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PostWed Mar 27, 2019 9:37 am 
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RandyHiker wrote:
As I said in my post I recently installed a 400 watt system on my RV.  The panels cost about $1 per watt.

These are the panels I installed. They are currently priced at $99 for a 100 watt panel.

Newpowa 100 Watt Monocrystalline 100W 12V Solar Panel High Efficiency Mono Module RV Marine Boat Off Grid https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LY02BOA/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_pdPMCb33P26TC

I did a DIY install. 

Doing it yourself clearly improves the economics, but I was more interested in your original statement that rooftop solar in general makes good financial sense if you live in the southwest.  It doesn't look that great to me for the large majority (I assume) of people who hire a contractor to do the install and make a substantial up-front investment, especially if you borrow the money and pay interest on it.  In the situation I used, if you borrow $18,180 at 4%, the estimated $128/mo savings on your electric bill gives you a 16-year payback period.  If you pay cash, that money would likely do a lot better in the stock market.

Obviously government incentives help, as do ever-higher grid electricity rates, but I'd say it's already a regressive situation in which the better-off folks are having their solar installations subsidized by everyone else.

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PostWed Mar 27, 2019 10:16 am 
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A blatant indication the market economics do not actually work out. Ditch the subsidies on all sides and let's see what people choose. Thus demonstrating their actual value judgments with their actions, not their words.

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PostWed Mar 27, 2019 10:38 am 
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Cost for the raw panels is obviously significantly less than total cost of the system installed and maintained.  Even if you do the installation and maintenance yourself, you would have to factor in the value of your own time, and the wiring/inverters/support structure.  Many roofs are not at an ideal solar tilt which either decreases efficiency or requires additional structure, and anything you add up there has to be well built enough to survive a couple decades of wind events at a more exposed height.

3x the cost of panels seems reasonable for most people.
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RandyHiker
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PostWed Mar 27, 2019 2:24 pm 
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Of course I expected that y'all would develop "alternate facts" to avoid rethinking your positions.
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PostWed Mar 27, 2019 3:53 pm 
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I've never said that I think Germany's plan was good. I have said that I don't think we should close nuclear plants while we're still burning fossil, which is what they did.

I understand that Portugal's 103% was a best case and that a bad month is worse. That is right now. How will they or anybody else do in 5 or 10 years? The point is that every time somebody talks about the limits of renewables, those limits get blown past.

France's nuclear is heavily subsidized and the cost of electricity there does not represent the real costs.

Nuclear overall has a good safety record - with a few hundred plants. But one bad accident in Japan will take decades to clean up, if they indeed ever can. At a cost currently incalculable. One bad accident in the USSR was even worse and unfortunately badly designed and constructed plants like that are inevitable if we are to build thousands of them. Ten times as many plants means ten times as many accidents, maybe more maybe less. So Fukushimas will become common. There may be safer designs, though that has always been promised. But there are safe designs for oil tanks too, and they still blow up. Nuclear's burden is that a broad good record must deal with very rare huge calamities. This is why Germany's poor decision is nonetheless instructive. Technologies that are statistically safe but whose accidents are extreme are not going to be well accepted by society.

Renewables do not have that risk. Workers fall off tall structures. It also provides a lot more good jobs, is a distributed resource, and has no waste.

Despite my arguments against nuclear, I am not as dogmatic about it as some are. I think it makes more sense to continue to improve and expand wind and solar, but especially for countries who have large populations without access to adequate power, it makes sense to do all of the above, as they are indeed doing. If China decided to stop building coal plants altogether at the cost of building more nuclear, I would just hope and pray that the safety record follows the extremely rare case of commercial aviation rather than virtually every other technology out there, like virtually every technology connected with oil, where accidents of all types continue to happen, despite being theoretically avoidable.
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PostWed Mar 27, 2019 7:07 pm 
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drm wrote:
But one bad accident in Japan will take decades to clean up, if they indeed ever can. At a cost currently incalculable. One bad accident in the USSR was even worse and unfortunately badly designed and constructed plants like that are inevitable if we are to build thousands of them. Ten times as many plants means ten times as many accidents, maybe more maybe less. So Fukushimas will become common.

Still trying to understand your point of view here....  So if you perceive Fukushima & Chernobyl to have been extreme calamities, and you believe AGW will result in extreme calamities, then maybe I just need to recalibrate the meaning of 'extreme calamity' as you use the concept, and then I can see why it doesn't really matter to you if society pursues an energy system that will actually work or not.

