New Renewable Energy Map

About to hop a plane for Europe, but wanted to share with you a new map from the NRDC that I think is extremely cool:

Renewable Energy Map for the U.S.

I like this map for two reasons. First, it shows the renewable energy possibilities across the country (solar, wind, cellulosic biomass, and biogas). But second, you can filter by planned and existing facilities for wind, advanced biofuels, and biogas. (However, I think some of the ones that they have called “existing” are not yet producing anything). There are a lot of small facilities that I have never heard of, and need to investigate when I have some time.

Offline now for a day or so as I make the journey back across the pond.

50 thoughts on “New Renewable Energy Map”

  1. At least some of the plants listed as “planned” are up and running.

    The wind power plant in Floyd County Texas began operations in 2007, which the icon itself reveals if you click on it. But the icon suggests it is a “planned” facilities.

    It isn’t obvious what sources the map relies upon, but the site offers a link to the AWEA database of wind projects, which accurately classes the Floyd County facility as operating.

  2. And don’t forget geothermal!

    Yes, Benny. Mexico gets about 5% of its electrical energy from geothermal as does California.

    John

  3. …….existing facilities for wind, advanced biofuels, and biogas.

    WHAT ABOUT SOLAR ?

    There are already a number of commercial solar facilities in operation, producing electricity for the grid.

    PG&E recently inked a contract with an Israeli company to build a commercial "solar trough" facility in the Mojave Desert.

    John

  4. “WHAT ABOUT SOLAR ?”

    Solar is fine — when the sun is shining. But we are a long way from competitive unsubsidised solar, outside of a few narrow niches.

    We are even further away from the point where solar could provide a meaningful major 24/7 contribution to global energy supplies.

    It would be great if some of these so-called “renewables” could actually scale up to provide very large amounts of power. But no amount of capitalization can change the real situation.

    Let’s have more research, and less time-wasting self-delusion.

  5. “It would be great if some of these so-called “renewables” could actually scale up to provide very large amounts of power.”

    The post from Robert is entitled “New Renewable Energy Map”

    I just thought I’d mention Solar since it is a “renewable” and the subject of the post is renewables.

    Speaking of renewables Denmark gets over 20 % of its electric power from Wind.

    Not a big enough percentage for you ? How about Canada which gets more than 75 % of its electricity from a renewable, namely hydroelectric ?

    Since 2000 both solar and wind have been growing exponentially, solar at nearly 50 % rate compoumded annually, which means it doubles every two or 2 1/2 years.

    Recently, Konarka, a solar thin film company announced it would be able to produce cells for 97 cents a watt. A dollar a watt has been the “Holy Grail” for solar, (the point where solar begins to become truly competative)

    First Solar promtly announced it could also produce thin film modules for less than a buck a watt. And Swiss firm Oleokon said it can produce thin film for 74 Euro cents a watt.

    The spokesman for Konarka went on to say he thought the company might ultimately be able to get the cost down to 10 cents a watt with scaled up mass production.

    Most impartial observers agree that a buck a watt just gets solar on the fringes and that it will take 35-40 cents a watt before solar can really compete with coal and natural gas straight up – no subsidies.

    Doesn’t sound like self-delusion to me. Sounds to me like the solar people have been “Giitin’ ‘er done”

    If you want to talk about “time-wasting self-delusion” you might mention the hydrogen fuel cell. The oil companies have poured billions into that bottomless pit.

    There is however a method to their madness and the reason, of course, is that the oil companies planed to make the hydrogen for The New Hydrogen Economy, They already manufacture most of the commercial hydrogen any way.

    The hydrogen economy ? No problem for the oil companies, They will simply turn their gas stations into hydrogen stations and continue their energy monopoly.

    Nuclear ? Well, it takes about 15 years to build a new plant. By that time you will no doubt have solar cells on your roof.

