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(Fox Business)   Solar power is becoming more affordable for everyone. Well, it was starting to anyway   (foxbusiness.com) divider line 88
    More: Asinine, United States, Taiwan, U.S. International Trade Commission  
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8977 clicks; posted to Main » on 14 Feb 2014 at 4:09 PM (44 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-02-14 04:10:28 PM  
Should use the same arguments against American companies dumping cheap product made with near slave labor overseas in America and China. After all, if it's not fair for foreigners to do it why should Americans?
 
2014-02-14 04:11:52 PM  
Seems like a good thing to me... If I'm not mistaken, China is subsidizing solar panels produced there so much that they can be sold below cost. US firms simply can't do that, so it seems reasonable to act to protect their interests
 
2014-02-14 04:12:12 PM  
Reducing usage of fossil fuels is Soshulisms
 
2014-02-14 04:14:04 PM  

Charletron: Seems like a good thing to me... If I'm not mistaken, China is subsidizing solar panels produced there so much that they can be sold below cost. US firms simply can't do that, so it seems reasonable to act to protect their interests


This.
 
2014-02-14 04:18:07 PM  
I'm starting to wonder if this entire country has turned into one, giant Sisyphean task. We can't seem to get anything done, anything improved, or anything right. We piddle, twiddle and resolve; not one damn thing do we solve!

/ I've come to the conclusion that one useless man is a disgrace; two become a law-firm and three, or more, become a Congress
 
2014-02-14 04:18:46 PM  

Charletron: Seems like a good thing to me... If I'm not mistaken, China is subsidizing solar panels produced there so much that they can be sold below cost. US firms simply can't do that, so it seems reasonable to act to protect their interests


Or subsidize our own solar industry. But nah, let's just do that for oil companies.
 
2014-02-14 04:20:08 PM  
And yet the U.S. government seems incapable or unwilling to effectively or appropriately subsidize solar panel manufacturing in a similar manner to the Chinese, which results in this import glut in the first place.
 
2014-02-14 04:20:42 PM  
DNRTA...


It seems to me that considering how cost-effective solar power is, and how efficient it is as a renewable, almost inexhaustable power source, it should be much more widely implemented.  Like to the degree that it should become mandatory.

I interviewed with a company a few years ago.  They had a bunch of panels on their roof.  They produced enough power that the entire building was off the grid.  And they sold enough electric to the local power company, that maintenance on the panels was paid for.

Seems like a win win win situation to me.  I don't know why there isn't more emphasis on making this a reality.
 
2014-02-14 04:22:15 PM  

megarian: Charletron: Seems like a good thing to me... If I'm not mistaken, China is subsidizing solar panels produced there so much that they can be sold below cost. US firms simply can't do that, so it seems reasonable to act to protect their interests

This.


And yet Taiwan is like a whole other country, or something.
 
2014-02-14 04:22:17 PM  
Damm,  I was trying to score some cheap chinese solar panels to dry my pot crop this summer.
 
2014-02-14 04:28:50 PM  
Are government subsidies included when they're calculating the cost of solar energy?
 
2014-02-14 04:30:00 PM  

Calmamity: Charletron: Seems like a good thing to me... If I'm not mistaken, China is subsidizing solar panels produced there so much that they can be sold below cost. US firms simply can't do that, so it seems reasonable to act to protect their interests

Or subsidize our own solar industry. But nah, let's just do that for oil companies.


No! Wrong! China is wasting money providing us with stupidly cheap solar panels. Let's just take advantage of their dumb move.
 
2014-02-14 04:31:00 PM  

To The Escape Zeppelin!: Are government subsidies included when they're calculating the cost of solar energy?


They aren't included in calculating coal and oil prices.
 
2014-02-14 04:31:06 PM  

cefm: And yet the U.S. government seems incapable or unwilling to effectively or appropriately subsidize solar panel manufacturing in a similar manner to the Chinese, which results in this import glut in the first place.


It's difficult to do when you have members of Congress actively opposing anything but fossil fuels.
 
2014-02-14 04:31:41 PM  
Wow, Just WOW!!

