Solar Power

Is 'King Solar' Now the Cheapest Electricity Source Ever?

Yes, and it's only going to get cheaper.


In its annual World Energy Outlook report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) finds that, due to steeply declining costs, solar photovoltaic (PV) electric power generation "is consistently cheaper than new coal- or gas-fired power plants in most countries, and solar projects now offer some of the lowest-cost electricity ever seen." Taking into account the declared energy policies of various countries, the IEA projects that renewables will meet 80 percent of the growth in global electricity demand to 2030. This makes solar "the new king of electricity."

According to the IEA report, new utility-scale solar projects now cost $30 to $60 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in Europe and the U.S. and just $20 to $40 per MWh in China and India, where "revenue support mechanisms" such as guaranteed prices are in place (we'll get to the issue of the guaranteed prices shortly). This analysis accords with the new levelized cost of energy report from the Lazard financial consultancy that finds that electricity from unsubsidized utility-scale solar PV costs between $29 and $42 per MWh. The levelized cost of energy analysis takes into account the capital costs, fuel costs, operations and maintenance costs, debt and equity costs, and plant utilization rates for each type of electric power generation.

The Lazard report further finds that "as the cost of renewable energy continues to decline, certain technologies (e.g., onshore wind and utility-scale solar), which became cost-competitive with conventional generation several years ago on a new-build basis, continue to maintain competitiveness with the marginal cost of selected existing conventional generation technologies." As the Lazard analysis shows, when U.S. government subsidies are included, the cost of onshore wind and utility-scale solar is competitive with the marginal cost of fully depreciated coal, nuclear, and combined-cycle gas generation plants. "The former values average $31/MWh for utility-scale solar and $26/MWh for utility-scale wind, while the latter values average $41/MWh for coal, $29/MWh for nuclear, and $28/MWh for combined cycle gas generation," notes the report.

Way back in 2014, Lazard reported that the levelized unsubsidized cost of utility-scale solar PV was then between $72 and $86 per megawatt-hour. How much lower could solar PV power generation costs go? Ramez Naam, technologist and author of the excellent book, The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet (2013), projected earlier this year, assuming current trends continue, that in sunny parts of the world the cost of generating a kilowatt-hour of electricity through solar PV would fall to just a penny or two by 2030 or 2035. As result, he added, "Building new solar would routinely be cheaper than operating already built fossil fuel plants, even in the world of ultra-cheap natural gas we live in now."

Generating electricity is, however, not the only cost associated with getting power to the people. The intermittency of solar (and wind) power requires, among other things, the buildup of a more nimble digitized transmission grid so that power can be relayed rapidly between regions to account for shifts in power generation. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, power generation accounts for about 58 percent of the cost of power to retail consumers; the rest is transmission and distribution. Given current trends in renewable power adoption, the IEA projects that $460 billion will need to be spent by 2030 to modernize electrical grids around the world.

In addition, renewable power sources need backup generation or massive storage to make up for generation shortfalls when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing. How to pay for electricity generation and storage that are idle much of the time has to be addressed as well.

As a brief report from Resources for the Future think tank explains:

Renewable energy sources do not require fuel inputs to run since they use energy from the sun, wind, and other natural sources. Consequently, they are able to offer bids of $0 into the energy and capacity markets. As these sources make up a larger portion of the grid over time, these $0 bids can significantly reduce wholesale prices for energy and capacity and could discourage long-term investment for all resources. As a result, wholesale markets may need to adapt in the future to better accommodate different types of resources.

In other words, solar power that is eventually too cheap to meter creates the problem of how to pay for the infrastructure required to make and transmit.

"If private capital is to fuel the renewables wave, it seems likely the sector will need to move from a more commoditized market where revenues are determined by a price per kilowatt hour to one in which revenue is generated by providing guaranteed delivery of electricity when it is needed from sources either desired by the customer or required by regulation," suggests Brian Murray, the director of the Duke University Energy Initiative in his Forbes article, "The Paradox of Declining Renewable Costs and Rising Electricity Prices." He likens the solution to the way phone and internet service is delivered today in which different customers pay different prices to purchase different service delivery plans.

A 2019 article in The Electricity Journal outlined just such an approach for how wholesale power markets might be restructured to accommodate zero marginal cost electricity. In a nutshell, power consumers would be offered a portfolio of service contracts that allow them to choose plans that align with what they desire, value, and can afford. This range of portfolios would compensate utilities for their generation and transmission infrastructures while enabling them to more cost-effectively balance power demand and supply.

For example, a budget plan setting upper limits on customers' peak loads could be coupled with automation technology that helps them minimize the impact of power restrictions on their most critical uses. A premium plan would charge customers more for their higher capacity and for the amount of power they consume per month. Or customers could choose an intermediate capacity plan with a wide range of home automation services that enable them to stay within limit of the amount of power for which they wish to contract.

All signs are that cheap solar power is coming and that's really good news.

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  1. So solar is the cheapest, as long as we don’t need to use it?

    The intermittency of solar (and wind) power requires, among other things, the buildup of a more nimble digitized transmission grid so that power can be relayed rapidly between regions to account for shifts in power generation.

    In addition, renewable power sources need backup generation or massive storage to make up for generation shortfalls when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing. How to pay for electricity generation and storage that are idle much of the time has to be addressed as well.

    Call me back when you have a real system to sell; I already got a bridge.

    1. I quit working at shop rite and now I make $65-85 per/h. How? I’m working online! My work didn’t qwt exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn’t be happier So i try use.

      Here’s what I do…>>Easy work to Home

      1. I quit working at shop rite, and now I make $70 an hour installing solar panels! Most of that is from government subsidies and rebates!

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          This is my specialty……….. Home Profit System

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      2. Seriously, Reason, these Chinese bots are pretty damned stupid. How difficult is it to block any comment that includes “shop rite”? Because apparently that’s where every single damned bot used to work.

        1. To be fair, lots of posts about urban unrest then would be blocked depending on the brand of stores which were mostly peacefully looted.

          PS: Joe Biden is a crook

        2. I got a new 2021 Land Ranger Deluxe after only two weeks wirking at Shop-Rite selling Solar Panels. $link$

          1. Too bad it only runs during the daytime.

        3. An old fashioned Bayesian spam filter (been around 20 years in email programs) could be trained and removed these lame ass bot comments. I doubt if reason would pay me $90 an hour to write them a backend daemon to fix it though 🙂

      3. I quit working at shop rite and now I make $65-85 per/h. How? I’m working online! My work didn’t exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn’t be happier So i try use.
        Here’s what I do…….EASY WORK

    2. yea bicycles are cheaper than cars but you still need a car for back up.

      1. Ding-Ding-Ding! We have a winner.

        I love my bikes. I’d rather ride than walk or drive. I’ll ride in the rain. I even have studded tires for riding on winter ice.

        And there’s NO way I’d get rid of my car.

        1. Let us know how the food is in the gulag after the Green Goodguys mark you for reeducation.

          1. Reich has you on his list, He’s sure you won’t be missed.

        2. As a fellow hard core bicycler, I also have a car for backup. But it is just that and because it is a backup I save plenty. First my wife and I share the back-up car. Second I use less gas and pay less insurance. Same with electric power. When we generate large portion directly from the sun, (remember fossil fuels are stored solar power) we can reduce the size of the backup and save money.

          1. So, you sacrifice time & safety. That’s of course your option, but you seem to think your are getting something “for free”…

            1. Time and Safety? In some cases bikes are quicker than cars, especially for short distances. As for safety, I see a lot more car accidents than bike accidents. Frankly in my city the most dangerous thing you can do is walk across the street.

          2. Cyclists eat more to sustain a greater caloric need versus sedentary people. That food is not carbon neutral.

            Cyclists also enjoy taking their bicycles to parks and trails, to ride smugly surrounded by nature, attaching them to cars. This reduces car wind drag efficiency and wastes gas.

            Bike trails are always littered by cyclists with garbage they’re too smug to dispose of properly. The trails have to be maintained, requiring that people are hired to do the job. These caretakers inevitably ride around in municipal trucks that aren’t energy efficient, to carry around their using 2-stroke power tools that are also polluting.

            Better to sit on your ass at home or walk around the block for exercise, than cycle around, killing the world.

    3. Negative prices for electricity have become common in Germany and other EU countries in large part due to the problem of balancing base load (always available to keep the customer’s lights on), peak load (always available on short notice to meet customer short term needs), and finally solar and wind, which reduce neither base or peek capacity.
      The true full cost of solar is the need for building a peeking plant of like capacity that sits idle most of the time. Huge capital cost.

      1. Well, if the Germans weren’t racing to close down all their nuclear power plants, they’d have plenty of peak capacity to back up solar and wind. Seems that keeping existing nuclear plants operational is much cheaper and reliable than building out huge storage arrays (or buying gas from the Russians).

    4. “In addition, renewable power sources need backup generation or massive storage to make up for generation shortfalls when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing. How to pay for electricity generation and storage that are idle much of the time has to be addressed as well.”

      Solar and wind are riding off the base power sources.

      Probably what happens is that power prices fluctuate more over the day, with base power charging higher prices when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.

      Interesting thing is that both solar and carbon generators can’t ramp up and down that easily. The marginal cost is next to nothing, but they still have to recapture capital cost.

      This should make storage the real money maker. They can time arbitrage. They can buy low and sell high. I’d invest in storage over solar.

