Trying to Make Sense of Musk Love and Solar Hype

By Planning Engineer

Considerable efforts are being undertaken to restore power in Puerto Rico. Most coverage has been pessimistic focusing on challenging logistics and contentious issues with very little upbeat coverage on progress so far. There is one major exception to this trend, the efforts of Elon Musk and Tesla have enjoyed glowing coverage.

We know that Tesla has recently installed a combined solar panels and battery system in the parking lot of the Hospital del Nino in San Juan Puerto Rico. Beyond that, reputable information gets kind of sketchy. While there are many sources ranging from positive to gushing, the provided details as regards this project are often contradictory.

What Happened?

NPR headlines proclaim, “Tesla Turns Power Back On At Children’s Hospital In Puerto Rico”. Similar headlines appear in EcoWatch, Global Citizen, Huffington Post, ThinkProgress and other “news” sources.

Reading most sources it appears that the Tesla installation restored service to an outaged, dark hospital. However, ABC news reports that,

A children’s hospital in Puerto Rico that was forced to run off generators and ration diesel fuel in the wake of Hurricane Maria now has a solar power system that will supply all of its electricity needs…. A hospital spokesperson told Primera Hora last month that they were forced to ration diesel fuel and take other measures to ensure a constant flow of electricity.

If ABC is correct Tesla should more accurately be credited with increasing reliability and improving fuel supply, rather than restoring service.

Does the Solar Facility Allow Full Service?

The LA times reported that:

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Instagram that the hospital needed more power than a typical roof installation could provide, and that this system would allow it to operate completely off the grid.

However Popular Mechanics notes,

The solar farm can keep the hospital running almost all the time” and adds “The hospital does have backup diesel generators in case they run out of solar power, but now they don’t have to depend on those generators exclusively

Since there is so much misinformation at there and very little that appears solid, it’s not really clear whether the diesels are now supplementing the solar/battery configuration or if it’s the reverse.

Knowing the size of the solar/battery facility would help as well as understanding the load needs of the hospital. According to tweets from CBS News correspondent David Begnaud, the system provides 200 kWh of solar energy and 500 kWH of battery storage. Others quote him as saying they provide 200 kilowatts of solar power and 500 kilowatts of storage. There is a crucial difference between kw (kilowatts) and KWH (kilowatt hours). It seems most likely that the solar output should be expressed in KW and the storage capability in KWH. If that’s the case the numbers would mean that in addition to the 200 KW provided by the solar cells, when the sun is shining you might be able withdraw an additional 100 KW from the battery for approximately 5 hours. Alternatively the battery draw could be 50 KW for ten hours. This is not a lot of energy, but then the hospital appears to be quite small.

More Projects Coming?

Elon Musk’s much repeated tweet is that this is “first of many solar+storage projects going live,”. Karen Graham writes in Digital Journal that, “Tesla finishes first of many solar projects in Puerto Rico”. Popular Mechanics is more subdued reporting that “There are also signs that this will become one of the first of several”. Checks by me and Popular Mechanics turn up no details or descriptions that have been made available concerning what other projects might be on the docket.

Will the Solar Facility remain?

A translation of an article by Antoio R. Gomez notes that Mario Lopez, the hospitals executive director

…explained that the donation of Tesla is free of charge and indefinitely, and until the energy crisis in the country is resolved. After that, he said, the parties would negotiate an agreement for the permanent acquisition of the system, for which they will require the contribution of the foundations and individuals who support or want to financially support the Hospital.

A look at Google Maps suggests that the question of where cars might park likely needs to be addressed first. The quote above hints that funding the permanent acquisition of the equipment would exceed the cost of normal electrical service. Perhaps it would be sold at a deeply discounted cost and disassembling and removing the equipment will be quite costly.

Publicity Stunt, Promotional Venture or Practical Solution?

This is really the important question. Although there appears to be a rush to judgment by many that this represents a practical solution, at this point barring further information it should be an open question. No cost data is available. A great deal or resources and effort was expended to set up this solar/battery facility in the parking lot of a small children’s hospital. To the extent the equipment is removed later and shipped elsewhere the economics of this demonstration will appear much more dismal and impractical.

Tesla is seeing payback from their efforts through the publicity provided by Musk’s tweets and this “feel good” story going viral. But to generalize from this situation to others, one must remove those benefits and ask “does this solution make engineering sense on its own?

If this solution is only better because some deep pockets organization can subsidize it because of publicity, we should not cheer this as a demonstration of the practically of such systems. Many questions must be asked first, for example could the hospital, a governmental entity or other benefactor have better served the children by procuring and providing temporary additional fuel resources for the existing generators there? Could extra resources directed at mobilizing line repair efforts provided more bang for the buck? Is this just a case where a lot of effort produced an isolated benefit with costs all out of proportion? Answers to these questions may support solar/battery systems such as this or instead suggest we are better off expending efforts elsewhere.

Moderation note: As with all guest posts, please keep your comments civil and relevant.




184 responses to “Trying to Make Sense of Musk Love and Solar Hype

  1. Pingback: Trying to Make Sense of Musk Love and Solar Hype | Principia Scientific International

  2. Yup. We use solar to supplement some of our electricity needs. Right now our solar panels are not producing enough electricity to maintain a radio. We’ve had to disconnect all the stuff we were running off our solar panels all summer. They have a layer of ice and snow on them after days of cloudy weather and the days are really short. Our batteries are flat. It’s a nice toy, but you certainly can’t depend on it.

    The above article notes that a 10kwh PowerWall costs $6500 on the ground
    500 kwh of install capacity is thus $325,000.
    The article above notes an installed cost of $7-$9 per watt of solar capacity.
    200 kw of capacity would thus be $1.6 million.
    So Musk essentially loaned $2M to this hospital.
    I wonder what their normal annual power bill is.

    • I should note that $2m is essentially 0.67% of the contract to re-electrify *the entire island*. Seems expensive to me.

      • You nailed it! But since most greenies who push this stuff to third world type place while hooked up to the real grids themselves are innumerate, they don’t care. It’s just tax dollars.

    • Sort of incredible how wrong this is. Solar is close to $3/watt as an installed price with a profit margin for the installer and manufacturer. Most solar manufacturers are near 50 cents per watt for their cost basis. A solar array of that scale, donated at cost, shipped to the site and installed, is probably $1/watt *at most*, so you’re looking at <$200k worth of panels. The cost of a PowerWall is going to be less than half of that to Tesla, so again, at cost, you're probably looking at $150k or so as a worst-case shipped price. So try dividing your number by 6, and you'll likely still be too high.


    The above company offers a 200kw diesel generator kit for about $30,000.

    Diesel fuel may be precious in PR now, but the hospital could buy a lot of expensive fuel for the difference between $30k and $2 million.

  5. You anti-renewal people are fighting a irresistible force: The exponential growth of renewable energy technology.
    Cloud Peak Energy (Coal) down 8%, ticker CLD
    First Solar up 20%, ticker FSLR
    TAN (Solar ETF) new year-to-date high @ $23.90 up over 3%

    My own solar array has generated over 58 megawatts since I installed it in 2012 and I have a $1,255 credit balance (even after deduct the power my Chevy Volt uses). My installed cost was less than $3.45 in 2012 ($23000/6700W) so I think you are all politically motivated to look for anything to diss renewables.

    BTW: ERCOT had over 50% of it’s grid powered by wind today (over 15.5 GigaWatts this morning).

    • PS: I have a son deployed by FEMA in Puerto Rico right now so I have a direct line to the ground truth so don’t try to BS me about what’s happening down there.

      • I’d love to hear the perspective you son returns with. Especially if he has broad exposure to the grid recovery efforts. I’ve seen the video showing solar and wind facilites in Puerto Rico destroyed by the hurricane winds. But I don’t know if that’s the general case across the island or mostly cherry picked instances or something in between. Relying on cherry picked data leads to poor decisions, The main point driving most of what I write is to look at the big picture.

        I sure the hospital served by Tesla has benefited, just like the winning families on the “Home Improvement” TV show benefit. The non-selected competitors in similar conditions – not so much. TV is TV (and PR is PR) but for good social policy you need a wider look not just what happens to the extreme winners or losers.

        Very unfortunate this perspective colors me as anti-renewable. Like most everyone else I’d like to see the “right” amount of renewables. We just disagree on what that might be in various places and times. I’m glad it’s working for you.

      • I will ask him for his impressions on how the recovery efforts are being carried out. He has prior experience from being deployed in Houston after hurricane Harvey so at a minimum he should be able to compare and contrast how disaster relief is being delivered. If I get a chance I will ask him to poke around and ask about how the electrical grid restoration is being handled and his general impressions of the living conditions, building codes and if the restorations efforts are going to make the island more resilient or just patch things up with short term fixes.
        Please don’t take my anti-renewable comment as being directed at you. I respect your knowledge and experience and you always keep your replies civil and mostly on point.
        You might enjoy this podcast about using blockchain technology in energy production/consumption.

      • Thanks Jack.

      • After being deployed 3 weeks in Pureto Rico my son returned for a week of rehab at home. Short version – it’s hell. No fresh food, water or electricity in 60% of the country. Power, where available, is the responsibility of the home owner to reconnect to the grid. With few electricians available outside of cities most are trying to survive by traveling to towns to recharge cell phones or wait in endless lines for EVERYTHING. Lack of communications is crippling the people and cell phone service is spotty and usually only available for a few minutes at a time. It was common to see dozens of people gathered near cell towers camped out just to make a call. Internet access is a joke. Unemployment is +40%, farm animals wander the country side injured and crippled but no vets anywhere. Dead bodies still being found, cause of death listed as ‘natural causes’?? There is great resentment and anger at the US and Trump in particular. Lots of political graffiti painted on walls and abandoned buildings.
        My son was taken ill from some kind of food/water contamination but thankfully got treated on a Navy ship. Common medical supplies are in short supply and no one has any money to buy them anyway.
        He estimates it will take 3-4 years before conditions return to pre-storm levels but that’s after 20% of the population has probably left the island for good. He may be redeployed next week if FEMA still has $$ left. FEMA is organized in 3 groups: Admin, Surge corps and field agents. Only the surge corps do repairs and reconstruction and are really expensive (paid much more than what they pay field agents) and when he left they were already reducing their number.

    • jack

      Electric cars need to make the transition from a useful second car , if you have the money and journey characteristics required, to a genuine first car.

      By that I mean it will have to regularly travel several hundred miles with four adults, luggage, up and down steep hills, with lights, heating, windscreen wipers and radio on.

      To achieve that there will need to be a very substantial improvement in battery technology and charging facilities on journey and at home. Many people will not physically be able to park an ev in their driveway in order to charge it.

      I suspect that hybrids will be an interim technology, regularly getting 60 or 70 mpg and being able to offer electric running in the polluted urban environment.

      Whether by that time electric cars will then become the de facto choice, or whether technology will have leapfrogged them, I don’t know,

      Do you use your chevy volt as a first or second car?


