More Solar Jobs Is A Curse, Not A Blessing

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Paul Driessen via The Mises Institute,

Citing U.S. Department of Energy data, the New York Times recently reported that the solar industry employs far more Americans than wind or coal: 374,000 in solar versus 100,000 in wind and 160,000 in coal mining and coal-fired power generation. Only the natural gas sector employs more people: 398,000 workers in gas production, electricity generation, home heating and petrochemicals.

This is supposed to be a good thing, according to the Times. It shows how important solar power has become in taking people out of unemployment lines and giving them productive jobs, the paper suggests.

Indeed, the article notes, California had the highest rate of solar power jobs per capita in 2016, thanks to its “robust renewable energy standards and installation incentives” (ie, mandates and subsidies).

In reality, it’s not a good thing at all, and certainly not a positive trend. In fact, as Climate Depot and the Washington Examiner point out — citing an American Enterprise Institute study — the job numbers actually underscore how wasteful, inefficient and unproductive solar power actually is.

That is glaringly obvious when you look at the amounts of energy produced per sector. (This tally does not include electricity generated by nuclear, hydroelectric and geothermal power plants.)

  • 398,000 natural gas workers = 33.8% of all electricity generated in the United States in 2016
  • 160,000 coal employees = 30.4 % of total electricity
  • 100,000 wind employees = 5.6% of total electricity
  • 374,000 solar workers = 0.9% of total electricity

It’s even more glaring when you look at the amount of electricity generated per worker. Coal generated an incredible 7,745 megawatt-hours of electricity per worker; natural gas 3,812 MWH per worker; wind a measly 836 MWH for every employee; and solar an abysmal 98 MWH per worker.

In other words, producing the same amount of electricity requires one coal worker, two natural gas workers — 12 wind industry employees or 79 solar workers.

Even worse, whereas coal and gas electricity is cheap, affordable, and available virtually 100% of the time — wind and solar are expensive, intermittent, unreliable, and available only 15–30% of the time, on an annual basis. Wind and solar electricity is there when it’s there, not necessarily when you need it.

In truth, about the only thing solar and wind companies do well is collect billions of dollars in subsidies from taxpayers and billions of dollars in much higher electricity rates from consumers. And when you look at the overall picture, solar and wind power generation is far worse than this.

Land. Wind and solar require vastly more acreage. Modern coal or gas-fired power plants use roughly 300 acres to generate 600 megawatts nearly 100% of the time. The 600-MW Fowler Ridge wind farm in Indiana covers 50,000 acres and generates electricity about 20% of the year. Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base solar panels generate a trivial 14 MW 22% of the time from 140 acres; getting 600 MW 22% of the time from such panels would require 6,000 acres.

Backup power. Because wind and solar power generation is random and intermittent, it must be backed up by reliable coal or gas power plants that actually do 80% of the work. So we must build both renewable systems and fossil fuel systems.

Transmission lines. Coal, gas and nuclear plants can be located just a few miles from cities. Wind and solar facilities are often 100–200 miles from cities, and thus require ultra-long transmission lines.

Raw materials. All those wind turbines, solar panels, backup power plants and transmission lines require huge amounts of concrete, steel, copper, fiberglass, rare earth metals and other resources. Ores must be dug out of the ground, processed into usable raw materials, and turned into finished components.

If we relied just on coal and gas power, we wouldn’t need all the land and raw materials (and energy to process them) required for hundreds of wind turbines and thousands of solar panels.

Environmental and human rights impacts. The United States has essentially banned mining for rare earth and other metals, so we import them from other countries. Rare earth metals for wind turbines and solar panels come from the Baotou region of China/Mongolia, where environmental and worker health and safety standards and conditions are horrendous — leaving sick workers and ecological degradation.

High electricity costs. Even with all the hidden taxpayer subsidies, electricity from wind and solar is typically twice as expensive as from conventional sources. That affects family and business budgets. Energy-intensive hospitals and factories face soaring energy cost increases that result in layoffs and plant closures. Studies in Britain, Germany and Spain found that every wind and solar job created resulted in two to four jobs lost in other sectors of the economy that must buy expensive wind or solar electricity.

Wildlife and habitats. Solar panels blanket vast acreage, preventing plants from growing under them and reducing wildlife habitats and populations. Wind turbines are notorious for killing eagles, hawks, other birds and bats — though the actual death tolls are hidden by wind companies and government agencies, which also exempt Big Wind companies from endangered species and other wildlife protection laws.

