• 19 mins Russia’s Rosneft To Take Majority In Kurdish Oil Pipeline
  • 7 hours Iraq Struggles To Replace Damaged Kirkuk Equipment As Output Falls
  • 12 hours British Utility Companies Brace For Major Reforms
  • 16 hours Montenegro A ‘Sweet Spot’ Of Untapped Oil, Gas In The Adriatic
  • 18 hours Rosneft CEO: Rising U.S. Shale A Downside Risk To Oil Prices
  • 19 hours Brazil Could Invite More Bids For Unsold Pre-Salt Oil Blocks
  • 20 hours OPEC/Non-OPEC Seek Consensus On Deal Before Nov Summit
  • 21 hours London Stock Exchange Boss Defends Push To Win Aramco IPO
  • 22 hours Rosneft Signs $400M Deal With Kurdistan
  • 1 day Kinder Morgan Warns About Trans Mountain Delays
  • 1 day India, China, U.S., Complain Of Venezuelan Crude Oil Quality Issues
  • 1 day Kurdish Kirkuk-Ceyhan Crude Oil Flows Plunge To 225,000 Bpd
  • 2 days Russia, Saudis Team Up To Boost Fracking Tech
  • 2 days Conflicting News Spurs Doubt On Aramco IPO
  • 2 days Exxon Starts Production At New Refinery In Texas
  • 2 days Iraq Asks BP To Redevelop Kirkuk Oil Fields
  • 3 days Oil Prices Rise After U.S. API Reports Strong Crude Inventory Draw
  • 3 days Oil Gains Spur Growth In Canada’s Oil Cities
  • 3 days China To Take 5% Of Rosneft’s Output In New Deal
  • 3 days UAE Oil Giant Seeks Partnership For Possible IPO
  • 3 days Planting Trees Could Cut Emissions As Much As Quitting Oil
  • 3 days VW Fails To Secure Critical Commodity For EVs
  • 3 days Enbridge Pipeline Expansion Finally Approved
  • 3 days Iraqi Forces Seize Control Of North Oil Co Fields In Kirkuk
  • 3 days OPEC Oil Deal Compliance Falls To 86%
  • 4 days U.S. Oil Production To Increase in November As Rig Count Falls
  • 4 days Gazprom Neft Unhappy With OPEC-Russia Production Cut Deal
  • 4 days Disputed Venezuelan Vote Could Lead To More Sanctions, Clashes
  • 4 days EU Urges U.S. Congress To Protect Iran Nuclear Deal
  • 4 days Oil Rig Explosion In Louisiana Leaves 7 Injured, 1 Still Missing
  • 4 days Aramco Says No Plans To Shelve IPO
  • 6 days Trump Passes Iran Nuclear Deal Back to Congress
  • 7 days Texas Shutters More Coal-Fired Plants
  • 7 days Oil Trading Firm Expects Unprecedented U.S. Crude Exports
  • 7 days UK’s FCA Met With Aramco Prior To Proposing Listing Rule Change
  • 7 days Chevron Quits Australian Deepwater Oil Exploration
  • 7 days Europe Braces For End Of Iran Nuclear Deal
  • 7 days Renewable Energy Startup Powering Native American Protest Camp
  • 8 days Husky Energy Set To Restart Pipeline
  • 8 days Russia, Morocco Sign String Of Energy And Military Deals
The U.S. LNG Boom Could Be About To Stall

The U.S. LNG Boom Could Be About To Stall

United States LNG has seen…

Why Petrol Powered Cars Aren’t Going Anywhere

Why Petrol Powered Cars Aren’t Going Anywhere

Internal combustion engines are still…

Andrew Topf

Andrew Topf

With over a decade of journalistic experience working in newspapers, trade publications and as a mining reporter, Andrew Topf is a seasoned business writer. Andrew also…

More Info

Will Solar Be The Kiss Of Death For Coal?

