Filed under: Utilities
San Diego, May 6: Wind and solar are now mature, cost-effective technologies that can compete effectively with traditional utility-scale generation – even without subsidies.
That was the consensus among speakers at this morning’s ASES plenary session on renewable energy technologies. Some key points:
Photovoltaics: Jigar Shah, chief strategy officer at SunEdison
- Photovoltaic installations have been growing 41% per year since 2001. It’s now a $6 billion industry, equal to the wind turbine industry.
- Based on the rate of growth of renewable technologies, an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by electric utilities is in fact achievable. It will require the creation of 48 gigawatts of new carbon-neutral generating capacity each year. This can be done over 10 years with a combination of new wind, solar, geothermal and biomass capacity, along with energy efficiency improvements.
- Distributed generation is faster to install than utility-scale generating plants, and doesn’t require the slow, expensive creation of new transmission lines. It’s therefore less expensive than central power generation.
Concentrating Solar Thermal: Chuck Kutscher, National Renewable Energy Lab
- At 14 cents per kilowatt hour, CSP now competes successfully with natural gas as intermediate generation, and utilities like it as a hedge against spiking gas prices.
- The U.S. resource for new CSP is about 300 times richer than new hydroelectric power, or any other conventional resource. If 2% of Colorado’s San Luis Valley were developed for CSP, it would supply twice the state’s peak load and could export power to other states.
- A high-voltage transmission line from the U.S. Southwest could supply the Eastern states at their peak evening-hour loads.
Wind: Ed DeMeo, president of Renewable Energy Consulting Services, Inc.
- It’s feasible that we could get 20% of our electricity from wind by 2030.
- The price of wind power has dropped to less than 6 cents per kilowatt hour, easily competitive with “conventional” utility generation.
- Integration costs are now less than 10% of wholesale energy costs.
- Unlike thermoelectric plants, wind requires no cooling water. Widespread adoption of wind could reduce utility water use by 17%, while avoiding the construction of 80 gigawatts of new coal plants.
Transmission: Craig Cornelius, principal at Hudson Clean Energy Partners
- More transmission capacity is needed to bring renewable electricity to growing markets. The barriers are chiefly political and regulatory.
- It takes seven to 10 years to plan, permit and build a new power line because the wheels of government grind very slowly and often encounter local opposition.
- It’s possible to reduce utility-generated greenhouse gases to the 1950 level within a realistic time frame.
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