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Busting 4 Myths About Solar PV vs. Concentrating Solar Power

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138 Comments

Marijan Pollak
March 18, 2011
@Andrew_W
So far I did NOT have received Your Email.
Can You check wether You have sent it or not (perhaps it is still in Drafts or there was some misspeling, since You misspelled my nickname as Henrick while it is Henrik14?
Marijan Pollak
March 17, 2011
@Glenn-Doty,
I invented new wind Turbine and stationary Solar concentrator.
Both are cheaper, safer to use and more effective in extracting or concentrating energy available.
Of course the rest of Power station is altered to support them.
I managed to join both into one construction so problem of storing surplus energy from Wind is solved.
In addition I am good economist so I can use resources at hand more efectively, which is fortunately easy when there is such big difference between cost and market price.
That all together is one big breaktrough everybody is looking for, unfortunately nobody has faith and believe this is possible and could be done.

@Andrew_W,
Excelent. It is so and I can explain how You can get risk free proof by investing in the prototype. Alternatively, as work on computer simulation of new turbine by CAD/CFD/FEA programs is about to start now, in one month I would at least have results to show, if this would be proof enough. At same time small prototype of my Solar concentrator may be made also, and this is enough to demonstrate its ability to focus light to one small area all day long as long there is sunshine, of course.
All else is technology allready in use, except my Windpower stations that can work single or in groups, and this all have to be simulated by computer simulation too.
Since company that is making prototypes since 1996 is confident they can make it and that it would work as I expect, they need just Bank guarantee that they would be paid after they delivery fuly tested and working prototypes. If they fail, they would not get paid, so investor risk only Bank fee for opening LC.
I shall end You draft of Agreement stating so, and just for money invested in the prototypes making and engineering blueprints production, You shall get 10 times greater amount of the money than invested, from each and every License sold later and production started or country of export of such Power Plants. It is up to You to invest more.
Andrew W
March 17, 2011
@Henrick: If you can prove you are able to produce "clean, affordable and scalable electricity," yes I would be interested in investing. I sent you an email.
Glenn Doty
March 17, 2011
Henrik,

Your review of the work of others does not give much credence to you having a very special yet undisclosed super-breakthrough that will reduce prices by extraordinary measures.

The first error you seem to have is that you assume we are making methanol. We are synthesizing a light crude oil - which then can be separated and refined into products. While methanol will indeed be a part of the mix (less than 5%), over 70% of the product will be gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. Our catalysis research is still progressing, but we started using published catalysts from Sasol which had far lower than 5% methanol.

As for the German research, they are forced to look into methane conversion, as our patent protections limit other avenues. Methane does yield higher conversion per pass and better selectivity, but there's no market incentive for such a process, as methane is valued at less than 1/3rd as much as petroleum on a cost/unit energy basis.

If it can't ever potentially yield a profit, then it won't ever make an impact on the world at large. We plan on burning off our produced methane and ethane to yield thermal energy needed for higher RWGS conversion... because there's simply no value in trying to sell either product (note that we expect the selectivity for either product to be quite low).

Other groups are seeking paths of straight hydrogenation of CO2, rather than separate reduction to CO then Fischer Tropsch - again to avoid our patent protection. But reaction equilibrium constants for such conversions is shockingly low with know catalysts. There is very little chance that those avenues will yield competitive results.
Marijan Pollak
March 16, 2011
This should be editable after posting :-((
I meant to write that for captive Plants price of electricity produced would be 70$ per MWh, not per MW of capacity.

Further, I can halve this cost by special arangement that would guarantee 150% of profit or savings under market conditions and with free commisioning, maintenance and repair for factory, as long as installation would work.
Therefore factory owner would save 123,75$ per MWh but would have double capacity for same investment, so total saved would be 247,5$, compared to 130$ that would be saved normally. Trick is to make it cooperation betweem manufacturer and factory, where manufacturer deliver two Solars for price of one (at production cost, if same deal is done with thermal storage builder) and would receive 25% of savings from two Solars, or 82,5$ per 2 MWh produced. Since each Solar would work 24/365, it would produce 8760 MWh, so manufacturer would earn (in case where whole installation is built by manufacturer)722,700$ per year per MW of capacity installed (which is 10 MW so total would be 7,227,000$ per year) and factory would save total of 21,681,000$ per year, which means that factory would break even in 5 years or little less investing 100,000,000$ but getting 20 MW of capacity that can deliver 40 Mw at peak consumption period, and 350m x 700m under Greenhouses that can provide fresh vegetables for workers too :-)) But of course then if electricity would be sold to the Grid at peak consumption time with 330% price (or 165% if this is also bought at half market price, so earning per hour would be 330$ per Mwh for say 4 hours per day), then factory would get their money back sooner. But they can invest that savings under same condition, but this time at normal production price of manufacturer, so for this money they get 2 new Solars per year, which would bring still more savings or profit and so on. Details have to be calculated by computer, but I hope this is giving rough picture.
Marijan Pollak
March 16, 2011
@Andrew_W
If I prove to You that I have affordable and very profitable Solars with option to install Wind Power Stations if location has economicaly usable wind, which I described in my previous posts, would You consider investing money in development of prototypes even if I am not US citizen nor live in US but in Republic of Croatia in Europe.
Just like my countryman, Engineer Nikola Tesla, who invented AC motors and generators and gave US usable electricity, I need Investor who would be interested to help poor inventor with ideas that can save the World. I am quite sure that my Power Stations would produce electricity at most for 7$ per MWh in case of Solars, and in case of Wind Power Stations even cheaper. I have calculated my prices based on 200$ street price for electricity, and I did not count any subsidies but assumed that electricity would be sold at half market price to the Grid. But since there is a need for fast return of investment so it can be reinvested, I planned first to build Captive plants for big factories that spend lot of electricity, that would be ready to pay even 10 times more money (which would be 70$ per MW of capacity), if they can return investment in just 3-4 years and get 130$ savings at same time. My basic unit is 10 MWh Solar with 19 x 25 MW capacity if there is 10 hours per day of sunshine and with ability to produce 20 MWh per hour in peak demand periods. In case of the captive plant double capacity is not important, but if they would want to sell surplus to Grid at this time, it would pay back Solar faster. This Solar would be able to give 24 x 10 MW for two days, as capacity is such. So for each day it is collected two days worth of heat energy, and with thermal reservoirs deep enough it would be no problem to store even few months reserve to last during cloudy weather. Capacity is not a problem, because my Solars have storage underground, isolated by melted Dross from Steel factories, which would be cheap if not free to get.
Marijan Pollak
March 16, 2011
@ Glenn-Doty
I have read briefly Your page about WindFuels, and I am surprised that something like this is even atempted and also patented. There are proceses for synthetysizing Methane already patented and being developed and same as You they intend to use low consumption periods when electricity is produced by wind. SEE http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/007158.html
Now what I do not understand is that You mention that Methanol is toxic and I believe CO (Carbon Monoxide) is deadly. So while Methane is much greater culptit for Global Warming, it is allready used in Natural gas form as LNG. In case something happen to vehicle, leaking CO would kill as it tend to go over ground being heavier than air, where Methane would fly up at normal temperature.
My personal plan is to use cheap electricity to produce Electrographite and Oxygen, and since my thermal Solars use Electrographite there would be also market provided for it.
As You can read from my previous post, I invenhted Power Stations that unite WPS and Solars, where all or just surplus energy can be stored as heat in molten salt and used on demand, where each Solar would be able to produce double quantity of electricity at peak consumption times. That is where thermal storage pay premium for itself, since heat accumulated in off peak period or from the Wind could be turned to electricity at premium prices, and if economical, this capacity can be doubled or quadrupled for non linear increase in price because higher capacity turbines and generators cost proportionally less per MW then several 1 MW generators. In addition one of Croatian companies are producing new kind of generators that are more efficient and have interesting ability to produce multiple of rated capacity in MWh if rpm is also multiple of usuall rpm. Problem is only cooling of generators, but with Wind turbines that would require stronger wind, which can be used to cool generators too. So, generators cost is same and electricity is cheaper.
Marijan Pollak
March 16, 2011
I invented something that can stop and reverse Global Warming, bringing cheap and clean electricity that would make all products cheaper. This are WindSolars, Power Plants that can work 24/365 producing the electricity from Sun and Wind.
Solars are of molten salt type and I invented new kind of Solar light concentrator that is cheap, stationary and effective more than the mirrors. Thermal storage is cheaper then in contemporary models and do not have their limitation in capacity, while being superbly isolated so there is no loss of heat, while same solution solves one big ecological problem. New kind of Wind Power Stations use new kind of turbine that is much more effective so 5m/sec Wind could be used productively, while at normal conditions of 11m/sec they can produce at least 4 times more electricity. Cost is estimated to be at most 1 million Euro per MW for WPS and at most 1.5 million Euro per MW of Solar and 2 million for WindSolar, which would both last 50 years or more, therefore estimated cost of electricity can be at most 4 Euro per MWh, and at least half less in big serial production, for which it is perfectly suited.
With just 100 thousand Euro i can make the prototypes to show that it is really working to investors who promised unlimited investment if I can show something that actually work.
There would be increased food production since my PSs contain the Greenhouses also, which would protect crops or fruits or vegetables from extreme weather. Because of this, cost of land is not expenditure as owner get Greenhouses to use and its value is increased.
I have the solution for water problem of Solars, as water can be recycled like they do on the ships or force cooled.
Anybody interested can contact me on mpollak(at)globalnet.hr to get more details after contract is signed, which is just obligation for non disclosure of data received and for me to pay later if other party invest the money.
Regards from Croatia, the homeland of Engineer Nikola Tesla!
Glenn Doty
March 14, 2011
@ Steven,

I consider myself to be willing to engage people at varying levels of civility. I will always be blunt and call people to account if I feel they are being dishonest, but most of my discourse on this site and others have been responsive, attentive, and civil if blunt.

However, if I am sick and amusing myself in chat rooms, and some anonymous troll starts spewing venom... I don't see any reason to be polite. Anonymity grants them free-license, and it takes very little time to determine whether they are interested in honest exchange of ideas or are simply trolling to be trolls. If the latter, I don't see how civility improves anything... If I'm having a bad time I don't see why baiting trolls is somehow off limits; even if they do choose to whine about it once things turn against them.


@ Anonymous,
Congratulations, it's good to have an identity, a sense of self... so that all who encounter you know who you truly are.
;)

Joking aside, I'm perfectly happy to call truce if you are, provided that we both adhere to one simple rule: no-one gets to claim specialty or expert status without offering a name by which the other can review and verify one's credentials. If no such identity is offered, no authority can be claimed, nor can "special knowledge" be claimed, and references must actually be used - those things that you earlier derided.
ANONYMOUS
March 14, 2011
Fair enough Steven.
your truly--"Craven illiterate cretin"
Stephen Lacey
March 14, 2011
Hi All -- Let's keep it civil and stick to the issues. This is a great debate without all the name calling and personal attacks.
ANONYMOUS
March 14, 2011
Please review Glenn Dotty's expose' on maturity.
Pretty funny given some of his posts here and other places on the web--he reminds me somewhat of Karl Pilkington from Idiot Abroad (actually one of my favorite shows).
Go get em Glenn! Teach those teens a lesson! :)
ANONYMOUS
March 14, 2011
Shouldn't "personal attacks" be deleted or blocked? Agree or disagree, but cut the childish "attacks."
Glenn Doty
March 14, 2011
Craven illiterate cretin -

I'm sure you are a specialist in solar finance and project development... We know that because you say so.

Just as we can trust YOUR numbers over those published... because you say so.

My guess is that you are a teenager who is truly infatuated with solar and hangs on every word from Tam or anyone else who says what you wish to hear. I guess I get that. I was a teenager myself once.
But eventually I hope you grow to understand that there will always be someone who tells you what you want to hear, and they aren't worth very much.
The realization of maturity comes when you are willing to listen to those who tell the truth, regardless of whether it aligns with what you WANT or not.
ANONYMOUS
March 14, 2011
Solar is the answer. If everyone would just order a system from the solar advocates on here we wouldn't need to worry about energy ever again.

