Skip to content

Solar Panel Degradation

April 20, 2014

By Paul Homewood


John Hultquist has sent me an interesting article on solar panel degradation, by Jack Dini, an author on environmental and science issues.

He highlights serious quality issues and premature failure in many solar panels installed, manufactured in China particularly, but not exclusively.


From the Canada Free Press.


Everyone has heard the pitch for solar energy, install solar cells on your roof and get free electricity from the sun. Sure they cost a lot up front, but they will last 25-30 years—which just happens to be about the payback time given current electricity rates from coal, nuclear and natural gas. So when the solar panels start failing in two or three years the economics of solar power collapses like a house of cards. That is exactly what is happening around the world. Cheap Chinese solar panels have flooded the market and are now starting to fail at an alarming rate. Solar panels covering a warehouse roof in Los Angeles were only two years into their expected 25-year life span when they began to fail. Worldwide, solar power adopters are reporting similar problems and the $77 billion solar industry is facing a quality crisis reports Doug Hoffman.

In May 2013 The New York Times exposed this growing scandal at the heart of the solar power industry. No one is sure how pervasive the problem is since there are no industry wide figures about defective solar panels. And when the defects are discovered, confidentiality agreements often keep the manufacturer’s identity secret, making accountability in the industry all the more difficult.

Most of the concerns over quality center on China, home to the majority of the world’s solar panel manufacturing capacity. Inspections of Chinese factories on behalf of developers and financiers revealed that even the most reputable companies are substituting cheaper, untested materials. Others are outsourcing production to smaller, less reputable companies. SolarBuyer, a company based in Marlborough, Mass., discovered defect rates of 5.5% to 22% during audits of 50 Chinese factories over the last 18 months notes,

In order to accelerate production and become the world’s leading solar panel manufacturing area, the Chinese incurred billions of dollars in debt. Now, these solar manufacturing companies are under pressure to cut costs and are substituting less expensive materials that are untested or whose use-by date have expired or subcontracting to smaller manufacturers where there is no quality control. In effect, the price war that Chinese manufacturers waged was a suicide mission. Now even they’re going bankrupt, including their erstwhile number one, Wuxi Suntech, when the banks pulled the ripcord in March 2013.

Defective Chinese panels wouldn’t be a big issue if there were plentiful domestically-produced alternatives. Unfortunately, thanks to our unfair trading relationship with China, American manufacturers haven’t been able to stay in business. China has heavily subsidized their green energy companies, offering such perks as free land, interest-free loans and export subsidies to ensure that their companies have all the advantages they need to conquer the rest of the market. Chinese solar companies have dumped their products on the US market at below market rates, putting their American competitors out of business.

That said, it is not just Chinese solar arrays that are failing—the defective panels installed on the Los Angeles area warehouse were made by an American manufacturer. Furthermore, all solar panels degrade and gradually generate less electricity over time.

The German solar monitoring firm, Meteocontrol, found that 80 percent of the 30,00 solar installations it reviewed in Europe were underperforming. Enertis Solar tested solar panels from 6 manufacturers at two power plants in Spain and found rates of malfunctioning as high as 34.5 percent. An inspection of a solar plant in Britain found that 12 percent of its Chinese modules failed. In the United States, an American solar manufacturer, First Solar, budgeted $271.2 million to replace defective modules it manufactured in 2008 and 2009.

Google was eager to learn about how its system performed. A review six months after installation revealed it was only getting about half of the power it expected.


Read the rest here.

Solar Panels, Cuddly Lambs And Lovely Subsidies

April 19, 2014

By Paul Homewood





Dave Ward sent me this article from the Eastern Daily Press, which is interesting for what it does not tell you, rather than what it does.

The solar farm at Caister is said to have a capacity of 14MW. (This checks out as the 56,000 panels would be 250 watts each.)

It is also reported that last week they produced an average of 55,000KWh a day. From this we can work out the capacity utilisation.


1) Full Capacity = 14 x 24 = 336MWh/day

2) Actual output = 55MWh

3) Capacity utilisation = 16.4%



Bear in mind that we are now past the Spring Equinox, and that the weather in recent weeks has been dry, settled and reasonably sunny, so the output figures are likely to be flattered.


