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Solar power cost benefit

Solar power cost analysis

OMG I have to read ...and ...think?

Pro and cons of solar PV

This page does not answer all questions... the purpose is to cause you to think

Why isn't there clear information about solar?

RETAIL solar promoters are SELLING A PRODUCT.
They want to install a high-priced solar installation on top of your house

With widespread promotion of solar panels, there is little interest by sellers to say negative things about the product.
Instead of providing real pros-and-cons, some websies offer pro-n-con: leasing vrs buying... with the presumption that you need solar...

I think sellers of solar power should be straightforward about what they are selling.
They are selling a PRODUCT... without revealing full analysis to the public.

Understand the basics of solar

AC alternating current/ DC direct current

-Solar panels produce DC or direct current.
-Car battery produces DC current where electrons move from the negative pole to the positive pole.
-Grid electricity is AC alternating current.
-Coal-fired power plant, hydroelectric dam, etc produces AC current where electrons reverse direction back and forth across grid at 60 cycles per second.
-Switchgear for AC and DC electricity must meet different specs to safely handle the voltages. High voltage DC poses challenges and more arc when switching..
-You cannot connect DC solar panel directly into AC breaker box
-Typically, DC voltage is converted to AC voltage using inverter.
-DC power that is converted to AC power cannot be connected to grid without syncing with the 60 cycle movement of the grid electricity.
-Solar power installations cannot connect to the grid without having automatic disconnect when grid power is down.... this requirement is to protect line repairmen from live electricity coming from the solar installation.
-Equipment such as DC-AC Inverter, automatic cycle sync, and automatic disconnect are supplied by solar installation contractor, and are highly regulated by grid.
Why is this important?
Electricity is regulated to ensure safety, and ensure appliances receive correct voltage and cycles, and that the grid runs clean waveform electric

Solar panels must be replaced once per generation

-Every solar panel built today must be replaced in about 25 years... some people say they last much longer than 25 years..
-Some people claim 50 year life span... in any case the solar panels decline in output over time.
-People that believe solar electricity will replace the electric grid, should understand that solar power cannot build or deliver solar panels.

-If you install solar panels the same day your first child is born, then when child is age 25, your solar panels need replacement or are declining in output.
-This means your home is worth less value over time. This conflicts with solar panel sellers who say home values will go up with solar install.
-If you install solar panels at age 45 and expect to live until 70.... you will probably need to purchase solar panels again.
-If all the folks who buy solar today expect to sell home when solar panels decline in output... I estimate that banks and home buyers will be aware of the depreciated value of your asset.
Why is this important?
Solar panel infrastructure is expensive long-term.

Solar without grid connection needs batteries

If you buy solar PV photovoltaic panels, and do not connect to grid, you need battery back-up.
More solar panels generally means smaller batteries.
Batteries are charged by the solar panels and can hold the charge and deliver power to home when solar is not available
-Cold, clear sunny days produce the most PV output.
-You cannot run appliances at same time... appliance usage must be staggered.
-You must plan and conserve resources.
-For example buy large water heater and heat during good solar day and sip during bad solar
-You might need firewood which puts forests at risk
-Solar without grid is for hearty folks, and is not good strategy for people wanting carefree lifestyle.
-Solar output can be increased by re-positioning panels to face the sun, and changing configuration of strings in the array as solar conditions change... large commercial arrays use various strategies to harvest maximum solar power throughout each day, but this action takes effort and robust DC-rated switchgear.
Why is this important?
Off grid without using other sources of fuel is hard living.

Batteries last 15 years

Batteries last about 15 years
-Cost of batteries and replacement batteries skew projected saving shown by solar sellers.
-The correct financials should include battery cost-and-replacement in solar analysis
-The typical  'answer' from solar sellers is solar reduces carbon, so the cost is not important... but not if the forests are chopped down to heat homes.... or if trees need to be removed so solar panels receive sun.
Why is this important?
Batteries are expensive. Batteries as they exist today, cannot be made or transported using solar panels.The net effect of carbon from solar is not measured by sellers of solar.

Solar connected to grid does not need batteries

If you connect your solar to grid, you do not need batteries.
- The grid is the battery.
-You consume grid distribution
-You do not need to conserve resources and stagger use of appliances
-Your solar panels send excess production into the grid during good solar days
-Late in day, early morning, can produce very low output of solar PV. Nighttime produces no electric power.
-Solar panels do not need to be disconnected at night... they either produce electric power or they don't depending on solar conditions.
-FYI: When handling solar panels in the daytime, they can cause shock ... be careful..  there is no shut-off switch
Why is this important?
Grid backup is necessary for people wanting convenient appliance usage

Solar connected to grid is co-generation

-During peak usage periods when business are open during day, the grid must run co-generation plants to meet demand.
-Unlike main power plants, co-generation is usually a smaller unit located along the transmission line. Co-generation is typically gas or diesel powered, but can be hydro etc.
-Hydrocarbon power plants (gas, coal etc) and hydrocarbon co-generation plants consume water for cooling and for steam-powered generator. Some of this water is recycled. In some regions, the shortage of water means local crop irrigation cannot be provided because water is needed for the power plant and local homes and businesses.
-Solar panels do not consume water at end user location.
-The manufacture of aluminum used for solar panel frames consumes water, as does the energy needed to build and transport solar panels to end location.
-Generally aluminum manufacture is located close to hydroelectric power generation. During drought, aluminum manufacture can be canceled so homes and businesses have enough water and electricity.
-Co-generation of electricity from solar panels is important, and can help offset effect of drought and shortage of electric.

