Report: Solar Energy Now Costs Half That Of Coal In North America

290px-The_Sun_by_the_Atmospheric_Imaging_Assembly_of_NASA's_Solar_Dynamics_Observatory_-_20100819I have previously questioned the environmental and economic sense of President Donald Trump pushing the United States into greater coal consumption with the rest of the world developing alternative energy sources.  We seem to be pushing a buggy-whip economy as the world and markets pass us by.  My greatest concern is the hostility shown by the Trump Administration to new energy sources.  A touchstone of the industry is Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis (LCOE) which was used by investment bank Lazard to evaluate the current costs and prospects of different energy investments.  It found (as we have previously discussed) that alternative energy costs are plunging and solar energy is now half the cost of coal.

New solar panels are now more durable and function well without direct sunlight, including cloudy days, to produce energy.  Lazard found that the cost of producing one megawatt-hour of solar-produced electricity in North America is currently $50, compared to $102 for coal-origination. That is down from 2009 when it would have cost  $359 to produce that level of power with utility-scale solar arrays.  Wind-power is even cheaper at  $45 per megawatt-hour today.

The use of fossil fuels also create huge environmental and health costs.  Even if the costs were even, those externalized costs should push our country (as with our allies) toward a huge investment in alternative fuels.  This issue is not subsidies (which I generally oppose) but ending the preferential treatment given fossil fuels, including varied forms of government support.

Yet, coal has huge benefits to Congress with the energy lobby and West Virginia still remains a key state for the reelection plans of President Trump.  In fights over climate change and environmental legislation, fossil fuel companies and allied transportation and utility companies outspent both environmental groups and the renewable energy industry by a 10 to 1 on lobbying, according to a new study released this week.

The current position of the Administration would not be as alarming if it did not combine the priority given coal with a hostility toward alternative energy sources.  The United States needs to be positioned to compete in this global market in the development and deployment of this new technology.  Our retrogression on alternative fuels will stand as one of the most self-defeating and illogical policies of the modern era. It could well spell huge costs in our labor and technology markets as well as our environment.

115 thoughts on “Report: Solar Energy Now Costs Half That Of Coal In North America”

  1. Reactivating this one and applying it to coal

    The safest way to transport power is by electric transmission lines.
    old system has the dirty bituminous coal sent from places like West Virginia , by passing the shut down anthracite clean coal sites to places like Boardman, Oregon.


    Mine thiei coal in places like Western Virginia, West Virginia, Eastern Tennesee and turn it into electricity at the mining site.

    Problem #2 Old minining sites and the unused residue such as those piled up or filling former natural valleys thus eventually poisoning ground waters or causing slides etc.

    There is a well known system of using former jet aircraft engines to burn an injectible slurry paste in iquid form to make electricity. The engines have many hours of useful time but do not qualify for ‘in the air’ use any more. Popular Science an
    Google has all this information .

    So use it to clean uip those dump sites make electricity from the engines turbine mechanical motion and from the heat, transmit to nearest grid etc etc etc.

    Add to that an air filtration system but as I recall when burnt in that form has little resideue except air and water.

    Problem three, left over unused portion of previously burnt coal at places like Boardman, Oregon.
    Answer. Convert plant to grind up and make into slurry and turn waste into electricity.

    Noise Pollution. put the whole thing on flat cars andmove to where needed including into old mines.

    Don’t forget air filtration

    Coal slurry often needs a kick start in liquid form .

    Colorado Sugar Beets and Caribbean Cane sugar

    For the amount of available piled up somwhere tailings ask Google.

  2. All the more reason to end credits, subsidies and let the market decide. As technology improves the shift to things like solar will happen without wasting tax dollars subsidizing various industries. Of course that means taking away political power from politicians, that is the real obstacle no matter what energy source you favor.

    1. Speaking of subsidies remember the tax credits for converting? Ever try to get any of that. What they really meant way back when was kick backs to certain corporations not to home owners and then only certain home owners qualified. Like the carbon tax it said one thing and did another. I wouild liken it to the income tax refuind to those who didn’t make enough to pay taxes. Here isusine your extra welfare check representing what you would have got back in tax refunds as if you really had done any work. Here is your carbon tax deduction ad if yhou had actually reduced carbon emissions.

