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Solar Energy Is the Fastest Growing Industry In the US

Soulskill posted about 3 years ago | from the exploiting-the-sun's-hard-labor dept.

Power 410

Hugh Pickens writes "According to Rhone Resch, the last three years have seen the U.S. solar industry go from a start-up to a major industry that is creating well-paying jobs and growing the economy in all 50 states, employing 93,000 Americans in 2010, a number that is expected to grow between 25,000 to 50,000 this year (PDF). In the first quarter of 2011, the solar industry installed 252 megawatts of new solar electric capacity, a 66 percent growth from the same time frame in 2010. Solar energy is creating more jobs per megawatt than any other energy source (PDF) with the capability, according to one study, of generating over 4 million jobs by 2030 with aggressive energy efficiency measures. There are now almost 3,000 megawatts of solar electric energy installed in the U.S., enough to power 600,000 homes. In the manufacturing sector, solar panel production jumped 31 percent. 'The U.S. market is expected to more than double yet again in 2011, installing enough solar for more than 400,000 homes,' writes Resch. 'Last year, the industry set the ambitious yet achievable goal of installing 10 gigawatts annually by 2015 (PDF) – enough to power 2 million more homes each and every year.'"

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J/MW? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36906448)

Jobs per megawatt? What the hell kind of measure of efficiency is that?!

Re:J/MW? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36906494)

Whenever you see the phrase "fastest growing", beware of bullshit.
It usually implies "one of the very smallest".

Propped Up Industry (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36906664)

The solar industry is propped up by govt tax breaks and subsidies. As soon as those expire, then the industry goes belly up.

Sustainable energy is not self-sustaining, as the markets well know.

Re:Propped Up Industry (3, Informative)

Vihai (668734) | about 3 years ago | (#36906688)

How much are the subsidies in USA? Here in Italy they are around 0.42 €/kWh and are crazily high, to the point that no more subsidies are going to be given starting this year.

Re:Propped Up Industry (2)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 3 years ago | (#36906724)

Or it could go the way of the railroads and the Internet, which were heavily subsidized initially so they could get started, but were self-sustaining once they reached a certain scale.

Re:Propped Up Industry (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36907112)

Other way around. Private rail was massive successful, especially in Britain. Then the government got it hands into it and made it into crap.

You ever wonder why India has such terrible rail even though it as built by the British when they had a great rail system? Because the British government started to try and master plan the rails and subsidize into into mediocrity.

British (and Indian) rail area a great example of the government turning a great industry into trash because it removed competitive pressure from the system and tried to pick winners and losers.

Re:Propped Up Industry (1)

amn108 (1231606) | about 3 years ago | (#36907304)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with subsidizing solar energy companies. There are incentives there, and I'm not even going to waste my time listing them - as you seem to know so much about the topic, you should know this yourself. As for U.S., the entire country is subsidized. I am talking about the national debt.

Re:J/MW? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36907110)

There is also no mention of how highly subsidized the industry is. Its certainly not stock i would buy.

Re:J/MW? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36907116)

Whenever I see the phrase "private space tourism" I feel the same!

Re:J/MW? (5, Funny)

goombah99 (560566) | about 3 years ago | (#36906508)

Jobs per megawatt? What the hell kind of measure of efficiency is that?!

Jobs = work/week
Watt = work/second

Jobs/MegaWatt = 0.144 E-12

You haven't Play Alpha Centauri have you? (1)

arcite (661011) | about 3 years ago | (#36906778)

In that game everything was measured in Energy, not money. Energy were credits you could use to purchase products, energy could produce more food, produce more minerals, even produce more people. Yet again, SMAC taught me how the future would really work. ;)

Re:J/MW? (5, Insightful)

arpad1 (458649) | about 3 years ago | (#36906596)

It's the kind of measure you use when you don't want to discuss subsidized dollars per job. It's also the kind of measure you use when you don't want to discuss how many non-subsidized jobs it cost to pay for one subsidized job.

Re:J/MW? (1)

joebagodonuts (561066) | about 3 years ago | (#36906650)

*Ding*Ding*Ding* - we have a winner.

Re:J/MW? (1, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | about 3 years ago | (#36907034)

Exactly, it's the kind of political measure that politicians love to cite when they pump government money into pipe-dream bullshit like solar. It's the same bullshit you used to hear when they were approving big subsidies for duds like hydrogen fuel and ethanol.

Re:J/MW? (2)

Chrisq (894406) | about 3 years ago | (#36906620)

Jobs per megawatt? What the hell kind of measure of efficiency is that?!

One that will ultimately bring back the treadmill.

