Analysis: Solar & wind power costs are huge compared to natural gas fired generation

Ed Hoskins has done an analysis of cost ratios, and no matter what your viewpoint of economics might be, the numbers here don’t lie. Without being propped up by subsidies, solar and wind aren’t even in the race as their competitiveness leaves them at the starting line while cheap natural gas (aided by fracking) runs laps around the race course. He writes:

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In summary, the figures show that these three major nations of the Western world have spent about ~$0.5trillion to create Renewable Energy electrical generation capacity nominally amounting to ~5.8% of their total generation. This capacity could be reproduced using conventional natural gas fired electrical generation for ~$31 billion or ~1/16 of the costs expended.

The data by table:

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Solar energy is about ~34 times the cost of comparable standard Gas Fired generation, whereas Wind-Power is only ~12 times the comparable cost.

Had conventional Gas Fired technology had been used, the full ~31 GW capacity would have provided non-intermittent electricity production and wholly dispatchable power could be generated as and when needed.

As all Renewable Energy technologies are only viable with the support of costly government subsidies, market intervention and manipulation, can this be a responsible use of public funds ?

The following data sources for the USA, Germany and the UK were reviewed:

United States of America: data available 2000 – 2012

http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy14osti/60197.pdf

Germany: data available from 1990 to 2013

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_Germany

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_in_Germany

United Kingdom: data available 2008 – 2013

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_the_United_Kingdom

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_in_the_United_Kingdom

These data provide installed “nameplate” capacity measured in Megawatts (MW) and energy output measured across the year in total Gigawatt hours, (GWh). Thus they do not provide directly comparable values as Megawatt nameplate capacity and the actual energy outputs achieved. For this comparative exercise the annual Gigawatt hours values were revised back to equivalent Megawatts for, accounting for the 8,760 hours in the year. This measure eliminates the effect of intermittency and non-dispatchability characterising Renewable Energy power sources. It also allows for the calculation of capacity factors accounting for the intermittency of Renewable Energy.

The Energy Information Association provides the capital cost information in US$ for the USA

http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/capitalcost/pdf/updated_capcost.pdf .

This note should be read in conjunction with the earlier entry at WUWT,

https://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/08/30/renewable-energy-in-perspective-solar-and-wind-power/

which shows the growth of Renewable Energy installation the three Nations.

The USA Energy Information Association publishes comprehensive information on the capital costs of alternate electrical generation technologies, in Table 1 of their 2013 report. From that full list these notes consider three technologies:

Large Scale Photovoltaic: this is the most economic of the PV technologies at ~$3.8 billion / GW.

Combined Wind 80-20: merged onshore 80% and offshore 20% wind at ~$3.0 billion / GW.

Natural Gas Advanced Combined Cycle: the costliest technical option at ~$1.0 billion / GW.

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“Overnight Capital Cost”, (just as if an power generating installation has been created overnight), is the standard comparative measure for capital costs used in energy industries.

The specific Overnight Capital Costs used include:

  • Civil and structural costs
  • Mechanical equipment supply and installation
  • Electrical and instrumentation and control
  • Project indirect costs
  • Other owners costs: design studies, legal fees, insurance costs, property taxes and local electrical linkages to the Grid.
  • However for this comparison Overnight Capital Costs specifically do not include:
  • Provision of Back-up power supply for times when renewable power is unavailable.
  • Fuel costs
  • Remote access costs
  • Extended electrical linkages to the Grid
  • Maintenance
  • Financing

etc.

For these comparisons the EIA data denominated in US$ was used: no consideration is taken of currency variations. These brief results are primarily for comparative purposes and do not purport to give precise actual expenditures by the various governments. They do however clearly indicate the order of magnitude of the sums involved.

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The results for the individual Nations in tabular form using the EIA Overnight Capital Cost data are shown below:

There is also a very large discrepancy in maintenance costs shown in the EIA table 1. Compared to a standard Natural Gas plant, maintenance of Photovoltaics cost more than half as much again, Onshore Wind-Power costs about 2.5 times as much and Offshore Wind-Power costs about five times as much.

There are also significant questions about the longevity and engineering robustness of the Solar and Wind-Power Renewable Energy technologies: this is particularly problematical for off-shore wind farms.

A careful analysis might well indicate that in spite of the cost of fuel being essentially free, the development and installation of both Solar and Windpower involves the releases of substantial amounts of CO2 which may hardly be compensated for by the use of these technologies over their installed working life.

However there still remains a further major problem with all these Renewable Energy sources. Their electrical output is intermittent and non dispatchable. Their output cannot respond to electricity demand as and when needed. Energy is contributed to the grid in a haphazard manner dependent on the weather, as can be seen from German electrical supply in the diagram below. Power certainly not necessarily available whenever required.

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Source: http://notrickszone.com/2014/07/21/germanys-habitually-awol-green-energy-installed-windsolar-often-delivers-less-than-1-of-rated-capacity/

Solar power inevitably varies according to the time of day, the state of the weather and also of course radically with the seasons. Solar power works most effectively in more Southerly latitudes and it certainly cannot be really effective in Northern Europe.

For example in Germany, its massive commitment to solar energy can briefly provide up to ~20% of country wide demand for a few hours either side of noon on some fine summer days, but at the time of maximum power demand on winter evenings solar energy input is necessarily nil.

http://theenergycollective.com/robertwilson190/456961/reality-check-germany-does-not-get-half-its-energy-solar

http://www.ukpowergeneration.info

Electricity generation from wind turbines is equally fickle, as in the week in July 2014 as clearly shown above, where Wind-Power input across Germany was close to zero for several days. Similarly an established high pressure system, with little wind over the whole of Northern Europe is a common occurrence in winter months, when electricity demand is at its highest.

Conversely, on occasions Renewable Energy output may be in excess of demand and this has to dumped expensively and unproductively. This is especially so, as there is still no solution to electrical energy storage on a sufficiently large industrial scale.

That is the reason that the word “nominally” is used here in relation to the measured outputs from renewable energy sources.

Overall these three major nations that have committed massive investments to Renewable Energy, ~$0.5 trillion or ~2.2% of combined annual GDP. This investment has resulted in a nominal ~31Gigawatts of generating capacity from an installed Nameplate capacity of ~150Gigawatts. This nominal 31GW of Renewable Energy output is ~5.8% of the total installed generating capacity of ~570Gigawatts.

But even that 31GW of Renewable Energy production is not really as useful as one would wish, because of its intermittency and non-dispatchability.

156 thoughts on “Analysis: Solar & wind power costs are huge compared to natural gas fired generation

      • They give you the excitement of not knowing exactly when your power will turn up. Like a sort of electricity lotto. Thermal, hydro and nuclear don’t give you that excitement.

      • Done that, many years ago. Same “procedure” regarding costs….

        While it’s worth using such technology far from urban cities and on islands, it cost too much elsewhere.

      • Well PV solar, does NOT require any expensive and rare minerals. Silicon is as common as dirt, and Aluminium, is present in the right ratio to make high efficiency silicon solar cells. It’s the land that is expensive with solar energy.

      • True in one way, but before you have them there you want to have them, you will have to look closer at each part of the energy-trade – you can’t just drop for example silicon from sky ready to be used – it’s always a process, several processes actually

        all in all it cost more energy from scratch till production for delivery to existing energy-net than the solar power normally (California might be an exception) can deliver during 15 years. Mind you each single part and all “lines”, transports etc etc must be put into the equation……

      • I think I was responding to your succinct statement: “Problem is that solar and windpower needs some really expensive and rare minerals …”
        To which I replied : “Well PV solar, does NOT require any expensive and rare minerals….”

        Both of those statements cannot be correct.

        If you were involved in designing silicon photo-diodes, and other silicon semiconductor devices, down to the bare metal and doping diffusion profiles, prior to circa 1967, then you probably know a lot more about it than I do.

        But I never used any rare materials.

        And I said nothing at all about any other costs of the whole process.

      • Yeah. Solar needs beach sand. That’s pretty hard to find. And windpower needs carbon. Just amazingly hard to find.

      • … and the engine’s wheels producing energy need some rare methals on the energy’s way to the “users”.

        Don’t forget the battery’s and the steal-productions need for cobolt and phosphat. Not so rare but still costly…..
        Btw the sol energy cells also need arsenic, cadmium and other more common but not so ecologic clean minerals during production…..