      • tonyb,
        I use my Volt as my primary car. It does have a gas engine/generator that gets about 38m/gal when you deplete the 42mi battery. As a bonus I also have a 1500w pure sine wave DC to AC inverter I use for emergency power when the grid is down.

        To be sure I am the exception to the rule. I made being energy efficient a practical hobby. I even won a state wide contest two years in a row back 2013/14 as the biggest energy saver in Texas.
        The contest ran from 2011 thru 2014:

      • jack

        good stuff. Well done!

        My friend has just bought a Hyundai hybrid which gets around 63 mpg with 30 miles on the battery.

        I need to be convinced that electric cars can make the transition to first choice family car that can be used in all circumstances until battery technology improves.

        Also there are a huge number of houses where charging would be problematic as they have no driveway, so they park along the pavement which might be some way from their houses.

        So hybrids I can see becoming more popular but ev’s need to develop much more before they can command the numbers our various governments hope for.


      • A friend was in town last weekend and he wanted to look at Teslas. The dealership is very close to my house, so we went over there. It’s in a brand-new shopping center for the affluent. They have a whole row of charging stations along the street. My neighborhood grocery store installed charging stations a few years ago. At first it was rare to see anybody using them, but now it’s fairly common. The Tesla salesman mention there is an upcoming announcement about a Tesla semi truck. That’s my friend’s business. He owns a few hundred of them. I tried to get him to make an impulse purchase of a Tesla semi, but he wiggled out of it. My neighbor has a Tesla that he commutes with to work every day.

      • The battery on My brother’s 10 year old Prius just bit the dust. New battery several thousand dollars. Lives in California.

        He traded in the defunct Prius for a new Honda Ridgeline. Vastly more versatile vehicle than hybrid: can carry family and doubles as a very useful truck.

        Therein lies a fundamental truth; internal combustion vehicles are inherently more practical for the average person. Couple that with advanced technology engines being introduced and there is little reason to move towards hybrids. Electric vehicles simply cannot compete in the world of every-day people and are basically subsidized toys for the elite liberals.

    • It must really suck for you guys to read headlines like this:
      “Germans Could Be Paid to Use Electricity This Weekend”

      • So nice they are getting something back since Germans have to pay the second highest cost for electricity in the world overall when the wind isn’t blowing. How much did they get back on their much higher costs overall?

      • jack

        not all of us are against renewables. They do have obvious drawbacks so they need to be used in the correct circumstances. In Britain for instance there is a huge push for solar arrays. The words ‘Britain’ and ‘solar’ do not fit naturally together.

        My question to you regarding your chevy volt was sincere. Is it a first or second car? Until they can make the tough transition to your first and perhaps only car they will struggle.


      • Here’s a question for Jack:
        Two neighbors who live in similar homes just bought new cars. One got a Tesla, the other a petroleum-burning Fiat. The Tesla owner never drives it but rides a bike to work; the neighbor drives his car daily 20 miles to work. Who has the smaller carbon foot-print? No surprise, the Fiat owner, of course. But many forget to include the cost of their investment including energy, materials and resources to produce it.

      • jimeichstedt
        The Fiat owner will die from becoming a obese diabetic from lack of exercise while the healthy Tesla owner will save millions of lives by inventing a genetic cure for cancer. :)

      • More likely that the smarter Fiat owner will save millions of lives by inventing a genetic cure for cancer. :)
        He at least is sitting down with time to think.
        You cannot think well riding a bike, ask any bike rider, and one day one of those hazards you keep trying to avoid jumps out and hits you.
        Argument over.

      • well…
        the point abour electric cars is not that they are impossible to use..IF the main goal is to reduce air pollution from thermal engines in towns..they are great….but do we want to reduce air pollution at any cost? of course not…
        so electric cars can’t be seen as a solution to such a bad enonciated problem.
        what is a goal of having an electric car?
        is it to reduce air pollution in cities? if so ; are electric car the best way to achieve this? i very much doubt it.
        is it to reduce CO2 emission on a global scale? i very much doubt it..

        so what s the point of an electric cars?

        it is always the same with ecological ideas, they say they are perfect or best solutions to “problems”..they are not;; they are a MERELY different way to do things… You have the right to make these choices, but don’t pretend they are better. Unless you stop doing things, if you do thing in another way you are merely polution or deplacing problems instead of solving them all.
        so you have an electric car. it works ..and then what….are you saying you reduce air pollution? are you saying the result of it is less emission of CO2?
        Nobody even told that electric car are an impossible thing to do or have or use…so what????

      • Jacques,
        Reasons to keep using fossil fueled cars.
        #1 Initial cost can be lower if you stick to low end models.
        #2 Longer range, can refill the tank in 5 minutes, 150k+ gas stations.
        #3 Easier to find places that can repair them.
        #4 More powerful than most EVs. Some can go over 130mph.
        Why electric cars?
        #1 Manifest Destiny – It’s what technology does, we can’t stop it.
        #2 Lower maintenance costs and fewer moving parts.
        #3 Freedom & independence. I generate my own fuel with my solar panels.
        #4 My car’s battery can power my house when the grid goes down.

        America is the largest per-capita consumer of fossil fuels in the world (by a huge margin) and is still dependent on foreign sources of oil and this is one reason we spend 600 billion a year on our military and have troops in deployed in more than 150 countries around the world, with over 300,000 of its active-duty personnel serving outside the United States and its territories.

      • It must really suck for you guys to read headlines like this:
        “Germans Could Be Paid to Use Electricity This Weekend”

        It’s like listening to a guy brag about his muzzle velocity as he pulls the trigger on the gun pointed at his foot.


      • jacksmith4tx: I generate my own fuel with my solar panels.

        Do you know anyone who can do that? The people I know who have solar panels and electric cars charge their cars off the grid because their solar panels give them little (if any!) excess generating capacity, and that only on sunny days when they do not drive to work.

      • matthewrmarler,
        I don’t know anybody that has a system like mine so I doubt many are using their PV to charge their cars. I’m in the top 3% of systems world wide so it’s not a fair comparison.
        Looks like the new solar tariffs will keep the rest of my fellow citizens from even trying to do what I did. You know the grid operators would really like to have more customers to soak up their excess nighttime capacity since they actually loose money between the hours 11PM-5AM.

      • “You know the grid operators would really like to have more customers to soak up their excess nighttime capacity since they actually loose money between the hours 11PM-5AM.”

        A grocery store that closes at 10 PM each day, loses money after that time. Therefore we should all grow our own food.

      • Not much, actually: people like me who don’t like intermittent renewables understand, contrary to you it seems, that negative prices on the electric market are really a bad thing.

      • Ragnaar,
        If you are running a thermal (coal/gas/nuclear) power plant it costs money to ramp them up and down plus it adds to maintenance overhead. Even electronics degrade from being turned off and on due to thermal expansion on connections and circuits.
        “Free Nights and Solar Days”.
        QUOTE: “This is the best of both worlds – our customers get the free electricity they love along with the added benefits of renewable energy,” said Sydney Seiger, chief marketing officer for TXU Energy.”

        Of course the electricity isn’t free because they jack up the day time rate to compensate for the night time rates so it’s really a marketing gimmick to lure environmentally conscious consumers to buy renewable energy.
        If you research the ERCOT long term demand forecasts there are real concerns there will be stranded generating assets if they don’t figure out how to increase demand in the off peak hours. I have seen the grid go from a low of 23GW @ 2AM and 12 hours later it hits 64GW. They do a remarkable job forecasting demand but they would rather see a much more level load.

      • jacksmith4tx

        Which is more real?
        A price jack for jacking up prices
        A spot market for electricity

        Utilities have been matching the demand for decades. Yes that involves idling and load following. You’ve pointed out there are costs to that. Will idling and load following costs increase with linear growth of wind and solar? If a utility now has more idling and load following costs because of increased wind and solar it isn’t conventional generations fault. It is being asked to do more than before. The way to wreck a utility is to keep adding idling and load following costs without allowing it to charge more. To make it add power lines from the sticks to transport wind turbine electricity without allowing it to charge the owners of the wind turbines for that.

        While not intended, electric utilities are being squeezed by non-dispatchable sources. If that breaks a utility, you are left with non-dispatchable sources. You are worse off than before.

        The goal is to provide value. Conventional generation has done that for many decades.

      • Today another coal company went bankrupt.
        “Armstrong Energy is the first coal company to succumb to bankruptcy since Trump was elected nearly a year ago. It joins a long list of coal companies that have collapsed due to plunging demand caused mostly by cheap natural gas. Armstrong declined to say how many people it employs, but last month it warned it would lay off some of the 110 people that work at two of its facilities.”

        Natural Gas futures hit a new record low price today.

        More good news:
        The state’s largest power generator, Dallas-based Vistra Energy, is planning to close three large coal plants by mid-February that are all losing money.

        And this happened today:
        A massive explosion ripped a boiler at the state-run power giant NTPC’s Unchahar plant in Uttar Pradesh’s Rae Bareli district today, killing at least 20 people and injuring nearly 100, officials said.

        In other news:
        A 627000 gallon oil spill was reported in the Gulf of Mexico when a pipeline fractured about a mile below the ocean’s surface this month in the Gulf of Mexico southeast of Venice, Louisiana, which is about 65 miles south of New Orleans. This was the largest oil spill since the BP Deep Horizon disaster in 2010.

      • Baseload coal becomes less economical when non-dispatchables are a bigger part of the mix.

        The introduction of intermittent renewables negatively impacted baseload coal as the more agility had to accompany the renewables. Intermittent renewables are the anti-agility. The grid now reacts to not only demand but intermittent renewables. It could get doubled. Losing renewables as demand increases during the day. Or they could gain intermittent renewables as demand decreases during the day.

        The grid needed batteries to react to the increased demand supply imbalances and it didn’t get them. It got one time use batteries instead. CCGTs. Batteries are so in the distant future that CCGTs do their job. A job required because of the increased demand supply imbalances.

        The better battery won. It was not baseload coal.

      • Fake news or halflies form a fake news producer. The german daily “Die Welt” has the facts straigth , the public payes more when wind turbines get into overdrive an start to produce more than is needed, because the producers have to pay someone to take the unwanted extra energy off their hands an d get rid of it and the normal home user pays that cost as a surcharge chargewd on top of their usual kwh price. Below is a link to the article from “Die Welt” (in german , but you can run it through google translate to get the gist of it ).

      • Germany is a wealthy nation. Germans have high incomes to the point that they don’t know what to do with their money anymore. Some of them buy megayachts or islands in the Caribbean. Some choose to spend their money on higher electricity prices. Economics is based on the concept of utility. If feeling virtuous gives you more utility than buying a top end Merc, great! Others might feel virtuous by spending their excess cash on helping the poor, but that’s just an idea.

