Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Let's Bake Cookies So the Boys Will Like Us!

Yes, I'm on a Simpson's quote kick today for post titles... This is a story sent in by #1 Blogdaughter, who sent it in with the subject: Math is hard.

NM college spends $5 million on solar array to save $200,000 in utility bills
Santa Fe Community College has just unveiled a solar array that, it says, will save the college at least $200,000 a year on its utility bills.

But the array, funded by taxpayers in a 2010 bond election, will cost $5 million.

You don’t have to be a math major at the college to figure out it would take 25 years of $200,000 cost savings per year to reach the $5 million mark for the project to just break even.
I'm going to have to call bull**it on the cost and savings, too. I suspect that the cost will exceed the $5 million figure, and the "savings" are based on a wildly enthusiastic reckoning. I'd be shocked if this made money back in 50 years.

Now, I have nothing against alternative energy. I would *love* to have a solar array or windmill that would generate enough electricity to power my house year round. However, I don't happen to have a spare $50K kicking around to get set up, and if I pitched it to my wife that we would make our money back in 25 years, when she stopped laughing at me she'd say no anyways.

You want to sell alternative/green energy as a source of renewable, clean energy? Great! You want to sell it as an off-the-grid, preparedness, TEOTWAWKI stuff? Totally understand. Would love to have a house with solar power, a well, and septic - in case of zombies, dig moat. But don't sell solar/wind/unicorn fart power as some magic money savings, because it's just not there.

And anyone who says it is is a big fat liar.

That is all.


Mopar said...

The math is actually much harder than that. You have to factor in the output of solar cells drops with age. Depending on brand/makeup, output can decline as much as 20% after 10-15yrs. If you are using batteries to store the electricity, those will have to be replaced every so many years. But you also have to factor in increases in the cost of grid power. How much cheaper was your electric bill 20 years ago? How expensive will it be in another 20?

Anonymous said...

good points Mopar.Also,I'm sure this was contracted out,so its ALWAYS underbid,with cost overruns and such.Why can't a contractor be forced to eat the loss,instead of passing it to the consumer?

Brad_in_MA said...


One of the most common methods to make energy generation more efficient while reducing pollution is for Big Giant Humongous Power Company to convert from oil to natural gas fired systems. For the same BTUs generated by burning gas instead of oil, gas produces something like 55% lower carbon emissions. Moreover, I'd bet you dollars to donuts that the oil-to-gas conversion payback is a whole heck of a lot shorter than the 25 to 50 years for the solar scheme you describe. The power company also doesn't have to worry about oil spills and possible ground water contamination either. If the save-the-spotted-owl-tree-hugging-Birkenstock-wearing-patchouli-smelling-grass-smoking-deadhead-occupy-whatever-weenie-greenies can't get their heads around that, well, too bad. And like Forest Gump says, "that's all I have to say about that."

Stingray said...

Given Santa Fe, I'm surprised it was that reasonable.

Jon said...

I bought a solar battery charger that does a great job of keeping the batteries on my camp trailer topped off. It's an off the grid application that makes sense, rather than running a generator to make AC and then plugging in a battery charger to convert to DC, especially since I have to haul every gallon of gas I burn from 300 miles away. During the winter, when I'm not using it in the mountains, it comes in handy for "free" charges of my motorcycle battery, too, and keeping the four wheeler battery topped off.
Makes sense on that scale, but I can't imagine spending the money on a set of panels big enough to power my home.

Geodkyt said...

If people really wanted to "Go Green" and reduce emmissions, they'd clamor for fast tracking of new nuclear power plants using modern technology, instead of fighting nukes tooth and nail.

There is no excuse for burning anything to produce main grid power.