Thursday, 3 September 2015

They don't half write some nonsense about solar

This was going to be titled: "Solar has become the most efficient way to generate electricity"
Solar has now taken over as the most efficient way of generating power.

This happened now. Right now. At the precise second you read this sentence. Or this one. Or at the time I wrote it. Or at least sometime this week. Or this year. Or maybe next year.
Of course you can't really give a precise time, any more than you can decide the precise point where the economy changes from bust to boom, or exactly which sip of drink was too much the day before a hangover.

Also, there is no single way to determine whether solar is more efficient than other ways of generating power. If you look at the cost of a power plant per unit of energy coming out of it, then solar is certainly a lot more expensive than options such as coal or uranium. However, if you look at the cost of the energy at the point of use--for example your house--then solar is often cheaper, since the electricity is there where you need it, and you don't have to pay for the line costs. As well as the availability of sunlight, this depends on the cost of electricity, the cost of panels, and any subsidies, which are all local factors. And you probably should not include subsidies if you want to really know whether solar is cheaper, but then you should probably adjust for the subsidies that coal, oil, gas and uranium get.

And even though solar in many places is cheaper where you need it, it may not be there when you need it, since solar panels are less efficient if it's cloudy, and even less efficient if it's dark.
The Japan Renewable Energy Foundation seems to be quite positive about solar. Although they may be as biased as people on the other side whose heads are stuck in oil barrels.

Reuters has an article from June 25th with the ambiguous title "Japan to stop inefficient coal-fired power plants being built" which in fact is about Japan's plans to build efficient coal-fired power stations.

There seems to be a lot of confusion over solar in the press, especially in the Japan Times. I think the wind is changing right now, so the weathercocks are all spinning aimlessly and pointing in different directions.

According to, Deutsche Bank claims there will be grid parity by 2017 in 80% of world markets. Wikipedia has a good page on grid parity, which mentions Matsumoto as an example, and shows that is is already here. This backs up the evidence I have on my electricity bills.

Meanwhile global coal production has been increasing at least since James Watt put the first steam engine at the top of a coal mine to pump water out, and since Fukushima Japan was helping this trend, so it's distinctly possible there are big contracts for importing coal, with big backhanders for Abe and his mates. Business as usual, or is it? Another factoid I heard recently was that coal uses more land than solar for generating electricity.