The solar + battery price is also going down, though not as fast as the solar only piece. But that's the metric we should be following. When that hits $30 per MWh, it'll be game over.
We need to get out of the mindset that all power generators need to produce a steady amount of power 24/7. A flexible grid made of many power sources that can be ramped up and down can just as easily meet demand and may even be best since it is resilient when any one power source goes down for an extended period of time.
You can't just say that solar should be more expensive because it only works half the day. You could just as easily turn that argument around and say that nuclear and coal plants should be more expensive since they are only economical if run at a constant load and require long shutdowns every year for maintenance. There needs to be extra capacity on the grid to meet demand during nuclear/coal shutdowns, but no one states that nuclear and coal should be more expensive as a result.
The point is not that the "true" price in the sense of what it ought to be. It is the "true" price in the sense of what the market is actually paying for the service.
When people put out the number $23, they compare it with the cost of power and wonder why, if it is so much lower, it doesn't already swamp the current solution.
So the purpose of the comment is to explain that it is not a complete solution, and not reflective of the total ("true") bill.
Why should I worry about a complete solution?
We have a moderate sized portable generator, but running off that for weeks becomes a very unpleasant experience. Certainly far better than not having power, but unpleasant.
Driving 2 hours away to the nearest place we knew had unlimited fuel, turning my car into a rolling bomb on the trip back with dozens of gallons of fuel in gas cans, etc. And the endless droning of the thing running.
If those sorts of disasters are not a major concern for you, I don't think a battery makes much sense.
You can also store quite a lot of propane in a small footprint without some of the issues that come with gas or diesel.
That's a crass state, what causes these outages? Is it a investment backlog of the power grid?
You can also size your panels such that you never produce excess energy but you will be leaving a lot of roof space that could be making energy to waste. A sunny winter day still makes a ton of energy.
The grid will switch to solar + battery if it becomes cheaper than alternatives (gas, coal, nuclear, etc.)
It's such a damned shame that so many decades of potential progress in nuclear power were stymied by misguided FUD.
If I move to a house with solar panels, I budget on power costs = cost of grid connection + X * grid power price + (1-X) * solar price (which is the capital cost of the panels smoothed out over their useful life).
The issue here is that I can't maneuver into a situation where my power price = solar price without sacrificing my ability to do anything after sundown without candles. Clearly, the true cost of power in a solar-enabled house is going to be higher than the cost of the solar panels.
Which was the point you misunderstood: dedicated storage installation are not needed at current production levels, and can be avoided even when solar's share of the energy mix grows.
Among the possibilities are "smart" appliances scheduling their demand to production peaks (dishwashers can often wait a few hours, cars might not need to charge right away). The same is true for industrial usage, where smelters, for example, have the natural capacity to store energy as heat.
A growing fleet of electric cars could also serve as distributed storage: if your car is parked for the night, it could feed energy back into the grid (partially, if you are paranoid).
More than batteries they utilize gas peaker plants, inefficient, dirty and expensive plants that can ramp up and down quickly to match demand.
You seem to be referring exclusively to solar photovoltaic.
Solar thermal generation has quite a different, evening-friendly, distribution curve.
I haven't followed closely recently but my impression was solar thermal has not delivered as promised. Things like Ivanpah was relying on natural gas more than expected. Is this an accurate impression?
Yet confusingly the article chose images of solar thermal. It's a bit of a worry when the journalists aren't conscious of the most basic aspects of the industry they are covering.
Perhaps, but we're better than conflating solar pvc with solar thermal - especially when we talk about large scale deployments, and even more especially when we talk about systems that incorporate Big Storage (batteries or otherwise).
Parent (to your comment) wasn't specifically PVC, parent (to them) wasn't either (more about true cost), and parent to them was bemoaning the common misunderstanding around how pricing works, rather than ethics / feasibility / ambiguity around underlying technology.
> I haven't followed closely recently but my impression was solar thermal has not delivered as promised. Things like Ivanpah was relying on natural gas more than expected. Is this an accurate impression?
My impression is that solar thermal is going to provide a much more scalable solution, especially in terms of avoiding the duck curve (or at least mitigating the impact of same). I see PVC + batteries being one of those tech combinations that works reasonably well in front of, as well as behind, the meter ... but solar thermal's definitely grid-level.
By coal standards?
It is swamping the current solution - it just takes a while for new plants to be built and old plants to go offline.
Which is to say, for example, that a grid supplied by solar and wind will need proportionally less storage per megawatt as the geographical size of the grid increases. A larger grid "averages out" the intermittent sources better as it gets bigger.
A state sized utility solar installation is non-trivial and that's why you don't yet see utilities providing solar themselves to the grid, and even if they did the price would be different.
So you don't see everyone using it because it's expensive to get started and because utility providers have yet to build solar plants capable of supplying a state. I don't think anyone has.
In time though, a combination of rooftop solar and utility scale battery/renewable systems to cover baseline load will probably be how we power the nation. Perhaps some gas or other generators will stick around to provide the baseline.
Solar is great for businesses and schools, well basically anything that operates mainly or totally during the day.
This chart is a few years old, but it shows that the peak demand was in the early evening:
The peak demand will also vary at different locations and times of year. As the wikipedia article states:
>...It depends on the demography, the economy, the weather, the climate, the season, the day of the week and other factors. For example, in industrialised regions of China or Germany, the peak demands mostly occur in day time, while solar photovoltaic system can help reduce it. However, in more service based economy such as Australia, the daily peak demands often occur in the late afternoon to early evening time (e.g. 4pm to 8pm).
