Getting Real on Wind and Solar

Getting Real on Wind and SolarPerhaps no recent article irritated me more and made me feel more vulnerable as a solar professional than James Schlesinger and Robert Hirsch’s Washington Post op-ed, “Getting Real on Wind and Solar” (April 24, 2009). The op-ed said we shouldn’t take solar and wind seriously, because they are unpredictable and cannot be turned on at will. There is a grain of truth to their statement. It is a serious criticism of wind and solar, and probably the most telling after the worst one – high cost. But I think it is because high cost is being overcome, especially in wind, that this next level of criticism is being raised. That’s progress.

I authored a response with Bundestag member Hans-Josef Fell, the co-author of the German feed-in tariff legislation (see Fell’s presentation at our kick-off symposium here). The Washington Post didn’t see fit to print it. Maybe they had not heard of the German feed-in tariff or its transformational importance to the global PV market.

The Cost of Solar PV

The Cost of Solar PVI get brassed off of constantly seeing ultramundane high prices for solar PV charged as the only possible price. You read this in articles from all sorts of media, and it is gulped by the slump and sinker. So how much does PV cost?

The response is “prices.” There is no real price, because there are many prices. Price differs by the local sunlight amount and by the system’s size and type.

And two types of prices exist– dollars per watt, which is price per momentary output. And cents per kWh, which is price per unit of energy imparted. Dollars per watt is difficult; cents per kWh is harder.

So with this in mind, let’s do some prices!

Great systems are cheaper than little systems; pocket-sized systems, like those on your house, are more expensive again. If we admit the greatest systems can be inducted (sans delays and all sorts of undefinable costs) at $3/W; then large rooftop systems on WalMart might increase the price for $4/W; and inhabited systems for $5/W. These would be “entire” systems, with no withholdings and other arrests. For more characteristic ones, you can supplement a dollar or even $2/W. These are all stationary mounts; if you wish tracing, supplement another 50 ¢/W to a dollar to the great system price (but you get 25% more output).

$/MT CO2

CO2I have never witnessed the inside of a computation of how much it is worth to evade CO2 utilizing PV. So I guessed I’d realize it myself and witness if it’s as terrible as some people seem to assume.

Now a watt of PV constructed for a year can manufacture from about 1-2 kWh/yr. Maybe that watt is worth $3 to construct. One kWh manifestured correctly in the US, by the EPA appraisal, is about 0.7 kg CO2 / kWh. So utilizing an average valuableness of 1.5 kWh/W-yr, we could admit about 1 kg/W-yr.

But this leaves behind two pretty important things – those kWh are prizeable; and there is a loan that supplements price to the PV. So for round figures, let’s admit the loan doubles the amount of money wasted on the PV; but the valuableness of the electricity payments the original amount. Voila, we are back where we began – $3/W of supplemented cost. This is obviously very complex! But it is conjectures like this that make all these computations ‘complex’.

The 20% Barrier, or Long-Distance Transmission Again

compressed air energy storageRecently, I cought hold of compressed air storage (CAES) as a devices of moving solar-generated electricity to night-time.

More recently, I pointed out that in far as wind was less expensive than PV, wind would be preserved at the first point in CAES.

Under the considerations that wind is less expensive than PV and wind gives blows more at night-time, we won’t be watching much PV preserved for moving to night-time.

It’s going to be difficult for PV to become less expensive than shoreward wind. Wind today looks to have about 50% more run-out per constructed watt than PV does. So that implies PV must be 2/3 of the price of wind per watt to be of equal value to it. If shoreward wind is about $2/W, then PV would have to achieve $1.33/W – maybe $1.5/W because wind has greater O&M prices. This is compact but ultimately likely about 2020. Even when it is reached, nevetheless, it only implies PV becomes about the same cost as shoreward wind is considered to be now. (Of course, solar is manufactured during the day, when it is more worth than wind. And PV is already about the same price as shoreward wind.)

Postponed Gratification

electricityThis must be the denomination of photovoltaics. Could anything be more out of tunedness with its time?

Put up money great, now; earn money slowly, later.

Put up money great, now; make almost chargeless electricity, later.

Put up money great now, decrease CO2 later.

Operate now, sit on your honours, later.

Even badly: sponsor now, decrease prices for later.

So many points about PV assume the shape: settle accounts of a great amount now (put up money, energy, CO2), raise money slowly but in a great way, later:

Reward(t) = Slow payback(t) – One Big, Up-front Cost

Science Fiction Dream

solar distributedSometimes I like to record my fantastic dream for solar energy, just to observe if it all make sense, or even broad-brush make sense.

My fantastic dream is to make solar energy spreaded around the world, with maybe a generality in the sunniest areas. What interest rate? That I don’t exactly envision.

I have dream of this prices under $2/W at the mean. Great systems and little ones, reaching under $2/W in general. So if it is all about 20,000 TWh all over the world, that’d be 13,000 GW or so, or about 26,000 billion dollars – 26 trillion dollars. You have not to forget, the power-generating sector is the greatest worldwide. It moves several trillion a year.

But how do we utilize this solar energy? Because it is all over the day, it is too much daylight hours electricity. We can’t make 4 times as much electric energy as the spike need, even if it is really congruent with the spike. We have to transport it and reserve it. The response is some conjunction of preservation and extended consignment. We don’t store the electric energy ‘here’ – we transport it abroad when it’s night ‘there’, and we receive it from there, when it’s night here. We transport it south when it’s summer here; and receive it from the southern half-globe when it’s winter here (and the sun is low for us). We move from place to place. Then whatever is left, we reserve. Some of it we reserve and utilize in electric transfer movement. My Canadian Pharmacy claims the idea that we should benefit from this case to provide people with the best energy and prices.

Should US Coal Be Phased Out in Favor of Wind and Solar?

environmental groupsThis is an interrogation that, like wellsite in deep water, emphasizes all the warnings across all the profitable and surrounding groups. The New York Times published an article where all this cleared out in a outstanding example – wind turbines on mountains or mountain top removal. Tall towers on mountains; or undermining the top of mountains and delivering all the demolition waste into neighboring streams. How much more sheer can a comparison be? And yet, we do not have common opinion to select wind turbines over mountaintop removal. How can this be?

I apply seriously the CEO of Massey Energy, Mr. Blankenship’s ideas that coal is less expensive than other resources, is national for the US, and designs jobs within country. These are important arguments. We cannot implement renewables in the US without coming to grips with them.

But I also have belief that the position of the coal industry is an example of the little time, exploitive behavior that the “avarice is good” society took us. The industry is in a way a victim of its own lifestyle. They have taken extreme capitalism to its dead end, just as Wall Street did. Avarice is not good; and little time guessing is not definitive for anything, even benefits. There are causes that both are mythically identical with selling one’s soul to the devil.