This little post is in response to a comment made by another of the solar loons that have all-of-a-sudden “discovered” my blog.
It concerns “facts.”
First, the comment in question:
It would be easier to make a discussion of this if you rebutted with facts instead of terms like “delusional idiot” and “kook” and “lunacy”.
This, of course, assumes that my previous two posts on the subject, loaded with those silly little “factoids,” do not exist…which, unfortunately, they do.
But, OK, let’s talk facts. Let’s say that, since I live in Michigan, I’m going to purchase a residential solar power generation system, as detailed by SolarBuzz – used as a reference by the original solar loon who decided to tangle with me on this subject. Here are the basic details of said system:
Power output: 2 Kilowatts (kW).
Estimated total cost (installation and battery back-up): $16,400.00.
Cost per Kilowatt-hour (kWh) on a sunny day: $0.3428.
Cost per kWh on a cloudy day: $0.7541.
From this, we can split the difference and say that the cost per kWh on a partly cloudy day is as follows:
((Cloudy kWh – Sunny kWh) / 2) + Sunny kWh =
(($0.7541 – $0.3428)/2)+$0.3428 =
$0.5485 per kWh.
Now, we need to know how many actual Kilowatt-hours are generated under each of these conditions. The assumption here is that a sunny day generates the full 2 kW, and across an hour that will generate 2 kWh. So, in order to find our price to wattage coefficient we take:
2 kWh x $0.3428 per kWh = 0.6856.
So, this gives us:
Sunny day generation: 2 kWh.
Partly Cloudy generation: $0.5485 per kWh x 0.6856 = 1.2501 kWh.
Cloudy generation: $0.7541 per kWh x 0.6856 = 0.9092 kWh.
So now we have the amount of power generated for each type of day (on average), how much it costs overall for a system, and how much it costs per kWh. Now let’s figure out the average amount of daylight hours in which we can generate power. The maximum number of hours per year is 13 during the Summer, and the minimum is 9 hours during the winter. Since this is sun up to sun down, and you’re not generating full power for about 2 hours both at morning and at night, I took away 2 from each number, making the range somewhere between 11 and 7. This gives us an average of about 9 hours of daylight. In reality, given that the position of the sun is really what determines power generation, I estimate the average number of hours to be 8. However, I’ll stick with 9 just to be “fair.”
Next, I looked up the number of sunny, cloudy, and partly cloudy days there were in Michigan during any given year. The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) has calculated these very numbers and derived the mean number of days for sunny, partly-sunny, and cloudy conditions through the year 2002. The stats for Michigan were as follows:
Sunny (clear) days: 75.
Partly cloudy days: 105.
Cloudy days: 185.
Using this, and the numbers I derived above, I can calculate the amount of power generated per year:
Sunny days: (9 hours x 2 kWh) x 75 days = 1350 kWh.
Partly cloudy days: (9 hours x 1.2501 kWh) x 105 days = 1181.315 kWh.
Cloudy days: (9 hours x 0.9092 kWh) x 185 days = 1513.757 kWh.
This gives me a total annual power generation of:
1350 kWh + 1181.315 kWh + 1513.757 kWh = 4045.071 kWh.
Sounds nice, right? However, I’m not quite done yet.
Now, we can look up how much an average household in Michigan consumes in power, and how much they pay for power at present by looking that the US Energy Information Administration. I looked up Michigan (the most recent numbers I could find: 2008), and discovered the following:
Average monthly consumption: 666 kWh per month.
Cost per kWh: $0.1075.
(Note, the cost for coal-fired and nuclear power generation is actually less than $0.1075 per kWh. Michigan has a legislative mandate that a certain percentage of total power has to come from “renewable” sources, and thus the total power cost has increased.)
With this, we can derive the total average yearly electrical consumption per household:
666 kWh per month x 12 months per year = 7992 kWh per year.
This, therefore, gives us a total electrical cost of:
7992 kWh per year * $0.1075 per kWh = $859.14 per year.
To calculate the percentage of the annual power replaced by solar generation, we do the following:
Total annual solar generation / Total average consumed per household =
4045.071 kWh / 7992 kWh = 0.50614 or 50.614%.