      • george e. smith
        September 6, 2014 at 12:43 pm
        Well PV solar, does NOT require any expensive and rare minerals…..

        Are you sure?

        Guardian – 27 January 2012
        Rare minerals dearth threatens global renewables industry
        China’s near-exclusive access to terbium and yttrium sent prices soaring in 2011, potentially hobbling clean energy industry…….

        …Terbium, yttrium, dysprosium, europium and neodymium are widely used in the manufacture of wind turbines, solar panels, electric car batteries and energy-efficient lightbulbs. …..

        Other references
        http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-01-05/five-rare-earths-crucial-for-clean-energy-seen-in-short-supply.html
        http://e360.yale.edu/feature/a_scarcity_of_rare_metals_is_hindering_green_technologies/2711/

    • Why would one look at “potential” benefits? PV and windmill solar technologies have been around for eons; long enough for the “potential benefits to have already been realized as REAL benefits.
      PV solar is well over half a century old, and windmills have been around for centuries.

      In agriculture, (sometime) wind driven water pumps have been used for what wind is good for; intermittent power when available, where “on demand” energy is NOT a requirement.

      Solar is, and always will be, limited by the simple fact that the maximum available solar power density at sea level, is only about 100 watt per square foot, and as a wise man once said; “buy land, they aren’t making any more of it.

      Sure PV and windmill solar can be used where the land has already been committed for building, and solar panels can provide protected shelter as automobile parking lots.

      But a 30,000 square mile plant on “waste” desert land, (as has been seriously proposed),makes no sense.

      Incidently, 30,000 square miles is the exact size of the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve, where 2,000 acres, would be enough to tap the stored chemical energy resources of that particular “waste” land.

      When looking at the costs, just remember that virtually ALL improved real estate, is assessed for real estate taxes on the land improvements, as well as the land itself. That is true for existing energy plants, and will surely apply to solar plants, even on “waste” land.

      • The problem with tapping the stored chemical energy of the ANWP is that over time it will run out as it is a fixed quantity resource. The sunshine will be shinning long after the wells go dry

      • Yes S traction but when we need solar (in perhaps 50 years, the quality will be there. I am not willing to sacrifice in this stupid way for a possible future gain. Fossils fuel compared to solar is my choice. Let the next generation take care of their own damn problems. Now where is my SUV, time to liberate some more totally beneficial CO2.

      • Well Pyeatte, you should tell that to the publishers of Scientific American Journal. They published a cover story article on just such a serious design project in the Jan 2008 issue of SciAm. It also proposed a smaller, 16,000 square mile solar thermal (steerable mirrors plus boiler and turbine) plant.

        Fred Singer’s comment on the project was: “Who is going to clean 30,000 square miles of solar cells ?”

      • So s.tracton ; your energy solution is we should not touch that which is available now, but wait for that which is not available now, to become available.

        Now as I recall, the sun was shining, long before we ever discovered any stored chemical energy resources, but it simply couldn’t keep up with the demand for energy.

        The monkeys were much more efficient at gathering figs than we were. We were too big and clumsy, to get the choice figs, out on the smaller branches.

        Well guess what; we opted for stored chemical energy instead (fire and fuels), and look where that got us.

        And those crazy monkeys, are still trying to catch up, by gathering figs.

        As for the solar field, you can spread those 30,000 square miles of solar cells in thousands of separate locations. The 2,000 acres of ANWR will provide available energy, long after those solar cells have all died from natural causes, no matter where you put them. The sun is never going to up the power output, in our life times.

      • Could you imagine the effect on the fauna and flora and micro-climate caused by a 30,000 sq mile UV ‘farm’ ?

      • 30,000 square miles of solar panels in a desert wasteland? If there is enough water to keep the panels clean, it wouldn’t be a “desert wasteland”. Anyone have a number for the periodic cleaning costs? Keeping the native chaparral in check means a LOT of herbicide use.

      • Capacity Factor is a measure of the actual measured output on an annual basis. The CF for Cape Wind is from a paper from the University of Delaware. This paper resulted from a study of offshore wind for a recently authorized $1.4 Billion offshore wind project for the state of Maryland. CF allows for planned maintenance, unplanned maintenance, and grid requirements, load and peak following. In the case of Solar and Wind it would allow for the intermittent nature of the source. European experience CF calculations come in on average mid twenties. However, CF is not the complete story. The power has to be dispatchable. A six year study of Denmark’s offshore wind production found that while wind provided 19% of the country’s electricity generation, it only met an average 9.7% of the demand over a five year period, and a mere 5% during 2006. This is referred to as Demand Capacity.

        Go to the forest near you, build a hovel complete with an inefficient solar panel on the roof and an inefficient wind turbine in your back yard, forgo any fossil fuel derived substance that would impact on your life style including medication, plastic, fertilizer and die. If humans are a blight on the Earth as you proclaim, the males and females will be sterilized so they are incapable of procreation, and this, of course, is your mind set. And at twilight, when your brain dead like thinkers convene around your campfire, polluting the atmosphere with CO2 and other noxious gases hold hands and sing folk songs reminiscent of Pete ”The Commie” Singer, like “Kumbaya My Lord” and revel in how you are ENVIRONMENTALLY CORRECT you are, and die. Just do it on your own dime. That’s what this country is all about, choice, make your own choices on your own terms, on your own DIME. JUST DON’T INFLICT YOUR QUASI PSEDUO INTELLECTUAL CRAP ON MY LIFE!

    • .”..comparing different technologies, one should look at both costs and (potential) benefits.”

      The only advantage of solar or wind is it is a way to get electrical power when one can not get electrical power from the grid. So if going camping and you want electrical power, one can get it from solar panels. Another advantage could to serve one’s religious beliefs, if religious beliefs includes the idea one should not get electrical power from an electrical power grid.

      But there is no advantage for a nation to be dependent of solar or wind energy- and it does not do what it’s said to do, which is reduce CO2 emissions. Or only in very simply analysis, which is
      taking into account all the factors involved [in present conditions] can you delude yourself that it reduces CO2.
      If you want to reduce CO2, use fuel which makes less CO2 [and creates water as one of it’s byproducts] so Natural gas is example a fuel which gets more energy and results less CO2 for the amount energy generated. Of course if the want to reduce CO2 emission to lowest level and have practically unlimited future energy, one should use nuclear power.

      • You are absolutely right. Wind and solar by their very nature, intermittent and unpredictable, have no chance of supplying base load power, which is required for an industrialized society.

      • You hit it on the nail when you said “solar or wind energy…it does not do what it’s said to do, which is reduce CO2 emissions.”

        Because of the need for 100% backup by conventionally powered generators, wind or solar do not reduce CO2 emissions. This is commonly overlooked.

        The only raison d’etre for wind or solar is the reduction in CO2 emissions, and if they are incapable of reducing CO2, then there is no point to them (far more expensive, intermittent, and in most installations are incapable of producing peak power when peak power is needed).

        In my opinion, when this mess unravels, politicians will feel the backlash (energy prices needlessly doubled or trippled), and will have no hiding place because it is so obvious that wind and solar failed on the most important factor (for those that believe in AGW), ie., they did nothing to reduce CO2 emissions.

        The US was much critised for not signing up to Kyoto. Yet out of the developed.world, it has reduced CO2 emissions the most, and this is because of fracking and the switch to gas. This conclusively proves that the best way to reduce CO2 emissions (if that is one’s goal) is to switch to gas. Of course, going nuclear could reduce even more CO2 emissions, but there are real issues with nuclear and so one can see why that may be devisive. What is madness is that France which has about 70% nuclear capacity is talking about phasing out its nuclear!

        Unfortunately politicians have no sense. In the EU they are talking about banning high powered kettles (3kW) and compelling the use of lower powered kettles (1 to 1.5kW), without understanding that it is not the power of the kettle that has a bearing on the energy used, but rather the amount of water that is to be boiled. A pint of water using a 1.5kW kettle will take twice as long to boil as a pint of water using a 3kW kettle, such that the total energy used is the same (leaving aside energy loss issues).

        If this is their understanding of energy and how it works, it is no surprise that they roll out such hopeless energy policies. Heaven help us all.

      • “You are absolutely right. Wind and solar by their very nature, intermittent and unpredictable”

        You are absolutely right. Here in California, we never know what time of the day or night the sun will shine during the summer. And it’s completely impossible to predict what time of the day or night people will turn on their air conditioners.