My chart, if you look closely, has a granularity of one half hour. If you want something even more granular, ISO New England data more clearly shows the peak to be between 2pm-3pm for a typical summer month: https://i.imgur.com/rX1JqoJ.png
I think you might have posted the wrong image to imgur. You linked to: https://imgur.com/wTIt5tg
I am not sure how you are getting half hour indications on that weekly chart.
>...ISO New England data more clearly shows the peak to be between 2pm-3pm for a typical summer month:
Yes, that was why wikipedia says:
>...It depends on the demography, the economy, the weather, the climate, the season, the day of the week and other factors. For example, in industrialised regions of China or Germany, the peak demands mostly occur in day time, while solar photovoltaic system can help reduce it. However, in more service based economy such as Australia, the daily peak demands often occur in the late afternoon to early evening time (e.g. 4pm to 8pm).
The EIA web site was talking about October, not the summer months when air conditioning would be used.
As another data point, With PG&E pricing, the most expensive hours are noon to six:
I think my point is that statements like "hat matters is peak grid usage (ie. residential+industrial) and it is actually mid-day—perfect for solar." can over simplify the problem. The amount of demand will vary in different areas at different times of the year and even when it is raining, there will still be demand.
«The EIA web site was talking about October»
This is why I also showed an October chart, with a peak at 3-4pm.
But, yes, peak can vary with weather, time of year, etc. All I'm saying is that in general—not always—peak PV generation coincide reasonably with peak electricity demand.
OK, for many reasons we are just going to have to agree to disagree on that chart. (I just measured https://imgur.com/wTIt5tg and on my machine it definitely is more than 41 pixels between each day but that doesn't mean each pixel is representing exactly x minutes of time, there is no indication on the chart each pixel actually represents 35 minutes or if it is interpolated data, etc. To me it gives a rough showing of energy demand over a week.)
>...This is why I also showed an October chart, with a peak at 3-4pm.
It isn't clear to me why there would be peak demand at 3-4 in the afternoon in an October day. As the EIA site says:
>...During this period, usually in the early evening, operators need more generating capacity–including more costly "peaking" units. Both day-ahead and long-term forecasts account for these peaks to ensure the assignment of adequate capacity.
>...But, yes, peak can vary with weather, time of year, etc. All I'm saying is that in general—not always—peak PV generation coincide reasonably with peak electricity demand.
I think we basically agree on that. Peak PV generation is probably closer to noon, but in general more energy is needed during daylight hours than at night. (And obviously a hot sunny day will spike energy usage for cooling and solar PV is a perfect fit at that time.) The problem to me is when people over simplify this issue. The amount of demand will vary in different areas at different times of the year and even when it is raining, there will still be demand. I've always been a supporter of solar power but there is a lot of handwaving going on when people say we can get 100% of our power from solar and wind without there being some huge advances in energy storage.
If you think of it as two power grids, then "the big power grid"—the industrial grid—can be fully powered by solar, and the residential grid, i.e. "the small power grid", is kind of trivial to solve in comparison.
Even for domestic users, electric storage heaters, water heaters and electric car charging are all amenable to demand shifting. Over time, those will probably become the largest users of electricity if prices keep plunging.
I think there's a lot of money to be made out demand shifting tech, especially if people keep erroneously believing that variability is a problem best solved with expensive lithium ion batteries.
Oh, and my stomach says dinner is most definitely not irrelevant.
This completely ignores the fact that the people buying solar get subsidies and they aren't the ones paying for the burdened grid.
In some states, distribution companies are paying retail prices back to solar producers. That means these people get to freeride on the grid and force the power company to deal with their unstable power supply for free.
The point of the article is that in this case, even without subsidies solar would beat anything else. This is despite heavy import duties that were recently imposed.
Unless they are taxing solar, that's not a subsidy when comparing the two.
Where fossil fuels are subsidized is in the externalities they don't pay for (i.e. environmental impact).
A coal power plant does not get paid retail rates for the power it generates. The utility company charges more precisely to pay for transmission and the people to maintain it.
Let's punish the free riders and reward the people who are reducing the total societial cost of energy.
The fact that solar owners get access to the energy grid for free seems like a clever way to punish the free riders by increasing their costs in a roundabout way.
Don't want to pay the higher costs for your power grid? Then upgrade to cleaner energy! Sounds great.
The companies that operate grids are not the free riders. By having idiotic legislation that allows solar owners to free ride the grid, you only punished the utility company. Sometimes they own power plants, sometimes they don't.
In CA, though solar continues to be installed, we've reached a point--due to a lack of good/cheap storage ability--that at the end of the day (where Solar has been working fine all day), in order to meat evening demand, the only way to address steep demand is to fire up coal-fired plants. They work, but they're not only expensive, they're dirty.
Yes, yes we are.
The correct calculation uses the capacity factor, not the name-plate capacity.
Unless you're trying to power the grid with a single power plant (like on a small island), argument made above doesn't hold. The grid is a network of generators (and loads) with different operating characteristics.
I'm not even remotely an expert in this field, but the towers at the solar furnaces I've seen continue to glow well into the night, meaning they're hot enough to still generate steam, and thus electricity, long after it's dark.
I don't expect they generate electricity all night, but maybe not as much energy needs to be stored as people assume.
“Three years ago you almost never saw batteries as part of a new solar or wind project,” Naam said. “In 2018, we’ve seen battery storage frequently show up as part of these bids. Energy storage is becoming the new normal with solar bids.”
So they are already working on it with some of the projects at least, and there's no reason to think they won't scale up and start becoming competitive before too long.