Warehousing people to work for $2 a day making Iphones and Nike sneakers until the people commit suicide is fine but mess with Big Energy and then we get upset.
 
2014-02-14 04:32:55 PM  

megarian: Charletron: Seems like a good thing to me... If I'm not mistaken, China is subsidizing solar panels produced there so much that they can be sold below cost. US firms simply can't do that, so it seems reasonable to act to protect their interests

This.


If that was really the point Im sure it would be applied a little more broadly than solar pannels
 
2014-02-14 04:33:10 PM  
If there's an economic/national defense justification to maintaining a healthy domestic solar industry, we should handle it via subsidies of our own, contingent on demonstrated price/cost disparity. Duties are an inappropriately broad and crude tool for this. Particularly in an industry of so much growth and innovation. They'll hit legit overseas firms just as heavily as the illegitimate ones and cause unnecessary harm to the US market.
 
2014-02-14 04:33:17 PM  
We are gonna need a bigger fox!
Sumbuddy cut a new door in the Hen House and we need a bigger fox on that there door.

Git er dun!
 
2014-02-14 04:33:25 PM  
Pffffft...like the sun has even made an appearance in half of the country since God knows when. Not an issue.

/know it doesn't work that way
 
2014-02-14 04:33:33 PM  

durbnpoisn: I interviewed with a company a few years ago.  They had a bunch of panels on their roof.  They produced enough power that the entire building was off the grid.  And they sold enough electric to the local power company, that maintenance on the panels was paid for.


Solar can be mighty nice, but...if this were commonly the case, businesses would adopt it in droves without government regulation because money.  So it strikes me that there may be specific conditions in the case of this company at which you were interviewing that are not common.
 
2014-02-14 04:34:03 PM  
Do I trust Fox Business or the Department of Energy?
 
2014-02-14 04:35:14 PM  

sinner4ever: Wow, Just WOW!!

Warehousing people to work for $2 a day making Iphones and Nike sneakers until the people commit suicide is fine but mess with Big Energy and then we get upset.


Since when were people not upset about nike and iphone slave labor?
 
2014-02-14 04:35:21 PM  

Misch: Do I trust Fox Business or the Department of Energy?


And you are sure there is a difference, why, exactly?
 
2014-02-14 04:37:20 PM  

YixilTesiphon: Calmamity: Charletron: Seems like a good thing to me... If I'm not mistaken, China is subsidizing solar panels produced there so much that they can be sold below cost. US firms simply can't do that, so it seems reasonable to act to protect their interests

Or subsidize our own solar industry. But nah, let's just do that for oil companies.

No! Wrong! China is wasting money providing us with stupidly cheap solar panels. Let's just take advantage of their dumb move.


We can use that extra money to pay farmers not to plant crops.

Win-Win.
 
2014-02-14 04:37:35 PM  

stevarooni: durbnpoisn: I interviewed with a company a few years ago.  They had a bunch of panels on their roof.  They produced enough power that the entire building was off the grid.  And they sold enough electric to the local power company, that maintenance on the panels was paid for.

Solar can be mighty nice, but...if this were commonly the case, businesses would adopt it in droves without government regulation because money.  So it strikes me that there may be specific conditions in the case of this company at which you were interviewing that are not common.


Well, it may have been that they are actually a supplier of solar energy...  Maybe.

They made much insistence on the fact that they actually USE the product that they sell.  Lead by example sort of thing.  It seemed pretty clear that their business was doing well, so people must be buying.
 
2014-02-14 04:40:42 PM  
As a former Solyndra employee, I'm getting a kick...
 
2014-02-14 04:42:04 PM  

stevarooni: durbnpoisn: I interviewed with a company a few years ago.  They had a bunch of panels on their roof.  They produced enough power that the entire building was off the grid.  And they sold enough electric to the local power company, that maintenance on the panels was paid for.

Solar can be mighty nice, but...if this were commonly the case, businesses would adopt it in droves without government regulation because money.  So it strikes me that there may be specific conditions in the case of this company at which you were interviewing that are not common.


