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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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Martlark Martlark 7:19 pm 24 Apr 12

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. There are about 130,000 households in the ACT (ABS pub 4102.0). $50 x 130,000 = $6.5 million. That’s the predicted subsidy. Extrapolating to 100% daytime coverage is a simple multiplication by 100. $650 million in total, $5000 per year per house. Of course if every house had a solar panel there would be no cross subsidy, the feed in tariff subsidy would have to come from business power bills or general taxation. That would still be a $5000 per house hold cost through higher taxes, rates, charges and fees. That would not be tolerated by the public and would not happen. If solar power was to cover all of our power needs it would need to generate over 3 times the peak daily requirement to meet demand over night and when the sun is other wise unavailable from stored power. Is 3 or 4 times $5000 per household per year something anyone is prepared to pay? Without any dramatic advance is reducing the cost of solar installation and management, and, the development of some sort of effective storage, solar will be a niche product. And it’s niche should be off the grid remote area generation, not attempting to replace existing effective and efficient generating technologies. The money spent on city solar should have been spent on proven technologies with more bang for the buck.

HenryBG HenryBG 7:16 pm 24 Apr 12

HenryBG said :

PeterLang said :

However, first, let’s be clear: There are no baseload solar power stations, anywhere in the world. None come even close to being able to provide baseload power; i.e. provide electricity on demand, l

There you go. Three lines in and you demonstrate your crankspertise quite conclusively.

Baseload power is not there to provide electricity on demand. Baseload power is provided by coal because coal is cheap, but burning coal for power allows you no capacity for flexibly reducing or increasing electricity output.That’s why we have gas. Gas is more expensive (and increasing in price more rapidly than coal) but a gas-fired plant allows you to produce power “on demand” in order to meet the unpredictable variations or short spikes in demand.

Your various crankxpert “papers” on these issues have invariably been met be derision from economists and scientists alike.

People who want to see the comparative costs can ignore your cherry-picked examples together with your uninformed commentary and check what a proper expert at Yale has to say:
http://blog.cleanenergy.org/files/2009/04/lazard2009_levelizedcostofenergy.pdf

Oops, wrong link – the above link is a Lazard study on the comparative costs of different sources, this link is the Yale link which proves that it will be cheaper to invest in renewables rather than ignore them:
http://nordhaus.econ.yale.edu/Balance_2nd_proofs.pdf

HenryBG HenryBG 7:12 pm 24 Apr 12

PeterLang said :

However, first, let’s be clear: There are no baseload solar power stations, anywhere in the world. None come even close to being able to provide baseload power; i.e. provide electricity on demand, l

There you go. Three lines in and you demonstrate your crankspertise quite conclusively.

Baseload power is not there to provide electricity on demand. Baseload power is provided by coal because coal is cheap, but burning coal for power allows you no capacity for flexibly reducing or increasing electricity output.That’s why we have gas. Gas is more expensive (and increasing in price more rapidly than coal) but a gas-fired plant allows you to produce power “on demand” in order to meet the unpredictable variations or short spikes in demand.

Your various crankxpert “papers” on these issues have invariably been met be derision from economists and scientists alike.

People who want to see the comparative costs can ignore your cherry-picked examples together with your uninformed commentary and check what a proper expert at Yale has to say:
http://blog.cleanenergy.org/files/2009/04/lazard2009_levelizedcostofenergy.pdf

PeterLang PeterLang 7:10 pm 24 Apr 12

In case it is not obvious from my previous comments, electricity from solar thermal would cost around ten times the cost of electricity from Australia’s baseload power stations.

That provides some insight into what the ACT Government is getting ACT residents into. There will be massive subsidies to get it started (think increases to our rates for a life time, add them to the cost of the new Cotter Dam which has blown to twice the budget and we’ll be paying for that for a life time, and add both to the subsidies we are already committed to paying the people who have solar panels on their rooves).

I suggest it is time to let the ACT government know we want to know the full costs before they proceed any further. (I have some idea about what they’ll be, but let’s get the Government to tell us). Please write and ask:
SolarAuction@act.gov.au
corbell@act.gov.au
seselja@act.gov.au

HenryBG HenryBG 6:57 pm 24 Apr 12

PeterLang said :

Yes, True. Solar systems are almost useless and they cost a small fortune. Not satisfied with the enormous waste of money on subsidising roof top solar PV, the ACT government is now in the process of evaluating responses to its request for proposals for solar thermal plants for the ACT. The cost will be huge. I asked the Department and the Minister for their preliminary cost estimates for: capital cost, increases to cost of electrcity and increases to our rates. The department answered they could not provide any information because it is “commercial and Cabinet in confidence”

But Peter, we’ve just established that solar PV earns the average ACT household 4 times more than it is costing.
Weren’t you paying attention?
Or is it necessary when pushing your anti-science barrow to block out all the inconvenient facts?