-Grid demand is monitored by computers. Typical co-generation plant can be brought online 'quickly.'
-Start up and shut down of co-generation is costly, as is running the co-generation plant.
-Solar helps meet the need for co-generation during peak hours.
-Solar power varies as the sun varies. On party sunny days, the solar output varies.
-Grid computers balance the demand on the grid with need for co-generation plant start-up.
-If the solar output is spread across wide area, the co-generation from solar is uniform on party cloudy days, as some panels produce more while others produce less.
-The value of co-generation is debated. Solar provides co-generation, and offsets need for construction of more co-generation plants.
-Co-generation from any source cannot be allowed to run up the cost of electricity for every business that is open during day.
-Growth is required for capitalist system. Growth pays the interest on debt. Without debt and growth, there is recession. Electricity is critical for growth. Running costs on the grid, works against capitalism.
-Connection to the grid requires automatic shut-off in event the grid loses power. This is to protect men working on the line from getting shocked by electricity entering the grid from solar installations. The same is true for a person's emergency generator. Commercially-sold solar installations come with automatic shut-off to meet grid safety requirement.
Why is this important?
There is debate over the value of co-generation from solar power. Both grid and solar need each other.

What about co-generation from solar?

Yes it is one answer. This is complex with several layers to consider.
Musk, the builder of the electric car says we can replace all electric generation in US by installing solar panels over a 'small percentage of Utah.
10% of Utah is 8400 square miles.
A square mile of solar panels @ $100 per 2x4 panel => 27878400 square feet / 8 sq ft per panel = 3.48 million solar panels x $100 per panel = $34.8 million per square mile
$34.8 million per square mile x 8400 square miles = $292,320 million = $292.3 billion for 10% of Utah as best wholesale price.
So $100 per panel is wholesale price.... not retail price paid by each homeowner for a retail installation.

Re-calculate using the retail sales price of $300 per solar panel... the figure is $877 billion.
These numbers are for the solar panels only..... not for the substructure or switchgear, transformer substations, cost of leasing property, royalty, fencing, wires, insurance, interest, labor, road building, depreciation over life of panel etc etc
Fair extimate for the other structures might be double the price of solar panels?

Re-calculate again using price of installing rooftop solar at full retail. Let's say we pay $25,000 per1000 square feet
A square mile of rootftop solar panels = 27,878 installations x $25,000 each = $697 million per square mile.(vs 34.8 million per square mile for commercial array)
8400 square miles of retail-priced rooftop solar installations would cost $5,854,800 million or 5.854 trillion ....
But there is more.... retail rooftop must add retail insurance.
Moreover, the grid must inspect installations to ensure they match the same waveform as the grid... otherwise electric disturbances will damage motors, appliances etc.
PLUS there is liability risk from homeowners climbing on rooftops to clean snow and dust and ash off panels, plus inefficiencies from location and inability to harvest maximum solar energy. There are many inefficiencies in retail rooftop installations, plus indications that retailers are selling solfrware that will increase output during times of maximum solar... thus manipulating the price.

The calculations above shows that co-gerneration by solar power is possible.
And it shows that all of us must contribute to make it possible.... so we-the-people, users-of-electricty must pay the price.

However, the calculation also shows that we-the-people cannot afford to pay the retail price.

Distribution of Solar power

Grid is necessary for distribution of solar

If you resell solar power to grid, you need the grid to distribute your power. Why?
-If you run 4/0 copper wire over to your neighbor, there is substantial voltage drop. This is wasted electricity, and your neighbor's appliances are damaged.
-Distribution of electricity requires a transformer to step-up voltage from your location so it can be distributed along power line to the transformer located at next house.
-If more than 1 home is connected to same transformer, then each can experience voltage drop when heavy loads are turned on.
-Voltage drops reduce efficiency of appliances and damages motors, causing shortened lifespan.
-Transformers are necessary to avoid heat loss during transmission and distribution. When voltage is stepped up, amperage (heat) is stepped down.
-The high voltage leaving your transformer can carry 7000 volts. Each transformer has a re-settable surge arrestor/ fuse that will trip to protect the transformer and end user home. Long fiberglass pole or grounded bucket truck are used to reset fuse. Adding new home service to line is frequently done with live power and insulated gloves to avoid disruption.
-In addition to surge arrestor/ fuse located at each transformer, surge protection is installed on the grid. The surge protection is designed to lessen damage caused by nearby lightning that energizes the line. Voltage drops and spikes are costly. Surge protectors and suppressors and arrestors are consumed over time, and do not last forever... some are single-use.
-Grid surge protection also protects appliances and transformers at each home, reducing the number of fuse resets.
-Clean power is essential today. Solar uses the word clean to describe low carbon footprint of solar. While the grid uses clean to describe a steady waveform on the line that does not carry interference into new energy-efficient appliances, electronics etc. High tech businesses, appliances and machinery require clean energy from the grid. Prevention of surge is essential.
Surge does not damage solar panels, but can damage solar equipment and appliances and electronics inside home. Surge caused by lightning strike within 100 feet of home can by-pass any home-installed surge and destroy anything including solar panels. The closer the surge-protector is located to device, the more protection it offers.
Proper grounding by combining all grounds together and installing multiple ground rods in array can minimize damage from lightning.
The grid is grounded at every pole and transformer. With a secondary stabilization provided by the system neutral that travels full length of grid.
Why is this important?
The grid is expensive to maintain. New energy efficiency standards require clean reliable power. Upgrading the grid is necessary for long term viability of electric.

