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Power United States Technology

US Projected To Lead the World In New Solar Installations This Year (computerworld.com) 314

Lucas123 writes: The U.S. solar market is expected to grow 120% this year, with 16GW of new solar power, more than double the record-breaking 7.3GW installed in 2015. The total operating solar PV capacity in the U.S. is expected to reach 25.6 gigawatts (billion watts or GW) of direct current (DC) by the end of the year, according to GTM Research's U.S. Solar Market Insight Report 2015 Year in Review. When accounting for all projects (both distributed and centralized), solar accounted for 29.4% of new electric generating capacity installed in the U.S. in 2015, exceeding the total for natural gas for the first time and it will put the U.S. ahead of all other nations with regard to new solar installations for 2016.
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US Projected To Lead the World In New Solar Installations This Year

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  • Meanwhile in Indian (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@worl d 3 . net> on Tuesday March 15, 2016 @06:44AM (#51698901) Homepage

    It's easier to win if you are screwing the competition: https://slashdot.org/submissio... [slashdot.org]

    • You beat me to it. Trade agreements, well any agreements, used to be a solution. Nowadays, they are used as weapons. That is definitely not something to be proud of.
    • You made an asinine comment. The reality is that India put in protectionist rules in place to ensure their folks got jobs and didn't have to compete internationally. Apparently you think it is perfectly acceptable for US tax dollars to go to a project where their own citizens don't have a chance to get some of the work because the Indian government won't allow it.

      The trade agreement specifies that contracts have to be competitive and India chose to ignore this rule. It isn't a really hard concept.

      • by Zocalo ( 252965 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2016 @09:12AM (#51699507) Homepage
        There's clearly a lot of spin in the article linked to by the OP, for instance, they mention that the US has a similar protectionist clause in place, but the US version is apparently OK with the WTO - yet they don't explain why that is, which is a rather crucial point. If the US had somehow manipulated the WTO into letting them do something then used the WTO to stop India doing the same that's entirely different to the US complying with WTO guidelines and India failing to do so. I also suspect there's more to it that just some Ts I simply don't believe the Indian government would scrap a multi-billion dollar project just because they couldn't be bothered to re-tender it without the problematic clause.

        On the other hand, the US *does* have a track record for abusing the WTO to get what's best for the US (along with many other countries), blatantly ignoring WTO rulings that go against it (e.g. online gambling), and the main point of the article, that treaties like TPP are almost certainly going to be abused to enforce what corporates what over what's best for the population at large, is still valid, even if they possibly didn't find the best example of such abuse.
      • Apparently you think it is perfectly acceptable for US tax dollars to go to a project where their own

        Since when is US tax money going to Indian projects?

        citizens don't have a chance to get some of the work because the Indian government won't allow it.

        Of course thy have a chance to get work there. But not to sell the solar panels.

        Which is plain obvious necessary for the Indians or the american companies simply would get the contracts via bribery/corruption. Yes, that is bottom line an indian problem.

  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2016 @06:48AM (#51698909)

    As the US is bigger than e.g. Denmark, just saying they are largest means not that much to me. Sure, it is a lot, but how much is it per person and where will they be on the list then?

    And 29.4% of new energy sounds nice as well (wind was even higher with 39%), but what is it in the total amount of energy and where is the US in that (trow in wind if you like)

    This reads like the average CEO presentation where a lot of numbers look nice, but mean nothing. At least not really.

    So I would like to see:
    1) Numbers per person.
    2) Compare it to ALL of the energy (including car fuel) not only new installs

    • What difference does it make "per person". Not only people consume energy for running their households. Many of these installations are for industrial and commercial purposes. Lets just say the entire world installed 40GW of solar power and 16GW is from the US. Impressive.
      • by Zocalo ( 252965 )
        Per-capita is all but meaningless for things like this (water consumption being another) where most of the consumption is by industry, agriculture and so on. The impact of 16GW distributed across the ~320m people in the US is completely different from 16GW distributed across the same population in somewhere like India or China, and different again if those 320m people were located in Africa. %age of GDP, or even %age of new power supply installs, might make more sense, but I suspect that won't look quite
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 15, 2016 @07:04AM (#51698963)

    So.... what is that in AC Wattage units? (Considering I've worked at several power plants I ought to know this.)

