Solar energy jobs: $6 million each

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    Solar energy jobs: $6 million each

    A solar manufacturing company, 1366 Technologies, of Lexington, is the only Massachusetts company awarded a federal, renewable-energy loan guarantee, for $150 million. With an estimated 70 permanent jobs, it looks like a bit player in a small effort at long-term employment, as will be explained.

    Although the federal program that funded Solyndra has been getting attention because of that company's failure, there was another renewable-energy program of similar size, now largely forgotten. The 2009 "stimulus" bill authorized $18.5 billion in renewable-energy loan guarantees under existing Section 1703 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. [PL109-58, funding specified in the House Congressional Record, February 23, 2009, at H1962]

    The Section 1703 program requires borrowers to pay, in advance, full, estimated costs of insuring loans. The few projects able to do that have been mainly nuclear facilities, for which $20.5 billion in loan guarantees was separately authorized. All but $0.3 billion of the Section 1703 renewable-energy fund was rescinded by the April 15, 2011, Continuing Appropriations Act. [PL112-10]

    A new Section 1705 program, added by the 2009 "stimulus" bill, got authorization sufficient to support partial or total guarantees for $16 billion in loans, expiring September 30, 2011. A total of 28 projects have been approved, including Solyndra, through that program. Democrats in Congress successfully resisted Republican efforts to reduce the fund. [ U.S. Department of Energy project list, at https://lpo.energy.gov/?page_id=45 ]

    The main reason the Section 1705 program can be called a "small effort" is that, by its own estimates, the $16 billion in project loans was expected to support only about 3,500 permanent jobs. Of those, about 2,700 jobs were to be in three medium-size solar manufacturing companies. With the failure of Solyndra, now about 1,000 of those supposedly permanent jobs are already gone.

    About two-thirds of the Section 1705 project loans are going to ten large solar power-farms in deserts and drylands of California, Arizona and Nevada. Those projects are expected to provide only about 375 permanent jobs. Their main, long-term economic impacts will be raising costs to produce electricity.

    The surviving 27 projects in the federal program are using about $15.5 billion in project loans to provide an estimated total of about 2,500 permanent jobs: more than $6 million in funds invested for each job.

     
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    U.S. jobs in solar power projects

    Contrary to some fears, the ten large solar power-farms being built with federal Section 1705 guarantees for $10.5 billion in loans are not shipping many construction jobs overseas. [ U.S. Department of Energy project list, at https://lpo.energy.gov/?page_id=45 ]

    Five projects are locally made solar-thermal, two with tall heliostats (BrightSource and SolarReserve) and three with horizontal collector tubes (Abengoa-Solana, Abengoa-Mojave and NextEra).

    Four projects are domestic photovoltaic, three cadmium telluride thin-film (First Solar-Desert Sunlight, Agua Caliente and First Solar-Antelope) and one single-crystal silicon (SunPower).

    Only the smallest project (Mesquite Solar) is importing solar panels--polysilicon from Suntech in China.

     
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    Re: Solar energy jobs: $6 million each

    Does not sound like you did the math again. The permanent jobs are not the issue in a recession. Infrastructure is. That includes helping companies build the equipment that builds the equipment. So while the direct permanent jobs are small, the fab shops and the manufacturers get enough to not fire folks because there is no work. That is the multiplier effect. Just enough work to keep things going. Maybe not enough to hire more than the construction crews but thats ok too. The vendors stay level or hire and the construction jobs are valueable to the cash flow in the economy. If you think solar is expensive rerun the math on the impact of coal and oil extraction, transport, and use. As bulk commodities they are cheaper. If you look at a series of photos from over flights of west virginia and appalachia from the 1950's to now the price is dear. Mountaintop mining has wiped out  whole areas and environments. We have seen that cost in watershed destruction. The cost of drinking water alone in those areas required billions of dollars in water treatment plant infrastructure for drinking water.
    It is pricey to start a solar facility. As is a drinking water source in mining country. It just moves the money around differently. One costs tax payer bonds locally the other is a federal program that produces energy that will survive the loss of fossil fuels.
     
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    WPA on steroids

    Overall, as a job-creation effort, solar energy is turning out to be enormously costly. The federal program needs over $6 million invested to yield one long-term job. Projects focused on solar farms rather than solar manufacturing have greatly reduced potential employment. Government could easily generate more employment by direct subsidies for jobs in industry.

