Framing the Dialogue

Uncertain Returns

solar chickensMany times as I read an article I find a few sentences that capture the essence of the piece. In “Phrase-e-ology” I’ll post some thoughts followed by key phrases. As always I’ll have a link (in blue) to the original article.

The original article ran in the Lancaster Journal Online this past Sunday. The crux of the article was about how some farmers are not seeing the returns on their investments that they expected when they installed solar panels on their buildings.

Uncertain returns concern farmers who have invested in solar energy

“On a sunny day, you can see the meters on the outside of the poultry house ticking as solar radiation is converted into electricity. Inside, 60,000 hens go about their business, oblivious to the fact that their environment is being maintained without burning fossil fuel.”

“Farview Farms in Mount Joy had solar panels installed on the poultry house’s south-facing roof three years ago. He figured it was the right thing to do. “It was convenient and it didn’t interfere with any of my business,” Wolgemuth said. Back then, he had reason to believe the system could pay for itself in about seven years.”

“All those solar panels installed in the past few years created an oversupply of solar renewable energy credits…At that point, “I looked at it and wondered why I did it,” he said….And that uncertainty makes it hard for Wolgemuth to predict how long it will take for the system to pay for itself. His best estimate now is eight to 10 years, compared to the seven years he originally calculated.”

“The weather itself is another source of uncertainty. A sunny day in winter can produce more electricity than on a typical summer day when haze blocks a lot of the sun’s rays.”

 “And despite the fluctuation in credit prices, the farmers who’ve gone solar have expressed little, if any, regret to him. ‘Almost to a man, they feel like this was the right move,’ Martin said…’There’s a lot of energy management going on,’ Martin said.”

Those quotes from the article sound reasonable and probably not uncommon from a business man who has concerns about a capital investment and his return. All things considered a return on investment going from seven years to ten years is not terrible. It’s not great, heck seven years is not great, but it’s not horrible. Consider if the return on investment was NEVER. That would be horrible right? I skillfully left out this little nugget from the article until now;

“Federal and state grants paid $303,000 of the $544,000 total cost of installation. And for every 1,000 kilowatt-hours generated by the system, Wolgemuth would get a renewable energy credit to sell for a sizable payment. (Utility companies purchase the credits in order to fulfill state requirements that promote renewable energy.) Lots of other farmers and businesspeople in the county and state came to the same conclusion.”

So you and I paid for more than fifty percent of the farmer’s solar panels and what will be our return on investment? It’s a trick question as there is no return on our investment. I don’t even like to use the term investment. We had no choice. The government took our earnings and gave it to these folks. On top of that the governments force power companies to buy this overpriced electricity and pass the cost on to their customers (that would be us). To what advantage does this piracy have to the general public?

I am just not sure how an article about alternative energy can put the cost figures in the article and then ignore the implications, the waste.










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