July 30, 2015
to add another item to the List of Things Hillary Clinton Knows Nothing About.
of a larger plan to combat “climate change”
-- an “urgent challenge that threatens all of us” -- the wannabe 45th
president has set
of goal of increasing “the amount of installed solar capacity by 700 percent by
world’s smartest woman have an estimate for her scheme’s likely price tag?
Does she have even a guess at the opportunity cost of
such an “investment”?
no, of course.
won’t join us on the trip, but let’s take a tour of solar’s unworkability. The Energy
Information Administration (EIA), the statistics shop for D.C.’s bloated and
inept energy bureaucracy, recently released 2013 electricity data for all
50 states. We’ll start in Arizona, which the National Weather
Service identified as America’s
sunniest state. Two years ago, Barry Goldwater’s homeland obtained 1.86
percent of its electricity from solar. California’s share was 1.91 percent.
Solar’s contribution to power generation in Nevada, third in catching rays, was
2.05 percent. New Mexico (1.08 percent) and Texas (0.04 percent) round out the
abysmal performance of solar in the nation’s most unclouded places boggles the
mind, when one considers the perks. In 2013, federal support, in the form of
direct subsidies, tax breaks, and expenditures on research and development,
totaled $5.3 billion. It’s a safe bet that since the 1970s, solar has received
over $100 billion in taxpayer giveaways.
that’s just at the federal level. Politically correct
power gets goodies from all levels of government, and it’s mandated in a majority of states. Arizona, California, Nevada,
New Mexico, and Texas each have a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) -- a
decree that electricity providers use “clean” fuels to generate juice. But the
requirements, once sacrosanct, are increasingly under fire. Earlier this year,
Kansas made its RPS voluntary. A repeal made its way through the Texas Senate
earlier this year, and to the west, New Mexico’s House of Representatives
approved a bill to halt the Land of Enchantment’s RPS from rising to 20 percent
retreats are motivated by concern for ratepayers’
wallets. The EIA
estimates that in 2020, the cost “of building and operating a generating
plant over an assumed financial life and duty cycle,” per megawatt hour, using combined-cycle
natural gas, will be $75. Photovoltaic (PV) is projected to be $125, and
concentrated solar power (CSP), a whopping $240.
fantasize that gee-whiz improvements -- nanotech, Internet connectivity, etc.
-- will bring down solar’s priciness. Maybe, but nuclear, natural-gas, and coal
plants will be able to take advantage of technology advancements, too.
solar becomes somewhat affordable, environmental concerns may pose
insurmountable obstacles. Sunlight’s “low energy density,” an MIT analysis found, imposes a
need for large tracts of land. And once those rays become concentrated,
critters need to watch out. In April, a report
found that the Ivanpah Solar
Electric Generating System killed 3,504 birds during its first year of
operation. Water is another potential solar showstopper. It’s necessary, MIT
found, for “cleaning mirrors, in the case of CSP plants, and panels, in the
case of PV plants.”
there’s the NIMBY factor. Crunchies love solar, but only if it’s the right
size, in the right place, and owned by the right people. In Southern
California, activists are fighting “irresponsible corporate solar farms.”
Florida’s NextEra Energy Resources has proposed a facility at the abandoned Roy Williams Airport.
Joshua Tree residents are livid. The Desert
Sun reported that the locals believe that the power plant will “hurt
tourism, stir up dust and threaten their community’s rural character.”
advisers tell her that solar is cutting-edge -- an impressive leap into a
future without “fossil” fuels. Not exactly. In 2014 testimony before Ohio’s
legislature, the Institute for Energy Research’s Travis Fisher noted that
there’s nothing new under the dream of sun power: “The first solar cells were
made in 1883 by American inventor Charles Fritts. The first photovoltaic cells
powerful enough to run everyday electrical equipment were created in 1954.”
MIT’s study concluded that “CSP power is not based on a new technology,” but
the Rankine thermodynamic
cycle, “which has been in operation … for more than a century.”
mandates and subsidies vanished, the solar “industry” would rapidly dwindle
into nonexistence. Good riddance. Solar is expensive, unreliable, and no friend
Only energy ignoramuses believe it should have a big role to play in U.S.
D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.
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