Meaning that you can calculate how much you “save” on energy based on the percentage of what you’d normally pay to the electric company:
$859.14 x 0.50614 = $434.84.
By now, you average solar loon is probably doing a little victory dance, and screaming at the monitor, “SEE, I TOLD YOU SO! I TOLD YOU IT MADE SENSE!” Thinking, of course, that I’m about to eat crow.
Remember that cost to install a complete solar generation system? That paltry $16,400.00 investment? Well, like all things, there is a period of time where the money you invested into that system has to pay itself off before it becomes a positive asset. You can calculate how much is costs to recoup your investment by taking the total cost of the investment, and dividing that by the amount of money it generates for you per year. Thus, we get the following formula:
Total investment / payback per year = years to cost-justify investment.
$16,400 / $434.84 = 37.72 years.
Yes, that’s right: nearly four-frickin’-decades before the solar panels pay for themselves. If you’re forty years old when you purchase your solar power system, the odds are you’ll be dead before the stupid thing is paid off. And none of that cost accounts for upkeep, replacing batteries (because most batteries will only last about 5 years before they go belly-up), and so on. It also does not take into account the increasing demand for energy as technology continues to advance, and becomes more prevalent in our daily lives. None of that.
The reality is that the mortgage on my house would be paid-off well before those solar panels start paying for themselves.
What’s more galling is that your average warranty on a solar panel is only something like 25 years, which is speculative at best.
Now, if you’re a solar loon, you’re probably going to make the argument:
Well, solar power makes total sense if you live in a place where the sun shines more often!
So, I looked around for the region that got the most sun, and that just happened to be Yuma, AZ. Here are the stats:
Cost per kWh (AZ): $0.1027.
Monthly utilization (AZ): 1095 kWh.
Number of sunny days: 242.
Number of partly cloudy days: 71.
Number of cloudy days: 52.
Using the same method above (I put this all into a spreadsheet after figuring out the calculations), the average amount of time for the system to cost-justify itself comes out to 28.62 years – nearly three-frickin’-decades! In frickin’ always hot, always sunny Yuma, Arizona!
Flagstaff, Arizona? There it takes about 32.60 years to cost-justify. Montgomery, Alabama: 36.12 years. St. Cloud, Minnesota (the region with the most sun in that state): 39.60 years!
The only real winners I found were Bridgeport, Connecticut (19 years) and Honolulu, Hawaii (11.5 years). However – and this especially true of Hawaii – the cost of living in these regions will drive that $16,400.00 price tag WAY out of sight.
Even in some of the sunniest regions in California, where the price of energy is relatively high, it would still take a couple of decades minimum to pay off your solar generation system.
The reason for all of this is pretty simple: conventional power generation sources create energy in a wholesale fashion, and do so with fuel that already contains a lot of energy. As much as the Solar Loon Brigade would like to delude themselves into thinking it is because fuel sources like coal and oil are “subsidized” (a myth that I’ve totally debunked in a previous post), the reality is that there are no “subsidies”, and that coal and oil are just really good sources of energy. Period. And when you generate this kind of stuff in bulk, and not piecemeal like most solar panel systems, your energy costs drop.
And what’s the most comical part is that price of coal and oil generation is actually artificially high. When you account for the fact that enviro-nazis have brought the building of new coal-fired generators to a near halt, what you have are older, less-efficient generators running at maximum capacity. All of this costs money for the consumer. Even with that, the price per kilowatt is minuscule when compared to even industrial solar collection systems.
Solar would be a great source of energy too…if you were setting up collectors on the moon. Unfortunately, for us earthlings, that whole atmosphere thingie just plain gets in the way. You could easily increase the efficiency of solar panels, but as a trade-off, you’d have to burn to a cinder in the process.
So, there you are: the “facts.” Too bad they don’t quite work out the way some in the Solar Loon Brigade want.
And yeah, if you call investing in something that will probably fall apart well before it pays for itself as, “just making sense,” it is no wonder that you voted for that idiot man-child that currently resides in the White House.
(Here’s a hint: Bush left in January 2009.)
And to think, they now want to put plug-in hybrids onto the electrical grid…