It is, of course, true that lack of production at night is not a critical problem, as demand is much lower then. But the times when demand is critically high is during winter months, and especially early mornings and evenings.

We can make some informed guesses about what the capacity utilisation is likely to be during winter. DECC produce quarterly energy statistics, currently up to date at December 2013, and we can see how much solar output fluctuates during the year.


Q1 2012 163
Q2 727
Q3 819
Q4 306


On a pro rata basis, we can say that Q1 utilisation is 163/727 of Q2’s, i.e. 22%. If this ratio holds good for January v April, the 16.4% utilisation figure, which we see above for Caister, would drop to just 3.6% ( i.e 16.4 x 22%).


(This number actually ties in very closely to DECC’s own theoretical figures, which give solar capacity in Q1 of 2151MW nationally).


The conclusion is stark – the contribution of power from solar panels during winter months is effectively worthless, regardless of how many solar farms are built.


Two other points:

1) The farmer is keen to brag about the multi purpose use of his farmland, by grazing sheep there. Not that I am a horticultural specialist, but I would have thought that the growth of any grass in the shade of the panels would be severely inhibited, thus reducing the value of the land.

2) He is also naturally keen to receive his quarterly rental payments from the solar company, but it is the rest of us who are subsidising this.

Just as a reminder, any new solar farm starting up this year is guaranteed £120/MWh at 2012 prices for the next 15 years. At 2014 prices, this is already inflated to about £125/MWh, compared to the current wholesale price of electricity of £49.40. This makes a subsidy of £75.6/MWh.


Using a utilisation figure of 16%, the Caister solar farm would produce about 19,000 MWh annually, equating to a subsidy of £1.4 million a year. Surely we would all be better off, except for the farmer, if the land was returned to proper agricultural use?

In the 1970’s, The Polar Vortex Was Caused By Global Cooling.

April 18, 2014

By Paul Homewood



The claims that the Polar Vortex, that has brought the cold winter in the States and wet weather to Britain, is linked to global warming are based on the theory of a weaker jet stream. The idea is that,as the Arctic warms, the temperature differential between high and mid latitudes decreases. As the jet steam is powered by this differential, the theory goes, the jet stream is liable to turn from a powerful polar or zonal flow to a slower meridional one.

Just imagine a slow moving river, and think of how it meanders in comparison to a fast moving one. The theory sounds superficially attractive, until one realises that such events have occurred regularly in the past.

Back in 1975, C C Wallen, Head of the Special Environmental Applications Division of the World Meteorological Organization, had this to say about the consequences of the cooling trend since 1940:


The principal weather change likely to accompany the cooling trend is increased variability-alternating extremes of temperature and precipitation in any given area-which would almost certainly lower average crop yields.

During cooler climatic periods the high-altitude winds are broken up into irregular cells by weaker and more plentiful pressure centers, causing formation of a "meridional circulation" pattern. These small, weak cells may stagnate over vast areas for many months, bringing unseasonably cold weather on one side and unseasonably warm weather on the other. Droughts and floods become more frequent and may alternate season to season, as they did last year in India. Thus, while the hemisphere as a whole is cooler, individual areas may alternately break temperature and precipitation records at both extremes.



And he even gave us these diagrams.




Now, Wallen may have been right about the causes, or he might have been wrong. But what is clear is that the existence of similar jet stream conditions 40 years ago utterly discredits the theory that they now have something to do with global warming.

Unfortunately, today’s tabloid climatologists are so fixated on the idea that CO2 is the cause of everything nasty, that they don’t seem to want to learn from the past.

It’s rather sad really.

Holdren Is Wrong – Cold Winters Are Not Getting More Common

April 18, 2014

By Paul Homewood



As WUWT points out, John Holdren is one of many who have tried to link the cold winter in the USA this year to global warming.

In his White House video in January, he had this to say:


“A growing body of evidence suggests that the kind of extreme cold being experienced by much of the United States as we speak is a pattern that we can expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues….

We also know that this week’s cold spell is of a type there’s reason to believe may become more frequent in a world that’s getting warmer, on average, because of greenhouse-gas pollution.”



But is there any evidence that extreme cold winters are becoming more common, or, for that matter, more extreme?

First, let’s check the temperature trends for the CONUS in winter.