Thanks be to the Sun and those installing solar systems. We ARE winning the future.
ANONYMOUS
March 14, 2011
Can't imagine why you can't get funding...with your involvement what could give investors pause?????
Sooo many words to respond to an "illiterate cretin"?
You are unstable and have made this clear to anyone reading your rants.
I could care less about your patents or tech--since you are involved, there cannot be anything of real value.
I specialize solar finance and project development so your "predictions" will go unfulfilled. Back to your life of bitterness and insane rants.
Glenn Doty
March 14, 2011
Craven illiterate cretin -
Were you literate, I'd invite you to read up on the RFTS process. If you were capable of doing so, you'd see that we don't really care where the electrons come from, so long as they are carbon neutral. The problem is that your carbon neutral solution simply costs more than others (wind and nuclear), and so we plan on using the energy that is more affordable. As for viability, excuse me if I don't accept your opinion... I prefer to discuss the matter with people who know what they are talking about.

Our technology should help solar thermal become far more cost effective and competitive - even to areas with as low as 4 kWhs/m2/day insolation... but that's a side effect. We are using chemical processes and efficiently handling thermal energy. That's our technology. About the rest we are merely informed.

So no, we aren't "anti-solar" because we're pushing WindFuels; RFTS could just as easily be "SunFuels" (we own that trademark too) if the economics were different.
We're pro-solving problems, which means looking for honest answers. One of these days you are going to wake up and realize what that means, and be embarrassed for your current advocacy.
I guess that until then, it's a good thing you are too cowardly to blog with any identification... preferring instead to troll anonymously.

I'm sure that when you next reply, you'll reveal that you are suddenly a chemical engineer and manufacturing specialist and you can accurately judge the viability of our patents... Such is the power and childishness of anonymity.
If you have access to a single expert, they are welcome to review our work. Our patents are published, as are 8 peer-reviewed papers. All of which are available online.
www.WindFuels.com
If you find any errors, you'll be the first (several thousand real experts have thus far reviewed our openly available material... so good luck).
ANONYMOUS
March 12, 2011
LOL...so the great Glenn Dotty is pumping "Windfuels"!
The investment isn't coming because "windfuels" isn't viable--your pathetic attacks on solar won't get you any closer to the cash.
Andrew W
March 12, 2011
@ Glenn: I think the $1 billion will focus attention and inspire you and other inventors to make their case. The US has been without an Energy Plan for +40 years and we don't even have an accurate idea of where we are in terms of achieving the missing "solution." I'd like an accurate snapshot of e x a c t l y where we are. We need an Energy Summit with a $1 billion prize for the elusive solution. Maybe we'll find it, but even if we don't, we'll know where we are on that path.

I agree that the DOE is largely w waste of money. They are NOT seeking a solution, they are simply window dressing.

Your technology is interesting. I'll call next week.
Glenn Doty
March 11, 2011
@ Andrew,

Fair enough. You did follow up. But you didn't follow THROUGH.

We are still searching for an investor that has sufficient vision (and to be frank sufficient intelligence) to invest in the first articulated viable solution for sustainable transportation fuels. We've got a prospective market in the trillions of dollars, and no viable competitors.

Our innovations are at the early development stage, but each technology is a very marketable product on its own merit, so an investor would be investing in a suite of innovations with which no error can be found in the science, engineering, or simulations (hundreds of experts have now reviewed our work). Any one of these innovations would offer a very high-yield exit, resulting in an impossibly low risk assessment... and yet we are STILL looking for investors.

We offer 4 different technologies that will have a multi-billion dollar yield, and two potential product lines that have 100+ billion dollar yields, all with an extremely low risk... and WE CANNOT GET INVESTMENT. Because our technology wasn't first funded before the DOE was chartered and effectively ended investment in new technology (now only the "tried and true" paths are endlessly invested in despite 3-5 decades of constant failure).

Yet you believe that a pathetic 1 billion dollar prize will incentivize billions of dollars in R&D for novel technology paths again? WindFuels could easily see profit margins of a billion dollars A WEEK within 20 years, yet no-one is interested in putting forth a mere 15 million dollars... because the DOE isn't investing in it. The DOE only invests in the technology it invested in under Carter... so that means no private investor will invest in new technology paths either.

It's just too easy to lie about the competitiveness of what doesn't work and collect DOE money at big profit. That equation will not change for a mere 1 billion dollar prize if it isn't affected by a 100+ billion dollar investment potential.
ANONYMOUS
March 11, 2011
"post links" to deals that only tax equity can reasonably invest in????
Try looking up on Google and see what a few minutes of effort yields.
Some of these comments are really ignorant of the most basic concepts that make up a solar project/investment.
Ignorance of the rapidly changing solar industry is expected/fine, except when it is wielded unknowingly as "expertise".
ANONYMOUS
March 11, 2011
Is anybody going to post links to these attractive solar development deals with the "8-12% after tax returns?" Surely those deals are seeking investment. Let's help them out.

Tam? Anybody?
Andrew W
March 11, 2011
@Steven: To suggest that a $1 billion prize wouldn't spur innovation is without any evidence because we've never tried that. It wouldn't be a risk, because either we find the missing solution and pay for it or we wouldn't. In the last 40 years government and industry have invested almost $200 billion in clean-technology, yet that hasn't yielded a solution. We should at least try the prize mechanism.

@Tam: I can join the numerous solar-cheerleaders in h o p i n g that solar technologies become affordable in the near future, but they are not affordable today. Without unsustainable subsidies they are not cost-effective and i do not believe they should receive ANY investment. Wind has improved and (with subsidies) some deals are performing, but many are not. We'll hear more about them in the near future.

Any deal that requires a 100% government guarantee should tell anyone (that is being objective) that the deal isn't worthy of private investment. I think DOE is stupid and even reckless for guaranteeing 100% of some 14 solar and wind schemes. It will haunt them in the near future and then damage the whole renewable sector.

@Glenn: I reviewed your website and even exchanged a few emails with you. I am looking for "clean, affordable and scalable electricity generation." As far as my "political leanings," I don't have any. Democrats and republicans alike have offered no plan or solutions. They've talked about our energy problem and done little during the last 0 years. We don't even have a plan. The solution will come from some brilliant minds that are seeking solutions. I don't believe the answers will necessarily come from research labs. Many of those institutions are more interested in their income than actual solutions and they lack incentive.
Glenn Doty
March 11, 2011
Tam,

The information I have all states IDEAL manufacturing costs... so the manufacturing costs for PV cells would indeed be ~$1/W if the manufacturing facilities were producing at capacity... but if they do that then they oversupply the market (granted by an unknown amount).

But the amortized capital on those plants are fixed, while the production is not. Ask GM what happens when fixed costs are met with declining production levels... It's an economic certainty.... those plants that can survive long enough (those with the most excess capital to "eat down" will be the survivors.

I do agree that this will be good for the solar industry in the long run, but it looks very bad in the short run.
Glenn Doty
March 11, 2011
@ Andrew,

You and I agree that subsidies and market protections are too high for solar energy (though I feel they are probably about right or perhaps even too low for wind). But subsidies ARE justified when you consider that renewable energy offsets some of the external costs of fossil fuels, and they shift energy costs from land destruction, insurance, and oil imports to labor - which offsets unemployment compensation and welfare outlays. So some subsidies are justified, though solar probably receives more than it should.

But as an investor seeking quality investments, that shouldn't be an issue. It shouldn't matter to you if the project would or would not be profitable, or certainly not as profitable, without subsidies... it should only matter whether the project yields a consistent profit.
If you put money into a wind farm in the wind corridor or a solar field in Southern California, you'd make a solid return.

Hence, you're showing your POLITICAL leanings influencing your FINANCIAL investments.
:)

Besides, why haven't I received something from you asking for more information over the WindFuels website? We are openly seeking Round A investment... and there is no renewable energy technology on Earth that has greater market potential or less overall risk to an early investor (or even comes close)... yet you haven't even sought information. If you were truly an investor looking for ground-breaking innovation, you've failed to follow through once you found it.
;)

But we do agree that we disagree with Tam and the other solar advocates on the definition of the word "affordable". I say this as a carbon-neutral energy agnostic - I don't care whether the energy comes from wind, hydro, nuclear, or solar... I just need electrons that are very low carbon and are produced at low cost.
Andrew W
March 11, 2011
@Tam: I have invested in wind farms. They did not meet their projections. If you have some deals promising 8-15% after-tax returns, kindly post them here.

@Glenn: I realize that some solar schemes can make money IF they have huge subsidies and generous terms, but solar is not a solution because it isn't "affordable." We need a market-based solution that can provide an abundance of "clean, affordable electricity." To that end we should be investing heavily in trying to find that solution, not using billions to prop up marginal solar schemes.

We need a real, sustainable and scalable solution. Solar isn't. Wind has it's share of problems, but it has become more affordable. It isn't really scalable for the entire country without some storage/transmission breakthroughs or your fuel concepts.

I have taken exception with Tam's blanket "assurances" that Solar is "affordable." It isn't. If he has some good deals promising great returns, he should post them here for his fans to participate. I'll keep investing in new ideas with greater potential.
Michael Story
March 11, 2011
@Tam: Ahhh yes Tam! Sanity lives in this thread. Good on ya mate.

Andrew - which technologies are you currently invested in exactly? Can you be specific? Do you have a clue? Are you a human? How many fingers am I holding up?

Question:
How many Andrews does it take to plug in an electric car powered by batteries charged from solar panels and a small wind turbine on a rooftop?

Andrew's Answer:
What was the question?


..pardon me everyone, I've got some renewable energy to produce and give away today. I'll check on the churps a bit later this evening from my solar powered cell phone.
Tam Hunt
March 11, 2011
Glenn, you make statements that are far too conclusory. No, it is not certain that plants can't make money at 1/3 capacity - you have no idea at what level of production they can make money and nor do I. Production is very cheap nowadays, below $1/watt in most cases, and prices are still above $1.5/watt, so there is a tidy margin for efficient companies. There surely will be some shakeouts and some bankruptcies, but that is the case with any growing business area.

Solar and wind turbines are now becoming commodities - with quality differences less of an issue and price becoming the focus. This is good for the field as a whole even though it is indeed bad in some cases for equipment producers. The pie is, however, growing dramatically, which is why solar has increased from 1 GW production capacity just five years ago to 25 GW in 2011.
ANONYMOUS
March 11, 2011
Andrew--your ignorance of risk and returns for solar projects shines brightly.
After tax IRRs are comfortably in the 7-12% (higher in NJ) range unlevered. Insurance and balance sheets back performance/returns--if done correctly it is a risk free investment. Now you can cry about the "subsidies"...as you seem to work from a script.
Glenn Doty
March 11, 2011
I agree with Tam concerning the doubts that Andrew is an investor with real money looking for a good return. The wind results are clear, and extremely profitable. Solar fields are quite profitable in Southern California... as it has been shown the power is purchased in excess of $170/MWh, and with federal funding the cost of the delivered power is significantly less.

I have yet to see one single press release showing a total (all-in) cost of $4/W, nor have I seen a single DOE cash grant that calculates toward $4/W. So I remain extremely dubious that the price is that low once all production costs have been included. However, I do want to take up one thing that Tam alluded to in comment #115:

Tam, you stated that there was "25 GW of solar production potential in 2011, with demand likely to be about 1/3-1/2 of that..." While this does indeed spell lower cost for panels, what is far more specifically shows is that Andrew is correct in saying the massive DOE loan guarantees for these solar panel production companies is going to be lost. No manufacturing facility can make profit at 1/3 capacity, and in a market where you have a race-to-the bottom pricing for selling off excess capacity for bankrupt business, you are certain to see all remaining solar cells be sold at a loss for their manufacturer.

The very thing that you are cheering, and the very thing responsible for the recent collapse of PV prices, is the greatest threat to the solar industry in a long time. EVERY manufacturer is going to face bankrupcy, with only the strongest few surviving. After that happens, investors may remain skiddish for years before once again seeking to expand capacity, and that could slow solar down for a long time.

There is some truth to Andrew's calling you a blanket cheerleader, just as there is some truth to you calling Andrew out for refusing to see any advantages in RE investment.

