Unsustainable energy’s complaint about unsustainable solar

   To hear them tell it, solar is a powerhouse industry that would collapse like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge if any state support were removed. …
“Solar energy has mainstream appeal” — it clearly does not. Basketball has mainstream appeal. Fast food has mainstream appeal. iPhones have mainstream appeal. Solar only gets some people’s interest if they can succeed in forcing other people to pay for it. That’s “how great the demand is.”
— Yours truly, 11/18/13

There is an unusual op-ed in the N&O today. It takes the highly unique position of being pro green cronyism in general but anti green cronyism for solar. The pro case is rote, but this part is worth noticing:

Solar is inherently inefficient, producing an average of only 15 percent of its stated capacity. Every dollar spent on solar and related infrastructure is worth up to $6 with other energy solutions [which reminds me of this complaint]. Solar also requires the use of higher-polluting power plants when it is not generating power [the nondispatchability problem]. That said, solar has its place in the world with roof-top applications and where energy options are limited, such as on islands.

The real problem is that large-scale solar development in North Carolina is no longer about energy, but about corporate finance and tax credits. The result is that solar power appears cheap, while in reality the burden has simply shifted from ratepayers to taxpayers [the Esse quam videri principle again]. ….

Solar developers are effectively selling the combined value of North Carolina’s 35 percent tax credit, the federal 30 percent tax credit and accelerated depreciation for up to 25 percent of project costs to large banks and corporations, yielding significant profits for all involved. Among falling solar panel costs from China, inflated developer fees, transactions between affiliated companies to artificially inflate costs and additional potential incentives, taxpayers are commonly funding over 100 percent of solar projects, while large corporations profit on tax breaks.

Is there any wonder, then, why solar interests are so keen to keep all those tax credits and subsidies? The industry’s model doesn’t work without them.

Solar’s high costs and great inefficiencies are also why any discussions about the need for, the wonder of, the whatever good is being said at the moment about solar energy necessarily don’t include a discussion of the lower electricity rates it brings.

We’re not supposed to think about higher electricity rates at all, but if we do, we’re supposed to think it’s a reasonable sacrifice to foist on everyone, especially the poor, to Save The Planet and Come to Think of It, Employ A Few Extra People Too.

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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