Clearly, on a national basis, recent winters have not been unusually cold. In the last 10 years, only three winters have been colder than the 1901-2000 mean. Moreover, no winters in recent years have come anywhere near to being as cold as some of the winters in the 1970’s, for instance, or earlier.

But this graph only tells half the story. As it covers the whole country, it could cover up regional extremes. As we know, this winter has seen particularly cold weather in Mid West and East, but warmer conditions out West. The result is that, to some extent, they cancel each other out.

So, is there a way we can isolate the warm from the cold, and see whether cold winters are becoming more extreme in just parts of the country?

There is actually a very simple method, and that is to use NOAA’s own Climate Extremes Index. This provides the percentage of the country which have had extreme temperatures (or precipitation, drought etc) during the year. As both above average and below average temperatures are shown separately, we can look at extreme cold weather on its own.

The graphs below cover the Winter months (Dec to Feb) only, with the first using mean monthly maximum temperatures, and the second minimums. The results seem pretty similar.








It is abundantly clear that much less of the country has been affected by extreme cold this winter, and indeed other recent ones, when compared with the 20thC. There is also no trend towards cold winters becoming more common.

What is also interesting is that there does not seem to be much of a trend towards milder winters taking over. Only the winter of 2011/12 stands out in this respect, and there have been plenty of similar years previously.


There has been nothing unusual or unprecedented about this winter. And, as cold winters have become less frequent in the last couple of decades, there is absolutely no evidence to support Holdren’s claim that “this week’s cold spell is of a type there’s reason to believe may become more frequent in a world that’s getting warmer”.


Technical Stuff

NOAA give this definition for the (maximum temperature) index:

The U.S. CEI is the arithmetic average of the following five or six# indicators of the percentage of the conterminous U.S. area:

  1. The sum of (a) percentage of the United States with maximum temperatures much below normal and (b) percentage of the United States with maximum temperatures much above normal.

And their definition for “much above normal”:

 In each case, we define much above (below) normal or extreme conditions as those falling in the upper (lower) tenth percentile of the local, period of record. In any given year, each of the five indicators has an expected value of 20%, in that 10% of all observed values should fall, in the long-term average, in each tenth percentile, and there are two such sets in each indicator


The Climate Extremes Index can be accessed at the link below. It covers temperatures, drought,  rainfall and hurricanes, and can used on a seasonal or annual basis. There is also a regional section.

Three Dopey Letters In The Telegraph

April 18, 2014

By Paul Homewood





The Rowan Williams piece, a couple of weeks ago, has attracted a bit of correspondence in the Sunday Telegraph, and there were three particularly dopey contriburions last week.


1) Bruce Denness is a regular in the letters column, and once wrote about a global warming model he had designed in his garage, or something, that told us we were all going to die!

As far as this letter goes, it shows he has never heard of the null hypothesis.

First of all, Bruce, you need to show that recent warming has NOT been caused by natural factors. It is not up to the rest of us to prove that it has NOT been caused by CO2.


2) Melanie Oxley complains about some rain in India, and would like us to believe that the Indians themselves are concerned by it.

So, let’s see what the Times of India had to say about it:



Monsoon going strong, set to top 100%

Aug 2, 2013, 04.05 AM IST

NEW DELHI: At the halfway mark, the monsoon shows no signs of flagging and, on current projections, is set to cross 100% of its long period average, promising to relieve a stressed economy and ease the Manmohan Singh government’s political burden.
A bountiful monsoon is likely to benefit the kharif crop despite some hiccups in east India and the government is anticipating record rice production with the area under sowing touching 196 lakh hectares, a 16 lakh hectare increase over last year.
Since 1901, there have been 59 years when the monsoon has crossed 100% of the LPA. Since 2000, there have been only four years when monsoon crossed the 100% mark. These are 2003, 2007, 2010 and 2011.
The projection is welcome news for the government as a stuttering monsoon can cast a long shadow on its political fortunes with growth slipping below 5% and high food inflation – prices for consumers rose 11.84% in June — proving a sizeable thorn in the side for UPA-2.
The government hopes the farm sector significantly improves on last year’s 1.8% growth with R Rangarajan, chairman of the PM’s economic advisory council, saying a normal monsoon could even yield a 3.4% growth.
Plentiful, well distributed rains will not just add bounce to the economy, but can enhance a sense of well-being despite the urban chaos associated with the monsoon. On balance, the spectre of drought and added financial commitments is far less appealing.