All of these are far less developed than lithium ion cells, but have the potential to do a lot better on cost and longevity grounds.
Here's an entry on the storage facility: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bath_County_Pumped_Storage_Sta...
"The biggest battery in the world is a giant lake tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains on the border between Virginia and West Virginia"
One of the more promising things is actually water-based storage using back-to-back reservoirs. Water has a lot of mass per volume and is really low tech. And it's a proven strategy that has been operational for many decades.
maybe there is a possibility for retrofitting some existing dams that are used primarily as resevoirs and not power plants, since pumped-storage are net-neutral on resevoir storage.
...but i am NOT an expert by any means, and it's probably way more complicated than that.
Play that out a bit. Suppose you have a 500MW or 1000MW transmission line. It normally has a 1% loss. Today, you notice that it has 1.25% loss. Maybe someone's stealing power. What do you do? Shut off the transmission line entirely?
For all the talk about inventing new batteries, I wish improving the existing grid would be more prominent in the conversation. High-voltage longer-distance power markets are something that can be built right now.
Not all lithium batteries are created equal in terms of longevity. A traditional lithium manganese battery might have 500 cycles in it before hitting 80% capacity. A lithium titanate  battery might be closer to 5000 cycles. A battery could be designed for long term usage and thus lower the long term cost, if not the upfront cost.
See CAES storage (Texas) and Pumped Hydro energy storage (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bath_County_Pumped_Storage_Sta...)
CAES in Texas was constructed inside of abandoned mine-shafts. Line the mine-shafts with steel to contain compressed air, and bam, cheap energy storage.
The USA has lots of lakes and mineshafts. And electrical storage in one area can serve multiple states. Indeed, the Bath County Pumped Hydro plant contributes to the electrical stability of 16 or so states.
A $5 billion project here and there will serve more people and in a wider area. If the USA can take advantage of natural resources, in a sustainable way (it doesn't seem like Bath County's Reservoir is damaging the environment), then it should happen. We know how to make hydro-plants that are safe for Salmon and other wildlife (we need to ensure that future Hydro plants need salmon ladders for example), but as long as environmental concerns are identified and addressed, leveraging our natural resources is the most obvious way forward.
There's "baseload power" (coal, nuclear, wind, solar is really good for this), and there's "Peaker power" (natural gas and hydro are really good for this).
Hydro is super-simple. Just block the water if you don't need energy, and unblock it when you need energy. Ditto with Natural Gas, which can spin up / spin down arbitrarily.
Solar, Nuclear, and Wind generate power on their own schedule and can't really be bothered. But you use OTHER forms of energy when the sun stops shining.
Natural gas is expensive to run 100% of the time. But if you can run Natural gas only 20% of the time, then you're still saving money.
Once the heavily regulated energy market has time to adjust to market conditions you are going to see this energy surplus during the day being adjusted for. Where solar panels make economic sense today they may not tomorrow when energy prices for mid-day use plummet due to oversupply.
Just offer economic incentives to put ac on a timer.
Would still make a huge dent to energy needs and the existing infrastructure already in place.
This means that no matter how many additional solar panels you add to the system, you are not displacing a single fossil fuel plant. Sure it's good that those plants are running nominally fewer hours per day per additional solar panel, but the cost to own, operate, and maintain the panels is roughly constant.
This results in the effect of increased prices for fossil power in a way that can't be offset by solar.
Industrial energy usage can be time shifted.
Who cares about residential power, if it is a small percentage of total energy usage?
There's also the opposite problem, particularly in the case of wind turbines; if you have enough, then your base-load (ie coal, nuclear, hydro) plus renewable may sometimes exceed demand. This happens from time to time in Ireland, for instance, due to a large installed base of wind. At that point you have to turn off renewable, and that's not always trivial or instant. Storage would help there, too, by absorbing the excess.
This is only true if the load on the grid is growing. In North America, it is not. Otherwise, you already have enough dispatchable generation available when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing.
The article I saw the other day showed growth of 4.5% (comparing Q1 2017 with Q1 2018)
Surely that growth in production is matched by a growth in load?
It is not, although consumption growth may trend upwards again as transportation is electrified (and oil consumption moves to electrical consumption).
How much does "existing infrastructure" charge to handle the gaps? This calculation differs wildly from as low as $6 to as high as $15, but I think $12 is the right answer.
So add $12 to solar only as a rough rule of thumb. Note that this $12 still comes with transmission issues, and environmental impact.
1. You can buy power from them at normal power company retail rates. You get power from the grid that they buy at wholesale rates, profits go into building out solar.
2. You can become a member by buying any number of shares. Capital gets used to fund solar buildout, profits go back to each shareholder. Each shareholder has one vote regardless of the number of shares they own to prevent buyouts.
3. You can rent them your roof space. You get paid, other people put cells on. You get reduced-rate power from your own roof's cells, excess goes to grid.
4. You can buy solar panels and rent them to the cooperative. For every large installation they make, they'll ask people to buy panels. You get paid a part of what the panels produce for 20 years, at a guaranteed rate, and at market rate after that.
5. You can have them act as a solar installer and set up panels on your property for your own use. They'll buy excess production and sell you grid power when you have insufficient production. In this case you finance the install yourself.
They have excellent economies of scale from standardizing installs and they allow people with capital but no roof space to connect with people with no capital but usable roof space. Because retail rates for power are high and they've centralized installation costs they're making an okay profit. Maybe something like this can work where you are?
True, you still need an alternative source of energy in those cases. But realistically, cloudy days reduces the sun, which usually leads to lower temperatures.
