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Wind, Solar Are Now The Cheapest Sources Of Power Generation

Solar park

Thanks to falling costs, unsubsidized onshore wind and solar have become the cheapest sources of electricity generation in nearly all major economies in the world, including India and China, according to a new report by Bloomberg NEF.

The comparative costs for power generation—the levelized costs of electricity (LCOE)—showed that onshore wind and solar are the cheapest power generation sources for all major economies except for Japan.

Even in India and China, where “not long ago coal was king”, solar and wind beat coal with cheaper generation, according to BNEF’s latest half-year LCOE analysis.

“In India, best-in-class solar and wind plants are now half the cost of new coal plants,” says the study, as carried by Renewable Energy Magazine.

In China, the utility-scale PV market has shrunk by a third so far in 2018, according to BNEF, because of the Chinese decision not to issue approvals for any new solar power installations this year and to cut the feed-in tariff subsidy. The market contraction in China, however, resulted in cheap equipment in the world, driving the LCOE for new PV down to $60/MWh in the second half this year, down by 13 percent compared to the first half of 2018.

In onshore wind, the comparable cost is now $52/MWh, down by 6 percent from H1 2018, thanks to cheaper turbines and a stronger U.S. dollar, according to BNEF’s analysis, which shows that unsubsidized onshore wind is now as cheap as $27/MWh in India and Texas, for example.

In August, Bloomberg NEF data showed that the world had reached the landmark 1 TW of wind and solar generation capacity installed. According to Bloomberg NEF estimates, the second terawatt of wind and solar capacity combined will be reached by the middle of 2023 and will cost 46 percent less than the first.

Cheap renewable energy and cheaper and cheaper batteries are expected to lead to wind and solar accounting for 50 percent of the world’s electricity generation by 2050, Bloomberg NEF’s New Energy Outlook 2018 says. 

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • David Patterson on November 21 2019 said:
    Solar PV has a 25+ year performance warranty of 80% of rated capacity.
    So no one will replace paid for PV modules at the 25 year mark or later.
    The warranty will top up capacity with new modules and later the operator will do the same thing.
  • Tom Jones on November 20 2018 said:
    The cost of solar electricity must include a complete panel scrap and replace after twenty years. The largest cost of wind power is repairs because blade vibration plus extreme forces grind the gears and the generator. Costs reported do not include battery storage and commutator to match the grid. The intermittent nature of wind and solar power demand a 100% fossil fuel backup power plant. Quadruple the reported costs for a low ball estimate of clean energy. Nobody but the manufacturers and installers ever made a profit on clean energy.
  • Lee James on November 20 2018 said:
    This seems to be a fairly significant article, I believe.

    First off, note that the word "unsubsidized" is used in comparing the levelized cost of electricity for the various power sources. This addresses perhaps the number one concern of renewable energy critics who stick close to fossil fuel. Apparently, renewable energy today mostly stands on its own two feet, without subsidy.

    A second major concern voiced by renewable energy critics is intermittent generation of power -- a function of when the wind blows and when the sun shines . . . or not. The Bloomberg report cited by the article goes into some detail about battery backup. Battery backup, even on grid power systems is coming into sufficient play to handle some of the wind and solar intermittency problem. Formerly, intermittency was handled by peaker fossil fuel plants.

    I don't know how much the Bloomberg report addresses the growing diversity of locations and weather conditions associated with solar and wind installations. Diversity of installations means that with a bit of over-building of solar and wind generation equipment, weather bets are hedged and the electric load usually gets covered, one way or the other, even without fossil-fuel or battery backup.

    We'll still see a lot of readers not buying a bit of what this report has to say. But utilities go by the results of levelized cost analysis of long-term power production, and adjusts comparisons for relative life of equipment and cost of maintenance and operation.

    Don't be too surprised if in addition to fewer new fossil fuel plants coming on line, plants are cancelled or retired early. The world is turning to increased electrification and sustainability in energy choices. Combine general electrification with the efficient utilization that is also possible with the electric option, and I think we've got a wining hand.
  • EHLipton on November 19 2018 said:
    There's even more positives then the negative down turn in oil. The biggest for the oil market is the same as it was 20+ years ago,, go long and deep with heavy investment of your profits in ALTERNATIVE ENERGY. They have known of it and demonized it with countless dollars lobbying Congress and propagating false claims. Thee auto industry did the same. They left it up to a very small and few people worldwide with limited capital to bring forth the TRUE viability. It has made absolutely no sense and only garnered resentment and NOW,,, distrust from the private sector. The Giants have lead us into costly war's an environmental decay that may never recover, health issues beyond big tobacco,, and all too protect there control of THERE INCOME REVENUE. The TRAIN has left the station. If it returns, it may not stop to trust you on board. Now,, though it'll cost you more, and time MIGHT restore trust. You'll have to start alone, on your own.

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