There’s nothing wrong with solar energy, but government officials (like Gov. Rendell and Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger) shouldn’t mislead the public to drum up support for taxpayer funding of these projects.
While Secretary Hanger claims, “the cost of solar power is plummeting,” he never mentions that the industry is heavily reliant on government assistance to exist. And even with the significant subsidies the industry gets, solar panels are a financial investments flop — not a net “savings” as Gov. Rendell touts.
Take for example, Central County’s Bellefonte High School, one of the state’s solar grant recipients. The high school received $1.8 million from the state to underwrite the $5.9 million cost of installing solar panels, which are expected to generate 40% of the schools electricity. The school uses about 3 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity annually, at 10.11 cents per kWh (the average commercial price in Pennsylvania) — that means a cost of $303,300. If the solar panels provide 40% of the schools electricity, as expected, it will save $121,320 a year.
According to Secretary Hanger these solar panels have a 25-year life, which means these panels will stop working before the school ever recoups its investments costs. In fact, electricity prices would have to nearly double for the high school not to lose in the deal.
Solar energy will not reduce electricity costs, as has been frequently implied, and mandating utility companies purchase more of their electricity from solar energy will drive electricity prices in Pennsylvania up.