    John

  6. Solar resources are listed, but projects are not. Select solar under the dropdown for Show Energy Potential.

  7. just as a quick reference for those interested mostly in 'cellulosic' biofuels, there are a few maps posted in the last 6 months that list commercial, pilot & demonstration sites that are planned, in design or construction, or operating.
    All seem to have at least a few goofy claims, or maybe a lot. Like the NRDC map that lists RR's favorite "Xethanol"in their 'existing advanced biofuel facility' category as having a 8 mmgy plant operating in South Florida! More mythical gallons. And they say the DuPont – U-TN Vonore facility as operating, but it's not expected to finish construction until end of this year at earliest, and it's only 250,000 gpy, not 2 mmgy.
    IEA might be the best, and presumably, most neutral, plus it has international listings, not just NA. Reuters table is good quick reference.
    IEA Earth2TechBIO+ Jan 2009 Table by Reuters

  8. “Speaking of renewables Denmark gets over 20 % of its electric power from Wind.

    Not a big enough percentage for you ? How about Canada which gets more than 75 % of its electricity from a renewable, namely hydroelectric ?”

    Can either of those scale up to a global basis? You know the answer — Of course not!

    Denmark benefits from being in a grid with Swedish nuclear plants and Norwegian hydro-power — those sources provide the real base-line power.

    Also, if you step outside the Royal Palace in downtown Copenhagen, you will be looking at a massive windmill — not something that a good environmentalist like Teddie Kennedy would accept in his back yard.

    Canada has a huge area, massive rivers in Quebec, and a relatively small population. Not many other countries can replicate Canada's performance.

    Plus there are many environmentalists who argue that hydro-power should NOT be considered renewable — rivers are altered, dams deteriorate, reservoirs silt up.

    As a side note, it has been reported that since the dawn of the nuclear age, many more people have died due to dam accidents than nuclear accidents.

    As for all these low cost solar cells — what is the plan for providing power after the sun goes down? Cheap photocells are only one part of the equation; cheap large scale electric storage is also necessary for solar to break out of niche territory. And remember, cheap large scale electric storage will also lower the costs of power from coal, gas, & nuclear.

  9. France is nuking up bigtime. I think they are on to something. I believ they get 80 percent of their power from nukes, and are building two more huge plants. Probably they wil reach nearly 100 percent not so much time. Zero fossil fuel burning. If PHEVs catch on, you have a post-fossil society, rather easily obtained, without die-offs etc all the doomer nonsense. Japan is going down the same path.
    Here in US, we have surfeits of natural gas for as far as the eye can see. We can also build nukes. Geothermal is interesting too.
    I prefer nukes, to leave the NG for cars.

  10. BTW, natural gas futures are to nearly a seven-year low, and more supplies are coming on market.
    There may or may not be Peak Oil (as Kinu says, politics trumps geology). For absolutely certain, there is no Peak Gas. We are in the era of supergiant fields and LNG tankers.
    No one in the Peak Oil movement (including Rapier) is addressing what a long-term abundance of natural gas means. I mean long-term as in decades and maybe more.
    We are not running out of fossil fuels!

  11. John deserves a good “Fisking”:

    Not a big enough percentage for you ? How about Canada which gets more than 75 % of its electricity from a renewable, namely hydroelectric ?

    Hydro IS dispatchable, wind and solar are not. Brazil gets something like 90% of their power from hydro. It is an apples to oranges comparison for wind/solar to hydro.

    Since 2000 both solar and wind have been growing exponentially, solar at nearly 50 % rate compoumded annually, which means it doubles every two or 2 1/2 years.

    Double almost nothing is still almost nothing.

    Recently, Konarka, a solar thin film company announced it would be able to produce cells for 97 cents a watt. A dollar a watt has been the “Holy Grail” for solar, (the point where solar begins to become truly competative)

    First Solar promtly announced it could also produce thin film modules for less than a buck a watt. And Swiss firm Oleokon said it can produce thin film for 74 Euro cents a watt. Doesn’t sound like self-delusion to me. Sounds to me like the solar people have been “Giitin’ ‘er done”

    Yep, they been gittin ‘er done – writing press releases. Call me back when you have an actual invoice and delivery for panels at $1 per watt and then we’ll talk.

