China is doing well in solar, and the United States isn't. Why?

Submitted by Charles Frost on Wed, 02/24/2010 - 20:24.

Winning The Energy Wars

Tom Rooney, 02.24.10, 01:00 AM EST

China is doing well in solar, and the United States isn't. Why?

Few regard these high feed-in tariffs as permanent measures. But neither is there any doubt that the higher the price people receive for creating renewable power such as wind and solar, the more they will create.

The U.S. restricts not just the price but also the amount of solar energy an owner can sell back to the communal power grid. In California commercial and industrial users of solar power are not allowed to build a system that would exceed their previous year's energy use from conventional systems.

--and half-measures--that we read about every day in American papers are things the Germans and Japanese and Spanish decided to do 10 years ago. And Chinese and French and Italians half as long ago.

I live in a country that pays its enemies hundreds of billions of dollars per year for energy, and that is allowed to happen for generation after generation. So now we are playing catch-up--but still not taking the steps our foreign competitors have long since regarded as routine.

Some say the U.S. needs limits because the grid is too small or prices are too high. Many American projects are funded with upfront credits, not compensation on the back end. And so we wait for whatever infrastructure or new energy source or different financial model will take us to the coveted land of energy independence and reduced carbon.

If we allowed the prices for selling power back to the grid to increase and removed the limits on how much solar energy a farmer or business owner or school or police station could generate, we would see an explosion in demand for solar and other renewables. A higher price for renewable energy would reduce dependence on foreign energy and stimulate domestic manufacturing as well.

The Chinese, with their extensive government support of initiatives like these, are winning. So are the Germans, Japanese, French and Canadians. The U.S. has yet to take the field. Or even decided how--or if--we are going to play.

Tom Rooney is president and CEO of SPG Solar in Novato, Calif., one of the oldest and largest installers of solar energy systems for commercial and industrial users in America. He can be reached at tom [dot] rooney [at] spgsolar [dot] com.


the other nations can't be right,

Coal is king, it is the only mineral that has the potential to meet all our wants and needs. If you squeeze coal enough you can get oil, even harder you get diamonds and girls. Coal can be clean and if we can dope it correctly it might even convert sunlight into electricity.

America, please let it go! It's alright. You know we have that one for all and all for one monoculture thing going. This is why farms and foodstocks are whacked. Energy via the grid has been the mantra since Edison and Tesla. We think we won't survive if we deregulate the grid or decentralize our energy sources. Our thinking is the problem. There are too many layers of thinking. Too many conflicts of interests all having their say. Most of this is because we only think of the grid and it's survival.

I would figure what you can reasonably remove from the grid and use the grid for supplimental power for those things and size the solar so that there is not much to sell back to the grid. It is called right size engineering, the reverse of porking and bilking. Could you really get enough solar to run an auto plant, yet all the homes surrounding it would probably be a better solar candidate. We clamor for solar on every corporate structure, hoping doing so will lower the cost of solar enough for residents to have their crack at a cordless home. I don't know the solution, but our thinking has got to change. And a little more just do it attitude would help.

If they want to burn coal

They will burn coal.

Lesson learned - bags packed.


Disrupt IT