Solar Power grows at 76% Annual Growth but you wouldn’t know it by the Power it Adds to the Grid

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 16th, 2013

Week in Review

The government subsidized solar power industry is growing like gangbusters.  Thanks to all those government subsidies.  For it appears if it weren’t for that there would be no solar power industry.  Except in space.  Where it is the best choice.  But here on earth?  It just doesn’t work that well (see U.S. Solar Market Grew 76% in 2012 by Ucilia Wang posted 3/14/2013 on Forbes).

Imagine 16 million solar panels blanketing large pieces of land and covering roofs of homes and businesses. That was the number installed in the United States in 2012, when 3.3 gigawatts of the solar equipment materialized to representing a 76% annual growth.

Cumulatively, the country had about 7.2 gigawatts of solar generation capacity from solar panels by the end of 2012, according to a report by GTM Research the Solar Energy Industries Association. That capacity doesn’t mean consumers could tap that much power from solar power projects. The amount of production depends on whether the sun is up and unobstructed by clouds.

So how much useable power do we get from that installed 7.2 gigawatts?  Well, to determine that we must look at the capacity factor.  Which is the ratio of actual power to potential power over a period of time.  According to the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center they calculated the capacity factor for a solar array in Arizona.  A pretty sunny place.  They found the capacity factor to be 19%.  So if we use that we can calculate the useable power from that installed 7.2 gigawatts.  Which comes to approximately 1.4 gigawatts (0.19 X 7.2 gigawatts).  Now, assuming a house with a 200-amp, 240-volt service uses about 30 amps on average over a period of time that 1.4 gigawatts could power maybe 190,000 homes.  Of course, this power can only go to the grid when the sun is shining.  And in Arizona that means the air conditioners are running at maximum capacity.  So if we assume these houses are consuming 100 amps on average when the sun is shining this 1.4 gigawatts may only power 57,000 homes.

The U.S. is one of the fast-growing solar energy markets in the world, thanks in part to the generous federal tax benefits, loans and grants to support solar technology development and deployment. On top of that, over half of the states require their utilities to sell an increasing amount of renewable electricity.

The declining prices for solar panels in recent years have helped to make them more attractive. The fall — 28% for wholesale silicon solar panel prices — came largely as a result of a global oversupply of solar panels and a fierce competition. While project developers and consumers benefit from the lower prices, dozens of manufacturers have filed for bankruptcy or needed financial rescues to stay alive.

According to the U.S. Census there were 132,312,404 housing units in 2011.  So that massive investment in government subsidized solar power can at best in the southern United States (where it is very sunny) power only 0.043% of the houses in the country.  While providing no power for our businesses or institutions.  Or our street lighting.  Which, of course, it can’t.  As the streetlights only come on when solar power doesn’t work.  When it’s dark.  Because the sun isn’t shining.

Which explains why solar power is so heavily subsidized by government.  Because it is so bad an alternative to coal-fired power plants that no private investors will provide the financing for these boondoggles.  Which is typical for any government investment.  For if there were any value in it private investors would be pouring money into it.  But they’re not.  Because solar power is a bad investment.  For it is such a poor producer of energy.  It has its applications.  Such as in space.  Where it is a cheaper alternative than running power lines to the International Space Station from a coal-fired power plant on earth.  But back on terra firma we are far better off running power lines from coal-fired power plants than from solar arrays.  Because coal is good.  Coal is right.  Coal works.  All of the time.  Even when the sun isn’t shining.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.

Blog Home