CleanTechnica is the #1 cleantech-focused
website
 in the world. Subscribe today!


Clean Power tin perovskite solar cells

Published on May 5th, 2014 | by Tina Casey

275

Scientists Develop Coal-Killing Solar Cell Made From Tin

Share on Google+Share on RedditShare on StumbleUponTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookPin on PinterestDigg thisShare on TumblrBuffer this pageEmail this to someone

May 5th, 2014 by  

Weren’t we just saying that perovskite solar cells are the next big thing? Well, make that tin perovskite solar cells. Tin perovskite solar cells are suddenly a thing this week, with not one but two major new research announcements coming out of the US and the UK.

The significance is not so much in the tin perovskite cells’ conversion efficiency, which is laughably low compared to other solar hot rods on the market. It’s their potential for commercializing super cheap solar cells. Tin is an inexpensive, abundant material and its use in solar cells would drive costs down while alleviating the kind of geopolitical supply chain issues that bedevil other solar cell materials.

Tin also has the advantage of being easier on public health and the environment than lead, which is the conventional alternative for perovskite solar cells.

tin perovskite solar cells

Tin Man (cropped) by Brian Teutsch.

Tin Perovskite Solar Cells From The US

Perovskite solar cells just sailed across CleanTechnica’s radar a couple of weeks ago. Perovskite refers to a mineral composed mainly of calcium titanate. Perovskite has a particular crystalline structure that lends itself to solar conversion, which can be adapted to modify other materials for use in solar cells.

The problem is that earlier perovskite solar cell research was focused on lead, which is toxic, which explains why the latest news just came out yesterday from Northwestern University under the header “Taking the lead out of a promising solar cell.”

If Northwestern’s research translates into the commercial market the impact will be significant.

The new cell gets a commercial market threefer: using materials that are low cost, non-hazardous, and adaptable to a standard manufacturing process.

Northwestern hit upon the lead substitution partly because tin is in the same group in the periodic table.

The new solar cell is composed of five layers. The first two, a layer of conducting glass and a layer of titanium dioxide form the front contact.  Not for nothing but titanium dioxide should ring some bells —  before there was Django Unchained we had Titanium Dioxide, Unchained!.

The tricky part is the third layer, the tin perovskite in the form of methylammonium tin iodide.  Methylammonium tin iodideoxidizes in contact with air, so that part of the process had to be done in a sealed environment (a nitrogen glove box, to be specific), along with the next step since the top of the tin was still exposed at this point.

The next layer is the one that closes the electrical circuit, and this part was also tricky because the team had to find something that would not eat away at the tin, which entailed a lot of digging around into the perovskite structure in order to understand its reactivity.

The final layer is a gold cap, forming the back contact electrode of the cell.

According to Northwestern, lead perovskite has about 15 percent solar conversion efficiency, and the research team anticipates that the new cell could surpass that, although right now it’s hovering at around 5.73 percent (we warned you — don’t laugh!).

Tin Perovskite Solar Cells From The UK

The UK tin perskovite solar cell announcement came out from Oxford University, a few days before the Northwestern announcement. The team’s figure for the best lead perskovite efficiency is 17 percent and their tin version came in around the same as Northwestern’s, at six percent. Like Northwestern, the Oxford team anticipates bettering the record for lead, reaching up to 20 percent or more.

The Oxford team focused on a similar problem, the degradation of the tin layer when exposed to air and moisture, and ended up with a similar solution: a sealed nitrogen fabrication environment.

Coal-Killing Solar Cells!

As for solar’s ability to compete in the electricity market with coal and other fossil fuels, the true cost of coal is finally being exposed including regional air quality and ash disposal issues on top of its contribution to global warming, and solar is already competitive with diesel in some global markets.

 

In the US, cheap shale gas has been pushing coal out of the electricity market and there are already indications that industries are beginning to prepare for the day when solar and other renewables push shale gas out of the energy market, by shifting into higher value products.

Exxon, for example, is looking to expand its gigantic Baytown, Texas refinery to include a gas-to-plastics operation, and the German chemical company BASF is exploring the possibility of making its largest single-site investment ever, by building a shale gas-to-plastics facility on the Gulf Coast.

By the way, we’re not exactly giving up our crushing on graphene, but you can expect to hear a lot more about perovskite from CleanTechnica from now on.

Follow me on Twitter and Google+.

Keep up with all the latest solar news from CleanTechnica: subscribe to our Solar Energy newsletter.

Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.



Share on Google+Share on RedditShare on StumbleUponTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookPin on PinterestDigg thisShare on TumblrBuffer this pageEmail this to someone

Tags: , , ,


About the Author

Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



  • Bob_Wallace

    This thread has gotten very long and Disqus (as it does) has started dropping comments. I’m probably going to shut it down soon.

    Make an attempt to make you point. Good luck. (It’s dropped three of my last four.)

    Make that four out of five. I’m trying again to get this posted.

  • Bob_Wallace

    (I’ll try this again. It failed to post earlier.)

    mwpncookeville – you asked about the cost of wind. I gave you the 2011 and 2012 average selling price of 4 cents per kWh. (5.3 without subsidies.)

    Here’s an update for 2013…

    “According to a panel of researchers at the Windpower 2014 conference, continued improvements in wind and solar technologies are making them a threat to natural gas.Ryan Wiser, a staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, highlighted innovations in blade and rotor design. Advances in materials have allowed the design of longer turbine blades and rotors that can operate efficiently at lower wind speeds. Since 2012, a “massive proliferation” of these turbines has driven average capacity factor increases up by 10 percent at every level of wind resource. As a result of these advances, costs are falling; preliminary data shows that the average 2013 power purchase agreement was at $0.021 per kilowatt-hour.

    “These are not your grandfather’s wind turbines,” Wiser said. “They are not even your older brother’s turbines.””

    http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/The-Price-Gap-Is-Closing-Between-Renewables-and-Natural-Gas

    2.1 cents per kWh. Almost a 50% price cut 2012 to 2013.

    3.2 cents without subsidy.

  • Hans

    I have been following renewable energy news for a long time now and a promising new fancy solar cell type is presented every few months. At the same time good old silicon solar cells are still dominating the market. Apparently it is not so easy to transfer lab results into a commercial product. Conventional solar cells also are a moving target. There is now a large industry around this technology which invests quit a lot of money in forever improving these solar cells.

  • http://www.procashmoney.ws procashmoney

    http://ezinternetpaydays.com/procashmoney

    EXPLODE Your Cash Flow…

    GET PAID DAILY!

    New 100% FREE System Does It All!

    Converts HUGE Numbers. See It Now:

    (YOUR INFO GOES HERE)

  • TinaCasey

    Hi guys, wow you really outdid yourselves in the comment thread, thanks for all of the participation.

    Just a couple of notes for those of you who are new to CleanTechnica.

    One of the early commenters took me to task (I think the precise wording was “witless”) because I didn’t mention that the installed cost of solar power is only partly accounted for by the cost of the PV cell itself. Search the site and you’ll see that I’ve covered the “soft costs” issue previously, as have other writers at CleanTechnica. I guess I could have put in an extra line or two in that regard but oh well.

    Another early commenter (shoutout to “Gork”) noted that the research has so far demonstrated a relatively low conversion efficiency. I addressed issue that up front in the article, like in the second paragraph, but I guess I could have expressed it more clearly. On a related note, in previous posts on CleanTechnica I’ve discussed how raw conversion efficiency is only one factor in the competitiveness of solar in the global energy market.

    Again, thanks everyone for checking into the thread!

  • Gregory M. Eads

    1- 2/100th of an ampere per 1-1.5 volt cell at 6-15% efficiency means hundreds of Thousands of square MILES of solar cells …and what do you do when it’s DARK out?

    • JamesWimberley

      (Wearily) The cell Tina reported on is a experimental setup designed to find out if it’s possible to replace the toxic lead on pervoxvskite-family cells with a non-toxic metal. The answer is yes. So they will now move on the next problem, raising the efficiency of their tin-based cell to that of their own lab’s lead-based perovskite cells, which is over 15%. The challenge after that is to raise the efficiency above that of mass-market silicon cells, 17% for poly and 21% for mono. And after that to solve the durability and low-cost fabrication issues.
      The success of perovskite or any other new pv technology is not assured. So all sensible forecasters conservatively assume we are stuck with silicon, with cost reductions on the historic learning curve….
      I’m wasting my time. Immature people like you are not interested in learning anything, just shouting your prejudices until you hear an echo.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I’m tempted to suggest that we figure out how to turn stupidity into electricity and use comments like yours to light our bulbs. But that wouldn’t be the kind thing to do….

      You make multiple errors.

      First, you assume a 100% solar supply. That makes no sense. Need it explained?

      Second, and probably stemming from your first error, the wind blows at night, tides ebb and flow, biomass burns, geothermal and hydro spin turbines and we know how to store electricity.

      Why don’t you calculate the square miles needed to provide about 40% of our electricity needs with 18+% solar panels. Then look up the amount of rooftop, parking lot and brownfield space we have.

      And don’t should (allcaps). We have delicate ears.

  • http://electrobatics.wordpress.com/ arne-nl

    Well Tina, it seems you have hit a nerve in the coal lovers’ community. Something must have them worried…

    Oh, it is those renewables that they have been telling for years that they will never get anywhere.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Fear the Force.

  • JamesWimberley

    Tin is 10 times the price of lead ($23,000 a tonne vs. $2060), so this is entirely about toxicity, not cost. Neither price is significant for a dopant used in tiny quantities.

    • jeffhre

      It becomes about price again when the basic research intersects with actual production technology and engineering at scale. Ten times the price of one material over the other taken out of context does not mean much. Especially if we are referring to micrometer thin lines of the material crossing at very small overall portions of each cell.

  • Elptique

    Tina, titanium, gold, 5% efficiency? I am a bit puzzle. Where are the savings?

    • http://electrobatics.wordpress.com/ arne-nl

      Titanium is the ninth most abundant metal on Earth. Absolutely no worries there.

      From another article: “All told, the researchers say the entire “sandwich” is between one and two microns thick”

      The gold is likely too thin to matter in terms of cost.

      • Gregory M. Eads

        much titanium comes from Russia !

      • Elptique

        Totally unconvinced. All this effort and materials to match what we already have? Why don’t mass produce PV as the Chinese do. The rest won’t matter.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Obviously the people doing this research think they might see a route to better, cheaper panels.

          Why don’t we let them do their job and see if they advance the technology? It’s how we progress.

  • Red

    Call me when a solar panel can push a ton of freight 500 miles. Thats what a gallon of diesel fuel can do in a locomotive engine.