    If you want to talk about “time-wasting self-delusion” you might mention the hydrogen fuel cell. The oil companies have poured billions into that bottomless pit.

    There is however a method to their madness and the reason, of course, is that the oil companies planed to make the hydrogen for The New Hydrogen Economy, They already manufacture most of the commercial hydrogen any way.

    The hydrogen economy ? No problem for the oil companies, They will simply turn their gas stations into hydrogen stations and continue their energy monopoly.

    Billions? I think not. More accurately ExxonMobil has dumped a little research money into an on-board conversion process for turning gasoline into hydrogen. Chevron has done nearly bupkis on H2 fuel cells, ConocoPhillips has done less than bupkis. Now Honda and Toyota on the other hand have spent a lot to develop fuel cells.

    This rant has two other major errors. First branded stations mostly don’t belong to the oil companies. About 90% are independently owned small businesses. Secondly, you can’t convert a liquid fuel station to hydrogen. You might as well start over.

    Nuclear ? Well, it takes about 15 years to build a new plant. By that time you will no doubt have solar cells on your roof.

    Because 10 years of it will be spent in court fighting the eco-nazis. Instead of buying nuclear power for 10 cents a kWh you can generate your own solar at 30 cents.

  12. Why isn't hydro on the map?

    A cynic might say it's because it's already *real*, on a large scale, and when things are real instead of theoretical, it becomes clear that–like all human endeavors–they are imperfect. As actual large-scale deployments of wind & solar take place, they will become increasingly less-popular, and there will be demands for a perfect and nonexistent energy source.

  13. Not to be cynical, but I entered a search for $1 solar. It seems that $1 per watt isn’t so much a destination as a journey.

    AVA Solar said in Sept 2007 they were going to get there “next year”

    Nano Solar claimed in December 2007 they had made 3 panels for $1 / watt, and tried to auction one of them off on E-bay

    1366 Technologies said in March 2008 they would get there by 2012

    First Solar claims they manufactured $1 panels in Q4 2008 (didn’t say what the selling price was).

    QS Solar said in April they would get to $1 in 2010.

    Abound Solar, not to be outdone, claimed they could make $1 /watt “in a couple of months”.

    So as not to be left out, Broadstar Wind boasted that they would also break the $1 / watt threshold.

    But when I look up solar panel suppliers, about the best deal I can get is $3.50 / watt.

  14. Blogger KingofKaty said…

    Not to be cynical, but I entered a search for $1 solar. It seems that $1 per watt isn’t so much a destination as a journey.
    ———————————-

    I think they are referring to “manufacturing” costs when they throw out the buck a watt deal.

    In actuality, standard PV wafer costs about $8 bucks a watt installed. (turn-key on your roof)

    Yes, it was indeed a press release, but since the solar people have made so much ado about this buck a watt threshold, I thought I’d throw it out there.

    I suspect it will be 3 to 5 years, if ever, and not a matter of months as Solar fans think.

    Press releases are good for “churning up the stock price”

    Nevertheless, these seem to be credible companies.

    Yes, Wind has also been making some recent claims about soon being competitive with the grid, as has Solar Trough.

    Wait and see…..

    John

  15. But when I look up solar panel suppliers, about the best deal I can get is $3.50 / watt.

    Yes. I understand. While the manufacturing costs may be $1 per watt the wafers must be assembled, soldered together, wired, and fitted in rigid frames before being shipped to installers.

    This is probably the $3.50 per watt price you mention. This is the price for an assembled module or solar panel (from the factory), (perhaps 2 ft wide by 4 ft long.)

    These assembled solar panels must then be installed on the roof of the business/home. This requires mounting brackets, labor, additional wiring to “gang” the individual units together , etc.