Re:J/MW? (4, Insightful)

trout007 (975317) | about 3 years ago | (#36906654)

$ per Megawatt hour is the measure of efficiency. Ideally you would want a world where you had unlimited energy that required no money (ie jobs). This is a measure of inefficiency and it shows that Solar is the worst.

Anyone that claims a project is great because it creates jobs is an idiot. The goal is to have stuff not jobs.

Batist wrote that all people act as a both a producer and a consumer. In their job they are a producer and in the rest of their life they are a consumer.What do they as a producer want? They want the good or service they producer to be scarce and expensive. What do they as a consumer want? They want the good or service they buy to be abundant and cheap.

What type of society do you want to live in, one where things are cheap and abundant or scarce and expensive? Any law that favors producers does so by making goods scarce and expensive. Unfortunately like the people that wrote this article it is easy to show how a certain law that favors a producer helps those people. It takes a bit more thinking to explain that the only way to help that producer is by hurting all consumers.

Re:J/MW? (4, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 3 years ago | (#36906754)

It takes a bit more thinking to explain that the only way to help that producer is by hurting all consumers.

Nonsense. Read up on the basic economic principle of comparative advantage [] and then write us a 500 word essay on how economics are not a zero-sum game.

Re:J/MW? (3, Interesting)

trout007 (975317) | about 3 years ago | (#36906914)

I know all about comparative advantage. When a country can produce more and better sugar because they have the right climate it makes sense to import it to the degree it is cost effective to do so. But if you pass a law restricting import or putting a tariff on it you do so specifically to benefit the domestic sugar producers at the expense of all sugar consumers.

Re:J/MW? (1)

Jayson (2343) | about 3 years ago | (#36907230)

That is actually absolute advantage, and people confuse it with comparative advantage all the time.

In comparative advantage, you don't need to be the best at producing anything. You can actually be the worst at producing everything.

With comparative advantage, the weaker producer it taking advantage of the fact that the better producer is much better at producing A than B, even if you are worse at producing both, so you produce B.

That is, no matter how terribly inefficient you are at producing A and B, it still makes sense to trade with you.

Of course, this has nothing to do with how terribly inefficient solar power is.

Re:J/MW? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36907038)

He meant "to help the producer" -through legislation-, if you quote with the context it's very obvious...

On another note, man, slashdot blows @ economics, but then again, so do mostly everyone else (economists included)
I'll go back to reading austrian econ blogs

Re:J/MW? (2)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 3 years ago | (#36907226)

He meant "to help the producer" -through legislation-, if you quote with the context it's very obvious...

If and when trade is mutually beneficial, then it does not follow that helping the producer (through legislation) is necessarily harmful to the consumer.

In fact by generating more trade, more income, and more tax revenue, the subsidy might very well pay for itself. And before anyone accuses me of socialism, this is essentially the supply-side argument the U.S. Republican Party has been advocating for the past 40 years, that giving tax breaks to the producers increases economic activity and boosts the net wealth of everyone. Analyzing how effective that has been in practice is left as an exercise for the reader.

Re:J/MW? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36907134)

Eh? Economics are a zero sum game. You only have so much gold, oil, real estate, water and other resources, and economics are a means to to determine who gets the nice condo on the beach, and who lives in a slum right next to where the insulation is burned for copper.

The stock market is a good example where we see people ignore economic fundamentals on the basis of illusory gains. In fact, it can be considered a classic pyramid scheme. Early adopters get gains, but the actual money they obtain is then "paid for" by later adopters when a stock crashes. What goes up, must come down. The money that comes from Apple's gains will be paid for by investors in the future who suffer losses.

If that isn't zero-sum, I don't know what is. One person's gain will come from someone else's loss somewhere.

Re:J/MW? (1)

trout007 (975317) | about 3 years ago | (#36907306)

When you go to the store to buy something who gains and who loses? Do you gain because you get a product you want or does the store gain because they get the money they want? The answer is both parties in a voluntary trade win and both are wealthier because of the trade otherwise they would not make the trade. This is how trading creates wealth because both parties value what they are trading for more than what they are trading with.

The stock market as it currently works is scam because of the monetary system we have. Banks are given a monopoly to create money out of nothing and then lend it out for interest. This is insanity and lies at the heart of many problems we have with the economy.

Re:J/MW? (1)

BetterSense (1398915) | about 3 years ago | (#36906758)

Totally. I wish people would agree on what metrics are good for the "economy".

I mean, if jobs/MW is good for the economy, why not just hook up a bunch of treadmills to generators, chain them together electrically, and let people generate their 300W or whatever that a human is capable of outputting. Boom, massive jobs/MW.

