The most astounding thing about so-called renewable energy sources is how little power they can deliver at any point in time. They almost always are operating at a small fraction of their “nameplate” capacity. This means to meet demand you have to build multiples of nameplate capacity or massive amounts of battery storage, which is as, or more, expensive. Either way, your electricity bills are going to soar and blackout risks will escalate sharply. Dave here notes the stupidity of building solar power, in particular, in Minnesota. And you can see that in November, December and January, solar plants in Minnesota operate at 10% or less of their rated capacity. I can assure you that Little Timmy Walz doesn’t know or care about any of these facts. We need gas and nuclear; they can easily scale up or down generation to meet demand. Can’t make the sun shine more or the wind blow more.
- It is my contention that Minnesota is the worst location in the continental US to install large scale solar power generation. The northern latitude reduces solar insolation. Cloudy weather is a common problem, as well as the tendency of snow to accumulate on solar panels in the winter. We have found, analyzing data from 2021, that solar generating facilities in Minnesota will generate only 71% of the power created by the exact same facility if it were installed in Arizona. To generate a specific amount of solar power, Minnesota has to install 1.41 times the solar panels needed to generate the same amount of power in Arizona (calculated as 1/0.71=1.41). This represents a massive waste of resources, looked at from a national perspective. Minnesota consumes 1.41 times more raw materials, more land, more disposal at end of life, and therefore 1.41 times the cost to generate the same amount of solar power as in Arizona. In addition, in Minnesota, farmland is often taken out of production to make way for solar panel installations, making the waste of resources even greater. Farmland in Minnesota should be used to grow food, and if we have to generate power with solar panels, let’s put them in the Arizona desert.
- Data on the monthly electrical production of individual generating facilities is available from the US Energy Information Agency (EIA). EIA Form 923 documents monthly power generation (https://www.eia.gov/
electricity/data/eia923/) and EIA Form 860 documents generating capacity of individual plants (https://www.eia.gov/ electricity/data/eia860/). We totaled the monthly output of all solar photovoltaic facilities in Minnesota and Arizona. We then totaled the nameplate capacities of each facility, allowing us to calculate the monthly output as a function of nameplate rating. We used only solar facilities that were in service for the entire year of 2021. We excluded non-solar photovoltaic facilities in Arizona, so that we are only comparing facilities with similar technology.
- The nameplate rating of solar facilities is defined as the power output at noon on the summer solstice, the day with the most hours of daylight. This power rate at noon, if it were sustained for 24 hours a day of a month, becomes the baseline 100% power generation capability. Of course, since the sun does not shine 24 hours, the maximum power output on the summer day might be a little more than 50% of nameplate. For example, Minneapolis has roughly 15-1/2 hours of daylight on the summer solstice, around 64.6% of the 24 hour day. Since the intensity of the sun is not constant the best-case output will be a little less than 64.6% of nameplate rating.
- Note that the definition of nameplate rating, the power output at noon on the longest day of the year, corrects for the higher sun angle in Arizona compared to Minnesota. The exact same solar panel in Arizona should have a higher nameplate rating than that same panel installed in Minnesota, if manufacturers follow the EIA definition. We have not adjusted our calculations to account for this potential difference in nameplate ratings. Arizona solar panels in reality should have a higher nameplate rating than the same panel in Minnesota, making the difference between Minnesota and Arizona even greater.
- Fig. 1, Comparison of Minnesota and Arizona Solar Photovoltaic Facility Output, 2021 Actual Monthly Output as a Percent of Nameplate Rating: This chart gives the results of our analysis comparing solar generating output in Minnesota and Arizona for 2021. As expected, the output in Arizona is generally greater than in Minnesota. The output in Arizona in July 2021 was strangely lower than in June and August. This lower output in July was common over most of the solar facilities in Arizona. A brief Google search finds news articles reporting on both monsoon rain events as well as dust storms in Arizona in July 2021, which appears to account for the unexpected low output.
- The lowest output month for both Minnesota and Arizona was December, with outputs of 6.2% and 15.8% of nameplate rating respectively. This means that solar power in Arizona in December 2021 was 2.55 times greater than the solar output in Minnesota, comparing the percentages of nameplate rating. Over the course 2021, Arizona had an average output of 27.7% of nameplate rating, and Minnesota had an average output of 19.8% of nameplate. This means that Minnesota output over the course of 2021 was only 71% of the output of Arizona, relative to nameplate. Every solar panel in Minnesota is generating only 71% of that same solar panel if it were installed in Arizona. Looked at the other way, Minnesota would have to install 1.41 times the solar panels in Arizona to generate the same amount of electrical power annually.
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Gas plants can swing load or with what wind and solar do. Nuclear plants tend to stay a their peak load. Coal can swing with demand or follow wind or solar. We need all three of these as our base load.
Solar makes no sense in Arizona which I now reside and sure as hell makes no sense in Minnesota my home state.