Part-Time Power: Subsidised Solar World’s Most Expensive Virtue Signalling Exercise

There is a place for solar power, but it ain’t connected to a power grid. Delivering power for no more than seven hours a day (ordinarily between five and six hours, at best, and less in winter) means sticking solar panels on homes connected to conventional power grids makes no sense at all.

As the sun sets, each and every one of those homes draws the power its occupants need from the very same grid that their solar panels have been destabilising throughout the day.

On the other hand, for “off grid” households – remote from the grid – a system involving solar panels, feeding excess generation to lead acid batteries, with a diesel generator for backup, is both practical and economic. Where electricity independence is a necessity in the only option, solar make sense. Think sheep and cattle stations hundreds of kilometres from the nearest SWER line.

Portable solar panels and blankets come into their own for off-road caravanners and campers, but nobody is subsidising the electricity being consumed or produced by grey nomads and off-roaders.

Scaling up solar power generation and carpeting great tracts of land to produce power for 5-8 hours a day (at best) is only an option because of the subsidies solar generation attracts, and because there is no penalty attached for failing to deliver electricity for 16-19 hours every day. All care and no responsibility, is the renewable energy mantra.

Viv Forbes takes up the theme and provides a detailed analysis of why subsidised solar is world’s most expensive virtue signalling exercise.

Australia’s Giant Green Gamble on Solar Energy Toys
Saltbush Club
Viv Forbes
9 January 2022

By the time solar energy reaches Earth’s surface it is spread very thin – even midday sunshine will not boil the billy or make toast. And solar collectors will only convert about 20% of that weak energy into electricity. Thus thousands of solar panels are needed to collect significant energy, and lots more to charge the expensive batteries needed to maintain electricity supply overnight and during cloudy weather. Despite these disadvantages, force-feeding of “green” energy by all levels of government has given Australia nearly three million solar collectors (mainly imported from China).

It requires scads of land to generate significant electricity from the sun’s weak rays. But even in sunny weather they produce nothing for 16 hours every day. And a sprinkling of dust, pollen, ash or salt, or a few splatters of poop from birds or flying foxes can reduce output by 50%, while night, snow or heavy cloud cover snuffs them out completely.

Solar energy collection is maximised if the panels face the sun exactly and follow the daily and seasonal movements of the sun across the sky. No rooftop collectors and only 40% of ground facilities can do this. Thus to produce the planned energy requires an even bigger area of collector panels, covering even more land.

More interested in propaganda than science, greens call land-based arrays “solar farms” suggesting they are plant-friendly places. However solar panels steal sunlight, leaving real plants beneath them to die. Solar “farms” have nothing in common with real farms except the need for large areas of open countryside – usually consuming valuable flattish cleared farmland or open grassland.

In fact growing plants are a liability to solar “farms” because they can block solar energy, so the operators must prevent grass, weeds and bushes from shadowing the panels and stealing their sunshine. Thus most plant-life in solar “farms” is killed – either by the blocking of the sun, or by regular applications of herbicide, or by roadways.

A big solar “farm” in Australia could contain one million solar panels and smother 2,000 acres of land. Each operation also needs miles of cleared access roads and transmission lines to maintain the facility, collect the electricity and transmit it to urban demand centres. Most of the time these transmission lines are operating well below capacity, creating an expensive web of inefficient maintenance liabilities.

Australia is also a world leader in installing subsidised rooftop solar. But a quick drive around the suburbs will show that few panels have the size, the ideal orientation or the cleanliness to be efficient collectors of solar energy – they are green status symbols designed to collect subsidies. Many will fail to recover the real cost of manufacture, transport, installation, maintenance and restoration. They destabilise the electricity network and elevate average electricity prices for industry and for those who cannot afford a house, let alone one with its own solar panels.

All for ZERO climate benefits.

The picture below illustrates what is wrong with rooftop solar.

Random Panel Orientation, plus a Cloudy Sky = Negligible Solar Electricity. Picture credit: http://www.powerhomesolar.com

Intermittent “green” energy forces coal and gas plants to operate at full capacity to cover peak demands around sunrise and sunset, but to wind back or shut down when solar energy pours into the system around midday. Recently in just one week in South Australia (Australia’s green energy guinea pig), electricity generation went from “over 130% renewables to less than 4%, renewables with everything in between”. Despite South Australia being home to “the biggest battery in the world”, the energy regulator has been forced to lease diesel back-up generators and to order gas-fired plants to stand by in case the wind suddenly drops – this encourages mechanical and financial breakdowns, and high electricity costs.

Europe has also gone out onto the green energy limb, but this is no comfort for Australians who cannot import nuclear power from France, gas from Russia or hydro-power from Scandinavia.

Every solar installation consumes energy to mine metals, manufacture, transport and erect panels and to build access roads and transmission lines over long distances. Careful analysis will show an energy deficit over their short lifetimes. And when an earthquake, hailstorm, cyclone or hurricane smashes these exposed rows of solar panels, rubbish dumps of mangled trash will be left. Most of this debris cannot be recycled and tonnes of metals, glass and plastic are destined to end their life as toxic, non-degradable land fill.

Bureaucrats will try to force solar operators to clean up, but smart operators will have bankruptcy petitions prepared for such emergencies.

Here’s a solar “farm” after a cyclone or typhoon:

Storm Destroys Solar “Farm” in Puerto Rico (producing lots of landfill). Picture Credit: Bob Meinetz. http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger

Proven and reliable electricity generators, driven by coal, gas, hydro or nuclear, with a small land footprint and housed in storm-proof structures, are far less damaging to the green environment than these landscapes of inefficient, intermittent, expensive plant-killing “farms”.

Where are the Green objectors now?
Saltbush Club

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. The picture of those solar panels on the house doesn’t do justice to the stupidity of some solar installations.
    A house in my suburb has panels facing SOUTH!
    The north facing roof area is bare!
    I can only imagine that the homeowners told the installer that they wanted them there or else. No installer would install them facing south.
    BTW I live in Brisbane.

  2. The latest rent-seeker’s lunacy is offshore floating solar ‘farms’. What could go wrong, aside from having Buckley’s chance of keeping the mirrors pointed at the sun, a layer of salt encrustation over the top of the mirrors, corroded circuits, being run over the next time Leonardo DeCaprio is in a hurry to get his yacht to a hot-air fest?
    Oh, but they are more efficient because the water cools the mirrors down; bewdy!
    https://oceansofenergy.blue/2019/12/11/a-worlds-first-offshore-floating-solar-farm-installed-at-the-dutch-north-sea/
    South Australia is the country’s unreliables basket case; how long before before some nut pitches the idea of covering the northern half of Spencer Gulf with a floating solar ‘farm’ to replace capacity lost by demolishing the Thomas Playford power station (during the daytime perhaps)
    The good news is that when a storm does destroy all the mirrors, the pontoons can be promptly scuttled, taking the visual evidence of the wreckage to the bottom of the sea, presumably before any photographers arrive.

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