wholesale electricity during those peaks. The cost of a kWh of electricity increases by 50-200% during peaks. Suppliers are prepared to pay the premium to (largely gas fired) private producers rather than load dump or shut down suburbs at a time.Why pay a premium price for third party supply rather than invest in more generation capacity?

because burning gas every blue moon is more cost effective than a subsidised residential solar system and the money would be better put into something like a single large scale solar installation.

CatlikeTread said :

Firstly there is the capital costs in doing that.

you still have to build the plant and pay for the network upgrades to cover peak periods when it’s not locally sunny, so the ‘capital costs’ are the same.

CatlikeTread said :

Secondly a reluctance to invest in what is about to be obsolete technology – fossil fuel power plants. So it is not only cost but also an understanding of how energy production is changing.

fossil fuel plants aren’t obsolete (or ‘about’, as you’ve sneakly tried to qualify), for canberra they generate 99.53% of power in summer peaks and 100% in winter. for technology to have obsolescence it has to be superseded and residential solar cannot do that, on it’s best day(s) paying 45c per kw the best it can do is supply .47% of demand.

PeterLang PeterLang 5:45 pm 25 Apr 12

CatlikeTread,

You asked the basis of the costs. Refer to comment #35 (all referenced)

For more information read this http://bravenewclimate.com/2012/02/09/100-renewable-electricity-for-australia-the-cost/ . If you want to dig deeper follow the links to the authoritative government sources. These provide the figures used by Treasury and the other government departments for the modelling of the CO2 tax and ETS and the Energy White Paper.

parle parle 5:18 pm 25 Apr 12

HenryBG said :

So you’re saying that coal produces “surplus power”?

yes, energy produced from coal is in excess of demand

HenryBG said :

Does that mean coal is useless?

is that half a sentence?, i’m sorry but I haven’t given you the respect of reading anything else you’ve written so this question is out of context for me.

HenryBG said :

I’m just trying to figure out which planet’s logic you’re employing here, please help me.

i don’t think anyone can do that

aydee aydee 4:47 pm 25 Apr 12

HenryBG: Now you come across as ‘the crank’.

First.. I have solar panels on my roof.. HOWEVER, I did it because I got a good deal. It was FINANCIALLY motivated. I got the panels for $2k (Govt rebate). Yup. I suppose I got slugged the $50 yerar, but I’m better off.. I generate about 1.5 – 2 MW/year. This is money in MY pocket. (I don’t ‘vote liberal’ or ‘vote labor’ or ‘vote misc party’. I vote for MYSELF. I look at each party each year and see what benefits ME best.. Yup. Swing voter) How are the panels doing for me? GREAT!! This year the most expensive part of the bill was the ‘connection cost’.

Now.. Onto why I wonder how much you really know and how much you are regurgitating.

Coal plants can produce ‘surplus’ electricity. However, it does not vanish into the ether. It is USED. The most common use is baking coal (Or as it is properly known. “Coking Coal”). By doing this, they can have the green coal in a controlled environment and have the impurities baked out of it. This leads to a higher rate of capture of the more noxious gasses.

This leads onto a few things.
1) Earth hour. Brilliant PR, terrible execution. Coal plants will not reduce their production for 1 hour. It takes too long to cool a coal power plant and too long to increase again afterwards. Thus the ‘surplus’ is used internally. If you felt warm and fuzzy, well, you sort of can. Coked coal has less noxious fumes released into the environment. (You can filter coal being coked better than you can coal being burned).

2) Solar power CAN support baseload. However, there are many hurdles and issues associated with it. It’s not a true ‘photovoltaic’ solar generation of power. It actually is more a thermal generator and creating a localised geothermal generator (Liquid salts). It’s interesting technology and early days yet. But baseload just depends on the locale. It wouldn’t support an aluminium smelter, but you could support a rural community without brownouts and blackouts with current technology. Shame the cost of installing this system is too expensive.

At the end of the day, I’m just watching ITER and Thorium reactors and hoping for the best.

I will give you this much HenryBG. I am working on the assumption that you are simplifying and leaving a lot fo details out. The issue is that someone like me comes along and sees what you post and wonders whether you are regurgitating wiki articles. So, quote more sources and less ascertations. No links = You got it from wiki.