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PostWed Mar 27, 2019 7:19 pm 
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Fukushima is a great example of emotion overtaking facts on the ground.    The earthquake and Tsunami directly killed something like 16,000 people.   The meltdown killed about a dozen plant workers that bravely worked to mitigate the meltdown.  Estimates are that over the next century there will be a few hundred cancer deaths from the radiation released into the surrounding countryside.

But Japan has halted their nuclear generation program and built many natural gas plants to replace lost capacity.
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PostThu Mar 28, 2019 7:48 am 
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RandyHiker wrote:
Fukushima is a great example of emotion overtaking facts on the ground.    The earthquake and Tsunami directly killed something like 16,000 people.  The meltdown killed about a dozen plant workers that bravely worked to mitigate the meltdown.  Estimates are that over the next century there will be a few hundred cancer deaths from the radiation released into the surrounding countryside

I think it was Chernobyl where some firefighters died after heavy exposure in the immediate aftermath of the explosion.

http://www.unscear.org/unscear/en/chernobyl.html

Fukushima fact sheet:
http://www.unscear.org/docs/publications/2016/factsheet_en_2016_web.pdf

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PostThu Mar 28, 2019 7:50 am 
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RandyHiker wrote:
Of course I expected that y'all would develop "alternate facts" to avoid rethinking your positions.

it would be helpful to specifically identify, then falsify, the arguments you are directly implying are false.

I find that quite often, alternate facts are merely facts which aren't appreciated because they don't fit an argument so they are not mentioned or admitted

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PostThu Mar 28, 2019 8:04 am 
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A timely article today....

If Solar And Wind Are So Cheap, Why Are They Making Electricity So Expensive?

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Over the last year, the media have published story after story after story about the declining price of solar panels and wind turbines.

People who read these stories are understandably left with the impression that the more solar and wind energy we produce, the lower electricity prices will become.

And yet that’s not what’s happening. In fact, it’s the opposite.

Between 2009 and 2017, the price of solar panels per watt declined by 75 percent while the price of wind turbines per watt declined by 50 percent.

And yet — during the same period — the price of electricity in places that deployed significant quantities of renewables increased dramatically.

Electricity prices increased by:

51 percent in Germany during its expansion of solar and wind energy from 2006 to 2016;
24 percent in California during its solar energy build-out from 2011 to 2017;
over 100 percent in Denmark since 1995 when it began deploying renewables (mostly wind) in earnest.

What gives? If solar panels and wind turbines became so much cheaper, why did the price of electricity rise instead of decline?

1) It requires the maintenance and provision of full load capacity, non intermittent reliable sources, so the cost of renewable is added on top of existing systems
2) The sporadic nature of the generation winds means power when you don't want or need it as well as no power when you do want or need it, and renewable systems wind up *paying* other customers to use it...adding yet another cost

Quote:
But why would cheaper solar panels and wind turbines make electricity more expensive?

The main reason appears to have been predicted by a young German economist in 2013.

In a paper for Energy Policy, Leon Hirth estimated that the economic value of wind and solar would decline significantly as they become a larger part of electricity supply.

The reason? Their fundamentally unreliable nature. Both solar and wind produce too much energy when societies don’t need it, and not enough when they do.

Solar and wind thus require that natural gas plants, hydro-electric dams, batteries or some other form of reliable power be ready at a moment’s notice to start churning out electricity when the wind stops blowing and the sun stops shining.

And unreliability requires solar- and/or wind-heavy places like Germany, California and Denmark to pay neighboring nations or states to take their solar and wind energy when they are producing too much of it.

Hirth predicted that the economic value of wind on the European grid would decline 40 percent once it becomes 30 percent of electricity while the value of solar would drop by 50 percent when it got to just 15 percent.

Same electrons, they just cost more. In no other area of life is paying more for the exact same product seen as improving a standard of living.

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PostThu Mar 28, 2019 8:34 am 
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The "New Energy Economy": An Exercise in Magical Thinking

Note that the goal has not changed while the arguments for it shift (with the wind), indicating the opportunism of political, not scientific, ideologies...

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A movement has been growing for decades to replace hydrocarbons, which collectively supply 84% of the world’s energy. It began with the fear that we were running out of oil. That fear has since migrated to the belief that, because of climate change and other environmental concerns, society can no longer tolerate burning oil, natural gas, and coal—all of which have turned out to be abundant.

