Myths and Misconceptions of Solar Energy, Part 1

Hello, ladies and gentlemen. I'm very happy to welcome you to today's session
on the first part of the solar myths. I would like to thank the International Solar
Alliance and the Clean Energy Solutions Center for facilitating
this webinar series. Some background for
me. Before I joined Factor in 2010, I had been
director for policy and finance at the International Renewable Energy Agency, IRENA. Previously, as a [inaudible] civil
servant, I have been involved in many national and [inaudible] relations for the
promotion of renewable energy [inaudible]. This training is part of Module 6 [inaudible]
economics, [inaudible] solar energy, and focuses on debunking the solar myths. In this
lecture, we will, as always, start with a brief description and definition of what solar
myths are, and, afterwards, jump into the main body of the presentation.

Don't forget that
at the end of the presentation, you will be given the chance to test your knowledge
[inaudible]. The learning objectives, which this module
aims to provide, can be divided into two: an understanding of the myths and
misconceptions of solar energy, and an overview of the main myths around solar energy,
both solar [inaudible], or CSP, concentrated solar power, and photovoltaics. A [inaudible] of solar energy can be primarily
classified into two groups: those which may be legitimate to address, and those based
on misconceptions about the technology. For the legitimate concerns, even those around
energy, can support the mitigation of adverse environmental and social impacts originated
from conventional energy production and consumption. It is still important to pinpoint that very
large-scale deployment may also generate negative impacts
on [inaudible]. Those impacts can vary
significantly, not only around technology [inaudible] concentrated solar power, but
also according to geographic location.

[Inaudible] decentralized [inaudible] photovoltaic
installation may face more [inaudible] in controlling some impact [inaudible] those
related to end-of-life treatment of equipment and components. Misconceptions or myths. A misconception or myth is a view or an opinion
made based on false understanding or interpretation of
[inaudible]. The basis of this group of
[inaudible] can be further distinguished between an intentional misinterpretation and
intentional misinformation. An intentional misinterpretation is largely
a result of knowledge gaps, which may be [inaudible] when
solar energy is not communicated properly to the public due to the [inaudible]
in quality or amount of information. People
may believe low-quality information from unprofessional and unreliable sources, which
may look relatively easy or convenient to understand [inaudible] being [inaudible]
communicated in an unclear or in [inaudible] complex way to the audience so that they
cannot or are not willing to take it.

Misconceptions also originate from intentional
misinformation, which may be provided by vested interests who create poorly rooted
claims and [inaudible] that mislead scientific evidence. They may [inaudible] of evidence
while not showing a full spectrum of facts. Extensive efforts for proliferating [inaudible]
claims via different media can create [inaudible] imbalance inefficiently. The main body
of this lecture is divided into two parts. We will begin with the myths about concentrated
solar power, and continue with myths [inaudible]. Myths. Concentrated solar power is too expensive,
and it will always be so. The fact is
that prices for electricity produced by today's CSP plants fill the range from 12 to 16
[inaudible] per kilowatt depending on the irradiation level, and, most importantly,
on the financing conditions. A remarkable cost reduction, around 50 percent,
has been achieved by CSP since 2007, with only approximately
4.5 GW installed worldwide. Compared
with the current situation of wind, 350 GW, and PV 130 GW at the end of 2017, one can
easily figure out the real potential for cost reduction in the next years of CSP plants.

Although CSP plants are more [inaudible]-intensive
than traditional fossil fuel plants, their operating costs, once connected to the
grid, are low [inaudible] because sunshine is
free. They will continually decrease over the coming
years to the [inaudible] technology development. The result will be that cost optimization,
economies of scale, and after deployment of large plants around 250 MW,
are expected to further reduce the costs below [inaudible] by 2020. This means that solar thermal electricity,
or concentrated solar power, will be competitive against coal
and gas [inaudible] before 2025. However,
as today, the cost of electricity produced by CSP plants is lower than the one generated
by currently-announced nuclear power plants.

