25 votes

A Solar Boom So Successful, It's Been Halted

wanted to join what's seen as a solar revolution in Hawaii. Shortly after buying their Oahu home earlier this year, they plunked down $35,000 for a rooftop photovoltaic system.

The couple looked forward to joining neighbors who had added panels, to cutting their $250 monthly power bills and to knowing they were helping the environment.

Their plans shifted the day after the PV panels went up in early October. The Walkers learned from a neighbor about a major change in the local utility's solar policy. It led to those 18 panels sitting dormant nearly three months later.

Read more: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-boo...

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.


Well, now these people have come to the ugly realization on who controls the marketplace in Hawaii.

Their demands would best be served under a truly free market system.

I'm sorry but this makes absolutely no sense.

They have an electric bill of $250, and they choose to 'cut' this bill by paying a bank interest on a $35,000 dollar loan in order to do this. So, if I am understanding this correctly, they took on a $300/mo payment in order to reduce a $250 bill? Wouldn't some quick math tell me that $35,000 would cover 140 months, or close to 12 years of that electric bill? And that doesn't count the added interest cost. Factor in maintenance cost, and the average 'life span' of these solar systems, and I see absolutely no benefit to the bottom line. Maybe I'm missing something?

Don't get me wrong, I love solar and plan on having solar at some point. But that will be to get OFF the grid and 'smart meters', not contribute to it, and certainly not to pay $35k to do so.

One of the things ...

One of the things that you are not taking into account is that depending on the output the solar cells they can or will produce more than $250 of electricity a month. So the monthly electric bill could be a negative amount or a gain above the $300 monthly loan bill. So they could be getting all the electricity they need, pay off the loan and make money on top of that. That sounds like a win win situation.
A second thing that you did not take into account is that the cost of electricity will only go up in 12 years so that $250 bill might be $350 or $400 in 12 years. And after that the loan is paid off and the cell produce electricity at no cost other than maintenance.
So if you take into consideration all of the above, does that change your perspective on the situation ?
A third thing that is not tangible, but the feeling of independence is something that is nice to have in your life.


No absolutely no change

and independence comes when you are off grid, not contributing to the thing you want independence from. Now, do some research as to what is happening to the cost of water and electricity in areas that are using less in order to be 'green'. Most everyone that had originally cut their bills are now paying the same because prices have doubled in order to cover the falling demand. Now, take the time to go see what an electric company actually pays you for the electricity you 'contribute' to the grid. Maybe it would be enough to cover some of the interest on the loan, maybe not. True independence comes when you aren't plugged into their grid, period.


Sometimes you can only take steps in the direction that you want to go as your finances will allow.You seem to expect people to be 100% up and running on the first try. Very few people can live up to your standards. How is that working out for the people around you?
This system can be converted to be off the grid with a battery system. Yes, they are expensive now. But a lot of wonderful battery technology is in process. Old technology like the Edison battery is still available and very long lasting.
You can sit back and criticize the efforts of others or help push forward and pioneer technology that would benefit everyone. Being a stick in the mud accomplishes nothing except being an obstruction to those that are moving forward past you I have built my solar air heater, a second one is in the making, my rain catchment system, my well and woodstove. I am doing research on making my own photovoltaic cells. Time and finances will determine when that system is up and running. What have you done other than criticize other peoples efforts?


I hate to break it to you.

but it is hard to not criticize the efforts of someone who got a $30k loan, that cost $300/mo, in order to reduce a $250 bill. Let's not forget that it is still boxed up in his garage. Guess I'm just being a little too hard on the fella. I'm all for small steps, and having the smarts to ease into something, but they threw everything and the kitchen sink into the hole, and just stood there and watched. Go spend a thousand bucks and get a small system going, then add to it when you can. That is easing, that is moving forward, and that is gaining independence. However it is not, throwing $35k into a giant hole and doing absolutely zero good for anyone but the manufacturers and bankers who are profiting. If it helps you any, I am very close to being fully off grid except for the innerwebs. We have put in a couple of wells, we are deciding between solar and wind, or both. We raise our own grass fed longhorn beef, pork, and free range chickens and eggs of course. We put in huge gardens and feed the older folks throughout the winter, and can what we have time to can. We also have several 'rent houses' around us that we use to help people out in a crisis, and operate at a huge loss each and every year, although none of that information makes it to my taxes because it is my choice and I'm not looking for government recognition for a job well done. So there you have it. I hope I live up to your expectations. But don't worry, I finally got my sleep study and my bipap machine, so I won't be losing any sleep either way.

Probably tax subsidies change the math

Every time I point out to someone that an alternative energy technology is not economically viable, they point out tax subsidies that make it viable. It is hard to explain to one of these proponents that the fact that the tax subsidy is there only illustrates that it is not economically viable. It also escapes many people that the tax subsidy is paid by someone.

