JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Solar Power costs less than Coal, and the Wishing Chair lives on

Finally, a new day has dawned and solar power is cheaper than coal fired electricity! Gadzooks! It must be true, the Sydney Morning Herald says so.

Solar Energy Costs

...

Solar energy cost hits par with coal fuel

Who knew they conquered the low energy density, high maintenance, poor performance, bad weather, and general darkness at nighttime — all in the last weekend? This changes everything… oh, but wait, that’s odd — this only applies in some parts of New South Wales?

Silly me, and I thought the sun shone on the whole nation (and sometimes on the rest of the world too)?

THE cost of solar power in parts of NSW has for the first time crept below that of coal-fired electricity – seen as a key tipping point for the expansion of renewable energy. [SMH]

The dead-set give away is the “parts of NSW” — straight away you know that either someone is stealing sunlight from neighboring councils, or this isn’t a real “cost”, not in the same sense that you and I would use the word. When we think of the cost of something, it means we want to know how much we’ll pay. If we pay less up front, but five times as much tax, then the item is not cheap. And if we pay in lost jobs, ruined businesses, and damaged superannuation then the real cost cost is not just dollars but marriages and lives.

Indeed solar power is so hideously, prodigiously expensive for the people of New South Wales, the subsidies for solar electricity threaten to bankrupt the state.

Anton Lang (who writes as TonyfromOz) has the devastating numbers that  Ben Cubby, Brian Robins, or Melissa Lahoud (the SMH journalists) didn’t try to find. To understand why the words “cost effective” and “solar panel” should never be used in the same article, follow Anton’s reasoning:

The three main problems listed below: 1. Night-time; 2. pitiful average power output, and 3. worst of all — Coal is dirt cheap.

Solar Problem 1: Night-time

The average residence consumes about 20KWH of electricity each 24 hour period. Most of that from around 4pm until 11pm, and some from 7 – 9am. Their solar panels are hard at work (maybe, if it’s sunny) from 9am – 3pm.  Shame about the timing. Homes use about 6KWH during these possibly sunny daylight hours. And since it’s hard to store electricity, we’ve already pointed out that the main baseload power stations have to keep running anyhow, so, above a certain percentage, the more solar you put into the grid, the more CO2 you emit.

Crazy, but true, the renewables are so intermittent that by the time they try to cover 20% of the grid demand, the CO2 savings are a tiny 2%, and indeed it’s possible renewables cause our emissions to rise, because large power plants, like cars, are less efficient if they are being switched on and off rather than run at a nice predictable constant speed.

Solar Problem 2: Average power output is under 20%

People talk about the “1.5KW solar unit”, but forget that that is not it’s actual power rating, but rather its Fabled Maximum Output (FMO) — also known as  the Chimerical Kilowatt. Clouds, dust, and the day and night cycle mean that the panels hardly ever reach the Fabled Max, and they certainly don’t average it.

…taken over a whole year, the panels have an average generating capacity of around 15 to 20% of their maximum rating, and that’s a conservative percentage if anything a little on the high side. The theoretical maximum is 38%, but very few panel systems ever achieve this.

So when Solar-World  says “1.5 KW”, it usually means 300W (averaged): two spot lights, or an eighth of a portable fan heater. Since the “Grid” can smooth things out a bit, we can say it adds up to 3 to 4 KWH of power a day (or about 15% of what the average house uses).

Solar Problem Number 3: Coal is dirt cheap.

When the news says 28c per KW is grid parity, it’s only telling you that when you buy coal powered electricity the government have stolen so much of your money that it doesn’t make any difference whether you buy insanely expensive solar units or insanely-highly-taxed coal units.

Anton puts it in perspective:

That wholesale cost of the electricity provided by most coal fired plant operators is around 3 cents per KWH.

The Victoria Auditor General showed large scale solar costs about 5.5 times as much as coal, and by the figures here, it appears that at best, rooftop solar costs at least 9 times as much. And in some contracts the “state” — possibly your state — is paying 60c a KWH for solar power when it could be buying coal power at 3 cents.

There is madness in paying 20 times as much for energy as you have too in order to appease the witchdoctors of science who say it will change the weather.

See TonyfromOz’s full article here.

See also my posts on solar energy:

Lessons in wasting money: Use more wind and solar and… emit just as much CO2

Would you like to throw billions at solar?

Solar Panel subsidies: A billion dollars to provide cheap electricity to wealthy households

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119 comments to Solar Power costs less than Coal, and the Wishing Chair lives on

  • #
    Snotrocket

    Jo/TonyfromOz: Great post. If I may, I shall raid it for examples to put to my local council here in the UK.

    Not too far from me, where my Brother-in-law lives, the local council has plastered the roofs of all their council houses with PV arrays. They have also installed ground pumped heat generators in all the same houses. The capital outlay for such an enterprise (there must be in excess of 50 houses in the plan) has to be enormous and is only possible because the company doing the work is going to shave off the feed-in-tariff.

    On the back of this ‘success’, my wife’s home town is entertaining a proposal from a company to do the same in their town. It is sheer economic madness. Some snake-oil salesman will get extremely rich on the backs of the local tax-payers. I pray that the government pulls the plug on f-i-t just as Spain did.

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  • #
    Dave

    Ben Cubby, Brian Robins, or Melissa Lahoud

    These three people will be recorded in history as the Mad Flannery Alarmists of 2011!

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  • #
    Joe Lalonde

    Jo,

    Same problem with wind power.
    Inefficient as they take the space of a whole circle, yet the blades only take energy from 3 points and allows the rest of the energy to be lost.
    Yet they use the calculation from only the energy that touches the blades as being about 45% efficient. Even that is being generous to Actual Efficiency which is based on the use of every once of energy of which wind power has not.
    Still does not touch wind speeds too low or too high.

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  • #
    J.H.

    ….straight away you know that either someone is stealing sunlight from neighboring councils, or this isn’t a real “cost”

    G’dammit….. I think I’ve ‘urt meself laughin’.

    That is damn funny right there.

    You are a beautiful writer Jo…. A bluddy gem. :-)

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  • #
    Another Ian

    I’m repeating this from the Convoy thread as it sounds a useful term

    That term “Presstitutes” might find wider useage!

    From comments at http://strata-sphere.com/blog/index.php/archives/17138#comments

    “WWS says:
    August 23, 2011 at 2:33 pm
    credibility is about as easy to regain as virginity.

    dhunter says:
    August 23, 2011 at 4:02 pm
    I hope you are all right.
    I just wonder when, if ever, the presstitutes are going to realize the magnitude of their malfeasance and treat this abject failure as a human tragedy and not a kING, and when if ever they will give solid American citizens like Sarah Palin, Rick Perry and the Tea Party a small margin of the respect and credit they deserve for stopping the insanity of uncontrolled government redistribution.”

    Interesting article on trust there too.

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  • #
    Joe Lalonde

    Jo,

    Current coal plants produce power at 3 cents a KW.
    Suppose that could be .3 cents a KW?
    There is absolutely no incentives for efficiencies in our current system which is based on markets and companies interested in developing technology.
    There is absolutely NO science behind power generating technology. This is why they need proto-types which discourages anyone who may have a good technology but lacks funding.
    An engineer will ONLY tell you if the mechanics are sound. They cannot tell what science is behind the technology no matter how much science is put in front of them.
    Inversion technology has been sitting away for the last 8 years which is the harnessing of individual energy and not the current bulk harvesting and friction from centrifugal force.

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  • #
    Bush bunny

    A few years ago I was invited to a talk by Sen.John Kaye of the Greens
    (NSW senate) by a friend who is a Green. I sat opposite him for dinner afterwards. Actually he spoke about the planet being in its last stages of destruction. But surprisingly he spoke against solar panels. Now Tony Windsor is a great mate of a local solar panel manufacturer and supplier.

    But John Kaye said the only hope was to go to Solar Thermal, solar panels were ineffective an only gave the suppliers money not effective
    electricity generation. I believe in what he said. Now where I live people have had solar panels some for just hot water and others for internal and in line with the grid and get credits. However the findings are that in cold climates the solar panels are not effective all the time. Not only that for me to supply heat as well as hot water and to get grid replacement and credits it would cost for the average 17 square house around $36 k. A lot to repay when ones normal electricity bill is only say just over 1000 dollars a year and that’s being mean. They can be damaged by hail too, that has happened to one friend and she said she wouldn’t replace them as they were only connected to her hot water service.

    I just think the blog where it was cheaper to update brown coal generators is the best more economically than spend money on wind and solar (bar solar thermal) panels. And also wind has its detractors, but speaking to farmers today, they said if someone paid them up to $30 k a year to put one wind turbine on their properties they would take it. I can’t blame them. One farmer has 15 on his property at $10k a year rental.
    And that’s a lot of money really for a farmer. But the cost will be
    sent on to consumers. Also the turbines do produce low density sound that effects some people with inner ear problems.

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  • #
    Bush bunny

    To be quite honest, if I had the money say if I won the lottery I would install solar panels, not to make money out of the investment just to help the environment. I don’t think it would but it would make a point.
    But so far nothing can replace the reliability of coal fired generators.

    But I haven’t got $30k to do this.

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  • #
    Bob of Castlemaine

    Fallacy well dissected Tony.
    Electricity costs to the customer is a relatively complex calculation because of the multiple components that make up the final cost. Unfortunately this factor plays into the hands of those with vested interests (be they financial, political or ideological) in fooling the average punter.
    While we have governments, installers and environmentalists deliberately spreading misinformation about cheap electricity and reductions in CO2 emission as a result of solar panels, it’s going to be difficult to communicate that the community as a whole is the big loser in this scam. In general the public, while rightly angry about the skyrocketing cost of electricity, seems unaware that they are not only being heavily taxed to pay for their neighbours solar panel installation, but also paying at least 10 times the going rate for any power those panels may export to the grid when that neighbour is not at home on a sunny day.

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  • #

    The sad fact is just this and nothing less:

    Climategate was the visible tip of a deep, dangerous iceberg.

    1. Evidence for and against AGW (anthropogenic global warming) is weak. Thus, Climategate and official responses to it simply revealed a hint of the dominance of politics over rational thought in Western science.

    2. Evidence for mass fractionation in the Sun – Earth’s heat source – is overwhelming.

    http://www.omatumr.com/Data/1972Data1.htm

    http://www.omatumr.com/Data/1983Data.htm

    http://tinyurl.com/224kz4

    http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/metsoc98/pdf/5011.pdf

    http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2005/pdf/1033.pdf

    http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/klu/jrnc/2005/00000266/00000002/00000887

    http://arxiv.org/pdf/astro-ph/0609509

    http://www.skepdic.com/lysenko.html

    Thus, it is blatantly false, dangerous and unscientific to claim that:

    a.) Earth’s heat source is steady and in equilibrium, as concluded at the Bilderberg in 1967,

    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/full/1968SoPh….3….5G

    b.) Future energy needs can be met by building H-fusion reactors (like the Sun’s source of energy)

    These official dogmas of Western science reveal instead control by the old USSR-style of “Lysenkoism.”

    http://www.skepdic.com/lysenko.html

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

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  • #
    Colin Dixon

    http://images.mix.com.au/2009/09/21/267204/still-feeling-demotivated-7-600×400.jpg Here is the solution that the Greens are ultimately looking to achieve. Saving The Planet.

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  • #
    mullumhillbilly

    “Some parts”.. Presumably that would be the NW corner where the local grid is powered by diesel, not connected to the rest of the State, and it doesn’t get cloudy much. And no explanation of discount rates used, nor whether the parity achieved is at retail or wholesale price. A typical SMH factoid, in other words.

    But ridiculing the idea of solar rooftop PV is rather shortsighted. Costs of solar panels have halved in the last two years, and will continue to decline while retail electricity prices rise, a large part of which is due, not to solar subsidies, but to infrastructure refurbishment which was badly neglected under 13 year of Labor.

    Coal-fired efficiency arguments are sound for now, but will start to wobble when the payback period for solar PV (unsubsidised) gets to be just 3 or 4 years. Technology advances will undoubtedly make this happen within the next decade or two. It doesn’t matter then that the actual output is less than nameplate capacity . Imagine paying the equivalent of 3 or 4 years power bills in advance, then with a 1:1 feed-in-tariff, not paying any more bills for the next 25+ years. Who would not solar power their home to the max when that equation beckons?

    The uptake at that point will be rapid, and although we’ll still need grid power for when the sun’s not shining and for heavy industry, there’ll come a point where we’ll be wondering what to do with all that midday surplus power. I look forward to more affordable air-conditioning.

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    • #
      Barney

      Hi Mullumhillbilly,
      We all need to realise that when solar panels on house rooftops feed back into the grid it is a bit like pushing fuel back up your exhaust pipe. Please understand that this power is only of any possible benefit up to the transformer in that street.
      It is wrong to describe it as being connected to the grid. In many cases it causes over voltage at the consumer side of the transformer in that street. (It does not convert back through the transformer into the 22,000 + volts required to transport it to adjacent suburbs. The “infrastructure refurbishment ” costs you talk about are rising partly due to the fact that supply authorities have to upgrade transformers in order to cope with excessive voltages at the secondary side of our transformers – caused by
      solar rooftop PV. Getting money from pushing power back at transformers is like getting money from the tooth fairy i.e. Yes you may come out in front in the short term, but when you wake up and grow up you will realise what economic and engineering vandalism this is.

