Tuesday, July 28, 2015

and you get a solar panel, and you get a solar panel, and you...

Potential Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pledged to install half a billion solar panels if elected President in a video that I think misguided, but I'll leave arguing that for a Cold Air post. [1]
The number of pledged panels, and historical reality of the solar incentives being regressive, made me think the fairest, and most educational, way to distribute hundreds of millions of solar panels would be to give each American a solar panel.
An Oprah distribution - but with PV instead of cars because, ya' know, green.

What would people do with their panel commodity?
My guess is most wouldn't want to become generators, but to sell the equipment.

In Ontario, the IESO recently put out a 2016 Price Review questionnaire asking special interests (a.k.a. stakeholders) question about adjustments to what has been, for consumers, an utterly disastrous Feed-in Tariff (FiT) program. This caught my eye in relation to Hillary's PV dreams and the valuation of panels following an Oprah distribution:
There have been stakeholder requests to increase the FIT DC/AC overbuild ratio beyond 120%. Please provide information about the additional generation which can be achieved by building projects that exceed the 120% limit. How should an increased overbuild limit impact the price? If there were no overbuild limit, what would the ideal overbuild ratio be? What would the percentage increase in generation be for this ratio vs 120%?
It appears power purchase agreements (in this case FIT) have value, but it's not clear that solar panels themselves do. [2]

Ontarians should be extremely concerned the contractor of supply - in the case of FITs always superfluous supply at that - asks these questions of the special interests that lobby it:
  • What are the costs of capital (both debt and equity) required to develop a renewable energy generation project...
  • Do the current FIT prices allow a renewable energy developer to earn a reasonable rate of return? If no...
  • What prices would you recommend for 2016, in $/kWh, for each technology and size tranche and why?
  • The IESO is seeking submissions that include specific cost data with respect to... factors which influence the levelized cost of electricity for the various technologies and size tranches...
  • For solar PV: What will the effect be, if any, of the Canada Border Services Agency’s recently imposed tariffs on solar panels manufactured by certain Chinese suppliers?
The entity responsible for contracting supply (at the government's whimsical direction) doesn't appear to know the cost of capital, whether existing contract holders are making money, what value to put on supply, and is yet to recognize LCOE is an inappropriate measure of supply value - particularly intermittent variable wind and solar supply.

It's probably cheaper to just do an Oprah distribution and hope for the best.


Brad Plumer wrote on Hillary Clinton's proposals at Vox:
...her campaign has put out a four-page fact sheet hinting at a few broad steps:
  1. First, Clinton would veto any attempts by Republicans in Congress to scrap Obama's Clean Power Plan. This is mostly a defensive maneuver.
  2. Next, she'd push to extend those federal tax credits for wind and solar that are slated to expire in the coming years. (The 30 percent tax credit for rooftop solar will shrink dramatically in 2016.) This part seems crucial, but it would also depend entirely on Congress. It's not something Clinton could do by herself. And note that many lawmakers would prefer to let these tax credits sunset, so this step is hardly guaranteed.
  3. Clinton also wants to set up a "Clean Energy Challenge" that would give states and communities incentives to go even further than EPA's carbon standards...One component? A "Solar X-prize" to reward communities that figure out how to speed up solar installation times...
  4. Clinton also has a smattering of proposals to boost public investment in clean energy R&D, expand transmission lines, and accelerate clean-energy deployment on public lands.
  5. Finally, Clinton calls for assistance to coal communities that will inevitably suffer if coal keeps declining in favor of cleaner alternatives...
It's not clear these policies alone would get the US to 33 percent renewables. We'll need a lot more detail here.
Looks like she'll have plenty of opportunity to let these pledges go unfulfilled - like that $100 billion Copenhagen promise she reportedly made in 2009.

Last July I wrote Estimating Production from Ontario's solar panels, and as far as I know I still provide the best regular estimates of the province's contracted solar generation - primarily because it's the only one. However, in late March the 100 megawatt FIT contracted Grand Renewable solar farm started showing on the IESO's output and capability reporting - indicating an hourly output of 95 megawatts on March 28th. Assuming the "AC" build is the contracted 100MW, the capacity factor was 22% in April, 26% in May and June and has been 29% for the first 27 days of July. I leave it to others to speculate on how much that capacity factor may be boosted by a 20% DC overbuild.

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