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New Jersey Outshines Most Others In Solar Energy

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the cutting-through-the-haze dept.

Earth 240

An anonymous reader points out this CNBC story which says that "New Jersey—known more for its turnpike, shopping malls and industrial sprawl—has become a solar energy powerhouse, outshining sunnier states like Hawaii and Nevada. And it's largely because of incentives that make it cheaper for residents and businesses to buy and install solar power systems."

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That's great to hear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29730795)

That's great to hear.

Too bad it's still New Jersey.

(I kid, I kid. I hail from Indiana, which I've heard people call "the armpit of America". I don't have room to talk.)

Re:That's great to hear (2, Funny)

GameMaster (148118) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731719)

Well, it would make sense that America would have two armpits. j/k

Not solar panels... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29730797)

All that shine is coming from their hair gel.

Re:Not solar panels... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29731227)

All that shine is coming from their hair gel.

Recycling combs could be an excellent source of biodiesel.

Re:Not solar panels... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29731867)

count it!

Carbon emissions sleep with the fishes (4, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#29730829)

Seriously, it would be nice if my state had something like this. The crazy high upfront costs are the only thing keeping me from installing solar panels myself.

Re:Carbon emissions sleep with the fishes (2, Interesting)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 5 years ago | (#29730951)

You can buy photovoltaic cells on ebay fairly cheaply, for about $1/watt. You have to assemble them yourself, though.

Financing (1)

bkaul01 (619795) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731195)

Wouldn't it be great if someone came up with a way to take advantage of the value of your house to allow you to pay for improvements over time? We could call it a "home equity loan" ... Seriously, I don't see the need for the state to subsidize home improvements, especially ones that will provide an economic benefit to the home owner over time.

What I don't get is why these features aren't more popular on new builds: at that stage, the added cost is minimized and will naturally be included in the buyer's mortgage and thus paid for over time. Maybe not always solar per se, but new homes built with insulated concrete forms and having geothermal-heatsink HVAC systems installed when the foundation is dug are becoming quite price competitive with traditional "stick-built" homes (dramatically reduced labor costs offset the increased material costs, or so I hear from a friend who's a home builder). The solar roof would still be a bit of an upgrade, but the energy bills are so much lower that the extra cost of such houses can be quickly recovered.

Re:Financing (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#29732057)

>>>"home equity loan"

Upgrading your house with a solar roof only makes sense if you're going to stay there for ~20 years, and few people do. Americans are very mobile, and even if someone does plan to stay in one place, oftentimes economic reality (layoffs) force them to leave before they had a chance to payoff their solar roof. Therefore people choose the path of least risk - don't invest.

As for New Jersey providing incentives to install these solar panels on electric poles, I think they'll find the longterm maintenance cost will be far higher than planned, and those panels will eventually be removed.

Re:Financing (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 5 years ago | (#29732415)

Except the 4% HEL cost is going to dramatically cut into the savings from the solar power (perhaps this means the tech isn't ready).

If the state has the premise that they benefit (perhaps less capitol investing in infrastructure for example), it makes sense to subsidize to increase overall efficiency in the state (after-all the bank profit is likely far less local than saved money in state. I am not saying it is right, simply that there are situations where the HEL is too expensive to allow for community good to be done. If the solar is not a community good, then the subsidy is un-ethical.

Re:Carbon emissions sleep with the fishes (3, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731249)

You realize that there is an upfront cost whether the state kicks in or not, right? Basically your argument is "this is not worthwhile for me to do, but it is worthwhile for other people to do it for me". If the overall cost of solar isn't worth it to you, then it is likely not an economically viable project.

Re:Carbon emissions sleep with the fishes (2, Insightful)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731325)

You realize that if you live int he US, you're paying state and federal taxes too, right? A portion of that money already came out of your pocket, and you've already paid for someone else's project.

There's nothing wrong with applying for tax-subsidized funding if you're already a taxpayer. That's kind of the point.
=Smidge=

Re:Carbon emissions sleep with the fishes (2, Interesting)

mi (197448) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731579)

A portion of that money already came out of your pocket, and you've already paid for someone else's project.

Right — the cow is already dead, so all you, silly vegetarians, may as well eat it!

There's nothing wrong with applying for tax-subsidized funding if you're already a taxpayer.

You are right, that there is nothing wrong with applying for the tax-subsidized funding.

That's kind of the point.

No, the GP's point was, that it is wrong to provide tax-subsidized funding for such things — or advocate such provision, as the GGP was doing: "would be nice if my state offered that!"

Re:Carbon emissions sleep with the fishes (4, Funny)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731707)

You don't understand. It's free money. That's how it works. Free. Money. They print it on big printing presses and everything. You'd better get in line or you'll miss out.

Re:Carbon emissions sleep with the fishes (3, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#29732195)

>>>It's free money. They print it on big printing presses and everything

No wonder the dollar is only worth half a euro - our saved wealth is rapidly disappearing as more-and-more paper is printed. Keep it up Americans and soon we'll have a healthy economy like Venezuela

Re:Carbon emissions sleep with the fishes (2, Interesting)

mi (197448) | more than 5 years ago | (#29732245)

You don't understand. It's free money. That's how it works. Free. Money. They print it on big printing presses and everything. You'd better get in line or you'll miss out.

