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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: Smart but not so...
By greylica on 5/13/2009 7:06:40 PM , Rating: 2
Some Facts:

A 65cm X 100cm solar panel will only generate (in very sunny days) 85W X 12V~14V in 5~6 hours a day.
We have to use static sealed batteries to store that energy.
In My Apartment, I have 6 windows available to install those solar panels.
Then I could have in a sunny day, (assuming 85W x 5 H X 6 Panels) 510W/H X 12V~14V.
This will give me 2550W X 12V~14V per day at maximum.

Cost to implement (here, but converted to U$):
4950 U$.

Then, what can I do with this little amount of energy ?
Using 12V Led Lamp, equivalent to a 100W incandescent lamp
will consume 6W per lamp directly in 12Volts. I use 8 here, and will assume 2 Hours for each.
Then 96 W (I will assume 100). Using an inverter, will lost between 15~20% of the energy,
2550w-100w (Lamps) = 2450w -20% (inverter)= 1960W available in 127Volts
PC + Monitor (idle) 120W
PC + Monitor (Gaming, or rendering 3D anims (My work)) 300W
6~7 hours a day work

Now, the worst part...

Assuming 0,45 cents per KW Here,using 2550W (brute energy)
as directly generate by the panels each day
Will give me 1,1475 U$ per day in full usage
(all lamps, my PC )

30 days = U$ 34,425 each month

4950 U$ to implement divided to 34,425=143 month

WOW - Error, it´s not 4 years, it´s 12 years !

OK, but they raise the cost of energy every 2 years...

Using the last downgrade in my pocket they
did here in Brazil (20,19 %) will cut the
time to recover the cost near 7~8 years.

Those panels last 20 years, the rest of recoverable costs
will be used to battery maintenance when needed.
(every 5 years)

This way, I will have at least 8 Years
to recover my pocket, using those
speculative calculations.

But the pleasure to not give the money
to them... doesn´t have a price...

RE: Smart but not so...
By Keeir on 5/14/2009 4:28:20 PM , Rating: 2
Assuming 0,45 cents per KW Here,

Note, if thats 45 Euro Cents, thats pretty damn painful. I currently pay 7 Euro Cents per kWh. Since I doubt power production/distr. is really that much more costly where you are, remember that alot of that 0,45 cents will have to be recovered by the government/collecting agency in other ways.

Even assuming that huge replacement energy costs (I consider prices ranging upto 5x the US average to be very high indeed), you still have to have 8 straight years of very sunny days every single day. I also notice you don't factor in battery losses, nor the lost efficieny as time goes on, nor the oppurtunity cost/borrowing cost for the inital investment, nor any potential maintaince costs.

Even Solar Panel Companies show that for most locations, personal solar panel installations cost around 0.4 USdollars per kWh over 25/50 years with no opportunity cost nor maintaincence nor efficieny losses. (Note, this is not true everywhere. Some area of the US with High Sun, High Government Incentives, and High Electricity costs begin to have payback periods in the 15-20 year range)

But the pleasure to not give the money
to them... doesn´t have a price...

Your right, its a pleasure not to give them money. But it does have a price... a pretty steap one

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