The Strategist

Why Buffett Makes Bets on Solar Energy

06/25/2015 - 17:24

In 2014, it became known that the famous investor Warren Buffett invested $ 15 billion in wind and solar energy through his company Berkshire Hathaway. However, he said he was ready to double the bet. Apparently, such an investment in the future can bring a good profit

Stuart Isett/Fortune Most Powerful Women
Stuart Isett/Fortune Most Powerful Women
It is now clear that the active distribution of any systems related to fuel cannot be infinite. The sharp increase in vehicles running on petrol or diesel engines will be very costly for the world. In China alone, up to 2030, 500 million of new cars are expected to appear.

This may seem far-fetched, but given the volume of sales of 25 million vehicles per year, the growth rate in China should be only 4% per year to reach this goal in 15 years.

The US government is strongly concerned about the cost of fuel. For example, if you are on the road in a conventional sedan, then every mile will cost 16 cents, meanwhile it’s just 30 cents when using an SUV.

The cost for an electric vehicle is only 2 cents a mile.

Sooner or later, electric cars to take almost completely over the market, but then it will be a question of providing the necessary volume of electricity production.

Coal still accounts for a large share in the electricity production and gas holds second place. Nevertheless, the construction of new coal and gas power plants to generate electricity, which would be used for vehicles, is counterproductive if the goal is to reduce carbon emissions.

Still, there is biofuel. At first glance, it can be very profitable, but the efficiency is still two times lower than that of large solar farms. It is not surprising that Berkshire Hathaway has invested more than one billion in the creation of photovoltaic arrays.

Deserts in Arizona, Nevada and many other places on the ground make it possible to use the sun's energy for about 3 thousand hours per year. Installing the panels on the roof of the houses is not so effective, since almost 20% of the electricity is lost when it could be obtained if the system deployed panels toward the sun.

The cost of such a system would be only 1% more than usual. So you spend more than 1%, and the efficiency is increased immediately by 20%. Solar panels on roofs are worthwhile only for the needs of individual households in sunny regions, as there is no need to pull the network. In addition, the panels on the roof will help charge the car, and the whole system will be paid out through the 5 years. The only problem is the sun.

Critics say that a large and complex system, moving towards the sun, increases the chances of failure. This is probably misleading. The panel need to change direction just once a day, and it's not such a big load. At least it is much less than in the petroleum industry.

And the big oil companies, apparently, need to seriously think about diversifying their investments. Now the demand for fuel is large due to the use of cars, but what will happen when the total volume of sales of electric vehicles will reach 100 million? This is still very far away, but apparently, this is the inevitable future.

Burning oil for power generation is not the best idea, and this, among other things, is not so cheap. Cost of electricity will be reduced with the development of solar farms worldwide, and then the oil companies will not be able to compete with them.

In the end, wins the one who will receive the remaining time for the largest share of the market. Investors such as Buffett are trying to do precisely this.


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