29 Apr 2011

Solar subsidies to farmers?

Let's connect the dots:
  • "The California Assembly passed a bill that would oblige state utilities to get a third of their energy from renewable sources by 2020." Governor Brown signed this update on earlier, similar laws.
  • Farmers and others are setting up big projects to meet this artificial boost in demand.
The first dot is an artificial increase in demand for renewable power. Note that this requirement of utilities does NOT apply to customer-sourced renewable power.*

The second dot belongs to the beneficiaries of big new projects for renewables. By current statistics, total capacity is about 63,000 MW. Of this, 420 solar projects have a capacity of 20,600 (about 30%) and 300 wind projects have a capacity of 23,700 (about 35%).

So we can see that current and future conditions will favor solar and wind projects that will need LOTS of space from people who own land. These facts lead me to the conclusion that farmers with useless land (due to loss in fertility or water or salting) are going to benefit from this government mandate. Seems like another case of baptists (environmentalists) helping out the bootleggers (unsuccessful farmers) via government subsidies.

Bottom Line: "Do the right thing" regulations that mandate behavior generate money for special interests.

H/Ts to DL and DW

* For a comprehensive overview of solar in the southwest, read this Miller-McCune article, which helpfully points out that rooftop solar can be more efficient than huge arrays in remote places.FYI, I'm NOT a fan of feed-in tariffs to promote solar. They are the reason why Germany (NOT a sunny place) is covered in solar (is Jersey far behind?). Better to price carbon into ALL power sources and then let market forces determine where and how to install solar. But THAT solution will not please lobbyists and special interests :(