SOLAR TODAY Blog


>>Gore’s 5-point plan
November 10, 2008, 5:04 am
Filed under: Policy

Al Gore ran an op-ed in The New York Times on Sunday, outlining a 5-point energy-economy recovery plan for the new Obama administration.  It’s worth a read.

Briefly, Gore calls for:

1. Large-scale investment in Southwestern utility-scale solar plants, Great Plains windfarms and Mountain State geothermal plants.

2. Deployment of a unified national smart grid, using high-voltage underground lines.

3. Help for the auto industry — start-ups as well as the Big Three — to convert quickly to production of PHEVs.

4. A program to retrofit building with energy-efficient insulation and windows, coupled with help for mortgage holders.

5. A price on carbon emissions.

Here in Boulder County, we’re doing our share. We passed our Proposition 1A, putting the county into the business of loaning money for rooftop solar installations.

And Yamavolt, the electric road racer, is tidied up and back on commuting duty. Looks good enough now that I think I’ll start showing it off at renewable energy functions.

yamavoltleft

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4 Comments so far
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“1. Large-scale investment in Southwestern utility-scale solar plants, Great Plains windfarms and Mountain State geothermal plants.”

Wouldn’t a large-scale implementation of the Boulder County plan or Berkeley CA plan be more economical? Briefly: local governments raise money for building energy efficiency improvements and solar panels by issuing a bond. Local property owners take a loan from the local government to buy solar panels. The property owners who took the loan pay it back with an increase in their property taxes over 20 years (in Berkeley).

Advantages: If the loan is for long enough it would cost less to pay off the loan than to pay for electricity. (E.g. If it takes 20 years for solar panels to pay for themselves, the loan should be for 21+ years.) Once the loan is paid off, the electricity is free to the property owner. Electric lines don’t need to be installed from some desert/field to population centers. The contracting for installation would be nationwide rather than in specific suitable states. More?….

Here is an article on the Boulder County plan which explains how it works a little more.

Comment by chad

Well, yes, local and distributed energy sources are practical and economical. But building out 100MW of capacity, 2kW and one rooftop at a time, takes thousands of individual loans and years. Whereas a wind farm or CSP plant or geothermal station can go up in 15 months or less. We have only four years to get the carbon balance levelled off and headed back down. We need to do what works quickly.

Comment by Seth Masia

I’m not convinced that centralized solar is faster than local
solar:

    Manpower:

There were 275,000 fewer new homes sold in 2007 than in 2006[1

].  Assume
that for each of these new homes not sold there are enough workers
now idle who could be retrained to install solar panels on homes and
businesses.  Imagine these retrained workers could install as
many solar systems as they used to build homes.  If so, they
could put 2 kW of solar on
275,000 homes a year.  This would be 550 MW of solar per year.
    I think 2 kW is too small if there is no
upfront
cost (as with the Boulder/Berkeley loans).  The average house
used 888 kW per
month in 2001[2].
 My favorite solar
calculator
says that in Indiana the
solar system would need to be 8.2 kW to provide 100% of the average
house’s electricity
needs.  If this size solar system were installed on 275,000
homes per
year.  This would be 2255 MW per year.
    What are the estimated amounts of solar
needed? Is 550 MW to 2255 MW per year over four years
enough to meet the Kyoto protocol?  Is it at least as much as
utilities would install?

    Money: The
property owner is already paying electricity bills.
 With the right advertising campaign many people
could be convinced to stop paying electricty bills and start paying
back a solar loan for less than their old electric bill. 🙂
    Getting enough money to create large
bonds used to
generate the loans might be a limiting factor.  If needed, the
federal government could invest in local government bonds.
 The feds might even create “solar bonds” to raise the money
so that there can be no suspicions that taxes are being raised to fund
the loans.  The local government could act as a channel for
the federal money (and raise property taxes on those who took the
loans).
    The federal government would need to
issue 20.4
billion dollars worth of bonds to fund 275,000 solar systems 8.2 kW in
size.  The solar
calculator
says that an 8.2 kW solar
system would cost about $74,000. $74,000*275,000/year = $20.4
billion/year.  This is not much money these days, especially
if it is going to be paid back. 🙂

    In summary, a rough estimate shows there
are enough construction
workers around the country to install local solar quickly and in large
quantities.
    In addition, local solar is more
economical than centralized
solar. After 30 years and the loans/bonds have been paid back, the net
cost to the government and property owners is essentially $0.
 With centralized solar wealth is transferred from property
owners to electric utilities indefinitely.

Comment by chad

A solar loan program seems like the only workable solution. Tax credits favor the wealthy since low income citizens can’t afford PV even with the credit. In essence, poor people subsidize the rich guy’s solar installation. Centralized renewable energy will turn out to be much like centralized fossil fuel energy. There will be no flexibility or innovation going down that path. Funding distributed energy brings many more smart people into the energy dilemma. Homeowners will manage their systems with help from local pros and become more aware of energy use which will lead to increased energy savings. The current power infrastructure would be adequate as consumption would be replaced not increased in places where there is none today. Jobs would be distributed throughout the country and lead to a much more stable renewable energy industry.

Comment by Alex Kelley




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