The monsoon season finally ended up with 6% more rainfall average, well within normal variation.




If better monsoons are becoming more common, then it is clear that India will be more than grateful.

Contrast this situation with the 1960’s and 70’s, when the world was cooling down. This is taken from HH Lamb’s “Climate: Present, Past & Future”:


In those parts of N and NW India, near the limit reached by the summer monsoon, Bryson (1973) has noted a corresponding effect, scarcely less threatening to the inhabitants than the 6 year drought from 1968-73 in the West African Sahel.

In the first quarter of the century, there was a severe drought in N and NW India every 3rd or 4th year. Then, as the Earth warmed up and the circumpolar vortex contracted, the monsoon rains penetrated regularly into Northern India, and drought frequency declined to 2 in 36 years, from 1925-60. But since 1960, with the cooling of the Earth and the southern movement of the subtropical high pressure areas, drought frequency has been increasing again and the probability may be now more than once a decade.

Bryson adds that if a drought frequency like that which prevailed at the start of the century were to occur now, with India’s population having increased by a factor of 4, the human and political consequences would be enormous.



Perhaps the dopey bird would prefer that we return to this.



3) Chris Harding obviously feels that the world is overpopulated, even though this was not mentioned by Williams. Perhaps he would like to tell us all how he proposes we start cutting population back.



Surely the Letters Editor must have received some more sensible contributions than these three?

Cheer For Fossil Fuels On Earth Day

April 18, 2014

By Paul Homewood




An excellent piece from John Stossel:


The heavens reek, the waters below are foul … we are in a crisis of survival." That’s how Walter Cronkite and CBS hyped the first Earth Day, back in 1970. Somehow we’ve survived since then, and most of life got better, although I never hear that from the worrywarts.

Of course, some things got better because of government: We passed environmental rules that got most of the filth out of the air and sewage out of lakes and rivers. Great — but now we’re told that we’re in big trouble because greenhouse gases cause global warming. I mean, climate change.

"The heavens reek, the waters below are foul … we are in a crisis of survival." That’s how Walter Cronkite and CBS hyped the first Earth Day, back in 1970. Somehow we’ve survived since then, and most of life got better, although I never hear that from the worrywarts.

Of course, some things got better because of government: We passed environmental rules that got most of the filth out of the air and sewage out of lakes and rivers. Great — but now we’re told that we’re in big trouble because greenhouse gases cause global warming. I mean, climate change.

Time and again, environmentalists oppose the energy production most likely to make the world cleaner and safer. Instead, they persuade politicians to spend billions of your dollars on symbolism like "renewable" energy.

"Crop yields are down, deaths from heat are up," says the Los Angeles Times. The "Worst Is Yet to Come," warns The New York Times. This hype is not new. Alarmists always fool the gullible media. They once fooled me.

A few years back, we were going to be killed by global cooling, overpopulation, pesticide residues, West Nile virus, bird flu, Y2K, cellphone radiation, mad cow disease, etc. Now it’s global warming.

Reporters don’t make these scares up. The recent hype about global warming comes from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Most of its members are serious scientists. But reporters don’t realize that those scientists, like bird flu specialists, have every incentive to hype the risk. If their computer models (which so far have been wrong) predict disaster, they get attention and money. If they say, "I’m not sure," they get nothing.

Also, the IPCC is not just a panel of scientists. It’s an intergovernmental panel. It’s a bureaucracy controlled by the sort of people who once ran for student council and are "exhilarated by the prospect of putting the thumb of the federal government on the scale."



Read the rest here.

Judith Curry Reflects

April 17, 2014

By Paul Homewood


Some reflections from Judith Curry.


iai TV has a series Philosophy for our times: cutting edge debates.  Frankie May of iai TV pointed me to this debate between Bob Carter, Michael McIntyre and Richard Cornfeld entitled What we don’t know about CO2: The science of climate change.  My attention was piqued in particular by the participation of Michael McIntyre, who is likely to be the smartest guy in any room with climate scientists in it.  The blurb for the debate is :

There is no question that CO2 levels are increasing due to human activity. But predicting the impact of this is less straightforward. Will our understanding of the world’s climate system remain mired in complexity until it is too late? Or is apocalyptic thinking confusing the science?

