At Freakonomics, the realization that state solar power policies may be less than optimal

Michael Giberson

File it under “Ya think???”

A post at Freakonomics by Steve Sexton concludes that California’s solar power subsidies may not be making the best use of the technology. Sexton points out, for example, the 1,923 residential rooftop systems installed in cloudy San Francisco rather than sunnier California locations:

If San Francisco’s residential solar panels were relocated to Apple Valley, they would produce another 2.1 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity each year—enough to power 320 average California homes.

Similarly, we could consider state policies that made New Jersey one of the fastest growing markets for solar power panels. Installing solar panels in New Jersey instead of the sunnier desert southwest is like throwing away about 30 percent of the power production potential of the equipment.

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2 thoughts on “At Freakonomics, the realization that state solar power policies may be less than optimal

  1. While I totally agree that PV subsidies lead to some perverse outcomes, the analysis should take into account much more than the kWh produced. Given the US’s inadequate transmission infrastructure, the market for electricity is mostly local, so we should not be comparing the potential kWh produced in SF with those produced in Apple Valley, but the marginal cost of the same number of kWh delivered to those regions when the PV is produced.

    The example of NJ and the desert southwest is even worse, given that the desert southwest and NJ are on completely separate grids with only insignificant interconnections.

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