Clean Power

Published on February 9th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan


10 Huge Lessons We’ve Learned From Solar Power Success In Germany

February 9th, 2013 by  

Fox & Friends last week had the apparent bravery (or ill-conceived agenda) to mention Germany’s huge solar power success. We’ve written three articles in response to the Fox & Friends clip:

Another article that might help those who have been confused by Fox & Friends is this one (which I’ve been planning to write since September 2012). The fact of the matter is, Germany has had insane success in the solar industry arena. And there’s a lot that we can learn from the country (many other countries have already done so).

1. Feed-in tariffs (aka CLEAN Contracts in the US) can drive solar power growth like nothing else.

Well, maybe there are other things that could drive even stronger growth, but nothing else has done so to date. Germany leads the world in solar in many respects. As of the end of 2011, it had more solar power per capita than any other country, it has more solar power relative to electricity production than any country other than Italy (which has also used FiTs), and it has more solar power per GDP than any country other than the Czech Republic (which also followed Germany’s lead and implemented FiTs). Clearly, Germany and those who have followed with their own FiTs have seen more solar power growth than others. As John Farrell noted back in 2011 (still true today), FiTs have been used for the installation most solar (and wind) power in the world:

And, as noted in the first Fox News article listed at the top, Germany crushes the US (which has not implemented FiTs) in solar power capacity:

2. A more mature solar power market sells solar power for a much lower price.

Solar panels are a global commodity. Their price is essentially the same all around the world. However, the “soft costs” of a solar power system can vary tremendously. As noted back in June 2012, German solar installations cost a little more than half what US solar installations cost. At that time, German systems were being installed for an average of $2.24 per watt, while US systems were being installed for an average of $4.44 per watt. Now, US systems are probably down to about $4.00 per watt, but German systems are down to about $2.00 per watt.

The good news is, people have studied this, and we have a pretty clear indication of where the costs differ.

As you can see in the charts above, big differences exist in installation labor, customer acquisition, overhead, and supply chain costs. As a market matures and becomes more competitive, those costs come down. (Note: notable solar energy champions in the US have also speculated that US solar tax credits have kept solar power systems artificially high in the US — the argument seems quite logical and comes from someone I greatly trust in this arena.)

3. More streamlined permitting works.

Because solar panels produce electricity, many jurisdictions across the US have all sorts of absurd permitting requirements that treat rooftop solar systems as if they are large-scale power plants or alien monsters that could destroy society. Permitting in the US is expensive (see the ILSR chart above) and takes forever and a day (or, more accurately, an average of two months). As one of our Australian writers noted recently, he was shocked to see the level of bureaucracy applied to simple solar power systems in the US.

Germany has rules about solar panel installations. They work really well. You can get a system installed almost immediately, and without paying for a bunch of paperwork. More or less, US jurisdictions regulating this matter should just look at what Germany’s got on the books and copy it.

4. Feed-in tariffs democratize the electric grid.

This is perhaps one of the most exciting lessons from Germany. As John Farrell noted in the title of one of the articles listed at the top of this page, “Germany has more solar power because everyone wins.” While US solar subsidies (tax credits) favor the rich and Wall Street, German solar subsidies favor the common man. Well, actually, they just favor everyone equally.

Guess what the result is. Yep, a lot more common people install solar in Germany than in the US. US solar power is primarily from large-scale solar power plants, while German solar power is primarily from rooftop solar power on residents’ homes. The “power company” in Germany is increasingly the citizenry.

5. Democratizing the grid gets residents informed and motivated about energy.

Guess what happens when you democratize the electric grid. People become more interested in energy, more informed, more motivated to save energy and get involved in the politics of energy. As someone once noted (sorry that I can’t recall the source), Germany may be the only country in the world where the taxi drivers can talk to you at length about energy policy. The same goes for energy use, the cost of energy, etc.

Democracy is built on information — on people having access to information, and people actually consuming and spreading that information. Democracies that do that less are weaker. Democracies that do that more are stronger. With energy being a critical component of life, as well as the richest industry in the world, having a citizenry that is highly informed about the intricacies of energy is a very valuable commodity.

If only there were a way to get people motivated about energy…. Oh yeah — solar policies that benefit the masses will do that!

6. The grid will not fall apart at 5% solar penetration… or 10%… or 15%… or 20%.

Early in Germany’s solar power days, critics of a solar revolution, and even many supporters, were convinced that solar penetration of the grid would be unmanageable, that solar would have to be limited to a certain percentage of the electricity supply. Initially, the idea was that 5% penetration was the max. As that approached and everyone could see that there wasn’t anything to worry about, the bar was raised to 10%, and then 15%, and then 20%.

Solar PV capacity in Germany is now equal to 50% of peak summer electricity demand:


In May 2012, solar power provided electricity for a record 30% of electricity demand:

Furthermore, studies continue to up the degree to which renewables can penetrate the grid without adding storage or creating problems. A German engineering study last year found that, “There isn’t much of a need for power storage in Germany even if it increases the share of its electricity that is generated by renewable sources by around 50%,” we reported in October. A comprehensive study released in December 2012 found that solar, wind, and storage could power the electricity grid 99.9% by 2030 cheaper than any other option.

Furthermore, decentralized solar power actually provides many benefits for the grid and society!

Of course, it decreases deadly pollution and cuts water use. However, beyond that, it also guards against fuel price volatility, decreases the risk of power outages, adds grid stability, increases grid security, and cuts the price of electricity. Let’s get into that last one in a bit more detail.

7. Solar power brings down the price of wholesale electricity.

This is a topic we’ve covered extensively before. But it’s not quick to explain, so bear with me.

Electricity suppliers get their electricity on the grid through a bidding process. The suppliers that can sell their electricity to the grid for cheapest win. Because the costs of solar and wind power plants are essentially just in the process of building them (the fuel costs are $0 and the maintenance costs are negligible), they can outbid pretty much every other source of power. As a result, 1) they win the bids when they produce electricity; 2) they drive down the price of wholesale electricity.

Because solar power is often produced when electricity demand is the greatest (and electricity is, thus, the least available and most expensive), it brings down the price of electricity even more than wind.

For more reading along these lines, see:

8. Even very grey places can generate a lot of solar power.

Despite what Fox solar experts might say, Germany has more grey days than you’d care to see. In fact, it has less in the way of solar resources than Alaska! And far less than most of the United States. But don’t take my word for it. Simply take a look at these solar resources maps from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory:

solar resources map NREL

9. Even once solar power capacity is equal to 50% of electricity demand, utility execs, fossil fuel execs, their buddies in government, and their buddies in the media won’t stop fighting it.

Fossil fuel companies lose revenue and profit when solar power increases. Utility companies are in a similar boat. These are some of the richest industries in the world. They aren’t going to relinquish their profit streams easily. They’re also among those spending the most money to buy friends in high government positions. And they certainly wouldn’t be spending hundreds of millions of dollars on that if it didn’t pay off. Us poor folk in the media are even easier to smooch, buy off, or simply confuse with easy-to-accept facts from those with the “facts.”

Germany may be in a better boat (democratically) than the US, but it still has rich people working to influence politicians and the media. It still has politicians working to change the laws to limit solar power’s growth. It still has reporters in major media getting the story horribly wrong, confusing millions of people along the way.

In other words, Big Coal, Fox, Senator Boehner and gang, and even reporters in outlets like the NYTimes and Washington Post won’t change their overall opinion about solar even as it grows and grows and grows, even as it becomes cheaper for homeowners in more and more places.

10. People love the sun — they love clean, solar energy — and they always will.

In poll after poll after poll, we can see that solar energy is the most popular type of energy amongst US citizens. Often, 90% or more of respondents are supportive of solar and policies to support solar. Naturally, at such a high percentage, this crosses political boundaries.

No matter how much fossil fuel fat cats, or their friends in politics and media, try to confuse the populace, most people will favor solar energy. Perhaps it’s linked to people’s natural love for the sun. Perhaps it’s linked to their understanding that solar power is better for our air, our water, and our climate. Perhaps it’s because they understand (maybe even just subconsciously) that solar power inclines itself toward more decentralized, democratic ownership. Perhaps it’s because they realize that energy from the sun is cheap, abundant, stable, and widespread. Perhaps it’s a combination of all those things.