I listened to whole thing (its about 15 minutes), it is superb.  There are many gems in this, from each of the 3 participants. At the end of this, I don’t see much disagreement among the three participants. Some notes I took from listening to the debate.

We shouldn’t worry, we should just accept that this will happen and we should adapt to it and regard it as a business opportunity.

Its arrogant to assume that climate will remain static.

The whole language of climate change is designed to confuse the public and policy makers

Bob Carter says the IPCC has accomplished the inversion of the null hypothesis, where the onus is now on disproving dangerous anthropogenic climate change

We should focus on protecting people from natural hazards, and not worrying about what is causing them

It makes sense to encourage alternative energy and see what happens.

Bob Carter closed with this: no scientist can tell you whether it will be warmer or cooler in 2020, so we should prepare for both



JC reflections

It is gratifying to see leading scientists and thinkers ‘stepping off the reservation’ to provide interpretations of climate science and thoughts on how we should respond, that differ from the IPCC assessments and the more alarmist interpretations.

It is unfortunate that it seems to be primarily the independent scientists and retired scientists that are doing this; government employees in many countries would not do this (even if their personal convictions differ from the IPCC consensus), and the same seems to be true for most scientists employed by universities.  This is a very unhealthy situation particularly for universities.


Whatever one’s views on climate change, I rather think the last paragraph says it all.

Polar Vortex In 1936

April 17, 2014

By Paul Homewood


Tabloid climatologists continue to try to blame the America’s cold winter this year on global warming, but as WUWT and Steve Goddard have pointed out, the USA had exactly the same pattern of weather in the winter of 1976/77.




And if you go back to 1936, the second coldest winter on record in the CONUS, you also find something similar.

The GISS maps below compare the winter of 1935/6 with this year.






Although 1935/6 is colder, we can see very similar patterns:


  • Cold weather plunging down from the Arctic over the eastern half of the country.
  • Much warmer conditions in the West.
  • Milder air than usual over Greenland.
  • Warm weather over most of Europe.

They did not know they had a jet stream in 1936, but it still had the same effect on weather as it does now.

Texas Extreme Weather – 1970’s Style

April 17, 2014

By Paul Homewood



Destruction in Wichita Falls, Texas after the tornado



The Texas Almanac publishes a list of extreme weather events by decade, so let’s take a trip back to the 1970’s to see what life was like in Texas  when CO2 was at a safe level.



