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San Ramon Valley Unified School District installs 10k photovoltaic panels at five schools

In a move that is proving to be controversial with some, some California school districts are looking to a high-tech way to save money, even if the payback won't be achieved until well over a decade later. CNN is reporting that some California school districts are looking to low-interest federal loans to install solar panels on schools.

CNN singled out the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, which has installed roughly 10,000 photovoltaic panels at five of its 35 total schools at a cost of $23 million. Under the most optimistic projections, the photovoltaic panels would offset energy usage at the schools by 67 to 75 percent. 

According to spokesman Terry Koehne, the San Ramon Valley Unified School District will pay back the loans courtesy of the energy savings from using the solar installations. However, this won't be a quick payback for the school system -- it will take roughly 16 years to break even on the photovoltaic panels.

Koehne, however, points to the upside of embarking on this expensive venture; "It's pure profit after that. And following that, we're going to start realizing savings of $2 (million), $3 (million), $4 million a year."

Like many schools across the nation, California schools are facing a serious budget crunch. Less money means fewer teachers, fewer teaching assistants, and more students per classroom. By making this move now, the school district is hoping that the future payoff will allow it use its resources more wisely. 

Lower production costs, thanks to stiff competition from Chinese companies, is causing a surge in the adoption of solar panels. One of the causalities of the race to the bottom in panel costs was Silicon Valley-based Solyndra. The company received a rushed $535 million loan courtesy of the Obama industry during 2009 in order to bolster its operations.

However, the company two years later filed for bankruptcy and axed over 1,000 employees. Interestingly, an email that was sent out before final approval of the loan was granted rightly projected that the company would run out of money by September 2011. 

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Bad economic analysis once more
By damania1 on 9/18/2011 3:49:22 PM , Rating: 1
The break even period will be half that (8 years). Inflation, speculator/investor/banker greed, oil and energy monopolies, bad public policy, and work unions will conspire to double or triple the cost of per kilowatt hour in the next 5 to 15 years.

Your choices are to keep feeding the establishment your hard earned money (and perhaps even your soul) or to break out into a better future and brighter options. Supporting the production and supply chain for alternative possibilities will reduce the costs of that chain, just as iPhones are $XXX, the subsidized cost of a barrel of oil is $XX, and the cost of food is $X.

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By dsx724 on 9/18/11, Rating: -1
RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By mindless1 on 9/18/2011 4:39:06 PM , Rating: 2
That's not thinking about the future, it's throwing away the future by wasting away the tax money that needed to reduce national debt, build jobs, build cost effective infrastructure.

It's a shell game. You take the tax money, funnel it into a program, waste it away in that program and then claim the debt rises and there have to be cutbacks in other programs.

Used to be, we didn't have this insane level of handouts. We do not have an energy crisis, we have boneheaded people who think they can just keep wasting more and more power then make someone else foot the bill.

Years ago it was crazy to drive 15K miles a year unless you were a traveling salesman, but today people cite numbers close to this as if it's "normal". No, it's wasteful, your needs are no greater today than humans that traveled under 2000 miles a year long ago.

Years ago people would listen to the radio, or other outdoor activites but now we have lights on, computer running, A/C, cell phone, and people actually have the nerve to think they are doing their part to recycle some newspaper, use a CFL light bulb, or encourage wasted money on solar panels.

NO! The answer is quite wasting resources, quit wasting tax money. Where do you think this tax money comes from? Do people not have to drive to work to earn this money? Is it not coming from using MORE energy? Using MORE resources for products made? Making the government MORE bloated and inefficient with every passing day?

NO! All these programs and government incentives are what ruined this country. If a brain dead school district thinks they are smart enough to decide to do this, it would follow they were smart enough with their money to fund this without a loan... but NO! It is not their money and not their debt so what do they care? Irresponsibility abounds.

In summary, if you want to invest in green tech, ok. Do it on your own dime so you are the only one gambling. That is thinking about the future, while funneling away more money we don't have is not.

We have to have a balanced budget and have to curtail all this BS to achieve that.

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By idiot77 on 9/18/11, Rating: -1
RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By FITCamaro on 9/18/2011 6:26:57 PM , Rating: 5
Well at least you admit you're an idiot.

Eliminating the entire defense budget would take us from a $1.5-1.6 trillion deficit to a $1-1.1 trillion deficit. COUNTRY SAVED!


Your post seems to think that the military is costing us around $3 trillion a year.

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By Odysseus145 on 9/18/11, Rating: -1
RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By FITCamaro on 9/18/2011 10:38:46 PM , Rating: 2
Are you fucking stupid? In 3 years with a $1-1.1 trillion DEFICIT we'd be $17+ trillion in debt. Not debt free.

DEFICIT = the amount of money in a year that the government spends more than it takes in

DEBT = the total amount of money from each years deficit added up.

What kind of fucking stupid insano math does your brain operate under?

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By undummy on 9/18/2011 11:31:10 PM , Rating: 4
That stoopid insano math would be "liberal public school math taught by union teachers with no kids left behind but none moving forward either".

Sad that some want to cut the military budget and lay off millions of our soldiers that are protecting, fighting, and dying for us. Many poor use the military as a stepping stone out of the ghetto's poverty. Many undereducated use the military to become educated via the GI Bill....

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By Paj on 9/19/11, Rating: -1
RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By Solandri on 9/19/2011 8:38:32 AM , Rating: 4
The U.S. is already near the top in education spending per student. The problem with our education system is not lack of funding. It's that the funds are poorly used. Until that is fixed, increasing spending on education is just throwing more money into a pit.

