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Power United States

Solar Has Overtaken Gas, Wind As Biggest Source of New US Power (bloomberg.com) 363

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Despite tariffs that President Trump imposed on imported panels, the U.S. installed more solar energy than any other source of electricity in the first quarter. Developers installed 2.5 gigawatts of solar in the first quarter, up 13 percent from a year earlier, according to a report Tuesday from the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research. That accounted for 55 percent of all new generation, with solar panels beating new wind and natural gas turbines for a second straight quarter.

The growth came even as tariffs on imported panels threatened to increase costs for developers. Giant fields of solar panels led the growth as community solar projects owned by homeowners and businesses took off. Total installations this year are expected to be 10.8 gigawatts, or about the same as last year, according to GTM. By 2023, annual installations should reach more than 14 gigawatts.

Solar Has Overtaken Gas, Wind As Biggest Source of New US Power

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  • No it hasn't (Score:5, Informative)

    by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2018 @11:56PM (#56775326)
    Solar had the largest share of newly installed capacity. But solar's capacity factor [wikipedia.org] (ratio of actual energy produced to capacity) is abysmal. About 0.145 for the U.S. as a whole, 0.185 for the desert Southwest (these can be improved with panels which track the sun, at the cost of needing more land area). Contrast this with wind (0.2-0.35), hydro (0.4-0.5, mainly because it's used for peaking power rather than base load), natural gas (0.5, also used for peaking load), coal (0.6-0.7), and nuclear (0.9).

    Put another way, 1 GW of PV solar capacity is worth about 600 MW of wind capacity, which is worth about 350 MW of hydro capacity, which is worth about 300 MW of natural gas capacity, which is worth about 230 MW of coal capacity, which is worth about 160 MW of nuclear capacity. Comparing power generation on the basis of installed capacity is like trying to eat enough to live based solely on the weight of food you're consuming completely ignoring the different caloric and nutritional content of the different foods.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Annual average capacity factors are utterly irrelevant unless you're talking about roofs of limited size. If you want to talk about something actually relevant, talk about seasonal variations.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The vast bulk of energy is still coming from fossil fuels, and an ever growing dependence on natural gas is not at all something to celebrate. Enormous spending aside, solar power still barely registers in production statistics; was this really money well spent? Slashdot (or other) propaganda is never interested in exploring this question, but you will find the answer in your increasing energy bills.

  • Great! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rally2xs ( 1093023 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2018 @12:21AM (#56775394)

    Between the hours of maybe 9 AM and 5:30 - 6:00 PM, solar electricity will be so plentiful that it will sell for a very few cents per KwH, causing it to be difficult to pay for the infrastruction.

    At other times, the traditional sources of electricity will prevail. Electricity prices will be what the always were.

    At least until someone invents the magic battery that can spread the peak sun-gathering times out across the 24 hours the rest of us have to deal with.

    • Re:Great! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Peter P Peters ( 5350981 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2018 @12:43AM (#56775446)

      Between the hours of maybe 9 AM and 5:30 - 6:00 PM, solar electricity will be so plentiful that it will sell for a very few cents per KwH, causing it to be difficult to pay for the infrastruction.

      The infrastructure has to be there either way so it makes no difference.

      At other times, the traditional sources of electricity will prevail. Electricity prices will be what the always were.

      At least until someone invents the magic battery that can spread the peak sun-gathering times out across the 24 hours the rest of us have to deal with.

      The point is to make energy more efficient. Any solution doesn't have to entirely replace existing methods, merely supplement it enough to be cost effective and offer savings. Solar does this quite well.

      • "The infrastructure" is the solar farm itself. That will be difficult to pay for when supply-and-demand forces the wholesale price of electricity for those hours that the sun shines to a penny or two per KwH.

        • "The infrastructure" is the solar farm itself. That will be difficult to pay for when supply-and-demand forces the wholesale price of electricity for those hours that the sun shines to a penny or two per KwH.

          It only gets to 'a penny or two' once you have the solar infrastructure in place. Once it's there it's paid for and the per kwH price will include maintenance and upgrades just like any other power source..

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      My local power co-op is investing heavily in solar. They are planting hundreds of acres that once grew cotton, with solar panels that harvest sunlight. The beauty of it is that in the South it gets hot as hell for most of the year when the sun is shining brightly. And they used to have to buy peak power to compensate against the heavy load of AC as compressors pump freon to cool houses, business and virtually every building everywhere. In the poorest ghetto they have window units running non-stop. At night

    • The good news is that overlaps a lot with peak energy use, so supply and demand should roughly even each other out and solar wont price itself out of the market.

      Also plenty of people are working on "magic batteries", see the recent slashdot stories specifically about that.

      • There's armies of people working on "magic batteries" such that there's a "breakthru" announcement every 2 - 4 weeks. First one I remember was in December 2007 IEEE Spectrum involving the nanowire battery that was supposed to increase lithium battery capacity 10X. Well, the nanowires were only figured out for the cathode, I believe it was, which made the battery actually 3X Lithium and even that disappeared after a while and the nanowire battery still cannot be bought at Walmart, Batteries Plus, or anyw

    • the magic is in how to be dirt cheap.

      This one has a shot: https://www.cell.com/joule/abstract/S2542-4351(17)30032-6
      Air-Breathing Aqueous Sulfur Flow Battery for Ultralow-Cost Long-Duration Electrical Storage

      Wind and solar generation can displace carbon-intensive electricity if their intermittent output is cost-effectively re-shaped using electrical storage to meet user demand. Reductions in the cost of storage have lagged those for generation, with pumped hydroelectric storage (PHS) remaining today the low
      • I'll start getting excited when I can buy one for a price I can afford and it doesn't take up the remainder of my 1 acre that the house and garage are not occupying, and endures the extremes of temperature in Virginia and, of course, stores enough solar electric that I can reliably disconnect from the power grid.