      1. Solar and wind are riding off the base power sources.

        Along multiple streams. Gas taxed at the pump is subsidizing wind and solar.

    5. Right, if you hand out massive government subsidies, you can make any power source the cheapest one for utilities to build. This, of course, tells you exactly nothing about the merits of the power source, it only tells you what governments have decided to subsidize.

      Once upon a time, a Ron Bailey commentary in Reason on something like the IEA report would have led with that.

      This article reminds me of those “What could you post to social media to inform people that you’re being held hostage without alerting your captors” things. Somebody’s taken the Ron Bailey of ten years ago hostage.

      1. It’s as if the people putting out this “Look what great things the government is wasting your money on!” story pick a byline we’ll trust.

    6. I was going to comment. You covered it. Thanks. This “renewables” dribble is only dangerous if we listen to the propagandists.

    7. Isn’t it true too that backup fossil fuel or nuke plants must run all the time anyway because they are not easy to start up and shut down? Or at least in doing so they are very inefficient.

      1. Nuclear absolutely. Except during maintenance (switching fuel rods every few years), nuclear plants must run at 100% all the time. If the rods drop to slow/stop the chain reaction, it takes several days to restart and is risky.

        Hydro and gas turbines are close to “instant on”

        Coal fired plants are in between. Modern coal fired plants grind the coal to a fine powder, and ignite it in a controlled explosion. The heat warms water to feed a steam generator, so starting it from cold requires bringing the steam turbines up to speed.

        Demand is very predictable based on day of week, time of day and degree days. Forced purchases of renewable power destabilizes the entire system, which can result in the renewable energy having a negative price, just to get rid of the energy that is not needed

        Aluminum smelting is good for this. The electrolysis can be stopped and started without disrupting the refining of the ore, soaking up the free electricity

    8. You missed the energy to make solar cells. The lifespan and waste produced by renewables is also atrocious.

      When you must have a conventional power plant in addition to solar / wind clearly it is not cheaper.

      1. Bailey also missed the environmental and wildlife damage caused by carving out space to put solar panels and solar farms. None of it can be underground, so it’s the equivalent of paving paradise to put up a parking lot.

    9. “So solar is the cheapest, as long as we don’t need to use it?”
      And as long as the government subsidizes it.

    10. “when U.S. government subsidies are included, the cost of onshore wind and utility-scale solar is competitive with the marginal cost of fully depreciated coal, nuclear, and combined-cycle gas generation plants.”

      So, let me restate this so it more clear….

      “the cost of onshore wind and utility-scale solar is NOT competitive with the marginal cost of fully depreciated coal, nuclear, and combined-cycle gas generation plants.” without including government subsidies.”

      And of course, including the MASSIVE cost of batteries, or reservoirs with hydro to act as storage, natural gas fired power generation is required equal to about half of the solar or wind generating capacity to cover the supply swings. Add THAT in while you are at it. Oh, and don’t forget the recycling costs for the solar panels and I assume batteries in 20 years (VERY high with lots of toxic materials).

    11. Spot on! Until solar is “dispatchable” to meet load, as coal, gas, & oil-fired generation is comparing solar to those is really Apples & Oranges.

      You can make solar dispatchable with enough high capacity, long-term storage. But then you realize what the true costs are of replacing fossil fuel generation.

  2. 20 years and counting of multi-billion-dollar-per-year subsidies, mandates, and regulations that make the only competitor to solar 2-3 times more expensive than it would be otherwise, and solar is almost cost competitive, except that it’s intermittent, can’t be stored, and doesn’t generate enough power for grid deployment. All we need is a few more decades of government intervention and we’ll get there. Free minds and free markets baby!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. 20 Years? They’ve been subsidizing solar since Carter.

      1. that is literally subsidizing unlike carbon fuel which has only write offs which is not a subsidy. the government never subsidized the oil and car industry when they were starting out.

    2. 100% efficient solar would not be enough to run our economy, there is a finite amount of energy in sunlight. The most efficient cells today are 20-23% efficient.

  3. I weep for Reason.

    1. If yiu don’t get on the solar bandwagon, the Sunrise Movement may make you weep for lack of sleep:

    2. Of all the things I ever lost, I miss my mind the most – – – – – – – –

  4. So now we need a whole new grid plus storage. None is which is in the levelized cost. So the comparison is bunk.

    The reality is solar and wind don’t scale very well whereas natural gas does. You can build fossil and nuclear plants in most locations and transport the fuel but renewables require energy sources that aren’t always available. Storage solves some problems but that cost is not coming down for a while. Plus try to build new transmission lines it’s become very difficult and expensive.

    If we were really serious we’d push nuclear much more but we’re not serious we’d rather play number games to prove renewables are the solution.

    1. Solar currently (due to subsidies) and in the near future (without subsidies) makes a shit ton of sense for point solution. If you are building a new house, it makes enormous sense to just install solar panels- they will likely pay off in under a decade- with or without subsidies. (And reminder, in these cases it is often a tax deduction). The new Tesla shingles make even more sense, since you have to buy shingles anyways, and paying a little extra turns them into an investment.

      But these are point solutions. Not industrial grid solutions. I also totally do not believe the IEA numbers. I have friends working on these power plants in California and Nevada, and none of them has operated NEAR this level. So something tells me they are using back of the envelope cost calculations that are ignoring quite a bit of stuff. For example, a solar farm to replace a mixed cycle Nat Gas burner is a much bigger footprint- higher land costs, more infrastructure costs, and bigger environmental impact. I really doubt those costs are factored in.

      1. Heating water for water and home heating with solar electric seems like the way to go.

        Energy storage is everything. Saw youtube estimate how heat exchange systems using closed loop water systems were about a fifth the cost per capacity in thermal units relative to battery systems.

      2. I have friends that live far enough from the grid their only choice was solar / wind. The extra 30 grand cost to barely survive would buy a lot of electricity and they still have to haul in propane for heat.

        For the majority renewable energy is a joke and does not eliminate a single power station, they just lose money during a sunny day to fire back up at night.

  5. Nuke-yuh-lur. It works even when there’s no wind or sunshine.

    1. Requires too many smart folks, and already researched and viable. Not enough obfuscation for politically connected grifters to get fuck-you rich.

      1. Well, if the Navy can do it, civilians can do it.
        I wonder if anyone has looked into how many regulations there are for building a reactor for the Navy ships compared to building one land that is not as likely to get blown up.

    2. Government would have to remove the more ridiculous regulations. The nuclear industry is happy to have them, though. This means is that they charge the customer more plus it’s a huge barrier to any of that nasty “competition” arising.

  6. All I know is that when Jingko Solar built their big new solar panel factory in China, they built a coal-fired power plant right next to it to supply the factory’s electricity. Revealed preferences FTW, I guess.

    1. Unless you have some way to store LOTS of energy that can be accessed instantly, you need a fossil fuel plant to go with the solar one. And the fossil fuel plant has to be RUNNING all the time so it can quickly “swing” (yes, that is what they call it) online to pick up when a cloud comes by or the wind dies down.

  7. Renewable energy sources do not require fuel inputs to run since they use energy from the sun, wind, and other natural sources. Consequently, they are able to offer bids of $0 into the energy and capacity markets.

    How is this possible? What am I not understanding here? Nothing costs $0. Nothing.

    1. Dreams are free.

      1. Something about Blondie.

      2. College can be free
        Health care can be free
        Healthcare insurance can be free
        Food can be free
        Damn near anything can be free if we elect enough democrats.

        OK, maybe citizens can’t be free.

        1. Ha ha ha. This is the best comment I have read in days. In Canada I pay 50% of my salary in taxes for a broken medical system and some of the most expensive energy in the world. I can tell you I do not feel “free”.

    2. It’s nice for Bailey to clue us in right off the bat that the article is bullshit. The land the cells sit on, the capex to build the system itself, in addition to the storage and backup generation systems mentioned elsewhere, all cost zero and don’t need to be recouped, I guess.

      Sunlight is free though, that’s true.

      1. Sunlight is free though, that’s true.

        But supply is limited.

        1. Hurry on down and get yours before we run out of sun.

          1. Unless you are in space, you have a limited amount of sunlight due to weather. Not to mention that whole day/night thing.

          2. Huh… where I live at a certain time of day– usually in the evening, the sun is nowhere to be found, and is gone for many hours before making another appearance. And at my particular latitude, the sun is weak or behind clouds for nine months a year. Maybe it’s different where other people live.

            1. It’s just playing hide and seek

            2. I used to live in Washington State; I just moved to Phoenix. So I asked for a rooftop solar proposal. The first chart said 6-year payback on a $20K investment. Then I looked at the details. They used an estimated monthly power bill of $621. Since my power bill is actually around $200 even in the summer, I knew the rest of it was all bullshit too. And they emphasized that the $6500 federal subsidy was going away at the end of 2020. I’m betting that the price of the system will drop significantly on 1/1/2021.

            3. Not to worry, when Joe, Kamela, and the rest outlaw fracking they will legislate that the Sun will shine unfettered a minimum of 18 hours each day.

              You just have to follow the science!

      2. You know what else is free? Crude oil, just sitting there underground. All you need to do is pump it up, store it, refine it, and ship it in pipelines or on trucks and ships. Just like solar is free, just blasting here from the sun. All you need to do is build solar cells, deploy them, store the energy, and transmit it on lossy lines across California, starting forest fires.