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By DrApop on 9/19/2011 2:54:20 PM , Rating: 3
The problem with our education system is not lack of funding. It's that the funds are poorly used.

I disagree (well OK there is a lot of poorly spend funds...but that happens everywhere unfortunately). The REAL problem with our education system is that parents are no longer being parents. They aren't involved in their kids education anymore.

Parents seem to no longer care....except to complain in general about the poor state of education. But if you ask them what their kid learned today or what they ate for lunch, or what their kids talked about in math or english today, I think very few could answer any of those questions let alone one of them.

By geddarkstorm on 9/19/2011 3:28:32 PM , Rating: 3
Considering parents are the only ones you are hardwired to learn from before adulthood; and even more potently the early on in years you go...

But in a world of comfort and lack of personal responsibility (or viewing such as an honor), why would parents take on the trouble and difficulties of adding to their children's education? They'd have to actually love their kids, rather than just themselves.

By Odysseus145 on 9/19/2011 11:51:40 PM , Rating: 1
You're too easy, FIT

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By DrApop on 9/19/2011 2:48:38 PM , Rating: 2
Your 500 billion is way off the mark. You having included all the military aid, training, and weapons we provide all around the world....not to mention 2 wars with parts of their costs never included as part of the original budget.

But I am not for eliminating the military. I want to bring them ALL home. Fill up the bases we closed here in the US. That brings money back to the US. Military bases higher loads of civilians for all types of jobs on base....that increases job numbers enormously around bases. Food, clothing, electronics for servicemen could be US purchased and transported to bases rather than bought in europe or elsewhere for sales on foreign bases. And instead of the 20K servicemen guarding the border in Korea, they can guard OUR southern border.

Hey that is a 500 billion dollar US stimulus right there...and in our own yard!

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By DrApop on 9/19/2011 2:57:00 PM , Rating: 2
Sheesh, I think I need an education. That has to be the most poorly worded reply I have ever posted. I apologize...for the penmanship, not the message :)

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By TSS on 9/18/2011 5:42:30 PM , Rating: 5
Who do you think pays for the school's energy bill? Which will be much, much smaller with these panels?

I find it funny you want to "reduce the national debt", but are against a sollution which will make sure less tax money is spent. It is you who isn't thinking about the future.

Oh and tax money has never in history built jobs or "cost effective" infrastructure. The whole reason tax money gets put towards infrastructure is because it's NOT cost effective and such no private corperation would ever do it, even though it's needed by the people.

How about you practice what you preach and stop wasting energy making stupid comments that don't make sense.

By lagomorpha on 9/18/2011 10:17:58 PM , Rating: 4
You would see a much better, faster return on investment by tearing down Chicago's ancient school buildings and replacing them with buildings with modern insulation. At the moment they just leave the heat running full tilt and the teachers adjust the windows to control the temperature in the rooms because the buildings heat so unevenly. Unfortunately solar panels are new and sexy, fiberglass is not. So which gets the loans...

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By tayb on 9/19/2011 8:55:22 PM , Rating: 1
Spending hundreds of millions on solar arrays that may pay for itself in 10+ is not a solid investment. The return is way too risky given the rapid advancements in these fields.

You call it "forward thinking" I call it misappropriation of funds and/or earmarking.

And when you are $14,200,000,000,000 in debt you DO NOT have the money to build solar arrays that may pay themselves in 10 years. I didn't mistype that debt number either.

By mindless1 on 9/20/2011 9:33:01 PM , Rating: 2
Remember that it's not just the school paying back this loan, the nation is in debt and paying on this money too!

The answer to cut the energy bill is use less power! The fact is, energy from solar panels costs MORE per KWH.

Read that last sentence again and think about it. If we, as a society, spend money on less cost effective ways to generate power we are not saving money.

Instead, we are just creating a bigger money pit in the educational system, money they will just waste away as usual with the rest of us having a larger tax burden and larger national debt.

It's not just this one project I am against, it's the principle, it's this backwards idiotic shell game that costs us all money because people like you have your head in the clouds and aren't thinking through the bigger picture about where the money is going and what it could be bette spent on, or not spent at all.

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By Odysseus145 on 9/18/2011 8:52:00 PM , Rating: 1
So I suppose you deny that that tax money "built jobs" by providing work for the contractor who installed the panels? How are solar cells not "cost affective infrastructure?" 16 years really isn't that long. Most mortgages are longer than that. This is called investing in our future.

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By wookie1 on 9/19/2011 4:48:08 PM , Rating: 2
You're focusing on what is seen, and ignoring what is not seen. What is sacrificed to provide work for the contractors? Since taxes must be collected, and the government is usually not very effective at maximizing return on capital, it's very likely that the money would have been put to better use if it were left in the hands of the individuals. It could be that more jobs were lost than those created, but of course you've ignored that part of the equation.

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By iwanttobehef on 9/19/2011 5:47:52 PM , Rating: 2
Except that right now businesses and individuals aren't investing as much as they are saving and hoarding cash. I am not saying gov't spends more effeciently or maximizes ROI, I am saying that more than likely that money would not be put to work at all so there would be no imediate return on investment if it was not spent by the school district.

By mindless1 on 9/20/2011 9:38:14 PM , Rating: 2
That is what should happen! The money should not be spent, it should reduce (the growth of) the national debt.