    Reading towards the end of the article it seems to indicate 100-200 MW total, which is not worth bragging about considering how much electricity we produce and consume in the United States.

    The plant I work at now consumes around 100 MW when running, we have 6 on site gas turbines producing 20MW each.

    Solar Photovoltaic and solar thermal unfortunately do not have a good track record for going up to the 500 to 1000 MW range which is what you want for a nice utility sized power plant. Maybe we could have more small solar power plants, unfortunately they have a large foot print in terms of space used. (How many square miles would it take for a 1000 MW sized PV plant?)

    Before anyone even starts, de-centralized power is in 'development' stage. I see rooftop solar as more of an energy saver/efficiency more than anything else but not a 'break even' per se. I expect most of the coal plants in the U.S. will get replaced with natural gas.

    The real interesting thing will be when all the nuclear units that went online in the 70s and 80s need to be replaced... fun times ahead.

    • by FlyHelicopters ( 1540845 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2016 @07:12AM (#51698995)

      Before anyone even starts, de-centralized power is in 'development' stage. I see rooftop solar as more of an energy saver/efficiency more than anything else but not a 'break even' per se. I expect most of the coal plants in the U.S. will get replaced with natural gas.

      I've looked into rooftop solar three times, the most recent two months ago.

      I spoke with a local solar installer. It just makes no sense, no matter how far you turn your head to the side. And that is with the federal government picking up 30% of the cost outright, plus another rebate from the local power company, plus cheap financing. It STILL makes zero sense.

      You have to REALLY make a lot of assumptions about the future for it to kinda sorta make sense. As in, regular power prices will double over the next decade. And the new equipment will work for 20 years trouble free. And you'll always get net-metering. And it will add 50% of the system cost to the value of your home.

      And so on. Do all that, and yea, it can make sense. But it takes ALL of that, plus the tax money, to work.

      • Please print out your reply, frame it, and give it to your children with the instructions to pass it on to their children - and so on. I'm pretty sure they'll find your "It STILL makes zero sense" comment interesting when sea level rise is being measured in meters.
        • by khallow ( 566160 )
          I think the better approach here is for you to learn some economics. As has already been observed, the whole thing depends on the cost of electricity. FlyHelicopters lives in a place where electricity is $0.07 per kWh.

          I'm pretty sure they'll find your "It STILL makes zero sense" comment interesting when sea level rise is being measured in meters.

          I imagine FlyHelicopters's descendants will for the most part be smart enough to not breathe water.

        • Meters, huh? Maybe, who knows... easy for you to say, since neither of us will be here in a thousand years to know either way, now will we?

          It might rise another half a foot or so by the end of this century. I suspect we'll all be just fine. And if we're not, we are just as likely to be better off adapting to the change as trying to fight it.

          Any change in climate due to mankind is largely committed at this point. A few more solar panels and a few more wind farms won't change that.

          • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

            Any change in climate due to mankind is largely committed at this point. A few more solar panels and a few more wind farms won't change that.

            Adding renewables (actually: reducing emissions) won't fix the damage that has already been incurred, but it will definitely reduce the amount of additional damage in the future.

            It's the difference between accepting a bad situation and minimizing the damage as much as possible, vs deciding instead to continue making the situation worse.

        • Measured in meters? It's already measured in meters, over a long enough timeframe. But given the fact that sea level rise is slowing down (data can be found here [colorado.edu]), we'll probably see 150-200 mm rise over the next 100 years. Less than we've seen in the past.
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@worl d 3 . net> on Tuesday March 15, 2016 @09:17AM (#51699535) Homepage

        Where do you live? In most parts of the world you can't lose with solar now. You don't need to make assumptions about future energy prices or anything like that, and the panels only need to last a few years to pay for themselves in most places. In any case, any reasonable quality panel will come with a warranty longer than the pay-back period, and ditto things like the inverter.

