Suggests government policy/subsidies – not free market – give wildlife conflicting, utility-scale projects an edge over distributed generation
NRG Energy CEO David Crane, lead investor in the controversial Ivanpah Solar Thermal Energy Project, discusses why giant utility-scale renewable energy projects are economically viable and what the future might look like for renewables with a reduction of government subsidies:
[We] fully recognize that the current generation of utility-sized solar and wind projects in the United States is largely enabled by favorable government policies and financial assistance. It seems likely that much of that special assistance is going to be phased out over the next few years, leaving renewable technologies to fend for themselves in the open market. We do not believe that this will be the end of the flourishing market for solar generation. We do believe it will lead to a stronger and more accelerated transition from an industry that is currently biased towards utility-sized solar plants to one that’s focused more on distributed and even residential solar solutions on rooftops and in parking lots.
We are already planning for this transition now within NRG, so that any potential decline in either the availability of utility-sized solar projects or in the attractiveness of the returns being realized on these projects, will be exceeded in aggregate by the increase in the business we are doing on smaller distributed and residential solar projects […]
This analysis suggests that distributed and residential renewable energy technologies, technologies that have less impact to wildlife and pristine public landscapes, might otherwise out-compete the giant utility-scale projects currently being promoted by government policies.
Put simply, it seems to vindicate the proposition that the Federal Government is Betting On the Wrong Solar Horse:
The United States is wasting billions of dollars of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) cash grants and loan guarantees on very large, high-cost, high-environmental-impact, transmission-dependent desert solar thermal power plants that will be obsolete before they generate a single kilowatt-hour of electricity.
A solar strategy that would have been stateof-the-art in the 1990s, prior to the advent of low-cost solar photovoltaic (PV) power, is now being executed. This is a victory for the broad government, utility, and environmental organization support that solar thermal technology has gained over the last few decades. It is also a victory for the lobbying power of this coalition over economic common sense. Solar thermal has lost the cost-effectiveness race to solar PV. The federal government has not yet absorbed the significance of this important development.