Sunday, March 19, 2017

Renewable Energy - Physics vs Economics

Subtitle: The Physics is Inescapable - But Economics Matters Most

A question posed on WUWT today, "Why is it that people who shout “It’s simple physics” about global warming immediately shout “It doesn’t matter about the physics” when it comes to renewable energy?"

My reply:

The physics always matters, it cannot be overcome. However, renewable energy is all about the economics, which are improving rapidly year over year. Wind power in the US is now profitable at US $0.043 per kWh, of which $0.02 is paid by the utility, and $0.023 is by the government as a tax credit. Note: the wind power producer must have profits from somewhere to take advantage of the tax credit. The proof of this (profitability) is the rapid growth of wind power installations in the US, both onshore and now offshore.

Solar PV at grid-scale is not far behind.

From the US Dept of Energy, “2015 Wind Technologies Market Report”: link is here.  

o Installed cost in the windy Great Plains is $1,640 / kW, continuing the downward trend of the past several years.

o Also, wind power is sold at very low prices under a Purchase Power Agreement, for $20 / MWh. The federal tax credit continues at $23 per MWh.

o Finally, capacity factors for 2015 are higher than ever, at 41.2 percent among projects built in 2014.

More about renewable economics: California residential prices have not increased due to renewable power installations and production. Wind is a minor player in California, with almost all the available sites already built out. Solar PV has substantial future growth potential.

Installed generating capacity in California is about 70,000 MW, of which 40 percent is renewable (24 percent solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and 12 percent large hydroelectric). We don’t have grid instabilities, nor blackouts, nor huge price increases from renewables. On an annual basis, total kWh supplied to the grid by renewables in 2016 was approximately 27 percent (excluding large hydroelectric). Large hydroelectric supplied approximately 5-6 percent in a drought year. In average rainfall years, large hydroelectric contributes 15 percent.

Now that the California drought is over, 2017 is expected to have 45 percent combined renewables plus large hydroelectric power (approximately 30 percent solar, wind, etc, and 15 percent large hydroelectric.)

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved

Topics and general links:

Nuclear Power
Climate  and here
Fresh  and here
Free Speech.................... here

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