The tax subsidy doesn't change the cost. It only changes who pays for the cost. If you are the owner of the solar panels, you are lucky enough to have someone else pay you for the malinvestment.

I was hoping someone would bring this up.

But don't we have a 'free market'? Yeah right!

What you're both missing is

that the game we're all living in IS the subsidy or favorites game.

All energy technologies of the last century have been subsidized in their beginning to get them going. They usually end this lifeline after a brief period unless they're a fossil based or nuclear based source. Those subsidies not only keep going, they keep growing! Most estimates I've seen put overall fossil fuel assistance at 40-80 times any renewable (except hydro) on a per-quantity basis. Why should this remain in existence?

So, in that real world, why shouldn't renewables get a leg up too? If you answer, "no", that's fine but be prepared to dump the insanely massive benefit YOU get for oil, coal, ng and nuclear. At that point, we'll come back here and discuss which energy source is cheaper for you.

If you want a free market, get the government out of subsidies, yes, but also get them out of land leases, royalty grants and insurance caps on everything across the board. When you do that, renewable sources will rise a little bit and then drop in price over time but everything else will rise much more with endless price hikes. :)

I'm sorry, but this is bull

So it would cost me more to heat my home and drive my car without tax subsidies? That is patently absurd.

Oil and gas companies pay tremendous amounts of taxes:


I personally pay a special gasoline tax every time I fill my car's tank. I pay taxes in the form of fees on the natural gas used to heat my home.

The idea that big oil gets all kinds of special subsidies is an absurd argument by politicians and those who are manipulated by them. The goal is to kindle class warfare and to justify wasting tax money in distorting the free market in favor of companies like Solyndra.

Yes, I want a free market.

You want a free market?

Ok, fine. We'll dump ALL the free royalties and land lease grants to big oil. Then we'll eliminate the caps on insurance liability for oil (think BP's spill and TEPCO's meltdown), coal, nuke and fracking. Then we'll wipe out all the taxes you pay at the pump and in your monthly bills. Then we'll eliminate the restrictions on home bio-diesel so people can legally make AND SELL it to their neighbors. Then we'll cut renewable subsidies in all forms. Then we'll force utility companies to pay the real market price for bulk power to net metering customers. Then we'll stop the BS regulations that drive renewable installation prices sky high. Then we'll open up OUR grid that was already subsidized by the taxpayers to time-based free market for both generating and drawing. Then we'll take our guns out of Iraq, Syria, Lybia, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc. and leave them to sell via competition.

Also included is:
Percentage depletion allowance: lets companies deduct the costs of an oil or gas well, about 15 percent, from its taxes.
Domestic manufacturing tax deduction: Allows oil companies to collect $1.8 billion each year, even though there are vast differences between oil and traditional U.S. manufacturing. It is a benefit that was never intended for them.
The foreign tax credit: Oil companies overwhelmingly fall into the category of companies that can claim credits for payments to foreign governments.
Expensing intangible drilling costs: For over a century, oil companies have written off wages, fuel, repairs, and hauling costs.

There are more things but you get the idea. When all that was said and done, the price you pay at the pump and in your bills will be higher but other taxes will offset some of it. You won't have anyone stopping you from suing some of these conglomerates for environmental or human atrocities so they'll have to raise their insurance... a lot. When that price hits the market, you'll see an enormous spike way above the new higher price. People will cut their energy use and stabilize it out at whatever price they're willing to pay (since OPEC can still manipulate production in the short term).

With this new price becoming the norm, investment in renewables will take the place of much of the drilling R&D and that will pay off in far less time than it will otherwise.

So, cut all government games and you get fossil fuels spiking up then steadily rising over time while renewables will go the other way.



Official Daily Paul BTC address: 16oZXSGAcDrSbZeBnSu84w5UWwbLtZsBms
My ฿itcoin: 17khsA7MvBJAGAPkhrFJdQZPYKgxAeXkBY

It's not everywhere.

Here in Pittsburgh we're getting checks from the utility.
The utility is talking about charging a fee for the use of the infrastructure.
That's not all bad. They maintain the infrastructure.
My complaint is why haven't their profits been going to infrastructure anyway.
And a separate issue, why do I have to pay extra so they can turn around and play "Good Guys" by donating power to less fortunate folks, while THE POWER COMPANY gets the tax deduction?

“Give a man a gun, he can rob a bank. Give a man a central bank, and he can rob a country and the world.”

Pittsburgh! My home town. :-)

I really need a pound of chipped ham from Isleys!
Merry Christmas 'Cuda!

Exercise Liberty!

