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Brookings Study Calls Solar, Wind Power the Most Expensive Fossil Alternatives

timothy posted about 2 months ago | from the but-they're-also-the-sexiest dept.

Earth 409

turkeydance (1266624) writes A new study [PDF] from the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, argues that using solar and wind energy may be the most expensive alternatives to carbon-based electricity generation, even though they require no expenditures for fuel.....Specifically, this means nuclear power offers a savings of more than $400,000 worth of carbon emissions per megawatt of capacity. Solar saves only $69,000 and wind saves $107,000. An anonymous reader points out that the Rocky Mountain Institute finds the Brookings study flawed in several ways, and offers a rebuttal.

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Funny money (5, Insightful)

oldhack (1037484) | about 2 months ago | (#47637663)

"$400,000 worth of carbon emissions", it says. What, monopoly money?

Re:Funny money (4, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 months ago | (#47637975)

"$400,000 worth of carbon emissions", it says. What, monopoly money?

There are carbon emission markets that put a real price on CO2 emissions. These are currently priced under $10 / tonne. But this study used a value of $50 / tonne, without any justification, other than making their conclusions look more impressive.

Re:Funny money (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47638029)

Think about it this way. Nuclear supports the status quo - centralized production via corporations. Solar and wind kill the cash cow.

Re:Funny money (4, Insightful)

mlts (1038732) | about 2 months ago | (#47638051)

That $400,000 number is suspect. What conditions are what I wonder about.

Don't forget regulation. I can go get some wood pallets behind S-Mart [1], rip them up and make a frame that props a solar panel roughly south, have the wires go to a $10 charge controller, a cast-off battery, and an el cheapo inverter fresh off the Chinese slowboat... and I have a little bit of electric for an outbuilding, for the total cost for well under a C-note, especially if the panel is a cast off or factory second. This isn't a reliable setup, but for a redneck solution to keep a shed lit at night, it is workable.

There is no way in Hell one could ever approach anything nuclear related without billions of dollars in assets. Even a small reactor in the low megawatts will take tens to hundreds of millions of red tape fees, dealing with the anti-nuke lobby and the NIMBY people, then finding a contractor who will actually make a reactor head out of the correct materials and not pot metal, not to mention all the other costs with each step of getting the reactor up and running.

Nuclear power is great scaling up, because it provides the most energy generation for the least amount of real estate. However, it takes no regulation other than basic electrical codes to get solar operational.

[1]: Not Wal-Mart, they want $10 per pallet.

Finally!! (1)

TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) | about 2 months ago | (#47637683)

A Think Tank chock full O' Think.

I like it [slashdot.org] .

Re:Finally!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637819)

I *want* this sort of stuff for my house. So naturally I go price it out. 25-30k+ for most systems. If you include subsidies you end up at 15-20k+. One dude I had in here wanted to sell me a geothermal system 60k and 30-45k after subsidies (that was a 41 year ROI before subsidies). Subsidies just mean I am paying for it a different way. Thru my taxes. Which is ok if I dont care about roads, police, fire dept, and schools. Also many of these systems have a life span of 10-20 years depending on the tech you buy.

It does hedge against higher prices in the future. Somewhat. The thing is I dont really pay more. I work a particular amount and pay a % of my living for it. That is the magic of inflation.

So yes the cost of these systems is a bit high still. Its why you do not see them slathered all over the place. If the cost ratio was more on the order of 2-3 years ROI people would probably go 'what the hell' and do it. Its coming down. Think we are at what 80-90 cents on the solar cells? But at this point if you really look at it the material cost is the small part (about 8-9k for a full solar system). It is the people who put it all together for you that end up costing the most.

So yeah I want this for my house and family. The tech is pretty cool. IF you have the cash for it.

Oh one more thing keep an eye on those 'ROI calculators' They never ever take into account maintenance costs. Such as that shit inverter they sell you that you have to replace every 5-10 years and have a licensed electrician come out to fix. They also make it look like the systems last 80+ years when the reality is they at most last 25 (for solar) which at that point you are looking at full replacement. Which should be cheaper than last time. But not much. Geothermal seems to last the longest.

I will keep looking and pricing. But time to ROI just is not there yet for me personally.

Re:Finally!! (5, Interesting)

TWX (665546) | about 2 months ago | (#47637891)

We're looking into Solar right now, and I'm considering everything from a leased system that only provides daytime power offset, to a full system with battery bank and generator capable of intentional islanding off-grid for those few times that the power goes out. Trouble is trying to size the thing, one estimate suggested we only get 12.5kW, but with three HVAC units and two hot water heaters, plus the air compressor and other things down the road like a welder I don't think that the ~50A from such a system would really be enough given that the property is sized for 200A service and I have an outbuilding to support. I can buy a propane-powered 20kW generator for about $4000, so I'm wondering if I'd be better off sizing solar to be similar.

