Costs of Solar to match coal by 2010?

Written by Matt Leonard

Topics: Finance

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According to a recent study by Europe’s Photon Consulting called “The True Cost of Solar Power” - that’s what is predicted across Europe by the end of the decade! The costs of materials and installations for solar systems are expected to drop significantly as the technology becomes better and more widespread, making solar clearly a smarter choice environmentally, but also economically than coal.

And the costs of continuing with dirty, polluting, toxic coal? Well, we know that the “cost” of coal doesn’t factor in the lives lost from mining accidents, toxic poisoning from mercury, habitat loss from mountain-top removal, the water poisoned from toxic slurries, or environmental destruction from acid rain and global warming. The market-based cost of coal will only get more expensive as we near Peak Coal. As looming regulations (i.e. some sort of cap-and-trade system) addressing C02 pollution grow more likely, even using conservative estimates for the market costs of C02 show coal to be a bad investment.

Key findings in the report:solar.jpg

-Predictions that solar electricity will cost $0.18/kWh in Germany, $0.13 in California and $0.12/kWh in Spain by 2010

-Expectations that industry leaders could bring that price down to $0.10/kWh, equivalent to the retail cost of electricity from a new coal-fired power plant.

-With costs between $.10 and $.15/kWh, the cost of solar will below the price of grid electricity for at least 50% of OECD residential demand.

-Greenhouse gas emissions from proposed new coal-fired power plants: 1.2 billion tons per year

-Greenhouse gas emissions from potential new solar-powered installation: 0 tons per year.

So why do we have ~150 coal-fired plants being proposed in the US alone? Why do corporations like Massey, Arch and Peabody destroy entire mountain ranges, poison our land, and destroy our communities? Why do corporations like TXU, Dynegy, Dominion and others keep trying to lock us in to dirty coal for generations to come?

And why do banks like Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan Chase keep investing in dirty coal power plants rather than in our future?

Help us get Wall Street out of coal.

4 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. craig hart says:

    TXU says it and exelon will start producing more nuclear reactors in Texas. TXU is considering building 12 big ones. Exelon and a couple of other energy companies are also planning several reactors. Approval has been fast tracked for the Clinton Illinois reactor, and another reactor, in Mississipi. A total of 29 reactors are under construction worldwide, including a new “pressurized” reactor given approval by prime minister Villpen in France (Normandy is the site). Many more reactors are planned(3or 4 a year in Russia until nuclear energy makes up 40 percent of the mix). China is negotiating with Japan in a new trade agreement. Nuclear energy is on the table, with reactors made by Westinghouse’s nuclear division ( bought out by Japan). These reactors will be using reprocessed plutonium (breeder reactors). Designs have been drawn up for a new generation of sodium reactors (liquid sodium at very high temperatures generate electricity). A reprosessing plant is planned for the United States to supply Japan with reprosessed nuclear fuel for the forementioned breeder reactors. Russia has plans to sell floating reactors which they have designed for maritime locations in countries such as Indonesia, and of which they plan to make dozens. Sir Kenith King in England has gone on the record as saying that without a new effort to build nuclear power plants worldwide the battle to control global warming will be “lost”. So thats all I know, and if you like nuclear energy it looks encouraging, if you don’t it looks a little sinister. Greenpeace has come out against nuclear energy because it is a potential terrorist risk, and there is not adequate facilities to dispose of nuclear waste. In that regard experiments are underway to consolidate nuclear waste in building material such as cement, which is then deposited deep underground. Some environmentalists have been swayed in favour of new nuclear energy, and producers say that the next generation of reactors are safer than before. In the congress, Nancy Pelosi has said that nuclear energy should be revisted (my words), while senator Boxer is still doubtful. California has removed its legal barriers to constructing new nuclear reactors. In Canada the Prime Minister Steven Harper has hinted that 2 reactors may be built near the tar sands in Alberta to supply the energy needed to remover bitumen, there by negating the need to consume natural gas from the Mackenzie Valley pipline (proposed, but almost in the approval stage), which can then be sold to the United States, and used to retrofit existing dirtier fossil fuel plants.

  2. craig hart says:

    All in all nuclear energy need not be the bogey man in is presently portrayed as. The terrorist threat must be solved, and this can only be done by diplomacy, not force. Sunnis and Shias must be allowed to share power in Iraq, and machinations against the so called shia “revolution” should be abandoned, in favour of dialoge, and a fairer more honest and open attitude by western governments to the economis disparity, and past marginalization that fuels the insurgency,and contributes to instability in one quarter of the world’s population that happen to be Islamic.

  3. Don says:

    Please be sure you are defining 0 tons per year.
    Manufacture of solar cells results in environmental releases of pollutants and the emissions associated with the energy input to make and install the cells.(Wikipedia – Environmental_concerns_with_electricity_generation) The processes also consume significant quantities of chemicals such as Hydrofluoric and Hydrochloric Acids, Sodium Hydroxide, Isopropyl Alcohol,Silane and Ammonia (and the production of many of these produce harmful gases). The manufacturing processes employed on also consume considerable quantities of potable water. Plus pollutants in the form of industrial waste water. (BP Solar) at one plant in Australia BP Solar produces approximately 265 Tonnes per MW used in production at 258 MW per hour.Yearly waste to landfill 1.37 Tonnes per MW.Hazardous waste produced 8.606 Kg/MW.

    I mention this not to knock Solar as an alternative to Coal or any other generation process, only it is important to note Solar is not clean in production and disposal of damaged Solar equipment including batteries for storage present is worth considering.

  4. yes, it would be nice to get corporations to stop mining and burning coal. but until people stop buying the electricity generated, the corporations won’t be deterred. so i suggest you first focus on how to get people to stop buying it.

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