New England Solar Madness

New England Solar Madness

A previous article praised the ISO-NE for pre-planning the use of oil to save the grid from blackouts during this January’s freeze.

Data from ISO-NE can also demonstrate the madness of trying to rely on solar energy at any time of the year in the northern US, but especially during the winter months.

To begin with, the amount of solar insolation during the winter months is not conducive to generating electricity.

Figure 1 shows insolation levels across the United States.

Average annual solar resource using tilt latitude collector. Figure 1

Clearly, the New England and New York areas are among the nations poorest locations for attempting to generate electricity using solar energy.

The insolation level for Boston in January is 1.66 kWh/meter squared/day.

(All future references to solar insolation levels use kWh/meter squared/day. Tables of insolation levels are readily available from the Internet.)

For comparison, the insolation level in Phoenix, AZ during January is 3.25.

During January in New England, an average insolation level of 1.66 is the best that can be expected, but it doesn’t reflect the denigrating effect of snow covering PV panels.

The additional degradation caused by snow and other winter precipitation can be seen from this chart from the ISO-NE report for front-of-the-meter energy produced by PV solar installations during January of this year.

Chart from ISO-New England Cold Weather Operations Presentation,
January 2018. Figure 2

The light-green graph in Figure 2 represents the anticipated power produced from PV installations in New England during the period from December 24 through January 9, 2018.

The darker blue graph shows the actual power generated during this period.

Snow cover is most likely an important contributor to this tremendous degradation.

On some days, e.g., December 25 and January 4, there was virtually zero electricity generated by the sun.

For most other days, the amount generated could best be described as anemic.

Figure 3, a chart for behind-the-meter installations, demonstrates essentially the same anemic results.

Chart from ISO-New England Cold Weather Operations Presentation,
January 2018. Figure 3.

While the four summer months may provide better outcomes, the average year round insolation level for Boston is only 3.48.

These charts provide proof that solar is a bad method for generating electricity in most parts of the United States, especially in northern latitudes.

The facts are:

  • Solar is very expensive, especially when coupled with storage
  • Solar is unreliable, and is not available after the sun sets

The sole justification for using solar is to cut CO2 emissions.

Climate change hysteria is forcing very bad economic decisions on Americans.

. . .


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2 Replies to “New England Solar Madness”

  1. Various Subsidies for Wind and Solar: Because of the various subsidies, taxpayers and rate payers are forced to pay 1) higher monthly electricity bills, 2) higher prices for goods and services, and 2) taxes to finance various subsidies for wind, solar and other RE producers. Here is a partial list:

    – The federal ITC, 30% of the qualified portion of the turnkey capital cost. The federal ITC is an upfront, tax credit that can be applied against any of owner’s taxes.
    – The state ITC, usually a percentage of the federal ITC. The state ITC is an upfront, tax credit that can be applied against any of owner’s taxes.
    – The federal production tax credit, PTC, of 2.4 c/kWh for the first 10 years of operation, a subsidy of 2.4/5 = 48% of the US average wholesale price. No wonder owners are crowing about underbidding traditional generating plants. For example, in areas with good winds, low construction costs and low operation and maintenance costs (Texas, Great Plains), if an owner’s cost is 7.3 c/kWh and he deducts 2.4 c/kWh as PTC, then his bid price could be 4.9 c/kWh, which is sufficient to get the contract, in most cases, and “competitive” with traditional plants.
    – The federal and state tax savings due to rapid depreciation write-offs in about 5 to 6 years, much more rapid than normal utility equipment write-off schedules of 10 to 20 years. Having tax savings earlier, instead of later, is financially more advantageous.
    – The exemption of equipment purchases from the state sales tax and from the education property tax.
    – Selling wind electricity at generous feed in tariffs of about 9 – 10 c/kWh in areas with high capital costs and low capacity factors (CFs), such as New England.
    – Selling solar electricity at generous feed in tariffs of about 13.5 – 14.5 c/kWh in areas with high capital costs and low capacity factors, such as New England.
    – Selling renewable energy credits, RECs, which lower the utility purchased RE energy cost by up to 50%.
    – Loan guarantees by the federal and state government, which lower the interest rate of the funds borrowed from private entities, because the federal and state government assume the risk of the loans.

    Wind ITC and Wind PTC decrease in 2017, 2018, 2019, and expire in 2020.
    Solar ITC decreases in 2020, 2021, and expires in 2022.