Re:J/MW? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36906810)

On the other hand, if I'm paying x dollars for something, I'd prefer those x dollars to be distributed to as many people as possible instead of benefiting only a few owners of monopoly rights. See, the price of something doesn't just depend on the price of the raw materials and work that go into it. It also depends on how many people are able or allowed to make that thing. If a technology can provide a product at the same price and keep more people in work, then that is a good thing.

Re:J/MW? (1)

trout007 (975317) | about 3 years ago | (#36906862)

Monopoly only exists because of laws allowing it. Long term monopolies don' exist naturally.

Re:J/MW? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36906980)

We are talking about the energy sector.

Re:J/MW? (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 years ago | (#36907014)

There is are a couple of unfortunate wrinkles in what would otherwise be true:

If you don't have money, it scarcely matters what the price of goods is. You are still fucked. For virtually everybody this impecunious, having money = having a job, not selling some bonds or re-allocating your portfolio in the direction of a higher-dividend asset assortment. Given the er... not exactly small... number of people who have fallen off this particular bus(with the additional fun that periods of joblessness do wonders for one's future prospects of being re-hired...) "jobs" as something close to an end in itself does represent a net gain for a substantial number of people.

Secondly, you say that "Ideally you would want a world where you have unlimited energy that required no money (ie jobs). This is true If and Only If the gains from increased efficiency are allocated in a manner that gives you a slice of the expanding pie. If, however, the pie is expanding; but your share of it is shrinking even faster(because whatever you do is an "inefficiency", you are quickly sliding toward point #1.

Empirically, a great many people have reason to be concerned, and to have no particular room to hope that even steady encheapening of goods will allow them to do better than tread water, since labor is definitely one of the goods being encheapened. As this [] cheery little J.P. Morgan report notes, in a discussion of the improvement of corporate margins: "There are a lot of moving parts in the margin equation, but as shown in the second chart, reductions in wages and benefits explain the majority of the net improvement in margins. This trend has continued; as we have shown several times over the last two years, US labor compensation is now at a 50-year low relative to both company sales and US GDP (see EoTM April 26, 2011)."

Improvements in efficiency do you absolutely no good if somebody with more market power than you have is capturing them. This would appear to be the case. Under such conditions, the people with less market power(ie. about the bottom 95%) don't have a rational interest in efficiency; because they won't capture the gains from it. While(from the perspective of people's actual state of knowledge) the fascination with "jobs" might be largely sentimental populism, it is arguably not economically irrational. If essentially all gains from efficiency(which includes reduction in human resources costs) are being captured by people who aren't you, it is very much in your interest to demand greater inefficiency and attempt to roll back the reduction in demand for you.

Only in a society where everybody has a boat is the fact that the 'rising tide lifts all boats' a comforting one. If a substantial portion of the population is stuck in the mud, the rising tide is not a welcome development...

Re:J/MW? (-1, Flamebait)

trout007 (975317) | about 3 years ago | (#36907054)

You are wrong on all accounts. But if it makes you feel better the vast majority of people share your opinion. It is also why we are in the situation we are now.

Re:J/MW? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 years ago | (#36907100)

Could you be any less specific?

Re:J/MW? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36906686)

ugh, shut up trolls.

You can divide anything by anything and it becomes something per something. I thought it was funny. Fucking die a miserable death troll fucks.

Re:J/MW? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36906764)

A bad one. Minimizing the jobs per megawatt should be the goal for efficiency.

I want cheap electricity, not one that requires a lot of people to run and keep working! Heck, if that is a "good thing", why not put all these people on the dole riding stationary bikes with generators on them?

Typical Govt. crap.

Re:J/MW? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36906806)

If having a high jobs per megawatt figure is a good thing, then I suggest we convert our entire nation to pedal power.

Re:J/MW? (1)

mijelh (1111411) | about 3 years ago | (#36906826)

The funny thing is that it's portrayed as something positive, when actually the least jobs you need per megawatt the more efficient you are at producing energy.

Re:J/MW? (1)

GargamelSpaceman (992546) | about 3 years ago | (#36907234)

Millions of cyclists pedaling away.. Now THERE's jobs per megawatt for you!

New favorite unit of measurement (2)

suso (153703) | about 3 years ago | (#36906452)

Jobs per megawatt

Re:New favorite unit of measurement (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 3 years ago | (#36906580)

Bah... the amount of jobs per megawatt will drop for solar as factories get bigger and more efficient.

Still, it shows that solar has moved from an interesting research topic to a real (profitable) industry.

Re:New favorite unit of measurement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36906680)

these aren't factory jobs. china already has the giant factories and they are high tech not labor intensive. china will have over 75% of worldwide production of entire PV chain including polysilicon, wafer,cell,and modules. these american jobs are basically roof climbing electricians,sales,and marketing, which will likely scale with the industry

Re:New favorite unit of measurement (1)

elrous0 (869638) | about 3 years ago | (#36907062)

a real (profitable) industry

The only reason it's profitable is because the government is artificially inflating it with shitloads of subsidies. If it were TRULY profitable, it would have been developed without those subsidies long ago.

