On a recent visit to Germany, this writer was impressed by the many solar panel installations on private homes, and even more so by the many wind turbines in the countryside What stood out was that the wind mills were churning away apparently day and night, rain or shine, whereas there was a lot of overcast sky during June
and I wondered about the harvest from the solar panels. But under overcast sky there was still surprising visibility and air clarity that allowed long distance views, meaning that under such skys there was still a good percentage of solar energy available even at this rather northern latitude (Frankfurt at 50 N). It convinced me that wherever there are wind fields, wind turbines can provide a substantial amount of rather reliable energy, while solar seems to be more iffy.
The great advantage of solar is, however, that it is produced at the site of consumption and that it does not need an extra transportation network. In the past we had only a network of distributed individual consumers. Now solar energy collection turns all these consumers also into producers. This is a very exciting development and one wonders why it took so long to catch on. Here, in the southeastern U.S., low latitude (Knoxville at 36 N) and heat are advantages for solar energy collection whereas air clarity may be a problem. But to beat solar heat by solar heat is certainly a more intelligent approach than the expensive and destructive processes now in use.
It seems that in North America, Canada, and specifically, Ontario,
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may lead the way (Ottawa 45 N). What gets solar technology going is the political framework that has been laid by Ontario’s Green Energy Act. Its key provision is the price offered to producers over a sufficiently long write-off period (20 years). Roof installations of up to 10 kW are promised Can$0.8/kWh or about 10-times of what an end-consumer is charged here in Knoxville for energy from coal and nuclear sources. For larger roof installations producers get Can$0.54 to Can$0.71/kWh. For large solar farms, Can$0.44 to Can$0.29/kWh are offered. It is
expected that by 2015, 6 GW solar and other green capacity is installed and by 2025 it is 25 GW (conventional TVA capacity is about 30 GW). Let’s face it, the price that TVA charges for its power (about $0.1/kWh) is a politically low price, whereas Ontario’s Green Energy Act reimbursements are politically high prices. TVA with its politically low prices has not been able to pay off its nuclear debts incurred in the 1970s, and it has not been able to eliminate air and water pollution since the beginning of its fossil production some 60 years ago. In other words, TVA does not charge the full price for the conventional power it presently produces.
In areas in the U.S. where people are served by private producers, with a few exceptions, consumers pay considerably more for their conventional electricity than in the TVA area. The high rates offered to solar energy producers should be considered transitional to encourage a major shift from one technology to another, a sort of “cash for clunkers”program, where solar stands for cars and coal for clunkers.
See also www.investinontario.com. WOW