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Increasingly over the past decade both federal and state governments have given special subsidies to, provided tax advantages for and mandated the use of solar energy as a solution to environmental concerns and the need for greater domestic energy independence. A damming report from the Taxpayers Protection Alliance details the enormous cost to American’s of the government’s obsessive solar power push. A few of the tidbits are below
- A Government Accountability Office review of federal renewable energy-related initiatives for fiscal year 2010 discovered at least 345 different federal initiatives supporting solar energy. The programs are managed by nearly 20 agencies and support more than 1,500 individual projects.
- Over the past five years, the federal government spent an estimated $150 billion subsidizing solar power and other renewable energy projects.
- Preferable tax treatment given to solar and other alternative electricity initiatives cost Americans nearly $9 billion annually, according to the IRS.
- State and local governments increasingly subsidize solar energy. Personal tax credits related to solar products are available in 20 states, 18 states maintain corporate tax credit and deduction programs, and 14 states and Puerto Rico offer taxpayer-funded grants to support solar electricity.
And what as all this largesse bought? Despite the subsidies and mandates solar will make up only 0.6 percent of total U.S. electricity generation in 2015, according to the Energy Information Administration. Worse still, government efforts to promote solar energy have resulted in waste and fraud and diverted public and private resources from energy resources that hold more promise. For instance, “Government-backed solar boondoggles are rampant and include such devastating examples as the Solyndra loan, which cost taxpayers $535 million and left 1,100 employees without a job, and the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California, which, despite reaping $1.6 billion in subsidies, produces electricity at a cost three times higher than traditional power and has requested $539 million in additional direct handouts from the federal government.”
The word on renewables is not much better out of Europe. One recent report showed despite generous support that dwarfs the subsidies given to the wind industry in America, Germany’s wind farms are failing to deliver much power. The country has more than 25,000 turbines with a rated capacity of nearly 40,000 megawatts. However, over the course of 2014 they delivered just 14.8 percent of their rated capacity – or less than 6,000 megawatts, the amount of power one could get from just six coal fired or nuclear power stations. And, of course, unlike the power from the coal power or nuclear power plants, the power delivered by the wind turbines was so volatile and unpredictable that it could not be counted upon to provide baseload power.
With numbers like this, it is little wonder why windpower is quickly falling out of favor in Europe. Across the EU green energy subsidy programs have been slashed causing the rate of wind farm installations to plummet. The Financial Times reports new wind installations fell precipitously in much of Europe: by 90 per cent in Denmark; 84 per cent in Spain (Europes largest wind power market) and 75 per cent in Italy. The fact that the decline in new wind farm construction comes as subsidies have been slashed is not a coincident and shows just how “not ready for prime-time” wind power still is despite 40 years of support. Wind still can’t compete on price, and may never be able to compete on reliability with the much abused and criticized electric power staples — coal, natural gas and nuclear.