Re:New favorite unit of measurement (1)

Sprouticus (1503545) | about 3 years ago | (#36907094)

They did the same thing with oil. Look it up. Government fostering new technology is NOT a bad thing.

Re:New favorite unit of measurement (1)

DrBoumBoum (926687) | about 3 years ago | (#36907262)

They do the same thing [] with oil. Look it up.


Re:New favorite unit of measurement (1)

ndavis (1499237) | about 3 years ago | (#36907344)

They did the same thing with oil. Look it up. Government fostering new technology is NOT a bad thing.

What do you mean "did", they give Oil companieslarge tax breaks as well as using the US military to protect interests in the Middle East the cost of which is in the billions.

Re:New favorite unit of measurement (2)

EraserMouseMan (847479) | about 3 years ago | (#36906582)

It'll be great when solar panels get super cheap and easy to set up. I'll just order a roof's worth from and install them myself. Then the "jobs per megawatt" will drop like a rock. And government will set up price floors to keep panel installers from losing their jobs. Let's stop talking about jobs per megawatt, k?

and a DIY install on the electricity side can end (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 3 years ago | (#36906662)

and a DIY install on the electricity side can end up very badly with out the right hook ups and the last thing you need is when the power is out is for the panels to back feed to the grid and kill a lineman.

Re:and a DIY install on the electricity side can e (1)

linuxpyro (680927) | about 3 years ago | (#36907028)

This is a risk you run even with people who don't know what they're doing connecting a generator during a power failure. Hopefully anyone playing with an alternative energy source in their own home (solar/wind, or generator) will do a some of their homework and avoid this. In the case of grid tied solar, pretty much all domestically available grid-tied inverters have very rigorous protection to avoid an islanding situation. Even if they're not installed exactly up to code they should be able to detect this and not backfeed the grid.

Then again, someone can still be a moron and connect a non-grid-tie inverter up during a power failure and backfeed, so who knows. I guess this is bound to happen at some point, but hopefully most DIY people learn enough to know why this is bad by the time they get to this point.

Re:and a DIY install on the electricity side can e (1)

rtb61 (674572) | about 3 years ago | (#36907072)

As long as complete kits are supplied with socket connections, "solar panel, battery, rectifier and switch board connection", there shouldn't be too much of a problem. Even better if a set of standards governing default connection standards for a home solar power kit, would allow people to mix and match as long as the equipment adhered to the standards and they used default electrical connections. Excluding off course the wiring the switchboard socket which should require a licensed electrician, beyond that plug and play would save considerably on the install side.

Re:New favorite unit of measurement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36906594)

Yep - that is because it costs more per megawatt to produce and requires a higher cost input for labour. But, it is still one of the costliest methods of producing energy at this point in time, bettersystems will doubtless emerge, and allthe investment made in the present unreliable systems will be wasted - but will still cost us money as they are all subsidised. In the countries that have vast investments in solar energy, the real story is that they lose 2.6 jobs for every temporary job created - hence the problems in Europe where they are scaling back solar and wind as it is just unaffordable in the long run. We have all been burnt by the cost of stimulous jobs - Hundreds of thousands of dollars per year per job - all contributing to the national debt.

The problem with Solar and WInd - besides the duplicate very expensive power line connections to the grid from where the sun shines and the wind blows, is that the sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow - especially on those days when it is needed most. For the immediate future, the best plan is the construction of smaller shale gas fed power stations close to where the power will be used. Pipeline replace monstrous power towers and lines, Shale gas is leterally dirt cheap, reliable, on stream 24/7 and we have centuries of supply. Additionally the total carbon footprint is lower than that produced when the cells are made in China, from mined minerals in Chile, shipped halfway around the world on boats measuring mileage in barrels per mile.

One day we will see efficient solar systems - but not today - probably not before we see cold fusion.

Re:New favorite unit of measurement (1)

rbrausse (1319883) | about 3 years ago | (#36906630)

according to the International Energy Outlook [] the world energy consumption in 2007 was 495 quadrillion British thermal units. If I calculated correctly one year of [Steve] Jobs is worth 16.56 trillion Watt years.

Re:New favorite unit of measurement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36906928)

Well, I LOLed.

