[ExI] The silent PV revolution

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Mon Apr 9 09:51:24 UTC 2012

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
but it indicates that grid parity in California has happened,
or is about to happen.

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.

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

> 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.
> 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

> 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


Cabins, and such.

> 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.

> 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. 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.

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

> that takes time and builds on past successes.

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list