Clean Power average cost of wind energy in US 2013

Published on July 5th, 2016 | by Christopher Arcus


New Wind & Solar Lower Greenhouse Gas Emissions & Cost Less Than Keeping Aging Nuclear Power Plants Running

July 5th, 2016 by  

average cost of wind energy in US 2013

Recently, we have seen a spate of older nuclear reactors shut down by their owners for economic reasons. One of the first bellwethers of this trend was the Kewaunee power plant closure. While the public at large may not be aware, nuclear power plant owners are aware of the increasing costs of aging reactors and have responded accordingly. A recent quote from the head of Dominion following the Kewaunee closing tells the story. Thomas Farrell II, chairman, president, and CEO of Dominion, stated:

“This decision was based purely on economics. Dominion was not able to move forward with our plan to grow our nuclear fleet in the Midwest to take advantage of economies of scale.”

This story has been repeated as a succession of older nuclear power plants have announced closure, among them: Diablo Canyon, Crystal River, San Onofre, Fitzpatrick, Fort Calhoun, Vermont Yankee, Clinton, Quad Cities, and Pilgrim.

Wall Street Wakes Up

The deteriorating profits of aging reactors has also not gone unnoticed among investor and financial groups, such as Moody’s, which commented as such in a report titled Low Gas Prices and Weak Demand are Masking US Nuclear Plant Reliability Issues.

“As the country’s nuclear fleet becomes older and plant lives are extended 20 years beyond their original life-spans, plant reliability issues could become more common and costly,” Moody’s Senior Vice President said.

Details of the economic challenges aging reactors face are outlined in a paper titled, Nuclear Renaissance in Reverse, by Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis at the Institute for Energy and Environment at Vermont Law School. A number of risk factors were extracted from Wall Street analyses, including from Moody’s, UBS, and Credit Suisse.

In the analysis that first sounded the alarm about early retirements of specific reactors, UBS explained the situation as follows:

“Following Dominion’s recent announcement to retire its Kewaunee nuclear plant in Wisconsin in October, we believe the plant may be the figurative canary in the coal mine. Despite substantially lower fuel costs than coal plants, fixed costs are approximately 4–5 times higher than coal plants of comparable size and may be higher for single-unit plants. Additionally, maintenance capex of ~$50/kW-yr, coupled with rising nuclear fuel capex, further impede their economic viability….

“We believe 2013 will be another challenging year for merchant nuclear operators, as NRC requirements for Fukushima-related investments become clearer in the face of substantially reduced gas prices. While the true variable cost of dispatching a nuclear plant remains exceptionally low (and as such will continue to dispatch at most hours of the day no matter what the gas price), the underlying issue is that margins garnered during dispatch are no longer able to sustain the exceptionally high fixed cost structures of operating these units. Nuclear units… have continued to see rising fuel and cost structures of late, with no anticipation for this to abate. Moreover, public policy initiatives, such as Fukushima-related retrofits and mandates to reduce once-through cooling (potentially requiring cooling towers/screens for some units) and new taxes on others (Vermont Yankee, Dominion’s Millstone) have further impeded the economics of nuclear.”

Nuclear Fixed Costs Rise

Aging nuclear power plants must pay for fixed costs and fuel costs. While fuel costs are low, fixed costs rise as nuclear power plants age. A number of sources have pegged these costs at over $50/MWh (5¢/kWh) and some as high as $70/MWh (7¢/kWh), depending on age and the specific reactor. Fixed costs include retrofits for newer safety and health standards. New wind has come in as low as $25/MWh (2.5¢/kWh) and at unsubsidized costs in the $35/MWh (3.5¢/kWh) range.

wind power prices

At those costs, new wind can produce more GHG-free electricity cheaper than keeping aging nuclear power plants running.

Some of the risk factors include smaller reactors, older units, standalone operation, merchant market, failures, reliability, long-term outages, safety issues, and Fukushima retrofits. The Diablo Canyon reactor had a once-through cooling design that needed to be replaced.

