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Solar energy costs differ
Mercury News ^ | 11/28/05 | Paul Rogers

Posted on 11/28/2005 7:06:17 AM PST by NormsRevenge

Interested in solar power?

How much you'll pay in city fees to put solar panels on your home depends on where you live -- and some fees around Silicon Valley are so high they are placing a cloud over renewable energy, according to a new study.

Saratoga, for example, charges $95 for a permit to install solar panels on a house. Yet in Los Gatos, two miles away, city planners will sock a homeowner with a $1,287 bill for a permit to install the same system.

The findings come from a survey of 40 cities in San Mateo, Santa Clara and San Benito counties by the Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club.

``There's a huge gap in what various cities charge,'' said Carl Mills, a Milpitas technical writer who helped compile the survey. ``Something is very wrong.''

Silicon Valley may seem like the perfect region to embrace solar power, with lots of high-income, technologically savvy, environmentally friendly residents. High fees send the wrong signal, Mills and other solar supporters say -- especially when rising natural gas prices are sending electric bills soaring, global warming is on the increase and America's reliance on Middle East oil is growing.

In addition to high fees, in some towns delays, red tape and bureaucratic hassles also are making it harder to go solar, the survey found.

Sierra Club volunteers phoned 40 municipal building and planning departments over the summer and asked how much it would cost to install a typical solar-panel system on a house. They chose one that would cover 320 square feet, with the solar panels installed flush to the roof, generating 3 kilowatts, and costing $27,000.

(Excerpt) Read more at mercurynews.com ...


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; US: California
KEYWORDS: california; costs; differ; energy; solar

1 posted on 11/28/2005 7:06:18 AM PST by NormsRevenge
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To: NormsRevenge

As Raymond's wife would say "Idiots"


2 posted on 11/28/2005 7:07:36 AM PST by George from New England
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To: NormsRevenge
This is beyond idiotic. People should be getting tax breaks for investing in renewable energy, not paying for permits.

Sometimes bureaucrats make me wanna scream!
3 posted on 11/28/2005 7:10:20 AM PST by varyouga (We Are...PENN STATE!)
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To: varyouga
Um, these are basically just sales taxes on the installation work. They have nothing to do with the actual competitiveness of solar power.

The competitiveness problem for distributed solar (e.g. for home heat and power) is easily stated - the cost of installing the system, even if the solar cells were free, exceeds the lifetime present value of the delivered electricity at coal or nuclear enery prices.

You could take what you pay the builders, put it in government bonds, and pay your electricity bill with the interest. And to spare.

The cost of the solar equipment itself is extra and a couple times more expensive than the rival sources. The cost is just up front as capital rather than ongoing as fuel.

Centralized solar may eventually become competitive, if prices continue to fall. Proponents frequently site Moore's law like price decreases in favor of solar. But past evidence shows prices of solar cells dropping about 10% per year, not the 30% per year of Moore's law. That is still enough to put the equipment itself in the competitive range in 20 years or so. But the labor cost of installing the stuff is a different matter, and does not decline over time. On the contrary, it rises with general living costs, wages, etc.

4 posted on 11/28/2005 7:18:31 AM PST by JasonC
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To: NormsRevenge

``We're not trying to make money here. We are trying to recover our costs,'' said Bud Lortz, Los Gatos director of community development."

Exactly what is the cost of sending an inspector to look at a soalr installation and review the specs according to prints?? Since prints are generally approved per building code the installation is the only question.

Making money also includes the enhanced value of the property which will certainly be reflected in property taxes.
Do these permit fees include the loss of franchise taxes collected from the sale of gas and electricity in the community?

No wonder alternative energy development has not taken off. The costs inposed by greedy government tax and fee revenue mongers appear to be detrimental by not making alternative energy affordable.


5 posted on 11/28/2005 7:19:05 AM PST by o_zarkman44
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To: varyouga
"This is beyond idiotic. People should be getting tax breaks for investing in renewable energy, not paying for permits."

