Thursday, March 11, 2010

Costs of Energy Generation -- Solar, Wind Blow


Always be skeptical of any graph you see.  The IER graph above, for example,  claims that wind costs only about $2000 per kw installed.   A more common estimate would be closer to $5000 (perhaps more when total subsidies are accounted for).  But since wind only provides power 30% of the time, you need to multiply the figure by 3.  But since wind does not provide power reliably or predictably, you have to back up all wind farms with expensive gas turbines.  Tack on the cost of backup and fuel supply.  And since the wind only blows in certain places -- where power substations and transmission lines are not likely to be handy -- tack on the expense of new power conversion and transmission infrastructure.  And since expensive wind turbine gearboxes break down every 5 to ten years, and cost several million $ to replace, tack on that cost.  And since wind turbines only last about 20 years -- compared to over 60 years for a nuclear power plant -- add the cost of frequent replacement.  And so on . . . .

Solar power costs even more than wind to install, and has many of the same infrastructure and reliability issues as wind.  Photovoltaics have fewer mechanical parts to break down, so will probably last longer than wind turbines -- although they lose efficiency with every year of use.
The above graph looks at power cost per kwh generated in British pence. This is a different measure of energy costs than the top graph showing cost per kw installed.

This graph reveals that in terms of operating costs, nuclear power beats all others. So if the government could get off its fat arse and make the legal and regulatory environments more friendly for nuclear, the industrial and economic picture of the planet could start looking up fairly quickly.
This is the IER's levelised look at generating cost per megawatt hour in 2008 US dollars for various forms of power. Levelised costs purportedly adjust for intermittency, cost of backup, fuel costs, carbon costs, etc etc.

Again, the IER has significantly underestimated the operating costs of both onshore and offshore wind. For offshore wind -- in a highly corrosive marine environment -- replacement costs would approach twice the already exorbitant costs for onshore wind.

Wind farm ventures exist to take advantage of government subsidies, carbon hysteria, and tax breaks. Once these government giveaways and hysterias run their course, wind infrastructure will be left out in the rain and cold to corrode away to nothing. Solar ventures, unfortunately, are only marginally better in that regard.

More very useful information here



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