And, no matter what anyone tells you, this support for solar doesn’t go away as solar power installations increase. Just take a tour through Germany and talk to people about it! Or check out this post I just published: Germans Love Their Solar Power & Wind Power — No Solar Subsidy Or Wind Subsidy ‘Backlash’!

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • Haligonex

    While our governing members are in the pockets of big oil and industry, the US is destined to the bottom of the barrel before change is welcomed.

  • Joseph Kool

    German energy transition is a complete disaster and on the verge of failure. That’s a fact you green pussies can’t deny yet you still insist on making the same mistake here because you’re easily manipulated fools. Go fuck yourselves

  • Bob_Wallace

    We are at the point at which wind and solar have become affordable enough for large scale incorporation.

    The price of EV batteries is rapidly falling. Much faster than most people realize. Battery cost is all about scale of manufacturing, there are not tons of expensive materials in batteries.

    Solar panel manufactures are predicting costs of about 30c/watt within the next three years. That is a major cost drop. Right now the real cost of solar is the ‘balance of system’ costs and they are also dropping. While the US is installing (utility scale) for around $2/w Europe is under $1.50/W and China is at $1/W. Expect $1/W in the US in about 5 years.

    • Peter Moss

      I am not arguing the point that solar is becoming affordable; especially if the installation cost can be reduced. The problem remains the intermittent nature of solar PV. You have to wonder if everyone in a community of single family and/or townhouses had rooftop solar how the economics would work out since the utility would need to provide backup power for the daytime and baseload power that was only used at night.

      There are predictions that the 2X price goal will be met by the end of the decade. Yes, that would be a major cost drop if it happens. I should point out to you that it isn’t about the scale of manufacturing. Batteries are already mass produced. It is about learning to make the batteries more efficiently and with less of the expensive materials. Yes, Li-Ion batteries do contain expensive materials. In addition to Lithium, they also contain Cobalt (quite expensive).

      I forget that I am not communicating with a technically sophisticated person. I would be interested in where you came up with that prediction because it is non-sense. At least it has nothing to do with what I was talking about. I have no doubt that there will be $0.30/Watt solar PV panels in the future. However, that will not be the result of a reduction in price of the current Silicon wafer technology. It will either be a new way of making Silicon cells (and I have read in the trade papers about people working on them);it will be an improvement in thin film panels; or, a completely new type of solar cell that is probably one I have read about in the laboratory stages currently.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Panel manufacturers are predicting prices in the 30 range based on improved manufacturing technology, not new solar technology.

  • laru

    Germany now burning coal to keep solar alive 😉

    • Bob_Wallace

      Sorry. You are very badly informed. (Or trying to misinform others.)

    • Peter Moss

      Actually, Germany is burning coal because the fools are closing down their nuclear power plants.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Sorry, Peter, you don’t have your facts straight.

        That’s understandable because some media are not reporting the full story. They’re not reporting that overall fossil fuel use is dropping in Germany but reporting only hard coal use over the last (cold) winter.

        Now if you look at the graph it’s clear that Germany could have cut fossil fuel use faster had they not decided that they no longer wish to live with the danger of nuclear reactors in their midst.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Let me show you another graph, Peter. This is Germany’s fossil fuel use for the recent months.

          Hard coal up. Other fossil fuels down. Use switched to hard coal largely due to rising NG prices.

          Take a look at your information sources. If they’re talking about rising coal use but not telling you the rest of the story then you might want to stop trusting them.

          • Peter Moss

            Very interesting. Actually, my only point was to correct him on the reason that Germany was still burning coal. I do understand that they have been building new coal plants. I presume to replace old ones that have reached the end of their useful lives. I do think that it was a very unwise decision to shut down their reactors before the end of their design lifetimes. LWRs are not the best design, but unless you have idiots running them or a 1,000 year tsunami hit, they are much safer than coal. Actually, even with these incidents, they are probably still safer than coal.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Long before Germany decided to shut down their nuclear plants they set out on a path to replace their existing inefficient coal plants with efficient supercritical plants. Those new plants are just now coming on line – it takes a number of years to build a coal plant.

            Once they are done building they will produce electricity with much less coal. Additionally they have found that they will need even less coal capacity than what they had calculated and are considering not building as much capacity as planned.

            BTW, Germany is exporting a lot of electricity. It’s really other countries that are buying a lot of Germany’s coal electricity.

            As for shutting reactors down “early”. The people living in Germany decided that they would rather shut them down too early rather than taking the chance of shutting them down too late.

            Remember, Germany had a reactor melt down just across their boarder. Then they watched one of the most safety conscious and technologically advanced countries in the world melt some down.

            Just imagine what would happen in the US were one of our reactors to melt, especially if stuff escapes containment and we end up with a ‘no go’ zone.

            The US nuclear industry will disappear over night.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Take a look at Germany’s electricity imports and exports.

            Were Germany running net zero they’d be burning a lot less coal.

            Imports on top, exports on bottom.

        • TravisJSays

          Actually he is right. Germany is making negligible progress in CO2 reduction because their renewables are replacing nuclear.

          “At the planned and current rate of expansion, when the last German nuclear plants shut down in 2022, renewables will be generating about 38 percent of the electricity; with no more nukes in operation, that will be the total share of low-carbon electricity. But that’s almost exactly the same share of low-carbon electricity Germany produced in 2010, when the share was 38.8 percent—22.4 percent nuclear and 16.4 percent renewable. The next ten years will be a lost decade for German decarbonization efforts. Meanwhile, Germany’s coal and gas plants will spew as much pollution, methane, and carbon dioxide as ever.”

          • Bob_Wallace

            No, Germany is replacing its inefficient coal plants with much more efficient ones. They will produce more electricity with less coal.

            Yes, had German citizens been willing to live with the danger of nuclear reactors in their backyards they could have cut CO2 faster, but they no longer wished to live that way.

  • mreading

    Zachary, I am in agreement with most of what you argue in your article above. In addition, I believe that compared to all other renewable energy sources, solar has the most potential.

    However, I do have one concern with the argument you cite in paragraph 7 (Solar power brings down the price of electricity). Although I agree that when solar generation is added to a competitive pool market wholesale prices will come down, this may not actually be a good thing. I know this is counter-intuitive. However, the question (and the focus) should not be on wholesale prices, it should be on the overall cost of generation, transmission and distribution of power taken together over the long run. In other words, the argument should focus on the LCOE of the system as a whole rather than the price of electricity in the wholesale spot market.

    As you point out, in a gross pool market generators will normally bid power into the wholesale market at their short run marginal cost (SRMC). It generally does not makes sense to bid in at below your own SRMC because it would be better to turn off your own plant and buy power from the grid (as it will cost less than your own cost of generation) to cover your own contracts. I note that there are exceptions to this–for example coal plants may bid below their SRMC during short periods (usually off peak) in order to keep running and avoid cycling. Therefore, if markets are competitive prices will generally tend to be set by the SRMC of the most expensive generator that runs on the margin. In many markets (I am not only referring to the US, but generally) this will be an open cycle gas turbine or a diesel generator as these plants can cycle easily. In the case of a solar power plant, since the plant’s variable cost is close to zero, it is logical to bid in at zero as the owner will always be better off if the plant runs at a price above zero. This is a “profit maximization” strategy and it is rationale to behave this way.

    As a result, it is correct that as solar capacity is added to the grid, wholesale power prices will be reduced. This is due to the fact that (keeping demand fixed) the solar capacity will bid in the added capacity at zero which will push less expensive plants onto the margin. The result is that cheaper plants will be on the margin more than before and thus the wholesale price will drop.

    This is all true–but it is not the whole story. There are a couple significant problems that you are ignoring. First, you are ignoring the impact of reduced prices on the return on the capital investment in the solar plant itself. In short, on average over the long-run prices need to be equal to or more than the long-run marginal cost of the investment (LRMC) in the solar plant. If that is not the case, then you will actually be losing money on the capital invested in the solar plant and this is not economically rational.