Well, if you think it's a good idea to pay $27000 for 3 lousy kilowatts of power, then I don't see a $1600 permit being a problem. At $0.07/kwh, and assuming 12 productive hours a day, it will take about 30 years to get your money back. Not counting the time value of money. Or repairs and battery replacement. Or cloudy days.
6 posted on 11/28/2005 7:19:40 AM PST by beef (Who Killed Kennewick Man?)
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To: NormsRevenge

It's Bush's fault. He is planning to sell all mineral rights to the sun to Haliburton. Like Montgomery Burns, Dick Cheney will rule the world someday.....


7 posted on 11/28/2005 7:20:29 AM PST by x_plus_one
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To: NormsRevenge

Those who do, do. Those who can't work for the county.


8 posted on 11/28/2005 7:23:07 AM PST by bmwcyle (Evolution is a myth -- Libertarians just won't evolve into Conservatives.)
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To: NormsRevenge
320 square feet, with the solar panels installed flush to the roof, generating 3 kilowatts, and costing $27,000.

Yea, that's really cost efficient. Spend $27,000 for a system that might save you $30 a month on your energy bill. Don't worry, it will pay for itself in 75 years.

9 posted on 11/28/2005 7:23:45 AM PST by Blood of Tyrants (G-d is not a Republican. But Satan is definitely a Democrat.)
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To: NormsRevenge
They chose one that would cover 320 square feet (17.88 ft sq), with the solar panels installed flush to the roof, generating 3 kilowatts, and costing $27,000

That big ugly thing isn't very cost efficient is it. Then again 'solar' never was, nor will be.

BTW, 3KW is 'whooping' 4.02HP.

10 posted on 11/28/2005 7:27:09 AM PST by Condor51 (Leftists are moral and intellectual parasites - Standing Wolf)
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To: JasonC
The competitiveness problem for distributed solar (e.g. for home heat and power) is easily stated - the cost of installing the system, even if the solar cells were free, exceeds the lifetime present value of the delivered electricity at coal or nuclear enery prices.

So what? Sometimes it's not all about the price of something. I'd rather spend a little more and invest in renewable energy.
11 posted on 11/28/2005 7:27:42 AM PST by Quick1
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To: varyouga
People should be getting tax breaks for investing in renewable energy,

Excuse me, but can you explain to me why I should subsidize this experiment?

3 kilowatts, and costing $27,000.

If you want to spend your money on doing that, then by all means, go ahead.

But why do you expect ME to help you pay for it?

12 posted on 11/28/2005 7:31:16 AM PST by Izzy Dunne (Hello, I'm a TAGLINE virus. Please help me spread by copying me into YOUR tag line.)
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To: varyouga

These are upscale areas. You wouldn't allow pig farms to be built atop people's houses, why ugly power plants? Solar collectors are industrial looking and don't fit in with expensive houses.


13 posted on 11/28/2005 7:33:17 AM PST by Reeses
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To: Quick1
Sometimes it's not all about the price of something. I'd rather spend a little more and invest in renewable energy.

Indeed. But this is more than a little.

3 kW. Assuming it produces 3kW for 6 hours per day (a generous assumption), 365 days a year (a generous assumption), for 20 years, that's 24 kWH per day, about 540 kWH per month. That's 129,600 kWH over 20 years. That's almost 21c per kWH.

And you know that the peak power (3 kW) is only produced when the panel is directly facing the sun. Unless you track the sun, that won't happen more than an hour a day.

And unless you manage to store ALL the energy, you can't count all of it.

And there are a few cloudy days, I would assume.

I don't know about the 20-years guess - that may or may not be realistic.

14 posted on 11/28/2005 7:43:21 AM PST by Izzy Dunne (Hello, I'm a TAGLINE virus. Please help me spread by copying me into YOUR tag line.)
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To: Izzy Dunne
Here's a blog some guy created for his solar project: Linky.

