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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Solar requires six times as many workers as coal does

I read the Guardian headline and smelled the Fake News immediately:
Green energy in a coal state: the struggle to bring solar jobs to West Virginia
And it was.

The Guardian story twisted facts like pretzels.

From the Guardian:
The economic picture of West Virginia is bleak. The Mountain State has the nation’s seventh-highest poverty rate. The number of coal jobs dropped from nearly 25,000 in 2011 to fewer than 11,500 in the third quarter of 2016. And those numbers only represent mining itself. When mines shut down, it affects everything – local businesses that serve the industry’s employees and their families lose revenue and government services are hurt by a shrinking tax base.
Automation and less labor-intensive extraction methods such as strip mining and mountaintop removal caused job losses for decades, but stricter environmental regulations and a boom in natural gas, which made it cheaper than coal, have contributed to steeper job cuts in recent years, says Brian Lego, a research assistant professor who studies the coal-mining industry at West Virginia University. Coal production fell from 158 million tons in 2008 to 80 million tons in 2016, Lego says.
So production fell in half, and jobs fell in half, but it was "automation and less labor-intensive extraction methods such as strip mining and mountaintop removal caused job losses for decades."

I might add that "strip mining and mountaintop removal" are the same thing in West Virginia.

The reason production fell in half is Barack Obama's inane War on Coal because burning it produces carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide is a nutrient, not a pollutant. Only an imbecile or someone getting government grants would say otherwise.

The idea that you can replace $70,000-a-year coal mining jobs with solar jobs is silly.

The fact is that after 50 years of mining and burning coal to produce energy, mankind is very, very efficient in its use of coal. Scrubbers reduce real pollution by 95% to 99% depending on which pollutant one is discussing.

Just 80,000 coal miners produce 33% of the nation's electricity. Add ancillary jobs and just under a million people produce the nation's coal.

Solar energy requires 173,807 workers to produce less than 1% of the nation's electricity.

Thus to produce as much energy as coal does, the solar industry would need nearly six times as many workers -- 5,735,631 to be exact.

That is an inefficient system because the solar industry does not seek profits.

Big Solar has no incentive to be more efficient -- or to kill fewer birds and bats in the process.

Big Solar lives on subsidies -- a corporate welfare case.

Benjamin Zycher of the American Enterprise Institute wrote in Forbes:
Residential consumers of electricity in California pay almost 17 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), a price higher than those of every other state in the lower 48, except New York and five of the New England states. The average for the nation as a whole is about 12.7 cents per kWh. Neighboring states in the Pacific Northwest, the Mountain region and the Southwest enjoy rates lower than California’s by about 30-45%, and even California’s high prices obscure a number of costs hidden -- but not avoided -- with various tax and regulatory policies.
One such policy is “net metering,” an important system of shifting the costs of rooftop (“photovoltaic”) solar systems onto the consumers of electricity generally, with adverse implications for costs and for the future reliability of the electric grid. The California Public Utilities Commission has an opportunity to impose limits on this cost shifting system.
How does net metering work? Power consumers who install solar panels--large subsidies are paid for such installations--receive a credit for the power that they produce but do not consume. The excess electricity is transferred into the power grid for use by other consumers, and the owners of the solar systems receive a credit for the excess power, paying only for their “net” electricity consumption.
Subsidizing the rich
So what’s the problem? First, the credit paid in California for the excess solar power is far higher than the cost of alternative electricity sources, usually from utilities or from the spot power market. Consumers without such solar installations have to finance that excessively expensive electricity, so that overall power prices are forced above the level that would prevail in the absence of the net metering system. This system, by the way, subsidizes the affluent (median income of those installing solar systems: $91,210) at the expense of all other power consumers (median of $67,821), an embarrassing reality from which the supporters of the net-metering system prefer to avert their eyes.
Second, reliability is a hugely valuable attribute of power systems; no one likes blackouts. Electricity bills reflect the cost of that reliability in the form of “capacity” charges, that is, the part of the bill covering the cost of the physical system and its spare capacity, before fuel expenses and other such generation costs. People who install solar systems benefit from the reliability provided by the grid -- they consume conventional power at night and at other times that the sun fails to shine -- but because they pay only for their “net” power consumption, they get a free ride on the cost of the generation equipment and other capital that yield the reliability upon which they depend. The problem is that the free ride is not free: Other consumers have to pay for it.
Of all the "alternative energy" schemes out there, solar power is the only one that makes sense. However, it will remain expensive and inefficient as long as the motive for companies remains subsidies, not profits.

The idea that you can replace coal with solar energy as long as there are subsidies is irrational.

Which pretty much describes stories on the United States of America in the Guardian.

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  1. My drill sergeant gave me a very valuable insight into the two things you have to understand and accept to get along in this man's army:

    1) It doesn't have to make sense.

    2) It doesn't have to be fair.

    That seems to sum up the Leftist/Watermelon philosophy.

    - Elric

    1. My DI was verbally abusive and never expected any of us to understand why, so he never crowded our brain housing groups with such....S/F S/Sgt Hedrick.

  2. Watch You Can't Take It With You. Old Frank Capra/Jimmy Stewart movie from late thirties or early forties.
    Jimmy tells his girlfriend how someday soon all of our energy troubles will be solved by solar energy.
    The Coming Age of Solar Energy is a book I still have to remind myself of all the promises made back in the 1970's.
    Always coming, never here.