    • mwpncookeville

      Yes, energy density is important. In reality the diesel fuel only drives a generator to charge the batteries on the locomotive. The “wheels” are turned with electricity.

      • Red

        No bateries involved. The generators drive the electric motors. My point stands.

        • CsabaU
        • mwpncookeville

          Not trying to “counter” your point, just pointing out there’s a reason they use electric motor drives- instant torque- something no internal combustion engine, gasoline or diesel can produce.
          I would only add, that they are investigating replacing the diesel power with natural gas as a cleaner burning alternative.
          I apologize, if I was incorrect about a battery.

        • http://electrobatics.wordpress.com/ arne-nl

          Diesel is storage of 100 million year old solar energy.

          Batteries are storage of 1 day old solar energy.

          Yes, batteries are valid, no your point doesn’t stand.

          • Red

            So show me the freight train that runs on PV cells.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Take a look at any of our electrified trains in the US.

            Some of the electricity that powers them comes from solar panels.

          • Red

            Some? How much?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Look, Red, you’re getting absurd.

            Clearly we are making electricity with solar panels.

            Clearly electric motors don’t care how the electricity is produced.

            Right now we make less than 1% of our electricity with solar panels. But solar has only dropped in price to the “affordable” level in the last couple of years, it will take some time to install large amounts.

          • Red

            Bob, the only thing that’s absurd is the millions of tax dollars flushed down the toilet after this pie in the sky pipe dream.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Will we spend millions researching new solar cell technology? Perhaps. Small millions.

            Then there are the hundreds of billions we’ve spent trying to make nuclear energy affordable to no avail.

            And the almost $400 billion we spend each year dealing with coal pollution.

            Now personally I don’t have a crystal ball that tells me that we’ll learn nothing from this research, perhaps you do.

            I do know that many research projects don’t pan out, but we’ve moved ourselves from the horse and buggy, die horrible deaths from all sorts of disease times to where we are now by research.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Red, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Right now we’re wasting billions of taxpayer dollars, dollars we simply don’t need to continue spending.

            Whether you want to recognize it or not we are now transitioning off fossil fuels and onto renewables. We’re going to end up with cheaper electricity, cheaper driving, a lot less money spent on health problems, fewer reasons for foreign wars, and the chance to minimize climate change.

            That’s just the facts, Jack.

          • http://electrobatics.wordpress.com/ arne-nl

            Still not seeing the simple answer?

            Any electric locomotive can pull a freight train.

            Any electric locomotive can be fed by PV panels.

          • Gregory M. Eads

            you need many times more panels than the train can hold….

          • jeffhre

            Google solar powered canopy over train, there are as many ways to do this as there are imaginative designers.

          • Bob_Wallace

            No one is talking about running trains from solar panels on the top of the train.

            Ever own an electric train? Plug it into the wall and it runs.

            Now scale that up.

          • Calamity_Jean

            The panels can be anywhere, and the electric power is transmitted to the train via wires. When the train brakes, it can feed (most of) the power back into the wires, so it can be re-used for some other purpose. (Some power is lost in friction and wind resistance.)

        • A Real Libertarian
          • CsabaU

            Well, to qoute a person above: “I tell everyone that anybody who keeps repeating the same content-free slogan over and over is likely to be a brainwashed fanatic.”

        • Calamity_Jean

          No batteries involved.

          Well, there could be. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diesel-electric_transmission :

          In some high-efficiency applications, electrical energy may be stored in rechargeable batteries, in which case these vehicles can be considered as a class of hybrid electric vehicle.

    • Guest

      It can, if you use an electric motor or mag-lev system instead of a traditional locomotive engine.
      And it will do so much longer than a single gallon or even a hundred gallons of diesel and without any harmful emissions to boot.

      • Gregory M. Eads

        diesel trains USE electric motors at the drive wheels….

    • Ken

      If you’re waiting for something with higher energy density than diesel, don’t hold your breath. Then again, you may have to hold your breath as pollution builds. The best way a solar panel can push that ton of freight is via electrified trains (e.g. overhead line) fed by a solar array & energy storage. Possible now and increasingly viable.

    • heinbloed

      Baseball caps and sunglasses – to see the light you have to take these things off:)

      Flying 1.6 tonnes with PV-panels around the world:

      http://www.solarimpulse.com/en/our-story/#.U2ej6nZdjcs

    • Bob_Wallace

      Give us your number.

      ““Along the route of the Trans-Siberian Railway, trains of oil tank cars extend across the landscape for miles. Each tank car, black and tarry-looking, with its faded white markings, resembles the one that follows it… a trainload of these cars defines monotony.

      The Trans-Siberian Railway covers 9,288 kilometers between Moscow and the Pacific port of Vladivostok, or 5,771 miles. In other words, if it were twenty-one miles longer, it would be exactly twice as long as Interstate 80 from New Jersey to California. Laying awake near the tracks in some remote spot at night you hear trains going by all through the night with scarcely a pause.

      (T)he Trans-Siberian Railway is all-electric, with overhead cables like a streetcar line – you find the tracks are empty of traffic only for five or ten minutes at a time.

      Besides oil, the railway carries coal, machinery parts, giant tires, scrap iron, and endless containers … just like the containers stacked five stories high around the Port of Newark, New Jersey, and probably every other port in the world.”

      Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier (2010)”

      Electrified rail doesn’t care where the electricity comes from. They are happy to run with solar in the mix.

    • http://electrobatics.wordpress.com/ arne-nl

      It is important to distinguish between energy and power. A gallon of diesel stands for a fixed amount of energy. A solar panel can generate a certain amount of power.

      A gallon of hydrocarbons contains about 40 kWh of thermal energy, in an average internal combustion engine (25% efficiency) that yields about 10 kWh usable energy.

      A 300 W solar panel in a reasonably sunny location will generate about 400 kWh per year, very roughly 1 gallon of diesel equivalent per week.

      Trains run on electricity (they do here) and they can easily be fed from the grid to which the solar panels are attached. The solar panels can be placed anywhere. Diesel is also transported from other locations to the train. There is no diesel well inside the train, it is an external source of energy, just as solar panels that feed electricity through the grid or in a battery.

      So yes, solar panels + battery is a valid solution.

      And yes, solar panels on the ground instead of the train is also valid.

  • mwpncookeville

    Roof based solar installations typically generate less than 1/3 of the power required for the average home, even with the more efficient panels- tell me how even low cost low efficiency panels will do better? You can afford more of them? There’s only so much roof space on a home, and they only produce peak power in the neighborhood of 5 – 6 hours per day…

    Those who claim solar is our savior, have let there idealism cloud their judgment. It would be great but it’s just not practical!

    • Guest

      Why restrict ourselves to roof based solar installations? That doesn’t make any sense.
      Furthermore, you pointed out yourself that adding roof-based solar installations can lower the power costs of a home by as much as a third. With cheap roof-based, efficient solar panels on EVERY home that is up to a 1/3 reduction in energy costs and emissions for all residential homes. Of course, the real number would be less than that, but the difference would likely still be quite dramatic.

      Solar power alone is obviously not the answer, but in conjunction with other renewable sources of energy? Heck, even in conjunction with more traditional energy sources? Something to consider.

      • mwpncookeville

        I am not anti-solar, but roof space is essentially free, and already removed from the natural environment. I am opposed to expanding the human footprint to other environmentally sensitive areas just to collect low energy density sunshine.

        Also, residential energy usage is only 37% of the USA’s power consumption, so reducing that 37% by a mere third doesn’t exactly get us very far, you’d still need a large uninterrupted base load for the remaining 63% of our electric usage.

        I am not anti-renewables, but I am a realist, something so many “environmentalists” are not. I support smart energy solutions.

        • Bob_Wallace

          “…brownfields are an untapped resource rivaling pristine public lands.

          The raw land potential is vast. According to the EPA, there are just under half a million contaminated properties around the country, including tens of thousands of Superfund sites and brownfields. That amounts to 15 million acres of land. By comparison, the Bureau of Land Management estimates that it controls 19 million acres suitable for solar projects and 20 million acres suitable for wind.

          These contaminated sites, many of which are former industrial parks and buildings, are often close to electricity infrastructure. Projects on remote public lands often require new transmission lines to access them — raising costs and the potential for opposition.”

          http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/super-solar-the-first-utility-scale-superfund-solar-project

          • mwpncookeville

            Funny how “environmentalists” are opposed to urban sprawl, except when their pet energy projects need vast amounts of land- then they are perfectly ok with it. I am opposed to ignorant solutions that require vast amounts of land to collect low energy density sun light.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Vast” use of sensitive environmental land for renewables?

            You must be very poorly informed.

          • mwpncookeville

            Just how much land do you want to give over to solar production- I hear estimates like an area the size of California would produce 100% of our electricity. A yeah, I am opposed to that!

            Small comparison…

            1 nuclear plant on 130 acres powers 1.4 million homes.

            It would require 10 Ivanpah solar plants on 40,000 acres to power the same number of homes. Talk about an environmental impact!

            Not to mention that the Ivanpah solar plant still burns natural gas about 20% of the time so they can
            continue operation after the sun goes down! This so called renewable plant spews as much CO2 as 16,000 cars annually! The nuclear plant spews none!!

          • Hans

            “I hear estimates like an area the size of California would produce 100% of our electricity.” Where did you hear this? I think you heard wrong:

            Total US power consumption for 2012: 4127 TWh=4.127 *10^12 kWh [1]. Assuming the same low yield of 190 kWh/m^2 as in my other comment this translates into 22,000 square kilometers of area. The area of California is 423,970 km^2 [2].

            So under very conservative assumptions about 5% of the area of California could cover the whole of the US power needs.

            [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_the_United_States#Current_consumption

            [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California

          • mwpncookeville

            Still too large of a foot print. When a nuclear plant on 130 acres can power as many homes as 10 utility scale solar that would take 40,000 acres. I’m opposed to that sort of expansion.

          • jeffhre

            Solar panels = urban sprawl?

          • mwpncookeville

            They do if you go to undeveloped areas to install a solar array. The new Ivanpah facility covers 4000 acres to supply power to 140,000 homes, whereas a nuclear plant on 130 acres can provide for 1.4 million. Scale that up, and it takes 40,000 acres or 10 such Ivanpah plants to supply the same 1.4 million homes.

          • jeffhre

            Ivanpah is not a technology I would recommend beyond the experimental stage at current prices. Solar PV panels on desert lands serve as simple shelters for various flora and fauna. So other than 1 Ivanpah not scaled up due to cost, solar is not equal to urban sprawl?

