[ExI] The silent PV revolution

spike spike66 at att.net
Wed Apr 11 14:51:54 UTC 2012


>>... Moral of the story: don't do it like Spain.

>... Don't even start doing subsidies. Then you don't have to worry about
pulling the rug out from under your fake industry. -Kelly

I have been listening and watching without saying much on this thread, the
silent PV revolution.  Ironic subject line: the PV revolution is anything
but silent.  It is being thrust to the front of the parade with great
fanfare, as if we expect, rather demand, that ground based solar be the
answer to all our problems.

I ask that we think hard and do calculations.  Solar is a good technology, a
clean way to gather the diffuse energy from the sun.  But it will not solve
every problem or meet every need.  We cause solar to look worse than it is
by over-subsidizing it, then when those subsidies run out, as they always
will eventually, the companies fail because they were not market-viable to
star with.  

We older guys have seen this all before, back in the 70s when it was hip to
have rooftop water heaters, and how industries were built around their
installation, then later industries grew around the removal of those
heaters.  That doesn't mean that rooftop solar water heaters are bad, in
fact they make more sense than rooftop PVs.  Now we are seeing all again:
subsidies for homeowners to install PVs, subsidies for the companies that
make them, ignoring the obvious fact that these solar manufacturing
companies are being started in the US in non-right to work states, places
where anyone with a lick of business sense knows the business has zero
chance of long term survival.

But if we look at it reasonably, PVs have their uses and can be economically
viable in the long run.  If one has a reasonable peak load user nearby, such
as lifting water from a deep aquifer, PV is economically viable now without
subsidy.  If we do the calculations reasonably, we can imagine ground based
PVs doing coal to liquid fuels, or other applications that would be tolerant
of intermittent power supply.

Of course I will always mention my drumbeat refrain: we are currently
absurdly wasteful, because energy has been plentiful.  From an engineering
perspective, finding more efficient uses of energy is interesting.

Summary: ground based PV is a contributor, not a savior.  Space based solar,
if we ever make that happen, is a contributor.  Coal to liquid fuels will be
a contributor.  Wind and falling water, smaller contributors.  Energy
efficiency will be an important contributor to our energy future.  As we
watch the PV industry collapse around us, keep in mind that we expected too
much from that one technology, and we chose to bet on it perhaps a bit too


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