Patterico's Pontifications

5/27/2009

Solar Power and Jobs in Las Vegas

Filed under: Obama — DRJ @ 2:35 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Barack Obama was in Las Vegas last night and today (where he did not say the “magic words“). He also toured Nellis AFB. Nellis generates 25% of its power from a photovoltaic array aka solar power. The White House Press Office provides this background on the Nellis solar power project:

# The Nellis solar power system, completed in December of 2007, is America’s largest solar photovoltaic array.

# The plant will generate more than 30 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of clean electricity annually and supply approximately 25% of the total power used at the base, where 12,000 people live and work.

# The system covers 140 acres of land at Nellis AFB, 33 acres of which are a capped landfill which has been reused for this “green” energy project. The array is made from over 72,000 solar panels which track the sun to maximize the solar renewable energy we can receive.

# It will reduce carbon emissions by 24,000 tons annually.

# Using a “first-of-its-kind” public/private partnership, this project (which cost over $100M to construct) cost the AF less than $100,000 in capital costs, yet saved Nellis over $1.2M in its first year of operation.

# The Nellis solar power system is joint venture between the U.S. Air Force; Renewable Ventures; SunPower Corporation; and N.V. Energy.

# It took over 200 workers to build the array.

The project took $100M to build and saves $1.2M a year. That should pay off in 83 years. Sweet.

Speaking of sweet deals, the AP reports Obama claimed his economic stimulus has saved or created 150,000 jobs. Where is the proof that the stimulus has saved or created 150,000 jobs? I don’t see them in my area but here’s one possibility: Obama’s speech at Nellis followed his appearance at a fundraiser last night for Harry Reid in Las Vegas. He is also scheduled to attend a fundraiser tonight for the DNC in Los Angeles. Maybe those extra jobs are in fundraising and catering.

– DRJ

41 Comments

  1. DRJ… for shame dear lady… I’m still working so The One The “Jug Eared” One must have saved my job… I’m sure that there must be at least 149,999 more in these United States… though not for long perhaps.

    Comment by GM Roper (85dcd7) — 5/27/2009 @ 2:48 pm

  2. When accounting for how long it takes to get an ROI on the money pumped into the creation of that array, please don’t forget to add in the interest on that money. If that money had not been spent, there would have been no reason to sell notes to pay for it, right? So, don’t forget to add the cost the cost of the Treasury notes.

    Comment by Ed from SFV (aeef34) — 5/27/2009 @ 2:49 pm

  3. Here he’s trying to falsely imply that this had anything to do with porkulus.

    Of course, the payoff time is a good clue that this is a stunt, not a practical energy system. The useful life of the array is hardly 83 years given how fast such arrays degrade.

    Comment by SPQR (72771e) — 5/27/2009 @ 2:52 pm

  4. Just don’t think that government-run installations are, um, reflective of actual solar installation costs.

    Comment by Kevin Murphy (805c5b) — 5/27/2009 @ 2:56 pm

  5. 140 acres used to generate this little power … for an exercise, calculate the amount of acreage needed to replace the roughly 1 million megawatts of capacity we have in the US.

    You’ll need this formula to convert megawatts to kilowatt-hours.

    Hint: its an extraordinary amount of acreage that would have to be dedicated to solar arrays.

    Comment by SPQR (72771e) — 5/27/2009 @ 3:01 pm

  6. I’m so sick of the continuing crapola coming from this administration claiming that they’ve saved hundreds of thousands of jobs there, 2 million over there, and so yawn. Will ANYONE in the press deign to ask what the heck substantiates those figures? And how many jobs will (or have already) been lost due to the tremendous deficit spending we’ve seen already? Will anyone bother to ask the Chinese their thoughts on the matter? Probably not, since it likely will be less than adulatory.

    Comment by Dmac (1ddf7e) — 5/27/2009 @ 3:01 pm

  7. SPQR,

    In addition, there aren’t many places in America that have as much intense sunlight for as many hours a day as there is in desert areas like Nellis.

    Comment by DRJ (2901e6) — 5/27/2009 @ 3:09 pm

  8. SPQR,

    I’m awful at math, but if this array covering 140 acres of sun baked desert provides 25% of the energy at a base of 12,000 then the array provides 100% for 3000.
    The system requires 1 acre of solar array for every 22 people at a cost of something like $33,000 per person.

