Rooftop Solar is Harmful, Part 1
Recent activity on the Internet has tried to turn this fact on its head.
While it’s not unexpected that supporters of PV rooftop solar would attempt to turn the facts upside down, the addition of a Tea Party activist to the group supporting PV rooftop solar makes news.
Debbie Dooley, reportedly a founding member of the national Tea Party, and a member of Conservatives for Energy, supports the Florida ballot initiative called Floridians for Solar Choice.
The Floridians for Solar Choice web site says, “Giving Floridians a Voice and a Choice on Energy.”
As expected, the left has grabbed this misguided revolt by a tea party member to exploit her in its campaign for more PV rooftop solar at taxpayer expense.
An article in Grist capitalized on the situation by calling for a “Green Tea Coalition.”
Rather than seeking an impossible dream, these Don Quixotes are proposing a nightmare.
Here is some of the misleading information about PV rooftop solar found on the Internet:
- People should be free to add PV rooftop solar
- Utilities are against competition, because it hurts their profits
- It means lower peak-hour energy prices
- It’s the Koch brothers who are against PV rooftop solar
- Fossil fuels get subsidies, why shouldn’t wind and solar?
- Everyone benefits from PV rooftop solar
These are misleading, inaccurate or just plain wrong.
For example, no owner of a single family home is prevented from installing a PV rooftop solar system.
Any such homeowner can install a PV rooftop solar system and then disconnect their home from the grid.
What the Don Quixotes are actually objecting to is having to buy batteries to provide storage for electricity needed at night or when the sun doesn’t shine. They probably will have to buy enough batteries to last for a week or more for when the weather is bad.
Everyone has the freedom to install PV rooftop solar, it’s just they don’t want to buy batteries. They want to keep sponging off the grid instead.
So the freedom argument is bogus, as is the argument that utilities don’t want competition.
The grid has value, and it’s the cost of buying batteries to store electricity for an extended period of time that, in part at least, establishes the economic value of the grid to homeowners.
It’s true, painfully true, the profitability of utilities will be hurt with PV rooftop solar.
And this is a problem that should concern everyone, because utilities are needed to maintain the grid, and provide electricity to all who want it, at the lowest possible cost.
Germany is living proof that wind and solar can destroy the system that’s based on utilities providing electricity to everyone. Consumers in Germany pay five times as much for electricity as we do in the United States.
Because of energiewende, German utilities are trying to dispose of their fossil fuel assets, which is likely to result in the government having to take over the grid. See, The Bell Tolls and Watching Germany’s Endangered Utilities.
At the core of the problem in the United Sates is that the vast majority of owners of PV rooftop solar installations don’t pay for their use of the grid.
This is especially true with net metering, where utilities must pay to participate in their own destruction.
PV rooftop solar installations can allow homeowners to sell surplus electricity to the grid, in many cases taking advantage of net metering.
Net metering requires the utility to pay the same price for electricity sold to the grid by homeowners, as homeowners pay when they buy electricity from the utility.
If the homeowner pays 12 cents per kWh for the electricity he uses from the grid, he will, with most net metering laws, be paid 12 cents per kWh for the electricity he sells to the grid.
This forces the utility to pay twice as much for electricity as it would cost the utility to generate the electricity itself. For example, the utility would pay the homeowner 12 cents per kWh for electricity it could generate for 5 cents per kWh.
If a restaurant (utility) could grow vegetables in its back yard at a very low cost, should it be forced to buy vegetables from someone else at a high price?
This is what net metering forces utilities to do.
In addition, homeowners with PV rooftop solar installations aren’t paying their fair share of the maintenance and capital costs of the transmission and distribution lines, including all the transformers, cut-outs, regulators, capacitors and switchgear contained in substations and along the power lines.
If the homeowner generates all the electricity he uses, and doesn’t buy electricity from the grid, and then sells electricity to the grid over the utility’s distribution and transmission lines, he isn’t paying anything for the maintenance or other costs of those lines and the infrastructure associated with them.
If the homeowner didn’t have batteries for storage, he might buy some electricity at night and during bad weather, but the amount he pays would be a pittance compared with the actual infrastructure costs incurred by the utility for the power lines used by the homeowner.
The result? Homeowners don’t pay for using the grid while getting paid an excessive amount for the electricity they sell to the grid.
PV rooftop solar is like a cancer eating away at the heart of the utility system.
So long as there are only a very small number of PV rooftop solar installations, the cancer can be tolerated.
But if most people had PV rooftop solar, the utilities wouldn’t be able to survive, which is the situation evolving in Germany.
And what about subsidies, and the claim that everyone benefits from PV rooftop solar?
See Part 2.
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