There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch


There was an article in my local dead tree paper a while back which brought that to my mind. In keeping with good journalistic practice, I invited one of the parties quoted to respond to what I thought was a very simple question. Having received no response, I will let you draw your own conclusions, along with me, as to the veracity of those statements.

The story was a “puff piece”. It was not part of any breaking story, merely a down home look at the “wizbang, golly jeeper” happenings around our fair city*.

“(Catherine)Kearney’s Nissan Leaf is refueled each day while it sits in a parking spot near her desk at the San Joaquin County Office of Education, which recently installed five charging stations for plug-in electric vehicles. They are among the first free public chargers in the county.”

There’s that “free” word. Now, were I a big city reporter and not just a lowly blogger, I might have asked a few questions. Maybe something along the lines of “Exactly how much did these stations cost?” or “In tough economic times when there are school cutbacks and teacher layoffs, which part of the county Office of Education budget did this come out of?” and, “Was this the best use of your limited resources?”

And, while it is a nice “perk” for Ms. Kearney to have her electric car charged at no cost to her while she is at work, I wondered not only what it cost to install the charging stations, but what the upkeep on them would be? What are the operating costs?

Here the plot really thickens.

The county Office of Education chargers are attached to a new solar array helping to power the complex. So on a sunny day, when Kearney charges her car, that fuel is direct from the sun – rather than some polluting power plant.

On a sunny day, a solar array charges her car without all that nasty, smelly pollution (unless you count the pollution of manufacturing the array, disposing of the toxic waste by products, the energy it took to manufacture, ship and install the solar array. But, why worry about that? It’s free lunch time, right?) That would presume that on less than sunny days, her Nissan Leaf is suckling at the teat of some “polluting power plant”… paying for power from Pacific Gas & Electric, with tax dollars, out of the county’s education budget.

Maybe the key word is “helping”. We teach that to our kindergarteners as a virtue. But,for the math impaired among us…

The $2.5 million (solar array) project was financed mostly through low-interest loans. Energy savings will eventually pay it off, said Barry Scott, the county office energy coordinator.

“Energy savings will eventually pay it off…” Is this like that lottery for stupid people, where you win a million bucks and they promise to pay you a dollar a year for a million years? I pulled one of my PG&E bills at random to see what I’m being charged for electricity. Depending on what percentage of my “baseline” usage it is, it looks like about 12 to 29 cents per kilowatt hour. Let’s assume for the moment that charging electric cars pushes the school district to the maximum residential** rate. (If they get a lower rate, the breakeven takes longer.)

Even rounding the rate up to .333/kwh, to make the math simpler, that solar array would have to generate 7.5 million kilowatts of electricity, plus whatever it would take to pay the interest on the “low interest loans”. That’s 7.5 Billion watts of electricity for the array to “eventually” pay itself off. (At 12 cents/kwh, make that 20 Billion.)

I asked Mr. Scott about “eventually”:

“Would you mind sharing details as to exactly what time frame that is, given the projected and actual output of the system and the current and projected savings against the cost of purchasing power from PG&E?”

Mr. Scott declined to answer. And I don’t blame him. I have no idea how much power a $2.5 million dollar solar array puts out on a sunny day. Or how many sunny or partly sunny days they base their return. But, given the fact that solar cells have a limited life span, (Nothing lasts forever, not even your free lunch!), I suspect that even assuming a twenty year life, which I believe is overly generous, that solar array would need to produce 375,000 kwh/year to break even on the principle. Add interest, maintenance and repair, and either that is one honking big solar array (possible visible from space) or the free lunch bunch are pursuing a “green” agenda that will likely never pay for itself, (Gee! Just like “high speed rail”!) and hoping that the education system they are administering will produce enough math impaired people, so as not to question their benevolent overlords.

