Solar energy laws in California


I thought I’d start a new thread to respond to this. Very aware of the law. It will not have anything to do with having backup power after an earthquake as a battery system is not required. Most of these systems are tied into the grid and don’t work if the power goes out. Having a battery system adds notably to the cost. I personally think it’s a really stupid law as it gives solar a very unfair advantage by mandating it. If somebody comes up with an ingenious energy efficent solution, they are at a tremendous disadvantage to solar. Heck what if you live in a dense forest, but have a geothermal source or good wind access on your property. Do you have to cut down your forest to have solar or do you take advantage of the specifics of your property?


I am sorry but that is another uncalled for law. I checked into solar power and did the calculations and I would have to have them 50 years to pay for the cost of the solar cells. It is just not economic.


I spent 35 years in the power generation business. Wind generation at very best is marginal for cost effectiveness. Solar generation is unquestionably uneconomic compared to combined cycle gas turbine generation. When you factor in battery storage then the uneconomic factor goes off the scale. It only works in remote locations off the grid, when there is no other choice.


Maybe this is a little off-topic, but not that far off-topic considering this continuation-of-discussion was plucked from The Evoke 440s Are Here! thread.

Check out this image of one of the termination cities (Merced, California) for that state’s scaled back version of bullet trains speeding as fast as 220 mph, much as they do in parts of Europe and Asia. You can click the image for a higher resolution view.

Merced is a sleepy farming community where you will be able catch the bullet train and go to Bakersfield. Bakersfield? Oh sorry, Buck Owens has passed so you wouldn’t get to listen to “Waitin’ In Your Welfare Line” when you travel to Bakersfield.

To be fair, that Merced image above was captured mid-year 2011. So one might think that things might have improved since then. Think again. Here’s a Google-Maps linked address of that business below. You can use Google-Maps to move-around and check it out. Just click the picture-upper-left to get into street-view and use the tools to move around. Downtown Merced is only a few blocks away.

61 W Main St, Merced, CA 95340


Cute. Merced does have a University of California campus now. Maybe we could start a “tangents” thread to see how far off topic we could get? Probably hard to compete with some of the things that occur spontaneously.


I think there is some relevance to whether with a rechargeable hearing aid one is up the creek without a paddle when the electricity fails. With solar or wind power installations in your neighborhood, one may always have some electricity even if there is a central failure due to disaster, terrorism or the like.

Youse guys need to listen to more Science Friday podcasts. They had one about how someone did a Ph.D. thesis and pointed out that just with a handaxe that one could take down a large segment of the U.S. power grid. The Science Friday guest said that the thesis was soon classified Top Secret by the U.S. government.

The thing that you all aren’t factoring into the “cost” calculations is the environmental cost of using fossil fuels. Also that the tech for generating renewable energy is becoming cheaper all the time by the experience and economy of scale learning curves. I recall that a recent Science Friday podcast said that SOLAR without any price supports is now cheaper than coal (but natural gas is still the cheapest). Also, one could allow for the fact that fossil fuels may continue to get more and more expensive in coming years as the world starts to use them up more and more. Maybe none of you experienced LA firsthand in the 60’s and 70’s where if you looked a couple blocks down the street in Pasadena, buildings started to disappear in a haze of smog on the worst days (like Beijing can be currently).

BTW, the transition to electric vehicles also provides each home with a source of stored energy in a disaster. And one doesn’t have to own an electric vehicle just to recharge one’s rechargeable HA’s from a standard lead acid battery in a car. I already have all the connectors needed in a convenience compartment in my car to charge my phone, tablet, HA’s anytime I want. One would think these days the way the typical American goes hunting, fishing, camping that one is never too far from a vehicle or an outboard motor to recharge one’s rechargeable HA’s even if one doesn’t carry a portable battery pack with them. My neighbor goes deer and boar hunting in Texas driving an all-terrain vehicle wherever he and his sons go (to lug back the carcass(es)).

The NY Times article says that although requiring a larger capital cost, the requirement will save the average home owner in California a net of $40 a month in the cost of owning a home. If you factor that into a $12,000 capital cost, you don’t have to go 50 years to recoup your investment (without doing a NPV calculation) - it would be 25 years. And as I said, such calculations never allow for the hidden cost of environmental pollution, e.g., the cost of relocating or turning NYC, Galveston, Florida into a new Netherlands as sea levels rise from glacial melt, etc. Just like medieval cities where humans lived in their own crap and garbage and died like flies, with fossil fuels, we’re shitting on ourselves all the time and too stupid or pecunious to do anything much about it. Maybe we should go back to Middle Ages-like cities. Think of the tax burden that will be alleviated on maintaining our water and sewer systems and it will help control the world’s human population before it gets way more out of hand than it is already (Malthusian view of world).


