Solar Power is Cheaper than Nuclear

Solar power is a wonderfully sustainable source of energy and its biggest hurdle to wide adoption is cost (and going up against subsidized fossil fuels). Well, now the nuclear crowd can’t claim that solar is too expensive because the fact of the matter is that solar power is cheaper than nuclear!

It’s no secret that the cost of producing photovoltaic cells (PV) has been dropping for years. A PV system today costs just 50 percent of what it did in 1998. Breakthroughs in technology and manufacturing combined with an increase in demand and production have caused the price of solar power to decline steadily. At the same time, estimated costs for building new nuclear power plants have ballooned.

The result of these trends: “In the past year, the lines have crossed in North Carolina,” say study authors John Blackburn and Sam Cunningham. “Electricity from new solar installations is now cheaper than electricity from proposed new nuclear plants.”

If the data analysis is correct, the pricing would represent the “Historic Crossover” claimed in the study’s title.

Two factors not stressed in the study bolster the case for solar even more:

1) North Carolina is not a “sun-rich” state. The savings found in North Carolina are likely to be even greater for states with more sunshine –Arizona, southern California, Colorado, New Mexico, west Texas, Nevada and Utah.

2) The data include only PV-generated electricity, without factoring in what is likely the most encouraging development in solar technology: concentrating solar power (CSP). CSP promises utility scale production and solar thermal storage, making electrical generation practical for at least six hours after sunset.

Keep reading.

New Jersey Wants Wind

New Jersey is trying to get the the USA’s first offshore wind farm by providing incentives to company to setup wind turbines. It is good to see American politicians encouraging growth in sustainable energy.

Part of the law ensures $100 million in tax credits to offshore wind energy developers which want to build off of New Jersey’s shores. In addition, the law is expected to guarantee the companies which choose to build in New Jersey an income from the offshore wind farms. The potential draw to companies wanting to build offshore wind farms in New Jersey is expected to increase drastically due to the law.

Part of the reason for the creation of the law is to increase the amount of renewable energy in the state of New Jersey. Officials wish to see 1,100 megawatts of energy in the state coming from offshore wind energy projects. A greater goal by the state is to have 3,000 megawatts of energy coming from offshore wind energy by the year 2020.

Distributed Solar Power Lights the Future

Large solar power installations require a lot of space and a lot of approvals. As a reaction to this, smaller solar power installations have been approved and placed close to transmission centres. This is a more reliable and sustainable energy network than what existed before.

Over the past few weeks, some 1,300 megawatts’ worth of distributed solar deals and initiatives have been announced or approved. At peak output, that is the equivalent of a big nuclear power plant.

Two weeks ago in California, regulators authorized the utility Southern California Edison’s program to install 500 megawatts of solar on commercial rooftops. A few days later, they recommended that Pacific Gas and Electric, the dominant utility in Northern California, be given the green light for its own 500-megawatt initiative that aims to install ground-mounted photovoltaic arrays near electrical substations and urban areas.

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District said in January that it took only a week to sell out its 100-megawatt solar program, which offers developers the opportunity to build photovoltaic projects of up to five megawatts.

And last week, the New York Power Authority announced a program to install 100 megawatts of solar arrays around the state.

“All of this is a great indication that solar prices are continuing to get a lot cheaper and that results in scale,” said Adam Browning, executive director of Vote Solar, a San Francisco nonprofit that promotes renewable energy.

Keep on reading about distributed solar power.

Wind Power Shelters Sea Life

You read that right: wind power generation can shelter sea life. Offshore wind farms help create spaces that encourage sea life to grow in a similar fashion to coral reefs.

Offshore wind power and wave energy foundations can increase local abundances of fish and crabs. The reef-like constructions also favour for example blue mussels and barnacles. What’s more, it is possible to increase or decrease the abundance of various species by altering the structural design of foundation. This was shown by Dan Wilhelmsson of the Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, in a recently published dissertation.

“Hard surfaces are often hard currency in the ocean, and these foundations can function as artificial reefs. Rock boulders are often placed around the structures to prevent erosion (scouring) around these, and this strengthens the reef function,” says Dan Wilhelmsson.

Keep reading about offshore wind power at Science Daily.

World’s Largest Solar Powered Foot Bridge

Check out this groovy solar-powered foot bridge:

solar bridge

Read about it at Energy Matters or see more pictures at Ecofiend.

One of the other unique features of the bridge is how it is lit and powered. The bridge employs a sophisticated LED lighting scheme that can be programmed to produce an array of different lighting effects, which will become a feature of Brisbane’s annual Riverfire celebrations.

75 per cent of the power required to run the LED lighting in the fully lit mode is generated by solar energy, but in most lighting configurations, 100 per cent of the power will be provided by solar with any surplus electricity returned to the main grid. The 84 solar panels used on the bridge will have an average daily output of 100kWh and an average yearly output of 38MWh

Public Works Minister Robert Schwarten said the bridge’s grid connect solar power system will see savings of around 37.8 tonnes of carbon emissions each year.

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