    • the amount of copper alone in each one represents a huge carbon footprint. In about 30 years, copper shortages will make all those defunct turbines worth more as recycled scrap than in producing unreliable electricity.

    • Well, wind power sure messes up the view in places. The noise is a problem in some areas and it kills many, many birds.I can’t think of a single good thing wind power does.

      • I remember when the rage was to have pristine vistas, and killing animals of all types was
        frowned upon. You couldn’t have advertising signs in many places because they caused “blight”. Yet, the same types are advocating vast wind farms in those same pristine areas that kill eagles and other birds – but now, not a peep. The silence is deafening. You can go to prison for shooting an eagle, but the wind farms get a 30 year pass. Same problem with the huge solar farms being built on BLM land in the vast SW deserts, disturbing natural habitats that used to be called…”vital”. The dishonesty and hypocrisy is mind blowing.

    • A combined cycle natural gas turbine plant studied by the DOE completed in 2010 is rated at 570 mw and produces 470 mw, capacity factor 85%. cost $311 million. life cycle 35 years therefore this plant will produce 133 terawatts life cycle. Keep in mind the $311 Million and the 133 terawatts.
      Here’s a synopsis of a typical Anthropogenic Climate Change abatement project, Cape Wind Nantucket. This will be the first offshore wind turbine installation in the United States. Cost, $2.6 BILLON. This project has been the subject of debate in excess of ten years and several lawsuits. The turbines are of German origin, the concrete foundations are contracted to a foreign construction firm and the project will employ 50 full time employees.
      This 120 wind turbine project is rated at 468 mw and will produce 143 mw after applying a capacity factor of 30.4 % (as computed the the University of Delaware) the time the wind actually blows, life cycle is 20 years therefore this project will produce 24.6 Terawatts life cycle. Insofar as this project located in an area which is enshrouded in fog 200, on average, days of the year a low wind velocity environment, a more realistic life cycle output would be 15 Terawatts.
      A combined cycle natural gas turbine plant studied by the DOE for three years completed in 2010 is rated at 570 mw and produces 470 mw, capacity factor 85%. cost $311 MILLION. life cycle 35 years therefore this plant will produce 133 Terawatts life cycle.
      The contracted cost of the Cape Wind energy will be 23 cents a kilowatt hour (excluding tax credits, which are unlikely to last the length of the project), which is more than 50% higher than current average electricity prices in Massachusetts. the bay state is already the 4th most expensive state for electricity in the nation. Even if the tax credits are preserved, $940 million of the $1.6 billion contract represents costs above projections for the likely market price of conventional power. moreover, these costs are just the initial costs as they are scheduled to rise by 3.5 percent annually for 15 years. by year 15 the rate will be $.38 per Kilowatt. Draw your own conclusions. Wind reducing electricity rates, I think not, and the contracted price, which took a court case to make public is simply outrageous. You’re getting played big time if you buy into this nonsense.

      The Math (baseplate mw x capacity factor x 8760 (annual hours) x life cycle (years))

  1. The actual economic situation is much worse than portrayed here. I dug deep into the 2013 EIA capital cost and levelized cost estimates, as wind and solar have dedicated essays in the forthcoming book on energy and climate. In both cases, the EIA costs DO NOT include the additional backup generating capacity that has to be on standby (usually nat gas peakers in the US and Germany)–which have a levelized cost of 11.6 cents per KWH in the US compared to CCGT (base load) at 6.8 cents. If, for example, wind has a capacity factor of 0.33 (a third), then its true cost and capital are roughly 1/3 EIA wind plus 2/3 EIA gas turbine peaker.

    In other words, wind is almost twice the actualcapital and levelized total cost of the EIA accounting. Those system costs are hidden inside the utilities that have to operate a reliable grid. But for sure in the monthly utility bills. Any business who accounted like the EIA would be bankrupt, and it’s accountants jailed for falsifying the books.

    • To be fair to IEA, they do explicitly state so (at least in my 2010 edition):

      “In addition to the uncertainties described above, there are also other factors which cannot
      be adequately incorporated into a cross-country analysis but need to be acknowledged, and are
      therefore dealt with in the study in a qualitative manner in dedicated boundary chapters:
      – integrating variable and intermittent renewable energies in most existing electricity sys-
      tems;
      – current cost of capital for energy projects and differences in tax treatment;
      – issues in connection with the behaviour of energy markets (demand and price risk);
      – cost of CC(S), a technology that can be key for the decarbonisation of the power sector, yet
      is still in the development stage.”

      • My apologies, I was referring to IEA International Energy Agency, not EIA Energy Information Administration..Always mix those two up …

      • I would like to hear one, JUST ONE, good reason we are paying 500 Billion on an immature power source that is not needed for at least a century, to solve a problem that isn’t happening.
        BTW has anyone ever proven that warming and more CO2 is anything but a benefit to us? I know the answer to that is NO but I felt the need to vent….sometime I hate people and their private agendas.

      • The preponderance of the Fossil Fuel subsidies are Tax and Credits available to all business, including renewables, applicable to the expensive exploration and field development phase of the production process. The Production Tax Credit is applicable solely to Renewable Energy. Only a fraction of fossil production goes to electrical power generation. Therefore in order to make an accurate comparison, the calculation of fossil fuel subsidy are the amounts dedicated solely to electric power production. The US Energy Information Agency is the go to government source for unbiased data. Here is a listing of Federal subsidies dedicated for electric power production by source, fiscal 2010, dollars per Megawatt. Oil and Gas $0.64, Hydropower $0.82, Coal $0.64, Nuclear $3.14, SOLAR $775.64, WIND $56.29. You don’t need a Harvard MBA that there is something amiss here.
        .
        Without subsidies and mandates this nonsense wouldn’t be happening in the US. And yes it takes both sides of the isle, the Crony Capitalists, Crony Socialists and the latest addition to the mix Green Robber Barons and Eco Socialists. By the way, check out how the renewable energy policies have worked out in Europe in regards to the recession. Spain solar has crashed, Cap and Trade market is in the tank, Germany’s offshore wind debacle, UK canceling all of it onshore wind projects, etc.

    • Ed mentions ‘ overnight capital costs’which may relate to some of the things you mention.

      Certainly when all the related costs are calculated the tumbling costs of solar panels are Immaterial as the cost of the basic equipment is dwarfed by other factors.

      In particular I would cite the British experience which is that generally solar and wind installations are not placed in traditional locations for power generation and therefore all the infrastructure from overhead pylons to sub stations have to be factored in. There is also one item that is surely the most precious of all which is environmental integrity. You don’t save the environment by trashing the countryside and solar and wind installations are extremely damaging when placed in previously wild and green countryside

      Tonyb

    • I know. It’s completely impossible, to, say, build a water pump that operates when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining to pump water to the tops of hills to pressurize the water system. Nope. That must be done 24×7. We wouldn’t have considered moving that to the night time over the past 30 years in order to take advantage of underutilized night time base load power.

      And we can’t possibly know that people will run their air conditioners on hot sunny days in California. Nope, we absolutely must have full backup generating capacity for that.

      And, no, we couldn’t possibly consider using Solar or Wind in any of the niches where it is currently cost effective because if you used just Solar or just Wind for 100% of your electricity in 30 years from now when the production might scale up to what would be needed you would run into problems because you’re locked into today’s technology. Innovation is a complete impossibility.

  2. Reblogged this on Norah4you's Weblog and commented:
    Here in Sweden there is a race between Socialists (Socialdemokratic Party) who need Greens and Lefties in order to beat sitting Primar Minister of Sweden (A Conservative leading a block of four non-Socialistic Paries). The Green Party especially is longing for these alternative instead of Nuclear Power (but also instead of Water power).
    Mind you. The Socialist’s leader Löfven believes it to be correct not to give an information re his and his party’s opinion BEFORE election. Here in Sweden the Opposition call voters to vote blindly…..
    Oklara svar om energi, GP Ledarsidan

    • Funny that, Norah4you, same here in Australia, socialists expect voters to vote with no analysis … when one is produced, it is often very biased towards the instructing party.

  3. Well, given that NATO, controlled solely by the USA via its American supreme commander General Breedlove, forces the European vassals into a confrontation with Russia, Germany faces a blockade-like situation; which means that any energy at any price is good energy.

    • Indeed, “”energy security” is one “potential benefit” why a nation might want to include renewables in the mix, in spite of being (much) more expensive.

