Solar And Wind Power More Expensive Than Thought

A new paper from Charles Frank an economist at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, argues that wind and solar power are not economically viable:

The paper examined four kinds of carbon-free energy – solar, wind, hydroelectric and nuclear – as well as low-carbon gas generation, and compared them with generators that burn fossil fuels. It also posited a value of $50 per metric ton of reduced carbon emissions and $16 per million BTUs of gas.

Frank calculated that electricity generated by a combination of nuclear, hydro and natural gas have much greater benefits than either wind or solar energy because wind and solar generators cost more to operate even though they require no fuel.

For example, nuclear plants run at about 90 percent of capacity compared with wind turbines, which are only about 25 percent efficient, and solar plants with only 15 percent efficiency. As a result, Frank wrote, nuclear plants avoid almost four times as much CO2 per unit of capacity as wind turbines, and six times as much as solar generators….

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2 Replies to “Solar And Wind Power More Expensive Than Thought”

  1. Colin, thanks for a good post. Several years ago, Stanford Research came to the same conclusion on the basis of the fossil plants that must be kept running to account for the variability of wind and solar. These fossil plants must be kept ready for quick startup and that is a very inefficient way to run these plants. Greens seldom include such real world considerations in their zeal for renewables. Maybe this is why several countries in Europe have reduced their commitment to these newer technologies after real world experiences (e.g. Germany, Spain).

    1. Vic is pretty close to the problem with having to run standby plant. The real problem electrical systems face is “stability”. With renewable source inputs fluctuating (often wildly) it is very difficult to manage a large electrical network within it’s critical parameters. Namely voltage and frequency. The greater the connected “Renewable Energy” the greater the likelihood of the system collapsing or suffering serious load shedding because of protection system settings being triggered into operation in an attempt to maintain system parameter.

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