    Greater Las Vegas has about 2.2 million people
    I think that works out to 100,000 acres of solar array at some astronomical cost that my calculator can’t handle

    Oh yeah… done is 2007?
    I blame Bush!

    Comment by SteveG (c99c5c) — 5/27/2009 @ 3:09 pm

  9. SPQR, solar still has a long way to go in terms of truly replacing any of our current sources of power generation, but there are rapid advances in the pipeline to come:

    http://www.hplusmagazine.com/articles/economy/space-based-solar-coming

    There are also promising developments in generating power from biomass and other sources of renewable plant life, which has already included waste products and algae farms. Granted, many of these will not pan out – but the problem is when the gov’t starts picking winners and losers in the marketplace – shades of the Synfuel debacle under Carter.

    Comment by Dmac (1ddf7e) — 5/27/2009 @ 3:11 pm

  10. These installations will be part of the “PAYOFF”
    in the long run.
    This seed money will will be very fruitful.
    It is a link to our Fuel of the Future. Hydrogen.

    Comment by Thomas j. Setter (9306c3) — 5/27/2009 @ 3:16 pm

  11. If only we could harness the power of hot air emitted by politicians…but I’m sure they are not carbon neutral.

    Wait a minute. We could tax their carbon emissions!

    Comment by Eric Blair (5a226d) — 5/27/2009 @ 3:23 pm

  12. Setter, hydrogen? LOL. A generation from now, hydrogen will still be the Fuel of the Future. Hydrogen is a silly way to transport energy.

    Comment by SPQR (72771e) — 5/27/2009 @ 3:27 pm

  13. There are lots of good ideas for future energy. But we…um…kind of need answers now.

    Comment by Eric Blair (5a226d) — 5/27/2009 @ 3:47 pm

  14. And when the costs are all in, how many times more is solar power generation? I say it’s close to 5-10x. And then it gets cloudy. So like with windmills, you need a standby generator of equivalent power generation capacity or else — When you flip the switch, the local cell tower if it has standby generators, will text you, power will be out until the sun decides to return.

    Solar and windmills have got to be the biggest wastes of money ever.

    Comment by tarpon (26027c) — 5/27/2009 @ 3:49 pm

  15. Government accounting is pretty bad. But, if the Air Force invested $100,000 and the savings are $1.2 million per year. That is an extraordinary return on investment. Presumably, the AF savings were AFTER the investment partnership sufficiently charged an amount to repay their $100 million investment, plus interest, plus maintenance, plus administration, etc. But, this is not clear from the article.

    Something is clouding solar power however. Sun’s Power stock price is down about 65% in the past year, compared the to about 35% decline for the general market’s decline.

    Comment by Perfect Sense (0922fa) — 5/27/2009 @ 3:50 pm

  16. Eric Blair, a good yardstick is this: if anyone claims to have a plan for replacing coal and other fossil fuel generation and it does not prominently read “Build lots of nuclear power plants”, then its a joke plan.

    That’s the bottom line. Solar, wind, tidal, harnessing the flatulence of San Francisco residents, its all silly nonsense as they don’t scale up effectively.

    Comment by SPQR (72771e) — 5/27/2009 @ 3:53 pm

  17. Also, at $100 million for 200 jobs, it takes about $5 million to “create” one job.

    Comment by Perfect Sense (0922fa) — 5/27/2009 @ 3:53 pm

  18. You don’t see any unemployed snipe hunters, do you? But Obama never gets credit for that, which is, like, so unfair.

    Comment by ras (20bd5b) — 5/27/2009 @ 4:29 pm

  19. Obama claimed his economic stimulus has saved or created 150,000 jobs

    Isn’t that …difficult to prove?

    Comment by Paul (creator of "Staunch Brayer") (14d6a1) — 5/27/2009 @ 4:50 pm

  20. Perfect Sense – you missed your point (pun intended) …

    $100M for 200 jobs is a mere paltry pittance of $0.5M, you exaggerator, you !

    Comment by Alasdair (e7cb73) — 5/27/2009 @ 4:53 pm

  21. Will ANYONE in the press deign to ask what the heck substantiates those figures?

    I don’t think their signed contracts with the Obama administration permits them to ask these sorts of questions.

    At least Steven Chu’s ideas won’t cost as much…and won’t require land, will employ a lot of painters, and Benajamin Moore Paints can stay in business!