    Wholesale spot prices reflect the SRMC of the system. By focusing on wholesale spot prices, you are ignoring the LRMC of the generation plant on the system. The only reason that it is rationale for solar plants (like hydroelectric plants and wind generation) to bid in at low prices is because the SRMC of solar generation is low. However, this does not mean that the LRMC is also low. In fact, at the moment the LRMC of solar (and wind) is higher than the LRMC of a gas-fired plant. In other words, although the SRMC of a solar plant is lower than the SRMC of a gas-fired plant, the LRMC of a solar plant is higher than the LRMC of a gas-fired plant. This is why subsidies are needed to encourage new capital investment in solar. Without the subsidy a rational investor will not invest his capital in the solar plant to begin with because he will never earn a fair return on the capital invested.

    The second problem is that someone has to pay for the subsidy. In some markets it is shifted to retail prices through an uplift in the retail tariff. This is why in some places you see a reduction in the wholesale tariff but an increase in the retail tariff. In any case, someone needs to pay for it. If it is equally spread among all consumers in some form or fashion it will have the economic impact of raising the cost of consumption of power–despite the reduction in wholesale prices.

    The point is that although reduced wholesale prices are usually good, in order to be truly sustainable, prices need to (on average over the long term) reflect the LRMC of generation on the system or people will be losing money on capital invested in generation. That cannot go on forever. You might think that it is great to bankrupt conventional generators, but people will soon realize that the value of investment in solar plants will be equally diminished. One needs to be careful not to focus only on SRMC as it only tells you half the story. I note that people are very quick to highlight this flaw in nuclear power (its LRMC greatly exceeds its SRMC), but they are not so quick to do so in the case of solar and wind power.

    • Bob_Wallace

      First, some generation may go bankrupt and some investors may loose their investment. Keeping electricity prices high in order to protect investors is a pretty weak argument.

      Right now what is initially being priced off the market is peaking power. Solar replaces gas peakers.

      As we go along we will have to replace our coal and nuclear plants, things wear out. In the US a large portion of our thermal plants is getting quite long in the tooth. The issue will be whether to replace with some combination of renewables, storage and dispatchable fill-in or with more expensive coal/nuclear.

      We know that new nuclear is around 16c/kWh and new coal is in the same range.

      We know that new wind is now around 5c/kWh and falling. We know that solar is now around 6c/kWh in the SW and falling. That would make it around 8c/kWh in less sunny parts of the lower 48. We know that pump-up hydro storage is well under 10c/kWh and we apparently have utility scale battery storage coming on line for around 10c/kWh.

      Let’s say we replace those worn out coal and nuclear plants with ~X% 5c wind, ~Y% 7c solar, about Z% <10c other renewables and the rest with stored wind/solar. Can you tweak those proportions in any reasonable levels that make renewables + storage as expensive as new nuclear or coal?

      • mreading

        I did not suggest that we should “keep electricity prices high in order to protect investors”. All I was pointing out is that the reduction of wholesale pool prices is not necessarily a good argument in favor of solar energy. In fact, your point is ironic as the very purpose of FITs and similar subsidies is to ensure that investors are protected (in this case the investors in solar projects). The result of this is to keep the delivered cost of electricity prices high despite a possible drop in wholesale prices.

        From a policy perspective the focus should be on the overall cost of electricity delivered to end-users over the long term not wholesale prices. The wholesale price is not the only determinant of the cost of delivered power. This is particularly the case where subsidies are being added to the retail bill in order to pay renewables investors.

        Also, the argument regarding wholesale prices (as presented) equally supports the construction of nuclear plants (I note also hydro and geothermal and anything else with a low and reliable SRMC regardless of capex and LRMC). The way gross pool markets work, plants that have a very low SRMC will have the effect of reducing wholesale pool prices as they will be bid into the pool at near zero. Nuclear power has the same effect. However, your argument above against nuclear is that it is “16c”. That is clearly a LRMC number not a SRMC number. So you also seem to be implicitly arguing that we should be focused on LRMC rather than SRMC.

        Third, basically if a market trades below the actual LRMC of power for very long new investment will be delayed (rationally) or new investments will lose money (although arguably irrational it does happen). This is true for any technology, including solar, and the only reason the solar investments are being made up until now is because of the FIT (ie, subsidy). As such, if the wholesale price in the market continues to trade at below the LRMC of solar (forget about its SRMC) then new solar will not get built (along with everything else) until wholesale prices come back up (and stay up) high enough to justify new investments or you will have to keep subsidizing it.

        I believe that a better argument (if one still wants to make an argument regarding wholesale prices) is not simply that “wholesale prices” are reduced, but that solar helps flatten/reduce peak prices in particular. As you have (correctly pointed out) solar has a tendency to push gas-fired plant (and other classic “peakers” like diesel) off the margin during peaks. In some markets it may also reduce the ability of generators to utilize market power to run up peak prices. In cases where the market is very “peaky”, although the LRMC of the system may increase, the cost of peak power may come down enough to compensate. Therefore, I believe that it can be argued in general that it is good for a market to be “less peaky”–as peaking capacity is expensive due to its being more risky and usually requires expensive, in SRMC terms, technology like OCGT or diesel.

        • Bob_Wallace

          You’re misrepresenting the role of FiTs.

          FiTs are designed to kick-start a new industry. Initial wind/solar/whatever costs are very high and unless early investors can be assured that they will recover and make some money off their investment the industry will never move off the starting line.

          It’s fully expected, when the FiT is established, that system prices will come down as the learning curve kicks in but if adequate incentives are not created nothing will happen.

          FiTs serve to prime the pump.

          That’s quite different than someone who makes an investment in an ongoing business. There is always investment risk when one assumes business will continue as usual. In this case people have invested in coal and nuclear plants and coal mines which make lose their revenue stream before their anticipated natural end.

          • mreading

            I agree with you on the purpose and value of FITs in terms of “priming the pump” as you say. I was not arguing against them as I am in favor of them, particularly for solar power. I just have an issue with one of the arguments that was cited in the original article. I was merely suggesting a way to strengthen the argument. Otherwise I am in agreement with what he is saying.

          • TravisJSays

            “I agree with you on the purpose and value of FITs in terms of “priming the pump” as you say.”

            They prime market distortions, they dont prime progress or technology innovation.

        • TravisJSays

          “All I was pointing out is that the reduction of wholesale pool prices is
          not necessarily a good argument in favor of solar energy.”

          Further, when you see NEGATIVE wholesale spot prices, that is not a sign of ‘cheap energy’ that is a sign of a grid that is overstressed and begging for relief, “please, take this electricity NOW, I’m begging you!”

          Make wind and solar too large a portion of energy generation and this will make the grid less stable while raising overall costs (you will need a lot more peaker capacity for example).

      • Peter Moss

        Why do you quote those ridiculous prices for nuclear power. The price that I see quoted for the AP1000 reactors currently being built is 8.4 cents. When you quote a price for solar are you talking about the cost of the actual power or should you be quoting a grid integrated cost that considers backup with natural gas? You can’t currently talk about doing a composite with percentages because you don’t have storage to make it work. Storage is something in the future with only a few exceptions. The only way that you can make a composite is to include dispatchable natural gas. So, you should be able to easily see why solar isn’t going to be replacing natural gas peakers. Besides, they will be needed for the 8:00 PM “shoulder”.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I use the numbers that are real. 16 cents what the UK is going to have to pay China and France for new nuclear. The three real world bids we’ve seen over the last few years ranged from 16c to 21c.

          I’m not willing to believe claims of lower prices until they are proven. The nuclear industry has a very long track record of promising low but delivering high.

          We’ve now got solar thermal with storage coming on line. It looks like that might be one of the later day peak solutions. Then there’s wind which starts to pick up as the Sun sets. Plans are underway to bring Wyoming wind to the Pacific Coast, for example.

          • Peter Moss

            Since I don’t live in the UK and the AP1000s in the US aren’t being built by China and France I don’t see what point there is in using a figure for a plant that hasn’t even been started yet based on a contract that is currently in dispute by the EU commission. How do you call that a proven price compared to partially finished plants in the US. You appear to be applying some strange selective standard.