Even costing more than other non-fossil-fuel sources, solar appeals because it's something that I can do at home. I can't really do wind, there's probably not enough thermal gradient to do geothermal, there's no stream or river to do hydro, and obviously nuclear is out. That pretty much leaves me with solar.

I'm disappointed that codes for new construction haven't started mandating the installation of solar. Integrated into the design of a house it could probably fit aestetically better than a retrofit, and the cost to purchase such a system when rolled into the 30 year loan would probably make it more feasible for most to have it. On top of that, wider adoption would serve to drive costs down for everyone else, including possible retrofits like mine.

Re:Finally!! (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 2 months ago | (#47637921)

Use gas e.g. propane for water heating.

Re:Finally!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637939)

The question is, why are you looking into solar right now? Are you trying to lower carbon emissions? Then I have a simple solution for you: Don't live in a 200A service, 3 HVAC McMansion. OR start arguing for nukes and then we can all suck down clean reliable power.

Re:Finally!! (4, Informative)

mspohr (589790) | about 2 months ago | (#47637989)

I'm installing solar this month.
The ROI calculators show a first year 7% ROI (of course, this will increase as electricity prices increase).
It's hard to find another investment which will give me 7% return on my investment and where the return will increase by 3-5% per year for the next 25 years.
This is a no-brainer.

Re:Finally!! (5, Interesting)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 months ago | (#47638033)

We're looking into Solar right now

I looked into solar last year. In California, we have tiered pricing, where the first tier costs $0.10 per kwhr, the second tier $0.12, and if you go over that, the third tier is $0.30. I wanted to at least eliminate the top tier. But before I invested in solar, I decided to try to cut consumption as much as possible. I added insulation to the attic (saving gas in the winter, and electricity for A/C in the summer), installed an attic fan, and switched all our lighting to LEDs. LEDs are expensive at retail ($10 per bulb) but far cheaper on eBay ($2 per bulb). The result was that I was no longer using any top tier electricity, and the solar no longer made sense. I did all this for about 5% of what the solar would have cost.

Re:Finally!! (1)

burisch_research (1095299) | about 2 months ago | (#47638055)

You say 200A, however that isn't actually meaningful without also specifying the voltage. I'm assuming USA 120V, given your dollar-speak, however it would be helpful to make it explicit. There's a 4x difference in power consumption between 200A @ 120V and 200A @ 240V, so what appears to be nit-picking actually makes a massive difference.

Re:Finally!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47638067)

According to a friend who worked in the solar industry, the biggest bang for your buck right now is solar water heating. So if cost is a concern, you probably want to start with that.

Re:Finally!! (2)

Dragon Bait (997809) | about 2 months ago | (#47637897)

So naturally I go price it out. 25-30k+ for most systems.

I assume that this is for solar. A friend who was a building contractor in a former life recently looked at solar and was rather peeved. Seems that the materials are about $5K (US) now and the installation takes a trained group of about 5 to 7 people one day to install. Someone is making a killing on these things.

My friend is now trying to convince local contractors to get into the installation business (most is done by "carpetbaggers") and lower the cost to 10K to 15K. (And the contractor still makes out).

And when you include end-of-life costs? (4, Insightful)

ReallyEvilCanine (991886) | about 2 months ago | (#47637691)

Decommissioning costs (including storage, disposal, and demolition) never seem to figure into these numbers.

Re:And when you include end-of-life costs? (1)

unique_parrot (1964434) | about 2 months ago | (#47637717)

mod parent up, all costs are without ANYTHING going wrong...

Re:And when you include end-of-life costs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637949)

Things going wrong is what the taxpayers are for...

Re:And when you include end-of-life costs? (2, Insightful)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | about 2 months ago | (#47637957)

I'm not sure about that. In relative terms, the profit to be made by one generation vs. the 10 generations to follow's incalculable damage is pretty clear cut. Fukushima and Chernobyl lay out a pretty good blueprint.
Baby boomers have learned pretty well from "the greatest generation" how to put in minimal effort and then concentrate on sucking the system dry. Gen X got away with putting nothing at all in, which means Gen Y will be unable to get anything at all out.
Now, this sentiment is nothing new, and has been echoed since greek times and before. The common wisdom of being content because "things could be worse" is continuously being proved true. I have no idea what is in store for Gen z, and I'm not predicting apocalypse, just really, really bad stuff. Sorry, but I got mine. - Good luck with that radioactive shit, maybe somebody will figure out a way to make really dirty weapons out of it and you can blow your generation to pieces, like we tried to.

Re:And when you include end-of-life costs? (1)

NixieBunny (859050) | about 2 months ago | (#47637719)

The cost *is* minimal, since they aren't actually doing anything about the byproducts these days. The folks in Nevada who wanted to store that stuff in Yucca Mountain are still working on that plan, while the nasty stuff itself sits on the power plant properties in temporary storage. Paralysis costs nothing (as long as there's no disaster on a power plant site).