Sorry that I just saw the link to my post and didn’t read your excellent comments. It’s stupid that the system won’t work if the grid is not working - the sun will (hopefully) still keep shining after a disaster or terrorist attack and hopefully in the future the cost of adding a battery will come down and someone will invent a cheaper, better battery than the current Li-ion technology. Perhaps clever people will not have all the panels on their roof grid-tied. I always find it ironic that the world is spending big bucks to invent nuclear fusion, the solution to the world’s energy problems, etc., whereas Mother Nature put a giant nuclear fusion reactor 93 million miles away - the problem has already been solved and we don’t have any of the relatively minor but still real nuclear trash to get rid of that earth-bound fusion plant would generate - and solar power doesn’t have to be centralized and subject to terror attack and catastrophe -not that roof panels, etc., aren’t - just not so much one big sitting duck target along with the distribution system.

Here’s a review of the cost of adding a Tesla Powerwall battery to your home - and the review notes that the battery will only provide several hours of electricity - but that’s probably if you’re using it full bore. If you want to nurse the power for only essential things after an outage, I imagine you can make it last a lot longer and that, presumably, is no more complicated than going to your breaker panel and throwing all the breakers you don’t really need to have functioning to the OFF position.

Perhaps it’s rosy optimism to say that we’re just in the Model-T days of renewable energy but each year humankind supposedly liberates an amount of fossil fuel that took a million years to create - at some point, if humankind is still around, there will be no more fossil fuel burn. There’s only a finite amount of fissionable material on the planet and no one has invented practical, down-on-earth power fusion so renewables almost seem inevitable - you can only kick the can down the road so far relying on fossil fuel.

Perhaps after a big grid outage, folks with gasoline-powered, electric, or hydrogen-powered(?) vehicles will always have a reliable source of small amounts of electricity nearby for charging cell phones, HA’s, and the like regardless of whether any roof solar panels are grid-tied or not and whether nor not they splurged for a “solar” battery for their home.

Update on economics

The Energy Sage site is clearly biased towards selling things (probably like Hearing Tracker is to HA’s) but it has a couple good pages on the economics of solar power and it says as times change and more utilities start to implement Time of Use (TOU) rates with high-tech metering, it may be be economical to have a house battery just to suck up electricity at cheaper times of use during the day and use it from your battery, instead of the grid, when the TOU rates are highest, regardless of whether you have solar panels or not:

The economics of solar energy can vary considerably depending on what state you live in, the electricity rates, and the amount of sunshine available on average:

So if one is young with a family, going to lead an energy-intensive existence, solar could be a good long-term investment depending on what state you live in, i.e., you can save on cost of electricity around $1,200 per year in California, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut due to the high cost of electricity in those states so you could relatively quickly pay off the capital cost of your system - according to Energy Sage. With the money you might save, maybe you’ll be able to afford the most premium HA’s available when you get old!

Further_Update: Renewable Energy Potential in U.S.
Source: (see page. iv)
Overview: NREL Study Shows Renewable Energy Potential in Every State | Department of Energy

Rural Utility Scale Photovoltaic Power (solar panels, line 2 of table below) dwarfs every possible source of renewable energy

Roof panels are a drop in the bucket


There are some significant issues that are always left out by the solar and wind power advocates.

  • In commercial size units these installations (solar or wind farms) are often remote from the electrical grid, and new transmission facilities have to be built to bring the output to the grid. Most often the transmission system is part of the regulated business and consumers have to pay for it eventually, but it is not included in the cost of the solar or wind energy.

  • Solar and wind are non dispatchable sources of energy. The cannot follow load demand, and are not reliable. The don’t provide power when there is no wind or sun. Wind turbines even shut down when there is too much wind. As a result they require 100% backup from a reliable power generator like combined cycle and simple cycle gas turbines. The cost of the backup is almost never factored in to the economics. The consumer pays in the end though.

