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Study: Solar power is cheaper than nuclear

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posted on Jul, 29 2010 @ 01:54 PM

The Holy Grail of the solar industry — reaching grid parity — may no longer be a distant dream. Solar may have already reached that point, at least when compared to nuclear power, according to a new study by two researchers at Duke University.

It’s no secret that the cost of producing photovoltaic cells (PV) has been dropping for years. A PV system today costs just 50 percent of what it did in 1998. Breakthroughs in technology and manufacturing combined with an increase in demand and production have caused the price of solar power to decline steadily. At the same time, estimated costs for building new nuclear power plants have ballooned.

The result of these trends: “In the past year, the lines have crossed in North Carolina,” say study authors John Blackburn and Sam Cunningham. “Electricity from new solar installations is now cheaper than electricity from proposed new nuclear plants.”

Source :

Is building nuclear facilities that cannot be dismantled for thousands of years really worth it? The market will probably answer the question.

posted on Jul, 29 2010 @ 02:30 PM
Coal power plants cost about $1 per watt capacity while solar power may cost something like $3 per watt in a massive setup. So, it is still somewhat expensive. However, I'm very much impressed because solar power does not have high ongoing costs compared with coal which requires a lot of burning of fuel. So, it looks like solar power may be coming of age very soon and its one of the rare good things coming down the pipeline.

The cost of the solar panels themselves is now less than $1 per watt in some cases and its just the cost of the supporting structure that is holding it back from really taking off. That is the main reason why I'm very optimistic.

posted on Jul, 29 2010 @ 02:33 PM
If we factor in environmental costs (co2 sequestration, mining, etc), which investors don't, coal is probably not cheaper than solar.

Still, some good news is always welcome.

Environmental impact of coal mining :

Edited to add link to coal mining impacts

[edit on 29-7-2010 by gagol]

posted on Jul, 29 2010 @ 02:51 PM
reply to post by gagol

Look, serious investor DO look at the cost of CO2 sequestration.
That's the definition of serious.

I'm paying too much already for the power we use, but at the same time I'm sick of hearing about salmon in local lakes being poisoned by whatever comes in the exhaust of the coal-fired power plants. I think with some tax incentive etc we are better off moving off coal.

As a person who does know about a few things nuclear... Let me add that it ain't as bad as some may want you think. Dangerous? Yes. Under control -- quite possibly, with recent advances in technology and computation.

posted on Jul, 29 2010 @ 03:11 PM
What is cool about this is that solar cells are essentially made of the same thing as computer chips used in your computer. In fact a solar cell operates in exact reverse of an LED (Light Emitting Diode) for example.

The important point to note here though is since solar cells in essence are made of the same materials, namely silicon, as are computer chips, we will inevitably see the cost of solar cells begin to decrease exponentially similarly to the way in which computer chips have decreased over the years as more manufacturing enhancements are applied.

Which in contrast, as the construction costs of Nuclear Power Plants will continue to be on the increase.

Additionally what isn't mentioned here is part of the cost of our electricity bill is the actual transportation costs and it's inherent maintenance costs as well.

Currently the costs to outfit a normal 3 bedroom home is around $10- $12 per watt which at current rates, installed is around $20K.

One side note to that $20K investment is that If we were are off the power Grid, we could sell our excess electricity to the power companies as well as saving in that we would also no longer have to pay for the electricity delivery costs to our homes.

[edit on 29-7-2010 by nh_ee]

posted on Jul, 29 2010 @ 04:07 PM
If I had the money...

