Phony 'Solar Math' Never Adds Up

With the recent news that the California solar-energy company Solyndra has closed after receiving $535 million in federal loan guarantees, it is time to do some ‘green’ energy math.

First look at history. The environmental movement has evolved in three phases: A) It forced the cleanup of dirty rivers and polluted air. B) It expanded wilderness and obstructed economic development through extremes of law (species protection, lengthy impact statements, legal challenges by enviro groups and government etc.); and C) It now wishes to control all new energy production by obstructing reliable supplies like nuclear power and petroleum and replacing them with unreliable, taxpayer-subsidized supplies like solar and wind power.

And since I always have been a skeptic about ‘green’ energy, I recently did some personal solar math by visiting a solar dealer in upstate New York to get some facts and figures. This visit really opened my eyes.

I inquired about solar photovoltaic arrays which produce electricity from sunlight. There are no moving parts in these panels. They are a few inches thick and usually are installed on home roofs covering perhaps 500 square feet.

The average home today has an electricity bill of $1,200 per year for 450 kilowatt-hours of power per month (this is an average and an estimate). And roughly half of the monthly bill is a basic service charge to keep you connected to the grid. Yet the cost of the dealer’s recommended 5 kilowatt solar system for that same average home is … get this… $31,000! Yes, that is thirty-one-thousand dollars!

And according to the dealer pamphlet, the system will produce $874 per year in electricity. This makes no sense at all. So that is why the solar energy industry has arranged for state and federal governments to directly subsidize every solar panel.  You know, the governments that are broke. Because without direct subsidies, solar energy would not have a prayer of surviving in the market. And even with subsidies, these companies are folding left and right (like Solyndra).

Thus the $31,000 cost for your system in New York state gets a whopping $20,000 in tax credits and rebates from the taxpayers of New York state and from the federal taxpayers of America. And with that kind of math, I could own a Lamborghini.

Now consider some of the details of solar power, the first of which is that these panels are generally mounted on your house’s roof. Yet any carpenter worth his salt will tell you never, ever, ever to poke holes in your roof, that a good roof is the most valuable asset that your house has.

But no mind for solar power. Poke away! You are supposed to let some solar installer with who-knows-what qualifications poke dozens of holes in your roof to support your wonderful and very expensive panels. After all, it’s for ‘green’ energy…

Second, if you need to replace your roof, you need to take the panels down and then put them back up again. This is going to be expensive and would require the same solar technicians who installed the system. This process also would require extra time for the re-roofing to accommodate all the new supports.

Third, if you do not put the panels on your roof because your house is oriented the wrong way, you need big steel poles on your lawn to support the panels. The whole arrangement of panels and support structure makes your property look like an industrial plant. But no problem there. When environmentalists make the world ugly, it is a wonderful thing!

Fourth, after it snows, your solar panels can be buried for days afterward.

Fifth, don’t forget to clean them! Yes, solar panels lose effectiveness as they get dirty. And they are going to get dirty with dust, pollution, pollen and even smoke from your neighbor’s woodburning stove. So get out that ladder and the Windex! And watch your step! You could fall and paralyze yourself! But, hey, it’s all for solar energy!

And did I mention that solar panels today are made with cadmium tellurium, a highly toxic compound? So when those panels wear out, you will be stuck with a huge bill for a toxic waste disposal. But hey, that’s decades down the road. No problem! Why worry now?! Because it’s free solar energy! Hooray!

Oh, and one last thing – the dealer I visited only sells solar panels made in China. Meanwhile most of the components of a nuclear plant are made right here in America. You know, the nuclear plants that provide cheap electricity around the clock even at night when the sun is not out.

Here’s more: A year has 8,760 hours in it. Yet solar panels are said to be effective only about 1,000 hours per year in New York state because half the days are cloudy, and then there is something called “night” when the panels don’t work. And even on sunny days they produce little energy unless the sun is directly above them in the sky in the middle of the day with zero clouds.

So what is the solution to the low energy production of solar panels?

Well, since we need power around the clock, you would need to install 8.76 times as much capacity so that the lights don’t go out when the sun goes down (8,760 hours in a year versus only 1,000 hours of production for the solar panels).

Phew, this is getting complicated!

That is why a residential solar system must be way oversized and very expensive at 5 kilowatts as the dealer pamphlet recommended to me. On the other hand,  if the panels operated 24 hours a day 365 day a year like most power plants do (except for maintenance periods) the system for the average home would only need to be .625 kilowatts (.625 times 24 hours of operation is 15 kilowatt-hours per day, which equals 450 kilowatt-hours per month) and proportionally would cost much less.

In other words, the solar system needs to be 8 times as large, and 8 times as expensive because it is solar. See the math (the 8.76 number above)?

So if the solar system is so large and is producing electricity in one small part of the day, how can that electricity be used if the house needs varying amounts of power all day and night?

Answer: Any power that is not needed is fed back into the power grid for use elsewhere during the day. Your electric meter “spins backwards” and you get credit from the power company, most of it financed by the taxpayer of course. Lucky you.

And don’t forget that even if you use very little electricity from the grid, you still have to pay the utility’s service charge to be connected to feed the power back into the grid when necessary, and because your solar system can never provide the energy you need all day every day anyway. So you also have to pay $500 a year just for the utility service charge even though you – and more significantly the taxpayers – shelled out for your wonderful solar panels so that you could be “off the grid” and “making clean solar power”…

Yeah, right…

Boy this “free energy” is getting expensive. And remember that if you do not have solar panels and your neighbor does, you are paying for his solar panels through your tax dollars.

But then again, this is Environmentalist Math, where you eventually crumble up the paperwork and tell the homeowner that the government will take care of everything. Like you do with all of socialism. Which is why our government is flat broke today.

Please visit my blog at www.nikitas3.com for more conservative insights.