Mathematical illiterates are celebrating New York City’s new 1.6 MW solar power project

AFP reports:

On a rooftop in the Bronx far from the skyscrapers of Manhattan, 4,760 panels soak up the winter rays. Welcome to the solar power boom in New York state.

Robert Kline, director of commercial sales for the Ross Solar Group that installed the panels, is delighted.

“It is the largest (solar) installation in the history of New York City,” he tells AFP.

The 1.6-megawatt installation on the Jetro Cash and Carry has been proudly singled out by New York governor Andrew Cuomo as a prime example of a drive to haul the state into a new dawn.

I’m not disputing the claim that this is “the largest solar installation in the history of New York City.”

However, I am disputing the claim that his is a “boom” for solar power.

The Ravenswood Generating Station is one of many power plants that provides electricity for New York. It makes its electricity by burning fossil fuels, and it produces 2,410 MW.

If we wanted to replace this one fossil fuel power plant with solar power, it would require building more than 1,500 additional solar power projects of the same size as “the largest solar installation in the history of New York City.”

If this solar power plant is a “boom,” it would take more than 1,500 additional “booms” just to be able to shut down this one fossil fuel power plant.

And even that grossly understates the situation, because the claimed power rating for those solar panels is only applicable when the sun is directly overhead, and there are no clouds.

If the sun isn’t directly overhead, its power output would be less than the rated maximum.

If the sky was cloudy, its power output would be less than the rated maximum.

And if it was night, its power output would be zero.

The solar power plant would have to have a backup power source, and that backup power source would almost certainly be… something that burned fossil fuels.

If there is ever a solar power plant in New York that uses batteries to store its sun-derived energy for use at night, and is able to reliably and continuously produce at least 1,000 MW of electricity at any and all times of the day or night, then that would indeed be a “boom” for solar power in New York.

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March 16, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , . Environmentalism, Math, Politics.

4 Comments

  1. nunya bznss replied:

    At 3pm on September 4, 1882, Edison threw the switch that would start up America’s first power plant, serving a square-mile area that included some very wealthy and influential customers: J.P. Morgan, the Stock Exchange, and the nation’s largest newspapers.These where the largest dynamos ever built. Each “Jumbo” dynamo (named after a popular circus elephant) weighed about 27 tons and had an output of 100 kilowatts — enough to power more than 1,100 lights. Each of the six dynamos was driven by a steam engine, which received steam from boilers located in another part of the plant.
    Today New York uses somewhere around 10,200 GWh. That would require 102,000,000 of those original JUMBO Dynamos.
    It took 132 years to go from that first coal burning 100 KW plant to this.
    Your argument is pointless.

    • danfromsquirrelhill replied:

      In 1883, Charles Fritts created the first working solar cell. That was just one year after Edison’s first power plant.

      So why is solar power production magnitudes less than coal power production, when solar power is only one year younger than coal power?

      Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Fritts

  2. Robo replied:

    To make your case another way, a 1.6 MW system in New York might only produce about 2,000 MWh over the course of a year with 8,760 hours. So it might be more accurately described as a 0.25MW system to compare it apples to apples with conventional generation.

    Except that a solar array is not ‘dispatchable’ (you can’t turn it on and off – it generates when the conditions are right….so you can’t really compare it to conventional generation at all.

    That’s probably the more important point here. You can’t make an apples to apples comparison. Renewables are different. Most say better. Some say worse.

  3. prkralex replied:

    This might not even produce 1.6MW, its far from reach.

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