Thursday, January 1, 2009

Solar voltaic costs

Acciona Energy of Portugal has just completed a new solar voltaic facility at Moura in the Alentejo region of Portugal. Since construction started in late 2007 and continued through almost all of 2008 the cost of this project will give us a good idea of recent ST cost. The 620 acre facility has a name plate rating of 48 MWs, and cost nearly $400 million. The annual power output is estimated to be 93 million kWh giving a capacity factor of around .22. Unlike solar thermal technology photovoltaic technology has no proven rout to overnight energy storage.


Soylent said...

48 MW(peak)/(620*4046 m^2) = 19 W/m^2(peak).

That's an awful 4.2 W/m^2 average.

We're currently using 15 TW from all sources; assume that by the time we replace this with 15 TW of electric power we're using as much electricity due to improving living standards in the developing world(which is really the only non-genocidal way in which the world population can be stabilized), ofsetting any gains in efficiency over fossil fuels.

You would need 1.4 million copies of this solar plant on land that is on average as productive as this part of Portugal at a cost of $560 trillion(8.5 times world GDP 2008) not including the ridiculous amount of storage and transmission necessary. It would cover 3.6 million square kilometres, 2.4% of the Earths surface not including storage.

I'm not sure if you can expect the price of PV to fall if you take it as given that we cover 3.6 million square kilometres with PV plants; the price of solar PV would be inflated by furious demand. Another way to think of it is that it would be necessary to compensate solar PV manufacturers very well in order for them to quickly expand their operations enough to produce enough PV panels.

It seems patently unreasonable that solar cells will meet more than a miniscule sliver of energy needs within any forseeable future even before you consider the massive transmission systems, the seasonal variations, the building of huge artificial lakes for storage, the operating costs, the (currently quite limited) life span of solar panels, the susceptibility of solar panels to natural disasters(hurricanes and hail more so than Earth quakes) and electrical grid that would put any other Rube Goldberg machine to shame.

Charles Barton said...

PV is clearly out of the running for the rational, but by now we have learned to not expect rationality from renewables advocates.


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