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Obama’s favorite solar panels: The rest of the story

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By Michelle Malkin  •  March 26, 2009 10:13 AM

Last month before signing the Generational Theft Act of 2009, President Obama and Bozo the VP Joe Biden extolled a solar panel manufacturer that outfitted the Denver Museum of Science and Nature. I pointed out the generous government help the company received. Now, the Colorado-based Independence Institute provides the rest of the story — and it is an object lesson in the myth of “pay-for-themselves” green “investments.”

Todd Shepherd reports:

How efficient are the solar panels that were inspected by President Obama? The Denver Museum of Science isn’t telling. But you are helping to foot the bill for the solar array that won’t pay for itself until the year 2118…

…The Independence Institute asked the Denver Museum of Science and Nature to provide certain statistical information regarding the now-famous solar array. Specifically, the Institute asked for:

1 ) Two years worth of electric bills prior to the installation of the solar array,
2 ) All electric bills following the completion of the installation.

The Museum denied those requests.

The solar array is not owned by the Museum, however. It is owned by Hybrid Energy Group, LLC. HEG owns the solar array, sells the electricity to the Museum, and receives tax incentives from the state and federal governments, while also receiving “rebates” from Xcel Energy. The rebates are funded by a surcharge collected on the monthly bill of every Colorado Xcel customer.

A 2008 article in the Denver Business Journal sheds further light on the subject. The article notes the total price of the solar array was $720,000. And Dave Noel, VP of operations and chief technology officer for the Museum, was quoted as saying, “We looked at first installing [the solar array] ourselves, and without any of the incentive programs, it was a 110-year payout.” Noel went on to say that the Museum did not purchase the solar array because it did not “make sense financially.”

Additionally, most solar panels have an expected life-span of 20 to 25 years.

So how can Hybrid Energy Group afford to own a solar array that not even the museum would buy? In part, HEG gets “rebates” from Xcel’s “Solar Rewards” program. The Solar Rewards program is a response to Colorado voters passing Amendment 37 in 2004. The Amendment mandated that Colorado utilities procure a certain percentage of their power generation from renewable resources like wind and solar.

“Amendment 37 really should have been called a tax,” said Independence Institute President Jon Caldara. “And it would have been interesting to see whether it would have passed if the ballot language had started off with the phrase, ‘shall there be an increase in energy taxes?’ For those of you who are Xcel customers, look at your bill and find the line that says ‘Renew. Energy Std. Adj.’ Then realize that you are paying this “adjustment” to buy solar panels which the museum has admitted that without any government subsidization wouldn’t pay for themselves until the year 2118.”

Maybe the Johnny-come-latelys at the AP will get around to reporting this in six months.

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