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October 23, 2007


Kit P

Not only the last year but the last 30 years of solar industry PR leads me to the conclusion that solar generated electricity is the consensus of con artist and people who do not have a questioning attitude.

The first problem is solar does not work. There are a few exceptions. With proper project management, FPL can produce electricity with solar. Second, solar does not produce electricity when and where you need it. So why bother?

Finally, solar is an environmental insult. There is nothing green about it. The only green attribute of solar is the rate of ghg emissions assuming performance that has not been achieved.

"grid parity", without subsidies, is already a reality in parts of California

Many bad choices have resulted in high electricity rates in California. This does not make solar a good choice. In any case, I will be happy to change my position when the solar industry starts talking about the electricity produced rather than the amount of junk they sell to an unsuspecting public.


I guess Kit P. does not have a house near Malibu, eh?

You see K.P., in Calif, which is in year eight of a perfect drought, there is less water.

Which means less water for cooling the power generation plants, whether there are coal-fired, nuclear or solar thermal.

Photo Voltaic systems on the other hand, work when the sun shines (not all the time), but in sunny places it is an important power source because it is clean and independent of water supply.

Apologies to other Energy Blog readers for my stating the obvious.

Paul Dietz

I guess Kit P. does not have a house near Malibu, eh? [...] Which means less water for cooling the power generation plants, whether there are coal-fired, nuclear or solar thermal.

I guess you don't live near Malibu either? Just west of it is this thing called the Pacific Ocean, which makes a dandy heat sink.


A bit off topic, but I was just wondering... what happens to photovoltaic panels when they are exposed to the kind of heat found in the wildfires that are currently incinerating the area around Malibu? Are they relatively heat-resistant, or will being "baked" make them inoperable even if they aren't burned up themselves?

Saul Wall

"what happens to photovoltaic panels when they are exposed to the kind of heat found in the wildfires that are currently incinerating the area around Malibu?"

The same thing that happens to the power lines and phone lines I would suspect. People who live in the woods and build wooden houses are going to loose water heaters, washing machines, fridges and everything else so I don't see why solar panels are worth pointing out. Solar plants are generally put in deserts or in settings similar to other industries (i.e. not in the middle of the woods).

Off topic a bit, a piece by someone defending the nuclear industry against Greenpeace (a debate which I am not emotionally invested in) made an interesting comment recently:

"The largest photovoltaic plant in the world cost a quarter of a billion US dollars and generates about as much energy, on average, as a single diesel locomotive. That’s puny!"

Does anyone have an evaluation on this comment and if it is true, can the area of land used by the "largest photovoltaic plant in the world" be used to grow sufficient biodiesel stock to power a single diesel locomotive (year round)? It sounds like a strange comment which is why I thought I might run it by people who deal with energy numbers often. If it is true it does make nuclear seem like an unavoidable necessity unless the non photovoltaic solar plants are such a massive improvement that PVs are now just a red herring.


The wikipedia article on diesel electrics didn't directly mention powers, but it had a voltage/amps curve from which I computed 2MW, which seems like a reasonable ballpark figure. I presume he was looking a single PV units, where a MW is considered largish. The largest solar thermal plant is rated at 354MW -or over a hundred locomotives. When I use the term "solar plant" I visualize a PV manufacturing line, these typically output a few tens, to a couple hundred MW of panels per year.

Still I don't see "competitive in five years" without some breakthroughs beyond the traditional 5%/year improvements. There are no shortage of companies claiming their product will be the one to do this, so hopefully this stuff will become true. My guess is the articles author is being overly optimistic by 5-10 years.

Kit P

Saul, the picture of this 5 MWe solar PV will give you a idea of the size of a project.

Springerville Generating Station: http://www.greenwatts.com/pages/SolarOutput.asp

I would not have a problem with solar if all solar projects were as good as this one. If the diesel were powered by dairy farms manure biogas, the cows barns would be about the same the solar PV field. However, the 5 MWe solar PV is peak power. Multiple the size of the field by a factor of 10 to figure to compare it too moo cow power.

Puny compared to nuclear? A 1600 MWe nuke could fit on the same site.

However, I do not see that nuclear or solar are competing since solar or nuclear can not meet demand growth together.


Saul, the current largest photovoltaic plant is 20MW in Spain according to:
It takes up half a square km which is 50 hectares or 123.5 acres. The local citizens chose PV over a cogeneration plant, according to:


I don't know how accurate this is, but according to
The largest and most powerful diesel locomotive had a constant power of 4.9MW.

