The lunacy of solar power

Three months ago on my blog I reported on the first quarter’s experience of solar power, on my 2.4 kw system at home.

During the worst quarter of the year for sunshine, Nov 25th to Feb 25th, the system delivered an (annualised) return on capital of 1.6%.  Naturally I expected better in the spring quarter Feb 25th to May 25th, and I was not disappointed.  Indeed we’ve had the sunniest spring for a long time, and in the second quarter the system delivered around five times the output for the winter quarter.  On that basis, we’re looking at an annualised return of 5.1% over the first six months, or 8.4% over the spring quarter.

I estimate that by the year end we could be looking at an annual return of around 5.5%.

But that is based on the absurdly over-generous “Feed-In Tariffs” offered at the government’s behest by the power companies — which of course are reflected in higher electricity prices for everyone else.

A unit of electricity typically costs around 3.5p to generate, and households can buy it straight from the power company for typically 10p a unit.  Yet the subsidy on home-made solar power amounts to close on 50p a unit.

So my projected annual return of 5.5% based on the feed-in tariff is really just 1.1% if you rate it at the 10p purchase price off the grid, and only a derisory 0.39% based on the raw production cost in a proper power station.

The whole Feed-In Tariff structure is hugely wasteful and pointless, and the only good news is that the rate of Feed-In Tariff will be scaled back from March next year (for new installations), while the government is actively looking to curtail subsidies for large-scale units.

This scheme fits in with the UK’s ruinous plans for an 80% emissions reduction by 2050 (which we could only achieve if we returned to an agrarian society, where every man had one acre and a cow — and even then the emissions from the cows would be a problem).  We are actively incentivising the most expensive and least efficient forms of energy generation, and landing ourselves and our children with the world’s most expensive electricity.  Not a smart move.

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8 Responses to The lunacy of solar power

  1. Andrew Shakespeare says:

    Even with the fed-in tariffs, it would take 18 years to recover your investment.

  2. Sue says:

    I must admit, I am looking into solar (naturally living in the Costa del Sol), but I’m not hearing good things, even here!

    I don’t understand why somebody can’t think of a better way to collect solar energy.

    • Problem is, Sue, sunlight and wind have a huge amount of embedded energy. But it’s highly diffuse. So you need rather large structures to collect a useful amount — and even then, it’s unpredictable and intermittent. And the structures are very expensive (and contain a great deal of embedded energy!).

  3. James A. Hutchinson says:

    It’s time Chris Huhne and the rest of the Eco warriors were told to stick their wind-farms where the sun doesn’t shine , forgive the pun , but that applies to solar power also .

  4. Adding insult to injury: the feed-in tariffs are inflation adjusted, and increased by 2p a unit from April 1st.

  5. Hugh Davis says:

    The situation could get very nasty for the Government if next winter is a cold one. The probable 15% increase in energy bills is going to “push the poorest members of society over the edge”
    When millions of the population are having to choose between starvation and hypothermia, and when they finally understand this is because of the Government’s lunatic “green” energy policies and subsidies, there will be riots on a French (or even Greek) scale.

  6. James A. Hutchinson says:

    Well said , Hugh Davis .
    Today Scottish Power said price increases were comming in at a staggering 19% for their gas and a further 10% for electricity ! This is nothing short of extortion ! How on earth can these increases be justified ? I am not with this company for my energy needs but I am certain that all the power companies will fall into line , give or take a percentage , so we will all have to pay yet again . I’m not sure that there will be riots in this country , look how the exhorbitant fuel ,ie , petrol and diesel , prices continue to affect our daily lives in everything we buy . The blockading of the refineries that was foretold fell by the wayside like a damp squib . Had this happened in France , ports ,roads and refineries would have been blockaded at the drop of a ” beret .” The population of this country are far too complacent to act , even when it’s in their own interest .

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