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Jumbo Jets vs Balloons - updated

The PV industry is preaching a deceitful lie. Great claims are being made about how solar electric installations will be at "grid-parity" very soon - and this will being the beginning of a great transition to a solar-powered economy. "Grid-parity" for those who don't know the term refers to the point in time where it costs as much to install a kilowatt of solar electrical generating capacity as it does a kilowatt of coal, nuclear or natural gas electrical generating capacity.

Grid-parity is held up as the reason that billions of dollars of money should be squeezed from average ratepayers (you and me) and poured into programs such as the FIT and Micro-FIT programs in Ontario (and elsewhere). Achieving this goal is supposed to make it possible and preferable to build solar electric power plants for less money than building natural gas or nuclear power plants. This is a totally misleading and a lie!!

To provide an analogy - it's like saying that we have finally managed to design a system with enough brightly colored party balloons to lift 500 people into the air at a time - the same thing that a jumbo jet can do - without the green-house gases and noise!! So now we don't need jumbo jets!! - Except; balloons can only drift where the wind blows them, at the speed of the wind. Jumbo Jets can go wherever they please at high speed. In short, balloons can't do what jumbo jets can - and the same is true of solar vs conventionally fueled generating stations.

The reality is this: solar electricity peaks at one time of the day (noon) - and goes away completely at night. Solar electric systems, even when operating at full capacity, can drop to almost zero capacity - almost instantly, at any time, with no notice - when a cloud drifts overhead! Without solar electric storage (on a massive scale) solar power plants provide very little value because they have to be backed up 100% of the time by conventional electirical generation (that is either idling at the anticipated needed capaticity (coal and oil) or that can start up quickly - such as hydro power or natural gas turbines). Alternatively you would have to be satisfied having the electric power you need during a (100% sunny) day - but have rotating blackouts every time a cloud rolls by (or it gets dark or overcast, or rains, or snows.)

The graph above is a screen capture from an on-line, real-time monitored 10K PV installation in Ontario. The changes in power-output can be seen to be rapid and extreme. Note that the performance peaks around noon. Although larger PV systems may have less extreme variations, the Kilowatt value of those variations would be larger!

The manufacturer of the PV monitoring system has recently changed the software so that the extreme power-output variations are no longer obvious.......