Keep in mind that there's still a capital cost in purchasing and installing the system.  Once it's installed, it can run at near-zero cost, but until the payback on the capital cost is shorter than the amortization period it's going to deter business adoption.
 
2014-02-14 04:42:12 PM  
Here's the deal. If you want the Green movement to take off, you are going to have to make it cost-effective for businesses to adopt. We do A LOT of projects, of which LEED certification comprises less than 1% of all the jobs we do. Why is that? Because it is farking expensive! If the government were to subsidize businesses with tax credits to completely off-set the up-front cost to be "Green" everyone would convert to it.
 
2014-02-14 04:42:14 PM  
Since when were people not upset about nike and iphone slave labor?

When has Washington and FOX Business ever been upset about slave labor?

They are both want to recreate it here.
 
2014-02-14 04:50:24 PM  

MFAWG: To The Escape Zeppelin!: Are government subsidies included when they're calculating the cost of solar energy?

They aren't included in calculating coal and oil prices.


It depends on which study you're looking into. The gold standard is the US Energy Information Administration's "Levelized Cost of new Generation Resources" studies that come out every year. Since bringing a new powerplant online usually takes a couple years, they look to the cost of future energy resources - taking into account fuel costs, construction costs, subsidies, capacity factors, ongoing maintenance, transmission costs, etc. It's beyond solid.

Taking into account every variable, if you were to build a new powerplant today, here's the breakdown of the 2013 study.:

Dispatchable Power sources (values in Dollars per MWh)

Nat Gas Advanced Combined Cycle ------ 65.6
Nat Gas Conventional Combined Cycle -- 67.1
Geothermal -------------------------------------- 89.6
Advanced CC with CCS ---------------------- 93.4
Conventional Coal ----------------------------- 100.1
Nat Gas Advanced Combustion Turbine - 104.6
Advanced Nuclear ----------------------------- 108.4
Biomass ------------------------------------------ 111
Advanced Coal --------------------------------- 123
Conventional Combustion Turbine -------- 130.3
Advanced Coal with CCS -------------------- 135.5

Non-Dispatchable Technologies

Wind ------------------------------------------------- 86.6
Hydro ------------------------------------------------ 90.3
Solar PV -------------------------------------------- 144.3
Wind-Offshore ------------------------------------- 221.5
Solar Thermal ------------------------------------- 261.5

For things like offshore wind and solar thermal, the sample size is very small for existing projects - I'd wager those values will rapidly decrease in the coming years. Solar keeps halving in cost every ~3 years, so it's going to reach a price floor very soon, as it drops below the cost of almost every other power source available.

Fossil fuel sources have had a slow, steady rise in costs. Nat gas is very, very cheap right now, but historically has had extremely variable prices. As we expand our export of resources onto the world market (via coal, NG and tar sand oil), you can only expect our domestic fuel prices to more closely match the rest of the planet - ie. rise quite a bit.
 
2014-02-14 04:56:27 PM  
Also, it's amazing at the rate that the price of solar panels has dropped over the past 35 years. If you don't expect that solar will become the cheapest form of energy in the world by 2020, you don't understand basic math.

i2.wp.com

The sun is inexhaustible, free fuel source & we're rapidly running out of cheap fossil fuels. The change to renewables is inevitable and rapidly becoming the obvious economic choice for consumers and businesses. I'd give it 3-5 years and the industry will be able to stand without subsidies of any type and beat coal power in cost.
 
2014-02-14 05:03:27 PM  
Princess Ryans Knickers: After all, if it's not fair for foreigners to do it why should Americans?

0.tqn.com

That's not how America works.
 
2014-02-14 05:20:32 PM  
The government doesn't want anyone using solar because they can use the free energy to mine crypto coins.
 
2014-02-14 05:22:47 PM  

cefm: And yet the U.S. government seems incapable or unwilling to effectively or appropriately subsidize solar panel manufacturing in a similar manner to the Chinese, which results in this import glut in the first place.