            I don’t know why you say “real world” when 8.4 cents/kWh is the price quoted for the AP1000s being built. That is the price that I have seen. Have you seen a different price for those reactors.

            Now you have changed to solar thermal with storage which is not what you originally said. I might mention the high cost of solar thermal.

            It doesn’t matter when the wind picks up. If the capacity factor is < 40% and solar PV is < 25% you still aren't going to get 100% without something else. And how much for a HVDC transmission line from Wyoming to the Pacific Coast?

          • Bob_Wallace

            I could claim that I could create electricity for a penny a kWh from unicorn farts. But until I actually produce do you want to make real world decisions based on my claim?

            Ask yourself. The UK tried to get new nuclear built for 12c and had to settle for 16c in order to get someone to build for them. If it’s possible to build for <10c why did someone not step forward and snatch that 12c price and make a fortune?

            Don't get distracted with the CF for wind and solar. Those numbers are only important in establishing the LCOE. Even though wind is now running in the 40% to 50% range and solar around 25% (higher with tracking) their cost is low. Cost is the important metric.

            As for HVDC for Wyoming wind, it's actually a modest run. What's planned is tying into the existing Pacific Intertie and Intermountain Intertie. That takes care of the largest amount of the run and makes the grid more reliable by creating a loop from the two existing lines.

          • Peter Moss

            I don’t believe that you are the manufacture of unicorn Methane power systems, or the utility having one installed. So, I would not consider you a person that could provide a valid estimate of the cost of power from such a plant. However, I consider what Westinghouse and/or the Southern Company said regarding the cost of the AP1000s that they are building and the projected cost of the power that they will produce as more than “claims”. They are valid engineering estimates. I have to say that you have real problems with concepts and language in this area. This is probably why you are a naive Leftist Green and I am not.

            I say again that what is going on in the UK has nothing to do with this. Why should we consider that instead of what Westinghouse and the Southern Company said about the reactors that they are actually building in the US?

            It also appears obvious that you don’t understand what the CF means. Cost is not what matters when you want electricity at a given time. What matters then is if it is being produced. Greens simply ignore that fact about CF. You cannot ignore the intermittent nature or wind and solar PV and just say that “[c}ost is the important metric”.

            If you want to run current from point A to point B, you are going to have to run wires from point A to point B. This is basic electricity. You can’t run it part way through other wires already carrying other current. Does “tying” mean connecting? I ask because the current regulators for multiple connections to HVDC lines are still in the R&D stages. For the same reason, a loop that includes a HVDC line will not act like a loop of wires would.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The nuclear industry has long projected low costs but delivered high costs.
            When the industry actually builds a reactor that is cost competitive then we can consider nuclear. But based on the history of nuclear it appears to be priced off the table.

          • Peter Moss

            Actually, you are talking about the recent history of the NRC.

            Now it is true that a Light Water Reactor is not an inexpensive design with the forged steel reactor vessel. And, a Pressurized Water Reactor is probably even more expensive than a Boiling Water Reactor. Although they both have the large reinforced concrete containment dome that is also expensive. A design that eliminates those two large expenses will greatly reduce the price. Also the custom build and on site build are expensive. The AP1000 is a standard design with large modules built off site in a factory environment that greatly reduces costs.

            However, the biggest problem as far as costs was still the NRC. That is another reason that elimination of the forged vessel and the containment dome would greatly reduce costs. Eliminating them would also eliminate all of the multiple “safety” add ons that have to do with the NRC’s “in depth” nonsense.

            I never figured out why they didn’t design reactor safety to safeguard the public after the reactor was toast rather than apparently trying to save the reactor. All that a LWR needs is a heavy steel and concrete can under the reactor vessel to catch a melted core and watertight doors in the containment so that it can be filed with water up to the top of the reactor vessel. This would be done by sprinkler nozzles inside of the containment. That is two lines of (1) prevent a meltdown from progressing if fuel damage starts. and (2) to confine it if it occurs. It would destroy the reactor, but that is what happened to TMI.. This design would be much less expensive than the current design for LWRs with “defense in depth”. After all, there has never been a loss of coolant accident at a commercial US nuclear reactor where a pipe broke or or something like that and the safety systems were used. There was only TMI where an idiot left the pop off valve open and didn’t realize due to design defects while the water boiled out. So, it appears reasonable that what is needed are systems to safeguard the public from a meltdown if a major failure occurs.

          • TravisJSays

            Nuclear has the lowest operating cost of any form of electricity. Capacity factors are well above estimates, in the 95% range in the last decade. Most of the capital cost issues were due to utilities managing one-off projects in the 70s and 80s in the face of constant regulatory changes.

            Standard designs, regulatory stability, experienced builders, and engineering cuts that cost. Using 21st century nuclear 4th gen inherently safe technology instead of the 1960s era PWR/BWR would also cut the costs. Nuclear is heavily regulated and subject to a lot of FUD, like the negative FUD of Mr Wallace.

          • Bob_Wallace

            No, the operating cost of nuclear is higher than the operating cost of solar and about the same (or higher) than wind. Some paid off US reactors are being closed because their O&M costs are too high to allow them to be competitive.

            CF for US reactors in 2011 was 84.3%. In 2012 it was 81.4. Lifetime CF for the world’s reactors up to 2013 was 78.1%.
            You can accuse me of posting FUD, but I’m showing that you are posting incorrect information.

          • TravisJSays

            Capacity factors for nuclear was above 90% from 2007 to 2011. Above the numbers you cite:


            … and well above wind and solar.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Well, thank you for that. I didn’t have CF numbers for nuclear other than 2011 and 2012.

            So let’s look at what you’ve brought us.

            For the listed years (2006 through 2012) the average CF is 89.9%.

            For the bright red, luscious years you hand-picked (2007 to 2011) the average CF was 90.6%.

            The nuclear industry numbers for 2011 and 2012 are a bit higher than the DOE-EIA numbers. I suppose that might be on how one defines availability.

            I wonder if the NEI might have retroactively removed a reactor or two that wasn’t officially shut down but was later declared closed for good? One would have to wade into the weeds to figure that out.

            Then there are those embarrassing numbers for 1980 to 2000. I suppose you don’t want them mentioned….

            Oh, and CF is not the important metric for generation. LCOE is what counts along with dispatch-ability/time of delivery.

          • TravisJSays

            First, I did overstate original numbers but you understated, but CF numbers close to 90% of the nameplate rating are more than respectable. It’s also good that nuclear has some measure of load following and dispatchability in the technology, if not typical operations.

            I wonder if you are desperately trying to make nuclear look worse than it is, with the crack about 1980-2000. In reality, the nuclear industry has been learning and improving over time. This is why safety measures, production measures, and economic operational measures have all improved over time. Upratings have been made possible.

            Odd of you to berate nuclear for its learning curve by going all the way back to when solar was $10 kwh or more, treating its learning curve as a vice while treating solar’s learning curve as a virtue. An odd double standard.

            The future energy complex belongs to nuclear AND solar, they have complimentary features as energy sources. Nuclear has the merit of small land footprint for huge GW-level power; nearly unlimited resources in; zero GHG out. Its a great solution our largest cities, places like Japan and Britain (actually much of Europe) where land is a premium, etc. Gen IV nuclear can be make nuclear safer, cheaper and better than ever. It’s folly to imagine technology can make some forms of energy better but not others. Unreasonable FUD against nuclear is not a path to energy solutions.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Load follow is not very appropriate for nuclear. Some reactors can adjust their output somewhat, but are not flexible to actually load follow. It’s more like they can roughly track peak/off-peak demand. Other generators such as hydro, NG or storage have to do the fine grained load following.

            Now, again, you do need to realize that load following makes nuclear more expensive? Unlike NG plants which have lower capex/finex costs and can shut off saving fuel, nuclear has large fixed bills to pay (at least until the capex/finex is paid).

            Drop 12 hours of off-peak output to 50% and you cut the annual output to 75%. If annual bills / annual kWh produced = 14c then annual bills / 0.75 annual kWh = 18.6c.

