Needless to say the aggressive anti-nuclear nut cases never compare the cost of nuclear power with the cost of reliable renewable electricity. But even renewable advocates who do not take an aggressive anti-nuclear position, pitch puffballs at renewables costs. Renewables manufacturers, and installation builders frequently try to hide the very high costs of part time, unreliable renewables facilities. Unfortunately renewables friendly writers are party to the conspiracy to hind renewables cost, This pattern shows up over and over in the writing of Energy Collective renewables friendly writers.
In order to demonstrate the problem I made a case study of a recent Energy Collective post by Tyler Hamilton, a senior energy reporter and columnist for the Toronto Star. I would not classify Tyler an anti-nuclear nut case and I have posted a link to "Clean Brake" on Nuclear Green. But Tyler is a far to uncritical renewables advocate in my book. My case study is based on a post of June 18 titled, Duke Energy solar storage pilot worthy of replication. Tyler is nothing, if not a shameless cheerleader for renewable energy, opens his story:
It’s with great delight that I read about the handful of U.S. utilities that are seriously testing out various conservation, smart grid, storage and renewable technologies in an effort to extend greener offerings to customers. The latest is Duke Energy’s McAlpine Creek project, part of which involves the deployment of a 50 kilowatt solar PV array, consisting of 213 solar panels, at a substation that feeds the grid or, alternatively, can charge up a 500-kilowatt zinc-bromide battery system.But no where in Tyler's story is there a hint about how much such a system would cost. This is a very practical question that energy writers should be answering. I decided to to do the leg work that Tyler failed to provide his readers. So how much does the installation cost? According to solarbuzz, PV installations cost from $8 to $10 per W. That would give us an installation cost of $400,000 to $500,000. The facility will have an optimal output on uncloudy days of 333,000 kWh. Hamilton claims that battery backup costs as little as two cents per kW, but I was unable to find any confirmation that zinc-bromide batteries were available at that price. I managed to track down the cost of ZBB zinc-bromide batteries which run to $400 per kWh. Thus the 500 kW battery most likely costs another $200,000. We clearly have a facility which is capable of producing electricity on demand, and will produce something close to 14 kWs per hour in a 24 hour day. The facility costs $600,000 to $700,000. Thus we have a cost of from $43 to $50 per watt of reliable output, or 5 to 6 times the cost of a hugely expensive nuclear plant.
Were Tyler to compare the cost of reliable electricity from the Duke PV facility with the cost of nuclear power, he would simply be forced to admit that reliable PV power was not competitive with nuclear power. No doubt Tyler would experience something less than "great delight" as he made this admission.
During the last two years, I have done repeated case studies that address the cost of reliable renewable electricity. I have looked at several schemes to make solar and wind generated electricity reliable, and assessed the cost of each scheme. The results were always the same. The estimated cost of reliable renewable electrical generating facilities have always proven to be more expensive than the estimated costs of new nuclear generating facilities, For far to many Energy Collective writers, this all too obvious conclusion is so distasteful, that they are simply participating in what amounts to a massive coverup of the real price of reliable renewable generating facilities. The failure of Energy Collective writers to address the issue of adverse renewables cost is an ethics issue, and it has serious consequences.
I have dubbed this current period in thinking about energy, the era of confusion.
We live in an era of confusion. We know that our energy future will be different, but we are like people who are somewhere between dreaming and being fully awake. Our dreams intrude into our thoughts, confusing us. In order to wake up we must stop confusing dreams with reality.Unfortunately this confusion between dream and reality infects writers whose real responsibility is to help deliver the public from its confusion. To continue to yield to ones own confusion while ignoring evident reality is only human, but to lead in an era of confusion one must do a great deal more than yield to one's own confusion. For energy writers there is an ethical imperative to not yield, even if by not yielding we are forced to admit things which we find distasteful.