Solar Farms: Is the Cost Worth the Benefit?

Solar farms may seem like a great opportunity, one that even might breathe new economic life into a community, but do the benefits really offset the costs?

Per the Temple Daily Telegram, residents in the town of Rogers are unhappy with new road damage attributable to building of a 5,000-acre solar farm scheduled to go online later this year.

Bell County Commissioner Bill Schumann cited the damage as due to “a constant flow of trucks delivering rock and solar panels.”

“A solar farm usually has 4,000 to 5,000 trucks make deliveries during the construction process,” he said. “Trucks are tearing up every road they are on delivering supplies to the 5 Wells Solar Plant near Rogers.”

According to Schumann, the 5 Wells plant is one of at least five solar farms either under construction or in the planning process in the northern or eastern portions of Bell County.

“Another project, Big Elm near Oenaville, is under way, and roads are being damaged in that area as well,” he said.

He additionally noted, however, that solar companies are contractually required to return roads to their original condition, but such restoration only occurs upon the farm’s completion.

As these developments aren’t always warmly welcomed into communities, renewable energy benefits vs. the cost to (or of) your friends, neighbors and families will factor into some situations.

Dave Walsh, former President/CEO of Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems, is an energy consultant warning of growing capacity issues as the federal government mandates the replacement of continuous duty power sources (i.e., coal plants) with part-time renewables like solar and wind.

Unlike continuous duty energy which is controlled by man, renewables are controlled by nature. Per Walsh, renewables run (on average) 22 percent of the day.

Continuous duty electrical sources provide the uninterruptible, quality electricity needed to support the lifestyle to which Americans have become accustomed. Renewables do not offer comparable electricity generation. Our current way of life is further threatened in areas experiencing significant population increases which add to power consumption demands.

On-demand (continuous) sources also provide the reliable energy used by manufacturing and other commercial entities to maintain functional economic activity. Again, renewables alone – at this point in time – cannot match current consumption levels.

The cost of renewables could be life as you know it. Are we that confident the benefit is worth this cost?

And solar is not cheap – especially for taxpayers. The current federal administration recently announced a new $45 million initiative to “boost domestic solar manufacturing.” While domestic manufacturing is always preferential to foreign, these dollars are minimal (and likely some CCP decoupling theatre) after the nearly $370 billion designated for climate change and clean energy initiatives (such as solar and wind power) in the administration’s Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.

But subsidies don’t end here. Besides helping to fund the manufacturing end, taxpayers also get to fund solar users. What appears to be an “equity intitiative” was announced earlier this summer:

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched a $7 billion grant competition through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda to increase access to affordable, resilient, and clean solar energy for millions of low-income households. Residential distributed solar energy will lower energy costs for families, create good-quality jobs in communities that have been left behind, advance environmental justice, and tackle the climate crisis. The Solar for All competition, which was created by the Inflation Reduction Act’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF), will expand the number of low-income and disadvantaged communities primed for residential solar investment by awarding up to 60 grants to states, territories, Tribal governments, municipalities, and eligible nonprofits to create and expand low-income solar programs that provide financing and technical assistance, such as workforce development, to enable low-income and disadvantaged communities to deploy and benefit from residential solar.

Money is tight. Inflation is shrinking the value of your hard-earned dollars. Are the costs of these subsidies worth the theoretical benefits?

And as more continuous duty generators go offline, reliance on renewables will likely create routine warnings like this from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT):

Effective Today, August 24, from 3 p.m. – 10 p.m. CT. 

(Austin, TX) – Due to low wind-power generation and high demand, operating reserves for ERCOT are expected to be low for several hours this afternoon into the evening. As a result, ERCOT is asking Texans to conserve electricity use, if safe to do so. This appeal for conservation is in effect today, August 24 from 3 p.m. – 10 p.m. CT.

The release also addresses the need for usage reduction. Of most interest, the notations regarding wind and solar.

Why the Request to Reduce Usage? 

  • Extreme Heat. Continued statewide extreme temperatures today.
  • Record Demand. Texas continues to experience near-record demand due to the heat.
  • Wind. Wind generation is forecasted to be low this afternoon during peak demand time and does not increase until very late in the evening.
  • Solar. Solar generation declines into the evening hours, before completely going offline at sunset.
  • Switchable Capacity. Independent System Operators (ISOs) in other states are going through similar extreme heat conditions and have asked for switchable generation resource capacity back to assist their regions. These switchable generation resources are within the primary control of other ISOs.

Renewables. They may not generate a lot of reliable power, but they do have the potential to generate a great degree of pain. So is the cost worth the benefit?

Lou Ann Anderson worked in central Texas talk radio as both a host and producer and currently hosts Political Pursuits: The Podcast. Her tenure as Watchdog Wire–Texas editor involved covering state news and coordinating the site’s citizen journalist network. As a past Policy Analyst with Americans for Prosperity–Texas, Lou Ann wrote and spoke on a variety of issues including the growing issue of probate abuse in which wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney are used to loot assets from intended heirs or beneficiaries.

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