I would buy a piece of land with a small creek on it and use a mix of microhydro generators, solar and wind power to get off the grid. That is a dream to me, I wish I can do it to prepare for my retirement.

posted on Jul, 29 2010 @ 04:24 PM
well I accutly met a guy who had his home run on solar power.
and asked alot of questions so here is the true scoop.
He got part of a grant from the stated or feds and still ended up shelling out 23 to 25 k of his own money and going buy what he said the total cost was around 38 to 40 k.
ok now we got that out of the way the rest of the numbers i give you is by what he said so if something dont work well tuff.
anyway going by what he said he produced up to 17 kilowatt hours of power during a nice sunny day and sold the extra out of that to the power company which just took it off his bill on the days that were rainy .
he had No way to store power as a battery set up would dobble the cost .
the panels are expected to last 25 years so I immange they will last up to 40 years
so if his electric bill averaged 300 a month before the panels and averaged 75$ a month after that's 225 a month at 12 months = 2500 a year in 20 years he saved 50k in 40 100k so even if he paid the whole thing it would pay for ist self in less then 20 years

posted on Jul, 29 2010 @ 04:57 PM
reply to post by gagol

Solar for sure is the kits mits.
Wind is nice but it still has mechanical limitations and can be damaged by the wind.
Although wind can be awesome power setup.
Solar however has no moving parts unless if you install a panel adjuster.
But still that is limited mechanical movement.
And with battery technology making more powerful and cheaper, soon anything other than solar would be crazy.
But the PTB will find some reason to keep people on the grid I’m sure.

posted on Jul, 29 2010 @ 05:37 PM
reply to post by gagol

If what is being said is that it may be soon possible to really live it up at home with your own supply of energy, that's great news.

Here is how tptb, in this case, revenuers, countered, or will counter.

Solar panels are usually black, am I correct ? (they may not be these days IDK).

They will work in some way to tax us based on the color of our rooftops, personal space, our clothing, if they can. Black creates, according to lobbyists, 'global warming'. They'll eventually make it so that it will be taxed (solar panels) to be as expensive as the electricity utility corporations sell, just because they are black. I believe they'll have to hit this part hard, as it may be a real threat. Off the smart grid? How dare you....

It serves many purposes to do this. From a glance, satellites can compile the data, and tax based on them. Many will get lighter colored roof tops. These will be considered 'compliants', and timing is key. By monitoring the roofing selections immediately after the marketing 'rollout'(s), even before laws are announced, tptb get an insightful glimpse in to how well their plans are being accepted, sort of like stars at ats, I guess. They stick the toe in every Monday morning, on the unified news network, to test the waters for reactions to the things they propose in the name of news. By Wednesday things are really heating up, and a mere mention of a new thing on Monday morning, can suddenly blossom into a crisis, if need be, by the middle of the week. If people start roofing their homes in white, even before laws and tax incentives are passed, it means that globalwarimnghoax™ is succeeding. It really is that simple.

[edit on 29-7-2010 by davidmann]

[edit on 29-7-2010 by davidmann]

posted on Jul, 31 2010 @ 05:10 AM
Here are two studies which detail the cost of electricity from various sources of energy, one by EIA, another by EPRI.

Source: Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2010:

Here, solar is 2-3 times as expensive as Nuclear.

EPRI, Average generation technology costs, 2009.


Solar Thermal:



Solar again, 2+ times as expensive as Nuclear with the cost of Nuclear only decreasing.

Both of these studies are also reflected in Update of the MIT 2003, Future of Nuclear Power, 2009. Generally Nuclear is more expensive than coal and oil, but obliterates solar by a massive margin. However another project, ExternE Project series, financed by the European Union shows the monetary cost of damages to the environment, public health, occupational health, and material damage for various electrical power sources:

External costs for electricity production in the EU (in EUR-cent per kWh**)

Hence when you factor in external damages to the environment, public health, occupational health, and material damage you get these figures:

EPRI data + ExternE external cost data:
Solar costs $233-$464 per megawatt hour depending on technology.
Coal costs $92-$262 per megawatt hour depending on external cost.
Nuclear costs $86-$91 per megawatt hour depending on external cost.

EIA data+ ExternE external cost data:
Solar costs $264-$404 per megawatt hour depending on technology.
Advanced coal costs $137-$307 per megawatt hour depending on external cost.
Nuclear costs $122-$128 per megawatt hour depending on external cost.

