Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Subsidies are not sustainable: Severin Borenstein on Photo Voltaics

Severin Borensteina, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and director of the UC Energy Institute, has done serious work on the market cost of electricity generated with Solar Voltaic technology. His conclusion is that PV technology will not penetrate the market to any measure for some time to come, if ever.

Borenstein Makes a powerful case against PV subsidies. Birenstein says, “We are throwing money away by installing the current solar PV technology.” He found that the installation and operation cost of a a 10 kilowatt PV installation over several decades would run from $86,000 to $91,000, and that the value of the power produced would run from $19,000 to $51,000. Check out this News story and see if its account of the economics of solar makes sense without subsidies. Do the subsidies make sense? Not according to Professor Borenstein!

3 comments:

Warren Heath said...

This guy is right on. The subsidies on Solar PV are absolutely wacky. They have created such excess demand for PV that many commercial distributors are insisting that retailers sell PV @ a minimum of $10 per watt.

The German PV solar subsidy of $0.78 per kwh for 15 years minimum, is unbelievable stupidity. All it has done is to make a bunch of Chinese billionaires. The Green morons apparently have never heard of the law of supply and demand. All they have done is create demand way beyond supply, and pushed the price of Solar PV up, putting it out of reach of developing nations who have twice the Solar Insolation of Germany (and need the Solar PV much more so than high tech Germany which could easily go Nuclear instead).

I'm actually somewhat optimistic about Solar PV, much more so than Wind or Desert Solar Thermal but the present PV technology is just not going to do the job. If you want to subsidize Solar Thermal, than why not just subsidize the much more efficient, much more practical, much more under-utilized Solar Hot Water, for the homeowner – not for big Solar Corporations. New Technologies have the potential to lower Solar PV to $1 per watt, but major R&D is needed. If the German Greens had even one ounce of brains, they would have a modest subsidy sufficient to keep demand close to supply, and the bulk of subsidy invested in new technology, with a potential to substantially lower the cost of Solar PV.

And the subsidies for Solar PV installations should be directed primarily to homeowners, who can install the Solar Panels on their own homes, enthusiasts who will supply all of the installation cost themselves, giving the homeowner a sense of energy independence and protection against power failures, true distributed power generation, supplying the power closest to the point of consumption. Politicians have been moving the subsidies away from homeowners and to the lower efficiency commercial and industrial installers, who hire lobbyists and give them fat political contributions.

And if a homeowner has a BEV or PHEV they can supply green energy for their vehicle much more cheaply than fuel energy. As a matter of fact it is about 5 to 6 times cheaper to run a BEV on Solar PV in the southern United States @ $3.50 per watt than a comparable fuel powered vehicle. And the Solar PV for a BEV or PHEV can be a simple install, without building or electrical code problems or a fairly expensive synchronizing inverter. Just a direct low power connection from the Solar Panel to the EV battery through a simple, cheap DC-DC converter. For the U.S. average 30 miles per day vehicle travel, Solar PV of 1.6 kw pk (Los Angeles) is needed, or $5,700 at $3.50 per watt.

Charles Barton said...

Solar water heaters and some solar space heating works for me. Solar electrics is idiotic. A PV skin on an EV would provide some daytime range extention.

Alexander said...

ood post, very informative

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