Solar business models

Sell solar power to your neighbor

If the solar business model is to sell your power to your neighbors, there are considerations.
-The grid is necessary for distribution
-The question is, does the solar industry want to take over control the distribution grid and related expenses, or do they just want to sell a solar panel installation and demand others pay for distribution?
-Billing and disconnects and repairs are required if you sell power to your neighbors.
-Reliability and stable pricing are required.
-Reliability on the grid means you can turn on a light switch and power will be there. Solar contributes to reliability by providing co-generation.
-If the solar sellers want to take over control the grid, then the question is: are they willing to keep the grid working until all your neighbors install solar, at which time the grid is no longer needed?
-If you assume your own solar-powered grid and sell to your neighbors, are you prepared for meter installation and collections? Will you invest in equipment and hope neighbors do not install solar next year? Can you reset fuses and install new home service? What about kunda lines...what are you going to do to protect and monitor your electricity so nobody steals from you, or damages your equipment, and that your power supply doesn't damage their appliances? What are you going to do if neighbor installs a generator and demands you buy back from him? Can you replace a blown transformer? Can you afford to rebuild your grid if fire or lightning or windstorm knocks everything down? What if neighbors start calling you a monopoly and agitating each other over the expensive investment you made to sell them power?
Why is this important?
Laws are in effect that prohibit selling electricity to neighbor. People who want to change the law should be aware that selling power is a business.

Sell solar power at peak prices

If the solar business model is to demand peak pricing so excess solar power can sell at highest possible cost, there are considerations.
-Common among solar sellers is the attitude that the grid is stopping them from profiting
-Truth is, the grid protects people from overpricing, bringing stability to all businesses from grocery to storefronts to gas station to cell towers.
-Everybody is affected by price spikes.
-5% drop in grid demand affects the business model for grid... swinging it towards unsustainable... showing that the grid is not overly profitable on the backs of ordinary people.
Why is this important?
Some people claim the grid takes advantage of folks, on both the grid and solar side of the issue

Collusion over peak pricing

There is a collusary effort by solar sellers to profit from higher prices.
They want to profit from load demand on the grid by adding software and telling solar panel owners to cut their own appliance usage so they can sell at the peak price.
This is opposite purpose of peak pricing.
Peak pricing is designed so users will conserve... so that prices will not spike.
The peak price strategy by the grid benefits everyone. The peak price strategy of solar benefits only solar.
The solar industry is attempting to capitalize on the shortage, and take advantage of peak-price policy that is intended to help the grid.
The grid does not spike prices on solar when solar-users need it the most at night.
Why is this important?
Proponents of solar want to profit from the grid without paying for grid maintenance and upgrades. The grid is starting to charge monthly fees.


Monopoly is an inflammatory term used by solar manufacturers and solar sellers to get people worked up over an 'issue' .... as if we need one more agitation in our culture.
So let's talk straight. The grid is all-the-people-and-businesses. It's the family living on 10th floor of building. It's the hospital. It's the fire department. It's the football stadium. The grid is homegrown. It is not from China. It is the jobs and people needed to produce and transmit and distribute power to people.
The grid is necessary for the manufacture, delivery and installation of solar panels. Solar energy cannot produce enough power to produce solar electricity.
The grid is in charge of regulation and pricing to ensure clean reliable power.
Often the solar sellers refer to grid as a monopoly. Implying that grid is like the old monopolists that controlled railroads and overcharged for shipping.
-The grid does the opposite... making sure electric standards are met so that your appliances do not receive 30 cycle power running at 300 volts. The grid is standardized for the benefit of all users, and standardized is more accurate description for the grid than monopolized.
Why is this important?
Proponents of solar claim the public utility is a board of folks that do not look at science and only want to protect existing production.
Proponents of solar issue glossy, slogan-based promotion on social media that blame the grid for stopping solar, but do not reveal full information.

De-regulating the grid so solar can profit

-I read articles posted by sellers of solar panels that said 'we need to deregulate the grid' so solar power can profit
-My opinion: these comments are inflammatory and not well-researched.
-Texas deregulated the grid. The people's interest in electric power was sold to 'investors' without giving people a vote or stock benefit from the sale of public property.
-The people gave away ownership of an asset in exchange for the promise of lower prices. Just like the promise that property tax will go down if you just vote to end the tax on home sales ... so builders can take more profit from your community ... so local politicians face unpleasant job of raising property tax rate to meet shortfall in local service.
-Almost immediately after de-regulating grid in Texas, the scams and 50% price spike started.
-People were forced to choose from a list of approved 'providers'... because it was free market choice... except people were not free to choose power from public utilities in Louisiana or San Antonio where prices were lower than new rates.
-The state-appointed contactor in charge of listing providers on the state website was receiving payoffs to recommend certain providers. That contractor was fired. But not before people suffered losses.
-New schemes started up. Low base prices with hidden fees. Over-usage at certain times of day caused some people to receive $700 electric bills. High cancellation fees were added to the one year contracts. If you failed to shop around at end of contract period, the account was rolled over into the highest rate plan... and people got cheated again.
-Good news... local newspapers carried stories exposing problems with de-regulation.
-Turner and other Democrats in the statehouse begin saying the people would take back the grid if problems were not straightened out.
-The PUC public utility commission resumed control over the de-regulated industry, and problems largely disappeared.
-Prices dropped to previous levels, but people are still required to choose a provider each year. Rollovers do not default to highest rate, but come with limits that charge for overage.
-De-regulation also meant canceled services. And those problems remain. For example, rural streetlights were no longer maintained. A loose guy wire was reported and left un-repaired. Local children used the guy wire as a swing on until one boy shorted it against the hot wire on pole above and got killed. Newspaper carried the story.
-De-regulation has the potential of cheating and harming people.
Why is this important?
Some proponents of solar are claim that solar will profit more if the grid is removed from public oversight and sold off to corporations.

