Six Flags Discovery Kingdom latest park to light up car park solar plant

Posted Monday, December 2, 2019 10:11 PM | Contributed by Jeff

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom says it has become the first theme park on the West Coast whose roller coasters and animal habitats will be energized primarily by solar power.

Read more from KNTV/San Jose.

Monday, December 2, 2019 10:19 PM

I've had solar on my house now for about a year and a half, and while there is an up front cost to it, I don't know why everyone isn't doing it outside of the fact that some state regulators have made it far more difficult. Even having electric everything, including cars, it covers about 60% of our overall usage. In places where you aren't running air conditioning 16 hour a day, even with moderate sun, you could recover a ton of energy and recover your cost in under a decade.

The real game changer will be when the utilities see that distributed generation is the future. Replace substations with panels and batteries, and you're no longer dependent on a grid that can fail for tens of thousands of people at a time. Unfortunately, the utilities have so much invested in transmission lines and centralized plants that they're disinterested.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2019 7:47 AM

Jeff said:

Unfortunately, the utilities have so much invested in transmission lines and centralized plants that they're disinterested.

You'd think they would be looking to the future. Transmission lines get knocked down. Centralized plants get outdated. By investing in solar and other renewable projects now, they prevent a time when thousands lose power for a few days or a time when they lose public support for increased rates to build new substations or to string new lines.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2019 12:38 PM

I think Kauai has the model for this, where the power company is a co-op owned by the residents. However, that can work for them in part because it's an island. There's a pretty clear geographical boundary. But imagine that a new subdivision opens up somewhere (basically all around me, every day). If they committed to building the solar and storage and the HOA owned it (contracted to a maintenance company and regulated by the state), that would be a pretty good model. There are already statutory requirements to collect reserves for replacement and maintenance, especially in townhome situations.

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Thursday, December 5, 2019 10:07 PM

Jeff said:

I've had solar on my house now for about a year and a half, and while there is an up front cost to it, I don't know why everyone isn't doing it outside of the fact that some state regulators have made it far more difficult.

The upfront cost is the huge stumbling block. I was quoted a PV system that would have covered 87% of our current electricity needs. The installed cost was estimated around $28,000. Since I don't have that kind of money sitting in my bank account we would need a loan. The loan payments would have been $225 a month for 20 years, or $100 more a month than I am currently paying for electricity. If I rolled in the federal tax credit I would still be paying more a month than my electricity bill.

I'm having better luck with being on an hourly pricing program. I'm saving roughly 10% per month by charging my Volt overnight.

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Friday, December 6, 2019 2:24 PM

Borrowing money for it doesn't make sense, unfortunately, although remember you get 30% back from your federal income tax, and it carries over if you don't use the entire credit to the next year.

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Friday, December 6, 2019 7:59 PM

But that's my point. The average household has under $5,000 in savings, which means the average person would have to borrow money to install panels on their home or install a terribly undersized system.

For homeowners who live in the South solar likely makes sense if they have the surplus cash. I live in the Midwest where electricity is cheap and the sun doesn't shine much. In addition, the front of our house faces due south. My wife is not a fan of having panels on the front of our hose. I also don't plan on living in Illinois 15 years from now. I'm done with snow.

I'm a big proponent of PV systems but there are plenty of reasons why they don't make sense for the average homeowner in the majority of the country. They are better off reducing consumption by following efficient practices.

Last edited by Mulfinator, Friday, December 6, 2019 8:00 PM
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Friday, December 6, 2019 9:29 PM

Solar is just as viable in the Midwest. But it's really like any improvement to your house, only this one actually produces something tangible everyday while adding value to the house. Renovating a bathroom adds value, but doesn't make anything.

If you could do it on a low interest loan and get the tax credit up front, would you do it?

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Friday, December 6, 2019 11:38 PM

Viability will depend on costs to install (including any borrowing costs), amount of sun, cost of electricity from other sources and regulatory issues. Those will vary by location.

https://www.solarpowerrocks.com/infographics/solar-infographic-state-solar-investment-returns/

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Saturday, December 7, 2019 12:15 AM

Right, but volume of sun and location are not the driving factors.

