Solar power ready to shine?

Tom Jackson
Jan 29, 2013

 

Although I like the idea of moving to green energy, I've been skeptical about the viability of wind and solar, both because of the cost and because there's no effective way yet to store the power when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing.
 
It's usually environmentalists who talk up the viability of green energy. Their hearts are in the right place, but they tend to downplay the real problems with the economics and the technology.
 
However, a few days ago I ran across a piece by Noah Smith, an economist at Stony Brook University who also has an undergraduate degree in physics from Stanford.
 
Smith's blog post, "Solar: It's about to be a whole new world." on his Noahpinion blog argues that after years of criticism from conservative economists, solar power is about to break through.
 
He writes, "The cost of solar power has been falling exponentially for the past 35 years. What's more, there is no sign at all that this cost drop is slowing. New technologies are in the pipeline right now that have the potential to make solar competitive with coal and natural gas, even with zero government subsidy."
 
His post has lots of links, if you want to learn more.
 
There's a good back and forth between Smith and his critics in the comments and in the main I think Smith holds his own. 
 
Perhaps sensing that I don't have a physics degree from Stanford, he didn't answer my question in the comments about space-based solar power. I'm fascinated by the idea of harvesting solar power from space and beaming it to Earth, although it's likely I'm making the same mistake I criticized in my second paragraph, paying too little attention to the economics.
 
Here's the Web site for Edison Solar & Wind, the Milan company that installed the solar panels for the city of Sandusky's greenhouse.

Comments

The Bizness

First Solar's stock has been going up slowly since mid 2012

Contango

@ The Bizness:

Reminds me: How do ya make a small fortune on WS? Start with a big one.

Lousy investment. It's down YOY, a neg. EPS, No P/E (no earnings) and no div'd.

Pure speculation. YUCK!

http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=FSLR

If you wanna throw hard earned money at alt-energy, at least do it in an ETF and get some diversification.

The Bizness

WS is pure speculation.... I will invest in what I think is a responsible way to invest... some times money isn't the goal, a better world is.

Contango

@ The Bizness:

"Pure speculation"? Not the way I "play" it. :)

"Money" is merely a means of exchange.

And where do you think all that WS money goes? It's invested in corps. and financial instruments that help provide people's futures, jobs, etc.

Where do you think schools and other charitable endowment foundations put their donations and capital?

KnuckleDragger

LMAO! This is one of the most ignorant statements I have read yet. Written by someone who obviously has never invested and has no money of his own to invest. I'm certain you think it is ok to squander other peoples money on an investment that is sure to lose.

MrSandusky

Yes, but what you are saying is just like me saying GM's stock has been going up since 2008. Everything goes up after it tanks. First Solar is in serious trouble right now. I believe the other solar companies in Toledo have already closed shop, after they got their money from the Feds...

The Bizness

Xunlight is still in operation, and what other companies? You are starting to just make up stuff.

Contango

"In operation," while livin' off hard working taxpayer money.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xun...

Crony capitalism at its finest.

MrSandusky

Not making anything up, but I will admit when I am wrong. Xunlight, much like most of the other solar companies went backrupt after taking funds from the feds. Funny thing is that I cannot find any finicial or other informational releases from them since September of 2009.

Nice deflection though, I called you on your missinformation and you dodge the point while lobbing one back at me.

By the way how much or First Solar's manufacturing is done in Toledo, compared to what they do overseas?

mikel

yes, still in operation but in default to the state of ohio. good article for you to read since you are apparently blind to the fact that these companies are profitable. google "energy program faces loan defaults, scrutiny 4" you will note that the state of ohio has loaned out $80+ million and has only collected pennies. Also, first solar had a sales decrease of $108.6 million from 2012 to 2011 and also is in default to the state of ohio. first solar recently moved it's headquarters from ohio to arizona. of course, after they screwed the taxpayers of ohio.

goofus

Proof Documentation Or just another rant from the left.

BW1's picture
BW1

You forgot one statistic. How many are profitable?

dontcare

check out Astrumsolar.com, they have a program where you lease the panels. The lease is cheaper than the estimated savings. The estimated savings is garuanteed by the company, if the savings fall below the estimated savings by more than 5 percent they pay the difference. I am having them installed so in summary, my lease is costing approx. 100 per month, my estimated savings is 143 dollars per month. If I do not save approx. 137 dollars per month they will pay the difference. It appears to be cost effective from day 1. We will see.

MrSandusky

I checked them out this morning. Even talked to a sales on via phone and email. Then the truth came out... It would take 11 years for me to get a return on my "investment"...in other words it would take me 11 years to recover the $17,000 cost of having the panels installed from Astrumsolar. There is the lease option, but what if I move? The panels do not belong to me, so I either have to hope that they buyer will keep paying for them, or sell a house with holes in the roof.