Re:And when you include end-of-life costs? (2)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 2 months ago | (#47637759)

Decommissioning costs (including storage, disposal, and demolition) never seem to figure into these numbers.

The authors stated they were looking at the ability of a plant to displace CO2 emissions and using the net benefits to see which is the most cost effective. Wind and solar simply do not have the capacity factors to match hydro/nuke/gas plants and high capacity costs and thus are lees cost effective in reducing CO2. Nuclear decommissioning costs were included in their numbers. In short, solar and wind cost to much per KW to build and generate too little electricity to be cost effective in reducing CO2 emissions relative to other non-carbon energy sources.

Re:And when you include end-of-life costs? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637785)

It'll cost an estimated (so far) 4.1 Billion dollars to de-commission California's San Clemente Nuclear Station, for example. Sorry, my older citation only estimates the cost to be 3.3 billion dollars: http://www.scpr.org/news/2014/04/21/43597/challenges-to-proposed-deal-on-san-onofre-nuclear/

Re:And when you include end-of-life costs? (2)

ganjadude (952775) | about 2 months ago | (#47637901)

and all of that was thought of ahead of time. there were fees tacked on the entire life of the unit specifically to pay for the decomish. its not as if they need to all of a sudden come up with that money

And when you include end-of-life costs? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637813)

hey, windmills don't take themselves down!

Re:And when you include end-of-life costs? (4, Funny)

TWX (665546) | about 2 months ago | (#47637841)

When the overspeed clutch fails they do...

Video [youtube.com]

Re:And when you include end-of-life costs? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637991)

Wow. That. was. awesome. Okay, not really, but wow.... tore itself to shreds in an instant. You can see one of the blades rips off and slams, like a baseball bat, into the tower itself and takes it down. If you were anywhere near that, you'd be at serious risk of being actually dead.

Re:And when you include end-of-life costs? (1)

TWX (665546) | about 2 months ago | (#47638015)

Well, as bad as it was, I expect that there was both electronic monitoring notice and obvious sound and mechanical speed notice before the device finally failed, so there'd be time to get away.

My bigger worry would be shrapnel or debris hitting other units, causing them to then fail. Granted these aren't usually close enough together to make that terribly likely, but I wouldn't think it completely impossible either.

Still far cheaper than the cleanup from Chernobyl #4 or from that plant in Sendai, Japan though.

Re:And when you include end-of-life costs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637851)

What end of life? We have enough fossil fuels to last us for the next 100.000 years.

Re:And when you include end-of-life costs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637861)

Exactly!

Today's exam asks you to compare and contrast initial facility construction, 25 year maintenance and upkeep followed by the decommissioning, removal, and environmental remediation costs of 100 megawatts of wind power versus the same costs for 100 megawatts of nuclear power. Be sure to consider the any gain/loss from the recycling potential and/or disposal costs of all materials in each.

For extra credit compare and contrast the costs for facility repair and/or replacement and environmental remediation following any event or accident which destroys 25% of each such facility.

You have hour. Begin.

Re:And when you include end-of-life costs? (1, Informative)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 2 months ago | (#47637875)

Decommissioning costs (including storage, disposal, and demolition) never seem to figure into these numbers.

All of which are difficult and expensive due to protests and alarmist by the anti-nuclear crowd.
We could have a very safe waste disposal facility: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y... [wikipedia.org]

If you care about the earth, climate change and CO2 emissions, you need to give up this hippie mother earth nonsense. Wind and Solar do not work yet. Given some time, sure, I'm sure we'll figure something out. But if you want to get off coal, Nuclear is the only option that's ready to go right now.

We should end all production of new coal and natural gas fired power plants as well as hydroelectric due to their impact on the environment. New plants should be modern nuclear plants. I don't like subsidies but if you really want the government to be involved in research, there should be a surcharge of power of 10% or so that goes directly into carbon neutral research like Fusion.

Politicians, like Al Gore, need to stay the hell out of the topic all together. Politicizing this was about the worst thing that could have happened.

Re:And when you include end-of-life costs? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47638001)

"Politicians, like Al Gore, need to stay the hell out of the topic all together"

Yeah good luck with that, nothing except the govt can afford to built nuclear plants in the first place.

And when you include end-of-life costs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637887)

Good point!

San Onofre nuke plant dismantling will cost $4.4B [ksby.com]

"Edison plans to store the spent nuclear fuel in steel canisters at the site indefinitely until the federal government comes up with a permanent storage solution."

Cost shifting? Imagine that...

Re:And when you include end-of-life costs? (1)

Chas (5144) | about 2 months ago | (#47637951)

Well, what do you expect? You spend over half a billion dollars on upgrades designed to make the plant run another 20 years, then, a year later you get shut down and told you could be on the hook for hundreds of millions more that simply wouldn't be recouped before the end of life on the reactors.