        1. Crude? Like Trump’s tweets? Ugh, pass.

    3. TBF: If you are just talking about Cost of Goods Sold- i.e. the cost of materials and labor to produce the good, then it is essentially zero. The G&A costs of a company- capex, operational maintenance, depreciation, etc are usually factored in after COGS.

      The point here is that as soon as a solar company has paid all those G&A bills, they could theoretically sell all their energy for $0 because there are little to no VARIABLE costs. A natural gas burner will always have the cost of water and gas.

      That presents the question, why would they sell the energy for free? Well, possibly to drive the Nat Gas burners out of business? If we are talking about people who have solar installed on their house, because they don’t give a shit? I dunno.

    4. basically when the sun is out but its not hot, homes with solar produce MOAR electricity than they use, and it MUST to be ‘pushed out’ on to the grid. what happens in CA and elsewhere is there is actually TOO MUCH electricity at peak hours for solar, so the price actually goes NEGATIVE, meaning the home owner would have to pay the utility to ‘get rid’ of the unneeded electricity. conversely, after sundown, the panels produce no energy. so the avg cost will depend on installation and manufacturing, but MARGINAL cost is zero. the intermittency of the supply of solar power is a huge problem for the grid, basically unsolvable in many people’s eyes.

      1. Electricity generated by solar doesn’t have to be pushed out; solar cells can simply be disconnected when not needed. So your analysis is absurd.

        1. Funny how it doesn’t seem to work that way for wind…

          “Calamitous Planning: German Wind Parks Overload Power Grid …”At Its Limits” …Record 50,000 Grid Interventions In May!”

          1. Those aren’t technical or engineering issues, they are legal and policy issues.

            First of all, wind and solar providers are legally guaranteed the right to dump their electricity into the grid in return for government subsidies, so they do.

            Secondly, the electrical grid could easily dispose of “excess power” through giant resistors; it’s a policy choice not to do so and instead pay people for using electricity.

    5. we are not talking about the initial cost. think of it like this…. if it costs about the same to build a solar or gas fired plant of the same size, the gas fired plant would have a cost associated with any energy output, while the solar plant would not. every fossil fuel plant has a continuous cost for every MW it will ever produce until the end of time…. a solar plant does not. you don’t have to pay for sunlight. of course the plants don’t cost the same, so the decision isn’t quite that easy, but that continuous recurring cost is what they are describing.

      1. If you discount maintenance, it has no cost. But maintenance is a huge cost in both solar and wind (especially wind) that is rarely mentioned. There are huge windfarms in central Montana but talking to the locals who agreed to lease their land, they state they wishes they had known more and the companies had lied less when they signed the lease. Maintenance was never mentioned. But the windmills seem to break quite frequently. And their lifespan is far less than what they were led to believe.
        Reading studies on this, their anecdotal data seems to be backed up by actual data. It appears both solar and wind have higher maintenance costs than NG plants.

        1. the article was about solar, not wind….. good deflect though…. make a false claim and then only talk about windmills. can you describe the “significant” maintenance cost of a panel that sits there and gets hit by sunlight? didn’t think so.

          1. yes,

            The panels actually degrade over time, continuously losing efficiency until they need replacement in 20 years or so.

            Hail damage, ice, seal failure, corrosion, frequent cleaning to maintain efficiency, and all of the maintenance requirements for the electrical gear that ANY power plant requires. Not to mention that solar power generates DC and power transmission requires high voltage AC. The power inversion electronics are pricey and do require maintenance.

            Wind and Solar exhibit many of the same challenges to implementation and are usually discussed together for that reason.

            Dumb ass

            1. i see…. you are an idiot who has no clue what you are talking about. yes, solar panels do degrade over time, but require absolutely no regular maintenance. even after 25yrs, the will still have 80% output, and they still work and generate power. you never have to replace them. after 50-100yrs, someone probably will replace them with better ones, but they will generate electricity right up until that day. you never have to do anything to them. hail damage might make them look bad, but even that does not stop them from working. (i actually have my workshop running on some hail damaged panels that an insurance company replaced for someone…. they work fine.) you put the panels up, and never touch them again. if you are feeling motivated, maybe you can hose them down occasionally, but they really need zero maintenance. and if you think servicing an inverter once a decade is a high maintenance cost compared to gas fired plants….. you are a moron.

              seriously… that’s what you got? the efficiency drops a little over time, and one part that you have to mess with every ten years? no, the reason you tend to couple it with wind power is that you have some plausibility in your claims there, but even trying to explain “high maintenance costs” for solar leaves you sounding like a retard.

    6. The solar plant on the Nevada / California border requires huge amounts of natural gas to preheat the system before the sun goes up.

      The message is that photovoltaic is working, but steam powered generators was a bad idea

  8. These cost estimates are really misleading until they start adding in the cost of the needed backup generation and smart-grid conversions. Those things were mentioned in the article, but without any cost numbers…

    1. The cost of back-up generation and smart grids are really already in the mix. Back-up stations are as simple as power company deciding which conventional fossil fuel plants they retain in their network. There is no cost to build these. Smart grid are already being developed as power company are looking to maximize profits, that means they want to balance the amount of energy produced as that used. Remember excess solar electrical energy is a lost opportunity for sales, excess electrical energy produced by fossil fuels cost you money to produce.

      1. That’s very optimistic of you. There is additional cost for the backup generation because it is less efficient to run it as backup rather than running it all the time. And I’d like to see how things are going to work after all the fossil-fuel generation is shut down, as per plan. Smart grids are much more expensive and are only needed because of the intermittency problems with wind and solar, so those extra costs should be included as part of the cost of wind and solar generation. Plus, I don’t think the technology is actually there yet for a fully smart grid.

        1. It is easy to be optimistic where technology is concerned as a child the coolest thing was a transistor radio you could hold in you hand.

          1. Yep, everything is easy for the guy who isn’t going to have to figure it out or do the work.

      2. “Smart grid” requires constant communication, so running wires separately from electrical lines or radio transmitters are required.

        That’s an additional maintenance chore and environmental cost.

        It’s also a security vulnerability, as these systems are designed to allow external access and control. There is a limited supply of people who have the education and training to handle this stuff and prevent hacking.

        High tech brings solutions, but also new costs.

  9. In other words, solar power that is eventually too cheap to meter creates the problem of how to pay for the infrastructure required to make and transmit.

    “If private capital is to fuel the renewables wave, it seems likely the sector will need to move from a more commoditized market where revenues are determined by a price per kilowatt hour to one in which revenue is generated by providing guaranteed delivery of electricity when it is needed from sources either desired by the customer or required by regulation,”

    Ok… this is going to take way more reading before I can believe any of this. Even if the cost of panels becomes incredibly cheap, there are tons of costs that surround the process. Cost of installation, cost of maintenance, cost of land area for placement, cost of storage, procurement of storage and the difficulties of acquiring battery chemistry that we’re already seeing with a very small percentage of widescale adoption such as electric cars, etc.

    1. Back in the day, it was predicted that atomic power would make so much electricity, it would be too cheap to meter.

      1. who needs electricity when everyone is glowing from radio activity and cook their own food by touching it

      2. Which is exactly why the left hates nuclear power. They want people living like serfs in the middle ages

      3. Lol. Why do you think they killed it? Ever heard of Wardenclyffe?

        1. Yeah, but Tesla was kinda crazy.

      4. and then everybody go scared, not understanding that American reactors are designed nothing like Chernobyl.

    2. I already have separate line items on my power bill for energy and infrastructure.

      This isn’t different.

      But a bid price of $0 is bullshit.

      Grids start at the bottom and work their way up the price scale each day as needed.

      So bid of $0 might make sense for the last electron but not the first.

      They “should” be bidding the same as coal plants which have large start up costs and can’t afford to shut down.

      Then you have higher prices for natural gas generators that fire up at peak.

      The problem is that the solar plant can not GUARANTEE a specific amount of power. So maybe they bid themselves out at 50% capacity and then just give away the rest?

      With natural gas to fill in the gaps?

  10. “….when U.S. government subsidies are included…”

    Seriously, Reason? Fuck you.

    1. US federal government subsidies have no costs. It is known.

      (Pay no attention to the Money Printer in the corner, sounding like a spooling-up turbojet…)

  11. Um, Why is our information coming from Paris France? The IEA is also lobbyists for the Climate Changes hoax and last I heard we exited the Parris Global Tyrant Accord.

    Reason is carrying water for the left again I see.

    The only place in the USA where solar makes any sense is in CA where regulations has made CA electricity the HIGHEST COST in the continental U.S…. Add in all the “commie-money” subsidies and they finally break even for the purchaser. We’ll just pretend the manufacturers aren’t getting any subsidies.

    And anyone who wants to pretend otherwise is more than WELCOME to go buy into this scam with their OWN money (Just don’t STEAL money from others and pretend it’s “better”)…

    1. Ironically CA (the most expensive) also is now suffering an energy crisis that cannot even keep the lights on at night so I hear in other news.

      1. Yep California where the electricity comes from wind mills but when it gets windy they turn off the electricity.

      2. I’m sure the wildfires will get better by continuing to ignore the cost of transmission maintenance too.

  12. Solar panel manufacturing is the dirtiest- heavy metal byproducts, rare earth mining costs (financial and environmental) make solar a silly alternative.

    Nuke the grid!

