[ExI] The silent PV revolution

Kelly Anderson kellycoinguy at gmail.com
Tue Apr 10 03:09:52 UTC 2012

On Mon, Apr 9, 2012 at 3:51 AM, Eugen Leitl <eugen at leitl.org> wrote:
> On Mon, Apr 09, 2012 at 01:06:53AM -0600, Kelly Anderson wrote:
>> You are right to a point. When the government unnaturally props up
>> renewables, it is a scam. When the marketplace needs renewables, then
>> it is not. One day, perhaps in the not too distant future according to
>> some very smart people, solar photovoltaics will be economically
>> competitive with coal. When it is, then it will no longer be a scam.
> I don't understand the full intricacies of
> http://cleantechnica.com/2012/04/06/its-here-solar-renewable-grid-parity-or-better-in-californias-latest-renewable-power-auction/
> but it indicates that grid parity in California has happened,
> or is about to happen.

Here is the key paragraph Eugen...

"It may have even come too fast. The combination of California’s
market-based incentive programs, such as its RAM and Feed-in Tariff
(FiT), and its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), along with federal
government subsidies and China’s massive manufacturing and export
subsidies of crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar photovoltaic (PV) cells
and panels boosted both the supply and demand for solar power systems.
Sustaining costs at grid parity levels or better poses a stiff
challenge to solar power industry participants, as one or more of
these struts is removed.

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/18TUm)"

So, in other words, they are at grid parity only because
1) There is a government created glut in supply
2) There are both state and federal government subsidies in place
creating artificial demand
3) They are afraid as hell that these are going to be pulled away,
leaving them unable to be at grid parity in the near future.
4) Mitt Romney will likely put an end to at least some of this silliness.

> Many people are unaware that electricity is traded in large-scale,
> realtime markets. Peak demand carries peak price, while low
> demand (at night) at high plant thermal inertia. Because
> of this e.g. 4% of PV in Germany result in 40% of peak
> price reduction. This is bad for power utilities, good
> for large consumers and neutral for small consumers, who
> do not enjoy the bargaining power that large industry
> consumers have.

I'm aware of that. This is a big advantage of solar. Especially in
California where the peak requirements are on sunny days where the air
conditioning kicks on everywhere. I'm not anti-solar, I'm
anti-government. These kinds of programs will, in the long run, hurt
solar. In the really long term, the government's clumsy meddling won't
change the cost and adoption curves because the market ULTIMATELY WILL
drive where you want to go.

This is also the BIG advantage of hydroelectric. Hoover dam releases
nearly spring flood levels of water on a hot day in California.

> So the question "when is X competitive with Y" is not very
> meaningful. You have to add where and when, and for whom.

The meaningful question for ME is when is it competitive WITHOUT
government meddling. In the long term, the government meddling
probably won't hurt solar too much, but it isn't helping all that much
either. In the long term, Germany will be servicing older solar
equipment while the rest of the world has the latest freshest good
stuff in 2020... You'll be ever so slightly less happy about what your
government did then. But thank you for subsidizing the rest of the
world. Heck, the USA does the same for you to an even greater extent
in the area of global security, so it's only fair that you carry some
of the 'stupid tax' for the rest of the world, just as we do for you.

>> But until the market is asking for it naturally and on it's own,
>> without provocation from the government, then you'll see it become
>> real. For now, with government driven Ponzi schemes falling apart all
>> over the world, it looks like more of a joke than it ever has been
>> before.
> I can tell you the local utilities don't think it's a joke at all.
> They're in fact shitting bricks and lobby like the dickens to
> kill FITs yesteryear, so to stop further increase in PV deployment
> that is eating into their profits.

California utilities are cry babies. When they were the producers of
Enron and rolling brown outs they were crying, now they are crying,
just a different tune.

>> When you have companies like Solera getting a half a billion dollars
>> from the government, spending it, then going out of business, it's
>> easy to get skeptical. But I would encourage you to point your
> Many inefficient companies get bankrupt. Ability to fail is what makes markets
> work.

But this was NOT a market failure. That's the difference silly boy.
That was just a half billion dollar transfer of wealth to China. We'll
be sorry we did it when they own the moon... LOL.

>> skepticism at the governments, not at the opportunists who are lining
>> up to lap at the teats of big government. Those who are REALLY
>> interested in solar photovoltaics will serve the small marketplace
>> (cabins and such) that naturally exists until technology reaches the
> http://cleantechnica.com/2012/03/26/germany-7-5-gw-of-new-solar-power-in-2011-confirmed/
> Cabins, and such.

I'm talking about market driven installations, not government
subsidized activity, which is all you've got in Germany.

>> point that we can make it pay for more and more people. Eventually, I
>> think it will be profitable for all of us, and at that point it will
>> be ubiuqitous, and we'll wonder why didn't people ALWAYS do it this
> That's what I keep wondering for 30 years now. And yet we're still
> having this conversations on this list, as if renewables were optional,
> nice-to-have instead of a basic survival tool when brutal energy hunger
> hits. Remember that we're on track for the "base case" scenario in
> Limits to Growth. How people can serenely sail into that near future
> never ceases to amaze me.

The article you just referenced said, "Solar can go in faster than
most people think!" When it is actually profitable to do so, you'll
see acres of solar go in every month here in the US. It will make your
head spin how fast we'll convert when it is profitable to do so.

>> way. The answer is the same as to why haven't they always built CPUs
>> as fast as they are today... it takes engineering and science, and
> Hardly a valid comparison.

Is so TOO!!! Kurzweil and Diamandis have both CPU power and
Photovoltaic cost on their "Law of Accelerating Returns" graphs.

> PV goes back to 1839, Si technology of
> 1955 with 1500 USD/Wp with 2% does not differ in its mode of function
> from mono Si of today with 17% and <1 USD/Wp. It's all a question
> of production efficiency and economy of scale.

Of course it is. What's your point?

> Interestingly, fuel cells also go back to 1838, and we still don't
> have affordable fuel cells for home and propulsion.

I've never seen fuel cells on a Kurzweil type presentation, so I don't
think it follows the same curves. (Could, but I've just never seen it)

Exponential curves are weird beasts... things don't work until they
work, and when they work, they work VERY well.

>> that takes time and builds on past successes.

Eugen... we'll just have to see if Ray and Peter are right about
solar... if they are, problem solved.... mostly. If I had a billion
dollars I'd be investing some in private desert property in Arizona
and southern California. That's gonna be much more valuable in ten


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