Friday, June 20, 2008

Solana, subsidies and future solar cost

I have some more solar (CSP) construction cost and performance data. Solana CPS facility under construction at Gila Bend, Ariz., will have a name plate capacity of 284 megawatts. The facility will cover about 1,900 acres. And its cost is piously estimated at 1 Billion. No power output estimate is reported but the power will reportedly sell for 4 billion dollars over a 30 year period of time. Assuming a 23% capacity factor that we calculated from Nevada Solar 1, the daily power out put would be 24 X 280 MWs X .23 = 1.5456 GWh Per day, The $1 billion dollar figure would appear to be proportional the Nevada Solar 1 construction costs which ran little more that $4 million per name plate MW. $4 Million X 280 MWs = $1120 Million. 1 Billion would be about 10% less, but who wants to bet on the $1 Billion figure considering inflation? We had to go with a dummied up capacity factor from Nevada Solar 1, but as we will see the data is not out of line. We get an average of 192 MWh electrical production. Now lets try out our .23 per KWh cost figure. 192 MWh is worth 192,000 X .23 X 8 = $253,280 x 365 = $128,947,200 which is remarkably close to $4 Billion divided by 30 years = 133,333,333.

We also have a similar land use pattern. 280 MW of name plate power requires 3 square miles of land. We don't have any information on water use yet. The Solana data set is fat from complete and our cost figure is far from final but the data I do have increases my confidence in the Nevada Solar 1 data set and conclusions I have drawn from it.

Solar investment exists because of government subsidies: The government now pays 30 percent of the capitol investment costs of businesses that invest in solar power to meet our energy need.

Renewable energy production tax credit: This program gives wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable power sources a leg up with a 1.9-cent per kilowatt-hour tax credit, which makes them more competitive with natural gas or coal-fired power plants. Every advocate of solar power believes that solar power in an "infant industry" that needs to be supported by such lavish subsidies. Failure to do so, the solar advocates tell me, will doom the human species to disappear from the face of our planet.

In addition to investments in solar arrays rate payers or tax payers are boing to pick up the tab on a $1.5 million per mile cost for new transmission lines.

Depending on various factors, building one MW of solar energy can involve an investment of up to $7 million. That is before interest, and does not include overnight energy storage. Solar theorist claim that solar investment costs are going to drop to a $3.5-5 million soon. It is not clear if that figure includes inflation, because the word inflation never appears in discussions of solar power. According to solar experts in the next few years the cost of solar facilities may drop as low as $2.5 million per MW. That is expected to happen shortly after the Starship Enterprise gets its warp drive coil.

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