As sent in 2016 to Hon. David Eggen, Minister of Education, by an anonymous Alberta Professional Engineer.
Installing solar panels on our schools is probably a good plan as students should be aware of the photovoltaic production of emission-free electricity. But students should be given information about the financial implications of renewable energy. In Alberta, our coal power plants produce electricity for ~2 cents per kWh. The October 19, 2016 newspaper article [in the Financial Post] regarding Kingston Solar described a 100 MW project costing over $600 million with a purchase power agreement paying a Feed in Tariffs (FIT) of 45 cents per kWh.
Students must be told that solar power will significantly increase the cost of electricity in Alberta and as adults they will be looking a larger electricity power bills. FIT is one way to finance solar electricity and the other option is to provide capital financial subsidies for solar projects. But capital cost subsidies will become part of Alberta’s long-term debt and as adults, students will face increased provincial taxation to pay off that debt.
Solar, after nuclear, is the most capital-intensive renewable energy with an average capacity factor of less than 15%. Alberta wind power (see AESO 2015 report) has an average capacity factor around 30% – double that of solar. Alberta should not finance and install major solar projects that only [produce power] 15% of the time. If we must go into debt, nuclear power at 100% capacity factor would be the better long-term investment, providing our transmission lines are capable of moving power about the province.
It is well-known that Ontario’s experience with renewable energy has significantly increased the cost of electricity for the province. While financial malfeasance is not on the table, the Ontario public is pushing back against the government’s renewable energy costs.
Major solar power expenditures could/would be a huge financial mistake for Alberta.
P.Eng. (Life Member)