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U.S. Solar PV Electricity: Trickle Flow

U.S. Solar PV Electricity: Trickle Flow thumbnail

Pitiful State of U.S. Solar PV: Solar PV in the United States has demonstrated remarkable growth in capacity (i.e., MW), but lags terribly in actual electricity production (i.e., MWh) in the United States. For example, “Solar electricity generating capacity grew by a factor of 35 between 2000 and 2013 and currently accounts for 0.5% of annual U.S. electricity generation. PV cumulative capacity increased 65% in 2013 alone.” Figure 1 shows the percentage of electrical energy produced by several different generator technologies during 2013. The production from solar PV is overshadowed by coal, natural gas and nuclear, and even wind to a lesser extent.

image001                                                                  1.  Coal   2.Natural Gas   3.Nuclear  4.Wind  5. Solar

Figure 1. U.S. Net Electrical Energy Production by Source in 2013 (Source E.I.A. Electric Power 2012 & Electric Monthly, April 2014)

Solar and Lobbying: There is at least one, albeit frequently ignored reason, why solar PV lags other electricity production technologies. Figure 2 illustrates the amount of lobbying money spent by coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind and solar industries. Notice how Figures 1 and 2 are closely correlated. This money is lavished upon Congress to influence legislation leading to tax breaks and regulatory favors for non-renewable electric generation energy sources at the expense of other technologies. Let’s be honest: coal, natural gas and nuclear have no business interest in renewable energies. Thus, at the Federal level, there is an energy policy based on influence money and not on the best interest of the country. Please see this link from the Union of Concerned Scientists

image003                                                       1. Coal   2. Natural Gas   3. Nuclear   4. Wind   5. Solar

Figure 2. Money spent lobbying in 2014 by electricity generation industries (Source:

German Solar PV Progress: In contrast, “Solar power in Germany consists almost exclusively of photovoltaics (PV) and accounted for an estimated 6.2 to 6.9 percent of the country’s net-electricity generation in 2014…The official governmental goal is to continuously increase renewables’ contribution to the country’s overall electricity consumption. Long-term minimum targets are 35% by 2020, 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.” At the national level in this country, there are no admirable goals for solar PV, except to preserve the revenue stream of non-renewable energy technologies.

JHEverson Consulting

15 Comments on "U.S. Solar PV Electricity: Trickle Flow"

  1. Makati1 on Sun, 13th Sep 2015 8:27 am 

    “Renewables” … LMAO!

  2. ennui2 on Sun, 13th Sep 2015 8:36 am 

    “Renewables” … LMAO!

    And your preference is…what?

  3. Makati1 on Sun, 13th Sep 2015 9:03 am 

    Renewables is a joke. The punch line is that they will end when oil does. Pretending that there is a way to keep any degree of BAU going after oil goes away is self delusion.

  4. onlooker on Sun, 13th Sep 2015 9:28 am 

    Renewables missed the train some years back it will never and can never replace even a sizable portion of what oil does for civilization.

  5. ghung on Sun, 13th Sep 2015 9:42 am 

    Mak said; “Renewables is a joke….”

    PV is no joke. The joke is society’s expectations. Massive fossil-fueled power grids set a very high bar for cost and convenience, and frankly, the vast majority of folks are too technologically illiterate, too spoiled, and too distracted to live with homemade power and it’s limits. How long our industrial infrastructure can continue to produce PV is questionable, but generation systems like smaller wind turbines and micro-hydro are quite low-tech, can be made and maintained locally in small workshops,, and I can guarantee that guys like me will have useful electrical energy doing various works for a long time, well after the gridweenies are fucked.

  6. Allan on Sun, 13th Sep 2015 10:10 am 

    Germany, with its sunny southern deserts is an ideal place to produce cheap PV-electricity. Soon they will export it to their less developed neighbours 🙂

  7. Davy on Sun, 13th Sep 2015 10:25 am 

    Anyone that uses a blanket generalized statement “renewables are a joke” is a joke for an IQ. I am one of the harshest critics of the green hubris and fantasy of a green, clean, carbon-lite AltE status quo but I would never call AltE a joke.

    AltE is a vital tool and absolutely essential for some kind of transition to less with less. We can use AltE for vital needs and emergency services. At an individual level lights are vital. At a community level a water system supported by dedicated AltE is a short example of a long list.

