Monday, February 28, 2005

Alternative Energy California: A Million Solar Power Homes?

Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has a new plan to make California a world leader in solar energy.

It drops a previous provision, that doomed his "million solar homes" plan last year, that required that half of all new homes eventually be solar powered following opposition from businesses and the construction industry.

California builds about 150,000 new homes a year. Experience shows about 10 percent of homeowners would choose solar if offered the option – about 15 times the roughly 1,000 solar homes currently built each year in the state, said Bernadette Del Chiaro, a solar advocate for the nonprofit Environment California.

"It's clearly the most ambitious solar initiative ever proposed in the United States," said David Hochschild, policy director for the nonprofit organization Vote Solar.

The incentive approach is modeled on Japan, the world leader in solar power, which has seen a 72 percent drop in solar costs as 70,000 homes have been outfitted for the alternative power over the last 10 years.

California already is the third-largest consumer of solar power equipment, behind Germany, but gets 40 percent more annual sunlight than Germany and 20 percent more than Japan.

The goal is to have 3,000 megawatts worth of solar power by 2018, which amounts to about 5 percent of the state's entire electricity usage at peak periods – generally hot summer afternoons when electricity is most in demand, most expensive, and when solar panels are most efficient.

That's the equivalent of 40 new, $30 million, 75-megawatt natural gas plants. One megawatt is enough to power about 750 homes.

"We will be building literally power plants' worth of solar on roofs across the state," said Del Chiaro.

The goal is to create a large, stable solar market that will lower the cost not only of components but also of installation to the point that incentives will no longer be necessary to make solar energy affordable.

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9 Comments:

Blogger Engineer-Poet said...

IMHO, 3 GW is much too low a target.  If we can produce cells for a little over $1/W(peak) starting in 2008, 3 GW represents only about $300 million per year over the next ten years.  A more reasonable aim would be to have sufficient generation capacity that the difference between base-load and afternoon peaks could be met entirely by solar.  If that requires 30,000 MW, that is all of about $3 billion/year at $1/watt.  On top of this, the electricity would probably be cheaper than imported natural gas long before 2018.

10:24 am, March 02, 2005  
Blogger the adventuress said...

$3 billion isn't that much. California recently voted to allocate that much money to stem cell research alone.

I'd vote for it.

10:34 am, March 03, 2005  
Blogger Engineer-Poet said...

$3 billion/year is about $100/person/year or $8.33/person/month, $33.33/month for a family of 4.  Would you still vote for it?

(Yes, I think we should acknowledge that some things involve hard choices.)

2:05 pm, March 04, 2005  
Blogger Safety Neal said...

I live in Los Angeles and I am just astonished that there isn't more solar power in use here. It is sunny almost every single day of the year, yet hardly any of the homes have solar power. I think the government should provide incentives for homeowners and landlords to switch to solar power such as tax breaks and should subsidize the costs of the solar installations. I am a bit leery of the Governator's environmental policies, since he's the one who made the Hummer available for consumers, but I am totally behind his solar home ideas.

3:34 pm, March 05, 2005  
Blogger the adventuress said...

safety neal,

The Califiornia State government already subsidizes the cost of solar installations for residences. It pays half the costs. Check out any Solar installation website like BP Solar and they will fill you in on how you apply for the subsidy, etc. if you are a California resident. (It's still expensive even with the subsidy: an average home installation costs about 12 grand so it's 6 grand out of your pocket.)

Engineer Poet: Yeah, I'd pay the extra 21 bucks a month for my family's share. Wouldn't the price come down eventually though, as you stated?

There's all kinds of research being done in Silcon Valley on various technologies to improve solar cost-effectiveness and energy efficiency.

10:16 am, March 06, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TommyA said ...

This is an excellent article on reducing the energy footprint of your home. It covers the important aspect of the costs and savings.


http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/network/2004/12/03/grid.html

3:43 am, March 12, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clearly, California is trying to do what Germany and Japan have been doing for decades. The issue is the oil lobby in Washington which controls the White House. I wish Governor Arnie all the best of luck. Meantime, I bought myself a small solar charger for my RV through Camping World and I will not only save the expense, noise, pollution and headache of a generator, I'll also spend more quality time with my grandkids..!

11:29 pm, April 22, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the dangerously efficient
descriptions of their products by Clear Dome Solar. Now someone needs to make a less efficient
version of the heat concentrator
that can just quickly boil my teapot.
I'll use it on the countertop instead of turning on a gas burner.

TW

3:38 pm, June 28, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd support this act.

I myself have recently set up a Solar Panel array with a synchronous inverter. It's going to cost me a little more than pure reliance on the grid, but I believe my contribution will be well worth it.

We should all do what we can.

12:45 pm, August 03, 2005  

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