One criticism of today’s reporting, and perhaps part of what is causing the decline in dead tree newspapers, is that we have too few real reporters and too many who just rewrite the press releases given to them. I really would have hoped that a reporter, even one assigned to a “puff piece” would have enough curiosity to ask a few questions, do a little analysis of the numbers and dig a deeper than this. Who knows? Maybe there’s even a story in there somewhere? *Sigh*

And finally, if enough of your tax dollars weren’t being squirreled down the rat hole, the electric chargers are “free” to anyone who wanders by.

Kearney hopes people driving on nearby Highway 99 will stop by and plug in – if not for a complete charge, at least to “top off” for a few minutes. The office has a café, she said with a smile. “They can have a sandwich, get a few electrons and be on their way,” Kearney said.

I wonder if the café offers a free lunch as well?

*Not to be confused with a short story by Robert A. Heinlein with the same name.

**The county may get a break on this, but I was growing old waiting for a reply.

Cross posted at Proof Positive

Curmudgeonly sesquipedalian.

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  • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

    ASAISTSPTIKIWPS!  (As Soon As I Saw This Stupid Post Title, I Knew It Was Proofoundly Stupid’s.)

    There have always been detractors from progress.  Today, to be politically correct, we call them Conservatives, but when we take the gloves off we simply call them “stupid asses”.

    Once upon a time there were people like Poofy, “poo-pooing” the liberally minded forefathers ideas, who founded this country, the investments made of into the development of the rail-road and the internet.

    • Proof

      What a load of tripe, Asswipeitized! Why am I not surprised you missed all the points? (I guess your “Proof envy” causes all the blood to rush from your head!) I must conclude that even after I dumbed it down for the math impaired, you were still unable to follow. Finish second grade,then get a math tutor, Tiny Midget Dwarf. 

      “This Stupid Post Title” you understand that about as well as you did “fellow traveler”, eh, Tiny Poputchikitized? Figures.

      • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

         You are the guy who uses code words to refer to Democrats as “Communists” and black men as “boys”, everyone else just uses words on face value.

        • Proof

           Still trying to cover for the fact that you parroted a phrase you were absolutely clueless as to the meaning? Don’t feel bad! You’re clueless about everything!

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

             I see you ignored all the points of my previous comment, such as the fact that many people like you poo-pooed the founding of this country, liberty, the funding of the rail-road and the internet.

            But, carry on with your comment’s regarding feces and bestiality, the two subjects you are most familiar with.

          • Proof

            “Once upon a time” You should start all your comments that way, Hanni, since they’re mostly fairy tales!

            If I “ignored” anything in your spittle flecked rant, it was because nothing you said was based either on fact or (heaven forbid!) on what I actually wrote.  Let’s examine some of your choicer idiocy:

            the fact that many people like you poo-pooed the founding of this
            country, liberty, the funding of the rail-road (sic) and the internet.

            “Poo-pooed the founding of this country”? WTF does that even mean, witless Turditized? The fact is, I ventured no opinion at on on the founding of this country, since I was not born at the time. Since then, I defy you to find anything I have written, in my thousands of posts and tens of thousands of comments, that would in any way support your stupid ass rant.

            Your only “points” were those of a drive-by libel.

            Your ranting seemed to imply that I was some kind of anti-technological Luddite (we find quite a few of them on the Left, you know!). Have someone read my post to you and help you with the big words. Then, maybe you can at least recognize my points that I was talking about the economics of the technology and whether or not it is prudent to spend tax money earmarked for education on “free” energy that isn’t free, or on a $2.5 Million (plus interest) solar array that will “pay for itself”, when in all likelihood, under the rosiest of scenarios, it will not.

            I can understand why you missed the word “free”. It was the eighth word in the headline, and surely your ADD had kicked in by then!

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

            “I ventured no opinion at on on [sic] the founding of this country,” – Poofy

            Let’s add the words “there were people like…” to the long list of English words that confuse Poofy, when put together in a sentence.

            In case you didn’t know it, Poofy, those words mean that people like you used to criticize the idea of creating this new country, and the funding of the railroad and internet.

            But continue on with your lack of vision and criticisms of technical progress, it’s sooo modernly conservative of you to do so.