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CatlikeTread CatlikeTread 2:41 pm 25 Apr 12

PeterLang said :

The renewable energy advocates make many misleading comments. For example, when I point out that solar generated electricity costs 10 times more than coal, the renewable energy advocates say “solar is getting cheaper”. So what, it is still ten times more than coal. And the renewable energy advocates have been saying for over 20 years “wind and dollar are baseload now – if the government would just give us some more money”.

The renewable energy advocates frequently quote snippets of misleading or irrelevant information like “the coast of wind turbines and solar panels is coming down”. So what, the cost of wind farms and the cost of electricity from wind farms is increasing. The cost of solar and PV is still some ten times more than the cost of conventional power. And that does not include the cost of transmission from remote areas.

The important point is that the cost of renewables is far more than the cost of fossil fuel generation. The case to justify the cost has not been made, other than by emotive pleading for irrational policies.

First thing to do when calling others on misleading statements might be to avoid the same yourself…
Where do you get idea that coal generated electricity is 10% of the cost of solar generated electricity? Are you generalising from some figure that you got from somewhere. My understanding is that the cost of even very expensive small scale PV generation is about 20-25c per kWh with capital and maintenance amortised across 10 years. $4.5k to install and maintenance takes the cost to around $5.2k. Cost of capital takes the total to somewhere between $6 and 7.5k over 10 years. 3MWh per year average output gives the figures I have quoted. How did you calculate yours?

Larger scale installations drop the cost per installed capacity by far greater than 50% – cost of generation in that case drops to less than the current ACTWE supply price (15 cents a kWh). How does your assertion work?

If you wish to assert that the cost of wind power is increasing you need to compare that with the rate of increase in electricity from all sources. How does that compare. I se no evidence that suggests that renewable energy production is increasing faster than for fossil fuel generated power … the opposite is true for PV in Australia with prices for panels dropping by over 18% in the last year and no sigh of that trend stopping in the near future.

Sandman Sandman 2:01 pm 25 Apr 12

Sounds a lot like the arguements over the costs and limitations of Electric Cars and the negativity that has no doubt stunted development in that area. In order to change the world you gotta start somewhere and costs will be a bit higher until it becomes mainstream.

Still, haters gonna hate……

Martlark Martlark 1:17 pm 25 Apr 12

Comic_and_Gamer_Nerd said :

Sounds to me people are just jealous they didn’t take advantage of the solar scheme..

Indeed, I wish I was venal enough to ignore the logic and had just considered the dollars.

Alderney Alderney 1:03 pm 25 Apr 12

Not sure if this has been mentioned as I haven’t read all the comments however, the OP seems to view this issue in isolation as an, this is how much it is costing us to do this, issue.

What the OP fails to consider is that the cost of subsidy should be offset against the cost to society of the incremental damage being done by the effects of a changing climate. We are all paying for this, a little at a time, in ever increasing amounts.

If OP would like to go back to the drawing board and provide such a CBA I’m sure the sums would engender differing hypothesis. Maybe even numerous hypotheis.

PeterLang PeterLang 12:21 pm 25 Apr 12

The renewable energy advocates make many misleading comments. For example, when I point out that solar generated electricity costs 10 times more than coal, the renewable energy advocates say “solar is getting cheaper”. So what, it is still ten times more than coal. And the renewable energy advocates have been saying for over 20 years “wind and dollar are baseload now – if the government would just give us some more money”.

The renewable energy advocates frequently quote snippets of misleading or irrelevant information like “the coast of wind turbines and solar panels is coming down”. So what, the cost of wind farms and the cost of electricity from wind farms is increasing. The cost of solar and PV is still some ten times more than the cost of conventional power. And that does not include the cost of transmission from remote areas.

The important point is that the cost of renewables is far more than the cost of fossil fuel generation. The case to justify the cost has not been made, other than by emotive pleading for irrational policies.

PeterLang PeterLang 12:10 pm 25 Apr 12

Open Your Mind @#41 said:
“Here’s a sample graph of a large Canberra system: http://pvoutput.org/aggregate.jsp?id=390&sid=312&v=0&t=m

However, that is a chart of monthly averages. The averages are irrelevant. What is relevant is what is the MINIMUM output. It is the minimum output that we have to back up for. So we need to pay for the total cost of the solar system plus the total cost of the backup system. And the back up systems is more expensive, less efficient and produces more CO2 per MWh than the conventional system.