What if everybody has solar

If the solar model is so everybody will have solar, then there are business considerations
-If everybody has solar, then highest price for electricity will be when there is NO sunshine, because nobody will have power.
-Trees will be cut down to heat homes. Local forests will be gone in ten years and the claim that solar reduces carbon should be questioned.
-If everybody has solar, then lowest price for electricity will be when sun shines... and then everybody will be recharging batteries.
-If everybody has solar, then the large commercial solar array installations become less important since everybody has power at same time.
-Batteries will be needed by everybody.... prices for batteries will spike.

-Using just solar power, the sustainability of producing replacement solar panels is a question.
-Solar power cannot supply enough electricity to make or deliver solar panels.
-The main point: Solar power will extend the life expectancy of hydrocarbon fuels. Beyond that it is unknown what will happen unless atomic power assumes leadership.

-If everybody has solar, then the distribution grid is not necessary because your area will have high-and-low power generation at same time... and people will cut down forests to stay warm... and this is the correct analysis for full solar, and is opposite from what solar sellers say.
Why is this important?
Solar is not self-sustaining. Solar does not save the earth or reduce carbon if people need to cut down the forests for firewood.

Homeowner insurance/ resale of home

-Solar will raise price for homeowner insurance, and may affect all people, not just solar users.
If everybody has solar panels, insurance companies might spike prices for coverage, or cancel coverage for windstorm damage, as we experienced in Texas.
-Cost of disaster recovery will be greater
-Promises that home will be worth more is questionable... would you pay full price for home with 25 year old solar panels?
Really... will a 25-year-old furnace make your house worth more?
-Will the mortgage lender loan full value on a home with 25 year old solar panels?
Why is this important?
The underlying infrastructure for solar is very expensive.

Solar panels will only get better/ warranty

-I hear three stories
1) solar proponents say panels last 50 years, but are guaranteed for 25... but... in any event they quit working and need replacement... like anything else
2) solar sellers say solar panels will get better.... just like manufactures improved chocolate by reducing the regulation that it contain real chocolate?
3) Silver is needed for internal connections on solar panels. Silver price is growing same as solar demand... and manufacturers are looking for substitutes. I read one source that mentioned aluminum... true that aluminum is a low priced conductor, but aluminum expands and contracts and it not nearly the quality of silver for the purpose of embedding into solar panel cells. Copper will not work as substitute because the surface will pit.

-Ok we all know manufacturers bring out a great product, and everybody rushes to buy it... and then the product gets cheapened for whatever market reasons.... but we don't discover the cheap substitute until it breaks. We only bought it because the old one was so great, but then we got ripped off on the re-buy.
-Can you tell by looking at the solar panel? Are you trusting the industry to regulate itself as success drives production costs up, as more and more folks demand the product? The answer I hear from solar is that the 'price of panels will only go down' ... but that is NOT consistent with the price of silver, unless they substitute cheaper conductor. The past ten years will not predict the next ten years.
-If solar manufacturers add a feature to cut costs because the price of silver makes their manufacturing plant unprofitable... will they tell the seller... and will the seller tell the buyer? Who is watching out for the electric grid that is needed for our economy?

-Who is going to honor the warranty in 25 years? The seller? No... the manufacturer carries the warranty.... or the manufacturer's warranty carrier.
-I understand it's all flags and happiness when you buy a new home from the developer... but after the development is built-out... the warranty gets lost somehow when the builder incorporated under a different name, and a class action lawsuit is needed... which assumes public expense at the courthouse.
-Is the manufacturer going to be around in 25 years?
-Will you have the sales receipt?
-How will they measure output for the warranty purpose? Will it be like trying to get a warranty on your mattress, where they fudge the numbers each time until you quit in exasperation?
Why is this important?
Claims by solar are typical of booming industry. In a gold rush, the miners believe the ground is filled with riches. Usually only a few people get rich.

Who's in charge of our energy?

Ok everybody knows it's big oil and big coal etc... who are severely regulated so they don't run the price of electricity on the people.
The real question is ... as solar becomes more popular:
-Solar is an industry that is involved in supplying electric power to the capitalist economy.... Who is managing consumer protection over solar?
-Are we trusting our future to manufacturers from china who own our technology? Are solar advocates promoting china?
-Are we trusting our future to solar sellers who declare the grid is an oppressive monopoly?
My personal opinion: the sellers of solar should provide full scope of information, instead of trying to divide people over half-information .... for example, if solar users cut down trees to warm house, has this been added into the net-carbon benefit that the solar industry claims? Or maybe solar panels mean fewer trees are cut for firewood. That study would be more informative than blaming the grid for regulating electric power, or charging fees to maintain and upgrade grid.
Why is this important?
Proponents of solar are selling a panel that lasts 25 years. Stand-alone, without other sources of energy, solar is not long term strategic planning.


