31 August 2009

Spain's Solar Suicide a Warning to the Wise

Spain's economy is crashing, in part due a burst housing balloon and in part due to the Spanish government's insane overcommitment to solar energy. The Spanish treasury is being sucked dry by well-intentioned subsidies for solar installations -- $26.4 billion in commitments for one year alone. And they will get only about 450 MW of power for all that. Compare with what they could have gotten from the same investment in nuclear:
Incidentally, $26 billion is also the very infamous, much-maligned bid cost for two (2) ACR-1000 CANDUs in Ontario (recent discussion). That is, likewise, a lifetime cost, including all fuel and operations over 60 years. So let's compare: $26 billion for an average output of 450 MW over a 20-25 year lifespan, vs. $26 billion for (2 * 1,200 MWe * 0.95 capacity factor) = 2,280 MW over 60 years, plus some new highway exits (how did that get into the AECL bid anyway). That is, 80-100 TWh (over 20-25 years) vs. 1,200 TWh (over 60 years). Same cost (modulo interest rates and related financial quirks.) _CapacityFactor
Green insanity disease swept over Europe, and has crossed the pond to North America with the election of the Obama / Pelosi reich. As the energy starvation regime tightens its chokehold on American energy via Cap 'N Trade and thousands of other green-insanity regulations, America's overburdened economy will reel.

Until Spain's abrupt collapse, the Iberian nation had been held up as a model for imitating. As it becomes more clear how Spain's energy fanaticism helped bring about its economic downfall, wise analysts will shift focus to other nations that are at risk of repeating Spain's mistakes.

Wind and solar are expensive and unreliable. And yet Obama is willing to push the US economy to the edge by favouring wind and solar over more reliable nuclear and coal. The green objections to nuclear have been largely answered by startling new technologies that improve safety and allow for nuclear waste recycling, conversion, and destruction. Even newer technologies are coming that will be even safer, more economical, quicker to market, and less prone to nuclear weapons proliferation.

So why is the US jumping off the cliff? Because Spain did?

There are many niches where solar energy makes sense. Mostly for small scale applications where connecting to the grid is too expensive or inconvenient. Better batteries would create even more niches for solar energy. But for large and intermediate scale utility power, nuclear (and clean coal IGCC CHP) is the technology of the future.

For small scale power (under 100 MW) cellulosic electricity is beginning to make sense. See Al Fin Energy for more.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Uncas said...

To blame the Spanish economic crisis to the support to its solar energy industry is completely absurd, the reasons are well known. They are more in line with a housing boom and crash cycle paired with the general economic crisis.

Monday, 31 August, 2009  
Blogger hawkeye72 said...

Investing in solar, wind, geothermal & ethenol would be a good idea if it were intended as a secondary source of power, a strategic back-up through diversification.

First tier should be drilling & mining for oil, natural gas and coal. A primary enabler of the back-up's though is that the ability to transfer that power from "ideal" locations across the nation is critical. Upgrade the power infrastructure with redundancies and increased efficiencies. Allow massive solar plants in the desert southwest and wind power in the great plains and on the oceans. The main problem with wind remains the maintenance challenges, so putting them on the oceans isn't a trivial sustainment challenge. **While you're upgrading that infrastructure, please take the effort to protect against EMP attacks.**

(I'd like to see more cross-over vehicles capable of functioning with multiple power sources.)

Tuesday, 01 September, 2009  
Blogger hawkeye72 said...

oops! I forgot nuclear as a cornerstone for the energy solution...to go with oil, natural gas and coal.

Tuesday, 01 September, 2009  
Blogger al fin said...

Right. Nuclear as a cornerstone, plus all the fossil fuel assets using new clean technologies.

Spain's housing crisis was a large force in its downfall. Spain's insane commitment to unreliable green energies at the expense of a wise energy policy, was another nail in the coffin.

Tuesday, 01 September, 2009  

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