Is the Solar Boom Real?

MIT Technology Review: “By all accounts, 2016 should be a great year for solar power providers.”

“But investors are not feeling the love. This week shares of U.S. solar leader SolarCity tumbled to a new low, while several other solar companies also took a pounding. Last month Nevada introduced sharp cutbacks in its program for net metering—the fees paid to homeowners with rooftop solar installations for excess power they send back to the grid …. Across the country, as many as 20 other states are considering such changes, which would dramatically alter the economics of rooftop solar.”

“The rosier projections for grid parity usually assume that both net metering fees from utilities and government subsidies will continue … Without subsidies, the picture looks a lot bleaker. If each state added a $50 per month fixed charge to solar owners’ bills—a change that many big utilities are fighting for—solar would be at grid parity in only two states.”

“All the recent turbulence aside, it’s likely that solar’s longer-term future in the U.S. remains bright. Renewable portfolio standards, the state-level mandates that establish minimum renewable-energy requirements, will drive the addition of 89 gigawatts of new solar capacity over the next 10 years … Solar prices will continue to fall; a study by Oxford University researchers, published last month in Research Policy, found that annual price declines of 10 percent will continue well into the next decade, enabling solar to supply 20 percent of global energy needs by 2027. And falling costs and wider availability of solar systems coupled with energy storage will enable solar households to store energy for later use, making rooftop solar more economical on its own—regardless of whether it ever reaches true grid parity.”

7 Comments

  1. Miss Sara;
    Google map “Death Valley” , now imagine an ocean of mirrors that can focus on a single point as the suns moves from east to west. Those mirrors heat up glycol (anti-freeze) and produce steam for a turbine.
    Now imagine a YUGGGGEEEE turbine that produces terra-watts. That scenario can produce all the electric that the USA uses and then some.
    I am not a pathfinder, GE has had it on the Books for over a decade.
    We just need the will to do it.

    1. Death Valley is a national park, and commercial development of the type that you suggest is prohibited by law in a national park.

      Of course, the project you propose could be done in other areas outside a national park, including desert areas of California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. Whether it makes sense to use the land for photo-thermal electricity generation, rather than photo-voltaic generation, is a different issue. Also, there are practical limits to the size of an individual field used for a photo-thermal generation of electricity. A photo-thermal generating facility large enough to produce even a gigawatt (much less a terawatt) would have to use multiple focus points.

      1. Yes Cal, an ocean many hundreds. You see pal once the steam is generated and the blades are spinning good thermodynamic fluid control will keep the blades spinning even on the shortest day of the year.
        It is all about the hours of sunshine.
        I used Death valley because I have driven out to LA via that route from Vegas and said to myself, “self there is a lot of empty desert out here” Energizing LA and Los Vegas should be a snap, at the very least.
        Good a place as anywhere else and great sun. If I was boss , I would go further south. But the beauty of mirrors is that focus can add mechanical advantages. You know the Newton telescope and all that jazz.
        PLUS, Cal , atomics have advanced well into the new century; cobalt ball technology and not being able to melt the reactor down.
        OR a brand new efficient grid that saves electric by being more stable at higher voltages.
        Making water spin a turbine is in its infantacy, do not get me started ……

        1. There is no doubt that it would make sense for the US to utilize some of its large desert areas for solar power generation. Photo-thermal units that use molten salt to store heat that can be used for electrical generation after the sun is down is one possible solution. Another is photo-voltaic units that either store excess electricity generated on hot days in battery packs (assuming battery technology continues to advance) or that use excess electricity generated during peak sun hours to pump water up into a storage facility that can then be used later to generate electricity by using that water for conventional hydro-power generation.

          However, as long as fossil fuel companies and the politicians they own continue to fight the switch to sustainable (and lower cost in the long term) forms of electrical generation, we aren’t likely to see a lot of these projects.

          1. The government sure owns a huge chunk of Nevada. I think you’d get a lot of political push back if you tried to promote such an idea. I sometimes wonder if any billionaires who like to give away decent chunks of their net worth would ever consider setting up a renewable energy power plant.

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