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  • #
    pat

    whether Murdoch is opposed to the NBN for selfish reasons or not, this has a bad look for yet another hugely-expensive govt project which could be overtaken by new technology before it gets up. as i understand it, the NBN won’t be able to cover 7% of the country anyway, plus the vast majority of us already have adequate internet service, so the cost is really for quite a small percentage of the population, for whom there may be a cheaper option available than the nearly $50 billion so far projected:

    24 Aug: Australian: Annabel Hepworth & Tracy Lee: NBN Co revamps; CFO Jean-Pascal Beaufret resigns
    The NBN Co is undertaking a massive restructuring of its senior management team, including the surprise resignation of its chief financial officer, Jean-Pascal Beaufret, and rise of former Qantas executive Kevin Brown.
    The Australian can confirm that NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley has briefed staff on a significant shake-up today, saying that Mr Beaufret had informed him of his decision and that he would stay in the job until January while a search was conducted for his successor.
    In April, the government-owned company was rocked by NBN Co’s manager of cost and resource estimates, Nick Sotiriou, exited the network builder following the shock resignation of the company’s network construction head Patrick Flannigan…
    NBN Co government relations and external affairs principal, Mike Kaiser, becomes head of quality. He will be responsible for “implementing a comprehensive quality framework for the company”, Mr Quigley told staff.
    Telecom New Zealand chief marketing officer Kieren Cooney will replace Mr Kaiser.
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/nbn-co-revamps-cfo-jean-pascal-beaufret-resigns/story-e6frg6nf-1226121383126

    22 Aug: Australian: Lauren Wilson: Alcatel scandal ties up NBN resources
    New documents show the company rolling out the Gillard government’s $36 billion National Broadband Network has diverted considerable resources to examining the time its top executives were employed at Alcatel.
    Correspondence from NBN Co’s Freedom of Information department to Liberal senator Simon Birmingham indicate 3764 emails were sent or received by Mike Quigley, Jean-Pascal Beaufret, the head of the company’s government relations unit, or NBN Co’s chief legal counsel, relating to the time Mr Quigley and Mr Beaufret spent at Alcatel…
    Mr Quigley, who is reportedly paid about $1.8 million a year to run NBN Co, and his chief financial controller, Mr Beaufret, both held senior positions at Alcatel until 2007. A widespread corruption scandal within Alcatel resulted in the telecommunications giant agreeing to pay $137m in fines and penalties to US authorities for bribery in four countries, including Costa Rica and Honduras.
    Mr Quigley and Mr Beaufret are not alleged to have been involved in, or known about, corrupt practices at Alcatel and they were never interviewed by authorities investigating the matter.
    But Mr Quigley conceded during a June hearing of a Senate estimates committee that he should have disclosed the scandal engulfing his former employer at the time he was being recruited to head up NBN Co…
    “It seems far more resources have been deployed by these executives to look backwards at information that should have been disclosed at the time of their employment by NBN Co than have ever been deployed by the government to look forward and demonstrate that taxpayers will get value for money from their $50 billion NBN,” Senator Birmingham said.
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/alcatel-scandal-ties-up-nbn-resources/story-e6frg8zx-1226119232812

    10 June: Australian: Anthony Klan: NBN chief Mike Quigley faces new claims on Costa Rica
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/investigations/quigley-faces-new-claims-on-costa-rica/story-fn6tcs23-1226072649751

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  • #
    Baa Humbug

    We live in a very large, sparsely populated continent. there are places, many places in fact where people live but are quite some distance from the grid.
    It costs large sums of money to hook these people up to the grid. I can see a place for alternative energy sources, be it solar or wind or other, being viable for these places.

    Yes, the alternative source will be more expensive than grid power, and yes these people will need to be subsidised by the rest of us, but we do that now by stretching many kilometres of lines and poles to their homes.

    Think of it like the price of a postage stamp. it costs the same to post a letter to the back of Bourke as it does to a neighbouring suburb.

    However, wholesale alternative energy sources in the highly populated areas being cheaper than coal? Not in my lifetime nor that of my kids lifetime.
    Supply and demand laws will not allow it.

    Here is an example….
    Imagine a car manufacturer or two design an electric vehicle with reliable battery technology that’s just as cheap to manufacture and run as a petrol driven car, and this car captures large chunks of the market. What happens to petrol sales? Volumes go down. What happens to prices when volumes go down? Prices go down. Now we’re back to square one, the petrol driven car is cheaper to run than the electric one.

    The same scenario applies to coal. If China and India switched to nuclear or other alternative fuels, (for example) the price of coal would drop leading to a fall in electricity prices generated by coal.
    this is why subsidies, in the hope that future price rises in coal will make alternatives viable is a never ending vicious circle and very very futile. Bad bad bad policy all around.

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  • #
    pat

    more reasons to stick with coal:

    24 Aug: Bloomberg: Andrew Herndon/Michael Bathon: Intel-Backed Solar Company SpectraWatt Files for Bankruptcy
    SpectraWatt Inc., a closely held maker of solar products backed by units of Intel Corp. (INTC) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the second U.S. solar company to do so this month as panel prices fall…
    The company said it was forced to seek protection from creditors because of increasing competition from Chinese rivals and deteriorating prices in the solar industry, according to the Aug. 19 filing. Evergreen Solar Inc. cited similar reasons for its Aug. 15 bankruptcy filing.
    “United States-based manufacturers are under a great deal of stress because of the emergence of manufacturers in China, who receive considerable government and financial support,” SpectraWatt’s Chief Restructuring Officer and Chief Executive Officer Brad Walker said in the filing. “This support, coupled with China’s inexpensive production costs, have created a competitive advantage for Chinese manufacturers and allowed them to become price leaders within the industry.” …
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-24/intel-backed-solar-company-files-for-bankruptcy-as-prices-slide.html
    17 Aug: CNET: Martin LaMonica: Harsh lessons from Evergreen Solar flame-out
    Evergreen, whose stock has fallen from more than $100 three year ago to less than 20 cents now, has become a black eye for state officials who gave the company more than $50 million in aid to build a factory at an abandoned army base in Devens, Mass. (For a financial post-mortem, see SmartPlanet’s look at its books.)…
    Germany-based Solon this week said it is closing an Arizona panel factory and will trim its workforce in Germany, and BP Solar shuttered its panel factory in Maryland last year. Germany’s Q-Cells earlier this month warned of a large quarterly loss amid a restructuring to lower costs…
    For policymakers and taxpayers, government aid comes with inherent risks, particularly in the manufacturing end of the cut-throat solar industry. In the case of Evergreen, Massachusetts state officials defended their decision to provide tax incentives. It also has a “clawback” clause where the state can seek to recoup some of the money Evergreen already received.
    “It is a cautionary lesson. We knew that it would be challenging to do that kind of manufacturing in the United States,” Massachusetts Economic Development Secretary Greg Bialecki told the Boston Globe. “We will take a hard look at whether the way we designed the agreements or the way we created the clawbacks [to recover money] worked.”…
    In the meantime, political debates will continue over funding for solar research, commercializing nascent technologies, and subsidies for power production from renewable sources, which cost more than fossil fuel generation.
    GTM Research’s Prior argued that Evergreen Solar gave the state what it wanted, which was jobs. At the time of the state agreement, it looked financially solid as it was making more than $100 million in revenue and had a market capitalization over $2 billion…
    http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-20093503-54/harsh-lessons-from-evergreen-solar-flame-out/

    btw Combet, the dust will never settle on the carbon dioxide tax debate:

    24 Aug: Ninemsn: Scrap renewable energy target: Barnett
    Federal Climate Change Minister Greg Combet should cut all his renewable energy policies before asking the states to do the same, West Australian Premier Colin Barnett said.
    Mr Combet told the National Press Club on Tuesday he would be talking to his state counterparts about cutting their schemes, such as solar feed-in tariffs, once the “dust settles” on the carbon tax debate…
    Mr Barnett said the major problem was the federal government’s renewable energy target which requires 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity supply to come from solar, wind and geothermal energy.
    “You shouldn’t be asking me, you should be asking Greg Combet is the commonwealth going to immediately drop its renewable energy target because that’s the policy that’s causing confusion,” he said.
    As a result of the policy, Mr Barnett said the state had to “turn off clean gas power stations and turn on dirtier coal ones” to ensure the security of base load power in the grid.
    “It’s illogical,” he said…
    But Mr Barnett said Mr Combet’s “implicit assumption” that the carbon tax would be efficient was wrong.
    “I don’t think it has a snowball’s chance in hell of working but that’s just my opinion.”
    The Business Council of Australia has called for the federal and state governments to wind up policies, including the renewable energy target, that are “inflating the costs of achieving emissions reduction”…
    http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/8289715/scrap-renewable-energy-target-barnett

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  • #

    mullum hillbilly at comment 11,
    sometimes it’s easy to see how misinformation gets placed in front of the public that makes solar panels actually ‘seem’ like they may be achieving something, and this is the case with what you have mentioned here.
    As I mentioned, the average residence consumes around 20KWH of power a day.
    To actually purchase a system of that size entails a 6.3KW system of 28 panels, and that will produce around that 20KWH per day.
    The cost of something of that size without any subsidies comes in at around $32,000.
    Now, just because the cost of the panels comes down, even halves as you suggest, that doesn’t mean the cost of the overall installation halves.
    We can only work on the current cost for the system, and from that, work it up so that as you say the system can effectively pay for itself.
    As I have mentioned, during those daylight hours, the average residence will consume around 7KWH, so here you are returning to the grid 13KWH each day, on average throughout the year, so that comes in at 4745KWH a year or, and here I’ll take the later 4 years, 18980KWH.
    The system cost $32,000 so that means for you to get return of your money in that 4 years, electricity would need to be retailing for $1.68 per KWH.
    If the current retail price for electricity is around 20 cents per KWH, then that means the cost of electricity will have to increase by a factor of more than 8.
    If that EVER comes to pass, then there will be anarchy in the Streets.
    For three years the unit cost of electricity then becomes closer to $2.25 per KWH, which is 11 times greater than the current cost.
    The cost of the installation would need to come down to less than $5000 for your scenario to eventuate, and trust me, that will never happen.
    Even so, as you can see, the residence is still a nett consumer of power from the grid.
    It is only ever REVENUE NEUTRAL.
    Your comment:

    There’ll come a point where we’ll be wondering what to do with all that midday surplus power.

    That is something that will also never eventuate.
    Rooftop Solar Power at that $32K and 20KWH installation would need to be on top of EVERY home for there to be any excess power at the grid, and then as I mention in the full Post at Joanne’s link, it does not amount to very much power at all, and pity help any grid controller who relies on rooftop solar fed back to the grid to fill demand. That also will never happen.
    Electrical power is consumed in 3 sectors, Residential 38%, Commerce 37% and Industrial 24%, and there is never all that much excess power at any grid. It’s not just big Industry as you mention, but all Industry and all Commerce, where everyone works, so grid controllers need huge amounts of power for that demand, and rooftop solar is at tiny boutique levels of power, so where you mention ALL that Midday surplus Power, that is a fallacy of the largest order if you meant rooftop solar power fed back to the grid.
    Oh, and 25 years locked into the one house, and having to get up on the roof once a week to clean and polish 28 panels is something not every householder would look forward to, and one Inverter lasting 25 years, man, I’d love to see that.
    Better live in hope there’s no hailstorm in that time.
    Scenarios such as you have postulated are a dream of people who have no concept of how electrical power is generated or consumed.
    Tony.

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    • #
      Barney

      Hi TonyfromOz,
      You need to realise that power fed back into the street from a rooftop PV array actually does cause a problem with excess voltage at the secondary side of the transformer in that street. It is a big problem for supply authorities. It causes them to spend more of our money on upgrading those transformers to cope
      with this phenomenon. ENERGEX spends $1.2 billion every year on its own grid to cope with this and other maintenance issues. Putting power back into the grid from the consumer end is a bit like pumping fuel back up your exhaust pipe. The whole thing is a tooth fairy story and the red-headed fairy is sending us broke in order to
      woo the green elf.

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  • #
  • #
    Andrew McRae

    A few months ago when I ran the numbers on the basic 1.5kW system from Origin, which with subsidies can be installed for something like $4999, I’m sure my calcs said the cost amortised over ten years assuming 2100kWh/year came out to average 23c/kWh actually generated, whereas current grid price is 21c/kWh. Your monthly bill is the difference between outgoing and incoming power. Taking this option would on paper appear to pay for itself after 11 years. That’s assuming grid power does not rise in price and doesn’t include inflation, so real payback would be sooner. Which means around 10 years of a “free” 20% reduction in electricity bills after the 11th year. The fine print isn’t too bad. The warranty on the system is transferable between property owners if you buy a place with one of these systems. The manufacturer’s warranty on the inverter (Sunny Boy) is the whole 25 years (!), but you are without solar power for the time it takes the inverter to be shipped back to Germany to be inspected to verify your warranty claim. Of course the amount generated over this time is nowhere near enough to cover total household needs, but the point is that it pays off. It is irrational to NOT install a PV system under these conditions. Sure it would be better if no government subsidy was needed to make it worthwhile, but while it is there it’s not rational to pass up an opportunity to cut 20% off your bill for 10 years.

    Have to say, I never considered the hail problem. Also I didn’t actually buy the system being offered. Irrational? Well yeah, I guess. Something told me prices would come down in time and one should “never buy version 1.0 of anything.” I’m hoping for a better deal. Anyway, unless I neglected some huge effect in the process, it looked like the basic system was already an economic break-even. The larger systems ironically were further away from break-even which is the opposite of what you’d expect from the economy of scaling electronics.

    Solar is not a panacea yet, but (as I find myself reminding people on this site far more often than I should have to) don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Getting power from the sunshine you already “own” instead of depending on a near-monopolist QuaNGO somewhere is a fairly appealing idea for the libertarian types. In more practical terms, cutting your electricity costs is a step forward even if it doesn’t cut it down to zero.
    “Solar power is clean and green ==> We must shut down coal and put PV on every roof top” is faulty logic.
    “Solar power cannot affordably and reliably replace all our coal fired electricity ==> everybody must not install any PV system” is also faulty logic.
    “Coal fired electricity is generated at 3c/kWh ==> PV systems are 9 times more expensive than coal” is a faulty comparison because it ignores the transmission and retailing segment.
    Countering the Greens’ faulty logic cannot be accomplished by equal but opposite faulty logic.
    There is a middle ground where solar power is economic as a supplementary source but not a total replacement. The main question mark in the past has been over the technical ability to control the grid in the presence of highly variable outputs from rooftop PV. (“Smart grid” etc) So far it hasn’t been a problem but we will eventually find out if that is only due to the low number of grid-connected PV arrays thus far. Some engineers think this is a fundamentally unsolvable problem. I’m hoping we don’t find out the hard way.

