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One million useless solar panels

Only five years ago Australia had a mere 20,000 solar systems installed on homes across the country. Now thanks to a Gonzo-Big-Daddy-Government we have over one million solar systems, almost all of them producing electricity that could have been made for something like a fifth of the price with coal.

The Clean Energy Regulator spins it as though wasting money on inefficient equipment in the hope of reducing world temperatures is a good thing for Australia.

“…the Clean Energy Regulator, which estimates that those solar energy systems provide power for around 2.5 million Australians. With a population of around 23 million, that means over ten percent of the country benefits from solar power.”

So 10% of Australians benefit from solar, and 90% pay for it?

“The regulator also says the installations have saved Australians about half a billion dollars on electricity bills!”

The regulator doesn’t say how much Australians had to pay to “save” a half a billion dollars.

In Dec 2011 The Productivity Commission estimated $777m in one year alone:

At the prevailing REC prices, this effectively provided an up-front capital subsidy of $777 million to solar PV systems in 2010.

In October 2012, The Weekend Australian estimated a cost of $3 billion:

SUBSIDIES for the Gillard government’s rooftop solar scheme are threatening to blow out to $3 billion as households rush to install panels to beat price hikes related to the start of the carbon tax.

In NSW that was nearly $300 per household or business:

NSW Energy Minister Chris Hartcher said the combined impact of the carbon tax and the RET added $270 to NSW household and small business annual electricity bills and the state government wanted the RET closed.

The Victoria Auditor General showed large scale solar costs about 5.5 times as much as coal, and small scale rooftop solar would cost even more. The part time nature of solar power means large scale baseload providers (like coal fired power) run less efficiently.  There are rarely any actual CO2 savings, and the savings there are, are not cheap. (The productivity commission estimated the RET scheme “abated” CO2 emissions at a cost of $177–$497/ton. Tarrifs have been reduced since then, but then, on the EU market, CO2 credits sells for 3 Euro a ton.) Peak electricity use at home is before 9am and after 3pm, (not the sunniest part of the day).  Our baseload power consumption even on the quietest nights is still 60% of the peak. Solar just can’t do that.

As usual, fans of solar talk about the “capacity”:

The national installed capacity is now at 2.452 GW from 1,011,478 solar PV systems.

But when it’s dark their capacity is zero GW. The average works out to be around 5 – 20% of the total installed capacity. (See also wikipedia)

If we have spent $3 billion on solar power we could have bought the same electricity from coal instead and had $2 billion to spare for medical research. Buying inefficient solar panels from China is not going to make us a world leader, and it isn’t going to cool the planet. Are we doing it in the hope that the profits from the fake solar market will help someone somewhere “invent” solar power that works? If so, why not just spend the money on research ourselves? We might even discover something worth using and selling.

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