Wind, solar becoming cost competitive: Chu

Mar 23, 2011
Sheep graze close to electricity generating wind turbines. Clean sources of energy such as wind and solar will be no more expensive than oil and gas projects by the end of the decade, US Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Wednesday.

Clean sources of energy such as wind and solar will be no more expensive than oil and gas projects by the end of the decade, US Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Wednesday.

President Barack Obama's administration has been encouraging companies to invest in green growth, calling it a new source of jobs and fearing that other nations -- led by China -- are stealing the march.

"Before maybe the end of this decade, I see wind and solar being cost-competitive without subsidy with new fossil fuel," Chu told an event at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

"So the country and the companies who develop those renewable energy and resources that become cost competitive without subsidy all of a sudden have a world market. And, boy, we can't lose that world market," he said.

The US Congress has rejected attempts to mandate curbs on blamed for , with many members of the Republican Party arguing that reducing dependence on fossil fuels would be too expensive.

But the Obama administration has been hoping to seek bipartisan cooperation on what it hopes are less controversial efforts such as encouraging .

Both the administration and Republicans have defended the pursuit of -- which causes virtually no carbon emissions -- despite radiation concerns in Japan from a plant hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

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User comments : 21

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that_guy
4.3 / 5 (6) Mar 23, 2011
Happy sheep, windmills, and a rainbow. It just seems convenient that they would find a shot just like that for this article.
newscience
2.3 / 5 (12) Mar 23, 2011
The real cost of nuclear is higher than any other power source, and it cannot survive an "act of God" or human error. Solar and wind can fill the nuclear gap now. The US government wants to spend 56 billion of your money on nuclear meanwhile no insurance company will ever insure anybody against a nuclear accident, the taxpayer foots the bill.
ereneon
3.5 / 5 (2) Mar 23, 2011
I would like to see some clarification. Wind and solar being cost competitive would be great (the US has plenty of great places for both wind and solar) but becoming artificially cost competitive because of subsidies and taxes is just a miss-allocation of resources. Nuclear gets large subsidies as well if I am not mistaken. I don't know much about the subsidy situation for oil.
dan42day
4.1 / 5 (17) Mar 23, 2011
I don't know much about the subsidy situation for oil.


Just add up all the money we've spent fighting in the middle east for the last ten years.
kaasinees
4 / 5 (8) Mar 23, 2011
Sounds like a new punch line for solar/wind energy.
"Stop supporting war now, go solar!"
ereneon
3.5 / 5 (6) Mar 24, 2011
Good point about the war, but I think we are also there for some political reasons as well. Actually if you look it up (even on wikipedia) the two biggest oil suppliers to the US are Canada and Mexico. We are actually not terribly dependent on mid-east oil even now. I think we are there more for political and ideological reasons, and also a hefty pinch of incompetence and corruption (from both parties).
apex01
5 / 5 (1) Mar 24, 2011
Actually Canada is our biggest importer of oil. There's quite possibly over 2.5 trillion(yes trillion) barrels in the tar sands of Alberta. And there's new cost effective ways of extracting the oil.
About subsidies, it's never WISE to tie money up in investments for long periods of time so the circulation of money is stagnated. E.G. dot com bubble, mortgage crisis(and government was no perfect angel in the last bubble).
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (6) Mar 24, 2011
We are actually not terribly dependent on mid-east oil even now.
The global prices of oil, including the price we pay, however are completely dependent on mid-east oil.

Also, see here:

http://en.wikiped..._warfare
Party
not rated yet Mar 24, 2011
Here is Similar Story

The capital cost to install a 20 MW solar photovoltaic (PV) facility by 2015 will be US$7981/kW, according to a report from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

That capital cost remains static until 2025, EPRI predicts in Integrated Generation Technology Options: Technical Update, November 2009 and the levelised cost to generate electricity will also remain static at US$456/MWh. The prediction assumes 10% efficiency for solar PV modules and a capacity factor of 26%.
Aliensarethere
not rated yet Mar 24, 2011
Why is wind and solar becoming cost competitive at the same time ? Is it a coincidence since it's two very different energy sources ?
What kind of technology can reduce the cost of windmills ?
PinkElephant
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 24, 2011
@Party,

US$7981/kW in 2015??? Right now (2011), online I can order 200W worth of solar panel for US$553:

http://www.google...sellers#

Therefore, 1 kW will amount to 5 panels, and will cost me 5 times more, or just US$2765. How much does it cost to mount 5 panels on a roof, and run a cable from them to an inverter? Somehow I doubt it's anywhere near $5000. One would imagine that for a 20 MW installation, the bulk pricing and installation costs will amount to even better deal per KW.