    Then there is the expense of an inverter to change the DC current supplied by the panels to AC to conform to standard AC house current, Added to this is tying into the meter/breaker box.

    Added to this is system monitoring equipment with software, etc.

    So, what started out as a “less than a buck a watt” manufacturing cost is actually multiplied to about $8 dollars a watt installed.

    That is the cost for traditional solar wafer technology. Thin film technology promises to be significantly cheaper than traditional, first gen. wafer PV.

    This is what all the hullabaloo is about.

    John

  16. “Denmark gets over 20 %”

    Hey John, could not find Denmark on the linked map.

    “Nuclear ? Well, it takes about 15 years to build a new plant. By that time you will no doubt have solar cells on your roof.”

    So John, you think I should cut down my beautiful shade trees to put some junk on my roof? I checked it out. Not counting the grand each for cutting each marvelous work of nature, the payback period for solar is 69 years.

    Tell us John how your solar panels are working?

  17. So if the “breakthrough” part is $1 and everything else is $7?

    If that is true, then even if the cost for the PV cells drops to $0.10 / watt that doesn’t really make PV more competitive. Mass production doesn’t make the install costs get cheaper. So it becomes another subsidized dead end.

    I’ve always understood that the goal was to make the panels themselves for $1 / watt.

  18. It is always important to listen to what people do NOT say.

    None of the people talking up wind & solar are talking about WHAT ELSE needs to happen before intermittent sources can provide reliable 24/7 power.

    Even if solar cells were free (installed!), that still leaves us with the 50% or more of the time tha the sun is not available. What do we do then?

    Breakthrough in solar cells is meaningless unless there also is a parallel breakthrough in very large scale energy storage. Cheap large scale energy storage.

    David made a great point about all real energy sources having imperfections. It would be smart to focus on meeting our post-fossil needs first (i.e. nuclear fission) — and then starting to replace that over the next few centuries with less imperfect sources as better technology comes available.

  19. Kit P said…

    “Denmark gets over 20 %”

    Hey John, could not find Denmark on the linked map.

    Dear Kit,

    Someone on the blog thought it was unfair to use Denmark as an example of “Renewables” and mentioned the fact that Denmsrk gets some of its electricity from Swedish Nuke (base load)plants.

    The fact that Denmark gets most of its renewable energy from the wind and that the wind blows 24 hours a day is, I suppose, irrelevant.

    I was also imtending to mention Germany at 13% renewables but decided against it, since the Germans probably also have a nuclear plant lurking somewhere.

    I use passive solar. My electric bill last month was $25.71. To be honest with you (and I agree) it’s not worth puttibg up a solar array. It would take too long to pay back.

    Your shade trees should cut down tour AC bill by about 20% in the summer if they shade the house.

    John

  20. For a good discussion of the intermittancy of wind/solar I can suggest the following articles:
    The Unbearable Lightness of Wind in Platt’s Energy Economist. And a further discussion of McCracken’s article in the American Spectator, also titled
    Unbearable Lightness of Wind Both articles are worth a read.

    Here is a quote from McCraken that I particularly like:

    But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Wind power has its critics and they feel that their reservations have been overridden by policy makers whose imaginations have been captured by a green agenda that downplays wind’s limitations. Wind’s intermittency cannot be ignored just because it is the most readily available and domestically attractive technology to hand, they argue.

    I like wind and solar, but as Kin points out, unless you solve the intermittancy problems, there is a limit to how much wind/solar can reliably add to capacity.

    The lunatics that claim we can move to 100% renewables are either deluded or lying about the real potential of renewables to replace baseload coal and nuclear.

  21. All this speculation about claims. We can read what they actually said. First Solar makes thin film CdTe panels, which does not involve wafers. All the less-than-a-buck-a-watt claims from various companies have been for thin film manufacturing costs.
    http://investor.firstsolar.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=201491&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1259614
    "First Solar, Inc. … announced it reduced its manufacturing cost for solar modules in the fourth quarter to 98 cents per watt, breaking the $1 per watt price barrier.
    That is manufacturing cost, not sales price. That is module cost, not wafer cost, so it already includes in it the assembly of the cells with the conductors connected, and fitted in rigid frames. It does not include shipping or profit.