        Even without feed-in, there are few parts of the world where solar won't pay for itself in under a decade, and then it's all profit.

        • Where do you live?

          Texas

          I pay 7 cents per kWh for my office power and 10 cents per kWh for my house power, both coal.

          It would cost me 10 cents per kWh for my office to be powered by 100% wind and 13 cents per kWh for my house to be powered by 100% wind. Solar isn't even an option here (at least from the power companies).

          In most parts of the world you can't lose with solar now.

          Generally in the 1st world, only those nations that have stepped in and either subsidized solar or taxed the crap out of everything else. Sure, in Germany where you pay 35 cents per kWh, yea I'm sure solar m

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@worl d 3 . net> on Tuesday March 15, 2016 @10:55AM (#51700203) Homepage

            Texas has plenty of sun. Your electricity is currently coal powered, which means it is damaging your health (or some other person's health).

            It makes sense to put some solar up where you live. In a few years it will have covered its costs and you will be making a profit.

            Comparing commercial scale solar and wind to your coal power, you forgot to include the environmental and health costs. Maybe you are lucky and don't have to deal with them.

            • Texas has plenty of sun. Your electricity is currently coal powered, which means it is damaging your health (or some other person's health).

              About 5.5 hours a day, on average.

              Yes, the coal power is "bad", but it is also cheap. Yes, I could switch to wind power and pay a bit more, but ultimately it wouldn't change anything. It hurts me financially for an undetectable difference overall.

              It makes sense to put some solar up where you live. In a few years it will have covered its costs and you will be making a profit.

              Except, it doesn't... I've posted the detailed numbers in this story in another reply, but in short, it simply makes no sense. My out of pocket cost to install a 10KW system is about $25,000 and my annual savings in power is about $1,500. But that assumes net-

          • I pay 7 cents per kWh for my office power and 10 cents per kWh for my house power, both coal.

            That's dirt cheap, among the cheapest in the country. In fact, it's below the average for Texas [eia.gov], which is 11.5 cents. And, are you sure that's the total rate? Most utilities do a tiering system where usage above certain thresholds costs more. For example where I live (Utah, which also has very cheap power, coal and hydro), I pay 8.9 cents per kWh for the first 400 kWh, 11.6 cents for the next 600 kWh and 14.5 cents above that (perhaps there are more tiers; that's as high as I've gone, even in a hot summer a

        • Where do you live? In most parts of the world you can't lose with solar now. You don't need to make assumptions about future energy prices or anything like that, and the panels only need to last a few years to pay for themselves in most places.

          Time to chime in with one of my favorites. A big percentage of the anti-solar crowd seems to think that the second the warranty expires, a solar panel dies. Or at least those in here.

          The only time disadvantage I can see is that an earlier install might lose out to newer technology over time, but that doesn't stop us from buying cars or computers.

          All in all, I think the anti-solar crowd is arguing old hat.

      • Do you have some actual numbers to back this up? For our installation our payback period is 7 years with subsidies. The panels have a 20 year warranty and are likely to produce power for another 10 after that. How does that not make sense?
        • Do you have some actual numbers to back this up? For our installation our payback period is 7 years with subsidies. The panels have a 20 year warranty and are likely to produce power for another 10 after that. How does that not make sense?

          The lowest installed cost here for a 10KW system is about $35,000 before rebates. I have gotten quotes from more than one company, I think it is high, but that seems to be the going rate around here. Considering I pay 10 cents per kWh for my house, that simply makes no sense, even with the 30% back from the IRS. For a $35,000 up front investment ($25,000 after tax credit), I'd save about $125 a month in power, or about $1,500 a year.

