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February 2016 SEE Monthly Update

Do Solar Companies Shine?

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The gloom continues in the oil and natural gas markets, affecting even US and global and stock markets. SEE analysis this month is a relaxed look at solar energy. Solar contributed only 0.4% of all US energy in 2014; however, it is an instinctively attractive source for anyone who has ever stepped out into a hot, sunny summer day.

Solar Panels

Solar's appeal and usefulness is obvious in the desert southwest, from west Texas north to Nevada and west to California. Solar technology is typically divided into thermal (rooftop collectors) and photovoltaic (electricity production). Its benefits include the simplicity of capturing sunlight and the lack of emissions. Along with federal grants, states like California, Nevada, and North Carolina offer incentives for solar development. Many solar technologies have become increasingly competitive with other electricity fuel sources. Moreover, rooftop solar installing companies are able to encourage demand with consumer-friendly leasing programs.

Solar's drawbacks include hazardous waste from manufacturing the panels, an equally bitter taste among taxpayers after the $535 million loss on solar equipment maker Solyndra, lack of consistent energy output (capacity factors of 13-20% and volatile swings in production) requiring the costs of both battery storage and a reliable back-up source, the diffuseness (weakness) of the energy source, reliance on federal grants, costly new infrastructure (collectors, transmission lines), and in very large solar plants, bird kills. For example, at Ivanpah in southern California, expected bird kills number up to 28,000 hawks, swallows, road runners, and other birds per year as birds (and insects and butterflies) fly into the 800-degree heat of the huge generating station.

U.S. energy consumption by energy source, 2014

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           Copyright 2016, Starks Energy Economics, LLC. This information may not be disclosed, copied or disseminated, in whole or in part, without the prior written permission of Starks Energy Economics, LLC. This communication is based on information which Starks Energy Economics, LLC believes is reliable. However, Starks Energy Economics, LLC does not represent or warrant its accuracy. This communication should not be considered as an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities.

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