            You might want to review the history of nuclear energy. Nuclear has a “negative” learning curve. Over time the cost of electricity has gone up and up and up.

            Claims of 8.6c, 10c and all that other stuff are simply speculation. And the nuclear industry has a long history of estimated at one price and delivering for a much higher price. Let me show you that history in the US – graph at bottom of comment.

            On the other hand in the last 30 years wind has fallen from $0.38/kWh to $0.05/kWh and solar panels have fallen from around $100/watt to less than $1/watt.

            Nuclear has a less small footprint when one includes mining. But nuclear has a problem other than footprint. Nuclear has a siting problem.

            Nuclear needs cooling water. That’s getting harder to find. Cooling water and an accepting neighborhood.

            Northern places tend to have more hydro and excellent offshore wind.

            Land for renewables is not the problem you seem to imagine. Wind turbines take only 1/4 acre and as we move to larger and larger turbines the land used becomes insignificant.

            Did you realize that we could produce 100% of the electricity used in the US with 3 MW turbines and occupy only 3.13 Disney Worlds, 6.5 Manhattan Islands, or 39% of Los Angeles?

            We could produce 100% of the electricity we use with 3,553,593 Acres of 17.4% efficient solar panels.

            That’s 0.019% of the lower 48 states It includes Alaska and Hawaii electricity use but not land.

            We have 15 million acres of ‘brownfields’ in the lower 48. Excellent sites for solar since it doesn’t need super clean land and many brownfields are already close to transmission. That’s over 4x the area we would need for 100% solar. Then there are existing rooftops and parking lots.

          • TravisJSays

            “Load follow is not very appropriate for nuclear.”
            As currently designed, there is limited loadfollow in LWRs.
            But you are apparently unaware of some of the technology possibilities with Gen-IV nuclear reactors. Molten-Salt reactors are load following.

            And then there is Forsberg’s solution, called NACC, that combines nuclear and gas turbine specifically to handle the case of a grid swamped with highly variable solar and wind power sources, the NACC combines nuclear and nat gas generation, enabling instantaneous demand following reaction … page 9 of this talk, where the negative wholesale energy prices is specifically mentioned:


            The solution of combining a load-following safe flouride high-temp nuclear with a ‘supercharging’ of gas turbine is a best of both worlds – it piggybacks gas turbine ‘peaker’ capacity at an effective ZERO capital cost, on a flouride high-temp reactor (FHR) with a lot of safety margin and thermal mass that can be load following. As a result, the economics of this FHR nuclear technology are better than any other option out there, including PWRs.

            “Drop 12 hours of off-peak output to 50% and you cut the annual output to 75%.”
            If that happens to be when the demand is there, its a win/win. Your average selling price is 20-100% higher, so revenue levels are higher.

            see page 18 here:

            21st century nuclear can combine with 21st C solar, wind and nat gas for a nearly complete GHG-free *and* low cost electrical grid. It may look like:
            15% wind, 15% solar,

            10% other renewables (hydro etc)

            40% nuclear (gen IV NACC) (baseload + loadfollow)

            20% nat gas (peaking in NACC)

          • Bob_Wallace

            What I am aware of is that there are no GenIV reactors.

            There are GenIV reactor ideas, but we know that lots of ideas that sound good end up failing. Remember pebble bed reactors and how they were ‘the answer’?

            When someone builds a GenIV, runs it long enough to prove that it works, and produces some real world prices then we can consider them. Until then let’s leave them out of discussions of how to produce electricity.

            I’m not going to bring in the company that says it can make and sell solar panels for less than 10 cents per watt. For the same reason, until it’s done we can use it.

          • TravisJSays

            You havent reviewed the actual status and the docs I shared and are engaged in FUD. There have been multiple Gen -IV reactors built over the years and more to come (in China) soon. Pebble bed reactors were built, worked, and are a basis of some of the safety features of FHRs.

            Since nuclear reactor research was curtailed in the US in 1990s thanks to the kind of FUD you display, we stopped making new research reactors, and as a result, China will be leading the way in building these new reactors instead of the US.

          • Bob_Wallace

            OK, you’ve made your pro-nuclear pitch.

            If you wish to discuss nuclear designs that might be built in the future please take that to another site. This site is about using what works.

          • TravisJSays

            What a funny comment. 20% of US power generation is from nuclear. It certainly works; it has reduced GHG emissions more than any other technology:


            I made no pitch, but yes, there is a place where the ‘green nuclear’ pitch is made, see:


            And see in particular February 12, 2014 post where Prof Forsberg explains the NACC design.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Nothing funny. We aren’t going to tie this site up in discussions of nuclear fantasies. Discussion of what we have working now, that we do. There are other sites that love to discuss the wonders nuclear energy might bring us in the future. The Energy Collective is a good place for those discussions.

            Nuclear power apparently peaked at a 20% share in 2010. It was down to 19% in 2013. We’re going to see more reactors closed (one is scheduled for later this year). The five reactors which may come on line in a few years will simply slow the decline.

            Take a look at the age of our nuclear fleet. Many reactors will soon be hitting the end of their 40 year lifetime design. It is possible to refurbish some of those reactors and use them for another 20 years or so but that is expensive.

            It’s not clear if utilities will spend the money to extend the life of aged out reactors. There are cheaper ways to generate electricity.

            Nuclear is on the decline world wide. And there’s about no way that nuclear will stage a comeback. World nuclear hit a plateau in 1989 and is now on the down slope. The 70 or so reactors now being built around the world won’t replace the number that are being closed, let along increase their market share.

            And speaking of market share, take a look at that – third graph.

          • TravisJSays

            Wow, you sure do have a chip on your shoulder.

            If you dont want this topic here (even though nuclear is clean tech), fine, but you call it ‘fantasy’ to either build out more PWR technology, or Gen-IV types, even though a) nuclear today far outstrips solar generation both in US and globally, b) there is buildout that will increase nuclear generation 60% by 2035 and c) the Gen-IV plants you say are fantasy have been built and new ones being built (by Chinese) today. That’s not right.

            Let’s correct the record and then be done here.

            “It’s not clear if utilities will spend the money to extend the life of aged out reactors.” Yes, it is. US nuclear operators ARE extending current reactors which can safely operate for many more years. Practically all of the 104 nuclear reactors, save for a few that have had issues, are applying for extension, and 73 have been granted.

   – 73 extensions granted, 27 pending and publicly announced

            The bulk of the nuclear fleet is operating into the 2030s and 2040s.

            2) Contrary to your predictions there is today a global buildout of nuclear generation, and nuclear generation will increase by 60% by the 2030s:

            “Over 60 power reactors are currently being constructed in 13 countries plus Taiwan (see Table below), notably China, South Korea and
            Russia. …Following the Fukushima accident, the World Energy Outlook 2011 New Policies scenario has a 60% increase in nuclear capacity to 2035,
            compared with about 90% the year before. ”


            The share has declined because of the lull in construction of nuclear in 1990s / 2000s. That lull has ended. All those aging coal plants will be replaced, a nuclear is a part of the replacement approach.

          • Bob_Wallace

            No, not a chip. I’m simply informing you about the site rules. Not the place for discussing nuclear fantasies.

            Applying for an extension and paying for the needed upgrades are two different issues. Several of our reactors are losing money now. They certainly won’t be upgraded.

            Perhaps 75% of the fleet will continue for another 20 to 30 years. But 25% may not. And we won’t build fast enough to replace those reactors. Then in 20 to 30 years the other 75% will finally age out. We’re talking slow death of an industry here.

            “(global) nuclear generation will increase by 60% by the 2030s:”

            That’s laughable.

            There are about 430 reactors now. A 60% increase would take over 200 new reactors. Now subtract the reactors that are almost certain to close before 2030.

            Japan has just closed 54. Some may come back on line but public resistance is growing. Some are likely to be permanently closed.

            Germany has just closed/is closing 17.

            The US just announced 1 closures for 2014. Exelon is likely closing 3 this year, they have 6 that have been losing money for five years. And, as you point out, probably 25% of our 100 or so won’t make it another 20 years.