Post-Fukushima retrofits call for new vents on some reactors.

Facing the Music

Mark Cooper sums up the prospects for nuclear this way:

“The lesson for policy makers in the economics of old reactors is clear and it reinforces the lesson of the past decade in the economics of building new reactors. Nuclear reactors are simply not competitive. They are not competitive at the beginning of their life cycle, when the build/cancel decision is made, and they are not competitive at the end of their life cycles, when the repair/retire decision is made. They are not competitive because the U.S. has the technical ability and a rich, diverse resource base to meet the need for electricity with lower cost, less risky alternatives. Policy efforts to resist fundamental economics of nuclear reactors will be costly, ineffective and counterproductive.”

Decommissioning fund shortfalls have added another unwelcome surprise.

While this analysis appears bleak, all is not lost. The cost of new renewables has been falling to new lows. Wind has been noted for its lower costs, but the big surprise recently has been the falling costs of solar. Throughout the world, unsubsidized solar costs have plummeted.


But what about the silver lining?

We can build and operate new renewables at lower cost than we can pay for aging reactors, and we can lower greenhouse gases even faster than if we continue operating older reactors. With the money we save on reactor operating costs, we can reduce carbon faster and cheaper. It is better to recognize the high operating costs of aging reactors and plan closures in a smooth way than wait for costly unplanned failures like San Onofre and the attendant sudden emergency increases in greenhouse gases.

The Diablo Canyon closure is a better way, with a commitment to add new renewables over the 9-year closure time. An estimate of the amount of solar capacity required yields about 8 GW. Given that California added most of its current total of 10 GW utility-scale solar and 4 GW rooftop solar in a little more than 3 years, the challenge of replacing Diablo Canyon’s output is achievable and will result in both cost savings and lowered greenhouse gas emissions.

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About the Author

has studied wind, electric vehicles, and environmental issues. An electrical engineer familiar with power and electronics, he has participated in the Automotive X Prize contest. He is an avid writer, specializing in electric vehicles, batteries, and wind energy.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    That is one impressive picture of a guy working on the turbine blades.

  • Bob Fearn

    In all these conversations about wind, nukes, solar etc. we greedy North Americans always forget that we can use much less energy.
    Garbage is a good example. In Idaho each person creates 4 tons of garbage per year, in California it is 55 tons.
    We need to acknowledge that we are too wasteful and not any happier for it.

    • just_jim

      That set off my bullshit meter, so I looked it up.

      “In 2015, California’s statewide disposal was 33.2 million tons and population
      was 38.9 million residents.”

      That calculates to less than a ton pp/yr. You are off by a factor of not quite 100.

      • Bob Fearn

        Hey Jim your bullshit meter is broken. If you want to find out how much “garbage” is produced in CA don’t go to the CA recycling site. Unless CA recycles 100% of its garbage your results are going to be off by a factor of almost 100.

        • just_jim

          Why? CalRecycle is the State (sub) Agency with oversight of “waste handling and recycling programs”. To monitor progress toward legislatively enacted goals of 75% recycling, It would need to collect information about the amount of material recycled, and the amount not recycled.

          When it says:
          “In 2013, Californians sent about 30 million tons of solid waste to landfills,” That is probably a very good estimate of the amount sent to landfills.

          Please note, I provided a source for my numbers. As far as anyone knows, yours was pulled from thin air.

  • jimhopf

    As for title of the article, building and operating new renewable generation is less expensive than continuing to operate existing nukes in few, if any, places. They’re comparing the very cheapest renewable generation (in the very best sites, etc.) to the very most expensive reactors. It’s not clear that there is a single case of a nuclear plant closing due to *unsubsidized* (or non-mandated) renewables being cheaper.

