Solar power is now cheaper than nuclear, researchers say
The power generation business has changed so much over the last decade that electricity generated from solar energy will be cheaper than electricity generated from the proposed new nuclear plants according to a leading UK power supplier and US researchers.
“The cost of generating power from solar photovoltaic (PV) systems has steadily fallen over the last ten years while the projected costs of constructing the new nuclear plants have ballooned,” said Ken Moss, CEO of mO3 Power company.
“The cost of producing and installing PV cells has been steadily dropping for some years,” he said. “A PV system now costs about half of what it did in 1998.” The average price of a PV module in 2010 was $1.50/kW and by mid- year that figure is expected to drop to a maximum of $1.10kW.
Research from Duke University in America supports this view. It concludes that the cost of solar power has reached the point of ‘Historic Crossover’ with the nuclear industry in North Carolina. The price of nuclear is expected to be 16-18c/kW as compared to solar PV at 14c in 2011.
“It can be predicted with some confidence that the same will be true in the UK by the time that the new nuclear reactors have been built,” said Moss.
“Nuclear electricity’s strength is being able to provide CO2-free base load electricity to the grid, but nuclear is not flexible and can only operate 24/7. Therefore the future requires a mix of technologies with renewable and nuclear being able to provide a sustainable solution.”
Coming of age
“Solar PV’s time is now coming of age with predictions of 30 per cent of the world’s energy coming from PV by 2050. By which time economic storage of electricity will be possible and we will no longer need base load power stations or possibly even a grid!” he said.
“With its fuel for free, from the sun, solar electricity will be the mainstream clean energy for our, and our children’s, future!” said Ray Noble, Director at the company. But it was inevitable that future power bills in the UK will rise as new technologies conform to Britain’s carbon reduction commitment.
“The safety of our power production is a huge issue,” said Ken Moss. “An accident at a solar park would be a small local affair but an accident at a nuclear plant is a global affair. We have to ask ourselves if we want to be subsidising the building of so many new nuclear plants.”
mO3 Power says it plans to generate a Gigawatt from renewable power from solar parks in the UK and is prepared to invest £2.3 billion. It proposes to site its parks on industrial land, brown field sites and grade 3 & 4 farmland.