Photovoltaic array in the desert, where almost nobody lives.

According to Jeff Perren at Pajamas Media, the President is wishing upon a star—the sun—to save us from what he regards as our energy profligacy, and he’s more than willing to waste another $2 billion of other people’s money in a hopeless effort to make it come true:      

   It would be bad enough for the federal government to subsidize the construction of solar power projects if they worked. It would still be an inefficient use of resources; it would still exceed its constitutionally enumerated powers; it would still be an immoral redistribution of wealth to politically connected companies. But at least in that case American taxpayers—somewhere—might get a Hoover Dam out of the deal. In this instance, that’s simply impossible.
   …. No problem, according to the postmodernist. Just pretend. Pretend hard enough and circumstances will comply. No need to feel constrained any longer by objective reality; there’s no such thing. There are only different perspectives. Just wish upon a star and your dreams can come true.      

Seven years ago Matthew R. Edgar at the Heartland Institute quantified solar energy’s shortcomings:      

   Solar energy consumes even more land than wind. Solar panels consist of photovoltaic (PV) cells. A single cell is about 10 centimeters in size and generates about 1 watt of power—enough for a pocket calculator, but not for a radio. A module of 40 PV cells can produce enough electricity to power a small light bulb. The modules can be combined into groups of 10 to form solar arrays. Ten to 20 PV arrays can power a single household, but for larger electrical needs, such as industrial factories, hundreds of arrays must be connected to generate enough power.      

H. Sterling Burnett, also at Heartland, wrote last year about solar power “sticker shock”:      

   Solar power currently costs three-and-a-half to four times the price of conventional power purchased on the spot market. When stripped of subsidies and preferential tax treatment, moreover, solar power is between 570 percent and 887 percent more expensive to produce than coal power, according to a recent study by Tufts University economics professor Gilbert Metcalf.
   Adding to the costs of solar power is the fact that solar panels deliver direct current, while [most power grids] use alternating current. Converting from direct to alternating current boosts costs, and power is lost in the process.      

So far no one has come up with anything more efficient than PVs. The first person or group to do so will become trillionaires. Even then, unless a way is devised to keep clouds and rain away from solar power stations, which would practically require wrecking the environment, solar will never amount to more than a few percent of America’s energy needs.      

Further complicating the situation is the preferential politics practiced by this administration: Show them the campaign money, and they’ll show you a taxpayer-subsidized, overpriced “green energy” contract.      



Jeff Perren’s Pajamas Media article.
A Weekly Standard article by Andrew B. Wilson.
Matthew R. Edgar’s article at The Heartland Institute.
H. Sterling Burnett’s article at Heartland.
A review of Christopher Horner’s book Power Grab on The American Culture weblog.  

Mike Gray