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23 05, 2018

Solar Myths

By |2022-05-25T15:35:14-07:00May 23rd, 2018|Categories: Articles, Solar Myths, Solar News|

The science around solar is crystal clear. Yet some myths persist.

by Tom Mommsen, Focus on Victoria, April 28, 2021

EVEN THOUGH ENERGY MATTERS rate high in the public’s attention, it is discouraging how many myths are being repeated by the media, by bloggers and in general discussions about solar power, especially about photovoltaics (PV). Yes, we are talking about those “unsightly” blue or black panels that are increasingly found on houses and in fields of dreamers, environmentalists and other-ists who clearly deserve being made fun of for their unaesthetic choices! However, do we really want to immediately dismiss multitudes of Africans, Americans, Asians, Chileans, Europeans, First Nations, Ikea, Nova Scotians and many, many others, simply because they embrace a technology that is anathema to British Columbia’s government and BC Hydro? A silent and long-lived technology that provides energy security, is environmentally benign and, heaven forbid, one of the least expensive means to generate clean electricity for the future? How silly.

In the following, we will debunk ten myths about solar power and inject some science and real numbers into the discussion. It is definitely a discussion whose time has come. Never mind that the energy input is absolutely free for another couple of billion years or so and delivered, without charge, directly to your roof. Never worry about price increases, spills along the supply-chain, world-class emergency measures for clean-up, whale populations or disruption of the energy flow. Every time solar spills are reported, people just take off for the park or reach for the beach towel with their only worries whether they have brought enough sunscreen and a two-meter (79 inches) measuring tape for social distancing.

The trouble with myths is not that they are so difficult to rebuke—the science around solar is crystal clear, the economics unclouded and logic should prevail. Alas, such myths are so pervasive and wrong on so many levels, it’s tough to know where to start. Still, it’s a fun game to debunk solar myths, so let’s start with some general ones, using examples from British Columbia.

Myth #1. BC doesn’t get enough sun. PV should be left to sunny places like California or Abu Dhabi. Well, actually, BC receives plenty of sunshine, somewhere between 1500 and 2250 hours per year, considerably more than solar powerhouses like Germany, France or the UK that receive about the same amount of sunshine as parts of Alaska. Need we say […]

10 03, 2017

Community Solar in BC – A Short Primer

By |2022-03-17T15:23:34-07:00March 10th, 2017|Categories: Articles|

By Kjell Liem (Saltspring Island) and Tom Mommsen (Galiano Island)

BC communities are starting to embrace solar energy and a solar revolution seems imminent: Solar energy is a local solution to our energy needs, keeps valuable energy dollars in the community, is environmentally friendly, control rests with the locals and it creates much needed local employment at a time when many traditional areas of the economy are struggling. In the last decade, different types of community solar projects have evolved all over the world, with BC lagging behind. However, enthusiasm and knowledge about solar energy are growing rapidly and as we show below, BC communities are now taking major strides to catch up. These efforts have one thing in common: Initiative comes from the bottom up, i.e. from citizens, communities, regional districts, municipalities and local small utilities. These are the essential driving forces and demonstrate true leadership to address climate change, without reliance on or limited help from provincial or federal governments. At the time of writing, all Western provinces have some sort of direct support for solar. Alas, BC is dragging its heels and the only crumb is a PST exemption for solar equipment from former premier Gordon Campbell’s time, instead of embracing and supporting the new economic reality, job creation, and low carbon economic development mandate (and commitments to the Paris Agreement).

The case for solar electricity

In recent years, electricity production from photovoltaic (PV) panels has become highly cost-effective and its cost will only decrease in the future, irrespective of what producers of competing fossil fuel technologies claim. Luckily, input for solar will remain free of charge for another few billion years or so, guaranteed. During 2016, the cost of unsubsidized1 utility-scale PV electricity fell to between 3.2 and 4 cents (CAD) per kilo-Watt-hour (kWh) in places like southern California, northern Chile and Abu Dhabi. Singling out Abu Dhabi, we admit that the Persian Gulf region (3462 h/y) receives 50% more annual sunshine than, say, Dawson Creek, BC (2213 h/y) and we can’t really expect similar pricing for BC. However, PV modules perform better at lower temperatures and hence if corrected for temperature, a PV array in Abu Dhabi only produces 30% more solar electricity than one in Dawson Creek. Plus, cleaning of the PV arrays after sandstorms built into the cost for Abu Dhabi, does not really apply to Dawson Creek, further compensating for the lower sunshine hours […]

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