Xcel's plan to drop Solar Rewards draws heat

  • Article by: DAVID SHAFFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 20, 2012 - 9:05 PM

The Xcel Energy program offers rebates for solar arrays, but the utility wants it gone after 2013.

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davehougJul. 20, 1210:15 PM

If solar's subsidies can be put to better use thru other methods such as conservation then go with the best bang for the buck. Solar doesn't make economic sense in Arizona so why should it work here?

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swmnguyJul. 20, 1210:17 PM

Of course Xcel wants Solar Rewards gone. They want to burn natural gas, which is very cheap and profitable for them right now. They don't care about years from now, when gas is unlikely to be nearly so cheap.

Any reduction to our solar energy programs in the US is stupid and puts us even further behind the Chinese. The sun, meanwhile, keeps shining. The more we use solar power, for electricity, heat, hot water, etc., the less we have to use natural gas and other fuel sources for those purposes.

It's just as stupid to not have windmills from here to Yellowstone National Park. The wind blows constantly for 800 miles, yet only in some areas do we make use of that energy. What a waste.

Of course we'll use coal and natural gas when it's dark or not windy. What makes it a good idea to burn it all up right away? The fact that it's profitable right now? As if costs never change? As if economic equations never change? We've known about the oil in North Dakota for decades. It just wasn't economically feasible until the price of a barrel got high enough. The Energy Return On Energy Invested is very low.

The same calculations apply to solar and wind. But if we don't develop the infrastructure, we're stuck and without options. We won't care then that Xcel had a great couple of years some time in the past.

We're supposed to be so smart, and even with homegrown companies creating the technology that could harness this energy, and create jobs and energy independence right here at home, we're going to quit and let the Chinese eat our lunch so the shareholders of a utility can make a little more money the next few quarters. If we're that stupid, maybe we deserve what we'll get.

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whareidJul. 20, 1211:56 PM

For any technology to be feasible, it most be economical. Minnesota does not receive enough sunshine to have a reasonable payback for the expensive solar installations. Minneapolis and St Paul receive 58% sunshine. The % Sun number measures the percentage of time between sunrise and sunset that sunshine reaches the ground. These amounts are yearly averages based on many years of weather observations. No matter how you cut the numbers, current solar technology will not come close to paying for itself over it's expected lifetime. There are other parts of the nation where solar makes sense. Unfortunately, Minnesota is not one of them.

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ebrandelJul. 21, 1212:16 AM

@swmnguy: Under what situation will natural gas not be cheap in 10 years? There is almost none. But there is a guarantee that wind and solar will be more expensive and far less reliable than natural gas, coal, and nuclear. And generating large scale power with wind turbines is not as simple as most assume. It's very difficult to accurately predict how much power will be produced over the short term (the next 2-6 hours) and you do not get a constant, reliable stream of electricity. At a 400MW wind farm you can go from 50MW to 350MW in 60 minutes, and then back down to 75MW 45 minutes later.

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bosshogJul. 21, 1212:45 AM

I do agree with Xcel that conservation should be considered first.. but the question is whether or not that money would truly be applied to conservation efforts leading to reduced energy usage. We replaced a 15 year old refrigerator that was using 3Kwh a day with a larger one that uses only 1.2 Kwh a day. I saved a couple thousand dollars getting the new refrigerator and installing a smaller solar array to power it.

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bosshogJul. 21, 1212:50 AM

whareid, for one you are only considering the current costs. Electricity costs are increasing every year. Almost all solar panels have a 25 year warranty so you are basically locking in your electricity price for the next 25 years. Solar panel prices are nearly half what they were just 5 years ago. You also do not factor in the costs that are not reflected in your electric bill such as the mercury contaminating all the fish in Minnesota, the nuclear power waste that has no solution, and the pre-mature deaths that occur every year because of the particulate matter emitted from the coal power plants.

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bosshogJul. 21, 12 1:08 AM

ebrandel, 10 years ago I paid $0.70/gal for propane. Today it is over $2/gal. How can you possibly state natural gas will still be cheap in 10 years? Other countries have been producing 20%+ of their electricity from wind alone. Are you saying we lack the ability to do the same? The utility company propaganda wants you to believe that renewable energy is "unreliable". An appropriate analogy is the infrastructure for the internet. You can have networks and equipment fail but the internet continues to work because the traffic is rerouted. IF you have widespread installations of solar and wind then when one location does not have solar/wind you simply use the power generated from different locations. There will always be locations with wind blowing and/or sun shining. The utility companies do that now already with conventional fuels by purchasing electricity on the open market that might have been generated hundreds of miles away at some other power plant.

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nonewtaxesJul. 21, 12 5:42 AM

Why should the majority of rate and taxpayers subsidies the un-economicly viable installation of solar panels? These technologies will evolve without subsidies, and will become attractive for private investment.

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pwcgoldfishJul. 21, 12 6:20 AM

Reduce fossil fuels and maybe we can slow down global warming, thus needing less electricity to cool ourselves, thus energy conservation. Every new home built should be required to be "solar ready"

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mom2fourJul. 21, 12 7:03 AM

Xcel quote: Doesn't provide sufficient value. Xcel has been rated one of the most environmentally friendly utilities in the nation. And yet, the vultures come after them with a vengeance when a little common sense is being interjected into the equation. Essentially, as a regulated monopoly, investor owned utilities have little incentive to fight any political ideas. With a guaranteed rate of return, they essentially ask: "How Do You Want Us To Spend Your Money" rather than fight for any logical conclusion. When special interest groups and politicians make these kinds of decisions, you will have some pretty stupid ones being made.

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