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Thread: Why overly hasty investment in solar power is a bad idea. Or, the Obama 'A' list of solar power subsidies in contrast

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    Join Date
    Jan 2007

    Default Why overly hasty investment in solar power is a bad idea. Or, the Obama 'A' list of solar power subsidies in contrast

    People often ask me why I am so against throwing money at solar power, wind power, etc when it is 'clean', it would reduce US imported energy dependence, etc etc.

    Here's the reason:

    The average solar panel efficiency which is the present retail state of the art is approximately 10%.

    The solar power plants which Obama is pushing subsidies into via Abengoa Solar and Abound Solar will almost certainly involve efficiencies in the above stated range.

    These plants - which are slated to receive two billion dollars in federal loan guarantees - are non-trivial investments.

    The problem is this: Even as Europe and now the US is pouring money into 10% and 15% efficiency solar plants, the rest of the world will wind up building 20%, 25%, or even 30% efficiency solar plants.

    Do you think the resulting Chinese, Indian, Brazilian, and other more efficient solar plants will give those respective economies some advantage?

    And similarly, do you think there will be the will to tear down these already built solar plants and replace them with more efficient ones? Much less the future additional capital investment?

    If you really want alternative energy - and I do - the way is to incentivize the industry to improve its product towards the point where investment makes sense.

    For example: have an 'X' prize type award where the first company or companies that can demonstrate a 20% efficiency solar plant will receive $200M. ($400M will build a solar manufacturing line from scratch.)

    The prizes can be tiered - for 30% efficiency perhaps $500M can be awarded, etc etc.

    The true role of government should be to help the US alt-E industry survive first, to incentivize the industry to innovate second, and to ensure the availability of the means to proliferate once specific goals are met.

    Throwing money down lobbyist company's ratholes just guarantees future mediocrity.

    Edit 1: I forgot to add the the 2 companies in question - is it possible that Obama just chose the first 2 companies alphabetically listed?

    Edit 2: The efficiency numbers above do not refer to the solar panel efficiency itself. The solar panel efficiency is an important component, but the very act of collecting the generated electricity, transformation into another form for transmission, keeping the panels clean, etc etc all bear into the ultimate efficiency of the solar plant. Hence the 10% number.
    Last edited by c1ue; 07-05-10 at 09:55 PM.

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