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Published on December 20th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


Least Financially Risky Electricity Projects: Solar & Wind

December 20th, 2014 by  

David Roberts of Grist recently dug into a couple of academic papers on the topic of cost overruns in the electricity sector. I had been saving the story for someone from our team to cover… but no one was picking it up, so I decided to do so a bit midnight (here in Europe) on this Saturday before Christmas. (You know, because what else is there to do?…)

The nice thing is that this made me read through David’s full article. It’s a bloody good article, and I don’t see a lot I could add to it, so I’m not going to crib his article. Just go read it!

However, for those who like the quick point and a chart, and for my own easy reference later on, here’s the key of the whole piece: solar and wind power projects are much less financially risky than other power projects, since cost overruns tend to be way lower, especially when compared to nuclear or hydropower plants, which have rather insane cost overruns. Here’s the key chart:

financial risk cost overruns power plants

There’s much less financial risk in solar and wind power projects. Credit: “Risk, innovation, electricity infrastructure and construction cost overruns: Testing six hypotheses,” Sovacool et al.

The paper that chart came from analyzed 401 electricity projects in 57 countries. …But, hey, now I’m getting into the underlying details. Just go check out David’s article, or, if you really want to dig deep, jump into the paper linked above and the second one from Benjamin Sovacool on this topic.

For a little additional context, however, I’m now inclined to list several of the key advantages of solar and wind power. Take a look, and throw more in the comments if I’m missing any big ones.

  1. They don’t destroy our climate (which we sort of need to survive).
  2. They don’t make our air and water deadly.
  3. They use a lot less of our precious water.
  4. They create a lot of domestic and local jobs.
  5. If there’s a massive disaster, some solar panels or wind turbines simply fall down, rather than destroying an ecosystem and killing a lot of people.
  6. They’re often cheaper (wind and solar now).
  7. They make our grid more secure.
  8. They increase energy independence.
  9. They offer essentially limitless supply of “fuel” at no cost.
  10. They bring much less financial risk since they are less prone to cost overruns.

The list just keeps growing…. 


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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species). He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor. He's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, 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.

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