    1. You need a better cliche’ supplier- “Solar panel manufacturing is the dirtiest- heavy metal byproducts, rare earth mining costs ”

      Sounds like CFACT or Cato confusing windmills and PV panels, while ignoring all the heavy metals in coal and petcoke.

      Cue picture of small child in very small Coltan hole in the ground in the Congo.

      1. “…while ignoring all the heavy metals in coal and petcoke…”

        Does cherry-picking pay a living wage?

    2. And also disposal costs for broken cells.

      1. When windmills break they tend to leak lubricant oil all over the place. The oil is a petroleum products and a major environmental hazard. Ranchers who agreed to lease land to windmills have found pastures and waterways contaminated to such a degree that they can’t use them anymore. Also, the blades tend to just get buried when broken (and the break really frequently). The ironic thing is they built huge windmill farms across the front range of the Rockies in Montana but production is far less than expected because the wind is to strong and they have to lock the blades to try and prevent damage. Drive through Judith Basin County or Park County, MT and count how many windmills are actually rotating on any given day. I’ve done it often, with results of one out of five to one out twenty. I have also driven through when not a single one was running, but the wind was threatening to blow my truck off the road (anyone who has ever driven from Big Timber to Bozeman, on I 90 knows what I am talking about in regards to the wind).

  13. Currently, the fossil fuel industry is able to deliver ~627kwh of energy into my vehicle for the cost of a little over 7 cents per kwh.

    Built into that cost is:

    transmission delivery
    a hefty bribe to a saudi prince

    I think it’s a pretty big stretch to suggest that solar, after adding in everything above (minus the hefty bribe) will be too cheap to meter.

    1. Forgot another cost inclusion:

      a hefty energy tax applied by my state government.

      1. And the Feds, don’t forget their cut

  14. Solar panels may be cheap but what about the fucking batteries you need to use the power? Batteries are made from some of the most toxic shit on the planet. And batteries explode. You should never want a giant one in your house.

    1. The problems of assploding batteries can be dealt with. Currently, the exotic nature of the chemicals (even the non-toxic ones) is going to present a very similar problem of procurement that oil does.

      1. Except oil doesn’t have the problem of China already cornering the market like with rare-earth elements…

        The ‘assploding’ definitely made me chuckle, though it night be less funny if you explained it. I am definitely going to steal that to describe pants-shitting COVID alarmists.

    2. You know people build DIY powerwalls with hundreds of salvaged 18650 batteries that store kilowatts of power and put them in their house?

      1. Of course, but DIY projects do not scale on an industrial scale, and a lot of effort and work goes into those DIY battery projects. Hundreds of used batteries are salvaged, tested, verified that they’re still good. Essentially, they’re salvaged out of battery packs which ‘failed’ as a whole, but there are individual cells that are still viable. This can be an expensive and time consuming process– but appear to be a cost saving to the enthusiast, because the enthusiast’s personal time is free.

        However, the recyclability of a ‘spent cell’ is, as I understand it, not viable. Lithium is “recycled” by incinerating the cells and then the detritus is raked through for salvageable lithium. HOwever, I understand that the salvaged lithium can’t be re-used in batteries, but can only be re-used for other industrial purposes like lubricants.

        1. That’s strange. Isn’t lithium, lithium?

          It’s an alkali metal: is it really that expensive to purify?

          1. Prefaced by stating that I am in no way an industrial chemist.

            Alkaline metals being so reactive suggests that they might actually be fairly difficult to purify. I would guess it’s hard to get them to let go of whatever else they’ve glommed onto.

            1. That is my understanding as well. That once you incinerate the batteries and rake out the lithium, we just don’t have a cost-effective (or technologically feasible) process to purify them.

          2. It’s an alkali metal: is it really that expensive to purify?

            An alkali metal that reacts rapidly with both oxygen and nitrogen, how hard could it possibly be to purify?

            1. Well, since an alkali metal already bonded with oxygen and nitrogen is in a stable compound, at a lower energy state than pure, getting it into a pure form will require putting lots of energy in.

              Oh wait…. putting energy IN?

              B…B…B…but … FROM WHERE?


      2. DIY powerwalls

        Sounds like a guaranteed way to void your home insurance. After a fire, the place would literally be a toxic waste site.

        1. And lithium batteries certainly never catch fire on their own.

        2. It would be the same for a Tesla powerwall.

    3. utility level solar plants are unlikely to use batteries. they use things like heat storage to drive a steam turbine, or they simply pump water to a reservoir to run hydro-electric…..

      1. they use things like heat storage to drive a steam turbine, or they simply pump water to a reservoir to run hydro-electric…..

        Unless you plan to tear up moutainsides building extra storage or haul massive amounts of earth out to the the prairies *and* run extra/dedicated transmission to cover the gaps, this is bullshit. Total energy storage by these methods worldwide is on the order of a couple-hundred GW while consumption is on the order of TWh.

        Pump-storage is efficient in terms of retrieval, but in terms of density or rate of extraction, it’s not even within orders of magnitude of nuclear or fossil fuels.

        1. Total energy storage by these methods worldwide is on the order of a couple-hundred GW while consumption is on the order of TWh.

          Sorry, my mistake, current total capacity worldwide is on the order of 1-2 hundred GW while consumption is on the order of 1-2… hundred thousand TWh.

          1. that is a non-argument. so what if we do not currently store more energy? that is because most energy still comes from non-solar sources…… there is no point in storing energy you get from burning gas. your argument amounts to going back 20yrs and saying electric cars are impossible because the average car battery is not big enough. you don’t get the bigger storage systems until you have a reason to store it.

            1. No one ever said that. Electric car technology are over 100 years old. The problem 20 years ago (and still the main problem) is battery efficiency and lifespan. Electric cars were never impossible (and have been built in small numbers for over a century, actually clear back to the mid 19th century, so a century and a half). They have just proven impractical.

              1. you are missing the point…. how much we currently store power is a completely irrelevant argument.

                1. You are missing the point,
                  Massive energy storage is difficult and expensive. How may good locations are there for large reservoirs that could be used for energy storage? Do you understand how many thousands of them would be needed? You do realize that there are significant environmental impacts as well and they would be hugely unpopular?

                  Energy storage is a MAJOR issue with wind and solar. There are no good solutions currently.

        2. you do understand that i also said heat storage and used the word “like” don’t you? you just spent a whole lot of effort to talk about one option not being readily possible everywhere and ignored that it was never implied that was the only option. the point was that batteries are not the only way to store energy. for large scale storage, they are the least attractive option available. everyone talking about batteries as a reason not to go solar is ignorant of the fact that they would not use batteries.

          1. Well, at last you said something correct, ” they would not use batteries.” They will not use batteries because the technology is not much closer to being viable for this kind of storage than it was 50 years ago.

            That does not remove the need for massive energy storage, it just demonstrates that, once again, we don’t have any current technologies that are remotely capable of meeting the requirements.

            1. absolutely amazing, the willful ignorance here…… you just replied to my last post talking about how we can’t use hydro-power reservoirs everywhere….. meaning you are aware of at least one technology that has been in large scale use for 80yrs….. and on your next reply, you claim that we don’t have ANY current technologies…. we do. we have hydro-power reservoirs and we have multiple forms of thermal storage. these are not new or developing technologies, they are decades old. we don’t waste the time to build them for gas fired plants, but we do have the ability to rapidly do so once we reach the point were we generate >100% of our energy requirements during the day form solar. solar currently only creates a small percentage of our power. it will not make sense to store any of it until we actually use all that we currently make. the lack of current storage is not because we can’t do it, it is because we can’t currently use it….. we don’t have any excess solar power to store….

              I’m glad you at least understand that they won’t use batteries, but the “we can’t store it” argument is a lie, no matter how you frame it. we don’t store it now, only because we don’t have any to store.

      2. Actually, because of a scary headline, I recently became aware that my power company has (had?) at least one battery facility. Do a search for “APS battery fire”, and enjoy.

  15. have no fear of atomic energy.

    1. Do you want Godzilla? Cause this is how you get Godzilla!

  16. Call us when you have the price for a kWh in January after 5 days of regional clouds, even with a genius grid (which even if magically connecting across the continent, and violating laws of physics to eliminate transmission losses, can only span 6 time zones).

    1. Solar in Northeast Montana in January. Overcast days and -40°F lows and highs in the -10-20°F range. Daylight hours, nine. Yeah I’ll believe that when I see it.

    2. Below freezing, solar ( photovoltaic) panels don’t work efficiently. Even if you could get a few hours of direct sunlight, you wouldn’t be able to power an electric blanket.

  17. I love the look of those solar fields too. I can just imagine a state filled with those very green sources of power for us. They are almost as beautiful as the wind farms. No real environmental impact either. Cuz no one’s house got moved to make room for them. Unless you are an ant, lizard, bird, turtle, snake, mongoose, mouse, beetle, plant, flower, tree root etc.
    Green! Uh huh.

    1. Just put the solar arrays on really tall stilts, and put it above the cities they are powering. Roof over the entirety of Los Angeles, San Francisco and surrounding cities, Sacramento, and so forth. Californians don’t need sunlight. They can live off the warmth inherent in smugness.

      1. How about we just blow those cities to hell and put solar farms where they used to be?

        1. Nuke the cities and use residual radiation to heat steam turbines.

  18. Solar takes up a lot of space, depends on the weather, uses a lot of rare earth minerals, and wears out over time. Wind power is laughable, and nuclear power comes with thousands of years of radioactive waste to deal with.

