If there are some items that could use a little more teaching at journalism schools, it might be those *tricky* math problems.  You know, pesky things like return on investment and cost-benefit analysis…the kind of bullet points left out of swooning “green energy” press releases.

However, a “4 On Your Side” story from the investigative team at CBS4 crunched the numbers on a new solar panel project at the Denver Federal Center, and found the ROI is a little on the depressing side:

A 4 On Your Side investigation found it will take decades for taxpayers to get their investment back on a $40 million solar project at the Denver Federal Center.  

The project created jobs and will be good for environment, but experts are shaking their heads over the projected payback period. The government’s own estimate is 48 years. Experts say that is an unbelievably long time for taxpayers to recover their costs on the large project.

A 48 year payback?  The federal center might consider themselves lucky.

In 2008, one of the first stories I broke after joining the Independence Institute as the investigative reporter showed that the solar panels at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science — toured and touted by President Obama just hours before signing the stimulus bill — those solar panels would need 110 years to pay for themselves. Oh and by the way, in a best case scenario, solar panels only have a life span of 30-40 years.

But what made that story great was the math analysis wasn't even mine, it came straight from the horse's mouth:

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.” 

Of course, the one media outlet that will never shy away from crunching the numbers is the Wall Street Journal.  Editor Stephen Moore did some back-of-the-envelope calculations for solar panels paid for by the stimulus bill, and installed on a library near Moore's neighborhood:

Arlington officials boast the project will save $14,000 in annual electricity costs, but the solar panels have a life span of no more than 10 to 15 years. So the feds spent $300,000 to shave at most $150,000 off the net present value of Arlington's electric bills. Some 3,000 counties across the country received federal funds for the same kind of negative-return energy conservation “investments.” This is the kind of “clean energy” program the administration wants to expand.

Bill Ritter's legacy could be the same as President Obama's: selling the public a $10,000 car that only gives you 2,000 miles. What a bargain.

And we wonder why the country's broke.  

-Todd Shepherd/CompleteColorado.com