Umm, Hillary–500 Million Solar Panels?

According to Time, “Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Sunday made tackling climate change one of her key goals were she to enter the White House, pledging to have more than half a billion solar panels installed nationwide by the end of her first term in office.”

I’m a Democrat. Hillary Clinton autographed  my copy of her book. (Bill Clinton autographed my copy of his book, too.) I think Barack Obama will be remembered as one of our finest presidents once he’s safely out of office. In all probability I will vote for Hillary in 2016.

I’m a fan of Hillary Clinton.

I’m a huge fan of solar power. I worked in the industry and have written reports saying it has a glowing future, something I firmly believe. I actually believe that solar power can and probably will rescue us from the worst of global warming, starting around 2075.

I’m a fan of solar power.

But 500 million?

There were 123 million households in the U.S. in 2012, according to the Census Bureau.

Energy Star says there are 5.6 million commercial buildings in the U.S. and 346,000 industrial facilities.

The federal government owns 900,000 buildings.

That totals 130 million buildings, not counting buildings owned by state and local governments. Or churches.

That means that every building in America will have to have 3.84 solar panels on it.

Here are 34 of them:

solar panels

I dunno. Maybe she meant modules, not panels?

I’m not a fan of pie in the sky promises that are pretty obviously undeliverable.

And in four years?

In 2007, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger introduced the California Solar Initiative with the goal of putting solar panels on 1 million California homes. Eight years later they’re at 247,060 solar projects, a good number of which predated the Initiative.

I don’t think the current subsidy structure could handle the increased volume. I’d like to know how lower than average income home owners will afford this. I’d like to know how the 30% of homes that are rented are going to negotiate between landlord and tenant.

President Obama was kneecapped by the climate activists when he came into office, forced to push the Waxman Markey Cap and Trade bill, which turned into a pork-laden monstrosity. This new initiative would do the same thing to Hillary.

I would hate to see Hillary Clinton run on a platform that includes unrealistic projections of solar growth. It would give Trump or whomever too much easy ammunition.

I’m not a fan of pushing the market faster than it can bear, nor of distorting it with budget busting tax rebates and cash subsidies.

I demand a recount!


14 responses to “Umm, Hillary–500 Million Solar Panels?

  1. What is the difference between a module and a panel?
    Looking at that picture I would have said that is 34 panels.

  2. It would be more productive to paint the roofs white. The link between democrat fund raising and solar cell scams is well established.

  3. Maybe she meant individual little solar panels like the 2w panels I ordered from China to power an experimental robot car. As it turns out they are intended to make the car look green. The real power comes from a battery. The battery gets charged from the grid.

  4. As one considers Ms. Clinton in context, I think it is clear who one of her closest advisers must be:

  5. Off topic : zeke h. wrote a paper about natural gas versus coal emissions,

    “Bounding the climate viability of natural gas as a bridge fuel to displace coal”

    and I left this comment at Watt’s for him:

    Zeke: Excellent paper, this was badly needed. I have a suggestion for a follow up paper:

    As you know, renewables suffer from intermittency problems, they require fast reacting load followers be ready as solar and wind reduce power generation. The best solution seems to be converting hydro to take up the load (that’s what’s done in Spain, where hydro has been reduced to serve as a huge power reserve to make up for solar and wind shortfalls).

    The next best alternative is fast start gas turbines, and combined cycle turbines set up for relatively fast load changes.

    The issue to be researched would be the ability to use a combination wind, solar, and gas turbine power system. if you get the wind power delivery curves for a set of West Texas wind farms and couple that to a simulated gas turbine and combined cycle gas turbines, and a small solar power component to shave off the midday summer time peaks you may find out the answer. In a sense, the wind and solar would serve as emission reduction facilities.

    i think the key is to use variable proportions of wind and solar to optimize the cost and forcing functions, but I think the overall effort to do this in a truly optimized fashion would require something like 20 man years. So if you want to follow it up with another paper along the proposed lines I would keep it simple.

    By the way, what I have seen thus far tells me that, with existing technology and cost structures, a switch to zero carbon is impossible. A lot of researchers and media types focus on the USA and forget the rest of the world. And other nations just like the wealth to indulge in this renewable solar and wind emphasis. They just lack the money, and the USA lacks the money to donate to carry humanity on its back. So that zero carbon emphasis is naive (I’m being kind).

    The obvious escape hatch is geoengineering. But I notice there’s an almost religious mania opposing geoengineering research. Such an attitude is amazing when we think about all the uncertainty and possibility that global warming may turn out to be a non issue in 30 years.”

