More Solar Fun and Green Games article in Business Insider 9.15.11
While sifting through the wreckage of the Solyndra debacle I began to look deeper into exactly what type of projects the Department of Energy is funding.
What came across my desk in the last few days sounded off more warning bells in my head. Before I get to that though let’s look at some general statistics about solar power in general.
According to the EIA (U.S. Energy Information Administration), in 2009 the daily consumption of the United States measured in barrels of oil is 18,771,000 barrels a day.
By comparison – the solar equivalent of that consumption in oil barrels is only 58,000 barrels per day (equivalent to one good Exxon well or about one day’s production per year for the USA ).
This represents, on the part of current solar output, 0.3% of daily U.S. needs based on the 2009 EIA numbers.
My key point is that as it stands this is such a tiny fraction, such a minuscule current resource, that we really need to learn to walk before we run.
What concrete steps do I believe we need to take first to help make all viable renewable energy work?
I believe it starts with upgrading our current electrical grid to a smart grid. A smart grid system provides the ability for people who have solar on their rooftops or windmills in their backyards to use their own power when electricity is the highest priced (the PEAK in the middle of a hot steamy day in Texas) or if they do not need it, to have the ability to SELL it back to the grid.
It creates home based entrepreneurs of our energy consumers.
Putting market forces to work will create efficiency in the system.
In my opinion this broad based type of infrastructure is exactly where we need to be putting our hard earned tax dollars.
At this point, handing out solar panels to homeowners is like a teenager buying tires for a car he doesn’t yet own.
Now, on to where those tax dollars are going.
First off, I was amazed to learn that Solyndra executives were conveniently “not available” when requested to be at to be at yesterday’s House Energy and Commerce Committee meeting regarding the $535 million in federal loan guarantees that will undoubtedly be lost in the Solyndra bankruptcy. I can’t begin to imagine telling my main lender and supporter that I was unavailable to meet after borrowing $535 million and then losing it!
The questions regarding what the Department of Energy knew about the potential success or failure of this endeavor and what representations were made to the Department and to Congress certainly need to be answered. It should be interesting to hear about the results of this meeting to say the least. Also of concern is an August 31st ABC News report which mentioned that Franklin Rusco at the Government Accountability Office stated in his report that these DOE transactions “treated applicants inconsistently, favoring some and disadvantaging others.”
As I mentioned at the top I found out that the government has also recently guaranteed a loan for $275 million to SolarCity. This loan is provided by USRG Renewable Finance, an affiliate of US Renewables Group LLC, in partnership with Bank of America Corp. (like their plate is not full enough already). SolarCity, whose goal is to create solar installations at military bases across the U.S. in a project called SolarStrong, stated in a Bloomberg piece out September 7th that:
“We thought that we could scale this model onto all the other military housing,” Rive said today (CEO of SolarCity) in a telephone interview. “As we looked at it, the economics just couldn’t pencil,” because the cost of energy for military housing is often lower than the traditional cost of energy, he said. The loan guarantee enabled SolarCity to “get a lower cost of capital” to help “make solar affordable.”
Now wait a minute, if it is not affordable in the first place why in the world are we doing this? If the “economics just couldn’t pencil” then it’s not a loan it’s a gift or if you want to get fancy – a grant! Ahhh maybe it is because of a government DOD regulation to have 25% of its energy from renewable resources.
Again, my point here is not that we should not be investing in renewable energy but that we must first build the infrastructure to support it and make it consumer friendly. For all the money spent we could have had a great down payment and been well on our way to a smart grid, which pays for itself relatively quickly in consumer savings and efficiency. Unfortunately, this appeared to be a ready, shoot, aim situation!