Why solar cuts it better than any other energy source

Solar power is the fastest growing industry in the world, and south Georgia is an excellent place for it to grow and produce jobs, with plenty of rooftops and parking lots for solar panels.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

    What about the huge cost to the Industrial Authority’s reputation their continued defense of this smoking elephant has given them?

    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).

  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

Here are some points the panelist didn’t mention: South Georgia can get in on the ground floor in a new industry and lead the state in solar power. It’s an opportunity. Let’s take it!


6 thoughts on “Why solar cuts it better than any other energy source

  1. James Christopher Desmond

    Also, MAGE does NOT make ANY solar panels in America, but instead imports them and puts its name on them, then re-sells them. It says it’s set up to make them, but in fact is not now manufacturing any.
    And I’m betting that if it ever makes that claim, then it will NOT be a full, 100% manufacturing process but instead “just enough” (hire some Americans for the final wrench-turn) to cop American-content-based federal subsidies (the essence of welfare capitalism).
    Ask both of these companies if they 100% American-manufacture solar panels, OK? In fact, ask ANY American company if they do that. Tell them you’d like to tour their factory (keep them honest), too.
    I’m betting you won’t find any. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think so. By the way, I myself installed and own a 10KW MAGE Solar PV system. It’s been performing well thus far, and MAGE’s been an excellent company to work with. I just hope they last at least as long as their 30-year warranty.

  2. Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange

    Howdy James, and thanks for commenting. However, you seem to have missed Mark Z. Jacobson’s work:
    And you missed that I called for a study to find out what will work in Georgia.
    I’m not surprised that MAGE is not yet manufacturing stateside, given that they just cut the ribbon on their Dublin, GA office last year and are still hiring. I also won’t be surprised if not every part is made in Georgia. You’d prefer all the parts be made overseas and shipped here?

  3. James Christopher Desmond

    Surely you jest! Pay $19.95 to find out “The Answer?” My web-book’s free, not even any ads: https://sites.google.com/site/freemarketsolarpower/
    Look, “Base Load” power is the flaw in your analysis. No one’s yet come up with a way to COST-FEASIBLY smooth renewable energy’s flow enough so that America’s utilities, whose customers DEMAND Base Load power, actually want it (i.e., that it flows like the Base Load power that comes out of continuously run, coal or nuke power-generating plants).
    Yet, greenies have forced utilities to buy renewable energy via RPS/FIT etc. legislation — which is nothing less than a de facto tax on ratepayers (utilities simply raise their rates to pay for the unwanted, and inflated, green-power).
    Meanwhile, all of the utilities’ customers want to run their heat, AC, etc. at night, when the sun’s gone down (no solar electricity generation) and when the wind is NOT consistent enough. They will not tolerate variable power, and thus will not accede to renewable power on the scale deficit-fueling greenies now demand. Nor, consequently, do any utilities charged with providing that reliable power genuinely want my Solar PV power — only by force of law are they required to buy it from me and other renewable-source electricity producers: https://sites.google.com/site/gridtiedsolarpv/home/defining-avoided-cost
    You simply lace together a lot of “drawing-board” concepts, but no off-the-shelf available solutions, to make Solar PV and other “green” energy SEEM economically feasible (I suspect your friend who wants $20 bucks just to read his “answer” does the same), when in fact you must know that it’s NOT. This statement is just plain reckless: “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.” That’s not just “calling for a study.” That’s making an affirmative statement, and it’s just pure fantasy at that. “Pretty soon?” No way.
    Plus you have know that other, under-informed greenies will now cite to that statement as “justification” for demanding yet more subsidies for Corporate Welfare Queens (100% of all Solar PV vendors now) who simply raise their prices to cop the subsidy layer — thus HURTING the cause of solar power by keeping prices high and thus undergirding “Joe Six Pack’s” most common refrain: “Sure, it’s great. But too costly. Maybe in 50 years….”
    Indeed, GSEA, a solar vendor group that exists to shake down subsidies at our collective expense (it just backed Georgia’s latest tax credit legislation), cited to your piece. Those folks know their product is fatally flawed (costs too much, folks gotta be bribed with subsidies to buy Solar PV, I’m one of them, and for what? It can NOT provide Base Load power until an electricity storage solution is found, which ain’t gonna happen any time soon: https://sites.google.com/site/freemarketsolarpower/home/electricity-storage
    In fact, I’ve publicly challenged the GSEA (on their FB site) to explain the no-base-load flaw in their product, and why NO ONE truly (without being bribed) wants it. Unsurprisingly, they’ve remained silent.
    Get real, OK? Better yet, contact me at freemarketsolar@juno.com and I’ll invite you to come visit my array (Treutlen County) and spend some time at my “Political Re-Education” camp :) We’re both on the same side here, you’re just going about it wrong. My free-market solution’s the better answer.
    Finally, I’d prefer that all goods be made in the places with the highest comparative advantage, a concept as old as Adam Smith, and which is further explained in my book. If that means Asia, so be it. Propping up inefficient, overpriced American vendors (MAGE’s first mission was to soak up American subsidies at the local, state and national level — a year later, it’s STILL not even attempting stateside manufacturing, nor has any plan to do so anytime soon) is a fool’s errand (read also about Evergreen Solar here: https://sites.google.com/site/freemarketsolarpower/home/why-subsidies-ultimately-suck
    Indeed, you can’t cite to ANY example where our government’s successfully subsidized a mass consumer product. Imagine if PC makers, or Apple, suckled at the endless-subsidy tit like that. Indeed, go read about the “Atlas Shrugged Car” on my site (the Chevy Volt). Your mindset suffers from the misguided belief that any renewable power’s good renewable power, no matter how high the cost.
    We need a better products at lower prices, not propped-up, subsidy inflated crap no one wants to buy, OK? Throwing MY money (my tax dollars via subsidies) at vendors only fosters laxity and political corruption (the Queens pay lobbyists to troll for even more subsidies), not the hard-work free market vendors must put in to bring stuff to the market at a price “Joe” is willing to pay.

