By Roy L Hales
Peter F. Varadi’s first book1 described the birth of the solar industry and its’ growth up until 2013. He recruited a team of internationally recognized contributors for the sequel.2 SUN TOWARDS HIGH NOON: SOLAR POWER TRANSFORMING OUR ENERGY FUTURE guides us through the industry today.
In terms of readability, I found this 296 page book similar to the Bible. There are compelling stories, but also passages like the Scriptural genealogies that are more tedious. This is definitely a book believers will cherish. I started underlining passages and dog-earing pages, for quick referral, around page 29.
The Warranty On Solar Panels
Varadi has another story of solar cells in use beyond their expected life-span. He installed the first commercial solar system on the Solarex corporation’s building in 1982. It stopped operating after thirty years – not because of the panels, “the building on which it was deployed was demolished.”3
A solar manufacturer once told me he did not like talking about older panels still in operation. This put pressure on him to lengthen the warranty on his solar panels. He does not want to pay customers and is comfortable with saying his product will last 25 years.
John Wohlgemuth, from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, wrote the chapter about the quality and reliability of PV systems.
“Historically there were three parts to a PV module warranty.
- “A workmanship component saying that the module would continue to look nice during the specified time period, originally only a year, but now typically 10 years or more.”
- “An intermediate power guarantee: With the 25-year warranty, this usually warranted no more than 10% power loss over 12 years.”
- “A final power loss guarantee, typically no more than 20% power loss over the length of the warranty.”
He added that “Almost every study on PV reliability shows that PV modules are one of the most reliable components in PV systems … approximately half of all reported service events related to a PV system are caused by the inverters.”4
China’s Phenomenal Success
Michael Eckhart, of Citigroup, traces China’s phenomenal success back to the Renewable Energy Law passed in 2006. Chinese manufacturers exploded onto the world market using European style technology financed with “plentiful cheap capital.” Four years later, the government ordered banks to finance domestic projects” and by 2015 China “was installing 18 GW per year.” 5
The US Omnibus Bill of 2015
In that same section, Eckhart explains why the Republican controlled Congress extended America’s solar tax incentive until 2022. The oil and gas industries made a deal with Senator Harry Reid. They agreed to extend solar and wind credits in exchange for Democratic support on ending the ban on exporting crude oil.6
Other Aspects of Solar’s story
Some of the other writers tell other aspects of solar’s story.
Dr Allan Hoffman pointed out that, prior to the end of 2011, 80% of the panels were found on homes and in farms. The switch came after commercial users realized “they would be able to get their electricity for a fixed price for 20 years and by installing electricity storage their facility would not be exposed to occasional power failures.”7
Does Solar Provide the Way To 100% Renewable Energy?
Does solar provide the way to 100% renewable energy?
At the end of 2016, there was 300 GW of solar capacity on our planet. Most of this was installed in the past six years.
Wolfgang Palz, Editor of the Pan San Series on Renewable Energy, suggests “PV Markets can be conservatively expected to rise by between 60 and 70 GW” a year until 2020. After that, the pace will “climb up to 100 GW on average.”
However, ” … Most of the electricity we consume today stems from the conventional sources. The switch to a 100% RE (renewable energy) world is not easy. Most of the conventional power plants have a long service life of 50 years and more. And most of them are amortized and produce electricity very cheaply. It will be a Herculean task to get rid of the existing and well-operating 4,000 GW of fossil and nuclear generating plants worth many trillions of dollars.”
Palz suggest that solar might eventually contribute 20% of the world’s capacity, but ” … because of its intermittency, solar electricity would at best be available 15% of the time at full equivalent power …” 10
Twilight of Big Oil
Varadi explains that Big Oils day is over.
“The Paris agreement makes it clear that the world will not turn back on serious global warming policies … (Oil companies) are not going to control our lives; they will have to compete like every other industry is doing.”11
SUN TOWARDS HIGH NOON: SOLAR POWER TRANSFORMING OUR ENERGY FUTURE
This article scarcely begins to describe SUN TOWARDS HIGH NOON: SOLAR POWER TRANSFORMING OUR ENERGY FUTURE. There are sections devoted to government policies, personal and corporate financing, electrical energy storage, mini-grids, community solar, solar used in desalination, and a variety of other topics.
This is a book anyone interested in solar energy should own.
Photo Credit: Cover of Peter F. Varadi, SUN TOWARDS HIGH NOON; SOLAR POWER TRANSFORMING OUR ENERGY FUTURE
- Peter F. Varadi, SUN ABOVE THE HORIZON; THE METEORIC RISE OF THE SOLAR INDUSTRY, Pan Stanford, 2014 ↩
- Wolfgang Palz, Editor of the Pan San Series on Renewable Energy; Michael Eckhart, Managing Director & Global Head of Environmental Finance at Citigroup; Dr Allan Hoffman, a former senior analyst at the US Department of Energy; Paula Mints, founder & Chief Market Research Analyst of SPV Market Research; Bill Rever, co founder Advanced Silicon Group; John Wohlgemuth, from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; Frank Wouters, former Deputy Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency ↩
- Peter F. Varadi, SUN TOWARDS HIGH NOON: SOLAR POWER TRANSFORMING OUR ENERGY FUTURE, Pan Stanford, 2017, p 33 ↩
- ibid, pp 69, 70 ↩
- ibid, pp 128, 116,129 ↩
- ibid, p 119 ↩
- ibid, p 32 ↩
- ibid, p 97 ↩
- ibid, p 97 ↩
- ibid, pp 282, 285, 288, 286 ↩
- ibid, p 266 ↩