Climate change. Once we factor in the redundant energy systems, long transmission lines, raw materials required to build all of them, and energy required for mining, processing, manufacturing, transportation, construction and maintenance, wind and solar bring no reductions in carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, even if these gases now drive climate change (which they don’t), wind and solar bring no climate benefits. They are all pain, for no gain.

Even with all of this special treatment, Suniva just became the latest solar company to file for bankruptcy. And now it says it and other U.S. solar companies will totally disappear unless the government immediately imposes tariffs on all solar cells and modules imported from anywhere outside the USA.

Wind and solar are simply a bad deal for consumers, workers and the environment.

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jeff montanye's picture

oh hell the government said different races or same sexes couldn't marry, and no one could get a divorce, not to mention a rubber or an abortion.

now look at this rabbit warren.

Recriminator's picture

Whether it's Electricity costs, drilling for Oil and Gas - or just plain Capital Investment, there is an Accounting term called AIC (All in cost).

After all government perks and incentives are eliminated, Wind and Solar cost 300-500 % MORE than fossil fuels.

If that's what certain groups of citizens want, and they don't mind greatly increased Electricity bills, go for it.

BUT, just like Environmental BS, please just TELL THE TRUTH ! ! ! 

silverer's picture

Take my friend Larry, on the other side of town as an example of a residential installation. He covered his roof with solar panels four years ago. "I don't have a monthly electric bill", he told me. "But there is no payback. You can't sell the extra power, they don't want it." And he added that "It will take at least 35 years for me to break even." So this is what the guy told me that had panels installed on his house and wrote and signed the check and gets a monthly statement from the power company. Keep in mind you don't go off the grid, so you still pay all the federal and other taxes connected to your regular electric company bill. He's either totally full of shit or not. You can now post any comment you like, and say if you think he's totally full of shit or not, or maybe half full of shit, or even more shit than you thought. Whatever.

just the tip's picture

i don't know about the "they don't want it" part.  they will take the extra power, they just don't have to pay you for it.  only a few states have laws that require the utility to pay for the excess generation.  prolly arizona and colorado.  you are right about all the monthly taxes and the utility still charges a monthly maintenance fee.  i don't know about the thirty five years.  more like twenty five years i would think.  maybe closer to thirty.

jeff montanye's picture

of course the power companies don't want to pay for it and want to keep sending you a bill.  did the too big to jail banks want to pay for the trillions the fed gave them to save them?  hell no.  they didn't get to where they are by being that stupid.

you have to make them.  like teddy roosevelt made the food and drug industry clean up their act.  better people elected to represent you (us) would seem the place to start.

rejected's picture

My solar installation cost about $25,000. I reap about 300-400kw per month IF SUNNY otherwise about 150-200kw.

I will never, ever break even. $6-8,000 every 10-12 years for batteries.

They have come in handy for power outages and I live in a hurricane zone. If the panels aren't blown away it may help after a hurricane.Otherwise,,, useless.

I put them in as a sort of hobby and got a bit carried away. 

Without those federale subsidies those things would never get installed.


giorgioorwell's picture

Pffft...Sorry it sounds like you purchased those way too early and spent way too much  The costs continues to drop and most people who can't afford that kind of an outlay, don't buy them anymore, they get SolarCity, Vivint or Sunrun like company to install, the company owns the panels and you purchase the electric and a guaranteed lower rate, and they keep the difference of the net-metering rate the utility pays for the extra power generated.

I have panels, didn't cost me a penny, and I consistantly generate more power than I use, and pay nothing on my electric bills.

Solio's picture

The last line that you wrote, the same goes for nuke power.

jeff montanye's picture

touche.  and just a tad of those externalities (fukushima) and talk about a negative salvage value (every single one of them).

Proofreder's picture

Very amusing with all the uneducated comments - good to hear from an actual experienced person - thanks.

Our family decided to try solar 1n 2009 to take advantage of a nearly 65% discount due to federal and state tax rebates - government lets you keep more of what you earned.  Actual out of pocket was under $20k and the ground-mount install labor was mostly a neighborhood effort; much like a barn raising.  Our system is battery-free; grid-tied using panel-mounted micro-inverters - 7500 watts of 220v direct output in full noontime sun with no batteries necessary - the grid is my co-pilot (battery).

Here are the facts:  system has consistently produced clean power, every month, reflected in the power bill - using a net meter, we can see daily and even hourly indications just how much power is being sent to the grid or used in the residence.  Bottom line is the system produces an average of $130 worth of electricity monthly and paid for itself in the fall of 2016 with federal and state tax rebates figured in over several years.  There is no maintenance other than a good cleaning every 6 months and the usual leaf and snow removal.  Panels are guaranteed to produce 95% of rated power for 20 years and then slowly degrade for another 30 years.  Actual experience is that no panels have failed and one micro-inverter was replaced under warranty.  We have not spent a single penny purchasing sunlight for fuel.