Re:New favorite unit of measurement (1)

Pieroxy (222434) | about 3 years ago | (#36906648)

More importantly, is going from 93k to 50k a growth ? It seems like a recess to me, or a typo ;-)

That's just what the denialists use all the time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36906732)

The denialists are always banging on about how we CANNOT stop using fossil fuels because all the GDP growth has been when we've grown use of fossil fuel energy and therefore use of energy == GDP. And what do all the people do with that GDP according to the denialist Free Marketeers? It gets creating jobs. You know, all those big companies who CANNOT be taxed because they're "job creators"?

So denialists have been using for decades "jobs per megawatt".

And only NOW do you complain.

Why is that?

Re:New favorite unit of measurement (2)

goldspider (445116) | about 3 years ago | (#36907124)

People who cite "jobs/production unit" as a relevant metric don't understand the primary purpose of industry.

Hint: it isn't job creation.

I hope this continues... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36906462)

I think this is a very good trend, and I very much hope it continues. More interest will spark more development and more improvements in the technology, which will make it even more mainstream. Go solar!

2 Headlines Down (0)

feedayeen (1322473) | about 3 years ago | (#36906464)

"South Korean Scientists Create Glowing Dog," hehe.

I sincerely apologize for me sophomoric attitude, but I had to.

Re:2 Headlines Down (2)

elrous0 (869638) | about 3 years ago | (#36907080)

I just hope the North Koreans don't develop a glowing dog of their own.

From a low base (2)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 3 years ago | (#36906472) doubt.

How much (5, Insightful)

georgenh16 (1531259) | about 3 years ago | (#36906474)

It seems to me, Higher jobs/MW = Higher cost/MW

How much of this industry growth is fueled by government subsidies?

Re:How much (4, Interesting)

tbannist (230135) | about 3 years ago | (#36906562)

That's a possibility but not a necessity. You seem to have forgotten that the difference between oil, gas and coal energy generation and wind, solar, geothermal and hydro electric is that you have to pay for inputs to oil, gas and coal. If the plant costs are comparable, then the difference in jobs/MW only needs to be less than what the plant would spend on fossil fuels (and eventually carbon taxes).

What I think it means is instead of buying tonnes of coal to burn, solar plants pay people to inspect, clean and repair the solar panels.

As for government subsidies, as I understand there are far more subsidies for coal, gas and oil than there are for solar. I've read the difference is about 10 to 1 each. So for every $1 in government subsidies for solar, coal gets $10, and natural gas gets $10 and oil gets $10.

Re:How much (3, Interesting)

LehiNephi (695428) | about 3 years ago | (#36906748)

It really comes down to what you call "subsidies." Tax deductions for capital investments, which the anti-fossil-fuel crowd incorrectly call a subsidy, is not unique to the oil/gas business, and similar deductions commonly available to *all* businesses in all industries. Tax *credits*, however (without which we wouldn't see much, if any, solar installations), certainly are a subsidy, and are very generous for renewable energy. You also need to take into account the volume of production from each source. If there's 10x as much subsidies (if you want to call it that) to oil/gas as there are to solar, but there's 100x as much oil/gas production, then it stands to reason that the rate of subsidies to solar is 10x that given to oil/gas.

There's also the minor question of "are we paying for the right thing?" Subsidies/grants/investments for research into renewables is one thing--they have the potential to produce improvements in the efficiency and cost of such systems. But subsidies for production and installation of renewables (as the US gov't currently does) is absolute futility--by doing so, the government is distorting the value of those products, actually providing a disincentive for producers to make those systems more economical on their own.

Re:How much (1)

tbannist (230135) | about 3 years ago | (#36906920)

I'm not sure I follow the logic that it is a disincentive for producers to make those systems more economical. Given that these subsidies are temporary and not permanent and controversial among the heavily indebted to oil and gas Republicans, it seems like it gives them a very big incentive to become more economical. The subsidies are likely to be taken away as soon as the Republicans can muster enough votes to quash them again. That means, if history is any indicator, soon enough they will be in open competition with no subsidies and at a disadvantage to the still subsidized fossil fuel plants.

Re:How much (1, Insightful)

sheehaje (240093) | about 3 years ago | (#36906568)

I was thinking along the same lines. Seems 93,000 employees for 600,000 houses powered isn't that great of a ration. That's 1 person for 6 houses powered. With the cost of capital equipment and the ongoing maintenance of said equipment, the cost of solar power must be magnitudes higher than fossil fuels.

Re:How much (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36907316)

Your comparison is meaningless. You should be comparing the 93000 employees with the growth rate of solar energy installations, not currently installed effect. 3000 MW already installed require very little maintainance, but new installations require a lot of work per MW. Research, production and installation. A lot of people are employed in the heavily subsidised coal industry as well, but mostly in maintainance and coal production. Not as much in building new power plants.

