The following three graphics (click on the images to enlarge) are from a recent “Levelized Cost of Energy” (LCOE) study by Lazard – one of the world’s leading financial advisory and asset management firms. I’m posting the graphics here because they demonstrate how competitive clean energy’s become (even with massive implicit and explicit subsidies to fossil fuels), and also how much cheaper renewable power is going to get over the next few years. No wonder why the International Energy Agency just explained how solar “could be the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050,” with coal just about extinct (see the slide “Solar’s share varies significantly by region”). Great stuff; now let’s get on with the transition from dirty, dangerous, fossil-fuel-based energy to clean, renewable power.
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AWEA, SEIA Leaders: Wind, Solar “two affordable, reliable, and business-friendly solutions” to Meet EPA Rules
We just wanted to highlight this morning’s op-ed in The Hill by Tom Kiernan and Rhone Resch – the leaders of the American Wind Energy Association and the Solar Energy Industries Association, respectively, about how wind and solar are “two affordable, reliable, and business-friendly solutions” for America to meet the proposed new EPA carbon pollution rules. Here’s an excerpt from the op-ed, with which we concur 100%.
Some members of Congress worry we could hurt our economy by working to meet the EPA’s proposed standards. They may not have heard the good news about these newly affordable solutions at hand.
While there’s no single solution to meeting the much-needed goal of reducing carbon emissions, wind and solar power are two of the biggest, fastest, and most cost-effective ways to meet the EPA’s proposed rule. Governors all across the country already know how they grow economies and create jobs – and a strong majority of Americans support scaling up these clean, homegrown energy sources.
That’s why we urge all members of Congress to look to wind and solar power as leading solutions to help meet America’s future energy needs.
Recently, the British newspaper The Telegraph reported that Prime Minister David Cameron “wants to go into the next election pledging to ‘rid’ the countryside of onshore wind farms.” The Telegraph article added, “Conservative plans would have put a limit on the total amount of energy generated in the country by onshore wind, meaning that future projects could be blocked.” Apparently, Prime Minister Cameron and his Conservative Party see this assault on wind power as a popular move. If so, it’s unclear where they’re getting their polling information from, as this article reports.
About two-thirds of people would rather have a wind farm than a fracking site near their home, according to a poll carried out by industry researchers.
The research has been used to question the growing opposition to wind farms within Government ranks, with the Conservatives signalling a curb on the growth of wind energy projects in their 2015 general election manifesto.
Asked to choose between having the two energy sources within the area of their own local authority, 62 per cent of those questioned in the poll said they would rather have a wind farm near to where they live than a fracking site, compared to 19 per cent who said they would prefer – if it were a choice of one over the other – the process of hydraulic fracturing, which involves fracturing shale rocks to release natural gas, known as fracking.
[Wind energy firm] Ecotricity has questioned the Government’s energy policies when the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has been conducting its own Public Attitudes Tracking Survey since July 2012 – with the latest results showing that 64% support onshore wind. That research revealed that just 28% of people supported fracking in the UK.
The firm also pointed out that while sections of the coalition Government indicate there will be pre-election promises against onshore wind in favour of fracking – suggesting there are plans for generous tax breaks and planning shortcuts for fracking – both the DECC poll and the YouGov poll for Ecotricity reflect a continued public preference for onshore wind.
In sum: wind is far more popular than fracking in the U.K., and of course it’s also far better for the environment, yet for some strange reason Prime Minister Cameron and his Conservative Party seem to think it’s an electoral winner to oppose wind and support fracking. It doesn’t seem to make any sense, especially when you consider that Cameron’s “fracking fairytale” is “demonstrably and devastatingly false.” Perhaps it’s not, as Prime Minister Cameron suggests, fracking’s opponents who are “irrational,” but its supporters?
The decline in the cost of wind power has been impressive over the past few decades, and it’s continuing. As this graphic by the American Wind Energy Association demonstrates. the cost of wind power in the U.S. has fallen from around 55 cents per kilowatthour in 1980 to less than 10 cents per kilowatthour today. The result is that wind power is rapidly becoming cost competitive with natural gas-fired electricity.
The Visualising the Production Tax Credit for Wind Energy study by the University of California and Syracuse University shows wind costing only $0.0035/kWh more than gas when levelised over the 20-year life of a typical wind project.
This is the result of taking into account the cost of the environmental impact of gas power stations, as well as the predicted volatility of wholesale gas prices…
… adding in the other factors finds an adjusted levelised cost of electricity for wind of 0.092/kWh, versus 0.0885/kWh for gas.
Over at Earth Techling, writer Pete Danko explains why a map of U.S. wind turbines shows a “big empty space down South.” There are three main obstacles to bringing wind power to the southern U.S. First, there’s the wind resource itself.
The Southeastern U.S. is devoid of wind power and has been for a simple reason: It is an area with generally poor wind resource. Check out this map (below) of the predicted mean annual wind speeds at 80 meters, typical turbine height, keeping in mind that it takes average winds of around 6.5 meters per second “to have a wind resource suitable for wind development,” according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Second, a lack of transmission lines.
….more and better transmission lines are needed, including high-voltage, direct-current lines that can move massive amounts of power with less electrical losses compared to AC lines. DC lines, for technical reasons, also make for a more flexible and stable grid.
And third, an unfriendly regulatory environment.
…just last week the Alabama state Senate passed a bill that would set up stringent regulations on any wind farms – so stringent, Pioneer Green Energytold the local Gadsen Times, that if it becomes law, the wind farms won’t be built.
For one thing, a noise limit would measure decibel levels at property lines, not at actual residences. The bill also “requires the towers to be set back from residential or commercial structures or public use areas a distance equivalent to five times the towers’ height,” the Times reported, a very restrictive standard.
Clearly, there’s not much that can be done about the first problem (although offshore wind resources are excellent along much of the East Coast). The second and third obstacles, however, are a different story entirely. Those obstacles are largely the result of (bad) policy choices made by politicians, many of whom are far too friendly to fossil fuels and far too unfriendly to clean, renewable energy. That’s an obstacle we can and should change at the ballot box.