Utility scale cost is in free fall right now, so while I'm a big advocate of distributed generation, the truth is that the utils themselves should be rolling in that direction. And it goes without saying that we can't just keep burning **** and hope for a good outcome.

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Saturday, December 7, 2019 8:08 AM

If the overall costs were lower to run solar than my current set up then yes I would switch.

Electricity generation is not a binary choice of solar or coal. There are many alternatives to coal and not every solution is right for every part of the country. Solar doesn't make sense in the upper mid west when wind and nuclear are available.

I can't speak for other parts of the country but I know that Illinois is moving away from coal. In 2012 40.9% of the energy generated in Illinois came from coal. By 2016 it had dropped to 31.7%. Meanwhile the use of nuclear (48.8% to 52.6%) and wind (3.9% to 5.7%) are on the rise.

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Saturday, December 7, 2019 12:41 PM

To be clear, the overall cost is lower. My system will make back the cost in 9 years, then last about 20 more, effectively reducing the cost of 30 years of power by 66%.

But yes, coal is dying quickly, but unfortunately it's been replaced more by natural gas than anything else. The economics are interesting though, because all of the growth is in renewables, especially in the labor market.

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Saturday, December 7, 2019 7:07 PM

Jeff said:

To be clear, my overall cost is lower.

Fixed it for you.

If panels are financed your overall payback is much longer than 20 years. I have a quote on a system that cost $28,570, which would cost $47,394 if financed. My electricity bills over that time would cost $31,200. That's not even taking into account panel degradation, a new inverter around the 15 year mark, the remaining balance of my electrical needs, and the fees I pay just for the privilege of being a customer connected to the grid. Not to mention the extra $67 a month that I could put towards saving for retirement.

Again the math works well for a lot of people in a lot of situations but certainly not all.

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Sunday, December 8, 2019 12:36 PM

Solar installation is mandatory on all new housing in CA starting in 2020 https://www.npr.org/2018/12/06/674075032/california-gives-final-ok-...new-houses

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Sunday, December 8, 2019 10:30 PM

Wow I had no idea solar was so expensive. I’ve never looked into it seriously because the house needs a roof first, then solar was next on the list. But if it’s in the $30k range I’m likely out.

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Monday, December 9, 2019 8:35 AM

It's not. 10kW system should be well under $25k, -30% in tax credits. So net $18k or less.

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Monday, December 9, 2019 9:16 AM

I think we are still a few years off from solar becoming the majority of energy generation. We've seen the cost for the panel and battery technology come down over the last 20 years. But once that line is crossed where it becomes affordable and no longer needs subsidized by tax incentives to be affordable, it will become another system on a home (like AC, indoor plumbing, etc.).

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Monday, December 9, 2019 10:51 AM

So still $25k upfront... I’d have to really look at my utility bill. It’s usually in the $125-$175 range, but that’s gas and electric. Also includes charging my wife’s Nissan Leaf. So say half the median is electric cost ($75/month), I’m looking at 20 years to recoup the cost after the tax credits. That’s assuming it wipes my electric bill entirely... Being in Rochester, NY I doubt that’s the case.

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Monday, December 9, 2019 1:58 PM

30 years of power for the price of 9. That doesn't seem like hard math to me.

The trend line overall for renewable vs. fossil fuel cost per megawatt puts the shift in less than 10 years, depending on the nation you're talking about. Places that institute a carbon tax will move that needle faster. And there should absolutely be a carbon tax.

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Monday, December 9, 2019 2:22 PM

Even if the full $175 was his electric (it's not) and he was able to pull all his power from solar (he couldn't), there's still some wait-and-see at this point.

As solar becomes more prevalent and there's more companies able to break into the space, you'll find a drop in the costs to install. Maybe waiting 5 years will change that 10-20 year pay-off to only 5-10 years, which is still cheaper overall.

You don't always have to be an early adapter to feel you did the best you could.

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