You sometimes see newspaper headlines to the effect that, say, a “50 megawatt solar power plant” is being constructed. But you shouldn’t count on getting anything remotely approaching 50 megawatts of power from such an installation. Energy expert Isaac Orr explains:
Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) show that production from solar panels plummets in the winter. The graph below shows the percentage of electricity generated by solar panels in Minnesota compared to their potential output. This percentage is called a capacity factor in electricity-industry lingo.
Isaac’s analysis applies specifically to Minnesota, but bear in mind that while northern states get fewer hours of sunlight than southern states in the winter, they get more hours of sunlight in the summer. And note that in the best of times, solar panels don’t produce electricity anywhere near half the time.
Minnesota solar panels are most productive in June and July, when they produce almost 30 percent of their potential output. Unsurprisingly, solar panels produce far less energy in November, December, and January, where production capacity factors are seldom above 10 percent.
That is pathetic. We spend billions of dollars on solar panels and transmission lines, and in winter, when we need energy the most, they work only around ten percent of the time.
Another reason for falling productivity in winter is snow cover. Even a thin layer of snow on panels can lead to significant reductions in electricity generation from solar panels, and as Ralph Jacobson, the founder of IPS Solar, has said in the past, it is too expensive to pay someone to clear snow off the panels.
Process that fact: solar panels are such a lame energy source that when it snows, it isn’t worth it to pay someone–high school kids, probably–to shovel them off.
We can see the impact of snowfall on electricity generation in the graph below. In February of 2018, solar panels produced 14.6 percent of their potential output, and in 2020, they generated 17 percent. However, in 2019, solar facilities produced just 6 percent of their potential output, because that year had one of the snowiest Februarys on record.
Why in the world would we rely on an energy source to power our grid that may work only six percent of the time? The answer, of course, is that we don’t. The same utilities that charge ratepayers billions to construct solar and wind facilities also charge them billions to build natural gas power plants–plants that actually work. And the overwhelming majority of the time, it is natural gas, not solar or wind, that is providing electricity. The unreliable (i.e., usually useless) “green” sources are just for show, and for fleecing ratepayers.
So far, most voters have been snowed by “green” energy propaganda. Or that is what they tell pollsters, anyway. But the day is coming when voters understand that they have been had by one of the biggest cons in world history.