Solar and Wind Power Now Fully Competitive with Fossil Fuels: Time to Switch Over?

Posted by on December 1, 2014 in Eco-Friendly, Environment with 0 Comments

Joel Hruska | ExtremeTech.com

Renewable energy production has boomed across the globe in recent years, driven by improvements to solar and wind turbines, increased economies of scale, and in some cases, significant government subsidies. This, in turn, has sparked a great many conversations over whether or not renewables are sufficiently advanced to provide significant amounts of base load power, the estimated cost of transitioning away from fossil fuels, and the timeline for transitioning from hypercompressed prehistoric plant matter to solar or wind power. A new report from financial advisory and asset management firm Lazard finds that the unsubsidized cost of solar and wind power has already reached parity [PDF] with conventional fossil fuels in many parts of the United States.

SolarPricing

The improvements in just the past five years are striking. The graph below shows the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) for unsubsidized wind and solar buildouts. The cost ranges listed above each data point reflect different areas of the United States.


WindPricing

Solar power remains significantly more expensive than wind power throughout most of the country, but costs are expected to continue to fall, from a range of $180 to $265 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in 2014 for rooftop-mounted solar, to a range of $109 to $151 per MWh in 2017.

The unsubsidized price of energy has already reached parity in some markets and areas of the United States, as shown below:

 

NewEnergyComparison

OldEnergiesCost

Obviously the applicability of these findings depends on where you live; Texas has a very different mix of wind and solar capacity than Maine does. Nonetheless, the implication is clear — in many cases, renewable power is now competitive with fossil fuels, even with no subsidies.

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