Renewables Will Bring Golden Age Of Free Energy

Most people understand that once solar panels are paid off, the energy they provide is free.

But what about on a national level? Many haven’t really internalized the corresponding fact. The same people worry that government investment in solar, or policies that encourage it, is somehow wasting money. But solar works the same way at the national level. Once the infrastructure is paid for, the energy is free. The same with wind. It is money well spent.

A new coal plant must be paid for, too, but after that initial cost is paid, money must continue to be pumped in, day in, day out, shoveling a fresh train-car-load of coal into a furnace every 12 hours, for the next 30 years.

free energy solar power

image via Shutterstock

Some nations have invested in so much renewable power in the last few years, that their citizens will share a future golden age of free energy, starting as soon as 2020. And that investment will yield increasing dividends in the decades after that, as yet more wind and solar, now in the pipeline, gets connected.

Australia, a nation of only 20 million, has installed half a million solar arrays on homesGermany has installed 17 gigawatts (GW) of solar power on homes in the past five years. Portugal went from 2 percent solar to 15 percent by the end of 2009.  Morocco is actively implementing plans to get 42 percent of its power from solar. Citizens in all of these nations will be getting power that has no further cost, in just eight more years.

Only 1.3 GW of solar had ever been connected worldwide in 2001, but it took only eight years for that to zoom to 40 GW globally. Now there is yet another 24 GW in the pipeline, counting just five states in the U.S. alone.

Susan Kraemer enjoys writing to publicize the many great solutions for climate change that we can find if we just put our minds to it. She covers renewable policy and clean energy for CleanTechnica and GreenProphet and green building at HomeDesignFind. She recently moved home to Waiheke Island where her writing is now powered by the 80% renewable electricity that powers New Zealand.


  • Reply February 9, 2012

    executive gifts

    As a recently graduated Electrical Engineer, manyufeff other young engineers and I are only focusing in renewable energy. Oil is the fuel of the past, its time for the old generations to retire and let us make the clean energy transition faster. And as citizens of the world We should also demand our governments to invest more in Renewable Energy and less in War.

  • Reply March 6, 2012

    Tom Weatherby

    Problem is, by the time solar panels pay for themselves you’ve had to replace them 1.5 times. If the taxpayers didn’t help finance them, they would never be paid for.  All energy is renewable, even oil.  If not, why are there hydrocarbons on Titan. Oceans of methane. No dinosaurs there. No flora or fauna. So where did it come from?  Our Government should NOT be investing in any type of energy. They always screw it up. If there is potential in a product, the market place will do that job for them.  I believe we have enough energy underground to supply us for at least 500 years. Let solar, wind and other sources make it on their own. 

    • Reply March 6, 2012

      Susan Kraemer

      No, most solar installs get paid off in about a fifth of their lifetime. The other 4/5ths is free energy. Nobody has replaced the solar panels that were installed in Jimmy Carter’s era (40 some years ago) so I don’t know what experience you could be referring to with that claim that you have to “replace them 1.5 times”

    • Reply June 11, 2012

      Thomas Marren

      Problem is, by the time solar panels pay for themselves you’ve had to replace them 1.5 times.”  

      I have solar panels on my office building, with a 6 year payback period, and a 25 year warranty. How do you figure I will have to replace these 1.5 times before they pay for themselves??

      2188 Jackson Avenue, Seaford, NY. You can check on google maps, and you will see my name on the front of the building. So, could you explain this idea? 

      And, there is no evidence to suggest oil is renewable. And at the pace of globalization, the demand is going to increase sharply, faster than the supply. If you want to talk about economics, think about the prices you will see in the oil markets soon? Think about Spain the european leader in coal mining, who is now forced to buy coal from other countries because those mines have been almost exhausted, and that which remains is simply uneconomical to extract… If you don’t believe in climate change, think about pollution. Would you rather live next to a coal power plant, or a solar farm? 

  • Reply March 7, 2012

    Mike Barrett

    You are sadly naive. The energy part of solar may be free, but the land isn’t.  The cost of cleaning the cells is tiny compared to fuel, but it isn’t free.  The grid to transfer the power is the same one we pay for now.  As soon as it approaches break even, the tax breaks will become taxes paid.  (And if you think oil, coal and nuclear are going to lose their hidden massive tax breaks, you know nothing about how American politics work.)

    Further, the cost of the solar cells themselves will be paid out in bonds over their projected lifetime.  They will never reach the point of producing free energy.

    And on top of all that comes profit taken by bankers, land owners, solar cell manufacturers, and everyone else who can figure out how to muscle in.

    Unless you are a utopian socialist (which would make you even more naive), you have completely failed to understand how industry works.
    Nothing is free.  Nothing will ever come without costs.

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