Personally, I think that cold-energy storage (aka: run air-conditioners on overdrive to chill water. Then use chilled-water to cool your house) is the ideal.
It turns out that a vat of 480 Gallons of cold-water has a lot of cooling potential. Chill the water to 40F and you can cool down homes for hours using fans alone. With proper compressors and such, you are like 95%+ efficient.
Your failure mechanism is the probability that your vat of water begins to leak its cold air. Certainly a problem, but way simpler and less of a problem than explosive Li-Ion batteries.
If you see it from a total-cost-of-ownership, the chilled-water + air conditioning unit is overall cheaper than you'd expect. The air conditioner doesn't need to be rated for the peak-loads anymore, but can run more continuously at lower temperatures (ie: at night to store chilled energy into the water).
So you downsize your air conditioner, as you aim for average-loads... compared to everyone else who has to buy an air-conditioner sized for peak loads.
You seem correct about utilization. Now I wonder if a dual-use heat-pump / cooling system would be best. Heat up your house in the winter, cool down your house in the summer to double-duty the water-tank thermal energy storage.
The "Earthships" discussed elsewhere in this topic effectively use thermal energy storage in dirt itself to heat and/or cool the entire house. It seems to use a lot of land, but single-family home owners generally have a large-ish yard where the earth can serve as the energy storage mechanism.
------------ Using it for winter and summer does increase the utilization and would be best practice but places with winter/summer seasonality have a golden zone where you don't need active heating or cooling. If you're below 24c and above 18c you don't need much energy to maintain thermal comfort, provided you're not in a high humidity environment. During the winter it's better to use solar collectors with a thermal syphon for heat collection instead of stocking up heat since peak thermal demand occurs at night.
------------ They're known as earthpipes or earth hear exchangers and they come with their own problems, namely proximity to surface and thermal load imbalance over seasons. The earth is a really shitty thermal reservoir because it bleeds heat out the side and the top, the really big thing that it has going for it is that it's free. When you use the system in an environment thats either mostly hot or mostly cold you change the ground temperature in the long run, either increasing it or decreasing it over time. This in turn affects the ability of the system to condition air, there's also the problem that it can only bring the air temperature up to that of the ground during winter so you still need a heating system to supplement it; works great for cooling though. Basically the system gives you thermal energy at no operational cost(other than the fan) but you have to either accept whatever temperature it gives you or have a way to further condition it. Earthships generally use the sun in the winter to bring the temperature up during the day and have a thermal mass inside the house that maintains the temperature at night.
> The Nevada auction also included a number of projects that link up utility-scale solar with batteries. Mastering solar plus storage will be critical for renewables to truly overtake fossil fuels, since they only generate power when it’s sunny or when the wind blows.
> “Three years ago you almost never saw batteries as part of a new solar or wind project,” Naam said. “In 2018, we’ve seen battery storage frequently show up as part of these bids. Energy storage is becoming the new normal with solar bids.”
That's the job of the inverter, right? It uses free solar energy first and maintains reliability by supplementing it with costly grid power.
It is true that a wide electrical grid needs a base load.
It is also true that solar isn't great at continuous power because of, you know, the Sun sometimes being behind the Earth.
But that doesn't mean you need necessarily need batteries. There are at least two scenarios where you don't:
1. You have an alternative to batteries for storage. This could mean using excess solar power to create some fuel that may well also be portable. This isn't an economic way of creating gasoline (yet) but in remote places this might not matter. It also might not matter if this power is essentially "free" (eg you need to build a certain capacity anyway which leaves times where excess power is being generated).
2. Power usage on electrical grids is also not smooth. It also peaks during the day when, as it happens, the Sun is also out. So your solar capacity is actually reducing your peak grid power requirements, which is incredibly useful.
In particular, in Solar-heavy situations, the peak energy is now 5pm. When the sun begins to set but there's still a large demand of electricity.
Batteries in today's form cannot solve the duck curve. So the only reasonable situation is to use natural gas plants to supply the grid with power. Future batteries need to be built more efficiently and cheaper to deal with the many Gigawatts and Gigawatt-hours (both power AND energy capabilities need to grow) to deal with the future duck curve and/or nessie curves.
They dodged this recent tariff change that took effect this week as 8541.40.60 tariffs currently aren't included in this tariff war with China but they could see more aggressive action.
These sorts of installs aren't exactly the same thing, but maybe SolarCity needs to pivot to from distributed consumer to large scale utility.
Are you sure about that?
Something (I think is shady) some companies are doing is selling solar for really cheap in dollars, but they subsidize the cost by selling it for credits. Average Joe is going to think he's polluting less, however since he sold off his pollution credits, his solar purchase has authorized someone else to pollute for him. Netting us nothing in the end.
(not an expert, so I may have misunderstandings and be oversimplifying things, but the point should be easy to understand)
There are two ways that this is netting something:
1. Utah gets to set the total allowable emissions/year. If this is set lower than what emissions would be, absent the program, then emissions will be reduced.
2. Companies have to pay for those credits. If the credit price ends up being high enough, then companies will invest in ways to reduce emissions, e.g. by purchasing carbon scrubbers.
The key is how many total credits you allocate to begin with - they should be sufficiently scarce that large emitters need to buy credits - and continually ratcheting down the number of credits allocated annually.
Or, they pass the cost to the very consumers that sold them the credits.