  • The availability factor of wind and solar is low at 30% and <10% depending on location. On an energy basis they and the transmission system have to be built to 3 times and 10 times the average output. For example a 100 MW peak wind farm has to be designed to 100 MW, but on average it only provides 30 MW of output.

  • Because wind and solar are not dispatchable they are price takers on a competitive market grid. They generate regardless of market price. If load is low and market prices is low they still generate and if they have take or pay contracts they get paid more than what the market system gets paid. In parts of Canada the power grid ends up selling solar and wind at a loss to the US market in these situations.

  • End use solar for example expect to get paid for surplus energy they produce, and expect a price independent of need. They need to be paid what the wholesale price is for the power, which may be negative.

  • Storage addresses some of these issues, but it brings in additional costs. The typical loss on a battery storage system is 25%. Battery is DC and the grid is AC, so you need rectifiers and inverters to make it all work. My hybrid car has a separate cooling system just for the heat losses in the inverter.

  • Then there is the duty cycle of a solar and battery system. When you are charging the battery you are not supplying load. The whole system including the battery has to be designed for the peak output, but in average the output is much lower.

I could go on, but in my opinion we are not even close to having an accurately costed solar or even wind system that is competitive with a natural gas combined cycle system. If an end consumer really wants to have power in every emergency situation the reasonable choice is a standby generator like the Generac systems which have been around for a long time. When you consider total cost, using the grid and having a backup like this is much lower in cost…


I would like to suggest a book to read: The Ends of the World by Peter Brannen;


The book suggests that climate change played a major role in the most extreme catastrophes in the planet Earth’s history. So from this, you might conclude that climate change is really nothing new!

I think this is best read as an ePub (for example with MS’s Edge Browser which has a builtin ePub reader). The reason being is because you can simply click the scientific names/terms and immediately get linked to a Wikipedia description; For example Trilobite.

Oh, it can be downloaded free via BitTorrent if you’re into that sort of thing.


Oh, you mean it’s not cheap to make these blades, and install them, and get the output connected to the grid?

btw> In order to get an appreciation for the scale of these blades (and if you are viewing this from a desktop computer) then click the image twice and expand your browser to fullscreen;

eta> Oh, did you notice the poor little butterflies on the front radiator screen?


I installed solar panels in my previous house in AZ and by my calculations, I’d need about 10 years before the system is paid for. But that’s because the energy consumption in AZ is high in the summer time for air conditioning.

The solar industry was doing well in AZ until a few years ago, the utilities companies there changed the rule and charged an extra service fee for homes with solar net metering going forward. Homes already with solar panels installed before these rules are grandfathered in and not subjected to the new fees (mine was grandfathered in). But that pretty much killed the home solar industry in AZ from then on because nobody could find the economic justification to pay for solar installation anymore.


That is true for some areas, but where I live now and were I have lived in the past they solar power will only work if you remove all of the trees that provide the shade and the best solar protection that there is. I live in a 1900 sq ft home that my highest electric bill is just over $100 for an all electric home. We get that because of the trees. They have come through this area promoting solar and the only way they do it is to remove all of the trees around the homes. Well we live in a Forest and we moved here due to the trees. I was raised to take care of the earth not destroy its trees and animals etc. So yes if I lived out in the wide open solar would be worth it.


Yeah, I’d pick the trees to provide shades over solar panels to provide electricity any time of day. Plus, you’d need a high electricity bill to justify the economics in the first place, like you said.


We’re not there yet and may never get there but if you have remote installations and they generate HYDROGEN GAS to use in hydrogen fuels cells, one could address the problem of making use of remote, unused, uninhabited rural land and having a way to get the electricity/energy to market that not as subject to disruption by terrorism or natural disaster and inefficiences in long-distance transmission. I’m all for a hydrogen economy but right now it’s exorbitantly expensive. In 2010, a paper claimed to achieve a 12.4% efficiency in generating hydrogen from photo-voltaic cells; the efficiency of use of hydrogen to generate electricity in a fuel cell is 80% (according to Cortana’s verbal reply). Predicting efficiency of solar powered hydrogen generation using photovoltaic-electrolysis devices - ScienceDirect

A problem with wind energy (I’m all for that, too, properly managed) is killing birds, especially during mass migrations.