Right. And next time there are elections, be sure, your State backs the winner. Or else you'll miss out big time [myway.com] !

Re:Carbon emissions sleep with the fishes (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731851)

As someone who votes, IMO my opinion carries some weight here, (if not in Sacramento or D.C.)(or Jersey) I feel that society benefits when some burden is shifted from our electrical grid. If it unfairly benefits property and homeowners, that precedent was already set by the utilities cor- persons.

Re:Carbon emissions sleep with the fishes (1)

mi (197448) | more than 5 years ago | (#29732191)

I feel that society benefits when some burden is shifted from our electrical grid.

Is there a cost, which you'd agree is too high? What is it — you have not studied it, have you? Do you trust the politicians to make that determination for you?

For just one example, do you know, that the typical efficiency of solar electrical generation is only 15-20%? Whereas when used to produce heat, 80-85% of Sun's energy falling on the panels can be captured?

If it unfairly benefits property and homeowners, that precedent was already set by the utilities cor- persons.

I don't know, who "cor- persons" are. But even if it fairly benefited everyone, going through the government's bureaucracy is extremely inefficient.

It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself. Thomas Jefferson

Re:Carbon emissions sleep with the fishes (4, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731801)

This is the kind of thinking that has gotten this country in the mess it is in. Everyone from the poor to the rich looking for a way to take a swig from the trough and not worrying about putting it back in. Want a new car? Go to the government. Screwed up your bank? Go to the government.

I think we have abstracted money (which in itself is an abstract concept) to the point that no one gets that resources are not infinite. If a project is not worth doing without government subsidy, then it is economically not viable. Sometimes, gov't should offer subsidies to kick start a program. But solar is far past that point.

The bottom line is that practically everyone is looking to someone else to pay for their wants, needs and desires. That is no sustainable. I fear that my children will be the first generation to inherit a country that is in worse condition than the one I inherited.

Re:Carbon emissions sleep with the fishes (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731953)

In a quest for fairness, we should subsidise the homeowners as much as we do our private utilities companies.

Re:Carbon emissions sleep with the fishes (3, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#29732051)

Sounds great. Let's subsidize home owners. We will tax every family $5,000 to provide a $5,000 subsidy for everyone. Sounds great.

Wait a minute, I think we will have some overhead in the program. Administration costs, etc... let's say maybe a 20% overhead. So, let's alter our plan. Every family get's taxed $5,000 so we give households a $4,000 subsidy.

I love your idea.

Alternatively, we might consider limiting subsidies altogether.

Re:Carbon emissions sleep with the fishes (3, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#29732305)

In a quest for fairness we should stop subsidizing. Period. After an initial period of government-promoted research and invention, devices should stand or sink on their own merits. Like the internet has done.

The Cash for Clunkers is a good example. First off, cars are a mature technology and don't need subsidization. They should have received ZERO assistance.

Second this was a FAILED program, because all it did was promote exchanging one pullutemobile for another pollutemobile that was a mere 1-2 points higher on the http://greenercars.org/ [greenercars.org] scorecard. BFD. Also it shifted future demand (people buying new cars circa 2015) to the present (2009). It didn't create any new demand, but it did put us a few billion deeper in debt to our Chinese landlords. Bloody stupid.

Re:Carbon emissions sleep with the fishes (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#29732107)

I think we have abstracted money (which in itself is an abstract concept) to the point that no one gets that resources are not infinite. If a project is not worth doing without government subsidy, then it is economically not viable. Sometimes, gov't should offer subsidies to kick start a program. But solar is far past that point.

So are you in favor of public funding of highways? Or do you think that this subsidy for commuters and the freight industry means that they are not economically viable?

How about corn farming? It's obviously not economically viable, since it requires subsidization.

I undertsand whre you're coming from. But out of all the screwed-up things getting subsidized, something with societal benefits like solar power (reduced pollution & dependence on fossil fuel) should be low on your list for bitching about. Bitch about corn subsidies. Bitch about bridges to nowhere. But don't bitch about alternative energy... because, ironically, eliminating alt energy subsidies because you're concerned about future generations is likely to make things worse for those generations.

Re:Carbon emissions sleep with the fishes (2, Interesting)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#29732173)

Howdy,

When one is funding the roads, one is giving a direct benefit to the public as a whole.

Corn farming should not be subsidized. It makes no sense when we have a surplus of food. Ethanol production seems like it is a lobbying group which managed to get ahold of enough congress critters.

If we were talking about subsidizing a solar power plant, that would be one thing. In exchange, I'd want tight controls on the price we get charged for the power. If my money is being used to help build it, then that is the tradeoff that must get made.

When we are talking about adding value to your personal home with me picking up most or all of the cost, then I get upset. The utility to me personally for this happening is minuscule. If it the preponderance of the benefit goes to one person, then that one person should pay for it.

