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Solar Flare Out

The economics of solar energy just do not make sense right now.

HT to David Darling

But one argument I often read about it from supporters of subsidizing it is the following:

Sure, solar is not cost competitive with fossil fuels, or even other renewables right now, but its costs are expected to fall considerably in the future …

To which I’d like to make two observations on why this is a strange justification for scaling up solar massively now:

  1. Suppose I buy this argument. Wouldn’t you need to persuade me of something just a wee bit different? Isn’t the right metric how much solar costs will fall relative to the costs of other renewables and fossil fuels? I’ve never seen folks make those comparisons. And not only do I believe that the cost of other renewables will fall just as the cost of solar will, but I am firmly of the belief that the costs of fossil fuels will fall in the future too. What reason is there for supporters of solar to just assert that only in solar, and not in coal, oil, gas, nuclear, wind, etc. that cost decreases will not be just as large or larger? None. At all.
  2. Ignoring point #1 above … if the cost of something is expected to fall in the future, what does sound economic thinking tell us we should do to our consumption of it today? Let’s think of it this way. Situation A:  a hybrid car today costs $50,000 and that same car tomorrow will cost $20,000. Situation B: a hybrid car today costs $20,000 and will cost $50,000 in the future. Under which scenario does it make more sense to purchase the car today?

In an effort to keep my posts shorter I will not elaborate on these and further. Perhaps in the future.

4 Responses to “Solar Flare Out”

  1. Speedmaster says:

    Being as far away as the sun is, I have a problem with it not being “local.” 😉

  2. Harry says:

    Hahaha, Speedmaster. Beyond thinking globally.

    Wintercow, good points.

    Eventually we will run out of cheap fossil fuels, but every year that gets pushed ahead. The President of Iran wants to push the run-out date to near infinity by ending civilization; no more people, no more depletion, no more worrying about how future generations will fuel their Escalades.

    I would be delighted to heat my home less expensively with solar panels, but I doubt that day will ever come. If it does come, even worse, because heating my home will be unaffordable.

    I have considered getting an old-style windmill to pump my water, but that would mean relocating my well, installing a mile of pipe below the frost line, and generally giving all my money to the backhoe operator. Or I could pay for the electricity to run my pump. I could install some other windmills in my back yard to generate electricity, powered by GE turbines, if I could stand the noise and the maintenance costs, and if I could weather the cost of investment in the windmills, plus the building to house the batteries so I could run the front burner on my stove when the wind was not blowing. To eliminate my use of #2 fuel oil and the power coming from the transformer across the road could cost millions, just for me.

    The Chairman of Government Motors said the other day it would be good if everybody would pay an extra dollar per gallon of gasohol, so we might buy more Chevy Volts. As Speedmaster might quip, whatever happened to buying local?

  3. Harry says:

    I did like the pic of the solar flare. One wonders whether that one, plus the fires now burning in Arizona and New Mexico, have affected worldwide climate change, and will it offset the environmental effect of a successful roll-out of the Chevy Volt? Plug that one into your computer, Sierra Club and IPCC.

  4. Chris says:

    And then there’s the solar forecast, calling for a longer-term lull in solar activity and output. Similar to the 1645-1715 solar dormancy that led to record recorded cold winters.

    http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/331320/title/Next_solar_cycle_could_be_a_no-show__

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