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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 JasonMick on 5/13/2009 10:46:33 AM , Rating: -1
Yea... sorry about that...*drinks more coffee* :(

A few clarifications:
I was incorrect in my initial assertion -- the UK is obviously in the EU, but they refuse to adopt certain EU standards, such as the Euro currency. Thus its easy to forget that they were actually one of the EU's earliest members. They do vote in the European Parliament, etc.

Second, a minor typo -- I meant to say "France ... (along with Japan)" in the sentence concerning nuclear power. Japan also has shown strong nuclear leadership. Arguably Japan has the stronger program of nuclear technology development, while both countries could lay claim to best deployment.

Lastly, I agree that Europe has its bureaucratic problems. Is this one of them? That is surely open to debate.

That said, I stand by the majority of my initial comment. I think it is close-minded and ignorant to write off millions of people as "retards" or "idiots" because of a handful of government decisions you have a problem with. Such comments smack of overcompensation.

If Fit had decided to discuss the merits of solar initiatives, that would have been great, but instead, he chose to turn this discussion into a name-calling. I've seen enough threads at DT devolve as such, and I hope to see less of that in the future. For the record I'm equally opposed to threads blindly blasting the U.S. and its citizens -- and there have been a few of those in the past, too.

You can say what you will, but Europe, like most regions is home to many intelligent people, is making valuable contributions to the world, and has a lot of things in its past it can be proud of, as well as some that things in the past and present that are mistakes, and should be taken as lessons.

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.

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain

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