Solar and Fanta Se’s Energy Fantasy

Source: Institute for Energy Research, “The Solar Value Cliff: The Diminishing Value of Solar Power”

Just in time for Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales’s desire for a study of “whether Santa Fe can power all municipal facilities with renewable energy by 2025,” the invaluable Institute for Energy Research has issued “The Solar Value Cliff: The Diminishing Value of Solar Power.”

IER’s analysis explains that solar, at “very low penetration levels,” can be “a useful resource that reduces the stress on the grid.” But solar has a problem that “green” advocates would rather not discuss. Its capacity value, which the National Renewable Energy Laboratory calls the “ability to reliably meet demand,” declines “sharply” as “more and more solar PV facilities” are attached to the grid. Sunshine initially “pulls down peak net demand.” But as evening approaches, “the sun is no longer available as a resource.” IER uses a sports analogy to illustrate:

Imagine you gave LeBron James a 3-year, $100 million contract but decided to take him out for the 2nd and 3rd quarters of every game so you could play someone from the bench. James would be no less amazing a player, but he wouldn’t produce as many points for the team and his cost in terms of salary per minute of playing time would skyrocket.

Solar’s imposed costs include “stripping dispatchable generators’ run time during midday hours but not replacing their capacity value” and “all the necessary support services that allow operators to keep the power grid running smoothly.”

The bottom line? “Dispatchable sources of electricity — facilities that run on fuels controlled by people as opposed to the weather or time of day — will be needed to satisfy peak demand.” And heavily subsidized solar (see above) is “a resource whose value is diminishing as additional capacity is added unless storage or some other advanced technology becomes economical.”

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