Renewable Solar Energy is promoted as a key strategy for a Green Canada
Do we understand ALL the implications of what that means?
Solar Power is a viable technology and is a good fit for many applications. However, used for Major Utility Generation, it has critical limitations.
Solar Power Facts....
- Hours of available sunlight - No power is generated at night.
- Angle of the sunlight hitting the solar panel.
- The maximum elevation of the sun above the horizon changes throughout the year. Significantly less energy is generated in the fall, winter and spring than during the peak summer months. The angle of the panels can be adjusted throughout the year to maximize energy generation but this is labor intensive and will increase operating costs.
- Latitude of the solar panels will impact power generation. As latitude increases, the angle of sunlight striking the surface decreases. Sunlight has to travel through more atmosphere, which reduces the solar energy available.
- The angle of the sunlight hitting a fixed solar panel changes throughout the day. Panels are typically orientated so that sunlight strikes it squarely at noon. However, from dawn until noon and then from noon until sunset, the angle of the sun changes both vertically and horizontally. Some solar installations can change the orientation of their panels to mitigate this to some degree, but this increases both capital cost and maintenance costs.
- Energy generation is reduced as Cloud Cover increases.
- The capability of solar panels to generate electricity is expressed as Solar Production Potential Source. The potential varies widely across Canada with Saskatchewan and Alberta having the highest values. The map at right shows the potential across Canada in Kwh/Kw/yr.
- Solar Production Potential has a direct impact on the capital cost of a project. The lower the potential, the more panels are needed to achieve the design power output. Consider the power generation capability for a typical solar installation in Alberta:
- Solar Capability in Alberta is only 9% in December. Because the facility must be designed to meet nameplate capacity for every month of the year, this must form the design basis. 564,000 square feet of Solar Panels are required for 10 Mwatts. Taking capability into consideration, 6.2 million square feet would be needed!
- Check out The Ravina Project for detailed info on Capacity Factors: http://www.theravinaproject.org/
How Will This Impact Every Canadian?
- Different locations will have different economics. Solar may make sense in Arizona with lots of sunshine and where the sun is at a much higher angle. They need far fewer panels than what we need in Canada to generate the same amount of power. Blogs and Posts often talk about how the cost of Solar Facilities is steadily dropping and are now approaching the cost of Natural Gas Power Generation. This may be true in places such as Arizona where the Solar Production Potential is 3 - 4 times higher than Canada.
- Typical generation profile of an existing 25 Mwatt Solar facility in Alberta Source.
- There is more to the story than reduced power generation
- No ability to increase production to meet system demand.
- It is difficult to predict power generation further than a few hours into the future. You can however be sure that generation will be zero at night!
- The large number of solar panels needed to meet nameplate capacity translates to more maintenance costs and reduced reliability. This is especially true in plants that use tracking systems to adjust the panel angle and direction to maximize generation.
- Consider 2 cases for installing solar generation when there is surplus Fossil Fuel Fired capacity :
- Case 1 - System Demand will not be impacted because any reduction in Solar Power Generation can be made up for by facilities burning Fossil Fuel. This is referred to as "spinning reserve". In this case CO2e emissions reduction will be proportional to Solar Power Generation. The justification and economics for this case are poor. You cannot eliminate the spinning reserve and the only savings will be from small reductions in fossil fuel consumption. There will be no savings through reduced manpower or other operating costs.
- Case 2 - Hydro and Nuclear power can function as spinning reserve. However, there will be no reduction in emissions as these sources are considered to be renewable. Most importantly, why would you install solar if you already have zero emission generation capacity? There are no economics to this case.
- Case 3 - If the current system is unable to meet demand and new capacity must be added, some might push for Solar Power because it is perceived to be totally renewable.
- To avoid brown-outs and/or black-outs, an equivalent amount of spinning reserve must to be added.
- If the spinning reserve is fossil fuel, then there is limited advantage in reducing emissions.
- Natural Gas spinning reserve provides the best economics and is the cleanest alternative emissions wise.
- Hydro is a viable option but does not respond as quickly to demand changes. Canada is known for it's hydro capability with 3864 MW under construction and another 460 MW planned.
- Constructing a new hydro facility is very expensive, has a long lead time before power can be generated and in many cases can have significant environmental impacts. The creation of the necessary reservoir may displace individuals or even entire towns and communities.
- If hydro is selected for spinning reserve, it destroys the economics for solar. Why install solar if you are already installing a renewable resource?
- The only other technically proven and reliable source for renewable energy is nuclear power.
- The lead time for building a nuclear plant requires an extended planning and design stage. It requires extensive consultations with impacted parties and would not be an easy sell. One estimate puts lead time as high as 15 years.
- Nuclear power is very safe. However, accidents if they do happen can be dramatic!
- Nuclear power is not 100% emission free because Uranium fuel must be mined, processed and transported.
- A major challenge is the disposal of spent fuel. Uranium fuel is used up in approximately 18 months. It require secure storage in deep pools of circulating water to cool down for 10 years. It continues to remain dangerously radioactive for many years.
- There is a lot of misunderstanding surrounding nuclear power. Check out information from the World Nuclear Association.
- The future - A lot of work is being done to develop alternative renewable energy sources. A breakthrough is not expected in the near future. Unfortunately for the taxpayer, the objective of many research projects tends more toward keeping researchers employed and funds available to universities and development companies. The definition of success on these projects is often a Very Low Bar which taxpayers might view differently!
The Bottom Line: Every Canadian will see their costs increase to breaking point!
- In the excitement to embrace Solar Power it is easy to lose sight of how it will affect the cost of everything for Canadians
- Our society and the way of life we currently enjoy was built on fossil fuels.
- Hydrocarbons are an energy rich fuel source that can be produced inexpensively.
- Replacing $1.00 of Natural Gas with electricity currently costs between $5.21 and $13.88 at todays prices depending on your location.
- As we attempt to abandon fossil fuels by switching to electricity, these additional costs will be passed down to the consumer and taxpayer.
- It is not as simple as just adding generation capacity as people switch to electricity to heat their homes and power their cars. This increased demand will require major upgrades to the distribution system from the generation facility to our homes. This must be paid for by the consumer and/or taxpayer. See how the cost of electricity in Germany has increased as they continue to expand solar and wind power.
- Everything will cost substantially more. We will see increased costs for utility bills to heat our homes, groceries, goods and services, new & old homes and new vehicles to mention a few.
- For an overview on the economics behind Solar (or Wind), see Renewable Economics 101
- As costs for everything increase, the disposable income of Canadians will fall.
- The current lifestyle of all Canadians will fall to a new low.
- The impact on our society will be huge.
- As disposable incomes fall and spending decreases, many businesses will fail or down-size. Unemployment numbers will soar setting up a vicious circle of lost income followed by less spending and even more unemployment.
- As Canadians are pushed to the limit by increasing costs and decreasing lifestyle, we will turn inward and there will be a marked increase in racial tensions, anti-immigration rhetoric and a return to tribalism. In a few short years, we will undo much of what are parents and grandparents worked so hard to build. We will lose much of what makes us proud to be a Canadian!
- Other countries will lose respect for us as we deteriorate to 3rd world status.
Read more about how Canadians will be hurt without any significant change in global CO2e emissions. Click Here
At some point in the future, if Canada remains on it's current path, costs will rise to a point where Canadians will be forced to say "ENOUGH"!
There will be a ground swell of support for abandoning the "Green Future" and return to the standard of living that we have earned through hard work and effort.
Is it not better to do that TODAY rather than later when much of the damage has been done? Speak up and make your voice heard.