          Saving $1,500 a year for a $25,000 investment is a lousy return on inves

      • What is your current monthly bill? What effective interest rate were they charging? What have you done to improve the energy efficiency of your home? Did you need to do any upgrades to your roof to make it viable?

        Generally speaking, rooftop solar is $3/W for a complete installed system, 10% higher in some locations based on labor and demand. Median for the US is about 1800 hours per year equivalent full output for a fixed rooftop array. So the system gives you about $1.67/annual kWh, or $1.15 after tax

        • by FlyHelicopters ( 1540845 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2016 @10:01AM (#51699783)

          What is your current monthly bill?

          Average $250 a month

          What effective interest rate were they charging?

          I can borrow from my house at 3.5%

          What have you done to improve the energy efficiency of your home?

          Replaced HVAC with a really good Trane 2 stage, 2 speed 16 SEER unit, cut $100 average off my bill overnight, best upgrade I ever did. For $17,000 (5 ton and 3 ton units, including everything inside and out), I get a colder house and $100 a month back in my pocket. And my old unit broke, so I had to spend money anyway.

          Did you need to do any upgrades to your roof to make it viable?

          No, I have a brand new roof as of 2 years ago, thanks to hail (and Allstate)

          Generally speaking, rooftop solar is $3/W for a complete installed system

          $3.50 a watt here, I've been quoted by three different companies, that is just the going rate. $35,000 for a 10KW system.

          advantageous if your blended cost of electricity is $0.15/kWh or more at a minimum effective rate of return of 13%

          I pay 10 cents per kWh and my cost is $5K more than your estimate. :) That is part of where it torpedoes.

          If you are at a more risk tolerant and only need 8% return then you are good down to $0.10/kWh.

          It is actually closer to 5%, given my install cost and my power cost. But even that might be worth doing, if I could get a 10 year net-metering guarantee.

          But yes, the kicker is net metering.

          Yep, that is what torpedoes it. There is no chance that net-metering will survive as it stands today. Taken to the logical conclusion, imagine if we all had solar enough to offset our annual bill, but that we needed the power company to provide power at night, but we all fed power back during the day. And we all had zero bills because of net-metering, yet expect the power company to provide a grid.

          That will never happen of course, so somewhere between today and then it would have to change.

          ---

          In principle, I would LOVE to have solar power, how cool would it be to have clean free power from the sun! But it has to make financial sense, and it just doesn't.

          BTW, to give you an idea, I live in a city of 250,000 people and there is a local solar association here. By their own count, a whole 150 homes in my city have put solar on the roof. Out of 250,000 people. It simply doesn't make sense here. I have never actually seen a solar install on a roof in person, only pictures on TV or the Internet. It just isn't done here.

  • by FlyHelicopters ( 1540845 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2016 @07:23AM (#51699019)

    Last year I called SolarCity, they are offering to install panels for "free" to your home, then sell you the power for less than you're paying now.

    Sounds like a no-brainer, right? No up front cost, no maintenance, guaranteed power for less than you're paying now.

    Why NOT say yes?

    Except, they won't install in my area. They WILL install 2 miles away, because that is a different electric energy provider that gives bigger rebates than mine does (I live in a co-op that doesn't provide huge rebates and tax incentives).

    ---

    So it really comes down to the fact that all this solar makes sense only if you count on a whole pile of tax dollars.

    Even utility scale solar, which I've looked at investing in purely from an investment point of view, requires tax dollars to make work.

    http://www.absolutelysolar.com... [absolutelysolar.com]
    FIT Program Areas
    FIT â" LADWP: The Department of Water and Powerâ(TM)s new solar Feed-In Tariff program. Buildings and land in the city of Los Angeles and parts of the Owens Valley are eligible.
    Look at the very bottom of that page:

    http://energy.gov/savings/ladw... [energy.gov]
    And there is the program, promising to pay FAR above the "going rate" of power.

    So solar works, assuming you can count on the government money to keep flowing.