    • How much of that installation cost was government subsided, i.e. are your figures what you actually paid versus the total actual cost of the system with government subsidy (our taxes)? Where do you live? How far do you have to travel to work and shop and such? I live at the 51st parallel in a rural community where the nearest town is 39km and the nearest doctor is 110km and the hospital where my husband sees a specialist is 256km away. My solar array puts out a lot of nice power in June and July but my system is dead flat right now after five days of clouds, below freezing temperatures and a layer of ice and snow on the panels. I drive a pick up truck due to my rural location and poor roads and such. There is no electric car that will hack it out hear that I have seen yet. My solar was not subsidized in any way and it will be years more to pay for itself and I have already had to replace my first set of batteries.

      • Not one penny was from the government. My cost analysis was based on the yield return on US Govt. 10yr treasuries. Click on my ID to see details of my system. I installed my system as a ground mounted array back in 2012 but my friendly local zoning commission changed the law so you can’t do that anymore unless you have a 10 acre lot and make sure the panels can’t be seen from outside the property. When I last checked that eliminated 95% of my fellow citizens from doing solar the right way. Roof mounted solar systems are about 15% less efficient than ground mounted arrays.
        I have experienced week long cloud cover and by my calculation I would need a 60KWH battery system to go off grid. At current battery pricing that doesn’t make economic sense. I will buy a battery set when the price drops to $50/KWH.

      • Jack,
        You didn’t take advantage of the 30% tax credit?

      • And where do you live?

    • My own solar array has generated over 58 megawatts since I installed it in 2012

      In order to ever have delivered that much power, it must have exploded in the interval of a few nanoseconds!

    • Jack, if the cost of the renewables is now truly competitive with coal and with natural gas; and if the move towards a largely renewable energy future is now an irresistible force, then it’s time to end all subsidies and tax credits for the renewables, and it’s time to sunset all renewable energy mandates. Is this not so?

      • Beta,
        Yes, end all tax credits and subsidies. Can we include the mortgage interest deduction and the child tax credit too?

      • Jack, my house is paid for and my children have been gone from the nest for some time now. Six large hydroelectric dams and an 1100 MW nuclear power station are located within a hundred-mile radius of where I live. So I’ve got no problem with ending all subsidies and all tax breaks for everyone and for everything.

      • Hi-Five Beta!
        Me too. Paid off the house in 10 years, kids out of the house for 15 years. My only wish is the kids will take care of me when I get so old I can’t do so myself. Sort of like a insurance policy since I can’t be sure social security or my pension will be there when I will need it the most.

      • They are ending. They all phase out over the next few years. We will see how long before renewable industry begins to whine.

    • …in 2012 and I have a $1,255 credit balance.

      If fossil fueled plants did not exist your credit would non-exist. If your system crashes you are out of power until you can afford (many won’t depending on the timing) to repair. If storm damages vast areas you may be down (no grid no power) for months or longer. If a system does not work for everyone (perhaps leaving 50% of the population not able to use solar for year round power) then the system is not viable. Battery systems need replaced 2 or 3 times before all panels are replaced.

      In short comparing a theoretical renewable system with an existing system that provides the theoretical system with backup – is bad planning. The grid versus individual power generation has mindboggling downsides for the individual plan.

      The most overlooked or ignored downside is the fact that current power stations are housed in bunker-like buildings – protected against storms. Solar and wind are constructed in barren fields exposed to damaging storms, snow coverage and ice caking. The grid is exposed, yes. But no grid and then exposing the source is really bad thinking / planning.

      • Albert,
        Put aside your objections to my solar array and take a 50,000 ft view at the long arc of how technology is evolving. The clear trend is for all types of systems to become less centralized. Telecommunications & electric grids are just following a predicable path. Every objection you raise is just a problem for some bright scientist or engineer to solve. As Kevin Kelly likes to say, It’s What Technology Wants.

      • Jack, hi.
        “take a 50,000 ft view….

        I retired after 47 years as an EE with power and power distribution and tele-communications background including years in product development and manufacturing.

        Nothing is ever as simple (understood) at first approached. Unknown uncertainties abound. Renewables are surely one of the most of the uncertain concepts.

        The most important aspect of renewable development is not its cost or its environmental impact. Its about dependability because it involves economy of a nation and safety and welfare of people. Their lives.

        The power grid is the most successful development in human history. Individual power systems failed terribly prior to the grid networks.

        What may work for sunshine states or any individual’s system that does not work with nearly 50% of the rest of the nation is not a good choice regardless if it is theorized to be cheaper or healthier if that system does not keep everyone warm in winter. Economies fail with an unreliable power system. A failed economy can destroy even the US.

        The largest concern we have with power generation is – how well does it survive operation due to the weather and other forces of nature.

        The thousands of power stations today are housed in bunker like buildings for that very reason. Including hydro. Renewables such as wind and solar are out in barren fields. Tornados, hurricanes kill wind and solar farms. They will also destroy rooftop (residential and commercial).

        Yes, the gird is exposed. But repairing, replacing grid components are easy and quick compared to repairing or rebuilding of wind or solar farms.

        Bottom line, as long as that condition exists power will remain in bunker like buildings until further notice.

        Ignoring this simple fact due to the loved hope of what renewable energy could bring is recklessly bad planning. However great for a few billionaires who need certain government propaganda and support.

      • Albert,
        You clearly have the experience to understand the technology. If reliable electricity was really that important you would think we would all have buried transmission lines since falling trees and lightning strikes are the #1 reason most people experience blackouts. Clearly saving money is more important than reliability to the owners of our local utility companies. If we were really thinking ahead we would be preparing for a nation wide EMP event just in case.
        If you ever have a question about building your own system I would be glad to share my experience and lessons learned.
        Thanks for the comment,

        PS: I think the most important invention in human history was the development of writing.

      • “If reliable electricity was really that important you would think we would all have buried transmission lines since falling trees and lightning strikes are the #1 reason most people experience blackouts”

        And people do not know that??

        You conveniently, as with most comments here, ignore cost.
        Building infrastructure is not cheap.
        Just putting overhead wires 50 years ago 300 meters cost my father a lot of money.
        And it has not improved since then.
        Cost of underground to overhead in the country is a price factor of 10 at least.
        Please correct it up if anyone knows.
        Much, much cheaper to just roll out a transmission line on poles.
        Much , much easier to fix when something goes wrong, Much less inconvenient to plumbers, drains, roadworks people
        Would you like an electricity bill 10 times more expensive?

        Keep living in your little city lining your pockets with other peoiple’s money, I mean subsidies, pretending to be green when you are eating , reading communicating and partying with carbon sourced materials and friends. Even your solar panels.

      • Living up on the 51st parallel and having just disconnected my array from the house supply so the batteries can be recharged after a snowstorm and days of cloudy weather, I could not agree more. Because I am not off grid I don’t have to go up and clear the panels off and freeze my behind. I can wait and let the sun do it while I have my wonderful hydro electric supply compliments of Manitoba Hydro. Nor has Jack just given up his grid access in spite of all the wonders of solar. Solar is just a cutsy trendy fun thing that is superior for certain limited applications. For example, is just perfect for the farmers in our area who electrify their fences to keep the cows in using solar powered batteries. But for things like my electric heat furnace that kept me warm at -12C and the 2000 watt electric kettle I used for my morning coffee, I’ll take the grid anytime, but especially in late October.

      • Wind and solar are the last things I’d use to power a Caribbean island if the goal was hurricane resilience. Such power sources will likely be complete write-offs after a Cat 5 hurricane. Solar panels are tested against wind, not large pieces of flying debris.

        On the upside, if major installations could survive a hurricane then they would make a great resource for people looking to steal some panels and inverters to get their own power back on when power lines are going to be down for a month. Such facilities are best scavenged at night.

    • Jack – it would do wonders for your credibility if you got your units correct. I gather you mean that your solar array has generated 58 MWh. And it looks like your load factor is just under 20%.
      How do you get your electricity early in the morning in the middle of winter ?- I hope you don’t use the anti-renewal fossil fuel from the grid. Otherwise that would just make you a virtue seeking hypocrite.

      • chrism56,
        Yes, my bad. MegaWatt Hours is what I meant to type.
        I am grid connected and my electric provider is Green Mountain which is a 100% renewable energy company. I am on a net metering program so that is how I end up with a credit. I didn’t start out with this as my goal. I designed my own system to break even but after I figured out how to slash my electric usage (LEDs, zoned air cond., induction cooking, on demand water heating, forced air fire place insert, insulation etc.) I ended up with more generation than demand.
        FYI, I get a small royalty from a mineral rights lease for a natural gas well about 300 yards from my house so don’t call me a green fanatic. Today natural gas prices are at historic lows so my royalty check this quarter will also be a record low. Sad. I blame Dick Cheney.

      • Thank you for that reply Jack.
        Just because your energy company is “renewable” doesn’t mean that the electrons that supply your place comes from a renewable source. You need to know the grid flows on a minute by minute basis to get that information. Working in the industry, I know that my place is supplied by 100% renewable as our power supply comes from a node that is always exporting to the grid from embedded geothermal and small hydro, but that is an unusual situation.

      • chrism56,
        Just to make a point, my system is in the top 3% of all systems monitored on the web site. As of yesterday I was 809 of 28498 solar systems world wide. Not bad for a fixed axis residential system but don’t use me as an example of a ‘typical’ PV array because that would be cherry picking.

    • Dear Jack,

      Please learn the difference between power (kilo Watts kW) and energy (kilo Watt Hours kWh).
      Energy = power x time

      Your car has a certain amount of power (kW, horsepower, etc.), which determines how fast it can accelerate and how fast it can drive.
      Your car has also has a certain amount of energy storage (kWh, Joules) in the form of x liters of fuel or x kWh of electrical energy.

      Stating that your solar panels have generated 58 MW since you installed it makes no sense at all. Did you mean 58 MWh perhaps?

    • “My own solar array has generated over 58 megawatts since I installed it in 2012…”

      Do you mean megawatt hours? I wish people could keep their units straight.

      Assuming 5 years of operation, I estimate your array is about 160 ft^2 and has an average daylight capacity of about 3 kW.

      Am I far off?

      • Hi Jeff,
        Yes I made a typo (as many have pointed out). Pretty stupid of me considering I was trying to look smart by boasting about my solar array.
        If you click on my name there are details about how my array is set up.
        On my best day I generated 42.1 KWH in late May 2014 but the long term yearly average is about 31-33KWH a day. My peak output was 6.2 KW with a air temperature of 38F degrees in February 2013 but the average is more like 5.4KW @ noon. If my panels degrade as expected I should see annual production drop off by 15%-20% at the end of their normal 25yr service life. These things can last for decades but at some point they will become obsolete when newer technology will replace them with more power at a lower cost.
        I’m kind of obsessed about my electrical system. I even have individual circuit level monitoring on my whole house.

    • @JackSmith
      Perhaps you could enlighten us with the price per kwh of the feed-in tariff you are credited for.
      Also, how much you paid for your solar install.
      To characterize most of the people on this forum as anti-renewable is a sign that you haven’t attempted to understand why people think what they do (or what they think).
      Most of the people here are very sceptical of renewables because they are so heavily subsidized and also fail to do the job they are advertised to.
      In point of fact, renewables today benefit the wealthiest members of society the most – because it is the wealthiest who can afford to pre-pay power bills via renewables installation, the wealthiest who most directly benefit from the various feed-in tariffs, tax credits and outright renewable build subsidies, and so forth.
      For example: you clearly are still connected to the grid.
      Are you paying a full distribution and/or infrastructure cost? Because the power you feed in (and get paid for) still consumes distribution, availability and storage resources.
      Almost certainly, you are not. Which means the rest of the public utilities’ customers around you are in fact subsidizing you on top of the feed-in tariff you are clearly benefiting from.

