Obama Among the (Costly) Solar Panels Again


Apparently, the White House communications staff thinks that reprising President Jimmy Carter's fantastic solar power photo ops from 1977 is a really nifty way to signal to the public just how forward thinking President Barack Obama is. 

For example, the president was featured earlier this year wandering around the solar panels on the roof of the Denver Science Museum (pay out time 110 years). Later, a field of solar panels (cost 7x more than conventional power) at Nellis Air Force Base served as the backdrop for yet another presidential jobs creation, I mean, renewable power initiative.

This week the president announced another job creating energy scheme and, once again, his handlers sought out some shiny solar panels for him to stroll among, the DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center owned by Florida Power and Light. FPL spent $150 million building the 25-megawatt facility which will, reportedly, supply enough electricity for 3,000 homes.

Now let's do a rough calculation of the costs of DeSoto Solar versus conventional power sources. According to the Electric Power Research Insitute, a modern 1,000 megawatt coal plant without carbon capture technology would cost about $2.8 billion to build. Adding carbon capture would boost the cost to as much as $4.7 billion.

The 25 megawatt DeSoto facility cost $150 million. Scaling it up to 1,000 megawatts would cost $6 billion. But coal power plants operate 90 percent of the time snd solar only 30 percent, so in order to get the equivalent amount of electricity out of solar plant would mean tripling the capital cost for a total of about $18 billion. In other words, building a solar power plant costs between 4- and 6-times more than conventional, or even carbon capture, power. Even worse, a scaled up DeSoto-style plant costs 18-times more than a natural gas plant.