I have seen for myself what solar is like to try and implement at a sizeable commercial location. Unfortunately the issues overcame the advantages, and I’d like to share why, and add the context of the LA Times article. This is not a merely an anecdote. This is an example of where solar became impractical. The location I refer to is a large outdoor recreational facility with limited night use and just two buildings. One point of sales office and one retail store. Both are the size of a small house or less.
What I learned is that if you are building up from scratch, you can design your systems for unstable sources like solar and wind power. Your design includes the regular 24 hour a day reliable grid and can handle spikes and drops in your installation.
For a company to make that kind of a commitment the whole thing needs to be as solid as say how other utilities are like water and gas. The final deal killer was we could not get the assurances from our existing electrical provider to move forward.
If however you are trying to upgrade an older building, particularly commercial buildings you have a hornets nest of considerations unless you are very, very solid for cash resources. Even with the tax breaks and incentives.
There are a few solar business models that are proposed, from zero cost and discounted electricity to the opposite. The install and hardware is free.
Another model is where you bear the hardware and install costs and enjoy the tax breaks in full, and have your electricity for just the cost of maintaining your system. And of course there are models that borrow bits from each and split the incentives, the burden and the monies.
You probably know that already. What you might not know is how costly the upgrade to your existing 110v systems are. And that becomes the problem. That will almost surely escalate the permits required which will escalate the requirements, which raises costs that are not subsidised.
Add the less than rock solid reputation or stability of the solar installers and equipment makers and you have some serious thinking to do. The negatives are adding up as fast or faster than the upside.
And so we come back to the old wisdom of upgrades and expansion. The pioneers get the arrows the settlers get the farms. Maybe. If you adopt solar today you are more of a pioneer than a settler. As a progress report we have a mixed conclusion. The future prospects look good, but that can be said of so many alternative energy sources it’s a distant & uncertain forecast.
I’m not done, just waiting out the arrows. One day that facility will go alternative energy.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times / May 22, 2012)
Five years after the Obama administration’s renewable energy initiative touched off a building boom of large-scale solar power plants across the desert Southwest, the pace of development has slowed to a crawl, with a number of companies going out of business and major projects canceled for lack of financing.
Of the 365 federal solar applications since 2009, just 20 plants are on track to be built. Only three large-scale solar facilities have gone online, two in California and one in Nevada. The first auction of public land for solar developers, an event once highly anticipated by federal planners, failed to draw a single bid last fall.
“I would say we are in an assessment period,” said Amit Ronen, director of the George Washington University Solar Institute. “Nobody’s going to break ground on any big new solar projects right now — utilities want to see how farms coming online this year fit into the grid, and developers are waiting for more certainty about state policies and federal tax credits.”
Utilities had been willing to pay more because many states, including California, require them to derive a significant percentage of their power from renewable energy sources. But now utilities in many states are on track to meet those requirements, giving them less incentive to buy higher-priced solar energy —especially as a steep decline in natural gas prices has cut the cost of power from gas-fired generators.
More: After a Building Boom, Solar Energy’s Prospects Now Aren’t as Sunny