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    Mark D.

    Andrew, 18:

    “Solar power is clean and green ==> We must shut down coal and put PV on every roof top” is faulty logic.
    “Solar power cannot affordably and reliably replace all our coal fired electricity ==> everybody must not install any PV system” is also faulty logic.

    But are you considering the “faulty logic” of government subsidies? Remember it is (or was) your money taxed from you somewhere.

    I also believe you have overestimated the yearly production of your proposed PV system.

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    Owen Morgan

    I remember last year visiting an RSPB nature reserve in the north-west of England, where an electronic scoreboard boasted of the wattage being generated by solar panels on the roof. I think there was enough solar power to drive a pretty feeble light-bulb. I am sure that the scoreboard itself was using every watt generated by the panels and quite a bit more.

    Even in the summer, you have to be preternaturally optimistic to put your faith in solar power in Britain, especially on the very rainy west side. The reserve is close to the Irish Sea, anyway, so, if the RSPB people really profess the green religion, they must believe, presumably, that their precious solar panels will soon be one with Atlantis, for hath not the Prophet-for-profit Gore foretold the rising of the waters?

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    Jonas Rugthers

    Jo anne the game is up see NATURE latest edition Svensmark was right!

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    Roy Hogue

    A boondoggle always smells like a boondoggle.

    Nothing to do with what anyone else has said here, just my own sixth sense.

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    Solar power has its places, like where you do not have access to grid power, and for it is well suited when it is combined with batteries.

    Although putting up solar panels in a residential situation is often a sheer act of madness. I’ve done my maths on what solar panels ‘need’ to even have a chance of living up to their rated power capture potential and basically if the panel doesn’t get straight unfiltered/shaded light and is not perfectly aligned – you haven’t got a hope.

    Next time you are out for a drive and see a solar panel, note its orientation and quickly check to see if its not occluded from the sun by trees or other properties. It is extremely rare for me to find a roof installed solar panel that is set up right – there must be a lot of people out there getting little power out of them.

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    Bob Malloy

    Thank you very much for this article Jo, When I first linked to the SMH piece a few post back I received several thumbs down, and was asked if I supported the Enron model of accounting.

    While I realise most of those that gave me thumbs down misinterpreted my intent for linking the SMH article, I did appreciate the courteous response from Tony and his taking the time to produce such a comprehensive debunking of the claims made by the SMH.

    Again Tony thank you for responding to my original post it is appreciated.

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    As regards costing the solar panels – basically the true cost with all the rebates and tax breaks etc can only be seen at the State or National level. i.e. for the state or country is buying solar an efficient way to spend money? As shown above the answer is a NO.

    As regards using solar to make yourself more green – come on! Most solar panels are made in China, they involve complex chemical rich industrial processes to make and are often framed in aluminum. They are not renewable.

    Also when costing up solar panels you need to also consider the MTTF (mean time to failure) of all critical components. Hint: the inverter is not guaranteed the same period as the panels, usually a lot shorter like 2 years – the bigger your array the more the inverter costs (1000′s).

    Something I saw that was funny over the ‘Say Yes’ FB page – basically a company in the US is looking to market replacement sky light panels with a glass box containing an array of little sun tracking solar panels behind concentrators; something like 300x. Idea being it reduces the light below and saves on cooling costs. Now given the sun provides up to ~1000w of energy per hour per sq meter and that solar panels are at best 19% efficient – what happens to the other 81% of the energy – well quite a bit of gets converted to heat – its going to get darn hot in that box! Whats the enemy of long term reliability of electrical components? yep heat…

    The only way I think this lot of silliness could be flushed out is mandate at a federal level that all components of a solar system must be warranted for at least 10 years – then the true cost will come out up front.

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    memoryvault

    Keith @ 23 and 25

    Yet another point rarely addressed is cleanliness of the panels. Even the most conservative estimates of possible power generation are based on spotlessly clean panels.

    Right on the coast (where I am) it only takes a week or two of moist, salty air to reduce the panels to around 50% of originally installed capacity, as my next door neighbour has just found out.

    Similarly for people living inland, a week of cold nights that result in a morning dew, with windy, dusty days, will soon reduce capacity to near zero – as friends in a wheat-belt town in WA have recently learned.

    So as well as alignment and shade occlusion, the cost of regular – almost continuous – cleaning has to be factored in somewhere.

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    Bulldust

    I love it when cold, hard facts bury Greenie arguments. There is no come back to the logic of hard economics. You watch JB and MattB avoid the topic of this thread.

    And yet the political will was lacking in NSW to eliminate the hugely wasteful solar PV on individual homes. Their feedin tariffs are still robbing the poor through higher electricity charges.

    Therein lies the true tragedy.

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    I had to laugh the other day when I saw EnviroMission is now pimping its snake oil to Arizona. Those of you may recall they were going to build a solar updraft tower in the outback but, once the government grants were spent they withdrew their proposal. Very much the way a parasite works.

    I can never see a solar updraft tower of any significant size(500MW+) being built. I know there’s one slated for Japan which is 1GW and 2KM high. But, anyone who thinks building a thin(it has to be thin) structure 2KM high in an earthquake zone is going to happen will buy anything.

    I think the only way you are going to get a solar updraft tower to work is to lay it flat on the side of a high mountain, from base to summit. But, that comes with a significant risk of altering local whether patterns. Which may or may not be a good thing. It could lead to more snow, ergo, fresh water.

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    elsie

    from
    Power Hungry The Myths of Green Energy, by Robert Bryce 2009

    Wind power sites needs 45 as much land area as other sources such as a coal or nuclear station.
    Solar needs 8 times as much.

    Denmark gets 51% of its energy from oil
    26% from coal. In fact, hydrcarbons provide Denmark with 48 times as much power as from wind.

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    mullumhillbilly

    Andrew@18, I think you have it spot on regarding the logic of the coal vs solar argumenbt. Your closing coment re grid loading complexity is important; its something I’ve wondered about but know liitle about it.

    MemV@26. I’ve had panels on my (rural) roof for nearly a year and have only needed to clean them once so far. It didn’t take long. I’m happy to do that occasionally in order to get a bit more “free” electricity. I also have windows. I’m happy to clean them occasionally so I can enjoy the view. The panels are covered by house insurance in case of hail.

    Tony@16, I think you’re fudging the figures a little to support your argument. To start with, you’ve only counted the daily excess in the payback calc, and not included the saving from not having to pay the retail account. Also, in my area, the average daily output is over 4W/W nameplate, you’ve only alowed a bit over 3. And your figure of electricity prices having to rise x8 is in only valid in relation to current system costs and efficiencies, which are improving rapidly. If (real)retail electricity prices double and panel costs halve twice (inverter costs will also drop, but probably not as quickly) in the next decade or so, then on your own figures, we have parity. Doubling of electricity prices over a decade is very likely if you live in NSW, and it won’t be due to solar subsidies.

    Finally, its really not that relevant to say domestic PV will never power industry etc. As Andrew@18 pointed out, that’s a false dichotomy. It only has to power peak daily residential load to be significant since that will obviate the need to build new baseload or peaking plant. I have noted your curve describing typical daily demand and baseload provision. The peak daily consumption during daylight hours is about 40% on top of the baseload if I recall correctly. We can easily produce that amount from rooftop PV. With cheap PV, lets say 1/2M homes in Sydney (50% of detached dwellings) get kitted up with 8kW systems… that’s an output of 4GW around lunchtime on a sunny day. !!

    Keith’s point @25 re national efficiencies and imports is valid, but it won’t stop the momentum because the buying decision rests with the consumer, who will want to buy from the lowest cost producer. I don’t see us ever putting tariffs on panels to protect the coal-fired electricity industry from competition.

    It is rational for the consumer to install solar PV if the payback period is only a few years. That will happen, its not a case of if, maybe, I wish. When it does, and grid loading problems aside, what should we be doing with that 4GW power lunch.? Splitting water to make Hydrogen perhaps?

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    Rodzki

    Wow – this could be great news. If solar is really more cost effective than coal, then solar no longer needs subsidisation by governments. It no longer needs artificial feed-in tariffs. It will just organically take over from coal over a fairly quick period of time. No need for a carbon tax to penalise CO2 emissions. This breakthrough makes all that just academic argy-bargy. All the world’s energy problems are solved.

    We just now need to wait for the formal announcement from Ms Gillard that the carbon tax is off the agenda.

    Waiting….
    Still waiting …. (crickets)

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    cohenite

    Oliver@10; so you think fusion is a chimera?

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    Winston

    O/T again…
    The penultimate scene in my play, the Tragedy of Julia Caesar. Don’t lose heart everyone, the end is most definitely at hand for our Julia, both in the play and in the real life scenario being played out as we speak.

    Act II Scene II:

    Narrator: The man known variously as Circus Maximus (Rudd), “Spartacus” and even “Kevinius VII” (the latter for reasons which are elusive), was about to assume another pseudonym to add to his armamentorium…………. “Profundus Per” (Deep Throat). Meeting with Marcus Favonius (Andrew Bolt) in an underground chariot bay, Maximus continues to sow the seeds of Julia Caesar’s destruction by passing on vital information regarding the inner workings of the Roman senate. A certain senator, Dobellius, had been raiding the treasury for funds to buy concubines for himself and his friends, while representing it as business expenses. Now, normally this would have led Caesar to instantly dismiss him from public office in disgrace, but such was Caesar’s looming unpopularity that times were desperate and she needed every supporter on deck to remain in power, even corrupt ones. It was even rumoured that two of her senatorial supporters had actually been dead for 2 or 3 weeks, but were dressed, made up and propped up in the back of the chamber to maintain the pretense of ongoing numbers of support for her Caesarship. As rigor mortis set in, the aroma became increasingly intense in the Theatrum Absurdum, which aptly became a “deadly” accurate metaphor for the government they represented.

    Dobellius’ indiscretion and fraudulent corruption, and Caesar’s subsequent coverup, were leaked by Maximus to Favonius in that chariot bay on that fateful day, which the young poet then used to further undermine Julia’s reign by spreading details of the affair among the populace, and to the senators who were waiting, knives at the ready, for their chance to strike. And so the circle was nearly complete, thought Maximus, who expected he would then be welcomed back as leader by the adoring public he was sure existed. Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men…………………………………………

    Outside the Roman Senate, a crowd of plebeians has gathered, carrying torches and pitchforks, with oxen-drawn carts and wagons blocking the Via Appia and surrounding the building, angry voices raised against Caesar. The Tribunes, Flavius (Tony Jones) and Marcellus (Kerry O’Brien), look on……….

    Flavius (Jones): It’s a lovely day, isn’t it Marcellus!

    Marcellus (O’Brien): Yes, it is Flavius, but it’s very crowded in the city today, the traffic is just getting worse. I suggest we severely restrict all the riff raff from gaining access the Senate precinct to make it easier for important people, like tribunes and senators, to enter the centre of Rome. We can’t be delayed by such trivialities.

    Flavius (Jones): But, the plebeians seem to be holding signs and remonstrating. Do you think they may have some grievance. Perhaps, Marcellus, the peasants are revolting!

    Marcellus (O’Brien): They most certainly are! But I see nothing here of any interest, just the usual rabble whingeing about any and everything. Nothing to see here, it’s of no consequence, Flavius. Now come let us return to the chamber. I here there is a special on the pig’s trotters in the staff cafeteria today. Anyway, it’s Cassius’ treat, with all the tribunes being given a free lunch today in honour of our contribution to the formation of our Utopia Viridus. Better be quick, there are lots of mouths to feed, and only so many places at the trough! Come, Flavius, let us repair to the dining area before Caesar is due to give her oration. (Exuent)

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    mullum hillbilly at comment 30
    Let’s actually pretend for one minute that we have a level playing field.
    If, just if, an old technology large scale coal fired plant were to upgrade to the new technology coal fired power technology, that plant could generate its power for 3 cents per KWH wholesale.
    Now, let’s skew the playing field.
    Add on the mining resources tax, increasing by a large amount the price of the Thermal Coal fuel, which now hikes up that 3 cents per KWH.
    Now add in the CO2 Tax which adds a further 2 cents per KWH to that wholesale price.
    Now add on the unobtainable dream of CCS which reduces the overall power output by 40% and adds a further 2 cents per KWH to what is now a lot less lifetime total power from the plant.
    You now have a cost for coal fired power at wholesale approaching 10 to 12 cents per KWH, making coal fired power more expensive.
    All this has been done artificially to make coal fired power economically unviable, by the dipping of greedy hands into a process that is basically cheap.
    Now Rooftop solar power is purchased by the grid for redistribution back to consumers. That purchase price is at retail. The grid then has to sell power it has purchased at retail to consumers at the retail price. That retail price is largest for residential consumers, because Industry and Commerce pay a much lower price for their electricity they consume from the grid.
    So now, the grid provider has to sell rooftop solar power to those consumers at a price lower than it purchases the electricity.
    (Yeah! Right!)
    You tell me where a grid provider is going to purchase its electricity. From a source providing it at more than it can sell it for, or from an artificially inflated coal fired source at half that price, even with the playing field artificially unlevelled.
    Everything will be done to (artificially) make your rooftop solar look competitive when compared to what is ostensibly a cheap and utterly reliable source of huge amounts of electricity, over a source of what will only ever be small boutique amounts of unreliable power that cannot be relied upon to supply CONSTANT RELIABLE LARGE amounts of power.
    You say:

    If (real)retail electricity prices double and panel costs halve twice (inverter costs will also drop, but probably not as quickly) in the next decade or so

    Wow, there’s some sanguine assumptions.
    You then follow with this:

    We can easily produce that amount from rooftop PV. With cheap PV, lets say 1/2M homes in Sydney (50% of detached dwellings) get kitted up with 8kW systems… that’s an output of 4GW around lunchtime on a sunny day. !!