Phil Packer

At some point, we just won't have a choice. Even the people that make millions from the current way of doing things know that. The reason this is taking so long though is that if we all could afford solar panels, they couldn't keep raping us each month.

The Bizness

I don't know about your family or life style but I can operate my house's electricity for under $8,000.00 to install the system.

Now if I went to get a grid tie system I could have almost a $0 electric bill for under $2,500.00.

Those are just up front cost. I also do a lot of energy conservation at home, and am mindful of how much energy I am using.

mikel

another interesting tidbit. prezo and his dem buddies and all you libbies on here are constantly whining about all of the jobs going out of country. yet, they and you want to increase both solar and wind energies which are probably 90% subsidized. well, guess where 80% of those products are made. NOT in america but overseas. so, our tax dollars are supporting foreign companies to make these products! kinda like the pot calling the kettle black ehh?

The Bizness

Not true

Maggdi

Citation Biz...?.....

The Bizness

Shouldn't you be asking the guy who made the ridiculous claims for citations? I don't know the numbers but he was just making stuff up.

Maggdi

I would think that when someone accuses someone of a falsehood, they would do more than call 'lair, lair pants on fire!'. Then you admitted you don't have the facts to prove it.
To be honest I certainly prefer citation for any claim. Then again few people will bother to read links offered if it against their established beliefs.

The Bizness

Here is a number I came across with a simple google search.

"Gamesa reports that its domestic content on U.S.-made wind turbines is upwards of 65% and it
has a local supply goal of 75%.
90
Vestas has stated domestic content in one class of its wind
turbines has grown to 80%, and it expects to increase the overall percentage to 90%, including
components and suppliers.
91
The 2011 Wind Technologies Market Report notes “a growing
amount of the equipment used in wind power projects has been sourced domestically in recent
years. Whether that trend continues in the future may depend on the size and stability of the U.S.
wind power market as well as the manufacturing strategies of emerging wind turbine
manufacturers from Asia and elsewhere. ”

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/...

Maggdi

Thank you Biz. I read the report and as far as wind turbine manufacture goes it seems the report supports your understanding. Although it's hard to be certain of domestic content because reporting on this equipment is not regulated as it is in the automobile industry.
I must add that the biggest up tick happened when there was massive amounts of tax dollars being thrown into the industry in 2009. There's a concern that these supports are being phased out and that anymore growth is a dubious proposition.

mikel

i love it, biz, when you challenge me:

"A Chinese wind-turbine company, with financing help from Beijing, has struck a deal to be the exclusive supplier to one of the largest wind-farm developments in the U.S., a sign of how Chinese firms are aggressively capitalizing on America's clean-energy push.

The 36,000-acre development in West Texas would receive $1.5 billion in financing through Export-Import Bank of China. Shenyang Power Group, a five-month-old alliance, would supply the project with 240 of its 2.5-megawatt wind turbines, among the biggest made in the world."

yeah, as stated before, the majority of these items are made out of the u.s. china, vietnam and even canada out produces america.

mikel

biz: sorry to hear about your green energy buddy:

"Energy Secretary Chu steps down after Solyndra scandal"

"He drew fire from congressional Republicans who criticized his handling of a $528 million federal loan to solar panel maker Solyndra, which later went bankrupt, laying off its 1,100 workers. Republicans said Chu and other Energy Department officials missed many warning signs about problems at Solyndra and compounded them by approving a restructuring of the loan even after problems were discovered.

Solyndra was the first renewable-energy company to receive a loan guarantee under the 2009 stimulus law, and the Obama administration frequently promoted the company as a model for its clean energy program. Chu attended a 2009 groundbreaking when the loan was announced, and Obama visited the company's Fremont, Calif., headquarters the next year"

goooooooo greennnnnnn! nypost2.1.13

Contango

Oops! All is not well in the United States of Obama.

"GDP Shows Surprise Drop for U.S. in Fourth Quarter":

http://www.cnbc.com/id/100419252

Keep "whistlin' past the graveyard."

The Bizness

As you well know it was mostly because of a massive drop in spending by our military industrial complex...which in the end could be a good thing.

Contango

@ The Bizness:

Not-to-worry, the Fed Resv. will continue to "print" money outa thin air in order to buy $85B monthly in govt. securities in order to help keep this economy goin' for as long as needed.

Almost a $17T Federal deficit.

Americans will soon have much bigger things to worry about than whether the country's on track with this alt-energy nonsense.

The Big Dog's back

Get a job.

thinkagain

If the cost of solar power had been dropping exponentially for the last 35 years, solar would be free by now. \frac{dN}{dt} = -\lambda N.

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