IF the day comes that we face a real energy crisis instead of just wasteful energy usage, then infrastructure that is more cost effective at generating power should be deployed, and be used by everyone.

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By idiot77 on 9/18/2011 5:12:10 PM , Rating: 1
If only the Unions had that much power. The reality is they are small, and have very little power. They are getting smaller and smaller thanks to anti Union laws and Union busting companies.

But feel free to try to scapegoat them for every little thing, specially the price of electricity.

It's so stupid on so many levels. How about you put the blame where it belongs, on the market that has policy of "charge all the market can bare".

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By damania1 on 9/18/2011 5:34:26 PM , Rating: 1
I'm not making up the increases to utility bills.'S+BEST+J...$76,949+PER+YEAR...-a0169366260

By damania1 on 9/18/2011 5:36:37 PM , Rating: 3
Oops.. second link is:

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By tayb on 9/19/2011 8:58:33 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah unions aren't bad at all. Sort of like when they block a major company from building a manufacturing plant that will create thousands of jobs because that doesn't want unions.

Unions are great. I love paying higher cell phone, television, internet, etc bills.

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By bug77 on 9/18/2011 6:09:54 PM , Rating: 2
Bad economics indeed.

$1 in 2011 is worth more than $1 in 2021. So yes, we can skew this any way we want.

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By Brandon Hill on 9/18/2011 10:32:42 PM , Rating: 5
How do you figure an 8-year return? I'm assuming that the 16-year figure is already taking into account the rise in energy costs.

Afterall, why would the solar company/school district UNDERestimate the ROI in a case like this? If anything, the 16 year figure is probably an absolute best case scenario.

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By MonkeyPaw on 9/18/2011 10:57:26 PM , Rating: 3
Here's hoping the panels last 16 years. Failure creeps up on things exposed to the elements. Though I guess CA doesn't get the hail storms or tornadoes like we do in the Midwest.

By Solandri on 9/19/2011 8:34:43 AM , Rating: 3
They typically last 25-30 years. Beyond that, degradation of PV efficiency frequently makes it more cost-effective to scrap and replace with newer panels. e.g. the 10% efficient panels from approx 30 years ago would have degraded to about 7% now. Contrast that with newer panels which are about 16% efficient, and there's a strong financial incentive (absent other power sources) to scrap the old panels even though they are still generating electricity.

For a homeowner who typically sells a house after 10-15 years and predominantly uses electricity during the evening*, solar frequently does not make sense. But for a commercial/government entity which is occupying the same building for decades if not centuries, and requires the most power during peak electricity prices, solar does actually make sense. Given California's budget problems, I'm not sure it makes sense to do it right now. But long-term they should come out ahead on this. Assuming they got the panels at a good price (I've seen kickback schemes where local governments award overpriced contracts to a local renewable energy company).

*(It will be interesting to see how electric cars being recharged during the evening/overnight will impact hourly electric rates.)

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By tng on 9/19/2011 10:26:10 AM , Rating: 2
San Ramon is just East of the SF Bay area. As such it does not suffer from really cold temps in the Winter, but it does get over 100F frequently during the Summer.

The Summer season there will last typically from early April to late October and there is very little rain or even cloud cover in the Summer. Given those conditions this may be a wise use of money.

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By rs2 on 9/18/2011 11:09:54 PM , Rating: 3
I don't know about the 8-year return, but you certainly seem to be making a number of logical errors and omissions in your analysis.

For one thing, it's not like the $23M that is spent on the solar panels instantly disappears with nothing left to show for it. It becomes $23M worth of solar panels. Or even if we assume an instant depreciation of 50%, then $11.5M worth of solar panels. This increases the property value of the school, because which would you rather purchase, a normal building, or an equivalent building that includes enough solar generation capacity that you never have to pay another utility bill?

So really this is better viewed as an investment rather than a simple expenditure. An investment that doubles in value after 16 years. Now that's not great (it's about a 5% annual return), but it's good enough to stay ahead of inflation and less risky than investing in stocks (and what business would a school have investing in stocks anyways?), and certainly better than what you would get with bonds or as interest from any major bank right now.

So in 16 years the school will have gotten all of their investment capital back, they will have a continuing revenue stream from the solar installation, and they will still have the asset of the solar installation itself, which increases the school's property value and/or can be sold off (though probably not for anywhere near the original purchase price) if desired.

In that light I find it hard to see what you don't like about this plan. Unless you just plain don't like solar energy. But that's just silly. Even ignoring all the "green" aspects of the solar installation there are still plenty of sound reasons for doing it. And there are certainly worse things that the school might do with the money.

By Solandri on 9/19/2011 8:45:28 AM , Rating: 2
Just a minor quibble. I pretty much agree with your analysis. But...
So really this is better viewed as an investment rather than a simple expenditure. An investment that doubles in value after 16 years. Now that's not great (it's about a 5% annual return), but it's good enough to stay ahead of inflation and less risky than investing in stocks (and what business would a school have investing in stocks anyways?), and certainly better than what you would get with bonds or as interest from any major bank right now.

You have to bear in mind that schools are funded by the government, so any money they spend is money extracted from the private sector via taxes. So the correct comparison here isn't vs. a school investing that money in stocks. It's vs. taxing the citizens and companies a little less so that money stays in their hands and helps the economy grow.

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By Keeir on 9/19/2011 11:49:24 AM , Rating: 2
Errr... a second minor quibble.