Uh no its called dumping

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dumping_%28pricing_policy%29

After they have driven everyone else out of business, enjoy the large price hike
 
2014-02-14 05:44:50 PM  

Princess Ryans Knickers: Should use the same arguments against American companies dumping cheap product made with near slave labor overseas in America and China. After all, if it's not fair for foreigners to do it why should Americans?


I...just...huh?
 
2014-02-14 05:59:15 PM  

MrSteve007: Also, it's amazing at the rate that the price of solar panels has dropped over the past 35 years. If you don't expect that solar will become the cheapest form of energy in the world by 2020, you don't understand basic math.


Extrapolating past events to future ones may well involve math, but the only absolute truth you can garner is the statement "If these trends continue". The roadmap of history is littered with broken trends, and it is folly to assume extrapolation as fact.
 
2014-02-14 06:02:05 PM  
I installed 3000 watts, 18 months ago.  Production drops maybe 20% in winter, but even with 2 winters and 1 summer, payback is just under 6 years.  That's everything, the panels, permits, and installation.  And panels are cheaper now than they were at that time.  It has reached the point where the racks to mount the panels on, cost more than the panels themselves.

The racks are pretty much like building Lego, basic hand tools (wrenches and levels, and something to find South), hardest part is hiring out boring of holes and filling them with concrete while the poles are held plum and even with each other.  If I install the next array myself, I can do it for under $2.50/watt, making a 4 year payback attainable.
 
2014-02-14 06:03:52 PM  

jshine: As a former Solyndra employee, I'm getting a kick...


I can see how you would be side-split by the humor: Democrats push for subsidized loans to a solar company. That company is put out of business by plunging prices because of dumping from chinese suppliers. Republicans make a big foofaraw of the bankruptcy - and then turn around and actively oppose sanctions that could have prevented that bankruptcy and would prevent similar bankruptcies.

It's almost like the GOP is  begging for US manufacturing jobs to be eliminated.
 
2014-02-14 06:04:14 PM  

Enigmamf: MrSteve007: Also, it's amazing at the rate that the price of solar panels has dropped over the past 35 years. If you don't expect that solar will become the cheapest form of energy in the world by 2020, you don't understand basic math.

Extrapolating past events to future ones may well involve math, but the only absolute truth you can garner is the statement "If these trends continue". The roadmap of history is littered with broken trends, and it is folly to assume extrapolation as fact.


Sure, but it's closely related to Moore's Law, which has done pretty darn good for quite a few decades.  In any case, the panel costs are now smaller than the switchgear and installation costs.
 
2014-02-14 06:06:23 PM  
djh0101010:If I install the next array myself, I can do it for under $2.50/watt, making a 4 year payback attainable.

Unfortunately, that payback value depends on a) your being grid connected, and b) someone else paying your share of the costs to maintain the grid. One of those two conditions will not be true indefinitely. If b), it'll push out your payback timeline; if a), the additional infrastructure needed to support your own power use guarantees it'll never pay itself off.
 
2014-02-14 06:07:48 PM  

MrSteve007: Also, it's amazing at the rate that the price of solar panels has dropped over the past 35 years. If you don't expect that solar will become the cheapest form of energy in the world by 2020, you don't understand basic math.

[i2.wp.com image 650x803]

The sun is inexhaustible, free fuel source & we're rapidly running out of cheap fossil fuels. The change to renewables is inevitable and rapidly becoming the obvious economic choice for consumers and businesses. I'd give it 3-5 years and the industry will be able to stand without subsidies of any type and beat coal power in cost.


Storage still seems to be a factor inhibiting adoption. I know you'd posted details before but how does the rate the grid pays for your surplus electricity compare to the rate you pay to buy from the grid? In the UK a kwh is about 14 pence but the rate they buy at is 5 pence, so the surplus you generate during the day you sell to the grid but then in the evening when you want to use it you have to buy it back at three times the price.
However they do also pay you for every unit you generate, even if you use it yourself, so it's still a good deal.

Flywheel kinetic storage seems to be a solution. They're up to 90% efficient but I have no idea how much they cost to buy. Any experience with them?
 