Macro economics not micro economics (1)

James McP (3700) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731897)

You realize that all states subsidize businesses and utilities already, right? Low interest loans, access to the bond market, tax deductions, heck, some companies get to keep all the sales tax they collect.

These kinds of things make sense at a scale that most people can't (or won't) think about. You can get an infrastructure built for less if you are willing to commit to funding a larger system over building multiple small systems. Suppliers will lower prices on bulk orders or provide long-term price guarantees, much fewer lawyer fees from repeated negotiations, less time lost in negotiations which allows inflationary forces to increase costs, etc, etc.

So yes, the cost of this installation is subsidized by everyone else in NJ but everyone else will ultimately benefit by reductions (or lack of increases) in their power bills when infrastructure improvements are deferred or canceled entirely due to reduced load on the power system due to those subsidized installations.

This program is actually a "triple threat" scenario. It 1) stimulates the economy since in general every $1 spent on a project actually gets spent multiple times. 2) It is a Capital improvements that lower costs and 3) it benefits the overall environment by lowering hydrocarbon emissions from coal plants.

Re:Macro economics not micro economics (2, Interesting)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731969)

Slight problem. If I am paying to put a solar panel on your house, I am giving you reduced rates AND making the value of your house go up by a significant percentage of what I am giving you. There is very little benefit to the public as a whole.

If you were talking about government subsidizing a solar power plant, that would be an entirely different scenario altogether. The public as a whole would be getting the benefit.

Re:Macro economics not micro economics (3, Interesting)

careysub (976506) | more than 5 years ago | (#29732321)

Slight problem. If I am paying to put a solar panel on your house, I am giving you reduced rates AND making the value of your house go up by a significant percentage of what I am giving you. There is very little benefit to the public as a whole. If you were talking about government subsidizing a solar power plant, that would be an entirely different scenario altogether. The public as a whole would be getting the benefit.

Bigger problem with your analysis. You are claiming that 4.5 KW of solar capacity added to a centralized power plant benefits the public, but the same 4.5 KW of capacity on top of a private residence does not? Can you explain how this is? Both capacity increments feed their power directly into the grid, and in both cases the private residence draws its power from the grid.I can't see how one is a public benefit yet the other is not on this basis.

Is the claim then that the fact that a private individual owns the solar system rather than, say, a private company deprives the public of a benefit? Don't follow that logic either.

And you do realize that a private household is kicking in most of the money to build the power system right? That the subsidy is mobilizing private capital to invest in power production, just as it would in the centralized power plant case? And that the space devoted to power production is not taking up any new land do so?

Re:Carbon emissions sleep with the fishes (0, Troll)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#29732143)

>>>Basically your argument is "this is not worthwhile for me to do, but it is worthwhile for other people to do it for me".

Usually I say something like, "I've paid over $20,000 a year in taxes for the past ten years or so, which is frankly ridiculous. I feel like I've been raped. Here's an opportunity to get back some of that money from the thieves.... er, politicians via tax credits or subsidies." I consider a refund of my OWN money not other people's money.

Of course the ideal would be to reduce the tax rate so no middle income citizen pays more than $5000 in taxation each year. That's unlikely to happen.

Re:Carbon emissions sleep with the fishes (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731581)

    Many states have some sort of incentive. Unfortunately, most of them disallow you doing it yourself.

    We had worked it out to be affordable, between state and federal incentives a good grid tied solar install could free. I had intended to set up a business to sell and install grid tied solar systems, where we would "finance" the cost until the incentives were paid. That way, everyone would win. People would get solar systems on their homes. They would help save the environment. It wouldn't cost the end user anything. We would make a little bit for doing the install, and everyone would be happy.

  Unfortunately, the harsh reality didn't match the ideal scenario. We could do the install. We would have to find bank financing for the initial overhead of financing the installed equipment, which was very likely to happen. The government was the end of it though. To get the government incentives, you had to be an officially sanctioned solar install contractor. There weren't just a practical set of rules, there were huge hoops to jump through to be an officially sanctioned contractor. It eliminated any startup small business from getting into this new industry.

    Almost, if not all, of the incentives go out the window if you do it yourself, or have anyone but a specialist installer do it for you. For a lot of the folks who would read a site like this, we're screwed.

Re:Carbon emissions sleep with the fishes (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731639)

New Jerseyan here.

Just as much as you'd like your solar power incentives, I'd like your property taxes. Anywhere from $4,000 to upwards of $20,000 a year for a two floor, three bedroom home depending on where you live.

Granted it's still cheaper than what it would cost to rent such a place, but when you hear about triple digit property taxes in some places it really hurts.

Re:Carbon emissions sleep with the fishes (2, Informative)

tmosley (996283) | more than 5 years ago | (#29732025)

What are you talking about? You can get a full 2 kilowatt system with a 2.5 kW grid tie inverter for about $7,500 installed. That's pre tax credit. You get the cells here. [sunelec.com] These start as low as $2/watt, but the cheapest in stock right now is $2.40 ($4800). Add the grid tie inverter, available here [altersystems.com] on sale for $1825. That's $6625. You should have no problem finding someone to instal the whole thing for $1000. That ought to be enough of a system for most people, assuming they use gas or heating oil for heat in the winter. You should build up a high enough balance over the year to run A/C in the summer without difficulty.