          • mwpncookeville

            I don’t believe you’ve seen many solar arrays. Lanes of roads for installation and maintenance are there as long as the array is, plus claiming PV provide shade to desert flora and flora, that don’t need it is just silly.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Perhaps you don’t realize how large the American desert is. Much of the area west of the Rockies plus a bunch of Texas.

            We won’t use a small part of 1% for solar. We use a lot more already for off road vehicle recreation.

          • mwpncookeville

            I don’t know about that statistic, but others have thrown out estimates of millions of acres solar panels through pristine desert landscapes- which I find as an unacceptable solution.
            How much land does nuclear take in comparison? substantially less than the solar solution, I’m sure.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Millions of acres for solar in the desert. That won’t happen.

            Here’s what I think happened. A year or two back the DOE did a study of federal lands and broke them down into two basic categories – one where wind and solar might be installed and one where wind and solar would not be allowed.

            Our most environmentally sensitive and beautiful areas were set aside and protected.

            That makes it easier for wind and solar to get through the permitting process. They don’t have to first determine if the land in question would be permitted, they can go with the millions of acres where a permit could be obtained.

            Some people seem to have taken that and talked about “millions of acres of solar panels”. That’s simply absurd.

            Most solar will go on rooftops, over parking lots and brownfields. Simply because that eliminates the cost of transmission.

            If we got 30% of our electricity from solar we’d need 38,835 square miles of panels. 24,854,400 acres. We’ve got 15,000,000 acres of brownfields and millions of acres of rooftops.

            Short term, I suspect we’ll see some large PV farms built. But as residential costs drop to the level of other countries I suspect things will move rapidly to rooftops. Right now the cost differential ($2/W vs. $4/W) is high enough to cover transmission costs. But when we get into the $1/$2 range transmission costs are more meaningful.

          • mwpncookeville

            I have no problem with utilizing our existing human footprint to collect solar and wind- so I hope you are correct. The remaining power source requirements needs to come from nuclear. Maybe the democrats and republicans have made a back room deal, and the next time there is a republican in the white house we’ll do the nuclear part of the equation.

          • jeffhre

            Perhaps. The last time that happened a Republican wrote the incentives for EV’s, a Republican Congress passed it and the Republican in the White House signed it. Though the Democrat in the White House now, extended the indemnity for construction of new nuclear plants to 1 billion dollars.

          • jeffhre

            “They don’t have to first determine if the land in question would be permitted,” They actually do, they just don’t have submit sites for land use processing and permits in areas where the answer will be controversial and contentious or worse still, absolutely, positively no.

          • jeffhre

            All of Los Angeles is about 256,000 acres. For purposes of comparison the Escalante Desert in Utah alone is about 2,092,800 acres.

            The Mojave Desert, where I live, is about 30,641,280 square acres in size. The Colorado plateau, centered roughly on the Four Corners Region has about 83,000,000 acres of area. There are many other desert and plains areas that currently see very light use.

          • mwpncookeville

            By humans- Isn’t that a good thing?!

          • jeffhre

            Not sure what that means, I was comparing relative regional sizes.

          • mwpncookeville

            Sorry I wasn’t clear – you stated:

            “… There are many other desert and plains areas that currently see very light use.”

            My response was meant to communicate: ” A very light use by humans is a good thing, but other things do live there.”

            I highly value wild places – I am a hunter and a conservationist. Some see those as contradictory- I don’t.

          • jeffhre

            I don’t. When it seemed no one else wanted to do anything about conservation, I greatly admired Ducks Unlimited.

          • mwpncookeville

            Thanks for understanding. There are a number of conservation oriented organizations formed by hunters, DU is one, my personal favorite is the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, but there are others as well.

          • jeffhre

            Understanding? It’s ingrained in my nature. I think that many parts of the desert are very fragile. And other parts would be better served with PV arrays than with new resorts and extensions of more intense forms of development.

          • Doug Cutler

            You said: “I highly value wild places”

            . . . a commendable viewpoint. In the case of Chernobyl, nuclear energy has proved highly effective at creating a very large wild life preserve.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I can’t see any reason in the world why we would cover “millions of acres of pristine desert” in solar panels. That’s just some fossil fuel industry FUD.

            Doesn’t make sense to build massive amounts of solar that far away from the market when we have all the rooftops, etc. we need at market.

          • mwpncookeville

            I agree, but again, many of those pushing a solar solution have made that suggestion- not some fossil fuel proponent.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You’ve seen solar advocates push for covering millions of acres of pristine desert with solar panels?

            I spend a lot of time reading renewable energy sites and I’ve never heard that.

            What I do see, fairly often, is pro-fossil fuel, pro-nuclear people spread this FUD.

            And occasionally I see someone be very concerned but it usually traces back to a NIMBY issue.

          • jeffhre

            Perhaps, though I don’t see any substantiation of such a sweeping conclusion here. However, will PV panels = urban sprawl.

          • mwpncookeville

            If that last sentence is a question, I have proposed that it is comparable. If humanities footprint grows to generate wind and solar power for cities, then I say it’s comparable to urban sprawl. There are downside to renewables as well, but all to many advocates ignore those completely.

          • jeffhre

            Thank you for your reply. It is development and in that sense it is at least semantically comparable. Yes, there are also roads to build and service the panels. However, when I look at the panels I notice a qualitative difference. If I look under the panels I see dirt. Permeable and with little human activity, surrounded by dirt roads.

            I do not see that with typical urban development. Buildings, through roads and streets, pavement and high levels of human activity, all of which is incompatible with wild life and native flora, as the norm. Would you agree?

          • mwpncookeville

            They built fencing to keep some wildlife out of the Ivanpah facility, are there similar fences around the PV arrays fields?

          • jeffhre

            Yes.

          • Bob_Wallace

            A solar farm in France installed their panels a bit higher off the ground and sheep graze under them.

            Life goes on….

          • jeffhre

            What are the downsides?

          • mwpncookeville

            There is a documentary about wind power that details the local struggles of those in favor and those opposed to a big wind project in upper New York state, and they interviewed many locals after the generators went up, here are some disadvantages from memory:
            Deaths from working at heights, flying ice from blades, bird collisions, the blinking shadows on nearby homes, the inability to fight fires at the turbine due to heights, noise, debris flung from failed blades upon catastrophic failure, and tower collapse…

          • mwpncookeville

            Disadvantages regarding solar – roof top solar in particular:

            Initial costs are tens of thousands of dollars, roof repairs after installation are difficult and may require PV array disassembly to facilitate, injury rate to installers is the same as roofers for obvious reasons, objectionable appearance, objectionable reflections mostly to neighbors, homeowners associations have sometimes gone to court to stop PV installations due to appearance, requires shade trees to be removed offsetting some of the energy gains, interrupted energy production- sometimes for days even weeks depending on clouds, there have been occasional fires, electric shock hazard to firefighters even if the fire originates elsewhere and the main grid supply is disconnected, batteries and roof panels still supply DC until disconnected, roof collapse more likely due to added weight in the event of a fire, pollution: cadmium, silicon, and lead from the manufacturing process, home orientation may not be suitable due to lack of southern exposure, short period of peak production per day even on the best days, lead in batteries for storage is an environmental concern, managing the utility grid is more difficult, panels degrade over time, sufficient access left on roof for service limiting energy production space, long ROI, …

            just to name a few :)

          • Bob_Wallace

            I don’t agree. People who advocate for more renewables totally understand that they aren’t perfect.

            But compared to fossil fuels, renewables are pure as the driven snow.

            When someone invents “perfect” we can switch over. Until then how about we go with “pretty danged good”?

          • mwpncookeville

            That exactly why I support nuclear…

          • Bob_Wallace

            Because you want to pay more for electricity?

            Because you want to decrease our ability to compete on the world market?

          • jeffhre

            And where would I live, where I would not have seen many solar arrays?

          • mwpncookeville

            Where you live I know not where…

          • Calamity_Jean

            Do you know what “brownfields” are? They are old industrial sites that are contaminated with something that makes them unsuitable for frequent or continuing human presence. Having a crew on site for a few months to install solar panels is not too dangerous, but building homes or a new factory which will have people there all day every day for years is a very bad idea. Brownfields don’t cause sprawl, the sprawl has already happened by the time the former occupant leaves.

            Your calculation of acreage used for nuclear power needs to include the contaminated areas around the uranium mine and refinery.

          • Bob_Wallace

            On paper, brownfields are an untapped resource rivaling pristine public lands.

            The raw land potential is vast. According to the EPA, there are just under half a million contaminated properties around the country, including tens of thousands of Superfund sites and brownfields. That amounts to 15 million acres of land. By comparison, the Bureau of Land Management estimates that it controls 19 million acres suitable for solar projects and 20 million acres suitable for wind.

            These contaminated sites, many of which are former industrial parks and buildings, are often close to electricity infrastructure. Projects on remote public lands often require new transmission lines to access them — raising costs and the potential for opposition.
            http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/super-solar-the-first-utility-scale-superfund-solar-project

          • mwpncookeville

            Brownfields are worth considering for PV use, and I said as much somewhere else on here. Yes, in totality the environmental impact from nuclear has to be considered as well. The IFR design actually consumes much of the existing nuclear waste as feed stock eliminating for quite sometime the requirement to mine uranium. The problem with the US nuclear industry is we ran with the most waste producing design, because it provide material for our nuclear bombs. We shutdown the IFR just as the prototype had proven extremely safe.

          • jeffhre

            Yes, Rickover won and supporters of Alvin Weinstein and LFTR technology lost.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Now add in the area for uranium mining.

          • mwpncookeville

            Yes, when new nuclear material is needed, however, the IFR design can use existing nuclear waste as a feedstock, and in the process reduce both the volume as well as the half life of the waste that is left over. This process extracts over 90% of the radioactive material whereas the old light water reactors extract less than 5%- I think its actually closer to 1%.

            You mentioned how little land is required to support the solar arrays you want to install in the western USA, and you proposed that less than 1% would be an acceptable allowance, yet did you know that the entire nuclear waste stockpile of the USA will fit on one football field only 20 feet deep. That is a tiny foot print!

          • jeffhre

            That is true for spent nuclear material and suitable containers. What about all contaminated, irradiated and decommissioned, materials, and structures?

          • mwpncookeville

            Irradiated material doesn’t become radioactive, but yes contaminated materials must be dealt with- sorry, I don’t have any of those details.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m not interested in getting into a nuclear discussion. The price of nuclear is simply too high, especially with the cost of renewables coming down so rapidly.

            You might want to take a look at what TVA is spending at Browns Ferry, doing the last 20% of work on that reactor. And check to see what they are going to pay for the wind electricity they’re bringing in from Oklahoma.

          • mwpncookeville

            I’m not surprised you don’t want to discuss it. That speaks volumes.