            Belgium will close 3 reactors by 2015 and 4 more by 2025.

            The Philippines is converting 1 reactor to natural gas.

            Switzerland will close 1 reactor in 2019 and their other 4 by 2035.

            France is planning to close reactors. And planning to replace with renewables.

            The new builds probably won’t replace losses, certainly not grow market share.

          • TravisJSays

            “A 60% increase would take over 200 new reactors.”

            You didnt read the link: The 2011 WNA Market Report reference case has 156 reactors closing by 2030, using very conservative assumptions about licence renewal, and 298 coming on line. WNA can do math better than you, the build will more than make up for losses.

            You didnt mention China. Quadrupling their nuclear capacity by 2020, from 15 current nukes, and increasing more beyond then.

            “Many countries with existing nuclear power programs (Argentina, Armenia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Czech Rep., France, India, Pakistan, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, South Korea, South Africa, Ukraine,UK, USA) have plans to build new power reactors (beyond those now under construction). In addition, plans in place in Vie
            In all, about 160 power reactors with a total net capacity of some 177,000 MWe are planned and over 320 more are proposed.”

            Belarus, Taiwan, UAE, Vietnam, Poland, Turkey, Kazakhstan, and even Jordan have plans.

            Around 300 new reactors will be built by the 2030s, while most existing reactors continue to get extended lives.

            France closing plants hasnt happened, and wont happen:
            “Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg is on record as saying that Fessenheim will be the only nuclear power station to close.”

            And Japan is restarting most all of their reactors, they are not likely to remain closed.

            The 60% increase in nuclear capacity by 2035 the WNA estimates is likely conservative.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “and 298 coming on line”

            You have to be friggin’ kidding.

            There are lots of “planned” reactors. Some of them have been planned for more than 20 years.

            BTW, the Czech Republic canceled their reactor plans a couple days ago.

            You’re dreaming. You simply do not understand the economics of electricity generation.

          • TravisJSays

            you disbelieve a global organization’s careful estimates. You cant believe 300 plants will go up in the next 20 years, when in fact 80 are under construction right now. your fear-based certainty is out of place for a site touting tech based on future hopes.

            “You simply do not understand the economics of electricity generation.”

            Funny coming from someone who over-stated the cost of nuclear power by 50%. EIA estimated levelized cost estimates for new generation are 10.8c/Kwh (not 15):

            Generation in already depreciated nuclear plants is much cheaper than that, providing 20% of US electric power at a very low operating cost.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Look, the idea that the world will build 300 new reactors in the next 20 years is mega-foolish. Just ain’t going to happen.

            And do you not realize that the EIA cost projections for the cost of electricity in 2018 are very deeply flawed? As are their projections for the growth of renewables. The cost of wind and solar are already less than their projections and rapidly dropping.

            And let’s look at some of their renewable projections.

            Wind and solar installations in the US are going to stop for a couple of decades. That is certifiably insane.

            What nuclear fanboys keep missing is that while nuclear can be a reasonably priced source of electricity once it’s paid off, the first 20-30 years while the capex/finex is being paid makes nuclear a non-starter.

          • TravisJSays

            There are lower cost estimates for nuclear out there, but used EIA as a recognized govt source. If you disbelieve even recognized authorities estimates as valid, there’s nothing left to discuss. You are impervious to factual data and dismiss any evidence not fitting your preconceived conclusion.

            BTW, since the full grid impositions of wind and solar are NOT counted in the EIA LCOE estimates (neither is the need for larger peaker reserve power) its clear EIA actually UNDER-estimate the actual cost of wind and solar. e.g. when Texas added the wind, they found out they needed to spend $5 billion on grid upgrades to support it. The CF estimates are above historical reality (which is 28% not 36%).


            There are flaws but not in the direction you think.

            Since you are a fanboy of wind and solar and think its so cheap, lets just take away the wind and solar subsidies and see what happens. Maybe that is what EIA estimated off of. Both nuclear and wind will grow in capacity in next 20 yrs imho.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I really don’t give a damn about how cheap someone might imagine nuclear might be. If we’re going to play that game then I’ll start claiming that wind will be 0.1 cent per kWh and solar will be 0.01.

            Use the facts we have. Turnkey bids in Ontario and San Antonio which would have meant close to 20c/kWh. Fixed bid in the UK for 16c/kWh plus significant subsidies. Current ongoing construction in Georgia with very low financing running 11c/kWh.

            ” If you disbelieve even recognized authorities estimates as valid, there’s nothing left to discuss”

            If you believe that wind will cost 8.6 cents per kWh in 2018 when the average selling price for wind (with subsidies added back in) for 2011 and 2012 was ~5.5 cents then there really is no reason to carry on a discussion with someone that ignorant.

            You do realize that nuclear is more heavily subsidized than are wind and solar, do you not?

          • TravisJSays

            “And, as you point out, probably 25% of our 100 or so won’t make it another 20 years.”

            I did *not* point that out, and its far from true. 73 out of 104 reactors have had extensions granted, but 18 are under review and 9 are anticipated. If all go through that is 100 out of 104, or 96% getting extended and only 4% not.

          • Bob_Wallace

            We’ve got close to two dozen reactors that are financially failing. No one is going to spend billions to extend their life for a couple more decades.
            Why not step back from the nuclear myth and take an objective look at the facts?

          • TravisJSays

            You got to be kidding me. you claim ‘nobody is doing’ exactly what IS happening right now. 73 nuclear plants are being extended. It’s not that costly at all, and it will happen, because it makes sense.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Learn how to do math.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Let me deal with a couple other bits of this comment.

          First, when pricing electricity we don’t include backup and storage costs.

          Remember, when a nuclear reactor goes off line something has to step in and replace that power. US nuclear reactors were offline 16% of the time in 2011 and something had to replace that power.

          And remember that we had to build a large amount (21 GW) of storage to incorporate the nuclear power we built back a few decades ago.

          Do you ever see the cost of backup and storage included when people talk about the cost of nuclear energy?

          The cost of integrating wind and solar, it is very low. ERCOT (the Texas grid) reports $0.0005 per kWh. And that integrating large thermal plants is more difficulty (read more expensive).

          • Peter Moss

            You need to consider the extra costs if an electricity source is variable and intermittent. Coal, gas, and nuclear plants are not online all the time, but when they are, they are capable of producing their full nameplate rating. This is not true of wind and solar PV. This makes wind and solar PV different.

            You appear to be confused about the function of the storage that the US has. Most of it is pumped hydro but I think that there is also a small amount of compressed air/natural gas. This storage is used for peaking. It has nothing to do with what you are talking about. At night, the extra baseload generating capacity is used to store energy by pumping water up to a reservoir a the top of a mountain. Then in the daytime when peak power is needed the water is used to drive a hydroelectric generator.

            Your statement that nuclear requires backup is a Red Herring. You could say that all baseload power plants require backup. But the plants do not require individual backup. What needs backup, actually extra capacity, is the grid, so that if a plant has to be taken off line that there is extra generating capacity to handle it. If a grid doesn’t have this extra capacity, they would need to be prepared to purchase the power form an adjacent grid operator.

            You should also note that new coal plants are also large so they present the same issue of having a large reserve capacity on the grid. It has nothing specific to do with nuclear as you are trying to imply. It is just part of operating the grid.

            However, wind and solar PV do need to have individual backup available and ready since those power sources are intermittent and they could go off line at any time with little notice due to changes in the weather.

            I really don’t have any figures but it appears to me that as wind and solar PV has greater penetration of the grid that the cost of integration is going to increase since there are going to be more power sources (e.g. dispatchable natural gas) sitting there waiting and the capital cost would have to be considered.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Nuclear needed storage to move unneeded offpeak power to peak demand time. Wind and solar need storage to move power from when resources are available to when the power is needed. There’s no real difference.

            When a nuclear reactor suddenly goes off line a lot of scrambling has to be done to frill in. Wind and solar don’t abruptly drop out and their on/off is easily predicted hours in advance.

            Let’s look at some numbers.

