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Reader Howiek wrote:

When solar becomes affordable it will be adapted. In the current scheme of things I don’t see solar becoming affordable for quite some time. Maybe in the future they will develop more efficient panels and make them more affordable, but that is not the case at the moment. And no matter how hard some try, SDG&E will never subsidize solar for the home. And San Diego will never have its own utility like Los Angeles.

SDG&E has stated in its application to the California Public Utilities Commission for the 1,000 MW Sunrise Powerlink transmission line that a primary purpose of the line is to move as much as 900 MW of solar power from Imperial County. SDG&E apparently thinks solar is ready to go now based on this stated project objective. SDG&E also states in the same application that the transmission line will cost approximately $7 billion (2010 dollars) over the 40-year financial life of the project. The utility is asking ratepayers to pay the $7 billion for the line on the promise that its purpose is to move solar power to San Diego. You are right that solar still requires a subsidy to match the retail electricity rate that homeowners and commercial users pay to the utility. However, current solar photovoltaic (PV) industry projections forecast that the cost of PV should drop by half by 2010, due to the large increase in PV manufacturing capability coming online worldwide in the 2008-2010 timeframe.

The state of California recently passed legislation allocating $3.2 billion in subsidies to incentivize construction of 3,000 MW of solar power and drive the price of PV downward. The point of the incentive is to ensure that the cost of solar PV generation is at or below the utility retail electricity rate. Our average energy demand in San Diego County is around 2,500 MW, and all-time peak demand, reached in September 2007, was just over 4,600 MW. You can build a tremendous amount of PV solar power right here in San Diego with a $7 billion incentive budget, or even a $700 million incentive budget. The consumer would pay a lot less to incentivize 1,000 to 2,000 MW of PV here than spend $7 billion on a 1,000 MW transmission line and hope that over time someone starts moving some solar power over it.

— BILL POWERS

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