  • April 18, 1970: Tornado. Near Clarendon, Donley County. Seventeen killed, 42 injured; damage $2.1 million. Fourteen persons were killed at a resort community at Green Belt Reservoir, 7 miles north of Clarendon.
  • May 11, 1970: Tornado. Lubbock, Lubbock County. Twenty-six killed, 500 injured; damage $135 million. Fifteen square miles, almost one-quarter of the city of Lubbock, suffered damage.
  • Aug. 3–5, 1970: Hurricane Celia. Corpus Christi. Hurricane Celia was a unique but severe storm. Measured in dollars, it was the costliest in the state’s history to that time. Sustained wind speeds reached 130 mph, but it was great bursts of kinetic energy of short duration that appeared to cause the severe damage. Wind gusts of 161 mph were measured at the Corpus Christi National Weather Service Office. At Aransas Pass, peak wind gusts were estimated as high as 180 mph, after the wind equipment had been blown away. Celia caused 11 deaths in Texas, at least 466 injuries, and total property and crop damage in Texas estimated at $453.77 million. Hurricane Celia crossed the Texas coastline midway between Corpus Christi and Aransas Pass about 3:30 p.m. CST on Aug. 3. Hardest hit was the metropolitan area of Corpus Christi, including Robstown, Aransas Pass, Port Aransas and small towns on the north side of Corpus Christi Bay.
  • Feb. 20–22, 1971: Blizzard. Panhandle. Paralyzing blizzard, worst since March 22–25, 1957, storm transformed Panhandle into one vast snowfield as 6 to 26 inches of snow were whipped by 40 to 60 mph winds into drifts up to 12 feet high. At Follett, 3-day snowfall was 26 inches. Three persons killed; property and livestock losses were $3.1 million.
  • Sept. 9–13, 1971: Hurricane Fern. Coastal Bend. Ten to 26 inches of rain resulted in some of worst flooding since Hurricane Beulah in 1967. Two persons killed; losses were $30.2 million.
  • May 11–12, 1972: Rainstorm. South Central Texas. Seventeen drowned at New Braunfels, one at McQueeney. New Braunfels and Seguin hardest hit. Property damage $17.5 million.
  • June 12–13, 1973: Rainstorm. Southeastern Texas. Ten drowned. Over $50 million in property and crop damage. From 10-15 inches of rain recorded.
  • Nov. 23–24, 1974: Flash Flooding. Central Texas. Over $1 million in property damage. Thirteen people killed, 10 in Travis County.
  • Jan. 31–Feb. 1, 1975: Flooding. Nacogdoches County. Widespread heavy rain caused flash flooding here, resulting in three deaths; damage over $5.5 million.
  • May 23, 1975: Rainstorm. Austin area. Heavy rains, high winds and hail resulted in over $5 million property damage; 40 people injured. Four deaths caused by drowning.
  • April 19, 1976: Tornado. Brownwood. An F-5 tornado destroyed a few homes and airplanes. Nine persons were injured.
  • June 15, 1976: Rainstorm. Harris County. Rains in excess of 13 inches caused damage estimated at near $25 million. Eight deaths were storm-related, including three drownings.
  • Aug. 1–4, 1978: Heavy Rains, Flooding. Edwards Plateau, Low Rolling Plains. Remnants of Tropical Storm Amelia caused some of the worst flooding of this century. As much as 30 inches of rain fell near Albany in Shackelford County, where six drownings were reported. In Bandera, Kerr, Kendall and Gillespie counties, 27 people drowned and the damage total was at least $50 million.
  • Dec. 30–31, 1978: Ice Storm. North Central Texas. Possibly the worst ice storm in 30 years hit Dallas County particularly hard. Damage estimates reached $14 million, and six deaths were storm-related.
  • April 10, 1979: The worst single tornado in Texas’ history hit Wichita Falls. Earlier on the same day, several tornadoes hit farther west. The destruction in Wichita Falls resulted in 42 dead, 1,740 injured, over 3,000 homes destroyed and damage of approximately $400 million. An estimated 20,000 persons were left homeless by this storm. In all, the tornadoes on April 10 killed 53 people, injured 1,812 and caused over $500 million damages.
  • May 3, 1979: Thunderstorms. Dallas County was hit by a wave of the most destructive thunderstorms in many years; 37 injuries and $5 million in damages resulted.
  • July 25–26, 1979: Tropical storm Claudette caused over $750 million in property and crop damages, but fortunately only few injuries. Near Alvin, an estimated 43 inches of rain fell, a new state record for 24 hours.
  • Aug. 24, 1979: One of the worst hailstorms in West Texas in the past 100 years; $200 million in crops, mostly cotton, destroyed.
  • Sept. 18–20, 1979: Coastal flooding from heavy rain, 18 inches in 24 hours at Aransas Pass, and 13 inches at Rockport.



Katharine says weather is getting more extreme. Perhaps she should start looking for another job.

EuroStat Renewable Energy Report

April 17, 2014

By Paul Homewood




The EU have just published their EuroStat Renewable Energy Report for 2012. As I revealed in February, the UK is languishing near the bottom of the league, with barely 4% of all energy being supplied from renewable sources.

Just to recap, under the 2009 EU Renewable Energy Directive, the UK is mandated to produce 15% of its energy requirements from renewable sources by 2020, so clearly we have a long way to go to get anywhere near the target.

We already have a rough idea of what the figures will be for 2013, as the electricity stats have already been published by DECC. Plugging these numbers in, we are looking at something like this.


TWh Total Renewable % of line
Electricity 357 52 14.6
Heat 651 15 2.3
Transport 543 9 1.6
Total 1551 76 4.9
Target 1466 216 to 225 15.0


In the absence of any other information, I have assumed that the figures for heat and transport remain the same as last year. As I explained in my earlier post, it seems unlikely that much progress will be made in these sectors in the short term.

I predicted in February that renewable energy would be contributing about 8% of total energy by 2020. Nothing has happened in the interim to change my view of this.