Saturday, June 28, 2008

Solar Energy Freeze

The Bush Administration and BLM are currently taking heat for imposing a freeze on new solar energy projects.

I applaud the freeze.

A smart alternative energy program would support alternative fuels when the market for alternatives is weak. The market for solar panels is through the roof and demand is exhausting supplies; Therefore, there should be a freeze on subsidized solar installations.

Placement of solar panels is key. A great deal of energy is lost during the transmission of electricity from the solar farms in the wilderness to the city. Solar farms in remote desert areas get less energy to the city than solar panels on roof tops. With solar in vogue, you will see solar panels being installed in urban areas where a greater portion of the electricity is used productively.

The next reason for a freeze is that making and installing solar panels consumes energy. The government should not be installing solar energy during an energy crisis because the energy they use for the project competes with the rest of the market. One should time the installation during off peak consumption of energy.

In other words, energy consumed by federal solar install happens now when the energy market is overwraught. The benefit happens 10 years down the road when a ton of other energy investments reach fruition.

The returns for this generation of solar panels is not there yet. With the current generation of solar panels, you don't get a net gain (either thermodynamically or economically) for the panels until over a decade (or possibly two). Manufacturing is going through a series of innovations that should bring this figure down.

A wise federal policy supports alternative energy when the market is weak, but lets the market lead when it is robust.

Freezing solar development on BLM for environmental assessment is the right course of action at this time.

Unfortunately, I don't think this wise decision is coming from Bush. It is coming from environmentalists. Regardless of the reason. I applaud the Bush Administration for this move. Freezing federal solar projects is the first smart political move I've seen taken on the environmental front this political season.

One of the ironies of politics is that a wise government often must act in the opposite direction of the popular sentiment. A wise government does not undertake a multibillion dollar spending plan when a sector of the economy that benefits from the spending is booming. A wise government makes its investments in a sector when the sector is artifically weak.

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