I'm going to be setting up such a system within a year or so, once I move into my new house.

Yet another generalization... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29730851)

Turnpike? Shopping malls? Industrial Sprawl?

Clearly the submitter hasn't been through the Pineland's or seen the beautiful farming communities in the southern part of the state.

NJ != The Sopranos

Re:Yet another generalization... (1)

spartacus_prime (861925) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731045)

Clearly the subby hasn't even been down to the Jersey Shore (you know, the good parts) either. Troll summary, methinks.

Re:Yet another generalization... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29731305)

Industrial sprawl?

New Jersey no longer has any manufacturing jobs.

So it's cheap... (2, Insightful)

schmidt349 (690948) | more than 5 years ago | (#29730873)

And on the 4 days a year when the sun shines in my adoptive home state, you can help the environment!

Re:So it's cheap... (4, Interesting)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#29730913)

Yeah, I'm kind of wondering what the payoff is. I know that living in one of the cities with the lowest average solar insolation that I would do way more good for the environment by buying one panel for someone in AZ then plastering my entire roof with panels. Of course like Jersey we DO have a large body of water with a significant amount of available wind energy, so why aren't they building large scale wind farms just offshore instead of subsidizing inefficient use of solar panels?

Re:So it's cheap... (5, Insightful)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731093)

Solar panels on roofs is an easier sell than big ugly windmills obscuring people's view of the ocean and lakes.

Now, ask yourself, who are the people that live on the ocean and lakes? What kind of political power they have?

Sounds absurd? See "Windmills Ocean Massachusetts Kennedy Martha's Vineyard"

Big ugly industrial infrastructure that benefits society has a place: near poor people.

Re:So it's cheap... (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731191)

I don't think there are many people with beach houses near Newark. The best spots on the Great Lakes are actually on or over the horizon from shore so it shouldn't be an issue here either. Martha's Vineyard was probably a stupid place to try to spot one of the first offshore farms, next to the Hampton's it's probably got one of the highest concentrations of Billionaires and politicians on the east coast.

Re:So it's cheap... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29731303)

Just about all of the New Jersey coast line (the ocean-facing coastline, that is) is given over to tourism. None of the industrial or really low-income areas are along the ocean. Newark is on New York harbor, Camden is on the Delaware river.

Trenton, however, is the seat of NJ state government, and so has ready, and readily renewable, source of hot air. Since hot air tends to rise*, it needs to draw in replacement, and so cooler air from the surrounding areas flows in, thus ringing Trenton with windmills might work real well.

*This, by the way, is why Trenton sucks.

Re:So it's cheap... (1)

Algan (20532) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731387)

I don't think there are many people with beach houses near Newark.

Maybe because Newark is nowhere near the shore.

Re:So it's cheap... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29731469)

GEOGRAPHY FAIL

If you mean "shore" as in "The Jersey Shore" its actually only about 45 minutes away from Sandy Hook. If you mean "shore" as in "The Ocean". I would suggest you look up Newark Bay and Port Newark, its kind of hard to have large container ships in a place that isn't close to the ocean.

Re:So it's cheap... (1)

Scyber (539694) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731861)

In New Jersey, 45 minutes away is "no where near".

Considering the poster was talking about the likelyhood beach houses, I don't think Newark Bay or Port Newark qualify for Algan's interpretation of "the shore". Newark Bay and Port Newark aren't exactly known for their beach houses.

Re:So it's cheap... (1)

tmosley (996283) | more than 5 years ago | (#29732063)

Those are weirdos. I always thought windmills were rather beautiful, so long as they aren't close enough for you to hear the *whoosh* *whoosh* *whoosh*.

Ze Germans (1)

buback (144189) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731323)

Germany is at a higher latitude than New Jersey, and so gets less solar radiation per square meter, yet they produce more of their energy from solar then the whole of the USA.

The only problem with NJ is that they require you to be a licensed electrician to install the systems. I can understand having an electrician inspect your work, and doing the actual tie-in to the utility, but this shuts out many DIY projects. and since labor costs amount to about 50% of the total cost, DIY can save you significant money. Imagine if you needed an electrician to inspect your self assembled computer before you plugged it into the wall.

That being said, I'm taking an installer class in NY state (where the requirements for installing are different for each municipality). Properly sizing and planing a rooftop solar array is not something that can/should be done solely by a layman. In fact the first thing we learned it how to inspect a roof structure to determine if it is suitable for installing panels. If a homeowner needs to spend $15000 on a new roof, there goes the budget for solar panels. Also, in order to get the incentives states offer, you'll need to strictly follow their rules, which few layman will be able to wade through.

BTW everyone should check their ACTUAL $/kWh on their electric bill. do this by diving the kWh used by your bill total. you'll find that it is more than the advertised rate, because it includes infrastructure costs and other stuff. Most electricity around NJ/NY will cost about $0.18-0.40/kWh, which is much more than the $0.04-0.08 that you usually hear about in the news. At 40 cents per kWh, Solar can become very economical.