    Steven Chu, the Nobel prize-winning physicist appointed by President Obama as Energy Secretary, wants to paint the world white. A global initiative to change the colour of roofs, roads and pavements so that they reflect more sunlight and heat could play a big part in containing global warming, he said yesterday.

    By lightening paved surfaces and roofs to the colour of cement, it would be possible to cut carbon emissions by as much as taking all the world’s cars off the roads for 11 years, he said.

    Comment by Dana (aedf1d) — 5/27/2009 @ 4:59 pm

  22. [...] day since the passage of the “stimulus” bill.  Must be the new math.  Also over at Patterico we have the one sentence that sums up the solar power [...]

    Pingback by Gazzer’s Gabfest » Willing stenographers carry water for pathological liar. (b98ad6) — 5/27/2009 @ 5:16 pm

  23. It will reduce emissions? Great. Which coal plant is shutting down?

    Comment by Amphipolis (42043b) — 5/27/2009 @ 5:47 pm

  24. [...] Patterico’s Pontifications » Solar Power and Jobs in Las Vegas By DRJ Barack Obama was in Las Vegas last night and today (where he did not say the “magic words“). He also toured Nellis AFB. Nellis generates 25% of its power from a photovoltaic array aka solar power. The White House Press Office provides … Patterico’s Pontifications – http://patterico.com/ [...]

    Pingback by Google Alert – Las Vegas « Las Vegas Locksmith 702-508-9156 (97ecca) — 5/27/2009 @ 6:13 pm

  25. Paint the roofs white, inflate your tires and pretty soon you’re getting elected. We all have to keep repeating this: “Politicians’ job is not to govern; it is to get elected!” Now, repeat that 100 times.

    Comment by Mike K (2cf494) — 5/27/2009 @ 6:23 pm

  26. My favorite post on Chu’s white roof idea is by TOTUS.

    Comment by DRJ (2901e6) — 5/27/2009 @ 6:31 pm

  27. Leave it to The Zero to tour a military base and find its most notable attribute is that it has some frickin’ solar panels.

    Comment by Cicero (8db983) — 5/27/2009 @ 6:34 pm

  28. Did Teh Uno imply that this project had something to do with his spending orgy?

    Comment by JD (acaf96) — 5/27/2009 @ 6:49 pm

  29. So, don’t forget to add the cost the cost of the Treasury notes

    Actually, if we’re interested in economic cost, we must understand that the source of government spending comes through the removal of that capital from the private sector. Subsequently, while we could look at cost of money hurdle rates, a more appropriate comparison is the opportunity cost of that money being instead employed in the private sector and the return it could generate.

    Either way, we’re looking at well more than 100 years, but given this asset won’t last a fraction of that length, it’s a given that its a hopeless waste. No wonder we owe over one hundred trillion when deficits, unfunded social security, medicare/medicaid, Federal employee pension obligations and other debts are factored. With decision making like this, we’re all sunk.

    The parasitic 52% of the population may just bury us for good this time.

    Comment by HatlessHessian (cca288) — 5/27/2009 @ 8:08 pm

  30. I guess I’ll be the spoilsport who points out that the solar photovoltaic array at Nellis will NEVER EVER produce as much energy as it took to produce, erect, operate, and maintain the array.
    This is why it cost more than the energy it could ever produce, as PV arrays last about 10 to 20 years, and this one would take 83 years to break even.
    Yes, the installed cost of the system is a pretty good benchmark as to how much energy was used to create the system.
    SO, it isn’t “Green” at all. The CO2 to produce it has already been emitted “up front” as it were.

    The only solar plants which can routinely produce more energy than their creation energy are solar thermal plants.
    Thankfully, some have caught onto this, and the largest solar plants ever made are now being built, also in Nevada.
    Another good thing about solar thermal systems, is that they can store a good deal of their heat energy to fill some gaps in sunlight, and they can use the same turbine-generators which they use for solar power to operate using natural gas.
    This gives them the inherent advantage of being their own backup power source.

    Linky:
    http://www.chiefengineer.org/content/content_display.cfm/seqnumber_content/3070.htm

    Comment by j.pickens (8b5ad5) — 5/27/2009 @ 9:50 pm

  31. I always love it when numbers obfuscate things.

    300 million kilowatt-hours per year is about 3.4 megawatts, calculated as a 24-hour average. Currently the US uses power (from all sources) at an average rate of 3.6 terawatts. That’s 1,050,000 times as much.