      • Energy security could also be advanced by extracting all the oil and natural gas we have below us now. And it would be much cheaper.

      • Don’t forget coal.

        There is enough energy buried under the ground for at least a 1000 years, and who thinks that we won’t have radically different forms of energy production in the next couple of 100 years?

        There is no problem with energy security, it lies beneath our feet, not up in the air.

      • If you actually wanted “energy security” then unreliable systems such as wind and solar don’t make much sense. Possibly better to look at Thorium fission or even extacting Uranium from sea water. Assuming no source of fossil fuels are available.

    • Well, we pay the biggest share. But, we do it with your gold so it’s a win-win until that’s tapped out. That should happen around 1976. But wait; we can still use England’s gold. That will run us until about 1982. After that we have to start borrowing back the money we gave the Chinese. That will run us until 2008 or so, then we’ll just print it out of thin air. See? Always a way. Happy happy.

      • So what is Russia going to do huh? Their future is with economic growth and development. That means selling their gas to the BASIC block. The OECD is in decline.

      • Hunter, is the supreme commander of NATO called supreme commander as a joke?

        Yeah I guess it is not helpful to the USA.

      • Raving, there is a BRICS bloc but no BASIC bloc. Australia is in the Anglo-American power structure; in the SWIFT system; hooked on the USD.

        BRICS has 3 billion people even without the 50 sympathizing nations watching it. I guess that answers your question as to who will buy Russian raw materials.

      • The West played a pivitol role in overthrowing the previously democratically elected government in Ukraine, but did not see the end game. The West created the problem in Ukraine through it niaivity, not appreciating that Russia would never want NATO on its doorstep, and in the cradle of its identity. NATO vastly underestimated the strategic importance of Russia’s warm water port (its other main ports Murmansk and Vladivostok are ice bound).

        In a different scenario (if we were not talking about Russia) the West would be supporting self determination, The west over looks that in Crimea over 95% of the population voted and of those over 95% want to align with Russia. Even if there was a bit of co-ersion, it is clear that on any basis well over 50% of Crimeans want to align with Russia. As I say, the west would normally support such overwhelming claims for self determination. The same is true (but to slightly lesser extent) in Eastern Ukraine. .

        A good analysis of the situation is set out by Christopher Booker (who is an AGW sceptic and often runs good articules on the UK’s energy fiasco). See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/vladimir-putin/11078012/Vladimir-Putins-unacceptable-action-in-Ukraine-was-predictable-and-provoked.html

    • Let’s not forget this chap:

      The former PM, Anders Fogh Rasmussen (Venstre), received a helping hand from former US President George W. Bush when he was appointed secretary general of NATO in 2009. Although Fogh’s good buddy Bush was no longer president, he advised incoming president Barack Obama that Fogh was the best man for the job. Former Bush advisor Damon Wilson said that Rasmussen asked Bush for help at a meeting at Bush’s Texas ranch in 2008. Wilson said that Bush wanted to reward Fogh for his support of the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. – Politiken

      http://cphpost.dk/news/bush-helped-fogh-win-nato-top-spot.6167.html

      • The NATO spokesperson is always a European. He doesn’t have a command. He’s decoration – it is he who always gets trotted out in front of the cameras.

      • DirkH wrote
        September 6, 2014 at 3:42 pm
        […]
        He doesn’t need a command; that’s not his job. His function, his power, his purpose is political PR, for the mass media, where they sell the world on wars. His grinning eminence adds prestige, legitimacy, and a lofty elan to the caper in Ukraine, as it did in Iraq.

        Different capacity, same function, standing between Cameron and Obama now, as he did with Bush and Blair then.


        King, father, royal Dane: O, answer me!
        Let me not burst in ignorance; but tell
        Why thy canonized bones, hearsed in death,
        Have burst their cerements; why the sepulchre,
        Wherein we saw thee quietly inurn’d,
        Hath oped his ponderous and marble jaws, 50
        To cast thee up again. What may this mean,

        –Shakespeare, Hamlet 1, IV

  4. “Large Scale Photovoltaic: this is the most economic of the PV technologies at ~$3.8 billion / GW.”

    With basic PV panels now at under $1/watt ( $1bn / GW ) at one-off retail prices, one wonders how it gets the 3.8 for a large scale project.

    Then we look at the over-priced under performing installations like the Hillsboro FL court house project and we start to see why.

    Five years ago silicon PV prices were about four times what they are today, so I suspect the data these costs are drawn from are a large number of installed systems most of which were priced in that era or before.

    • Panels have come down in cost but not inverters, assembly, transmission. You have to add those to get the complete price per Watt.

      • More importantly, labour costs for installation have gone up commensurate with the size of the subsidy trough to be emptied.

      • You are right baout the other costs, but Europe has recently slapped heavy import taxes on Chinese panels since the Germans could not compete, and this has effectively put up panel costs by 20 to 30% thereby getting rid of the reduction in price that has been seen these past 8 to 10 years due to mass production and improved technology.

        If Europe was seriously concerned abou CO2 emissions, and truly considered it desirable for people to switch to solar, it would not have levied this tax on cheap panels, since it makes it far more expensive for the ordinary citizen to reduce their dependency on the grid.

  5. “In summary, the figures show that these three major nations of the Western world have spent about ~$0.5trillion to create Renewable Energy electrical generation capacity nominally amounting to ~5.8% of their total generation. This capacity could be reproduced using conventional natural gas fired electrical generation for ~$31 billion or ~1/16 of the costs expended.”

    If this is in fact true, it is outrageous and disgusting. If the Western World is indeed going into decline as some would have us believe, idiocy such as this is playing a significant roll in it.

    Heads should roll.

    • This is what happens when our elected officials waste their time and ours listing to the wrong people…..simply because of the political clout those people have.

    • Rant time.
      I’ll try to keep it short.
      Some of the leaders of the ‘Western World’, NATO, OECD – whatever grouping you chose to use – have, historically wanted to screw the system that gave ‘us’ – I’m from the UK – such a comfy lifestyle [albeit after sacrifices in two World Wars last century]; they have sought to do-down the West.

      Look – many of their actions cry this out.

      Auto

  6. I know several true-believers of cAGW. Arguments about costs, raptors & bats, “rare” earths, land use, and whatever else you want to bring to the table do not matter. Mention subsidies and the response it that big-energy gets gig-a-$$$ of subsidies. Mention the cost of all the components of a wind powered generator and the response is that research and scale is bringing the costs in line with other sources – and the power is free. Intermittency – battery research is solving the problem as we speak. They will likely mention Elon Musk’s cars and batteries. Go find a true-believer and engage. You cannot pierce their perception.

    • you have to have numbers. good hard dollar figures. the problem with diehard geen environmentalists is similar to socialists/progressives. They have to deny and hide the true costs of their prescriptives from themselves and the public. Once exposed as being vastly more expensive than portrayed, public support wilts.

      Witness the rising and growing the backlash by average Californians to their looming carbon taxes that will add probably a dollarr/gal to gas and diesel at the pumps. Electric bills will go up too, so a Tesla or Volt doesn’t spare even the greens. Public backlash to Cal’s democrats will force them to curtail much of the taxes.

    • Big energy gets mostly tax breaks, not subsidies. Two totally different things. With tax breaks, you get to keep more of your own money that you’ve already made. With subsidies, the government takes the tax money it has confiscated from us and hands it out to an entity it wants to succeed. Don’t let the true believers get away with lumping them together under the “subsidy” banner.

  7. So the greens are motivated fibbers regarding energy: They make money on wind and solar, at public expense, and they fib about fracking, a 60+ year old technology with an excellent track record of safety.

    • The greens are just like everyone. They are motived by self-interest, even if that means shoving their brand of altruism down everyone else’s throat.

      Stupid

      • Raving,
        What is stupid is not recognizing that the oil and gas industry self-interest coincides with helping people do well, which means fossil fuels are not zero sum. But renewables coincides with insiders getting rich and at the expense of others, which means that at best renewables are a zero sum game.

  8. As I posted previously on another thread, the total capital cost of decarbonization for the world is about $100 trillion US. Total world wealth is about $240 trillion. Total available world capital is about $80 trillion. Decarbonization is a pipe dream.

  9. “Solar & wind power costs are huge compared to natural gas fired generation”

    I see no reason to abandon coal, which is even cheaper.