2014-02-14 06:12:24 PM  

Calmamity: Charletron: Seems like a good thing to me... If I'm not mistaken, China is subsidizing solar panels produced there so much that they can be sold below cost. US firms simply can't do that, so it seems reasonable to act to protect their interests

Or subsidize our own solar industry. But nah, let's just do that for oil companies.


If you want clean energy to be affordable, you don't need to subsidize it. Just make it a tax-free industry. Removing income and capital gains taxes on solar or wind companies makes them cost effective and gives people a reason to invest in them.
 
2014-02-14 06:17:44 PM  

Enigmamf: Extrapolating past events to future ones may well involve math, but the only absolute truth you can garner is the statement "If these trends continue". The roadmap of history is littered with broken trends, and it is folly to assume extrapolation as fact.


Extrapolating a long-term pricing trend through 37-years of data is a pretty good place to start, especially considering that's close to the point of the first consumer availability of the product. Sure, there could be a world war or asteroid that may hit the earth and mess up the pricing, but four decades of panel pricing halving roughly every 3 years is a pretty strong extrapolation.

It is interesting to note that it's almost a precise logarithmic curve.

Of course there's the rule of diminishing returns. With pricing getting to the point of 73 pennies per watt, you can only lower the price by a few pennies, before the product becomes a commodity. When pricing was 73 dollars a watt, there was plenty of floor to drop.

But I think it's pretty safe to say that with mass production, a well honed production and supply system and other power sources becoming more expensive, solar has a lot going for it and will expand capacity exponentially.

www.evwind.es
 
2014-02-14 06:17:48 PM  

leevis: you don't need to subsidize it. Just make it a tax-free industry.


Making it tax-free is subsidizing it.
 
2014-02-14 06:28:33 PM  

Flint Ironstag: Storage still seems to be a factor inhibiting adoption. I know you'd posted details before but how does the rate the grid pays for your surplus electricity compare to the rate you pay to buy from the grid? In the UK a kwh is about 14 pence but the rate they buy at is 5 pence, so the surplus you generate during the day you sell to the grid but then in the evening when you want to use it you have to buy it back at three times the price.However they do also pay you for every unit you generate, even if you use it yourself, so it's still a good deal.

Flywheel kinetic storage seems to be a solution. They're up to 90% efficient but I have no idea how much they cost to buy. Any experience with them?


To answer the flywheel question - Beacon Power had some very cool systems out on the market and even built one or two grid regulation installations before going bankrupt in 2011. They seem to be rebuilding with a private equity firm and attempting to bring another 20MW plant online this year. Interestingly, my office's 2007 rooftop array uses a pair of Beacon Power inverters, which luckily are still performing flawlessly.

Also, when you do your UK pricing - keep in mind that every kWh you generate is a kWh you don't have to purchase. So instead of paying 14 pence to consume a unit of energy, you're getting paid 5 pence for that electricity and avoiding 14 pence of purchase - meaning the value of that kWh is 19 pence. (I honestly don't know how the UK net metering system is implemented).

In Washington State, I avoid paying $0.10 a kWh and get paid $0.54 a kWh - making the value of each kWh I generate 5x's that of what I purchase. At least for me, this incentive is good through 2020 - and when you throw in the 30% federal tax credit, it's downright profitable at this time & date to install rooftop solar power in my region of the USA.
 
2014-02-14 06:31:18 PM  
Enigmamf: djh0101010:If I install the next array myself, I can do it for under $2.50/watt, making a 4 year payback attainable.

Unfortunately, that payback value depends on a) your being grid connected, and b) someone else paying your share of the costs to maintain the grid. One of those two conditions will not be true indefinitely. If b), it'll push out your payback timeline; if a), the additional infrastructure needed to support your own power use guarantees it'll never pay itself off.

Well, the grid in question has been connected here since whenever the Rural Electrification Act came through, what, 80 years ago or so?  3KW covers about half of the electricity bills.  Ideally, I want to have my own battery bank and only use the grid to charge them up if I can't keep up using panels.  Going to need to take the 10 panels up to 20 before I can consider that, at that time I'll price it out and see what makes sense.

I don't follow your conclusion on a), for the parameters that exist at this time or at any point I can forsee?
 