And just to be clear – are you in fact a resident of the ACT?
Because I would hate it if our elected representatives were wasting any time whatsoever responding to spurious nonsense from anti-science cranks.

PeterLang PeterLang 6:41 pm 24 Apr 12

In my previous comment I mentioned the cost of solar thermal. I’ll elaborate below. However, first, let’s be clear: There are no baseload solar power stations, anywhere in the world. None come even close to being able to provide baseload power; i.e. provide electricity on demand, with high availability, night and day, summer and winter, and through extended periods of cold, damp, overcast weather.

Below I’ll give examples of two solar thermal plants that are in operation, and one planned.

1. Andasol, hybrid (gas & solar) solar thermal power station, Spain.
Capacity = 3 x 50 MW each.
Energy storage = 7.5 hours (generation at full power)
Expected/planned annual generation: 158,000 MWh/yr from each unit
Capacity factor = 36% (but mostly in summer, near useless in winter) (less if gas component excluded)
Capital cost = about Eur 900 million = $A1.1 billion
Tariff = 27 Euro cents/kWh = A$340/MWh (c.f. about $30/MWh for Australia coal generation).

Water cooled; uses about the same amount of cooling water as a coal power station.
http://www.nrel.gov/csp/solarpaces/project_detail.cfm/projectID=3
http://www.nrel.gov/csp/solarpaces/project_detail.cfm/projectID=4

2. Gemasolar, Spain, is 20 MW with 15 h storage. It has managed to generate for 24 h a few times in summer. It is next to useless in winter.

3. The USA has approved construction of a 110 MW version with 10 h storage (Tonopah). But it will be even worse in winter.
http://www.nrel.gov/solar/news/2011/1607.html

PeterLang PeterLang 6:30 pm 24 Apr 12

Yes, True. Solar systems are almost useless and they cost a small fortune. Not satisfied with the enormous waste of money on subsidising roof top solar PV, the ACT government is now in the process of evaluating responses to its request for proposals for solar thermal plants for the ACT. The cost will be huge. I asked the Department and the Minister for their preliminary cost estimates for: capital cost, increases to cost of electrcity and increases to our rates. The department answered they could not provide any information because it is “commercial and Cabinet in confidence”

arescarti42 arescarti42 6:11 pm 24 Apr 12

JimCharles said :

My question is….why isn’t Australia the world leader in this field? All the best research, technology and machinery is currently German designed….and everybody relies on them to come up with the goods.
Australia is isolated and more at risk from declining, or potential future disruption to fossil fuel access, you have great Universities and facilities, vast land masses and and the best source of reliable sunshine on the planet.
Making this an Australian dominated industry would surely put you in charge of your own destiny and give great export opportunities plus the intellectual property to protect and develop…even if outsourced to China or India.
It just seems that it’s more crucial to Australia than anywhere else and you’re in the best location to take the lead.

Coal is why. Australia has the 4th largest deposits of coal of any country in the world, and is the world’s largest exporter of coal. Natural gas to a lesser extent.

Sure, Australia has the sunlight and technological know how to become a world leader in solar power, but there is already a very big and extremely powerful industry based around digging up coal and selling it to Asia at exorbitant prices. That industry employs an awful lot of people who might not be terribly pleased with a government that started giving lots of concessions to the solar industry.

parle parle 5:56 pm 24 Apr 12

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?

HenryBG HenryBG 2:52 pm 24 Apr 12

chewy14 said :

HenryBG said :

His maths is absolute crap.
Let’s use the numbers out of the article itself:

– ACT electricity consumers are paying about $8.37 million annually
– more than 10,500 solar generators
– produce only 0.7 per cent of the overall annual requirement.
– The cost for an average household has reached about $26.40 a year
– those who have had solar generators installed receive on average almost $800 a year

The first thing that leaps out at me is this:
If 10,500 solar generators are producing $800 each, that totals to $8.4 million pa.
The cost is $26.40 x 100,000 households = $2.64 million pa

So the PV we have is generating $6.24 million pa into our local economy. Unless I’m missing something.

Oops just saw the mistake in my last. Shouldn’t be $5B should be $500 mill.

Henry,
yes rereading it, it doesn’t add up.

The average cost per household is $26 this year predicted to get to $50 next year.