You're forgetting the 'cap' part of cap-and-trade. The point is minimize the cost of reducing the total amount of greenhouse gas (or whatever) pollution across society. The reason for allowing people to sell their credits is that it reduces the economic cost of reducing pollution. It doesn't matter whether any given individual is polluting more or less, what matters is that total pollution is continually decreasing until we reach safe levels.
From there, the solar company probably covers their own pollution level and then sells the remainder of the credits at auction and capitalizes on the spread.
Company pollution rates will likely not be affected until it eats into their profits; rather, they will likely just buy credits up to the point where there's a breakeven between the cost of a credit and the savings for a credit. Whatever money is saved won't be used to increase pollution but rather just be reinvested into other parts of the company or released to shareholders.
In this case, the pollutant is paying money to pay less in taxation, the solar company is providing access to renewable energy, and Average Joe is going to be polluting less at home. I could get behind that.
EDIT: Also, this means that Utah could theoretically wean the state's pollution credits lower and lower each year until the cost of polluting is so high that pollutants either convert or leave.
The credits are an improvement, because polluters at least have to pay for pollution credits, which means they have an incentive to pollute less.
The problem to be solved now is economical, reliable, long-lasting (in number of cycles) battery storage. Or some other form of storage to draw those kWh back from when the sun is down.
> “On their face, they’re less than a third the price of building a new coal or natural gas power plant,” Ramez Naam, an energy expert and lecturer at Singularity University, told Earther in an email. “In fact, building these plants is cheaper than just operating an existing coal or natural gas plant.”
> There’s a 30 percent federal investment tax credit for solar projects that helps drive down the cost of this and other solar projects. But Naam said even if you take away that credit, “these bids, un-subsidized, are still cheaper than any new coal or gas plants, and possibly cheaper than operating existing plants.”
>> “On their face, they’re less than a third the price of building a new coal or natural gas power plant,” Ramez Naam, an energy expert and lecturer at Singularity University, told Earther in an email. “In fact, building these plants is cheaper than just operating an existing coal or natural gas plant.”
>> There’s a 30 percent federal investment tax credit for solar projects that helps drive down the cost of this and other solar projects. But Naam said even if you take away that credit, “these bids, un-subsidized, are still cheaper than any new coal or gas plants, and possibly cheaper than operating existing plants.”
I'm assuming that's without factoring in the health cost externalities.
https://www.sciencenews.org/article/air-pollution-triggering... (Air pollution is triggering diabetes in 3.2 million people each year)
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-other-reason-... (The Other Reason to Shift away from Coal: Air Pollution That Kills Thousands Every Year)
Does anyone have data on typical wholesale power costs?
From my brief browsing, $23.76 is <70% of the average $/MWh price across the available data.
> Installed prices are higher for systems at tax-exempt customer sites than at for-profit commercial sites
> Residential new construction offers significant installed price advantages compared to retrofits
> No clear relationship between installer-level pricing and installer volume
> Prices vary considerably across installers
> Installed prices in the United States are higher than in other national PV markets
> Installed price declines have been partially offset by falling state and utility incentives
> Installed prices continued to fall in 2016, albeit at the slowest rate since 2009 [emphasis mine]
> Module-level power electronics have a seemingly small effect on installed prices
> Ground-mounted non-residential systems are generally higher priced than rooftop systems
Perhaps this will mean living in Southern California, Arizona etc will be increasingly popular as energy costs will be much more affordable. Of course water is the next problem, but cheap electricity can help that too.
Consider the situation in 1950 when you are building a house, you can double or triple the cost of home construction by insulating it so that the net energy needed to heat or cool it is minimal, or you throw a oil burner in the basement which is burning fuel oil that costs a few cents per gallon and keep everything nice and toasty. The "obvious" choice there was not to spend the money on insulation but instead to just use really cheap energy to manage the temperature range. Makes everything much easier to engineer.
If, on the other hand, you design with the assumption that energy is extremely expensive and so you minimize the need to use it to regulate temperatures within a house, you can design a house that is temperature stable with the minimal amount of energy input for air circulation.
That gets you houses in the New Mexico desert that need no air conditioning (air cooling) and churches and office buildings in the northeast that need no additional heating.
Things that I have read about include extended depth insulated exterior walls. "Smart" glass windows that reject 97% of the infrared and ultraviolet spectrum (I've got film on my house windows that are not that good but they do a tremendous job of minimizing heat load in the summer). Passive heat exchanger systems that keep the temperature balanced between upstairs and downstairs, and solar roof tiles that provide both insulation and energy for running the house.
Does that help you if you're living in a 'mid century wood frame house', probably not. But it isn't that solar couldn't meet the heating and cooling needs, it is that combined with good house engineering this is already a solved problem.
Do you have a source for your NM desert example? I'm doubtful you can keep a desert home cool with just airflow.
I've visited a couple of these places, they are pretty neat.
I'm surprised that architects don't propose passive heating/cooling on new builds and major renovations. I guess clients typically don't demand it.
(those are all made up numbers but I have had the exact discussion with a builder when I added on a room and insisted it was at least as insulated as the rest of the house, the builder thought it a waste of money, I knew that I expected to have the room for 25 years or more and that the lower energy costs would be a net win.)
Houses built to the German Passivhaus standard would do just fine in Ohio. I used to live in Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, so I should know. There was one Minnesota church built with polystyrene panels that had to start running air conditioning in the middle of winter, the insulation was so good.
If you live in the South West though its perfect as Winter nights dont require much heat and the biggest loads are AC at the times when there is lots of sun.
It can get pretty darn cold at night in the desert southwest. Again, insulation is the key.
Of course water is the next problem, but cheap electricity can help that too.