            Build the capacity the grid needs with nuclear. At least 15c/kWh. Enough storage to move 50% of production to peak demand.

            Build the capacity with a combination of wind and solar. Figure that 50% generation will have to be time-shifted.

            Assume storage costs 10c.

            (0.5 * 15c nuclear) + (0.5 * 25c stored nuclear) = 20c/kWh

            (0.5 * 5c wind/solar) + (0.5 * 15c stored wind/solar) = 10c/kWh

          • Peter Moss

            I realize that you read this Red Herring on an anti-nuclear site somewhere and you foolishly believe it. Or, more specifically, think that it is specific to nuclear power. But, you are wrong. It is propaganda. What you said about storage applies to any baseload power. What you said about nuclear plant going off line applies to any large baseload plant Yes, these apply to nuclear. But, they don’t apply to only nuclear. That is the fallacy. The issues are just the same for a 1 GW coal plant as a 1GW nuke except that the nuke is usually the one that is scheduled to be kept running all the time for baseload if that much power is needed.

            When a nuclear reactor suddenly goes off line a lot of scrambling has to be done to frill in.

            Again with this you are committing the same fallacy in saying this, which isn’t really true, about nuclear and implying that it is only true about nuclear when it is just as true about a coal fired plant. Power is power. It doesn’t matter to the grid. If power is lost and the grid doesn’t have the needed reserve, like it should, then there will be scrambling.

            Wind and solar don’t abruptly drop out and their on/off is easily predicted hours in advance.

            You must live on a different planet than I do. On the planet that I live on, the winds are constantly varying so the output of wind turbines are variable — it varies from minute to minute. And we know that the output of fixed (i.e. most) solar PV panels varies with the time of day.

            You have confused the issues of storage and backup. The fact is that wind and solar PV require backup for a different reason than you claim that nuclear does. Variations in output due to the weather are not predictable hours in advance and backup must be available to cover them. Perhaps storage can be used for this backup in the future if the price of batteries comes down.

            I don’t see what the point is of doing calculations with figures that you have made up or pulled out of thin air. Subsidized wind vs. a non-existent nuclear plant. And I have no idea how much it costs to run the PG&E pumped storage.

          • Bob_Wallace

            If you wish to bring coal into the discussion, yes, a large coal plant going off line is a headache just as a large nuclear plant going off line is a headache.

            The much more predictable behavior of wind and solar is easier for the grid to manage.

            Why don’t you do some investigations and find out what grid operators have to say?

          • TravisJSays

            “Nuclear needed storage to move unneeded offpeak power to peak demand time.”

            No it doesnt. Nuclear can be load-following, and even for old plants that are not, you just pair 70% nuclear and 30% nat gas and you have a complete solution.

            You never need storage for baseload, its why its called ‘baseload’.

            “Build the capacity the grid needs with nuclear. At least 15c/kWh. Enough storage to move 50% of production to peak demand.”
            The cost of nuclear is half that.

            BTW, except for accidents, nuclear going offline can be planned. No storage needed for a planned event. This is very different from wind / solar which is variable minute-to-minute without storage.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The price of nuclear (very expensive as it is) depends on being able to sell a maximum amount of product.

            Cut sales by load-following and the price per kWh sold has to rise in order to cover capex, finex and fixed O&M costs.

            “Baseload” is a 20th century word. It’s no longer the 20th century.

            Unscheduled nuclear outages are more common than most people realize. Let me give you a sample…

            These are unplanned shutdowns starting in September, 2013. Routine refueling and maintenance shutdowns are not included.


            An unusual event was declared Sept. 2 at the Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Arizonaafter workers found a fire in a main feed pump for Unit 2. A security officer first noticed smoke y the “A” train main feed pump. A worker found a fire on lagging behind the main standard pump. The fire was put out about 30 minutes later, but re-flashed twice during removal of the lagging.


            The Unit 2 reactor at Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Maryland was shut down around 5 p.m. Thursday after a control rod dropped into the reactor core during electrical testing, according to a report from The Calvert Recorder.


            A nuclear power plant in Oconee County had to shut down one of its three reactors after a problem in the water system that helps generate electricity, according to a release from the Associated Press.


            Unit 1 at the Beaver Valley nuclear power plantin Pennsylvania remains offline after a small electrical wiring fire was detected.

            12/01/13 and Second Offline

            Hope Creek, a single unit boiling water reactorconsisting of 1,210 MW in generating capacity, put their nuclear
            reactor back onlineafter high moisture in the main turbine forced the reactor to be taken offline twice, according to a report on Hope Creek originally was taken offline Dec. 1 when high moisture in the steam tripped the main turbine, then taken offline again on Thursday for the same issue. (Back 12/10/13)


            Arkansas Nuclear One Unit 2 is offline after a transformer fire was found.
            According to Northwest Arkansas Online, a fault in the transformerled to the early morning fire. Entergy said through its Twitter account that the fire has been contained with no injuries or threats of safety.


            An Unusual Event was declared at Arkansas’ Nuclear One power plant Tuesday after the transformer to Unit 2 experienced an electrical explosion in the switchyard, causing the unit to shut down. An Unusual Event is declared when an event indicates a potential degradation of the level of safety.


            The plant was shut down Dec. 14 for the repairs. Workers with Exelon (NYSE: EXC) completed maintenance on a system that regulates pressure to the steam turbinesalong with other work. The work could not be completed while the plant was running. (12/20/13)


            Unit 1 at the Beaver Valley nuclear power plantin Pennsylvania automatically tripped around 5 p.m. EST, according to an event report with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

            Workers with FirstEnergy (NYSE: FE) said a main transformer differential trip caused the reactor to shut down. The transformer converts power generated from the plant to the appropriate voltage for distribution throughout the transmission system, according to Jennifer young, spokesperson with FirstEnergy. It is located on the generation side of the plant.


            Unit 3 at the Indian Point n the plant deployed as designed and the unit was safely shut down. (Back on 1/8/14)


            Pilgrim was already under additional NRC oversight due to the plant automatically shutting down October 2013 for a week due to the loss of a 345 kV power line that provided offsite power to the plant. It was the second time the plant shut down last year. That incident led to the plant having a “white” performance indicator last year.


            A buildup of ice caused the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plantto temporarily shut down just weeks after it restarted.

            Workers with the Omaha Public Power District were making routine inspections at Unit 1 when they noticed a block of ice had formed on the shaft and the top of one of six sluice gates that control the flow of water into the plant on Jan. 8. The ice also bent the sluice gate operating shaft, which caused the gate to not close and made all four raw water pumps inoperable.

            uclear power plant in New York automatically tripped due to “33 Steam Generator Steam flow/Feed flow Mismatch,” the NRC said. Plant operator Entergy (NYSE: ETR) said in a release that a controller device failed to regulate the flow of water into one of the plant’s four steam generators, which led to lowered water levels. Backup systems at

        • TravisJSays

          “Why do you quote those ridiculous prices for nuclear power. The price
          that I see quoted for the AP1000 reactors currently being built is 8.4

          That’s a more accurate price than the 15c claim. It actually should be less, and would be less if there was a more consistent build-out of nuclear.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Let’s look at the real world prices we have, not at what someone might speculate.

            Bids were acquired for new reactors in Ontario, Canada and San Antonio, Texas in 2009. If accepted and built the power would have cost around 20 cents/kWh.

            The UK has been negotiating for new reactors. The price they are settling on is 16c/kWh plus very significant market guarantees.

            There are currently two reactors under construction in Georgia. According to CitiGroup’s recently analysis the price of their electricity would be 11c/kWh if there are no further cost and timeline overruns. And that 11c is not a reasonable estimate of what future nuclear would cost as it is made possible by today’s very low interest rates.

  • Larry


    I’m one of those right wing conservatives that is trying to “find” the truth about alternative energy. Even though your headline is a bit contentious, I found the bulk of your article extremely informative, backed with facts and significant research.

    I’ve not been converted to tree hugger status yet, but when I see the economics spelled out for me, I get a little closer.

    Would you be willing to write an article on the “Real” cost of oil. Not the one about impending environmental doom, but the cost of protecting the resource militarily and other assorted costs.

