Green Corporate Welfare

The Morning Call is reporting about Air Product Corporation’s new green solar farm, that was apparently subsidized with taxpayer money to make the economics work. I agree with Paul Carpenter of the Morning Call that this is lamentable, and shame on the Corbett Administration for wasting money like this, and bragging about it:

That is similar to what I once said about wind turbine and solar panel projects and the hucksters who peddle them. I said such schemes would never work on their own merit without the huge subsidies provided by politicians, who often receive “campaign contributions” from the hucksters.

I am most hostile to the windmills, which would denude hundreds of square miles of scenic and ecologically precious mountaintops to produce the same amount of energy generated by a single nuclear power plant on land the size of a small farm.

For solar panels, my math revealed in 2008 that investing in them would gain a family thousands of dollars less than putting that money in certificates of deposit, although CD rates have since fallen.

The big problem with solar energy is that it takes a lot of energy to manufacture the cells. This energy is generally coming from the electric grid, which is largely powered by coal. A solar cell will spend the first 4 years of its life recovering the energy that went into making it, and that’s assuming pretty generous sun amounts. Pennsylvania is not a good place for deploying solar power, so I’m not surprised it doesn’t work without taxpayer funded subsidies.

5 thoughts on “Green Corporate Welfare”

  1. My father worked for a power company in California. He was one of the guys who supervised the wiring up of power stations and power distribution stations. Don’t ever get him started about the boondoggle that is a wind farm. They had some in the desert outside of LA. OMG, what a ripoff.

    Basically, a rich guy makes a down payment on a wind turbine. Then he takes out a loan for the rest. Then he gets a massive grant that covers the rest of the loan somehow. On top of that he gets a massive tax credit that saves him more money than he paid as a down payment.

    This all goes back to my point that money isn’t the root of all evil. The income tax is the root of all evil.

  2. The big problem with solar energy is that it takes a lot of energy to manufacture the cells

    Well, the first big problem.

    The second one is storing the energy for non-immediate use; none of the alternatives are both cost and power-efficient.

    (Batteries don’t waste much power, but cost a bloody fortune. Hydraulic or molten storage lose more power, and the latter also costs quite a bit…)

    I am increasingly of the opinion that for anything but incidental power in remote areas, solar electricity is bullshit. (Solar water heating, now, is another matter…)

  3. What about small wind/solar units on individual homes? I’ve seen them advertised as money savers in the long run. I’ve considered them as possible options for getting off “the grid.”

  4. Arnie,

    Only if you don’t use a lot of power and are looking at break-even timeframes on the order of a 30 year mortgage.

    An exercise I recommend for anyone who thinks solar can solve your energy needs to plan the energy budget on 12V DC (not the much more power hungry 120V AC) for a boat for a weekend with electronics, lights, refrigeration, etc. You can’t go all solar without extreme sums of money for batteries and high efficiency panels, a large topside deck area to mount panels in every available space or both. The process is quite enlightening. And a sailboat’s needs are *nothing* compared to a typical small house.

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