    Back in August, First Solar had, according to:
    http://spectrum.ieee.org/aug08/6464/3
    a manufacturing cost of $1.14/W. This is way below the selling price of $2.45/W, so the company enjoys a healthy profit margin.

    Why sell for less, if your customers are willing to pay more? If we assume they continue to have a 100%+ markup, even with a manufacturing cost of $.98, they’re probably still selling them for over $2/W. Then you have to add shipping costs, balance of system, and installation costs.

    Another article claims (in what becomes less-reliable third-hand information)
    http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/first-solar-reaches-grid-parity-milestone-says-report-5389.html
    The $40 million system at Sempra is comprised of 168,300 panels, which First Solar installed at a cost of $3.17 per watt, Bachman wrote. (The installed cost is higher because it includes frames and installation, not just the solar module.)

    It’s going to take a while before reaching $1/W installed. There is no silver bullet, no perfect source. Just as we depend on multiple sources of conventional energy (coal, natural gas and nuclear being the major three), if we ever move away from fossil fuels, we will still need multiple sources of renewable energy (such as dispatchable biomass, geothermal and hydro, and intermittent wind and solar).

  22. Dollar a Watt Solar
    ———————————

    Here is a link to an article about Nanosolar which claims to be the first to offer (and actually ship panels to a customer) for less than a dollar.

    These are thin film solar panels as Clee mentioned.

    This article (see link) about Nanosolar also mentions some of the drawbacks and short-comings of solar.

    The company kept the first panel of this production run and then auctioned off a second panel which reportedly went for $10,000 on e-Bay.

    http://www.enn.com/business/article/28057

    John

  23. Wind accounts for ~20% of the power *generated* in Denmark, but about half of that is exported, so it’s only about 10% of the power *consumed* in the country.

  24. Clee said…….

    It’s going to take a while before reaching $1/W installed.
    ————————————

    The article on Nanosolar claims that production costs for a coal fired plant are $2,25 a watt.

    If Nanaosolar is shipping panels for $1 dollar a watt that leaves the customer $1.25 a watt to build the frames, install wiring, an inverter, etc. on a solar farm.

    If the figures in the Nanosolar article are correct, then solar is competitive with coal at a price of $2.25 a watt installed.

    If a solar farm produces electricity 8 hours a day, then it will only produce 1/3 the amount of electricity as an equivalent Kw/h rated coal fired plant.

    The cost per watt produced is the same for both, but a solar farm (producing in optimal weather conditions) will only produce one third as much electricity as the coal plant in any given 24 hour period.

    http://www.enn.com/business/article/28057

    John

  25. John – I had the Nano Solar $1/watt panel in my list of announcements. But that was 18 months ago.

    One of the mistakes that renewable energy promoters make is that fossil fuel energy is subject to cost inflation, but renewables are not. While better manufacturing methods might lead to lower cost solar panels or wind turbines, you still need concrete and steel to erect them, and welders, electricians, pipefitters, etc.

    The $1 /watt panel is key to making solar PV affordable without subsidies. At $2.45 a watt for panels, my PV model still gave me a 20 year payback. At $1 it dropped to 7 years.

  26. Whoa, I meant to say that there is this mistaken assumption that renewables are both cheaper and not subject to the same inflationary pressures that made conventional fossil fuel plants very expensive in the last 5 years.

  27. John writes:
    article about Nanosolar which claims to be the first to offer (and actually ship panels to a customer) for less than a dollar

    Unfortunately Nanosolar made no such claim and the article doesn’t say they did. The article says
    The company believes it can be the first solar manufacturer capable of profitably selling solar panels at 99 cents per watt.
    Which of course means that at the time they had not actually shipped such a panel at that cost. I have never seen Nanosolar make a claim since that they every actually have sold a solar panel for less than $1/watt, though lots of bloggers and other articles seem to think they have.