Re:How much (2)

SniperJoe (1984152) | about 3 years ago | (#36906578)

Agreed. If you walked into a business and they proudly proclaimed that they had the highest "job to widget produced" ratio, I would think that screams inefficiency. Wouldn't you rather have the lowest dollar per renewable megawatt hour produced?

Re:How much (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36906600)

Perhaps not necessarily, since most other energy sources require the acquisition of some fuel, like coal or uranium. I certainly have no idea what it comes out to, and solar still may be more expensive per MW, but just a thought.

I do agree with you though that even this article makes it sound like it's largely just government fueled.

Re:How much (1)

clonan (64380) | about 3 years ago | (#36906638)

Except with every other power system you have fuel costs as well.

So it takes (making up numbers) 10 people per megawatt to install a coal plant and 15 people per megawatt to install a solar plant. Every year the coal plant spends a few million in fuel and maintenance. Solar has maintenance only and if you are a grid tied system, not much maintenance at all.

Solar needs to drop about 50% from current prices to be directly competetive with the current subsidized price of coal power. If we dropped the subsidies and legal protections than Solar would be directly competetive now.

Re:How much (1)

georgenh16 (1531259) | about 3 years ago | (#36906932)

I'm not sure that solar is competitive now without subsidies, perhaps it is.

The only way to know is to do away with all subsidies and actually allow them to be directly competitive.

Government funding for R&D can be debated, but it seems downright wrong for them to pick winners and losers in industry via handouts/special credits.

Jobs per megawatt (0)

Khyber (864651) | about 3 years ago | (#36906490)

Shit that's about as useless as grams per watt!

Re:Jobs per megawatt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36907102)

Well, given America's obesity epidemic the conversion between jobs/MW to g/W could lead to some *very* impressive numbers...

Based on USD Market Cap... (2)

econolog (2081738) | about 3 years ago | (#36906532)

It isn't. Biotech is.

What about non-PV? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36906536)

Many houses can and a few use solar to heat their hot-water rather than provide power to the home. Why are these never included or even pushed as an additional source to lesson the power grid loads?

Of course growing! It light! (0)

erroneus (253617) | about 3 years ago | (#36906546)

Why people surprise about thing like this? It energy of light. So of course it growing. Some people so dumb.

Jobs per (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36906560)

How many jobs per library of congress is that?

Re:Jobs per (1)

outsider007 (115534) | about 3 years ago | (#36906768)

better question, how many jobs per football field of solar panels?

Tax dollars (2)

darjen (879890) | about 3 years ago | (#36906592)

How much government money has been spent creating these jobs? And what is the percentage of salary for solar workers compared to this government money?

Re:Tax dollars (2)

should_be_linear (779431) | about 3 years ago | (#36906782)

Disclaimer: I am from EU.
Whats wrong with government spending money to create jobs? More appropriate calculation is:

economical efficiency = (Ns + Us) / Ss.
Ns is government spending on Nuclear, oil and coal - env. impact on harvesting fuel and operating, health issues (coal), permanent storage (nuclear),
Us is government spending on people (currently employed in solar business) if they were unemployed or in jail. Not all 4 million people eventually employed in solar would be otherwise unemployed, but estimated portion.
Ss is current government spending on supporting solar business.

Re:Tax dollars (1)

darjen (879890) | about 3 years ago | (#36906908)

I think it's important to ask ourselves how much of the money is actually getting to the workers. And how much the owners of these companies are taking from the pot for themselves. There is also the question of where this money would have ended up if the government hadn't decided to spend it. Perhaps there are other more efficient areas that it could have gone to, which would have helped more people.

Re:Tax dollars (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | about 3 years ago | (#36907334)

There is also the question of where this money would have ended up if the government hadn't decided to spend it.

Probably most of it would have been invested in millions of square yards of ugly stucco siding on mcmansions.

Re:Tax dollars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36906850)

Seeing as the private sector has been sitting on huge wads of cash for a while, not creating jobs [] it makes perfect sense that the government should intercede to stimulate job growth.

Re:Tax dollars (1)

elrous0 (869638) | about 3 years ago | (#36907108)

it makes perfect sense that the government should intercede to stimulate job growth

Not if those jobs won't last. The trick is to stimulate in areas that will eventually be able to sustain those jobs WITHOUT government help. Solar is not one of those areas.

pure propaganda (1)

esseffe (1203628) | about 3 years ago | (#36906612)

The first link is from the white house website, and says: Solar's robust growth in the past years has been the result of [...] most importantly, a strong commitment from the Obama Administration and other policymakers in Washington. So this means it's taxpayers dollars that are paying for this? This is not news, but propaganda. Once we run out of money after hitting the debt ceiling, all this "robust growth" will effervesce into thin air.

