Monday, August 10, 2009


Following in President Obama's Footsteps

Last week they had a party for the volunteers (and their families) at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (a museum I have been visiting since at least 1958, when it was still just one unimproved building). My father-in-law works in the astronomy section. He's still thin enough to fit in a space suit. The party was fun. I went up to the roof for a tour of the solar array up there. You might recall our President and Vice President doing just that the day the President signed the reckless so called stimulus bill earlier this year. This is what I learned:

It's a beautiful view of the city and the whole front range up there, especially in the evening.

The array in a year produces 146,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. (Unfortunately, the museum uses nearly 12 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year so the percentage supplied is just over 1%--that ain't so good).

The expected life of the solar panels is 20 years. The expected life of the 18 inverters (which change the DC power from the sun into AC for the lights, etc.) is 10 years.

The museum does not now own the array (as it is a non-profit and non-profits don't get the government goodies from installing a photovoltaic array) but is going to buy it when all the available government money is collected by the owner, in just a few years.

They don't wash off the array but let the fairly intermittent rains clean the panels. That's not so good.

The real question is why the museum leadership would do that? The array cost $720,000. If the museum saved the highest price available for the power it generates (and it's just possible it could); that is, if the museum saved twice the average commercial price of 6 cents per kilowatt hour, namely, 12 cents per kilowatt hour, then the 146,000 kilowatt hours the array generates is worth $17,520.00 a year. The real savings will almost certainly be closer to half that. But even at an unrealistically high yearly savings, the pay off for the system would be 41 years, which is 2 times the expected life of the major components of the system, not to mention the expensive inverters. Even if the current owners of the array reduce its price to the museum by some percentage of the government money they received, it still takes longer to repay than the system lasts. Thus a purchase of the system doesn't make sense. See the old analysis at Gateway Pundit here. Letting another cash in on the government supports for the photovoltaic industry didn't render the purchase any more viable financially.

The pleasing, fuzzy feeling you get from the warm power of the sun only gets you so far.


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