            Now give us some more about fecal matter and bestiality.  You love to talk about those things.

          • Proof

            Since you’ve provided absolutely no evidence that I am “like”  someone who “poo pooed the founding of this country”, why should anyone give your insane rants the same credence we might to someone who actually  comprehends English?

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

            In your heart, you know I am right.

            The evidence is everywhere, including all over this post.

          • Proof

            Then you should have no trouble pointing out the actual words then, should you, Tranni? Get someone to help you with the big words you don’t understand, like “or”.

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

            Just read your post, the words that convict you are there.

          • Proof

             Ah! More code words from Hanni that mean “I can’t point to any, because they don’t exist” and “I don’t know WTF I’m talking about because as a tiny, braindead  troll, all I have is projection and drive-by libels.”

        • Proof

           ” everyone else just uses words on (sic) face value.” Words like “darkie”?

          “when i (sic) used the word darkies,  i (sic) mean
          people with dark skin” -Hannitized

          BTW, like the imaginary communications I supposedly had with your imaginary friends and employer, I dare you find a single instance where I referred to Democrats as “Communists” or where I referred to black men as “boys”.

          But continue to lie through your fecal stained teeth if you haven’t the intelligence to make any valid, cogent or rational comments on any of my posts,  Tiny Poputchikitized.

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

            I see you still struggle with the English language, Poofy.

            You might want to pay closer attention to the use of the words; “code words”.

            You don’t need to use the word “Communists” when you are using code words to carry that message, and continue to blow the dog whistle to all your conservative buddies as you go about insulting blacks, minorities and ethnic diversity everywhere.

          • Proof

            The race baiting lies you spew through your fecal stained teeth are all you’ve got, eh, Wankertized? I defy you to link to anything where I have “insulted blacks” or any of the other mindless, baseless accusations you cast at me.

            It’s all projection with you, Hanni. You’re the one who called blacks “darkies” and then tried to defend how it was not an offensive term to blacks. And as far as bestiality, you’re the one who “admitted” (by your own flawed logic, of course) that you lost your virginity to the neighbor’s Cocker spaniel. I believe it was the night you “admitted” to driving your Mom’s minivan off a cliff.

            Besides,I keep telling you, TinyPoputchik: Just because you can’t understand it doesn’t mean it’s in “code”. It probably just means it’s in “English”.

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

            More fecal matter jokes!  You just can’t stop it, can ya Poof?  Why did you stop there?  Where’s the one about animal sex, that you like to imagine?

          • Proof

            The fecal matter you spew is not a  joke, Hanni. It is hard to describe just how vile the lies you tell are, without referring to the excrement you spew here daily. 

            You have accused me of many vile things, without a single shred of evidence to back up the lies you spew through your fecal stained teeth. (Which, frankly, is quite typical of you.)

            Actually, there are those who might say I am being overly generous in not describing you in even harsher terms.

            You may now return to your irrelevance, Tiny Poputchik.

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

            Poofy, are you denying that you didn’t say there was as much evidence that someone had sex with a poodle as there was that you contacted someone’s friend?

          • Proof

            You had sex with a poodle, too??? I only knew about the Cocker spaniel! You’ve been a busy little pervert, haven’t you, Hanni?

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

            Thanks for confirming that you imagine bestiality.  Even shortly after pretending you don’t talk about those things, on a “political blog”,  no less.

          • Proof

            I try not to imagine all the foul things you do, Tiny Wanker. How many comments does this make from you without a single one being on topic? Try actually discussing politics and not the foul mouthed, lying, evil tiny troll who is so narcissistic, he has to turn every discussion to himself.


          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

             Thanks for confirming that you imagine bestiality.  Even shortly after
            pretending you don’t talk about those things, on a “political blog”,  no

          • Proof

             Anyone ever tell you you argue about the stupidest things,
            Midget Dwarfitized?

          • 2hotel9

             You posted a woman’s name on the internet, claimed she was your close personal friend and you were in business together, and she said neither was true. Hmmm, why don’t you post more pics and claim they are of the interiors of secure facilities, then you can come back here in 12-16 days and cry about being turned in for it, just like last time, tranni.