      • Thank you Wolf1! I am not “anti renewable” either. If I were, I wouldn’t be using solar panels to supplement my own electric needs. I just find it annoying when people present solar and wind as the answer to everything. I will give Jack all due credit on one very important point. He actually HAS a solar system and understands it. 98% of he people I know who push for all renewables have never actually used the things themselves and have no idea how they poorly they often work or how much they cost.

      • Wolf1,

        The price I pay/earn is variable but here is the company’s description:

        Cost: As I wrote elsewhere in this blog post, $23k for 6.7KW, no tax credits, ROI was based on 10yr US Treasuries in 2012. Think of it this way, I bought a fixed price 25yr contract for about 240MWH of electricity.
        Renewable energy is the product of science & technology. If you don’t like that you are not going to like the future.

        Am I paying a full distribution and/or infrastructure cost? Yes. There is a specific line item on my bill that goes to ONCOR. In reality none of the electrons I generate make it past the local transformer because I share it with 8 other houses. You know this goes both ways too. I have property in Ft. Worth that I own the mineral rights and Chesapeake Energy is stealing my natural gas for the last 7 years and not paying any royalties to me because I wouldn’t sign a drilling lease with them.

        My specific situation should not be extrapolated to the general population. I watched and waited 6 years before the technology and financials made sense before I installed my solar array. If I had to build the same system today it would cost at least 20% less so maybe you should consider going solar. It’s the same thing with my purchase of my used Chevy Volt. I waited 6 years before I bought it because I wanted to make sure the technology worked and I could buy one coming off lease for 50% less than new.

      • “Cost: As I wrote elsewhere in this blog post, $23k for 6.7KW, no tax credits…”

        That system can’t be installed today for $23,000, it would cost about $28,000+. Are you leasing or did you do much of the installation yourself? If leasing then the 30% credit went to the company on the other side of the lease.

      • dougbadgero,
        You didn’t read most of my comments so you missed the part where I said I built it myself (hired licensed electrician for electrical panel connection and 2 day labor guys to dig & set the posts in concrete).
        My go to place for DIY guys and gals is
        The guys there do not suffer fools lightly. If you want solid fact based info on all kinds of solar and battery setups check it out. If you are a prepper, survivalist that web site is a gold mine.

      • Thanks Jack. You’re correct I didn’t read all of anybody’s comments on this thread.

      • @JackSmith
        Thank you for the information.
        The page you listed for feed in credit doesn’t actually contain any numbers.
        What is the approximate $ per kwh credit? Vs. the cost per kwh that a retail consumer would pay?
        The devil is in the details – because part of the problem is that many of the feed in tariff rates are set at numbers far higher than the actual average consumer pay-in rate for electricity. Which is an outright subsidy from all other electricity consumers to the feed-in electricity providers. Particularly notable since the electricity utility pays, in general, a far lower rate per kwh when procuring electricity supply from other sources than is charged to the consumer.
        Furthermore, the distribution cost – simply because you pay it does not actually mean you are paying your correct share.
        Again, the devil is in the details. The extra distribution architecture (feed-in vs. only feed-out), management of grid stability, storage and what not are just some of the ways by which feed-in electricity can cost more proportionately than just downstream consumption.
        You also say that electricity never flows very far because of other houses. Well, certainly that’s true for some parts of the day. But it is equally untrue for other parts of the day. The power production curve of a solar panel doesn’t match typical household consumption well – only during higher demand times could it be guaranteed that feed in electricity production be used locally.
        I’d also note that if 50% of your neighbors put in solar with feed in tariffs, I guarantee that the feed in electricity would not be consumed locally. What is the percentage of feed-in solar where additional installs start causing serious non-localized upstream problems?

      • Wolf1,
        FYI: It’s open season on wolf hunting. Some states even offer a bounty!

        There are 6 plans available in my zip code 76110.
        Click on the first link and enter my zip code. Every Retail Electricity Provider (REP) has a different method to calculate the rate they pay.
        My last bill shows:
        Days in Cycle: 29
        Energy Charge 402 kWh @ $0.142869 /kWh $57.43
        GME Renewable Rewards Credit – 500 kWh – $71.43
        I was credited $9.13 for the month.
        Since I schedule all my heaviest loads to match my production I can assure you I don’t generate enough excess power to run 7 other houses in the middle of the day in Texas. I use long range cloud forecasts to plan when I will use the most self generated power.

        You know how silly this argument is? TXU (in Texas) has a new program called “Free Nights and Solar Days”.
        QUOTE: “This is the best of both worlds – our customers get the free electricity they love along with the added benefits of renewable energy,” said Sydney Seiger, chief marketing officer for TXU Energy. “Because this plan doesn’t require rooftop solar panels, it’s an easy way to take advantage of the sun regardless of whether you live in a house or an apartment.”
        Free Nights & Solar Days is 100 percent renewable as TXU Energy purchases solar power, along with solar and wind renewable energy credits, offsetting customers’ actual usage. Customers get free electricity all night from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., and solar electricity all day from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
        “This is a one-of-a-kind plan that gives customers a new, easy, and affordable way to go 100 percent renewable with both solar and wind,” Seiger said. “They can even track their solar and free hours online or through our mobile app, and watch their savings add up.”

        If you follow the electricity energy market the thing that really worries the power generation companies is they are afraid that electricity usage is leveling off or even dropping due to the consumer being more efficient.

        Back to reality…
        What should I do about the fact an oil company has been stealing my natural gas for the last 7 years because I won’t sign a lease for my mineral rights?

      • Jack

        I’ll bite. Why won’t you sign a lease?

        How much is the company stealing and if it matters enough to you, why don’t you serve an injunction on them to desist?


      • Jack

        Here ate the templates for cease and desist letters

        Now obviously this is complicated or you would have done this years ago,so what’s the background to all this?


      • tonyb,
        I’m a landlord with a couple of rental houses and on one I got the mineral rights when I bought it. On my own home I did sign a lease and got a nice signing bonus but the royalties have been pitiful due to sub $4 gas prices.
        On the bigger picture I figure it this way. The gas deposits took 354–323 million years to accumulate in the shale beds under ground. I just figured anything that takes that long to develop should be conserved and we are being short sighted digging up and burning in just 10-20 years. Humans are bad at thinking long term.
        In the long term there are 10’s of thousands of Texans in the same boat I’m in so someday we will file a massive class action law suit when the price of natural gas hits $30 mcf.

      • @Jacksmith
        Thank you for the information.
        From what you wrote, you were credited $14 for 98 kwh of net electricity feedin
        Source: “Energy Charge 402 kWh @ $0.142869 /kWh $57.43
        GME Renewable Rewards Credit – 500 kWh – $71.43”
        That works out to roughly a feedin price that is the same as the consumer price you noted above.
        However, note that what a consumer pays is not what the electricity utility normally pays for electricity supply.
        The normal markup is 100%-300% which means you are being subsidized not just on the $14 net, but an additional $28 to $46 on the 402 kwh consumed as well.
        The quoted consumer price for electricity seems also pretty high – a survey of September 2017 Texas PUC data ( shows that the average electricity price per kwh is lower than $0.142869 in almost every region – Sharyland being the exception – so unless you’re in Sharyland, it seems you would be paying an unduly high electricity price to start with.
        Lastly, the $5.87 you are paying for distribution and other system costs seems really, really low – but that may just be the Texas system. It would be interesting to see what a comparable “extra fee” cost would be on a bill with just a 500 kwh consumption.
        In any case, while I understand the clear benefits you are reaping as a solar PV owner – it is quite clear that you gloss over the systemic costs your solar installation imposes on everyone else. These costs appear to be at least $35 to $56 per month which you are directly getting subsidized by the utility, which in turn is paid by all the other non-solar PV customers.
        (I apply the same markup to the feedin credit, so some of the $14 you are getting is legitimately equivalent cost – between $7 and $10)

    • thomaskennedy2

      Jack – this environmental web site claims you are producing 30-60% more electronic waste than a non solar powered household.

      • Thanks for that amazing website! is for protecting the environment like the KKK is for civil rights for minorities.

        I’m not a environmentalist. I burn wood to heat my house.
        The #1 reason for increasing e-waste is planed obsolescence. You MUST buy a new iPhone every 2 years. One CPU is bad, you must have 4 CPU cores to run the latest game software. 1080i isn’t good enough you need a 4k LCD.
        I’ll probably be dead before my solar panels are so that’s not my problem.

      • thomaskennedy2

        Jack – Environmental Progress is led by a man who is a noted environmentalist. Michael Shellenberger is a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment” and Green Book Award-winning author and policy expert. Environmental Progress’s main thrust is to get affordable power to the poor of the third world. It’s ideas are backed by environmental luminaries including Stewart Brand, Al Gore, James Hansen etc.
        Not sure why you would call this group KKK type people. Maybe you should read a little more about the problems of scaling so called renewables (e.g. solar and wind) to provide the poor with low cost electric power.
        Jack you write thoughtful and enlightening posts. I’m surprised that you resorted to name calling.

      • Thomas

        I don’t think Jack was trying to provide a direct analogy between that website and the KKK, merely questioning its credibility.

        you said;

        ‘It’s ideas are backed by environmental luminaries including Stewart Brand, Al Gore, James Hansen etc.’

        I think you need to insert ‘self styled’ there and ask why al gore in particular does not feel able to practice what he preaches, like many celebrities, such as De caprio.


      • Thomas

        I knew nothing of shellenberger until I read your link. I do not see how you would count him as an environmentalist or that such as Al gore would endorse him?

        I came across this

        ‘The Breakthrough Institute should probably be classified as a hate group, given the ever-thickening vitriol they pour these days on the environmental movement in general and the anti-nuclear movement in particular.

        Shellenberger majors in Trump-style bombast, his acolytes repeating every phrase he utters no matter its veracity. In the Trump culture, “nothing-could-be-further-from-the-truth” and “the actual truth” have become synonymous.”

        Now I agree that (at present) Nuclear power is the only practical base load power on offer and that many environmentalists have rubbished it until very recently (some still do) I also think that many green initiatives are counter productive (our govt in the UK is heavily promoting solar power -In the UK!!)

        In that respect I am not sure how Shellenberger’s green credentials stack up with those who preach earnestly to everyone else about such things. Perhaps you can tell us more about him?. I am especially intrigued as to why he gets these green awards. Thanks


      • thomaskennedy2,
        Sorry to seem so cynical. The idea that we will let third world countries have access to nuclear technology seems dangerous. I just don’t see the rich countries of the world stepping up to fund it.