Please note that cheap electricity has a massively positive effect on society too thus the ExternE data is probably negated by a large extent due to cheap electric power helping peoples lives and the economy. The EPRI report I mentioned as well as the MIT show Nuclear break even with coal and gas at a carbon tax of $30 per ton of CO2 but again this does not include external damages. In any case, Nuclear here is once again destroying solar.

Both the EIA study and the EPRI study apply to the United States only because Nuclear in the United States is in a significantly different situation to what it is in say, South Korea. A different study by OECD NEA and EIA considered the various regions, all with a $30 per ton CO2 tax.

Projected Costs of Generating Electricity, © OECD, 2010.

The OP report has been debunked already on a multitude of websites, basically it uses extremely pessimistic estimates for Nuclear, and extremely positive estimates for Solar. Furthermore it actually does not mention the total cost of the electricity, the cost for solar in the report is after the huge subsidies that solar gets. Basically what it says is, "If the government buys me solar panels, then the overall cost to me is lower than Nuclear if I have to actually pay for it myself". In Germany and some other countries in Europe, they are actually introducing a tax on Nuclear which in the end will help pay for solar. So far the German government has subsidized solar to the tune of 53 billion euro to get 0.6% of their electricity. While solar is getting better remember that for every bit of solar capacity installed, two to three times more Nuclear or wind capacity could be installed for same amount of money. The effect of solar is entirely negative, and if were not for the government hand-outs it were getting then it solar industry wouldn't even exist.

The problems with Nuclear are:
1.High construction costs - Nuclear plants at the moment are very large and cost a few billion dollars to build, which makes it difficult to invest in because not many utilities have enough economic might to finance the project. Please be aware that each reactor creates a massive amount of power, and while construction costs are high, operating costs are low which is why you see the costs projections I linked above.
2. Long construction times - It may take a few years to get approval to build a reactor (blame the government), and then approximately five years to build. Whipping up a few natural gas generators is much quicker.
3. High risk - regulatory turbulence, long approval time, and construction problems can cause significant delays which can dramatically increase the price of the project. This is mitigated in some context by loan guarantees where risk is transferred to the tax payer (please be aware that to utility has to pay it back and that renewables get these same loan guarantees). To top it off, a Nuclear plant hasn't been built in the United States for approximately over two decades.

They mainly only apply to the United States though. France for example has built plenty of plants plants quickly, cheaply. They from from approximately 0% Nuclear to 80% Nuclear in 20 years WHILE they doubled their use of electricity. Today they have one of the lowest CO2 emissions per unit of electricity generated in Europe, with one of the lowest cost of electricity in Europe. They export their electricity to other countries such as Italy, and United Kingdom. Japan, and Korea have had similar success stories with Nuclear, and it looks as if China is doing Nuclear properly, too. My own opinion is that Nuclear is without a doubt the best energy source on the planet, but that's for another time.

Anyway, the risks in the United States and some other countries are being countered by:
1. Smaller, mass produced and/or modular reactors that are mass produced in factories then shipped by railroad or barge.
2. Streamlining the regulatory process so projects can approve projects faster.
3. We must also wait till approximately 2015 to see if the initial few new Nuclear projects get completed on time and on budget, which has yet to be seen.


[edit on 31/7/2010 by C0bzz]

posted on Jul, 31 2010 @ 05:17 AM
I truly hate to use this term, but sometimes it fits so well that it is irresistable to do so: DUH!

posted on Jul, 31 2010 @ 06:00 AM

Is building nuclear facilities that cannot be dismantled for thousands of years really worth it?

Plenty of Nuclear facilities have been successfully decommissioned. The total amount of these is small as the majority of Nuclear plants opened during the 1970s, and 1980s, whereas the plants last between 40 and 60 years, possibly 80 years depending on the condition of the plants at the end of 60 years.

The market will probably answer the question.

