Will Solar Ever Be a ‘Mature’ Industry?

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich‘s timing couldn’t have been worse.

His “Solar Toolkit,” released last week, arrived on the heels of The Solar Foundation’s finding that “the number of solar jobs from 2016 to 2017 in the Land of Enchantment decreased 14 percent, from 2,929 to 2,522.” (And the Solar Energy Industries Association “is projecting further downsizing of jobs in 2018.”)

As Errors of Enchantment documented in 2016, solar’s been “a bit of a bust” in New Mexico, despite the state’s abundant sunshine. Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts each have more “distributed solar PV installed capacity.”

But facts never get in the way of left-wing pols’ love affair with all things “green,” so Heinrich’s Solar Toolkit claims that there is “no doubt that solar works for New Mexico.” He hopes the document will provide “a launching point for local governments, tribes, schools, power providers, rural businesses, policymakers and educational institutions to consider whether solar can meet their needs.” It “highlights success stories from around the state, and provides reflections from the New Mexicans who have gotten the job done.” Heinrich’s “proud to have led a bipartisan group of lawmakers to pass an energy agreement that included a five-year extension of the Solar Investment Tax Credit.” But in light of the latest employment data, here’s the money quote: “Thousands of New Mexicans work in this rapidly growing field.”

Unmentioned in the Solar Toolkit is the return of New Mexico’s solar tax credit, which expired at the end of 2016 but was revived during the 2018 legislative session. A bill restoring the perk enjoyed bipartisan support, passing the House 40-26 and Senate 35-6. (The legislation has yet to be signed or vetoed by the governor. Let’s hope New Mexico’s outgoing chief executive makes the right call.)

As the Competitive Enterprise Institute noted in 2015: “When their tax breaks are secure, the wind and solar lobbies claim they’re vibrant industries; but every time their tax breaks are set to expire, they claim that market maturity is just around the corner, and that they need just one more extension of handouts.”

It’s a clever tactic, used to maintain — and even enhance — solar’s corporate-welfare freebies. And Heinrich’s all in, with nary a word about the energy source’s unreliability, environmental impact, or cost to taxpayers.

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4 Replies to “Will Solar Ever Be a ‘Mature’ Industry?”

  1. Energy Capacity Factor:

    Every time there is a discussion about wind and solar as a renewable energy for the future there is this misunderstanding about what is the real capacity of the individual wind turbine or solar panel and how much electricity is actually produced by them. There is the ‘rated’ capacity of energy which is what the manufacturer stamped on the outside of the packaging and then there is the capacity factor which is the actual energy produced by the wind turbine and solar panel equipment.

    There is no energy source that has a capacity factor of 100%, except occasionally nuclear. There are a variety of reasons for the production interruptions such as; no sun, no wind, too much wind, drought, water needed for other proposes, polar vortex freeze, fuel interruptions and scheduled maintenance. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that utility-scale solar photovoltaic installations in the US had an average capacity factor of 27% in 2016, with utility-scale wind farms at 35%, hydroelectric at 38%, coal plants at 55%, natural gas plants at 56% and nuclear power plants at 92%. The capacity factors for 2018 have not significantly increased so wind and solar percentages may have peak.

    When it comes to energy, density is the more important criteria to consider for the cost of the energy. Yes, there are other considerations but when you have energy sources like uranium and thorium that are one million to two million more energy dense than all other equivalent energy sources; coal, oil, gas, wind, solar, biofuels, geothermal, hydro, wood, wave, and any other creative and innovative way to generate electricity and heat sources. Also important to consider is the environment and the ideal would be an environmentally clean and cheap energy.

    Nuclear energy, discovered only 100 years ago, was always going to be the future energy solution for a clean, safe, cheap, abundant, sustainable fuel source on earth and even on the moon, Mars and other deep space travels. For the last 60 years, nuclear power generation has been the safest energy for humanity and the environment.

    The initial fuel source of uranium was mined and enriched to be used in the first three generations of nuclear reactors, the solid fuel water cool reactors. These reactors produced ~trillions of megawatts of electricity and manufactured enough unused nuclear fuel to be stored for the next generation of liquid fueled molten salt reactors (MSR) that will sustain energy for thousands of years at current electricity usage.

    There are basically two formats (paths) of energy fuels; those that are already stored, or easily stored, for anytime access and those that are real-time and have to be used immediately in a onetime pass through process.

    Stored fuels like coal, oil, natural gas, uranium, thorium, geothermal and water retain their energy indefinitely or until it is accessed and used. Real-time fuels like wind, solar and wave are available at point of capture and have to be use immediately for electricity generation and in some cases can be temporarily stored in batteries.

    Real-time fuels therefore require very large swath of land or sea to erect massive mechanical structures to capture enough wind or sun to provide electricity for the masses in urban population centers. Backups for this intermitted production can be provided temporarily from batteries and a more permanent basis with natural gas turbines or other stored fuel systems like nuclear, hydro, oil, coal and even wood.

    Real-time energy is proving to be a very expensive electricity generation process because of all the raw materials and real estate required to erect wind, solar or wave farms for industrial and commercial use. The weather dependent intermittency requires stored fuel backup systems and adds a redundant cost.

    Germany has always been a leader in renewable with wind and solar. They have had to increase their use of coal backup to supplement their weather patterns and have increased their CO2 levels instead of lower them as they committed to at the Paris Climate Accord.

    The cost of renewable in the US goes beyond all the raw materials and labor to build and maintain the energy farms. The renewable developers were given substantial discounts, tax credits, subsidies or other backroom deals all at the expense of the tax payer and the Utility rate payer. The State of Oklahoma is now questioning the continuation of credits for renewable because of the serious impact it is having on the state budget.

    As the state was experiencing an $868 million budget shortfall this last year, a growing resistance to continue large credit amounts that could bankrupt the state was forming. Out of state wind companies who derive great profits from the state credits was also very concerning. The largest new wind farm project, the $4.5B Wind Catcher with its $2B in so called savings to the customers, is now in jeopardy within Oklahoma.

    Let this be a warning to New Mexico that Oklahoma’s G&O tax revenue, with tax credits, cannot make up the extreme cost of renewable credits in their state budget. Even though NM G&O is booming right now, NM should not extend its budget too far with renewable credits or may find itself in the same situation as our neighbor.

    1. Martin, thanks for your education about intermittent renewable energy production, for its realistic capacity. Our chairman & some directors of Public Service of NM (PNM) could use the reminder.

  2. This was a very informative comment. Thanks.

    But what does G&O stand for? I could not find anything on a Google search that gave a description that seemed relevant.

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