Industrial-scale solar power generation is economically feasible only because recent policy has brought massive taxpayer-funded subsidies to the table. Ironically, many of the names behind Big Solar that are taking advantage of this policy are familiar from the realms of of Big Oil (BP and Chevron) and big bailouts (Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley).
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The United States is wasting billions of dollars of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) cash grants and loan guarantees on very large, high-cost, high-environmental-impact, transmission-dependent desert solar thermal power plants that will be obsolete before they generate a single kilowatt-hour of electricity.
A solar strategy that would have been stateof-the-art in the 1990s, prior to the advent of low-cost solar photovoltaic (PV) power, is now being executed. This is a victory for the broad government, utility, and environmental organization support that solar thermal technology has gained over the last few decades. It is also a victory for the lobbying power of this coalition over economic common sense. Solar thermal has lost the cost-effectiveness race to solar PV. The federal government has not yet absorbed the significance of this important development.
[First published in the National Gas And Electric Journal. Reprinted with permission of the author.]
There is a widely held misconception that point-of-use distributed rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) is too expensive, too slow to implement, and inadequate to meet our renewable energy needs, and that remote utility-scale solar power plants should be the centerpiece of our nation’s solar energy policy. The California Energy Commission has said in staff assessments of various utility-scale solar power projects that, although such projects will cause substantial and unmitigable harm to the environment, regulations normally restricting these impacts should be overridden in light of the urgency of reducing greenhouse gases and meeting California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Yet distributed PV can achieve the same objective without the environmental harm and at lower cost.