2014-02-14 06:40:26 PM  

MrSteve007: To answer the flywheel question - Beacon Power had some very cool systems out on the market and even built one or two grid regulation installations before going bankrupt in 2011. They seem to be rebuilding with a private equity firm and attempting to bring another 20MW plant online this year. Interestingly, my office's 2007 rooftop array uses a pair of Beacon Power inverters, which luckily are still performing flawlessly.

Also, when you do your UK pricing - keep in mind that every kWh you generate is a kWh you don't have to purchase. So instead of paying 14 pence to consume a unit of energy, you're getting paid 5 pence for that electricity and avoiding 14 pence of purchase - meaning the value of that kWh is 19 pence. (I honestly don't know how the UK net metering system is implemented).

In Washington State, I avoid paying $0.10 a kWh and get paid $0.54 a kWh - making the value of each kWh I generate 5x's that of what I purchase. At least for me, this incentive is good through 2020 - and when you throw in the 30% federal tax credit, it's downright profitable at this time & date to install rooftop solar power in my region of the USA.


I've read about the Beacon units. The trend seems to be small flywheels spinning very fast, where I'd have assumed a large wheel would store as much energy at far lower speeds, but I assume they know what they're doing...

The UK system pays 14 pence for every unit you generate, even if you use it all yourself, and then 5p for units exported to the grid. For average houses they don't fit a meter but assume you export 50% of what you generate and pay you that. They guarantee that rate for twenty years.
That's why a flywheel would be a good deal since you'd be paid the Generation rate of 14 pence plus they'd still assume you were exporting half your output and pay you an extra 5 pence on top, even if you were using a flywheel to keep all of it!
Link if you're interested.

I know someone who has just bought panels and he calculates it will have paid for itself after six or seven years and then be almost pure profit after that. Not bad for the UK where "rain" is the default weather.

My house has the roof exactly North/South so if I were to fit panels they'd either face East or West, or half and half. Not ideal but should still work. I'm tempted...
 
2014-02-14 06:50:17 PM  

Flint Ironstag: I've read about the Beacon units. The trend seems to be small flywheels spinning very fast, where I'd have assumed a large wheel would store as much energy at far lower speeds, but I assume they know what they're doing...


I think the tech that makes their products so efficient is that they've created a system where the flywheel levitates magnetically (so it doesn't have any bearings to wear out) and is encased in a vacuum - which almost eliminates friction in the energy storage. The size is also proper to bury - in case something goes wrong with the 16,000 RPM, 1.5 ton flywheel. I think they're also able to dispatch something like 25 KW in the matter of minutes back into into the grid.

images.dailytech.com

Not exactly home sized storage systems - but awesome at regulating proper power frequency on large grids, and preventing brownouts by covering immediate power needs, until a peaking power plant can come online.
 
2014-02-14 06:52:04 PM  

Flint Ironstag: My house has the roof exactly North/South so if I were to fit panels they'd either face East or West, or half and half. Not ideal but should still work. I'm tempted...


You'd be a LOT better off using a ground mount optimized to your latitude, pointing straight south.  A wrong-facing-roof is just a way to extend the payback period out to "not worth it".  The math is complicated, but for a fixed panel, there are tables to show what the best angle is for your latitude. 

For the last 2+ years, the mechanisms to aim your panels at the sun, cost more than just buying more panels to make up for the lost efficiency brought on by not aiming them.  Zero moving parts + lower cost = no brainer.
 
2014-02-14 06:58:02 PM  

Enigmamf: jshine: As a former Solyndra employee, I'm getting a kick...

I can see how you would be side-split by the humor: Democrats push for subsidized loans to a solar company. That company is put out of business by plunging prices because of dumping from chinese suppliers. Republicans make a big foofaraw of the bankruptcy - and then turn around and actively oppose sanctions that could have prevented that bankruptcy and would prevent similar bankruptcies.

It's almost like the GOP is  begging for US manufacturing jobs to be eliminated.


So by begging, you mean not spending billions of dollars. Seems legit.

/Not an R
 
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