    Half a million homes with an 8KW rooftop system.
    They’re retailing installed minus subsidies for $55K.
    $55K and half a million purchasers.
    Are you kidding?
    You’d be lucky finding a hundred people willing to pay that price for rooftop solar out of their own pockets.
    Finally, your whole argument collapses under your own hand with the last thing you mention in the latter of the two quotes.
    …..on a sunny day…..
    To add even further to that rooftop solar only works during daylight hours.
    Two thirds of residential consumption is after the Sun goes off its maximum and into the night from 4PM until 11PM
    Every rooftop solar owner is still a net consumer FROM the grid.
    The grid will still need large scale power plants to provide that power.
    Either way, as I have mentioned, rooftop solar is only ever REVENUE NEUTRAL for the panel owners.
    You still need power from traditional sources for those levels of power required.
    As to level playing fields, and artificially inflated prices for coal fired power, consider this.
    With a level playing field new tech coal fired power can generate its power for sale to the grid at 3 cents per KWH
    Nuclear Power can generate its power for sale to the grid for 1.6 cents per KWH.
    Rooftop solar power will always sell its power to the grid for retail only. As retail goes up, then so does the cost of that rooftop solar to the provider who then has to onsell that power at a loss to overall consumers.
    You can make it sound as good as you possibly can with reasoned argument, but it can never compete.
    Tony.

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    As is obvious, the ever increasing cost of electricity to consumers would be driven up with more and more rooftop solar panels.
    The average electricity bill is around $350 to $400.
    If that were just to double, imagine the outcry from the populace.
    Take out your most recent bill, and imagine the economies you need to make now to pay that.
    Imagine it being double that.
    Then have some consideration for pensioners, if and when they see something like that.
    Tony.

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    mullumhillbilly

    Tony@34. You keep using current prices in your arguments ($55K for 8kW), which is entirely irrelevant to my point. Solar PV prices are dropping and will continue to do so. You’ve also outlined a bunch of costs on the coal-industry which I agree don’t make sense, should not be imposed, and make no difference to what I’m saying anyway…. so straw-man.

    If east coast residential demand hits 65,000 Gwh p.a by end of this decade, and electricity distributors have the choice of (i) buying peak power at exorbitant prices for 100 hours peak demand per year, or (ii) incurring huge capex for the same, then it seems to be a very reaosnable option for the consumers themselves to provide the peak power. (eg peak demand has risen 75% in a decade because of extra airconditioning in Qld). The electricity retailers arent buying that peak power at 3c/kWh, as you would well know. Your claim in 35 is simply tendentious; I have consistently said that the scenario I am talking about does not involve subsidies.

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    Tel

    This changes everything… oh, but wait, that’s odd — this only applies in some parts of New South Wales?
    Silly me, and I thought the sun shone on the whole nation (and sometimes on the rest of the world too)?

    This is a poor argument and detracts from the value of the rest of the piece. Yes, sun shines everywhere, but no you can’t dig coal just anywhere, and you can’t build the fairly massive coal fired plant just anywhere (small plants are highly inefficient).

    So when you pay for coal, you are paying for:
    * Construction of generator infrastructure
    * Permits on mining and construction
    * Transport of coal from mine
    * Construction of grid cable infrastructure
    * Transport loss on electricity

    In the case of solar, small plant is OK, and you put the cells at the same place you use the power. In addition, you don’t need permits. This eliminates transport and permit costs.

    In New South Wales, and Victoria the power plants are right at the coal mine, but not everyone lives near those plants. If you happen to live inland, and a little bit off grid, then you options for access to coal power don’t look much good anymore.

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    Craig

    The place for solar is in remote areas, away from the grid, with ample sunlight. Outback cattle stations or mining camps would be candidates. With battery storage, an inverter and backup diesel generator for peaks and emergencies, a solar system is viable, if expensive to instal. At present, coal is the best way to produce electricity in Australia. In the long run, coal will be replaced by nuclear. The reason for this is that coal generation technology is fully developed but nuclear is not. Current nuclear plants, which in some places can already match coal on generating costs, are quite primitive. The dominant type, the light water reactor (LWR), wastes most of the fuel that goes into it and has low Carnot efficiency on the generating cycle. Nuclear plants can be built that are hundreds of times better in terms of their fuel to energy conversion efficiency than the LWRs. These are the thermal and fast spectrum breeder reactors which combine efficient fuel utilisation with high temperature generation cycles. What prevents the deployment of better nuclear reactors is not technology, it is the organised ideological, political and bureaucratic obstructionism put in place by the greens over the last half century. It is a case of the Luddites having (so far) won the day. But this is changing as more and more people are learning to see through green propaganda.

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    mullum hillbilly at comment 36,
    The point is this.
    Providers will be having to sell rooftop solar power to consumers at less than what they are paying for it, no matter what the price of rooftop solar falls to.
    Power will always be cheaper for the provider to purchase from what will even then still be cheap sources.
    If you seriously think prices of 8KW rooftop solar installations are going to halve, and then halve again, then that really is sanguine thinking.
    The panels are only one part of a multi unit system.
    Typical rooftop solar installation:

    High Quality Solar Modules
    Solar Module Mounting Frames (Wind Rated)
    Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) Solar Booster
    LCD Display with Data Logging
    Hub and Remote Display
    3000W – 6000W Pure Sine Wave Inverter Charger
    Battery Charger: 85-100A (24VDC), 42-60A (48VDC)
    In-Built AC Auto Transfer Switch
    High Quality Deep Cycle Solar Batteries
    Professionally Assembled Equipment Board
    Battery Disconnect Fuse Switch
    Battery Interconnection Cables
    Battery Temperature Sensor
    DC Links
    Solar Array Cable
    Circuit Protection
    Battery Warning Signage
    Design, Accreditation & Installation

    Show me how the cost of all that will halve and then halve again.
    Residential consumers will not be filling their own peak demand with rooftop solar.
    Peak demand is 4PM until 11PM long after rooftop solar has ‘gone to bed’.
    Tony.

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    JohnB

    So when Solar-World says “1.5 KW”, it usually means 300W (averaged): two spot lights, or an eighth of a portable fan heater. Since the “Grid” can smooth things out a bit, we can say it adds up to 3 to 4 KWH of power a day (or about 15% of what the average house uses).

    I think you are a bit mean with your average yield. I believe that the average annual yield would be about 1500kWh over 20 years in Sydney. Trouble is that it could be as low as 0.25kWh on a rainy winters day and simply not operate at times even in the middle of the day. I think Labor and their Fairfax stooges are talking up what will be a leanenergyfuture

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    Bob of Castlemaine

    mullumhillbilly: @ 12, 30, 36

    If wishes were horses, beggars would ride – as the saying goes.
    Unless you have the recipe for the magic pudding we are stuck with what we have in the here and now. If some day domestic solar PV should become cost competitive with our present coal based grid power network that’s well and good. But the sole reason we see the proliferation of solar PV at present is the distortions produced by the misguided taxes and subsidies that prop it up.
    Why send the country broke by forcing people to use unnecessarily expensive electricity.

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    JohnB

    If east coast residential demand hits 65,000 Gwh p.a by end of this decade, and electricity distributors have the choice of (i) buying peak power at exorbitant prices for 100 hours peak demand per year, or (ii) incurring huge capex for the same, then it seems to be a very reaosnable option for the consumers themselves to provide the peak power.

    Professor Garnaut in his last report on renewable energy quoted a study that showed that a peak times on hot sunny days in Sydney photovoltaic panels were only providing 10% of their maximum power output because their performance drops off markedly with increasing temperature.

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    [...] Solar Power costs less than Coal, and the Wishing Chair lives on [...]

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    pat

    time out for a little laugh…look out for the surprise ending, which probably helped get this published in Nature:

    24 Aug: Toronto Star: Theresa Boyle: Antibiotics may be doing permanent harm, doctor says
    Excessive use of antibiotics may be more damaging than originally thought. In addition to creating drug-resistant superbugs, they may be doing permanent harm to the human gut, contributing to increases in obesity, allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and diabetes, warns a commentary in the journal Nature.
    Urging physicians to curtail use of the drugs immediately, author Dr. Martin Blaser, chair of the department of medicine at New York University, says antibiotics may be permanently killing off beneficial bacteria in addition to dangerous bacteria…
    “I have compared this with global warming. Global warming is human activities that are changing our macro-ecology. And I think that our microecology is changing,” Blaser said…
    http://www.thestar.com/news/article/1044173

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    Bruce of Newcastle

    Solar PV on roofs works quite well for a certain amount of capacity – the peak load capacity required by the fast breeding Chinese airconditioner, when short term pricing can be as much as $20,000/MWh.

    But for baseload there is a Catch 22 which the proponents never talk about.

    If you use solar PV for baseload, then you have to have energy storage. This is either water pumping and hydro turbines, thereby costing quadruple due to 50% efficiency loss and double capital cost. And dams that environmentalists hate. Or they can use batteries which cost too much because they use lithium, cobalt, nickel, lead or other raw materials which rapidly become too expensive as a result of increased demand (ie like rare earths last year which went up 10 times in price).

    Or you use solar thermal, with hot salt storage. Which is fine.

    But then you will see a plague of blind and crispy bird life (sic) due to the sheer number of solar thermal installations required. I wonder whether the environmentalists will like cleaning up charcoal fried carcasses of threatened species along with the burst and bludgeoned ones from wind farms?

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    J Knowles

    TonyfromOz. Thanks for producing some numbers for the argument. My father was asked by the UKAEA to cost wind and solar PV during the early 1980s and his numbers were similar to those given on this site. He had to design and have priced, a wind turbine and then assess suitable locations. He said it was a bit tricky because to be efficient the turbine had to be enormous with 5 tonne blades. In the UK wind is surprizingly unsuitable and at least 7X the cost of the Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor electricity. Of course, solar PVs in UK are a joke due to cloud and low sunlight strength.
    In Oz it seems fundamentally wrong that I should pay higher electricity rates to subsidise my neighbour’s PV array. A friend was given $15K towards a stand-alone $32K system. It’s only 2.7KW and he has to have a diesel genny as back-up for cloudy weeks. He also purchased an evacuated tube solar water heater and a gas cooker so it was an expensive house to set up. When the servo motor on one of his sun tracking arrays gave up it cost him $600 to get it fixed. Ironically he has high voltage power lines running over his property but the cost of transformer and connection was prohibitive.
    Solar PV has so many detractions but maybe in time, with Govt funding, a Uni might come up with a more efficient and cheaper solution. For the time being at least, coal fired generation from units like Mt Piper, NSW at 3 to 4¢ a unit, looks pretty sensible.

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    cohenite

    The environmental inconsistency of wind and solar [w&s], as Bruce mentions @45, is only one aspect of their uselessness; simply put, if it were not for the scam of AGW the discussion about them would not be taking place; they would remain a peripheral energy source for remote and difficult areas or for use on the space station.

    The real elephant in the room in any discussion of future energy sources is gas, particularly shale gas where reserves are continually being upgraded:

    http://www.china.org.cn/business/2011-08/24/content_23274970.htm

    With Peak Oil just a tic in John Holdren’s misanthropic eye the real choice will be between gas and nuclear and how to apply those energies with minimal disruption to agriculture.

    The people who have put panels on their roofs should be de-subsidised asap. If people want to save the planet let them pay for their own narcissistic indulgences.

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    J.H.

    The people who have put panels on their roofs should be de-subsidised asap. If people want to save the planet let them pay for their own narcissistic indulgences.

    Well said Cohenite…. as usual.

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    Truthseeker

    It’s unfortunate that we cannot use the Sun to generate electricity efficiently even though it is the main driver of global climate trends;

    http://www.griffith.edu.au/conference/ics2007/pdf/ICS176.pdf

    Certainly in NSW, if you have solar energy, you do not use the power you generate directly. Instead it is feed into the grid and you get credits for it. I am not sure what the rules are in other states. One point that is usually missed by those who promote solar power at the expense of alternatives is that individual households that generate electricity are actually putting “dirty” (in terms of phasing – I think that is the right term) power into the grid whereas current power station power is very “clean” and consistent. This “dirty” power causes issues for the power vendors, but you do not hear about it anywhere. So of course replacing cheap, “clean” and consistent power by expensive, “dirty” and inconsistent power makes perfect sense … not.

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    MattB

    “The people who have put panels on their roofs should be de-subsidised asap. If people want to save the planet let them pay for their own narcissistic indulgences.”

    That is a bit harsh, a lot of people forked out significant amounts of cash for systems with moderate pay back periods, when they could have done more with that cash if left in the bank/pocket. It was not as clear that they just didn’t stackup. It is harsh to desubsidise an invstment made at the direct encouragement of the government.

    tarrifs that mean people recently were paying these off in 3 years then laughing all the way to the bank should certainly be trimmed back though.

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    theRealUniverse

    MSM disinformation again. I hope the MSM gets the final trashing it deserves when noone actually buys Fairfax rags or the others (and just gets all their info from sites like this!) OR watches the trash put out as news on the likes of the TV networks.