It's 10X as expensive to use techniques like desalinization. It's so much more expensive, that lots of desal plants get built, then get mothballed because it's that much cheaper to get water by other means.
You'd have to level most structures and rebuild from scratch to manage that in large parts of North America to make a difference.
Never mind the fact heaters aren't the only thing that use electricity at night.
New construction built like this is a good start.
heaters aren't the only thing that use electricity at night
Know your orders of magnitude. Resistive heating is just ridiculous. Heat exchangers are much better, but are like running Air Conditioners. In a passivhaus, my wife and I would be running a laptop, a clock, and the air filtration/exchanger, and that's it.
Heating water is one of the big energy users, but Solar Water preheat based on heat pipes even works a treat in cloudy, chilly old England.
Actually, while we're on the subject, subslab insulation might be another.
That sort of long term risk averse thinking is exactly where the market economy needs to be supplemented.
See the slide "Cost composition for a typical seawater RO (reverse osmosis) plant"
Fixed charges (primarily capital cost): 31%
Maintenance and parts: 14%
Membrane replacement: 13%
Supervision and labor: 9%
Really cheap solar electricity could reduce the second largest expense (energy costs), but right now that's just an improvement for daylight hours. Battery-stored solar electricity is getting cheaper but it's not cheap enough to actually reduce nighttime desalination costs yet. And if you run the plant only during the day, you get less value out of the very largest expense (capital cost).
Fixed charges (primarily capital cost) 42%
Maintenance and parts 8%
Supervision and labor 7%
Energy is nearly even with fixed costs for MSF, but fixed costs are even larger here. Leaving this type of plant idle between dusk and dawn would again raise per-unit costs a lot.
Or perhaps I just steelmanned the argument.
(a) In any realistic scenarios where a grid goes mostly-solar, you'd expect that it would have adequate storage.
(b) Storage heaters are a thing (and far more economical than batteries).
(c) Modern "passive houses" and similar standards require surprisingly small energy input to heat, even when it's very cold outside. For whatever reason these mostly haven't been adopted in the US, but are becoming common in parts of Europe.
Instead today, people fire up the AC on overdrive when they get home in the evening to cool/heat the place down/up. What happens if your Nest could just fired it up at 3pm while the sun was still shining.
In fact the opposite is done today to take advantage of early morning peak pricing, commercial buildings cool/heat at 3am to get optimal energy pricing.
There are both passive and active options.
You need to drill pretty deep and have multiple wells, or have alot of land surface area and excavate (not too deep though).
Other option is using water from a well or spring and dumping that water back into another well or stream (with an increase in water temp.).
Not surprisingly, forced air blowers consume more electricity—100-500 watts, according to my quick Googling.
That's a long enough line to stretch between California and East Coast states.
Getting rights-of-way for big interstate transmission projects is harder than actually building the projects after those rights are secured. Superconducting cables can carry more power per cross section than HVDC lines, but they're a lot more expensive and immature. Nobody has yet found a project that would justify full-scale superconducting lines over more conventional high voltage lines built with ordinary resistive conductors.
It's an infrastructure investment that would pay dividends, but requires getting through a quagmire of politics.
Duluth gets about half of the annual Global Horizontal Irradiance that Tuscon does, and that's before accounting for the fact that snow will sometimes cover the panels. In addition, Minnesota has significantly lower electricity prices than the big coastal states (partially due to the great wind resource in the SW corner of the state, partially due to political reasons).
There are other things you can do to make an impact in MN, though. An obvious one is roof and window insulation...
The multi MW giants that are erected these days on tall towers just make so much more sense.
Here's a video I found of a comparison of residential wind turbines, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opP13e-TvHM&t=1402s. This is a DIY resource, though.
If you do the discounted cash flow calculation of solar, at $2.3/W, electricity costs you around 5c/kWh: http://databin.pudo.org/t/19ece6
This is all just a thought experiment for me, because my electricity costs 22c/kWh :)
As for the 4% interest rate, which in this case is really a time value of money discount rate, I’m comparing it to mortgage loan amounts (which is pretty much the average consumer's risk free rate of return). I’m assuming the buyer can afford a cash system.
Microinverters last 25 years.
2.3 * 30.000 * 0.7 = $48,300 (30% tax credit)
2.3 * 30.000 * 0.5 = $34,500 (50% cheaper)
Total = $82,800
Regardless, adding up the cost of the second one in 30 years doesn't make sense for calculating kWh prices, depreciation and cost of capital are the only factors that matter and you are only including one of those.
Agreed that including the second system doesn't really make much sense, but I wanted a quick-and-dirty estimate without having to individually discount each year's production (as you would if you had a finite time horizon).
Higher interest rates would change the equation, but I don't know of people who are using high interest loans (like an unsecured loan) to finance residential solar.
I'm looking at DIY solutions. At least I can scale it as I have a few hundred at a time instead of trying to make $20k work in a budget.
See also Moore's law.
It is still news when a wining team adds another victory to their streak and progresses towards the championship,
Also, as pointed out elsewhere, TFA was mostly about this good trend.
What point were you trying to make?
It broke a record that was set [checks calendar] last week.
But I think the headline is being a little click-baity—the article's real strength is analysis. It discusses broader trends—for example that location is important here (Ohio isn't going to get these low bids because it just isn't sunny enough)—and is fun to read.
If you extrapolate the downward trend, it's very obvious that anything you build right now that burns fossil fuel is going to be a problem in terms of being able to compete throughout its projected life span. Prices are trending to the point where it will become economical to shut down existing and operational plants in favor of replacing them with solar or wind.
