Rooftop Solar is Harmful, Part 2

The previous article showed how people are sponging off the grid with PV rooftop solar systems.

The claim is frequently made that fossil fuels get more subsidies than do renewables.

Like so many claims made by advocates for wind and solar, it’s also bogus.

Actually, the subsidies received by renewables have been far greater in recent years than those received by fossil fuels. See, The Big Untruth,

Perhaps the biggest untruth with respect to energy is that fossil fuels receive huge subsidies, while wind and solar receive few if any subsidies.

A report providing data on subsidies was produced by the Congressional Budget Office on March 13, 2013.

Testimony given to the House of Representatives included the following chart that provides a clearer picture of where tax preferences, i.e., subsidies, have been applied.

Chart from Congressional Budget Office Testimony to Congress
Chart from Congressional Budget Office Testimony to Congress

From 1977 until 1987, fossil fuels received large subsidies because of the oil embargo and efforts by the United States to achieve energy independence. For the next 18 years there were far fewer subsidies for either fossil fuels or renewables.

Beginning in 2006, subsidies increased substantially, and from 2008 to the present, renewables have received far larger subsidies than fossil fuels.

This puts to rest the idea that wind and solar should get subsidies, because they already do, and the subsidies renewables get are very large … much, much larger than are received by fossil fuels.

This doesn’t address whether wind and solar should get subsidies. The levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) for wind and solar is between two to four times higher than for natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plants. Subsidies for wind and solar require tax payers to pay twice: First by using taxpayer money for subsidies, second by forcing tax payers to pay higher prices for electricity.

Then there is the argument that everyone benefits from PV rooftop solar.

This is the most specious argument of all.

There are two ideas supporting this argument.

First, wind and solar eliminate CO2 emissions. This is only beneficial if CO2 emissions are the cause of global warming, which they probably aren’t.

Second, it’s been claimed, inaccurately, that PV rooftop solar means lower energy prices for all.

This was put forth in a Renewable Energy article, Rooftop Solar Capacity Benefits all Ratepayers.

The source of this claim appears to have been an interview given by Sanford Bernstein & Co.

But the interview pertained to wind and utility scale solar installations … NOT PV rooftop solar.

The crux of the Sanford Bernstein comments was that utility scale wind and solar lowered the price of electricity in wholesale markets.

The comments didn’t pertain to PV rooftop solar, yet the article claiming everyone benefitted form PV rooftop solar assumed they did.

Whether this was deliberate, or an honest error isn’t clear.

In Germany, wind and solar must be dispatched ahead of electricity from any other source. As long as the wind is blowing and the sun is shining fossil fuels are shut out of the market.

Grid operators in the United States in wholesale markets, such as PJM and ERCOT, require utilities to offer their electricity into the day-ahead market at their variable cost of production.

For renewable generators, the variable cost of production is zero.

Utilities who generate electricity using fossil fuels are therefore shut out of the wholesale market as long as wind and solar generated electricity is available.

PV rooftop solar isn’t involved in theses auctions.

PV rooftop solar has nothing to do with these wholesale auctions. Inferring they do is wrong and misleading.

Since some electricity from utilities using wind or solar is bid into the system at lower variable cost, total costs for consumers are theoretically lower. But the LCOEs of wind and solar, as they relate to the total market, are still higher.

Technically speaking, the Sanford Bernstein statement is correct, but it only applies to a small part of the total electricity market, which for PJM includes, wholesale, regulated, capacity, financial transmission and ancillary services.

Claims that PV rooftop solar lowers the price of electricity for everyone are bogus.

Another misleading claim is that PV rooftop solar reduces peak demand on the grid.

While it’s a possibility at a few locations, it’s been shown that peak demand generally occurs later in the day than when PV rooftop solar power is at its peak output. In other words, maximum PV rooftop solar output is typically out of phase with peak demand. It should be noted conditions favorable to PV rooftop solar affecting peak demand would realistically only occur in the summer when the air-conditioning load is great.

Could there be other creative uses for PV solar?

Some enterprising individuals may be able to install low-cost solar panels on a solar-tree or clothesline like structure in their back yard to offset some of the higher cost electricity during peak periods, if prices vary by the hour of the day. But this entrepreneurial activity, providing there are no subsidies or net metering involved, won’t seriously affect the grid. It’s akin to homeowners reducing their use of electricity during peak periods by washing the dishes at night.

For an interesting look at Going (Solar) Rogue see, However, Going Rogue focuses on small, low cost, backyard kits, and not $20,000 PV solar installations. It also ignores areas where insolation and cloud cover are unfavorable, which includes most areas north of the Mason-Dixon line.

If people want to install PV rooftop solar with the necessary batteries, and disconnect from the grid, they should be allowed to do so.

But saving the grid is important.

People living in cities such as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, etc., can’t use PV rooftop solar. Most roofs in big cities aren’t large enough to provide electricity for everyone in an apartment building, and many rooftops are shaded by adjacent buildings.

People living in cities must, for the most part, rely on the grid to bring electricity to them, whether the electricity is from wind turbines located in Montana, or from concentrating or PV solar generating facilities owned by the local utility.

Advocates of wind and utility based solar should oppose PV rooftop solar and net metering paying residential rates.

The phony claims concerning PV rooftop solar are mostly made by extreme environmentalists because of their demand that CO2 emissions be cut.

Extreme environmentalists attack the Koch brothers, and others who can factually refute their claims.

These two articles have addressed the importance of the grid and why PV rooftop solar could destroy the grid or force the government to take it over. In another two weeks Hucksters Pitching PV rooftop solar, and leasing of PV rooftop solar systems will be addressed.

Extreme environmentalists are in favor of big government controlling all aspects of energy production and usage, in part, to cut CO2 emissions.

For the rest of us? Be careful what you wish for.


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