Big City Solar – Expensive or a Bargain?


I recently had an opportunity to hear Richard Perez speak on the question about solar PV: is it too expensive?

I have been exploring the issue of whether solar makes economic sense in the city for quite some time by getting quotes for solar arrays on a city apartment’s rooftop, talking to people in the biz, reading numerous articles, and generally keeping my ears open. My first results were not encouraging: all installers I contacted came back saying with the small amount of space further trimmed by the Fire Department regulation, the array would be so tiny on my 300sf roof they weren’t interested in taking on the job.

Dr. Perez argues a pretty good case. His calculations, which you can find below, show that all costs considered, from R&D, environmental, job creation, grid security, taxes, etc., solar is cheaper than fossil fuel.

Here are a few key points:

* Solar has smart grid built into it – it is the only energy source whose generating capacity increases exactly when demand is at its highest – hot summer days

* Solar is great for utilities as it is available on demand

* Solar is an energy breeder. In the 30 year life span of a panel, it can generate 10 times more energy than was used to produce it

* Distributed solar systems will dramatically reduce transmission and distribution costs

* Power outages cost taxpayers $100-200 billion per year – a well designed solar-integrated grid will bring significant savings and grid stability

Admittedly, this case is made on a large scale solar PV deployment and doesn’t answer the question of a city dweller who wants to use solar. So, can I really go solar in the city?

The answer is yes, but in order for this to happen, Dr. Perez argues, what we need is legislation. He mentions net metering, RECs, grants, tax breaks. I would add to this that a building code requiring use of renewables on new construction would help things move in the right direction as well.

For now, the most effective tool in the box is the feed-in tariff. These are available in many solar-friendly places throughout the world including Germany, Spain, Ontario, Florida, California, Maine, and Hawaii. Find out if your state offers FITs here and if it doesn’t, time to call your congressman!

Click here to view the full report by Dr. Richard Perez

Article by Kate Shifman, appearing courtesy Solar in The City.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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