    Yes, I agree the end of the oil age is the end of AltE but not without years of salvage and hybrid applications. Just as fossil fuels will be around post fossil fuel age so will AltE.

  8. Boat on Sun, 13th Sep 2015 10:39 am 

    Omen is replacing nat gas to heat their oil fields with solar to create steam. Acres and acres of glass buildings. I still have yet to see somebody tell me how this changes the EROI. Short is conveniently quiet.

  9. Kenz300 on Sun, 13th Sep 2015 10:41 am 

    Climate Change is real and will impact all of us…..
    It is time to wind down the use of fossil fuels…..

    New Report: America’s Solar Energy Margin Surging – Renewable Energy World

    Solar Beats Gas in Colorado – Renewable Energy World


    World Moves Toward 100 Percent Renewable Energy – First Electricity, Then Heating/Cooling, and Finally Transportation – Renewable Energy World

  10. ghung on Sun, 13th Sep 2015 10:45 am 

    Allan said; “Germany, with its sunny southern deserts is an ideal place to produce cheap PV-electricity. Soon they will export it to their less developed neighbours :)”

    Firstly, my family has been living nicely for years on solar power, in a location that is considered a temperate rain forest (over 65 inches rainfall/year). As for Germany exporting PV and other renewables to their neighbours, they already are, sort of. A debate about that:

    Depends on who’s counting what and when. Then, again, the Germans aren’t the type of folks who sit around contemplating the hopelessness of it all, unlike some folks here.

  11. BC on Sun, 13th Sep 2015 11:27 am

    Growth (bubble) of wind and solar capacity and production has peaked coincident with the price of oil and global GDP growth driven by unsustainable debt and fixed investment in China.

    Given Peak Oil, the 5- and 10-year rates of real GDP per capita cannot grow with the 5- and 10-year price of oil above $30-$40, which implies that we cannot grow the economy AND continue build-out of AltE to necessary scale AND maintain indefinitely the fossil fuel infrastructure. Something has to give, and it will be GDP growth (and gov’t spending) per capita AND further build-out of AltE.

    Renewables Won’t Scale (written in the context of climate change rather than Peak Oil)

    EV and Hybrid Sales

    Without a higher price of oil and generous subsidies, EV sales are likely to decline significantly hereafter, if not crash.

    Many AltE advocates will be shocked by how much AltE growth slows and eventually ceases growing in the years ahead. No doubt some will attribute the phenomenon to a conspiracy among Big Oil or Coal, but it will be primarily due to Peak Oil, overshoot, LTG, and EOG, i.e., the lack of growth of net available energy per capita, profits, income, and gov’t receipts to further fund the energy transition.

  12. Makati1 on Sun, 13th Sep 2015 8:05 pm 

    ghung, I hope your converter was not made in China or worse, the US. When some microscopic connection burns out, those solar panels will be shiny pieces of glass. We plan to have some solar for DC lighting and to run a small DC fridge until it too expires. Solar is good, but not forever.

    We are designing our farmhouse to work with physical laws, not tech. Water is fed into large tanks above the 1st floor (that houses the kitchen and baths) by gravity from the roof above the tanks. The windows are designed for maximum light and air circulation in a tropical country. (No A/C or heating required) cooking will be with natgas until it is gone and then by wood or charcoal heat as it was done historically if humans survive past that time. I hope so.

    My partner here is a register architect with 18 years experience and I have over 40 years in construction/design/estimating to draw from. Putting it all into a less than 1,000 sq.ft. package is the challenge. Less than $50K will build a nice, 1,000 SQ.Ft., self sufficient home, made of concrete, steel and CMU. Typhoon proof.

  13. BC on Mon, 14th Sep 2015 9:16 am

  14. Kenz300 on Mon, 14th Sep 2015 10:56 am 

    The transition to safer, cleaner and cheaper alternative energy sources continues…….

    Wind, Natural Gas, Solar Provide More U.S. Power, Replacing Coal


    Top 10 Clean Energy Trends Driving the Global Clean Energy Revolution – Renewable Energy World


    India Set To Auction 750 Megawatts of Solar Projects – Renewable Energy World

  15. Kenz300 on Mon, 14th Sep 2015 11:01 am 

    Solar projects are going up all around the world….

    India’s Cochin International Airport Goes 100 Percent Solar – Renewable Energy World

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