  3. "Big Solar lives on subsidies"
    There ya have it, together with venture money from soon to be defunct hedge fund managers.

    Solar is cute. I have it. That's it. 17% efficient on a nice sunny day with the best moncrystalline chips you can use from CN.

    And then the clouds roll in.

    Then, you have the storage issue which is also cute but incredibly inefficient. Electrochemical laws constrain how *fast* you can recharge a depleted cell *and* how many times you can do it. If you drop that battery voltage 2 volts in 2 hours, it takes about 3.5 hours (more as it ages) to put it back.

    And then it gets dark.

    Then, there's the cost per BTU, which is not even close to fossil fuels/BTU. And, by the way a trained marmot could take care of a solar panel farm.

    Then, there's the fact that the panels themselves put out less voltage as they age. There could be as much as a 50% derating over 3 years.

    Did I mention it gets dark at night?

    Talk to Hawaii (yes I know...). They have completely abandoned any relationship for grid tie consumers who were hoodwinked into buying a grid tie system to sell their solar watts back at 10 cents on the thousand dollars they invested. Hawaii power doesn't want it, and doesn't need it.

    Your best option continues to be combining carbon with oxygen day and night; night and day. There is no energy source that is remotely as cheap is that.

    (Note that AZ has both nuke and hydro and lots and lots of sun and lots of lots of solar "potential" yet they continue to use coal for 40% of their power)

    1. Your appraisal of the Hawaii situation is not correct.

      In the first place, the local power company is owned by a financial company, a bank. They no longer want to be in the power generating business because the state has set an unrealistic "green" goal to be free of fossil fuels by 2030. They remain in the power distribution business for a while as they try to sell the power company to someone offshore, which they've already tried to do but were rebuffed by the Public Utilities Commission and the Governor.

      Second point: the cost of electricity off the grid in Honolulu is around 30-35 cents per kWh, even higher on the outer islands. That's twice the going cost for electricity in California. So, bottom line, Hawaii really DOES need an alternative that offers cheaper energy than the grid. The more power a household can generate for itself instead of taking power off the grid, the better, whether it's via sun power or wind power. For the large majority of homeowners, whether a solar PV system is worth the cost of installation is determined by that 30-35 cent per kWh cost of power from the network. The reimbursement rate a consumer gets for sending any excess power from his PV system to the grid hardly enters the calculation at all. And of course the most important financial consideration of all for an individual homeowner is the government subsidy he will get to install a system. With the subsidy, the payback period in Hawaii for a smallish household PV system is typically about 5 years. But without the subsidy, it is more than 15 years, which is well beyond the financial planning horizon for most homeowners.

    2. "...the state has set an unrealistic "green" goal..."
      That's a problem in California, too. The Moonbat legislature gives the utilities rising, unrealistic mandates of how much "renewable" energy they must produce, thus eliminating the option for them to produce power in the most cost efficient manner.

  4. Coal comes from the huge former forests of the Carboniferous Era.

    Trees then as now used photosynthesis.

    So coal in fact originally came from solar power.

    When the coal crackles or sparks, that's a sunny day from long ago coming out in a rush all at once.

  5. The gubmint should just GTF out of energy production by abolishing all subsidies, grants, and tax credits to ALL forms of energy production.

    BTW, Don, you owe me a keyboard. When I saw the headline to this post I spewed coffee all over the place. ;-)

  6. "because they pay only for their “net” power consumption, they get a free ride on the cost of the generation equipment and other capital that yield the reliability upon which they depend."

    Nonsense. When people with battery-less PV systems (the large majority of installed solar systems) use power drawn off the network, they pay the fully loaded price per kWh like everyone else. The full price should include the capital cost as well as operating and maintenance costs of the power company's network of equipment. In addition, the monthly bill the power company sends to any household that's connected to the grid likely includes a base charge for unavoidable fixed costs, part of which could reflect the cost of the power company keeping "excess network capacity" available on-line for everyone.

    Now as it happens, the largest household demand for power comes in the early evening, around dinner time, near or after sunset, at which time a solar system has normally stopped generating any power. Most households, including those with battery-less PV systems, are then taking power off the grid. And all of those consumers, whether they have a PV system or not, are charged the same fully loaded rate for power they get from the grid.

    By the same token, I do agree that what would be unfair to non-PV households is if the owner of a PV system is paid more for the energy he puts INTO the system than the market price the power company has to pay an alternative source for the same amount of electricity. That's an unfair subsidy for solar systems.

  7. The government couldn't run a whorehouse outside Camp Lejeune and make a profit

    1. Prophylaxis is like politics. You can be blue, or you can be red.

  8. Call me a hilljack, but when you go through 4-6 days of rainy/cloudy weather, I'm pretty sure solar is effing useless.

  9. Sun and wind is free so therefore power from sun and wind should be cheap, right? So why the subsidies from Government/other consumers? What is never mentioned is the cost of the equipment and the maintenance. Solar panels and wind turbines and batteries are not made of nothing. The metals have to be mined, and the final product maintained. It is more efficient to have one coal powered station maintained regularly that has a life of over 30 years, than it is to have thousands of solar panels on roofs, with batteries, that are never maintained. As soon as a panel goes up, dust settles. Does anyone get up on the roof and clean it? Then both solar and wind require coal, nuclear or hydro backup so doubling the costs or more. That money could have been spent on new hospitals and roads.