The Pros and Cons of Solar Power

Posted: May 16, 2018

Last week, California became the first state to mandate that all new homes will feature solar panels to increase renewable energy production and cut back on greenhouse gas emissions.

While supporters of the mandate praise the mandate as a boost for solar production, others have raised concerns over how this mandate will affect California homeowners.

Beginning in January 2020, all new homes will be constructed with solar paneling, meaning that construction costs will go up and home prices will rise, according to CNBC. Californians will eventually save as much as $80 each month on their electric bills, but it will take a while for the costs to decrease.

How much will this mandate benefit national solar production? Is this the first step to solar becoming America’s next great energy source?

Not so, according to environmentalist Michael Shellenberger. His recent op-ed in Forbes, California’s Solar Roof Law Will Raise Housing And Energy Prices But Do Little To Reduce Emissions, points out the problems with this mandate, including how relying on an intermittent power source has actually hurt California’s emission levels:

In 2016, emissions from electricity produced within California decreased by 19 percent, but two-thirds of that decline came from increased production from the state’s hydro-electric dams due to it being a rainier year, and thus had nothing to do with the state’s energy policies.

Just one-third of the decline came from increased solar and wind.

The fluctuating amounts of electricity from the state’s dams underscore why even hydro, our most reliable form of renewable energy, cannot be relied upon to reduce emissions.

The state is not building any new dams, and the kind of drought California suffered from 2012 to 2017 may become more frequent as a consequence of climate change.

According to calculations by my colleagues Madison Czerwinski and Mark Nelson, it will take 117 years for the new solar roofs to replace the state’s two nuclear plants, San Onofre and Diablo Canyon.

While California’s solar mandate will boost in-state solar generation astronomically, the facts prove that we can’t rely on an intermittent power source to support the bulk of the electric grid. Until the technology to keep renewables powering the grid 24 hours a day, seven days a week – regardless of sun or wind – we will have to fall back on baseload power to fuel our homes and businesses.

For more information, check out another op-ed by Shellenberger at the link below:

California’s Solar Roof Law Will Raise Housing And Energy Prices But Do Little To Reduce Emissions