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    I think that there may be some misunderstanding with respect to where I use the term ‘Revenue Neutral’, and that I may not be counting something in, or perhaps even counting it twice, so please allow me to explain it with some care.
    The average residence consumes 20KWH per day, split one third during daylight, and two thirds in the pre Sun peak early AM, and post Sun peak PM into the evening and night.
    So during daylight hours, the residence consumes 7KWH, and during Peak Power times 13KWH.
    We can only go by what we have in place right now, and let’s not include the subsidies at installation and the subsidised feed in tariffs as high as double and triple what the consumer pays for electricity from the grid, as this is effectively asking other consumers to pay your way for you.
    So to equal the residence’s consumption of that 20KWH per day, we need a 6.5KW system, which will generate (on average) that 20KWH during full daylight hours.
    The residence consumes 7KWH and returns 13KWH to the grid
    The residence is paid at retail (without subsidy) for that 13KWH.
    During non daylight hours the residence still has to purchase 13KWH of the power it uses from the grid at retail.
    It has sold 13KWH to the grid, and buys 13KWH from the grid, hence revenue neutral.
    The savings only amount to the 7KWH the residence did not need to purchase from the grid, having used the Solar power to supply that.
    So, even though the residence is effectively not paying any power bill at all, that does not count as a saving in full of that total yearly power bill, because the power has been sold to the grid, and then purchased back from the grid.
    In fact, the residence will incur a saving, that being the 7KWH it did not have to purchase from the grid.
    So, while there is no power bill whatsoever, that saving amounts to one third of what the total consumption cost would have been, or one third of the average yearly electricity bill, or around $500 a year.
    If that original outlay for that 6.5KW 20KWH a day system in today’s dollars is around that $32K, you can now see that the only way they can sell these is if there are large subsidies at installation, and large feed in tariffs, otherwise, these systems will never pay for themselves.
    As I mention in the full Post linked to, I want to see how many of these large systems sell if both of that those huge subsidies are removed.
    Either way, besides the system being revenue neutral, but only with respect to the existing power bill, the residence is still a net user of power from the grid, so there is effectively no real saving in power generation supplying the grid, no matter how green a picture is painted.
    Perhaps now you can see just why they had to have both subsidies in place.
    What I can see happening is smaller 1.5KW systems will probably still sell minus subsidies, but no one can afford to shell out those huge amounts for larger systems knowing there will be little chance of getting your money back, and the only way that will eventuate is indeed if the cost halves and then halves again, which ‘may’ happen with the panels themselves, but not the overall systems.
    This may seem like I have used selective figures but you can only work with the existing figures, not just hope that the price will halve and then halve again.
    Tony.

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    Andrew McRae

    Mark D @ 19

    I explicitly mentioned the government subsidy. I could not account for it in the cost comparison because I don’t know how much it is.
    As I said, it would be better if PV was cost effective enough to be viable without a single cent of rebates, but it makes sense for individuals to take free money stolen from the back pocket of others while the rebate is on offer. Grubby and greedy, yes, but economically rational!

    You’re entitled to believe that the generation amount is overestimated. That’s the figure for Brisbane quoted by Origin, not my estimate. Well how would I know, surely it’s up to the experts to figure this stuff out?

    I had taken that figure as achievable, though now that you mention it I have tried to reverse engineer the number. 2100kWh/y ÷ 365d/y = 5.7kWh/d or the equivalent of 4.2h/d at peak production. That does seem a stretch even for a sunny day, and does not seem to allow for any cloudy days at all!

    I have just checked the Origin site again. It turns out they actually quote 2300kWh for Brisbane, so I must have used 90% of this value to allow for the decrease in panel efficiency which happens in the first week of operation (they don’t tell you this but I read it elsewhere). And where do they get this from…. Clean Energy Council Consumer Guide [PDF]. Their “Australian Solar Radiation Data Handbook” says averaged over the year a 1.5kW rated (STC) system in Brisbane generates 6.3 kWh per day.

    That seems a bit high, but… without real measurements of installed output I don’t see how I can reject it.

    I’ve written… (cough)… a computer model to simulate the panel output versus appliance demand. I even have a trick to hide the decline! Yes, really. I modelled the efficiency as declining linearly over 25 years whereas really it declines a lot in the first week of operation. I don’t think that makes much difference compared to clouds. Yes, once again clouds are the bane of computer models. My cloudiness energy transfer function is [Mon...Thu]:90%, [Fri, Sat]:60%, and on Sundays only 20% sunlight gets through, and every week of the year is this same cloud pattern. I also assumed 90% of energy is direct and 10% is reflected from the blue sky. That’s really the only arbitrary numbers in my model. I figure they are somewhere in the right ballpark, and when I run the model that way it gives the same average output for the year as the IPCC Clean Energy Council says. It achieves this even with the system only generating 1kW maximum – well below the 1.5kW rating. So it seems plausible.
    More interesting is that my domestic demand only exceeded the solar panel after midday. This could be an issue if every house suddenly tries to suck the grid at the same time.

    If anyone here runs Ubuntu and wants to play with the source code, they can install a math program called Genius and I can send the .gel file somehow. This was easier than learning Octave or Matlab.

    Of course if there is real data from Brisbane rooftops available I’d like to see it.

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    John Brookes

    Can’t contribute much here, as don’t know much. A friend with solar panels was in the March 2010 Perth hailstorm. The solar panels survived unscathed, so they are pretty tough. Don’t know about cleaning.

    Of course most solar energy in Perth is used to heat water, and it does a pretty good job at that. Another friend who recently installed a solar hot water heater said that the latest models produce reasonably hot water even in winter (which was certainly not my experience with one 20 years ago).

    One of the problems with solar panels is that they (at least as they are installed now) only work when the grid is working, so if the power fails in the middle of a sunny day, you can’t just use your solar panels to power your house – you have to go without electricity like everyone else. There must be a way round this (and I’m sure someone will tell me….).

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    Bush bunny

    John @ 35. $300 – $400 a bill. Have to say that is what I pay in winter
    without heating but an electric blanket and occasionally put on a two bar electric fire. I have those low watt long life bulbs that ruin your eyesight. I don’t have bulbs in some room. I pull up the blinds to heat my bedroom at day, and pull them down at night. Then I have elderly friends who pay $900 to heat their homes. Because they want to stay warm.

    Solar farm in Moree has cost heaps about 440 million. People forget that in UK Pensioners are given four hundred pounds a year to heat their homes and some still die from the cold. We in New England do get minus night temps, and although I have ducted oil heating I don’t use it, but I have donned a jumper and gloves sometimes to keep warm.
    And have an electric fan for cooling (rarely used) in summer. Always wear Ugg boots (not in bed, I have feather bootees for that). The NSW government do give the Salvos vouchers for electricity or gas. But that is limited to $120 per year.

    But I can’t see why solar thermal isn’t used or invested in. Because that will provide electricity (whether it is dearer I don’t know) to a large amount of properties. Had my rave, sorry. Have any one of you read Colleen McCollochs ‘Creed of the Third Millenium’ set in 3030. It describes life during the next full glacial period. Hardly anyone lived in Canada and the United States. Zero population and people were shot if found cutting down trees. Well read it, I remember I switched on the electric blanket while reading it, her prose was so good and it was SUMMER.

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    Bush bunny

    Jonas @ 21. You are right. Its already up on WUWT site. But this was known years ago. Cosmic rays are constantly bombarding the earth and when they collide with water molecules they help form more clouds. This was on the DVD (special features section) The Great Global Warming Swindle, done in 2007. Scientist were investigating why anchovies and sardines shoals seemed to go away some years more than others. They concluded this was because of less or more rain caused by cosmic rays forming clouds. But when there was solar activity like sun spots or flares/storms they deflected the subatomic cosmic rays from earth. Hence the shoals of fish moved when the rain increased or decreased. Now they weren’t employed as climate scientist’s and could have saved this planet the billions of wasted funds spent on proving AGW controls the climate.

    Also this explains why deserts are bleedin’ hot during the day and freezing at night. No cloud cover. Or no frost forms when there is cloud cover. Clouds do keep us warm sometimes and cooler other times.
    And CO2 is only 4% of the total GHG composition with water vapour 95%
    Hope Jo you can grab that report and put on your site?

    Look for the CERN report now explains what effects our climate. Not CO2 but cosmic rays and the sun.

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    Tel

    If you seriously think prices of 8KW rooftop solar installations are going to halve, and then halve again, then that really is sanguine thinking.

    Why?

    Look at the price of computers, they are made from silicon after all.

    Right now, solar technology is primarily good for remote areas, and outer space. Bringing this into the mainstream (i.e. lower costs, better storage) is a research project, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with research. How we go about funding research is an open question, and probably worthy of several long discussions.

    The confusion is when people believe that present day solar is ready for the mainstream — it isn’t, it is too expensive and storage technology is also too expensive.

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    cohenite

    There is an interesating and fairly technical discussion on renewables, particularly wind and solar at this site:

    http://oursay.org/the-sunday-age/solar-powered-24-hour-baseload-power-is-available-now-see-for-example-http-beyondzeroemissions#comment-3156

    A Bob L has made a recent comment including this:

    “Want to reduce CO2 then spend money on things that actually work to do that and without side effects – there aren’t many. : Geosequestration – affects oxygen levels : Biofuels – affects food security : Wind, Solar – Destroys landscapes more than dams do, is unreliable, PV produces highly toxic by products, rare-earths use in wind are well – rare very low energy density : Hydro – Destroys landscapes, can be unreliable in droughts : Nuclear – Highly toxic : Biomass – deforestation : Hydrocarbon or Coal fired – Emits CO2 supporting plants and restores oxygen in atmosphere, helps food grow faster reducing global hunger. Possible minor effect on climate 0-2deg C averaged over a year primarilly on minimum temperatures) : Natural geothermal, few side-effects, viable : Deep well geothermal – Dangerous, unproven, may have significant side-effects from impacts on deep core temperatures, possible permanent loss of water mass from the biosphere.”

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    Tel

    One of the problems with solar panels is that they (at least as they are installed now) only work when the grid is working, so if the power fails in the middle of a sunny day, you can’t just use your solar panels to power your house – you have to go without electricity like everyone else.

    That’s nothing to do with the solar panels, it relates to the controller circuit. Since this device generates 240V (which will kill you if you touch it) there are safety regulations demanding that it must shut down then the main grid shuts down. People don’t want to shut off power on a circuit only to have it light back up again on it’s own.

    If you want to use a low voltage system instead (e.g. 24 Volts), then you can run it any time, regardless of the grid. The panels themselves are no different.

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    Tel

    The average residence consumes 20KWH per day, split one third during daylight, and two thirds in the pre Sun peak early AM, and post Sun peak PM into the evening and night. So during daylight hours, the residence consumes 7KWH, and during Peak Power times 13KWH.

    Yes, that’s kind of interesting, solar ovens are easy to make, low technology, very reliable, cheap, and good in so many ways… except that you have to eat your main meal at lunchtime and you have to be home for lunch.

    Well, so much for that idea!

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    [...] Jo Nova nails the Sydney Morning Herald spinning a whopper.  I know a few people with the big solar panels on their rooftops and they gleefully accepted the big subsidies and the feedback dollars which are now up to 28 cents/KWh.  The wish for this to work hinges on Gillard’s insane carbon Tax forcing up the price of conventional electricity to almost ten times the cost of production. ”A 1.5 kilowatt system in Sydney is probably going to be cost effective next year or the year after, depending on whether we get a carbon price,” said Muriel Watt, the chairwoman of the association and a senior lecturer in renewable energy engineering at the University of NSW. The greatest irony in all this is that very few solar units would be on rooftops at all without massive NSW government subsidies.  Now that they’ve been stopped the solar industry calls on the government to introduce interim measures to pay households at market rates for the power they produced until the tribunal’s review of subsidies is completed next year. Sustainable enterprise?  Only when PIGS fly! http://joannenova.com.au/2011/08/solar-power-costs-less-than-coal-and-the-wishing-chair-lives-on/ [...]

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    J Knowles

    To tack-on a PV array to a house is a nice middle-class twit idea which, might allow the owner a glowing green tick of self approval but seems pointless to me if you already have grid power. Overall it costs the nation money and sends more of our dollars to China, however, the Sun does have its uses as JB@54 points out. I’m constructing my own copper pipe thermal plate to thermo-siphon hot water into my off peak(OP) water heater. 25 years ago a turner and fitter I know, did this to his house and the electricity company cut off his power cos they said he must be fiddling the meter and he had to call-in the local MP to sort it out.

    To be effective these ideas are best designed into a house to start with. A 33º verandah roof facing solar north optimizes my simple copper collector plate and a linen cupboard in the bedroom immediately above, houses my existing 315 litre OP tank.
    Sunlight at Sydney latitudes is very effective for heating water up to 50ºC and the technology involved is cheap and simple and on cloudy days the OP heater takes over.

    Given that a third of my kilowatts go to water heating I reckon solar thermal with a back-up device is a reasonable option.

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    Mark D.

    Andrew @53 yes you mentioned the subsidy @18:

    Sure it would be better if no government subsidy was needed to make it worthwhile, but while it is there it’s not rational to pass up an opportunity to cut 20% off your bill for 10 years.

    But you didn’t seem to address the LOGIC of subsidies whilst you chastise all for their lack of logic:

    “Solar power is clean and green ==> We must shut down coal and put PV on every roof top” is faulty logic.
    “Solar power cannot affordably and reliably replace all our coal fired electricity ==> everybody must not install any PV system” is also faulty logic.

    One should apply logic uniformly yes? There is the philosophical logic of subsidies and there is the financial logic of accepting them (I suppose). In any case I was not trying to pick a fight I was more teasing :)

    In Jo’s story, she gives a reasonable expectation (I think) of PV performance:

    So when Solar-World says “1.5 KW”, it usually means 300W (averaged): two spot lights, or an eighth of a portable fan heater. Since the “Grid” can smooth things out a bit, we can say it adds up to 3 to 4 KWH of power a day

    3 KWH x 365 = 1095, 4 KWH x 365 = 1460KWH/year not 2100. A rather significant difference. It doesn’t surprise me that the company selling the PV system would quote a higher theoretical number but it significantly increases the return on investment. As others have pointed out the panels may have a 25 year output warranty but the supporting equipment does not. The cost of maintaining the whole system over 25 years needs to be added into the equation.

    One approach you might take is to have the PV installer provide you a written guarantee of the system output. I think you’ll be surprised at the reaction you get. By all means ask to contact others in your area to get actual numbers.

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    observa

    Let me put the solar Green dream to bed once and for all. Mediterranean Adelaide-threatening to rain all morning-driven off roof with rain and hail at midday- glance at inverter of 1.5kw solar array reading 43watts- same story for all of the thousands of taxpayer clawback solar installs across Adelaide adding $42 each to every power bill with forced buyback- freak patch of sunlight through cloud cover for a few seconds- inverter reads 1180watts before crashing back to low 40s.