For total power outages, we installed a 10kwh inverter with a small battery bank allowing 24vdc or 220ac for a few hours as necessary.  Always good to have a backup or two or three.  In the event of a long term grid outage, more panels could be converted to direct DC operation by removing the micro-inverters.  Solar can be very flexible.

Looking into an electric golf cart for grocery store runs.  Zero fuel cost.

Additional comments from other actual installed solar plant operations are deeply appreciated - 

Others, not so much.

not a yahoo's picture

you paid $25k for a 2kw system? I hope we didn't pay for that.

artichoke's picture

His panels won't last 35 years.  After 10 they'll be noticeably less efficient than now.  He'll throw them out (if he's allowed to) before 20.

giorgioorwell's picture

LOL. Is the Mises Institue run out of a strip mall by DeVry MBA graduates funded by the Koch Brothers and Exxon? Oh, it's drawing from the reporting and anaylsis of the "Washington Examiner (fake news if I ever saw it, seriously who uses this as their source?) "the Climate Depot" (ha, I'll let you look into that one yourself), and the American Enterprise Insitute (you mean Chevron, Exxon and BP) This analysis is amateur-night. 

Subsidies, subsidies, the oil, gas and coal industry have more than $500 Million in subsidies a year, never mind the trillions of dollars spent on foreign wards protecting sources of oil.  If you counted the actual cost of oil it would easily be in the $100+ per barrel level, even with th glut of it on the market right now. Let's see you pencil that math in too. 

Jobs & Productivitiy: The solar and renewables industry in general is a new industry, and thus is requiring quite a few short term jobs to get all the infrastructure in place and built jobs.  The jobs numbers that they are quoting are mostly installers, which aren't "forever" jobs, once a neigbhorhoods panels are installed they don't need to be installed again, repaired maybe. So you're comparing jobs in mature industries that are mostly mechanized, to a new field that is temporarily hiring a bunch of people to install equipment.   Once that equipment is installed, those productivity numbers are going to skyrocket.  You don't have to keep drillign the sun or mining the wind, it just is, once the equipment is installed.  

Storage?  You don't think they will figure out intermittancy and storage, are you somehow not aware how far battery tech has come just in the last 3 years? You can go back to using typewriters, luddites.

Basic math, morons, you don't even have to get into the environment, climate, air quality, cancer, etc....

I'm not even going to attempt to answer to the 3rd grade propoganda about a concern for rare earth mining and wildlife that the author supposedly has.

Fossil fuels aren't going away anytime soon, there are other uses for them besides electricity generation, but you're a seriously blind if you don't see how Solar and renewables are going to easily surpass them in electricity generation in the next 30 years. 

There's a reason a red state like Nevada just voted in, bi-partisan, pro-solar industry laws and a Republican governor is on board today.:

rejected's picture

"but you're a seriously blind if you don't see how Solar and renewables are going to easily surpass them in electricity generation in the next 30 years. "

I own a solar system,,, (Do you? ) in present form their is no way they can compete with abiotic coal and oil. 

You're counting your chick before they hatch. There are a lot of equipment involved to operate a solar system. Chargers, Inverters, and batteries if you want lights at night time or a long period of cloudy weather. This equipment is expensive and will need replacement periodically.

Not only that but solar and wind are far more dangerous to plant and animal life than oil. This article is fairly accurate.

jeff montanye's picture

"solar and wind are far more dangerous to plant and animal life than oil."  that's my favorite of your sentences although "in present form their (sic) is no way they can compete with abiotic coal and oil" comes a close second.

40MikeMike's picture

Solar has a future...wind...nope.


Where's the fusion torch?



just the tip's picture

if you talk to a person who is really into this solar stuff, i mean reeeeeally into this on a mega level, it's like spending an evening at professor dave jenning's house.

it's really all quite simple.  we put up photovoltaics in the desert SW of the US, in the gobi desert, in the KSA, all across the african contintent, and then put wind turbines all around the solar arrays.  then you invert and transform the electricity from arrays and rectify the electricity from the turbines and then you get really big wires, and you run these really big wires all the way around the world, and you make one big power grid that every country can tie into.  so when the solar exposure is on the other side of the marble, these really big wires, from somewhere else, will bring electricity from somewhere else to where it is needed.

ask them if it will be easier to get to the moon if we just build an elevator, and they can go on for another two hours.  but that means more weed.

giorgioorwell's picture

You've been asking Professor Retard. The storage/Intermittancy will be solved, it's a difficult problem yes, but impossible? Not at all. Pfft..ask someone from 1982 if they believe you could fit the computing power of 30 Cray Supercomputers from circa 1982 in a laptop?


jeff montanye's picture

oh it's not just that.  i think he smokes the weed then does a line of cocaine such that he's not sure if he should be in bed yet or not.

any_mouse's picture

Dream bigger.