Solar electricity is not SUSTAINABLY competitive outside of Southern California.
Tam Hunt
March 11, 2011
Andrew: zero credibility. I've demonstrated repeatedly, citing CPUC contracts for 5-20 MW solar projects, Bloomberg Finance reports on wind turbine prices, and my own personal experience working on solar projects, that solar (as a peak resource and increasingly as a non-peak resource) and wind power (as an as-available resource) are cost-effective here today, now. Another poster linked to the most recent SEIA report showing that utility-scale solar projects averaged $4/watt in 2010. The 30% cash grant (or investment tax credit) helps with these cost-effectiveness calculations but from a broader technology and policy perspective this 30% cash grant is a rounding error.

More broadly, wind and solar costs continue to fall dramatically. The SEIA report shows that costs across all categories fell 20% in 2010 and Bloomberg New Finance analysts calculate 25 GW of solar production potential in 2011, with demand likely to about 1/3-1/2 that amount - a strong recipe for continued cost declines.

If you really are an investor, sniff around for a good equity deal for wind or solar - the going rate for equity investments in these projects is 8-15% after-tax, a very good return for what are very low risk investments.
ANONYMOUS
March 11, 2011
Andrew writes in comment #105: "I also think a $1 billion prize for a breakthrough that produces "clean, affordable electricity" might bring us closer to a solution"

Top flight researchers like to see funding before they commit large effort to a project. If you want to improve R&D efforts you need to provide cash up front and should be prepared for a long term investment. Energy research is costly and speculative efforts in the hopes of winning a prize are very poor bets. Furthermore, a major breakthrough in this area would already be expected to lead to economic rewards so an additional incentive is superfluous. Modest prizes for very specific incremental advances can occasionally provide a sufficient incentive to alter research plans. Large prizes for things that require little funding to explore and for which there is no other obvious financial payoff for success (e.g., a mathematical proof) might also be a successful strategy. However, huge prizes for energy research are not going to achieve what Andrew hopes.
Steven
Andrew W
March 11, 2011
@Tam: You have s u g g e s t e d solar power is affordable and it is NOT. Most credible sources claim it is $.25-$.49 per kWh. Affordable would be less than $.10 per kWh. Even with massive subsidies, solar is not affordable.

The SOLUTION to our energy problems is "clean, affordable electricity." Solar is clean, but not affordable. Affordable electricity would give us a real, sustainable market-based solution. Solar can't do that, even with insane subsidies.

Solar belongs in the lab until it can compete.
Andrew W
March 11, 2011
@ZNE: I am in investor in new technologies. That's why I understand it is a waste of money to invest in solar projects.

NREL has an annual budget of $300 million. That's about the same as "development fees" for one of the DOE-lead solar schemes. Solar has received more than $7 billion in the last two years and THAT money would have been better spent on R+D, not politically-connected friend's "development deals."

engage360.com is a cute website, but not a solution.
Tam Hunt
March 11, 2011
Andrew, I have provided abundant evidence, linking to many reports by impartial third parties, in this and other threads. You have zero credibility when you make statements like this. You clearly are not interested in solutions but only have a big ax to grind.
Andrew W
March 11, 2011
@Tam: You sound like a disgruntled cheerleader. You have never provided ANY evidence that solar-generated-electricity is "affordable." But, everyone knows you want to create that impression. Cheerleaders do that.

Solar is not a solution. It is over-priced and under-performing. The billions being wasted on "development deals" should be applied to promising new technologies or to help make solar "affordable."
Michael Story
March 11, 2011
@Andrew: Ever heard of NREL?

But actually - what are you doing to participate in the energy solving process? Your active account on REW isn't really contributing any value as far as we can tell. But keep trying. I'm sure there's something out there for you.

Here's an interesting website I found yesterday that should help you (no, it's not my site).

http://www.engage360.com
Tam Hunt
March 11, 2011
Andrew W, your comments would carry some weight if you actually had your facts straight. You don't. And you continue to ignore any facts that diverge from your strange worldview. I really don't know your motivation but you seem to have a hell of a lot of time on your hands, an ax to grind, and perhaps someone paying you to critique solar and wind.
Andrew W
March 11, 2011
@ZNE: Put DOE (and other government funds) into innovation and improving technologies. I think there is an answer somewhere, but we wont find it if we continue to pretend wind and solar will solve the problem.

I also believe natural gas should immediately replace coal-generated electricity, but Obama and DOE haven't pushed that obvious interim benefit.

I also think a $1 billion prize for a breakthrough that produces "clean, affordable electricity" might bring us closer to a solution. America was built on inspiration and reward - $1 billion would focus attention and possibly uncover a real breakthrough.
ANONYMOUS
March 11, 2011
Glenn misreads the SEIA report - the sentence he's referring to is pointing to the for-fee version of the SEIA report, with further cost breakdowns of the components mentioned. The price given in the public SEIA report is an all-in price.
Michael Story
March 11, 2011
@Andrew: Any suggestions?
Andrew W
March 11, 2011
@ZNE: I don't need to be an "environmentalist" to realize we must solve our energy problem. I don't need to vilify fossil fuels or make believe wind and solar are effective technologies - they are NOT.

The missing solution continues to be "clean, affordable electricity" and we should be pursuing that instead of wasting money on solar schemes.
Michael Story
March 11, 2011
@glen-doty,
Good points and I appreciate the articulate responses. I think we simply view our approaches to energy solutions differently. I'm much less capitalist (not entirely) minded and share a view from "what's the best actionable approach" to take - or "what's the Best choice" in working on changing our energy supply and demand. Does it all make the best short term economic sense, no usually, given the cost comparisons but does RE (pick one) make good long term sense? - Of course. And I think everyone in this thread beieves that.

So I'm less inclinded to debate on the economics of RE vs. FF although I know much of the financial components don't alway pencil (short term), but actively seek solutions in changing our energy paradigm long term. Like every in the law of supply and demand, this involves sacrifice.

Yes on wind tech as it applies to the best scenario/region. Basically - let's apply the best RE tech to the optimal locations.

@Andrew,
Are you not in the very least an environmentalist? Your comment on solar being neither "clean nor affordable" - uh..could you pay attention to something besides today?
ANONYMOUS
March 11, 2011
Entrenched mindsets are rarely changed.
A lot of deep trenches in this thread.
Andrew W
March 11, 2011
@ZNE: Amazing. Environmentalists always have an all-or-nothing mentality. Your hatred of fossil fuels doesn't make solar schemes more efficient.

Solar does not solve our energy problems or our dependence on oil. We need "clean, affordable electricity" and Solar is NOT. We are wasting billions of dollars on an over-hyped and under-performing technology.
Andrew W
March 11, 2011
@fireofenergy: If you want to put some solar panels on your home and reap some benefits, great! I am objecting to the senseless support of solar development deals by our government. Solar needs additional R+D before being deployed on a larger scale. DOE has made $4 billion in "loan guarantees" that will turn out to be grants because those deals cannot pay the debt.

Evergreen Solar is already unraveling and others are coming.
ANONYMOUS
March 11, 2011
Glen Dotty = egomaniac
--enough said.
Glenn Doty
March 11, 2011
I think the anonymous poster in #93 is different from the slavering dumbass that posted earlier... He/She actually brought something to the table, a fact-based post rather than a rant... Hmmm...

For that, Anonymous poster #93, I thank you.

I skimmed through the data in your linked pdf, and I noted that the caption following figure 2-7 says this: "full report contains pricing by state and component pricing for polysilicon, wafers, cells, modules, and inverters... But there's no mention of price breakdowns for: labor, land, transmission line extentions, licensing/zoning fees.

I've encountered this as a trend in reporting on solar costs from solar advocates - they'll report residential costs sans labor, and report utility costs sans land, transmission, and fees.

I don't know that that is what SEIA is doing in the report you linked... but I don't see how there can be a 25% greater price seen by the DOE than is seen by SEIA and someone not be convicted of fraud. The VERY VERY VERY few instances wherein a project press release lists its total costs show considerably higher $/W prices than $4.05.

For instance: among the lackluster and uninteresting picks the readers had to vote for in REW's reader's choice selection for project of the year was a 3MW project that would provide power for a nearby NASCAR racetrack... That project won. The press release stated the project's cost would be $16 million. 3 MW for $16 million is $5.33/W. You can't ignore land and transmission costs, those have to be paid for as well.

Unfortunately, the solar industry at large, and its advocacy groups in particular, are not very forthcoming about these real costs.
Glenn Doty
March 11, 2011
ZNE,

First, you need to realize that we don't fill our tanks with electricity. Oil isn't going to be displaced by solar power.

Second, there are plenty of non-conventional oil sources out there that will comfortably keep us all consuming at our current rate for ~50-80 years, so we don't have a gun to our head which FORCES us to choose this one and only one very dumb technology (electric cars).

Third, while I acknowledge that there is no question concerning global warming that we will face serious accommodation costs as a result of our CO2 emissions. Those accommodation costs are not going to be infinite. That means that there is still an economic consideration to be made in determining whether an RE approach is economically viable: Do the increased cost of generating necessary electricity exceed the estimated accommodation costs that will result from this amount of marginal increase in CO2 emissions.

The best way to determine such a thing, and keep it honest, is to place a concrete value on CO2 emissions, and credit RE with abating those emissions based on marginal supply/demand analysis of the grid... and giving subsidies based on that FINITE figure. Then let the most cost effective technology win.

Right now, for every dollar you spend on solar energy you could invest and get ~4 times as much wind energy produced in good wind regions. So solar seems wasteful to me. Use coal and natural gas and pour the same money into wind farms in the Midwest... you abate more net CO2 at lower costs.

Unless you somehow feel that the CO2 coming from your backyard is a more significant greenhouse gas than the CO2 produced by a Kansas coal power plant...

@ Andrew,

I truly thought that YOU were logging in as "anonymous" just to make solar advocates look like idiotic asses.
Michael Story
March 11, 2011
And the moral to this article is? ...

If you're not part of the solution (the Zero Net Energy Solution), then you're part of the problem. If you're not already lowering your energy consumption by every green means necessary, and if you're not already producing some form of renewable energy then you don't get it. Which means you are more than likely one of the many in this thread who is arguing in vain on behalf of why you "just can't" afford it, when the truth is No One can afford Not to act, decide and otherwise get on board any one of the list of RE technologies available.

If you are one of the many who are debating against the economic vaibility of RE (particularly solar), then really - move on. You're only in the way of green progress towards a better quality of life.

It amazes me - all of the extreme intelligence bustling with good intention in here, snussled up tightly just underneath stupidity.

The author should have named this post "Busting 1 Myth About Oil vs. Solar"

1. Oil will run out in our lifetime, the Sun won't.
Andrew W
March 10, 2011
Has Tam gone "anonymous?"

This conversation is over. Solar IS too expensive. R+D may help - we'll see.
ANONYMOUS
March 10, 2011
Wait away loser..."credentials"--as if I would bother checking them given your statements here.
You are soooooo ready to pat yourself on the back--probably because nobody else can stand to be in the same room with you--another boring, bitter, and lonely soul. The net is all they have left.
Keep using that 2 year old material...befits your "expertise".
Glenn Doty
March 10, 2011
Ford,

In 2010, the U.S. average retail price for residential electricity was $116.3/MWh, the average retail price for commercial was $103.0/MWh, and the average retail price for industry was $68.1/MWh.

For 1990 (the oldest numbers that are available within a few seconds of googling), those numbers were $78.3/MWh, $73.4/MWh, and $47.4/MWh respectively.
ALL of these numbers are less than 2%, and in most cases the increase has concentrated heavily on West Coast and Northeast states which have aggressively increased taxation and regulations, forcing higher electricity rates.

I engaged in hyperbole to state you were off by 10fold, but still the assumption of a 4% increase in rates - certainly absent extreme taxation/regulation burdens - is excessive; though I do believe the future will see higher inflation rates in energy as the nuclear fleet is decommissioned.

As for whether we are talking about retail or wholesale... the original question was concerning the affordability of large-scale solar. Unless a residential household intends to consume 20+ MWs of energy during peak hours, I don't see why using the residential retail rate applies; as you used in your original comparison.

As for your remark concerning "microwave economics", that is a valid denunciation of a market that focuses on last quarter's earnings. It is not remotely valid when discussing an investor who wishes to see SOME profit over a 20-25 year span.

