Somehow, the number-one most emailed story at the NY Times is about solar energy. I’m surprised that this made the top of the list. After all, it’s not about how a woman can train her husband like one trains a sea mammal.
The power they produce is still relatively expensive. Industry experts say the plant here produces power at a cost per kilowatt- hour of 15 to 20 cents. With a little more experience and some economies of scale, that could [or maybe could not?] fall to about 10 cents, according to a recent report by Emerging Energy Research, a consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass. Newly built coal-fired plants are expected to produce power at about 7 cents per kilowatt-hour or more if carbon is taxed.
The solar plants receive a federal tax subsidy, like other types of renewable energy, which makes the economics work for builders but also feeds skepticism about the technology’s long-term potential. “Unless there’s a subsidy involved, it doesn’t seem like a very attractive technology,” said Revis James, a renewables expert at the Electric Power Research Institute, a utility industry consortium.
So you see, you’re tax dollars are paying for this.
Furthermore, I’m sure the figure above doesn’t account for the fact that these plants require a backup plant using conventional fuels for when the sun isn’t shining. I used to live in Phoenix; even though it’s the desert, we did get cloudy days from time to time. The need for a backup plant significantly increases the costs of this technology.
This article also gets a basic fact of electricity production wrong:
As prices rise for fossil fuels and worries grow about their contribution to global warming, solar thermal plants are being viewed as a renewable power source with huge potential.
There’s a misconception about how fossil fuels relate to electricity. We rarely use oil to generate electricity in the United States. Coal is the fossil fuel of choice for electricity production, and coal is entirely a domestic market and is not effected by a worldwide shortage of petroleum. The quote above plays into that misconception.
There’s plenty of uranium available. We should be building nuclear plants.