School Buildings are rarely (though somethimes) turned over to private industry to be used as is. In my area in the past decade, 7 schools properties have been auctioned off... in each of the 7 cases, the schools were torn down after several years of enviromental studies on thier replacement structures.

Removing the panels and selling them may also not be easy. Knowing the government, they will hire a firm to remove them and hire another firm to sell them. I doubt even if they removed them 2 years after installing them, they would get 20 cents/dollar.

In that light I find it hard to see what you don't like about this plan. Unless you just plain don't like solar energy.

Ummm... I think some people just don't trust small local government to run a large investment of this type or to have done the economic studies throughly enough to have confidence in the 16 year period.

When I hear a Government project has a 16 year projected payback period, my brain processes 25-30 year payback period after construction overruns, bad contracts, upgraded wiring, a fancy control system that isn't needed, and poor placement of the panels on the roof.

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By Spuke on 9/19/2011 12:10:40 PM , Rating: 3
At the size of the typical solar arrays for commercial or even residential buildings, "fancy control systems" are about all you can get. Besides, if they're going to be spending 10s of thousands of dollars on panels with my tax money, I want the fancy control system, expensive efficient panels and whatever else to get the most from the money spent. All of the local school districts have solar panels. Instead of putting them on the buildings where roof space is somewhat limited and shadows could be an issue, they put them over the parking lots. So not only do they gain MUCH more sq ft and no shading issues, they also keep cars out of direct sunlight. We're in the desert (CA) and I've been in one of those parking lots in the summer before the panels, I really appreciate the shade now. It's MUCH cooler.

I have no issues at all with these projects. Quite frankly, I'm shocked that they would do anything at all to try and save us some money. This IS California you know.

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By Keeir on 9/19/2011 12:42:51 PM , Rating: 2
Errr... its nice they are shading the cars.... I thought that perhaps it would be better to shade the building and reduce air conditioning costs.... but I admit to having never seen the numbers.

Quite frankly, I'm shocked that they would do anything at all to try and save us some money. This IS California you know.

Yep. But keep in mind, this a local government offical in California claiming the project will save you money...

By Cerin218 on 9/21/2011 3:35:01 PM , Rating: 2
Have we spent ourselves into prosperity yet? CA is a state that is somewhere around 24 BILLION in debt. So where is the logic in spending yourself deeper into debt for a possible reduction of future cost? You only save money if you aren't in debt to begin with. Like when I replaced the windows in my house. it cost me 11K. I save roughly 75 dollars a month in my energy bill. so over the course of the year I might save 1,000 dollars. If I had paid for the windows on credit, it would take 10 YEARS to break even on the investment. So I wouldn't be "saving" money. Because I paid cash, that 1K is my savings per year. That is money I don't have to spend right now, and can spend on other things. THAT'S savings. Buying on credit then pretending you are saving money is the why this country is 14 TRILLION in debt and getting worse. And the morons running this country that believe we can spend ourselves into prosperity make me want to puke. So when all you morons squeal tax the rich, it's because you want to take money from them to waste on stupidity like this school district is doing. The problem isn't that the government doesn't take enough, it's that it wastes money that it does take on stupidity like this. It's called sustainability, and debt spending isn't sustainable.

So I don't see what you DO like about this plan. Unless you aren't happy that the government only takes 33% of your income to waste on stupidity. But people like you are exactly why California and this country in general are failing. Pay for the things you need in cash, THAT is investment. Don't steal from everyone else to pay for what only a few people will benefit from. How will a school in CA benefit me by using my tax money to subsidize their solar experiment?

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By sleepeeg3 on 9/19/2011 2:19:40 AM , Rating: 1
You are right, Brandon. The nameplate capacity of the panels for the San Ramon district is 3MW. At $25M for 3MW nameplate capacity @ 20% efficiency, costs work out to be $4.75/kWh*. This compares to California's commercial utility rate of ~$0.12kWh. On top of this, these panels will only provide 2/3 of the power of the schools. They are also paying interest on the loans. Finally the panels lose efficiency and have to be replaced every 25 years.

They will never break even. This is being subsidized by stimulus money.

*Math: ($25,000,000 / ((365.25 days * 24 hours/1000W) * 3,000,000 nameplate capacity * 0.2 efficiency)

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By Solandri on 9/19/2011 8:56:28 AM , Rating: 3
*Math: ($25,000,000 / ((365.25 days * 24 hours/1000W) * 3,000,000 nameplate capacity * 0.2 efficiency)

You left off the number of years the $25M investment will be in use.

$25,000,000 / ((30 years * 365.25 days * 24 hours/1000W) * 3,000,000 W peak * 0.2 capacity factor)
= $0.158 / kWh

Which may actually be competitive with peak electric rates during the hours schools are in session.

Also, it sounds like the money for this is coming from a federal loan, so from California's perspective it's borrowing someone else's money to shift some of their current budget expenses into the future. Even if it lost them money overall, it may be deemed a necessary step to survive their current budget shortfall (from the Calif. government's perspective of course).

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By casteve on 9/19/2011 11:04:25 AM , Rating: 3
Two additional factors may come into play. PG&E has a tiered rate structure (use more/pay more per kW-H) and the school district can move to time-of-day metering.

On the residential side, if you are a low usage customer, your rates are in the $0.12-0.14/kW-H range. Use more, and it quickly goes to $0.25/kW-H and up. The primary benefit/payback for solar here is to reduce your demand down to the lower tier levels - not to get to 100% coverage.