I'll waste a little time on the buzzing gnat now...

@Craven Illiterate cretin:
I'm still waiting for some details or evidence of your super-secret anonymous deals that will prove the entire solar industry is engaged in fraud against the U.S. government.

Until then, it might behoove you to learn that private subsidies are called many things in many regional or state markets, but the DOE and research communities collectively refer to them as "green tags". That term has been standard since the 90s.

My credentials are easy to find, as is my name.
Andrew W
March 10, 2011
It's amazing when Glenn, Steven and others present facts that are contrary to solar-cheerleading, they get attacked.

Solar is too expensive and needs more R+D. It is stupid to continue to deploy a technology that isn't ready.

Cheerleaders don't change that reality.
ANONYMOUS
March 10, 2011
Ford,
People like Glenn can't understand the "it depends" nature of solar projects. His blanket statements are fraught with inaccuracies. "Green tags"--LOL...they would be called RECs in CA and most other states...worth about $0.035/kWh and always sold within the PPA contract. Glenn merely pretends to know the industry--his arguments with Tam make this obvious to industry participants. Self proclaimed experts are all over the renewable space. Although my %s would be different but good stuff anyway:
ANONYMOUS
March 10, 2011
"it can be done effectively"
SP
FE
ANONYMOUS
March 10, 2011
Glenn,
FE "Average inflation Rate 4% (probably higher for the energy sector over the next 30 years)"
GD "I happen to agree that grid energy will see much more rapid inflation."
To be candid if you think inflation has been .04%/YEAR over the last 30 years, I would question that statement since average general inflation has been closer to 0.035%/ MONTH over the last 30 years, but since you agreed that we will see more rapid inflation, I left that alone.
FE "the problem is "cost of money" and Microwave economics (I want my money back in 30 seconds, and I want it hotter)"
GD "which will seriously dampen the enthusiasm for investing in solar"

FE "Current Average Utility Rate $0.10 /kWh"
Rate, as in Retail Rate.
GD "Current cost of coal-based power is less than $40/MWh, while natural gas baseload power is ~$60-$70/MWh. So for wholesale power those are closer to your price points."
Wholesale as in cost to Utility
So thanks for agreeing with me.

FYI, I did not miscalculate, the inputs generated the outputs. I stated "we can twist numbers and calculations in many ways to show a desired result." The way to do that is to add complexity and new variables and assumptions into the equations. In reality, the inputs can change considerably from what I've used. Sunhours can be 50-70% higher in the southern states, RETAIL rates can be 70-400% in different utilities, as you state WHOLESALE rates can be 40-60% of Retail Rates. Cost of install can be 25-50% lower depending on scale or if you include rebates. Efficiency can be +/- 5-10% based on site specific information. Derate can be +/- 40% based on quality of module. Inverter replacements can easily be +/-20% based on quality of inverter and future costs.

this is the job of the system designer, to offer and impliment the best of the best case scenarios at the right price. my only statement is that "it can be done effectivly"

storage is another issue, not sure the industry is ready for that yet


Ford Eversun
Glenn Doty
March 10, 2011
Ford,

I wasn't agreeing with you, I was pointing out a couple of errors in your numbers - which lead to a conclusion that is not accurate.

I think you may have misconstrued my use of the second-person in the last line. My intention was for that usage to be in the generic sense - "the price points would have to be closer to these numbers rather than the misleading $0.10/kWh you stated", but unfortunately that may not have been conveyed without the inflections of speech.

Sorry about that.

But the point was to show you where you had miscalculated or mis-assumed.
Lawrence F
March 9, 2011
This is likely the most misleading and unprofessional article I have ever read on Renewable Energy World. The author clearly has done no actual research into the economics of utility-scale CSP or the real storage costs of PV.

Without siting any actual sources that confirm "solar PV with battery storage has a lower levelized cost than concentrating solar with storage", the author is doing an injustice to the industry and proving himself to be truly irrelevant voice.
ANONYMOUS
March 9, 2011
Thanks for agreeing with me Glenn...

Ford Eversun
Glenn Doty
March 9, 2011
Ford,

The major problems I see with your assumption is that you give no discount rate for the capital invested, and you assume an inflation rate for grid energy that is roughly 10 times that which has been seen in the last 30 years.

I happen to agree that grid energy will see much more rapid inflation. As the old nuclear fleet is decommissioned, then new money must pour in to shore up capacity, and that's going to strain resources and increase costs. But to assume that capital investment has no rate of return essentially assumes that anyone who invests in solar energy gets nothing for it... which will seriously dampen the enthusiasm for investing in solar.

With DOE loan guarantees, it's possible to get loans with rates as low as ~8% or so... but the remaining capital should always be assumed to carry a discount rate of its own. I usually assume 7.5%, as that would be sufficient to draw large-scale investment... but if you offer numbers based on 0% return, you'll get zero investors.

Another significant problem that your numbers have is that they assume the energy will be purchased at residential rates... but the power companies must maintain transmission, manage the grid, and make a profit... Current cost of coal-based power is less than $40/MWh, while natural gas baseload power is ~$60-$70/MWh. So for wholesale power those are closer to your price points.
Glenn Doty
March 9, 2011
ZNE -

Right now solar is insignificant. Less than 0.1% of the grid energy in America is produced by solar PV and solar thermal combined. It's cheaper to build out solar without storage than building out solar with storage... so if your goal is to increase solar electricity on the grid, you build it out without storage, and trust in the fossil generation to provide backup for cloudy days. It's FAR cheaper to build an additional peaker plant than it would be to try to provide unnecessary storage for a peak power technology.

This will remain true until renewables exceed ~70% of the grid energy... that day is a long way off (likely 4-5 decades).
Daniel bedard
March 9, 2011
Both technology are complementary, if you look on that point of view. For a Grid utilitiies, in case of low sunshine It need to gave power, for that you need a high storage capacity (many days along some statistical model) or a back up installation probably thermal. Then you need capital investment for PV, Concentration Thermal Solar and Standard Thermal Plant. Thermal Plant and Concentration could be fused together to use some part equipment /cooling tower, steam turbine etc. In that solar thermal energy is used as fuel saving only without storage. In that case economic calculation should take account not only the solar plant but overall system. In that case, economical cost should take into account PV + Thermal Plant and Solar concentration + solar Plant, naturally this is on Utility side point of view note only private investment. In Developing country without feed in tarif Solar concentration + thermal palnt have selected,(Morocco: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpZA6TMg04Y) in area with high direct sunshine, which is also indispensbale for concentration. Concentration on this side is less widely available, but have also is place to play.
Michael Story
March 8, 2011
Did someone say "No reason to store energy"?

Um...hmmm - Okay, so I'm assuming most of us drive a car which runs on gas and will only start with a battery which stores enough energy to power the car which takes us from A-B.

Great thread from this article overall but the assumption that energy will always be there when we need it is lame.

Let's see..Sun comes up every day (doesn't shine every day I know), Solar collects the energy, we use the energy on demand, sun goes down, no more energy. Hmmm...

Energy collection agent (pick an RE source) goes down for whatever reason, damn-it Martha! I stubbed my toe because the lights turned off! Could you go turn on the battery backup so I can find my contact lens please?

..I'm just sayin'.
ANONYMOUS
March 8, 2011
Boy there are a lot of numbers thrown around, and unfortunately many are relying on someone else's article to refute this article that is in direct opposition to that other article that that guy who thinks he is a guru. Clearly there is more than 1 intelligent person deep in this debate and the problem seems to come from numbers and estimates and averages and percentages. As any engineer, mathematician or marketing person can tell you, we can twist numbers and calculations in many ways to show a desired result. I'd like to tear it down to worst case scenarios.
Inputs:
$/W installed $5.00 (we agree this is high, or at least acceptable?)

Watts installed 10000 (makes no difference for this calc)

Inverter Replacement Cost $0.40/W (conservative)

Replacement every 15years

Initial PTC System Efficiency 83% (DC to AC conversion, recorded and measured)

Annual Degradation Factor 0.70% (WARRANTED degradation maximum)

Sun-hours/day 4 (Northern Minnesota)

Current Average Utility Rate $0.10 /kWh (most of the US??)

Average inflation Rate 4% (probably higher for the energy sector over the next 30 years)

Using these BASIC inputs, and NO incentives, subsidies, grants, etc…
Solar cost divided by energy produced in 25 years….$0.18/kWh
Cumulated Utility Cost divided by same energy in those 25 years….$0.17/kWh

Solar cost divided by energy produced in 30 years….$0.15/kWh
Cumulated Utility Cost divided by same energy in those 30 years….$0.19/kWh

Solar cost divided by energy produced in 35 years….$0.13/kWh
Cumulated Utility Cost divided by same energy in those 35 years….$0.21/kWh

Solar cost divided by energy produced in 40 years….$0.11/kWh
Cumulated Utility Cost divided by same energy in those 40 years….$0.24/kWh
From the grander look…yes it works even in these less than ideal solar conditions, the problem is "cost of money" and Microwave economics (I want my money back in 30 seconds, and I want it hotter)
Ford Eversun
Tam Hunt
March 8, 2011
Steven, check again: the integration studies are often done by private entities for (public) grid operators and are generally subjected to rigorous peer review.

As for curtailment in TX, this is a special case b/c TX wind grew so fast (from nothing in 2000 to about 10 GW, three times CA's wind, by 2010). So their transmission system needs to catch up and their wind projects will be paying for those upgrades.

The current curtailment imposes NO costs on ratepayers in TX - that's entirely borne by the wind developers b/c they are forced to turn down production and get paid nothing for that power, as far as I am aware.

Here's a more detailed report on integration costs from LBNL:

http://eetd.lbl.gov/ea/ems/reports/lbnl-1471e.pdf
Andrew W
March 8, 2011
Solar-cheerleaders will say a n y t h i n g to keep the funds coming. It is an over-hyped and under-performing technology.

America is stupid to keep funding solar projects. Just plain stupid.
ANONYMOUS
March 8, 2011
John Farrell writes in comment #69:
"It would also be important to point out that the MPR and its reference point of natural gas would illustrate the cost of natural gas to utilities and does not reflect the sizable federal subsidies for natural gas extraction, production, and the construction of natural gas power plants"

This is a significant misreading of the data. The link John provides gives a figure of $2.1 billion for ALL natural gas AND petroleum liquids (for 2007). Natural gas is used for much more than electricity generation and petroleum liquids gets a big part of this money. Conveniently, the report does give the share going to electrical power: 0.227 Billion dollars or 0.025 cents/kWh. This is basically negligible when judged on a per unit of energy basis.
Steven
ANONYMOUS
March 8, 2011
Get a clue:

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2011/03/finding-pvs-next-big-cost-reductions?cmpid=SolarNL-Tuesday-March8-2011
John Farrell
March 8, 2011
It would also be important to point out that the MPR and its reference point of natural gas would illustrate the cost of natural gas to utilities and does not reflect the sizable federal subsidies for natural gas extraction, production, and the construction of natural gas power plants ($2.1 billion in 2007 according to EIA - http://bit.ly/fazrQs).

Solar's hardly the only energy source to find government support.
Tam Hunt
March 8, 2011
Glenn, again: TOD is not a subsidy. It applies to almost all power contracts in CA. Solar receives a nice TOD boost BECAUSE it is a peak power resource. That's not a subsidy, it's market reality that applies to almost all power sources.

Even if your $179-209/MWh calculation was correct (it isn't), this would not be a subsidy. It represents the time-differentiated value of solar power and nothing more. It also assumes solar receives MPR pricing, which it doesn't (as I also explained above). MPR is NOT used as the pricing level for solar anymore. It's generally based on auctions now and auction prices are now coming in below MPR.

Here's a link to a recent report calculating the actual value of solar power in CA, including TOD:

http://calseia.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/pv-above-mpr-methodology-final-20100423.pdf

I'm done with this conversation.
Glenn Doty
March 8, 2011
Tam,

My calculations were based on the TOD link that you provided. I would love to see your calculations based on those same TOD pricing parameters and get 25-30%.

As for the rest, you fail to even realize the argument. A subsidy is simple market manipulation from government. That manipulation then is a part of the system at large which advantages the targeted industry.

You are saying that "solar is competitive with only 30% cash back from the government!" while you're in a market where solar is seeing average purchase prices ranging from $179-$209/MWh.