But that’s the average cost per household not total cost which is borne by ALL ACT electricity customers.

So I’m assuming that the missing $6.2 million you’ve identified is the cost currently paid by non-residential electricity users in the ACT.

….the majority of which would be the Federal Government.

This is just sounding better and better, the more I hear – the ACT government has figured out how to make the Federal Government pay (say 2/3 of 75% = 50%) of the cost of subsidising the installation of domestic solar PV.
This brings the price of subsidised solar power to the households of the ACT down to pretty much the same price as old-style power. Awesome. Maybe I’ll vote Labor next local election…(only joking).

chewy14 chewy14 12:42 pm 24 Apr 12

HenryBG said :

His maths is absolute crap.
Let’s use the numbers out of the article itself:

– ACT electricity consumers are paying about $8.37 million annually
– more than 10,500 solar generators
– produce only 0.7 per cent of the overall annual requirement.
– The cost for an average household has reached about $26.40 a year
– those who have had solar generators installed receive on average almost $800 a year

The first thing that leaps out at me is this:
If 10,500 solar generators are producing $800 each, that totals to $8.4 million pa.
The cost is $26.40 x 100,000 households = $2.64 million pa

So the PV we have is generating $6.24 million pa into our local economy. Unless I’m missing something.

Oops just saw the mistake in my last. Shouldn’t be $5B should be $500 mill.

Henry,
yes rereading it, it doesn’t add up.

The average cost per household is $26 this year predicted to get to $50 next year.

But that’s the average cost per household not total cost which is borne by ALL ACT electricity customers.

So I’m assuming that the missing $6.2 million you’ve identified is the cost currently paid by non-residential electricity users in the ACT.

HenryBG HenryBG 11:42 am 24 Apr 12

chewy14 said :

HenryBG said :

Martlark said :

$50 per household, 100k households for 1%, in the day. To make that 100% in the day time, would cost 100 times per household; there are not enough roofs, but indulge me, 100 x 50 = $5000 per household, and we’d still have to pay for the night time energy.

OK, I’m not exactly on my first glass of wine tonight, but…does that numerical gobbledegook make any sense to anybody?

Isn’t it funny that every crank who hates new technologies is also illiterate and innumerate, and massively challenged in the communications department?

Like I said before, I’m paying about $2600 per year in energy bills. If you say I’m paying an extra $50 per year because the government is making some pitiful token effort to wean us off fossil fuels, then I don’t really see any problem with that.
I’d rather it was $500 per year.

And I’d rather they stopped paying for a Human Rights Commissioner and the army of worthless political staffers and other dross whose wage bills my rates are covering, and channel all that money into something constructive and worthwhile.

Yes the maths makes sense, except for the bit about paying for energy at night. Obviously we’d need to be storing the solar energy used during the day which has it’s own issues.

We’re paying (or will be) $50 per household for the currently installed PV systems which produce ~1% of our total energy usage.

There are ~ 100 000 households in Canberra hence the total cost is $50 000 000.

If our energy was produced 100% by rooftop solar power the total bill would be 100 times this.

So the total cost would be $5B or $5000 per household.

Note, I’m not saying there isn’t holes in this argument but his maths isn’t wrong as far as it goes.

His maths is absolute crap.
Let’s use the numbers out of the article itself:

– ACT electricity consumers are paying about $8.37 million annually
– more than 10,500 solar generators
– produce only 0.7 per cent of the overall annual requirement.
– The cost for an average household has reached about $26.40 a year
– those who have had solar generators installed receive on average almost $800 a year

The first thing that leaps out at me is this:
If 10,500 solar generators are producing $800 each, that totals to $8.4 million pa.
The cost is $26.40 x 100,000 households = $2.64 million pa

So the PV we have is generating $6.24 million pa into our local economy. Unless I’m missing something.

p1 p1 10:00 am 24 Apr 12

Lazy I said :

Kinda like means testing rebates… oh wait.. that punishes the ‘wealthy’, that’s all good.

You mean the people that don’t need the rebates?

chewy14 chewy14 9:33 am 24 Apr 12

HenryBG said :

Martlark said :

$50 per household, 100k households for 1%, in the day. To make that 100% in the day time, would cost 100 times per household; there are not enough roofs, but indulge me, 100 x 50 = $5000 per household, and we’d still have to pay for the night time energy.

OK, I’m not exactly on my first glass of wine tonight, but…does that numerical gobbledegook make any sense to anybody?

Isn’t it funny that every crank who hates new technologies is also illiterate and innumerate, and massively challenged in the communications department?