Tap into Earth's charge fields. Electrical energy flowing from the sun and space into the Earth's core and back out.

No photovoltaic conversion.

No thermal conversion.

No mechanical conversion.

No waste.

24x7. More energy than is consumed by humanity.

With limitless near free energy we could have household replicators without the need for an Enterprise class starship and dilithium crystals.

Elon Musk would be worthy of "Tesla" if he would bring this about.

not a yahoo's picture

That's like saying you should not eat today because tomorrow's meal will taste better.

What waste? Sunlight?

devo's picture

Solar is the future, and the future is now. Get over your oil boner, ZH.

VWAndy's picture

  Its not really new. It seems to work best in space. But you cant afford those pannels.

desertboy's picture

Your brain would work best in space.  Avoid pretending to be an authority.  

VWAndy's picture

 Dont attack the messenger. Ill hurt your feelings.

desertboy's picture

Author is a shill.  Solar deployment and installation has been escalating exponentionally, and the main labor cost is up front, you pathetic twit.

Propaganda from the Mises Institute.   

desertboy's picture

Bogus and meaningless charts. On the actual industry side, NextEra Energy, wind and solar company in US, now has market cap of $65 billion with P/E=17 (not a startup), and 9X the market cap of nuke builder Westinghouse. They just sold another solar PPA, 100MW, 20-year, to an Arizona utility at 3-cents/kWh for power generation, plus 1.5 cents/kWh in conjunction with 30MW of battery storage, delivering 24-7 power at 4.5-cents/kWh. These are the numbers that matter, and nuclear simply can not compete with them.

STORAGE + SOLAR = NOW MUCH LESS THAN NUCLEAR.  Now go back to your Institute.

Baron Samedi's picture

Seems the anti-solar crowd has forgotten some of the more important objectives of solar (or cold fusion, or zero point [when thy pry it out of {publicly funded} "black" projects):

--- independence - from the utlity mon$ters, and geographical; from the pressures of "agenda-21."

--- decentralization; get away from the idea of a huge power grid: local groupings could probably suffice for backup power.

--- Potentially higher resistance to EMP attacks - with right technologies?

--- Get off nuclear - not because it's intrinsically bad, but because no one seems to do a great (safe) management job.

This article seems like a draft of something from an "Energy Institute" (industry funded thinque tanque).








VWAndy's picture

 Ah most of the systems around here are grid tied. And no they will not be emp proof.

passerby's picture

Release the thousands of confiscated energy patents hidden away from civilization (under the pretext of national security) to protect stodgy technologies that are more profitable for corporations. Just another spiffy deep state hobby killing the planet.

uhland62's picture

It has been a principle of all industries to buy up patents from little inventors to warehouse them and prevent innovation. I have heard it in Australia re electric cars that run on very little; I have heard it in Germany, and I heard it from the US a few years ago - all reliable sources.


The inventor Tesla seemed to have extremely good and interesting inventions patented or they wouldn't have been confiscated. One can only hope that somebody out there has some documentation hidden in an attic and slips that into the public sphere. The patents have expired and can be used.  

Let it Go's picture

Mankind must address some very important issues in the near future. Anyone with even the slightest mechanical knowledge will tell you that solar panels, windmills and such take a lot of energy to build and often are maintenance intense. Both these complicated systems have a short lifespan and require a great deal of energy to be expended in just keeping them up and running. 

When we look at fast growing cities where we see buildings erected and ripped down and replaced after only two or three decades we should ask if this is sustainable or our best use of resources. When we approach the tipping point promises of easier, cheaper, and ever better ways of postponing the inevitable will prove to be an illusion. The article below probes into these issues.

VWAndy's picture

 Of all the different energy technologies F/T fuels looks to be the only one that could pay its own way. It has paid its own way pretty much every time it was done well.

PennilessPauper's picture

So, say I want to buy a solar panel from

I live in Washington state and I average 3 hours of direct solar a day for 365 days a year.