Re:pure propaganda (1)

joebagodonuts (561066) | about 3 years ago | (#36906668)

You know the "debt ceiling" is an artificial construct, right? Just like "Jobs per watt" (And to your point"robust growth") It's all BS

I've got good news and bad news and more bad news. (4, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | about 3 years ago | (#36906622)

The good news: Solar energy is the fastest growing industry in the US.

The bad news for solar energy: Solar energy is the fastest growing industry in the US.

The bad news for the US: Solar energy is the fastest growing industry in the US.

J/MW not that odd (1, Interesting)

belthize (990217) | about 3 years ago | (#36906660)

Contrary to the above posts Jobs/MW isn't all that odd a metric, particularly if you actually read the article and not the headline.

One of the claims regarding clean/alternative energy is that, among other things, it will create jobs since the entire industry barely exists compared to where it would eventually need to be scale wise. The paper basically says, ok let's see if that's the case and count number of jobs created. Since the product of an energy plant should be MW not white papers, glossy brochures or fuzzy feelings it makes sense to use that as a measure of efficiency. One obvious metric is jobs/MW.

I'm willing to bet that if the findings had shown that solar was way behind other energy sources then many (if not most) of the people who post 'Jobs per watt, what a bullshit metric' would be posting instead about the absolute value of the metric rather than the metric itself. There'd be quite a few more posts of the 'See solar is bullshit'. We'd probably still have conservation of contrariness though because the green folks would be posting 'Jobs per watt ? What a bullshit metric' so it all works out.

Someone check my math (1)

mj1856 (589031) | about 3 years ago | (#36906692)

According to TFA, 1Q2011 = 252MW. So if growth is at least flat for the year, thats 252*4 = 1008MW, or 1.008GW. Also according to TFA, growth for jobs over the same period is 25K - 50K. So that's somewhere between 24,801 and 49,603 jobs per gigawatt. So it will take between 30,009 and 60,019 jobs to build me a flux capacitor? That can't be right...

jobs (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36906756)

"Solar energy is creating more jobs per megawatt than any other energy source"
I read as "Solar energy is the least cost effective of energy sources"

Re:jobs (1)

scottbomb (1290580) | about 3 years ago | (#36907152)

It also helps when the president uses the EPA to put as much of your competition as possible out of business (coal generators) .

Didn't we hear the same about the Shuttle? (1, Interesting)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 3 years ago | (#36906760)

There are so many jobs tied up with the Shuttle, we have to keep it in service - no matter how little they actually do for society or how much it costs.

Well, the point is that these days the number of jobs is merely indicative of how much money you're wasting. In fact, given the macroeconomic situation of the US, this may do a whole lot more good than harm - but it's not because of the energy being produced, but because of the money being poured into the economy as a whole through the jobs.

Ten years down the line, however, this argument won't hold. Then it's a matter of is it economic or not. And given the actual observable progress of the technology (rather than the miracles being published every month or so), especially when it comes to the necessity of energy storage, it seems the solar industry will be blowing bubbles for a while, but stagnate well before supplying the quantities of power that the enthusiastic projections today envision.

Specifically, it will run into a brick wall some time before the point when solar peak power supply approaches power demand (which is at about 10%-20% of total power, depending on local energy storage) - it also depends on how much wind energy they have to share the grid with, as the same is true for wind power.

As for the rest, especially the copious amounts of oil and gas we're using in industrialized countries, we'll have to find other alternatives as well, instead of deluding ourselves about the capabilities of wind and solar. Mind you, they are significant. But we're lucky if we can get about one quarter or a third of all our energy needs out of them.

Re:Didn't we hear the same about the Shuttle? (1)

Bitmanhome (254112) | about 3 years ago | (#36906948)

There are so many jobs tied up with the Shuttle, we have to keep it in service - no matter how little they actually do for society or how much it costs.

So, I guess what we need is a solar-powered shuttle.

But the REAL question is... (1)

Old Sparky (675061) | about 3 years ago | (#36906788) they have a night shift?

Fixed that for you (1)

mmlado (1576943) | about 3 years ago | (#36906796)

Cycling is creating more jobs per megawatt than any other energy source :D

Not just electricity for solar (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 3 years ago | (#36906836)

Solar hot water heaters are becoming popular. They are closed, passive systems that can knock a chunk off an electrcity bill without the full array of solar cells on the roof, and will pay for themselves within five years. We installed our system last winter and it works like a charm - free 60F hot water twenty four hours a day.

Re:Not just electricity for solar (1)

Kevin Stevens (227724) | about 3 years ago | (#36906974)

Not sure if you have a typo or if you are trolling or what... but 60F is only slightly above the temperature of most groundwater. 60C, aka ~140F is a bit more like it, but that seems a bit on the hot side for most hot water.