    • Maybe they should divert some of the 300+ billion that fossil fuels get in subsidies.

      • Which subsidies are you referring to. Every time I ask I get the same answer: accelerated depreciation. Sorry. I don't consider that to be a subsidy.

        I'm not a fan of fossil fuels so if you have links to subsidies (again not accelerated depreciation) I would be interested in seeing them.
        • Every time I ask I get the same answer: accelerated depreciation. Sorry. I don't consider that to be a subsidy.

          Go study a dictionary and get back to us. Definition 1 is "a direct pecuniary aid furnished by a government to a private industrial undertaking, a charity organization, or the like." Aid is support for or relief, you know, know tax relief. You are engaging in bullshit selective revisionist thinking in order to give Big Oil a free pass on their special tax break.

          • Do you know what an accelerated depreciation is?

            It's not a subsidy.

            I am NOT pro oil by any means. What I would like are examples of subsidies instead of people parroting what they believe are irrefutable facts.

            If you start a moving business, rent a van. Your rental costs are 100% deductible. Meaning that if you charged $1000 for moving. Paid $100 for the van you would pay taxes on $900. If you bought a dolly and some padding they would be 100% deductible. But if you bought a van it would not be
            • Explain, in your words, how this qualifies as a subsidy.

              If they don't have to pay taxes that they otherwise would have paid, and that others have to pay, it's tax relief, and thus it's a subsidy. I thought I made that quite clear in my prior post, but some people just need things spelled out in small, simple words. You're welcome.

              • NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                They accelerated depreciation doesn't mean you pay less. You pay the same amount.

                Example you start a consulting business. You have expenses. You have a phone bill, travel to your customers, buy business cards. You make $2,000 for the year and spend $1,00. You pay taxes on your profit of $1000.

                The next year you again make $2000, you again spend $1000 on phone, travel, business cards but your computer broke. This time you spend $1000 on a computer. You may think, that since you spent
                • What's it's "giving" you is the time value of money. Assuming a 40% marginal tax rate, if you can deduct 100% of the cost of the computer this year, you're getting a $400 tax deduction now, which is worth more than $80/year over the next five years.

              • So to take your line of thought to it's logical conclusion, the 45% of tax returns with zero tax due [forbes.com] are actually getting a subsidy from the Federal Government.
    • So it really comes down to the fact that all this solar makes sense only if you count on a whole pile of tax dollars.

      To some degree you could say the same about fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are hugely subsidized [imf.org] by governments to the tune of something like $5 trillion worldwide. Solar is just a small percentage of that.

      The only difference is that you don't notice the subsidies for oil and gas but there is no question that they are there and substantial.

      So solar works, assuming you can count on the government money to keep flowing.

      That's to be expected for an emerging technology. You subsidize a technology like this until it can scale up to the point where it can compete on its own merits. Solar is

      • To some degree you could say the same about fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are hugely subsidized by governments to the tune of something like $5 trillion worldwide. Solar is just a small percentage of that.

        It is SO easy to report a number like that, but you really have to be careful in doing so.

        The VAST bulk of these "subsidies" are not real money. No one is paying $400 billion a year to Exxon or BP.

        For example, from the very link you provided:

        "The bulk of energy subsidies in most countries are due to undercharging for domestic environmental damage, including local air pollution"

        So it is just the IMF's opinion of what carbon taxes SHOULD be to make up for the pollution. It isn't remotely the same thing as d

        • The VAST bulk of these "subsidies" are not real money. No one is paying $400 billion a year to Exxon or BP.

          Well I happen to be a certified accountant and the fact that some of these subsidies are not cash money doesn't make them any less real. In cost accounting it's called an externalized cost. Literally a cost someone else pays. There is a very real and measurable cost to that pollution which the companies selling fossil fuels do not have to pay for. That is in effect a subsidy to those companies because it relieves them of having to pay the full cost of the product they sell. It would be no different tha

          • Well I happen to be a certified accountant and the fact that some of these subsidies are not cash money doesn't make them any less real. In cost accounting it's called an externalized cost. Literally a cost someone else pays.