Like I said before, I’m paying about $2600 per year in energy bills. If you say I’m paying an extra $50 per year because the government is making some pitiful token effort to wean us off fossil fuels, then I don’t really see any problem with that.
I’d rather it was $500 per year.

And I’d rather they stopped paying for a Human Rights Commissioner and the army of worthless political staffers and other dross whose wage bills my rates are covering, and channel all that money into something constructive and worthwhile.

Yes the maths makes sense, except for the bit about paying for energy at night. Obviously we’d need to be storing the solar energy used during the day which has it’s own issues.

We’re paying (or will be) $50 per household for the currently installed PV systems which produce ~1% of our total energy usage.

There are ~ 100 000 households in Canberra hence the total cost is $50 000 000.

If our energy was produced 100% by rooftop solar power the total bill would be 100 times this.

So the total cost would be $5B or $5000 per household.

Note, I’m not saying there isn’t holes in this argument but his maths isn’t wrong as far as it goes.

JimCharles JimCharles 9:25 am 24 Apr 12

It’s very interesting reading this, many of the issues are exactly the same as in the UK where people would like to use more, but the deals are not great and the efficiency of the systems are not yet as good as they can be.
The UK has got more potential for hydroelectric systems off the shallow coastlines and are finally making progress in implementation, but they have the same pressures from economics and big power companies (mostly now foreign-owned) calling the shots and pushing us down a nuclear route….thus preventing a lot of renewable initiatives (unless they get the work themselves and can price fix to maintain profits and there own futures)

My question is….why isn’t Australia the world leader in this field? All the best research, technology and machinery is currently German designed….and everybody relies on them to come up with the goods.
Australia is isolated and more at risk from declining, or potential future disruption to fossil fuel access, you have great Universities and facilities, vast land masses and and the best source of reliable sunshine on the planet.
Making this an Australian dominated industry would surely put you in charge of your own destiny and give great export opportunities plus the intellectual property to protect and develop…even if outsourced to China or India.
It just seems that it’s more crucial to Australia than anywhere else and you’re in the best location to take the lead.

steveu steveu 6:53 am 24 Apr 12

OpenYourMind said :

The interesting thing is the drop in price of PV has happened more suddenly than most (including our Govt) ever imagined. It’s hard to say when the rate of drop will flatten out, but at the current decrease in PV prices we will soon be at the point where a system without subsidy can produce power at a cheaper rate than you can buy from the grid.

…good point, but I dont think the our electricity provider will ever let that happen. Government can do nothing about it either.

Personally I think that anything that reduces our dependence on fossil fuels is worthwhile. If we can find something to reduce our dependence on the middle east, then everyone would be alot happier as well (I am not arguing for or against the science of climate change, but both sides have to agree with this).

Bramina Bramina 11:18 pm 23 Apr 12

milkman said :

arescarti42 said :

It’s exactly like negative gearing, which does outrage me. I suspect the reason that more aren’t outraged is that they don’t understand what negative gearing is, what it does, and how it affects government revenues (including a lot of people who are negatively geared).

And like negative gearing, there’s an elephant in the room – the carbon cost of manufacturing and transporting solar panels to suburban roofs.

(the elephant for negative gearing is the $33 billion dollars that our governments collect in property-related taxes each year)

I thought negative gearing had a negative effect on tax from all of the tax deductions – but now I’m wondering whether I dreaming. Does anyone know for sure?

It also has a cost in terms of housing affordability and distortions in the housing market.

OpenYourMind OpenYourMind 11:13 pm 23 Apr 12

duckylucky said :

For those with home solar units, have any of you managed to get a decent return on investment yet?

To answer your specific question, yes. About 14% per annum tax free locked in for 20years for early adopters. It’s hard to find a better investment.

Systems have gotten much, much cheaper, but the rate has dropped from 50.05c/kWh to 16.6c/kWh.

The interesting thing is the drop in price of PV has happened more suddenly than most (including our Govt) ever imagined. It’s hard to say when the rate of drop will flatten out, but at the current decrease in PV prices we will soon be at the point where a system without subsidy can produce power at a cheaper rate than you can buy from the grid.

Our domestic PV system produces as much power as our household consumes…albeit at different times. This is not a big issue for now as solar is still a small part of the energy grid equation.

HenryBG HenryBG 11:05 pm 23 Apr 12

I-filed said :

Would stones chucked on roofs break those panels?

Are you the Taliban, threatening our power supply?

Let’s hope the whole cranky luddite thing doesn’t end up with ASIO getting involved.

I-filed I-filed 10:28 pm 23 Apr 12

Would stones chucked on roofs break those panels?

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