Are solar panels REALLY worth it?

PSE&G Solar 4 All costs a ton; you save nothing; helps so few

Not sure how you feel about all of these solar panels popping up all over New Jersey. I suppose if you’re a huge supporter of solar “green” energy and all that, then the unsightly panels all over the place probably makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, right? Saving the environment? Saving money? Really?

Intensive solar panel installations – Is “Solar 4 All” worth it?

According to PSE&G’s website – the Solar 4 All program seems like a massive undertaking. When completed at the end of 2012, close to 200,000 panels will be installed in the state.

And, according to PSE&G – the Solar 4 All program will provide electricity equivalent to power 13,000 homes in New Jersey. However, this costs YOU the utility customer – around 30 cents extra per month (probably for the next decade).

Let’s put these numbers into perspective for a minute with a few observations:

  • NJ has close to 3.6 MILLION homes. This massive undertaking covers power for only 13,000.
  • This endeavor will provide electricity to the equivalent of around 34,000 individuals. NJ has a population of close to 9 million people.
  • Is it worth it to have so many ugly panels all over the place? Doesn’t is ruin the landscape tremendously?
  • Does it help prevent pollution? Save anyone anything? Or just add more infrastructure, maintenance and reasons for federal handouts?
  • What about the cost to repair and maintain these things? The driving out there? Is the headache worthwhile?

I personally think solar technology is nowhere near ready for prime time yet, and any investment into this way of producing energy should be done slowly and carefully.

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30 Comments on "Are solar panels REALLY worth it?"

MidnightRacer
Member

pollcatfactor, you’re presenting two different positions here. You cannot rationally compare private production to commercial. Based purely on energy efficiency, cost effectiveness, manufacturing chemicals and toxic waste, solar does not have an equal footing with hydro. So then, the only position arguable for solar is based upon a value judgment (relativity). Given that solar only makes economic sense when the tax payers subsidize your purchase of solar, it means it cannot sell on its own and so needs politicians to legislate economic persuasion (crony capitalism). You might want to go off the grid and not care about the costs. So an individual application of solar makes sense in this kind of moral decision, rather than an economic one.

The question posed in this thread topic, is it worth it, could possible invite moral or economic positions. However, you cannot logically compare moral efficiency to economic or productive efficiency without invoking a fallacy.

Both wind and solar might make great morally persuasive arguments, but the fact that both are dependent on subsidies, reliant on whether the wind blows or the sun shines, means that they are nothing more than novelties when considering efficiency.

klaatu
Member
klaatu

Fossil fuels are also heavily subsidized by the government, too. Not to mention the defense spending we spend to ensure the supply.

And let’s not even get into how unviable the nuclear industry would be without the support of the government. [quote comment=”212692″]pollcatfactor, you’re presenting two different positions here. You cannot rationally compare private production to commercial. Based purely on energy efficiency, cost effectiveness, manufacturing chemicals and toxic waste, solar does not have an equal footing with hydro. So then, the only position arguable for solar is based upon a value judgment (relativity). Given that solar only makes economic sense when the tax payers subsidize your purchase of solar, it means it cannot sell on its own and so needs politicians to legislate economic persuasion (crony capitalism). You might want to go off the grid and not care about the costs. So an individual application of solar makes sense in this kind of moral decision, rather than an economic one.The question posed in this thread topic, is it worth it, could possible invite moral or economic positions. However, you cannot logically compare moral efficiency to economic or productive efficiency without invoking a fallacy.Both wind and solar might make great morally persuasive arguments, but the fact that both are dependent on subsidies, reliant on whether the wind blows or the sun shines, means that they are nothing more than novelties when considering efficiency.[/quote]

MidnightRacer
Member

Responses such as this is the reason why objectivity is limited to numbers. Your argument evades such measure and dives head on into mommy, Jo Jo hit me too.

Would not a more rational approach be to observe per KWH costs of energy production? Is it worth it?