He's been getting an average of 5-6 kwH over the last 4 months, and that's during fall/winter in MA. He noted he was getting over 9 during August. I can only imagine what a California valley would get. Also, he has a nifty little battery storage set-up.

Even if Californians did a small solar setup, it would at least offset the cost of A/C during the summer, and would help ease the energy burden in that state, since peak periods, when everyone has their A/C on, is when there is the most strain on the system.
15 posted on 11/28/2005 7:52:24 AM PST by Quick1
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To: Izzy Dunne

PV systems like this are for well heeled enthusiasts and people who want to make a political statement. They make no sense for energy production.


16 posted on 11/28/2005 7:56:30 AM PST by beef (Who Killed Kennewick Man?)
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To: NormsRevenge

Imagin what happens when you have solar panels blocked by high rise condo developments.


17 posted on 11/28/2005 7:59:49 AM PST by longtermmemmory (VOTE!)
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To: Quick1

Then raise trees for firewood. It would be more efficient.


18 posted on 11/28/2005 8:07:07 AM PST by saganite (The poster formerly known as Arkie 2)
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To: saganite
Sure. You can use firewood during the winter to generate your heat, and then use the solar panels in the summer to generate energy for the A/C.

Alternatively, you could even use geothermal energy to help heat your house somewhat, and then have a fire for extra cold days, or simply use the regular heater for your house, but use much less energy for it.
19 posted on 11/28/2005 8:09:55 AM PST by Quick1
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To: Condor51

I imagine it costs much more because they are putting it on an existing roof. Putting it on a new roof would be much cheaper. I'm not sure exactly what the price would be, but my guess would be a little more than half of that price.


20 posted on 11/28/2005 8:14:41 AM PST by Quick1
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To: Quick1

I have considered solar for my house in the past but every time I look at the economics I decide not to do it. The return on my investment would exceed my remaining lifespan and add nothing to the value of my home. I've decided that solar is for those folks wanting to make a statement with money to burn. That ain't me.


21 posted on 11/28/2005 8:16:19 AM PST by saganite (The poster formerly known as Arkie 2)
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To: saganite

That's fine, it's your decision. My statement was merely that for some people, it's not all about the bottom line, and that spending the extra dough might be worthwhile. I don't have them on my house now, either, but when I have the money to build my own, I am going to make sure to look into alternative energy, especially solar panels (although who knows how much good they'll be up here in MN).


22 posted on 11/28/2005 8:21:06 AM PST by Quick1
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To: NormsRevenge
If it's good enough for the British and Europe and Japan,, why not America?

Build more nukes!


23 posted on 11/28/2005 8:32:04 AM PST by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi ... Monthly Donor spoken Here. Go to ... https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: Quick1
***although who knows how much good they'll (solar) be up here in MN.***

STOP! Save your money.
Solar is useless1 especially in places like Minnesota -- and the rest of Northern climates (above 380 latitude IIRC) for that matter.

1- Unless you want to turn the solar panel frames into big flower pots or use them to plant tree seedlings. (semi kidding)

24 posted on 11/28/2005 8:32:32 AM PST by Condor51 (Leftists are moral and intellectual parasites - Standing Wolf)
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To: Quick1
Go right ahead. But you aren't helping anyone but the contractor who puts it in. You are not saving resources, net, for the whole society. Only when something does so and is adopted on a mass basis because of it, does a new technology make a real difference.
25 posted on 11/28/2005 8:35:07 AM PST by JasonC
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To: saganite

It seems the biggest problem right not is regulation and tax/fees.

Perhaps what needs to happen is laws which make solar panels exempt for ANY homeowners association rules and regulations, put a cap on a permit not to exceed $100.00 across the board, and .... make the cost of the solar panel system come off two years worth of property taxes.

I like the last one best.


