Friday, November 28, 2008

Alternative Energy Report in Florida

This headline from the Miami Herald, "Solar power costlier for Florida than nuclear, report finds," signals the type of debate that will be going on more in more in the coming days, months and years.

The report was commissioned by the Florida Legislature, as part of an effort to come up with an alternative energy portfolio with a certain percentage of total energy mandated to be clean and renewable.

The focus of the report is the cost of various sources of energy, but the results are complex. Costs for various sources of energy are based on various government policies that might be implemented, and are unknown now. If the government does nothing to support alternative energy, the prices will be much higher than if policies are set to both assist renewable production and dissuade the use of fossil fuels.

Here's the projected breakdown money breakdown on different sources of energy.

Navigant [the hired consulting firm] said a company producing ground-mounted solar photovoltaic energy will need 30.63 cents/kWh in 2009 to make its investment worthwhile over the course of the plant's 30-year life. As the years go by, improvements in technology will mean that figure for solar will decline to 23.59 cents/kWh in 2020, the last year the study measures.

That compares to new nuclear costs of 12.97 cents/kWh in 2020. Natural gas base plants would be 10.09 cents.

But the study says that because solar is a intermittent power source, it would be more accurate to compare it with natural-gas turbines that turn on only peak times, which are expected to have costs of 17 to 23 cents/kWh over the next 12 years.

Wind costs could range from 17.55 cents/kWh in 2009 to 18.30 in 2020, but the report said there was not a lot of financially viable on-land wind power in the state. Much of biomass power would be considerably cheaper, with costs in 2020 ranging from 0.82 cents/kWh to 12 cents.

For power from ocean currents, power could be viable at 17.42 cents/kWh starting in 2015, declining to 13.72 cents/kWh for such plants built in 2020.

The article notes these figures will be hotly debated. The future cost of energy is a guessing game, and it's going to be interesting to see how those guesses affect policy and what the realities of the changing energy production picture will be.

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