Can Residential Solar Be Competitive Next Year?

One CEO thinks so

(Green Car Reports) Solar power for your home has been around a long time, but for many homeowners, it’s required subsidies, special financing arrangements, and still delivered long payback periods.

That’s changing fast, according to the CEO of a major Texas electric utility.

David Crane, who runs NRG Energy, says that in fully half the states of the union, electricity from residential solar panels will be cost-competitive with that delivered by local electric utilities by next year.

Crane was quoted two weeks ago in a blog post by Navigant Research, which focused on his company’s aggressive efforts to migrate to solar power for a growing portion of its portfolio.

That would be quite exciting if it could be competitive. Long time readers know that one of the things I’ve advocated for a long time is alternatives like solar and wind on a small scale, particularly for small buildings, like homes. There are multiple reasons, such as the ability to store captured energy in batteries within the domicile. I am not a fan of putting panels on homes which feed back into the grid. Quite frankly, I think it is a rip off, with the consumer getting hosed, and little in return. But, to have affordable panels feeding power into buildings, even without storage capacity, would be a boon, particularly if time of cost return is short, would be excellent.

Just to be clear, my support has nothing to do with “climate change”, but saving on natural resources and saving personal money. Eventually, things like this could a) reduce our reliance on coal and fossil fuels, and b) help out with reducing the load and issues around the power grid.

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9 Responses to “Can Residential Solar Be Competitive Next Year?”

  1. Mike G. says:

    I just checked on solar for our 16×20 cabin and they wanted 25 grand for the setup. That also included being hooked up to the grid. Hell, that’s more than I have in the land and building the cabin.

    Also, the problem with solar eventually paying off is that near the payoff, the solar panels are ready to be replaced.

  2. Kevin says:

    The way they are making solar power ‘competitive’ is by giving tax breaks and incentives, while increasing taxes on other fuels. That’s not truly competition. That’s making non-solar users pay for other people’s solar power.

  3. bob sykes says:

    The capacity factor for solar is probably around 20% for most locales, and wind is likely 10%. Every kW of solar/wind requires a kW of fossil fuel backup, and so solar/wind is parasitic on the existing generation/distribution system.

    Solar is about an order of magnitude more expensive than regular commercial power, and the amount of energy available will not sustain a modern household, although it might suffice for small power demands during emergency conditions.

    Wind is more expensive than solar because the capital investment is higher.

    There is no way to maintain a modern lifestyle without large electrical generating stations and extensive distribution networks. If you hate carbon dioxide (foolishly) then support nuclear.

    Disconnecting from the grid is a delusion.

  4. Jim says:

    For solar to be competitive, there are a few things that need to occur:

    1. Price of panels has to come waaaayyyy down.
    2. Durability of the panels has to go waaaayyyy up.
    3. Efficiency of solar panels needs to be significantly improved so it doesn’t take an entire roof to provide 50% of a house’s power (if you’re lucky).

    All three are getting serious research, but I don’t see anyway current research will be on the market in a year. Better estimates are 5 to 10 years down the road.

  5. Jay says:

    I’d love to see solar panels become cost effective. But … about 5 years ago I looked into the cost of putting solar panels on my roof. Assuming that manufacturer’s claims of the amount of power they produce are accurate, and assuming that the solar panels require zero maintenance for life, it would take 30 years to recovery my investment. I rather suspect they produce less power than advertised: I take it for granted that the seller of a product will overstate its good points. And yes, solar panels don’t have moving parts to wear out, but they do deteriorate over time, and they are always subject to damage from falling tree branches, high winds, animals chewing through wires, etc.

    So okay, I understand that in the last few years the cost of solar panels has plummeted, and that’s great. So what is the payback period now? Really any payback longer than 5 years or so and I’m still better off to, instead of paying to buy solar panels, to put that money into the stock market and use the returns to pay my electric bills.

    On the plus side: As others have pointed out, solar power is unreliable, and so you always need a backup power source. But real life works to our advantage here: A substantial percentage of the electricity use in the U.S. is for air conditioning. A/C is needed most when it’s sunny out. When it’s sunny out, solar should work. Yes, I know it’s not that simple, it can be cloudy and still be hot, etc, but the probabilities are in the right direction.

  6. Saturday morning links

    Greedy Group to Sue Chief Wahoo for $9 Billion #InstagrammingAfrica: The Narcissism of Global Voluntourism A pic of ENIAC Ted Dalrymple (Anthony Daniels, MD) takes a look at the Brit underclass Transgender kindergarteners allowed to pick bath

  7. DirtyJobsGuy says:

    Like all guys into “renewables” the NRG CEO has a scheme related to leveraging subsidies. His plan is not really about solar but by selling you a very expensive solar and in-house natural gas generator (a stirling engine which is kinda cool). So like every other solar scheme, not much solar but plenty of backup. In his case he says the natural gas distribution grid will take over from the electric grid. The driver is that state and federal regulators have put lots of requirements for % renewables and no one is truly compliant. You can get away with murder in this environment.

  8. In my most recent mailing from the city, I notice they are pushing — residential solar installations. Not from the city, but a NGO. This is in the coastal Pacific Northwest. We are still glorying in a few days of sun. Everyone at the grocery store remarks about it — “I can’t believe it’s nearly July.” Translated: This is Summer? I don’t have numbers, but days of clear skies and sun are so uncommon that people talk about it. The weather guys on the radio talk of “sunbreaks.” I believe the Chinese are oversupplied with solar panels because everyone else is getting out of solar. Our climate is like England’s lots of rain and clouds. Payback time for a panel and installation probably exceeds the life-span of the panel. I remain suspicious.

  9. Mikel says:

    Pick low hanging fruit first! Reduce your energy demands before sizing a Solar PV system.

    1. Solar Air – AKA Passive Solar. Highest solar efficiency. lowest cost.
    2. Solar Water – Closed Loop/Open Loop systems – Less efficiency. Low to medium cost.

    I’m looking at an open-loop solar water system to put on my South-facing wall. Featured in Mother Earth News and Builditsolar.com. This system can capture the BTU equivalent of two gallons of propane a day during the Winter.

    Rule of thumb – heat with air, store with water.

    3. Solar Photovoltaic – With/without battery grid-tied/off-grid systems. These solar panels were created using cheap Nuclear power.

    “The most expensive electricity you will ever pre-purchase” – Steven Harris

    “You know what’s more expensive than solar PV? No electricity” – Steven Harris

    Eventually I will have a small Solar PV and several micro-wind turbines but only after I get my generator, battery backup, and Solar water systems working.

    I recommend both Solar1234.com and Builditsolar.com

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