In other words, concentrated solar power
[inaudible] technologies are much more economically efficient compared with new fossil
fuel plants from their respective [inaudible] over the lifetime of the plant. Myth. CSP plants are an intermittent way of generating
electricity. The fact is that CSP
plants are today, in most cases, equipped with a heat storage system. During sunny hours,
the collected solar energy is used not only to provide steam to the turbine but, also,
to charge the thermal storage tank. Then, after sunset or during cloudy periods,
the energy can be drawn from the storage tank to deliver
energy on demand. Normally, the solar
[inaudible] on the tanks are designed to cover four to seven hours of operation, but there
is already a reference plant, [inaudible] in Spain, that can produce electricity continuously
during the summer season, day and night, just like [inaudible] nuclear power plants.

a system perspective, due to its [inaudible] thermal storage capability, solar thermal
energy, or CSP offers significant advantage over other renewable energy sources. For the
[inaudible] with biomass or natural gas [inaudible] for delivery of solar thermal
electricity to markets [inaudible] operate. Myth. CSP is not a mainstream energy source in Europe. According to the 2014 edition
of International Energy Agency Technology Roadmap for CSP, the estimated production
of CSP reach about 1,000 TWh by 2030 and 4,380 TWh by 2050, thus providing 4
percent of the electricity mix in Europe, and 11 percent of global electricity mix. In other
words, this will be a significant share in the energy mix. As we have seen in the previous
chapter [inaudible] 2017, the main markets concentrated solar power were Spain and the
United States of America, where now new markets are moving into regions with higher
number of solar hours during the year.

With only 4.5 GW in 2017, CSP technologies
were relatively new to other energy technologies. However, CSP has a considerable
potential in [inaudible] electricity generation. In a small part of North Africa and the
Middle East [inaudible] could meet the electricity demand of Europe, the Middle East,
and the North African countries at the new market now for concentrated solar power, in
particularly Morocco. There is also great potential for CSP plants
[inaudible] in southern Europe. For example, in Spain, there exists today
50 plants with a total of 2.3 GW connected to the grid currently producing
[inaudible] per year, so 50 represent already 3
percent of electricity in Spain. Assuming an important capital contribution
and the contribution of energy storage, international
[inaudible] suggests that CSP could become [inaudible] competitive for [inaudible] peak
loads within the current decade. [Inaudible]
solar thermal electric and increase price in not only fossil fuel but also CO2, which
will bring these technologies mainstream. Myth. Support programs for CSP deployment are expensive
and inefficient for the economy of the countries.

The fact is that CSP investment creates more
than ten times more employment and social wealth per MW than
the same investment in fossil fuel power generation. Investment in CSP plants brings high macroeconomic
benefits to countries that go for it. It is high local economic content that [inaudible]
CSP industry brings great contribution to the country GDP
during both the construction and operation of the plants. In terms of [inaudible], the CSP industry
has made the jump from manufacturing and engineering to construction
[inaudible] through Europe and Asia and North America, and will continue doing so
as the global CSP market is set to reach up to
150 billion [inaudible] per year according to International Energy Agency Technology
Roadmap for [inaudible] power.

Based on the figures estimated by the National
Energy Agency, from 40 to 57 billion [inaudible]
will be invested [inaudible] between 2015 and
2030, creating 275,000 to 420,000 jobs worldwide. Up to 150,000 qualifying jobs are
[inaudible] alone in Europe [inaudible] covered in a wide spectrum of [inaudible]
activities related to engineering, development of financing, manufacturing of components
‒ of reflectors, [inaudible] ‒ construction, [inaudible] installation, and commissioning
[inaudible], and also creating [inaudible] jobs. In addition to such varied activities, the
CSP industry will, in this case, also create [inaudible] jobs, research, training, transport,
information and communication activities, and [inaudible]. The returns of all kinds of taxed incomes
[inaudible] unemployment subsidies, [inaudible] inputs, [inaudible]
CO2 emission rights [inaudible] contemplated timeframe along the lifetime of a plant higher
than [inaudible], but decreasing premiums to [inaudible] prices. A report from the National Renewable Energy
Laboratory estimates that investing in 100 MW of concentrated solar
power generates 4,000 [inaudible] job years, plus 94 permanent jobs, and $628 million
in economic output compared to [inaudible] jobs, [inaudible] permanent jobs,
and 47 million economic output for an identical investment in natural gas-fueled
power plant.

