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Green jobs, red ink

Johnson Controls Company has installed a 1.1 megawatt photovoltaic green gadget on a convention center in Orange County.  It is a marvel of engineering, and that’s no lie.  You can read about it here.  You have to do a bit more plundering around to find the price tag, which came in at $8.8 million.  That’s $8 million per installed megawatt of generation.

This begins to give us some idea of the eye-popping cost of Mr. Obama’s economy of green jobs.  Photovoltaic systems have, at best, only about a 30 percent capacity factor, which means they produce on average about 30 percent of the nameplate rated capacity.  It’s not hard to see why: They produce nothing at night or on heavily clouded days and have reduced output at morning and dusk.  All this means you must install just over 3 megawatts of capacity for every 1 megawatt of reliable production you actually need.  Then add to this the cost of necessary energy storage systems to get you through the night and their related inefficiencies.  If you want enough reliable solar generating capacity to displace old-fashioned baseload generation, you’ll have to pay well above $24 million per megawatt.

Compare that to the cost of new nuclear generation which is coming in at a turnkey cost of around $8.5 million per megawatt with a 90 percent capacity factor.

In my dreams, the utility CEOs all get together and tell America, “We can build any kind of generating plants you like. If you want coal power, fine, but please remember your president has promised to tax us into bankruptcy if we burn coal.  To speak honestly with you, if we go bankrupt, your lights will go out, which is why the law already allows us to pass those costs on to you.  So we won’t go bankrupt from burning coal, though you might.  If you want power from nuclear plants, your bill will go up a few percent, and we’ll have to do something about Harry Reid.  If you want electric power from solar energy, that’d be awesomely cool and no problem for us, but it will triple your power bill.  Let us know what you decide, America, and we’ll get started right away building whatever you want.  You can decide, of course, that we should build nothing.  Just realize this means eventual darkness, though as Charles Dickens said of Mr. Scrooge, ‘Darkness was cheap, and Scrooge liked it.’  Good night, and God bless.”

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