Time-of-day metering changes the rate based on demand. Higher during the day, lower at night. Peak demand occurs between 3pm and 7pm. Combine this with a school's solar installation. School's power use is greatly diminished after 3pm. They'll be selling power back to the utility during this period and the weekend.

So, the 16 year payback is practical. Seems in line with all of the other estimates I've seen locally.

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By Keeir on 9/19/2011 12:36:34 PM , Rating: 2
That's a little best case senario.

Currently, the US struggles to get .2+ capacity factor in the best of locations. I am not sure what type of cell/installation they are using, but its unlikely they are using tracking concentrators. Most likely is flat plat roof top, hopefully pointed south and tilted at a good angle. In this situation 0.15 is a better capacity measurement and still optomistic over a 25+ year time frame. I also think your being optomistic about 30 years. It is very unlikely the cells have a proven track record extending that long.... unless they are using much older cells.

Assuming a low 4.0 interest rate and a 25 year term, Loan Costs --> ~121,400 per month + 8,600 additional maintaince = ~ 130,000 per month to generate ~325,000 kWh... this is roughly 0.40 cents per kWh. Which over 25 years will start to be a bargin in California.

But the point is for the forseable future (next 5 years), this is not going to lower the schools outlet. It is likely to -raise- the energy costs associated with the schools in question.

Now if the school has a 0 percent loan or a number of years before first payment, incurs no significant maintaince costs, is paying peak residental rates, got better capacity factor than custom designed large installations, and got full price for electricity sold back to the grid during days in the summer when building might be under utilized. A second option is they are getting a large payment in excess of the actual costs. I certainly hope this is not the case.

Then I agree, it may be school will lower thier energy costs this year. I just doubt that all those conditions are met.

By Solandri on 9/19/2011 2:44:59 PM , Rating: 2
Currently, the US struggles to get .2+ capacity factor in the best of locations. I am not sure what type of cell/installation they are using, but its unlikely they are using tracking concentrators. Most likely is flat plat roof top, hopefully pointed south and tilted at a good angle. In this situation 0.15 is a better capacity measurement and still optomistic over a 25+ year time frame.

A 0.15 capacity factor is a good average for the U.S. overall. 0.18-0.19 capacity factor is typical in the California/Nevada/Arizona area. 0.2 was close enough to that, I wasn't going to argue with it.

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By sleepeeg3 on 9/19/2011 8:11:26 PM , Rating: 1
So I post actual numbers from the quoted specs and costs and people make up your own. Not sure how that works...

Panel lifetime is 25 years, according to SunPower. Cost works out to be $0.19 / kWh. Then when you factor in these are only powering 2/3 of the electric power for the school, actual costs is $0.285kWh. That's not even including efficiency loss and interest payments! These will never break even with current technology and are over 2.4x more expensive.

As I said in an earlier post, California is not paying for them. You are right about that. All of America is paying for this waste.

By sleepeeg3 on 9/19/2011 8:22:01 PM , Rating: 2
My bad to those that were agreeing. Yes, capacity factor is optimistic, but adding that into the cost effectiveness equation is like beating a dead horse - solar power advocates are not winning the argument anyway. They can have there 20% efficiency claim, because it really does not change the situation - solar power is expensive.

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By Calin on 9/19/2011 3:04:18 AM , Rating: 2
"I'm assuming that the 16-year figure is already taking into account the rise in energy costs."
They are a part of the government. Did the government anounced an increase in energy prices? How much?
You're right, as the energy is provided by non-government companies, the government can't say wheter the energy price will rise, fall or stay the same.

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By Hiawa23 on 9/18/2011 10:56:10 PM , Rating: 2
I am all for green, & although I do agree, if our leaders had invested more in energy & other things in the past perhaps we wouldn't be in this mess financially, but this seems like a big waste. 8-16 years of breaking even. I guess I see some people view of this being good, but have disagree given the state they are in in CA.

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By sleepeeg3 on 9/19/11, Rating: 0
RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By brybir on 9/19/2011 9:10:46 AM , Rating: 2
Solandri pointed out the flaw in your math in your previous post (which you seem to have copy and pasted):

"You left off the number of years the $25M investment will be in use.

$25,000,000 / ((30 years * 365.25 days * 24 hours/1000W) * 3,000,000 W peak * 0.2 capacity factor)
= $0.158 / kWh"

And depending on the interest rate they are paying, the cost per kWh may end up quickly being less than the actual cost of power in a few years if historical trends are any indication.

By sleepeeg3 on 9/19/2011 8:33:48 PM , Rating: 1
No error. That is the total cost. See my response above for per year costs. There is more that factors in to it, but I originally left it for people to figure out. Bottom line is that it is absurdly expensive that taxpayers are paying for.

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By FredEx on 9/19/2011 10:17:21 AM , Rating: 3
Something I recently read that nobody thought about figuring in to the cost savings of massive solar installs on large buildings is the shading effect. Companies in very sunny climates, such as parts of California, have found their air conditioning costs have dropped a good amount due to the shading of the building's roof from the installation of the solar panel arrays. The direct surface temperature of some roofs had dropped dramatically.

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By tng on 9/19/2011 10:33:25 AM , Rating: 2
their air conditioning costs have dropped a good amount
Just a rule of thumb from a building manager I know in CA. If you generate 1 watt of heat inside your building, it takes about 2 watts of power via the AC to remove it. So yes there is a lots of economics comments here by people who don't have a full picture of what they are talking about.