-Solar panel frames are made from extruded aluminum
-Aluminum requires massive amount of electricity
-Aluminum solar panel frames will last longer than the solar panel
-Once the aluminum is made, it can be re-use without additional extrusion... another solar panel can be fit into the old frame.
-This huge advantage, except the advantage is not in play.
-Unlike the grid that standardizes for sake of long-term economy, the solar industry does not have standard sizes.
-Solar panels are glued into the frame so they are waterproof, so water and ice won't break the panel apart
-The glue is nearly impossible to remove from the frame.
-I would like to see the solar industry tackle this problem right now so the frames can be re-used in the future without having to remelt and re-extrude frames.
-Solar industry needs standardization and regulation to meet long-term stability.
Why is this important?
The social profile of solar would benefit from standardization and long term planning.

Should we abandon the grid for new energy source?

-For solar to be profitable for typical grid user who is accustomed to electric conveniences, solar must connect to grid and expect the grid to pay peak price for co-generation without putting profit back into grid infrastructure.
-If the grid charges infrastructure fee, or limits time of re-selling, then the solar profit model is skewed.
-If you go off-grid... You generally need batteries if you want electric power at night or on bad solar days. This expense skews profit picture.
-Solar power can also be stored in hot water tank, or inside a well-insulated home without using batteries.
-Off grid strategy is fine for families for the first 25 years. Then you and your children need more solar panels. Solar panels cannot be manufactured and shipped to your location using only solar power. 
-Off grid living is spare unless you have large number of solar panels.
-Off-grid with a lot of solar panels requires work to monitor, manage and operate your mini-grid.
-If you are older person, off-grid strategy is more difficult because it requires time and effort to maintain.... which is the work that the grid does for you.
-If you have large number of solar panels and live off-grid, and want to re-locate to new home, then that adds extra burden. Solar is not mobile.
-Off-grid living requires firewood. I've never read a story about somebody living off-grid and not using firewood.
-The claim that forests can re-generate fast enough to supply firewood for everybody seems implausible ... and middle east is good example of previously forested region.
-If everybody in a city with millions of people started using firewood, the forests would be gone... and lone guy on mountain might realize he cannot stop mass numbers of people from cutting down his firewood.
-Solar panels can't be used to make a steel ax. Cutting firewood and trees with a stone ax is lost art, but with practice, the wife will become proficient.
-Carbon from burning all the trees and subsequent drying of earth makes solar look more antiquated than grid.
Why is this important?
Solar needs to get a full grasp on what they are selling, and how it contributes.

Inconvenient truths

-Solar power cannot supply enough electricity to make or deliver solar panels.

Solar is a legitimate player in the game... but they don't have the best hand at the table.
Trying to bluff. everybody else into folding their hand is a losing strategy.-The main point: Solar power will extend the life expectancy of hydrocarbon fuels. Beyond that it is unknown what will happen unless atomic power assumes leadership.
Solar power car charger We want to charge electric car with solar panels.

Example 10,000 watts for 5 hours will charge battery.
Tesla sells 60 70 and 85KWh battery so example 50KWh is realistic.

85 kWh battery pack is 265 miles range.
265miles/85KWH = 3.1 mpkwh (miles per Kilo watt hour)
Estimate 50 Kwh x 3.1 mpkwh = 155 mile range
Footnote for comparison: 105 gal water heater is like a 25KWh thermal battery when fully heated.
1) Assuming good solar day.
How many 250 watt solar panels would it take to recharge 50 Kwh car battery?

Rule of thumb you get 5 x PV rating…  So you need 10,000W array,  40 panels.
If car battery is charged empty-to-full

2) Assuming half-decent solar day.
How many 250 watt solar panels would it take?

More panels.
Solar power wants to be the big player on the grid?
Promoters of solar want you to pay premium prices for their product without answering questions or revealing facts to the public.

They are selling a product... and it is true: solar has a use and a position on the grid... but the promoters are skewing facts.

Look at the illustration above... it shows mathematical fact.

5 hours of full solar on 41-43, 250 watt, solar panels.... will fully charge ONE 50Kwh electric car battery.
3.1 Kwh per mile = 155 miles on full charge

What about cloudy days?
On days with less-than-full solar, the charge will take more panels.

It's time to be real about solar... and start looking at facts....
,,, because solar power can't build a car.
... solar panels can't deliver solar panels to your location
.... solar panels cannot produce enough power to make a solar panel
... solar cannot make primary aluminum, or extrude primary or secondary aluminum needed to make the frame.
... solar cannot collect secondary aluminum for recycling
... solar cannot produce the wire and switchgear needed to convert solar into useful mass electricity
... solar cannot make a heating element, or a stock tank, or a windmill, or an ax, or a plow.
... solar cannot produce enough power to bring the panels over from China
... it cannot even make lightning rods or or ground rods or copper wire needed to protect the solar panels.

Solar industry is totally dependent on other energy sources.

And this FACT needs to be discussed by solar proponents.
I support solar... but first, I support the facts.

