Solar Hidden Costs
With most power plants you have a pretty simple equation, the simplified version would be: Base energy costs = infrastructure costs + fuel + maintenance. With solar the true equation would be: Base energy costs = costs of solar + overcapacity + storage + backup power plant for when you have two cloudy days in a row. Since there's almost no way the math of A+B < B alone, solar + backup plant will always drive up energy costs over the backup plant alone. But the flim-flammers will omit those problems of Solar, and attack anyone that points it out. Which explains why every city/state/country that adds Solar capacity, also drives up their costs of electricity -- and why the Solar proponents are so shrill and vitriolic towards anyone that points this out.
Flim-flammers like to pretend that the cost of Solar is the cost per KWh to generate power. But that's not how it works. With base power it's just the costs of fuel and infrastructure to generate that power. But with Solar, it gets much more ugly and complex. You eliminate fuel costs (like Hydro, Geothermal, and some other power generation), but you add in lots of new hidden costs like much higher maintenance costs and a much shorter lifespan of the plant (meaning the amortized costs of the plant aren't nearly as good as the build costs make it seem), and of course, solar generation stops working at night and cloudy days, Solar is unreliable peak power -- not base power.
This means that a Solar plant isn't just the cost of the plant and free fuel to get reliable base power. So it is completely dishonest to compare 1 MWh of peak production (Solar) to 1 MWh of reliable base power. Which is how the flim-flammers (Solar Power advocates) usually calculate/compare.
To compare Solar Power to Base Power you need to do the following:
- Use a 2 to 2.5 times multiplier: for Solar to provide reliable FULL TIME power, you'd need to generate about 2.5 the power of a regular power station -- with about 1/2 that power going to providing power, and half going to storage (charging batteries), so that when the Sun goes down (or behind clouds) you can continue to provide reliable power. That's closer to Apple's-to-Apple's comparison, and immediately makes Solar less than half as cost effective (twice as expensive) as the numbers usually presented. And we're just getting started.
- Why 2.5x? Because the way the Sun is oriented in Winter you don't get 12 hours of effective sunlight, you actually get less than 8 (which would require 3x the power). And in fact, it's less than that where the Sun is high enough in the sky to be completely effective, and that assumes there's never a time during the day when clouds or fog, decrease the output. So the 2.5 multiplier is actually very generous.
- Notice I said Batteries or storage? You have to add in the cost of batteries, which are huge. (Those are usually omitted). There hasn't been any real industrials level battery storage: they're working on a few experimental ones, but it'll take years or decades to get the full picture of reliability and maintenance costs. But those can dramatically increase the costs of a plant.
- Backup Power Plant: the problem is that batteries are fine to provide more reliable power for short periods, but that 2.5:1 ratio is just covering one day of storage. You'd need more production (and storage) if you assume you ever have an entire day of clouds. (Enough to charge the batteries not just for the night power, but enough for another day or three). This quickly becomes impractical. So what they do is keep another Power Plant (good oil Oil/Gas/Coal) there, to provide power when the Sun isn't working right. That means the cost of a Solar Power Plant is the cost of a Solar Power Plant, plus the cost of keeping another Power Plant waiting on idle (including it's build and maintenance costs: you're only saving a little on fuel: basically idling a car, instead of driving at highway speeds).
- The way Power Plants work, is they are efficient if they are running at load, all the time. But startup/shutdown costs are a lot of waste: it takes hours or days to bring them up or shut them down and get them balanced efficiently. If you try to do it quickly, it increases the waste (costs). So what's happening is that Solar Power means that we're running our base power plants at less efficient ways, and their increased costs/pollution belongs not on the cost of those plants (if they were operating as designed, you'd be running them efficiently), but are the costs of operating solar/wind stations with them. Usually, the flim-flammers do the opposite: they show that the efficiency of other plants is going down: they aren't. They are being operated poorly to subsidize Solar/Wind.
Thus to calculate the True Costs of Solar, the formula would more look like: Solar energy costs = Solar Power Plant with x 2.5 the capacity + storage for a day + the entire cost of a backup power plant (with slightly lower fuel costs than normal).
There's no way the math of A+B < B alone. So Solar drives up costs. Which explains why every city/state/country that adds Solar capacity, also drives up their costs of electricity.
(NOTE: Some Solar plants don't work from direct sunlight, they concentrate the light into a salt/metal, and use that to run a steam turbine. This allows them to store heat, or burn natural gas when the sun isn't out, to deal with the unreliability of Solar. But again, the cost of these hybrid Solar plant isn't just a Solar Plant, it's a Solar Plant + Storage + backup for when the Sun isn't out. )
But wait, there's more
There's a few other ways the rates get flimflammed to dupe the gullible rubes. The power grid is a delicately balanced system: the power that goes on it, has to match the load/demand or power surges and things burn out. So, now California (or other states) build a lot of Solar Plants at the request/subsidies of the Obama administration or other "Green New Deals". They under produce on cloudy days, but over produce on sunny ones. What do you do when Solar Power stations are over-producing and creating peak power beyond the norm? You can’t let over-capacity overload the grid, so California and other places have to PAY people to take the peak power, and those other places have to take other plants off line. (Which makes those other plants less efficient).
This is part of why California’s power costs so much more than other states. They say Solar Generated X MWh (Megawatt Hours) and they agreed to pay $x/MWh from the solar plant, but on the other side, they had to pay people to take the excess capacity or take their plants off line during the surge. The true cost of Solar was buried in other line items like buy-back costs and so on. But that was part of the cost of unreliable solar.Then you get into the fact that since Solar Plants and Wind Farms are regulated, they get penalized when they aren't producing power. The solution: create an oil burning plant inside the Solar Plant or Wind farms. Some turbines have diesel generators in them, and when the wind isn't blowing, they just run them -- because the fuel costs are less than the penalties for not hitting quota. Never mind that small diesel generators are more polluting than large ones so this is a pollution loss. Solar sometimes works the same way: they can burn natural gas when Solar isn't working to avoid penalties, or reduce the problems with peak power. But you almost never hear that truth from green energy advocates. Which tells you what you need to know about their information level or honesty.