Solar Power Could Provide Cheaper Energy Than Coal

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【Summary】Overall, solar power prices are down 62 percent from 2009, as costs fall across the supply chain. That could make solar cheaper than coal by 2025.

Original Timothy Healey    Jan 06, 2017 9:55 AM PT
Solar Power Could Provide Cheaper Energy Than Coal
author: Timothy Healey    

Solar power is already less-expensive than coal in some parts of the globe, according to Bloomberg.

Bloomberg further believes that solar could be cheaper than coal just about everywhere in less than 10 years.

Right now, countries such as Chile and the United Arab Emirates have worked out deals that result in a cost for solar power that's under three cents per kilowatt hour. That's half the average for the global cost of coal power.

Jordan, Mexico and Saudi Arabia are in the planning stages for tenders and auctions in 2017, which could drop the cost even further. A few energy companies, such as Enel SpA out of Italy and Ireland's Mainstream Renewable Power, which have European experience, are looking to expand to other global markets, especially as subsidies in Europe expire.

Overall, solar power prices are down 62 percent from 2009, as costs fall across the supply chain. That could make solar cheaper than coal by 2025.

According to Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis for New Energy Finance, the average one megawatt-plus ground-mounted solar system will cost 73 cents per watt by 2025. It stands at $1.14 now, so that would be a 36 percent fall.

"These are game-changing numbers, and it's becoming normal in more and more markets," Adnan Amin, International Renewable Energy Agency 's director general, an Abu Dhabi-based intergovernmental group, told Bloomberg. "Every time you double capacity, you reduce the price by 20 percent."

For the automotive industry, this could mean cheaper energy for EVs and autonomous cars. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, for example, has a vision in which trucks, buses and car-sharing networks that use autonomous cars will all be solar powered. If the price of solar power continues to drop, that obviously becomes a more appealing possibility.

"Now that Tesla is ready to scale Powerwall and SolarCity is ready to provide highly differentiated solar, the time has come to bring them together," Musk wrote earlier this year.

"Both are in the early stages of development at Tesla and should be ready for unveiling next year," Musk wrote of trucks and buses. "We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate."

Finally, he laid out this plan:

• Create stunning solar roofs with seamlessly integrated battery storage. 
• Expand the electric vehicle product line to address all major segments. 
• Develop a self-driving capability that is 10X safer than manual via massive fleet learning. 
• Enable your car to make money for you when you aren't using it.

Musk's plan isn't the only example of how cheaper solar power could affect the automotive industry. Solar-powered chargers for EVs are already on the market; and with falling prices for solar power, they may become more attractive to EV drivers – particularly those who have chargers in their home.

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