Re:So it's cheap... (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731657)

why aren't they building large scale wind farms just offshore instead of subsidizing inefficient use of solar panels?

NIMBYs [wikipedia.org] and HOAs [wikipedia.org] , my friend. NIMBYs and HOAs.

No, it's very, very expensive... (5, Insightful)

tomhath (637240) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731077)

FTA:

The savings is what got New Jerseyans Bob and Mary Keppel to install a 6-kilowatt solar system on the roof of their Cinnaminson, N.J. home this past summer.... The full price of the project, including installation, came to $48,000. Right away, the state sent a subsidy check for $10,500 that the Keppel’s signed over to the contractors to buy supplies. Using computer software, their contractor estimates that they will get a $11,250 federal tax credit this year. That would cut the total cost to $26,250, a 45-percent reduction.

How do rebates "cut the total cost"? The system cost was $48,000 for a mere 6kw of capacity. It doesn't matter if the homeowners or the taxpayers foot the bill, it's still $48,000, that's not cheap by any measure.

Re:No, it's very, very expensive... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29731375)

"How do rebates "cut the total cost"? The system cost was $48,000 for a mere 6kw of capacity. It doesn't matter if the homeowners or the taxpayers foot the bill, it's still $48,000, that's not cheap by any measure."

For a /mere/ 6kw?

Just how much do you think it should cost? Please post some comparisons of other installs since you obviously know.

Re:No, it's very, very expensive... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29731381)

Total cost to the person having it installed. The people having it installed don't give a flying crap if it cost the government money. They aren't that farsighted to realize it will wind up costing everyone in the state anyway.

Re:No, it's very, very expensive... (1)

DirkDaring (91233) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731471)

Yes, and they obviously don't see into the future when the system pays itself off and actually begins to save money...

Re:No, it's very, very expensive... (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731843)

Just the interest on $48k is probably twice their monthly electric bill. No way this is ever going to pay off the investment plus interest.

Re:No, it's very, very expensive... (1)

Jared555 (874152) | more than 5 years ago | (#29732369)

Depending on the person they may not be paying interest on it. Also, eventually (there may be some already) there will probably be ultra low/no interest loans for people installing solar.

Re:No, it's very, very expensive... (3, Informative)

Foolicious (895952) | more than 5 years ago | (#29732225)

And yet others obviously don't see how long it would actually take to actually break even on it -- especially if you're financing the cost of putting it up with borrowed money, your own or somebody else's.

If you want to make it about cost savings, put 27000 USD into your favorite low-risk savings vehicle. Then wait the estimated amount of time it would take for you to break even on the 27000 you spent for the 6kW solar rig. Compare your cost savings from the solar rig vs. the investment. If you put your dough, for example, in a 10 year CD at 3.25%, you'd come away with ~10000. Then subtract what you (supposedly, by estimate) would have saved with the solar setup. Or...what if you invested half of that 27000, and spent the other half weatherproofing your home (also tax benefits there)?

A local guy put a 2kW rig on his roof. He was proud of his work, which is fine, but admitted it would take him 53 years to break even on the cost of the materials and install. I don't know how much maintenance is involved in solar configurations.

It wasn't about cost savings. That's fine if you have money to spend on the cause du jour. I just don't have that kind of money and my state doesn't either (Michigan). Truth be told, my country doesn't either.

Solar Power (1)

mfh (56) | more than 5 years ago | (#29730889)

I would love to see new forms of power generation that catch all the hot air we get from websites like Digg.

Re:Solar Power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29731667)

I've never visited Digg but I find it notable that a slashdotter with a 2-digit UID apparently does. Maybe I need to expand my horizons...?

Making the most of it. (1)

Flowstone (1638793) | more than 5 years ago | (#29730931)

If N.J. can make solar panels such a big part of their state, you'd think the sunnier southern states would catch on. I'm sure texas could make a killing in alternative energy if they put some incentives behind it.

Re:Making the most of it. (1)

Shag (3737) | more than 5 years ago | (#29730989)

I'm amazed by this, having grown up in New Jersey and moved to Hawaii. Props to my home state.

Re:Making the most of it. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29731003)

Solar panels in Texas?

Why are you trying to help the environment? Why do you hate America?

Re:Making the most of it. (1)

Rtech (647652) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731033)

Sunnier? Down here it's rained more or less constantly for the past 30 days, with maybe two or three days of sunshine mixed in. And it's supposed to keep raining all week. Bah. At least it's stayed cool enough that the humidity hasn't sucked.

Re:Making the most of it. (1)

CraftyJack (1031736) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731407)

you'd think the sunnier southern states would catch on

Bingo. Worldwide, you'd think Australia would be leading the way, but instead it's Germany.

2% by 2012? (4, Insightful)

andy1307 (656570) | more than 5 years ago | (#29730979)

Seriously...WTF is wrong with people...why don't they consider nuclear power?

Re:2% by 2012? (4, Insightful)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731013)

Because they do not understand it, and people are scared by things they do not understand.

Re:2% by 2012? (4, Interesting)

cryptolemur (1247988) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731141)

Because they do not understand it, and people are scared by things they do not understand.