    The real answer in coastal areas would be tide power, like hydroelectric power without the environmental impact of dams. Build some desalination plans while you’re at it.

    1. 4th generation nuclear plants don’t have the waste problem. Hell we wouldn’t have it now except the government doesn’t allow the reprocessing of spent fuel 99% of which is perfectly reusable.

      1. ^THIS^

        The nuclear power technology is already in hand. It is not implemented because the government doesn’t want to allow the reprocessing of spent fuel to put it back into the Gen4 reactors.

  19. What I want to know is are the MWh in the report is using based on nameplate capacity or actual power produced? That makes a huge difference when comparing a source with a 80+% capacity factor to a source with a 20% capacity factor.

  20. Now add in transmission costs, load redesign of major grids, battery storage costs…

  21. Ron, are there lines missing from the Ramez Naam figure that should indicate the operating costs of current fossil fuel plants?

  22. Ha! Heads are exploding in the comment section! First we had the Libertarian candidate for President say the oil industry gets corporate welfare to the tune of $15B in SUBSIDIES annually. And now solar will turn out to be the cheapest source of electricity! Who woulda thunk it! Certainly not the commenters here.

    And here’s the thing…Ronald you always talk about all the improvements in technology we’ve achieved and will continue to achieve. That holds true for renewables. So some of the issues facing solar, like battery storage, improve every year. And will continue to improve.

    Just like the sun, the future of solar is bright! Thanks for posting!

    1. But we aren’t allowed to improve on nuclear technology.
      Cheap energy = freedom.

      1. There is some progress being made on that front. The mini-reactor model might be the next frontier.

    2. Do you have an actual hard science or engineering background or a liberal art major?

      1. Jackass believes the mantra ‘FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE’ will somehow make those nasty CA wildfires go away.


          Read it yourself. 7th paragraph down.

          Enjoy your evening! I am!

          1. Didn’t you get banned for posting kiddie porn?

          2. “Read it yourself. 7th paragraph down….”

            Get screwed with a running chainsaw, lefty shit.
            It’s a LIE as I’ve pointed out every time you post it. I don’t care who is doing the lying, a lie remains a lie.
            The petroleum industry gets no subsidies; it gets the same tax-deductions every business gets.
            BTW, you repeating the lie makes you a liar also, but as a piece of lefty shit, that’s pretty much a given.
            Now, wanna tell us how the mantra ‘FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE’ will somehow make those nasty CA wildfires go away?

    3. Given that jackass is a dishonest piece of lefty shit, this attempt at ‘appeal to authority’, hoping that the adults here will be so tribal as to accept this:

      “…First we had the Libertarian candidate for President say the oil industry gets corporate welfare to the tune of $15B in SUBSIDIES annually…”

      I voted for here, but that’s a lie. Period, a lie, and jackass repeats it.

    4. Like magic. It’s a one way street without any second order effects. If only libertarians could get on board with the party of science and reject the patriarchal white man’s notions of thermodynamics!

    5. “Ha! Heads are exploding in the comment section!”

      No, jackass, the article is being treated with the proper skepticism, an approach which seems totally foreign to watermelons like you.
      And you’ll note that Jo’s lie is also noted as such, regardless of your attempt to assign a lie a certain value as a result of its source.

    6. Yep, we had a Libertarian candidate for President say that private companies being able to deduct losses from from the profit before calculating taxes is a subsidy.

      Funny, I never realized just how similar Libertarian policy was to Marxist policy. Who knew?

  23. How are you going to store the electricity? I always get a little skeptical when you have a very complicated economic model where such things as discount rates can create very large differences in the present value of any “capital justification.”

    Bailey is so out of his league to be the science and engineering writer for Reason…a liberal art major with far left views…sure ok…what a fking joke Reason is

    1. He used to be tied to rationality. This isn’t very good from him.

      Oh, and Jackandace is worth about as much of your time as the contempt Sevo throws at him.

    2. Bailey is very well equipped , well except for the science part, and the engineering part … well …. and maybe the finance and economics parts too … but other that that he is ON IT!

  24. Firstly, huge investments and construction will be required to facilitate the transfer of massive amounts of power between locations that are often long distance apart. For example, California has a long term low pressure area hanging around so the entire state is under a cloud layer for 2 weeks.

    This new, non-existent grid will have to connect with a sufficient number of other generation facilities with enough capacity to power the entire state. Where would these plants be?, who pays for such a huge amount of excess capacity to power a whole state? What is hte inevitable line loss of transmitting this much power hundreds if not thousands of miles?

    Remember, that the USA consists of 3 time zones, but night in winter lasts 8-10 hours where the sunlight is not powerful enough to power a solar grid. So, some non-solar sources have to be built to cover the entire USA for 5-7 hours every day. What 7/24/365 available power generation technology would you recommend? In hot climates, AC units run all day and night and in cold climates heat generation is required all day and night. How many installed oil burners or gas furnaces will have to be retrofitted to a housing stock in the many tens of millions.

    Will I have to replace my gas stove with electric. I’m a chef, and that will happen over my dead body. Will I have to rip out the lovely gas fireplaces I installed, and paid for to reduce particulate emissions from my old wood burning ones with a fire place with some crinkled up rice paper and glass beads with little flashing lights behind them trying to simulate a fire. Not gonna happen.

    I’m all for super efficiency in energy uses and have added a lot of additional insulation in the attic and walls, replaced all old single pane windows with new double pane windows and doors, bought nice new 97% efficient gas furnaces and a brand new 20 seer rated A/C system. Oh, yes, I also changed out every light bulb with LED’s

    So how much more blood do you want? How far are you willing to degrade my quality of life? When will you stop presenting misleading Solar statistics and stop leaving out the ugly back end of reaching the false nirvana you are describing. You’re starting to resemble a certain US President I know and you aren’t doing yourself and favors.

    1. Remember, that the USA consists of 3 time zones, but night in winter lasts 8-10 hours where the sunlight is not powerful enough to power a solar grid.

      No no, I’m told sunlight is “unlimited”, shining on the surfaces of solar cells, 100% of the time at 100% efficiency.

      1. 1.44 kW per m^2. At the equator. Assuming perfect insolation.

        I wonder how it compares to an array at LEO?

    2. “…Will I have to replace my gas stove with electric…”

      “California approves natural gas limits on new buildings in nine Bay Area cities”
      “Amid debates and lawsuits, natural gas bans keep gaining momentum as Bay Area cities encourage people to rely more on electricity for home appliances and less on fossil fuels…”

      Ignoring that the electrons only reliably come from those fossil fuels.

      1. But if you don’t know where the electricity is coming from, you can believe whatever you want.

    3. Will you have to replace your gas stove? Does it not make more sense to use fossil fuels for things like cooking rather than generating electricity and driving? Also I am guessing your oven is still electric.

    4. Oh, yes, I also changed out every light bulb with LED’s

      You mean you changed them all to CFL and *then* changed them all *again* to LED right?!?!?!

      Seriously, I changed the bulbs as they needed changing and, off the top of my head, I’m at ~30% incandescent, 10% tube fluorescent, and 60% LED. Somehow, all the CFL bulbs that were supposed to be cheaper and last longer than incandescents are nowhere to be found.

      A friend of mine did a kitchen remodel, they ripped out the recessed can lighting that had LEDs and put in hanging lights with the “more attractive Edison bulbs”.

      1. I did the same. I have a few CFLs, and they lasted the 5 or so years advertised. I also have some incandescent bulbs that have been in operation daily for 17 years. I never change out bulbs that work, just the burned out ones.

  25. $40 per MWh. That is 40/1000 per kWh, 4 cents per kWh.

    I used to work in solar (PV) energy, not many years ago. Back then it cost between $4 and $10 per installed watt. The infrastructure of the installed system (steel, copper wire, concrete, fuzing, inverter, etc) cost at least $2 per installed watt.

    I don’t believe the quoted costs in this article.

    1. And all of those components last forever and ever, amen.

  26. Finally!
    After years of taxpayer-funded research and production, an unreliable source of power is now cheaper than a reliable one?
    What a relief! Watermelons like jackass will rejoice!

    1. ^lol.. Perfectly stated…

  27. , where “revenue support mechanisms” such as guaranteed prices are in place (we’ll get to the issue of the guaranteed prices shortly).

    Then, by definition, it’s not the cheapest, is it?

    If it were the cheapest then it would not require a subsidy.

  28. “…the IEA projects that renewables will meet 80 percent of the growth in global electricity demand to 2030…”

    I guess there’s a way to pack more weasel-words in a statement, but this is a low for Bailey.
    ‘Projects’, ’80 percent of growth’? WIH does that mean in the real world where I turn on the AC in the afternoon?

  29. Heating water for water and home heating with solar electric seems like the way to go.

    Energy storage is everything. Saw youtube estimate how heat exchange systems using closed loop water systems were about a fifth the cost per capacity in thermal units relative to battery systems.

  30. This article makes no sense whatsoever. Sure, solar energy will be free, as long as you ignore the cost of, you know, collecting the energy via panels that need to be built and installed, and then storing and transferring the energy to where it’s needed. Storage with solar especially is a huge issue because you have to keep it overnight, every night, instead of on-demand power generation with oil, gas, cola, and nuclear. And let’s not forget the still-ignored mountains of waste being produced by old solar panels that eventually fail and get thrown out because no one has any sort of plan for how to deal with them, or the huge amount of resources used to dig up the rare earth metals needed for their construction. If you ignore ALL THAT STUFF, yeah, solar is free. This is utter nonsense. Ronald Baily should be a lot more skeptical of such claims.