  10. Indeed, its worse than simply overpaying in rich countries for this silly ‘electrical supply’, as we now are also demanding that Africa not install coal or gas, but rather wind & solar. Its no wonder that Africa and other countries had to create their own bank just to get around the IMF/Obama/EU energy craziness.

  11. Europeans have the choices of ….

    A) collapse under the self-imposed constraint of ‘peak carbon emission’ cultism
    B) pay the Russians whatever is demanded to keep the gas flowing into Europe.

    Getting the BASIC block of countries to play along with the ‘peak carbon emission’ dream isn’t going to happen

  12. In addition to costing way-too-much, wind power also has the disadvantages of wrecking the landscape, killing bats and birds with its chomping blades, and causing hearing difficulties for anything that lives nearby. Also, just when you need the power, there is no wind.
    You would have to be paid handsomely to build one of those windmills!

  13. To be fair, divide wind power’s Gwh/year by about 320 rather than 365 to get a MW comparison with gas, as all gas plants have annual maintenance shutdowns, and downtime at other times too. But the point remains!

  14. I may have misinterpreted the above but it does not seem to take account of lifecycle costs over 20 to 40 years – especially fuel. For a gas plant fuel costs over the operating lifetime may be 3 to 5 times the capital and maintenance cost (UK Gov report shows 4 times!)

    A quick google shows that utility scale solar life time costs are still significantly higher than gas (per MW) by between 50% and 100% – note that I avoided obviously “green” sites as their analysis is likely to be skewed. However capital costs have and may continue to fall materially for solar whereas conventional technologies have already been engineered to optimise efficiency with probably more limited gains possible in the future.

    I don’t disagree with the need for conventional stand-by capacity although whilst renewables account for for less than 10-20% of demand this may not be a major issue. Somewhat tongue in cheek it would be possible to build back up gas to PV which would be a capital on cost of about 25% based on the figures above.

    In the UK subsidies are provided to householders to install PV – these have fallen from approx 40p to 12p per kwh over the last four years also evidencing a major reduction in the costs of installation.

    Ignoring the CO2 arguments may be a rational point of view to take, but dismissing solar and other technologies is premature – it may only be a matter of timing until there is more widespread adoption.

    • You said,,,”I don’t disagree with the need for conventional stand-by capacity although whilst renewables account for for less than 10-20% of demand this may not be a major issue. Somewhat tongue in cheek it would be possible to build back up gas to PV which would be a capital on cost of about 25% based on the figures above.”
      ============================================
      It is a huge issue. Do you want 20 percent of the nation to lose power in freezing weather? That reliable back up must be there. Those costs must be included, and not just for the 20 percent of the time they are needed. The base load plant could eliminate the need entirely for the wind or solar, and it must be there for the peak periods. National laws currently give wind and solar priority when they have power available, and when the grid needs it. This makes base load plants less efficient by a lot, so they must raise their costs here as well, a hidden subsidy.
      The drop in subsidy is covered in other ways as well. In California if you buy a solar installation, you get a 100 percent guarantee on selling all of your energy production back to the grid, weather they need it then or not. Ultimately the consumer pays, and this is why such a small increase in capacity, produces such a large increase in overall costs.

      • Oh, right. When it’s freezing out, I have to make sure I have backup power to run my air conditioner. I can’t possibly just use solar power when it’s hot out. Nope, if I decide to use energy from the sun only on hot sunny days, I’m required to build an equal amount of backup power. And I can’t possibly use both wind and solar. I’m only allowed to use one of them. They can’t possibly help back up each other. That just wouldn’t be allowed. I can’t use existing hydro as a backup. I can’t use biomass. I can’t import energy from other locations that are windy; I’m only allowed to use locally produced energy. And even though it will take 30 year to build out the new infrastructure, I can’t possibly consider that technology might improve. Oh no. If we build one solar panel today or one windmill, we are locked into using that technology for the next 30 years and we can neither make use of innovations that make it cheaper, nor can we change our minds and use something else if expected innovations don’t pan out.

  15. 2.2% of combined annual GDP? Wow. Just to stay even on an employment track economies have to grow by at least 2-2.5% annually. Changes in the distribution of the labor force combined with yearly productivity increases demand that growth. With less growth jobs are shed. However, at 2-2.5% no jobs are added so jobs lost during a recession are not regained. This is why many people feel that we’re still in the recession of 2008. Since economic growth has been so tepid the jobs never came back. And this solar and wind nonsense adds up to a 2.2% yearly drain? I truly wish the general public was aware of what’s been going on for the last 5 1/2 years under the hyper-regulation initiated by the powers that be.

    • Any country foolish enough to attempt decarbonization would in due course be bankrupt exactly for that reason. Considering the extent to which all Western economies are already indebted, I do not see how decarbonization is possible. I have this ugly feeling that the push for renewables is really just an underhanded way of degrowthing our economies. Another Great Depression would cut emissions by at least 30 per cent. Of course, unemployment would be about 30 per cent as well.

  16. Note: I don’t believe in AG anything, but tnere ia some interesting economic points.

    Externalities. If carbon dioxide is pollution (think of coal plants without scrubbers or smokestacks), the problem is the comminity is damaged and pays without it appearing in the costs.

    But we also don’t count the dead birds or other side-effects of green energy.

    Costs aren’t merely tje immediate or obvious.

    • “If carbon dioxide is pollution (think of coal plants without scrubbers or smokestacks), the problem is the comminity is damaged and pays without it appearing in the costs.”
      ——————————-

      ??What?? the scrubbers remove particulates, not CO2, and they are included in the costs. CO2 is not pollution. The catastrophic predictions are all failed, the benefits of CO2 are known and proved.

  17. I think that the analysis above, while accurate needs to build in at least two more costs. First, every watt of solar/wind needs to have backup of a watt of power that will be available when the sun doesn’t shine (as it so predicably will) 4390 every year, or when the wind is calm. This capital cost needs to be charged against the cost of the solar/wind. Further, solar capacity must be assessed on the basis of the shortest days of the year, not on mid-summers day, but as much as 2/3rds of that capacity will be useless in the sunny times. By the time you have built in those costs, solar/wind is even less affordable.

    [“4390 [hours]”, right? But that assumes 12 hours/day average over 365 days a year. .mod]

    • More energy is used during the day than at night, but we aren’t allowed to satisfy part of that energy usage from daytime solar pv? Our air conditioners can be either coal powered or they can be solar powered with backup coal power, but we can’t possibly run them off of unbacked up solar even though there’s a strong correlation between heat and sunshine?

  18. Yet the most recent DOE analysis finds that wind power is at 2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, an all-time low.

    And I can put in a 5KW residential PV system with a 25 year production cost of about $0.03/ KWh (plus maintenance).

      • And you make the usual moronic argument that the price I pay for electricity is the price at which the coal fired power plant sells electricity to the grid. I pay $0.24/kwh for a significant portion of my electricity, not $0.06/kwh.

      • cesium62

        You provide the usual pro-wind tactic of telling lies when you write to me saying

        And you make the usual moronic argument that the price I pay for electricity is the price at which the coal fired power plant sells electricity to the grid.

        NO! I did NOT say that and you cannot quote my having said that because I did not.

        Richard

      • cesium62

        Clearly, the error is mine: I assumed you had made a mistake but you now say you are a deliberate and anonymous liar.

        I did NOT say what you attribute to me and you do not cite or quote my having said it because I did not. When I pointed this out you try to justify your lie by providing another falsehood.

        Obviously, you are yet another typical agent of the windpower industry. Lies are all they have as excuses for their subsidy farms.

        Richard

    • Yes, whenever I see a statement such as “the numbers here don’t lie” it sends up a red flag to me.

      Also note that the numbers in the Wiki are in many cases dated so todays actual costs will be lower for solar and wind. (Tomorrow’s even lower…)

  19. Here’s another interesting price point: Solar power is apparently going to be sold to Austin Energy for about 5¢/kWh under a new 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with SunEdison from two solar power plants totaling 150-megawatts of capacity — a 350,000-panel, 100-megawatt facility; and a 150,000-panel, 50-megawatt facility nearby.

