Comments about ‘Readers' forum: Solar energy is economical’

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Published: Monday, Dec. 26 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

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Corn Dog
New York, NY

"We are developing solar energy for roughly $3 per watt total and selling the energy to the utility at rates cheaper than it costs them to generate it using imported petroleum."

That pretty much says it all. The situation described is one essentially off-the-grid, using imports of the most expensive fossil fuel. For US mainland applications where reliable, abundant baseload electrical energy is needed 24/7, solar power will remain a very expensive alternative for the forseeable future.

Sandy, UT

Thank you for adding honesty to this discussion. I can only imagine where we would be if we had not taken our eye off the ball some 35 years ago, besides there is more to it than dollars and cents. Our health is one reason.

Tooele, UT

Re: "To solve our country's energy woes, both sides of this debate must work together."

Hear, hear!

It's refreshing to hear someone whose economic health depends on "green" energy admit that, "We must allow for further fossil fuel development . . . ."

It's interesting to hear that solar may be an economic [daytime] alternative in the highest-energy-cost state in the union, though it's only so because of tax incentives, that liberal class-warfare tactics continue to place at risk.

But, it's not the case here -- yet.

During the 50-year window we have before intersection of the ascending fossil-fuel economic curve and the descending "green-power" economic curve, this type of cooperative, collaborative attitude could lead to sanity, reasonable development strategies, and, most importantly, defeat of radical greenies' -- and President Obama's -- "necessarily skyrocket" fuel-price contrivance.

That'd be a win for us all.

Salt Lake City, UT

Let's not kid ourselves - we invaded Iraq because of oil. Iraq had zero to do with 9/11, and everything to do with middle-eastern oil. The Bush administration even claimed that Iraqi oil would pay for the cost of the war.

That war cost us the lives of over 4,000 soldiers and three trillion dollars.

If that cost showed up on your power bill and on the pump at the gas station when you fill-up, then solar power would look like an amazing bargain.

We'll be burning oil and gas for decades, but we've got to get serious about developing and using alternatives.

Salt Lake City, UT

Thanks for adding rational thinking to the discussion. It's distressing for some to have facts obliterate the prejudices against solar energy.

Mike Richards
South Jordan, Utah

Anyone who believes in solar energy can order all necessary parts and pieces to construct solar panels easily via the Internet. They can put a few solar panels on their roof. They can put the necessary batteries in their garage or basement. They can build or buy the necessary inverters. They don't have to wait for someone else to do it for them.

Those who believe that it is a good thing, either for the environment, or as a substitute for fossil fuels could have their own off-grid power production in place within a week's time.

But they won't.

They will just continue to tell us what WE need to do. They will NEVER put their money where their mouth is. It's so much easier to make demands on others than to do it themselves.

The Real Maverick
Orem, UT

"They will just continue to tell us what WE need to do. They will NEVER put their money where their mouth is. It's so much easier to make demands on others than to do it themselves."

If this were true, then our dear letter writer wouldn't have a job installing these things.

Since they're being installed, the letter writer has a job. Since this letter writer has a job, your theory based on cynical opinion and anecdotal data is completely debunked.

Lets rely on the facts, shall we?

Happy Holidays folks!


@mike richards. Can you order all the parts off the internet to construct a coal fired power plant? No.

I doubt most people have expertise to install a 200 amp main that is being fed from the utility and they probably can't install a solar panel and all of its components.

So in the end most people can not do any electrical installations. So what is your point? To bash solar energy?

Mike Richards
South Jordan, Utah

Maverick and Shaun_,

You made my point. You passed the buck.

My neighbor, who is in his 90s, installed a solar system when he was in his 80s (with the help of his sons). His entire electricity needs are filled by solar energy, except on those rare occasions when something breaks.

A relative in northern Utah operates his home with solar energy supplemented by "water energy" produced from a small steam near his home.

They did everything themselves. They didn't pass the buck. They didn't wait for someone else to make things affordable or convenient. They ordered all parts and pieces from the Internet. They got the required permits. They hired help when licensed help was required.

In other words, they are DOERS not talkers.

The letter writer is a DOER, but he has selected a prime market where solar energy is viable.

Solar energy is viable in Utah for those who are willing to pay the price.

This is not rocket science. Anyone can go down to Radio Shack TODAY and get the parts to make an experimental solar powered system. When they understand the principles, they can order the "heavy duty" parts and pieces.

"Doer" or "talker"?

The Real Maverick
Orem, UT

Mike Richards, there you go again accusing without having any facts. I have installed solar panels on my house.

The only talker I see on this board is you. Talking, without having any facts. Accusing, without knowing anything.

For you, you shall have your reward.

Mike Richards
South Jordan, Utah


Since you have a solar powered system in place, would you tell us what it costs you per kilowatt hour to run your refrigerator on your system compared to running that refrigerator on the "grid"? Do the same for each major appliance. Can you cook a turkey without turning off most of the electrical appliances in your home, or do you cheat and use natural gas for your cooking?

My neighbor and my relative, who are "off-grid", and who each have substantial systems, carefully monitor each "light-bulb". They have to turn off one "light-bulb" before turning on another.

Most of us would think that carrying a calculator around with us as we go from room to room to see what we have to turn off before turning on a hair-dryer or the toaster, would be too much of a "burden".

How do you handle it? Or, are you just playing with solar energy and not depending on it to take you off-grid? Are you just talking about it or have you become "self-sufficient" and "grid-free"?

Does your family's health and safety depend on your solar panels?

Mom of 8
Hyrum, UT

This solution is likely simplistic, but I can see a need for all energy sources. We're hoping to someday install solar panels, and with our frequent winds at our house, a windmill would also make sense. For the days there is no sun or wind, we could us the backup resources of our local electricity plants (coal, hydroelectric, etc.).