List for me the energy production costs, without subsidies, for the following:

Hydro
Solar
Wind
Nuclear

Which is the most economically efficient source?[quote comment=”212708″]Fossil fuels are also heavily subsidized by the government, too. Not to mention the defense spending we spend to ensure the supply.And let’s not even get into how unviable the nuclear industry would be without the support of the government.[/quote]

pollcatfactor
Member
pollcatfactor
Let’s cut out moral/enviro discussion… pure cost… and this is all hypothetical, no numbers/answers necessary. If you could buy a panel set for $5k (outright) and it would last 10 years and you would break even after 5, would you do it? Now imagine if everybody realized this and did the same. I know this isn’t exactly what the article is talking about, but there are relations. Put a small panel on a lamppost or a traffic light that links back into the grid (and won’t be too visually obtrusive). It will push back into the grid and cut costs and coal use. Put some on top of municipal buildings. There is an issue in subsidization because if Hoboken puts up panels of their own volition and takes it out of tax payer money, our (residents of the city) kwh rate should go down a tiny bit because we are using less power. We are nowhere near the technology of a Type 1 civilization but these little steps are getting us closer (we have been stuck at around 0.16% since the mid 1970s… which is deplorable). What you cannot argue with is that solar and wind power must still further be researched because eventually they could become better that coal and nuclear. That is just how progress works, Moore’s law. Obviously there is benefit to solar and wind otherwise people would not be using them. Kind of like how 8-tracks and B&W movies aren’t mass produced anymore. [quote comment=”212717″]Responses such… Read more »
MidnightRacer
Member
If everyone took advantage of the tax rebate and other “discounts” (meaning tax payers pay a part of your so called investment), then the government would have to either cut spending or raise taxes. The fast that only a few people do it is the only reason such tax payer funding/discounts exist. That aside. I’ll move the discussion forward by responding to your other points. You can research solar all you want. Full disclosure: I actually have owned (long term) solar stocks over the last decade, including one specifically XSUNX which develops CIGS thin-films. Companies have experimented with covering mostly glass covered skyscrapers with basically a window tint which also produce energy from the sun. But the one thing solar cannot overcome, aside from efficiency and life issues is that most of the livable areas (metro) of the country lack the sufficient sun light needed. Too many issues for solar to ever be viable; short lifetime of material efficiency, high cost, high maintenance (the panel must be clean and free of debris/grime), and availability of sunlight. Like I said, it’s merely a novelty in comparison to the others.[quote comment=”212739″]Let’s cut out moral/enviro discussion… pure cost… and this is all hypothetical, no numbers/answers necessary.If you could buy a panel set for $5k (outright) and it would last 10 years and you would break even after 5, would you do it? Now imagine if everybody realized this and did the same.I know this isn’t exactly what the article is talking about, but… Read more »
pollcatfactor
Member
pollcatfactor
As quickly as I can: Rebates – it’s a bonus but not a necessity. Power can be moved via power lines… that’s why the biggest plants (solar and coal) are not in the middle of big cities. Life of solar: typical company guarantees 90% production for 10yrs, 85% production for years 11-25… and the maintenance involves a mop and some special windex… far from “high maintenance.” Part 2! I guess, regardless of anything we are saying, don’t forget to look at the dates to compare the two. Modern coal engine – basic private construction: 1543. commercial use 1884. Where are we now… giant power plants. And it only took 450 years. Solar panel use – technology developed: 1970s. basic commercial: 1980s. 20 years later: they are more efficient (far from perfect, just like steam engines in 1904), semi-mass produced, and have very little exposure as a full power plant. Cars, TV, computers, internet, cell phones… all novelties at inception. That comment actually hurts your side. Conclusion Neither you nor I know where technology will be in 450 years. I prefer to have hope and optimism. Cynicism and pessimism are opponent of development and advancement. I don’t want any scientist/developer to give up on developing solar, wind, hydro, coal, nuclear, fission, fusion, breeder, natural gas, geothermal, or any other power source. But a whole system can’t be fully written off when it’s only 30 years old. The next revelation could be “coal has reached a plateau in technology… time to move… Read more »
MidnightRacer
Member
I’ll repeat, I actually invest in technology. If solar had potential, I would continue to invest in that, but it doesn’t. The biggest enemy of solar is sun light availability and significant loss of efficiency with regards to getting “dirty”. Any layer of anything on the panels instantly rob any form of solar panels of energy conversion/production capability It doesn’t matter if it’s today’s technology or 10,000 years from now. Each successive layer of dust, grime, haze, vapor, etc greatly diminishes operation. To address that problem, you could possibly run a strong fan to blow off the dust, or create greater surface hydrophobicity to expel contaminate filled vapor and mist, but that would draw the little power it already converts. As for sunlight availability, maybe you could keep clouds from covering the area, maybe even get rid of winter, but all that would use more power than the system generates. Still fails. It would take an irrational wish to pretend the obvious is not the reality. This is what makes solar a novelty. I think it’s good for people who don’t mind paying for something that makes them feel good, but it is not the technology an appeal to emotion promises that it could be. A rational conclusion involves an honest assessment of viability and efficiency. That’s life. To pretend otherwise makes solar a novelty. When compared to the others and yet to be discovered mean of energy production, none suffer the fundamental problems solar suffers; efficiency and sunlight loss.[quote… Read more »
pollcatfactor
Member
pollcatfactor
So where is the nuclear or coal plant in NYC? There isn’t one. Electricity can travel over great distances via power lines. Same can be done with solar and wind. I also didn’t say solar should fully take over. Read my whole post… “push back into the grid and cut costs and coal use.” Or at least cut down on coal need… it isn’t an inexhaustibly commodity. But nothing in there about getting rid of coal entirely. You say “high maintenance” like cleaning a window is a daunting task. Cleaning a solar panel doesn’t seem like high maintenance at all. It’s very sad that people are throwing in the towel on new energy production means. I’d really hate to think what the world would be like if revolutionaries such as Edison, Einstein, Ford, etc has felt the same way about technical advancements of their time. Sure there were nay-sayers then too… but brilliant mind have always proved them wrong. Remember: the TV and computer were called passing fads by a lot of people. @Hoboken411… as opposed to the growing crowd who does not want the real intellectuals of our society to work on finding better ways to live because they think everything is a scam/hoax/for-profit? There are still good people out there. Don’t give up all hope. [quote comment=”212741″]If everyone took advantage of the tax rebate and other “discounts” (meaning tax payers pay a part of your so called investment), then the government would have to either cut spending or… Read more »
bigman23
Member
bigman23