            Yea, but it doesn't hold up to direct payments. I get the concept, you aren't telling me anything new, but frankly it is rather dishonest to compare a "we wish we had carbon taxes" thing to "real actual dollars being spent".

            The panels are NOT "dirt cheap"

            Yes they are, 1 dollar a watt, or less.

            http://www.directsolarsupply.c... [directsolarsupply.com]

            75 cents a watt, there you go. That is dirt cheap. The cost to get those panels installed on my roof? $3.50 a watt.

            Making the panels free wouldn't really do much to the overall cost of putting them on my roof.

            The cost of land is generally not an issue

            It

    • Ok, so you are angry that you don't get something for nothing?

      From a network effect, rooftop solar reduces system costs: peak demand shifts from 1:30PM to about an hour before sunset, and the total peak magnitude is reduced. This is good for the utility, since it's costs are based on peak power flow.

      The Net Metering problem though is that users cram power one direction during the day and use it at night. The first solution to this is "smart grid" crap-- making sure your demand is minimized during the new

      • Ok, so you are angry that you don't get something for nothing?

        No, but I expect to get something for something. If I'm going to spend $25,000 on solar power, it has to provide more than $1,500 a year in power bill savings.

        From a network effect, rooftop solar reduces system costs: peak demand shifts from 1:30PM to about an hour before sunset, and the total peak magnitude is reduced. This is good for the utility, since it's costs are based on peak power flow.

        Good for them, but that isn't my problem. If the utility wants to provide more money to help pay for solar, I'm all on board.

        The Net Metering problem though is that users cram power one direction during the day and use it at night. The first solution to this is "smart grid" crap-- making sure your demand is minimized during the new peak period: pre-cool house; water heater, washer, dryer off; don't start cooking dinner until after 7:00; etc. When residential users do this, they reduce their usage of the grid, and can lower costs while still making net metering attractive for everyone. Seasonal effects are worse, and likely should be the first to go-- only carry a 4-month rolling balance or something.

        Yea, that SO isn't going to happen.

        If you think it will, come over to my house and talk to my wife, tell her that she can't run laundry during the day when the kids are in school, that she can't cook dinner for the kids, well,

      • So you are agreeing with the point that solar power is not yet cost effective in all locations?
    • The government money only needs to flow long enough to subsidize enough investment to bootstrap the industry. Prices are coming down and scale is going up, exactly as you would expect. The government is probably stuck providing some degree of subsidy for a long time to come simply because such political programs are difficult to kill, but it won't take many more years before solar is cheap enough to be the obvious choice with or without subsidy.

      • but it won't take many more years before solar is cheap enough to be the obvious choice with or without subsidy.

        I'm interested in knowing how the install cost is going to come down. 74% of all the solar installed in the US last year was utility scale solar. The residential stuff makes the news, but it is a small percentage of the total and almost half of all of it is in one state, CA.

        The panels are below a dollar a watt, 75 cents give or take. Maybe a dollar for premium panels. But the other equipment and installation adds $2.50 more to that price.

        The panels could be free, it still wouldn't be cheap enough to mak

    • So it really comes down to the fact that all this solar makes sense only if you count on a whole pile of tax dollars.

      The same can be said for pretty much everything. The people elect the government, the government set the policy, and the policy is driven by taxation and regulation.

      It's the reason why the Australian wine industry is so massive while beer prices are ludicrously high. It's the reason why smoking rates are plummeting in some countries at faster rates than others. It's the reason why green house gas emissions are reducing in different rates in different countries despite the fact that a common technology is th

    • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

      So it really comes down to the fact that all this solar makes sense only if you count on a whole pile of tax dollars.