        Stewart Brand is a strange bird. He is the father of the Whole Earth Catalog and one of the founders of The Long Now Foundation so his opinion has some weight. On the other hand he thinks resurrecting the DNA of prehistoric woolly mammoths is a great idea and he was responsible for stopping the US from going metric which I think was big a mistake. Al Gore is anti fossil fuel so he sees nuclear as a talking point.
        Mann is definitely pro nuclear for one single reason, no CO2 emissions.

    • You do know that the solar industry – at least all of it that’s not in China – is getting crushed?
      I worked in the semiconductor industry for many years – a number of my friends went off to solar startups which then failed and/or were bought for peanuts by Chinese companies.

    • ‘My own solar array has generated over 58 megawatts since I installed it in 2012’

      I doubt it. It is physically impossible.

  6. Let’s hope noone actually needs to use the carpark to work there, visit or be a patient if they plan to make it permanent.

  7. Granted, this is “back of the napkin” but using the info in this link for electrical use in US hospitals of 31kWh/sf/yr, and data elsewhere stating a large hospital averages 644ksf, and assuming a small hospital would be approx 200ksf, I arrive at this hospital requiring about 700kW.

    It’s Puerto Rico, so it may be less. I’m sure they are rationing, so it may be even less. Or it may be more, as the largest portion of a hospital’s demand is air conditioning and ventilation.

    • I was seeing numbers like that. For independence The 200 KW (which won’t be available all hours) needs to charge the battery and serve the hospital. At somes time they could get more tha. 200 kw by running hem both, but the battery is more likely to be needed for hours with no solar radiance. Maybe the installed capacity is better than what we are seeing. But anyone who knows what they are doing shouldn’t quote those numbers while gleefully thinking the hospitals needs can be well met at those resource levels.

  8. It has been reported elsewhere that the electricity company in Broome in Western Australia will only allow 10% penetration on their grid by solar because of the instability non-synchronous generation causes.
    As Planning Engineer has discussed in previous posts, this is the big issue that people won’t address.

  9. Elsewhere I read a condemnation of this solar array because it used parking space. I immediately ordered a new key for my computer from Amazon. When I push it a foot comes out of the other guys monitor and gives stupid commentators a boot in the head.

    After reading thie article’s drivel and all the stupid neocon comments I have worn my new kick to the head key out already.

  10. I wonder what the load is for the hospital’s HVAC system? My hunch is just relying on solar (even with battery backup) in the Puerto Rican climate may be problematic, especially if the hospital is on the rainy side if the island.

  11. You could raise the solar panels and park under them, in effect supplying lots of new roof area in a parking garage.

    I myself have a 15w solar panel in the side yard that keeps a battery in the basement charged, a battery that is only there to give the solar panel something to do. I’ve never gotten more than 8w out of the panel even with MPPT. But it’s a hobby so there’s the payoff. Maybe Puerto Rico is the same way.

  12. Good on Musk for getting something done in the midst of a great tragedy. Who cares about the short term cost.

    The upside is that a children’s hospital has more power than it had before.

  13. Can that installation survive the next hurricane?

    Could it have survived Maria?

  14. Of course it is a publicity stunt — but with a good heart and a decent purpose.

    It fills the parking lot, therefore must be temporary. Since PR is still very much Latin America, despite being part of the United States, temporary solutions tend to drag on, sometimes for a very long time.

    • Curious George

      It looks like lead-acid or NiCd battery makers missed a good occasion. Strictly technically, why use lithium batteries for a stationary application?

      • It looks to me like lithium-ion is probably better than lead acid or Ni/Cad for these types of purpose. Deep discharges are bad for lead acid. In submarines, they probably offer low internal resistance and extra ballast weight. They can be replaced after each or few deployments, since money is no object to DOD. The Ni/Cads in my power tools are best completely discharged before recharging in order to prevent memory issues.

    • Was it?
      Was it executed for good will or as a way to prop up Tesla’s share price?
      Because it sure isn’t corporate fundamentals driving said share price…
      There’s a reason why marketing departments have budgets.

  15. I read a blog on that and offered this comment –
    ….. Some of the basic issues associated with intermittent inverter based generation become become clear earlier on a small grid. The large bulk grid can hide a lot, especially when growth is not uniform and areas can lean on their neighbors.

    A lot of criticisms calling for “smart grids” and labelling existing grids as using “third world technology” are motivated by the desire to make the grid more friendly to inverted based generation (wind and solar). The idea is to hide the costs among grid expenses and not tie the cost to renewables. If you demand more of Broome grid it could likely handle more solar, but it would be at a large cost and it would be more transparent what was driving those costs.

    • This was supposed to be a response under chrism56 above about the 10% solar limit that n Broome.

      • PE – I had already gathered your response was to me. You are right about them trying to redefine what a grid is and does – the concept of “nothing is baseload” being a classic.
        The grid we are on is about 1000MW/Hz and wind only 10% at best (with no significant solar input thank god, but that non-synchronous load still causes issues with frequency control.

    • “The idea is to hide the costs among grid expenses and not tie the cost to renewables.”

      We can also say, The costs are buried. Best place to bury something is in a place that is already huge. Like a multi-state utility. It’s not generally a good thing. CPAs try, are charged with providing accurate and useful information. Say the search is for the true cost of a new product. Burying some cost tells management the wrong thing.

      Burying costs can tell politicians the wrong thing when it comes time to make policy.

      A bury can cover something up the same as fraud, though I am making no claims of fraud. The fraud eventually comes out as money is gone. Buried costs eventually come to light if they are material. This is where I see things going. Germany may be realizing it.

      • You want to talk about buried cost?
        How much we talking about here? Millions? Billions?
        The Defense Department’s Inspector General, in a June report, said the Army made $2.8 trillion in wrongful adjustments to accounting entries in one quarter alone in 2015, and $6.5 trillion for the year.
        Where’s the outrage?

      • Wind and solar are about 6% of total electricity production in the United States. I suppose large is relative.

        How about $10 billion for Federal wind and solar subsidies?

        Let’s say $10,000 million over 300 million people.

        $33 per person. Where does this show up? Some of it is a home solar credit that can reduce total Federal taxes on a 1040.

        But what about new power lines for wind turbines out in the sticks? To whom are these costs allocated? To make wind look better we apply that to everyone.

        The Department of Defense finance is another problem. In comparison, large corporations seem to do a better job with their finances. Even with utilities, I think the problems are more tractable than with Defense finance.

        Science is supposed to be about science and likewise war is supposed to be about war, not my home district that produces parts for some armed services planes.

        So if war is about my home district, so to are renewables. The solar panel producing company in my district.

        I was thinking about this subject last night.
        With buried costs, it’s good to be first. At first the problem is minor when amounts are small. So you get your free money before many see a problem. As the problem grows, it’s harder to ignore. For instance as non-dispatchable renewables become a greater part of the grid mix. Utilities are pushing back now more than earlier. As buried costs grow, there is a push to break them out and study them. Our company can lose a bit of money, but this real money now.

  16. It would be possible – but costly – to build a carpark with the panels on the roof. Even a few stories would reduce risk to panels in a cyclone zone. Of course a hospital is critical infrastructure – and it is the poles and wires of the grid that are mostly damaged – and slow to repair before switching on again. So backup onsite generators will always be required.

    Elon Musk stumped up the cash and supplied temporary power to a children’s hospital? Well done Elon – yayyy. That’s what capitalism is all about. The longer term modular nuclear and electric future seems assured. Electric cars are the bomb. So much torque. So fast.

    This is the true picture of global capitalism. Billions of economic decisions aggregating in nodes and links. Economically – strong nodes and reliable links foster stability and wealth creates development opportunities.

    • Robert ==> I worked with an outfit that considered exactly what you mention — a car park to shelter cars from the sun and solar panels on the roof — planned for the Dominican Republic. In the end, storage was the deal breaker — it wasn’t developed yet.

    • Curious George

      The technology is called a roof-top solar.

    • Sorry, but your picture of capitalism as somehow being able to magically “take from whoever can contribute and give to whoever has need” is flawed.
      The paraphrase of Leninism is deliberate.
      There’s a reason why public utilities are regulated industries – the “capitalist market” cannot be relied on to provide services to all at a fair price to all.
      The exact same forces of “capitalism” is what drove Puerto Rico’s power company to underinvest in hurricane preparation and/or resilience, much as said forces drove Pacific Gas and Electric’s underinvestment in power line maintenance which led to the recent spate of Northern California fires. That same company had no problem spending $40 million trying to get a bill passed to force municipalities to have 75% of voters approve changes of municipal power providers.

      • Sorry but you are way out there. I guess that someone who alludes to a Karl Marx slogan is a lost cause.

        Markets exist – ideally – in a democratic context. Politics provides a legislative framework for consumer protection, worker and public safety, environmental conservation and a host of other things. Including for regulation of markets – banking capital requirements, anti-monopoly laws, prohibition of insider trading, laws on corporate transparency and probity, tax laws, etc. A key to stable markets – and therefore growth – is fair and transparent regulation, minimal corruption and effective democratic oversight. Markets do best where government is large enough to be an important player and small enough not to squeeze the vitality out of capitalism – government revenue of some 25% of gross domestic product. Markets can’t exist without laws – just as civil society can’t exist without police, courts and armies.

      • Utilities are regulated because they are a natural monopoly.

        Natural Monopoly:
        “A natural monopoly is a type of monopoly that exists as a result of the high fixed costs or startup costs of operating a business in a specific industry. Additionally, natural monopolies can arise in industries that require unique raw materials, technology or other similar factors to operate. Since it is economically sensible to have some monopolies like these, governments allow them to exist but provide regulation, ensuring consumers get a fair deal.”

      • Geoff Sherrington

        If you had ever had to work in private enterprise, you would know that the most feared, constant presence is regulation/bureaucracy. Maybe 10% of the functions that you mention are needed, the rest are part of ensuring that naked capitalism is not given a chance to work and show its efficiency.
        Example, what purpose is there for ‘laws on corporate transparency’? ‘Laws on government transparency’, yes, for that is where devious conduct is rampant, not in corporate chambers.
        It is all to do with accountability, leaving aside attributes like trust, honesty, openness, etc., that are most often newsworthy in connection with governments, not private enterprise.
        Elon Musk and co seem here to be corporately a little less than honestly and trustingly open about the purpose and performance of their gift. Whichever way you spin it, solar panels no not produce at night, so comparative silence about the backup details is not good marketing. It just puts Musk in the long queue of supplicants unwilling to cost backup into statements about how good solar is.
        We call this the loser line.
        RIE, you are familiar with it. Geoff


        Let’s try again to redress the laughable and disjointed nonsense from Sherrington.

      • dougbadgero: Utilities are regulated because they are a natural monopoly.

        Can you distinguish between “natural” and “non-natural” monopolies? Which of cable, electricity, phone service, water, road paving, coal, steel, petroleum, and gas is a “natural” monopoly?