Re:And when you include end-of-life costs? (1)

HertzaHaeon (1164143) | about 2 months ago | (#47637963)

Good point. Also, don't forget the environmental costs of uranium mining.

And when you include end-of-life costs? (1)

mpetch (692893) | about 2 months ago | (#47637965)

They account for those costs in this particular study.

Re: And when you include end-of-life costs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637973)

Yes, they do factor those costs, if you RTFA you'll notice all of pg. 14 is dedicated to costs of decommision, fuel disposal, and insurance for the plant.

Re:And when you include end-of-life costs? (1)

penguinoid (724646) | about 2 months ago | (#47638005)

Decommissioning costs (including storage, disposal, and demolition) never seem to figure into these numbers.

What's the decommissioning costs of a few billion tons of CO2, or of adapting to water level and weather changes?

Re:And when you include end-of-life costs? (1)

penguinoid (724646) | about 2 months ago | (#47638011)

Also mercury and other pollutants from burning fossil fuels, what's the decommissioning cost for those?

Re:And when you include end-of-life costs? (2)

Bengie (1121981) | about 2 months ago | (#47638019)

Don't forget about the tens of billions of dollars in healthcare costs, not including lost productivity, coal power is causing. Start adding in pollution costs of coal mines and waste from coal, and the costs start to get much much higher. Coal is only cheap because of externalized costs. Otherwise it is he most expensive form of energy.

in a perfect scenerio, no doubt (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637695)

Can we factor in the cost of even 1 minor nuclear plant accident and see what the numbers look like then?

And other costs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637763)

And let's also include all the health costs from the pollution from burning fossil fuels.

The environmental costs from the drilling and mining of oil and coal.

Personally, I'm tired of the smog in the summer.

Re:And other costs (0)

Chas (5144) | about 2 months ago | (#47637779)

Not to mention the environmental impact of producing all those wind turbines and solar panels.

They're NOT eco-friendly in the slightest.

Re:And other costs (1)

Barsteward (969998) | about 2 months ago | (#47637941)

not yet, but when the majority of power is produced by those windmills and solar they will be. its still in the chicken and egg phase

Re:And other costs (1)

presidenteloco (659168) | about 2 months ago | (#47637945)

If you are seriously comparing the environmental impacts of producing wind turbines and solar panels to the environmental impact of our current scale of fossil fuel extraction and consumption, you need to learn how to think quantitatively, not to mention qualitatively.

Re: what are the environmental costs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637979)

I've seen comments like yours before and I just don't understand the question. Based on the way you state the question, I'm envisioning the wind turbines being manufactured in a highly radioactive, highly toxic, continuously polluting plant going night and day to manufacture 1 wind turbine.

Do people think that after the plant has produced a turbine, that the plant continues to belch out pollutants?

Help me to understand how can 1 wind turbine producing clean energy for 25 YEARS can possibly be negated by a manufacturing process that takes, what, 1 MONTH?

What am I missing?

Re:in a perfect scenerio, no doubt (1)

Chas (5144) | about 2 months ago | (#47637997)

How about we do the same thing with geothermal?

And factor in the costs of even one destructive earthquake?

Nuclear is no good match for variable renewables (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637709)

In a power system with large number of nuclear, additional flex options are needed because 80-90% capacity factor is more than actually needed. Nuclear is not so variable (traditional reactors have discrete safe power output levels, and not particularly high ramp rates)

A power system with large installed capacity of wind + solar is ill-equipped to accommodate large amounts of nuclear, and pumped hydro, coal, gas are a better match.

Re:Nuclear is no good match for variable renewable (2)

Chas (5144) | about 2 months ago | (#47637843)

So, you're saying we should use non-renewable, polluting alternatives just so it's a better match with wind and solar?

Seriously?

SERIOUSLY?

This probably ignores cost of decommissioning (1)

presidenteloco (659168) | about 2 months ago | (#47637725)

I mean, as far as I know, no one has properly, fully decommissioned a nuclear power plant and effectively long-term-stored its waste yet, have they? Why shouldn't the cost of doing that, completely and adequately, be built into the cost assumptions for nuclear?

Why shouldn't there have to be an extremely large security bond put up when building one of these things that covers:
a) Full cost of full decommissioning and million-year safe storage
b) Fukushima/Chernobyl scale disaster insurance coverage, covering full remediation costs and damage payments for all surrounding economic losses and health costs caused by a major nuclear plant disaster.

Re:This probably ignores cost of decommissioning (1)

King_TJ (85913) | about 2 months ago | (#47637815)

There's probably also the question of how long before we can get reactors online which make use of the radioactive "waste" we're storing up now?

Considering the material is considered so hazardous, it implies it still has a lot of energy we're not harnessing very well (but could).

