Sunday, 4 September 2011

Solar Panels On The Wane

One of America's largest solar panel manufacturers, Solyndra Inc., is filing for bankruptcy and laying off more than 1000 employees.

Last year President Obama visited the Freemont plant and praised the company for their energy-saving manufacturing and he attempted to acquire a government loan for them to stay afloat.  That backfired because lawmakers called Obama's decision to support the company as "a dubious investment".

Solyndra Inc blames their problems on foreign competition which is creating products with prices that they can't compete against.  They also say that 'a slowing demand for solar panels coupled with a global market' has rendered them unable to continue.

Financial analyst Adam Krop adds:

“I don’t see anyone swooping in,” says the analyst from Ardour Capitol Partner in New York. “I don’t see this technology as very viable in the long-term."

Two other large American-based solar power manufacturers also called quits in August.

It would appear heavy competition from Chinese manufacturers has caused the price of solar panels to drop nearly 50% in 2011, yet companies here is the UK are still selling them at 2010 prices - with some increasing the cost.

Most, if not all, of the UK's solar panels are manufactured abroad and UK companies which promote them are "middle men"; thus increasing the price to the consumer some £x fold.  Now that it's been openly stated that prices have decreased 50% in the US this year has there been any reduction in the final price to consumers?  No.

Why not? Because I agree with Mr Krop.  Solar panels are not viable in the long term.  I've a friend who installed them on her house two years ago and has already spent a considerable amount of money having them cleaned.  More than her 'pay-back' fee by far she says. The cleaning of these panels involves scaffolding because nowadays nobody will go on a roof without a harness and scaffolding.  Plus this non-existent Scottish summer hasn't produced the power she was told by the salesman.

I don't blame her for trying, because she has a small holding in a very open area and she is a carbon emissions believer, yet she has donated nothing to the Grid since her system was installed so therefore she has had no income. Also she has, this 'summer' on many occasions to use her boiler to heat her home later in the day.  Fortunately, or unfortunately whichever way you look at it, she has friends who do have knowledge of solar technology and she was well warned that its installation could prove to be a liability but she likes to think she's part of the green community.

Usually what happens in America happens here and if the demand there has so dramatically reduced then...


Joe Public said...

I feel sorry for your friend who was "misled" about her return on investment.

She's now poorer, but wiser; having no-doubt now studied the small-print to discover that there are all sorts of exclusions.

However, is any solar pv (photo-voltaic) economically viable in the north of Scotland, where sunshine is weaker & lower? She may have been mis-sold, and has a not-fit-for-purpose case.

Does the solar array really need physical access via scaffold? Can't it be cleaned with a light-weight long-handled brush that window cleaners now use since Working-at-Height regulations prevented ladder-working?

subrosa said...

I asked the same question Joe and she said although it could be reached with an extremely long handled brush there was no tension left in the brush because of the handle length.

Unfortunately she doesn't have interior access to the panels either.

One thing I didn't put in the post was the company who installed hers in now burst so she's had to cough up extra with the 'new' company.

Naw, she knows she's been taken for a ride. Sad really because she's usually a sharp cookie.

Brian said...

Solar isn't economic without the feed-in tariff payment of 43.3p per kWh for 25 years. Compare that against the average price of electricity (say 15p per kWh)and solar PV is being subsidised massively by other electricity consumers.

Joe Public said...

With all that rain you've had this "summer", I'm surprised the panels need cleaning!

Flippancy out of the way - cleaning the Solar panels:-

Whilst I can appreciate your friend has difficulty exerting much brush pressure on the panels, could a pre-soak by one of these filled with a Fairy Liquid solution, be a solution?


subrosa said...

Yes it is Brian and that's what has attracted so many to it. I wonder what the 'regional' output is. Then I could compare the likes of the SE with here.

subrosa said...

Joe, I'll email your comment right away. Thanks.

Joe Public said...

Rosie, following your response to Brian's comment, this site provides useful relative info.

Another resource is this Solar Radiation-On Collector Program.

Brian said...

As a follow up to Joe's comment, solar PV panels are usually covered with self-cleaning glass or film. Self-cleaning requires a bit of rainwater (no shortage in Scotland this Summer :( )as half of the process: the other requirement is sunlight. If the panels are unusually dirty then cleaning with waterfed poles is recommended. Warm mild soapy water is all that is needed. This company from Edinburgh uses waterfed poles; there are doubtless others across Scotland.

Brian said...

This company.

Apogee said...