    • CsabaU

      If solar power is nothing, why does HECO but a limit fro the users to install it?

      • mwpncookeville

        See reply to “Guest” above…

        • CsabaU

          If now 37% is the limit (which I doubt), why sneeze at 37% cheap and good energy?. Why does Walmart set up solar panels on the store roofs? Is Walmart the greeneist company in US that care most of the envirmoment? Why assume that solar power must supply 100%? And do it today?

          • mwpncookeville

            It’s actually not that cheap, but I don’t mind if every roof top in America gets a solar array. I’m opposed to the unrealistic promotions of those that are pushing solar as the solution to all of our energy needs. If we put roof top solar on every home in America, we’d actually only replace about 12% of our energy consumption with solar. Where does the remaining 78% come from?

          • Bob_Wallace

            You need to check that 12% math. There’s a flaw somewhere.

            That said, we probably won’t get more than 40% of our electricity from solar. A larger portion is likely to come from wind simply because the wind blows more hours. It’s cheaper to use non-stored than stored energy.
            No one pushes an all solar solution except people supporting fossil fuel and nuclear energy. They set up flawed arguments like “100% solar”.

            Right now we are at 7% hydro with the potential of doubling that. Geothermal is capable of supplying (I’m guessing) 5%. Tidal will be good for a few percent. Biomass and waste will kick in a few percent. I don’t think it unreasonable to expect 20% from those sources.

            Wind 40+%. Solar 40%. Some storage to move supply to demand.

            That’s a more accurate prediction of what the future grid will look like than a ‘100% anything’ grid.

          • mwpncookeville

            1/3 of 37% is 12%. Nothing wrong with my math.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The flaw is in your logic.

            I assume you’re starting with a 3kW average sized solar array?

            A 3kW array does not cover the surface of a roof. Not even the area of the south facing slope on a gabled roof.

          • mwpncookeville

            http://www.solarenergy.org/solar-calculator

            The average 1000kwh home in my area would require a 4.25kw system to produce 50% of their power via solar. Zip code 38506.

            Most home systems on average are actually only 2kw.

          • http://electrobatics.wordpress.com/ arne-nl

            The are on average 2 kW not because the roofs are too small. A 2 kW system is puny. About 10 m2.

          • Bob_Wallace

            1,000 kWh / 30.4 days per month = 32.9 kWh per day.

            Cookeville gets an avearage of 4.5 solar hours per day. (Grew up about 50 miles from there.)

            32.9 / 4.5 = 7.3 kW panel.

            Is that what you mean?

            7,300 watts of panels would take 730 square feet of rooftop at 10 watts per square foot. That’s less than half the rooftop of a 1,500 square foot house roof area to produce 100% of all electricity consumed in a year.

          • mwpncookeville

            I have to admit, that after reviewing some additional sources, that depending on the efficiency of the home, it seems possible to produce enough power for a home from the roof top, assuming you can either sell the power to the utility when you don’t need it, and draw it back when you do. I think battery storage in each home is an environmental disaster of its own.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I don’t think that battery storage in every home would be an environmental disaster, but I don’t think it makes sense. It would just cost too much and for no good reason.

            Put the solar panels on your roof that will produce the electricity you need on an annual basis. Send the extra to the grid when the Sun is shining. Take back wind or other renewable energy when the Sun isn’t shining.

            Your sunny hour extra provides for people who don’t have roofs for panels (people living in multi-story apartments, for example).

          • jeffhre

            Good point. Would be very nice if the utility did not try to change the rules mid-game, and charge exorbitant new charges for those that are beginning to create their own power. Reasonable and consistent fees would help everyone IMO.

          • mwpncookeville

            A 3kw array requires about 318 square feet per:
            http://www.solarenergy.org/solar-calculator

            The break even period for a 25% solar power system for the average 1000kwh home in my area is 20 years with the 30% federal subsidy- of longer without it. Economics matter too.

            The average solar supporter only considers their environmental agenda, and not the economics. To their “religion” the costs are irrelevant- to the rest of us costs do matter.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Current US installed solar prices are in transition. We are paying $4.59/W on average. The UK, Germany and Australia are installing rooftop for about $2/W.

            I would suggest that your “religion” is causing you to not understand what is happening in the real world.

          • jeffhre

            The break-even period on my rooftop 1KW array, with house and car fueled is 18 months – to replace 10,000 miles of driving and $25 of the current $45 month electric bill. After 18 months I should be getting a check for 30% percent of the cost from the “subsidy.” And I should be saving $90 a month in gasoline + $25 a month in electricity till death. Not including inflation.

          • Calamity_Jean

            The break even period for a 25% solar power system for the average 1000kwh home in my area is 20 years ….

            That’s a 5% return on investment! Can you net that much from the stock market without fail for 20 years? You sure as heck can’t get that much from a bank. And that’s assuming that your electric company doesn’t raise it’s prices for the next 20 years; not a justified assumption IMHO. At the end of the 20 years the solar panels will continue to push out watts for another ten years or more, essentially for free.

          • jeffhre

            On my home, with an initial net and gross capitalization of zero, my return on initial invested capital passes infinity and is therefore incalculable. In the first month of PV panel operation, paying interest only of $10 (until the loans principal and interest are retired at the 18 month mark) my return is 1160% after eliminating gasoline at $90 per month and $26 per month of the electric bill. Over extended periods the stock market returns an average of 9% per anum, as evidenced by the S&P 500 Index.

            Please check my numbers – just jotting stuff down!

          • mwpncookeville

            5% ROI … your not an investor are you?

          • jeffhre

            Absolute risk free investment, tax free returns, inflation is 3% and banks are paying .1%. What’s the problem? Another ad hominem attack?

          • mwpncookeville

            No attack intended, but yes, per the question posed I have averaged well over 5% annual return over 20 years even including the most recent downturn. Assuming Jean meant 5% annual, and not 5% total- if so yikes!

          • jeffhre

            Oh, and no attack intended, thank you.

          • Bob_Wallace

            That probably says that there’s an excellent business opportunity for solar installers in your area.

            How much are they charging per watt where you are?

            How much is your TVA (?) rate?

          • mwpncookeville

            I’m not sure about the rate or the cost per watt, but the only incentive available appears to be the 30% federal.

          • A Real Libertarian

            1/3 of 37% is 12%. Nothing wrong with my math.

            Ah-Hem

            If we put roof top solar on every home in America, we’d actually only replace about 12% of our energy consumption with solar. Where does the remaining 78% come from?

            12% + 78% = 90%.

          • mwpncookeville

            Yep, I fudged that one…

          • mwpncookeville

            I agree with an all of the above approach, but your renewable percentages are way too optimistic. If you think we can have a carbon emissions free future without nuclear, I believe your dreaming…

          • Bob_Wallace

            Why don’t you read some of the research papers that show you are making a bad assumption?

          • jeffhre

            The US already has 19% nuclear to play with in planning and implementing the ideal generation mix.

          • mwpncookeville

            19% is way too low, and all too many claim we should eliminate even those. The world needs more power not less- that is unless you plan to leave the remainder of humanity without reliable electricity in the third world.

          • Bob_Wallace

            It doesn’t make sense to build 11 cent per kWh generation when we can build 5 cent generation.

            No reason to pay twice as much for electricity.

            The developing world isn’t building nuclear. They are installing wind, solar and geothermal.

          • mwpncookeville

            Except for Kenya you are correct about the third world, and that is an area where renewables work- areas with little industry. Kenya has a plan to build a nuclear plant- as to whether they actually will, time will tell.

            There are environmental costs not just dollars.

            I would pay double for a nuclear plant on 130 acres, as compared to equivalent industrial scale solar on 40,000 acres.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Except for Kenya”?

            Kenya might build one reactor. On the other hand, they might do more math and not build one reactor.

            Lots of countries talk about building reactors until it’s time to commit. The Czech Republic was going to build new nuclear up until last month. It’s just very clear that new nuclear is expensive and renewables are affordable and getting cheaper.

          • mwpncookeville

            Please quote source for the 11 and 5 cent per kwh of power production. Thanks.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The announced strike price for the proposed Hinkley Point reactors has been announced as £0.925. This includes UK provided loan guarantees. When the value of these guarantees are included the price rises to £0.10. $0.16/kWh.

            This means that regardless of how cheap other sources of electricity might be the French and Chinese owners of the reactors will be paid 16 cents for the electricity they produce. They are further guaranteed that their electricity will be purchased first meaning that it is likely that cheaper sources will be curtailed.

            This is a guaranteed price for all electricity produced for the next 35 years and the price will increase with inflation.

            http://www.renewablesinternational.net/the-financials-at-hinkley/150/537/74458/
            —-

            An analysis of the Vogtle reactor costs by Citigroup in early 2014 found the LCOE for electricity from those reactors to cost 11 cents per kWh. That is assuming no further cost/timeline overruns.

            They also stated that reactors build after the Vogtle units would likely produce more expensive electricity as they would not be able to receive as low financing rates as Vogtle has.

            http://www.energypost.eu/age-renewables-begun-solar-power-continues-shoot-cost-curve/

            http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/citigroup-says-the-age-of-renewables-has-begun
            —-

            “The cost of large-scale solar projects has fallen by one third in the last five years and big solar now competes with wind energy in the solar-rich south-west of the United States, according to new research.

            The study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory entitled “Utility-Scale Solar 2012: An Empirical Analysis of Project Cost, Performance, and Pricing Trends in the United States” – says the cost of solar is still falling and contracts for some solar projects are being struck as low as $50/MWh (including a 30 percent federal tax credit).”

            “Another interesting observation from LBNL is that most of the contracts written in recent years do not escalate in nominal dollars over the life of the contract. This means that in real dollar terms, the pricing of the contract actually declines.

            This means that towards the end of their contracts, the solar plants (including PV, CSP and CPV) contracted in 2013 will on average will be delivering electricity at less than $40/MWh. This is likely to be considerably less than fossil fuel plants at the same time, given the expected cost of fuels and any environmental regulations.”

            http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/big-solar-now-competing-with-wind-energy-on-costs-75962

            “Utility-Scale Solar 2012: An Empirical Analysis of Project Cost, Performance, and Pricing Trends in the United States

            http://emp.lbl.gov/sites/all/files/lbnl-6408e-ppt.pdf

            “The prices offered by wind projects to utility purchasers averaged $40/MWh for projects negotiating contracts 2011 and 2012, spurring demand for wind energy.”

            http://newscenter.lbl.gov/news-releases/2013/08/06/new-study-finds-that-the-price-of-wind-energy-in-the-united-states-is-near-an-all-time-low/

            Wind at 4c, add back in 1.13c to remove subsidies. 5.13c/kWh.

