I’m a lawyer, so rebuttal is second nature to me. When I read some of the criticisms of solar renewable energy, they are just begging for a reasoned response. And then I have to ask – do we really think its wise to keep relying so much on a resource that is going to run out one day?
Regardless of whether you “believe” in global climate change, it is simply not sustainable to keep gobbling up oil at this pace, without planning for the future. When its gone, its gone. Thus, not renewable!
Without further ado, let’s rebut renewable energy criticism with respect to solar energy!
The two biggest criticisms of solar energy are based on perceptions of (1) inefficiency and (2) high cost.
Yet, solar makes more sense than fossil fuels on both fronts.
Let’s start with the efficiency of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. With current technology, PV panels can reach about 20% efficiency. That is, of the UV light that strikes the panels only about 20% of the energy is converted to usable electricity.
Fossil-fuel burning power plants don’t do much better. Only about 35% of the energy in coal or gas makes it onto the power grid. The remaining 65% is wasted. But wait – before you say “I told you so,” consider that solar efficiencies are rapidly rising with new technology. Scientists admit that we’ve tapped out the most we can from coal and gas. Not so with solar energy.
With respect to the argument that solar energy is too expensive, there are a lot of factors that go into a true comparison that many people simply do not consider.
An illustration of the differences is perhaps the best way to make this point. The Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center (FPL) cost $476 million for 75 megawatts of electricity. Yet a nearby 3,649 megawatt gas power plant would have cost about $3.2 billion if built today.
At the outset, simple math calculations show that the gas plant is a small fraction (1/7) of the cost of solar. But what’s missing in this comparison?
- Fossil fuel subsidies (still 2.5% more than for renewable energy)
- Carbon taxes of $15 per ton, which add up to $180 million each year for the life of the gas power plant.
- The often-overlooked carbon costs associated with extracting natural gas
- Natural gas prices continue to rise, whereas solar energy costs are falling each year
In the end, we have to embrace renewable energy sooner or later.
Why not get on board today, and push aside the common criticisms of solar energy?