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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: Today
By flyboy84 on 5/13/2009 8:50:05 AM , Rating: 0
Because Europeans don't use nuclear? I guess ~80% for France isn't enough, huh?

RE: Today
By FITCamaro on 5/13/2009 8:58:24 AM , Rating: 2
Yet we're talking about Spain. Not France. I'm well aware of France's nuclear usage.

The comment was more because of both this article and the UK one.

RE: Today
By JasonMick on 5/13/09, Rating: -1
RE: Today
By Bateluer on 5/13/2009 9:36:05 AM , Rating: 4
Just replace the word 'idiot' with bureaucrat and it instantly becomes very accurate.

RE: Today
By oab on 5/13/2009 9:42:04 AM , Rating: 4
The UK is in the European Union and have been since 1973.

The UK does not use the Euro as its currency, as it has a bit of aloofness regarding the EU, though they are part of the European Parliament, and voting is going on for that right now.

RE: Today
By JasonMick on 5/13/09, Rating: -1
RE: Today
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 5/13/2009 2:55:58 PM , Rating: 3
Well, to back you up for once, since the UK does not have judicial review of legislation (the House of Lords is the highest legislative body AND the highest judicial body) they practically are not in the EU since they have a problem with EU mandated legistalive requirements that can't be overruled by the House of Lords, and House of Lords legislation and decisions that can be overruled by the EU judiciary. Very sticky.

RE: Today
By aegisofrime on 5/13/2009 10:01:20 AM , Rating: 2
France is leading the world with some of the most advanced nuclear power designs (along with France).

RE: Today
By knutjb on 5/14/2009 12:53:22 AM , Rating: 2
That's why so many people died last summer from the heat. There wasn't enough water to run the plants and they didn't have much in the way of alternatives. All steam plants require large amounts of water regardless of the heat source. Over here our overload is usually supplemented with gas turbines to soften the peaks. I will give France a lot of credit with their nuke program, they have a standardized plant so they share parts lowering the building and operational costs.

RE: Today
By on 5/13/2009 10:07:01 AM , Rating: 4
And Europe's standard of living is setting a model for the rest of the world (if you don't believe me spend a few months in Sweden or France).

France's perpetually high unemployment rate undermines that statement. It wasn't that long ago they had unrest and riots that were fueled by lack of hope to find gainful employment.

RE: Today
By TETRONG on 5/13/09, Rating: 0
RE: Today
By heffeque on 5/13/09, Rating: 0
RE: Today
By B3an on 5/13/2009 10:39:19 AM , Rating: 1
Exactly what i as thinking. This person really is an idiot.

RE: Today
By heffeque on 5/13/2009 10:12:30 AM , Rating: 2
UK isn't in the EU? Now that's new! Hahaha!

RE: Today
By heffeque on 5/13/2009 10:14:51 AM , Rating: 2
The rest was good though, I just was surprised by the fact that people actually thought that the UK wasn't in the EU :-P No harm intended :-P

RE: Today
By inperfectdarkness on 5/13/2009 10:15:01 AM , Rating: 3
i'd say the better solution would be to stipulate additional charges that the coal companies have to pay. the costs would be passed on to the consumers.

solar, wind, nuclear, etc. would be exempt from these fees; prompting a push to new energy sources to improve profit margins.

RE: Today
By invidious on 5/13/2009 10:15:18 AM , Rating: 2
A sub-blog within the comments of a blog? My mind is exploding with this overload of soft journalism.

He isn't talking about the EU, he said Europe. And while he implied they are all idiots it is clear that he meant the idiots in goverment. So essentially he is bashing Socialism, and more power to him. This article is a clear example of goverment gone wrong.

PS: Only a fool would judge all Americans based on a blog response comment that he probably took 10 seconds to write.

RE: Today
By swhibble on 5/13/2009 11:28:07 AM , Rating: 4
"The UK isn't even in the EU"

I just have to ask, where the FUCK did you get that information from?

The UK has been in the EU since it was FORMED.

I really don't know what the fuck you're going on about when you say that the UK has nothing to do with Europe. The UK was one of the countries that SHAPED what Europe is today. While yes we didn't adopt the Euro, and we don't always see eye-to-eye with the EU government, we ARE a major part of the EU.
If you want to make the argument that the UK has a different culture to the rest of Europe, then I'll be happy to debate it with you, though I'm pretty sure every country in the EU has a different culture so I'm not quite sure what your point is... But at least try and get your facts straight before you open your mouth. You're a journalist for fucksake.

"Try not to give Americans a bad name by blindly insulting millions of people, due to your own prejudices and arrogance."

I think you should take your own advice.

RE: Today
By Murloc on 5/13/2009 12:34:46 PM , Rating: 2
the UK has a slighty different vision than central europe, it's more toward the US.

RE: Today
By lco45 on 5/14/2009 2:09:50 AM , Rating: 2
[silence .. crickets .. muffled coughing]

RE: Today
By clovell on 5/13/2009 2:15:21 PM , Rating: 3
Points to consider, Jason, but there's no way you can spin raising utility costs 7-fold in a worldwide recession as anything but idiotic.

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