      This will continue to be true until it's not. Every year solar gets cheaper, while most other energy sources get more expensive. At some point (probably within 5-10 years) solar will be the same price as (or less than) traditional power, at which point the subsidies can go away, and solar will still sell. Until then, the subsidies are how we get from here to there -- the only way to improve the product is to build a market and sell the product, to build up the economies of scale and the necessary experie

      • This will continue to be true until it's not. Every year solar gets cheaper, while most other energy sources get more expensive.

        Everyone loves to say that, and it makes sense if you don't look too closely at it.

        There are several flaws with that viewpoint.

        First, solar panels are already cheap, dirt cheap. Less than a dollar a watt, much less in some cases. The panels could be free, it wouldn't lower the cost of solar much more. The real cost of solar is in labor, land, and maintenance (which isn't nothing, despite what you have heard).

        Second, as demand for something drops, so does the price. The US and EU might burn a big less co

  • by FlyHelicopters ( 1540845 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2016 @07:41AM (#51699077)

    A few interesting points from the article:

    1. Almost 40% of the distributed PV capacity in the U.S. is located in California. The next nine states after California account for another 44%, according to the EIA.

    This is key because CA pays one of the highest kWh rates in the US (places like Hawaii are higher, but there aren't that many people there).

    http://www.bls.gov/regions/wes... [bls.gov]

    San Francisco pays 40% higher energy prices on average than the rest of the US. So of COURSE solar makes more sense there. But it doesn't most other places.

    California's leadership in distributed solar capacity is driven by a combination of factors, including high electricity prices, a large population, strong solar resources, and state policies and incentives that support solar PV, according to the EIA.

    2. One of the factors spurring growth last year and this was the impending expiration of the U.S. government's solar investment tax credit (ITC). That measure, passed in 2008, offered a 30% tax credit for residential and business installations. It was due to expire this year, and the tax credit was supposed to drop to a more permanent 10%. In December, however, Congress passed a three-year extension on the 30% ITC.

    So a crap load of tax dollars are propping this market up. It actually goes further than this. There are many state and Dept of Energy programs that further fix the rate of solar power to above market rates, to provide guaranteed returns for utility solar power.

    http://energy.gov/public-servi... [energy.gov]
    Just a sample of some of the various programs to pay for solar and wind.

    3. The total operating solar PV capacity in the U.S. is expected to reach 25.6 gigawatts (billion watts or GW) of direct current (DC) by the end of the year, according to GTM Research's U.S. Solar Market Insight Report 2015 Year in Review. Last year, solar installations broke all previous records, but the amount was only 16% more than in 2014 with 7,260 GW of new DC solar power.

    That sounds impressive, doesn't it? Well, consider this:
    In 2014, the United States generated about 4,093 billion kilowatt hours of electricity.

    So the new DC solar power being installed is 7.2 billion out of 4,093 billion total. It is nice, but we could install that much every year for the next 20 years and it wouldn't make a real dent in the total.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      3. The total operating solar PV capacity in the U.S. is expected to reach 25.6 gigawatts (billion watts or GW) of direct current (DC) by the end of the year, according to GTM Research's U.S. Solar Market Insight Report 2015 Year in Review. Last year, solar installations broke all previous records, but the amount was only 16% more than in 2014 with 7,260 GW of new DC solar power.

      That sounds impressive, doesn't it? Well, consider this: In 2014, the United States generated about 4,093 billion kilowatt hours of electricity.

      So the new DC solar power being installed is 7.2 billion out of 4,093 billion total. It is nice, but we could install that much every year for the next 20 years and it wouldn't make a real dent in the total.

      I'm not sure if you don't know the difference between a Watt and a Watt.hour, or if you think that there is only one hour in a year. But anyway you got saved by your other mistake, which was to go from 4,093 billion kilowatt hours to 4.093 billion total, forgetting the kilo and the fact that solar panel don't output power during night and don't work at full capacity during day. The order of magnitude of your 7.2 vs 4093 should probably be somewhere around 12 vs 4093. (24*365 hours in a year, solar peak capa

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      So a crap load of tax dollars are propping this market up. It actually goes further than this. There are many state and Dept of Energy programs that further fix the rate of solar power to above market rates, to provide guaranteed returns for utility solar power.

