Friday, May 16, 2014

Climate Change & Renewables - 1.PV, Wind, Batteries

Thought I'd share some items I've learned recently about renewable energy.  Even if you deny anthopogenic climate change you can accept clean energy is better than dirty energy.

Photovoltaic (PV):  The idea of a carbon tax is that the sources of greenhouse gas were too varied to simply regulate away.   By taxing carbon, the market would sort it all out and induce people to go with the overall least CO2 generating products.  Turns out the data shows it is mostly coal burning power plants that are the big culprit and those you *can* regulate so Obama is intending to regulate power plant emissions.  This is possible now where it wasn't before because of the dramatic drop in the price of PV.  A website with some very encouraging PV news dramatically presented with charts is here:

(click on charts to enlarge) The first chart is even more dramatic than it at first appears because it is on a log scale which means prices for modules were repeatedly going down by 50% roughly every 8 years and since 2008 have declined by 50% every *4* years.  They are now competitive with traditional power generation methods.  So new large scale power plants can just as cost effectively be built with PV as with coal or gas. (storage discussed below).

Labor and regulation are costly so the installed price averaged over home size installation and large utility are not declining as fast as the modules and we have the installed cost dropping from about $10/Watt (2001) to about $4/Watt in 2012.  

There has been a corresponding increase in PV installed in the US from about 435 MW added in 2009 to about 4,751 MW added in 2012.  (C.f. 

Solar represented 29% of new power generation added in 2013.

Wind:  The drop in price for wind is almost as dramatic as for PV from about $0.55/KWh in 1980 to about $0.05/KWh in 2000 where it has stabilized.  A slight increase for a few years when carbon fiber used in manufacturing was in short supply but it is back to $0.05 now.

Storage:  The sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow but the price of energy storage in Litium-Ion batteries has dropped (thanks to demand in cell phones, etc., etc.) so that the amount stored per $100 of battery has soared exponentially from 10 Watt-hrs/$100 (1991) to over 300 Wh/$100 (2005).

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