    Gas, not renewables, is responsible for Kewanee and Vt. Yankee. Diablo Canyon may close due to an extreme 50% renewables mandate in the state, as well as the threat of requiring cooling towers (which was nothing more than a political attack intended to close the plant, by an anti-nuclear state govt.). In the case of Diablo, the renewables that would replace it are far more expensive than continuing to run the plant.

    I keep saying this over and over, but… If renewables are so economic, then SURELY their advocates would agree to having them compete with other non-emitting sources on a fair, level playing field, right? That is, get rid of heavy renewables subsidies and mandates, or include nuclear (new and existing) in those policies. Sound of crickets chirping….. It’s all very telling. The interventions in the market on renewables behalf are staggering.

    And also, concerning the title, renewables do NOT reduce emissions if they are used to replace nuclear plants (instead of fossil fuels). And if renewables which generate power some of the time cause the closure of a nuke that generates non-emitting power all of the time, then they will actually cause emissions to increase (i.e., if nuclear is replaced by some combination of renewables and gas, emissions increase).

    It’s simple. All new renewable generation should be used to replace fossil fuels, not nuclear. Why is this so hard to understand?

    Can you replace a nuke entirely with renewables? Perhaps, but that misses the point. Even if you could, you will have went to all that trouble and expense just to leave emissions the same (as you’re replacing another non-emitting source while leaving fossil fuels intact).

    Anyone who really cares about global warming would not be doing what they’re doing in California. They would not be cheering when nuclear plants close. It’s clear that global warming is at best a secondary concern for these organizations (“environmental” groups and the CA state govt.). Their real motivations appear to be a desire to maximize renewable energy period (as a goal unto itself, never mind air pollution or global warming) or a hatred of nuclear above all else, even fossil fuels.

    • Modok EvilMastermind

      I guess I call bullshit on the idea that renewables need to eliminate subsidies right now. Not because it is not a fair comparison to compare prices without subsidies (we can probably debate that in and of itself) but because we have seen some serious RE innovation. Things are changing quite fast. Tracking actual costs of RE is pretty delightful. Subsidies should stop at some point but it is not now.

      RE is not the only energy source getting subsidies either. They are all getting them to various degrees. Even nuclear. Although the dirty secret of nuclear is many cannot afford their decommissioning fees; and have to get extensions and hope they can play the stock market well enough to afford it. My prediction is massive debt relief on the tax payer dime. Time will tell.

      Perhaps RE is getting more subsidies as a segment right now but I think solar and wind are paying dividends. I like to have public policy spending on things which improve the state of things.

      • eveee

        Diablo Canyon is 1.2b short on decommissioning funds right now. How much wind and solar could be built for 1.2 billion. Nuclear is a tragic waste of money that diverts funds from better approaches that give more GHG reduction for the same investment.

      • OneHundredbyFifty

        I am in agreement but subsidies should go to transmission build out, off shore wind and the accelerated development of floating wind turbines. If the transmission lines are built the cost of southwest solar and intracontinental wind power will break the back of coal and put gas into its death spiral. If you can get it to market nothing beats Great Plains wind in price. And if the transmission infrastructure is put in place private capital will pay for the cranes and build out of production to put 140m tower turbines with 60+ % capacity factor into the great plains.

      • Guest

        And the Price–Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act is the ultimate lithmus test about the feasibility of the nuclear industry to exist in the ‘free market’. Free for whom? One might ask…

    • Ivor O’Connor

      It’s all about economics. Nuclear is the least economic. So it goes first. Then coal. Then NG. That 2.5 cent number is not the lowest. That is the average.

      You can’t beat economics with emotions.

      • Bob Fearn

        It is about economics and the future cost of climate change is still not part of the econmic picture.

        • Ivor O’Connor

          I’d love to see nuclear and fossil fuels immediately forced into putting aside money to clean up the CO2 they are currently dumping. They would go out of business immediately.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Jim, the wind and solar industries would love to go head to head with other technologies on a level playing field.

      No subsidies for anyone. Everyone pays all their external costs. All of them.