            Solar at 5c, add back in 1.13c to remove subsidies, 6.13c/kWh. Since then we’ve seen solar being sold for less than 5c.

            Nuclear at 11c/kWh includes subsidies.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The announced strike price for the proposed Hinkley Point reactors has been announced as £0.925. This includes UK provided loan guarantees. When the value of these guarantees are included the price rises to £0.10. $0.16/kWh.

            This means that regardless of how cheap other sources of electricity might be the French and Chinese owners of the reactors will be paid 16 cents for the electricity they produce. They are further guaranteed that their electricity will be purchased first meaning that it is likely that cheaper sources will be curtailed.

            This is a guaranteed price for all electricity produced for the next 35 years and the price will increase with inflation.

            http://www.renewablesinternational.net/the-financials-at-hinkley/150/537/74458/

            An analysis of the Vogtle reactor costs by Citigroup in early 2014 found the LCOE for electricity from those reactors to cost 11 cents per kWh. That is assuming no further cost/timeline overruns.

            They also stated that reactors build after the Vogtle units would likely produce more expensive electricity as they would not be able to receive as low financing rates as Vogtle has.

            http://www.energypost.eu/age-renewables-begun-solar-power-continues-shoot-cost-curve/

            http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/citigroup-says-the-age-of-renewables-has-begun

            “The cost of large-scale solar projects has fallen by one third in the last five years and big solar now competes with wind energy in the solar-rich south-west of the United States, according to new research.

            The study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory entitled “Utility-Scale Solar 2012: An Empirical Analysis of Project Cost, Performance, and Pricing Trends in the United States” – says the cost of solar is still falling and contracts for some solar projects are being struck as low as $50/MWh (including a 30 percent federal tax credit).”

            “Another interesting observation from LBNL is that most of the contracts written in recent years do not escalate in nominal dollars over the life of the contract. This means that in real dollar terms, the pricing of the contract actually declines.

            This means that towards the end of their contracts, the solar plants (including PV, CSP and CPV) contracted in 2013 will on average will be delivering electricity at less than $40/MWh. This is likely to be considerably less than fossil fuel plants at the same time, given the expected cost of fuels and any environmental regulations.”

            http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/big-solar-now-competing-with-wind-energy-on-costs-75962

            “Utility-Scale Solar 2012: An Empirical Analysis of Project Cost, Performance, and Pricing Trends in the United States

            http://emp.lbl.gov/sites/all/files/lbnl-6408e-ppt.pdf

            “The prices offered by wind projects to utility purchasers averaged $40/MWh for projects negotiating contracts 2011 and 2012, spurring demand for wind energy.”

            http://newscenter.lbl.gov/news-releases/2013/08/06/new-study-finds-that-the-price-of-wind-energy-in-the-united-states-is-near-an-all-time-low/

            “2012 Wind Technologies Market Report”

            http://www1.eere.energy.gov/wind/pdfs/2012_wind_technologies_market_report.pdf

            $40/MWh means $0.04/kWh. Add back in the $0.022 PTC (which lasts only ten years) and it’s $0.051/kWh for a 20 year PPA.

          • jeffhre

            Where do wind, biomass, and geothermal fit into this schema since they are far below 19%?

            Though you did earlier mention that hydro is difficult and will go no where, entirely without providing any support or accompanying numbers for that conclusion, therefore I will not include it as part of the question. And nuclear is way too low at 19% – the world needs more power is the stated conclusion.

          • mwpncookeville

            No where did I mention hydro as difficult.
            The renewables you mention, likely will remain below 20%.
            The conclusion is accurate. The world needs more power not less. Renewables actually would work well in third world countries with little industry, but we are discussing the USA.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Iowa is already 28% wind and expects to be 50% wind by 2016.

            Germany is already over 25% renewable. Germany has a lot of industry.

            20% simply is not accurate.

          • jeffhre

            I apologize for attributing that to you. Where then does hyro’s potential fit in. Will it remain at 7.4% drop or go higher?

            “The renewables you mention, likely will remain below 20%.” That is an aggregate or 20% each.

            I actually have a problem with someone simply stating, “the conclusion is accurate.” (I think if you could of heard the huffy, high and mighty way that it sounds to me you would have had a good laugh) It is difficult for me to let a complex proposition rest without substantiation.

            “The world needs more power not less.” US electricity supply has grown to meet demand for the last 132 years.

            “Renewables actually would work well in third world countries with little industry”

            Renewables work well in the US according to the wind statistics below,

            The top five states according to percentage of generation by wind in 2013 are:[wikipedia]

            Iowa (27.4%)
            South Dakota (26.0%)
            Kansas (19.4%)
            Idaho (16.2%)
            Minnesota (15.7%)

            In addition Texas is at 7%, Colorado 9%, Oklahoma 7%, Oregon 8%, Kansas 8%. California is second in capacity only to Texas and in the aggregate – despite China’s reputation – those states output covers a very large amount of manufacturing and industrial activity.

            If wind power were to become less expensive than nuclear. Would it be more effective to spend the next eight years to energize the first of the next generation of nuclear stations, or to have new wind plants up and running in the next 12 to 18 months?

          • Calamity_Jean

            If wind power were to become less expensive than nuclear. Would it be more effective to spend the next eight years to energize the first of the next generation of nuclear stations, or to have new wind plants up and running in the next 12 to 18 months?

            Wind is already less expensive than nuclear, and wind costs are going down while nuclear is going up. Of course it’s more effective to spend time and money building wind rather than nuclear.

          • jeffhre

            Don’t give away the punchline. Especially without corroborating supporting evidence :)

          • Rick Kargaard

            Bob, I am not arguing but am interested where you see the potential for doubling hydro. Most seem to think we are near the peak for this type of generation.

          • http://electrobatics.wordpress.com/ arne-nl

            Solar is already powering nearly the complete planet. Wind, hydro, fossil fuels, biofuels, all indirect solar power. But I get your point,

            Pity that you’re attacking a ghost, a straw man. Nobody is suggesting using 100% PV solar power.

          • Calamity_Jean

            Actually, someone (I can’t find the reference right now) did an aerial survey of New York City, and concluded that about 75% of the roofs were suitable for PV panels. If they were all installed, NYC would generate about 50% of it’s own power from solar. Add to that some offshore wind turbines and some combined heat and power (CHP) installations in some of the bigger buildings, and New York could have all of it’s electricity sourced within 100 miles.

          • jeffhre

            It is more complicated than that. The NREL concluded that about 70% of roofs were not currently suitable. Not sure how urban centric that was though. The issues go beyond topology and orientation, but also ownership, structure, HOAs, regulations, contractual obligations, financing etc.

          • mwpncookeville

            You can check the EPA statistics- that’s my source for the 37% number…
            I support roof top solar, but there must be other large electric sources as well, if you think we will get to 100% renewables that is utterly unrealistic.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Would you please post the link to the EPA statistics? That’s a little vague to google.

            100% renewables is both realistic and likely. (We might need a small amount of fossil fuels for deep backup.)

          • mwpncookeville

            It was actually the eia.gov web site
            http://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=electricity_use

            Share of electricity use by major consuming sectors:

            Residential — 37%

            Commercial — 34%

            Industrial — 26% (includes “direct use”)

            Transportation — Only a small percentage of electricity is used in the transportation sector, mostly for trains and plug-in electric cars

            Direct use is electricity generated mainly by manufacturing that is used by the facilities.

          • Bob_Wallace

            OK, I’m kind of lost at this point.

            You’re saying that 37% of our consumption is residential? OK.

            Then you’re questioning whether we could get enough from rooftop surfaces? Let’s try this…

            50% of all Americans live in single family residences, duplexes and triplexes. (I’m tossing away apartment roofs for the moment.)

            The average house size is probably 1,500 square feet. Throw out north facing roofs (25%) and another 25% for shaded or otherwise unusable roofs.

            750 square feet. 4.5 average solar hours per day. 10 watts per square foot. 33.75 kWh per day. A bit more than average consumption. That’s half our residential consumption coming from non-apartment rooftops.

            Apartment rooftops provide less area. But they have parking lots. 30kWh per day at 100 watts per square foot and 4.5 avg solar hours = 67 square feet. An 8′ x 20′ parking space is 160 square feet.

          • mwpncookeville

            If you want a “carbon free” power source we will only get there with nuclear. There are many environmental converts who now support nuclear as the only realistic choice.

          • jeffhre

            My professors typically told me that anyone that talks in absolutes like the “only” and “always” is likely to be more than a little wrong.

          • mwpncookeville

            Solar can contribute, but as stated by the President an all of the above approach will be required. If you think there is a carbon free solution minus nuclear, it will be you who will be more than a little wrong.

          • jeffhre

            Nuclear currently covers 19% of demand – hard to miss that eh?

          • mwpncookeville

            Whether you understand it or not, eliminating nuclear is not the goal. Eliminating coal is the goal. Replacing coal with solar, is just utterly unrealistic.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Bogus argument.

            No reasonable person is suggesting a 100% coal -> solar transition. That argument is made only be 1) very naive people or 2) dishonest arguers who are supporting fossil fuels and/or nuclear energy.

            Continuing to post that argument will cause you to be categorized.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m going to modify my statement a bit.

            Right now we get about 40% of our electricity from coal.

            I think, based on current prices/trends we’ll get 30% to 40% of our electricity from solar. So based on that, yes, 100% coal -> solar.

            But the actual hour to hour replacement will not come from 100% solar but a mixture of inputs. Solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, tidal, biomass, and waste, along with enough storage to match supply to demand.

          • mwpncookeville

            You categorize me all you want- whatever that means – is that some kind of threat of censorship?

            To the discussion, the very exact argument that we can replace all coal with solar has been made by extremely ill informed environmentalists in other venues. I am not opposed to solar, I am opposed to unrealistic expectations.

            I have discovered, after some prodding from you, that it is possible with the latest technology to power most if not all of an efficient home from solar. (Costs are another discussion.) However, that is not my point anyway.

            The bulk of our power usage in the USA is NOT residential. The industry that provides all of the modern conveniences that all of us take for granted on a daily basis, and all of those same modern conveniences that the rest of the world wants- takes huge amounts of power to produce! We need a huge volume of power from a relatively compact carbon free power source, and that is best served by next generation safe nuclear technology.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “To the discussion, the very exact argument that we can replace all coal with solar has been made by extremely ill informed environmentalists in other venues.”

            “No reasonable person is suggesting a 100% coal -> solar transition. That argument is made only be 1) very naive people or….”

            Notice that we are saying the same thing?

            Perhaps you’re not aware that commercial buildings are installing solar panels on their roofs? Walmart is now the single largest solar electricity generator in the US.