The next milestone will be when existing coal/gas plants will start getting decommissioned. This will start with the older ones but very soon after may be followed by the new and shiny ones Trump is trying to build right now. That is if he manages to get investors to back that at all. It would be kind of a dumb investment given the above.
And to preempt the battery comment, batteries were included with this bid, as is common these days.
Eagle Solar Mountain Solar Farm ( 300 MW ) will have an annual production capacity of over 900 million kilowatt hours (kWh) once completed. The Moapa Band of Paiutes has become a national clean energy leader and will host in excess of 600 MW of solar on the 72,000-acre reservation. 
For example, the Topaz Solar Farm  has an annual production capacity of 1200 million kWh on 25km2. Around ~6200 acre.
This seems an awful a lot of space for low capacity generation? I know it is reserved, but that is like 10x the size difference, why aren't they building more?
US annual electricity consumption is 4,015 billion kilowatt hours in 2017, 60% coming from fossil fuel .
For solar energy to replace that 60% energy consumption; 2409 billion kWh, it would require 2000 Topaz Solar Farm, or 50,000 km2, or slightly less the fifth of Nevada area.
The cost of the 300MW Eagle Solar Mountain Solar Farm is roughly $2B, assuming it would cost $3.6B to build the size of Topaz Solar Farm which is 550MW, it would take $7.2 trillion to build a 60% US needed solar farm, ignoring the benefits of Economy of scale, and any improved efficacy of solar panel.
Given all the benefits of Solar, being cheaper then Coal, I am surprise it is still only 1.6% of US electricity generation. Why is that?
The Moapa Band of Paiutes is presumably not dedicating most of their reservation's land to solar generation. Most of the Topaz Solar Farm's land is dedicated to solar generation. That's why you see a much lower energy density if you're calculating areal production using the entire land of the reservation as the denominator.
Solar has become cheaper than coal quite recently. It takes time to build new projects. The "cheaper than coal" qualifier is also so far true just in areas with reasonably good sun resources. Much of the US population lives in areas where there's not enough sun for PV to be cheaper than coal. New York and Pennsylvania aren't there yet, for example.
Finally, the US federal government is trying to prop up the coal industry. That includes invoking "national security" to keep uncompetitive coal plants running. The present administration has also raised the prices of solar equipment with a slew of tariffs. There's a risk for project developers that they could submit a bid for a new solar project, sign a contract, and then a year later see their costs rise above profits due to another round of tariff fights. There's a risk for project buyers that they'll lock in an agreement for a new "cheaper than coal" solar project but be forced to keep buying coal power anyway due to outside forces.
For example, Arizona's excellent sun resources now make PV generation significantly cheaper than running a 1970s-era coal plant in the state, but the federal government may try to force the coal plant's old customers to keep buying its electricity:
I know Nevada are basically a desert, which is perfect for Solar Panel and electricity, does the Federation nature, forbid a super scale Solar Farm in Nevada to power the rest of US? And who owns the grid in US? Government?
As I mentioned in another comment, the hardest part of building big interstate transmission projects in the US is getting approval from every state and land owner between two distant points. 4 out of 5 involved states can approve a plan quickly but then the plan can languish for years trying to get approval from the 5th state involved.
Long distance transmission projects do get built, but they generally take a long and uncertain time to reach approval. That's one of the factors that prevents sunny states from just exporting solar power to less sunny, more densely populated states. The other big factor is that these big infrastructure projects are also expensive to construct, but in my opinion it's the delays and uncertainties that are the bigger obstacle.
Advanced software (in modern automatic transmissions for example) and material advancements have made all the difference in the advancement of combustion engines in the past 15 years and I firmly believe that technology can be pushed even further. I want to see 4 cylinder engines pushing 500hp, sounds like a pipedream now but so did 300hp when I was a kid.
If you want to see what happens when you perfect the marriage between a combustion engine and an electric motor w/ batteries, do some research on the McLaren P1.
I doubt it. We've passed peak oil and have resorted to expensive techniques like fracking to collect the scraps. Meanwhile, even if no advances in solar panels occur in the future, the price of power produced by solar will only go down as more panels are added to the grid.
The biggest hurdle now is getting cars with combustion engines off the road and replacing them with electric. I haven't seen much progress made on that front in the past few years.
That is not true
e: looks like you missed a link but I looked up Carbon Engineering and if what they say is true that is really exciting. Especially for airlines and shipping.
But we are approaching peak global emisisons, at last (a human and good tipping point)!, and cheap solar is a big chunk of that.
Atmospheric scrubbing doesn't scale so good.
Aside from that, price incentives should come into play. Everyone charges their cars and electronics during the day when power is cheapest. If you want to run your equipment at night you have to pay more.
An interesting side effect may be that it could encourage us to return to more natural sleeping schedules, based on the actual time when the sun is in the air. Of course that does pose problems in areas that are very close to one of the two poles
2) Timing demand to peak solar moments. When the sun is brightest, why not start heating your well-insulated home & start your washer and stuff?
3) A bit of local battery storage could help the grid immensely, especially wrt appliances like electric cookers (induction or whatnot), toasters & kettles etc. These usually draw a lot of power for a pretty short amount of time -- and to make matters worse, everyone uses them around roughly the same moment around sunset. I think this is where the value in things like the PowerWall truly lies.
I guess when those three things are in place, it should be a lot easier to provide power outside of peak solar moments.