Solar promoter

You want to save energy,
-get a bicycle and ride to work in January in Chicago.
-Demand recycling of every product.
-Make smaller TVs.
-Use passive solar water heating.
-Quit giving huge houses an energy star.
-Limit the amount of heat-seeking concrete.
-Add replacement to every cost analysis... including stadiums and malls.
-Plant trees, plant trees, plant trees.
-Turn off the lights at night.
The manufacturer of electric cars...wants a carbon tax
He wants everybody else to pay a tax... except his car

This guy wants to manufacture his car (which cannot be made or delivered using green energy... meaning these processes will have a carbon tax)
...And don't forget... they don't make solar-powered trucks or trains or buses or tractors or combines or cement mixers or cranes ... (all of which will pay a carbon tax)
... he wants battery technology and tires and lightweight materials for his car (which cannot be made or delivered using green energy... meaning these processes will have a carbon tax)
... he want to drive on roads (that cannot be built using green energy... meaning these processes will have a carbon tax)
... and then add a penalty tax to the people who charged his car battery (unless they use solar panels that will NOT have a carbon tax)
... with the intent that people will buy solar panels (that cannot be manufactured, transported or installed using green energy, ... meaning these processes will have a carbon tax)

... and each of those solar panels must be fully replaced each generation when they quit working....(despite the fact that solar power cannot make a new solar panel)
... solar cannot deliver enough power to transport recycled aluminum to make the frame for a solar panel....
... and there is not enough aluminum on the planet to make all the frames needed for all the solar panels he envisions.

Not enough aluminum on Earth for solar panel fames? Gene, you seem like a smart guy but don’t you realized that Aluminum is the most abundant metallic element in the Earth’s crust, (8.3% by mass)? It is also the 3rd most abundant element on Earth by weight behind oxygen and silicon.

But let me do an off the cuff calculation for you, just for fun. Suppose you wanted to run the entire world’s total energy demands just from 100% solar power. 15 Terawatts continuously all year would require 90 Terawatts of PV panels (assuming 4 full sun hours per day). How much aluminum would we need for the PV panel frames and racking?
For argument sake let’s just focus on the solar PV energy generation and leave out the energy storage problem.
I estimate that my last 5kW solar installation used about 250 lbs of aluminum racking and panel framing (20 watts per pound of aluminum).

So a massive, hypothetical, global 90TW PV solar array sufficient to power humanity’s current total energy demands would require 4.5 trillion pounds or 2.25 billion tons of aluminum. That is a lot of aluminum and would require the world’s entire 2012 manufacturing output of aluminum for 50 years to meet. Still, that is only a tiny fraction of the aluminum available on Earth. Let’s not forget that aluminum is 100% recyclable. Huge quantities of aluminum components used in the now hypothetically defunct fossil fuel and ICE industry could be recycled into PV frames and racking. Would it be too bold to assume that the aluminum in a single internal combustion engine block could be recycled into the PV frames to power an entire household’s usage?

It is plausible that aluminum production could also be ramped up x5 of where is currently at, to meet demand and use 80% of that just for aluminum frames and racking. Add in freed up recycled aluminum sources no longer needed in a 100% solar powered economy and this hypothetical, solar array’s aluminum demands could be met in under 8 years.

Sorry this is verbose and maybe you aren’t even reading it, but it just goes to show that through determination and a little optimism anything is possible. At least I think so. #LivingThePipeDream
I’m glad we can have a civil conversation about this. It has been fun discussing this with you. I agree there is green washing that happens too often and costs are inflated too much.
Here are my quick answers to your questions.

Question 1. Standardization of racking:
This is a problem in all industries. How long have we had differing cell phone chargers? But there is also the issue of snow/wind loading that differ from county to county. You can use a super cheap racking system in one part of the country but in my county everything has to be designed to withstand 150 mph winds and 4’ snow loads. It would be a waste of money having to buy a more robust racking and panel system if you didn’t have to, just for standards sake.
Also panel size has been steadily increasing. That has helped bring down the cost somewhat as well. I imagine they won’t get much larger though. Solar is still a young, evolving industry and it will continue to evolve and improve.
Even if they could come up with a standard rail form factor and panel dimension, I don’t know if it would be a good idea to re-use them. After 30-50 years on a rooftop, the aluminum would probably no longer meet code due to metal fatigue from exposure to wind and the elements. At the energy cost of an extra week or two worth of solar collection necessary to liquefy 250 lbs of aluminum, it would be worth recycling and re-extruding the rails just to ensure the structural properties of the new rail/racks can be guaranteed.
Question 2. Environmental damage from mining aluminum
That is a valid concern but you only have to mine it once and after that, assuming we don’t throw them away, you can just keep recycling the same aluminum over and over. A few years ago, I calculated the environmental cost of an entire solar array and the damage incurred in manufacture, transport and installation is recouped in under 3 years.