      Somehow we are stil nuimber one in the world for reducing overall in quantity but …what does that mean to the individual tax payer? Nothing. You ended up paying for it at the cashi register just like always. Same with allCourt business taxes. This last reductioni on business taxes realy did do something for every end user purchaser IF the local State didn’t just add the same amount to State Taxes like California and New York and Connect The Dots who probably neverr will

      So.. here’s a thought. Destitute states to lose their State status and be taken over by Governor, legislative assembly and all by a court appointed overseer. His or her job would be to drag them out of debt kicking and screaming as much as they wished until they were solvent. Starting with seling off state property.

      And at the top one to do the same thing with federal property

  3. I don’t think anyone knows yet what the cost of solar energy really is. Of course the problem of subsidies obscures things a little bit, but the real problem is that nobody knows the cost over time. How long do solar panels last and what does it cost to replace them? What does it cost to reprocess or dispose of old solar panels? A new car is cheaper to run than an old one. Nobody knows what the costs will be when solar energy gets old.

    1. About ten years or more if count the reduction of costs and increase in efficiency and output as worth while. Otherwise until the cows come home. I use solar Three panels and wind one unit on my boat total cost of everything and some interior rewiring etc about $4500. for your house? add a zero if you want the same power you get from the power company on peak efficency days (windy with no clouds) which subtracts hours of darkness In the cities? Fagiddaboutit unless you are Congressional Rich and probably get fined for erecting eyesores. .

  4. The coal industry is dying, let it go. Retrain the affected workers, help their communities attract industries with a future, but let Coal die.

    The market is killing it anyway.

    1. In the end, if there is a lack of government interference the coal industry will live or die in the marketplace. I don’t see the industry being propped up by the government though I do see those that would destroy the industry through government involvement.

    2. As you can see the market is still there and further more the market for getting rid of the leftovers is still there. The plus is cleaning iujip the country with a non renewable but as of yet never complletely used resource.

    3. :Last I looked coal exports had gone through the roof along with petro and the market was doing great stabilizing around 25,000. and the flat zero point two annual COLA is now about 2.5% while the peak is averaging about 3.5%.

      Medicine is still 40% of the cost of the USA in Mexico.

      Coal itself hasn’t begun to use it’s wastage from years past. World wide China is closing in on 500 new coal fire plants and adding nuclear.

      I keep looking for the problems of the doomsayers and all I see is vote anti Socialist and actually learn some basic economics .Our work force of those who will actually work is all but fully employed. Want a new infrastructure. Better revamp green card and union rules we’ll have to import workers for such a huge project.

  5. India has for years been working on a thorium nuclear power reactor. Still at it. China is also now trying. Progress appears to be glacial.

    1. I beleive India has dropped or de-emphasized its thorium program.

      There are three huge issues:

      Thorium requires plutonium or enriched uranium to bootstrap the reactor – so you have to have preasurized water ractors no matter what.

      The engineering for Thorium reactors and experience with them is 60 years behind.

      Thorium reactors do not produce weapons grade byproducts – and nations want those.

      1. dhlii, you believe wrongly. There is no indication that India’s commitment to thorium cycle nuclear reactors has changed; see the World Nuclear Association pages on India’s program.

        No civilian nuclear reactor can produce weapons grade plutonium. India is satisfied with the uranium bombs that it has.

        So stop just Making Stuff Up.

        1. I would be happy to be wrong,

          If India is truly making progress on Thorium that would be great.

          Regardless, I would suggest rereading what I wrote, as you are the one making things up.

          While I did not say that commercial reactors produce plutonium – they do. In the US about 20Tons/per year.

          “Weapons grade” merely means post processing to separate the plutonium from the uranium
          Some reactors are better suited to produce plutonium than others, but all standard uranium reactors produce plutonium.

          Conversely what I DID say was that Thorium reactors are not self starting. Thorium can not be directly used as a nuclear fuel.
          It is fertile, but not fissile. But neutron bombardment of Thorium produces U233 which is fissile.

          India has a nuclear program substantially different from that of the rest fo the world. They have very little uranium and that is primarily dedicated to producing plutonium and eventually using the plutonium to convert Thorium to U233.

          India is significantly behind on that program. Outside of experimental facilities they are not using Thorium as fuel yet.

          India is estimated to have a stockpile of 130 nukes, all or nearly all are plutonium based, not uranium.

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