  • Conservatives (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Peter P Peters ( 5350981 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2018 @12:40AM (#56775438)
    Conservatives are supposed to be pro-business yet when the next big business comes along they do everything in their power to kill it.
    • Conservatives are supposed to be pro-business

      Conservatives may have been pro-business at one time. For many years now, conservatives have been pro-incumbent-business.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Pro-business? Since when?

      Conservatives are pro-the way things have always been up until now.

      • Pro-business? Since when?

        Conservatives are pro-the way things have always been up until now.

        Yup, they are the if it ain't broke don't fix it crowd and if they were in charge the internet would literally consist of a series of vacuum message tubes for passing type written notes form person to person and mobile connectivity would consist of a 9kg vacuum tube voice radio set in a back pack mount with a telephone receiver hung off the side.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      I'm pro business. For businesses that pay their way. Solar is starting to do that and it's starting to take off for that very reason.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        I'm pro business. For businesses that pay their way. Solar is starting to do that and it's starting to take off for that very reason.

        Except it's not. Solar to be competitive in most of North America requires massive FIT(feed-in-tariff) programs that pay above market rate to even cover the 30yr in cost. This is what Ontario did. It's what Illinois did. It's why businesses fled from both places to Michigan where they wouldn't get hammered with higher electricity prices. People in various states are just starting to get the taste of creeping electricity prices from FIT.

        The people preaching that slapping giant solar panels on good farmla

        • "The people preaching that slapping giant solar panels on good farmland are just idiots." depends what they farm, they can still have herds of livestock in those fields and get a 2 for 1 income from each field, plus free power for any farming equipment like milking sheds to cut costs.
        • pay above market rate to even cover the 30yr in cost.

          What are those actual costs? In my country (Not USA) it's a 5 year payback time.

          costing them $20k/year or more in equipment maintenance

          What are those costs exactly? Solar panels are solid state, the maintenance is almost zero.

        • The people preaching that slapping giant solar panels on good farmland are just idiots.

          Please provide evidence that such people even exist. This is a straw-man.

          There are no solar plants located on good farmland in the U.S., and no proposals to build any. Only 25% of the area of the United States is farmland, so no need to use it for solar farms.

          There is a lot of interest in putting wind turbines on farm land, since it requires negligible space, and the farm belt of the plains is also the U.S. wind belt, and the farmers are happy to get a monthly check from a share of the power produced in exc

        • > Solar to be competitive in most of North America requires massive FIT(feed-in-tariff) programs that pay above market rate to even cover the 30yr in cost.

          Nope. The VAST majority of PV in the US is based on production tax credits, not FIT.

          FIT is used for start-up and small systems, and then generally goes away.

          > This is what Ontario did.

          Exactly. Once the system was up and running the FIT went away. Now it's standard PPAs and net-metering.

          I know, because I had a microFIT and now have net metering.

          >

  • The Big Almost (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2018 @12:50AM (#56775462) Journal

    About 15 years ago I spotted an extrapolated trend chart that predicted solar's energy-per-dollar-spent ratio would surpass petroleum in roughly a decade.

    So, I decided to invest in solar. Sure enough, solar boomed, BUT the stocks I picked soured because the solar industry largely shifted to China. (China was later sanctioned for cheating.)

    Sigh. Right church, wrong pew.

    • Re:The Big Almost (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rossz ( 67331 ) <ogre@geekbiker.nFORTRANet minus language> on Wednesday June 13, 2018 @01:51AM (#56775596) Homepage Journal

      Yep. The Chinese government funded their solar businesses to drive out competition. Also, while they have environmental laws, they are generally ignored. Making solar cells is a very dirty business and keeping it from ruining the environment costs lots of money. So a double whammy to American solar businesses.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      The magic was not in the solar brands as they gave it all to China for free. Any factory in China with skills had sent its staff out to expert nations like a West "Germany" in the 1970's-1980's to return with the very advanced methods of making solar. Return to China with the design ability and upgrade the production lines.
      When the world wanted solar, China was ready with low wage cost products. The advanced engineering was ready in China to make a product that would last for decades.
      China could out
      • First off, China has the lowest efficiency of any panels. Only 1 or 2 companies are doing any good, and that is because their r&d is in the west ( America and Europe). Secondly, pollution is a major issue with Chinese panels. They choose to take shortcuts, hence their water/air. Third, automated manufacturing esp of things like solar panel, will be done locally, as opposed halfway across the globe. That is why Tesla will be making GF around the planet.
  • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
    In winter when its dark and everyone returns from their job and wants to internet, TV, to warm up, cook, read? Then its back to the grid and the sun is not out.
    Solar is great in summer with the sun and time zones later into the day. Winter is not so great when demand is up and the sun is not up.
    • In winter when its dark and everyone returns from their job and wants to internet, TV, to warm up, cook, read? Then its back to the grid and the sun is not out.

      Solar is great in summer with the sun and time zones later into the day. Winter is not so great when demand is up and the sun is not up.

      So why idle here when you can save so many from the impending doom? You could make a sign and stand by the interstate to warn all the people!

  • Why is gas a new power? It has been used for a long time already. Perhaps they wanted to say 'alternative' and even that us a stretch.

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