I pay $110/MWh for the power I purchase at noon-6:00pm, and here in SC we get ~2 kWh/M2/day less insolation than you get in Southern California.

Re-read this thread. From the start I've argued that solar has a limited ability to compete in Southern California, but is completely non-viable in most of the rest of the U.S.. While you've obsessed over the word "subsidies" and sought eagerly to narrow the definition of such, you aren't in any way engaging the argument... we're just hashing out an endless argument over the definition of a word. For the record, you are incorrect about your narrowly confining the definition of "subsidy"... but that's not really pertinent to the argument.

Here's wikipedia's article on "subsidy"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subsidy

As for my declaratives vs my interrogatives, I believe I've been correct far more often than you in our disagreements throughout these threads. Including this specific thread.

So perhaps you should offer every post directed at me in the form of a question?

Clearly that won't happen. Nor should it. We have our opinions that are formed from information we have at hand, and this is a forum for us to put our opinions forward and defend them.

I for one welcome the math that will use the provided TOD pricing guide (slides 41 and 42, to refresh your memory) to show 20-25% TOD gain for solar. That should be fun.
:)

Good luck.
Tam Hunt
March 8, 2011
Glenn, you're not getting it. You might want to shift your declaratives to interrogatives. I'm happy to answer questions when framed civilly.

When I say the "green tags go to the utility," that means they get to use this power for compliance purposes. That is, to meet RPS mandates (20% by 2013 and 33% by 2020) or GHG mandates (not yet in effect). All renewable programs in CA except for net-metered projects require that the green attributes from renewable energy projects go to the utility.

There is no monetary value, however, for the developer in this arrangement. If project prices were simply set at the MPR, there would indeed be a 13% of MPR monetary value to the developer from sale of green tags b/c this is the amount the MPR assumes for the cost of future greenhouse gas compliance. But this isn't how it works: projects don't simply receive MPR pricing anymore. Rather, MPR is only used to judge the relative cost-effectiveness of projects (under SB 1036, which passed in 2008).

Nor is Time of Delivery a subsidy. TOD policies are in place to discourage power consumption at peak b/c this power is so much more expensive. This policy has been in place for years and is unrelated to solar power procurement more generally. Annual average TOD for solar is 25-30%, not the far higher figure you calculate. Again, this is not a subsidy: it's simply paying the market price for peak power, as is the case for most power contracts in CA.

Again: the only subsidies wholesale solar receives in CA is the federal cash grant or tax credit and accelerated depreciation.
Glenn Doty
March 8, 2011
Craven illiterate cretin:

If $4.45 included ALL costs, tell us all how much you spent on the land and the transmission. Surely if you conducted this purchase at the end of last year (3 months ago), that information is readily available.

My opinions are based off of verifiable evidence, mostly government reports or respected research institutions; not off of the anonymous ranting of someone who shows very little competency in elementary grammar.
ANONYMOUS
March 8, 2011
Glen Dottttty-
$4.45 includes ALL costs.
You are simple worthless to the debate as you base all of your opinions on "website" material.
The project is behind the meter-- you complete moron and quite frankly, an ASS.
Glenn Doty
March 8, 2011
Craven illiterate cretin:
I suppose you installed those on ground you purchased for your client and ran transmission for your client to cover the total system costs... and of course you covered all the fees, processed all the legal paperwork, and settled all the zoning considerations.

If so, $4.45/W is SO VERY FAR OFF from $5/W that I am clearly wrong.

If not, as I suspect, then the cost of your quoted system would have hovered in the realm of ~$5.50/W-$6.50/W, and an actual large system could conceivably have been completed for less/W... maybe about $5/W, as was average for a large system last year.

Again, you are welcome to bring charges to any large scale solar field that you suspect guilty of defrauding the government... but I suspect there is nothing there other than you being a great fool.
ANONYMOUS
March 8, 2011
Tam writes in comment #52:
"Steven, what you write is not the case for most studies I've reviewed. For a good summary chart, see slide 55 of this presentation from Lawrence Berkeley Labs' most recent wind market report:

http://eetd.lbl.gov/ea/ems/reports/lbnl-3716e-ppt.pdf"

I note that this slide does not give DOE estimates of integration costs but instead gives industry estimates of wind integration cost and not all of these are of high quality (here I engage is wry understatement). We could look at slide 47 of the report though to see wind curtailment rates in the ERCOT grid: 1% in 2007, 8% in 2008, and 17% in 2009. There curtailment rates, at only a few percent of wind integration, suggests that integrating high percentages of renewables is anything but a slam dunk. (It also suggests that when the Nebraska studies predicts 0% curtailment for 40+% wind integration, that maybe we should question the accuracy of their cost estimates.)
Steven
Glenn Doty
March 8, 2011
Tam,

I don't see how you can't see it all... but it seems that you just don't. You stated that "the green tags go directly to the utilities."

What do you believe green tags are? They are private subsidies! They go to the utilities, and the utilities are free to purchase energy from solar providers at a much higher price and maintain profit. That means... wait for it... ... IT'S A SUBSIDY!

Sheesh. How many more funds go to the utilities? How many more feed-in-tariffs, renewable standards, etc... all serve to help provide support for the solar market? It's all subsidies. Trying to pretend that they aren't there... and that solar can "stand on its own" is false. It's just false. Arguing from your stance reduces your credibility. It's the REASON I cannot believe you when you STATE something on this forum - and so I must demand evidence.

As for the MPR, you provided a useful link in a different forum, which showed that for 279 days of the year, all of the energy collected by solar would be purchased at 135% of MPR, and for 87 days of the year, roughly 60% of the power would be purchased at 315% of MPR with the balance being purchased at 135% of MPR.

Here is your link to remind you:
http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CDEQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cpuc.ca.gov%2FNR%2Frdonlyres%2F6872F3D2-556E-42B1-ADD2-E2630F65EDD5%2F0%2FSCEPresentationforSolarPVProgramWorkshopfinalv2.ppt&rct=j&q=sce%20solar%20pv%20program&ei=PNpjTfeGMoG8sQOFnKzSCA&usg=AFQjCNEAAA25Nml_QQHhrarF_BTn4yI3LA&sig2=a6OerfiD2Feg4EAn12ktJA&cad=rja

That equates to ~160% of MPR if you were stupid enough to believe summer production and winter production were equal, or ~190% of MPR if you were to use more rational assumptions for seasonal production. That's between $176/MWh and $209/MWh - in order to meet the MPR.
Tam Hunt
March 8, 2011
Glenn, LCOE for solar in CA at the 5-20 MW range is, based on the fact that it's below MPR for new contracts(if these lead to construction of real projects) around $110/MWh with Time of Delivery added on top of that. This figure is based on the contracts forwarded for CPUC approval by SCE last month. We don't know the actual contract price b/c that's confidential but we do know that the contracts are below MPR, which is about $110/MWh, varying by the year the project goes online and by the length of the contract.

There is no additional price paid for green tags in CA. The MPR includes 13% for the anticipated cost of greenhouse gas compliance and the green tags automatically go to the utility buying the power. There is no mandatory green tag market in CA yet - though there will be one starting in 2012, but with allowances given away for free, not auctioned.

Again: the only subsidies wholesale solar receives in CA and other states is a federal 30% cash grant OR tax credit and accelerated depreciation. I'm in this market and I am highly incentivized to find any additional subsidies - there ain't any others.
ANONYMOUS
March 8, 2011
Tam--more good information from you. Wholesale solar depends on leveraged finance in addition to the tax incentives you cite.
Responding to DOTTTTTY is not worth your time--you would have to pay me to even attempt to "straighten" him out.
Late last year my company charged a client $4.45/W for ~1.15MWp--1st tier modules, ballasted ground mounts (expensive) --a bankable system in every sense and yet still a relatively small installation compared to "wholesale"/utility. Greater scale or pushpole mounts would have reduced costs significantly.
ANONYMOUS
March 8, 2011
Yay Solar! Finally, affordable electricity for everyone.
Glenn Doty
March 8, 2011
Tam,

What LCOE is determined for wholesale power to compete in Southern California? It takes an LCOE of less than $60/MWh to be competitive in most of the country. Yet in Southern California solar energy is genuinely competitive with mid-day peak energy rates even at LCOE's exceeding $200/MWh. Yet somehow we are to assume that ONLY the 30% cash grant is offered as incentives? Remember that regulation is also a form of government subsidy - it's just payed directly through ratepayers rather than through taxation/distribution that is typically associated with subsidies.

It all works out to equal the same thing, however... people paying more for higher priced solar energy rather than paying less for coal-sourced energy, do directly to government intervention in the market. I support this, to an extent (I think 200+/MWh is excessive)... but I cannot see how you do not recognize this to be the truth of the matter.

I also have trouble believing there are no green-tags (private subsidies) offered in Southern California! That seems like too significant a resource for the power companies to simply abandon. Is there some regulation forbidding such?
Tam Hunt
March 8, 2011
Glenn, as I've mentioned, the only subsidies wholesale solar receives is the federal 30% cash grant OR 30% investment tax credit, and accelerated depreciation, which is available for most power plants. That's it. There are no state rebates for wholesale solar. Only for retail solar, which don't receive accelerated depreciation unless it's owned by a commercial entity.
Glenn Doty
March 8, 2011
Anonymous,

First, my name is Glenn Doty. It helps to be able to read when attempting to contribute to a discussion. Please learn to read.

Second, my name is Glenn Doty. You know that because I am not craven enough to hide behind anonymity.

Third, $5-$6/W is actually the average cost seen for large scale industrial solar over the last year - based on extrapolations from DOE cash grants. If you're claiming that these projects are defrauding the government, then that's a significant claim... but I would like some evidence of that other than that of an anonymous claim from an illiterate cretin.

Fourth, though $5-$6/W has been seen over the past year, I chose throughout this forum to take the exagerated claim of $3.8/W or $4/W at face value, as the larger issue with the original article in question was a serious error in LCOE calculations... but I suppose one would have to be able to read to discern that, so I shouldn't hold that against you.

Merely attacking someone because they say something different than whatever talking-head you chose to worship will do nothing to advance the actual GOAL - which is supposedly decreasing the net environmental damage done while providing sufficient energy for society. Perhaps when someone says something different than your worshiped mouthpiece it deserves some inquiry. Who knows, you might just learn something.


Tam, the $24/MWh is indeed incorrect. The subsidies change year-to-year, and I had merely trusted a third-party watchdog group's information. Upon googling I found that information to be over-simplified to the point of giving a false impression. However, to claim that the 30% given by the federal government is ALL that California solar receives to compete is far more false. There are state, county, city, municipal, and private subsidies and regulations that all add up to more than $100/MWh in total advantages for So-Cal solar.

It is simply not competitive without significant help.

You should know this.
ANONYMOUS
March 8, 2011
Andrew,
CLEARLY you have no idea what you are writing about.
NONE.
Have an unpleasant day--you and Glen deserve it.
ANONYMOUS
March 8, 2011
Glen-dotty,
You haven't a clue on pricing for large PV projects--your $5/W claim is laughable.
Even your first sentence screams "I am an idiot!"
Tam Hunt
March 8, 2011
Steven, what you write is not the case for most studies I've reviewed. For a good summary chart, see slide 55 of this presentation from Lawrence Berkeley Labs' most recent wind market report:

http://eetd.lbl.gov/ea/ems/reports/lbnl-3716e-ppt.pdf

Again, the general conclusion is that wind and other variable renewables can be integrated to high penetrations for about $10/MWh on most grids.
Andrew W
March 8, 2011
It is incredibly clear that Solar needs more R+D, not development deals. It is not a solution and we're wasting billions on expensive deployment of a technology that isn't efficient or reliable.
ANONYMOUS
March 8, 2011
Tam writes in comment #42:
"The general conclusion from these studies, as Lawrence Berkeley Labs has shown, is that renewables can be integrated on most grids up to 15% or higher with negligible additional costs and as penetration moves up to 25-40% integration costs are generally about 10% on top of the price of power from the variable renewables. So a good assumption is about $10/MWh for integration of variable..."