      In that contest a bit over half our existing – paid off – nuclear reactors would do OK. They’d have to buy liability insurance to cover what taxpayers now cover but they could probably compete with unsubsidized PV solar (now about 6c/kWh). They’d probably lose out against unsubsidized onshore wind (now under 4c/kWh).

      New nuclear would be a goner. 100% gone. Vogtle is now running about 13c/kWh. Add in the value of taxpayer guaranteed loans that allowed Southern Company to borrow money super cheap. Add in liability insurance. Goner.

      The low bid for two new reactors at North Anna Virginia would have meant 19c/kWh electricity. Add in the value of loan guarantees and the cost of full liability insurance.

      Now. Would we be ahead in our fight against fossil fuels if we left existing nuclear online? Sure. That math is easy. But some reactors are being closed for reasons that have to do with perceived danger.

      You can argue that reactors are safe. A lot of people living close to them do not agree with you. Personally I don’t want to live around one. I lived downwind from that POS Rancho Seco during its last years. I now live downwind from the late Humboldt Bay reactor that was built on an active earthquake fault and in a tsunami zone. I sat a few hundred miles from Fukushima and watched in real time as that puppy blew its buildings apart and melted.

      • neroden

        Nuclear liability insurance would have to cover a Fukushima-scale disaster, which is $250 billion at least. Hurricane Katrina was only a $41 billion loss.

        There is literally no insurance compnay in the world which will take on the $250 billion risk. None of them are big enough. Even put together as a consortium they wouldn’t take it on. Berkshire Hathaway’s market cap is only $350 billion.

        The result would be immediate closure of nearly all the nuclear plants for failure to get insurance. (And yes, they deserve it.)

      • juxx0r

        Bob, given the large number of people who think nuclear is awesome, why dont you put together a kickstarter project for a new Nuclear reactor in the USA, set the target at a nice $10-12B, be very clear about it taking 10 years to build and i bet they’d come out of the woodwork to make it happen. Hell I’m not even a supporter of nuclear, but I’ll chip in a fully refundable $1000 to get you started.

      • eveee

        About that level playing field…

        “From 2011 through 2013, as the overwhelming majority of the new reactors that had been proposed as part of the “Nuclear Renaissance” were abandoned or delayed, the industry blamed low natural gas prices. In 2013, when five old reactors were retired early, and today with many old reactors being considered for early retirement, the industry blames low wholesale prices that result from a market that is distorted by the entry of subsidized wind power.

        The irony in these complaints is that for fifty years the selection of generating capacity has been rigged in favor of nuclear power with socialized accident insurance and waste management costs, forced purchase of overpriced power, and advanced recovery of construction costs. Nuclear advocates complaining about policies that balance things out a bit to give other generation resources a decent chance of delivering electricity would be laughably hypocritical, if it weren’t so important. In fact, if the playing field were actually level, nuclear would be in even more trouble than it is.

      • eveee

        We are losing reactors faster than they are built. Over a dozen since 2010 and only one new one that took 42 years to build while Summer and Vogtle construction delays mount and costs soar.

    • JamesWimberley

      The death of nuclear is not good news for the climate. But it is a fact. The big objection to nuclear is to white elephant new projects like Hinkley C, and to wasting money on research on new designs. The legacy fleet should be kept going as long as this is safely possible.

      At any rate, that would be a widely held position in most countries. But in Germany, the Green movement drew much of its support after Chernobyl from visceral anti-nuclear sentiment. Like it or not, the Energiewende depended politically on the early nuclear phaseout.

      • Brunel

        Deforestation is probably a bigger issue than a few LNG power stations that we need to keep running for now.

        After all, we do not have electric aircraft.

        But we can stop urban sprawl by building tall buildings.

        • Bob Fearn

          LNG is worse than coal.

          • neroden

            Fracked LNG is worse than coal.
            Biogas is much better than coal, obviously.

            It’s OK to keep using a small amount of methane, the amount we can generate with biogas.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Fracked LNG is worse than coal. ”

            Is it? That’s a serious question and I have yet to see it seriously addressed in full.