    Now for the Green wet dream- assume costless panels(hold that thought economists) but systems currently only 15% efficient(ie convert only 15% of suns rays falling on them to electricity)- OK fast forward to Green nirvana of 100% efficiency(hold that thought physics skeptics) what do we have- easy to calculate 100% divide 15% gives 6.67 as multiplier factor for Green Utopia- system now becomes 10kw installed maximum capacity and at midday produces 287watts jumping up to 7.87kw and back again.

    What happens Green dreamers is you just increase the extreme variability with its much higher spikes and collapses and at night for the maths fans, zero times anything is still zero. Are you shocked by that because I’m not. I’m just trying to work out how all the kings horses and all the kings men don’t understand what they’re dribbling on about with their promise of technological advance. Are they all ignorant, delusional or just plain lying or a mixture of all three?

    Why does reshiftable energy work now? Because my fellow taxpayers greenrolled me and are forced to pay me dearly for the average output rather than the true cost of the more useless marginal output, while I free-ride on the capital cost of the fossil fuel power stations and delivery infrastructure. A massive fallacy of composition problem which naturally State Govts have had to take the axe to everywhere. Now talk to me about battery storage Green dreamers. Any takers or have you had enough?

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    observa

    Still in denial Green dreamers? Don’t take my word for it take the output of this solar tech-head here-
    http://htpc.avenard.org/power/about
    He apparently has a swimming pool and hence the spike in power use at night when he runs the pump naturally enough to maximise clawback(in SA with nett feed-in it would) or else he’s running on low night tarriffs. Anyway explore carefully those menus and then play with the settings on the lovely informative graphs(day, week, month, year) to really get the picture of extreme marginal output vis a vis that solid block monthly average he’s getting paid for by guess who?

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    What I’ve been trying to explain here is that rooftop solar is built on an illusion.
    With that 6KW system that generates the average 20KWH the residence uses and with no feed in tariff, then the illusion is that there are savings because you are not paying any electricity bill.
    So, it ‘seems’ that the savings are that total electricity bill for the year.
    If the average is $350 to $400 per quarterly account, then the yearly bill comes in at $1400 to $1600 per year, hence there is the illusion of actually saving that much, and over the life of the panels, 25 years, then that adds up to $37,500 at the median $1500PA.
    However as I mentioned above the residence consumes 7/13KWH for daylight/non daylight.
    The 13KWH generated as excess during daylight is sold TO the grid, and then the residence buys that 13KWH back FROM the grid after hours, hence it’s just revenue neutral, and no saving whatsoever.
    The only savings are that 7KWH generated by the system during daylight and consumed by the residence, hence not being purchased from the grid, so again no charge.
    If this was correctly explained, then these systems would just not sell at all, hence the need for both of those exorbitant subsidies.
    Either way Power still needs to be generated from traditional sources for after hours consumption.
    Tony.

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    Speedy

    Tony from Oz

    And either way, the additional capacity to deal with the peak load must be installed. The average voter expects lights to turn on when they flick a switch. So the capital and ongoing cost of this “spare” capacity needs to be factored in – at the end of the day, the solar input would be merely nuisance value to someone trying to run and balance an electicity supply grid.

    One purpose that the solar panels do fulfill, though, is as rooftop billboards for the global warming industry. When the recent Chem Eng building was built at Curtin University, the 5-star environmental rating was provisional on the builders installing solar panels – even though the money would have been more effectively spent on double glazing. The trouble is that double glazing is quietly effective, whereas solar panels (like wind turbines) are just additional examples of green tokenism.

    Cheers,

    Speedy.

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    Speedy

    If the ABC Was Relevant (Part 47)
    (The Honourable Member.)

    [Scene: A supermarket. BRYAN is looking for laundry powder. He is approached by JOHN.]

    John: Got some dirty washing have we sir? Don’t suppose you’ve ever tried Labor’s “White-A-Wash”?

    Bryan: “White-A-Wash”? I haven’t even heard of it…

    John: As advertised – on the ABC. Ever watch ABC Current Affairs? News? QandA?

    Bryan: Yes, I remember now – it’s the only brand they flog. Is it any good?

    John: Yes, Bryan. University tests show that it turns your Reds into Greens. It contains activist ingredients.

    Bryan: Wow – so “White-A-Wash” can even make my Browns look sparkling white!

    John: Yes Bryan, and with repeated use, “White-A-Wash” eliminates 99.9% of all valid criticisms. Plus, it contains a longer-lasting fragrance so you always come up smelling like roses.

    Bryan: But is it any good for character stains?

    John: See for yourself – here’s one we made earlier. Do you know of the hard-working member for Dobell…

    Bryan: Craig Thomson? I know the story. Having some horizontal recreation when he got his finger caught in the till…

    John: Figuratively speaking Bryan – but it also left him with some stubborn stains on his character and some black marks against his name.

    Bryan: So what will you do?

    John: Well, firstly, we’ll soak him overnight in some Little White Lies™, then it’s a once-over with Labor’s new “White-A-Wash”!

    Bryan: In hot water?

    John: He certainly is.

    Bryan: And a heavy spin cycle?

    John: Very much so Bryan. And now – [Demonstrating to BRYAN] – Craig Thomson’s reputation – spotless once more!

    Bryan: But you’ll still need to hang him out to dry, I suppose?

    John: Only if the Police get involved Bryan.

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    Mark D.

    Tony, I understand.

    Speedy, any government willing to tax your carbon is likely to come up with “mandatory Grid Peak Shifting” this “GPS” would offer credits to offices and businesses to shift their operating hours to permit balancing the loads. In addition to these positive motivators, a tax on businesses that kept to the “old demand schedule”. In this way one could create all kinds of opportunity to mess with behaviors. Grid Police and Smart metering would take care of it..

    The good news is that the GPS would put you on the same time as the US and/or Europe thereby permitting better trade with us (cause you’ll need more to pay the taxes).

    Sarc on/off/on/off/off/on……damn the button is sticking………

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    Bernd Felsche

    A while ago, I slurped up some data from a nearby agricultural research station that monitors all sorts of weather parameters, including insolation. (Source Department of Agriculture, Western Australia)
    Here’s the graph of total monthly insolation onto a horizontal surface.
    (click here if the image doesn’t work)

    Insolation varies seasonally by a factor of at least 3:1. In the middle of winter, there’s seldom more than 300 MJ/m^2 collected over the month; and in the middle of summer, sometimes more than 900 MJ/m^2 for a month. And those peaks and troughs are different from year to year. An annual average would be misleading, but that doesn’t stop it from being used for marketing.

    For reliable energy supply, the system must be sized for at least 99% availability. So an independent electricity supply, based purely on solar (and some hefty batteries) would have to be sized for the worst winter months. Even then, you could be without electricity for 3 days a year if you were to rely on solar.

    NB: The insolation figures are at ground level on a horizontal surface. They need to be adjusted to obtain an estimate of how much a tilted solar panel would collect.

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    observa

    Tribe A live on an island and live on fish that hang around the coral reef and have access to vegetables that grow slowly all year round and that allows them their regular average daily intake of food. Tribe B has access to an equal quantity of fish and vegetables because the fish visit the island for 6 months of the year and that’s when the same quantity of vegetables grow as Tribe A’s island because they grow twice as fast. ie they both have access to the same average quantity of food. Green minds think Tribe A and Tribe B are equally well off and should be ambivalent about their lot in life as a result. About as ambivalent as Green minds would be if their car engine’s fuel supply were regulated according to the amount of sunlight falling on the car roof.

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    DougS

    Ben Cubby, Brian Robins, or Melissa Lahoud:

    “…New data shows solar power is edging towards ”grid parity….”

    Yes, yes, of course it is dears – now just lie there while I get a man in a white coat to give you all another jab!

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    Speedy

    Mark D @ 69

    Yep, it’s hard to believe that in the old days governments used to work for the People…

    Cheers,

    Speedy.

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    pat

    Fiona spruiking another “idea” that needs FUNDING:

    24 Aug: Guardian: Fiona Harvey: The artificial forests of the future – big picture
    Giant fly-swats and freight containers may help prevent catastrophic climate change, say engineers. The Institution of Mechanical Engineers has come up with some ideas for what “artificial forests” – technologies that absorb CO2, in a similar way to trees – could look like in the future. These structures would use chemical processes or natural carbon sponges such as algae to take in carbon and store it, or even turn it into useful products…
    Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at IMechE: … said the technology to make these contraptions already existed, though some of it is at a very early stage, and called for more funding for research and development.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/picture/2011/aug/24/geoengineering-climate-change#zoomed-picture

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    Bulldust

    It’s almost sad to see Graham Richardson so sad about the state of Labor:

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/opinion/thomson-is-the-pms-ticking-time-bomb/story-e6frgd0x-1226122396641

    A good read of the public mindset IMO, and the fact that Julia & co have no idea how to get out of this fix (mostly of their making). There is a complete disconnect with the real working people of this fine country. Odd given that Labor is supposed to be the party that champions workers…

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    Madjak

    speedy,

    Brilliant. sorry for the thumbs down. accidental touch screen problem.

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    Speedy

    Madjak

    No worries – I’m a big boy. And my post is off topic in a pretty topical subject area. Unfortunately (or otherwise, as the case may be), the Thomson case has a very limited shelf life methinks.

    Cheers,

    Speedy.

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    Mike W

    Interesting subject as always…can anyone please show me a link for this quote.

    That wholesale cost of the electricity provided by most coal fired plant operators is around 3 cents per KWH.

    Its on Tonyfromoz erudite article.
    http://papundits.wordpress.com/2011/08/19/rooftop-solar-power-reaches-grid-parity-with-coal-fired-power-well-not-really/#comments

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    The historical review of the deep roots of Climategate has been updated to add reference [1] noting the remarkable similarity between official AGW dogma and “Lysenkoism” under Joseph Stalin in the old USSR.

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/10640850/20110722_Climategate_Roots.pdf

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/10640850/20110722_Climategate_Roots.doc

    Please let me know if you find typos in the documents.

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

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    Tel

    cohenite: I agree in as much as for solar to be useful either energy storage technology has to improve a lot, or we have to make lifestyle changes to move our peak loading to the middle of the day.

    I’ll point out that the rechargeable lithium ion batteries that are everywhere today in mobile devices were only a fleeting rumor 10 years ago. In another 20 years when the patents expire and manufacturing techniques improve, the same batteries will be significantly cheaper. These things take time, but in the bigger scheme of things, 30 years is not such a lot of time, technology is progressing faster all the time.

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    Tel

    Mike W: You can get real-world electricity wholesale prices from the AEMO website. Typically the early-morning off peak period is when only coal fire is still spinning (running hot water systems, etc).

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    Neville

    More on the repercussions from the cost and harm this barking mad Gillard/Brown govt will cause into the future.

    From 2020 to 2050 we will send $650 billion overseas just to buy permission to use our own coal here in Australia.

    Of course this will be totally wasted and shredded and won’t change the climate or temp by a jot. Spending $650 billion for a guaranteed zero return and wrecking our economy in the process.

    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/business/staggering-cost-of-co2-permits-revealed/story-fn7j19iv-1226122430767

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    Tel at comment 81,
    this is not me ‘having a dig’ at you, but this is a common misconception about the consumption of electricity where you mention:

    Typically the early-morning off peak period is when only coal fire is still spinning (running hot water systems, etc).

    Generally, people think of electrical consumption only at the residential level, hence the thinking that the only thing consuming electricity at that low ‘off peak’ time is hot water systems in a residential application.
    When you refer to the simple diagram shown at this link, you can see that more than 50% of every Watt being generated is still being consumed, even at that lowest point around 2AM to 5AM every day, all year round.
    Electrical power is consumed in three Sectors, Residential 38%, Commerce 37% and Industrial 24%
    So, while power is being consumed in that Residential sector at that ‘off peak’ time, mainly for those hot water systems, power is also being consumed in the other two sectors, and that would account for an amount of power decidedly more than required to run just hot water systems.
    Think Industry that works on a 24 hour basis.
    Think every high rise building in every city with air conditioning / air circulation plants on top of every high rise roof running 24/7/365 to circulate breathing air into those closed buildings.
    Think the electrified rail system.
    Think traffic regulation and lighting for every road and street.
    Think every food cooling banks of fridges and freezers in every Coles and Woolies across the Country.
    Think lighting in every shop in every town and city.
    So when you look at that chart, it’s considerably more than just hot water systems.
    The list goes on.
    So, it’s not just hot water systems in that residential sector where all that power is being consumed.
    As I have always mentioned, electricity generation, and its consumption, are indeed a complex thing.
    Tony.

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    Bulldust

    The difference in the peak load profile is interesting. I assume the summer curve is more rounded reflecting the summer holidays with kids at home consuming more electricity etc. This varies significantly with the winter curve in which there are less holiday periods, resulting in less consumption during the middle of the day. This will assist solar, should it become competitive in the future, as the summer peak period for usage is similar to the peak solar generating period. Winter is more of a problem for solar.

    Peaking load in WA is particularly problematic as there is a huge difference between base and peak load on the SWIS – last time I saw a graph the difference was about 100% (i.e. peak load is double base load).