Will Solar Be The Kiss Of Death For Coal?

For the past few years, it has been assumed that natural gas is the enemy of coal, at least in the United States, where low natural gas prices have eroded market share from thermal coal producers.

Now, a new adversary is emerging for coal. It comes from silicon wafers, the material used to make solar panels.
According to a post in Saturday's Quartz, a digital news outlet, a small research facility in Bedford, Massachusetts is helping to perfect a new technique for making silicon wafers, and if successful, it could reduce the cost of solar by 20 percent in the next few years.

Related: Oil Price War May Benefit Both US Shale And Saudi Arabia

“This humble wafer will allow solar to be as cheap as coal and will drastically change the way we consume energy,” Quartz quoted Frank van Mierlo, CEO of 1366 Technologies, the company behind the new method of wafer fabrication.

Quartz continues:

The dramatic reduction in cost came from a wide number of incremental gains, says Mark Barineau, a solar analyst with Lux Research. Factors include a new, low-cost process for making polycrystalline silicon; thinner silicon wafers; thinner wires on the front of the module that block less sunlight and use less silver; less-expensive plastics instead of glass; and greater automation in manufacturing.

The site notes that in Saudi Arabia, a 200-megawatt solar plant will produce electricity for 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared to electricity from natural gas and coal plants which cost an estimated 6.4 cents and 9.6 cents per kilowatt-hour, respectively, according to the US Energy Information Agency.

Related: What Happens To US Shale When The Easy Money Runs Out?

So is solar power set to replace coal? Not so fast, says Christopher Helman, a Forbes columnist who researched the topic last year.

According to Helman, even though solar has grown rapidly in the U.S. over the past decade, it is still a relatively small part of the country's overall energy mix. He writes: ‘’In fact, solar merely equals the amount of electricity that the nation generates by burning natural gas captured from landfills. And it’s only slightly more meaningful than the 7.3 million Mwh we get from burning human waste strained out of municipal sewer systems’. Indeed, when you factor in all the sources of energy consumed in this country, captured solar power amounts to well less than 1 quadrillion Btu out of an annual total of 96.5 quadrillion.

Still, if the cost of solar energy continues to drop, coal will certainly struggle to remain relevant and competitive, especially in developing countries like the U.S. where politicians are imposing increasingly stringent regulations on coal-fired power plants that are sure to squeeze margins even further.

Related: DOE Just Produced A Multi-Trillion Dollar Headache For Congress

Even in less developed countries and economic powerhouses like India and China, which have driven the demand for coal, there is a movement afoot to limit use of the fossil fuel. As the Guardian reported recently, "China’s coal imports fell by nearly half in the first three months of the year as the slowing economy and tougher rules on pollution took their toll," with imports from the world's biggest coal consumer falling 42 percent from the same period a year ago.

China has said it will ban coal use in smog-cloaked Beijing by 2020. Last month, the city closed a 400-megawatt coal-fired power plant in the downtown area, replacing it with a gas-fired plant to cut pollution, China Daily said. Another 93-year-old coal power plant was shuttered the day earlier.

By Andrew Topf

More Top Reads From Oilprice.com:



Join the discussion | Back to homepage

Leave a comment
  • Carl Rimmer on April 27 2015 said:
    To install solar at my home to pay 80% of my electricity would cost about 75,000. My electric bill from a coal plant runs on average about 125 a month. So it would take about 50 years just to break even. To bad solar panels life expectancy is about 20 to 25 years. So solar is no where near the cost of coal, doubt it ever will be.
  • David Hrivnak on April 26 2015 said:
    For me solar is already 25% less than the coal power I can get from my utility. I calculate my solar should average cost to be $.065/KWh over its life where my utility charges $.085. My power bill over the last 12 months was $117. Mostly the $7.21 monthly connection fee. And that INCLUDES driving about 8000 miles in my electric car.

Leave a comment

Oilprice - The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News