            Coal causes air pollution, water pollution, massive land damage, serious and costly health problems and global warming.

            NG causes some water pollution (via fracking), minor land damage, and CO2 leading to global warming.

            Did I get it all?

            CO2 per GWh of electricity is significantly lower for NG compared to coal.
            Both NG and coal production release methane into the atmosphere. NG drilling and distribution leaks appear to be more controllable than methane leaks from coal.

            There are a few (?) incidences of fracking chemicals leaking into water systems. Some or a large part are due to inappropriate disposal of fracking wastewater.

            ​NG plants are highly dispatchable which means they can serve as fill-in for wind and solar. Coal plants cannot be cycled off/on quickly.

            A mix of ~40% wind, 30% solar and 30% NG would result in far less CO2 production than a similar amount of generation using 100% coal. About 15% as much.

            Did I miss something?

            Which is worse? Got science?​

          • Wayne Williamson

            Agree, but you missed two of fracking down sides, small seismic quakes and gas escaping into the atmosphere. Even with these, coal is still much worse. Note, both of gas issues I mention could be greatly reduced with some regulation…

          • Bob_Wallace

            I got the escaping gas problem – “Both NG and coal production release methane into the atmosphere.”

            Coal mining also causes earthquakes. Need to add to the list.

            Coal mine caused earthquakes have actually killed people, which NG fracking has not (to date).

            “The most damaging earthquake in Australia’s history was caused by humans, new research says. The magnitude-5.6 quake that struck Newcastle in New South Wales on December 28, 1989, killed 13 people, injured 160, and caused 3.5 billion U.S. dollars worth of damage….”

            “The seismicity triggered by the collapse of the Crandall Canyon Mine was hardly an unusual event. Mining-induced seismicity (MIS) occurs frequently in the state’s central-eastern coalfields, where University of Utah seismograph stations detected more than 17,000 events between 1978 and August 2007.

            The vast majority of these earthquakes, which did not result in fatalities, were caused by various forms of collapse associated with the redistribution of subsurface stress related to mining activities….”

            I suspect the higher outrage over NG is because we’ve gotten use to the problems of coal mining. That happens “over there, in the mountains”. The problems caused by gas fracking are in a new set of ‘back yards’.

      • eveee

        Replacing a costly operation and maintenance and retrofits reactor with more GHG free generation for the same money is good news for the climate. The more money wasted on expensive reactors, the less is spent on solutions that lower GHG more.

    • eveee

      Be specific. Diablo Canyon required expensive updates. It needed vents and a complete change to the cooling system away from the once through cooling. Even PG and E could figure out that it didn’t make any sense economically. This time, the reactor will be shut down slowly enough to install more GHG free electricity from renewable sources than shutting down Diablo Canyon and for less money. More GHG free electricity can be generated with the saved operating cost of Diablo Canyon than by keeping it open. That’s less GHG by shutting it down. Keeping it open means money will not be spent on cheaper alternative that displace more GHG.
      Anyone who really cares about global warming would get that nuclear is a dead technology that sponges valuable investments in better technology to reduce GHG. IT just makes sense to make the most GHG reduction for the money.
      There is nothing wrong with shutting it down and replacing it with more GHG free generation.

    • Matt

      I keep saying this over and over if
      – Nukes were so cheap then they would no need government to pay above market power rates to get them built, or provide insurance since no corp will insure them or pay for long term waste storage ….
      – Fossil fuel was so cheap it would not need government support. And in fact could pay they related heath care cost they inflect on the world.
      And let us not get started on special corp structures to hide fossil fuel profits, or who royalty payments have been cheated on.

    • eveee

      Sorry, that’s wrong. If gas, not renewables were the sole cause of nuclears demise, why would Exelon, a major nuclear operator, lobby so heavily against wind. No, wind is a major competitor and its costs are probably lower than aging reactor fixed costs. Wind is now regularly beating gas in the Midwest and new wind and solar installation are now outpacing gas. Those are facts.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Kewaunee closed due to gas prices. There wasn’t enough wind on the grid at the time to make a difference.