First off, 100% solar is not likely to win out unless it's a small grid on an island. Any realistic grid will have wind and solar and hydro. New nuclear is already far more expensive than lithium ion batteries + solar, so that's out of contention for new builds unless a government is trying to subsidize the industries that are companions to fission power (nuclear submarines, etc.)
Among the ways to time shift electrical demand:
- lithium ion batteries. These will likely be only 5-6 cents/kWh within five years.
- thermal storage: cooling (making ice) or heat can be stored for these energy applications
- demand response: EVs and many other large demand sources can respond to price signals or aggregated demand response to shift their consumption to the best times. Currently this is mostly used to shave the peaks off of demand but with critical mass of EV there will be huge amounts of valley filling too.
- vehicle to grid: I'm somewhat skeptical this will win a cost battle, but it's being investigated: high penetrations of EVs mean that there will be a day or more of storage on wheels. This can be used in all sorts of ways, potentially.
- flow batteries: I'm also skeptical that these will win on price, but they might.
- concentrating solar power: this is solar power from heat, therma storage can be used in conjunction to deliver 24 hour power. Early pilots were super expensive but recent project have dropped drastically in price to the point where it has a chance of being competitive with other storage tech.
- lots of others that I'm forgetting.
Basically solar is will probably get so cheap that we'll overbuild a ton of it and have more power than the inverters can handle, and size the installs for the winter lows, most likely. This means that there will likely be tons of extra unused DC power at solar sites for large chunks of the year. Could be an opportunity...
(2) Pragmatic: Use on-demand power sources at night: fossil, nuclear, etc.
Just as big as the storage issue, though, is distribution.
Available solar power in the American Northwest is laughable compared to the American Southwest.
Power usage is typically lower at night, of course. And wind generation tends to be a bit higher at night in most places.
There are several of these facilities in the US, although no new ones have been built in quite some time. I believe that as the price of solar goes down, more of these styles of facilities will open.
Why even bother with electric self driving cars or trucks when the solution to this problem already exists?
As a decades-long solar and wind advocate (the term 'renewable' has been spun too much to be useful) I'm sad to say... too bad they made it take so long. And there still isn't nearly enough of it.
As for storage, there are literally dozens of solutions. Yeah, they can be expensive. So's the alternative ... to everybody. (How'd that nuclear thing work out for the Japanese? ... who had centuries of quakes and tsunamis to learn from? ...who have a nearly limitless supply of offshore winds. Ooops.)
As for selling to the power company (they're resistant for multiple reasons ... can see the writing on the wall, and will find ways to cheat you ... sell to your neighbors at cost instead.
This HAS to be the future, kids. The sooner, and the cheaper, the bettter. Time to sell the buggy whips.
They also show that the efforts of the Trump administration to prop up fossil fuels at the expense of renewables aren’t enough to push solar out to sea. The tariffs that Trump levied earlier this year against cheap solar panels imported from China could eventually dampen installations. Naam said they add roughly 10 percent to the price of utility-scale projects, but “at most, they move the price of solar back by about a year.”
It's still a significant cost added on and slows things down, but you can only do so much damage.
I kid, but - why so much pessimistic "all or nothing" attitude on this?
Keep in mind that solar electricity, like any form of electricity generation, has location-specific and project-specific cost factors. Building any form of power plant is cheaper in China than in Germany. Solar power prices in Nevada are almost always going to be cheaper than in Michigan, because even if the construction costs are the same, the arrays will get more sun per year in Nevada.
If you want to check solar energy prices for your _home_, then I'd recommend EnergySage (https://www.energysage.com/). I think they have a tool for commercial buildings as well, but don't quote me.
If you want more generic public data, I think other commenters have better sources, though their blog might have some articles wit that information.
NON-SURPRISING HEADLINE: "Falling Costs Are Actually Falling".
The important statistics to pay attention to are the implementations and if the components are recyclable not the cost per megawatt. Increasing renewable energy is important but not if you cannot recycle the components.
Keep in mind, solar panels have a 25 year warranty, and after that will continue to produce power (at about 80% rates output). We have decades to get recycling infrastructure in place.
Why? Solar panels are mostly made of processed sand.
When power industry magazines talk about solar being cheap then i'll believe it
1. It's from the Gawker network, which is known for clickbait, yellow journalism, and half-truths.
2. They don't cite their sources. All links (except 1) in the article just lead to past articles they've written. The only external link is about a report unrelated to the main article.
Here is a better article published a day before this one which gives more details and actually lists their sources.
>...When you enroll, PG&E will purchase additional, new solar resources to meet your electricity needs as well as those of other participating customers.
As you might have guessed, you pay a premium for his option:
>...Your monthly electric energy statement will include a charge for the solar power you are purchasing and related program charges, as well as a credit for the standard generation you are no longer purchasing. Today, the net of these charges and credits is a premium.
Do you have anything substantial to say about the points made in the article? For the record, it took me seconds to ascertain it was a part of Gizmodo's umbrella group, and the article made some very clear dollar/cent claims on utility scale projects.
Much of the strategizing in the future will be about trying to find the right balance of CCs and CTs to complement intermittent and opportunistic (load-ignorant) renewables, while balancing an onslaught of new regulations and activists that will force battery storage as an issue. This is already happening now, well before battery storage is cost-competitive.
Solar does line up with peak consumption. The duck curve is not a consumption curve, but a "Net Demand" curve -- the demand remaining after solar and generation is removed.
Peakers existed before solar. A typical load duration curve is a sideways "S" The peakers may run less than 5% of the year but are necessary to meet the hottest hours of the year.
Not true according to , which shows peak consumption around 19:00, just as solar production drops to 0.