Myth. CSP plants disrupt landscape. The fact: CSP power plants tend to be located
at abandoned industrial sites, on rural land
and in deserts to lower the impact of land use
and land disturbance. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For [inaudible] CSP
[inaudible] project, and [inaudible] in the industry [inaudible]. All this may not seem the
same. All this is, again, largely a matter of [inaudible]
opinion and individual taste. [Inaudible] plants are difficult to be perceived
[inaudible] landscape [inaudible] and not [inaudible] over a large area.

The [inaudible] CSP power plants can be seen
from far away, a little similar to a lighthouse. [Inaudible] the view of [inaudible] concentrated
[inaudible] is appreciated by most people. Myth. CSP power plants need too much land. The fact is that the electricity yield of
solar technologies per unit of land is in the order
of magnitude of other technologies. Moreover, CSP makes great use of the [inaudible]
a relatively modest amount of desert land will be enough to supply our planet with
energy. According to a study performed in
2003, 2,400,000 [inaudible] per year using one percent of each of the [inaudible]. Myth. CSP plants need much water. The fact is that CSP plants require less water
per hectare than agricultural activities, as this
was assessed in the south of Spain.

with conventional [inaudible] or nuclear technology, this statement does not hold true. It
is true that whatever sources are often [inaudible] can be used for cooling the condenser
of the steam cycle. Solar fields can be also integrated in [inaudible]
thermal power plants, coal or gas, reducing immediately gas consumption
and emissions [inaudible]. Moreover,
solar thermal electric power [inaudible] is possible and makes sense on many sides. Solar
fields can be designed with [inaudible] electricity generation [inaudible] to produce high-
temperature heat to be used for industrial heating, production of synthetic fuels,
[inaudible]. The combined production of electricity heat
[inaudible] is of particular interest in [inaudible] where solar thermal
electric can provide electricity for [inaudible] or heat for [inaudible]. Myth. CSP [inaudible] technology and, thus, not
reliable. CSP plants have proven their
reliability since the '80s, as the first commercial-scale application, the Solar Energy
Generating System, with nine separate sites, continues to operate and produce 300 MW
of installed capacity, enough to power nearly a quarter of a million homes at peak

In other words, CSP plants have a lifetime
of more than 30 years with minimum performance losses. [Inaudible] MW were installed in Spain since
2007 at 50 [inaudible] plant locations, and provide reliable
electricity much preferable to the [inaudible]. The maturity and reliability of the huge [inaudible]
energy since 2008 [inaudible] of evidence with daily charting,
and this charting [inaudible] without any incidents. For many days during the summer 2014, solar
thermal electric plants supply more than 10 percent of the demand. On many days of the summer 2014, the total
daily contribution was about 5 percent of the demand
in Spain, with the same reliability as any other conventional source. Taking into account the great potential macroeconomic
benefits and the contribution of renewable energy source integration, solar thermal
electric [inaudible] further support in the coming years. CSP industry is failing ‒ myth. The fact is that CSP industry is rather booming

Since 2010, generation of solar thermal electricity
from CSP plants has grown strongly worldwide. According to International Energy Agency,
the prospects for the development of CSP plants are extremely
high. The forecast of CSP plant production
could reach about 100 TWh by 2013, and almost 4,500 TWh at 2050 on a world level,
thus, providing 4 percent of the electricity mix in Europe and 11 percent of global
electricity mix. We have seen how in the last two years, the
market has expanded from an initial ten-year phase where all the plants
concentrated either in Spain or in North America, and, in the last two years, the number
of countries with new CSP plants has increased in Australia, China, India, Turkey,
United Arab Emirates, [inaudible] and South Africa, to mention a few. Today, the market has reached 6.2 GW. Myth. CSP is very complex technology. The fact is that CSP power plant is not that
complex, although CSP plants are like mechanical watches with many parts and
components to be optimized.