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    Note especially on the Winter curve how it better and perhaps more accurately shows Residential consumption during the Peak periods in the early AM, and then from 4/5PM onwards to midnight.
    This is when residential consumption is at its highest, when people rise for breakfast, turn on the heaters shower get ready for work school etc, and then turn it all off as they leave home.
    Then in the afternoon/evening when they get home from school and work, turn on the heaters cook the evening meal, turn on the lights, do the household chores, washing, clothes drying, watch TV etc.
    Note also how this Peak Power consumption is above the dark black line through the diagram, as everything below that line, 60 to 65 % is power that is being consumed 24/7/365. (that’s consumed, not generated)
    That consumption, below the line is the Base Load requirement, and required absolutely 24/7/365.
    While the diagram is deceptively simple looking, (hence roundly misinterpreted) it in fact says so much.
    The Summer period entails airconditioning in that Residential sector, and also in smaller workplaces where airconditioning is turned on.
    In large workplaces, like all high rise buildings, be they workplaces or residences, shopping centres, the aircon is also often misinterpreted, as it is mainly for breathing air circulation inside those large closed complexes.
    When you think airconditioning, people naturally thing cooling in Summer and in a small residential application.
    On the large scale, the temperature is basically set at the one level and will cycle around that level, making it ‘seem’ cooler in Summer and warmer in Winter, and any temperature variations at that large scale application are incrementally small and take time to take effect on the overall volume being ‘conditioned’.
    See now how complex electrical power consumption becomes.
    Tony.

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    observa

    Tel says-

    I’ll point out that the rechargeable lithium ion batteries that are everywhere today in mobile devices were only a fleeting rumor 10 years ago. In another 20 years….

    And presumably you’ll want it to stay that way unless some mad Green policymaking begins to drive battery demand and the scarce resources used in making them through the roof and into the preserve of the extremely wealthy or absolutely necessary only.

    For example a battery pack for a hybrid Prius now costs $4500 and hybrids are already a boutique Green pose market for doctor’s wives, although for a Sydney cabbie they can make economic sense. But here’s the rub. For the Prius batteries not to expire in 2-3 yeras like your smartphone battery, Toyota run them very carefully at around 40% of capacity to guarantee them for 8 years. Put them in a full plug-in EV and it’s back to smartphone life.

    What on earth do you think will happen to battery input prices should we artificially drive demand for solar roof storage or plug-in EVs for that matter? Have you purchased a lead-acid battery for your car lately($200 for my commercial van) and how much solar power would one store if you were to use the most economic option now? As for lithium ion….????

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    pat

    some may recall Driessen from “The Great Global Warming Swindle”:

    23 Aug: Townhall: Paul Driessen: Climate Prostitutes, Charlatans and Comedians
    Put these guys on Comedy Central. Put ‘em in an asylum … a mandatory restitution program … jail perhaps … or a witness protection program, if they turn state’s evidence on other perpetrators. But keep them away from our money – and our energy, economic, healthcare and education policies.
    Climate prostitutes, parasites and charlatans have been devouring billions in US taxpayer dollars, year after year, plus billions more in corporate shareholder cash, activist foundation funds and state government grants. The laws, mandates, subsidies and regulations they advance have cost taxpayers and consumers still more billions for “alternative” energy and other schemes that send prices skyrocketing, kill jobs, and reduce health and living standards.
    It’s time to end this destructive saga and, while we’re at it, pink-slip the politicians and bureaucrats who pour billions of hard-earned tax dollars into perpetual climate “research,” “education” and “environmental” programs. They’re actively complicit or have completely failed to perform proper due diligence…
    http://townhall.com/columnists/pauldriessen/2011/08/23/climate_prostitutes,_charlatans_and_comedians/page/full/

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    observa makes a good point, especially with reference to batteries, and again, as always, it requires careful explanation,
    Luckily for the environmental lobby attempting to drive this solar panel debate, the fall back is always residential regulations, that stipulate that all residences must be connected to grid power, except for in isolated settings where that is either not possible, or cost prohibitive.
    So, even while those ‘urgers’ supporting rooftop solar say it’s the way of the future, every residence with those rooftop solar systems is still connected to the grid, again by regulation.
    Because of that, there is the ‘seemed impression’ that the solar is covering every contingency.
    Even though they ‘know’ they are not getting solar power at night, the rationale is that they have a system that is actually generating what the residence actually consumes, but as I have also said, the grid is not a rooftop solar battery, and even so, that excess power is being sold to the grid. You can’t have it AND sell it as well.
    So, the true test of rooftop solar power is, (if it could be an easy thing) to remove the residence from the grid, completely.
    This then brings into play two things.
    Battery storage for non daylight consumption, and a complete changing of electrical power usage patterns.
    1. Batteries.
    This isn’t a case of one battery, but indeed a bank of them, both 24Volt and 48 Volt Batteries. The DC generated by the panels is converted to residential AC by the Inverter for consumption and also to charge that bank of batteries.
    After the Sun sets, that charge in the batteries (DC) is then reversed from the charging process via the Inverter to now ‘drive’ the Inverter to keep producing residential AC. The charge in the batteries depletes under use until those batteries are flat.
    With respect to cost, a typical Inverter is around $2.5K+, the Charger around $1K+ and the Battery Bank starts at around $5.5 to $6.5K+, depending upon if you want average ones or ones that will possibly last longer. Again, this places into doubt the perception that solar system costs will halve and then halve again. Also, batteries that last 25 years. Well, no, no matter what the technology may be. An inverter running 24 hours a day for 25 years. Yeah! Right!
    This now brings into play:
    2.Residential Electrical Power Consumption patterns.
    Stay as you always have, consuming when you traditionally have, then those batteries will discharge long before the night is through.
    The big residential power consumers are the hot water system and the fridge, and the compressor comes on every so often, drawing large (comparatively) current for those operation times.
    So now it’s not a matter of shutting the fridge down overnight because you want that running all through the night, so the fridge has to stay on.
    So now you need to be showering while it is still in daylight hours, with enough time for the rooftop system to supply the element with power to heat the water back up before Sunset, and then waiting for the water to heat up again in the early AM, something again covered by regulations because the hot water service must also be connected into the normal housing power from the grid, even for those solar specific hot water services. (have three or more days of overcast, hence no hot water, hence the need for it to be connected to the grid)
    You need to be having those showers early enough in the day for the solar system to power the element to heat the water back up to a temperature hot enough for the element to cycle around, hence not running for extended periods of time, hence sucking large current from the battery (Power In = Power Out, minus losses in the Inverter)
    Also, main meal cooking times need to be done during daylight hours while the system is generating its power.
    Don’t think of having air conditioning if you have sole solar panel generation, because as soon as that compressor comes on it too sucks high current.
    Heating in Winter is also problematic, with reverse cycle heat pump or any
    Don’t think of doing the clothes washing after hours as the electric motor in that draws large current as well, and forget a clothes dryer or dishwasher.
    What you would most want running after hours are items that draw very little current so the battery bank will not run down quickly.
    So, having just touched on this, (as long as this comment seems) you can see that living with solar panels as the only power for your house is indeed a complete lifestyle change.
    That’s why that fallback of being connected to the grid makes those with solar panels ‘think’ that they actually are contributing something.
    Disconnect from the grid (and good luck trying to do that) and then see how life with rooftop solar really is.
    You’ll need to change your work habits so you can be home for when the panels are supplying power.
    This is great for averaging.
    Imagine a few days of overcast.
    Imagine less hours of Sunlight in the Winter months.
    Imagine trying to get full power in Hobart as compared to Darwin.
    ALL of this is the real measure of how happy you would be with just rooftop solar to power your residence.
    It’s wonderful to be connected to the grid, and to be able to turn anything on at any time, knowing it will work, and work for as long as you want it to work, when you want it to work.
    Being Green is not going to be all it’s cracked up to be.
    Tony.

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    John Brookes

    Capacitors look like undergoing a revolution, and may replace batteries for energy storage in many applications.

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    Bruce of Newcastle

    No guys, batteries or capacitors can’t work economically.

    You should look at the total baseload capacity required, the physical amount of material required, and the world production thereof.

    The numbers are vast beyond imagining. Lithium, nickel, cobalt, lead – all these would run out pronto and the price would skyrocket – as I said before the usage of neodymium, dysprosium and samarium in wind turbines has caused rare earth elements to rise more than tenfold last year. Lanthanum is about as common as copper, but this year it topped out about 20 times the copper price, solely because demand is more than current supply.

    Any less than common element will go the same way if solar power is adopted for baseload. Or if EV’s are legislated to replace internal combustion cars. There’s just not enough battery-useful stuff on the planet EXCEPT sodium-sulfur. And sodium-sulfur batteries have to operate at about 230 C. And water ingress would make them explode (although Tesla Roadster batteries could cause quite a bang if they went off).

    Capacitors are even worse since the preferred ones use tantalum, and the less preferred ones niobium. The prices are so high of those they caused a war in Congo which cause millions of deaths. We can afford tantalum capacitors for mobile phones beause the usage per handset is very small. Ergo: no, capacitors are great for power storage, but prices would prevent their use for bulk power storage.

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    observa

    There are 2 parts to assessing the claims of alternative energy enthusiasm. Technology and economics. As far as the false hopes of technological change with solar power are concerned, I’ve demonstrated how fallacious that argument is with modelling the ultimate goal of 100% solar efficiency. All an increase in technological efficiency does is exacerbate the extreme variability problem of the fundamental source of energy, the sun’s rays, as well as its diluteness. That only leaves economics to try and rescue a bad proposition due to technological and natural limitations.

    Well here is the economics in a nutshell and it is intrinsically limited by the energy density of sunlight which negates any economies of scale, unlike high energy density fossil fuels. For an understanding of economics you have to have an intuitive understanding of what happens at the margins rather than being fooled by averages. The TribeA and B analysis may be trite but it shows how an average can disguise a critical marginal problem (ie in this case Tribe B will be ‘carbon neutral’ within the year)

    The same applies with wind energy as one ABC reporter discovered when talking to a helmeted fluoro jacket at Liddell power station recently. The reporter was doing a slot about the solar mirror/steam collector and slowly but surely had his eyes opened. Millions of taxpayer dollars laid out as large as a small power station to produce 0.1% of Liddell’s 2000MW output. As helmet put it- ‘a useful exercise’ to assess the technology (trying hard not to grin) while the dismayed Aunty reporter asked him in desperation- What about wind then? Helmet replied that if he placed the wind turbines 500M apart as they should, they’d need to run from Brisbane to Melbourne just to replace that one station. End of film clip and strangely you won’t find it anywhere on Aunty’s website now.

    All that leaves the viewer with is what happens when the wind don’t blow, assuming you can get it all past the NIMBYS. You know, those Green folk who get headaches and post traumatic stress when they’re not being paid to have them in their backyard. A bit like those signs in the paddocks on the approaches to ACT which as you know leads the way with motherhood statements like ’100% reductions by whenever we can manage it’. Yes the signs read- ‘This is a windmill free zone!’. Strictly Hunter Valley Black by the sounds of it and who could blame them? They are after all our educated elites.

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    Bernd Felsche

    TonyfromOz @ 88:

    People (including those who should know better) often misunderstand the concept of MTBF. They believe that it’s an indication of how long a product will typically last.

    But it’s the Mean Time Between Failure of a product. At the MTBF, half of the product is expected to have failed.

    i.e. Only half of the solar PV installations will be in working 25 years. Excepting repairs.

    What is also conveniently ignored is that silicon PV in sunlight (and heated by the sun) degrades over time. The rate of degradation also varies with current draw. As a rule of thumb, if not destroyed by other things such as corrosion for 20 years, the PV cells produce only about half of what they did when new. The semi-conductor junctions lose their nett effectiveness with, IIRC, lots of reverse-current leakage.

    Cell degradation needs to be taken into account when calculating the nett benefit.

    Telecom/Telstra have been putting PV solar onto optic fibre repeater towers for over 20 years. (I designed the supporting structures and the mechanical maintenance eqt. around 1985.) It’d be interesting to measure what happens to PV in the real world.

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    Off the rooftop solar topic, but if you wish to see some scale for Wind Power, then read the Post I link to here.
    In April of 2009, U.S. Secretary For The Interior, Ken Salazar (Similar to a Govt Minister here in Oz) mentioned in a prepared speech that all of the U.S. Electrical power could be generated with Offshore Wind Turbines, all offshore on the U.S. East Coast.
    He quite obviously had no concept of the idea, and those who advised him and prepared his speech obviously did not check.
    So, I went and did the math for him.
    That Coastline is 2069 Miles long.
    So placing the towers so that there is at least some space between then without the furiously rotating blades smashing into each other, and that’s a swept circumference of 364 feet plus some for clearance, that means there will be 30,000 of them along the whole length of that Coastline.
    However, that’s not the end of it, because you would need 38 rows of all of them to cover the power requirements for the whole of the U.S. hey, that’s pretending there will be zero transmission losses sending that power all across the U.S.
    That’s 38 rows of 30,000 turbine towers.
    Now we all know something like that could not be accomplished overnight, so let’s say it can be done by 2050.
    Pretend there’s thousands of factories making the towers, the nacelles, the CSD’s (gearboxes), and all the infrastructure needed, the millions of workers required for all that, and also the construction process.
    That 38 rows of 30,000 towers would necessitate one full tower complex being constructed (offshore in the Atlantic Ocean) at the rate of one every 7 to 8 minutes, for almost 40 years non stop.
    The cost. Forget about that, but it would average out at around $1.2 Trillion each year.
    It’s the sort of ‘completely feasible’ idea you might expect from Bob and Christine.
    They’d even compare it to the Snowy Scheme.
    Sometimes you wonder if these people think before they say things like this.
    I know it sounds ridiculous, but the Post explains it all in detail.
    Wind, Solar, blerk.
    I know I sound like I’m forever ‘bagging’ them, but gee, they’re all but useless.
    Salazar’s Wind Power: First Open Mouth, Then Change Feet
    Tony.

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    janama

    A friend was quoted $100,000 to connect to the grid. So he installed a solar system with batteries and a backup generator to run his whole house. He has an electric stove and they use a clothes dryer etc. In other words a fully functioning electric house. It cost $50,000.

    If all the 10 million homes in Australia had the same it would cost $500 billion dollars!!

    For $500 bil you could build 400 Kogan Creek power stations and deliver 300GW of power!!

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    Bulldust

    EEstor claimed to have supercapacitor technology years ago, but I am beginning to wonder if that was just vaporware:

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

    There is no question that it is worthwhile to put money into research of storage and renewable technologies, but they simply aren’t cost competitive right now, any way you look at it. 10 to 20 years in the future … who knows?