        Here’s my take. The utilities (most of them) have been paying attention to what is happening. They could see that wind and solar prices were going to make them competitive and that environmental/climatic concerns were going to cut fossil fuel use.

        They knew that storage was too expensive to allow coal plants to be closed with RE + storage, especially periods when wind/solar input is low for a few days in a row. Gas plants are relatively cheap to install, about $1.09/watt (DOE database). Installing gas plants meant that they had a method of keeping the lights on 24/365. As wind and solar dropped in price they could cut back on gas use but still have the ability to fill in around wind and solar.

        Nuclear owners also looked into the future and saw the risk that wind and solar could bring them. Gas wasn’t as big a threat since the price of gas is likely to rise over time. But a combo of wind, solar and gas could drive their reactors into bankruptcy, so they fought against wind and solar.

        The decision to close Diablo seems to be based on the expectations that it will be cheaper to install wind and solar than to do the necessary work on the reactors to further extend their lives.

        We seem to have gone from gas being the reason to wind and solar being the reason for reactors being closed.

  • ecoh

    Diablo Canyon will be replaced likely by natural gas, as it was for Vermont Yankee, Kewaunee and other prematurely closed reactors. Because the energy provided by wind and solar to the grid is intermittent. Moreover, wind and solar arrays cover vast amounts of territory, often destroying pristine wilderness areas that were home to many animal and plant species.

    • Peter Duncan


    • Bob_Wallace

      Trap door opens.

      FUD falls through.

      Ooops, FUDer goes too….

    • eveee

      Not the plan or agreement. PG and E feels confident it can add renewables. California already plans to add much more solar and wind than it has today and it has installed nearly 10GW in the last three years. Even more will be installed.
      Wind and solar do not destroy pristine wilderness at anywhere near the rate of uranium mining, mill tailings, and other activities. Nor does wind kill more birds than nuclear.

      Those are myths. But.. .”intermittent ” is poor substitute for an analysis like that from NREL that analyzed real world load and wind and solar generation data based on meteorology to predict 80% renewables by 2050 using 2010 tech.

      • ecoh

        “mining, mill tailings, and other activities”
        solar and wind need a lot of steel, copper, silica, and other mining activities made by fossil-fueled machines.

        • neroden

          Pffft. Nothing like the mess caused by uranium mining. Do your research on this. Iron mines are pretty clean, as are silica mines. Copper can cause some nasty messes.

          But uranium makes a *huge* mess. (Partly because it’s full of lead, partly because it generates radon, and so on…)

          • egriff5514

            There’s a solar farm on an ex Uranium mine in Germany!

        • eveee

          LCAs have been done. There is plenty of carbon just from mining, milling, and other processing. Nuclear isn’t even GHG free in that phase of operation. Add to that the extra carbon caused by nuclear failures like Chernobyl and Fukushima and things go from bad to worse. How much GHG to keep the ground frozen around Fukushima? To clean it up. To assemble a huge mausoleum to cover it. How much concrete and steel in that. How much concrete and steel for Chernobyls new mausoleum?
          Wind and solar LCAs are better. And as uranium ore concentrations increase, GHG to dig it out increases. That doesn’t count the GHG to clean up the thousands of abandoned uranium mines.

          • ecoh

            As far as it’s known, a megawatt windmill contains around 150 tonnes of steel that require almost 100 tonnes of coking coal.

            “200,000 MW of wind and solar .. 400,000,000 tons of steel and concrete, and a whole lot of copper, silver, indium, tellurium and high-purity silica.”