    I liked your comments about democracies and egalitarian aspects of distributed/de-centralized power generation. The whole idea that centralized government understanding the needs of rural and urban areas alike is comical. Let the government provide the vision/leadership, then let communities large and small decide for themselves.

    Thank you for doing the hard work, well maybe not so hard as this is clearly your passion!

    • JEFF

      go to build it solar dot com and read some more, you will find it a game changer. He is a retired Boeing engineer just trying to make things better.

    • Rockne O’Bannon

      Larry, I recommend you just have a look at a talk on YouTube by Amory Lovins. Any talk will probably do. He has one message really. Renewable energy and conservation are all that we really need. Definitely NOT a tree hugger. The guy is more like an accountant. He has done the cost homework. Renewable energy eliminates a lot of problems of war, foreign involvement, nuclear proliferation, etc.

    • laru

      Larry before you make up your mind you might want to see the full impact of solar on the German economy and ask why Germany is now pushing the use of coal. Check out this article in forbes, the writer is pro solar but is honest about the impact to the German people as a result of this policy.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Please, using Forbes as a source of accurate information is an absolute fail.

        That article is one big piece of shit.

        Below is a graph that shows how Germany has been replacing fossil fuels with renewables.

        • Peter Moss

          Then read articles in Der Spiegel. The article which I read recently said that they were burning more coal.

        • TravisJSays

          Please, shooting a messenger of accurate information is an absolute fail.

          “Instead, it stems from structural flaws in the Energiewende.
          Renewable energy and the coal boom are causally linked. The insane system to promote renewable energy sources ensures that, with each new rooftop solar panel and each additional wind turbine, more coal is automatically burned and more CO2 released into the atmosphere.”

          “And let’s not forget the bureaucracy monster: German
          bureaucrats have come up with over 4,000 different subsidy categories for renewable energy, apparently adhering to the principle that what is particularly expensive has to be lavishly subsidized. As a result, a large proportion of the subsidies are used to support highly inefficient technology, such as solar parks in regions of eastern Germany that
          receive relatively little sunlight and wind turbines far off Germany’s North Sea coast.”

    • Peter Moss

      I don’t understand. What does oil have to do with solar PV. At the present time we can’t really replace oil with solar PV and in the US we produce less than 1% of our electric power from oil and that is being converted to natural gas.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Actually we are replacing oil with solar PV. Every EV and PHEV (while driving on batteries) is not using oil. Some of the electricity used is solar.

        Percentages are low, but we’re in the very early years of transitioning off fossil fuels. Transitions generally start slowly and then speed up.

        With rapidly falling solar and EV prices look for adoption rates to zoom….

  • Arguing the talking points of Fox and Friends is similar to taking a matter of world importance to the “View” for mitigation. I’m glad a great post was the offspring. As far as the Thomas Edison quote, relevant but, what a money hungry jerk! I’m a huge Tesla fan. 🙂

  • Rob

    According to calculation of RWI Essen, an economic think-tank, German
    energy users are already locked in to pay 108 billion euros of solar
    subsidies over the next 20 years. Then there are direct investment
    subsidies for the industry. According to the Berlin-based Centre for
    Solar Research, that can go up to 35 percent of the investment costs in
    some German regions. The centre estimates that SolarWorld has received
    137.3 million euros of direct subsidies since 2003.

  • Rob

    The video below might give some clues why solar power is not idea

  • sasboy

    Fox News spewing factually challenged nonsense ?
    So what else is new ?

  • Elon

    As Elon Musk once said – people eventually get tired of being wrong (and going downright to hell)

  • Alex

    In a lot of places, actual costs do not favor solar, even with parity FITs. Hopefully as production volume increases, system investment will be driven down to the $2/watt range (now in the $5 range), providing a cost effective alternative to 12c/kwh power from the grid. We are not there yet. Higher FIT credits than parity simply penalize those not using solar. Israel, Spain, Germany and Italy have figured that out. In fact they have cancelled that provision, with devastating effects on solar system manufacturers, who were enjoying the premium FIT bubble. .

    • Bob_Wallace

      More accurately, countries that have used FiT programs to encourage the installation of solar have found it to be a highly successful way to quickly build an efficient solar industry and bring installation prices down.

      Now they are lowering their FiT rates because the previous higher rates simply aren’t needed with current lower installed solar costs.

      You’re simply making up that “devastating effects on solar system manufacturers” stuff up.

      • TravisJSays

        More accurately, the FiT program has cost Germany a fortune that drove up total energy costs for consumers – 32c US a kilowatt-hour?
        Are they nuts?!?

        “Small- to medium-sized companies such as these are finding themselves in
        surprising solidarity with private energy consumers, who now pay more
        than 25 euro cents ($0.32) per kilowatt hour of electricity, with that
        price steadily on the rise. Industry pays 12.4 cents per kilowatt hour,
        according to Eurostat. Within the 27-member bloc, only Danish households pay more than Germans, with electricity costing an average of 29.8 cents for kilowatt hour compared to the EU-wide average of 18.4 cents. By comparison, the average price per kilowatt hour of electriticity in the United States in 2011 was 11.8 US cents (9.12 euro cents) for residential customers, $0.102 for commercial enterprises and $0.0688 for industry, according to statistics provided by the US Energy Information

        Solar is a fraction of total renewables production but eats the lion’s share of the subsidy cost.

        Simple economics: If you throw billions in subsidies at something, you’ll get it.

        • Bob_Wallace

          No, more accurately, Germans invested money in renewables and that has driven down the cost of electricity in Germany.

          Let me show you what has happened to the wholesale cost of electricity in Germany.

          Germans, and Danes, pay a large amount of taxes along with their residential electricity bills. Some of those taxes go to the renewable investment, the majority goes to the government general fund. Europe has long taxed electricity and vehicle fuel in order to encourage efficiency and conservation.

          In the US we pay no general taxes along with our electricity bill and we’ve paid for fossil fuel, nuclear and renewable subsidies via our general tax funds.

    • I think Germany is down around $2/watt now. Have to wait for the figures… will take some time. But if they’re not there yet, they’re getting there.

  • If I could get cheap panels, I could BEAT the German cost of solar. I live in the country (no permitting fees) and do my own work. Plenty of room so I could use lower efficiency panels, just more of them. I could feed my air conditioner and avoid paying National Grid $0.16/ KWhr. If I charged batteries I could run into the night.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Where do you live James? Here in the US we can buy solar panels for less than $1/watt. Racking is cheap.

      I’ve installed three systems so far, living out past the permits. It’s not a big job.

    • Germany gets the panels for the same price as the US. Bob (below) can tell you where to buy them. If you can do the work yourself and there are no permitting fees, you very well may be better off going solar. (Of course, depending on your location, you may even be better off paying someone to install them than remaining without them — but if you can do the installation yourself, all the better!)

  • Otis11

    Yeah, whether it’s cutting peak power requirements, democratizing power generation or being environmentally responsible Solar is great! It’s really hard to argue against solar unless your facts are outdated or you misunderstand them. That’s actually what I find most – people simply do not know the facts, and the few facts they do know are out dated or are applied in such a way that they don’t accurately depict the bigger picture…

    If we could only get California/New Jersey/New York to start value-pricing solar I really think it would sweep across the nation VERY quickly. The only think that can compete with feed-in tariffs, in my opinion, is value pricing. Same general mechanism, just self regulating!

    “an a day” => “and a day”
    “tex credits” => “tax credits”

    • thanks. 😀

      And yeah, just wrapping up a piece on value of solar pricing. but going to schedule it for another day (tomorrow probably).

      • Otis11

        Yeah, I just keep mentioning it everywhere in the hopes of getting more people to think about it. I mean value-pricing solar is one of those things that is really hard to (reasonably) argue against.

        Looking forward to reading your piece on it!

        • I’m all for it! People need to read it over and over again. We need repetition to learn. And having an active comment section that gives more people an understanding that this is all real is a huge help. 😀

  • boner fido

    Senator Boener? Sorry, you lost me after that.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Do you mean Boehner?

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