Hi SR,Interesting comments;couple of days ago I saw a report that the State government in Victoria , Australia will shortly cut the feed-in tariff by 60% on new installations.
The problem with solar and wind power systems is the idea, sold to the public that they can supply continuous high levels of power,when it is obvious that they cannot.
Solar and wind can supply power, but the public were never honestly told the pro's and con's, they were given the idea and were sold the idea of cheap power.Which it isn't.
Now a lot are waking in the real world and are not happy.Why?
Solar don't work at night, and windmills need the wind to blow! There is no way to bulk store electricity,so no sun, no wind, no power. Unless you have coal or nuclear to heat a kettle to make steam to spin a turbine to generate electricity. And even then you still have no way to store electricity,so you need all the systems combined to be able to maximise the benefits of all and minimise the bad points.
All salesmen and politicians are economical with the truth,but that is a different story.

RMcGeddon said...

We get the flyers from the solar companies quite regularly around here but I wouldn't pay into this part of the global warming scam.
The subsidy to large scale projects was cut by 70% from August the 1st so there's no guarantee that they won't go after private household projects in the future. Spain reduced it's subsidy to private households despite such similar guarantees of long term feed in tariffs. Plus they look dire and would presumably make you tied to the house if you were ever to get the so called returns on your investment.
'Dragon's Den' recently did a show where the 'entrepeneur' wanted money to expand his solar panel sales team. The dragons all jumped in ( bbc luvs the global warming scam). I think the BBC should have had a warning to the public about these schemes rather than a 100% endorsement.
I would get into the windmill scam though if I had the land. Dave's dad in law trousers £1,000 a day rent from his bird mincers. Nice.

70% subsidy drop link...

J. R. Tomlin said...

Solar power in Scotland? Um, I happen to think some green energy is a good idea but that might not be the ideal solution. I have a friend in Arizona who is quite happy with his solar units. But I suspect that get just a tad more sun.

Rosie, I think you are wrong to say that we should depend on petroleum for ever and ever amen, but not all green power is good for everyone and surely no one ever said that it was.

RMcGeddon said...

Here's a BBC weather expert warning about the dangers of private investment in solar roof panels. Pity he didn't tell the Dragons on Dragons Den. They enthused for about 20 minutes about how we should all invest in them due to the fantastic returns. A few months after the expert's warnings.

Brian said...

Didn't the Faroese dry stormy petrels beak upwards and use them as lamps on account of the birds' high BMI? With proper farming they could prove to be a renewable, carbon-neutral form of lighting available at nighttime.
Dragons, for £100k you can have 100% of the company and I'll throw in the Blackpool Tower plus first refusal on London Bridge.

RMcGeddon said...

They wouldn't fall for the London Bridge scam again would they ?!
Yes I suppose they would :(

RMcGeddon said...

Some of the comments on the BBC blog are hilarious. Highlighting the scams that go on in the solar panel scam. This one from someone in Spain was good..

"the Spanish scam was diesel generators attached to solar which caught them out because of the night time production. They were claiming the subsidy for 24 hour generation through solar. Some bright civil servant questioned the claims. "

subrosa said...

Thanks for that Joe. I had a phone call earlier and she said she thought she was being ripped off, along with her concern that the tariffs may well be greatly reduced.

subrosa said...

Brian, I emailed your comment. Many thanks.

subrosa said...

That's her concern now Apogee that she's spent all these thousands, the feed-in tariffs, although she hasn't benefitted and had to rely upon her gas boiler for warmth on chilly nights.

subrosa said...

If I had a few thousand hectacres I would be tempted too RM. Even if they do away with the feed in tariffs altogether, the big landowners, if they were quick enough to jump on the wagon, have made a small fortune.

subrosa said...

Jeanne, I do support sensible renewable energy policies, but why should my own utility bills be radically increased to give money to those who have decided to have solar panels in a country where their output is, to say the least, minimal.

If the general public didn't have to pay for the feed-in tariffs I'd be fine with folk paying for these panels. Then again, as my friend said, it was the feed-in tariff which persuaded her to part with the thousands to install hers.

subrosa said...

Thanks for that link RM.

I notice around here we don't get so many phone calls about solar now. It's changed in the past few months. Maybe these companies realise folk are catching onto the sales talk.

subrosa said...

Brian, when are you appearing? I'll do a post about it. :)

subrosa said...

I've sent that one on too RM because she still has her sense of humour, even though she feels her judgement is impaired. :)

Love it!

Furor Teutonicus said...

This summer, we have not had enough sun to, as Leg Iron said once, keep the garden footpath lights going longer than ten minutes after dark (Literaly).

So people with solar panels for their HOUSE must be kicking themselves right about now.

Yet the FDJ Tussi, Merkel, still insists we can replace all our nukes with these and similar "innovations", which are JUST as "reliable" and weather dependant!

subrosa said...

Aye Furor, you're going to have a hard time in the future with Merkel's change of tack about nuclear. North Germany has a similar climate to Scotland so solar isn't going to be of much help to them.

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