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Friday, July 16, 2010

Solar Cheaper than Nukes | RenewablesBiz

Solar Cheaper than Nukes | RenewablesBiz

Solar Cheaper than Nukes

Bill Opalka | Jul 15, 2010


The last time I caught up with NC WARN the group caused quite a stir with its call to eliminate coal-fired generation in North Carolina in 15 years.

The group, whose moniker stands for waste awareness & reduction network, is at it again with a new report that said a "historic crossover" has occurred between the costs of building solar installations and new nuclear plants. The report said that the state's utilities have rejected solar energy in favor of nuclear plants that require massive public subsidies and additional transfer of financial risks to electricity customers and taxpayers.

"North Carolina should be leading, not lagging, in the transition to clean energy," said John Blackburn, the former chancellor of Duke University and emeritus chair of its economics department.

He also said the fast-growing worldwide solar industry is poised to bring thousands of manufacturing and installation jobs to North Carolina.

Clean energy advocates point out that solar photovoltaic (PV) for home systems, rooftop installations on businesses and utility-scale plants have fallen rapidly in recent years and that trend is expected to accelerate over the next decade. WARN also said that delays and design issues still dog nuclear plants.

Blackburn said an "apples to apples" cost comparison, net of incentives for both technologies, was based on interviews and published reports of solar trends and cost estimates to build nuclear plants.

Blackburn, who produced the report for clean energy nonprofit NC WARN, was assisted by Sam Cunningham, a master's candidate at the Duke University Nicholas School for the Environment. The authors emphasized that solar prices should be compared to new nuclear plant costs, and that electric rates will rise much less with a clean-energy approach.

1 comment:

  1. Before all you anti-nukes celebrate what you imagine vindicates your ideologically-pure convictions about solar vs. nuclear energy, you ought to look under the hood and not take NC WARN's conclusions at face value.

    As is normal for these propaganda pieces, the authors compare apples and oranges to reach their target conclusion, taking information from sources with much different methodologies.

    They take the nuclear information from an anti-nuclear screed written by Mark Cooper. Cooper at least has the decency to show from where his information comes. Early costs come from academics who estimated the costs for a fully-developed nuclear capacity, allowing that costs for early plants would be higher than for later plants because of having to pay for manufacturers' tooling-up and construction crews' having to learn new specialized techniques. Middle-time costs come from utilities estimating their own costs for building one plant without the benefit of long-time experience. Later costs come from Wall Street analysts--as we've learned in the last few years, nothing they say can be trusted. By combining these estimates in a contrived way, Cooper was able to plot a cost escalation out of proportion to reality.

    The authors then take solar information from a Lawrence Berkeley paper, which shows that solar panels haven't dropped in price, but unit installation costs have dropped because larger installations offer economy of scale.

    The NC WARN paper merely ignores these pertinent facts to justify the authors' predetermined conclusion.



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