CatlikeTread CatlikeTread 11:46 am 25 Apr 12

parle said :

and can you, or whomever, please address the air conditioner claim and how that .47% local solar production is saving us all the extra infrastructure costs? thanks

Sure thing. One of the easiest ways to understand the cost of providing peak power for airconditioning is the spot cost of wholesale electricity during those peaks. The cost of a kWh of electricity increases by 50-200% during peaks. Suppliers are prepared to pay the premium to (largely gas fired) private producers rather than load dump or shut down suburbs at a time. Why pay a premium price for third party supply rather than invest in more generation capacity? Firstly there is the capital costs in doing that. Secondly a reluctance to invest in what is about to be obsolete technology – fossil fuel power plants. So it is not only cost but also an understanding of how energy production is changing.

CatlikeTread CatlikeTread 11:33 am 25 Apr 12

Sorry for spamming the thread.

0.7% of total energy consumption provided by PV generation

As to the idea of $50 (potentially) flowing into the pockets of yuppies (ie middle class). it would be good to understand what the alternative is. Would you prefer the same amount or greater going to the rich? How so? The way electricity supply is organised now you are buying through companies who make a profit on selling electricity sourced from generators who are largely government owned. If generation costs increase at a wholesale level then the retailers benefit because they put a margin on the cost. Outside the feed-in tariffs there are others who can provide power at peak times. Look at the business cases for data centres and their gas fired power backup. They usually plan to sell power at peak periods at high prices and make a decent profit. No matter which way it goes any alternative to private PV feed-in costs is costs of the same order (over 10 years or so – see the following) going to those wealthy enough to invest in generation capacity – not necessarily with the same potential for environmental benefits.

Think a little down the track and it goes a bit like this:
Costs of electricity rise by 12% annually because the cost of fuel rises and the need to expand electricity production to meet demand, especially in Summer. Smart meters are installed and you get charged the going rate for electricity at peak times. You find that in five years you are being charged 60 cents a kWh for electricity one in four daylight hours in Summer.

The poor generating electricity from their PV on their rooves are getting the 50 cents that they signed up for a few years ago. Anyone who bought green energy is paying 50 cents a kWh and the rest are paying around 35 for non-peak electricity… three years later is is at least 50c. In the papers you see articles discussing how important it is for government to chip in $3-400 million to invest in new generation capacity and distribution systems. 20% of houses are losing power for non essential (not refrigeration, cooking and lighting) use on a regular basis. Coal fired power generation is being closed as fast as the generators can do it because of the increasing concern over liability for emissions and the uncompetitive costs of coal compared to the relatively cheap solar thermal electricity and geothermal. Power distribution companies are providing a subsidy to house owners to install and feed in PV electricity during peak demand at 20% less than the charge to the general public. They are doing this because it is cheaper than the capital investment for large scale generation and distribution of geothermal power located in central Australia.

Houses with north facing roof and no shade fetch a $20k premium.

This is a scenario quite likely to happen in the next decade. We are in the early stages of a gigantic shift in how we consume and produce energy.

HenryBG HenryBG 10:37 am 25 Apr 12

parle said :

In Canberra solar usage is ZERO in the peak periods between now and December, the output that solar does ‘produce’ is during the day when a surplus amount of coal produced power is available anyway, making solar pointless economically, except for those systemic leeches that have subsidised residential solar panels.

So you’re saying that coal produces “surplus power”? Does that mean coal is useless?
I’m just trying to figure out which planet’s logic you’re employing here, please help me.

CatlikeTread CatlikeTread 10:04 am 25 Apr 12

hmmm …
Not wanting to get tied up in knots but … it might be useful to note that peak demand for electricity is not in the middle of a winter’s night but in the hottest and sunniest days of summer. Baseload power is a concept entirely related to large scale steam boiler/turbine generation (ie coal) that relies on continuous generation for effective operation and there is no great infrastructure demand for more baseload generation. Most of the demand is for short term power when the sun is shining brightest and longest. This is reflected in the spot price of electricity in the wholesale market (and some retail prices for those on smart meters like Victoria) which is highest when demand is most above the baseload generation. In the middle of the night you get off-peak rates for electricity simply because the demand is low and the electricity is being generated regardless so the generator will sell it cheaper to create a market when there is little natural demand.

Subsidies are used to kick start adoption of generally desirable outcomes – in this case we are talking about generation of electricity to meet peak load demands and to reduce dependence on fossil fuel burning. Fossil fuel burning has two fundamental problems. Firstly it is finite and burning it is probably the least economically beneficial thing to do with oil, especially but coal as well. Secondly burning fossil fuels has demonstrable risks for climate change and its many negative consequences.