      I'm inclined to believe that a big chunk of solar's success boils down to tax credits, not inherent economic viability.

      But then there's all the complaints about the subsidies to carbon energy, which are at least fair on the surface.

      My question, though, is why is a huge necessity like energy subsidized at all? Is it perverse competition incentives, like giving a tax break to some oil related industry in order to attract jobs from some other state's similar industry? Extremely indirect subsidies, like enhan

      • I'm inclined to believe that a big chunk of solar's success boils down to tax credits, not inherent economic viability.

        This has been my conclusion as well. Without the federal IRS 30% break, the state breaks, and the other programs, solar wouldn't be doing much of anything. Even as it stands, it is still below 1% of our power generation.

        Wind makes far more sense, it is at least in the ballpark of reasonable.

        But then there's all the complaints about the subsidies to carbon energy, which are at least fair on the surface.

        You'd think, but a lot of what counts as a "subsidy to carbon energy" isn't as simple as direct money. For example, the IMF counts the carbon released as a "subsidy" when a proper carbon tax is not in place. To the t

    • And rolling blackouts. Lets not forget that having solar may mean a more reliable source of energy. I know it's been a while since the rolling blackouts have actually happened, but increased reliability is worth a price so it doesn't have to represent a cost savings to make sense.
      • How is solar reliable? It only makes power when the sun is up.

        My power works 24/7/365. It has been so long since a power outrage, I honestly don't know when the last one was. It has been years, and even then it probably was for 1 min or so.

        I am not sure the power has been out for more than an hour since I've been an adult. That is more than 20 years.

        As for the rolling blackouts, in CA that was caused by a seriously messed up power market and politics, not a lack of power. That was a self-created proble

        • The premise of your post is that politics are no longer seriously messed up? I agree with what you are saying for most of the country, but if I lived in California, I would consider a solar system with a battery. When the sun shines is when you need cooling and refrigeration the most. If I were wealthier I would want to insulate myself from populist energy politics.
  • Let everyone else waste their money buying solar panels, it lowers the demand for from-the-grid energy, which lowers the price of the electricity for which you pay...
    • by tomhath ( 637240 )
      Except when power companies are forced to buy the power generated from the panels at a premium price, everyone contributes to that subsidy
      • Except when power companies are forced to buy the power generated from the panels at a premium price, everyone contributes to that subsidy

        Except that doesn't happen anywhere in the USA. At best, some people get a halfway decent deal. Some people don't get anything back at all.

  • by Irate Engineer ( 2814313 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2016 @08:18AM (#51699199)

    I love it how it is phrased "U.S. leading in new installations!" vs "U.S. catching up to per-capita installed capacity already found elsewhere."

    Gotta be #1, always!

  • Nuclear retirements are easily covered. Should step up Oyster Creek and Fitzpatrick.
  • The biggest problem is that Most Solar still has us hooking to the grid, and at whim of the state and the power companies.

    The fact that the U.S. is very large in area, and low in population density. The Power Grid, isn't so effective then it is in say Europe, or Asia, however self sustaining Solar with battery night backup can be a good solution. Once we realize that the power companies are going to be obsolete in suburban and rural areas, And should just focus on cities.

  • Seriously, it is LONG past time to stop the wind/solar subsidies and instead, take other steps:
    1) require that all new buildings below 6 stories to have on-site AE that equals or exceeds the energy needed by the HVAC. This allows builders to decide how to deal with this, while also stopping the massive energy growth for buildings.
    2) stop the subsidies for oil/gas drilling and instead convert them to drilling for geo-thermal energy. In particular, for those that convert old wells to geo-thermal. This will
  • That's strange. If the Republicans could be wrong about solar, then maybe they could be wrong about global warming, or the environment, even.

As of next Tuesday, C will be flushed in favor of COBOL. Please update your programs.

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