Question 3. Land area needed for a 90TW solar farm.
Well, let’s see, assuming 12 watts per sqft (a 13-15% efficient solar array) and 27,878,400 ft-sq per square mile = 334 MW per square mile. You would need 44,910 square miles in solar panels to cover hold 90 TW worth of solar panels sufficient to power the entire world’s energy needs.
That’s only the land area of the state of Utah to power the entire planet indefinitely. That doesn’t sound too bad to me, especially if we can use land area that already has parking lots and buildings on it.
90 TW array calculation already includes charging EVs and assumes 10,000 miles/ year per car
Thanks for being the solar-calculator for us, John.. now... Rent, loss and insurance... forget 'greeen'... let's look at facts of living... LOL half the land of Utah ? ... instead, I volunteer west Texas, since those folks are accustomed to royalties each month from the energy sector ... and I assume most Texans would prefer that plan instead of digging up Ft Worth Dallas for the oil shale.... although both options have + and - .... SO... how much will it cost to lease 45,000 square miles of land? ... and what will we do with the cows and lizards and old retirees? ... and how about hail storms, tornadoes, lightning and Texas crossfire during huntin' season ... and theft? Will we have to build a fence around the panels? ... will the local bubbas figure out how to throw kunda lines over the wires to get free power for TV and beer cooler? ... the cost for loss-prevention and indemnification must be calculated .... and next we have to talk about erosion from the loss of vegetation.... maybe we have to space out the panels so they cover the whole state of Utah.... which will double royalty payments, but will reduce political posturing after everybody moves out?
Look, I'm pleading with the 'green' community to get real.
These are serious issues... and they are not green...
... you don't belong to a green club...
... we are talking about lives that people live.
... we are talking about rents and insurance and transportation
... for everyone..
... not just the engineer who is enjoying a better lifestyle

... we are talking about the MRI machine working in middle of night
... we are talking about railroads and long haul truckers
... and apartment dwellers
... and folks that can't afford to live near their workplace

You honestly believe we can devote all the aluminum production for 50 years to make the solar panel frames...
... and that will not affect aluminum can production?

You honestly believe people will consider covering 65,000 square miles of earth with solar panels?

You honestly believe societies are going to decide to invest a massive amount of carbon-based contruction effort into building 65,000 square miles of solar panels.

You honestly believe the new investment in solar panles will not be equally difficult to maintain as it was to build?

You honestly believe that societies will think 65,000 square miles of solar panels is reasonable objective?

And that the indemnification risk for humdreds of square miles of solar panels is less than a nuclear power plant? I know you green folks with jump on this onre topic instead og answering the other objecvtions.... because the green community cherry picks which things they dislike and ignores the rest as if those theings 'will work themselves out.'

Then to make the solar grid work,... you must convince people to end dependence on the grid ... and build a whole new grid to connect the solar panel array... with all new transformer stations, switchgear, converters, fences etc etc etc../. none of which can be made using solar power.

The whole of society must re-thrust itself into producing the massive solar grid.,.. using carbon energy to do so... and no amount of experimental batteries or trucks or battery swappers or whatever can supply the amoung of energy needed to make this massive grid... which you claim will be self-sustaining once it is built... ignoring that wars and social disturbance

Without the solar green people bothering to answer the simple questions I ask.
The aluminum ...by a  fellow today... who mathematically showed that if we devoted all aluminum production (based on 2012 production).. to solar panel frames for next 50 years, we could make enough frames to accommodate 90TW of solar power needed to duplicate the amount of electricity produced today.

He further calculated it would take "44,910 square miles in solar panels to cover hold 90 TW worth of solar panels sufficient to power the entire world’s energy needs. That’s only the land area of the state of Utah".... (or 2/3 of Indiana) ... now I've walked around Utah a bit, and climbed a Wasatch until above cloud level... looked out over the great basin.... and that's is one big array of solar panels LOL. And who knows what would happen if old Lake Bonneville filled up again.
Right now both solar panels and electric cars are in the early adoption stage. The thought of not being able to drive 500 miles on a tank scares people and so the thought of only being able to go 80-100 miles on a charge is unthinkable to most people. It's not their fault, they are just still stuck in the old paradigm of gas cars. Even if they regularly only drive 30 miles a day. They are still hung up on needing buttons on their cell phone or using CRT monitors.
However once a two car family changes out one of their cars to an electric vehicle, for the most part, they quickly learn to love the EV and dis-like the gas one.
For my family, we were a 3 car family. We had 2 EVs and 1 gas mini-van. The van would sit for months at a time between uses. This may not be the case for everyone but for us we only drive far about 5 times a year. It was actually costing us more to license and insure the van than to just rent a gas vehicle for those longer trips.
Also Nissan offered us 10 free days of rental as part of the Lease agreement on our Leaf.
Once the van started costing too much to keep it running and maintained, we made the un-thinkable leap of abandoning ownership of a gas car entirely.
I'm a visionary and my wife is an early adopter so this is intuitively obvious and desirable for us. I suspect you Gene are a Late Adoper of EVs. As EVs reach mass early adoption stage, (I estimate that will be after 2017 when 3 or more manufactures are selling affordable, 200 mile range EVs) this will become more apparent to everyone, including you.
You want to know about me? ... I am the salesman on the ground level who is looking for mechanical details ... I know solar was created by visionaries. But sales differ by region. You think Chase bank doesn't know about Germany's alternative energy? Yet they are still loaning money on new homes here with rooflines that do not accommodate solar panels. I ask why? I ask what words and ideas can I create to help change that? When somebody on the green energy site says they have geothermal heat run by solar power... I see opportunity.... and then I want to know what region they are in, and I want to know why the builders here are not installing it... because I know the average shallow underground temperature here, and I know the soils and how they shift and break foundations, I know how the soils affect metal pipeline here, and wooden structures, and how deep the frost goes. 30 years ago I built my own home... yes I was the carpenter, plumber, electrician, cabinet maker... and my home was designed to be energy efficient and use passive solar heating .. my roofline was purposefully set up for solar panels (unfinished for so many other projects) .... while roofs on most homes are not designed for solar... I am not a late adopter (and by the way marketing school taught stages of product acceptance in the last century)... For decades I've told people how municipal water systems depend on geothermal heat to keep pipes from freezing. Now I want to know more about the mechanics of solar.... I visit my AC installer friend who put in a few solar panels, and first thing I notice is the 14 gauge wire running into the breaker box... I ask, why just 14 because you sure aren't going to run 4 ton AC unit off a 14 gauge wire no matter how many stages the start winding has ... and he gets offended ... maybe he thinks I'm questioning his 'vision' ... but I want to know how it works. That's why I'm sitting here writing ... and yes I am half stupid... wanting to know the mechanics instead of the PROMOTION... and each time I ask, the visionaries act like invaders are scaling into their private happy domain .... maybe because ya'll don't know how it works... except the words coming out of John make sense, and he's a good writer and offers some good gems ... but maybe hesitant he might betray the 'vision' in front of a non-believer?... except I am a believer. It's just it's hard to pull his teeth.
feel free to pull my teeth anyday. You have a good point. Once someone is passionate and converted to something, it's almost a religious fervor and it is human nature to get offended when someone questions it. I try to keep a level head about things but I find myself defending things even when they aren't exactly 100% perfect. For example, EVs that are affordable can't go more than 100 miles on a charge but I am passionate about them anyway.
Try convincing a die-heard Star Wars fan that a Vulcan could take on a Jedi any day. ha ha.
As I travel further down this green path, (solar panels are a gateway drug by the way), I have kept a blog of all my successes and failures. I invite you to check it out and read it.
I try to write it so the layperson could understand it but it is still very technical. You would enjoy it.
This isn't my day-job and I don't have any monetary incentive to defend this stuff, at lest not at this point in my life.
I put ads on my blog but they only make enough to cover cost of administration and the domain name.
We share common thread../

