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Comment: Re:Yes, it does. The light either hits corn or pan (Score 1) 237

by radl33t (#48148493) Attached to: Can the Sun Realistically Power Datacenters?
This assumes that plant growth is limited by direct solar radiation (and not say total radiation or some other environmental variable, e.g. water, temperature, humidity, ???) Is this a true assumption? Do you have a citation for this assumption? It has sparked my curiosity.

I believe 1) it is likely there are circumstances for which this is not true 2) this has probably been characterized 3) it could be leveraged in the design of solar farming installations that in fact produce more than either would alone.

Comment: Re:At least the infrastructure is in place (Score 1) 237

by radl33t (#48148463) Attached to: Can the Sun Realistically Power Datacenters?
My borrowing rate on HELOC 3.95% at 25 years

System 2kW for me gives net zero annually (~2000-2400 kWh/yr) (1200kWh/yr-kWDC Minneapolis, MN)
DIY = $1.31 WDC or Installer = $2.50 WDC
Total costs range $3,050 - $5,450 depending on whether you allow me to do it myself (my utility does...) or I have to pay a guy to screw racks into my roof and plug and play panels...

HELOC payment = $192 - 342/yr
Electric Bill = $96-fixed - 2400kWh*0.147 (avg self consumption rate e.g. money I save from utility) = $-257/yr.
Without any incentives, if I DIY install my system and only pay for interconnection ($900-included) I am cash flow positive from day 1 with IRR of ~5%.
Claiming 30% federal tax credit, DIY IRR = 7.6%
Claiming 10% (after 2016) DIY IRR = 5.8%
Hiring a guy and taking fed tax credit IRR = 3.5%

These are all great returns compared to other possibilities in a diversified portfolio. And they are understated. My electric rates increase at an annualized rate of 1.9%. If I was a business (maybe as a homeowner?) I could access accelerated depreciation (20%/yr), which would significantly improve my rate of return. I might also leverage state incentives to improve my rate of return.

There are a few assumptions, but they don't change IRR, only how much I hassle my utility and installer...

Comment: Re:Obligatoriness Extraordinaire (Score 1) 237

by radl33t (#48148309) Attached to: Can the Sun Realistically Power Datacenters?
Molten salt solar thermal is most definitely an experimental technology, in fact perpetually experimental because we've been trying to make it work for decades. Many gave up about 5 years ago due to declining costs of PV. There may be some value in the storage component, but it is most likely too expensive. The largest US SW solar thermal projects have been shuttered or converted to PV in recent years due to cost. Solana type projects are still in the pipeline due to contractual obligations...

You overstate the solar thermal pipeline in AZ. The PV pipeline is larger. And I would expect, as with other large projects, that additional CSP will be canceled in favor of cheap PV. There is vastly more PV installed and planned when considering smaller projects and total solar output.

Comment: Re:Why are slashdotters such idiots on this issue? (Score 1) 395

They simply cannot fathom that the world is changing around them re: the cost and performance of batteries and PV. Surprisingly for a technical site, slashdot is home to the most dated thinking, facts, and arguments I encounter on these topics.

Comment: Re:What an absurd argument (Score 1) 610

by radl33t (#48143027) Attached to: Wind Power Is Cheaper Than Coal, Leaked Report Shows
I'm afraid you are the one who doesn't get it. But if you have any interest in conquering your abject ignorance, I think any text from a high school business class would do. Maybe international business.

Frankly if you can't (or are unwilling to) understand my previous comment, then you are ill equipped to make even the most rudimentary financial argument or evaluate solar energy business decisions. You neglect the time value of money. You neglect the cost of capital and the consequences of debt, and effectively you neglect the purpose of just about every corporate charter ever created. You neglect the that the cost of fossil fuel alternatives are highly variable in time and geography, incentive structures are highly variable in time and geography, politics are variable in time and geography. You neglect the value of maintaining business relationships, brand development, and building out new markets. You neglect that coal isn't even available to the third largest economy on earth. You also make a major faulty assumption in that solar panel manufactures have access to the cheapest installations. Modules comprise somewhere on the order of 15 to 30% of modern installation costs. Most of the costs are outside of the expert domain of a module manufacturer. Ergo your simple-minded demands are irrelevant.

