Experiencing Technical Difficulties (resonant) wrote,
Experiencing Technical Difficulties

Solar under $0.03 USD/kWh!!!

Every coal and petroleum company executive just started screaming in terror. The price of solar electric power, delivered to the grid in utility-scale quantities, just dropped below three cents per kWh. Unsubsidized.


That's in sunny Kuwait, of course. But that means that even in cloudy Canada, we'll see that price within a decade.

That's cheaper than electricity generated from coal (10 cents per kWh) and from natural gas (7 cents per kWh). Even after adding in the cost of energy storage systems (batteries, flywheels, pumped storage, underwater compressed air), solar will be still so much cheaper that no bank would fund new fossil-fuel power plant construction.

Fossil fuels won't even be used for heating. A cubic metre of natural gas gives off about 10 kWh of heat when burned, and costs about 10 cents, a third the cost of resistance heaters powered by solar electricity. However, that much electricity could generate the same 10 kWh of heat when used to run a heat pump. There would be no financial benefit for installing natural gas pipelines to new-construction buildings. People will likely have their heat pumps run during the day (when electricity would be cheap and ambient temperatures are higher), warming up tanks of water to keep their homes warm at night.

Nuclear power is now suddenly uncompetitive. The new plant at Hinkley Point in the UK will cost about $35 billion, and will provide power to the grid at 9 cents per kWh. Unless dramatically-cheaper reactor designs are developed, no utility will be able to convince investors to put money into new construction. Which is a shame, as I think CANDU reactors could be a nice source of low-carbon grid baseload.

Wind is currently at about 6 cents per kWh, but it still might have a place in future power generation. Although solar just jumped ahead, the cost of wind power has been steadily decreasing over the past decade. It would not be surprising if new advances in tower construction or blade design allowed wind to become even cheaper than solar.

So, things are going to get very interesting.

[edited to correct math error in heat pump paragraph]
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