I've seen some of these studies. They tend to assume that significant improvements will be made to the grid, which fans of distributed energy, such as the author of the original article that spawned this tread, seem to oppose. Also, the DOE tends to do these studies for the easiest parts of the country such as the southwest were renewable resources are good; the US southeast, which has very poor wind resources, is a tougher case. Beyond about 30% intermittent resources things get tough even with an enhanced grid and we are behind the curve on plans to address the hard 70% of the problem. Exponential extrapolations of previous growth won't tell you anything about that so they will fail miserably.
Steven
Tam Hunt
March 7, 2011
Glenn, for the last time: the SCE 5-20 MW projects forwarded for approval to the CPUC are competitive on a non-peak basis. This is what MPR means. These projects are all below MPR.

There is no $24/MWh subsidy for solar power. There is only the 30% section 1603 cash grant (until 2012) OR a 30% investment tax credit (until 2016).

This is a really basic mistake reminiscent of your 10-fold calculation error in an earlier thread. You may want to dial back your certainty and stridency until you have a better handle on the facts.
ANONYMOUS
March 7, 2011
@ Glenn: Very well said.
Glenn Doty
March 7, 2011
Tam,

The point that I, Andrew, and Steven have continuously made - and a point which you have not addressed - is that there is a very sharply limited scope for a technology that can only compete with peak pricing in Southern California.

If the installed cost is $4/W, then the 30% cash back would equal a LCOE subsidy of ~$60/MWh, plus the additional direct federal subsidy of $24/MWh. When you need $84/MWh in subsidies to compete with a MPR that is more than 50% higher than nationwide average prices to begin with... then your technology is not yet competitive. It cannot make sense to call that technology competitive. IT ISN'T!

That said, I support some subsidies for alternative energy. I think some modest subsidies respecting the mitigation of global warming damage, SO2 and NOX health concerns, and fly-ash pollution... should all be considered. But there's no way that number adds up to $84/MWh, or closer to $200/MWh in the rest of the country. You can even credit the impact on labor by noting that some of the money spent on labor would reduce budget costs for unemployment and welfare payouts...

But none of these assumptions can get you to a justified subsidy in which solar energy is currently competitive, which means that IT IS NOT COMPETITIVE.

I actually think that 2016 is a reasonable target for stand-alone competitive solar projects, though I think most of those will be waste/solar-thermal dual-sourced organic rankine cycles.

The problem that I have with exaggerating the performance and potential of current technology is that it makes it much more difficult to get funding for novel technology. If current technology can achieve X, why bother investing in something new? It's more dangerous than you believe. Consider that the DOE has invested in nothing new (other than the lunacy of HT-STCC) since its founding in 1977.

If what we have "works" according to the propaganda, there's no reason to fund something new... and we NEED something new.
Andrew W
March 7, 2011
Tam: You continue to deny how expensive solar is and the article made that point with facts. I think Solar needs R=D, not development - not yet, at least.
Tam Hunt
March 7, 2011
Andrew, you continue to miss the point. The SCE contracts I just linked to, again, are for construction of ACTUAL projects - not theoretical projects or theoretical new technologies. This development is the bleeding edge of the solar industry, not the figures cited in the article you linked to. The article itself, states, however (accurately): "The slightly bumpy downward-­sloping line is approaching a wide horizontal swath labeled "grid parity"—the stage at which electricity made using solar power will be as cheap as power generated from fossil fuels." The point of Lacey's article, and the most recent developments in the solar biz, is that we are at that point now - with the two caveats I just mentioned: 30% federal subsidy and the fact that these are contracts for actual projects, not completed actual projects.

The article also focuses on R&D entrepreneurs who are trying to position their companies as the next big thing for solar, so their motivation is not to focus on the latest developments of today's technologies and today's pricing trends for actual projects. My motivation, as a technology-agnostic solar and wind developer, is to focus on today's pricing and likely future pricing of today's technologies. And my focus on these issues has been richly rewarded by recent market developments.
Andrew W
March 7, 2011
If you are interested in evidence about Solar energy, look here:

http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/32383/?mod=chthumb&a=f

It is an article full of facts and references and the challenges of solar energy. One chart shows solar costs to be $.19-$49 per kWh, consistent with other studies, including DOE.
ANONYMOUS
March 7, 2011
"If you want some EVIDENCE, just Google it."

Priceless.
Tam Hunt
March 7, 2011
Steven, a few additional points:

1) The MPR will go down about 10% max, based on current NG prices. I've played with the Excel model used to create the MPR (it's public, you can Google it) and while NG prices are important, even the dramatic reduction in NG prices over the last couple of years are likely to only lead to a 10% reduction in MPR.

2) The costs of intermittency re solar are minimal. Many studies have been completed in the US on high penetration of intermittent (variable is a more accurate word b/c production generally ramps up and down in a curve, not abruptly as "intermittent" suggests) renewables like wind and solar. The general conclusion from these studies, as Lawrence Berkeley Labs has shown, is that renewables can be integrated on most grids up to 15% or higher with negligible additional costs and as penetration moves up to 25-40% integration costs are generally about 10% on top of the price of power from the variable renewables. So a good assumption is about $10/MWh for integration of variable renewables at higher penetration levels. We are no where near in CA to this level, however, with wind at about 3% and solar at less than 1%. A recent study by CAISO found that CA could reach the 20% RPS mandate with no additional balancing resources added (we'll reach that level in 2012 or 2013).

3) As for solar markets and growth curves more generally, yes, Germany and Italy are looking to reduce their FITs. But this has been happening on an ongoing basis and every year we hear that the market in Germany is going to collapse and crater the solar industry with it. It hasn't happened b/c degression of German FITs happens as a RESULT of price reductions and the market has grown each year even as German FITs have degressed repeatedly. Ditto in many other countries More generally, we now have FITs in about 70 countries and many new markets will take up any slack in major markets like Germany - particularly China and the U.S.
ANONYMOUS
March 7, 2011
Solar electricity is not affordable by ANY standard. Trying to use it for peak power in CA doesn't make it affordable, it just confirms it is 4-5 times more expensive than current electricity generation methods.
Tam Hunt
March 7, 2011
For anyone who is genuinely interested in evidence, I link again to Stephen Lacey's recent story on a number of 5-20 MW solar project contracts that have been forwarded by Southern California Edison to the CPUC for approval. All of these contracts are for pricing below the Market Price Referent. As I've mentioned before, the risk is that these projects won't get built b/c auctions (these contracts resulted from an auction in 2010) encourage a "race to the bottom" on pricing. But with the pricing trend for PV panels continuing downward (they've fallen more than 30% in the last two years) due to a huge glut of panels in 2011, there is a good chance these will get built.

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2011/02/solar-pv-becoming-cheaper-than-gas-in-california

And here's a link to the actual regulatory filing:

http://votesolar.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/SCE_Advice_2547-E.pdf

These prices do include a 30% federal cash grant (or tax credit) and accelerated depreciation. But the broader point is clear b/c most power generation projects receive accelerated depreciation and a 30% cash grant (or tax credit) pricing differential is a rounding error from a broader market trend perspective - particularly as equipment prices continue to plummet.

These developments are a resounding endorsement of previous federal and state policy on solar. While it has taken a while, solar is now at or fast approaching grid parity. We are in the exponential growth curve elbow and I anticipate that the solar tax credit will not be extended after 2016 (when it expires) because solar will be able to stand on its own at that point.

As for wind power, a recent survey of market analysts by Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that wind turbines can now produce power at prices comparable to even coal in some markets because turbine prices have also plummeted recently due to increased supplies:

http://noir.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aXg8_UGPsPHY
Andrew W
March 7, 2011
@ Glenn: I agree there may be a future for Solar and I encourage more R+D spending, not development deals. Solar is an over-hyped technology. The billions we've spent on development deals in the last 2 years would have been better spent making the technology affordable.

I agree with you that Tam's assertions are made without evidence. Anyone who believes they do not need to provide evidence and we should rely on the "expert status" reminds me of the Enron guys or Bernie Madoff. Let the buyer beware.
Glenn Doty
March 7, 2011
Tam,

You shouldn't bring up someone in a derogatory fashion if you are too cowardly to address them. THAT is rude and counterproductive.

I called you a liar because you lied, just as you did here, in claiming that you "explained in detail to Glenn (to no avail)". I heard your "explanations" and asked for a single item of evidence to back your claims. You then linked to a powerpoint where policy was outlined and SPECULATIONS were discussed. The POLICY backed my assertions, not yours, and not one item in the powerpoint showed a price deal negotiated at terms which you claimed.

You inevitably appeal to anonymous authority ("someone told me", or "I have special knowledge", or "I've met people who have done this...", but you can never seem to provide a link for numbers. I've been challenging you on this for more than a month, so it's not like you couldn't google something if the pricing you claim is nearly as prevalent as you claim.

It isn't.

So I call a stupid idea a stupid idea - and using batteries to provide grid storage for solar IS stupid with the current prices I'm aware of (those that I have found through extensive research - not those that were CLAIMED and never supported).

Calling something that is stupid "stupid" is not unproductive. It's merely a statement of fact. What IS unproductive is making a claim that you cannot justify or offer evidence of, then when you're called on it running away from that thread, then appearing in another thread making the same claim.

Either defend you claims or back off of them. I think you are exaggerating the truth, and I'd like evidence to the contrary.

Whatever the case may be, don't gossip about someone that you are afraid to talk to, especially when the gossip is false.



Andrew,
There is a future for solar, and after the current industry shake-out (caused by market glut and resulting in solar cells priced at a loss) the industry will be leaner and more competitive. It may be truly competitive by ~2016.
ANONYMOUS
March 6, 2011
Andrew_w: Tam provides lots of data in support of his arguments. I don't always agree that these data support his conclusions but at least Tam understands how to conduct a discussion. It is a skill you should practice; as you improve perhaps you will realize the distinction between supported and unsupported claims and between attacking someone's opinion and attacking someone directly.
Steven
Andrew W
March 6, 2011
@Steven: Thank-you for pointing out that Tam had not provided any actual evidence, but rather wishful thinking. I have not attacked him and i have only pointed out the incredible amount of "hype" regarding solar. It is over-priced and under-performing, as you noted.

The solar house of cards is being to collapse. I would hate to see more people lose money because of solar-industry cheerleaders. Solar belongs in the lab until it is cost-effective.
ANONYMOUS
March 6, 2011
Tam writes in comment #34:
"I have demonstrated repeatedly in this forum and others that solar PV is today cost-effective as a peak power resource, at least in California... "

I'd say "argued" is fairer than "demonstrated." Solar PV is getting close to CA's MPR if one includes the 30% Federal subsidy (which cannot continue if solar gets a large market share) and bonuses for production that aligns well with demand peaks, and neglects entirely the cost of intermittency (which also cannot continue if solar really catches on). We should also remember that the MPR includes an out of date approximation of natural gas prices; at the next updating the MPR will go down significantly.

I think Tam's assessment of the future growth of PV are overly optimistic. However, I find Andrew's ad hominem attacks rude, ineffectual, and unwarranted.

Tam has argued at times that solar PV is undergoing exponential growth. Much of the growth it has experienced has been due to oversized European FITs. This REW article:
"http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2011/03/flexible-french-fits-higher-biogas-lower-pv-tariffs-coming"
mentions French FIT cutbacks aiming for a 500 MW/year target and also mentions a German target of 3500 MW/year. Thus, two leading markets are talking about decreases from 2010 consumption and a plan for constant rather than exponentially rising demand. With PV capacity now greatly in excess of PV demand, and major changes in the European markets, some of the recent PV price declines are likely due to a death spiral within the industry.

Steven
Tam Hunt
March 6, 2011
Andrew, people have become very tired of your recycled talking points. You don't modify your views based on facts. I have demonstrated repeatedly in this forum and others that solar PV is today cost-effective as a peak power resource, at least in California (and increasingly other areas), and for larger systems also cost-effective as an "as available" resource. And costs are still declining precipitously.

I am certainly an advocate for solar and other renewables - anyone who cares about the planet and our kids' future should be. But I don't let my advocacy, or the fact that I have chosen (b/c I care about these issues) to make this field my livelihood, affect my integrity.

I value honesty above all virtues b/c it is the basis for all other virtues. I do not believe the ends justify the means. And, thankfully, in the case of renewables we are now in a very exciting time where most trends are extremely favorable to renewables.