Or perhaps because they do understand it? Compared to wind energy, the initial cost are twice as much, operating costs thrice as much and fuel costs infinitely more. And that was 6 years ago, wind has come down since, while nuclear remains the energy of the future...
Oh, and besides high costs and 8-12 years of construction time, nuclear energy has to deal with safety, waste and proliferation. Somehow it's just not what investors are looking for right now.

Re:2% by 2012? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29731245)

That's not understanding nuclear power. That's understanding the political crippling done to nuclear power.

Re:2% by 2012? (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731531)

Nuclear fuel is actually quite cheap, especially if you use a proper fast breeder reactor (which also solves the waste problem).

Re:2% by 2012? (2, Insightful)

Tweenk (1274968) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731987)

Or perhaps because they do understand it? Compared to wind energy, the initial cost are twice as much

But it works 3-5 times as often, regardless of weather, and can be built almost anywhere. The only required condition is geological and hydrological stability of the area. Oftentimes existing sites can be used to build extra capacity. Wind farms have an actual mean power output of about 20-30% their peak power output, and of course they are intermittent.

I once saw an article saying that with a lot of intermittent sources the probability of all of them being out at the same time asymptotically approaches zero, but that would be true only if the works/doesn't work state of the sources was uncorrelated. Unfortunately it is to a very large extent (e.g. there are significant periods of time when 100% of the area of US is not insolated at all, and for smaller countries the situation is even worse).

operating costs thrice as much

See above. Moreover this cost could be brought down a lot (probably 2- or 3-fold) by creating a few standardised designs, or better yet a single modular design of nuclear plants, that would be used nationwide for all new deployments.

and fuel costs infinitely more.

That doesn't mean they are high. Actually they are less than 1% of operating costs.

nuclear remains the energy of the future...

Nuclear power still generates more energy than wind power in the US.

There some people that say otherwise, but it's a myth; they talk in terms of peak power output, which wind farms cannot realistically achieve for any sustained periods of time. On the other hand, nuclear plants are entirely capable of consistently running at 100% of their rated capacity, sometimes even more (power uprates).

Finally, there is no country in the world that gets more than 10% of its electricity from wind farms. On the other hand, there are several countries which get more than 30% of their electricity from nuclear plants, and at least 3 (France, Belgium and Slovakia) that get more than half.

nuclear energy has to deal with safety, waste and proliferation

Safety: No civilian killed in nuclear power operations since 1986.
Waste: The idiots from environmental groups keep saying it's a big problem, and at the same time keep attacking all the reasonable solutions that could be implemented to solve it (underground burial, reprocessing, breeder reactors, etc).
Proliferation: Nuclear fuel in conventional reactors is only slightly enriched and not suitable for making nuclear weapons. There are breeder reactor designs that make extracting plutonium from them highly impractical.

Re:2% by 2012? (5, Funny)

Bandman (86149) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731081)

You know, very technically speaking, solar power IS nuclear power...

Re:2% by 2012? (1)

rah1420 (234198) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731293)

And me here with no mod points. Hah.

Actually, if you take that argument reductio ad almost-absurdum, almost EVERYTHING (solar, oil, wind, etc.) is more or less nuclear.

Maybe geothermal isn't. Unless you go far enough back up the energy "food chain," I suppose.

Re:2% by 2012? (1)

harperska (1376103) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731515)

Well, actually geothermal is nuclear. The reason the core of the earth is still molten is because of the energy released by radioisotope decay in the rock.

Re:2% by 2012? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#29732159)

Also, you have the heat of formation of the Earth and tidal forces. So you are technically a third correct (using the WAGs that each source of heating contributes about a third).

Re:2% by 2012? (1)

VitrosChemistryAnaly (616952) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731699)

You know, very technically speaking, solar power IS nuclear power...

And, as we all know, being technically correct is the very best kind of correct.

Re:2% by 2012? (4, Informative)

Unoriginal Nick (620805) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731119)

New Jersey already gets 50% of its electricity from nuclear.

Re:2% by 2012? (4, Informative)

Unoriginal Nick (620805) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731299)

Replying to myself because I was still looking for this when I posted. Year-to-date (to June), there have been 16,920 [doe.gov] thousand megawatthours of electricity from nuclear out of 29,244 [doe.gov] - almost 58%.

Re:2% by 2012? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29731501)

Another key point is that diversity in power sources is a good thing, and something to aim for whenever possible. Nuclear has its place, but it isn't going to save the world any more than solar, wind, or hydro is. Even if it did, you'd still have all your eggs in one basket.

The future isn't one of nuclear, solar, wind, or hydro. The future is all of them, and hopefully others too.

Re:2% by 2012? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29731165)

Ok, yes, I don't claim that I understand Nuclear Power.

Tschernobyl makes me afraid, yes.
Hundrets of thousands of years to look after atomic waster make me afraid, yes.
The worst possible accident will happen sooner or later. This makes me afraid, yes.
Uran is not endless, not renewable. To drill it causes huge damage to the environment. Climate change makes me afraid, yes.
The continuing use of nuclear power prevents renewables from being installed now.