  20. Currently most residential PV systems are grid tied with no storage (batteries).
    However Tesla’s Gigafactory is targeting $100/KWh batteries. An average home uses about 30 KWh / day. It’s not much of a stretch to think that homeowners could buy enough batteries to cover their overnight power usage, thus becoming essentially grid independent. Just depends on whether the tariffs incentivize them to do so. I think it will happen. (Edison already credits me $0.75 per KWh saved on Power Save Days from 2 pm to 6 pm.) Plus LED lighting and increasingly efficient devices and appliances will reduce that 30KWh / day, and smart appliances can shift some power use to PV production hours.

    EV charging throws a slight wrench into this, but the vehicle doesn’t care when it gets charged so build the infrastructure to charge it during the day.

  21. Interesting article in IEEE Spectrum Sep 14 edition: “Solar’s Green Dilemma – must cheaper photovoltaics come with a higher environmental price tag?”. The process starts with silica (silicon dioxide), but the emissions can include: carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, silicon tetrachloride ,hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, sodium hydroxide, cadmium telluride. And a LOT of water needed in the construction and running of manufacturing plant. Closing line: “And just maybe, with a sustained effort by consumers, manufacturers, and researchers, the photovoltaics industry will one day be truly, not just symbolically, green”.

  22. The biggest difference is the little secret that no-one likes to mention. I took a tip from Anthony and installed PV solar energy generation on my roof. The initial cost is quite steep, about £8000, but it is coming down.I paid for it, nothing from government. The major advantage is, that I do not have to keep buying energy from someone else. As a result, no-one is making a continual profit from my pocket. Pretty well all other forms of energy generation are a a bottomless basket of profit for whoever delivers the energy. Home based energy and hot water generation does not give that. Now say I was a senior exec in a multi national power generating organisation, what systems would I be promoting? I must admit that it is really relaxing to watch the cost of energy bounce around while sipping a cold beer from a fridge that cost me nothing to run. Thank you Anthony for the tip, I hope you are getting as much satisfaction from your solar derived as I am. Solar energy might be uneconomic on a national basis, but on an individual householder basis it’s sweet.

  23. Told you so; twelve years ago:

    From our 2002 paper by Baliunas, Patterson and MacRae at
    http://www.apegga.org/Members/Publications/peggs/WEB11_02/kyoto_pt.htm

    “The ultimate agenda of pro-Kyoto advocates is to eliminate fossil fuels, but this would result in a catastrophic shortfall in global energy supply – the wasteful, inefficient energy solutions proposed by Kyoto advocates simply cannot replace fossil fuels.”

    If only politicians would read – and think!

    Politicos from Germany, Great Britain, Spain, California, Ontario and others: Please Note.

  24. Same old mistake, over and over– these studies and comments compare apples to oranges. There is a higher INITIAL cost of PV or Wind compared to nat gas, yes, but this includes the net present value of all the future fuel costs, i.e. zero. Nat gas plants, no matter how efficient, do not include all future fuel and maintenance costs. The cost of nat gas fuel can go down. It can also go up. But for certain these generators stop running if you don’t keep buying fuel. The cost of wind and sun never change, and are built in, or in effect, prepaid. And nat gas power plants take huge amounts of maintenance labor, which PV plants in particular do not. PV panels need a wash about once a month, that’s all. No moving parts, no lubrication, no governor, no scheduling and dispatching, just sit back and get power– when the sun shines. Store it for when it does not. Yes, it is non-dispatchable and non-schedulable. The primary problem is that the traditional grid is designed for constant power feeding predictable demand, and the future grid must be redesigned to handle variable power feeding variable demand. Deal with it. But stop trying to back-engineer renewable energy sources to fit an obsolete grid essentially unchanged since George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla designed it for their clunky machines.

    REPLY: Those “clunky machines” are far more elegant than anything an anonymous coward such as yourself can dream up. Your opinion is noted, and ignored. I have PV power myself, I’ve done three PV projects. True, PV has its advantages, but not as a primary power source and in the current vein of technology, will never, ever be as as cost-effective as natural gas. – Anthony

    • “True, PV has its advantages, but not as a primary power source and in the current vein of technology, will never, ever be as as cost-effective as natural gas. – Anthony”

      Perhaps, but what’s the real cost gap? Certainly not as large as this study would suggest – didn’t this poster have a rather good point that this study is flawed given how initial costs work?

      • ” but what’s the real cost gap? Certainly not as large as this study would suggest …..”

        It’s larger than this study confirmed.
        See Rud Istvan, September 6, 2014 at 12:36 pm comment under primary comment Sam Hall, September 6, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    • Of course the numbers are approximate.

      For the mainstream media, I had to dumb down our message (on grid-connected green energy):

      “Wind Power: It doesn’t just Blow – it Sucks!”

      “Solar Power: Stick it where the Sun don’t Shine!”

  25. The ignorance of respondents such as “A.Nony.Mouse” is just staggering. They suppose that “free fuel” can swamp all the other financial factors that go into net-present-value and levelized cost calculations. By my calculation (and unlike some, I actually did this for a living), the total life-cycle cost per Kwh of output of central photovoltaic solar based on the European experience is ten times the life cycle cost of a combined cycle gas turbine plant (including maintenance and fuel at current U.S. natural gas prices). And that does not include the capital cost of spinning reserve or energy storage required to back up solar (assuming you’d like some correlation between flipping a switch and seeing your lights illuminate).

    You can assume that future natural gas prices escalate at unrealistically high rates and you can assume the solar cells themselves are eventually free (but not everything else that goes into a central solar plant) and you STILL will find solar to be economically ruinous by comparison. The problem with both solar and wind is that neither can benefit from fundamental economies of scale due to the inherently limited energy density of the technologies. In both cases, there is simply too much physical material required for too little power output. Capital cost per average Kwh of useable output swamps all other factors by a country mile..

    “There is none so blind as he who will not see.” There is also none so foolish as he who argues power plant economics without even a smidgen of knowledge of either power plants or economics.

    • His cognitive dissonance is palpable. The ‘Green’ indoctrination is so thorough and the belief system so engrained that he struggles to not acknowledge reality, as expressed by facts and hard analysis above, lest the facade of those shaky green constructions all come tumbling down on his fragile, misled ego.

      Your observation The problem with both solar and wind is that neither can benefit from fundamental economies of scale due to the inherently limited energy density of the technologies. is ‘spot on’ and needs to be always listed along with wind and solar energies other extensive failings.

      Thanks for your experienced based knowledgeable insights!
      Mac

    • Here’s a synopsis of a typical Anthropogenic Climate Change abatement project, Cape Wind Nantucket. This will be the first offshore wind turbine installation in the United States. Cost, $2.6 BILLON. This project has been the subject of debate in excess of ten years and several lawsuits. The turbines are of German origin built in Denmark, the concrete foundations are contracted to a foreign construction firm, the offshore ten story substation is contracted to a Canadian electrical firm, and the project will employ 50 full time employees. So much for the “Green Economy”.
      This 120 wind turbine project is rated at 468 mw and will produce 143 mw after applying a capacity factor of 30.4 % (as computed the the University of Delaware) the time the wind actually blows, life cycle is 20 years therefore this project will produce 24.6 Terawatts life cycle. Insofar as this project located in an area which is enshrouded in fog 200, on average, days of the year a low wind velocity environment, a more realistic life cycle output would be 15 Terawatts.
      The contracted cost of the Cape Wind energy will be 23 cents a kilowatt hour (excluding tax credits, which are unlikely to last the length of the project), which is more than 50% higher than current average electricity prices in Massachusetts. the bay state is already the 4th most expensive state for electricity in the nation. Even if the tax credits are preserved, $940 million of the $1.6 billion contract represents costs above projections for the likely market price of conventional power. moreover, these costs are just the initial costs as they are scheduled to rise by 3.5 percent annually for 15 years. by year 15 the rate will be $.38 per Kilowatt. Draw your own conclusions. Wind reducing electricity rates, I think not, and the contracted price, which took a court case to make public is simply outrageous. You’re getting played big time if you buy into this nonsense.

