An incredibly thorough, annual analysis of the U.S. wind market. A must-read for anyone doing analysis of wind power data in the United States. The authors even provide their data file. Download the report. From the Executive Summary: Wind Power Additions in 2009 Shattered Old Records, with roughly 10 GW of New Capacity Added in… Continue reading
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A residential rooftop solar PV system in Los Angeles, CA, has a cheaper cost per kilowatt-hour of electricity delivered than the most cost effective, utility-scale concentrating solar power plant.
In 2010, a buying group called Open Neighborhoods openly advertised an opportunity to get a solar PV system installed for $4.78 per Watt (not including any tax credits, rebates, or grants), a system that would produce approximately 1,492 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year (AC) for each kilowatt of capacity (DC).
Based on the best available public information about the costs and performance of operational concentrating solar thermal power plants, the PS10 solar power tower – an 11 MW installation in Spain – has the lowest levelized cost of operation of any concentrating solar power plant that produces electricity. PS10 had an installed cost of $4.15 per Watt and produces 2,127 kWh per kW of capacity.
However, due to higher operations costs and a higher cost of capital (8% rather than 5%) for a concentrating solar power plant, the levelized cost of the residential rooftop system (17.3 cents per kWh) is less than that of the power tower (19.9 cents per kWh).
This analysis also does not include any transmission infrastructure or efficiency losses, either of which would increase the levelized cost of the concentrating solar power plant. It also did not include the lower price point from Open Neighborhoods, which advertised a possibility of driving the price down to $4.22 per Watt (driving the levelized cost down to 15.3 cents per kWh).
The Southern California Edison project, also featured in the chart, is another example of low-cost distributed solar PV, with the 250 MW project spread across commercial rooftops in 1-2 MW increments but still achieving large scale.
Ultimately, this data further confirms that distributed solar can be delivered less expensively than centralized solar power.
I received an email this morning from a thoughtful fellow who had read some of the posts I’ve sent over to Renewable Energy World. His perspective is worth sharing because it highlights the all-too-common tunnel vision we can get about renewable energy as only about electricity. I believe the distributed energy model will be the… Continue reading
The difference between clean energy policies with a democratizing influence and the bewildering U.S. system can be illustrated with a close look at the federal investment tax credit for solar power. The investment tax credit returns up to 30% of a solar PV system value to the developer, and the credit can be carried over… Continue reading
In the wake of the murders in Tucson, our leaders once again are calling for civility in public discourse. We forget that for almost 40 years we didn’t have to plead for civility. We demanded it. The story of how we did so, and why we stopped, illuminates the intersection of politics and culture. At the dawn of the broadcasting era, the government declared that the airwaves belonged to the public and fashioned rules to protect the public interest protect the public interest. Continue reading
The Canadian province of Ontario has launched a clean energy strategy to maximize economic development while reducing pollution. Maximizing Jobs From Clean Energy: Ontario’s ‘Buy Local’ Policy, a new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, details how Ontario’s bold clean energy program – in just over a year – has resulted in the promise of 43,000 clean energy jobs in support of 5,000 MW of clean energy projects. Continue reading
Ontario’s bold renewable energy program contains excellent examples of policy that marries economic and environmental goals. Unique among programs that set a guaranteed price for electricity from renewable energy projects, Ontario’s program also boasts a domestic content requirement. Sixty percent of the value of wind and solar projects interconnected under the program must be sourced… Continue reading
The title of the link won’t give it away, but I was interviewed on Stephen Lacey’s most recent REW podcast on superconducting technology for transmission. He generously provided me some time to contrast the lead topic (centralized renewable energy reliant on transmission) with the economics of distributed renewable energy sources. Continue reading
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, a promising tool to advance energy efficiency, was blocked nationwide by the opposition of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. In this post we get a status report from Renewable Funding’s, Cisco DeVries, on what’s happening in the courts with various parties suing the FHFA. He also gives us an update on what’s happening on the on the ground with PACE financing for the commercial sector which is alive and expanding.
Before the holidays we posted a chart illustrating the average cost of solar by state, highlighting Minnesota’s claim to the most expensive solar PV in the nation. The data came from the brilliant report, Tracking the Sun III: The Installed Cost of Photovoltaics in the U.S. from 1998-2009 (large pdf).
But are solar costs high in some states simply because the market is small? The answer seems to be no.
The following chart illustrates the average cost of solar PV by state, mapped against the total installed capacity (in megawatts) from 2007-09. California is omitted because its 1600 MW of new capacity dwarfs other state markets; Colorado, Hawaii, and North Carolina were not included in the original dataset. The markers for Oregon and Connecticut were shaded blue and red, respectively, to help distinguish them from surrounding states.
What’s clear from the data is that there seems to be little relationship between market size and average installed costs. Texas installed 16 MW at an average cost of $7.00 over the three years analyzed, whereas New York and Nevada had costs 25% higher in markets five times the size. And five states with markets 10 MW and smaller had costs ranging from $7.60 (New Hampshire) to $9.10 per Watt (Minnesota). The largest markets in New Jersey and California tie for 5th lowest cost, 10% more expensive than the least expensive market despite being (in California’s case) two orders of magnitude larger.
The data leave a lot of questions. Why don’t larger markets uniformly have lower prices? Why is there such large variation in costs in smaller solar market states? And how does state solar policy matter, when there is no correlation between the total value of state incentives and the before-incentive installed cost of solar?
Update 1/20/11: a cacophony of different permitting rules may be partially responsible. The solar industry estimates that permitting costs add $2,500 to each solar installation.