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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Renewable Energy Now Cheaper Than Fossil Fuel

posted by M Caulfield | September 24, 2013

Renewable energy is becoming more and more competitive. Alternative and renewable energy sources are increasingly becoming more affordable. According to a new study published in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, it is now less costly in America to get electricity from wind turbines and solar panels, than it is to get it from coal-fired power plants. The study shows, when climate change costs and other health impacts were factored in, that it is even more cost effective to convert an existing coal-fired power plant with a wind turbine, than it is to keep the old fossil fuel-burning plant.

Unsubsidized renewable energy is now cheaper than electricity from coal and gas power stations in Australia as well. Wind farms in Australia can produce energy at AU$80/MWh. Meanwhile, coal plants are producing energy at AU$143/MWh and gas at AU$116/MWh. And the myth that alternative energy sources were enormously more costly than the typical fossil fuels, is proving to be untrue. And after initial investment costs are waged, making them now ameliorated, and the raw materials for solar and wind power are free, besides costs of upkeep, and the harvesting of those sources doesn’t cause mayhem to the environment. Making it an ever-more appealing alternative energy source.

  • “The perception that fossil fuels are cheap and renewables are expensive is now out of date… The fact that wind power is now cheaper than coal and gas in a country with some of the world’s best fossil fuel resources shows that clean energy is a game changer which promises to turn the economics of power systems on its head,” – Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

  • “Burning coal is a very costly way to make electricity. There are more efficient and sustainable ways to get power,… We can reduce health and climate change costs while reducing the dangerous carbon pollution driving global warming.” – Dr. Laurie Johnson, chief economist in the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Since 1990, wind-generated power has grown 26 percent per year, and solar has risen 48 percent. In the United States, renewable energy accounted for 13.2 percent of the domestically produced electricity in 2012. U.S. wind power installed capacity now exceeds 60,000 MW and supplies 3% of the nations electricity. Not very inspiring figures. But the interest in finding new, cheaper, preferably renewable sources are inspiring innovation. Researchers at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) developed an inexpensive solar cell that can be painted or printed on flexible plastic sheets. Which can then essentially be slapped onto a wall, roof, or billboard, in order to create a power station for the homeowner. In an effort to create something more affordable, Twin Creeks Technologies, a US-based solar energy company, created an ultra-thin solar cell that will cost half as much to produce as comparable cells.

Perovskites (a calcium titanium oxide mineral species composed of calcium titanate) have been known for over a century, but no one thought to try them in solar cells until recently. “While conventional silicon solar panels use materials that are about 180 micrometers thick, the new solar cells (using perovskites) use less than one micrometer of material to capture the same amount of sunlight.” New research on the combination, aims to reduce the cost or solar panels to between 10 and 20 cents per watt, current panels typically cost around 75 cents per watt.

Renewable energy sources (such as Hydro and wind) are expected to be plentiful enough to supply the needs of humanity for almost a billion years. We do not have to worry about renewable energy sources being depleted. And they are cleaner sources of energy which have a lower environmental impact than conventional sources.