I really liked this article on energybulletin.net that looked at the fundamentals of solar versus wind.
Currently, wind power is cost neutral (at least) compared with fossil fuels for power generation, but intermittent. Solar photovoltaic is 4x the cost of fossil fuels such as coal, and doesn’t work all the time – specifically at night.
So it seems obvious which one to develop…. Except for one thing. All wind power comes from solar energy. When you look at the total amounts of energy that actually goes into wind power, its a small percentage of solar.
Net result: There isn’t going to be enough wind power out there to really solve all the world energy problems. There is plenty of solar power however.
The article notes that the 2009 average cost in the US is 6.1 to 18.1 cents per kilowatt hour. It was on this basis that they say that IF power gets down to 15 c per kwh it would be competitive.
What about the cost of electricity in Australia?
Well, according to wikipedia, which may not be accurate but I have no reason to doubt it, its 3-5 cents per kwh.
So whilst solar will become cost competitive with coal in the more expensive parts of the US, in five years, possibly, its going to be quite a while before it competes with either the cheaper parts of the US or most of Australia.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big believer in renewable power as being the only long term plan that looks viable – but it will only happen with either:
a. Major government initiatives (eg., subsidies & taxes)
b. Major rises in the cost of extracting coal
If we wait for option b, then the economy is going to be in a bad way by the time it happens.
Our first jet job with the new jet (Christmas island). The JHC christmas ball..
Fun, but busy.
Of course, the big thing that hit the news has to be the “official” announcement that oil has peaked. By the IEA’s own estimates, it was 2006 that things maxed out. Not that they were admitting that at the time – indeed it was only 2 years ago that they were saying that the peak would be after 2030.