      The Math (baseplate mw x capacity factor x 8760 (annual hours) x life cycle (years))

      • People, people. It’s just math, not opinion. Nobody is arguing that gas turbines are not more flexible, more schedulable, etc. etc. and we all admit that we will always need them for instantaneous backup. But the article we have been commenting on stated flatly that the CCGT is cheaper. Period. Just not true in a real-world situation. Using the values in the original paper by Ed Hoskins, you can easily extrapolate two scenarios—a. Natural Gas stays fixed cost for the life of the generator (not very likely) or b. Natural Gas doubles every 10 years (reasonable, based on history). Here is a table of the calculations, again using Hoskins’ factors:
        Comparison of Combined Cycle Gas Turbine vs. PhotoVoltaic Generation
        Initial Costs and Ongoing Fuel Costs
        A.Nony.Mouse
        9/15/2014

        1 MW Faceplate– CCGT Initial Cost PV Initial Cost– large scale
        Source: Ed Hoskins per “Guest Blogger”,
        Watt’s Up With That? Site, reported Sept. 6, 2014

        Initial costs $1,020 M $3,870 M

        Maintenance–Labor
        & Materials– annual $16.10 M $0.50 M (est.)

        Source: Calif. Energy Commission
        Fuel– Nat. Gas at Henry Hub Fuel– Sunshine
        + “Cal. Differential” (cost to transport
        to So. Cal. From Louisiana)
        Source: CEC $40.00 per MWh $0.00 per mMWh
        8760 Hours per year
        Annual MWh (nominal) 8760 MWh per year Nominal l
        Annual Fuel cost $350 M $0 M

        Total Annual cost $366.50 M $0.50 M

        A. Assume No Increase in Gas Costs: (Costs over time, regardless of production)
        10-Year Total cost $4,685 M $3,875 M
        20-Year Total cost $8,350 M $3,880 M
        30-Year Total cost $12,015 M $3,885 M

        Est. actual production 0.85 0.21
        Est. MWh produced 7446 1840

        10-Year Total cost/MWh $0.629 $2.106
        20-Year Total cost/MWh $1.121 $2.109
        30-Year Total cost/MWh $1.614 $2.112

        B. Assume Gas Costs Double every 10 Years:
        Ave. 10-Year Total cost $6,518 M $3,875 M
        Ave. 20-Year Total cost $23,010 M $3,880 M
        Ave. 30-Year Total cost $55,995 M $3,885 M

        10-Year Total cost/MWh $0.875 $2.106
        20-Year Total cost/MWh $3.090 $2.109
        30-Year Total cost/MWh $7.520 $2.112

        As you can see, in the land where gas prices never rise, the CCGT cost per MWh is always better. But if gas prices rise at a rate of doubling every 10 years, somewhere around year 15 the PV system is cheaper per MWh and gets cheaper thereeafter.
        Anything that burns fuel burns money over time; anything that has free fuel does not. Put graphically, a rising-cost-over-time line chart will eventually cross over a flat-line cost chart. Under any set of reasonable projections, the fuel-burning system must eventually cost more per unit than the free-fuel system. We can argue the night over my projections or yours, but can we just do the math and skip the name-calling?

      • A.Nony.Mouse

        All your analysis is wrong because it is physically impossible to operate CCGT plants as you suggest.

        CCGT is combined cycle gas turbine. It uses both gas turbines and steam turbines. And it takes time to start them: anybody who has boiled a kettle knows that. Indeed, it takes days to start the steam turbine from cold.

        Therefore, a CCGT plant operates in either of two modes when a wind-powered subsidy farm starts to displace its electricity output. Initially, the CCGT plant ramps down to generate less electricity: this reduces its efficiency so its fuel demand – and, therefore, its emissions – increase. Assume the subsidy farm is very large, then it may displace all of the electricity from the CCGT and, in that case, the CCGT will operate ‘spinning standby’ so it burns fuel at its best fuel efficiency to keep all its parts hot and running until the wind changes.

        Of course, one could use a single cycle gas turbine so it could shut down and have relatively short start up time but that would be very inefficient and so it would also use more fuel.

        E.ON operates the German transmission grid and builds wind-powered subsidy farms in the US. It says:

        Wind energy is only able to replace traditional power stations to a limited extent. Their dependence on the prevailing wind conditions means that wind power has a limited load factor even when technically available…. Consequently, traditional power stations with capacities equal to 90% of the installed wind power capacity must be permanently online [and burning fuel] in order to guarantee power supply at all times

        http://www.nerc.com/docs/pc/ivgtf/EON_Netz_Windreport2005_eng.pdf

        Your analysis assumes that the CCGT plants stop working when wind-powered subsidy farms provide electricity but – in reality – the CCGT plants must continue to operate and they use MORE – not less – fuel because of the subsidy farms.

        Richard

      • A.Nony.Mouse
        September 15, 2014 at 12:24 pm
        (his reply to richardscourtney September 15, 2014 at 12:52 pm)

        As you can see, in the land where gas prices never rise, the CCGT cost per MWh is always better. But if gas prices rise at a rate of doubling every 10 years, somewhere around year 15 the PV system is cheaper per MWh and gets cheaper thereeafter.
        Anything that burns fuel burns money over time; anything that has free fuel does not. Put graphically, a rising-cost-over-time line chart will eventually cross over a flat-line cost chart. Under any set of reasonable projections, the fuel-burning system must eventually cost more per unit than the free-fuel system. We can argue the night over my projections or yours, but can we just do the math and skip the name-calling?

        Er, uhm, uh. No. You are wrong. Dead wrong. There – No name-calling. 8<)

        So, let's "do the math" but with real numbers.
        Solar (PV) cannot generate any power between 3 pm (15:00 hours) and 09:00 local solar time. Thus, the running reserve MUST operate at full capacity between 15:00 hours and 19:00 hours each day because the local electrical demand IS between 1:00 and 19:00. Solar cannot provide significant part of that power because each minute past 3:00 PM there is less and less energy landing on the solar panels. Thus, your "solution" fails.

        The real and physical harm that the vagrancies of wind power are playing on our world's infrastructure is WORSE than the harm that solar is causing because wind changes so quickly and so greatly in deliverable power. Solar at least is predictable: <16% capacity before 9:00 AM, rising on a perfectly clear day between 9:00 from 10% to 100% nameplate "claimed" capacity (maybe) and then falling from 100% (maybe) back to 10% at 15:00 (more dust and clouds in the afternoon on most days) and then continuing to decline to sunset that evening. Nothing, of course, after sunset.

        Wind, on the other hand, jumps from 0.0 to 15% to 85% nameplate levels to 50% to 30% to 90% nameplate levels in only minutes. ANd – it does that rapidly and randomly every day. The changes as today's electrical operators try to follow the load AND "reap the whirlwind" is breaking their power turbines, destroying pipes, heat exchangers, boilers, exhausts, intakes, coolers, separators, reaction chambers, generators, and turbine blades nationwide. Now, while that destruction is "good" for the turbine repair business of fixing and welding and replacing, it is tearing up the 3 and 4 inch thick plates and blades and pressure vessels and boilers and heat exchangers and castings that make up the fleet.

        The cracks from these sudden and massive heatup and cooldown rates MANDATED by "your EPA" and YOUR renewables are YOUR fault: The "costs" of "renewables" is the rest of the plants that actually do provide power.

        But, to your simplified math example above: Double the natural gas price? "That" is based on what rates
        at what times?

        And, to make your own claims worse: The solar PV cells lose 15% nameplate rating their first 60 days, then stabilize to a lower output over the next 15 years. Usually, by 10 years they are generating only 50% original rating, and about 35% after 15 years. Few remain operating for 20 years – by that time, their bases (foundations and roof mounts) have had to be removed to replace the roof itself, and almost no original cells are put back up over the new roof and new foundations. If you can find a 20 year operational life – Show us. In no case is there a 30 year operational life. Conventional base load power plants routinely operate for 50 years – and many get 30 and 50 year uprates to CONTINUE in operation at even more efficient levels their second 30 years.

        Thus, the "free energy" solar cells have a 15 year life – and ALL of their costs MUST BE replaced – at a standard rate-of-return of 10-12%! – (You forgot that little item) – at a capacity factor of 18-22%.

        Assume a generous 20% capacity factor: To actually get the nameplate rating of ONE 120 Megawatt solar power plant, I need to build not a 120 Meg unit, not a 240 Meg unit (as if "half the time it is after dark") and not 480 Megawatt unit (remember the 3/4 of each and every day that your "free energy" solar plant is generating no power?) but an 600 Megawatt power plant!

        But it is even worse than that!

        See, we have to build and run power lines for that 600 Megawatt power plant out in the desert back to where the power is actually used: And THEN we have to build another 90 Megawatt capacity to make up for the electric current losses between the remote desert site and where the people are suing your "free" power.

