This is despite the misinformation people with vested interests in other energy sources put out about solar power. After Dr. Matthew Richard made some points about solar vs. biomass, one of the members of the 6 December 2010 panel that VLCIA spent more than $17,000 to assemble to defend biomass responded that he was in favor of the nearby 300kWatt solar plant, but: well, I’m going to interleave his buts with what he’s ignoring.
- The cost of solar is plummeting
Solar is a lot cheaper than the pollution and foreign war costs of fossil fuels, which are subsidized 12 times as much as renewable energy. The panelist said:
If we look at the solar plant, and incidentally, the cost of solar is not free, by any stretch of the imagination.Fossil fuels are less free. Biomass probably doesn’t have the foreign war cost, but it does have pollution costs.
- Solar installation is a good investment
The Wiregrass Solar LLC plant is completed, with an actual construction time of around a week. This despite the panelist’s assertion:
The cost of the installation is probably two to three times as much as a biomass plant.Yes, for rooftop solar installation there is a front-end financing question, but one that’s already been solved in California and Oregon. Meanwhile the Wiregrass Power LLC biomass plant is 7 months behind and the VDT says VLCIA gave the newspaper a fake timeline.
Cost isn’t all there is to a business case. When nobody will buy the product of the biomass plant (electricity) it’s never going to be built. Meanwhile, solar installation can provide an increasing number of jobs for many years into the future (see below).
- The acres needed for solar are already cleared
This is the silliest objection to solar:
The biggest problem, though, besides the fact that we have 22 acres and we would have to put in a plant comparable size would take about 400 acres.There are plenty of acres available. Houston, which gets less sun than Valdosta, puts solar panels on rooftops. And put them above parking lots. In Texas, they’re going to put them at the airport. Put them in your back yard, or on your farm workshop roof (I did). There are plenty of acres available, ready for use for solar power. And distributing solar panels this way means there’s no need to build extra grid connections for them. Stop thinking about “a plant” and start thinking about deploying solar anywhere there’s sunshine.
- Baseload power is irrelevant
Here is the second silliest objection to solar power:
Trying to convert this plant, though, to solar would really, not a practical, uh, proposition. For the simple reason, if we’re talking sustainable energy, 24/7, we’re talking a plant that will run continously and that will provide electricity on a continuous basis. Probably 90% of the time it would be running at full capacity.Electricity isn’t used continuously at the same level. When is the biggest draw on electricity? In the heat of the day in the summer, when the sun is shining the brightest! Solar is excellent for peak load in the south. One excuse for building new coal, biomass, and nuclear power plants is new power needed for population growth in Georgia. Firstly, conservation and efficiency could deal with that. Secondly, solar for peak loads can also deal with that.
- Sunshine is distributed
This objection sounds more serious, but it isn’t:
The other problem, though, is the sun doesn’t shine all the time. It runs about a 17% capacity factor compared to 90%. So we’re really not talking about the same thing. Solar is a good thing; we’re all for it. But if you have to recognize its limitations and its capability. We’re talking a baseload plant that’s going to be providing power on a continuous basis: solar doesn’t cut it.This is just lusting after burning a tree when there’s a whole forest of real clean energy out there. The error is planning for a single plant instead of planning a renewable energy strategy.
No, not like the so-called “State Energy Strategy” that proposes building more natural gas pipelines and even an oil refinery. No, not like the Center of Innovation Energy slides that decree that biomass is the only renewable energy for Georgia.
Yes, like the Highland Renewable Energy Strategy which examines wind, wave, hydro, solar, etc.; where they can be produced, what complications there are (sightlines, wildlife, tourism, power lines, etc.); which bodies need to be consulted or convinced or otherwise communicated with, and so forth. 58 pages plus another 75 pages of maps, graphs, and analysis, all produced by a company in Stromness, Orkney, a town smaller than Hahira.
Combine solar panels all over the state with wind farms off the coast and in north Georgia, plus energy storage through pumping water uphill, spinning flywheels, heating salt, compressing air, etc. and pretty soon you’ve got baseload from renewable energy. Wind is like solar in that all that is lacking is the political will. What if the wind and sun fail at the same time, due to cloudy still days? Maybe keep a few dirty power plants around as backup power. We’ve got plenty of coal plants for that already. With real renewable energy, we could close most of them down, and we don’t need any biomass plants. We do need solar.
Mark Z. Jacobson makes a good case for powering the entire world with wind, water, and solar. In this debate over nuclear with Stewart Brand, Jacobson mentions that the studies have already been done for powering California entirely with real renewable energy. Let’s do that study for Georgia!
the fastest growing industry in the world, bar none.
with a record U.S. year of 67% growth last year. This growth is driven by the plummetting cost of solar electricity, falling the same way the cost of computer memory falls. No other power source can match that kind of sustained cost drop, and no other energy industry will match solar energy’s growth.
Georgia has two solar manufacturers,
Suniva of Norcross and MAGE SOLAR of Dublin. If we had a competent Industrial Authority instead of one that won’t even publish its own minutes, we might have attracted one or both of those to Lowndes County. But nevermind that; there are still plenty of solar opportunities. has already come to Lowndes County to talk about that.
We have plenty of sun in south Georgia.
What say we build a local industry planning, architecting, installing, and connecting solar power all over south Georgia, with jobs for everybody from construction workers to college professors?