Letter: A revisitation of the facts and figures underpinning solar power

But there are applications where it does make sense

To the Expositor:

The August 5 edition of this paper featured an article regarding solar electrical energy for domestic purposes. The headline for the article written by Lori Thompson stated that ‘Solar is a good option for going off-grid,’ Page 5. I am not sure what “good” means here, but does the basic message stand up to financial scrutiny? What follows is a simple analysis using the various costs etc claimed in the piece. Here are the assumptions made for the calculations and I have used a 20 kwh system for the exercise. 

The costs for the equipment are as stated in the article. Life of the project is 20 years. Battery replacement is $10K and carried out at year 10. Maintenance costs per year are estimated at $250 annually (likely a low figure). A net present value (NPV) calculation at six percent interest is $58.5K. Note that the cost of a back-up generator is not included. There will be days when such a unit will be necessary or major appliances will have to be shut down. In addition, solar panel efficiency deteriorates over time so the capacity of the system to deliver rated energy also diminishes over time.

The NPV cost of purchasing the same amount of power from Hydro One is $17,440 including delivery, regulatory charges and HST and I have also included a four percent annual increase in rates over the 20 year period. In other words, if a household is thinking of a change to solar, they should be prepared to pay about three and a half times more for electricity. Good option? I think not!

On a national scale, solar has been tried in many countries with disastrous cost results. The evidence is clear. If it doesn’t work for the grid, how could it possibly be cost effective for an individual household?

As David MacKay has stated, thinking that “renewables” are a suitable alternate energy source is “an appalling delusion.”

I do not mean to imply that the solar option should be ignored in all circumstances. There are instances where the option makes good sense. One example that I recall seeing was at Loon Song Gardens where the operators installed solar panels and an irrigation pump. Grid power was expensive to bring to the location and the intermittency of the system doesn’t matter so no batteries required. There are obviously many other applications as well.

Shane Desjardins