            Industry is installing solar panels and buying wind power.

            Walmart and large industrial plants aren’t turning to renewables in order to earn green merit badges. They are looking at their bottom lines and realizing that renewables increase their profits.

          • mwpncookeville

            Yes, we agree about that, and yes, I am aware that Walmart is installing solar panels.
            Walmart is not an industrial plant, I agree it’s a commercial building with lights and HVAC, they are not industrial plants, and their electrical load is not at all close to an industrial plant..
            Steel mill, aluminium plants, chemical and plastics plants, these things require enormous amounts of electricity.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Steel mills, aluminium plants, chemical and plastics plants don’t care how their electricity is generated.

            There’s a great study that takes four years of actual minute to minute demand from the largest wholesale grid (PJM) in the US and shows that it would have been possible to power that grid with nothing but wind, solar, storage and a tiny (0.1%) of natural gas.

            https://docs.google.com/file/d/1NrBZJejkUTRYJv5YE__kBFuecdDL2pDTvKLyBjfCPr_8yR7eCTDhLGm8oEPo/edit

            They found that the cost would be about the same we pay now if the external costs of fossil fuels are included.

            Of course it would be a lot cheaper to add in hydro, geothermal, load-shifting and power trades with adjacent grids. And since they did their calculations the price of wind and solar have dropped faster than they assumed.

            Take a look at the PJM grid territory. There’s a lot of industry in that multi-colored area….

          • jeffhre

            Add auto and aircraft, manufacturing, building supplies and materials, machine tool construction ad infinitum. What these facilities have in common is enormous roofs that are not located in pristine areas.

          • mwpncookeville

            Agreed. No problem with that. Although, I doubt the entire buildings electrical load for these facilities could be supplied just from their roof tops, supplemented yes, but totally supplied by no. Many times there are other equipment uses on the roofs.
            I install machines in these very type facilities for a living.

          • jeffhre

            Those two sentences have indeed improved my understanding. Thank you.

          • mwpncookeville

            Sarcasm drools…

          • jeffhre

            When the pot called the kettle black, the pot was physically incapable of drooling back!

          • Bob_Wallace

            Gentlemen – dial it back.

            mwp (do you have a name?) is engaging and listening.

            When shown facts and numbers he is taking them on and not doing the fingers in the ear routine.

            Let’s see how constructive we can be, OK?

          • jeffhre

            I am not criticizing mwp, I am simply making an attempt to justify my juvenile behavior – if that is acceptable. However, he is bright and has shown the ability to learn and grow, so I will try to focus less on my own behavioral defects, and address his concerns.

          • jeffhre

            I’m just guessing in many respects, but I strongly feel that you have no idea what my goal is, let alone, THE goal.

          • mwpncookeville

            Typical radical lefty, just because I don’t fall in lock step with your opinion, you resort to personal attacks.

            The goal is carbon emissions free power production.

          • jeffhre

            “just because I don’t fall in lock step with your opinion, you resort to personal attacks.”

            -“Typical radical lefty”

            -“Whether you understand it or not”

            -“just utterly unrealistic”

            I much prefer facts, and you appear too smart to be stuck on throwing out streams of conclusions and statements of opinion, without backing them with numbers. And following them ad hominem attacks?

            If perhaps you are tired, you may want to take a break, or enjoy a snack before continuing to post more statements.

            However, if you do know what “my goal” is then post it here, and I will gladly apologize for the assumption.

          • Bob_Wallace

            We get about 40% of our electricity from coal.

            We could replace that 40% of our supply with solar. That would mean adding some more storage. Realistically that 40% coal will get replaced with a variety of renewables, not all solar.

            A mix of inputs minimizes storage needs and keeps costs down.

          • jeffhre

            It was down to 37%, until gas prices began to rise again.

          • http://electrobatics.wordpress.com/ arne-nl

            What was it in 2000? 1990? 1980? Then draw a trendline.

          • Bob_Wallace

            US..
            1990 19%,
            2000 20%,
            2010 20%,
            2013 19%. Flat and due to drop.

            World graphed. And due to drop further.

            In both cases reactors are closing faster than new ones are being built. And we’re about to hit the “40 year design” wall in the US and France.

          • jeffhre

            LOL, OK

            _________======_________

            :)

          • Bob_Wallace

            There obviously is a carbon free solution which does not include nuclear. Nuclear is simply one way of generating electricity, it doesn’t produce some special form of electricity which nothing else can generate.

            You might want to visit the “100% Renewable Energy Possible?” section at the top-right of the page and do some reading.

          • A Real Libertarian

            I tell everyone that anybody who keeps repeating the same content-free slogan over and over is likely to be a brainwashed fanatic.

    • http://electrobatics.wordpress.com/ arne-nl

      “Roof based solar installations typically generate less than 1/3 of the power required for the average home”
      Very hard to believe. Do you have a source of is that an imprecise ‘hunch’?

      Certainly not true in not-so-sunny Holland with tiny houses and small roofs. An average house can easily put enough panels on the roof to cover 100% of household electricity. My average single family home could even have enough for powering my electric car and (planned) heat pump. The US is more sunny in any location and has larger houses.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Average US rooftop is 3kW. Aveage solar day 4.5 hours. 13.5 kWh average per day. US household consumption is 29.7 kWh.

        He’s sort of right. Sort of wrong.

        Average rooftop has plenty of room to gen a lot more electricity.

        • Dan Hue

          And new homes could be designed to take maximum advantage of the energy flowing around them, actively or passively. 100% energy efficient homes could be so easily attainable in the US.

      • mwpncookeville

        http://www.pasolar-electric.com/cost/

        ” … Most Solar-Electric Systems in the United States have an hourly capacity of approximately 2KW. That means the system will produce 2 KWH for every hour of sunlight it receives. Assuming a minimum of five hours of Sun light, that’s 10 KWH/day or about a third of the electricity needed for the average home. … “

        • Mahdi

          That only means that average American households should at first stop wasting energy. European households use approx. 1/2 of the energy with the same or better comfort. And this is not the end, it can be easily slashed to half again.
          So, start with negawatts of energy usage – better appliances, insulation, heat pumps, LED lights.
          That is the way how Germans will want to punish Putin – they want a dramatic drop of NG usage (used mostly for heating).

          • mwpncookeville

            Agreed, always start with increasing efficiency…

          • jeffhre

            I recently saw a quote that more energy was received from efficiency and savings over the last 20 years than all new thermal, hydro and renewable generation combined.

    • Hans

      How did you come up with the 1/3? A rough first estimate shows something else:

      In 2012 the average annual power consumption of homes in the US was 11 Mwh [1]. With the exception of Alaska, the annual insolation on a south oriented tilted plane is at least 4 kWh/m^2/day [2], which translates in 1460 kWh/m^2/year. Assuming a modest system efficiency of 13% this translates in 190 kWh/m^2/year of electric power. This means that you will need 58 square meters of roof (roughly 525 square feet) to cover the electricity consumption. I don’t know the US house sizes, but small European houses already have such roof sizes. Also note that in the south west of the US the insolation is 50% higher so you will need only 40 square meters.

      [1] http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=97&t=3
      [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NREL_USA_PV_map_lo-res_2008.jpg

      • mwpncookeville

        I quoted a source here yesterday, and it came from a solar power website. You can find it.

        • Hans

          link please, or are you afraid that your source means something else than you say here?

          • Hans

            I found your comment with the link. It was debunked by other commenters.

  • Allen Watkins

    Oh, please!! Only a Harvard grad would buy this. Solar energy has a loooooooong way to go until it even begins to approach the price of coal. Hopefully coal will be back after we rid ourselves of the incubus.

    • PrahaPartizan

      Please, most readers here aren’t fools. The price of coal? Just which “price” of coal? The price the mining company placed on it coming out of their mine? That represents only a small part of the price. What happens when we capture all of the costs for coal and add them all up? The coal industry wants us all to forget those. It’s a great way to socialize costs and privatize profits. The electorate is starting to become aware of what’s happening and it frightens the special interests.

      • Bob_Wallace

        We seem to have some visitors who don’t understand how much they have been paying in tax dollars and health insurance premiums to support the coal industry.

        They don’t realize that we waste over a billion dollars per day dealing with coal pollution.

    • Guest

      I won’t be at all sad to see coal go, and it is going to go eventually.
      The question is whether it will go away because we willingly stopped using it, or because there is no more coal left.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Sad to see 7,500 Americans not die each year from coal pollution?

        You an undertaker?

        • A Real Libertarian

          Well, yes, millions of people won’t die, but then the coal barons will have to find something else to make money.

          Why doesn’t anybody consider Looten Plunder’s feelings?

        • Calamity_Jean

          I think you misread Guest’s post. S/he said “I won’t be at all sad to see coal go ….”, not “I will be … sad ….”

          • Bob_Wallace

            Expect I did.

            Sorry.

          • Calamity_Jean

            Nobody’s perfect.

            Look at me, I’m living proof. ;)

    • CsabaU

      Cost of solar is zero – the sun is free. Or are you talking about total cost? If that concerns you, do a reseach about the facts.

    • http://electrobatics.wordpress.com/ arne-nl

      It is already cheaper than coal, but of course you wouldn’t want to count the incredible subsidies of medical bills and environmental degradation footed by everyone, would you? God forbid we create a level playing field.

  • disqus_GS46e5I0h0

    the doubters keep using the economical model instead of the ecological model. big oil keeps looking at controlling energy, which will keep costs high. big coal keeps trying to discourage anything that might replace it. in short, business interests are the enemy of human interests. even five percent, if environment friendly, is acceptable. the question to the doubters is what would they pay for food that didn’t poison their family. would they rather make money or breathe. remarkably, some are so hardwired they’d take the money. “it’s the economy, stupid” is now “it’s the ecology, stupid”. seriously, how much money can i give you to stop breathing?

    • Guest

      In the long-term, the ecological model IS the economical model.

  • Gork

    The efficiency of these Perovskite cells is around 5 to 7 %. Other solar cells can have efficiencies of 20% to 25%. You’d need a lot more of these cells to compete with existing solar technology –never mind coal. Since the cost of solar is mostly related to installation these days, that efficiency difference is a big deal.

    Ms. Casey should have asked some these basic questions before venturing to write such articles. She didn’t. I’ll be nice and grade this article “incomplete.”

    • d’Hooch

      Gork, so glad you posted that… because everyone knows, no technology has ever been improved upon! Oh wait…

  • Tracy

    Coal killing? How will those cells keep your house warm at night? Or on a cloudy day?