The electrical part of CSP plants uses common,
simple conventional power generation parts and devices
‒ just the solar field is specific. Myth. CSP plants endanger wildlife. The fact is that there is no case about endangering
wildlife at all, and the news all over the country related to bird deaths are exaggerated. However, recently, there seems to be some
misleading and exaggerated news in the United States about bird deaths associated
with concentrated solar power plants, especially the story about a new solar [inaudible]
in California killing up to 28,000 birds per year [inaudible], which is based on a
number of uncertain assumptions. In fact, the
power plant reported 321 total avian fatalities between January and June 2014, in which
[inaudible] were related to [inaudible], thus falling short of the estimate in those criticized
[inaudible] energy [inaudible]. In 2015, [inaudible] more than 6,000 birds
estimated over the course of a year. In reality, the impact of CSP or other renewable
energy sources and power generation on bird deaths has been largely

So, what do these numbers
mean compared to other sources of bird deaths? For example, in the U.S. every year, cats
kill between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds. Windows, nearly 1 billion. Cars, some 60 million. The [inaudible] nearly 8 million. If killing birds has to be avoided at all
costs, then windows, pets, cars, and roads should be [inaudible]. Moreover, this may happen only
[inaudible], which is less than 10 percent of [inaudible] CSP power in the world, and
it is not the case for power [inaudible].

Myth. Countries may be better off starting a CSP
program later. The fact is that a support
program for CSP would provide immediate positive returns to the economy of any given
country, in terms of GDP increase, employment, and taxes, right from the starting up of
the construction phase, while the first premiums will be paid some years later. [Inaudible]
solar thermal electric [inaudible] association has performed simulations for different
countries, which shows that their returns to the economy will be always greater than
the corresponding premiums. The [inaudible] is also to be taken into consideration. The
[inaudible] is the time when the support program ends and the cost of the electricity
produced will be [inaudible] without necessity of repowering the unit.

Besides this, there
[inaudible] during the construction of the plant will be increasing with the time
[inaudible] CSP programs. Therefore, an ambitious country can reach
a point where new CSP plants can be deployed without any further
[inaudible] support. This means that the
country that has started [inaudible] earlier will be in a position [inaudible] further
benefits by building the plants with [inaudible] close
to 80 percent, while others may start later the
CSP program but with most of the supplies still coming from [inaudible]. Initially, such
countries with [inaudible] CSP program will no doubt [inaudible] an additional
[inaudible] advantage [inaudible] neighboring countries. Myth. CSP companies, along the whole value chain,
are making huge due to incentive measures ‒ feed-in-tariffs or feed-in-premiums. The fact is that as CSP plants have high
CAPEX, most of them were financed with a high leverage so that the banks are the
entities that currently make most profit from the CSP deployment. [Inaudible] the
companies [inaudible] investment [inaudible] for building up manufacturing units for
specific CSP components [inaudible] for construction of the plants.

In Spain, the profit
and loss accounts of the plants [inaudible] is so very small positive results until they
have to face [inaudible] cuts in the income [inaudible]
of the plant [inaudible] several shortcomings [inaudible] legislation related
to investment investor protection. We will
now address the second part of the main body of the presentation, which is devoted to the
myths about solar for the [inaudible]. Myth. The space requirement of a solar panel system
is too high. The fact is that it is not
necessary to provide large contiguous areas for a solar panel system. The advantage of
photovoltaic solar energy is the possibility of decentralization. Roofs, house fronts, noise
protection walls, canopies of traffic routes, et cetera, can be used; therefore, there are
no area problems. The average household consumes about 10,400
KWh per year, and we assume 250 [inaudible] solar panel [inaudible]
we can use the high and low [inaudible] to calculate how many solar panels are needed
[inaudible]. Thus, the typical home
[inaudible] will need between 28 and 34 solar panels [inaudible] 100 percent of the
energy use. Myth.

The output of solar power PV system is not
sufficient for the large power consumers. The fact is that with a decentralized power
supply, a large number of solar PV plants provide the required power. Photovoltaic solar power can be collected
[inaudible] through the power grid and then can be provided with sufficient power
[inaudible]. Myth. The conditions for solar PV plants are good
only in southern countries, where the sun shines sufficiently. The fact is that also in Central Europe and
North America, the conditions for solar PV plants are good. Photovoltaics work both with [inaudible] and
diffuse sun. Solar plants use light, not heat, to generate
electricity. In fact, when the solar
panels are cooler, they are better able to [inaudible] electricity. [Inaudible] is one of the
leaders for solar PV capacity [inaudible]. Myth.