We can't every community function like this? With the right minds and resources applied, natural energy costs would come down (remember how expensive and inaccessible computers were in the 70's?).

The greatest benefit, however be for the poor, many of whom struggle to pay utility bills. What if those bills were $10 or less each month because of their solar panels and windmills?

It seems remarkable to me that the earth provides so many resources, yet we stubbornly insist on looking only at those that are "traditional" or self-serving. We waste so much.

J Thompson

Those who don't work with electricity may think that adding a solar panel or two and a windmill or two is an easy way to solve their electrical needs. Shaun wrote about connecting a 200 Amp service panel to the system. That is the crux of the issue.

Our electrical needs are not trivial. A toaster typically takes 1,000 watts. An oven takes about 4,000 watts. A "typical" solar panel produces about 150 watts per square meter.

Let's do the math. Running that oven would require 26 square meters of solar panel - in full sunlight. Sorry, no late evening meals.

Storing that electricity takes batteries and inverters. In effect, you "save" electricity whenever the sun is shinning and then you "spend" electricity" when you need to. As long as you "save" more than you "spend", the system works.

Gel-cells or lead-acid cells require maintenance and are costly. Inverters don't last forever.

The dream is here, but, until new and better types of storage (batteries and inverters) become available, solar energy will just be a "novelty" and will remain a weak imitation of fossil fuels.


I think a great many people, simply for the savings in fuel costs and the prospects of actually being paid for excess energy by the electric company, would like to have solar panels. I have heard, months ago, that you can do all the installation yourself. This is a very attractive prospect because the installation costs are prohibitive for most people.

However I don't believe that most of us have the confidence that we can do the job properly, to coded, and safely, and perhaps have a suspicion that we would have to report it as an improvement to the county who would then increase our property taxes for ever afterwards.

L White
Springville, UT

Oh my goodness. I think that some of the posters are telling us that we need to let our children go barefoot so that we can "do the right thing" and get our electricity from the sun.

Every family has basic needs. I am a mother so I know about feeding a family and cooking for that family. I know how many loads of washing have to be done and I know how long the drier has to work to dry those clothes. In my neighborhood we cannot even have a clothesline in the backyard. It must offend some people to see clothes hanging out to dry.

We cannot burn our trash, so we send twice as much as we should to the dump to be buried. Has anyone calculated how much more fuel (and pollution is caused by those huge garbage trucks) compared to us burning some of our trash?

The mindset is wrong. Priorities are wrong.

Too many people are too quick to "whip" us into shape without having a clue about what the real problem is. They regulate our activities and make it impossible for each of us to find the right solution for ourselves.

Bountiful, UT

Solar Power is $3.00 per watt installed? If that is really so, I will take $2,000 watts please. Are there really contractors here in Utah that will do it?

Given the cost of coal in air pollution, the cost of natural gas in water pollution and the cost of oil in wars and preparation for wars, solar at $3.00 per watt is cheap.

J Thompson


You've got a deal.

To run your oven will cost you $12,000 in solar panels at $3.00 per watt. You'll probably want to run a few light bulbs and maybe a heater or air-conditioner at the same time, so you'll need to double that investment to $24,000, give or take, depending on your personal requirements.

Since that is not a one-time investment, you'll need to repeat that purchase every few years when the parts and pieces need replacing.

How many people can spend $24,000 every three or four years for solar panels and accessories?

We have oil enough in Utah to meet the nation's needs for years to come, yet we spend $2 BILLION a day on the military and another $1 BILLION a day on oil imports.

We could save at least one-third of that by using our own Utah oil.

Solar may be usable someday, but that day is not today.

Springville, UT

A valuable letter. Oil took a long time to develop and there was a lot of government support, including overthrowing other governments. Alternate energy has never enjoyed such support.

Salt Lake City, UT

JThompson: "We have oil enough in Utah to meet the nation's needs for years to come..."

Not by any stretch of the imagination is that statement true. Here are the facts:

Total US oil consumption is about 19 million barrels per day.

Total US oil production is less than half that amount.

Total oil production from Utah oil wells is about 55,000 barrels per day, which is about 0.3% of total US oil consumption.

The only way you can get to the idea that Utah can "meet the nation's needs" is if you buy into the fantasy of extracting oil from Utah oil sands, which requires staggeringly huge amounts of water - something we here in Utah have in short supply.

You also have to be willing to turn vast portions of Utah into a toxic waste dump, and contaminate whatever water is left over. So much for agriculture.

And even then, any oil extracted from Utah oil sands will make gasoline at $4/gallon look like "the good old days."

The cost of obtaining oil from oil sands deposits makes the cost of wind, solar, geothermal and conservation look like the deal of the century.

J Thompson


Excellent hyperbole, but your facts are totally wrong.

From the Deseret News, June 10, 2007:

"Colorado and Utah have as much oil as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, Nigeria, Kuwait, Libya, Angola, Algeria, Indonesia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates combined."

Study up on oil extraction; it's not at all as you describe. Take a trip out to eastern Utah and start counting the oil wells, then ask ElPaso Gas how hard it was to extract that oil. Ask the people of Vernal what happened to their economy when President Obama allowed the drilling to stop. Ask Flying J what happened to their company when the drilling stopped.

The Lord gave us enough, and to spare. He didn't shortchange us on energy. There is more than enough oil to go around and long before it is gone, other less expensive ways to produce energy will crop up.

That's the way things work. Have you priced a gallon of Whale Oil lately? Gas and oil replaced whale oil. Something will replace gas and oil. In the meantime, we have oil enough to spare.

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