      • The term Natural Monopoly is a term from the basic economic sciences…such as they are. It involves the willingness of private capital to choose to compete. As stated in the definition, high capital cost provides a barrier to entry so business chooses not to compete with those that have made an initial investment. IMO electric utilities are the classic examples. Phone companies perhaps were in the past but now that high cost to enter the market no longer exists. Coal, steel, petroleum, and gas are clearly not, competition exists in all of those businesses.

      • Also,
        The “opposite” of natural monopoly is not non natural monopoly, it is perfect competition. In the absence of regulation a business operating as a natural monopoly is capable of generating significant economic profits. Conversely, a business operating in a perfectly competitive market cannot generate economic profits in the long run.

      • Sorry, but someone who has blind faith in capitalism and is unable to respond except with a political platitude, is clearly a sheep.
        Sheep and libertarians have an amazing resemblance to each other: both are highly aware of what’s going on socially but unlike wolves – sheep will then follow the most selfish and short term action even to the point of self-immolation. That’s why sheep need shepherds – they can and do kill themselves in all manner of head-scratching ways if not prevented from doing so.
        Ironically, wolves are highly cooperative and in fact are socialist. Communal hunting, communal pup rearing, strict hierarchy, and so forth.
        The biggest lie in American society right now is that so many people think they are wolves, when in fact they are sheep.

      • DougBadgeroo: Phone companies perhaps were in the past but now that high cost to enter the market no longer exists. Coal, steel, petroleum, and gas are clearly not, competition exists in all of those businesses.

        Coal, steel, petroleum and gas have been treated as monopolies. As have mail deliveries, rail transportation, aircraft manufacture, and telephony. Despite what looks like a clear definition actually depends on whether entrepreneurs are, unbeknownst possibly to people trying to act upon the definition, creating alternatives.

        What is it that makes local electricity delivery a natural monopoly but local information delivery not a natural monopoly? Why is local electricity delivery a natural monopoly, but wholesale electricity supply to local utilities not a natural monopoly, while the grid is a natural monopoly?

        I think that if you consider lots of examples instead of a few, the “naturalness” of “natural” monopolies disappears; almost all “natural” monopolies are in fact maintained by political power. Consider medical care, for example, which is treated as a “natural” monopoly in Great Britain (enforced by law, but less restrictive recently) but not in the US (where a “single payer” system is largely resisted).

      • Wolf1: Ironically, wolves are highly cooperative and in fact are socialist. Communal hunting, communal pup rearing, strict hierarchy, and so forth.

        Only within groups. There is considerable between-group competition, including fighting over food. FWIW, their medical device and pharmaceutical industries are lacking.

      • matthewrmarler,
        You seem to be discussing the politics of regulation, I am discussing the economic reasons natural monopolies are regulated. I am aware of no one who has ever argued that healthcare is regulated because it is a natural monopoly…it clearly is not one. AFAIK the arguments to regulate healthcare are based on the desire to supply healthcare to everyone as part of the “social contract”.

        IMO electric utilities, at least the wires business, is a natural monopoly. I cannot imagine that if the wires business were completely deregulated we would find multiple suppliers lining up to build multiple redundant wires into each home. It is sometimes claimed that generation is deregulated, and it is certainly true that there is a market structure for generation. However, it is certainly not completely deregulated. The FERC is involved deeply in generation markets; some ISOs have capacity markets, some do not, the feds are subsidizing some forms of generation allowing those sources to sell into the market at negative prices, etc.

        The generation market is certainly not deregulated it is just regulated in a different manner, and the market structure at this point is a moving target. Perhaps the generation market could be completely deregulated, but that is not what any state is willing to attempt.

      • @matthewrmarler
        Quite true.
        Group activity is a sign of civilization, however, while purely selfish action is the what is normally considered “wild”.
        Humanity has arrived at where it is by being civilized, but being civilized doesn’t preclude war.

      • “That same company had no problem spending $40 million trying to get a bill passed to force municipalities to have 75% of voters approve changes of municipal power providers.”

        If the utility is a regulated capitalist, why are they using government to try to make such a change? We agree we don’t like crony capitalists, but what choice is there for utilities? If it is something not capitalist because of government, how can it be an example of bad capitalism?

        “There’s a reason why public utilities are regulated industries – the “capitalist market” cannot be relied on to provide services to all at a fair price to all.”

        I think it may be important that you used the word: fair. The goal is not fair. It’s voluntary with with often times efficient and low cost spin off benefits. Why is it fair if commercial rates are higher than residential rates? Must be because businesses have bags of money from exploiting people and we need to make things more fair.

        Is it fair for home solar to sell to the utility at the same rate it pays to use electricity? If you dislike electricity utilities it may seem fair.

        The Boston Matrix would advise using your cash cows (electric utilities) to pay for your question marks (home solar) which may turn into stars. We tried that based on the economic wisdom of politicians and we got……

        We got dogs.

        What isn’t fair is asking utility shareholders and ratepayers to fund the thing.

        Above, utilities only partially paid for home solar. Other kicked in too, but the impact on utilities was material in most cases.

    • I agree with Ellison’s “yayyy,” BUT note that Musk (and the FAANG companies, esp. Amazon) has something of an unfair advantage because of the Federal Reserve’s very low interest rates. Musk continues to exist because he is operating on debt that requires little interest (and of course because he is doted on by the media). It is this same phenomenon that has enabled Amazon to cannibalize the retail market: Amazon didn’t turn a profit until 2015, but in the interim was able to kill many of the Main Street retailers. I have to wonder what similar havoc Musk may create in the markets he’s in.

  17. It’s difficult to judge the success/failures of a solar power system that has only just been installed. I think the crisis in Puerto Rico was a ‘blank canvas’ for a Tesla to show that it can be done. Solar prices are almost exponentially and within a few years will be cheaper than coal. It’s too early to know how effective this project by Tesla will be, but it will certainly be interesting to find out

  18. Islands in the paths of hurricanes are unsustainable.

    • Lol – perhaps
      Florida ratepayers spent over 3 billion dollars to harden their grid to hurricanes after Wilma in 2005. As a result power was restored 4 times faster following Irma. Puerto Rico’s power company is broke. Power costs about 20 cents per kWh…seems expensive until you consider that power in Hawaii is twice that price. Maybe their economy can’t support such a high price, then they can’t afford a reliable power system. Hurricane Hugo in 1989 did the same thing to PR and it took months to restore power.

    • Curious George

      There are natural disasters, and man made disasters. Puerto Rico has its share of both. Venezuela is purely man-made.
      Do we know how Arecibo observatory fared?

    • Geoff Sherrington

      Yes, if there is a hurricane. Geoff

    • Islands in the paths of hurricanes are unsustainable.

      What a silly statement, Steven. Your brain must be shrinking. Japan is a group of islands in the path of typhoons, placed in the ring of fire, subject to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis. How unsustainable is Japan? Should all these places be evacuated? Stop investing on them?

      All these islands have hundreds of years of a history of social and economic progress, and if they are subject to the vagaries of Nature, that can only be a temporary partial setback. Of course they are sustainable, specially if they have the right social structures in place and are subject to the rule of law and democracy. Unsurprisingly the places that fare worst are the ones with the weakest democracies and more rampant corruption.

      It is surprising to me that Puerto Rico is doing so badly after such a long period of association with the US. Something is clearly not working in that association.

    • Steve Mosher: Islands in the path of hurricanes are unsustainable.”
      Puerto Rico has been under western rule for over 500 years and as 2016 had a population of around 3.4M. It has certainly had it’s ups and downs but that can said about many countries and states. Perhaps your definition of “Unsustainable” would help others understand what you are trying to say. Are you suggestion Porto Rice should be abandoned for human habitation?

    • Write better!

  19. “Costs are much higher for three reasons. First, the cost per MW of capacity to build a wind or solar plant is quite high (and much greater than that of a gas-fired plant). The cost per MW of solar capacity is especially high. Reductions in the cost of solar-voltaic panels have reduced the cost of building a solar plant by 22 percent between 2010 and 2012, but further reductions are likely to have a lesser effect because the cost of solar panels is only a fraction of the total cost of a utility-scale solar plant.”

    “Second, a wind or solar plant operates at full capacity only a fraction of the time, when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining. For example, a typical solar plant in the United States operates at only about 15 percent of full capacity and a wind plant only about 25 percent of full capacity, while a coal plant can operate 90 percent of full capacity on a year-round basis. Thus it takes six solar plants and almost four wind plants to produce the same amount of electricity as a single coal-fired plant.”

    So the cost per kilowatt or Megawatt for solar panels only, is not using the right metric. Policy makers should consider all costs.

    In their example, 6 times as many solar panels are needed. But it’s not that straight forward. On a partly cloudy day, more are needed. Minnesota cannot build six times as many in Minnesota for Minnesota. It has to build them in Washington, Hawaii, Japan, China, Africa and so on. And assume no distance transmission costs.

    When replacing conventional plants, and that is a policy goal for some, you have to replace them. Not kinda of replace them, or say you’re replacing them, wink, wink. Xcel uses big boy power plants that have done an outstanding job. It needs real power plants. That can perform as well as their existing ones. Or prices are going up.

    Yes, what I wanted was a wind turbine on the family farm. I’d sit in a lawn chair at its base, and watch the meter, and count my money. But that was a dream lacking the required economics.

    A quick exercise for home solar. Please have back up for 24 hours. We have a planet to save. The average house uses 1 kilowatt per hour. So you need 24 kilowatt hours of storage. At $250 per kilowatt hour of storage, that’s $6000. With a 10 year battery life, that’s $600 per year. My total bill is around $1000 a year. A reason why you’d have batteries is that you really want home solar to work and play nice with the grid and to help those not able to afford home solar by keeping their costs down.

  20. Tesla is seeing payback from their efforts through the publicity provided by Musk’s tweets and this “feel good” story going viral.

    Sounds like the polar reverse of Western academia seeing payback from stories of doom and gloom.

    A hoax by any other name would smell as stinky feet…

  21. Many of the commenters here seem to assume the whole world is like Manitoba. Manitoba is close to abundant hydro, natural gas and coal deposits. The peak load for demand is also probably at 6 P.M. or so on winter nights.

    But a nation closer to the equator will not have the natural resources or logistical advantages of Manitoba. Many of these islands also will not have the money or social organization to construct LNG ports, coal terminals and elaborate grid networks that require huge capital costs upfront. The peak demand in such countries is also probably during daylight hours in the summer when the of air conditioners are running flat out. These, these countries use diesel to generate because it is cheaper to ship than coal or LNG.

    In those countries, which frequently see rolling blackouts, there are supply shortages. It may be cheaper for a large user like a hospital or office complex to invest in solar than to buy imported diesel. While battery storage may be to expensive solar can generate power during peak periods and help avoid rolling blackouts.

    • Curious George

      Wind and solar have their place in off-the-grid situations. A mountain chalet may have a diesel generator, only used 5 pm to 10 pm. You don’t expect a 24×7 power. An intermittent power is much better than no power.