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By tayb on 9/19/2011 8:50:14 PM , Rating: 2
The break even period will not be 8 years. In a perfect world with $0 in maintenance cost, $0 in replacement costs, and absolutely no system degradation over the next 10+ years you may be right but that is a laughable notion. This system will not perform at peak for even the next 5 years much less 10 or 15 years down the road. I agree that inflation and rising energy costs will push that number down but operating costs and repair costs related to this array will push it right back up.

At the end of the day I think there are much much better ways to save money than by investing millions of dollars into an immature technology.

Irrational rationalization
By damania1 on 9/18/2011 5:15:49 PM , Rating: 1
If you guys took the "break even" and "wasted money" arguments to the people of Fukushima, they would tell you to go take a hike.

RE: Irrational rationalization
By V-Money on 9/18/2011 8:44:36 PM , Rating: 1
All of the info on these charts is verifiable elsewhere, I just like the layout of it. And you may be right, all of the people (but 4) in Fukushima might tell you to take a hike, but that is because they are all alive. There are only the 4 deaths somewhat related to the nuclear plant..."one man who became trapped in the console of a crane during the earthquake, two who were swept away by the tsunami and a clean up worker who suffered from a heart attack."

RE: Irrational rationalization
By damania1 on 9/18/11, Rating: 0
RE: Irrational rationalization
By damania1 on 9/18/2011 9:15:12 PM , Rating: 1
Solar (rooftop)? That tells me the statistics are flawed as there are other types of solar installations. Anyways, death shouldn't be the only consideration. How about how much each technology affects the health of the population and how much damage in terms of economy and quality of life it does. I bet if the people of Fukushima had to do it over again they would not go the nuclear route. We have the choice the people of Fukushima wish they had.

RE: Irrational rationalization
By Solandri on 9/19/2011 8:17:16 AM , Rating: 4
Solar (rooftop)? That tells me the statistics are flawed as there are other types of solar installations.

Rooftop installation is the most common because roofs are typically "wasted" space. A ground-based installation makes sense in a vast desert, but that eliminates the "local power generation" argument for solar. For an urban or even suburban setting the roof is the best, and quite frequently the only place to put solar panels without incurring additional costs due to having to purchase more real estate. And in low-latitude locations where solar does best, a rooftop installation helps reduce air conditioning requirements by shading the actual roof of the building.
I bet if the people of Fukushima had to do it over again they would not go the nuclear route.

Well yeah. And I bet if someone who died installing a rooftop solar panel had it to do over again, they would not go the solar route.

You can't analyze which power technology is better based on anecdotal incidents. You have to look at the long-term average over time. When you do that, nuclear is the safest, almost the cheapest (I believe hydro is cheaper), requires less space, and requires less construction materials than any other power technology, including renewables.

Its only significant problem is the waste, which IMHO is overblown. Powering a typical American home for 30 years with coal would generate ~160 tons of coal ash, ~400 tons of CO2, and several tons of other pollutants. In contrast, powering it with nuclear would only generate about 2 tablespoons of spent fuel (approx 1/10th that if you reprocess). Over 500 tons of pollutants vs. 2 tablespoons. Even if you don't believe that nuclear is the best solution, you have to be to crazy to oppose it if it means continuing to operate our coal plants.

(Incidentally, to power the same home for 30 years generates about 750 kg of steel, concrete, and FRP waste for wind; about 700 kg of steel and PV waste for solar; and about 250 kg of steel and concrete waste for nuclear. So aside from the spent fuel, nuclear is cleaner than renewables too.)

RE: Irrational rationalization
By V-Money on 9/19/2011 4:28:04 AM , Rating: 5
Well, unlike most I've spent years on submarines, with a live nuclear reactor within 100ft at all times. I understand where you are going, but I fear that people like you will cause more harm than good when it comes to accidents. For instance, I wouldn't mind at all if you threw a 'modern' nuclear reactor in my back yard, but since so many people are against nuclear power, we are forced to keep running our aging designs (Fukushima was 40yrs old) which have problems such as this. But hey, be a smart ass and show absolutely no evidence while not providing any type of viable solution. Its all good right :-)

RE: Irrational rationalization
By Dorkyman on 9/19/2011 12:41:02 PM , Rating: 2
I'd suggest you do a bit more reading before making your conclusions.

I'd start with the link below. This guy analyzes ALL fatalities associated with various energy sources. Result? Coal is BY FAR the most dangerous. Nukes are BY FAR the least dangerous.

My mom always told me...
By loganSLC on 9/18/2011 3:44:56 PM , Rating: 2
Never go into debt for anything except for a house.

Try to use your credit card for things like gas, grocery's and Solar panels...

er... Maybe it was just gas and groceries...damn green.

RE: My mom always told me...
By JKolstad on 9/18/2011 4:28:41 PM , Rating: 2
Your mother's advice is reasonable enough for individual consumers, but it'd be poor advice for anyone trying to run a business or a country.

You have to consider why she even says it -- for most people, what they're really saying is that, "about the only thing you arguably *need* that'll retain or increase in value but that is typically far too expensive to purchase outright is a house." When it comes to business, what's their 'need?' Nothing more than to make money, you know? As such, the justification for when a loan does or doesn't make sense isn't as simple as some mother's quote. :-)

(Also note that various laws play a large hand in this as well -- being able to deduct mortgage interest from your taxes makes home ownership almost a guaranteed 'win.')

Not that I'd suggest the decision to purchase these panels is necessarily a great decision -- I think even the most objective reviewer would have to say it's somewhat risky.

