Solar Power: Let Me Decide or Buy Me Off?
Solar Power: Let Me Decide or Buy Me Off?

Throughout the energy conversation we’ve been having with the Nuclear and Coal articles, several readers have commented about the inclusion of solar energy. Solar energy is sold to us as the end-all-be-all solution to our energy needs, and I find it hard not to argue against very specific aspects of that sales pitch. It’s clean, it’s renewable, it’s somewhat readily available, and it has little to no long-term impact. The Department of Energy claims that a 100 square mile solar panel field in Nevada can generate 800 gigawatts of power. That’s enough to power the entire United States.

Now, let’s collectively pull our head out of the clouds and talk about the ugly side of the situation …
The national average for electricity runs at about 12.6 cents per kilowatt hour, and the average house uses about 1,000 kilowatt hours per month. Before taxes, regulatory, and administrative fees that makes for a $126.00 per month electric bill. You wake up, and decide that you are going green. You hop in your Prius and buzz down to “Solar Panels R US”, and buy your run-of-of-the-mill solar panel kit. After 10 panels, 10 brackets to mount them, and a power inverter, you’ve officially got everything you need to create a whopping 345kwh of energy. Price tag? A mere $8,300 for the BASIC hardware, which is on the low end; installation not included. Now you’ve got a roof full of solar panels that produce 345kwh of energy, or an average energy savings of $43.47 dollars a month …

At that rate, assuming you get 100% potential from your solar panel array, it will take you 15 years to break even on your investment, at the very minimum, based on national averages. Imagine what the break-even on the 100 square mile theoretical “Panel Land” would be.

“Okay, it’s pricey … but what about the ‘Large Scale’ solar industry?” Solar energy is twice as expensive as natural gas energy. It’s 67% more expensive than wind produced power, for that matter. The national average for solar energy is over 80 cents per kilowatt hour after factoring in all the associated costs. Now that doesn’t sound so bright …

Expenses aside, the solar power contribution to the current power grid tripled from 2012 to 2013. A staggering 29% of all new energy installations in 2013 were solar power related. So if it’s more expensive, and still grew, who footed that bill?
You did.The government provides extensive solar energy subsidies, as high as 96 cents per kilowatt hour. Those subsidies come directly from our tax dollars. For every single tax dollar spent on natural gas subsidies, $1,200 dollars were spent on solar subsidies. In 2010 solar energy subsides were $775.64 dollars per megawatt of solar energy added to the power grid. That adds up to about 37 billion dollars a year. To put it in perspective, that’s enough money to build six modern nuclear power plants.

So we just cut the subsidy right?

By Justin Gammill

He is "stealthy like a ninja at midnight, yet brazen like a champion Mexican fighting chicken". Justin Gammill approaches his topics in a manner that provokes thought, laughter, and the occasional “did he just say that?”. Chances are, yes, he most certainly did just say that. So, buckle up … you never know where the train of thought is going.