Solar, wind and other renewables make sense now based not only on "being green" but also "making green." They're good for the environment and the wallet.
Andrew W
March 4, 2011
I didn't characterize Tam as a cheerleader, I said he WAS a cheerleader. People understand that those making money from solar schemes will exaggerate the benefits and defend the technology. Solar is not ready for deployment because the costs far outweigh the benefits.

As far as DOE is concerned the majority of their loan guarantees for the last two years WILL become the equivalent of grants. Solyndra is headed to bankruptcy and EverGreen is next. Plus, there are several win schemes funded with "stimulus funds" that are about to unravel.

I believe our government (DOE) has a responsibility to subsidize R+D, not development deals. Solar isn't ready for prime time because it is over-priced and under-performing by all measures.

Tam makes money when people believe solar schemes are good investments - they are NOT. Solar belongs in the lab until it is competitive.
ANONYMOUS
March 4, 2011
Andrew:
It is impolite to characterize Tam as merely a cheerleader and I don't think he has ever explicitly endorsed Solyndra. On the other hand, you seem to conflate EVERY DOE loan guarantee with a pure subsidy, which is simply not the case. If you have specific criticisms about specific deals that is a subject for discussion. If you want to convince people you might want to stick to the facts.
Steven
Tam Hunt
March 4, 2011
Steven, I wasn't suggesting "trust me." I was suggesting that your assumed superior expertise in facts and policy was unwarranted. I am equally distrustful of statements based on asserted expertise without facts. As for Glenn, I have stopped responding to him directly b/c I have found his approach unconducive to reasoned debate (throwing words like "fool," and "stupid" around is not reasoned debate).

Anyway, the bottomline here is that things are changing rapidly and in one direction only: toward dramatically lower costs for renewables, dramatically higher penetration and the potential for storage to play a substantial role in grids in coming years. You don't have to trust me - just stay tuned to these changes as they unfold.
ANONYMOUS
March 4, 2011
Tam,
You did indeed make an incontrovertible statement that "storage makes sense when it costs less than the power stored can be sold for." In the past you have made such statements during discussions related to battery storage which might lead someone to infer that that technology was able to meet such a criteria. Glenn presented a reasoned argument that battery storage of solar PV cannot meet such a goal. In comment #10 you implied that Glenn was too stubborn to listen to your patient arguments, which, incidentally, never seemed to address directly Glenn's economic arguments. My comment #18 was in response to that. Usually when someone with a string of impressive credentials and enough grey hair to suggest vast experience tells me to "trust him" because he is aware of "many subtleties" he does not have time to go into he turns out to be wrong. "Trust me" always strikes me as a phrase one uses when one lacks any more cogent argument and I suspect I am not alone in finding it unconvincing....
Steven
Glenn Doty
March 4, 2011
Tam,
Your statement isn't QUITE incontrovertible. The truly incontrovertible statement is as follows:

Energy storage makes sense when the net gain from the sale of stored energy exceeds the net gain from the energy sold direct to market without sales.

THAT is the reason why most of us are so harsh with the idea of storing solar energy. The gain in value is simply not sufficient to justify the cost of storage - ie. even if some combination of pricing schemes and subsidies would allow a solar facility to realize a profit from storing solar energy, that same solar facility would realize MORE profit from direct sale-to-market.

The current economics simply do not ever present a situation within the continental U.S. where the above incontrovertible statement is true.
Andrew W
March 4, 2011
Instead of listening to a cheerleader (Tam) about Solyndra, this is what the Wall Street Journal has said:

The U.S. Department of Energy, and the loan guarantee it issued to Solyndra, have come under scrutiny with the arrival of the new House of Representatives. The chairman of the House Energy Committee, Rep. Fred Upton (R. Mich.) earlier this month requested documents from the DOE about the loan guarantee, raising questions as to whether it was a good investment choice.

Questions about the company's viability arose after it pulled its registration to go public in June of last year. Two months before that, accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP also raised doubts about the company's ability to continue as a going concern. Solyndra last summer also replaced its founding chief executive with Brian Harrison, and has also shut down its first factory, laying off workers, to cut down costs. Finally, the company's costs to produce its solar panels have been significantly higher than those from competitors in China.

In the meantime, the company's value has dropped precipitously. Investors were contemplating a valuation of $200 million to $250 million last year when the company was planning to raise the new equity, an idea it has since abandoned, according to two people familiar with the situation. That's down from a value of more than $1 billion in 2008, at the height of the market.

Link through for the full article here:

http://blogs.wsj.com/venturecapital/2011/03/03/the-daily-start-up-solyndras-fading-star/

Solyndra is headed to bankruptcy Court.
Tam Hunt
March 4, 2011
Steven, my point was that your statements on my mooring or lack thereof to the facts assume that you have a better handle of the facts and policy issues than I do. This is an unwarranted assumption. I'm in this stuff as much as anyone is in CA and I take part in these discussions so that I can learn more but also educate. There are many subtleties that I don't have time to go into - including on the storage issues. Also, take note of what I wrote in my earlier comment: I made a simple statement that is incontrovertible: storage makes sense when it costs less than the power stored can be sold for. Period. Actual costs of storage compared to actual price paid for stored power are a different issue and markets are exploring these issues as we speak.
ANONYMOUS
March 4, 2011
Tam,
I am not quite sure what your point is in comment #19. I will stipulate that you have considerable experience in legal matters relating to the CA energy markets and are well exposed to the range of views espoused by various interested parties involved in such markets. Such experience does not typically confer any measure of omniscience about matters of technological feasibility or even sound economic principles. I might be convinced by force of ideas on such matters, but vague claims of experience as much less compelling. If you think the KEMA study you pointed to is the final word on the matter this viewpoint is at variance even with the authors of the study who called for more comprehensive modeling.
Steven
Tam Hunt
March 4, 2011
Some recent news on Solyndra:

http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/solar-summit-2011-solyndra-speaks-out

I have no opinion on Solyndra but it is indeed premature to say they will fail or succeed. Having raise a billion dollars in private capital and selling over 100 MW of product already suggests they may well succeed.
Glenn Doty
March 4, 2011
Andrew,

Not all solar companies are the same. Again, we go back to the fundamentals. Several companies are selling products at cost, and they are paying their loans back while making a small profit. Other companies - like Soylindra - grab headlines by selling their products at a heavy loss, and those headlines then help them secure large second-round investments... those are scams.

I think that most traditional polysilicon-based PV companies and all CSP companies are pretty straight-up and are scraping by (though most of them are moving their facilities to China).

But I haven't seen much evidence that the thin film market is playing legitimately, and so I believe most of the loan guarantees to thin-film companies may ultimately default. However, even then the U.S. government doesn't lose all of its investment, merely some portion of that investment is lost as the company is sold off.

The true crimes are when utter BS technology like algal oil gets loan guarantees from the DOE. Green Freedom, or whatever it called itself, got tens of millions in loans and grants from the DOE, and 70 million from private investors... and ultimately sold 350 gallons of jet fuel to the Air Force for $6/gallon.

THAT is a case where the DOE lost 100% of its investment, but those cases are largely restricted to the utter crap technologies that the DOE is investing in for transportation alternatives. Solar has trouble competing and may lose out in the end, but we aren't losing more than 20-30% in most of these cases.
ANONYMOUS
March 4, 2011
Andrew_W:
There is a reliable customer willing to sign a long term contract for the power generated by the Solyndra venture you refer to. Under such conditions the risk to the DOE from the loan contract guarantee seems minimal. If you want to argue about the wisdom of any customer signing such a contract or the general practicality of this type of generation you might be able to make a case. Repeatedly (in thread after thread) stating categorically that the company "NEVER had a chance to repay their loans" without any further evidence is the type of claim I expect only from someone that is trying to be deliberately obtuse. Repetition is not nearly as convincing as you seem to think it is.
Steven
Andrew W
March 4, 2011
. . . and these DOE "loan guarantees" for solar schemes WILL default and that makes them a kinda "deferred grant." It allows the ability to have solar/wind cheerleaders say things like Tam, but they are all defaulting. In fact, everyone knew they would.

Solyndra is the first of many solar-wind defaults.
Tam Hunt
March 4, 2011
Loan guarantees are not grants. They simply provide the backing of the federal government in the event of default. The actual cost to taxpayers is a small fraction of the loan guarantee amount and the benefit to loan guarantee recipients is a point or two lower interest rates on loans.
Andrew W
March 4, 2011
Steven: A "loan guarantee" to a Company that NEVER had a chance to repay their loans, like Solyndra - is the SAME as a "grant."

Solar technologies belong in R+D programs until they are competitive. Solar 'development schemes' only benefit developers.

Solar remains over-priced and under-performing. It's a bad investment for the private sector AND the public sector.
Tam Hunt
March 4, 2011
With all due respect Steven, you're not in CA markets as I am. I work with these programs on a day to day basis and bid into these programs as well as work with regulatory agencies on a regular basis.
ANONYMOUS
March 4, 2011
Glenn:
Storage does seem to have the seductiveness of a siren's call and unless one feels the constraints of economic realities I can see how tempting it would be to go astray. I've attempted to retie Tam to the mast, but I doubt my knots will hold (broad grin).
Steven
ANONYMOUS
March 4, 2011
Tam
regarding your comments in comment #15, I think it is important to maintain a distinction between the possible utility of storage to mitigate intermittency and its possible use to time shifting to get peak pricing. Intermittency mitigation is a complex issue and the modeling done in the KEMA study cannot be regarded as comprehensive. I will grant you that storage may play a role in certain types of environments to deal with intermittency; this type of storage would typically not be closely coupled with a given facility though. At modest renewable penetration levels (CA's 33 target isn't modest in this sense) I suspect that dispatchable generation is more feasible than storage but we will probably see further studies on this issue as various technologies evolve.
Steven
Glenn Doty
March 4, 2011
Steven,

I made all the same points to Tam in the thread that he mentions... but he's still too enamored of batteries to allow arguments to penetrate.

The actual contract with SCE states that from June-September on weekdays that are not holidays the company will pay 3X as much for energy between noon - 6pm as it does from 6am - noon or from 6pm - 10pm. So for 85-86 days/year you could cycle some portion of your energy from peak to a very unique super-"peak" pricing.
For the cheapest battery option available - the carbon-lead acid battery - that works out to an additional cost of ~$400/MWh that is stored from peak hours and sold to super-"peak" hours.

But Tam simply cannot get over his infatuation with batteries, nor can he let go of the fact that during 85-86 days of the year energy costs more for 6 hours than it does for the other 10 peak hours.

I wish you luck in convincing him... but he ignores numbers, and I don't understand why any other argument is necessary.
Tam Hunt
March 4, 2011
Steven, a number of larger CSP projects are planned in CA and AZ using storage. None have been built yet, to my knowledge. This is a young technology still, to be sure, and things always take longer to come to fruition than hoped. Also, solar and wind are already highly cost-effective from an investor's point of view in CA and many other states even without storage, so adding storage adds another layer of complexity and will generally make financing projects more difficult - mainly because banks and other financiers want above all certainty so will often shun anything that's not well-established.

Last, CA utilities are increasingly requiring Resource Adequacy (deliverability) from intermittent renewables, which requires sigificant grid upgrades in many situations but also provides a 10-20% boost to PPA prices (as far as I can tell given very limited data in this new area). Battery storage or other types of storage could be used to provide RA when coupled with renewables, to boost RA payments, or as stand alone projects conceivably.

KEMA recently completed a detailed report for the Energy Commission looking at the benefits of storage for CA's grid, concluding that 1,000 MW of battery storage on the grid could do the same job as 4,000 MW of traditional simple cycle natural gas plants to balance the grid at 33% renewables by 2020:

http://www.ovcr.ucla.edu/uploads/file/CA%20Energy%20Commission_PIER%20Final%20Project%20Report_June%202010.pdf
ANONYMOUS
March 4, 2011
Tam writes in comment #10: "As I've explained in detail to Glenn (to no avail unfortunately), storage with any intermittent renewable makes sense in any situation where the cost of storage is exceeded by the price paid for peak power."