        • Todd

           Communist is a code word? You’ve been staying up too late, alone.
          obama and his followers are communists, as can been seen as they celebrate in front of the White House on election night 2008.
          Why do you hate America, tiny, short troll?

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

            Poofy claims his use of the term “fellow travelers” were code words for Communists and Communist sympathizers. 

            Poofy’s too much of a coward to come out and act like more of your more vocal right wing extremists, so he uses code words to hide his interpretations, so he can make excuses for himself later.  But he screwed up that option when he claimed the his use of the term “fellow traveler” only had one meaning, communists, when it doesn’t.

          • Proof

            You get so many things backwards, Tiny Poputchik! I never claimed my use of the term was a code word of any kind,. That was your insane babbling after you were caught parroting a phrase that you were entirely clueless as to its meaning.

            I never said the term “fellow traveler” had “only one meaning”.  This was your insane interpretation of something I said, but you couldn’t understand, because it was in English. You have to stop listening to the little voices inside the vast, empty canyons of your head. They only confuse you!

            Please, if you can, link us to anywhere I ever said that “fellow traveler” had only one meaning. We’ll wait.

            Your problem, Tiny Poputchik, is just because you can’t understand it doesn’t mean it’s in “code”. It probably just means it’s in “English”.

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

            I don’t have time to deal with all of your mental deficiencies, Poofy, but you and I both know that your entire criticism of my use of the term was based on your limited understanding and one dimensional interpretation of the expression you used, and complained that there was only one meaning for it.

            Even your section 8 buddy agrees:

            Oh, and “fellow traveler” does mean communist, socialist, Democrat, all those type of mentally retarded stupid f*cks

          • 2hotel9

             Yes, “fellow traveler” describes you and your hero, Timee McV.

          • Proof

            “you and I both know that your entire criticism of my use of the term was based on your limited understanding and one dimensional interpretation of the expression you used, and complained that there was only one
            meaning for it.”

            If you are talking to one of the little voices in your head, maybe. If you are talking to me, please don’t insult the English speaking readers of this blog by paraphrasing what I said and then assuming what I meant from your paraphrase.

            You’re just still ticked because you stupidly parroted a phrase that you did not know the meaning of. When I explained to you what the historical context of the word meant (not its only meaning) you doubled down on stupid and then started accusing me of not knowing what the word meant.

            Find a blog with training wheels, Tiny Poputchik. Then, maybe when you make mind numbingly stupid mistakes, no one will notice?

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

            Sorry, Poofy, but you can’t have it both ways.

            You used code words, now you are trying to back-track after realizing that you have exposed your belief that there is only one meaning for the code words you used, “fellow travelers”, which you insist can only refer to communists.

            Otherwise you wouldn’t have had a conniption fit when I used the words with another meaning. You mistakenly revealed your hand, and use of code words.

          • Proof

            Sorry, Hanni. You’re so frikkin’ stupid, you can’t even have it one way. I was using English when I taught you the meaning of the words you were mindlessly parroting. If you can find a single example of where I was using “code words” that doesn’t involve your “mind read fail”, please be sure to link us to them. Otherwise, give yourself a cookie and STFU.
            Just because you can’t understand it doesn’t
            mean it’s “code”. It probably just means it’s in “English”.

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

            “I was using English when I taught you the meaning of the words you were
            mindlessly parroting. If you can find a single examople [sic] of where I was
            using “code words” that doesn’t involve your “mind read fail”, please be
            sure to link us to them.”

            You know I got you coming unhinged when you start using acronyms for all of your foul mouthed attempts to cover for your foolish behavior.

            You accidentally exposed yourself.  Not that you shouldn’t be used to doing that on purpose by now.

          • Proof

            Let’s recap: You stupidly parroted a phrase you were absolutely clueless as to the meaning, and you’ve been babbling nonsense ever since, trying to cover it up.