Some people seem to be afraid of a world with clean, renewable energy. WTF is wrong with them?

Re:2% by 2012? (1)

DirkDaring (91233) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731397)

How much would that have cost to put on his roof?

Re:2% by 2012? (1)

richiem (1655779) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731655)

You do realize that New Jersey already gets more than 50% of its electricity from nuclear. http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/page/at_a_glance/states/statesnj.html [doe.gov] The national average is 20%. BTW, largely as the result of nuclear we have some of the highest electric rates in the country. Why then does NJ have an air pollution problem. Well it seems our neighbors to the south and west like to burn coal and get really cheap electricity while we get to breathe in what those plants belch out.

Re:2% by 2012? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29731721)

Seriously...WTF is wrong with people...why don't they consider nuclear power?

Because power companies make a killing while your grandkids pay for the clean up. Plants often take decades to design, license and build, why not cut corners? See Chernobyl. Nuclear isn't a magic bullet and there are other forms of pollution than carbon. Mine tailings are a major problem from mining Uranium. I know nuclear waste isn't an argument you'll accept so just think in terms of taking decades to build enough plants to replace coal and fossil fuels and look at clean up costs. So far few if any sites have been made safe so clean ups are ongoing. Tens of billions have been spent so far and minimum hundreds of billions are needed with some estimates running into the trillions. That's just from 50 years of use with never providing more than a small percentage of the power needed. By trying to replace fossil fuels with nuclear we are talking many trillions of dollars in just clean up expenses and whether it's the power companies or government paying for it you pay in the end. You can install one hell of a lot of solar panels for a few trillion dollars and that's just clean up money. The only thing long term about nuclear are the clean up costs. Don't believe me? Look up things like Hanford and just do general searches for nuclear clean up costs and get your eyes opened. Check my personal favorite, look up "National Sacrifice Zones". That was one of the more ignore bits of spin I ever heard. When you hear about cost per watt on nuclear trust me they don't factor in all the clean up involved. How could they when virtually no site has been cleaned completely and the costs tend to come from super funds and aren't factored in. Most people just think of fuel rods but there are a lot more costs involved than just storing fuel rods. I used to be a nuclear fan until I did some reading which turned me into a detractor. Fusion might be interesting but I've been hearing 20 to 50 years since the 70s so I'm not holding my breath. A single reactor will run around a billion dollars and take minimum of 10 to 15 years to design and build before you get your first watt. Figuring 30K per house that's well over 30,000 houses and that many houses could have panels installed in a few years time. For the cost of a 100 reactors we are talking 3 millions homes. A 1,000, 30 million homes. That's just construction we aren't talking fuel costs and operating costs let alone clean up and decommissioning the plant. Also solar cells will out live most reactors. Just look at pay back? If a plant takes just ten years to build solar cells pay back in under ten years. You haven't sold one watt from the nuclear plant before the solar cells have paid back the cost and are generating free electricity. Then why are the power companies selling nuclear so hard? It keeps power centralized so their pockets keep getting lined and best of all they tend to push off long term clean up cost onto the government so profits stay high. Solar takes more area so it;s less practical for power plants but home owners don't have to pay land costs they are just using existing roof space. The real WTF is why we are still discussing nuclear as an option.

Re:2% by 2012? (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731737)

Seriously...WTF is wrong with people...why don't they consider nuclear power?

I don't see anything wrong with it, but Uncle Sam won't let me build a breeder reactor in my back yard and go off grid.

I think the real benefit of solar power is that it removes you from the already over taxed grid which is more likely to still fail even if we have more nuclear power in place.

If power is produced locally then you avoid having to use the grid and paying the power company in the first place.

Tax dollars (5, Interesting)

Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) | more than 5 years ago | (#29730987)

The real question is:

Would it make more sense to subsidize options like small scale solar in order to encourage homes/businesses to "go greener" and to take some load off the central grid?

OR

Does it make more sense to spend that money fixing the current rickety grid and then put all that green capacity in places that actually get a lot of sunlight all year?

Re:Tax dollars (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731635)

Here's a novel idea. How about we create some sort of system whereby individuals choose for themselves which of those options is more beneficial to them. A market of some sort, perhaps.

And then, instead of endless hand-wringing over what might be the most efficient way to build things, government can stick to easy things like breaking up monopolies and eliminating negative externalities such as pollution, force, and fraud.

Re:Tax dollars (1)

JLavezzo (161308) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731661)

I'll answer both questions with one word and a link to Wikipedia:

Yes

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dichotomy [wikipedia.org]

Re:Tax dollars (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 5 years ago | (#29732037)

Um, how is that a false dichotomy exactly? Both options can be viewed in terms of raw materials (silicon, copper, steel, energy, etc) and labor, each of which has a certain cost relative to each other. If the object is to minimize cost, or resource usage, or labor, then it should be obvious that putting fewer panels in an area with more sunshine could be cheaper and easier than installing more panels in a place with less sunshine, depending on the relative costs of the labor and materials required.

