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The profitable nature of solar power in Spain has given rise to strange installation locations, such as this plant which towers over a cemetary.  (Source: AP)
Spain has found a controversial way to boost solar adoption

When it comes to solar power, the real dilemmas are efficiency and cost.  On the one hand, efficiency has steadily improved over the last couple decades to the point where it’s approaching the utility prices of other power generation methods.  Exotic technologies promise even greater gains.  However, the price of solar-generated power still remains at least five times as expensive as coal-power, the chief source of power in the U.S. (compared to the leading candidate, nuclear, which is approximately 1.5 to 2 times as expensive).

While solar adoption from a cost standpoint is unattractive, there's much debate over whether commercial adoption is needed to spur further research to propel solar into the realm of cost competitiveness.  While many nations like the U.S. and China have modestly taken this position, adopting solar at a moderate rate, one nation has fallen head over heels for solar -- Spain.

Spain is allowing solar and wind power plants to charge as much as 10 times the rates of coal power plants, making it possible for solar power installations to earn utilities big money.  On average, recent rate increases have raised solar charges to over 7 times the rates of coal or natural gas rates.   The costs are added onto consumers' power bills.

The results are mixed; while Spanish power bills are at record highs, the number of deployments is soaring.  Spain has 14 GW of solar power, or the equivalent capacity of nine average nuclear reactors, under construction -- the most of any nation.  Florida’s FPL Group Inc. and French Electricite de France SA are among the many jumping to build in Spain.

Gabriel Calzada, an economist and professor at Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid, states, "Who wouldn’t want to enter a business that’s paid many times more than the market rate, and where the customer is guaranteed for life?"

By 2009, 42 percent of Spaniards energy bills -- approximately 95 euros ($127) on average -- will be provided by alternative energy.  Spanish law requires power distributors to buy all clean energy produced in the first 25 years of the plants' lives.  The government also recently raised the rate of Spain believes this sacrifice will pay off as fossil fuel resources become depleted and emissions standards tighten.

Karsten von Blumenthal, an industrial analyst at Hamburg-based SES Research GmbH states, "The guarantee is more attractive than what other countries offer.  Actually the U.S. has better space for solar, in the deserts of California and Nevada."

The U.S. meanwhile is also advancing thanks in part to President Obama's solar initiatives passed earlier this year as part of the federal stimulus legislation.  Over 6 GW of capacity is planned for the U.S.

Fred Morse, an official at the Washington- based Solar Energy Industries Association trade group and author of the first report to the White House on solar power (1969), says that the U.S. needs to adopt more incentives if it hopes to catch Spain.  He states, "The incentives, if implemented promptly and effectively, should greatly facilitate the financing of these plants."

One promising benefit of the Spanish solar boom is that it is increasing the number of plants utilizing new, potentially more efficient technologies like solar thermal or sterling engines.  Spain is limiting the number of photovoltaic plants (solar panel-based designs), but is giving out unlimited licenses for solar thermal and other alternative plants.

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RE: Charging more for Solar
By Quijonsith on 5/13/2009 8:33:33 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe not, but once adoption is high enough I'd hope the government would repeal the allowance of charging up to 10x coal based power and bring prices back down. I don't know if that would happen, but this is supposed to be to get the technology adopted faster.

RE: Charging more for Solar
By FITCamaro on 5/13/2009 8:45:13 AM , Rating: 2
And in the meantime people chose between keeping the lights on or being able to eat. Great idea.

Don't know about you, but if my power bill went from $100 to $700, I'd have to live in the dark, take cold showers, lick my dishes clean, and wash my clothes in the rain.

RE: Charging more for Solar
By Radnor on 5/13/2009 9:06:37 AM , Rating: 2
1 - It will be subsidized.
2 - Read my Post.
3 - Cold Showers ? We still use gas for most of it.
4 - I pay about 30€ a month on electrical. Most people i know pay about that (30€-40€).