Re:This probably ignores cost of decommissioning (3, Informative)

dex22 (239643) | about 2 months ago | (#47637865)

If you read the article and linked information, you'd know they included decommissioning costs, plus costs related to accidents and insurance costs. Also, many nuclear power stations have been fully decommissioned. A surprising number of them are now greenfield sites in the US.

Re:This probably ignores cost of decommissioning (1)

mspohr (589790) | about 2 months ago | (#47637913)

Except for the nuclear waste which is sitting in pools on site or in casks waiting to be trucked to some future disposal site which in spite of lots of money being spent still don't function.

Re: This probably ignores cost of decommissioning (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47638007)

Yes, they also factor in fuel disposal costs.

It's on pg. 14 if you're interested.

There is no insurance of that scale (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637915)

There is no private institution that has sufficient liquidity / capital to provide an insurance of that magnitude. The risk is is covered by the society that lives in the area that might be contaminated. I think that if nuclear plants are operated at all, they should be operated by the public / a representative of the public. This way, profits go to the society taking the risk and society can shut them down easily if society decides to not take that risk any longer.

Re:This probably ignores cost of decommissioning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637919)

The article includes decommissioning in "other costs" of a little over $5k per megawatt for nuclear plants.

Re:This probably ignores cost of decommissioning (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about 2 months ago | (#47638049)

1GW of coal contains enough radioactive material to operate a 1.1GW nuclear power plant. I think you underestimate amount of nuclear waste a coal power plant produces.

Using old data (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637729)

The anti-renewables crowd loves to put forth studies using stats from three years ago.

Re:Using old data (3, Informative)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 2 months ago | (#47638035)

Exactly correct. Using correct number reversed the order. http://www.forbes.com/sites/am... [forbes.com]

On what timeline? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637733)

It claims they're the most expensive alternatives, but what TCO timeline did they project? After all, it's not as though the sun and wind are going to "run out," and they don't leave byproducts that require storage or disposal, so you should be able to amortize the infrastructure and other sunk costs over a really long period, which should make them comparatively cheap.

Re:On what timeline? (2)

Xenx (2211586) | about 2 months ago | (#47637799)

Oh, but the Sun will run out of fuel eventually!

Re:On what timeline? (1)

stephenmac7 (2700151) | about 2 months ago | (#47637831)

Solar panels and wind turbines don't tend to live very long, so increasing the timeline won't really help. Plus, if it was a small timeline, nuclear would look more expensive as it would include all the initial costs (nuclear power the first year is much more expensive than nuclear power subsequent years, until decomissioning).

Re:On what timeline? (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 2 months ago | (#47638059)

Solar panels last for centuries. The just need refurbishing after 30 years or so. Nuclear plants apparently can't survive refurbishing. http://hardware.slashdot.org/s... [slashdot.org]

Define:expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637739)

They are talking about implementation and repair costs in terms manufacturing these things using current carbon output numbers, purely dollars and carbon, and 100% ignoring the expensive cost of less controlled and more widespread environmental damage and ecosystem degradation that certain 'less expensive' oils and coals have. Also, the mining and extraction of the chemicals required (which are burned and not recyclable or reclaimable) tends to take place in unique and extreme ecosystems.

Expese? Short term? Long term? If we re-did these numbers, assuming that 100% of power was already generated by wind/water/geothermal movement or other renewable flows, I'll bet the 'expense' drops dramatically for solar and wind and family.

Re:Define:expensive (1, Informative)

Chas (5144) | about 2 months ago | (#47637889)

The problem is, your "assuming" is a pure fantasy.

You cannot generate 100% of your power with wind/hydro/geothermal/solar.

Wind is out because the wind doesn't always blow or blow in the proper direction or blow at the proper speed ratings for a wind farm to take advantage of.

Solar is out because the sun isn't always shining overhead. Not to mention it's affected by weather/climate conditions as well (panels buried under a foot of snow don't function well, if at all).

Hydro is out because we're already tapped about 99% of the viable hydro in this country. And the environmentalists are wrangling amongst themselves because hydro destroys the local ecology. Pretty much guaranteeing that any remaining possible sources of hydro are NOT going to be exploited.

Geothermal's out because there's a limited number of places you can actually, viably put these. And there is documented ecological damage from existing geothermal installations. Not to mention the fact that you get hydrogen sulfide and, oh yeah, CARBON DIOXIDE emissions from geothermal. Also, geothermal has water consumption issues. Not to mention the fact that there's good evidence that, since you have to site geothermal on geologically active sites, geothermal leads to increases in earthquake frequency/severity.

Re:Define:expensive (1)

Barsteward (969998) | about 2 months ago | (#47637993)

only until efficient power storage is solved. all those methods will generate more power than needed at certain times of the day so if the excess is stored, problem solved.