  31. Just use modern nuclear plants FFS! Stop considering ones from the early 1970s, saying that they’re not very safe. Yeah, well 1973 Pintos were not very safe either. And I haven’t seen one of those, not even a rusty old beater, since I was in elementary school. If the technology in a Pinto can’t compare to that of even the cheapest modern cars, why do idiots think nuclear power generation technology has not advanced in more than 40 years?

  32. Mr. Bailey….You are some libertarian, I must say. It used to be Reason was a libertarian publication. This publication has transmogrified into Unreason, a ‘zombie’ version of Reason. How proud Mangu-Ward must be.

    Regarding this tripe. Solar (and wind) have three problems: generation, storage, and delivery. We can address subsidy also.

    Generation: no wind and no sun = no power. That aside, the conversion rate of panels is nothing to write home about. Good ones get 30%. There are some promising designs that also attempt to generate power from the heat solar panels generate. But the conversion ratio has to roughly double for efficiency to meet natural gas. Oh yeah, windmills and hydro don’t have particularly good conversion ratios, either.

    Storage: Well, there ain’t much. And that is a problem. Battery technology isn’t there yet. Perhaps in time.

    Delivery: The physical infrastructure to deliver power from point A to point B doesn’t change. Excess power just gets wasted.

    The subsidy part…well, I’ll say it this way. How about we get rid of all energy subsidies. You think the free market might quickly (and brutally) sort out the winners and losers? I do.

    BTW…Mr. Bailey. If you check that graph, the high cost areas won’t even breakeven for 17 years, and that is IF the states in that category don’t do stupid things. Newsflash…It is a very safe bet that a state legislature will do at least ONE stupid energy thing in that 17 year wait (which will push out that B-even date).

    1. The other thing is that solar panels lose about 4% of their capacity every year. They do wear out. They do have to be replaced. Four percent loss per year doesn’t sound like much if they are on top of your roof supplementing what you get from the grid. But if you are talking about supplying an entire grid with solar, 4% is enormous. Imagine if coal or nuclear plants lost 4% of their generating capacity every year.

      Bailey’s love of anything new and technology overcomes his brain. Have a guy in a lab coat sell it, and Bailey is buying it no matter how ridiculous it is.

  33. Pave over the deserts! For the environment!

    What we need to do is put solar panels on all our roofs and stuff. That makes sense no matter who you are.

    But we still still need reliable round-the-clock power sources. Until the battery technology is advanced enough, that doesn’t mean solar. So we need nuclear energy. Carbon free, safer than the coal we’re currently using to back up our “renewables”, and could be just as cheap if we get the politics out of the way.

    1. The roof thing makes sense right up until you consider the environmental cost of making all of those solar panels.

      The only environmental benefit that solar panels offer is they don’t produce CO2. And you have to really be a hard core believer in the AGW cult to think a reduction in CO2 emissions is worth the kind of toxic disposal problem used solar panels create and the environmental impacts of producing them in the first place.

      Solar sucks. It is unreliable and it is terrible for the environment.

      1. The roof thing makes sense right up until you consider the environmental cost of making all of those solar panels.

        I could get solar power from the south side of our roof, but I’d have to cut down a couple of locust trees first. And, of course, with the locust trees cut down, the house would heat up more in the summer and we’d run the AC a bit more. We could save the locust trees if we picked another spot and convinced our neighbors to cut down the black walnut tree on their property.

        I guess I could cut down the trees, put up the panels, and add attractive outdoor lighting around the perimeter of the property like the other idiots around our neighborhood. Nothing says ‘nature’ like an uninterrupted flat sheet of well-mown grass with a plate of solar panels sitting on top of it.

      2. Hydro power IS solar power. How do you think the water got up there? And a dammed river (reservoir) is a battery. But in Washington State, and other states, hydro is not considered renewable. This forces the utilities to build solar and wind farms to meet the Dems wet dream ideas. Excess hydro power is either dumped or (surprise!) sold to California on the exchange market.

        1. By that reasoning, fossil fuels are solar as well. Stored solar energy, converted by photsynthesis to hydrocarbons. (Assuming we discount abiogenic natgas synthesis)

    2. As I said in a previous reply, I actually requested a rooftop solar quote. Actually, three of them. Their numbers were complete fiction. So, it might have made sense to go ahead, but I sure couldn’t tell from their so-called “proposals”. If that is the current state of the solar “industry”, I’ll pass.

      1. Quotes lie to get you to lease their solar panels by inflating efficiency and savings, while hiding costs and subsidies. Few people have the financial option to buy rooftop panels, so leasing is really the only option.

        What the solar companies also hide is that they’ll tear the panels off your roof at the end of the lease, leaving you with a damaged roof. If you try to just pay indefinitely, you’ll find that they stopped working years ago and you’ll need replacements that cost more, because the subsidies only covered initial installation.

  34. Solar is such king-making technology that Germany, who no-shit thinks the government shoud be spending money to build solar has generally curtailed/stopped adding on to its solar capacity.

    Moreover, the only way you come up with solar being a significant or primary contender for their primary source of power is if you break the other energy sources out into trivial distinctions, i.e., fossil fuels and nuclear *still* make up more than 50% of the energy generation in Germany with fossil fuels being the primary share. However, if you break down fossil fuels into natural gas, hard coal, and soft coal, wind (still not solar) becomes the largest proportion.

    The only way solar comes out on top is if you break out willfully deceptive statistical and financial practices.

  35. “$460 billion will need to be spent by 2030 to modernize electrical grids around the world.”

    Why am I immediately suspicious of this figure?

  36. It’s all propaganda. Gee, thanks Ron, for being so ‘sciencey’.

    Unless the analysis factors in the true cradle-to-grave costs of solar, including the loss of efficiency over time (which is always glossed over) as well as the use of non-renewable and costly-to-recycle components its worth about as much as Nadler’s pants.

  37. good lord, some people are so programed, they can’t take anything about solar as positive. people feel the need to attack just because someone says it looks like solar might save you money…….. can’t have that…. a few notes, folks:

    1. utility level solar plants are not going to use batteries…. stop talking about chemicals and explosions and all that other nonsense. the most common energy storage systems being used or explored are heat storage or hydroelectric. (excess electricity used to pump water from a lower reservoir to a higher one.)

    2. those things talked about in number 1…. they can be used at any time to provide electricity if the solar output drops. you don’t actually need fossil fuel fired plants as a backup if you engineer a good enough energy storage system. hydroelectric is probably the best, but obviously can’t be done everywhere.

    3. a) the use of toxic materials in manufacturing does not mean those materials are being dumped into the environment….. so false narrative to begin with….
    b) if you want to hate solar panels because of the use of toxic materials in the manufacture, WTF are you doing saying we should use oil instead? do any of you clowns talking about “toxic material in solar panels” have any fucking clue how awful some of the chemicals used in refining oil are? if concern about the use of toxic materials is your concern, fossil fuels should be the last fucking thing you would want to use.

    1. 1 is total bullshit.
      2 is total bullshit.
      3 is confusing heavy metals as the same as petroleum products.

      Solar activists need to learn to stop obfuscating and start being honest in their arguments. It makes us disbelieve everything you say.

      1. hahahaha…. the denial is strong with you.


        “Pumped-storage hydropower currently accounts for 95 percent of U.S. utility-scale energy storage, according to the Department of Energy.”

        in other words…. you are wrong.

        2. see above.

        3. not confusing anything. both processes involve some nasty stuff. the point is that that nasty stuff is a terrible argument in favor of fossil fuels. if it is bad for the one, it does not magically become ok for the other just because your programing wants you to only hate one.

        1. Pumped-storage hydropower currently accounts for 95 percent of U.S. utility-scale energy storage


          utility-scale energy storage in the US accounts for less than 2% of energy production.

          Also correct. It is no simple thing to dam and flood as many valleys as would be required to expand this to a large enough scale to matter. Besides all those dams to be built, that means vast numbers of farms, businesses, and homes would need to be cleared. That sounds like it would be super popular.

          1. as has been repeatedly ignored, this is not the only way to store energy…. i never said it was…. what i said was that energy storage systems OTHER THAN BATTERIES dominate and would continue to dominate any utility energy storage programs. “but the batteries” is a go to straw man for the anti-solar brainwashed crowd, but utility companies would not use batteries.

            1. What you have said, is stupid. There are currently NO VIABLE storage technologies that can be scaled to meet the needs of renewable energy sources as primary energy sources.

              Not batteries (as you finally seem to admit)

              Not pumped storage that would require thousands of square miles of new reservoirs across the county , many in places where there are no viable places to host them, with environmental impacts that are unimaginable, a high losses due to pumping loses, evaporation, and generating losses.

              I suppose you could manufacture hydrogen via electrolysis, of course that is massively inefficient, and leaves you with massive storage tanks that double as bombs.

              So where do YOU imagine this storage technology is coming from?

              1. it won’t come from anywhere, it already exists…. hydrogen is one that gets a lot of press because it can be utilized to effectively “refuel” vehicles rapidly like with gas, but there is also thermal storage. none of these are new, and all have been used with success in the real world.

