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Profit Problems
Solar Still Can’t Make Money
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  • CaliforniaStark

    The reason Tesla is able to survive is because of the billions of dollars of public subsidies it receives. In the 3rd quarter of 2016, Tesla reported a profit of about $22 million (the year before it had a quarterly lose of about $230 million). Tesla’s profit in 2016 can be attributed to the $139 million in California zero emission vehicle subsidies that it received. California and about 10 other states require automobile makers to sell a certain number of zero emission vehicles; if they fail to make the required sales, they can still comply with the laws by buying “zero emission vehicle credits” from Tesla. It has turned into a cash cow for Tesla. Tesla’s survival is not about it meeting any sort of a demand for its products; it is about hooking up to a copious public subsidy steam.

  • LarryD

    Magical thinking. No true Progressive want to believe the Google engineers when they say Renewable Energy Won’t Work. ( http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/renewables/what-it-would-really-take-to-reverse-climate-change )

  • f1b0nacc1

    Solar isn’t meant to make money…it is meant to give control to the elites (by power-starving the peasants), give profits to cronies, and to make ignorant greenies feel better about themselves. In fact being profitable would be a net loss…we all know how greenies hate the idea that anyone, anywhere would actually be making money….

    • solstice

      Relax. Just because solar is not currently cost effective doesn’t mean it won’t be in the near future as the technology improves. Compare the cost of mapping the human genome today to how much it cost in the early 2000s and 1990s.

      • JR

        Solar has been a decade away from being commercially viable for the past 40 years. I think some healthy skepticism is warranted.

      • Andrew Allison

        Mirage: an object which remains the same distance away from you as you move toward it. Examples: alternative energy cost-effectiveness, peak oil, Brazilian and African economic miracles, peace in the Middle East, etc.

        • solstice

          The same was said about the Human Genome Project 7 years into it when only 1 percent of the genome was mapped. After 15 years, the human genome was mapped in its entirety: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVQH_NVy1F0. Solar energy technology is on the same exponential trajectory of progress that the Human Genome Project was on at that time.

          • Andrew Allison

            As the post points out, Solar is anticipated to decline, perhaps significantly, in 2017. The exponential growth this year was entirely due to anticipation that the tax credits which make solar affordable (but not cost-effective) would expire at the end of this year. Do you understand that every nickel of tax credits is borrowed?

          • solstice

            See my response to f1 above. The Human Genome Project was also heavily reliant on taxpayer funds, but compare the cost of mapping the human genome today to its cost in the early 2000s.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Venter would likely disagree with that characterization. Lets be clear…the HGP started out slow and stodgy, running well behind schedule before Craig showed up and and threw away their methodology and pursued the same goal privately. He had the courtesy to allow the government to claim co-ownership of the final achievement, which he completed three years ahead of the government’s best effort relying primarily (not exclusively) on private investors.

      • f1b0nacc1

        The Human Genome Project was a matter of information technology (and as an aside, it was resolved not by a big government R&D initiative, but rather by a private entrepreneur who eschewed the big government approach) whereas the difficulties with solar are physics and logistics. Pretending that it will suddenly happen because “such things always do” (FTL travel, anti-gravity, time travel?) is more religion than practical analysis.
        Someday this may come to pass (I doubt it, but anon…), but until that happy day (and I would be quite happy to see it), don’t force the rest of us to impoverish ourselves to pursue that pot of gold at the end of your rainbow.

        • solstice

          The Human Genome Project was heavily subsidized by the federal government to the tune of 2.7 billion dollars, and unlike FTL and time travel, solar energy has been doubling every two years for the past 20 years. These doublings have been driven not just by government subsidies but also by technological improvements. As solar technology continues to improve, we can expect the cost per watt of solar energy to continue to decline.

          • f1b0nacc1

            My grandfather had a wonderful saying….’twice nothing is still nothing’….the doubling has started from such a tiny beginning that even after multiple iterations, we are still talking about a ridiculously small fraction. As for the role of government subsidies, they have been enormous, for very, very little absolute (as opposed to relative) impact.

            I would be delighted to see another useful energy source…solar (which doesn’t work when the sun doesn’t shine, is far too diffuse to be useful, etc) is not it. Call me when it can compete with real energy sources, then we can talk

          • solstice

            Everything starts from miniscule beginnings. The universe was once the size of a baseball and now it encompasses trillions of galaxies. Have you forgotten that you were once nothing more than a microscopic sperm cell swimming about in your father’s genitalia before developing exponentially into the bizarre entity you are now? It took billions of years for microorganisms to evolve into things like mice and pigs, and in evolutionary time, humans have been around for less than a blink of an eye. Solar technology is still in its infancy but is incredibly advanced given how young it is. It is currently right where it needs to be, and at its current rate of progress, it will fulfill all of the world’s energy needs in the near future. Have a little patience. If your grandfather’s reasoning was correct, life on earth would never have evolved beyond microorganisms.

          • f1b0nacc1

            The universe was once a single geometric point, but that hardly proves anything. Solar technology is bounded by the laws of physics, the limits of engineering, and practical economics…so far it fails on all three. When you show me something other than a hopeful faith in the future (how similar to the religion you think so little of), come back. Until then, you offer no basis to believe that there is anything to this…and certainly less than none to mortgage the lives and futures of people who don’t share your faith.

        • solstice

          On the positive side, you have conceded that religion is based on fantasy and wishful thinking rather than practical analysis or anything remotely resembling reality. That’s a step in the right direction!

          • f1b0nacc1

            No, I pointed out that *YOUR* religion is based on fantasy and wishful thinking….religion in general is another matter entirely…

    • Jim__L

      “a tight focus on creating a luxury product people with the money to spend will want to buy.”

      This is the right way to do it. Like so many other advances in history, get rich people to pay off the non-recurring engineering expenses, and go downmarket as the technology matures.

      If it happens, it happens — and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Let the market take care of exploring the risks, and making the call on when a tech is ready and when it’s not.

      Lefties — policy wanks of every stripe — really hate the fact that sometimes, the best idea is to let their pet policies stay on the vine, to ripen or wither as reality dictates.

      • f1b0nacc1

        Of course….because reality might make the “wrong” choice….
        Honestly a lot of this has the smell of a cult about it…

  • Fat_Man

    “Given the state of solar technology, it would make more sense to divert government dollars away from the subsidization of current generation panels and instead spend that cash on the research and development of better systems”

    I am tired of repeating myself. There is nothing to R&D. The best way to get energy out of that much money would be to cash it out in tens and twenties and burn it.

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