          • Proof

            “You know I got you coming unhinged when you start using acronyms…”

            Like “ASAISTSPTIKIWPS”?

            I guess you started coming unhinged at your very first comment!

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

             Poofy, the more you throw raging anger fits the more you just look guilty of trying to cover up after exposing yourself.

            You can’t keep pretending that there is only one meaning of the words, when I use the term, then stamp your feet that there is more than one meaning when I bust you for using code words that reveal your extremism.

            It can’t be both ways.

          • Proof

            ” throw raging anger fits”? Please! I laugh at you. I mock you…you do not anger me at all, clueless noob. You are a joke…a flea on a weasel , who thinks he’s an eagle.

            Let’s recap: You stupidly, mindlessly parroted a phrase you were absolutely clueless as to the meaning. I schooled you in its historical context and you have hysterically babbled on about every thing except your blatant stupidity. Be a nice little troll, and for once in your life admit that you made a mistake, as you do all the time. Everyone knows it. You fool no one but yourself.

          • 2hotel9

             Fico/FICA.  Camp.  And now code gets added to tranni’s list. Oh, and fellow and traveler.

          • Proof

            Maybe Hanni has a “code” in his “doze”?

            The super secret list of “code words” that Hanni doesn’t quite understand:

          • 2hotel9

             tranni has an ever expanding  universe of “code” words. That is how tiny minded Democrat Party c*nts deal with reality.

          • Proof

             I’m going to tell him that “braindead moron”  is “code” for “open minded liberal”. Then, sit back and watch his head ‘splode!

          • Cal

             “I don’t have time …”

            Of course you do, that’s why you’re here day and night. You have nothing else but this site.

          • 2hotel9

             tranni is seeing secret messages again. The meth is strong in this one.

          • 2hotel9

             Post more pics of you and claim they aren’t, we love laughing at your retarded sh*t, especially that retarded sh*t.

          • 2hotel9

             Oh, and “fellow traveler” does mean communist, socialist, Democrat, all those type of mentally retarded stupid f*cks. Ya know? Like you, tranni.

          • Guest

             You’re a babbling jerkoff.

  • Bat One

    If there really is no such thing as a free lunch, then liberals are all living a lie, and there’s no point in having a Democrat Party!

  • steveegg

    Something is definitely off with that $2.5 million price tag.  A peak 30 kW array, installed at the Southern Arizona Veterans’ Memorial Cemetary earlier this year as their new primary electrical source (with an average hourly load of roughly 8.3 kW), cost $170,000.  Each of the 5 charging stations, which draws an average of roughly 3.5 kW of power each hour for a 7-hour Nissan Leaf charge (though Nissan recommends hooking each to a circuit breaker that blows at 9 kW), costs a homeowner a bit under $2,500 (pre-tax writeoff) to install in a garage.

    If San Joaquin County planned on providing “free” solar-produced electricity to the handful of privileged electric car drivers no matter what time they parked-and-charged, they probably would need a peak 60 kW array, capable of handling an average load of 17 kW per hour.  That brings the solar cost to $340,000.  Assuming a weatherized charging station is twice that of a garage-based charging station, that would be another $25,000.  That $365,000 total is a far cry from the $2.5 million in Other Peoples’ Money spent on this project, though there is a possibility that they overbuilt initially with the thought of simply adding more charging stations.when (or more-properly, if) the need ever arose.  Of course, that would suggest that the San Joaquin County system could produce over 400 kW per hour at its peak.

    As for the math of whether burning $2.5 million to provide “free” solar-powered electricity is “better” than purchasing it from PG&E, assuming fully-optimized around-the-clock solar-powered utilization (i.e. every charging station is actively charging a car every second of every day with no “slackers” occupying a charger with a fully-charged car and no draw from PG&E), San Joaquin County would burn through roughly 153,300 kWh of electricity each year.  At $0.33/kWh, it would cost a bit over $50,500 to just purchase the electricity.  Assuming that there isn’t the ability and need to just add 50 or so charging stations with no additional solar panels or storage batteries in the next few years, or PG&E isn’t forced to start demanding $5 bills for each kWh, there is no way the costs would be similar over the lifetime of the solar system.