I honestly don't know were the article went for the high number on monthly power costs. Only if it includes industrial areas, witch seems kind silly.

RE: Charging more for Solar
By FITCamaro on 5/13/2009 10:14:26 AM , Rating: 4
1) Where does it say there that customer's bills will be subsidized? I'm sure the power company will get subsidies for building plants. But they're still going to charge 7x the normal cost for power.

2) Which?

3) I was relating this to if the same thing was done in the US. We largely do not have gas for heating and cooking (although I wish we did).

4) And how would you be affected if your power bill went from $30 (lira?) to $210?

And if power costs for industry goes up, those industries either raise their costs, cut their employees, or move. It doesn't bode well for their customers or the local population in any way.

RE: Charging more for Solar
By bobsmith1492 on 5/13/2009 11:20:04 AM , Rating: 2
Yes we largely have gas for heating - natural gas for heat, gas hot-water heaters, gas driers... I'm in Michigan, though, but that arrangement is very common here.

RE: Charging more for Solar
By Spuke on 5/13/2009 1:03:22 PM , Rating: 2
Natural gas heating is relatively inexpensive but propane heat is retarded expensive. Imagine paying the same price per gallon for gas as you would for propane. Yes I'm on propane and quite frankly with the amount of money I've spent on it I could've converted my HVAC to all electric. Electricity is expensive in CA but nowhere near propane costs. I laugh at $200 electric bills in the summer now (which is still expensive).

RE: Charging more for Solar
By LoweredExpectations on 5/13/2009 10:42:07 PM , Rating: 2
4) And how would you be affected if your power bill went from $30 ( lira ?) to $210?

The guy has said he lives in Spain. How can one be even minimally aware of what goes on in the world and not realize that Spain, a founding member state of the European Union, uses the euro; and that before the euro, Spain's currency was the peseta. Does anyone really not know that the € symbol stands for the euro?!

This is the kind of thing one constantly runs into whenever foreign countries are discussed by Americans. It reminds me of those annual surveys of the average American's knowledge of world geography which consistently show that a majority of the American people can't find England on a map or know what the capital of France is.

We've got armies fighting in two countries, and nobody in this democracy even knows where they are!

RE: Charging more for Solar
By CityZen on 5/14/2009 5:04:59 AM , Rating: 1
+ 1

That was perfect, couldn't have been said better

RE: Charging more for Solar
By LRonaldHubbs on 5/14/2009 9:15:53 AM , Rating: 3
We've got armies fighting in two countries, and nobody in this democracy even knows where they are!

That is a gross overstatement.

RE: Charging more for Solar
By the3monkies on 5/14/2009 10:00:30 AM , Rating: 2
That is a gross overstatement.

Not in my experience. Other than maybe Canada or Mexico, a vast majority of Americans haven't the slightest idea where these countries are, what currencies they use or what languages they speak. I would bet my life that at least 3/4's of the US population could not find Iraq or Afghanistan on a map.

I lived many years in Asia and whenever back in the States, I had to continually set people straight about what country is where. You would not believe how many people have asked me what language the Koreans speak or what country Osaka is in, etc., etc., etc..

RE: Charging more for Solar
By LRonaldHubbs on 5/15/2009 10:15:39 AM , Rating: 2
Your personal experience is irrelevant. He said that " nobody in this democracy knows where they are". That statement is a textbook example of overstatement, and quite frankly, it's just at stupid as the mistake he was criticising.

RE: Charging more for Solar
By heffeque on 5/15/2009 10:54:37 AM , Rating: 2
Taking that sentence literally is really unintelligent (to put it in a way that doesn't offend you).

RE: Charging more for Solar
By modus2 on 5/14/2009 10:49:25 AM , Rating: 2
I certainly agree that € should be recognizable enough as euro, however if one is to point out the flaws of others knowledge then one might want to check his own facts. Spain joined EU on 1 January 1986, just under 30 years after the founding of EU. On the other hand Spain was a founding member of the euro-project.

