This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.
It would be a real eye opener if someone were to factor the actual cost of these solar panels, without subsidy including the prime of the price paid for retrofitting the grid, plus the cost of wear on the strained power lines. Adding the factor of the estimated wear over time and the cost of upgrading the power system to be able to contend with this.
Having said that.... maybe not such an eye opener, since the greenies would just deny somehow the facts.
I do support the so called 'green technologies'. I do believe, however, that there is an application for each, depending on the scenario, and many factors to consider in how they are utilized. Some or many of these factors are not as apparent as to allow just anyone (specially politicians) to account for them them beforehand.
It is certain that the way most of these technologies have been applied has not involved all the stakeholders in within the range of effect. Nor the people whose operations would be affected consulted.
Once upon not so long ago I tried to retrofit the grid generating energy from a waste incinerator (the waste had to be burned for reasons I do not need to discuss here and the energy was going to be wasted anyway). I got an ear full from the people controlling the grid in the area. Either you go constant on the generation or don't go at all, was one of the many replies.
Needless to say that the governor was on board with the project as his green status would have been upgraded to 'pioneer'. Luckily, I had the common sense to ask the power company operators for advise before anything was modified.
An interesting law (well, OK, not that interesting) in Germany stipulates that the first chunk of national generating capacity has to come from renewables. In the east, renewables have got to such a level (almost 25% I think) that the conventional power stations are constantly being switched off and on again, with the minute-to-minute vagaries of the wind blowing. Of course they can't actually do it fast enough.
If you don't have a convenient mountain with a reservoir at the top of it, this is always going to be a problem. So if we're going to go down this route, we need some kind of local storage for the stuff. A network of subterranean flywheels under every city?
I often look at the NETA page which lists sources of power.
Today I saw something I've never seen before...
Open Cycle Gas Turbines, (OCGT,) generating power!
These are present because they can reach full operating capacity within about 15 minutes. They are an emergency standby for when wind drops out unexpectedly.
Combined Cycle take about 15 minutes for the Gas Turbine to come on line & about an hour for the Steam Turbine.
I suppose it's worth mentioning in this thread what the British solution is to this self-inflicted problem, which is to pay the renewable energy suppliers (at least in the case of relatively big suppliers like windfarm operators) to turn off their supply. The total payments expected to be paid in 2011 (for not producing electricity) are £10 million according to this article:
Apparently these payments have been much more modest in previous years, for example just under £200K in 2010, but the payments have increased in size dramatically this year.
As I understand it, there has always been some inherent capability in the grid to handle some intermittency like a 1GW size power station suddenly becoming unavailable, and it may be that the amount of intermittent renewable energy has this year gone past the critical point of being able to take advantage of the existing back-up power arrangements.
The article attributes the substantial increase in payments to some sort of administrative change, so it could be Chis Huhne finding a way of giving his renewable energy supplier friends even more money, or it could be some strange tactic in the 'grid needs to be modernised to accommodate renewable energy' agenda.
According to the Times (via the GWPF site) the final figure for the amount of money paid out to UK wind farm operators for NOT producing electricity in 2011 was £25 million, quite a bit higher than the £10 million estimate I quoted in my previous post.