So far, wind, solar, and batteries—the favored alternatives to hydrocarbons—provide about 2% of the world’s energy and 3% of America’s. Nonetheless, a bold new claim has gained popularity: that we’re on the cusp of a tech-driven energy revolution that not only can, but inevitably will, rapidly replace all hydrocarbons.

This “new energy economy” rests on the belief—a centerpiece of the Green New Deal and other similar proposals both here and in Europe—that the technologies of wind and solar power and battery storage are undergoing the kind of disruption experienced in computing and communications, dramatically lowering costs and increasing efficiency. But this core analogy glosses over profound differences, grounded in physics, between systems that produce energy and those that produce information.

In the world of people, cars, planes, and factories, increases in consumption, speed, or carrying capacity cause hardware to expand, not shrink. The energy needed to move a ton of people, heat a ton of steel or silicon, or grow a ton of food is determined by properties of nature whose boundaries are set by laws of gravity, inertia, friction, mass, and thermodynamics—not clever software.

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Scientists have yet to discover, and entrepreneurs have yet to invent, anything as remarkable as hydrocarbons in terms of the combination of low-cost, high-energy density, stability, safety, and portability. In practical terms, this means that spending $1 million on utility-scale wind turbines, or solar panels will each, over 30 years of operation, produce about 50 million kilowatt-hours (kWh)—while an equivalent $1 million spent on a shale rig produces enough natural gas over 30 years to generate over 300 million kWh.

Solar technologies have improved greatly and will continue to become cheaper and more efficient. But the era of 10-fold gains is over. The physics boundary for silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells, the Shockley-Queisser Limit, is a maximum conversion of 34% of photons into electrons; the best commercial PV technology today exceeds 26%.

Wind power technology has also improved greatly, but here, too, no 10-fold gains are left. The physics boundary for a wind turbine, the Betz Limit, is a maximum capture of 60% of kinetic energy in moving air; commercial turbines today exceed 40%.

The annual output of Tesla’s Gigafactory, the world’s largest battery factory, could store three minutes’ worth of annual U.S. electricity demand. It would require 1,000 years of production to make enough batteries for two days’ worth of U.S. electricity demand. Meanwhile, 50–100 pounds of materials are mined, moved, and processed for every pound of battery produced.

Imagine the scale of the disruption of the countryside using 'green' sources to run our economy at it's current energy use or higher. We're told 'green' energy will not harm our standard of living or raise costs. That needs to be put in writing, with penalties and guarantees of ending such programs if they do.

If you believe the magical thinking, it's incumbent upon *you* to assume the risks and costs, and prove it with your actions and liability. Ignoring the disconnect between your words and actions doesn't excuse them or make them go away. Other innocent people were not put here to live your values, serve as policy tools for what you won't actually choose, or be your cash machines.

That's your job.

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PostThu Mar 28, 2019 8:46 am 
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MtnGoat wrote:
Same electrons, they just cost more. In no other area of life is paying more for the exact same product seen as improving a standard of living.

Kind of like organic produce - people pay more money for an inferior product, and feel virtuous about it.

Great stuff from Michael Shellenberger as usual.

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PostThu Mar 28, 2019 8:54 am 
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The instant you poke the arguments a few times, the inner asceticism native to all these concerns start to emerge. The massaging of word meaning, and intentional evasions used in 'won't harm standard of living' arguments. The idea that people have 'too much' or use 'too much' or 'waste'...always someone *else's* 'waste', of course.

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PostThu Mar 28, 2019 1:46 pm 
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MtnGoat wrote:

Interesting cherry picking.

ConEd's daytime summer rates are 21.80 cents/kWh --
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PostThu Mar 28, 2019 2:23 pm 
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The point is that every time somebody talks about the limits of renewables, those limits get blown past.

there is no load-management limit to large scale hydro.  Large scale hydro with heavyweight reservoirs is awesome.  Likewise there is no limit to biomass and geothermal.

There is a limit, a very harsh one at that, where the unreliability of solar and wind really starts to get expensive.  We figure that is around 20% of the yearly total, averaged over a given grid.

And oddly enough, no country is above the low 20s:
https://yearbook.enerdata.net/renewables/wind-solar-share-electricity-production.html

Even worse, there is very good correlation between those nations at the top of the solar/wind list and those at the top of this list:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_pricing#Price_Comparison_Across_Countries

No country of appreciable size has yet been able to get solar and wind above the low 20s, and those that try jack up their electric rates more than is necessary.

Solar and wind are not yet ready to take on a large portion of electric generation.
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