Investing, Thank You Sir May I Have Another

What’s Wrong With Solar Power Today

It never fails. The week before and after Earth Day brings a slew of tree killing junk mail hawking various alternative energy products and seminars. You would think these so called “green proponents” would at least choose to SPAM everyone instead of killing trees by the thousands.

What I really wish is that the solar power crowd would focus on trying to get their products to a realistic quality instead of selling what they have. Nobody wants an expensive and dangerous system in there house which only cuts their energy costs by some tiny percent. Make no mistake, putting lead acid batteries in your non-ventilated basement is going to prove to be a real problem at some point. Yes, putting them in the attic near the ridge vent would be better, if:

  1. Your attic was a walk in to make changing them easy

  2. Your attic didn’t get so damned hot the batteries cooked to an early death.

Of course, some of the current systems have found a niche. While I’ve never used this system I can understand why hunting and fishing enthusiasts really like it.

I’m talking about the kind of enthusiasts that get 3-4 buddies together to buy 100+ acres around a lake or heavily wooded area with a stream and build themselves a cabin for their trips. Since the locations are quite remote, this is a great solution. It means they can build a much nicer cabin with an actual basement and sump pump. Most of those “ cabin” type locations don’t have commercial power anyhwere near them. Those that do require power to be trenched in at a minimum charge of $8000/mile plus a minimum monthly fee. This system, backed up by a pair of Honda EU2000 linked generators provides a perfect “cabin” solution.

The trouble is a “cabin” solution doesn’t work for my house in the country, nor does it work for “Joe Suburb.” To start with, “Joe Suburb” probably has a townhome or neighborhood association which wants to control every aspect of their lives. That’s only the start of the problem. If the solar world could provide a good solution, the association would actually force all units to have them installed.

What we have here is your basic failure to communicate. No matter how many times the real world tells the solar world what a “ good” solution is, the solar world turns around and tries to sell us what they made this week. This morning, since allergies woke me up, I decided to write it down for them.

A “Good” solar solution is a system which, on a cloudy day, can do all three of these things:

  1. Generate enough electricity to power all of the computers, hair dryers, cooking, and laundry equipment of a typical house hold AT ONCE.

  2. Operate 2 (two), count them 2 (two), traditional central air conditioning units during any given day in August.

  3. Manage to sell some excess power back to CommEd while achieving points 1 and 2 at the same time.

A system which can do that does not need government backing. Most days of the year it will be able to generate enough power that CommEd sends consumers checks each month instead of bills…at least the home owners. Apartment dwellers and condo owners will simply be screwed, but, they’ve always been quasi-screwed anyway, especially the condo owners who bought an apartment when the apartment owners wanted a con to get more dough out of their amortized out building…hence the name, condo.

I don’t see anyone in the solar market selling such a system. I see a lot of companies trying to sell me worthless shit, but no company offering anything like the above. The company which creates the above system…and manages to get batteries which last seven years having a $500 or less replacement cost, will have to add a third shift at their factory. Every house building assembly line (you would call them big name builders like Pulte) would be stuffing one of these systems along with a geo-thermal HVAC system in because they could market the fact their homes generated $2000-$3000 in electrical revenue each year.

Of course, that would beg two questions:

  1. How long could CommEd stay in business once that happened?

  2. Just how worthless will city condos become?

Think about it. Right now we have a “consumer advocate” commission which is supposed to “regulate” CommEd rate increases, but, like free magazine subscriptions, CommEd long ago figured out which boxes had to be filled in to qualify. Right now this commission puts up almost no fight what-so-ever when CommEd wants a rate increase to provide bigger executive pay raises. Just how much fight do you think will happen when they add the box stating every six cent rate increase will have a corresponding one cent increase in the rate paid to consumer generators?

Never fear though. Today’s CEO’s are too busy trying to make a fast buck selling a shitty solar product to ever throw that marketing money into research and develop a useful product. I really honestly believe that if every “manufacturer” out there trying to sell a shitty solar product to consumers right now had put their entire marketing budget into the same research lab, we would already have the system I described instead of the pathetic things we have now.