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Rooftop Solar’s Tiger by the Tail

By March 25, 2019November 5th, 2021Energy Rant

Four years after I explained why distributed rooftop solar[1] on every home bucks every successful ongoing business trend in existence, Keith Dennis[2] proves it in Public Utilities Fortnightly. His article: NOT Zero Energy.

The vehicle for Mr. Dennis’ flatulent beef is zero net energy – or ZNE as it is known in the jargon language – homes. However, it is not the design of the ZNE home, which is uber fuel efficient: uber insulated, ventilation energy recovery, and efficient equipment. It is a fallacy that a ZNE, when equipped with solar generation, is good for society or net emissions.

The first thing I do is consider my references. Mr. Dennis’ interests lie with utilities, which like every other business, is sometimes right and sometimes wrong. In this case, I, of course, agree with him – that a zillion little generators with a zillion little inverters and a zillion little interconnections to the grid – is dumb, compared to a utility-scale, economy-of-scale, solar field.

The Team

I submit to you, it is the crony capitalism of the federal government, and sometimes state governments, in cahoots with some 501(c)(x-ers), and deep-pocketed billionaires foisting this mess onto the grid. What is the outcome for the grid and society at large?

The Study Results

Mr. Dennis references a report by The Brattle Group, which by the way, removes at least 99% of any doubt of bias in the results I’m about to post. The Brattle Group study found that utility-scale solar, versus a zillion rooftop panels, has the following quantified advantages:

  • One third less cost per MWh produced
  • Forty-three percent more generation for the same installed cost
  • Fifty-two percent resource cost savings (assume that means grid issues)
  • Forty-three percent more avoided CO2 emissions

Thank you for confirming my four-year-old assertions, Brattle Group, and for reporting it, Fortnightly.

Also, the policies drive economics that are bad for states, regions, and utility ratepayers. The foisting of excess power onto the grid is starting to cost millions of dollars.

A Growing Tony

I’ve written before that subsidies for bad ideas are like bringing home one of these.

It’s cute. It’s small and harmless. It weighs 14 lbs and cost $20 a week to feed. What happens when Tony grows to 500 lbs with the pulling power of a Clydesdale, requires a quarter of beef every week, and stares at the neighbor’s kids playing in the front yard for hours on end?

The California tiger is in its age of adolescence. Mr. Dennis writes that last year, California curtailed 460,000 MWh of excess solar power, and they exported much more than that at a negative cost. By the way, isn’t that what garbage is? Something you pay for others to take off your hands? How good is that for the state? We didn’t have this garbage problem before, but now we need to pay people to take our excess.

The scale of the 460,000 MWh curtailment is that of, oh, 10x the annual savings achieved by a feisty custom efficiency program in one year. Wow! Society is subsidizing 460,000 MWh of curtailment and at the same time paying to reduce consumption elsewhere at different times of the day. This, not doing things the same way over and over and expecting different outcomes, is insanity.

So what does the state do? Mandate ZNE homes, of course. Tom Clancy, John Grisham, Stephen King, et al., couldn’t imagine such plots. Meanwhile, the policies are running zero-emission nuclear out of the market.

Have you seen Stephen King lately? He looks like the characters in his books. Good grief. If that is the case, I’m starting to look like a hybrid of Reddy Kilowatt and Archie Bunker. Raarr.

Virtue Signals

Finally, this gets to the heart of what I’ve been thinking for a long time. Customers up to the largest tech giants are claiming the use of 100% virtuous renewable energy. That is not the case. They, like everyone else, per Mr. Dennis again, require the use of high-emitting, fuel-guzzling sources of energy when the renewables aren’t available. While the virtue-signaling tech giants are saying look at me, I’m carbon-free, they are mining your data and every move.

“Don’t be evil.” Pffft!

Jeff Ihnen

Author Jeff Ihnen

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