    That 3.4 megawatts cost $100 million. So if we switched over completely, it’d cost more than $100 trillion dollars.

    That plant covers 140 acres. If we switch over completely, it would cover 148 million acres, or 231,600 square miles. That’s an area about twice the size of the state of Arizona.

    Comment by Steven Den Beste (99cfa1) — 5/27/2009 @ 10:00 pm

  32. It’s worse than you think, because the array actually supplies only two-thirds of the power it takes to keep the base going during the 10 or so hours/day the array is effective — and exactly zero power during the other 14. It would need to be about 60% larger to supply 100% of “daytime” power. It would need to be 300% larger — and include the ability to store 75% of its output — to supply 100% of the base’s daily needs.

    The word “battery” appears nowhere in the WH press release.

    Yes, there is a tech coolness factor. But I find it unsettling that so many solar fanboys (of whatever gender) have no slightest clue what the phrases “base load” and “reserve capacity” mean when it comes to power generation…and consumption! Putting aside any qualms about bird sushi, there are a few spots in this county where the wind is fairly constant. But there is no place on earth where the Sun shines 24/7 — not even Vegas.

    Comment by porkopolitan (d0f530) — 5/27/2009 @ 10:02 pm

  33. Well, the article says that it will SAVE 1.2 mill not that the power generated is worth 1.2 mill.

    No idea as to the real number. But if the power it’s replacing used to cost say 5 mill and now it costs 3.8 mill it’s the 3.8 mill for the rate of return not the 1.2. Right?

    Comment by CujoQuarrel (fa5b6a) — 5/27/2009 @ 10:02 pm

  34. Cujo – Wrong. The incremental investment was $100 million to save $1.2 million, even by your reasoning. The $3.8 million would have been spent under both scenarios. It’s only by investing $100 million do they avoid spending the additional $1.2 million per annum.

    Comment by daleyrocks (5d22c0) — 5/27/2009 @ 10:19 pm

  35. “I guess I’ll be the spoilsport who points out that the solar photovoltaic array at Nellis will NEVER EVER produce as much energy as it took to produce, erect, operate, and maintain the array.”

    Even suh-weeter.

    Comment by daleyrocks (5d22c0) — 5/27/2009 @ 10:24 pm

  36. Our good friend Den Beste has the numbers.

    Astonishing, isn’t it, how silly alternative power proponents look with a little simple math?

    Comment by SPQR (72771e) — 5/28/2009 @ 8:33 am

  37. The payoff is not 83 years. It will never payoff. The debt service on the $100M borrowed to build the thing is more than the $1.2M in annual savings.

    Comment by Frank Skog (4d55c2) — 5/28/2009 @ 8:34 am

  38. 140 acres used to generate this little power … for an exercise, calculate the amount of acreage needed to replace the roughly 1 million megawatts of capacity we have in the US.

    #5 — Comment by SPQR — 5/27/2009 @ 3:01 pm

    If we switch over completely, it would cover 148 million acres, or 231,600 square miles. That’s an area about twice the size of the state of Arizona.

    Comment by Steven Den Beste — 5/27/2009 @ 10:00 pm

    Possibly, it might be even worse.

    (140 acres / 30,000,000 kW hr) X 1,000,000 Mw hr translates as

    (140 acres / 30 billion W hr) X 1,000 billion w hr

    This yields about 4,667 acres — to produce a million Mw hr.

    -

    In 2005 the total electrical consumption of the US was 3,816,000,000 Mw yr.

    This translates to 33,428,160,000,000 Mw hr.

    This converts to about 150 billion acres of land (about 25% of the Earth’s surface) with equivalent or better sunlight intensity to meet the needs of the US in 2005. The cost of this type of system would exceed the GDP.

    Comment by Pons Asinorum (03ef30) — 5/28/2009 @ 10:00 am

  39. Again, I place my vote for more Pons, less asshattery. ;-)

    Comment by JD (84e317) — 5/28/2009 @ 10:27 am

  40. I’m glad to beat out the asshattery. I know it’s a close call, so thanks for the vote JD : )

    Comment by Pons Asinorum (03ef30) — 5/28/2009 @ 2:56 pm

  41. The campaign contributions helped, Pons.

    Comment by SPQR (72771e) — 5/29/2009 @ 7:52 am

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