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Thread: Crossover point - Solar now cheaper than nuclear

  1. #1
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    Default Crossover point - Solar now cheaper than nuclear

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    "According to an article on the New York Times, a historical cross-over has occurred because of the declining costs of solar vs. the increasing costs of nuclear energy: solar, hardly the cheapest of renewable technologies, , at around 16 cents per kilowatt hour. Furthermore, the NY Times reports that unless the risk of default (which is historically as high as 50 percent for the nuclear industry) is externalized to someone else through federal loan guarantees or ratepayer funding. The bottom line seems to be that nuclear is simply not competitive, and the push from the US government to subsidize it seems to be forcing the wrong choice on the market."

    The Holy Grail of the solar industry — reaching grid parity — may no longer be a distant dream. Solar may have already reached that point, at least when compared to nuclear power, according to a new study by two researchers at Duke University.

    It’s no secret that the cost of producing photovoltaic cells (PV) has been dropping for years. A PV system today costs just 50 percent of what it did in 1998. Breakthroughs in technology and manufacturing combined with an increase in demand and production have caused the price of solar power to decline steadily. At the same time, estimated costs for building new nuclear power plants have ballooned.

    The result of these trends: “In the past year, the lines have crossed in North Carolina,” say study authors John Blackburn and Sam Cunningham. “Electricity from new solar installations is now cheaper than electricity from proposed new nuclear plants.”

    If the data analysis is correct, the pricing would represent the “Historic Crossover” claimed in the study’s title.

    Two factors not stressed in the study bolster the case for solar even more:

    1) North Carolina is not a “sun-rich” state. The savings found in North Carolina are likely to be even greater for states with more sunshine –Arizona, southern California, Colorado, New Mexico, west Texas, Nevada and Utah.

    2) The data include only PV-generated electricity, without factoring in what is likely the most encouraging development in solar technology: concentrating solar power (CSP). CSP promises utility scale production and solar thermal storage, making electrical generation practical for at least six hours after sunset.

    Power costs are generally measured in cents per kilowatt hour – the cost of the electricity needed to illuminate a 1,000 watt light bulb (for example) for one hour. When the cost of a kilowatt hour (kWh) of solar power fell to 16 cents earlier this year, it “crossed over” the trend-line associated with nuclear power. (see chart below)

    Solar-Nuclear cost comparison (from Blackburn and Cunningham)

    The authors point out that some commercial scale solar developers are now offering electricity at 14 cents a kWh in North Carolina, a price which is expected to continue to drop.

    While the study includes subsidies for both solar and nuclear power, it estimates that if subsidies were removed from solar power, the crossover point would be delayed by a maximum of nine years.

    The report is significant not only because it shows solar to be a cheaper source of energy than nuclear. The results are also important because, despite the Senate’s failure to pass a climate and energy bill this year, taxpayers now bear the burden of putting carbon into the atmosphere through a variety of hidden charges – or externalities, as economists call them. Fossil fuels currently account for 70 percent of the electricity generated in the U.S. annually. (Nuclear generates 20 percent.)

    Having dropped below nuclear power, solar power is now one of the least expensive energy sources in America.
    Reality is an invention of my imagination.

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  • #2
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    Like all graphs and figures, there are many ways to interperate them.
    I remember reading many years ago of a comparison between Electric and Diesel Locomotives.
    The graphs clearly showed that an Electric Loco was much better than a similar Diesal and I dont doubt the figures are still relevant today.
    This particular comparison was part of a campaign to get support to Electrify a section of line.
    Many many years later out came another comparison extolling the virtues of Diesals over spending on Electrification.
    Overhead wiring also limits height of loads and clearance.
    I dont know much about '3rd Rail' as to its efficiency regarding high speed/heavy load trains.
    Based on the fact that no railway I have ever read about uses '3rd Rail' except in suburban areas makes it a useable option it seems.
    However like all good presentations it sort of missed some other essential details like the TOTAL costs between the two.
    Excluding general track upgrades to cater for load/speed capacity, Electric traction requires major capitol outlay for the overhead wiring and substations whereas a Diesal is ready to go work on existing lines.
    The same I see applies to Nuclear/Solar power.
    Nuclear has the still bugbear of Radiation and waste disposal but it is available continuously 24 hours a day.
    Coal and Gas fired power stations are the same.
    Solar still doesnt work when the sun sets and untill they overcome that I cant see how they can genuinely compare one methord against the other.
    I am of course deliberately ignoring Wind,Hydro or Tidal methords and just compairing Solar and Nuclear as though they were the only two options available.
    I would love to see Solar Power be the power generation of choice but I would not be adverse to continuing investigations into the use of Nuclear power.
    And YES, if they proposed a Nuclear Generator in 'My Back Yard', providing every possible safety precaution is taken, I would support it.
    Last edited by gordon_s1942; 31-07-10 at 12:57 PM.
    I stand unequivicably behind everything I say , I just dont ever remember saying it !!

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    I have always wondered why a renewable should be more costly than "digging stuff up, transporting it, and burning it".

    Not to mention the wastes and by products that are just plain pollution.


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