If the market wanted to answer the question then the only thing we would be buying is natural gas, natural gas, and more natural gas since it's cheap at the moment, quick to build, and faces little opposition from the public. If you're talking about alternatives to fossil fuels then the market would answer Wind, Nuclear, and perhaps Natural Gas (yes I know natgas is a fossil fuel, but it's required to back up wind, and it's efficient). The only reason solar energy exists is because it's effectively subsidized to a huge extent. In Germany, for example, if you bought a photovoltaic solar panel in 2009 it would be subsidized at a rate if 43c/kWh (or its inflation-proofed equivalent), guaranteed for 20 years. Do you have any idea how high that is? It's an extremely dangerous proposition to encourage power sources such as solar, and in the end it should be considered extremely dangerous because it stops real solutions.

Coal power plants cost about $1 per watt capacity while solar power may cost something like $3 per watt in a massive setup.

NEEDS project (2008) estimates solar thermal, the cheapest form of solar, to cost $5 per watt in 2025. However on average it will generate 35% of that, therefore the real capital cost of solar is closer to $15 per watt. A coal plant is less than $3 per watt (EPRI) adjusted for capacity factor and Nuclear plant in 2025 should be around $4 per watt (EPRI). That's a huge difference in terms of capital cost! EIA estimates operating costs for solar is similar to Nuclear (i.e. VERY low).

[edit on 31/7/2010 by C0bzz]

posted on Jul, 31 2010 @ 06:27 AM
it may be cheaper but it doesn't supply as much power.

posted on Jul, 31 2010 @ 06:53 AM
Solar power is ONLY peaking power it only works when the sun is shining.
its only good during the peak power use hours in the daytime.

Nuclear power is base power it carries the base load 24/7/365.

Its like comparing apples and oranges.

They both have there place in the power grid and both are needed.

By the way solar is not cheaper in that its only usable when the sun is shining. for home use Unless you have a battery inverter system and that will drive the cost of solar way above nuclear it is not usable unless you like the dark of night.

The price of the battery inverter system for home use will increase the price three fold.

nuclear power is/can be seen as a giant battery. or a fuel cell.

posted on Jul, 31 2010 @ 01:49 PM

Originally posted by ANNED
Solar power is ONLY peaking power it only works when the sun is shining.
its only good during the peak power use hours in the daytime.

There are systems like solar towers that function 24/24 (hot air draft).

nuclear power is/can be seen as a giant battery. or a fuel cell.

I know about the function of the nuclear reactor in a fair amount of detail, and I've seen a live core with my own eyes. All I can say is that your statement is so nonsensical it's almost offensive to have to read that crap.

[edit on 31-7-2010 by buddhasystem]

posted on Jul, 31 2010 @ 02:41 PM
The problem is, people are always thinking of conventional nuclear power using uranium. The future of nuclear power is in the Thorium reactor:

Australia, India and the US have huge Thorium reserves. Since it doesn't produce weapons grade plutonium, and its waste byproducts are far less dangerous, you'd think that it would have taken off by now.

posted on Jul, 31 2010 @ 02:47 PM
reply to post by gagol

Interesting, but living in the UK I remain fairly sceptical of solar power and more inclined to think we should be investing a higher proportion of domestic renewables in wave power, although I'd also support solar getting more than we are ploughing into those troublesome, unsightly and intermittent wind farms...why oh why?

Also, more money into fusion research please - perhaps the trident budget could be re-allocated? or EU government tax/expenses?

posted on Jul, 31 2010 @ 03:05 PM

Originally posted by curioustype
reply to post by gagol

Interesting, but living in the UK I remain fairly sceptical of solar power

Why am I not surprised... I lived in the UK for 6 months and I haven't seen much sunshine at all, so I get it.

You guys will probably be good with nuclear. I have respect for British R&D.

posted on Jul, 31 2010 @ 05:01 PM
the underlying problem/issue with these comparisons is that it isn't just about how much it costs in our present human materials-and-work-are-wealth way of thinking about the economy in tandem with the environment.

the environment, nature, Mother Earth, whatever you want to call the place where we live, does not operate according to the same principles as industry. we do try to force this but it will never ever work because the odds are against us and it isn't natural to fight and strive with nature - sounds obvious enough, put that way.

my point is, that all these studies and charts and analyses are fine and dandy but they don't work, not really, because they only take into account one side of the equation - the human side.