Rats flock to government subsidies (4, Insightful)

argStyopa (232550) | about 3 years ago | (#36906876)

Any industry heavy with government subsidies - defense, social welfare, medicine, and now 'renewables' - attracts opportunists of both the legitimate and illegitimate sort.

Legitimate businesses are interested because they know that having a politically-attractive industry can make a lot of low-/no-interest money available as well as making the government paperwork (permits, etc.) all move much quicker than usual. Finally, it's a truism that once established government programs almost never die (for God's sake, the TVA's REA is still alive and flourishing - conveniently renamed to the RUS "Rural Utilities Service" - to legitimize its ever-spreading 'responsibilities' hahaha).

Illegitimate business (con men, criminals, etc.) are attracted because government investment typically now means at least dollars in the 10^6 range, that until they reach 10^9 these numbers are considered 'trivial' and barely worth notice/mention by Federal agencies (how many pallets of $$billions have been untraceably 'lost' in Iraq/Afghanistan?) - a perfect environment for fraud.

NO NO NO (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36906884)

Solar energy is total fail.

The Germans will also fail.

You're not supposed to believe there is a future without nuclear power.

Go back to your TV and turn it a little bit louder.

Thank you!

The race is rigged (2)

inthealpine (1337881) | about 3 years ago | (#36906916)

Too bad solar manufacturing is heavily subsidized by the US government and then the purchase by the consumer is also heavily subsidized by the US government and state governments.
You can't even get a permit let a lone build a nuclear or coal power plant because of EPA regulations and red tape.
It's like watching a race between two people running and one person get's hit by a car every third step they take and acting surprised the other runner is doing so well. It's a rigged race and the desired outcome shouldn't be a huge surprise.

I'm not against solar, in fact I thought if we were going to spend that near trillion in stimulus we could have near afforded to put a solar system on every single family home in the US. Instead we wasted it on nothing... shame.

From Another Point of View (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 3 years ago | (#36907274)

You can't even get a permit let a lone build a nuclear or coal power plant because of EPA regulations and red tape.

You're not going to hear much sympathy from me. I've been to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, I've seen what natural water should look like. By my own first hand account, there is none of that on the East Coast.

So let's see here, after some shallow checking on Google News we have: Frack water to be dumped in Niagara Falls [] , the EPA has been completely ignoring Anacostia River pollution [] and the dead zone in the Chesapeake is growing [] . And that's just news from the last couple of days. How can I be upset that the EPA wants to tie up companies in "red tape" when this is happening in our country? Why don't the solar companies get the same red tape? Oh, right, they don't produce a byproduct that is often dumped in nearby water [] . I'm sure the site of solar panel farms suffers the same environmental scrutiny that your poor "hobbled" coal and nuclear power facilities face. It's just that the byproducts and environmental effects appear to be okay for local residents.

It's like watching a race between two people running and one person get's hit by a car every third step they take and acting surprised the other runner is doing so well. It's a rigged race and the desired outcome shouldn't be a huge surprise.

The way I see it, is it's more like two people racing and one person pouring crude oil along the entire race path and then sliding on it with a sled and beating the person that's trying to run through it. Meanwhile the people who live near the race track are drinking shit in their water. Think I'm making that up? Go ask the residents of West Virginia who get to watch their entire state terraformed into slag [] . PA's natural gas boon could result in the same thing if we don't have that evil evil evil "red tape."

Re:The race is rigged (3, Interesting)

DrBoumBoum (926687) | about 3 years ago | (#36907340)

Too bad solar manufacturing is heavily subsidized by the US government

Or is it? []

"Just give them spoons" (1)

Jayson (2343) | about 3 years ago | (#36907158)

As related by Mark Calabria of CATO:

Prof. Friedman visited China in the early 1960s and was taken by a government official to see a public works project. Chinese workers were building a canal. Friedman was struck by seeing everyone digging the canal with shovels. Friedman asked the official, "why no heavy earth-moving equipment?" The official said, "oh, this is a jobs program." So Friedman then says to the official, "then why don't you just give them spoons instead of shovels to create even more jobs?"

Tipping point (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | about 3 years ago | (#36907252)

It used to be that solar panels were by far the most expensive part of an installation. At the moment, for an installation that can supply 1350 kWh/year, the panels cost E4500, the inverter is E1200, labor is in the region of E1000 as well I suspect. So the panels are still 66% of the total cost. Two years ago, the panels would have cost E8500, or more than 80% of the total cost. When the cost per Watt reaches E1, the panels will be 50% of the installation cost.
At that point savings in the cost of inverters and installation will become more critical than they are now.

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