Nuclear is not better than coal for the simple reason that we have not figured out what to do with the wastes. We are naive to think that we can deal with something that has a half life in the thousands of years. Look back 100, 200, 500, 1000 years. What kind of changes have happened?
I am all for a serious discussion on dealing with the wastes in a responsible way. We have to find a way to recycle them and/or destroy them. My own idea is that we work hard on space elevators. That would allow us to have an economic way of getting the wastes off the earth and we can send them into the biggest nuclear genarator around - the sun.
Meanwhile, it is pretty obvious that solar and wind are vastly under developed. Look at the price drop already, mainly driven by only a few countries. Onshore wind is already the lowest power source to build and operate. Furthermore, these industries create safe, well paying jobs that stay local.
The simple way to compare these sources is to look at large numbers. Let's build and run (in our heads) a few gigawatt energy plant. What will it cost to build? What will it cost to operate? What will it cost to close it down (and deal with any waste)? How clean is it (health and environmental impacts)? What is the potential / likelyhood that these costs will go down? People are good at convincning themselves and others of any given position, mainly because they selectively choose which of these factors to conviniently ignore.
Good article. Amorphous was a good idea when silicon was expensive, but it is really hard to bring costs down to match the low efficiency. I think TEL will really regret buying Oerlikion.
CIGS and CdTe on the other hand have good efficiencies and prices that will clearly drop as volumes go up. I would not be surprised if in 10 years a large portion of solar is thin film and dye (plastics). Ultimately, the cost of things comes down to material usage and manufacturing cost. This will limit normal C-Si solar at some point, because at some point the cost of the substrate can't go down any more.
I fully support Governer Richardson's proposal. Europe (multi country, not state) and China (single party decides all) are way ahead of the US on renewables because they set out clear, long term plans. In Europe, they plan is only to reach a certain target and each member decides how to go about it. We can learn from Europe especially. Note that with all their financial problems, Greece and Italy continue to invest in renewables, because they know that it creates jobs and long term reduces their dependence on foreign energy providers.
This seems worth looking into, but I disagree that leasing keeps prices artificially high. Leasing allows people to go into solar with low or no money down. In essence, the leasing companies do the work, take the risks, but then get the benefit of the difference in pricing. If energy prices are going up and solar going down, then the leasing company should rightly take the difference.
One of the best things the US has contributed to renewables has been innovations in how to finance them. The fact that the costs are higher in the US than other places has much more to do with the adminstrative and electrical costs. The best thing to do now is agree on a common code / standards for all sized installations across all states. There should also be an agreement that Utilities MUST take renewable power onto the grid unless they can show a true hardship. This is what Germany did and why their market took off more than any other country.
Wow - this has triggered some emotional debate. I am a huge fan of renewables and supporting the Green economy. However, it is OK to admit when you are wrong (I hope). Solyndra and to a lesser extend A123 were direct bets on companies and that is not the best way to grow new technologies. Much better to make the regulations such that these are of interest to companies. In balance, I think the Obama administration rightly put a lot of money into ALL kinds of ways to increase energy usage and drive a greener economy - all with the double intent to spur the economy and prevent a depression. In the overall goal they succeeded. For specific companies of course some did not make it. It would be interesting to see the status of ALL companies that got money and how they are doing.
I see a continued trend in US politics which is to pick one case and try to build a world view on it. Obama has a pretty good overall track record. Romney was a poor governer, but a successful businessman. They have two different views on what government is for and who it should benefit. Let's get out and vote for whoever you think is best for the US in the long run.
Taking a really, really high level view, is it a problem if solar prices go down and down and down because the Chinese government is paying the losses? I know it is bad for companies that are not in China, but from a pure supply and demand, the cost will come down. Unlike other industries, they could never establish a monopoly situation and raise prices. It is simply too small a cost to start up a solar line even if you have to grow the silicon. What will be interesting is if the Chinese government decides it is better to spend money on their OWN solar growth and not on companies that export at a loss.
I agree that offshore is still expensive for various reasons and it also involves some pretty new technology (example new designed larger turbines). Like all renewables, the costs will drop significantly as the experience level and volumes grow. This is in contrast to almost all other energy forms where costs just keep going up!
We have to decide where to invest and how to get costs down. Eventually offshore will provide a very stable and low cost electricity generation in the East coast (high populations centers). Still, I agree that our first priority should continue to be onshore and renew the tax credits that expire end of this year.
By the way - peak demand will change when we go in volume to electric cars. A lot of charging will happen at night and we will have smart electricity meaning you pay by when you buy.
I don't agree with the opinion that these will be explotation of the environment - quite the opposite. I know from experience that people complain a lot about wind towers "spoiling the view," but once they have been up awhile they actually like them. They are beautiful objects with syncronized movements. I don't think on a windy day you can even hear them unless you are pretty close.
Solyndra did not technically have "cells." These were thin film coated glass tubes.
It is clear that there was a huge drop in solar prices as Chinese production muliplied so rapidly. I never saw signs of collusion between Chinese companies and suppliers. It was more like a race to get to the top, then suddenly everyone realized they had to do whatever they could to survive. They sold at whatever price they could get. I don't see it as dumping when there is simply much more avialability than demand in a commodity market. Chinese companies probably had some advantages (financing or at least guarantees), but many, many of them are losing huge amounts of money or going out of business. Solyndra was not alone in falling, but I see this as more the fact that only companies with huge levels of production (think First Solar) could get the economics needed to make it.
I can't comment on the lawsuit. Let the facts come out. I am a huge fan of Solar and think the Obama people had their hearts in the right place in putting so much effort in to make us competitive. China is doing the same on a larger scale! However, I never got the excitement about Solyndra. I never heard from ANYON that they had a great product that would compete on cost with what was clearly a commoditizing market. People in the panel business will tell you that at the end of the day, you can lose projects for being 2 cents higher on cost per watt even with all the great arguments about long term cost savings and efficiencies. The premium for brand names exists for only a minor part of the market. Solyndra was a bad bet. Luckily, there were man other good bets and we learn how to do it better. Best is to give incentive to people to install. That drives everything.
Blaming renewables for energy prices is a red herring for sure. Energy companies all make money and most of the rate increase is for them to increase profits. In France, where most power is nuclear, the charges on the bill for energy are low - but the charges for taxes, services, misc. fees, and all kinds of other things bring the bill up to the same level per watt as Germany! And guess which company is one of the most profitable in the country year in and year out. The source power is not the problem with energy costs, it is the lack of any real competition due to the nature of how energy companies were governmetn monopolies for so long.