    I didn’t want to toss in issues such as the ever increasing natural gas prices we should experience over the next 30 years, and other issues. But I do want to encourage a more comprehensive approach to these studies. So o figured I would use this comment to seek allies in my effort.

  6. Some quick back of the napkin calculations:

    1. If a single 500 W solar panel could be installed and tied into the grid for $500 each, then 500 million solar panels would cost $250 billion dollars over 4 years. ($ 63 billion dollars per year).This would be quite an expense for the American taxpayer, but by way of comparison, the Presidential election campaign is expected to cost $5 billion.
    2. 500 million solar panels at 500W each would have a total (maximum) generating capacity of 250 million kW.
    3. If 500 million of these solar panels could be relied on to produce electricity at half their rated capacity for 4 hours per day, they could produce 183,000 million kWh per year. (183 TWh/year).
    4. 1581 TWh/year (electric) is produced from coal in the US (2013)
    40 TWh/year (electric) is produced from wood burning in the US (2013)
    20 TWh/year (electric) is produced from burning other biomass in the US (2013)
    5. In other words, 500 million solar panels could displace about 11% of the CO2 produced by burning solid carbon-based fuels (coal, wood and other biomass) for electricity in the US. This is actually pretty significant.
    6. Coal, lignite, wood and other biomass produce between 0.34 – 0.41 kG CO2 per kWh when burned for electricity production. (0.37 kg CO2 /kwh used as mid point.)
    7. Fuel oil, Diesel, gasoline and other petroleum products produce between 0.25 – 0.28 kG CO2 per kWh when burned for electricity production. (0.27 kg CO2 /kwh used as mid point, which is a 28% reduction over solid carbon-based fuels.) Converting half the existing electricity generating plants which burn solid carbon fuels to liquid petroleum fuels would displace 14% of the CO2 , as well as reducing SOx, solid emissions and other pollutiants. I believe that this, along with solar PV could bring US CO2 emissions below 1970 levels, at least for electricity production.
    8. Natural gas produces about 0.20 kG CO2 per kWh when burned for electricity production, which is a 46% reduction over solid carbon-based fuels. This must be part of the ultimate solution.

  7. Doug,
    Interesting analysis. And at first glance appears to be based on reasonable assumptions, so thank you.
    In your opinion what climate impact would be gained for the $250BN cost?

  8. Doug Johnston

    I think that the assumptions I made are reasonably accurate; I’ve based them on two sources, like Wikipedia and the EPA website, for instance, where they were in general agreement with each other, but these sources could have their own biases.
    The short answer to your question is that I think that the United States could solve its domestic CO2 problem, which I would define as reducing emissions to pre-1970 levels, for less than $250B, at least for industrial and residential uses. The biggest impediment to achieving that are the political pressures applied by Business and Environmental lobby groups, which Hillary, or any other American President for that matter, will find impossible to ignore, so it will never happen.
    However, I do not think that the earth’s climate is as sensitive to CO2 as most climate models suggest, so there might not that much of an effect on the climate. Nevertheless, I think it would be good to reduce overall atmospheric pollution, which would include CO2 reduction.

  9. Doug,
    I do think the numbers the EPA uses are bogus- their past chief climate person is in prison as a convicted, admitted fraud. Yet nothing at EPA was changed after he was busted.
    I think it is incredibly wasteful to include CO2 in the list of pollutants. It is clearly not a pollutant at current or even the higher end of anticipated levels.
    The problems of Wiki irt climate are well documented.
    However, I am not against solar per se; I only wish it would work without huge state subsidies and work as advertised.
    If we were going to commit $250BN to an energy solution, I would submit that all of us, from CO2 obsessed to Lukewarmer to hardcore skeptic, would be better off backing current generation nuclear power plants, developed to a national standard and built as to close to assembly line volumes as possible.
    If that would help the IMF and others to allow the third world to develop their energy grids by way of coal, we could all be better off.

  10. Doug Johnston

    I agree with everything you”ve said here, and perhaps my use of the word “pollution” to describe CO2 is a bit strong.
    However, and even thoough I think that the predictons of the dire consequences of CO2 in the atmosphere are likely hyperbole, at least at present levels, I think that continuing to produce it in ever increasing amounts is foolhardy. At some point it is likely to become a problem.
    In the United States, the easiest way to reduce the CO2 produced by the eletricity sector would be to limit the amount of electricity poduced by coal but I think that coal energy will (probably) always be part of the mix.
    I don’t agree that more energy from coal would be the best solution eveywhere in the third world.

  11. Doug,
    You make an important point about coal: The third world nations should be allowed to develop the energy sources for their national and economic advancement utilizing the resources most readily and economically available, utilizing the best practices for good stewardship of all of the resources, including the environment.

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