This very interesting article about the high cost of supporting solar power via feed-in tariffs is very interesting, in particular in regards to the unanticipated consequences. While I’m bullish on solar, I’m not sure if that subsidization is market-efficient. I’d prefer to see more programs focused on the up-front cost of it. Even as solar makes sense in high-sun areas already on a per-watt lifetime basis, the upfront capital costs make it hard for an individual to get excited about. Focusing on that is more critical, I think, to long term success (well, that and investing heavily in the research to bring the cost down).
German citizens get dinged a “green energy surcharge”—an additional €200 ($265) a year for the average family—over and above the cost of their actual electricity use, for which they already pay the second-highest rates in all of Europe. Because German policy is so solar-dependent, when the sun doesn’t shine (a/k/a “winter”), Germany has to import its power from nuclear-power generators in France and the Czech Republic, and even resorted to powering-up an old oil-fired plant in Austria. Not exactly “green.”
On the flip side, this also reveals that we have more of a problem with *storage* than anything else. It’s why feed-in is weird to me. On a boat, we generated alternative power via a wind generator, and stored in a bank of batteries. When wind died off, you hit up the batteries.
If one is going to decentralize energy or create an alternative energy system, I think you’re going to have to get used to the idea of houses with batteries. Or you’re going to have to figure out how to store energy on a big scale so you can feed it back.