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Why does San Francisco lag in solar installed per capital?

Avatar for Dave Llorens
Published on 04/21/2008 in
Updated 04/21/2008
San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge Solar Article

SFGate.com wrote two articles concerning the future of solar in San Francisco. (#1, #2) I reviewed the first article here. Here’s my take on the second article.

From the Article: “Among Bay Area counties, San Francisco ranks last in terms of solar energy installed per capita.”

Well, duh. How many people rent in San Francisco vs. say, Walnut Creek? Land owners with tenants have no incentive to install solar because their tenants pay the power bill. Therefore, this statistic is utterly useless. The statistic that would make better sense to use is solar power PER OWNER OCCUPIED HOUSEHOLD. This would be the most accurate measure of solar receptivity. My guess is San Franciscans kick butt in that solar statistic. However, that number is difficult to quantify and the editors of the article probably thought people wouldn’t consider the difference. Apparently they felt it was reasonable to make a point with a BS solar statistic. Twisted meedia statistics that mean zip but sound like they mean something are probably my biggest pet peeve.

From the Article: San Francisco is setting the bar nationally and internationally for what cities can do to address global warming

Nationally, yes. I am in Shreveport Louisiana right now, been here for a week. ZERO solar rooftop sightings. Internationally? HELL NO. Are you kidding me? If we “Set the Bar”, then we set it at Mills Lane and Germany is Manute Bol on stilts with a jetpack. Set the bar. Please.

Rck Comment: The San Francisco solar map recommended in the article is visually striking but very misleading.

Yes, it is. It’s the Zillow.com of Solar Power… But it’s waaay better than nothing. It gets people excited about solar just the same way zillow gets people excited about their home value. Sure, the numbers are all wrong, and there’s no way you can get enough detail from google maps to calculate shading, orientation, and rooftop real estate, but it has info, links, and it gets the ball rolling. If you want correct data you have to do what Dr. Barry Levine, a San Francisco CS teacher is doing and that involves local municipal involvement and human labor. So, it’s not scalable… yet.

Rck Comment: Solar thermal electric is reportedly more efficient than photovoltaic.

Yes it is, but it’s not cost effective for residential. Solar thermal electric is a technology that is based on aiming a lot of mirrors at a steam powered generator, requires a giant area, costs lots, and supplies more power than your house can use (for which PG&E is not going to write you a check). More efficient does not equal more sensible. Photovoltaics are the only game in town for San Francisco solar electricity, and it’s gonna be that way for years to come.

Last modified: April 21, 2008

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