RE: My mom always told me...
By idiot77 on 9/18/2011 5:14:52 PM , Rating: 1
My guess your Mom will rely on social security and medicare too.

RE: My mom always told me...
By Odysseus145 on 9/18/2011 6:14:53 PM , Rating: 2
Is your mom Dave Ramsey by any chance?

RE: My mom always told me...
By rs2 on 9/18/2011 11:33:24 PM , Rating: 2
What about things that increase the value and lower the operating costs of the house?

RE: My mom always told me...
By BadAcid on 9/19/2011 11:53:37 AM , Rating: 1
Once you own a home, you don't want its value to increase, that just means you pay higher taxes on it. I guess that concept is lost on everyone keepin' up with the Jones's

By undummy on 9/18/2011 11:48:37 PM , Rating: 3
If they are really worrying about the school budget, hand out public school waivers and see if a public school department exists in a decade from now.

Did the district borrow money or issue bonds to pay for the panels? What interest? Or, was there a surplus in the budget?

Did they calculate the degradation of the panels as it ages? Or the failure rate of the panels that will need to be replaced in 1, 2, 5, or 10 years? or the failure rate of the grid-tie inverters? or the degradation of inverter efficiency? Will there be battery back-up when the grid goes down, or will the panels sit around and do nothing waiting for the grid to come back up?

Solar power is like anything technological that you own. How long did your last cellphone, microwave, tv, or laptop last?

There are so many holes in this solar panel purchase that it isn't even funny. It was a gov't contract, which means some politicians, and their contractor donators, made a bunch of money. Some bond holders will make a gross amount of interest. And, your unborn grandchildren will pay for it!

California is the same state with 100's of dead wind turbines that were put up 10-30 years ago.

These solar panels are a boondoogle. Sad that it'll take 5-10 years for most to realize it.

It is not for the government to borrow and splurge the taxpayers money on eco-greenie projects with their bad math calculations and bogus payback calendars. Lower my taxes so that I can afford to put some panels on my own roof. But, that would make no sense.

RE: ???
By Eagle One on 9/19/2011 9:06:26 PM , Rating: 2
You are right, but why would any entity invest even with only a 16 year payback? This is all about transfer of expenses from the school districts operations budget to their capital improvement budget that is funded with bonds, and is off the operational books. Thus more money for union thugs and administrative fat.

By BZDTemp on 9/18/2011 8:02:33 PM , Rating: 2
Enough said.

Waste of money
By johnsmith9875 on 9/20/2011 9:23:14 AM , Rating: 2
They could have saved a lot of cash by simply burning wood.

By overlandpark4me on 9/20/2011 9:21:37 PM , Rating: 2
before they break even. That's assuming that there isn't any damage to the panels by vandals, weather, etc. It's another example of money that should not be spent because the tech isn't there yet. But the tree hugger's don't care, they want to feel all warm and fuzzy that they're saving "something". Who cares if the state is broke.

americans are joke
By tech02148 on 9/18/11, Rating: -1
RE: americans are joke
By Ally Up on 9/18/11, Rating: -1
RE: americans are joke
By dsx724 on 9/18/2011 4:14:31 PM , Rating: 1
A dollar saved from being wasted is a dollar going into the US economy, actual jobs and productivity. Pumping money into wasting economic resources (war, oil, energy) is filling a bottomless pit that got us here in the first place. I commend whichever administrator that made this decision.

RE: americans are joke
By mindless1 on 9/18/2011 4:28:04 PM , Rating: 2
FALSE! Economic resources like coal is money put into US workers pockets while the article mentions Chinese solar panels!

It's NOT actual jobs and productivity it is the opposite, a waste of money that NEEDED to either be put to good use, or kept in the pockets of those workers paying taxes so they can pay their mortgage, eat, afford gas to drive to work, etc.

You can't see the truth behind the fluff. A simple concept like "use less fossil fuel" has to have a sane solution not just green brainwashed nonsense waste. The panels will degrade, will need maintenance and repair, there's the removal and disposal fee, and it's costing us all tax money to waste even more money.

If they want to save on the power bill, USE LESS POWER. It's such a magical solution that I dared to even write it down because nobody will believe this simple truth. The less power they use, the more and more unfeasible the solar panels would be even if they would have ever broken even.

What did they need to do instead? Fire the school officials that decided to do this. Their positions are better left empty than letting things go from bad to worse.

In the end a school system must work within their budget, they should never ever take out loans to do anything. It's a sign they can't make ends meet and taking out a loan in that case is just digging a deeper hole. You CUT BACK on spending when times are tight, NOT gambling on a non-essential upgrade WITH OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY.

In the end it is a school system. Do these panels effect a positive result on the education? No. They are contrary to the purpose. If we want government subsidizing adoption of solar panels then at the very least it should be a broad scale effort that benefits everyone, a power company should plug them into the grid, and buy them from US companies.

THAT would create US jobs and productivity, even though solar panels are still too expensive compared to nuclear, etc. We say people oppose nuclear, but it is not true, people are greedy enough that if the cost of power goes up, more and more will concede nuclear is the answer.