“But trying to convince a growing crowd who has been easily swept up by the repetitive nature of the feel-good propaganda over the years is a daunting task.”

You’re talking about Clean Coal, aren’t you? At least solar is a step in the right direction. It has ways to go, and maybe it’ll be just a novelty, but at least it’s better than fossil fuels. If anything, it gets people talking about these issues.[quote comment=”212742″]@MidnightRacer – your logic and facts are fantastic.But trying to convince a growing crowd who has been easily swept up by the repetitive nature of the feel-good propaganda over the years is a daunting task.In the end it’s just competition for the same pile of money via psychological means.[/quote]

escaped68
Member
I went to my grandsons football game at high school field in oct. When i drove into the parking lot at first I though that the town had put up a carport for the students but then I realized it was parking under a solar gathering field. There were even more collectors on the various bldgs.I don’t know the total but there were a lot. They must be getting grany money from someone Then in november I went to brick twsp to a huge rec. facility and over in field I saw 2 windmills for wind power. I have seen the solar collectors fields popping up all over place lot in western jersey. I feel that every thing helps.[quote comment=”212739″]Let’s cut out moral/enviro discussion… pure cost… and this is all hypothetical, no numbers/answers necessary.If you could buy a panel set for $5k (outright) and it would last 10 years and you would break even after 5, would you do it? Now imagine if everybody realized this and did the same.I know this isn’t exactly what the article is talking about, but there are relations. Put a small panel on a lamppost or a traffic light that links back into the grid (and won’t be too visually obtrusive). It will push back into the grid and cut costs and coal use. Put some on top of municipal buildings. There is an issue in subsidization because if Hoboken puts up panels of their own volition and takes it out of tax payer… Read more »
klaatu
Member
klaatu