    • Manitoba has been very blessed with abundant hydro power. We also have a lot of sunshine in summer and plenty of wind. However, as I have previously pointed, my solar supplementing system is currently dead flat and can’t even make a radio run because because of ice and snow on top of the panels and days and days of cloudy cool weather. Solar is superior for specific things like keeping cattle fences electrified in summer but it will never replace hydro even though a lot of people here think it should because dams hurt fish and such.

    • Oh and Friday Manitoba announced it is shutting down all the coal powered electrical generation to comply with Federal demands that we go green and they are implementing a carbon tax on fossil fuels to comply with Federal demands. The Feds have also imposed gigantic taxes and environmental regulations on production of our own oil and natural gas and they are taxing the hell out of our hydro in the name of stopping global warming. They regulated to death a pipeline that would deliver Canadian oil to the east coast for local refining. Meanwhile to satisfy the needs of the east for oil and gas Canada pays huge amounts of money for tanker loads of crude from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela and we have a lovely pipeline going in to ship our oil to China by tanker off the west coast. We are so very green and so very concerned about human rights here in Canada.

      • Geoff Sherrington

        Twt re Manitoba,
        And yet when I note perils f regulation, Ellison says not to worry, it for the public good, to curb the enthusiasm of Free Enterprise. Geoff

      • It is nothing more than Federal imposition of a new tax based on the ideology of Climate Change, a scam to transfer wealth from the wealthy prosperous west to the miserably trouble east that has destroys all its industry and its economy with this socialist driven nonsense.

  22. If the nuclear technology of the small modular reactors (SMR’s) was available today and had already been proven to be economically feasible, Puerto Rico would be be a logical place for siting one or more of these SMR’s.

    Assuming the technology and the basic economics of SMR’s eventually work out, it might make sense to use wind and solar as an interim solution while investigating the benefits an SMR-based power grid might have for the island in the time frame beyond 2030.

  23. Solar hype went out when The Cold Sun hit the remainer tables. and Soon & Baliunas split.

    • Rusty Sitz Bath

      I just spent a couple of minutes in between plays of the simultaneous ISU/TCU, OSU/PSU and MSU/NW games and came up with 120 authors involved in 2017 peer reviewed scientific papers involving solar research. I can only imagine how many more I could have found putting some real effort into looking up all the papers. Clearly, you’re not keeping up. I can always tell warmists are getting desperate when they start injecting the tedious Soon and Heartland attacks. The Arctic turnaround is looming out there. It’s curtains after that. Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.

      • Only 120 authors? We subscribe to more journals touching on solar research than that.

        Why don’t you turn off the TV and turn to reading them for a change?
        Greenhouse gases overtook solar variability as a rource of radiative forcing and climate change over a century ago.

  24. “PS: I have a son deployed by FEMA in Puerto Rico right now so I have a direct line to the ground truth so don’t try to BS me about what’s happening down there.”
    What does happen down there anyway?
    ” $72 billion in debt, Puerto Rico struggled with liquidity even before the most powerful hurricane in almost 90 years wiped out the island’s power grid, homes and other infrastructure nearly three weeks ago.The territory, whose 3.4 million residents are American citizens, declared bankruptcy in May.
    The community disaster loan proposed by the Trump administration $4.9 billion loan would help them with short-term liquidity problems in financing,” such as payroll and pensions. On Saturday, Rossello wrote to Trump pleading for a broad assistance package of at least $4.6 billion through a variety of government programs in what he called a “down payment on hurricane recovery efforts” as the island assesses the damages.
    the House of Representatives passed a $36.5 billion disaster aid package for places including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, ”

  25. Puerto Rico consumes 20 billion kwh per year, roughly.
    To put the Musk install in perspective – let assume the 500 kwh storage + 200 kw solar array which cost $2M is good for say, 1 full week of electricity.
    This means a 50% replacement of Puerto Rico’s electrical infrastructure with the Tesla solution would cost $800 billion dollars (20 billion kwh/ 500 kwh per unit per week / 50 weeks in a year * 2 million per unit install).
    If the showcase install is good for 1 day, the cost falls to a mere $115 billion dollars.
    If that much money is available, why not just pay off all of Puerto Rico’s debt and have $40 billion or $50 billion left over?

  26. Elon in Australia selling snake oil as we are buying. One good thing about Americans coming to Australia with schemes is they inevitably crash and burn.
    Australia effect a bit like the Al Gore effect.
    Expect massive damage to brand in next 6 months.

  27. Energy is the at the core of both economic growth and social development. I am technology agnostic. Wind and solar are working technologies – among many.


    I have personally installed solar panels and batteries in bush material houses on a South Pacific island. However – unlike Jack I am unconvinced that personal anecdotes mean anything in terms of big picture analysis. But if you listen to the neo-Luddites here they will adamantly deny that it works based on the one big hedgehog idea of intermittency.

    Wolfi’s horrible mishmash serves as a jumping off point. 200 kW is the peak generating capacity – 500kWh is the battery storage capacity. This gives daily generation of some 1000kWh – some of which recharges batteries. Plugging in a hospital energy use quoted above of 31kWh/square foot/yr – and assuming 10,000 square feet of actual hospital – the average daily energy use is 850kWh. I assume Tesla has engineers for this sort of thing? I assume as well that the hospital would focus on critical services – operating rooms, refrigeration for medicine, heart monitors, IV drips, etc. It’s a gift horse.

    There is absolute confusion about how capacity factors work in some quarters. Both solar and wind have levelized costs that are better than gas and coal – certainly diesel – in many parts of the world. You don’t need 6 times the nameplate capacity to deliver this unit of energy. Levelized costs take capacity factors into account. Wind and solar can supply a unit of electricity at competitive prices.

    Supplying energy when it is needed is the problem. Batteries store power that would otherwise be shed – or else a large excess power supply is required for high wind and solar penetration. The problem is to make storage cheap enough that it is competitive with other sources of energy. That is a problem that is yet to be definitively solved.

    With low penetration it is a non-issue – despite the dire warnings of neo-Luddites. With a mix of generation including geothermal, landfill gas, hydroelectric and biomass – each with their own capacity constraints – it is possible to balance the system without having additional generation.

    Wind and solar seem destined to occupy niche positions in the energy mix – and one of these may be emergency supply for critical infrastructure – when a 250MWe nuclear engine would be a bit of an overkill. More generally – nuclear engines do seem to be the coming thing.

    The market needs SMRs: SMRs will be needed as large retirements of baseload generation and an
    increase in intermittent renewables have negative impacts on the grid. SMRs can better match demand
    growth at lower up front capital costs, provide flexibility to integrate with renewables and repower retired
    fossil plant sites, and can generate highly resilient baseload power. SMRs will be even more important if
    the demand for carbon-free generation continues to grow.
    SMR capacity additions in the U.S. are conservatively expected to exceed 6 gigawatts-electric (GWe),
    while more aggressive targets could see more than 15 GWe, by 2035.

    Progress continues to commercialize SMRs: Private companies continue to invest in SMRs – more
    than $1 billion so far – with the pace of development accelerated by support from the Department of
    Energy. The first SMR licensing applications – by NuScale Power and the Tennessee Valley Authority –
    have been accepted for review by the U.S. NRC, with the first approval expected in the early-2020s.

    Designs are mature enough today for potential owners to evaluate the benefits and risks to move forward
    with projects. Utah Associated Municipal Power System is planning to locate its first SMR plant at the
    Idaho National Laboratory as part of the Carbon Free Power Project. TVA is investigating the deployment
    of an SMR at their Clinch River site to provide highly resilient power to national security facilities. Several
    companies are interested in following the first movers and deploying SMRs by around 2030.

    SMRs are cost-competitive: The analysis of various policy and market uncertainties shows that there
    are many conditions and scenarios that could occur that would result in SMRs being comparable with the
    costs of a natural gas combined cycle plant.
    The first SMRs are expected to be within the range of natural gas plants costs assuming appropriate
    private-public partnerships to help reduce technology risks and keep first-of-a-kind costs low. The
    partnerships incentivize the initial SMR customers by addressing typical first-of-a-kind challenges that
    create unique regulatory, technology and financial risks that translate into higher costs that most
    companies are unable or unwilling to accept. The partnerships reduce the barriers to technology
    adoption and allow the learning curve to bring down the cost of future SMRs.

    By 2030, after the first few plants begin operation, SMRs would be cost-competitive without further
    private-public partnerships. For most scenarios, the costs of SMRs are within the range of natural gas
    plants, such that a utility could choose an SMR based on factors such as long-term price stability and fuel

    The tremendous potential for SMRs justifies further investment in SMRs and private-public partnerships to
    support first movers. Successful commercialization of SMRs – a critical addition to the nation’s future
    infrastructure – is essential to a resilient low-carbon energy system, growing jobs and the economy, and
    to strengthening national security.

    • Curious George

      I’ll be all for Small Modular Reactors, when they come. Also for Tabletop Fusion reactors, when they come. Also for usable electric cars, when they come. I applaud an investment in that research. But we don’t see an investment in “renewables” research. We only see renewables mega-projects. Black holes for ratepayers money.

      • SMR’s have the virtue of being old technology.
        Canada seems interested in light water models. Tabletop fusion is a reality. You can get plans from Popular Mechanics if you want to build one in your garage. Electric cars are amazing – but perhaps a storage revolution in organic polymer supercapacitors may be required. In the meantime the Israeli linear generator as a range extended could be useful.

        Technology is not the problem.

      • Danny Farnsworth

        Robert… I know I’m a few days late to the party, but “tabletop fusion” is a reality in what sense? That you can take a lot of usable power and turn it into a lot less? Leaving aside Farnsworth fusors (good man, Philo, but not a close relation), there’s also LENR research (more robust in Italy and Japan, not much movement in United States after Pons and Fleischmann). Even while there’s been convincing evidence of nuclear reactions (neutron detection, elemental transmutation of target thin film metals, etc.), a practical power source has never emerged. Which is supremely odd, from a conservation of energy standpoint.

        It still seems that the best bets are for hot fusion (definitely not tabletop). I’m a fan of the Polywell electrostatic confinement approach, but in ten years since Robert Bussard’s famous Google Tech talk, I haven’t seen a lot come of it.

    • Interesting, you term what I wrote above – which are documented publicly referenced data as a mishmash.
      Certainly true.
      Yet you then follow up with a series of completely unsupported statements:
      1) “Both solar and wind have levelized costs that are better than gas and coal – certainly diesel – in many parts of the world.”
      This is true in one sense: a tropical island with no gas or coal resources – solar and wind could *possibly* be cheaper. However, it is untrue because 95%+ of the world lives on continents, which in turn have gas and/or coal.
      China and India have coal, the US and Europe has natural gas.
      I actually think that the case for oil based electricity generation, at today’s oil prices, is a tossup vs super expensive solar and/or wind + backup.
      2) “Wind and solar can supply a unit of electricity at competitive prices. ”
      Again, totally unsupported by documentation. Actual industry data – which does not factor for massive construction and financing subsidies – shows solar and wind to actually still be more expensive than coal or natural gas in the United States. Ditto for Germany. Factor out those subsidies and the numbers would look even worse. There are probably exceptions like your tropical island, but even then the case is far from clear – so expensive is solar and wind + backup.
      3) “With low penetration it is a non-issue – despite the dire warnings of neo-Luddites.”
      Besides your offensive (and totally inaccurate) terminology, the low level of penetration isn’t actually the problem. It is the massive costs engendered by this low level of penetration which is the problem.
      Solar and wind are so ridiculously expensive that they skew the overall electricity price matrix even at their present low levels. The prospect of increasing the levels of solar and wind via diktat means the impact will get even worse than it is today.
      It is that which I find offensive, as well as the fact that these heavily subsidized programs also skew heavily to those who can most afford it.
      In any case, you have shown yourself to be a propagandist rather than a seeker of truth.

