by Laurent GUERBY
Wed Aug 15th, 2007 at 09:16:20 AM EST
DeAnander Lazy Quote Diary: Mark Jones on Capitalist Entropy diary sparked a discussion on solar photovoltaic electricity production.
Let's compare published data for Jerome latest wind farm and a being built solar photovoltaic plant.
From the diaries ~ whataboutbob
Jerome offshore windfarm article provides us with the following data: cost of 378 millions euros (514 millions USD at fx=1.36) for 120 MW peak, offshore wind has 40% of peak load efficiency (from Jerome comment in the discussion), it will produce 420 480 MWh per year. that makes it to 10.7 USD per installed effective watt for offshore wind.
The Solar power station in Victoria is planned to cost 420 million AUD (349 millions USD at fx=0.83) and produce 270 000 MWh per year. Watt-peak is 154 MW, so from the MWh number we deduce that load efficiency is 20% of peak (doesn't work at night, clouds, etc...). That makes it to 11.3 USD per installed effective watt for solar PV.
Price of installed effective watt (as defined above) does not take into account financing and maintenance.
So we still have to compare maintenance cost over the next N years of an on-shore field of mirrors and off-shore wind farm. And also to compare photovoltaic expected lifetime vs offshore windfarm lifetime. Some solar cells have already lasted more than 20 years and lost only 10% of their efficiency.
Does that make 11.3-10.7=0.6 USD per installed effective watt (5.6% difference)? I'd say likely.
So all in all I'd say according to published numbers concentrated solar PV can already be cheaper than wind (unless I did misundertand something :).
Of course we should do both, but there's no reason to dismiss photovoltaics. There are also other ways to harness solar power.
How will those costs move in the future?
We're comparing first of its kind solar PV plant vs quite mature offshore wind farm technology. As Pierre mentions in the diary discussion:
PV using dedicated silicon wafers is starting about now. These wafers will have way more impurities than VLSI grade wafers, and the PV will go down a bit in yield, but the panels should be much cheaper after a couple of years (like 2-3 times per peak watt I expect). Also, they will be decoupled from VLSI economic cycles (by which production of PV basically stopped whenever their was an expansion of the microchip business, every 3 years or so)
So it's likely future prices will fall more on the solar side than for offshore wind side. Of course the Victoria project can have cost overruns and/or not deliver as planned.
From wikipedia the efficiency of PV cells is also notably rising:
Latest achievement is 40.7% in 2006 so the trend is continuing.
The wikipedia article mentions energy payback (energy cost to make solar cell vs their expected total produced energy over their lifetime), all studies show it's a myth (see also the article cited by Bruno-ken). Just like windfarm slaughtering birds.
As a side note the wikipedia timeline of solar cells article has many interesting information:
# 1984 - 30,000 SF Building-Integrated Photovoltaic [BI-PV] Roof completed for the Intercultural Center of Georgetown University. At the time of the 20th Anniversary Journey by Horseback for Peace and Photovoltais in 2004 it was still generating an average of one MWh daily as it has for twenty years in the dense urban environment of Washington, DC.
Probably in the worst place (pollution, etc...) old technology PV are still working after 23 years.
# 1984 - Amoco Oil pulled factory loan to make brutal and unwelcome takeover of Solarex Corporation factory in Frederick, Maryland.
# 1988-1991 AMOCO/Enron used Solarex patents to sue ARCO Solar out of the business of a-Si, see Solarex Corp.(Enron/Amoco)v.Arco Solar, Inc.Ddel, 805 Fsupp 252 Fed Digest.
As with batteries and electric cars, intellectual property is used to gain a few decades of big oil profits and other pro global warning activities.
Section 8. The Congress shall have power [...] To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;
Promote progress indeed.