Solar power is worthless because it only occurs
when the sun shines. The fact is
that solar PV systems provide electricity not only in direct sunlight but, also, from
a bright sky. Even during the day, there is a high demand
on the electricity grid [inaudible]. Photovoltaic solar power, which is [inaudible]
utility grid [inaudible] to cover the peak loads [inaudible] heavy usage of electricity
in peak consumption periods will be more expensive. It is not just a matter of replacing conventional
power plants with photovoltaic solar power, but [inaudible] emissions. [Inaudible] solar power, which is fed into
the grid, saves around [inaudible], depending on the
country. With a [inaudible] conventional
power plant, there is an energy [inaudible] renewable energy sources. Some provide
[inaudible] mainly on summer days, but from the [inaudible] half of the year. Batteries
and [inaudible] in the [inaudible] because the storage should [inaudible] without the
sun. Myth. Solar panels need a solar tracker system to
follow the sun during the day. The fact
is that the solar panels are always oriented to the sun, which coincides with the hours
of higher solar radiation. Nevertheless, installing a solar tracker will
increase the power output.

Myth. High environmental impact by chlorine chemistry
and problems in disposal. The
fact is that photovoltaic solar [inaudible] consist of nontoxic silicon, the second most
widely used element on the earth's surface. Chlorine is only used when cleaning silicon. This takes place in closed cycles. The finished product, the photovoltaic solar
cell, does not include chlorine compounds. Myth. Solar PV systems cause additional electric
smog. The fact is that electric smog is a
collective term for high-frequency electromagnetic waves. However, electromagnetic
waves are not created through direct current. Photovoltaics solar cells produce direct
current, but this current is just in the solar power inverter converted into the standard
alternative current. Anyone who wants to protect themselves from
electromagnetic waves should [inaudible] of the solar PV system
[inaudible], and, from there, the direct current will be converted into alternative current. [Inaudible] solar PV panels [inaudible]. Myth. Photovoltaic-generated electricity is more
costly than electricity generated from fossil-fueled or nuclear-powered electricity.

Photovoltaics, unlike other power
generation, can only survive with subsidies. The fact is that the rapid deployment of solar
PV, working in combination with high learning rates ‒ for every doubling of cumulative
installed capacity PV module, costs decline by 20 to 22 percent ‒ has led to dramatic
cost declines in the last ten years. Crystalline silicon PV module prices have
fallen by more than 80 percent since 2010, driving reductions
in installed costs. Utility-scale solar PV
projects can now produce electricity that is competitive with other grid supply options
without financial support. Myth. Solar cells require more energy for their
production than they generate. The fact is
that under the most trying conditions, it takes no more than three years of operation
for solar cells to pay back the energy that goes
into making them. As they will last for many
decades, their energy payback is extremely short. Myth. Solar panels will cause the roof to leak,
deteriorate, or collapse. The fact is that
solar panels actually protect and preserve the portion of the roof they cover.

If there is
ever a problem with the roof that needs to be repaired, panels can easily be removed. Most solar panels are not attached directly
to the roof itself but, rather, to a mounted railing system. Myth. Solar panels need constant maintenance. The fact is that photovoltaic solar panels
are manufactured to be outdoors and withstand adverse weather conditions for many
years. Its manufacture is strong, and, for this reason,
the manufacturers offer guarantees of many years on the panels. Maintenance is minimal and will be limited
to clean dust and dirt from the surface of the solar panel
once a year, and check that the solar cables are still working. Concluding remarks. We can now conclude that vested interest from
the conventional energy companies has fed citizens with misinformation
about solar energy technologies. Myths about solar energy persist due to the
efforts of the conventional industry to reinforce these myths, the complexity of the
topic not always easy for the citizen and the
lack of a strategy from the solar industry to communicate better.

Myths on solar energy
are related with many aspects: reliability, economic, environmental concerns, et cetera. There are facts to debunk these myths. Fourth, [inaudible] legitimate concerns have
been addressed by the solar community by applying
good practices to reduce potential damages. Up to this point, we came today [inaudible]
module on solar myths, and would like to thank you for your attention [inaudible]
you are invited to test your understanding of the contents in the following [inaudible]..

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