      • You’re calculations are a
        a result of less than half understood ideas. Wrong doesn’t cover it.

        1. Levelised costs are available online – try the EIA

        2. What do you think levelised cost means?

        3. Your assumptions are wilder than your maths.

      • @Robert I Ellison
        Your continued insults only reinforce your ignorance.
        I have actually look at the underlying data behind those “levelized costs”.
        The EIA does not actually incorporate a significant number of subsidies in their cost calculations. In particular, they don’t factor in low interest rate loans, feed in subsidies, “preferential treatment” subsidies (as in buy all the solar/wind first), guaranteed purchase subsidies and likely many more.
        Thus the “levelized cost” is a fiction.
        True, the existing fossil fuels do get some subsidies too, but the relative levels are so much different that it isn’t even funny.
        All you have been demonstrating is confirmation bias: you see something that meets your own beliefs and then you accept it without question.
        This exact same bias is what underlies a majority of the “consensus”, and is just as wrong.

      • It is not surprising to find snowflakes complaining of insults. But – fortunately we can all see what is included in levelized costs.

        More importantly when comparing technology:

        “When the LACE of a particular technology exceeds its LCOE at a given time and place, that technology
        would generally be economically attractive to build. While the build decisions in the real world, and as
        modeled in the AEO, are somewhat more complex than a simple LACE to LCOE comparison, including
        such factors as policy and non-economic drivers, the net economic value, or net difference between
        LACE and LCOE, provides a reasonable point of comparison of first-order economic competitiveness
        among a wider variety of technologies than is possible using either LCOE or LACE tables individually.”

  28. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #289 | Watts Up With That?

  29. NPR is up to their smoke again….

  30. As I am drooling capitalist lackey – I of course disagree with subsidies and trade restrictions. As I disagree with just about everything – this may be just an example of the broken clock axiom.

    I am a great believer in things finding their own level in the market. Subsidies can only be justified – if then – in the early days of an industry – that has well and truly passed for wind and solar operational facilities. What can be better is funding generously multiple research streams and technologies.

  31. “We know that Tesla has recently installed a combined solar panels and battery system in the parking lot of the Hospital del Nino in San Juan Puerto Rico.”

    Solar power in San Juan Puerto Rico at 18 N makes sense. Using a parking lot to provide the square footage to install solar panels also makes sense. Raising the solar panels so they act as sun cover and cars can park underneath also makes sense. Battery storage of daytime solar energy sufficient to last 5 hours, well…that doesn’t make sense, particularly if the hospital is to run 24/7. Air conditioning, computerized medical records & and requesting systems, pharmacy compounding, refrigeration, x-ray and CT scan, infant ventilators, dialysis, oxygen delivery systems, surgery suite, hospital room and hallway lights, emergency room facilities, suction equipment, Bovie cautery equipment, on and on need power, and plenty of it, 24/7. Operating using cellphone light doesn’t do it. Big mistakes happen. Visualization of the operating site is critical. Light and more light is needed.

    The other question: is the parking lot permanent? or was the land to be used for other purposes? offices, outpatient clinics?

    On the other hand, was this hospital functioning at a low level; i.e., just above the level of care received in the clinic: hospital beds for some children needing an overnight stay for assessment or IV hydration or subacute asthma care, not sick enough to need all the tools that require lots and lots of energy? My guess is that any child needing the attention one comes to expect from a “hospital”, would be shipped elsewhere and the solar panel battery storage systems would support a diesel generator/intermittent electrical grid source of energy.

  32. In the news today (Nov. 1): Tesla shares drop after greater-than-expected loss:

  33. Pingback: Vom Versuch, in Elon Musk und der Solarhype einen Sinn zu erkennen – EIKE – Europäisches Institut für Klima & Energie

  34. This is a very interesting discussion.

    Most of the analyses and assertions are missing a crucial set of measures.

    Large systems, with long-life components, can only be accurately costed out after many stable designs have gone through a complete life cycle.

    So, headline is: no one knows the true cost of solar or wind power, because none of the high volume installations has been through a complete life cycle from mine to reclamation and waste.

    Part of my job is, and has been, to track and measure large ecosystems, like automotive transportation, mobile devices, energy, food, water, etc.

    I do this on the ground around the world, working with the people who actually do all the steps in the process.

    IC motor vehicles, for example have a 24-26 year total life cycle from mine to recycling/waste. Example: US has fleet of almost 300 million vehicles in use. Scrappage rate varies from 3-5% per year. Drops to 2% in recessions.

    That means the average vehicle takes 6 months to make, and 20+ years to be recycled.

    Because this cycle has been executed for more than 75 years, and because most parts in a MV are easily recycled with low incremental energy – the total system costs of this ecosystem are well known.

    BUT because solar/wind designs have never stabilized and are changing all the time..

    ..and because their volume is extremely low compared to traditional energy and vehicle systems..

    .. and because they have life cycles of at least 20 years…

    …there is no human on Earth who can claim to understand the true costs of these emerging systems.

    Notice that researchers are just beginning to document rapid increases in lithium prices, and the negative effects on water tables from mass mining of lithium.

    Notice that we are just beginning to get real world costs of melting and extracting the poisons from solar panels, vehicle controllers, etc.

    Therefore, beyond the obvious hype of E. Musk, if even Nobel level researchers claim to know the real costs of these new systems, they are guessing right along with the rest of us.

    Notice that electric vehicles were invented more than 120 years ago, before the petrol vehicle. EV’s have been limited by the charging/recycling ecosystem for that long.

    We are all in completely new territory, and the miniscule volume of Tesla power walls and PR type installations reveals almost nothing new so far.

  35. My two experiences with solar:
    About 7 years ago, my poor 80+ year old next door neighbor Lou in N Portland got roped into some subsidied scheme to install panels on his 800 ft^2 home with promises of massive reductions in energy costs. He was out of pocket something around 7 grand, and got some sort of tax rebate. He was not too happy when his electricity bill was only about $1 lower over a year. Fortunately for him he died of brain cancer before the deferred loan repayment dug into his social security, Our houses had exactly 0 insulation because they were built in 1951 before global warming and you didn’t have to worry about cold winters in Portland. Fortunately for the flipper who bought the place when he died, the solar system was a PLUS in a hipsterizing neighborhood. He put in “eco” bamboo flooring and some other “eco” BS on the cheap, advertised it as GREEN, made out pretty well selling to a trust fund greenie couple, and shared the joke with me as he laughed all the way to the bank. I sold 2 years later and did really really well as the neighborhood was becoming fully hipsterized – The ECO model next door did wonders for my property value even though it was a small drafty house without any
    insulation from the days before global warming.

    Early 1980’s my BF’s uber lefty mom had a solar water heating system installed on their roof. It failed miserably. They stopped trying to circulate water to the roof in a couple years and cut it out of the system. They paid a substantial amount to have all the piping and mirror things pulled off the roof a few years later.

  36. I have lived in Puerto Rico for 45 years. Learned marine steam power plants and nuclear in the navy in the 60s. Developed a cogen plant in the 80s (see the ferc ruling on alcon v Puerto Rico power authority for how that turned out.

    Our gov wants 25% renewables in 15 years

    The renewables we have were completely destroyed. Some mayor may not be salvageable.

    No damage., asfar as I know to any fossil plants.

    Our big problem here is that San Juan has about a gw of power plants inoperable due to no/poor maintenance fo 20-30years.

    4 miles from my house are 2 25mw peaking turbines. One the found inoperable when they tried to start it after the storm. The other is screaming away supplying some business nin tje area. It had a bad bearing and may fail at any moment.

    We have a lot of problems and diesel fuel wasone for a wrek or so. It’s not now.

    Solar and wind are NOT the solution.

    Anyone wanting more info I am

    John Henry

  37. Apologies for the typos in the above comment, I was typing on my phone. Now that I am at a keyboard, let me revise and extend my remarks:

    1) Curious George (do you post at AHouse or is that another CG?) posted a picture of the Humacao solar plant. That is the one I was talking about but I did not see the picture when I posted. I drove by it Wednesday and it does reflect how the entire 40 acres or so looks. The installation had a nameplate capacity of 40MW which means it is equal to a 12MW GT in real capacity.

    2) We have a number of installations in both public facilities like the Convention Center and private facilities like several Johnson and Johnson factories located in parking lots. These are like rooftops in that there is still the same parking underneath. Not roofs in that all they are is the panels. Still nice to park in the shade and not get too wet walking to the car on a rainy day. No reason the hospital/Musk panels could not be raised if they become permanent.

    3) Jim D said that If your solar panels looked like that, your house probably does too. Actually, no. Most houses in PR are concrete. Usually Concrete slab, Two or 3 concrete lengthwise walls to support the concrete roof and block walls for the rest. Very few concrete houses were damaged. My house sticks up like a thumb (Bing Puerto Del Rey Marina, I live on a hilltop just across the road). Nothing within a 1/4 mile to stop the wind and nothing at all between me and the ocean. This is the 3rd hurricane in this house where the eye has passed over (Hugo, Georges, Maria). Never any structural damage. I so have wood and aluminum panels for glass doors and windows.

    My wife tells me that FEMA, after both Hugo and Georges gave a lot of money to people with wood houses to rebuild stipulating that they build in concrete. Some people rebuilt in wood and when they asked FEMA for help now, FEMA is saying “No”. They didn’t rebuild in concrete, no help for you. Good for FEMA.

    4) Someone has posted a couple of notes about a pretty cool sounding home solar installation (Sorry I can’t find your name just now) Good for you but it sounds like you spend a lot of time tinkering and tweaking. I like doing stuff like that and might consider solar at some point for the learning experience. Few people have the expertise, ability or willingness to do that. We just want to flip a switch and get light. (And send a check each month). It is kind of like having a 1960s muscle car that needs some work every weekend vs my Hyundai that I did the first tuneup at 80m miles. Or Linux vs Windows. Solar has to be painless to the homeowner to be useful on a wide scale.

    5) Someone mentioned 10% as the max amount of renewable power that a grid can handle. This may be OK in someplace like the upper 48 where fluctuations can be spread over a wide base. We are an island. We can’t bring in power from anywhere else. The DADS governor’s desire for 25% renewable scares the bejabbers out of me.

    John Henry

  38. Looking at the title, I’m surprised nobody posted this. If they did, my apologies: