Solar power eats up land

Twice before my brother has posted about the land use required to have an extensive solar energy option. It is enormous:

[ China and Nuclear Power ] [A modern solar plant in Portugal] occupies about 0.234 square miles of land, and is expected to produce about 20 gigawatt-hours per year. That works out to an average power output of about 2.28 megawatts. How much land would we have to cover with these panels to get 200 gigawatts?
200,000 / 2.28 x 0.234 = 20,526 square miles.
That's like covering all of Massachusetts 2.5 times over.
[ Solar powered reality ] [After a comment from me quoting Steven Den Beste on the land requirements to supply enough power to replace California's gas usage--which Den Beste pegged at 525 square miles ]

According to the CIA, the USA has 4,165,110 km of paved roadway. Let's assume that the average width of a roadway is 50 feet, just a guess. Suppose that instead of paving all those streets, roads, highways and expressways we paved a big square in the middle of the desert. How big on a side would that square be?

sqrt(4165110 * 5/8*5280*50)/5280 = 157.0078

That square would only be 157 miles on a side. Think how much effort it took to pave that much. Think about how much effort it would be to cover that area with solar panels.
Now today on Watts Up With That they point out that all of that land has property taxes levied on it:
Producing 225,592 kilowatt hours of electricity in its first year of operation, a solar farm in eastern Kalamazoo Coun­ty that went online in early 2010 has exceeded expectations.

Also exceeding expecta­tions is the property tax, said Sam Field, a Kalamazoo attor­ney and one of the owners of Kalamazoo Solar.

The $27,689 tax bill for the Charleston Township prop­erty means that the owners are losing money, even when being paid a premium price of 45 cents a kilowatt hour by Consumers Energy, he said.

“That Michigan property tax burden works out to a cost of 12.3 cents per kilowatt hour,” Field said. “That amount is more than the retail value of the electricity.”
For comparison, Field re­searched the property tax for the Palisades Nuclear Plant in Covert Township along Lake Michigan. He found that the annual real and personal property taxes for Palisades are just over $12 million or .2 cents per kilowatt hour.


Anonymous said...

This debate came up before, "solar takes valuable land" blah blah... and I ran the numbers. There are no worries at all; turns out rooftops and parking lots are more than sufficient. And who minds parking in the shade?

As for the property tax issue, their tax is based on assessed value of almost $400,000/acre. THAT IS INSANE. They are taxing the RETAIL value of the solar panels. But solar is a huge capital investment (just like a nuclear reactor). Resale value is terrible because few investors want to wait for a long slow payback. It might be worth $120k, or 1/5 its current assessed value. With the tax issue, it's worth $0.

Speaking of that nuke. It recently changed hands for $380M, that's its resale value. At that price, property tax should be $18 million, it is actually $12M.

To actually BUILD that plant, well golly, we have that answer: the modern equivalent is the AP1000, and most builders are finding costs around $5.5 billion. Property tax would be $264 million. Whoops!

It only makes $600 million worth of electricity in a year.

There's the unfairness. The nuke gets assessed at 1/20 retail cost, but the solar pays full-boat.