We have all heard the line “if it sounds too good to be true…” Well solar power is one of those ideas that is too good to be true. Another favorite if it sounds too good to be true are the often repeated statements of President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry claiming renewable energy will lower our electric bills and create millions of jobs that can’t be sent overseas.
For an example of “too good to be true” close to home in the sunshine state, consider Hillsborough County, where the courthouse in 2010 was outfitted with rooftop solar panels, designed to produce 40% of the facility’s electricity, save $60,000 annually in electricity costs, and pay for themselves. The initial cost was $1.2 million, so by saving $60,000 per year, they would pay for themselves in 20 years – a nice, round number. Oh, and by the way, they were going to produce jobs. As part of the Obama Stimulus.
You believe this, right? Sounds good, right?
Well, not exactly. According to the WFTS News article “Solar Panels on Tampa Courthouse Fail to Meet Promises“, the panels are reducing electricity need by 15 – 18%, a savings of less than $2000 per month. At that rate, it will take 45 years for the panels to pay for their cost – if they last that long. As far as I know, there is no hard data yet on solar cell lifetime duration. Estimates range between 15 and 20 years. Solar panels deteriorate over their lifetime, so the $2000/month savings will be going down.
The cruelest blow in all this? Jobs: 12 of them, for four months.
Who brought this too good to be true miracle to pass? Well, you remember who brought us the Obama Stimulus Bill, as well as ObamaCare, the Democratic Party, which controlled Congress and the White House in 2010. They thought it was wonderful:
It is so wonderful to see the Recovery Act at work in our community, creating jobs and saving money” said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa).
This is a nice initiative that will allow the county to put a little money back into the pockets of taxpayers at a time that they need it most, and to create jobs,” said Castor.
These, by the way, were advanced solar cells, touted as being able to produce electricity even by moonlight. If this pie-in-the-sky Obama engineering doesn’t work in Florida, it bodes ill for other, more Northerly locations.
Obama came to Denver to sign the Stimulus Bill, at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science – which, like Hillsborough County Courthouse, was fitted with solar cells. Denver’s system (200 kilowatts, DC) cost $720,000, and was estimated to cover 1 to 2 % of DMNS use. The chief technology officer, Dave Noel, tried to sell the idea to the board, but admitted, without the Stimulus incentive, 110 years would be required to amortize the cost. Colorado is a pretty sunny state, with over 300 sunny days per year, but it also gets a little cold and Winter days are short. DMNS has an online graph of their solar power generation; over the last 74 months, they’ve generated 16,448 kWh per month. At $0.10/kWh, that’s worth $1645/month. Compared to the initial cost of $720,000, we’re paying off the investment over a period of only 37 years. Less than 110 years, but still twice the expected life of the solar cells.
This defiance of science, engineering and good sense has been going on all over the world, furthered by faddish green enthusiasts. Thankfully, it’s htting the wall of reality. Germany is retreating, both in the face of economic reality and their dependence on Russian natural gas. Germany has 28 electrical generating plants under construction, powered by….coal. In some cases, it’s lignite (brown) coal, the most CO2-intensive variety.
Reality means nothing to the Obama administration, however. Monday’s Wall Street Journal carries an article on the Obama plan to help Africa, specifically Kenya….wait, is this ironic? Doesn’t Obama have some connection with Kenya? The article, headlined “Kenyan Wind Project Reveals Challenges to Obama Aid Plans” reveals that Kenyan farmers are reluctant to give up their land and homes for a wind farm. Perhaps they’ve heard that no electricity flows when the wind doesn’t blow – as the Germans have learned, the hard way.
The EPA was in Denver last week, taking comments from citizens on the new regulations to diminish CO2 emissions from coal and save us all from asthma, heart attacks, and other health hazards. Apparently, Al Gore has a fleet of ice cream trucks that he sends to occasions like this to hand out free ice cream to people suffering from the heat – omnipresent because of global warming. Hey, who doesn’t like ice cream, even from The Goreacle, on a hot Summer day?
The temperature in Denver was 58F, in a steady (cold) rain. Even free ice cream wasn’t a big hit. The Gore Effect strikes again. God really does have a sense of humor.