Re:Tax dollars (1)

CaptSlaq (1491233) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731923)

The real question is:

Would it make more sense to subsidize options like small scale solar in order to encourage homes/businesses to "go greener" and to take some load off the central grid?

OR

Does it make more sense to spend that money fixing the current rickety grid and then put all that green capacity in places that actually get a lot of sunlight all year?

Transport losses suck. I only have a loose grasp of the physics, but basically power/voltage loss gets pretty insane when you start moving large amounts over large distances. Perhaps someone who has more knowledge in the area can speak to this.

Kills so many birds with one stone... (1)

Covalent (1001277) | more than 5 years ago | (#29730995)

Everyone is waiting for the silver bullet to fix our oil addiction, global warming, and our fragile electric grid. This kind of approach does all three of those things. By "incentivizing" solar power, you can make it cheap enough for John Q. Public to build you a distributed power grid. Keep this up and you can start decommissioning your dirtiest power plants and use the funds you were going to use for new power plant construction for improving the grid or additional incentives. The third aspect (global warming) doesn't get solved by this, but it gets reduced, and in theory if you do this enough you can start doing sequestration to actually reduce CO2 levels in the air.

Re:Kills so many birds with one stone... (2, Insightful)

NewWorldDan (899800) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731281)

No, this is absolutely retarded. They're not "incentivizing" solar power, they're subsidizing it. Heavily. You and I are paying for it. That's money that could be doing a lot of actual good if put to better use. We've been waiting 30 years for the solar industry to develop an economical product and it hasn't happened yet.

She said, "Kiss me where it smells . . ." (-1, Offtopic)

PeeAitchPee (712652) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731017)

. . . so I took her to New Jersey. :-)

Nonsense, the endgame is the same though . . . (1)

228e2 (934443) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731109)

Would never happen in Maryland . . . BGE enjoys fucking me sideways every month. Why would states like mine, who dont charge you by kW used, but instead average your usage with everyone in your apartment complex and bill you all the same, do this?

Re:Nonsense, the endgame is the same though . . . (1)

mspohr (589790) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731591)

In California it is illegal to do this... you should check with your state consumer protection organization. You should be able to demand that you get a bill for your individual usage.

Wholesale Ladys Fashion Nike Air Jordan woman Tru (-1, Offtopic)

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Re: Wholesale Ladys Fashion Nike Air Jordan woman (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29731465)

Spam? On MY Slashdot?

As a NJ resident and tax payer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29731313)

... I'm so glad I get to subsidize other people's solar panels... which if you account for manufacturing costs, upkeep costs, resale prices, lifetime, etc. it really doesn't make any sense economically or environmentally to use current solar panel technology. That's the very reason the politicians feel it must be subsidized.

It's a SCAM! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29731377)

Don't fall for it, its a scam. I live in NJ, there is no sun here. No sun in the winter, no sun in the summer. This summer, it's been raining almost every other day. They're better off spending the money on a western state and selling the electricity to them. And they're making us pay for the equipment with rate increases, so we're paying for the installation and the freely generated electricity.

Technically... (1)

jmerlin (1010641) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731409)

wouldn't it be out-absorbs? Or out-sucks? Or just.. sucks more?

Ocean City, NJ solar project (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29731557)

Solar power in the Soprano State .... Ocean City has a solar project that cost $4.5 Million and it is generating almost $50k/year in electricity. It will only take about 150 years to beak even assuming no maintenance costs.

I live in NJ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29731603)

And it is a shithole... Solar panels won't help stop drug dealers or corrupt politicians.

I'm From NJ... (1)

smitty777 (1612557) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731791)

...I guess this article explains why my electricity bill is so high. I pay 10 time more here than in any other state I've lived in. Perhaps having so much free energy requires a lot of paperwork.

Solar on my NJ house (5, Informative)

mydots (1598073) | more than 5 years ago | (#29731929)

I live in NJ and have a 7.8kW solar system on my roof. I purchased it through Home Dept/BP Solar. The state rebate covered about 65% of the cost. I only had to pay the other 35% of the cost up front. I applied for the system in 2005 and about 6 months later in April 2006 I had a working system on my roof. I have been extremely happy with its performance especially since my roof faces pretty much directly south. Not only do I save in electricity, I also get Solar Renewable Energy Credits that I can sell to help pay for my cost of the system. An SREC is received for every 1000kWH of electricity generated. My system generates about 9 SREC's per solar year. The solar year begins in June and ends in May. After it was installed I immediately purchased RS485 communcation boards for the two inverters and an RS232 to RS485 converter for a PC and runs the SunnyData software that continuously monitors the system. It reads various data every 8 seconds and I use ssh/rsync to push it to a linux server every minute where I wrote some scripts to parse the data and create almost real time graphs of its performance. For anyone interested, I setup my own domain mysolarenergysystem.com where you can view all the details about the system. I also had the electric company replace my meter with a net meter, so each month on my bill I can see my exact in and out usage. The net meter has what looks like a phone jack that can be used for remote monitoring. I asked them about it because I wanted to connect it to my computer, but unfortunately they didn't give me much of an answer except that its not used, but would have been nice to monitor and graph daily statistics for that as well.
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