Brown Power Pollution Tail

Consider just the path coal travels: Mining -> Refining -> Shipping -> Coal-fired power station -> National grid --> Local Grid --> Your home or business.  Many of these are energy intensive processes. The supply chain and path for nuclear-generated electricity is even worse.

Now compare that to Solar PV: (1) The one-time cost of creating and transporting its components to your home +  (2) getting the local utility to install a "smart meter" and adjust its billing software to credit you for any excess power that you feed into its grid. 

And, of course, much of the true cost of the fossil fuel supply chain (e.g., smokestack effluents, excess CO2) is not paid by the consumer or even by the companies involved in the process.  It's like we're all living in a fish tank and it's balanced enough to absorb everyone's waste, but then bigger fish come along and over-waste the tank's water.  Now we're all swimming in crap.  We want the bigger fish to pay to remove the excess crap (air pollution, excess CO2) but they just ignore us, call us names ("tree-hugger!") and swim away (pay over campaign contributions to politicians for exemptions).

A word about the one-time cost of creating the panels, inverters, wires, racks and nuts and bolts of a Solar PV array.  You can drive yourself nuts calculating energy-payback and pollution-tail costs to Solar PV components, but I find believable the 1-2 year payback calculations here.  More importantly, mankind manufactures all sorts of stuff every day (LCD flat-screen TVs, cars, vacuum cleaners), and all of that stuff consumes energy and creates pollution -- in the manufacturing, distribution, use and disposal of same.  Only Solar PV produces new energy, and net new (not "government-printed") wealth. 

Plus it will save collateral energy (if all the Joe Six Pack's out there installed 10KW systems on their roofs then obviously huge numbers of coal and nuclear power plants would not have to built; ditto for growing crops like corn, just to ultimately burn them). 

So rather than try and sort out net-ecological benefit here (that's a comparison guide to what amount of pollution different energy sources create), I've simply decided to pitch Solar PV as a useful thing to own, because it both saves Joe money and maybe makes him some ("reverse-meter" credits).  And if 100 million American households and business put up rooftop and backyard and unused-farm field arrays, then we can count up the net ecological benefits then (that's a lot of brown-power plants that won't have to be built, much less operated). 

What I can do now, however, is count up the net economic benefit to me, every month, on my power bill (I get a net energy credit every month -- tax free).