    2. Good lord, some people are so programmed they’ll accept any lie that’s fed to them.

      Efficiency didn’t go up. Production costs didn’t go down. The big difference between now and 1, 5, or even 10 yrs. ago is that China’s dumping a buttload of money and cheap labor into production. Even countries that want to rid themselves of fossil fuel and think that solar, as a technology, is the way to go are curtailing their solar investments because they aren’t getting the returns they need. Countries hungry for electricity to grow and develop aren’t investing in it. Unless a/the government is subsidizing solar, which is obscured de facto by the term ‘utility’, the ROI isn’t there.

      As I point out above, the greenies can’t even keep their own lies straight.

      1. you don’t know WTF you are talking about. the whole reason this article exists is because everything you just said is a lie. efficiency has gone up, production costs have gone down. were you to bother to read the article, you would know they gave different prices for China, specifically because of that country’s interference….. what we are talking about is separate from that.

        1. It is you who are grasping at fantasies.

          The wonderful thing about free market capitalism is that it is really good at finding profit and value. Solar is still heavily subsidized with governmental incentives, and even with that, globally, it has not been successful beyond isolated use, why is that?

          Theories, idealized costing, and promises of unrealizable efficiencies can sucker some people in, but the market has judged solar and deemed it of low value, There is no way in hell it has cost benefits over natgas, or solar would be showing up everywhere. The market has judged and found it wanting.

          1. And the core issue, the one that both you and ron fail at, is the grasping at charts and numbers that are nowhere near a true cradle to grave analysis of cost and return on investment. Because every damn time someone touts solar or wind, they only look at a fraction of the life span and typically the best part. Not the startup, not the end of life inefficiencies, but the idealized, running smoothly at peak efficiency with idealized conditions, clean panels, and no maintenance downtimes.
            But every natgas or even coal number is pulled from real world, longterm, extrenely well documented and vetted costs. Every downtime, maintenance issue, etc, is factored into legacy energy costs because thats whatnthe market does. And the market has looked at solar in the same way, and said “nope”

            1. someone does research and shows information you don’t want to believe…… do absolutely no research of your own and just claim they are wrong…… STFU. the free market is making solar competitive, that is the whole point of the article. your pathological hatred of anything responsible does not change reality.

              1. Mike is correct and you are stupid.

                Do you actually believe, that every energy company in the United States is willfully deciding NOT to make huge profits by implementing super cheap and efficient solar everywhere?

                Are you seriously saying that there is insufficient greed on Wall Street and none of them want to jump on these huge profits you claim are there because solar is so cheap and efficient?

                THINK MAN, THINK!

                1. like many companies, utilities are run by bean counters. bean counters live life fiscal quarter to quarter and do things that make zero sense in the big picture. they want to avoid upfront costs, and they do already have the gas fired plants. if it were just a matter of new capacity, the vast majority are going with solar. it is replacing existing capacity with solar that they resist. that it costs less over the next 5 years is irrelevant to a bean counter, they don’t want a cost they can avoid on this quarter’s report. the greed of wall street is short term, and the financial benefit is long term. anyone who does not understand this does not understand a lot about how the world works….. and really should look in the mirror before calling anyone else stupid.

  38. Good thing we don’t have to worry about all the wildlife that lose their habitat and other environmental impacts.
    Speaking of the environment, glad we don’t need to think about the heavy metals involved or the impact on landfill when these solar panels with short lifespans are buried.
    Speaking of buried, good thing you were able to bury whatever the hell interest group convinced reason to abandon common sense and promote solar energy with pie in the sky promises.

    1. You should look up new developments in solid state wind energy. No moving parts! Cheaper maintenance, fewer bird strikes. It’s an amazing development from Holland, home of the wind mill.

  39. Utility-scale solar requires a huge amount of land. Keep that in mind.

  40. I am reminded of the spiel of a time-share salesman. That is exactly how this reads. Heck, you cannot afford to not buy into this project. It pays for itself.
    Even if we started with the false assumption that PV panels are free and last forever, we still have the energy storage issue to contend with. Lots of people have clever ideas about how to address that, but nothing that has been tried in real-world conditions on a large scale. We are not just talking about residential appliance use, we are talking about ending fossil fuel use for heating, as well as manufacturing, transport, and storage of goods. That means planning for much higher electricity use than current levels. And many tens of millions of large batteries, coupled with a vast number of charging ports and associated infrastructure.

    I also see a lot of misunderstanding about how oil refining works. If we decide that we still want to keep the planes flying, we can’t just pump less oil and refine a larger percentage of what is pumped into jet fuel. About 9% of a given quantity of crude oil can be refined into jet fuel. And only about 4% can be used for plastics manufacture. If you keep refining oil for aviation and plastics only, you still have the 70% that is suitable for gas and diesel to deal with. Maybe we store it somewhere, in unimaginably vast quantities?

    1. There’s a lot of activity in electric aircraft R&D in the past few years. A lot of smart people with lots of money, foreigners, I grant you, have confidence in the possibility.

      I remember back years ago when I was told that there’d always be a demand for fossil fuel, if only to keep aircraft flying. Now, electric aircraft for passengers and personal use are available. They should be much cleaner and quieter than fossil fueled aircraft.

      1. My understanding is that the highest capacity electric plane, the eCaravan, has completed a test flight of almost 30 minutes.
        It can theoretically carry 9 passengers, and has half the range of the Red Baron’s 1918 Fokker DR1.

        So that is certainly going to happen some day. But a bunch of stuff is going to need to be invented first.
        This is true for lots of industries and applications. The problem is, lots of people have no understanding of the technical obstacles involved, and think we can just go ahead and start shutting down our current technologies and infrastructure.

        1. “My understanding is that the highest capacity electric plane, the eCaravan, has completed a test flight of almost 30 minutes.”

          No doubt, it’s a very exciting development. I think it uses a similar battery to the one used in Tesla cars, whose weight must require an awful lot of power to keep aloft.

          1. Yep, and how long and how much money did it take to get from where we were 100 years ago with batteries to where we are now? We are NOT close to having the required battery technology and it is not coming soon. Work continues and improvements are coming, but they are baby steps not the 10X denser and 10X cheaper improvements that are going to be needed.

            1. “Yep, and how long and how much money did it take to get from where we were 100 years ago with batteries to where we are now? We are NOT close to having the required battery technology and it is not coming soon. ”

              You may be right but that’s no reason to throw in the towel. When it comes to science and engineering it’s not a good idea to underestimate man’s capabilities. If the incentives are there, as well as resources and the resolve to not let initial failures and disappointments stop you, then surprising things, good things even, can happen. Scientists aren’t bound to your arbitrary rule that only baby steps are permitted.

          2. The issue of weight has been addressed.
            That particular aircraft normally travels .75 miles per pound of fuel.

            With electric, even considering the lighter electric engine, each pound of fully charged battery powers the plane for 264 feet.

            An interesting thing to consider is that a conventionally fueled plane gets lighter as it burns fuel, so the last mile is much more efficient than the first one. The electric version carries the same weight all the way, and ends the flight carrying a large amount of discharged battery weight.

            Also, it is important to remember that the aircraft converted is very small and light to begin with. Trying to scale the experiment up to a 747 or whatever would be immensely complicated.

            It is sort of interesting to play with the math on these sorts of projects. But in the real world, it is necessary to follow the chain of reasoning all the way to the end, and to check one’s assumptions. For instance, lots of people, urban people I suppose, are unaware that the wind tends to die down at night. That assumption led them to conclude that we can just switch to wind when the sun goes down.

            1. ” Trying to scale the experiment up to a 747 or whatever would be immensely complicated. ”

              Interesting response. Judging renewables on their ability to scale up may be missing the point. They seem more suited to smaller scale more distributed use. Just as traditional industrial power generation calls out for centralization and giganticism. Perhaps the future lies in personal electric flying vehicles. Where renewables shine is in their ability to scale down.

              “But in the real world, it is necessary to follow the chain of reasoning all the way to the end, and to check one’s assumptions.”

              Indeed. Every species of plant and animal on the planet manages to get all the energy they need from the sun. Are you assuming we humans can’t?

              1. Everything is already powered by the sun, more or less. Particularly coal.

                I bring up large aircraft like the 747 because we have a complicated system of logistics where vast amounts of cargo are transported long distances very quickly, by aircraft. And even larger quantities transported more slowly by ships, trains, and trucks. If we are talking about ending fossil fuels, the solutions need to include that sort of thing. And not from the perspective of assuming that if we shut down the refineries, solutions will spring up spontaneously, and the food and medicine and raw materials will continue to flow without interruption.
                If we decide to start building all those solar panels and batteries, that implies a whole new level of raw materials and manufacturing transport and facilities. In addition to, not instead of, the current needs to produce and distribute food and medicine and routers and pneumatic actuators and everything else.
                I think the idea of evolving beyond energies and processes that pollute is a priority, and worth our time and money. But if you try to switch over to solutions that are not proven to be reliable and effective substitutes, there are likely to be issues. Not little issues, like a shortage of new 4K tvs. Big issues, the kind that lead to large-scale civil unrest.

                1. “But if you try to switch over to solutions that are not proven to be reliable and effective substitutes, there are likely to be issues.”

                  I don’t think that’s happening in China, the country which seems to take transition to renewables most seriously. They are still building coal fired plants as well as investing in solar, hydro and nuclear.