While I don't agree 100% with Glenn's assessment, I think he actually does have a fair understanding of these issues. Even if we accept the SCE payment schedule (which is probably [?] just for 5 days a week and only in the summer) as something stable enough to structure a generation scheme for (real world markets are much more complex than this and the value of electricity at 11 AM does not differ that dramatically from the value at noon) we should realize that solar power already is aligned very well with this time window. Battery storage is VERY expensive and the additional revenue one could get from storing early morning PV generation until the 12-6 "bonus period" almost certainly would not compensate for these costs.

I will also point out that if peak shifting with battery storage was a viable option you could set up a business that only operated battery banks--it would not have to be closely coupled to some kind of generation. I am unaware of any such venture, which suggests that such storage isn't cost effective. Pumped hydro can make money at this type of game, but that technology is much less costly than battery power.

Thermal storage may find a small niche when coupled with solar thermal, but that is a special case....
Steven
ANONYMOUS
March 4, 2011
Great subject and very good comments. Naturally, this is a serious breach within the solar communities.

Two pro-PV comments: FSLR has stated several times they can install systems with PPAs in the 11-15 c/kWh range after subsidies. They have also said they can install large systems at $3/W. I think this is where the Chinese are, too.

EIA uses AC capacity factor, so their prices and CFs are all for AC - reduce them by 20% and you are back to DC watts and CFs closer to 20% (DC) than 25% (AC). PS - I have sat in on their pricing exercises and it is definitely making sausage. Don't look to them for leadership; they are just another venerable oil and gas authority playing at solar.
Glenn Doty
March 4, 2011
Steven,

You make a point with regard to the turbine costs, but thermal storage currently costs far more than turbines do. Furthermore, seasonal variation in peak wattage will make it extremely difficult to justify building storage to offset a larger turbine when the storage will only be needed to do so for 3 months out of the year. But I'll grant you that technology here is still evolving. I look at this as a no-brainer, as we are developing a much more efficient heat engine for dual-sourced low- and mid- grade heat recovery (it's an offshoot product of our WindFuels work). So I see turbine costs dropping quickly within the next few years.

I will back up and state that there is an advantage in a molten salt system to have some thermal storage, as a few passing clouds could allow the heat transfer fluid to gel up if there's no thermal storage at all on hand. But power towers are currently losing against parabolic troughs, and molten salt systems are not often considered in America... so I forgot to add that caveat.
ANONYMOUS
March 4, 2011
Andrew_W (of comment #8) often fails to distinguish between an outright subsidy and a loan guarantee, the latter, which is what Solyndra received, is not nearly as generous as the former. It is also useful to distinguish between economic realities and transitory investor sentiment as the latter often is not reflective of the former.
Steven
Tam Hunt
March 4, 2011
As I've explained in detail to Glenn (to no avail unfortunately), storage with any intermittent renewable makes sense in any situation where the cost of storage is exceeded by the price paid for peak power. It allows peak shifting. There are many hours of PV production that occur out of peak periods (noon to six PM for SCE, for example, four months a year). SCE will pay 3.13 times the base price of power for peak power. This adds up fast.
ANONYMOUS
March 4, 2011
Glenn writes in comment #1:
"First of all, there is no reason whatsoever to store solar energy. ANY storage for solar other than spinning reserves is just stupid."

For PV I am inclined to agree. For solar thermal a modest (say 4 hours) amount of storage allows you to use a smaller turbine than would be required if you wanted to use 100% of mid-day insolation. With current component prices the turbine cost might only be ~20% of the total cost, but turbines are a mature technology that is unlikely to experience significant cost declines whereas the other components (e.g., mirrors) are likely to achieve significant economies or scale (or benefit from improvements). Thus, balancing the size of the turbine and the amount of storage might be an important design consideration once the technology matures.
Steven
Andrew W
March 4, 2011
Solyndra - with $535 million DOE subsidy is failing. Investors have already lost more than $1 billion in value.

https://www.fis.dowjones.com/WebBlogs.aspx?aid=DJFVW00020110303e7330008f∏IDFromApplication=&r=wsjblog&s=djfvw
ANONYMOUS
March 4, 2011
The author remarks that "Five years ago, the two technologies were relatively comparable, but in 2011 there's no doubt that distributed solar PV is cheaper than concentrating solar power."

We should remember that solar PV has been the beneficiary of massive subsidies of late by several European nations, most notably Germany. The German preference for PV over solar thermal is quite understandable--they have basically no viable sites for solar thermal within their own borders.

If solar thermal had received a similar level of interest we would have a better idea of the relative merits of the two schemes. At the moment, however, there are only a few exploratory projects extant and it is WAY too early to predict what costs would be if the industry scales up.

I would also remark that the author usually chooses easy comparisons for distributed vs. central power because he considers distributed power in optimal locations. Suppose instead of considering distributed solar in CA we wanted to decide on the best option for Vermont. A large solar thermal plant is Nevada might be a much better supplier of Vermont's needs that local distributed PV. The Europeans are even considering solar thermal in the African desert, which has additional uncertainties because this would place a significant part of their energy supply outside of their own borders. They would not be thinking of such a plan if PV was the obvious choice.
Steven
ANONYMOUS
March 4, 2011
It seems this article could use some myth busting of its own!

The quote of a 10 cent/kWh LCOE for solar PV in CA seems out of whack with other estimates, for instance by the EIA:
http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/2009/05/12/levelized-cost-of-new-generating-technologies/

that predicts 21 cents/kWh for 2016 using a generous capacity factor of 0.25 which is only achievable with tracking.

Or even the baseline estimate in this new article on REW

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2011/03/finding-pvs-next-big-cost-reductions

which gives a 22cent/kWh value.

As for John's mention of a contract below the CA MPR of ~11 cents/kWh, we should note that these contracts apparently (according to Tam Hunt) have bonuses for supply during peak usage that amount to a ~25% increment over the course of a year. $0.11*1.25/0.7= $0.196 or back in ballpark of 20 cents/kWh of other estimates for PV. Also, this project has not been built yet and it is not unknown for low bids on projects to prove unworkable.
Steven
Tam Hunt
March 4, 2011
John, I find much to object to in this piece - your facts are significantly off in a number of places and your conclusions are far too certain. Pricing is a moving target for all technologies, so there is no set "price" as you suggest in your piece. I'll respond more on this later.

For now, I want to note that you've significantly misunderstood SCE's recent PV programs. The 250 MW of PV projects SCE has forwarded to the CPUC for approval (5-20 MW in scale) are not part of SCE's distributed rooftop project. It's a different program called the Renewables Standard Contract program, which began a few years ago for biomass only. It was expanded to all renewables soon thereafter and pricing was at that time set at Market Price Referent or below. It was changed by SCE in 2010 to be a reverse auction and they accepted only solar bids, though other technologies were allowed to make bids. It is VERY encouraging that these projects are all under MPR, but note that MPR changes by expected online year and contract length so we don't know that these projects are 11 c/kWh or below, or higher. We do know they're in that range for the base price. Time of Delivery payments are added on top, which gives a 25-30% boost for typical solar PV projects.

SCE's 250 rooftop solar PV program is a 5 year program that is ongoing. They've only built about 10 two MW projects so far under this program. They are also buying another 250 MW from third parties who bid into the program, with 50 MW per year being accepted. We don't know the pricing under this program b/c data is not released. The bid cap is 26 c/kWh but it is a certainty that accepted bids are far below this price.

More on CSP costs later...
Good Analysis. Here are more details on the subject:



Solar-Life Cycle
As with all generating resources, renewable or not, a number of tradeoffs must
be evaluated in order to identify the most suitable generating resources with
the lowest life-cycle costs. Today, CSP technologies are perceived as having
lower life-cycle costs than PV, and policymakers in the Southwest are incorporating
greater quantities of CSP into their RPS portfolios. However, CSP technologies also pose a number of risks that affect life-cycle costs in ways that haven't always been fully accounted. These risks include:
_ Potentially significant cost increases due to protracted and risky sitespecific development cycles. This can affect regulatory approval if proposed facilities are to be rate-based;
_ Reliance on technologies that are not commercially proven;
_ Reliance on technologies in limited production that may not be sufficiently available when demand suddenly increases, as has happened with wind resources. This might drive prices higher and cause schedule delays. As a related matter, maintenance costs might be higher than projected,
as is typical of commercially immature technologies and one-off designs.
- O&M complexities, with each facility requiring miles of pipe and thousands of joints and seals to circulate heated fluid. In the early years of operation of the parabolic-trough CSP plants in the U.S., built between 1985 and 1991, the loss of heat transfer oil through leaks was a significant
problem.14 Although much has been learned through the operation and maintenance of existing parabolictrough plants, it is unlikely that technological improvements will eliminate
the risks of leaks or the associated impact on performance and cost(Source: PV vs. Solar Thermal Distributed solar modules are gaining ground on concentrated solar thermal plants.
BY JONATHAN LESSER AND NICOLAS PUGA).

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India
Glenn Doty
March 3, 2011
John,

I spilled far too much ink arguing with Tam about the actual price of solar to waste similar time now. I'll look at your link, but the DOE is unaware of any costs within that range, as is every single research group to publish price data on PV costs... so I'll assume you're wrong and you can assume I'm wrong and we'll agree to disagree.

However, your LCOE costs are entirely... off. There's no mathematical construct that I can imagine that could get your LCOE costs based on your installed costs. Note in my reply that I used your assumption of $3.8/W even though I didn't (and don't) believe it.

As for the water, Nevada Solar One uses ~800 gallons of water/MWh. That costs a LOT in the desert. In fact, just the O&M costs alone (mostly mirror washing and water consumption) for NSO are higher than the total LCOE for coal-sourced power in most markets.
But that is the big hurdle for CSP.
John Farrell
March 3, 2011
As I noted in the piece, I did not include any state/local incentives or the federal accelerated depreciation in my estimate. You are right about the Nevada Solar One project capital cost, and the public data on their PPA suggested a price of 12-14 cents per kWh, which would account for the depreciation allowance.

The water issue is a significant one, but is probably no more significant than transmission lines, which also present a potent barrier to remote power station development of any technology.

As to PV prices, I respectfully disagree. Southern California Edison just noted that their 250 MW distributed PV project (which they claim was at an unsubsidized capital cost of $3.50 per Watt) came in entirely under the Market Price Referent (MPR), recently around 11 cents per kWh. I wrote about that here: http://tinyurl.com/5sod46o

It's not just industrial scale PV. Residential solar PV projects in Los Angeles and Long Island are getting installed costs of $4.22 and $4.67 per Watt, respectively, for group purchases.

-JF
Glenn Doty
March 3, 2011
First of all, there is no reason whatsoever to store solar energy. ANY storage for solar other than spinning reserves is just stupid. The money spent on storage is pure waste when you have a production curve that aligns well enough with peak demand periods.

Second, the major reason for the levelized cost difference between solar thermal and PV is summed up in one word: water. Solar thermal uses more water than any other power source, and it is invariably located in some of the dryest places on Earth.

If dry-cooling were utilized, solar thermal would be far more cost effective than PV.
Rooftop PV systems don't have tracking incorporated and therefore have considerably lower capacity factors.
The mirrors for a solar thermal system have a greater longevity with lower degradation rates than PV.

Right now, PV is winning the race - though it is still far from market viable without tremendous subsidies, and the actual costs are higher than outlined in this article...

Assuming $3.8/W for PV is correct (it isn't even close, even industrial projects are still ~$5/W), and assuming a 20% capacity factor, a 25-year lifetime with a 1%/year degradation, and a 7.5% discount rate for the capital... I get an LCOE of $216/MWh for PV.

Of course, for solar thermal this article blatantly lies about the cost. Nevada Solar One was completed 4 years ago at a final construction cost of $4.4/W, and new construction of the same design is projected to cost $3.9/W. Again, the issue that destroys this technology is the water, and that's going to take a significant work-around.

I don't see the benefit of PV advocates lying about their own performance and costs, nor do I see the benefit for them to lie about solar-thermal.

Both have seen price drops, and both may well become market viable in sunny regions within the next decade.

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John Farrell

John Farrell

John Farrell directs the Energy Self-Reliant States and Communities program at ILSR and he focuses on energy policy developments that best expand the benefits of local ownership and dispersed generation of renewable energy. His latest paper,...
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