        But is is even worse than that: This remote desert location needs to be duplicated with a running backup anyway. So, your "free energy" 120 Megawatts actually costs the money to build a 600 Megawatt electric grid, 5x 120 Megawatt solar power plants AND a 600 Megawatts conventional power plant!

        And then you have to add the costs of replacing EVERY solar panel and solar panel mounting frame every 15 years.

      • Your points are good, and valid. I am not trying to claim that solar PV would or could ever be the primary energy source, except for those poor bastards trying to live off the grid (and I am one– we have an off-the-grid mountain property with 3 separate PV systems so when one is down we don’t lose the others).
        Plus I found a major error in my math that reverses my conclusion– EVEN with doubling gas prices every 10 years, solar PV is never cheaper than gas within the lifetimes of the systems. So I concede.
        I worked for many years in a high financial and planning management position within a major utility, and am very familiar with the impossibility of scheduling wind power. I agree that it is a monster, and probably does more harm than good.
        I guess PV is primarily good for two things– 1. peak shaving and 2. better distributed power. I think we must rebuild for maximum distributed energy, and be able to isolate into microgrids as needed. Our grid was designed for high efficiency and reliability under stable conditions, and does very poorly otherwise. Witness the fact that many of the largest transformers are custom-built and require as much as a year to replace!! And one utility’s system design is incompatible with its neighbor’s so they can’t exchange equipment. Who would design such a thing today, given current conditions? This mentality has to change, and plug-and-play design has to be incorporated.
        Maybe the ultimate will be house-scale fuel cells running on existing natural gas lines? Less waste heat, less harmful emissions. PV will continue as a niche solution?

  26. Seriously, good people: Cheap abundant energy is the lifeblood of modern society.

    Expensive energy and poor building insulation results in tens of thousands of excess winter deaths in Europe.

    I suggest that green energy schemes (scams) are responsible for driving up energy costs, and increasing winter morality rates too.

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/10/24/claim-climate-change-caused-more-deaths-in-stockholm/#comment-1457996
    (abridged)

    Excess Winter Deaths for England and Wales totaled 24,000 in 2011-2012, Separate stats are kept for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

    Excess Winter Mortality rates are typically lower in colder Scandinavian countries, and higher in some warmer countries in Southern Europe.

    It is appropriate to pause for a while, and recognize that these were all real people, who “loved and were loved”.

    Regards, Allan MacRae

    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_288362.pdf

    http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/statistics/theme/vital-events/deaths/winter-mortality/

    http://www.nisra.gov.uk/demography/default.asp32.htm

    Epilogue:
    When I was involved in the fledgling environmental movement in the late 1960’s, our objectives were to improve the environment and save lives. It now appears that the opposite is true.

    • A sad but true progressive talent, noted by many for decades. ( The “affordable care act” and various “affordable housing acts” as some recent examples.)

      • ….regarding housing of course the “Community reinvestment act” which was a significant portion of the housing collapse. And our current “Community organizer has a talent for de-organizing and dividing communities.

  27. Don’t you see it? Companies go for renewable energy because of huge subsidies that guarantee profits. Cost competitiveness is for economists and consumers. Profit is king to for-profit companies. They will make 24-karat gold toilet bowls if somebody will pay for it.

  28. It never ceases to amaze me. The renewables advocates, imagine a future scenario, where the “cost” of renewables continues to fall, while the “cost” of fossils continues to climb. Ergo , renewables will inevitably replace fossils.

    Well I remember when oil was $2 a barrel, and shale oils was not cost competitive, but if Arabian crude ever went to $6 a barrel then shale would be the ticket.

    Well light crude did go to $6, and the shale people were counting the fortunes they could make, if the regular stuff ever got to $11 a barrel.

    Well that happened too, but shale oil was still out of reach. It was not until shale recovery technology made breakthroughs that greatly reduced the energy needed to extract oil from shale, that it became viable.

    And so it is with PV solar. since these panels cannot replace themselves with just their own energy output, the real cost of solar cells, will continue to rise with oil prices. They will never overcome the 1kW /m^2 solar limit, and construction costs will surely rise as ordinary energy cost rise; often due to regulations.

    The oil industry used to get a “Depletion allowance”, which is simply a depreciation cost of their resources; the purpose being to allow the energy company to recover the capital necessary to explore for new supplies, and tap them. But regulations, and increased taxes, aim to syop energy companies from renewing their sources of supply.

    The semiconductor industry has totally insane depreciation allowances. If I build a $100M new competitive silicon factory to manufacture market competitive semi-conductor devices, that plant is only going to be competitive for the next two or three years; then it will be obsolete, and nobody will buy the products it can make.
    So I have to build a new more modern plant, with the next generation of geometry reducing technologies..

    But such a fab is going to cost me $500M; not because wages and prices, have gone up, but because completely new advanced lithography, and semiconductor materials and processes have to be developed to meet the new market demands.

    So the Intels, and AMDs or Siemens, have to either make good solid profits, under reasonable tax burdens, in order to put away the capital to build a new $500 M wafer fab. The next one will cost a cool $1B.

    Well actually, they are well beyond these prices right now.

    The only alternative source of capital, is new investment by share holder risk takers; who can only be attracted by the probability of future profits.

    Stupid tax policies, will eventually kill off a lot of hi tech industries, as companies cannot fund the plants to build the new technologies.

    So dream on you pipe dreamers, who think that one day terraforming Mars is a great idea. Where are you going to get the money to do that.

    People taxed to death by the social program vote buyers, will not buy your pie in the sky.

    Today’s San Francisco Chronicle has a front page horror story about our fabulous new Kentuck Fried Chicken factory, down in the waste desert lands of Southern California. Seems like they basically had to sterilize the entire area to build that monstrosity, and no real environmental impact studies were ever done or approved. They just waived that requirement, in the haste for Obama expediency.

    Well the greens wanted to play with the sorcerer’s magic wand and magic potion book. So now they can pay to take down all that scrap metal, and restore that place to a real desert wasteland again.

  29. While I imagine that most of this is true, I wasn’t impressed with the level of professionalism in this article. The sources (like Wikipedia) are weak. Some of the analysis is confusing.

    It would be great if someone would take another shot at this and do a better job of it. This is not good enough for me to send to my Warmist friends…something I had hoped I could do.

    Disappointing.

  30. OK, get a study done on how much wind or solar electricty would get to any electric meter and in fact have enough current flow to run the coffee pots for one morning.
    All used up in the transmission, distribution lines and transformers before it gets to one customer.
    Unless the customer is 100 yards from the solar/wind power. Seems that would require some 4 billion or so units.

  31. How much use were the solar panels? Fail when you need them most.

    Der Spiegel – 2 February 2013
    Overly Overcast: Germany Weathers Darkest Winter in 43 Years
    …..If the sun doesn’t start shining soon, it will be the darkest winter on record. ……
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/germany-weathers-darkest-winter-in-43-years-a-885608.html
    ============

    Der Spiegel – 21 March 2013
    The calendar says spring started Wednesday, but a look outside tells sun-starved Germans otherwise. Snow has blanketed large parts of the country in recent days, and forecasts predict yet more wintry weather to come……this year, Germany has not only been treated to the darkest winter on record, sending wretched residents to the brink of despair……
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/winter-weather-plagues-germany-as-spring-begins-a-890166.html

  32. Have the costs of the water used for fracking and potential loss of water to existing communities in frack zones, and the damage fracking causes, been calculated in?

  33. Solar PV has a well defined role: power generation for single-family homes, and some apartment buildings. It is cost-effective in that role in a wide belt across the U.S. Granted, there is a 30% Federal Tax Credit to sweeten the deal, but it is close enough even without it. For grid power, I think it is clear that we still need to burn something, unless we just got our shit together and built some thorium plants.

  34. Why pay quadrillions of dollars to make windmill farms on land and at sea, that will rust and decay in decades, and produce miniscule amounts of electricity? Why go for solar energy in countries that have winter half the year and overcast [weather] half of the remainder? When these two combined can only provide 5% of what is needed, it is a utterly futile waste of taxpayer’s money to even attempt this exercise.

    The money is betters spent making the grid better, and in investing in efficient gas powered plants or modernized nuclear plants. The rest of the money can be given in tax refunds or to see too it that poor people get what they need. Stop this madness. CO2 has no mystical magical powers to destroy this planet. It is the food for plants and gives us a greener environment.

    Let China clean up it’s energy sector. Europe and the US is already clean enough.

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