Fossil-fuel Based Power Generation (estimated subsidy = 0.8 US cents/kWh)
Nuclear Power Generation (estimated subsidy = 1.7 US cents/kWh)
Non-hydroelectric Renewable Power Generation (estimated subsidy = 5.0 US cents/kWh)
 
(via http://www.globalsubsidies.org/files/assets/power_gen_subsidies.pdf)
 
In June 2008 Moody’s estimated that the cost of installing new nuclear capacity in the U.S. might possibly exceed $7,000/kW in final cost. (via http://www.neimagazine.com/story.asp?storyCode=2047917)
 
Photovoltaic is about $7/kW. Obviously there’s a huge difference in scale, but you can’t defend nuclear power while deriding solar. (via http://eetd.lbl.gov/ea/ems/reports/lbnl-4121e.pdf)[quote comment=”212717″]Responses such as this is the reason why objectivity is limited to numbers. Your argument evades such measure and dives head on into mommy, Jo Jo hit me too.Would not a more rational approach be to observe per KWH costs of energy production? Is it worth it?List for me the energy production costs, without subsidies, for the following:Hydro Solar Wind NuclearWhich is the most economically efficient source?[/quote]

escaped68
Member

I met a man who installed solar and thermal heat pump system in a house he built and raves about it. Here’s the kicker, he put all of these things in when all of this technology was fairly new. He received all kinds of discounts and interest free loans and the gear was reasonable. for someone who wanted to match his equipment would pay as much as 500% more then he did 15/’16 years ago.
He keeps his thermostat at 70 in the winter and at 68 in the summer and he even sells his surplus back to JCP&L.

pollcatfactor
Member
pollcatfactor

Or we just get this guy to build cold fusion plants all over the place!!! hahs
livescience.com/17310-scientist-pit...assachusetts-cold-fusion-plant.html

MidnightRacer
Member

The charts should give you a clear answer.
nuclearfissionary.com/2010/04/02/co...of-nuclear-coal-gas-wind-and-solar/

Hydro is the pick, solar the most cost prohibitive and least productive. And people fail to realize in their ROI consideration the efficiency reduction over the short term of the solar panels. They begin decreasing immediately. Then you’ve got to consider how much sun where you are, and the fact that dust, grime greatly reduce efficiency as well. Over so many years, the solar panels are no longer usable, and replacement (another $5,000) are due. The only reason people think it’s worth it is the reliance on tax payer (generational debt) subsidies. If it needs a subsidy, that means it simply is not beneficial on its own. So in the long term, it is neither efficient, productive, nor rational.

pollcatfactor
Member
pollcatfactor
I’d like to see operational costs for all of these as well. Including salaries of people who need to work at coal, hydro, nuclear plants. That will probably offset a lot of the solar cost. Since solar is a retail business, of course they will mark up their product to pay C-level, they don’t make money continually like a “power company” does. Which would then lead to… I hypothetically buy a solar setup that cost $5000, breaks even at 5 years, and last 5 years with maintenance consisting of keeping it clean. Net zero. I also have a river in my back yard. Can a build a hydro collector, do I need any city/zoning/permits & what are possible costs? How much would one cost to be built? Are there maintenance costs? Can I create something that will last 5 years, break even in 5 years, and only cost me $5000? [quote comment=”212670″]The charts should give you a clear answer. Hydro is the pick, solar the most cost prohibitive and least productive. And people fail to realize in their ROI consideration the efficiency reduction over the short term of the solar panels. They begin decreasing immediately. Then you’ve got to consider how much sun where you are, and the fact that dust, grime greatly reduce efficiency as well. Over so many years, the solar panels are no longer usable, and replacement (another $5,000) are due. The only reason people think it’s worth it is the reliance on tax payer (generational debt)… Read more »
gottagetoutanj
Member
gottagetoutanj

It’s a start and a step in the right direction. If it cost’s me a little more (change from a coffee at Starbucks for most) each month to get this going, go for it! As far as being ugly…the wires that stretch all over this city are far worse than this…and come on…could a sleek solar panel really take away from the beauty of Jersey?

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