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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

IS SOLAR ENERGY FINALLY MAKING A REAL IMPACT?

The headlines ballyhoo solar as finally making an impact on energy supply (the punch line comes near the end in bold print and it's not pretty):
  • US Solar Industry Continues Rapid Growth (by Rhone Resch of the Solar Energy Industries Association)
    • Tesla Motor will build a new factory in Nevada employing 6500 workers.
    • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will hold a vote on green energy tax credits.
    • Just in the second quarter of the year, 1,133 MW of solar photovoltaics were installed, a 21% increase from 2013, and 6500 MW are forecasted for the year, which would be a 36% jump from last year.
    • Solar PV and thermal power reached an operating capacity of nearly 16,000 Mw, powering 3.2 million homes.
    • 53% of new electric generating capacity in the U.S. in the first  half of this year came from solar.
    • The solar industry employs 143,000 Americans, pumping $15 billion a year into the economy.
    • Credit is given to government for the Solar Investment Tax Credit (SITC), net metering (NM) and renewable portfolio standards (RPS).
  • The Inevitability of Solar
    • To quote Paula Mints of Renewable Energy World:
Things are bad for those who breathe air these days, and things will probably get a lot worse before a change in behavior is forced upon humankind. This is because despite demonstrable evidence of climate change, despite the fact that natural gas is not a clean energy source and despite the fact that building more nuclear facilities takes longer than installing solar and costs more, governments are once again turning to the old polluting and expensive standbys to power our world.  
         Read the whole article for details and tables.
  • Expect $1.6 trillion in Clean Energy Investments Through 2020, Says IEA
    • Written by Stefan Nicola of Bloomberg, the International Energy Agency touts $1.61 trillion to provide more than a quarter of global electricity generation by 2020.
    • However, expansion will slow unless lawmakers provide clear conditions to enable these investments.
So everything is hunky dory about solar, right?  Wrong!!!  Writes Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Institute in Newsday:
  • A year ago the U.S. produced 7.3 million barrels of oil/day.  Now, 8.5 MB/D, a 16% increase.
  • Just this year-to-year increase is twice the total contribution of every solar energy installation in the whole world!
  • Last year global coal use increased by 3%, but that is about an equivalent of 2 MB/D.  Thus, just this increase in coal production last year was three times the total global contribution of all solar!
  • Total coal use today is 128 times greater than all solar.
  • As terrific as has been solar growth, it isn't even keeping pace with fossil fuel growth.
So should you go into depression and continue to fret about global warming?  Sure, do that and the fossil industry will prevail, for those necessary SITC, NM and RPS programs indicated above which  have stimulated the solar market, will disappear.  More than half of U.S. states have already begun paring back renewable energy mandates to install cheaper natural gas facilities.  Yes, natural gas produces half the carbon dioxide of coal in electricity generation, but carbon dioxide is carbon dioxide. Don't give up.  Join the People's Climate March on September 21 described yesterday (just scroll down to the next article).

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