26 posted on 11/28/2005 8:37:52 AM PST by longtermmemmory (VOTE!)
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To: JasonC

...and all of your explanation explains the concept of technology before its time, a concept of all rabid environmentalists and part time economists suffering from lack of common sense and schooling. The need for something before it is economically feasible, is offset to the degree necessary by what they call government subsidy, and normal people would call theft or economic slight of hand.


27 posted on 11/28/2005 8:41:01 AM PST by wita (truthspeaks@freerepublic.com)
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To: longtermmemmory

Your property taxes must be outrageous. It would take 20 years at my current tax rate to pay for even a modest solar system.


28 posted on 11/28/2005 8:59:21 AM PST by saganite (The poster formerly known as Arkie 2)
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To: Reeses

There are pigmented solar panels that come in other colors other than silicon purple. Was developed by DoD for concealment and is now entering the builders market to meet architectual and esthetic needs. I do not think one should put solar panels on a house to recoup high energy costs. I see it more as an emergency power source if power goes out over a long period of time (i.e Hurricane, Earthquake, or other major diseaster). Beats a generator which needs gasoline and operates for 4 to 6 hours before it needs refueling. The problem is if you add $ 27000 value to your property, the property taxes will go up.


29 posted on 11/28/2005 9:00:46 AM PST by Fee (`+Great powers never let minor allies dictate who, where and when they must fight.)
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To: NormsRevenge
A permit to install solar panels...

A permit to install solar panels...

A permit to install solar panels...

A permit to install solar panels...

Nope, no matter how many times I say it, it still doesn't make any sense.
30 posted on 11/28/2005 9:01:22 AM PST by LIConFem (A fronte praecipitium, a tergo lupi.)
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To: Quick1

I think that price is about right for an installed system. The panels themselves are in the $4.50 per watt range, there's a $1000 inverter in there somewhere, maybe $2000 in a bunch of big batteries, and some "misc". Then you have to get it all together.


31 posted on 11/28/2005 9:30:45 AM PST by jiggyboy (Ten percent of poll respondents are either lying or insane)
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To: Blood of Tyrants
1) The system would be more efficient if it was tilted to approximately 40 degrees, close to perpendicular to the suns rays as possible.
2) Since one of the greatest costs in a warm climate involves cooling, better building design--adjusting building orientation to avoid heat gain, increased insulation, use of window products that reflect sunlight and reduce heat transmission, use of design suited to local climate--may result in reduced electrical costs. (E.G. a Cape Cod home in the Sonoran desert makes no sense.)
3) Like any product, the unit cost decreases when your total production increases. The more homes that use solar the greater the production, more widespread technical knowledge required to install and maintain, and the lower costs will eventually become.
4) Since sunlight is free, it makes sense to continue to develop systems that utilize sunlight. We have come a long way since Edison. We aren't done yet and the United States has many exceptional engineers.
32 posted on 11/28/2005 9:31:00 AM PST by Pete from Shawnee Mission (Don't put it where the sun don't shine....)
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To: NormsRevenge

Why the hell should somebody have to pay the city any sum to put solar panels on HIS OWN HOUSE?


33 posted on 11/28/2005 10:24:36 AM PST by Tolerance Sucks Rocks (I-901: A freeway funded entirely by Washington State Smoking Nazis...)
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To: varyouga
This is beyond idiotic. People should be getting tax breaks for investing in
renewable energy, not paying for permits.


Actually, it's very Californian.

At the height of the energy crunch a few years ago, some naive soul
bought a wind generator, hoping to put it up in a fairly isolated region
of the Inland Empire (northeast of metro Los Angeles).

But NO! The civil authorities descended like hungry vampires and eventually
made installation impossible by invoking all kinds of arcane rules/regs.

I was suprised that The Los Angeles Times actually documented this
prime example of Democratic central planning.
34 posted on 11/28/2005 10:33:19 AM PST by VOA
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Comment #35 Removed by Moderator

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