So the average power of that plant in Spain averaged over a year, could be about the same.

I can't say I see the point of that particular comparison, considering there are many diesel locomotives in the world and many PV plants. Bigger doesn't necessarily mean better.

Kit P

“Bigger doesn't necessarily mean better.”

Clee is sure right on that account. A small solar PV system is that does not work better is better than big solar PV system that does not work. I counted one system on Clee list that told you how much electricity they produced in a given year. The one I previously linked.

It is very interesting that solar advocates can almost always make an effort to provide a picture. It is about public relations nothing more. Take all the solar in Spain (or any other country for than matter) and it is less than 5 minutes of operation at just one of Spain's nuclear power plants.

When the solar industry gets focused on making electricity instead of BS and gets production up to 6 minutes at a nuclear plant, then maybe Greenpeace might have some credibility.

Tucson Electric Power provides the info for an educated person to decide on purchasing solar. TEP even provides the failure rate of their smoke emitting diodes. If TEP was my utility, I would buy some solar because they are doing a good job at producing.


Kit p.
If you invested $1.0 billion in a coal powered, gas powered, nuclear powered or whatever your choice and I invested the same in distributed PV and/or wind powered generation, before you generated your first electron I would have already generated multi-mega watt hours; CO2 free.

Your billion would have had cost overruns and roaring interest rate, commodity cost and people cost increases. By the time you deliver your first electron your $1 billion will have cost investors and or tax payers $2.0 billion.

My billion will have decreasing cost of deployment and $/wp. It might take me a total of 18 month to find places to put the generators and get them running but I will deliver the first electron within 30 days. By the time I have placed a billion dollars of capital equipment, I will deliver more wp/$ than when I started; not less. I will not have clouded the atmosphere with tons of desile to construct generation plants and I will have created more sustainable jobs than you will with your 2 billion.


I am an engineer from the generation which invented "renewable energy", believed in them, worked on them for 50 years and finally reached the inescapable conclusion that apart from special situations they are bullshit and that governments and self appointed pseudo scientists are abusing the citizen by hiding the facts and popularizing lies. One information which is never divulged and which is worth publshing is that the energy necessary to produce a photovoltaic cell is more than the cell will return during its entire life time. I do not have the latest data but I doubt they will have changed much and that anybody may challenge that!



Crystalline silicon PV systems presently have energy pay-back times of 1.5-2 years for South-European locations and 2.7-3.5 years for Middle-European locations. For silicon technology clear prospects for a reduction of energy input exist, and an energy pay-back of 1 year may be possible within a few years. Thin film technologies now have energy pay-back times in the range of 1-1.5 years (S.Europe).[46] With lifetimes of such systems of at least 30 years, the EROEI is in the range of 10 to 30.


kit p
I am 10 years behind you; have been able to call myself a scientist for only 40 years. It sounds to me like you should update your comparitive economics.

I spent a lot of my 40 years in the silicon world. We changed the world of entertainment, information and data management. We are still changing it.

The PV, CPE, wind and wave/tide power are not only viable but necessary. If we decide not to pursue alternative energies it will be because we believe we will fail. If we want to make them work we can make them work. High technology is cheep and fast. Low technology is hard, expensive and slow.

Kit P.

Solarpowerassets, you are confusing me with Bonnamy.

Solarpowerassets wrote, “We changed the world of entertainment, information and data management. We are still changing it.”

That is nice but what does that have to do with making electricity?

I suspect that Solarpowerassets does not understand the scale of electricity demand. Yes we can make electricity with PV. However, if my investors start building a large coal or nuke plant; then Solarpowerassets will finish building about 75 years later.

M. FitzGibbon

If only it would all happen quicker! Anyone here heard about the guy in America who has apparently stumbled across a way to burn sea-water by passing a certain frequency of radio waves through it? Hoax.. or an energy break-through? I guess time will tell.




Solar energy is one form of energy that will never run out and is one of the cleanest. Take a look at ZAP's solar assisted EV at http://www.zapworld.com/electric-vehicles/electric-cars/xebra-xero-solar-option


This is great news. Ontario, Canada has decided on coal exit by 2014. With the reduction on fossil fuel usage PV will really be leading the path to sustainability, as claimed in the below article: Joshua Pearce, "Photovoltaics - A Path to Sustainable Futures", Futures 34(7), 663-674, 2002


The link to the above article is:

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