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Solar and Geothermal Cheaper than Coal and Nuclear

Apr 11, 2009 - Stewart Taggart - Desertec- Australia

Additional Reading:
  • Australia 2050: Clean Energy Superpower
  • Australia's Concentrating Solar Power Potential
  • Australia's Hot Dry Rock Geothermal Potential
  • The average Australian household could pay up to 30% more per year by 2025 for electricity generated from coal and nuclear power than from concentrating solar and hot dry rock geothermal power, according to DESERTEC-Australia.

    "Concentrating solar power costs are falling rapidly. Geothermal costs are already low," says Roger Taylor, a researcher for DESERTEC-Australia. "Together or alone, solar and geothermal are better, more proven long-term deals for Australian consumers than 'clean' coal or 'next-generation' nuclear."

    The reason is differing 'rates of change' in prices. The price of hot dry rock and concentrating solar energy is falling rapidly due to innovation. The price of carbon capture and nuclear is not falling as rapidly -- and is not expected to in the future.

    Over time, the impact of these compounded differentials in rates of change will be dramatic.

    Concentrating solar power and geothermal are in powerful price downtrends not shared by still-theoretical carbon capture and storage and as-yet unbuilt 'next generation' nuclear A theoretical 50-50% combination of solar and geothermal is cheaper and will fall in price more rapidly than a theoretical 50-50% combination of 'clean coal' and nuclear
    Sources: IEA, IPCC, ABARE, ANSTO and others

    "Australia has abundant solar and geothermal resources that can provide clean, more reliable energy for the economy," Mr. Taylor said. "Concentrating solar power and geothermal exist today, and they have commercial operating records overseas and largely proven costs."

    "By contrast, 'clean coal' and 'next-generation' nuclear offer only fictitious costs, unproven technologies and dangerous disadvantages," Mr. Taylor said.

    Large amounts of concentrating solar power capacity are being built in Spain and California. Meanwhile, geothermal plants are up and running across the world. A host of domestic companies are finding highly prospective geothermal resources in several places around Australia.

    In "Australia 2050: Clean Energy Superpower," DESERTEC-Australia argues that the first step to achieving large-scale solar and geothermal energy production in Australia lies in connecting the Queensland an South Australian electricity grids. This would open up southwestern Queensland and northeastern South Australia to renewable energy development.

    Serendipitously, such infrastructure would likely pay for itself quickly just in increased efficiencies brought to the existing grid through reducing electricity cost differentials in Queensland and SA. The benefit of encouraging solar and geothermal development would, in essence, be 'free.'

    Connecting the grid from Roma, Queensland to Olympic Dam, South Australia would open up the Outback to renewable energy development.
    Source: DESERTEC-Australia

    To learn more, read:
    "Where, When and How"
    DESERTEC-Australia's Plan For South Australia
    South Australia: Solar/Geothermal Paradise
    South Australia: Solar/Geothermal Opportunities


    Updated: 2003/07/28