    All the federal government is currently proposing along those lines is a tax credit of a few thousand dollars per new hire. That is much too small to stimulate hiring, except perhaps for minimum-wage jobs like waiters and grocery-baggers. Investing in solar energy has been advertised as a way to combat unemployment, but in practice it looks like a Depression-era WPA on steroids.

     
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    Re: Solar energy jobs: $6 million each

    Dude the issue is infrastructure. how do you build it. You need the fab, you need the transmission, you need the workers trained for the job. If you do not have these then the project will not happen. It is a startup / expansion cost. Your numbers still do not work, cause your assumptions are A$$ backwards as usual. Every industrial startup in history has had this issue, Most took huge amounts of land or tax writeoffs to do it. I'm saying railroads, early oil and gas, coal mining, need I spell it out for a moron?

     
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    Re: WPA on steroids

    In Response to WPA on steroids:
    [QUOTE]Overall, as a job-creation effort, solar energy is turning out to be enormously costly. The federal program needs over $6 million invested to yield one long-term job. Projects focused on solar farms rather than solar manufacturing have greatly reduced potential employment. Government could easily generate more employment by direct subsidies for jobs in industry. All the federal government is currently proposing along those lines is a tax credit of a few thousand dollars per new hire. That is much too small to stimulate hiring, except perhaps for minimum-wage jobs like waiters and grocery-baggers. Investing in solar energy has been advertised as a way to combat unemployment, but in practice it looks like a Depression-era WPA on steroids.
    Posted by AppDev[/QUOTE]
    WPA fed a lot of hungry people. Did you know that those "socialist" programs made people stop dying? My geuss is you werent there at the time. my grandparents were raising my parents in the mid west. Others family members were raised in the west. The programs like CCC even did work out here in mass. Families relied on this program to have food. We had no welfare, medicaid or food stamps in the US. There was charity but all that was local. in the small western and midwest towns there was none, or spread too thin to prevent severe malnutrition.
    Does it cost too much to feed people so it is not worth doing?
     
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    Electricity costs from new-age power

    The legacy from a federal solar bonanza is going to be a few long-term jobs and higher costs for electricity. There won't be a second bonanza. Republicans in Congress would see to that if the nation's massive debts did not. There will just be higher electricity bills to pay in the years to come.

    A total of $10.5 billion being invested in the ten large solar power-farms being built with federal Section 1705 loan guarantees will together produce about 7.3 trillion watt-hours/year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. A nuclear or fossil power-plant, running at 90 percent of capacity on average and producing the same yearly output, would be rated at about 925 MWe.

    That is near the rating of a new, third-generation nuclear unit--hardly low-cost power but an example showing the outer limit of financial tolerance for power that has to earn its own keep. The nuclear industry's failure to achieve financial promises of ten years ago has radically curtailed utilities' interest.

    In the U.S., there are two third-generation nuclear units being built. Vogtle units 3 and 4 in Georgia, with Section 1703 federal loan guarantees, have together an estimated cost of $14 billion, to produce about 18.0 trillion watt-hours/year. [ Matthew L. Wald, A giant nuclear project, New York Times, September 22, 2011, at http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/22/a-giant-nuclear-project-awaits-its-federal-loans/ ]

    The expected project cost per kilowatt-hour/year to build the Vogtle nuclear units is $0.78, while for the federally guaranteed solar power-farms it is $1.44--only a part of the cost difference, however.

    Because nuclear plants can produce full-time, steady outputs, while solar power effectively runs only about 20 percent of the time, for a given annual output, solar power-farms need more expensive transmission facilities, to handle their wide ranges of hourly outputs.

    Operating lifetimes of nuclear power-plants are expected to be at least 60 years, based on over 40 years of industry experience. Operating lifetimes of solar power-farms have no such experience base. Current solar panels are usually being guaranteed for only 25 years.

    With costs for both types of power dominated by capital investments, bulk electricity from the newest and biggest solar power-farms will cost at least twice as much to produce as bulk electricity from the latest nuclear plants. Operating subsidies can't change that; they just shift money from one pocket to another.

     
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