By LoweredExpectations on 5/14/2009 11:33:42 AM , Rating: 2
Mea culpa. A little thought should have been sufficient to realize that Spain under the Nazi-sympathizing, odd-man-out Franco would never have been welcomed by the others to join in the early stages of European integration. Franco died in 1975 and Spain applied for membership in 1977.

RE: Charging more for Solar
By Keeir on 5/14/2009 11:34:54 AM , Rating: 2
Mate, instead of shooting your mouth off

Check out the symbol for Lira


Now Euro

Now I would agree that one should realize that the Euro has replaced some (but apparently not all) the currencies of countries part of the European Union (only 16/27 member states are part of the Monetary Union) and should look up spanish currency with a quick search.

However, given that the state of the "European Union" is very confusing and changing landscape (Apparently there are 7 different classifications of EU membership and apparently 4 in regards to the use of the Euro)

And the clear similarities between the symbols in English for Lira and Euro with the odd placement of the Euro symbol (In American English) of the original poster. The guess of Lira is actually pretty good! Its not like he guess pounds, or kronar (Still used in Denmark which could switch the Euro or could not and used in Norway which can't switch to use the Euro. Not that the Danish and Norway Kronar are the same, just spelled the same in English)

RE: Charging more for Solar
By Keeir on 5/14/2009 11:38:34 AM , Rating: 2

Hahah, the system changed it for me

A lira typically has double lines running though the L and looks very similar to Euro Symbol

One more try


For the record, it looked fine in the preview pane

RE: Charging more for Solar
By LoweredExpectations on 5/14/09, Rating: 0
RE: Charging more for Solar
By nixoofta on 5/15/2009 5:11:06 PM , Rating: 2
I've got pesetas out the wazoo on RE4. Are you sayin' they're worthless now!?


RE: Charging more for Solar
By Calin on 5/14/2009 3:02:04 AM , Rating: 2
14 GW of installed solar power is about 100 GWh of electricity a day (7 hours a day at top power), or some 36 TWh a year.
As for Spain, production of electricity in 2003 was 231 TWh (based on a DoE 2005 estimate). The solar power produced would replace about 15% of the production - so the electricity price would about double, not increase 7-fold

RE: Charging more for Solar
By ice456789 on 5/13/2009 9:42:03 AM , Rating: 4
Maybe not, but once adoption is high enough I'd hope the government would repeal the allowance of charging up to 10x coal based power and bring prices back down.
In a perfect world, you're right. But in this world, no government will deprive itself of a large source of revenue unless forced to by the populace. Vague promises of 'reducing the fees back to normal once the technology is adopted' will never be followed through. It reminds me of a situation near my house. 30 years ago they built a highway, and they acquired funding by promising a toll system. The toll system would have to be voted in by the people so in order to get passed, they promised the tolls would be removed and the highway would be free once the highway was paid for. Now, 30 years later, the highway has paid for itself many times over, and the tolls have just instituted yet another rate hike. The excuse? The highway is not 'done yet' (but the only work that is going on is adding electronic tolls). A small portion of the tolls goes to maintenance and expansion of the highway, but the vast majority goes to the government to spend how they wish. It will be the same with this solar energy rate hike. 10 years from now it may change if the Spanish people realize that they are paying a lot more than their European neighbors for the same product.

RE: Charging more for Solar
By 440sixpack on 5/13/2009 5:50:41 PM , Rating: 3
Hmm, that sounds like the Mass. Turnpike to me... :-)

RE: Charging more for Solar
By lco45 on 5/14/2009 1:49:39 AM , Rating: 2
Or the Harbour Bridge here in Sydney.
$4 at peak times! Thieves!

RE: Charging more for Solar
By MrFord on 5/14/2009 11:27:10 AM , Rating: 2
Or the Harbour Bridge here in Sydney. $4 at peak times! Thieves!

Lol. Come to New York. 8$ for George Washington Bridge, 10$ (soon 11$) for the Verrazano.

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