There is a very real problem in the USA right now in the development and deployment of alternate energy into the grid, as the country fights amongst itself over how energy will be generated, distributed, and managed in the future. This is especially the case with solar, as it continues to mature in both energy conversion efficiency as well cost effectiveness to become a more and more attractive source of energy. Even now, when all costs are factored in, solar is now more cost-effective than some fossil fuels in many cases.
The problem is that the debate about how the USA will generate and distribute energy is being driven by ideology, not science or economics. Entrenched business and political interests are blocking solar in many ways, from condemning research expenditures to outright legislation designed to restrict the development of solar energy as a viable supplement to the nation’s growing power needs. Even much of the mainstream media is buying into the lie that solar power is not viable.
This is not only a foolish attitude, but it is ignorant of both history and market forces. In every single case where a solid-state technology was developed to address an application area, it eventually came to dominate that space. Solar is no different, and conversion efficiencies are such that it is obvious to all but the most in denial that solar is not only a viable, but a cost-effective technology. In the marketplace, American neo- and pseudo-Luddites completely forget that this is now a flat earth, and if we do not develop and deploy these technologies others will, and they will wind up dominating those future markets.
Solar power is also logical from a usage sense, as peak power consumption occurs during the day. Solar does not have to replace fossil fuel power generation at all times and in all things, but it is illogical not to use solar as a supplement to existing energy sources. Once you add mechanisms for grid stability, load balancing, managerial oversight, and time-shifting power, you also get a pretty robust smart grid in the process.
A future smart grid that properly integrated all viable alternate energy technologies would not only result in a significant reduction of dependence on fossil fuel and the resulting ecological impact (which is rarely calculated, and never accurately), but it would also create many well-paying infrastructure jobs from electronic engineers to electricians, and everything in between. Technical jobs, jobs that help move America forward. Skilled jobs. Clean(er) jobs.
This won’t happen, at least not in any decent fashion, unless we as a country stop basing our arguments on ideology and vested interest instead of what is best for the country, its citizens, and its future. Only by properly deploying a truly smart grid that integrates all manageable types of energy with the proper controls and safeguards, including security, will the USA reach the full potential of what such an infrastructure can provide.
If I write down all of Alix Paultre’s skills and experience I’ll need a bigger blog – and he’ll probably threaten me for making him blush. Novelist, technologist, technology writer and editor, he’s also the only person I know who can explain quantum physics well enough for me to understand. Well, for a few minutes anyway.
RTFA and the magazine he edits.
10 thoughts on “Blocking the sun”
I have a post on an amazing solar roadway invention: http://myveganheartblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/solar-roadways
Let’s also remember that solar energy doesn’t require people to risk their lives in the coal mines. The disaster that happened in Turkey is yet another reminder.
I’m considering the switch to solar, right now. As usual, there are factors beyond simple economics – but, at the core, the monthly payoff for a 30-year fixed rate loan is $20/month less than my current electric bill, for a 15-year fixed rate loan about $30 month more than my average bill.
That’s not counting rebates, tax breaks, etc. – the kind of thing that traditionally goes straight to any power generation company regardless of fuel source – providing no breaks to consumers.
Incidentally, the quote was from the largest consumer/commercial/municipal solar contractor in the region. A couple decades in the biz.
Re: “Solar Surcharge” see http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/politics/op-ed-alec-and-the-koch-brothers-fight-solar-energy-with-surcharges/article/381659 also http://www.climatecentral.org/news/oklahoma-solar-surcharge-bill-becomes-law-17335 and http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/11/23/2987721/mexico-renewable-energy/
“Utah’s solar power homeowners fight proposed utility fee” (5/22/14) http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/57966967-78/power-solar-customers-net.html.csp
Meanwhile: “ALEC and the Koch brothers fight solar energy with surcharges” http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/politics/op-ed-alec-and-the-koch-brothers-fight-solar-energy-with-surcharges/article/381659 See also http://www.climatecentral.org/news/oklahoma-solar-surcharge-bill-becomes-law-17335 and http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/prc-s-rule-change-is-boon-for-solar-industry/article_63409d17-dd5d-59cd-9642-35c6fb2192dc.html
A report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), published Monday 5/12/14, looks at the cost of converting to green electricity in order to keep global warming below 2 °C. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22229691.900-delays-on-climate-change-have-cost-us-8-trillion.html#.U3UIji9RdrF Link to IEA report: http://www.iea.org/newsroomandevents/pressreleases/2014/may/name,51005,en.html
“Southern Power, Turner add big New Mexico solar facility” http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/news/2014/05/23/southern-power-turner-add-big-new-mexico-solar.html …50-megawatt (MW) Macho Springs Solar Facility, which is expected to generate enough electricity to power more than 18,000 homes. The purchase is the partnership’s seventh solar project and its second-largest overall. The facility brings the partnership’s overall solar capacity to more than 290 MW.”
U.S. nuclear power plants have net summer capacities between about 500 and 1300 MW. Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS) operates nine solar power plants in the Mojave Desert that have a combined capacity of 354 MW and were the largest solar power installation in the world until the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility (gross capacity of 392 megawatts) near Las Vegas was finished in 2014
The Idaho PUC has denied Idaho Power’s request to temporarily suspend its obligation under federal law to sign new contracts to buy solar power (5/28/14) http://www.idahostatesman.com/2014/05/28/3206368/idaho-puc-denies-idaho-power-solar.html?sp=/99/101/
The federal Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act. (PURPA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_Utility_Regulatory_Policies_Act) requires Idaho Power to purchase electricity from qualifying small-power producers (NUGs etc) at rates negotiated between the parties using a formula approved by the state commission. This decision doesn’t affect rooftop solar net metering customers, only larger solar developers planning 10 to 20 megawatt plants.
May 28, 2014, Solar Market Insight Report 2014 Q1 http://www.seia.org/research-resources/solar-market-insight-report-2014-q1 The U.S. solar market has just recording the second-largest quarter in history, during which 74% of new US electric generating capacity came from solar. Also for the first time ever, in the last quarter more than 1/3 of residential PV installations came on-line without any state incentive.