  28. I can install solar panels on my roof for $8/watt. My utility can build a 1000MW nuclear power plant for 8 billion dollars or $8/watt. Then they got to buy fuel for it, hire Homers to run it, run a power line to my house, bill me, make a return on investment. So which is the more economical investment?

  29. I am a big advocate of renewable energy. What I find irritating is advocates like John who do not really bother to learn about the benefits of renewable energy and the environmental cost/benefit. Then there are the con artist who sell junk to gullible people.

    Some renewable energy advocates like the idea but it is out of ignorance or political aggenda.

    “My electric bill last month was …”

    We have to wonder where John lives. The point of the interactive map is to help use renewable energy where you live not Denmark or Germany. If John lives in California and heats with gas, we should expect a low bills.

    “I use passive solar.”

    Passive solar and thermal mass are very cost effective ways to reduce electric demand on th grid. Solar panels on the roof is Mickey Mouse.

    So what have we learned from every solar project in the world? Solar is a very bad way to make electricity relative to all others. Solar makes for very good photo opportunities for those who want to need such things.

  30. @Robert

    The nuke plant will have a 95% capacity factor and operate for 60 years. If Robert installs solar panel on his roof, the most likely outcome is that Robert will fall off the roof or burn his house down. Robert leave making electricity to the professionals.

  31. KingoKaty writes:

    The $1 a watt panel is key to making solar PV affordable without subsidies. At $2.45 a watt for panels, my PV model still gave me a 20 year payback. At $1 it dropped to 7 years.

    I agree. If we use assume that the Coal fired plant makes electricity at $2.25 a watt and finished solar panels from the factory are $1 dollar a watt that leaves $1,25 per watt to build a solar farm.

    At $1.25 cents watt a 100,000 watt solar farm would give leave us $12 million five hundred thousand dollars to build our solar farm.

    I don’t know if that’s enough money to purchase/lease land, erect solar frames, do all the wiring and tie into the grid.

    I don’t know…..

    Anyway, that’s how much money you have to play with. $12,500,000

    If you can’t build the solar farm for that, then solar is not competitive with coal.

    John

  32. KingoKaty…..

    I goofed. I put my decimal point in the wrong place. Actually, I show there is just $125,000 dollars left for construction. At $1 a watt solar panels for a 100,000 watt installation would cost $100,000.

    Sorry for mistake.

    Doesn’t sound like very much money to me.

    Coal fired plants achieve huge ecomies of scale and the electrical generating equipment is very efficient.

    Solar cells are pretty inefficient. It would be interesting to do a study on how much solar PV can be produced on the same area as is occupied by a coal fired plant.

    Coal wins hands down.

    John

  33. “There is however a method to their madness and the reason, of course, is that the oil companies planed to make the hydrogen for The New Hydrogen Economy, They already manufacture most of the commercial hydrogen any way.”

    Yet another person who imagines the oil industry is a singularly aligned monolith.

    The auto industry has a “monopoly” on the ground transportation business. Does it mean they don’t compete individually? This is a misuse of the term monopoly. If the oil industry has a monopoly on energy, then we can also say that the refrigerator industry has a monopoly on food preservation.

    The control of an industry by a limited number of companies is not the same thing as a unique process or technology for which there is no widespread alternative. In the former there is no competition, in the latter firms can freely compete with alternative technologies, which is happening in the case of energy.

  34. John, you are confusing a few things (like units of generation). Coal is used for base load generation at a typical cost of $20/MWh. Nukes are at $15/MWh.

    Solar will competes with natural gas which ranges from $38/MWh to $200/MWh based on plant heat rate (assuming there is no disruption in NG supply).