Don’t know if the figure is still valid but I once heard/read that the earth can only support about 2 billion people living the American lifestyle in terms of energy and goods consumption. An image that has stuck in my mind for about the last 50 years is reading the beginning of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy science fiction epic. The home planet in the Galactic Empire is completely paved over with concrete and covered in buildings 30 stories high (or sump’n like that). That seems to be the direction we’re headed.

I agree that tremendous natural disasters have played a role in evolution of life on the planet. And that’s the irony for we proud humans. We like to think that we’re in the cat bird’s seat but we’re at the mercy of plate tectonics. Besides changes in plate tectonics and vulcanism (which is no longer supposedly going to occur at the earth-disrupting level it once did), there is just the change in the environmental chemical balance, which we’re working hard at disrupting right now probably at a much faster rate than most previous natural disasters occurred on the planet.

We need to regard the whole planet as a game preserve, manage its existence, and not kill off the game or eventually we’ll be killing off ourselves. Just because something is cheaper doesn’t mean it’s better in the long-term survival game. If you can’t sustainably (sp?) survive, cheaper at the moment will be a lot more expensive and maybe fatal in the long run.

I agree with Volusiano and cvkemp on trees and shade. We deliberately use very little energy and intend to let the trees grow over our house. This past summer I used drip irrigation around a few moisture-loving trees I stupidly planted in my drier Texas environment but by having lots of shade and letting St. Augustine grass grow very long, I did not have to water our large backyard all summer long (lack of usable water for the ever-increasing mass of humans is yet another topic). Neighborhood associations need to “get with it” and stop demanding for “property values” that folks have well-watered closely trimmed grass on front yards, etc. Around here, they allow you to fill your whole front yard with sand or gravel so you don’t have to water (helping to create a heat island effect in a city or suburb) but consider it a sin for appearances not to heavily water grass and cut it short regularly (making the grass need more water!).

So all of the above is basically why, in spite of whatever inconveniences for me, I like my rechargeable HA’s. Would be great if the technology were good enough so that all HA’s could be long-lasting rechargeables, make everyone happy, and still do a small part towards preserving the planet and the outdoors we evolved from.


The problem with hydrogen is getting it. It is a hugely energy consuming and inefficient process. It would be a perfect solution if we had as much hydrogen laying around as we have coal.


One could always preserve all trees on site while using a neighboring site as the “neighborhood” solar generation site for a new development. But from what I’ve seen of most new “affordable” housing in the San Antonio area is they build wall-to-wall houses, little or no yard, helping to create a heat island effect and massive rain runoff. In such instances where zoning codes and builders have left little greenery, it doesn’t seem wrong to help defray the extra cost to the electric grid by adding rooftop solar power to new homes to help alleviate the extra burden that lots of new homes heaps upon the existing grid.

The Wikipedia article on a potential hydrogen economy is very interesting, shows the daunting complexity and trade-offs involved. But it seems like multiple authors have been at work, each trying to contradict each other with succeeding sections, maybe even succeeding lines! Hydrogen economy - Wikipedia (many of the citations seem old, perhaps indicating lack of current interest & development)


The problem is that the grid has to be designed and built to supply all the needed power when the solar is not functional for whatever reason. If everyone also installs 100% backup batteries then it may be possible to reduce the capacity of the grid. But that becomes extremely expensive. What if it is cloudy for a week in a row? Everyone expects the grid to be their backup, so it has to be designed that way.


I live in a natural forest and the laws here will not allow for clear cutting at all


@cvkemp - Seems like the irony of your situation is that someone allowed folks to come in and clear forest to build roads and build the houses themselves - so trees were cut for that, unless you’re living in a treehouse! So clearing land for houses, roads, driveways, is perfectly OK but compensating for demands for energy that those new houses produce on the grid is not?

San Antonio has the same push-pull in another way. Some of the most attractive areas to live, the “Hill Country,” are over the aquifer recharge zone. Development over the recharge zone risks contaminating the aquifer and reduces the available recharge area. Twenty-five percent of the original recharge area has already been consumed. The force of money to be made is almost irresistible to developers and politicians connected to them.


What if the backup is central (to get economies of scale). You get rewarded if you choose to pump energy into the grid and the excess energy in the grid is always being used to store energy somehow (make hydrogen or store it some other way, e.g., pumping water uphill, lifting weights uphill, whatever). When weather is not agreeable, you use your stored energy or buy it from someone else (which is what happens now when peak demand exceeds operating capacity in geographical locales in the U.S.).