America Rising.
The Constitution Stands.

"That the pen is mightier than the sword would be proven false; if I should take my sword and cut off the hand that holds the pen" - American Nomad

Merry Christmas to you too Nomad

I've only been here since '04.
I'm still adjusting to the number of cars that crash into houses around here.
I remember the first time I ate at Primanti Brothers in the Strip District... they almost called the cops on me. I was so angry and felt betrayed. Everybody said how great PB was. It sucked! And I let 'em know.
But, gradually, I'm coming to love Pittsburgh.

Primanti Brothers vs Franklin Giant (Hartford, CT)



Franklin Giant

Franklin Giant

Franklin Giant

Franklin Giant
Franklin Giant

And the whole belly fried clams in Connecticut!
They look at you like you're crazy in Pittsburgh when you ask for WBFC.




“Give a man a gun, he can rob a bank. Give a man a central bank, and he can rob a country and the world.”

'Cuda, that stuff'll kill ya!

I remember those tastes, and textures, and aromas too, as a South Jersey boy, but in my teens I started to think more about what I chose to eat, by how I felt, compared with healthier choices; immediately and over time.

Close to five decades after making some subtle, some bold, health-decisions, I have no regrets leaving most of my Whitehouse, (Italian-loaf sandwich shop), memories behind for a better-feeling quality of health than most of my peers enjoy.

Believe me when I tell you that some of my earliest, favorite taste memories looked like those pics; but I honestly don't miss them because I know and feel so much better in building real nutritional health, without them.

Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them. - Frederick Douglass

Hey Promisekept, Here's your Holiday Greeting

And by the way, how old are you?
I said I live in Pittsburgh where there is no good food! You're pissin' me off.

“Give a man a gun, he can rob a bank. Give a man a central bank, and he can rob a country and the world.”

You can keep your shovel, we don't get much snow, Thanks!

I'm trimmer than Ben in this photo, but he's got more and darker hair. Been trashing my AARP invitations to join them for years, so they've slowed down sending them.

I'm guessing you resemble more the angry bearded guy, eh? Even he looks healthier than too many guys I meet in their late 30's - early 40's. There are really tasty, healthier options, even in Pittsburgh; though you might have to drive past a half-dozen cheese-steak shops to find them!

I StartPage searched, and found in your city:


Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them. - Frederick Douglass

"...the angry bearded guy"?

That's James Joseph Gandolfini, Jr.!
He was an American actor best known for his role as Tony Soprano in the award-winning HBO series, The Sopranos, in which he played a troubled American Mafia crime boss.!
He was born in '61 and he died last June.
I was born in '51.

“Give a man a gun, he can rob a bank. Give a man a central bank, and he can rob a country and the world.”

I'm between you both

Sorry for not knowing it was the late Mr. Gandolfini, who I've only heard more of than watched.

Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them. - Frederick Douglass

If you can stomach Afleck I thought

Surviving Christmas was a fun movie.


“Give a man a gun, he can rob a bank. Give a man a central bank, and he can rob a country and the world.”

What a well-timed sneeze!

Ben is the perfect jerk for the role. A real natural! Now I know the full intention for that shovel. OWWW! Kinda suspected :)

Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them. - Frederick Douglass

"I really need a pound of chipped ham from Isleys!"

lol small world!

Josie The Outlaw http://www.josietheoutlaw.com/

"What if the American people learn the truth" - Ron Paul

Et tu PAF? Haha!

Merry Christmas!

Exercise Liberty!

America Rising.
The Constitution Stands.

"That the pen is mightier than the sword would be proven false; if I should take my sword and cut off the hand that holds the pen" - American Nomad

Merry Christmas

to you AN!

There are a few of us DialyPaul'rs who meet on a regular basis, give a shout if/when you are in the area :-)

Josie The Outlaw http://www.josietheoutlaw.com/

"What if the American people learn the truth" - Ron Paul

It's quite simple actually: GRID INSTABILITY

Adding power sources that do not produce continuous power creates grid instability, stresses transmission systems which were never designed for back-feed and generally creates more complexity and possibility for grid failure.

The electrical grid was designed to steadily produce power for a varying load. Now with the advent of self generated power, you have a varying supply and a varying load. In small amounts it's tolerable, in larger amounts it's a recipe for disaster. Here's a German study on the same subject:


"Germany is phasing out its nuclear plants in favor of wind and solar energy backed-up by coal power. The government’s transition to these intermittent green energy technologies is causing havoc with its electric grid and that of its neighbors–countries that are now building switches to turn off their connection with Germany at their borders. The intermittent power is causing destabilization of the electric grids causing potential blackouts, weakening voltage and causing damage to industrial equipment."