An important benefit of installation subsidies and feed-in tariffs is to avoid larger costs to government and electricity infrastructure providers (generation being mostly a government owned business in Australia). Initial subsidies are wound back (as they are already for PV) and more mainstream adoption takes over as costs of the technology come down as installed base grows and an industry develops. IT would be worth looking at the business case for PV subsidies and seeing the projected return on the subsidies from the PV industry and green technology as a result of the subsidies.

It is worth remembering that electricity supply companies were starting to move to feed-in tariffs before government stepped in to legislate for it. They wanted the feed-in because of the high cost and risk associated with building more baseload capacity when the fuel supply and potential pollution consequences were factored in.

When comparing the subsidised installation of small scale PV installations it is important to also consider the capital cost of installing alternative generation. Capital costs for traditional electricity generation are also paid for by the community. The question that really must be answered is whether the subsidy (investment) in PV is the most effective investment in power generation based on a variety of factors:
– Is it cost effective based on per kWh generation
– Is the capital investment effective compared to alternatives
– Impacts on transmission and distribution networks
– Is it sustainable to use PV generation
– How does PV compare to fossil fuelled generation
– Are we managing future risks for fuel supply and environmental impacts within foreseeable timescales
– how long subsidies remain the right approach to industry development and when to take different approaches

The answer lies in the combination of all the factors above (and more than just them) so that any single factor may appear to “senseless” but the overall picture is what matters.

—–
BTW in somewhat more than 5 billion years solar power will kill us all – as the sun fades and paradoxically grows and engulfs the earth as it expands

Comic_and_Gamer_Nerd Comic_and_Gamer_Nerd 9:30 am 25 Apr 12

Sounds to me people are just jealous they didn’t take advantage of the solar scheme..

Ceej1973 Ceej1973 2:23 am 25 Apr 12

We had a solar gas boosted storage hot water system (DUX) installed on our new house 7 years ago. The thermostat has f*^ked out once, and the heat exchange replace twice as well, whilst warranty covered it for 5 years. The heat exchange has terminated for the third time, now [ast the warranty period, and the cost to get it fixed will be $2500. There is only one plumber in ACT that fixes DUX, so I cant exactly shop around. Out of principle I flattly refuse to pay 40% of the original installation cost to have it fixed, I hate to imagine how a family on a low to modest income in these suburbs where solar HWS are compulsory could afford such repair costs. When DUX was questioned how they can justify to continue to install cheap Chinese shit parts, thier answer was, pretty much, meh. I wonder if the Federal Environment Minister or ACT Government know of this rort? I for one are encouraging people NOT to install solar, until the system and repair costs come down.

parle parle 8:31 pm 24 Apr 12

OpenYourMind said :

parle said :

These systems contributed nothing to the peak winter demand because at that time, without sunlight, they were not operating. During the summer peak, solar photo voltaic systems contributed about 0.47 per cent of that demand.

I can’t remember who they were but some solartroll that posts here couldn’t stop referencing the ‘fact’ that residential solar generation was to cover the peak usage times, particularly noting the load in summer caused by small cheap air conditioners… this is clearly not the case.

now who was that?

I saw that quote in the paper and thought to myself how wrong it was. Yes, solar produces less power in winter, but solar still produces in winter.

the article says ‘contributed nothing to the peak winter DEMAND’, can’t you read?.

In Canberra solar usage is ZERO in the peak periods between now and December, the output that solar does ‘produce’ is during the day when a surplus amount of coal produced power is available anyway, making solar pointless economically, except for those systemic leeches that have subsidised residential solar panels.

as for your graph, solar output does not equal actual usage silly!, why don’t you post up a graph that shows solar power being created at 6:30pm when everyone has stoves, kettles and heaters on?

and can you, or whomever, please address the air conditioner claim and how that .47% local solar production is saving us all the extra infrastructure costs? thanks

HenryBG HenryBG 7:50 pm 24 Apr 12

Martlark said :

From the article: 10,000 solar installations. At peak generation not even 1% of demand. The minister says that the cost will soon be $50 per household’s energy bill. .

You can’t fix your faulty maths by comparing the number of installation *now* with a speculative $$ cost in the future.

From the article: the number of installations *now* is 10,500 and the cost per household *now* is $26.

That’s 50 cents per week from each household. Oh! The OUTrage! How will we EVER afford it?!?!

Meanwhile, the clever cloggses who put one on their roof are earning $800 every year.
I guess you should have put one on *your* roof.

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