          • eveee

            Meaningless statistics taken out of context. How much compared to alternative generation forms and weighted for how much it matters. For example, nuclear also uses rare earths, yet it is seldom mentioned. LCAs don’t count disasters and uranium mine remediation in GHG totals.
            Silicon is abundant. The amounts of silver indium, and tellurium are not high. The amounts are minuscule. Most of the materials in a solar panel are abundant like silicon and aluminum. The other ones are in very low concentrations. Same for wind turbines. Mostly steel and cement. Hardly an issue. But uranium mining is not so easy.

            Nuclear consumes much more water. That is becoming a bigger problem.

          • neroden

            Nuclear power uses insane quantities of steel, zirconium, cobalt, boron, and on and on and on….

            And it *uses them up*, because after they’ve been used in the nuke, they’re contaminated by radioactive elements, and you can’t use them for anything else.

            Wind turbine steel can be recycled. Nuclear vessel steel has to be buried forever.

        • eveee

          Here Lazards shows the economics of why nuclear is worse for carbon abatement.

          • ecoh

            Except it does not take into account that for each gigawatt of wind/solar it is needed around a gigawatt from fossil fuels to compensate intermittency that could be circumvented by batteries, but lead or lithium battery both produce mining impacts and also need fossil-fueled machines to extract ores, to manufacture and transport.

          • Ulenspiegel

            “Except it does not take into account that for each gigawatt of
            wind/solar it is needed around a gigawatt from fossil fuels to
            compensate intermittency..”

            You are bullshitting: If the goal is 1GW “baseload-like” windpower, one overbuilds by factor two or three, i.e. 2-3 GW windturbines are installed in a larger area which provideds non-correlated generation. Then ones adds only 1 GW of open NG turbines. This is the intelligent solution – therefore you are excused for not proposing it. 🙂

          • ecoh

            “If the goal is 1GW “baseload-like” windpower, one overbuilds by factor two or three, i.e. 2-3 GW windturbines are installed in a larger area … Then ones adds only 1 GW of open NG turbines..”
            It sounds neither economical(“overbuilds by factor two or three”) nor eco-friendly (“installed in a larger area”)

          • Ulenspiegel

            Sorry, get the basics right:

            If you understood power-duration curves (e.g. windmonitor for Germany) then you would kow that overbuilding is indeed very economic, you have onyl a few percent energy that has to be curtailed or stored.

            Not correlated production is realtively cheaply obtained with more transmission capacity.

            Even with these addtinal costs onshore wind is much cheaper than NPPS. Sorry to state the obvious.

            BTW: How does France with only 58 GW NPPs cover her peak demand of 103 GW in winter? 🙂

          • eveee

            How does France cover peak demand? I will state the obvious. They do it with Swiss hydro and German wind, coal, biomass, and gas, and even perhaps some solar. Even in France, where reactors are designed to be flexible and adjust output to match load, the best they can do is about half of peak demand. Nuclears high capital cost is too much to allow flexible operation. Nuclear’s high capacity factor is a byproduct of its inflexibility and it’s need to not follow load

          • Ulenspiegel

            Too many facts for ecoh. 🙂

          • Guest

            No way. What about this:
            ‘ERCOT has more than 10,000 MW of capacity in the system, but only needs about 50 MW of fast-acting reserves on hand to compensate for wind variations, the AWEA report says. Midwestern grid operator MISO considers it needs “little to none” in the way of fast-acting reserves to protect against the variability of wind, the report says. PJM, the grid operator covering parts of Illinois and stretching east, has 3,350 MW of fast-acting reserves to guard against outages in baseload power plants. If PJM added a full 28,000 MW of new wind power, it would need only an additional 360 MW of fast-acting reserves.’

          • Ivor O’Connor

            And where do these strange and backward views come from. We should probably go to the source and correct them.

          • eveee

            False. Your perspectives on how the power system works are all wrong. Reserves are not assigned to one generation type, they are spread among many. All generation requires reserves. In fact, nuclear requires more reserves than wind, for one, and the reserves required are more expensive, because while wind varies slowly and predictably, nuclear has sudden unplanned outages of large blocks of power which require GWs of fast reserves.