"WAS" designed is right

The grid used to be designed that way. It doesn't mean it's the best way to do it. Any libertarian should see the economics involved and realize that in 2013, the people can control power better than the utility companies of a decade ago.

The free-market way to solve this would be to allow the price to reflect the instant demand so that it incentivizes people (or rather their equipment) to bias its operation toward smoothing the local grid.

For example, when the grid gets low on supply, this price could instantly (and briefly) spike higher, signalling thousands of devices to either lower some demand or increase some supply. When that instantly kicks in (potentially beginning in under 2 seconds), the price responds and things smooth back into balance automatically without any utility intervention. Most dumb appliances and even entire homes would never notice such rapid price variation but it serves to give the very feedback that we DPers all know is needed to make supply and demand work. Any critical equipment could ignore price and accept whatever price occurs but things that aren't critical, like a dryer, could cycle it's heating element to avoid it. Even programmed devices like a thermostat could use simple algorithms to predict daily trends for maximizing savings without compromising comfort. Battery capable systems could actually pull from the grid during oversupply (i.e. cost is very low) and then re-supply it back to the grid when the price rises.

This is NOT the smart grid that the utility companies have been pushing. In that one, THEY control your devices and shed load as they choose. In this one, they have no knowledge of what devices anyone has or when they're used how. They aggregate a local price for each neighborhood and publish it online. That's all. No new information comes from the homes to them. It is then the job of the appliance (or smart home system) to pull that price and make the decisions based on the homeowner's savings aggression.

Should a leg of the grid get cut, the isolated price would go extremely high. This would drop off most smart loads and increase most smart supplies, alleviating a large part of the problem instantly. If a smaller leg is still connected to them, the transmitted power over it would rapidly settle to exactly what it can safely handle, keeping everyone happy.

The grid would then be so predictable that generation and transmission lines could be utilized over 80% of capacity. Currently, due to imperfect prediction, they rarely ever top 50%. This eliminates much of the new infrastructure costs they are planning on hitting subscribers with. Since it would handsomely reward any storage because it can take advantage of rate changes, it makes battery backed up PV more economical than grid-tied without batteries is now. What could be better for everyone than that?

Ah, but what 'experts' does congress go to for advice on how to set rates and regulations?

The "Boom" you cite is government created

This is just another example of government creating malinvestment. Government grants and subsidies are what have created this "boom". As Ron Paul would point out there comes a bust after the boom. The solar industry would be better served without government intervention. The intervention has done nothing but keep the prices of solar equipment and installations artificially high.

One thing from the article I do not understand is this, "contractors and residents would need permission to connect most small rooftop systems to the grid". I would hope so. Solar systems have to have an AC disconnect manual and automatic which is generally built into the inverters. The manual disconnect is for fire.

What a lot of people don't understand is that when the power goes out on the grid so does your solar unless you have a battery backup installed. For safety reasons you do not want solar panels back feeding electricity to the grid as it is a danger to linemen who think a line is dead from their end.

Corporatism in California has basically protected the utility companies from having to pay for you for excess electricity you may put back on the grid through building codes. I know in San Diego county residential solar arrays are limited in size to 95% of your average monthly usage. In other words they will not permit you to put more energy back onto the grid than what you use so the utility companies do not have to pay you.

From the article I can see why HECO is concerned about the infrastructure, particularly the transformers in neighborhoods handling the return voltage from too many solar arrays.

Many Hawaiians similarly live off the water grid

Roof mounted collectors and 3000 gallon cisterns allow them to live off grid from a water company and without a well. The systems are huge, expensive to purchase, and high maintenance, but the better ones do replace a piped in and paid for chlorinated system.

I have a typical midwestern well at the shop with perfectly clean water, ($450 test) and a way oversized septic system that worked perfectly until I connected a modern toilet to it. The toilet doesn't use enough water to "move things along", so I have a guy pour 10 gallons of water through it every Friday before he gets paid.

It's a tiny but superinsulated bathroom with a pot and sink and I heat it above freezing with 100 watt lightbulb.

In the words of the great Lenny Bruce; "F.U.C.K. the government!"

"Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty" TJ

Same in AUS & NZ

Collecting and filtering rainwater has been a practice for decades in the South Pacific. Roofs tend to be metal and painted with non-toxic latex.

Here's the rub in Colorado - it is illegal to catch rainwater because according to the state you do not have rights to it ! (disclaimer - don't know if it applies to all counties).

Ex: citizens in a town located in the Rocky Mt foothills called Gold Hill could catch plenty of water. Because of water rights homeowners and shops have to pay to truck it in. A coffee shop in town charges for toilet use to ease the burden.

I agree with Lenny's sentiment.

"One resists the invasion of armies; one does not resist the invasion of ideas" Victor Hugo