    • How_delightful

      Hybrid. Wind turbines and battery back-up?
      Additional solar hot water (most efficient)

      But you can be a quitter on tech if it suits you (where I never thought kitchen paper towels and ice machines in fridges would catch on).

    • Guest

      They’d be use to supplement other renewable sources of energy. Also, there’s this wonderful new invention called the “battery”…

    • Michael Berndtson

      Coal hasn’t been used directly for residential heating for about 100 years or so. Coal’s utility is electricity generation and steel making. Since steelmaking is a small fraction of coal’s market, I’d say the comparison between coal and solar is excellent. Even for electric heating at night. That’s where either storage, quick start gas turbines, and a goose down comforter come to play. Or if coal can figure out how to supply intermittently and with low carbon dioxide emissions – than maybe coal has a future as a backup.

      • Mahdi

        Maybe in the USA. But it is normal in Poland f.e. Even coal sludge is burned. That’s why some Polish regions are the most air polluted areas of the EU.

      • Calamity_Jean

        Coal hasn’t been used directly for residential heating for about 100 years or so.

        Not true! When my husband was a boy, his grandparents owned an apartment building with a coal boiler that made hot water for the radiatiors. It wasn’t taken out until 1968 or ’69, because their coal supplier was going out of business. It was replaced with a gas boiler.

        • jeffhre

          If it was removed in 1968 (44 years ago) when was it installed? Why did the coal supplier to buildings then end up going out of business – 44 years ago?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Coal was commonly used for residential heating when I was a kid, so the 100 year part is an overstatement.

            Coal is still used for residential heating in several parts of the world. It’s one of China’s major pollution problems.

          • jeffhre

            Oh my gosh, raw and flagrant hyperbole :)

          • Calamity_Jean

            He says “sometime in the 1920s”, well before he was born. The coal supplier went out of business because they didn’t have enough customers; his grandparents were among the last few.

          • jeffhre

            Thanks for the reply. It’s like taking a view into our recent history. And it seems like a pretty old custom, like the milkman and the iceman of days past! Stuff changes, like in the late 1950’s when folks thought that nuclear energy would give us an abundance of energy “too cheap to meter.”

            When we were having so much fun with the muscle cars of the ’60s we didn’t think of running cars without pollution control equipment as “using the atmosphere as an open sewer.” Things change, and our perceptions change over time also.

    • http://electrobatics.wordpress.com/ arne-nl

      There is always the ‘smart’ commenter coming up with this non-argument. Next time invest some time please. The grid consists of a mix of energy sources and this will not change. The future will not be 100% solar pv, it will also include wind, hydro, geothermal, biomass. And large scale grid storage is getting cheaper very fast. Don’t be surprised at the changes that are happening and will continue to happen.

      • A Real Libertarian

        There is always the ‘smart’ commenter coming up with this non-argument.

        I hate those know-nothing know-it-alls.

    • Rick Kargaard

      Actually, excess electricity can be stored as heat in water tanks and released back for heating requirements. Capital cost would be fairly high but might be attractive as free fuel in colder climates.

  • bart889

    So, because solar is cheaper than $30/mmbtu fuel oil, it will push out $2/mmbtu coal? That is a pretty stunning non-sequitur.

    • http://electrobatics.wordpress.com/ arne-nl

      Ah, just the price of the fuel. According to your logic, solar power is $0/mmbtu since the fuel is free.

  • bart889

    This article is painfully witless. PV module construction has reached the point where it is now a minor part of a solar installation. The rest of the costs – inverters, structural support, labor, permitting, etc, now represent a clear majority of the costs. If it is true that the conversion efficiency of this material is lower than conventional PV, then you need more cells per MW, which means more of those non-module costs. It is quite likely that even if these cells were free to produce, they would still be more expensive to install than conventional cells, due to the extra install costs. And remember, those other costs are not reducible in the way that modules have been. There is no way that concrete, steel, labor and permitting costs are going to be reduced by 25%, let alone 50-75%. What is needed is higher efficiency cells that require a smaller footprint and lower installation costs.

    • PrahaPartizan

      One could argue that what is really needed is a much more cost efficient energy storage system to save all of those electrons gathered. The PV array is cheap by comparison. We could make 100% efficient PV cells (as if) but if we can’t store most of the electrons, it’s a waste.

      • Ken

        I’m going to stick my neck out and say a viable energy storage technology would cause a market explosion for solar & wind. We could finally start displacing fossil fuel plants and that’s where the savings are. This should be our top national energy policy goal.

        • Bob_Wallace

          We can replace 30% or more fossil fuel right now with renewables without storage.

          • Ken

            I agree but it requires some system solutions that involve utilities, some of which are not enlightened re renewables.

          • jeffhre

            What if we become enlightened, form utility districts to overlay the territories served by investor owned utilities and send responsible policies to utility regulators?

      • jeffhre

        How much of grid energy used today is stored? Does that mean that the trillions of dollars worth of generation assets built over the last 132 years of electrical distribution system operation were wasted? Or just the generating capacity that is applied to the grid from this point on?

        • PrahaPartizan

          None of the generating capacity is actually “wasted.” However, any generating capacity chosen is based on the economics driving it. If the cost of fuel is perceived to be low, then the minimal cost generating capacity will be purchased. As the cost of fuel rises, the choices for the generating type change and the capital investment required changes. That is why a high-capacity, economically efficient electric energy storage system would benefit solar and wind, because it would mean the extra electrons produced when those energy sources are abundant could be stored and released when they are not readily available. Such a storage system would smooth out the energy curve. Historically, utilities had used pumped hydro for such purposes, using the power available from lower-cost, base-load generating plants to store power for peaking load demands. Unfortunately, hydro plants are difficult to site and the utilities have switched to gas turbines, with their demand for natural gas or light fuels and their resulting CO2 production.

          • jeffhre

            Yes. Then it is the opportunity to contain even more carbon that is wasted w/o storage?

    • lump1

      Absolutely right – when it comes to residential installations. The story is different when it comes to building a commercial PV farm on the square mile scale. There, the individual cell costs will play a significant role, and there are good reasons to prefer cells that are as long-lived and maintenance-free as possible.

    • Ken

      Generally agree. When I had solar panels installed on my home, the contractor had to get a structural engineer to inspect the roof to insure it could carry the load (snow + solar panels). Any home that meets building codes will pass this test so it seemed unnecessary. Also, the local electric company (AEP) has hoops to jump through since they really don’t want to see these PV arrays (steals business they want). Needless install costs.

      • Bob_Wallace

        The simple solution here is to require the solar installer to do a roof inspection and hold the installation company liable if they miss something.

        Any general contractor can determine if a roof is built to code in a few minutes.

        • jeffhre

          The simple solution, unfortunately, is to enact policy that ultimately has IOU’s responsive to the needs of customers during the ongoing transition period.

    • http://electrobatics.wordpress.com/ arne-nl

      Absolutely wrong.

      Grid inverters and mounting materials (basically el cheapo aluminium profiles) can and will come down in price. The price of installation can be cut significantly by cutting unnecessary permitting requirements and emergence of more experienced installation companies that install solar by the 1000’s per year instead of 1 per week.

      Latest quote someone got here on a turn-key 8 kW system, all black panels (=price premium) is € 1/W. And yes, that included 21% VAT. Is about a dollar per W (ex VAT as normal in US). In 2014. It can only get better from here.

    • jeffhre

      “What is needed is higher efficiency cells that require a smaller footprint and lower installation costs.” I believe that is exactly the point of the research mentioned in this article.

  • http://www.thomasreimel.com Thomas Reimel

    Tin is certainly an exciting material given its ubiquity and lack of toxicity. However, it’s clear that these teams have a lot of work to do in order to catch up in terms of conversion efficiency before this can be a real assault on the established photovoltaic materials. Very promising.

  • Scott Hurst

    Where are the cost per watt figures?

    If they cannot be installed for cheaper than about $1 per watt (inclusive), for a utility size application, it doesn’t compete with coal.

    It is time for every article on alternative energy to include, clear, apples to apples cost figures in every piece. For energy sources, that figure needs to be installed cost per watt. For storage sources, cost per kw-hr.

    There is a primary cost metric for every aspect of our energy economy. These metrics drive adoption (far) more directly than any other. If this figure is bad, and it cannot be made good through process/engineering improvements, the technology will never see the field. Simple. Cost/performance is the first “veto”.

    • d’Hooch

      Absolutely right, Scott. And any apples to apples comparison should also include carbon emissions.

    • davids12

      Comparing installation costs for solar with ongoing costs for coal doesn’t strike me as an apples-to-apples comparison. Is it cheaper to run a coal plant or a solar plant? Coal plants’ installation costs run anywhere from $.33 to $2 a watt or more anyway.

      • Scott Hurst

        Cost per watt must include fuel.

        It will be apples to apples. Coal is about a $1 per watt over expected lifetime of plant, including fuel.

        Solar doesn’t have fuel cost, obviously. But it is a higher install cost and that must be financed and interest paid. There is also some maintenance cost to figure in.

        The bean counters know how to do this…

        • PrahaPartizan

          Utility regulator accountants have been doing this for at least a century, as we’ve seen with hydro plants built during that period. Hydro is really no different than solar, except that it takes into account the water cycle with the sun heating water, which then condenses and rains and is collected to enable hydro. The same could be said of wind, since solar energy powers the atmosphere. The trick is to capture and account for ALL the costs involved in the process. Coal’s been able to dump off major costs on society as a whole and claim a cost advantage. The same applies to oil and gas, but for different costs.

        • davids12

          EIA lists expected capital costs alone of coal power plants at well over $1/watt. I’m not saying solar is competitive but I don’t think your numbers are right.

        • Bob_Wallace

          New coal is more expensive than new solar.

          Our coal plants are old and will have to be replaced over the next 20 years. Comparing the cost of electricity from a paid off plant with new solar is false reasoning.

    • ShadowBurn

      well if you did an apples to apples cost analysis, it would look like this:
      http://www.nei.org/Knowledge-Center/Nuclear-Statistics/Costs-Fuel,-Operation,-Waste-Disposal-Life-Cycle/US-Electricity-Production-Costs

      and energy density of each fuel source can be seen here:
      https://www.ameren.com/sites/aue/Callaway/Documents/UraniumPelletFactSheet.pdf

      If you’re paying $1/watt, you’re electric bill must be ridiculously high (like thousands of dollars).

      My job is in nuclear energy production, but I studied green energies and sustainability in electrical engineering with a concentration in power systems engineering. I was also certified in nuclear engineering, and I’m currently finishing an M.S. in nuclear engineering with a focus in medical physics. Trus when I say that the competitive market is oil < coal < gas and nuclear is almost as competitive as gas. The prices need to come up a hair for nuclear to be on par with gas, to include the construction costs into the generation value.