This is a nice panel Suniva 255-C01-sw 255 watts at .38 cents a watt for a total of $96 dollars per panel.

This panel has a 20 year warrenty.  Now lets see, 255 watts times three hours a day = 765 watts a day times 365 days a year =  279,225 watts per year x 20 years per panel  = 5,584,500 watts total if it only lasts 20 years!  My local utility charges over 11 cents a kilowatt. 5,584,500 X .11cents= 614,295 dollars generated over the life of the panel.  Sorry Zeroshit how is this a bad idea and why should I suck the oil industries gang stocking dirty cock again?


bombdog's picture

You're a massive idiot. You just estimated that a single solar panel can generate $614,295 over 25 years after they sell it to you for $96.

This is why we're in such a mess, idiots like you.

Your "765 watts a day" is really 0.76kw/h which priced at your utility charge is 8.4 cents a day, $30.71 per year.

Zeroshit yourself, YOU FUCKING IDIOT

Is-Be's picture

which priced at your utility charge is 8.4 cents a day, $30.71 per year.

You forgot the magic word "today".

The problem, as I see it, is that anyone with their own electricity supply might not be aware of the fact that all the lights in the town just went out.

dunce's picture

The article omits lne losses probably because it is common to all sytems, but solar and wind are much more subject to line losses because the generation is so far from the users.

man of Wool's picture

lousy article designed to smear solar and promote fossil fuel. There must be something wrong with the way solar power is set up in America.

In India solar is cheapest form of electricity production. 

Wonder how Trump's "clean coal" plans are coming along. 


Is-Be's picture

 "clean coal" 

I have only heard of one viable way to scrub CO2 out of the flue gasses. And that is with Botryococcus braunii

( not to be confused with brown eye)

But to return the energy back that was released by burning the carbon you are going to need an awful acreage to capture enough sunlight

That energy was of cause captured by the coal over many millions of years.

Lots of luck.

( maybe in space at a le Grange point. But then what's the point. Why not just harvest sunlight?

animalspirit's picture

Resilience is improved with a diversity of electrical generation methods and a decentralized structure.

So even though power lines from a nuke plant 500 miles away might provide the cheapest electric rate, there is no way being dependent on that one source is anywhere near being a good idea.

If solar had no subsidies, then there would be no problem with solar generation as we currently have an excess of labor capacity -- at least when these are regulated monopolies and competition doesn't drive out inefficient vendors.

LeftandRightareWrong's picture

Average US residential electric bill is about $100 per month ... now.  Install some LEDs and turn the damn lights off when not needed and the bill goes much lower.  Efficency and conservation!

Residential rooftop solar is a solution looking for a problem.

Is-Be's picture

turn the damn lights off 

Lights in a hospital, which are on 24/7 consume 5% of the power. (I measured). Not worth your attention

Get phase change material ( wax) from a big chemical company. Space heating and cooling are the killers.

Until we take a cold shower to wake up to the reality of Cold Fusion.

But will the Coke brothers approve? I mean, where's their percentage?

not a yahoo's picture

'Nuclear power can be located more closely than solar'. I just hope this guy is not that stupid, just malevolent.

Total hitpiece. None of the arguments make any sense without comparing numbers, and of course they don't hold up in the sleightest when you do.

bombdog's picture

The costs of nuclear are massively hidden, but I'm sure one could compare to coal. Do you have figures?

FTFD's picture

I'm installing a 10.44 Kw system in Florida for $20K after the federal tax credit which should produce about 13K Kwh per year. I pay almost $0.15 per kWh to Gulf Power after all the fricken taxes and get 0.2% on cash in the bank. I estimate that I should get about 10% return on my investment over 25 years. If its only 5% I'm cool with that too since the collection risk is zero, the bank doesn't pay shit on my cash, stock market is at a high, and I get to reduce tax payment to the government (sales, reciepts tax, franchise fee, city tax).

bombdog's picture

What about corrosion and panel failure? Do you have a warranty? Do your projections factor in any failures over the lifetime of the project?

FTFD's picture

Corrosion is not suppose to be a problem per the certification the equipment has received. Three year product and installation warranty from the installer and 25 year from the manufacturer. There's a 30 year warranty on the power produced but that's pretty slippery. Most of these warranties are probably not worth the paper since the companies will not be around but its possible to simulate the wear and tear over a 25 year period and there are few if any moving parts in the equipment/technology.

I included the removal and re-installation of the panels in year 15 when my roof needs to be replaced, replacement of the power inverter in year 12 in my calculations, and degredation of power over the useful life of 25 years.