SchwartzReport: Solar Trumps Fossil — And Cost Drops 30% Each Time Installed Solar Doubles in Any Given Area…

05 Energy
Stephan A. Schwartz
Stephan A. Schwartz

This is lovely good news about the transition out of our carbon energy addiction. The report presents what I think is an accurate assessment of the Non-carbon Energy Trend.

In spite of constant government coddling, endless subsidies, and the huge sums available to buy influence, along with ads to protect its dominance, carbon energy is quickly becoming uncompetitive. One can only wonder where we would be now if the attempt Jimmy Carter made to shift away from carbon had not been blocked by Ronald Reagan, whom I believe history will identify with the beginning of the decline of America. In any case, in spite of everything non-carbon will prevail because it is cheaper, and easier, and doesn’t cause climate change. There will also be a little discussed effect: an increase in wellness as the diseases caused by carbon decline.

The real monster in the closet is nuclear waste. Nothing proposed actually deals with the problem, and solar and wind will help only marginally. We haven’t a clue what to do with waste, and the timebomb is ticking. Tanks leak. Pools degrade. An how does one really calculate the costs? How does one project expenses for something that is deadly for 10s of thousands of years? Finding a solution to nuclear waste within the next 15 years is going to become an urgent issue.

Happily, by then we will have dealt with a large percentage of carbon usage, as the report describes.

Solar Continues Trumping Fossil Fuel Pricing, With More Innovations To Come
CHIP REGISTER, Contributor – Forbes

Solar power has come a long way in a short period of time. Just five years ago, the bulk of the energy community viewed it as being unreliable, expensive and difficult to source. Without massive government subsidies, utilities generally shunned solar, sticking with more traditional and reliable generation, namely, coal and natural gas. This was despite fossil fuels trading at or near record highs of $10 per mmBtu amid strong demand and tight supplies. If solar couldn’t even beat natural gas when it was trading that high, chances were it would never play a significant role in America’s energy mix and would only be economic through governmental intervention.

But five years on, America’s energy landscape looks significantly different. Natural gas has come well off its pre-recession highs and is now trading steadily around $4 per mmBtu, with little to no volatility. Oil and coal prices dropped as well. Given this, one would surmise that solar was now even farther out of the money. Surprisingly, though, the economics of solar power have changed at a much faster clip, and are now close to achieving pricing parity with cheaper natural gas in several places throughout the United States.

No doubt, over the last decade, America’s energy fortunes experienced a dramatic shift mostly due to the rapid development and deployment of energy technology. Advances in production techniques, namely fracking and horizontal drilling, managed to unlock great quantities of natural gas and oil trapped in shale formations throughout the country, dramatically increasing supply and depressing prices.

Ongoing Innovation Lowers Solar Cost

At the same time and even more profoundly, however, advances made in photovoltaic (PV) cells, combined with an explosion in solar panel manufacturing in China, helped send solar prices down far faster than fossil fuels. The average solar panel now costs around 75% less than it did just five years ago and continues to fall despite the total decimation of the heavily subsidized US solar manufacturing industry.

And the interesting thing here is that the more solar that is put in, the faster prices drop. Citibank estimates that the price of an average solar panel falls by 30% whenever installed solar capacity doubles in a given area. As such, by 2020, they believe solar will be ‘cutting it’ (successfully competing with fossil fuels on an unsubsidized basis) in most parts of the world, if it hasn’t done so already.

Global spot prices for solar modules, which are the large panels used in power generation, dropped to an all-time low in the second quarter of the year at around 63 cents per watt, according to research from GreenTech Media. The drop in the price of PV polysilicon, which represents the first step in creating solar panels, is a big factor here. The rapid proliferation of third-generation solar technology utilizing fluidized bed reactor (FBR) technology is a major upgrade to the second-generation Siemens process and has increased manufacturing efficiency. The FBR process wastes fewer resources and takes a tenth of the energy to produce polysilicon than that of second-generation techniques. As such, this shortens the fill time in the manufacturing of polysilicon, allowing producers to pump out solar panels cheaper and at a faster clip.

Read full article.