The real cost of solar
Nailing colours to the mast:
1) I believe that climate change is real, man-made & caused by CO2 emissions. I think this is a bad thing, and should be changed
2) The best way to reduce CO2 emissions is technological progress. At the moment, the alternative technical solutions are bad, creating more problems than they solve.
3) In particular, any "energy source" that is not cost-effective is telling you something very direct and specific. It tells you that the resources it uses are more than it saves. Somewhere in the production or maintenance-chain, it emits MORE CO2 than burning fossil.
4) Yes, I know that costs depend on volume manufacture - I'm not stupid.
To the topic.
When it comes to buying, or subsidising solar - it is environmental vandalism to emit MORE CO2, just to look as if you are doing something. You CANNOT quote a 25-year payback on an inefficient technology, when it will save more in CO2 to wait until the efficiency doubles in ten years.
Suppose you have a calculation problem that will take 10 years to calculate with today's best hardware. Do you A) Buy today's best hardware and wait for 10 years for the calculation to finish. B) Wait 18 months, buy the best hardware then and wait 5 years C) Errr... that wasn't so hard, was it. Moore's law for solar is less than 10 years in cost-performance, so it is just plain wrong to quote costs on anything longer than 10-year payback. Any business case is done with Net Present Value, which requires an assumed capital depreciation. Did you think that people depreciate capital over three, five years or at most ten on a balance sheet, even when its something with a 20-year guarantee 'cos they're all idiots and you know better?
Now to the morality angle. You think this is theoretical? Manufacturing YOUR solar panel is killing human beings by poisoning their water supply. Today, in China.No excuses that you didn't know. Bother to Google, take ten minutes. Big solar panel manufacturer WuXi Metec. Now Google WuXi pollution. Zhejiang Sopray Solar. Google Zhejiang pollution. "The farmlands look white; waters look milky-white and are extremely smelly. The southwest night wind covers all nearby areas with a strong odor and prevents people from sleeping. The villagers are all in bad health. Many have cancer—lung cancer.”
That's the money that we pay for the solar panels, that causes that, directly. Mobile phones too, but guess what - $100 of parts causes roughly 1/50th the pollution of $5k solar panels. That's the way the world is, where we're not looking. A meter of silicon uses a LOT of HF, nitric acid, ammonia, caustic alkali, POCL3.
Just don't claim ignorance to the man at the pearly gates, because he ain't gonna be listening. Before you bought those solar panels, you Googled the chemical processes, right? Does the internet make it so hard to do a bit of checking nowadays? Really? Not even worth an hour of your time to find out the exact quantities of hydrofluoric acid etch it takes to make your £5K purchase - and what that does to the lungs, flesh and testicles of the people paid $10 a day to do the work? From the technical websites, not the websites of the companies doing the selling (which includes the government "information" sites which are actually just selling themselves). Hmm. Maybe not so interested in the environment after all.
If we want to make a real difference to the world - learn some engineering & design a better solar panel, and better chemical processes. One with good enough energy effiiciency, that fewer people spew their guts out from slow poisoning of processing chemicals than coal-miners die underground far from their families. That's the real choice we have in life, not spending 10% our neighbours incomes buying voodoo trinkets to decorate the roof.
Green Tech - I'm all for it. Let's start now.