            “Studies show nuclear and large fossil plants actually have “far higher integration costs than renewables,” Goggin said. “Contingency reserves, the super-fast acting energy reserve supply required of grid operators in case a large power plant shuts down unexpectedly, are a major cost. Comparing the incremental cost of wind to those costs that ratepayers have always paid, the wind cost looks even more trivial.”


            I can’t say it better than this:

            “true that cost-effective power storage is going to be a big boon when it does come to market, we simply do not need such innovations to achieve much more renewables penetration than we currently have in the U.S.

            The facts are 1) the problem of intermittent renewables is overstated, at least at current generation-mix levels; and 2) there are a wide range of already-available solutions that greatly alleviate this problem anyway, without requiring additional storage innovations.

            There are people out there with a motivation to paint renewables as being some kind of wildly variable power generation source that the grid cannot handle. These people would gladly have you believe that storage is a “holy grail,” thus implying that we need to wait for it to be widely and cheaply available. And it’s true, the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow when you need it. But let’s remember that wind and solar (the dreaded “intermittents”) together made up less than 5 percent of U.S. power generation as recently as 2013. Outside of a few specific geographies with high solar and/or wind penetration, this simply is not a big problem today. And there’s plenty of headroom. An NREL study (note: link opens a big PDF file) calculated that, with better use of existing dispatchable power and storage technologies, the U.S. could go up to 50 percent penetration of wind and solar and keep the grid balanced.”

            Actually, solar follows load, and reduces the need for gas peakers. Even wind follows some annual demand variations.

            But nuclear does not follow load. It requires gas peakers to operate. The most nuclear can ever do is one third to one fourth of demand without curtailing.


            And NREL has done the scientific studies that show we don’t need that much storage to integrate 80% renewables by 2050.


            Not all renewables are variables,
            They posit 50% variable renewables, 30% flexible renewables, 20% conventional, and 10% storage.

    • egriff5514

      Plenty of parking lots and mall roofs for solar in US, I’d have thought…

      • ecoh

        solar farms better “economy of scale” than rooftop PV

        • neroden

          Parking lot canopies have the same economies of scale as solar farms.

    • Bob Fearn

      Yeah, like your average roof. Home to the endangered racoon.

    • Harry Johnson

      What about the hundreds of miles of destroyed pristine forest for filthy tar sand extraction? Solar and wind are the least damaging options.

      • djr417

        Looks like a grade school finger painting project, where the only colours left were black and brown. ugh.

    • harisA

      Do not worry, the way things are going in CA, we will replace it with rooftop solar and batteries.

  • onesecond

    But nuclear reactors could just save heavy on the maintenance capex, what could possibly go wrong?

    • eveee

      The scary thing is that the deal allows Diablo Canyon to operate for nine more years without the required post Fukushima vents or improved cooling system. Cross your fingers.

      • neroden

        Yeah. They still haven’t installed the post-Fukushima improvements on most of the other reactors in the US, either, and I’m actually much less worried about Diablo Canyon than I am about Indian Point, Nine Mile Point, Davis-Besse, etc.

        I suspect Diablo Canyon will in fact be shut down in fewer than 9 years. They have a shutdown decision time every time they get to a “refuelling” date.

        • eveee

          Yes. There is concern about the thin skinned reactors like Fukushima in the US. The failure of venting in Japan promoted the vent update. It lead to the hydrogen explosion. Three mile islands heavy containment withstood it’s hydrogen explosion, which was euphemistically described.

  • Mike

    If only the political voices in Ontario keeping our expensive and ageing nuclear fleet running could be “shouted down”…….

  • Mike Dill

    Wind beats gas, and based on that last graph, solar takes out gas by 2020.
    We do live in interesting times.

    • neroden

      Those solar numbers are conservative, as you can tell. The difference between the 2014 PPAs and the 2015 PPAs is massive.

      I suspect solar beats gas in 2018.

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