As an aside hundreds of solar facilities around the world are augmented by solar power.

Is it really that difficult for you to understand the return on equity for a business can be higher elsewhere than at home?

Comment: Re:What an absurd argument (Score 1) 610

by radl33t (#48139537) Attached to: Wind Power Is Cheaper Than Coal, Leaked Report Shows
1. This is a weird requirement because the embodied energy of solar panels is quite low, requiring 6mo to 1.5 year to payback. There is no hypocrisy here. Only some narrow ideological requirement that fails to account for the existence of variances in global markets, business realities, existing energy agreements, and basic common sense.

However the real issue with your arbitrary ideological requirements is business related.

(a) Power production and equipment manufacturing require very different business models. It is no secret that while many solar installations are cash flow positive, they take a long time to generate profits. Yet they take a large amount of initial capital to build out. On the other hand, large scale solar manufacturing is new and evolving quickly and capital expenditures are needed for expansion and continually modernizing equipment. Basically, there isn’t enough equity for most manufacturers to tap for the construction of their own power facilities on top of manufacturing requirements. Goining into heavy, leveraged debt to satisfy some arbitrary ideological requirement is not good business.

(b) Financing aside, even if they could say, throw in a 2-4 GW installation to “power themselves,” which is absolutely feasible by the way, it would be a disaster to sacrifice your year's production in an expanding industry where client retention and market share are key.

(c) Also since the cost of alternative generation varies by location, it should be no surprise that solar panels prices vary by local. It would be a terrible business decision to sell a panel to yourself (at cash cost $0.47 $/W), when you can sell it to a project developer at 0.58 $/W or a project developer in a FiT market for $0.64 $/W, or because the EU is insane, at a “minimum” price of 0.74 $/W to EU member countries. This isn’t how you make money...

In short it seems ridiculous to require solar manufacturers to some how forgo ruthelss capitalism in markets where their competitors are ... ruthless capitalists.

Incidentally, 6 or 7 of the 8 largest solar manufacturers are moving into plant ownership. Because, as you suggested, they have the ability to build the lowest cost plants. These plants however are not co-located with manufacturing facilities, mainly due to reasons (b). Of course, it is not easy to springboard into such capital intensive business segments so it is moving slow. They are implementing a variety of strategies including 1) YieldCos (separate sub-entities with access to low cost capital) 2) raising capital from private markets 3) JVs with investment banks and other financial firms.

So in conclusion it does look as though solar manufactuers will also be utilities. In that, as of right now, they are aiming to own several GW of their own production. Given the fat project pipelines in Japan, China, India, and ME, as well as the fact leading module producers are generating 15-20% GM in non-subsidized markets and targeting 0.4 $/W by the end of 2015, I would not bet against them.

Comment: Re:Cheaper? Cheaper means only one thing. (Score 1) 610

by radl33t (#48139373) Attached to: Wind Power Is Cheaper Than Coal, Leaked Report Shows
You are right. That is how people think, in part, because the utilities trained us think this way: the final unvarying retail rate of electricity. This will backfire and kill utilities 1) the retail rate target is a lot easier to match than actual generation costs. In fact, wind and solar are presently less than retail rates without government subsidies for 1000's GW+ of grid connections and quickly extending their lead 2) do to new business models, financing for dg resources is now competitive with financing for large utility projects.

Ergo, distributed renewables offering amortized electricity rates less than retail + tax ($ 0.136/kWh in my "low cost" midwestern state) are cashflow positive. Given that a household will spend $20-30k on electricity over a generation, distributed production is a rock solid investment, a wonderful asset diversification, and an excellent hedge against the inevitable climb of energy prices.

As a side note, we can pay 1.00 $/100kWh (a token amount) for wind energy and it is a fairly popular program.

Comment: Re:I have a question ... (Score 1) 610

by radl33t (#48139299) Attached to: Wind Power Is Cheaper Than Coal, Leaked Report Shows
This is active research by people who do things instead of offering ignorant internet speculation. In fact, as a physicist, I'd expect you to find overwhelming evidence contrasting your speculation in less time than it took to write your comment. By one metric, energy payback time, EBPT, new wind and solar generate their equivalent embodied energy in less than a year. Embarrassing.

To thine own self be true. (If not that, at least make some money.)

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