I can read all your stuff, and you can read mine... and neither could digest it all
I see your modest home, much like mine... younger man, younger neighborhood.

But I live here
I see buildings, and 800 mile-wide state, and vast numbers of cars and miles and trucks and trains and shipping.
I am friends with night workers at local food service
I know they're forced to move constantly for the rent, and can't afford to live near work.
I know guys that own rental houses, and small apartment complexes and business parks.
I worked for, worked with, and hired and fired the regular everyday guys.

My neighbor works on pipeline and splits time between minnesota and houston. She drives to and from airport day and night.
You get caught in traffic sometimes, in the rian, and it's 3 hours getting back from the airport
My other neighbor works fifty miles away and leaves before dawn.
My neighbor across the way owns several tow truck companies and a restaurant.
The other neighbor works oil rigs and wants to add more rooms onto his house. I told him about solar. He listened.

People want to know about solar.
It takes practical answers ... and oh boy.... they're going to profit on their neighbors if they go green is one approach.
1) What about insurance?
Texas let insurance companies cancel windstorm coverage.
Of course they did that... it's Texas... people act like republicans... local people voted out the fire department in middle of drought and then discovered it was hard to sell house.
And the state shifted windstorm burden to the state... to all the people.
Which means the hourly worker at fast food has to pay the insurance coverage for some visionary that put solar panels on his roof, and then the tropical storm blew his lawn chairs and broke the tempered glass panels.

2) What about theft?
Copper theft here is huge problem.
Some areas, people have to install cages around air conditioners
Whoa..,. wait until those guys discover solar panels contain silver... and there is a quick market loading them onto ships docked at the port

3) deregulated electric
Electric is a big issue here.
The state deregulated electric service, on the promise of low prices and 'innovation' lol,
Prices went up, and the only innovation was cancelled street light repair, fewer pole replacements, and sneaky contracts that caused overcharges.
The democrats had to threaten to reverse de-regulation to stop the free market trickery.
That lesson was learned.
Folks still have to go online every year and choose a 'provider' and shop prices... so everybody knows the price.
And now, it appears the solar visonaries want other folks to pay for their solar installation by raising our bills?
So again, the burden falls on the poor guy to pay for the visionary.

These are public relations issues.... and listening to 'green' folks declare they laugh when others don't have power is not public relations genius.

I am looking for the words that show a benefit to the people who live here... besides the word green... and besides raising prices on the neighbor.

power plant to house electricity
Larger image

Converting 3-phase to single-phase household power

One Hot wire is taken from 3-phase power lines
The system neutral and 1 Hot wire are used to make single-phase power

Residential single-phase power
Basic household electric
Troubleshoot household electric
What is 3-phase electric

Power plant to house electricity

Illustration shows distribution grid from power plant to individual home
Voltage and amperage are inversely proportional.
Volts x amps = watts.
When volts are reduced at at substation transformer, amps are increased.
High amps are needed at the end user, because amps are the heat that does the work.
However high amps cause heat loss during transmission.
That's why transformer substations are needed: because they control volts and amps.
Each time voltage is reduced, the amperage is increased... and higher amps mean transmission distance is reduced.
So the 500,000 volt lines are used to distribute power long distance.
69,000 volt lines are used for shorter distances.
7,200 volt for local distribution.
Below 4000 volts, the distribution is inefficient because high amps cause too much heat loss

Generally, in the US, each home has a transformer that converts 7200 volt Hot and Neutral into split phase 120-240 volt service.
The home receive low voltage, high amperage
Each home has a transformer that converts 7200 volts into 120-240 single or split phase electricity
Sometimes more than 1 home will share a transformer... result is dimmed lights, or voltage drop each time heavy equipment such as HVAC turns on.
E-mail: geno03245w@gmail.com
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