Re:Define:expensive (1)

Chas (5144) | about 2 months ago | (#47638063)

only until efficient power storage is solved.

Which would ALSO factor into the costs associated with these power generation technologies.

all those methods will generate more power than needed

You hope.

at certain times of the day so if the excess is stored, problem solved.

Until the systems are actually, you know, INVENTED, TESTED and INSTALLED, no, the problem is NOT solved.

And until then, anyone talking about Wind and Solar are actually talking about Wind-Plus-Natural Gas and Solar-Plus-Natural Gas.

Oh yes. And the byproducts of natural gas consumption? CO2 and Water Vapor (greenhouse gasses anyone?)

So, please, keep hyping your pie in the sky as a fait accompli.

Re:Define:expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47638041)

Hmm, okay. So since wind can't do it alone, solar can't do it alone, geothermal can't do it alone, and hydro can't do it alone, you draw the conclusion that wind+solar+geothermal+hydro together can't supply the power we need?

Oh, and by the way: The wind always blows. There's this thing called transmission lines that can move electrical power over great distances.

crock of shit analysis (1)

deysOfBits (2198798) | about 2 months ago | (#47637749)

Gee decommissioning a nuke plant Never seems to happen They just stay there forever ! What about storing of nuclear waste? Oh I forgot just leave nearby plan that has been shut off until decommissioning With that type of logic why stop air pollution We'll do it when zombies come out of graves !!!
The FUCKN BS never ends !!!
In fact we can let all NUKE plants melt down like FUCKUSHIAMA The fuckn Japanese the MOST corrupt dumb fuckn country in world !!! Fukushiama made in shit JAPAN quality to glow in dark for" FUCK JAPAN !!

Oddly nobody factors in risk and after costs (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 2 months ago | (#47637769)

Ain't it odd? How generally there are two thing always omitted when people try to sell the clean, cheap nuke plants. I also think it's kinda odd that every time something gets discussed terrorism is a big issue (usually as a tool to get privacy concerns out of the way, citing safety and security as the pinnacle of importance), except when we're talking about the one thing that any terrorist with a hint of a brain would aim for: A soft target that not only is invaluable to the power infrastructure but also has the capacity to actually have a severe and VERY long lasting impact on the lives of million, along with striking terror into the hearts of EVERYONE on the planet at an inconceivable scale.

Fuck, 9/11 would become a footnote in the books of terrorist attacks compared to something like that!

Oddly, that's never even touched when the pros and cons of nuke plants are discussed...

Re: Oddly nobody factors in risk and after costs (1)

flipper9 (109877) | about 2 months ago | (#47637811)

You are so now on the NSA hit list with those keywords LOL

Re:Oddly nobody factors in risk and after costs (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 2 months ago | (#47637925)

on 9/11 the terrorists actually flew past indian point nuke plant to get to the trade center

Deep Ocean Current Generators? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637777)

I wonder how they do on costs? I don't know if they have been implemented or studied, but they offer continuous 24x7 operation at virtually constant output, much like nuclear or dam generated power (without building a dam.)

Not convinced. (0)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 months ago | (#47637789)

The comparison would have more merit if wind or solar had even the slightest chance of a meltdown, as nuclear reactors seem to do so often when something sufficiently unexpected happens.

Re:Not convinced. (2)

ganjadude (952775) | about 2 months ago | (#47637929)

so often? 3 times is not really so often.....

How about thermal solar (1)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | about 2 months ago | (#47637803)

i wonder what kind of solar technology they are talking about. There are multiple solar technologies so talking about it as a single technology is misleading. Absolutely, non concentrated photovoltaics is the worst technology, the most ineffecient, and the fact the public has been conditioned to think of this as the only solar technology is partly to blame for solar not being more widely used. I wonder how technologies such as mirror or lens concentrated PV, or a thermal concentrated solar technology, or the Solar tube lighting systems compares. Very well, I would suspect. The mirror thermal dishes uses only relatively cheap low cost parts involving mirrors, a thermal collector system, possibly a microturbine or sterling engine to convert the heat into electricity, or it can be used directly. Continuing to use flat panel unconcentrated PV solar really is a crime and makes no sense since the concentrated systems and thermal systems can work so much better.

While nuclear is a fossil alternative, it is also not renewable, uranium is not easy to come by and the stocks will run out sooner or later. The good thing about solar is it is renewable.

Re:How about thermal solar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637869)

While nuclear is a fossil alternative, it is also not renewable, uranium is not easy to come by and the stocks will run out sooner or later. The good thing about solar is it is renewable.

You have been eaten by a grue. It's merely a question of scale whether something is "renewable" or not. The sun is no more "renewable" than uranium. It is simply more plentiful. Again, that means it's just a question of scale. The whole debate about what's renewable and sustainable is drawing lines in the sand.