we are not the only ones on this planet nor are we able to just get up and go find a new home if we torture this one to death. and i daresay that if we do succeed in torturing it (Our Mother) to death, there is no doubt some fundamental natural law beyond ANY god or rule or whatever that would not allow us the free reign to just go out and murder another.

call me a treehugger or whatever, but i'm a realist, too.
this is our one and only home and if we don't start paying attention to how it works, efficiently and naturally, and then lining ourselves up with that, we won't merely be homeless. we will be extinct.

so, there are so many other factors involved in the choices between solar and coal and nuclear, etc., and many of them are immeasurable according to present technology. however, there is one idea that can help decide the bigger issues.

the sun shines every day - we don't have to do anything to receive that sunlight except just be here. the sun shines every day regardless of other factors. this is a FACT.
let's call that the "halfway point" - and the effort only lies between that point and us - we don't have to cross that line in order to make the sun's power accessible because it is 100% SENT to us. we don't have to GO GET IT.

with coal, we have to GO GET IT
with oil, we have to GO GET IT
even with nuclear, we have to GO GET IT
then after we GET IT, we must somehow refine it or prepare it or enrich it.
after we are done with it, we have junk leftover - either carbon emissions in the air, soot, chemicals, and even uranium, etc. these things do not easily assimilate back into the system because in taking them out, and altering them for our uses, we have disrupted the natural flow and ease with which things are normally and naturally used and re-cycled.
and so now we have excess refuse and potential health hazards not to mention all the potential negative effects that we are causing yet have no clue yet about them even existing. we know how much we are harming our environment - who knows how much we don't know?
we can't know.

i don't agree with the whole global warming idea - i am certain there are cycles bigger than us that we do not yet see and with which, by the same relativity, we cannot seriously damage or interfere, ultimately. there is line there somewhere, that once crossed, would have one non-negotiable result: we would be removed from active service in the system and just re-assimilated into the greater carbon cycle of life. then, this planet will resume business as usual and get on just as well after us as before us. hell, who knows? the dinosaurs might even make a comeback! that very well may be their secret to success - that they did not work AGAINST nature but WITHIN nature.

if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
we can't beat nature.
and, like i said, if we did, where would we live?

a wise combination of natural energy sources, suited to any particular locale and climate, can not be worse than any combination of extracted, derived, refined, or otherwise altered sources, no matter what the scenario, need, or availability. we only think about what goes in and how much it is going to cost us, but ONLY economically which is not the true cost or the lasting cost. we don't consider what comes out the back-end, much at all. until we're trying to eat our dinner in the middle of a huge pile of poop, that is.

you get my drift.
when you eat, you know what's going to happen. same principle.

those charts provided are very informative, although only in a relative way since they don't address things except by comparison - but they completely fail to include what i'm calling the true cost of the energy being analyzed.

one side of the story is never the whole story.

posted on Jul, 31 2010 @ 09:02 PM
I am not advocating anything here. Merely pointing to information.

I am glad to see that generated a lot of opinions and people posted a lot more details than I can grasp my head around.

I am just glad to see that solar panels are becoming kinda cost-effective in a state that have not much sun as other states, without using concentrators. It's clear that we cannot rely solely on one source of energy, diversity rules.

As of costs for home installation, I seriously doubt that the gov. would agree that I install a nuclear plant in my backyard... if autonomy is my goal. As I stated above, I would use a combination of at least three sources if I ever go down that road, to use as little batteries possible using microhydro as base power, PV to help with peaks in summer, and wind for the rest.

Let's not forget that burning the coal is only one part of the environment equation, harvesting it is pretty ugly and sequestration will not help with that. As for gas, it's cheap because they hervest it while polluting air and water on a scale hard to believe as they do NOT have to comply with regulations (watch Gasland).

Reducing our consumption is the very first step towards it, and small gains matters. I do not use my dryer in summer, rarely use powertools and prefer hand saws and screwdrivers. keep temperature down in winter and wear a sweater, wash mi dishes by hand, etc.

Thank you all, that thread is generating more interest than I anticipated.

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