  4. James Christopher Desmond

    Addendum: A lot of greenies rest their hopes on battery-based storage. There is NO currently available battery system that could possibly enable Solar PV, on the necessary mass scale, to generate the base-load power we all demand every time we plug our electric alarm clocks in at night. Nor can anyone point to a cost-feasible battery storage system coming our way anytime soon, as confirmed in Tony Seba’s 2010 book, “Solar Trillions” and U.S. Dept. of Energy publications.
    The Solar PV Corporate Welfare Queens know this but count on well-intentioned greenies to repeat the myth that battery storage is or may soon be available to enable the mass-Solar PV that’s otherwise required to net-reduce the number of coal or other brown-power plants needed to supply base load power. “Battery storage” thus is a myth, and the Queens perpetuate it so that they can pick our pockets (subsidies). Read more here: https://sites.google.com/site/freemarketsolarpower/home/electricity-storage
    The few greenies who “go off the grid” with batteries actually create MORE pollution because their batteries have to be swapped out every 8 years and the waste that goes into making and recycling batteries (which themselves consume energy while operating) results in a net loss to the environment. Plus their batteries, in consumer dollar terms, make no economic sense. As explained here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0865716218/ref=wms_ohs_product_T2
    For that matter, ask any Solar PV Queen to show you any study at all wherein mass-consumption of Solar PV will meaningfully displace ANY brown-power, base-load generating electricity plants. They won’t. Because they can’t. Instead, they cite to lofty projections, “anticipated technologies” and wishful thinking. In short, bullshit.
    The only sensible path here (my web-book’s thesis) is getting grid-tied, Solar PV prices down to $1/watt installed cost (“grid parity”), so that 100 million “Joe Six Packs” erect grid-tied, Solar PV arrays that thus cumulatively reduce end-point consumption (my home makes more electricity than it consumes) and enable smart-grid smoothing (to at least try to address the variability issue), and then MAYBE displace some base-load (brown power) and secondary, peak-load plants. $1/watt, by the way, fetches a 30 year Solar PV system that pays for itself in 10 and gives “Joe” 20 years of net profit afterwards.
    But only by good old fashioned American free (not corporate welfare) enterprise will prices fall to $1/watt installed Solar PV costs (I installed my system at $3.5/watt; $1.4/watt subsidized — yes, hypocritically). Give a corporation free money (subsidies) and it will consume it (I’ll bet you lunch that MAGE’s now shipping most of its product to high-subsidy states). Tell it that it must compete with the company down the street that’s researching how to lower Solar PV product costs and that’s what it’ll do: find a way to lower its product cost. There’s a term for that: The Free Market.
    Subsidies — now the driving force of 100% of all American Solar PV producers (just look at their trade group websites like GSEA, and their industry journals) — thus hurt us all in four different ways: (1) they deter competition for more cost-efficient products; (2) they cost us all via inflated taxes or utility rates; (3) they cause the Queens to pay lobbyists (bribologists) to corrupt our politicians — for even more subsidies; and (4) they keep Solar PV and other renewable energy hardware prices up and thus perpetuate “Joe’s” belief that “green” power (like Solar PV) is “just too costly to think about using right now.”

  5. Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange

    Elsevier’s charges for accessing peer-reviewed scientific journal articles are quite controversial. For more on that, and a link to a Scientific American article with an earlier version of the same information, see:
    And in case you missed where I wrote “Let’s do that study for Georgia!” I’ve said it again in that new article.

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