Re:How about thermal solar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47638071)

Renewable in this context means that your use of the resource does not deplete it. Will the sun die faster if I put solar panels on my roof? No. Will the ground contain less uranium if we dig it up and transmute it into other elements? Yes.

Re:How about thermal solar (1)

reve_etrange (2377702) | about 2 months ago | (#47637917)

It's important also to consider development area required for solar deployments. A key advantage of rooftop solar (which I think means flat panels and water heating) is that the area is already developed.

You see those maps of the world [landartgenerator.org] with filled in areas representing the solar deployments necessary to power everything, but not often are those areas compared to that of (already developed) rooftops

Re:How about thermal solar (1)

Shajenko42 (627901) | about 2 months ago | (#47637985)

Speaking of solar thermal, I'm currently looking at building a solar thermal system to partially reduce my winter heating bills. I'm at the stage of testing its viability and cost effectiveness.

They're missing a lot of emissions (1)

Ken_g6 (775014) | about 2 months ago | (#47637823)

I notice that only gas is listed as adding new emissions. But hydro has methane emissions from the vegetation that's flooded when the dam is constructed. Not to mention the concrete that makes the dam. Solar, wind, and nuclear also have some building emissions costs, unless you replace all construction vehicles with electric and find a way to make concrete and steel without carbon emissions. (Wood might be an alternative [popsci.com] for certain parts of wind turbines and maybe even solar frameworks.) Gas should probably have much higher emissions too, as the whole infrastructure from the well to the power station leaks methane. (How much is debated, but it's not zero.)

Did they include the NIMBY tax? (1)

penguinoid (724646) | about 2 months ago | (#47637829)

Nuclear costs mostly depend on the amount of (not necessarily useful) regulation, and the amount of opposition to building new power plants. If we replaced all the NIMBY Americans with Frenchmen, the costs for nuclear would be much lower than they are now in the US. Wind, solar, and nuclear all have their plusses and minuses, and currently solar and wind are growing while nuclear is stagnating, so you also have to consider what the costs will be in the future.

Re:Did they include the NIMBY tax? (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 2 months ago | (#47637849)

> so you also have to consider what the costs will be in the future.

The 9000 kilo gorilla in the corner with nuclear is waste disposal. The assumptions you make there largely drive nuclear economics.

Re:Did they include the NIMBY tax? (2)

penguinoid (724646) | about 2 months ago | (#47637909)

Waste disposal problems are just a special case of the NIMBY tax. We could just toss it all into a big, dry hole in the ground. As I understand it, we'd come out ahead over coal in terms of health even if we ground up all the waste and tossed it into the atmosphere, or the ocean. The problem really is that people don't understand the cancer risks of living near a coal plant, whereas nuclear energy is OMG NUCLEAR!!!!, so they're trying to compare to perfection instead of as an improvement over what we already have.

Re:Did they include the NIMBY tax? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637977)

I say we put wind turbines right on Ted Kennedy's [sweetness-light.com] fucking grave.
 
Captcha : sobriety
 
Oh, the fucking irony of it all.

Re:Did they include the NIMBY tax? (1)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | about 2 months ago | (#47638003)

The French nuclear industry does not have the very best reputation for diligence and safety. I would not be too surprised if they have a major accident some day. That is the flip side of having no NIMBYs.

To put the whole risk into financial perspective, I suggest mandatory insurance on a level that is sufficient to cover a Fukujima-class accident. Estimated costs of that one are around $100 billion:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/for-tepco-and-japans-fukushima-daiichi-nuclear-plant-toxic-water-stymies-cleanup/2013/10/21/406f4d78-2cba-11e3-b141-298f46539716_story.html [washingtonpost.com]

With that insurance requirement in place, by all means let the market decide if nuclear is still worthwhile ;-)

Re:Did they include the NIMBY tax? (1)

penguinoid (724646) | about 2 months ago | (#47638073)

The French nuclear industry does not have the very best reputation for diligence and safety. I would not be too surprised if they have a major accident some day. That is the flip side of having no NIMBYs.

Where were all the NIMBYs when they were building the coal plants though? Sure, we eventually got them to fix acid rain, but now we can't safely eat fish (from 70% of the Earth's surface) because of all the mercury from coal, and we still have the CO2 which will have its own costs. Turns out that continuous, ongoing disasters like coal get little notice compared to the comparatively minor nuclear disasters.

Make coal plants clean the mercury out of the ocean, fix the damage caused by acid rain, put the CO2 back in the ground, and reimburse for mercury and carcinogenic particulates, and then compare the costs of all nuclear cleanups put together.

Washington think tanks (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637835)

Think tanks are always on someone's payroll. Industry pays for the cushy lifestyles of the researchers, and industry expects published results that can be used in PR campaigns.

Economic studies on virtually ANY controversial subject can uncover facts, experiments, and methodologies to amply support one side or another, accompanied by fancy statistical terminology, if the researchers are motivated to do so.