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    observa

    Bernd Felsche@92 asks-
    ‘It’d be interesting to measure what happens to PV in the real world.’
    Have a guess

    Thanks for the analysis TonyfromOz re the usual foot in mouth about renewables.
    I caught a film tonight on the laying of 200 miles of natural gas pipe to 15 new gas wells in the Gulf of Mexico, along with all the controls and gas platform off the continental shelf. Mind boggling stuff at the scale and cost of it all including the specialised ships and barges, etc but it will supply 20% of the US energy needs apparently so it made sense. As massive and costly as that localised task was, the offshore wind turbine thought bubble would dwarf it by comparison and for so long as to be beyond human comprehension let alone actual practice. Still we have to keep trying to wean these people off the hallucinogens for all our sakes and the grandkids ;)

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    Kent F

    A key point with all of the so-called alternative energy sources (wind, solar, wave etc) is that they are diffuse or low intensity compared with conventional sources such as fossil fuel and nuclear. It’s the reason such alternatives will always be inefficient. Even in the tropics the sun’s energy per square metre is low and so it requires huge areas and massive, costly equipment to collect in useful amounts. The life of the collecting equipment is finite e.g. perhaps 15 years for a wind turbine if you’re lucky. The maintenance and replacement capital costs of such equipment are never mentioned by green advocates.

    Another simple way of looking at this low intensity aspect is to compare the energy available in a cubic metre of air blowing at (say) 20 knots with the available energy in a cubic metre of coal, fuel oil (or nuclear fuel rods). To have any hope of decent efficiency, any form of baseload source must be both continuous and concentrated.

    Green advocates are strangely content to blight our environment with hideous eyesores while fighting tooth and nail about protecting pristine wilderness areas. This lack of consistency is quite bizarre.

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    Adam Smith

    [A key point with all of the so-called alternative energy sources (wind, solar, wave etc) is that they are diffuse or low intensity]

    Yes I agree. That’s why we should use nuclear energy.

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    Bernd Felsche

    TonyfromOz mentions that spacing is required between wind turbines.

    If the wind turbines are expected to be as efficient as possible and to have minimum environmental impact via accummulated turbulence, then the spacing must be between 10 and 20 “diameters”. That is the rule of thumb for perturbations to streamflow in fluid mechanics. The typical distance that the fluid takes to be nearly the same as before the obstruction. For a 1000 kW to 300 kW wind turbine, towering perhaps 100 to 200 metres above the surroundings, that means a spacing of 2 to 4 kilometres (in the direction of prevailing winds). i.e. between rows of turbines.

    Of course with a wind turbine, the fluid energy has been reduced; by loss of velocity and temperature. With a wind farm of several turbines, this can produce localised “micro” climate change, resulting in more precipitation (in the form of fog and dew) in the vicinity of the turbines and less precipitation further down-wind. Reduced air massflow reduces the rate of heat removal from the surface, so the downstream effect is one of localised warming.

    If turbines are spaced more closely (as they often are), then in the extreme, wind will tend to divert around and over the top, resulting in much less power being extracted by the forest of wind turbines than “planned”. (Le Chatelier’s Principle)

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    Coal is dirt cheap and virtually everywhere. in time, the technology will catch up to the need and Solar Power will be viable. But forcing it on people when it is just NRFPT means skyrocketing costs with no real benefits.

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    Mark

    Ahh Phil, cui bono?

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    Bernd at comment 99,
    The article was written ‘tongue in cheek’ (albeit with the correct math) to highlight the absolute stupidity of what was said by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
    An example of Offshore wind that may get done correctly is Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound off Cape Cod in Massachusetts, if it ever gets off the ground sea bed.
    It covers 24 square miles and will have 130 towers spread over that area, again highlighting the vast areas needed for projects like this. Even then it will only generate a Nameplate Capacity of 454MW, and here also they have quoted the maximum ‘theoretical’ power delivery Capacity Factor of 37%.
    Each tower topped with a 3.5MW nacelle with the diameter of the blade sweep of that 364 feet.
    Each tower will be 87 metres tall, and to the top extremity of blade sweep, it will be 130 metres, the same height as the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
    I’ve been using Cape Wind as an example now for the three and a half years I’ve been posting on the subject of renewable power.
    This also throws up some of the problems associated with a project of this (albeit medium sized only) project.
    It was first planned around the turn of the Millenium, and plans were submitted in 2001, so it has been ten years so far, and construction still has not begun.
    It shows the effect of an affluent area ‘nimbyism’, as you might expect with Cape Cod, and one of its biggest opponents was the late Senator Ted Kennedy.
    When I first started using it as an example the cost structure was around $800 Million. Since then, that cost has been revised twice and currently stands at $1.5 Billion, and if it ever eventuates, the cost is expected to be around $2.5 Billion.
    That nimbyism is reflected in a humourous analogy I use for the project, with those two old geezer Muppets who always yell down from the balcony.
    Cape Wind is finally completed.
    The two old geezers are standing on the shoreline at Cape Cod looking out to sea.
    First Old Geezer Muppet – Man, those wind towers sure spoil the view.
    Second Old Geezer Muppet – I don’t see no damned wind towers.
    First Old geezer Muppet – You’ll need to stand on top of that 40 foot stepladder then.
    Second old geezer climbs the step ladder, peering out to sea, and says – I still can’t see no wind towers.
    First Old Geezer Muppet – You’ll be needing these binoculars then.
    The moral. Don’t even think of trying to take on a project like this in a rich people’s playground.
    Pick on some hapless farmers, and offer them incentives.
    So, when you hear how Bob and Christine tell you that renewable power is coming, and it will replace traditional sources, think ten years, and think a shirtload of money, for marginal amounts of power on a limited time basis.
    Tony.

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    Tel

    But it’s the Mean Time Between Failure of a product. At the MTBF, half of the product is expected to have failed.

    Actually, what you are describing would be median time between failure.

    In practice, I’ve found that MTBF is at best a theoretical value that has little relationship to what happens in the field. Most of the products that are going to fail, will either hit catastrophic failure early, or the remainder keep battling on and slowly degrade their performance over a long time.

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    Adam Smith

    Yes I agree that Australia should use nuclear energy.

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    Roy Hogue

    As one who once had solar water heating panels on his roof I will personally attest to the fact that they really need cleaning about every other weekend, minimum. A little morning dew followed by the normal dust that floats around wherever there’s human activity and you would have to see the accumulation to believe it.**

    After getting wet the stuff sticks like glue, leaving a real window washing job to do on your rooftop. You’d need a long handled brush and squeegee (those panels are longer than your arm) plus a bucket of suds and a hose. Fun anyone?

    —————-

    ** That was just rhetorical. I think you all believe it. But to keep them at top performance you’d need to clean them as often as you clean your car’s windshield. You do wash your car regularly? :-)

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    Roy Hogue

    As one who once had solar water heating panels on his roof I will personally attest to the fact that they really need cleaning about every other weekend, minimum. A little morning dew followed by the normal dust that floats around wherever there’s human activity and you would have to see the accumulation to believe it.*

    After getting wet the stuff sticks like glue, leaving a real window washing job to do on your rooftop. You’d need a long handled brush and squeegee (those panels are longer than your arm) plus a bucket of suds and a hose. Fun anyone?

    * That was just rhetorical. I think you all believe it. But to keep them at top performance you’d need to clean them as often as you clean your car’s windshield — you do wash your car regularly? Yes? :-)

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    observa

    Let’s be clear that solar hot water is a very different proposition to solar feed-in power because the ‘free’ sun’s energy collected can be stored for later use. Also the latest evacuated glass tube collectors are far more efficient nowadays than traditional flat collectors because they don’t have to have direct visible sunlight to heat. Also being round they collect more radiation at varying sun incidence angles and the heat exchanger fluid is insulated from heat loss to the atmosphere by a vacuum.

    In fact these significant technological efficiency payoffs actually create their own headache because a bank of glass tube collectors set up to maximise winter heating will often need shading in high summer because it can boil the water. The only solution is to downsize tube collectors for a happy medium or introduce some sort of automated mechanical shading device for summer regulation. Being Green is full of such tradeoffs.

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    Thanks observa,
    Here, you make a really good point.
    In fact, this is one Solar process that I am in favour of.
    This is a different process.
    It uses the Sun to heat water, while the many cells in the Solar panels generate electrical power.
    Why I am in favour of this is because this effectively removes a large consumer of electrical power in a Residential application from Residential consumption of power from the grid.
    Depending on the size of your hot water system, it can consume 12 to 15% of all household electricity.
    Even while the system is still required by law to be connected to normal household power from the grid, for over ride purposes and for consecutive days of cloud, these Solar Hot water systems do in fact provide quite a large saving on your electricity bill if you have one of these systems.
    One problem they do suffer from is that they have been ‘lumped in’ with solar power generating panels, so any adverse opinions people have regarding solar power also carries across into these hot water systems.
    In the main, they are in fact a good idea.
    Tony.

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    Bernd Felsche

    observa and TonyfromOz:

    Solar hot water systems have inherent energy storage which is why that type of solar energy is practical: It’s still able to provide hot water when the sun has gone down.

    As for over-loading the glass tube collectors in summer, it can be handled quite easily by shading some of the tubes or by using a small PV panel to circulate excessively-hot “water” through a “radiator”. A small PV panel works well with a circulation pump that pumps fluid from the heat storage to the collector, and then, via a thermostat which can divert through a radiator, back to the heat storage. Circulation only works when there is sun; which is pretty much good in a number of ways.

    Water that is actually used in the house would be heated by passing through coils in the heat storage vessel. The water shouldn’t go through the collector for a number of reasons, including frost and corrosion. The working fluid for the collect and the heat storage can be something “better” than water; with better resistance to freezing, boiling and corrosion.

    The other advantage of not using the mains water for working fluid is the option of being able to use a phase-change compound in the heat storage. Paraffin-based compounds melt at between 75 and 90 degrees C, acting as a temperature-rise buffer, absorbing and giving up heat without a significant change in temperature. Further, the stuff floats so in a stratified heat storage tank, that’s adjacent to the hottest water.

    Heat storage tanks are inexplicably expensive (5 to 10 times more than what it should cost to make them). Perhaps once the demand cools off (sorry, pun inevitable) I guess that realistic prices will allow people to increase their solar hot water collector sizes and add another “cooler” storage tank though which fluid for space heating can be circulated during the cooler months when there is some sun.

    If you’re a millionaire or are using a Union credit card ;-) , you can use the excess heat collected in summer to run absorbtion-cooling-based airconditioning.

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    gbrecke

    For those of us who have studied solar PV with intensity for twenty year or more, we realize that these articles have nothing to do with reality. They are directed towards the masses who are too lazy to pick up a pencil and use the Grade 8 math they were taught to disprove the nonsense they read.

    If it were so good, there would be nothing left on the shelves to sell, and my own roof would be covered as well.

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    observa

    They are directed towards the masses who are too lazy to pick up a pencil and use the Grade 8 math they were taught to disprove the nonsense they read.

    Hmmm…so that’s why they want to introduce a great big lead pencil tax? ;)

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    observa

    And in oil well country Texans forget the lessons of their ancestors and discover to their dismay that $25 billion dollars worth of wind energy is just a sick joke-
    http://www.jonchristianryter.com/News_Blurbs/blurbs.html

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    observa

    Meanwhile you can’t blame local wind farmers for hopping in for their chop but interestingly the comments section of that article was quickly withdrawn, no doubt because wind energy copped such a blast. It’s author Katrina Stokes thought the better of allowing them all to burst her idyllic bubble(including my warning about the Texas experience, etc.) It’s become common practice by Green/left/liberal progressive leaning journos to not even place a comments box when pushing their controversial agenda but in this case Katrina must have initially been feeling confident about the responses until shock, horror and she had to pull it. The Katrinas are so predictable but they’re losing control of the storyline with the freedom of the net and competing counterfactual arguments thrust under their noses all the time.

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    Jim

    There is one thing that must be mentioned. One reason solar systems are
    expensive is that it takes a lot of energy to make the silicon.

    Now, imagine is they had to use solar PV to actually make the cells.
    The cost of them would easily double,

    The only reason solar cells are so cheap (!!) is that they a. Re made with
    Cheap energy from coal.

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    Alex

    If we relied for minds like these, we would be inside caves yet.

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    observa

    Solar power problem number 4.- Extreme variability negates nirvana promise of 100% efficiency with technological advance.

    How so? Take an early July day in mediterranean climate like Adelaide. Threatening to rain all morning when down it comes, hail and all at midday and glance at inverter readout on 1500Watt system reveals 43Watts of output. A quarter of an hour later or so rain stops and would you believe it a sliver of blue and sunshine for a minute and the inverter jumps up to 1180Watts before crashing backa gain. Barely a suburb of solar panels would have experienced that rare spike.

    Now these systems are currently about 15% efficient ie can turn about 15% of the sun’s rays falling on them into electricity. Simply divide 100% by 15 and bingo you have the multiplying factor of 6.67 for that green Utopia of 100% solar efficiency and hold that thought physics fans. Now notice those figures would become 287Watts spiking up to 7870Watts with an installed capacity of 10000Watts and nothing at night times any factor you like is still nothing. All technological efficiency improvement can do is exacerbate the extreme variability of solar irrespective of installed cost, thereby creating enormous headaches for load management, all the while requiring current baseload readiness. These solar spruikers are either ignorant, technologically incompetent, lying or a mixture of the three. Take your pick.

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    Richard H. Jones

    Great set of facts from that pack of cornflakes. Let’s use up all the fossil fuel left to keep your computer lit up, Jo. Figures are an amazing thing. Like Romney’s attack on Obama for a supposed 90 billion dollar waste on green energy. Check out what is was really for and a different story emerges. If you have kids, I’ll expect they’ll be wanting their share of what’s left, too, if that’s what they’ll learn from you. Too bad their won’t be any fossil fuel left by the time their kids are born.

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