And why in blazes would anyone assume that following 2015, costs of solar would stagnate for 10 straight years?

(Incidentally, for the panel mentioned above, the efficiency is more like 15%...and typical efficiencies are likely to keep improving over the next few decades.)
rjsc2000
3 / 5 (2) Mar 24, 2011
Oil won't be around for that much time. And the consumption is growing. It's a no win solution. When oil becomes scarce it will become expensive, governments will start to keep some reserves to that some sectors will still work, and that will generate social conflicts and war with other countries. And if prices go up, so that the cost of plastic, yes plastic, which is made a little from oil. Everything will be more expensive and that will generate conflicts.

Change as early as we can.

And don't give the exploration of solar/wind farms to private companies.... that's just stupid. Something that generates money is given away to others... what are our governments thinking???

PinkElephant
4 / 5 (5) Mar 24, 2011
@Aliensarethere,
Why is wind and solar becoming cost competitive at the same time?
Part of the reason may be that fossil energy is set to become more expensive (especially with carbon pricing.) But also, of course both wind and solar are subject of intensive world-wide R&D -- yes, both of them at the same time. They're both being increasingly mass-produced and the production outsourced to China and other third-world countries (both of which drives down costs.)

Other than that, wind is significantly cheaper than solar per KW of installed capacity, and in practice is likely to become cost competitive quite a bit sooner.
What kind of technology can reduce the cost of windmills?
Aside from outsourcing production and mass-producing? Better-efficiency motors and gear trains. Better-designed and more flexible (morphing/tilting) blades, made with high-tech composites. Turbines getting taller, larger, and situated in better locations (incl. offshore), improving capacity factors.
ForFreeMinds
2.7 / 5 (10) Mar 24, 2011
Steven Chu, in spite of his statements, doesn't know if solar or wind will be competitive with oil in the future. To be competitive, both will need major breakthroughs in the science and technology behind them. He's making the statement to defend Obama's energy policies which include subsidies for various energy sources, plus a lot of regulation (the purpose of which is to get campaign cash to flow to politicians from those in the industry). And they want cap and tax to further increase government at the expense of the free market.

I'd much prefer to see government limited to dealing with disputes in the courts. And I'd prefer to see decisions about what energy is produced/used to the free enterprise system, without government dictating winners and losers in the industry, because when government interferes, it always increases our costs.

Modernmystic
3 / 5 (2) Mar 24, 2011
"Before maybe the end of this decade, I see wind and solar being cost-competitive without subsidy with new fossil fuel,"


Based on what data?
PinkElephant
4 / 5 (4) Mar 24, 2011
I'd prefer to see decisions about what energy is produced/used to the free enterprise system
The fundamental problem with the free enterprise system, is that it cannot account for the costs of ecological externalities. Only government regulation can do that.
Obama's energy policies which include subsidies for various energy sources
Including MASSIVE subsidies for oil and gas (such as near-free concessions of federal land for exploitation, massive federal spending on roads and highways, and massive military spending in the Middle East.)
GSwift7
2 / 5 (4) Mar 24, 2011
to Pink:

I found an interesting web site that advertises for an MIT spinoff solar company. There is a graph that projects when solar may hit grid parity (that's the point where total cost will roughly balance out.) Here's the link, enjoy:

htDELETMEtp://www.7gen.com/blog/david-herron/solar-power-cost-coal

Though it is still an apples to oranges comparison as neither wind nor solar can really be universally implemented as a stand-alone source 24-7-365. It could help a LOT in the Southern Summer days though. My electric provider, South Carolina Energy and Gass, just built their first comercial scale solar plant near Myrtle Beach as a proof of concept test site, so the cost is getting close enough to be taken seriously. Money talks and BS walks, so when the power companies start to spend that says it all. I tend to believe what Chu is saying.

The only problem is the jobs thing. Net cost stays the same, so job creation should be neutral. Take away one grow another.
PinkElephant
not rated yet Mar 24, 2011
Thanks, GSwift7.

BTW, you might find it useful to know that hyperlinks are working again (at least they were for me, as of yesterday...) For instance, here's a test:

http://www.7gen.c...ost-coal
Jimee
5 / 5 (2) Mar 24, 2011
Green jobs. Gee, it would be terrible if the jobs in oil and coal that are basically poisoning ourselves and our children could be found in green, clean(er) energy areas. I wonder what might be discovered if the jack-boot of the oil and coal companies were removed from our windpipes?
lebooo
not rated yet Mar 27, 2011
flying wind turbines are cool, too
http://inhabitat....urbines/
Sin_Amos
1 / 5 (1) Mar 27, 2011
And the Italian's cold fusion device? Why does any of this matter if the Italians have cracked it? Imagine using solar to drive the cold fusion device.