RE: americans are joke
By drycrust3 on 9/18/2011 5:53:07 PM , Rating: 2
Considering the panels will lose around 3-5% efficiency in the first year and then about 1% every year after that to a useful life of around 25 years

One of the less than obvious problems with this idea is that these are being installed in schools, where children play. Not being American, I don't know if they allow children to play hockey, baseball or softball, or kick footballs etc, near buildings, but even if they don't, children being children, these panels need to be able to withstand having things like a hockey ball, baseball, or football fall from the sky and land on them without them cracking or breaking. If they can't withstand this, then I think the power savings would be offset by the higher maintenance costs.
Another factor that needs to be taken into account is the issue of a battery. This requires space, someone to look after it, and will probably need replacing at least once in that 25 year lifespan.
This, in turn, raises another issue, which is how do they plan to use these solar cells in conjunction with the local mains AC? For example, if they use AC to charge the batteries when their voltage drops below a threshold, then there is a loss in power when converting from AC to DC, and then again when converting from DC back to AC. This duel loss of power results in the electricity costing more to the end user when the solar panels aren't up to the job. The end result may be that in some months of the year the monthly power bills are higher than if they didn't install the solar panels.
Or maybe they plan to use the solar panels to heat the hot water, where things like fluctuating voltages and momentary power cuts are more acceptable than for things like computers. However, there are other ways you could heat the hot water without spending $23M, for example getting people from the local prison to pedal on generators.

RE: americans are joke
By FITCamaro on 9/18/2011 6:30:59 PM , Rating: 1
these panels need to be able to withstand having things like a hockey ball

You're not too familiar with hockey are you...

RE: americans are joke
By kidboodah on 9/18/2011 6:54:05 PM , Rating: 2

RE: americans are joke
By RyuDeshi on 9/18/2011 8:42:38 PM , Rating: 2
When I was in grade school we used hockey balls, not pucks.

RE: americans are joke
By drycrust3 on 9/18/2011 8:50:29 PM , Rating: 2
Article regarding a baseball lost on a school roof.
and soon we were running around on the Ottiwell roof throwing a ton of balls down into the school’s grassy side lawn

Thus it seems the idea of a ball being hit or kicked onto a school roof isn't rare.

RE: americans are joke
By damania1 on 9/18/2011 9:04:49 PM , Rating: 2
I guess we shouldn't have windows either.

RE: americans are joke
By lagomorpha on 9/18/2011 10:24:21 PM , Rating: 3
Not all kinds of hockey are played on ice.

RE: americans are joke
By Paj on 9/19/2011 8:56:01 AM , Rating: 3
Most countries dont play ice hockey, they play field hockey.

RE: americans are joke
By Real_Time on 9/18/2011 10:22:30 PM , Rating: 1
Considering the panels will lose around 3-5% efficiency in the first year and then about 1% every year after that to a useful life of around 25 years, the 16 year calculation is a bit of an overly-optimistic assumption

You make a couple of invalid assumptions here:

The rate of sensitivity decay of a photovoltaic panel depends on many factors, not the least of which is the type of material the panel is made of. Making specific claims about this degradation, without knowing precisely which panels were used, invalidates your claims.

Your argument also implies that the 16-year break-even result neglects the inherent degradation of the panels. The company manufacturing the panels being installed for the school districts is SunPower Corporation. These people provide panels for home, government, and manufacturing. It would follow that this company is well aware of the inherent degradation and provided statistics to the school district to help them determine the break even. If you are so dubious of their claim, why not contact the School Board and ask how they arrived at their claim of 16 years?

Your brand of pessimism, while commonplace with internet comments, is no less ignorant sounding. These types of comments do nothing but serve up devisiveness in a world more and more satisfied with its own self-rightousness.

RE: americans are joke
By jtemplin on 9/18/2011 11:58:36 PM , Rating: 1
Amen brother

RE: americans are joke
By fishman on 9/19/2011 7:29:36 AM , Rating: 3
So, you always believe what a salesman tells you?

RE: americans are joke
By Real_Time on 9/19/2011 10:58:38 AM , Rating: 2
Begging your pardon, but we aren't exactly talking about a $500 HP printer at a Best Buy here. The company in question has a track record of propriety and excellence. I am merely pointing out the fact that 3-5% is an invalid assumption.

Do I always believe what a salesman tells me? No. I research facts and make up my own mind given all the information available. In the case of SunPower v. fishman, however, I am going to side with the successful corporation rather than the peanut gallery.

RE: americans are joke
By drycrust3 on 9/19/2011 3:17:26 PM , Rating: 3
The problem here is the experts on this system are the company representatives, e.g. sales people and engineers. They are the ones who know the best environment for this type of product, but also the worst environment.
The best solution would be to get sales people and engineers from other industries to provide input so at least you have some other options presented to you, and they can tell you potential pitfalls that lie ahead.
To me the real killer is the 16 year break even point is way too long for a commercial product; it sort of smacks of an air of optimism and being just marginally cheaper than the current set up. And if, after 16 years, the schools haven't broken even then the supplier just needs to say "But we didn't factor in that blah blah blah would happen" and they are off the hook.
If those schools were to contact their other local energy providers I think they could provide solutions that would give them at least the equivalent savings, and probably better savings. For example, in the next 16 years LED lamps will have developed to the point that they will have replaced incandescent and fluorescent lighting. They could also do things like insulate their hot water cylinders better, which again would easily provide a 3 to 5% saving when implemented, and by using reflective and double glazed windows they could easily reduce their heating and cooling costs. The cost to do these things is a bit higher now, but would probably have the same 16 year break even point.
To me, these panels will probably end up being attached to the UPS system, which runs the computers etc, which isn't a heavy user of electricity; and that the heavy user things like hot water and air conditioning will still be done by the mains. In short, you will have spent a lot of money and achieved little.

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