Re:Washington think tanks (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637923)

Interesting ad hominem. Your ideas intrigue me and I would like to unsubscribe to your yammering. You'd have more credibility if you posted this non-AC so we could see you maintain your position every other time a think tank comes up. Is this a special pet peeve of yours?

GWB school of Economics (1)

deodiaus2 (980169) | about 2 months ago | (#47637839)

Doesn't consider the probability of an disaster multiplied by the cost of the incident.
Just look at Japan's Fukushima disaster.

The Brookings Institute... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47637867)

just squandered a heaping pile of credibility with this report. It has also tarnished the rest of the think tank industry. Good work if that was their objective. Even if they don't include decomissioning, use inflated prices and old efficiencies, they leave out the drag on our society that is think tanks and vested interest attempts to corrupt our politics and economy.

Cherry picking one's evaluative criteria (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | about 2 months ago | (#47637881)

Cost is not the only consideration. It also by and large doesn't matter - environmental damage does. And build time.

Nuclear power plants can only be built so fast...I believe the chief restriction at the moment is how fast the containment vessels can be manufactured, and there's already a backlog.

What's frustrating is that we're pouring billions into fusion research with virtually no evidence of payout, instead of going with the solutions we have today, and then working on fusion once we've stopped fucking over the planet quite so quickly.

How about falling costs? (1)

reve_etrange (2377702) | about 2 months ago | (#47637947)

The per-kilowatt cost of solar has been on a steady decline for years, and so far the trend shows no signs of slowing. Large scale solar deployments in the future will have the benefit of further lowered costs.

See chart [nytimes.com] .

Cost of nuclear decommissioning? (3, Interesting)

ljw1004 (764174) | about 2 months ago | (#47638013)

This paper: assumes $0.2 - $0.3 billion to decommission a nuclear power plant (based on a 2013 report by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission)

UK: $9 billion decommissioning costs per plant, based on an estimate by the UK's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

Japan: $1 billion per plant so far, but estimated $1.8 billion per plant for the remainder

I suspect this paper gets its results by downplaying by an order of magnitude the decommissioning costs of nuclear power.

Outdated number gets it backwards (2)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 2 months ago | (#47638023)

There were nine number in the analysis which were badly outdated. Doing it right reverses the order. http://www.forbes.com/sites/am... [forbes.com]

Nuclear plant generation cost. (1)

wesgray (1827286) | about 2 months ago | (#47638025)

If what happened here in Illinois is typical there won't be any Nuke plants running. None of the existing nuclear plants cleared the most recent auction to to supply the grid here with power. Below is an excerpt from an Excelon conference call explaining the situation to investment analyst. "On the PJM auction results, as you know, the auction cleared at $120 a megawatt day, it was higher than most anticipated due to primarily, the rule changes around lower imports, lower demand response, and participants bidding behavior. We think the results are encouraging for our plants that cleared, but there is an opportunity for further improvements in the market rules in the future, such as, firm fuel commitments, anti-speculation rules, and with the recent ruling, court ruling looking for clarity on the role of demand response, energy efficiency in the capacity markets. Our nuclear units: Oyster Creek, Quad Cities, and Byron, five in total did not clear the auction. For Quad Cities and Byron, these units are important for grid reliability, environmental and from an economic standpoint, are especially critical in helping Illinois meet its environmental goals in light of the recent EPA rules. To that extent, Illinois House passed a House Resolution 1146 in May recognizing the value of nuclear energy for its reliability and its carbon-free benefits and urged the expiration of our opportunities to avoid closing nuclear plants. We have agreed not to make any decisions about retiring these units until June of next year to allow for the Illinois legislature time to enact market-based reforms at the state level that this could be items such as joining Reggie or a clean energy standard. However, as we’ve said in the past, if we are unsuccessful and we do not see a path to sustain profitability for these units in question, we will be forced to retire them to avoid long-term losses. I do want to be clear, again, about one thing, we are not looking and do not want contracts for subsidies from Illinois, only contracts that recognize the environmental benefit in the reliability of the assets."

Of course it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47638037)

Watermelons (left overs from the fall of Communism) like to break the consumer's back.

More != Most (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47638043)

How did the article's "more expensive than recognized" become "most expensive alternatives to carbon-based electricity generation" in the summary?

I doubt that solar and wind power are more expensive than alternatives such as extracting energy from the weight of dew, or from the sound of rain.

Except... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47638047)

That if something goes wrong, Solar and Wind won't destroy the environment.... Or the fact that you still have to get rid of the nuclear waste somehow... sending it to china doesn't fix the problem.

This has been debunked already (3, Informative)

royeb (3780133) | about 2 months ago | (#47638065)

The Rocky Mountain Institute had already debunked this story at http://www.corvalliscommunityp... [corvallisc...ypages.com]
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