    Of course, that ignores the fact that had San Joaquin County not received the largesse of Other Peoples’ Money, it wouldn’t be in the “business” of providing “free” electricity.  Something tells me that San Joaquin County’s finances are not all that much better than California’s as a whole.

    • Proof

       The last line of your comment says it all. The City of Stockton, county seat of San Joaquin Co., is on the verge of bankruptcy as well.

      As far as the cost of the solar array, my impression was that it was to provide more power to the facility than just to charge the cars (I may be mistaken. The clarification I was hoping to get from the “county office energy coordinator” never materialized.)
      Nevertheless, no matter how much of the complex is powered by the sun, I have a hard time believing that it will ever “pay for itself”: loan, interest, upkeep and maintenance over the life of the array.

      • steveegg

        The size and primary purpose of the array are a couple of key issues.  However, a quick look at the Google Maps satellite view of the San Joaquin County Office of Education suggests that they could not install a system much larger than 80 kW.  Barring more info, I’ll stick with the 60 kW estimate.

        The big problem with that is the batteries.  They need to be replaced every few years, and replacing a bank capable of surviving a 300 kWh drain cycle (roughly 13 Nissan Leaf battery packs) is not cheap.

        The other possibility is that it is a daytime-only system without batteries.  A 60 kW solar system would rpovide an average of 48 kW per hour (once converted to AC) for the 6 hours of “peak sun”, and reduced amonts closer to sunrise-sunset, likely far more than sufficient for daytime office operations.  The theoretical savings would be whatever San Joaquin County spends on the 8 am-6 pm portion of its electrical use, though once again that would not appear to be anywhere near the “break-even” point.  In that case, sparing a few kWhs for electric car operation would be a more-or-less “trivial” expense once those charging stations are installed, limited to maintenance of the charging stations..

        That comes with a big, bold “however”.  Once the energy capacity is topped (and it will be from near sunset to near sunrise, and possibly when it’s cloudy), whatever electrical devices are causing the overusage will draw off the conventional grid at the prevailing rate.  Something tells me that San Joaquin County won’t be unplugging those Leafs and Volts, or charging the privileged drivers, when that happens.

        • Proof

          A daytime only system without batteries would make more sense…so they probably bought the batteries, too! Had to spend that $2.5 Mil, don’tcha know? 

      • two_amber_lamps

        Stockton, CA… were have I heard that town before?

        Oh of course….  Comrade Elli-NASTY’s domicile in exile from his beloved Greek homeland!

        • Proof

          Stockton’s not a bad town. I live there myself. The city government is swirling the porcelain bowl about now though…

  • Jamermorrow

    Intellectual property has no scarcity and is free. It only has scarcity because of government created monopolies in intellectual property. If you can eliminate scarcity you can have a free lunch. I would agree for most types of goods and property we can’t have a free lunch. 

  • 2hotel9

    I see you got tranni crying in under 4 minutes. Must be a record.

  • VocalYokel

    I recall some of the 60’s and most of the 70’s, and remember seeing on the bumper of more than a few Hippiemobiles a sticker declaring ‘Ass, Gas, or Grass…
                                                                     Nobody Rides For Free’

    Have the Flower Children on the Left Coast forgotten?

  • cylde

    Mathematics is not a requirement for a degree in journalism, and may be, in fact, a handicap. Even those who excel at math like secratary Chu who has a Nobel prize in physics and approved solyndra find the numbers politically inconvenient.

  • $8194357

    Measure 2 opponents used this same saying against passing property tax relief…
    NO FREE RIDE…Yet the government been hitchin its ride on the rest of us all along.

    They were right in one aspect…The no one on the government dole don’t ride for free…

    The rest of us pay the frieght along with everything else for their large and in c
    harge expansion plans and building larger government agendas…

    The governments money, property and dhimmis…we will all do as we are told, no….