      If you want to understand how we invest in energy markets, I would read the Energy Outlook Reports for both domestic and international demands. They're submitted to congress each year to determine who we should invest our taxpayer dollars in, in order to meet electrical demands on a national scale. It's all based on the cost of foil, as oil costs rise, we are more likely to invest in alternative energies. As the cost falls, we pull back funding and allow those markets to sink. Green energies recieved some large initiatives 5 years ago when oil prices began skyrocketing. Reports like this article's, are just the fruits of the public funding's efforts from that time period.

      • Scott Hurst

        They don’t sell energy by the watt… that is a unit of power, not energy. I’d think you’d have that right in your job. We buy power by kw-hrs.

        One dollar per installed watt of generation capacity is about correct.

        • ShadowBurn

          your words not mine: “Coal is about a $1 per watt over expected lifetime of plant, including fuel”
          hence why i said your bill would be in the thousands of dollars. YOUR units were off and i was dogging you, get over it.

      • bart889

        You’re an electrical engineer working towards a masters degree in an electricity-related field, and you don’t know the difference between a Watt and a kilowatt-hour? And you don;t understand the difference between an average total cost and a marginal cost?

        • ShadowBurn

          see my above post, you fail too and didn’t actually read it correctly.

          Yes I do understand the differences beween average cost and marginal cost. Hence why I talked about generation rate with regard to construction costs. Those rates are generated from the cost of fuel, labor, and structural costs for construction and maintenance. So even though generation on nuclear is lower in the graph I submitted, construction costs will jack that rate up substantially in the beginning before costs come down so that the utility recovers the startup capital costs. Nucelar requires a lot of concrete, rebar, and a fair bit more piping so those costs shoot the upfront capital cost through the roof.

          As for the economics though, I’m not on the utility side that determines generation cost. I’m on the supplier side for building the plants. I’m more concerned with the budget we’re working with, and the design of the plant. Your generation rate is for the utility to handle.

      • Hans

        When i saw the NEI figure I thought: this numbers seem rather low. When I read the caption I saw that the graph only shows the O&M and fuel costs, i.e. the investments costs are not included. If you would put renewables in this graph they would look extremely good: no fuel costs and small O&M costs!

        The external costs are also not included. The whole reason we want renewable energy is to get rid of the external costs of fossil fuels. So any comparison should include those external costs.

        Energy density is a new talking point of the nuclear industry popping up all over the internet. The thing is: it is not so relevant. There is more than enough room for wind turbines and solar panels and distributed generation makes the power system less vulnerable.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Energy density is irrelevant when it comes to grid power. The energy source can be extremely dense but if it costs too much to turn it into electricity then it loses.

          Wind is energy “sparse” compared to nuclear or coal, but the electricity produced costs one third as much or less.

    • Michael Berndtson

      It’s a freaking summary of an academic paper – not an engineering feasibility study to whittling down the universe of options. One thing has about 60 years of operations data. The other thing is still in the lab. Researchers in Northwestern and England are still at the surface chemistry stage.

    • JamesWimberley

      Your question is premature. hand-made lab cells always have ridiculous production costs. However, perovskite researchers are now using straightforward industrial methods like vapour deposition, which was the initial breakthrough of the Oxford team. Don’t assume these people are idiots. Everybody working on alternative cells knows very well they have to meet three challenges to get ahead of silicon: efficiency, durability, and producibility.

      For perovskites, there’s the additional opportunity and challenge of building a tandem cell on top of silicon. Since perovskite cells are translucent and tap different wavelengths, there’s the tantalising prospect of getting above 30% efficiency at low cost.

    • http://electrobatics.wordpress.com/ arne-nl

      Just be sure apple to apple includes the health care & environmental costs offloaded to society. It is more than the value of the electricity, in essence there is a more than 100% subsidy on coal electricity.

      http://cleantechnica.com/2011/02/17/cost-of-coal-500-billion-year-in-u-s-harvard-study-finds/

    • Larry

      You conveniently ignore all the “externalized” costs associated with burning coal. How many cases of emphysema and asthma are directly attributed to coal combustion emissions? Who pays of treating the people adversely affected? Will the cost conscious engineers in the electric generation industry step forward and volunteer to pay for all the damage their system causes?

  • Steve Svensson

    Coal is not the enemy, and neither is solar energy. The monopolization of energy is the enemy, and since solar breaks up the monopolization, it is heavily lobbied against, and the anti solar/electric car propaganda never ceases to amaze how desperate these people are to keep their illegal power grab.

    • ShadowBurn

      well it’s not that surprising actually. Edison tried to oust Westinghouse during the the electrical power grab over DC and AC electricity. Edison even electricuted an elephant to death in Times Square using AC electricity to prove it was more deadly than DC.

      Win the lobby, and you win the industry. Keeping politicians in the utility’s back pocket is always good for business.

    • Elptique

      Well, what you are saying about energy is totally correct but when it comes to coal, you could define it as fossilized excrements. There is nothing good coming out of coal in any and all of its uses and life cycle. Correct me if I am wrong.

      • js

        Even excrement is used as fertilizer, so your “clever” turn of phrase is just wasted time. Nothing good comes out of coal? Really? Grab a text book and look up iron and steel, and their creation processes. Bessemer Process is a good place to start. Even the machinery used to print that textbook wouldn’t exist without coal. Nearly every metallic thing you see or own is made is made with carbon. That same textbook will tell you that CARBON IS COAL.

        Even with a reduced or completely eliminated coal energy system, you will never be free of coal. Better to look into improving the coal gathering system, making it safe, environmentally responsible, and regulated to ensure against legal infractions as well as ensuring those who would endanger the people or the planet are held accountable. We don’t need any more contamination of water tables, or possible cancer clusters. I’m from Canada, and our coal procurement looks a whole lot different from some examples I have seen in certain States. Look it up here on line and see for your self.

        So consider yourself corrected.

        I do believe that the current energy structures need to be re-thought and that sweeping changes need to be made to try and build a better future, but if you can’t get educated enough to actually understand the nature of what you are getting on a soapbox about, then all you are doing is wasting time. If you take this as an attack on you personally, I don’t mean it as such, more as a wake up call to anyone who would love to decry the “great evils” of a system, but can’t be bothered to come up with a realistic and viable alternative. We need to ditch the chip on our shoulders and get our hands dirty, using our well meaning hearts and minds to be part of a solution, and not just more vague shouts for revolution.

        The people with the money are adjusting the system to keep it that way. Paying the cost of things like enviro-safety and accountability is not going to make them more money. It’s up to the rest of us to make sure they play well with others. You want to make a difference? You need to deal with the people who DON’T want change to come. They will stop you every time they can. Get educated, get involved, and things can get better.

        • Elptique

          Yep. Just spray some perfume and the stench of excrements, pardon, coal, will go away. The role of carbon in chemistry is stuff for middle school. The consequences of everything about coal require much deeper thinking and most of all caring. You can keep your coal.

    • Kompani

      What I don’t understand is why the fossil energy monopolies don’t invest all the money they spend on ‘false truths’ about renewable’s into moving towards investing in renewable’s as that is the way it’s going sooner or later. They don’t want to be dinosaurs and die out it just does not make business sense. I’m sure their shareholders would be pleased to see them invest in their, long term, future profitability and therefore good returns per shares.

      • Steve Svensson

        I promise you, the airplanes in the sky put 10 times as much CO2 in the atmosphere as the coal plants do. I’m an electrician. We installed many scrubber in coal plants. Yet no one demands cleaner burning AC engines.

        • Kompani

          (a) Between 1960 and 2000 there was a 55% overall fuel efficiency gain in aircraft engines. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_economy_in_aircraft)
          (b) Using the latest data over 7,500
          deaths each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S.
          power plants. This is down from 24,000 in 2004. (http://www.catf.us/fossil/problems/power_plants/)
          (c) To date solar has killed no one, as far as I can find.

        • Calamity_Jean

          Scrubbers remove particulates, not CO2. That’s good for the lungs of people living downwind, but it won’t slow global warming.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Notice – numbers in this post should not be considered as reliable until someone checks my math. Pre-coffee post. ——————————

          In 2012 the world consumed 7,885,054,000 tons of coal

          http://www.eia.gov/cfapps/ipdbproject/IEDIndex3.cfm?tid=1&pid=1&aid=2

          In 2010 the world consumed 5,220,000 barrels of jet fuel.

          http://www.indexmundi.com/energy.aspx?product=jet-fuel

          Complete combustion of 1 short ton (2,000 pounds) of this coal will generate about 5,720 pounds (2.86 short tons) of carbon dioxide.

          Jet fuel produces 21.10 pounds of CO2 per gallon or 886.2 pounds of CO2 per 42 gallon barrel.

          That seems to be 45,102,508,880,000 pounds of CO2 produced by coal.

          And 4,625,964,000 pounds of CO2 produced by jet fuel.

          Coal is producing 9,750 times as much CO2 as jet fuel.

          • Brian Setzler

            9,750 times seems excessive. I think if you look closely at your source, you’ll see that the graph is labeled “thousands of barrels per day” so the jet fuel number should be multiplied by 365. Still, obviously coal produces far more CO2 than airplanes.

          • Peter Gray

            So 27 times as much CO2 from coal as from aviation. Still a rather large factor.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Yep. Bottom left. Thousand barrels per day.

            Thanks.

        • js

          Funny, isn’t it? That all these people are willing to debate you and provide links on their computers, but none of them take the time to actually learn about the basics of things like metallurgy, chemistry, electrical implementation or engineering. I stayed away from sites like this for a long time, as I was tired of dealing with people with a reality disconnect.

          • Bob_Wallace

            A reality disconnect?

            Are you kidding? Show us the “real math” that proves Steve’s claim correct.

            And take a look at Larry’s comment below. He’s right. Scrubbers do not capture CO2.

        • Larry

          Scrubbers on coal fired electric generating plants do NOT remove CO2. They are used to remove SO2 and maybe NOX in a few cases

      • Gwennedd

        Some FF corporations already do invest in renewables.

    • SecularAnimist

      This is incorrect. Coal is absolutely “the enemy”. It produces the same emissions, whether it is extracted and burned by a “monopoly” or not. And solar panels produce NO emissions, whether they are built, sold, installed and operated by a “monopoly” or not.

      • Hans

        Solar panels do produce CO2 during their production. But looking from cradle to grave the CO2 production per kWh of solar panels is substantially less than that of conventional power plants.

  • Zer0Sum

    If they can automate the fabrication process and increase the conversion efficiency they might be able to use stanene (single atom tin layer) and really make some cost savings.

Back to Top ↑