    Now look at this cool (much cooler than RR’s) interactive and compare the solar potential and gas fired plants in the Southwest.

    http://www.npr.org/news/graphics/2009/apr/electric-grid/

    Now hold both hands and count your fingers. That is the number of hour a year where solar can produce electricity cheaper than gas. Not to worry, left coast loons have mandated more solar than can possible be produced.

    Anyway John, 30 years from now you will have the opportunity to learn what I know. Solar is not a very good way to make electricity so therefore will not reduce demand for coal.

  35. What are these mythical solar mandates from the left coast loons? While California, Oregon and Washington have Renewable Portfolio Standards, none of them mandate any solar. Zero is pretty easy to produce. Hey, the left coast has already exceeded their solar mandates. It appears it’s the loony right coast that has the solar mandates. North Carolina requires 0.2% solar by 2018.

  36. Kit P said….

    Now look at this cool (much cooler than RR’s) interactive and compare the solar potential and gas fired plants in the Southwest.

    http://www.npr.org/news/graphics/2009/apr/electric-grid/
    ——————————-
    I checked out the map, Groovy.

    I also listened to the pod-casts.

    Like the podcast said, a Smart Grid could re-direct excess wind and solar resources to other areas of the grid where they are needed.

    Excess could also be stored in batteries or flywheels etc. as the podcast also suggested.

    Some of the windmills can’t be furled since they are left unattended. They just keep churning away night and day.

    I didn’t understand your comment about solar being competitive with nat gas only 10 days out of the year. That one just blew right by me,

    John

  37. Robert, I wish you’d do something on nat gas supply one of these days. (There’s a very optimistic article on this topic in the WSJ today)

  38. So we’ve shown that the mythical $1 / watt PV solar panels don’t exist.

    You can’t compare solar or wind that are only available 20-30% of the time to coal and nat gas which are available better than 90%. The intermittance of renewables is an externalized cost.

    As long as wind/solar are a small fraction of the total, the intermittancy is manageable. Over 20% or so you risk third world rolling blackouts every day.

  39. Clee

    I stand corrected on solar mandates. Thanks for the info. It does help to explain the noise from NC. Duke Energy submitted a proposal to the NC PUC for a large amount of solar. The PUC choked at the cost. The issue is pending.

    “I didn’t understand your comment about solar being competitive with nat gas only 10 days out of the year.”

    It is complicated John. The selling price of electricity varies hourly by time of day and time of year. I just checked the price at the local RTO. The range is $29-33/MWh. This tells me that there is excess coal generation for sale. During the summer or winter the rage might be $29-200/MWh. That tells me that there is excess coal generation one place on the grid and natural gas is being used in an inefficient plant someplace else.

    The amount of time that solar is profitable is not very long. The amount of time that wind is economical is much longer.

    So, wind and solar churns out electricity even when the selling price is low. While it is possible to store electricity from wind and solar, it is very expensive.

    The way to store energy is to store the coal or natural gas.

    Here is the interesting about the electricity market. Renewable energy and nuclear lowers the price of natural gas and oil by reducing the demand for NG. If you compare the interactive maps with area of high electric rates, you will see that those are depend heavily on oil and NG.

    What makes it even more complicated is regulated distribution and some part of the power producers. About 10 years ago, we had a presentation of a wood biomass plant that produced power at $40/MWh. The regulated utility passed the cost on to its customers. Now that power plant is saving its customers money because it is below the average wholesale cost.

    We need to be building a mix of power plants including coal. While a large reserve margin (glut if you will) causes slightly higher energy prices than the ideal, a shortage is very expensive. The most environmentally damaging MWh is the MWh not available when needed.

    We should be building wind and solar as fast as we can but we still need fossil and nukes to be built.

  40. Kit P said,

    The amount of time that solar is profitable is not very long. The amount of time that wind is economical is much longer.
    ——————————–

    Kit – Thanks informative post. I though he must be referring to periods of peak demand.

    About 2% of our nat gas imports are LNG which is used mostly in the northeast during the winter months for the same reason.

    John

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