              2. Humans could live off the sun entirely if we abandoned technology, killed all the babies, and moved to the tropics.

                Burning wood made it possible for humans to move out of the tropics. But it also destroyed forests faster than they could be replaced. For centuries, humans moved around always looking for new sources of wood to burn to facilitate subsistence living off farming and hunting.

                Population growth exploded with the ability to use coal, as it decreased the need to move around for more wood. But even coal couldn’t meet the needs of growing technological changes in pre-industrial civilization.

                It wasn’t until oil was ubiquitous that energy needs were sufficient to get a fully industrialized society. Once we had that, we were able to use massive new technologies that were developed along with further population growth and desire to explore space and undersea.

                The only way for the present population to continue to exist where it now reaches is for continued hydrocarbon or nuclear energy.

                Otherwise we’ll have to massively reduce the population, give up energy-grabbing technology, and move back to the tropics.

                1. The Inuit in the arctic regions managed to survive without burning fossil fuels for many thousands of years. You underestimate man’s ingenuity and ability to adapt to their environment.

    2. Crude can be refined, cracked, modified in a number of ways. The fractions and usage these days is the most cost effiective for current needs, But that is not a hard limitation in any real way. Little changes, little bit of chemistry and outputs can be modified significantly.

  41. Anybody promoting solar or wind power as a replacement for coal, oil and gas plants should use it exclusively.

    The power companies can keep a list of those people, and when the output of solar and wind generation drops, their smartmeters should be told to switch off until generation rises again.

    1. Hurricane Zeta. Black out. Millions go without electricity from fossil fuel thanks to strong winds. Careful what you wish for.

  42. No one knows if solar is cheaper or what energy source is best in any given area because of govt. interference in the energy market.
    Remove govt. special interests and introduce the “freed market”.
    Of course, that would require the political zombies who worship authoritarianism (Who will build the roads, protect us?) to decrease about 5%-10% in one jurisdiction. Once freedom is the paradigm, the example would spread worldwide. MSM do their best to conceal the freedom movement, but we are making headway.

    1. Plenty of people know the true costs, particularly the multitude of engineers and experts at the companies building energy production. They for sure know whatnthe costs are and the fact that we dont see large scale solar generation, even with subsidies, is a clear indication that the experts know the benefits arent there.

      1. ” They for sure know whatnthe costs are and the fact that we dont see large scale solar generation”

        Microgrids may be more in keeping with renewables. Reliance on a multi-gigawatt generating station 100s of miles away may be suitable for fossil fuel based generation, but smaller, more locally controlled and resilient generation seems a good bet for a future of renewables.

  43. Solar will require a very large investment in modern infrastructure, storage and HVDC transmission. This may be beyond American will or capacity to achieve. Since the corona virus, China has redoubled her efforts in developing infrastructure, and will invest trillions of dollars over the next few years. The US on the other hand has concentrated on spending a fraction of that, bailing out industries like airliners who failed to adequately prepare for the virus. Back in 2016, one of Trump’s most popular promises was to invest in infrastructure. Nothing came of it.

    1. China is investing in infrastructure because they dont have what the need. Different situation.

      And, china is energy starved, with limited internal sources. they need solar, wind, hydro, regardless of value, efficiency, or environmental cost because they dont have the fossil reserves that north america does,
      Its not a fair comparison

      1. “And, china is energy starved”

        They are starved of oil and gas. China still invests in coal exploitation, as well as hydro electric, solar, wind, and nuclear power as you imply. China is not energy starved. Electricity consumption in China is increasing all the time. China is by far the world’s biggest producer of electric vehicles.

        It is a different situation with the US, I agree. China sees itself as taking a leading role in energy matters in the near future. Americans seem increasingly incapable of getting their shit together – whether it’s dealing with goat herding militias, domestic racial issues, viruses, forest fires, or elections.

        1. Another difference between China and the US besides their forward looking optimism, is their advantage in not having to protect legacy technology. They can skip directly to the most modern tech. I saw this myself when I visited isolated communities on the Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar borders. They were all equipped to watch cable TV, still unavailable in my neck of the woods back home. At home, I had only the option of broadcast TV, unchanged, essentially since it was introduced in the 1950s. Similar ‘tech skipping’ can be seen in cell phones. I think Britain of the 1890s was in a similar position. They’d invested heavily in industrial infrastructure in the early 1800s and they were still maintaining it a century later while other nations, like the US, were investing in modern tech.

        2. China is still building vast capacity in Coal today. We have reduced CO2 emissions dramatically by converting from coal to natural gas.

          China is in a very different place than we are. From a practical standpoint, the easiest way to reduce CO2 emissions on a global basis today is to move production from China to the USA.

          Interesting isn’t it?

          1. “China is in a very different place than we are.”

            It’s the same place. The globe in global warming.

            “China is still building vast capacity in Coal today. ”

            It’s the only fossil fuel they have in any quantity. If I remember they are building coal power today further from the cities, whose air quality is abominable, and closer to the source. The plans are to phase out coal, and not only because of CO2. The yellow dust that coats all east asia is a real problem and the party is incentivized to address it. It’s in their commie bones. Mao also mounted public campaigns to rectify environmental concerns. Targeting sparrows for elimination is one notorious example. Not all crazy campaigns either. The one to distribute thermos flasks and exhortations to fill them with boiled water probably saved millions of lives from an early and unnecessary death.

    2. we might need to beef up infrastructure to move some power to those colder regions that will be using heat during the time of year with least sunlight, but we don’t need HVDC for anything. AC always has and always will be superior for power transmission.

      1. “AC always has and always will be superior for power transmission.”

        Not for long distance transmission. You want to avail yourself of the energy falling on the Sahara desert when you turn on the lights to take a piss at night, HVDC is the way to go. Solar power, to me, makes no sense unless you’ve got the whole world connected up, using each other’s day light 24 hours a day.

        1. OK, you have officially cemented your position as a retard….. if you think DC is the way to go, then you have zero understanding of the subject you are claiming to understand……. you are officially on my top 5 for saying things that were proven wrong over a century ago…… the whole reason we use AC for energy transmission is because it is better….. the electric chair was invented to scare people away from AC despite this fact…. and it failed, because AC was that much better…. your assertion that “HVDC is the way to go” is definitely on the list of most blatantly incorrect statements i have ever seen….. the fact that this was settled over a hundred years ago is what makes you a retard.

          1. HVDC is superior to AC for long distance transmission. Consult your family electrical engineer for further information.

            1. you are either an idiot of epic proportions or a liar. AC has always been far superior for energy transmission. DC does not even have any theoretical potential benefit until you reach 2500 miles. are you suggesting that when we go to solar, ALL energy production will be thousands of miles away from where it is used? or that that small theoretical benefit would REQUIRE us to completely abandon existing infrastructure? FFS, we had both AC and DC before we had any infrastructure…. if you were not full of shit, the infrastructure would already be DC… the electric chair was created to make AC scary, and we still went with AC.

              1. HVDC is the way to go for long distance power transmission.

                1. lets pretend, just for a moment, that you are not just a complete moron. let’s pretend DC is better……. So what? we will still be distributing the same amount of power we do today, we are just changing how we generate it. why would we NEED to completely overhaul the distribution system? how does that make any sense to you? i know the game is to insert imaginary barriers to pretend transitioning to solar is harder than it really is, but this really is the stupidest lie to cling to to try and prop that delusion up. pretending we need a completely new distribution system to deliver the exact same amount of power is the most blatant demonstration of the dishonesty behind everything you say…… you are not interested in honestly talking about what is needed, you are throwing every stupid idea you can think of against the wall and hoping something sticks.

    3. China builds infrastructure to give their enormous labor force shit to do. It’s a bunch of make-work projects for unskilled agrarian peasants who see the wealth that their city-dwelling countrymen have.

      Without the building infrastructure, they’d have riots between the haves and the have-nots. It’s just a ploy for the CCP to maintain control.

      1. “It’s just a ploy for the CCP to maintain control.”

        Maybe so, but it should hasten the transition to renewables in any case.

  44. Is ‘King Solar’ Now the Cheapest Electricity Source Ever?

    Not even remotely close.

  45. Everyone here mentions backup generators or coal/gas/nuclear power when the sun isn’t shining. There is another option. High capacity batteries to hold a charge to carry you over for when you can’t get sun. After all, you still need electricity at night! People living long term on boats and/or RVs do this all the time.

    1. Ugh, read the thread dude.

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  47. Right. Energy is so cheap in France – which mostly uses nuclear energy – that they can have a 35 hour work week.

    I’m not really sure why libertarians are fighting FOR large central systems to generate energy. We should be looking at PERSONAL energy independence.

    Solar panels and storage are commodities, not durable goods. I’m all for solar panels and heatpump systems to provide a hot shower or keep a couple of lights on. However, if we really wanted to help the working class, we would make energy so cheap that they can produce things at very low cost, ultimately giving them a competitive advantage over larger companies.

    A micro nuclear plant next to a small town that invests in modern infrastructure (e.g. power grid, high speed internet) could be a huge boon for the lower class. Just think if it cost pennies to run an extruder or 3d printer or a metal lathe? Suddenly there is no need to ship things from China if a laborer can produce the same thing for the cost of the materials and his/her time.

    The revolution is already here but the upper class is deferring innovation until they can find a way of controlling it and making money. doesn’t really seem to be on the side of the argument that I thought it was.

    1. Will they bring us rare-earth-element wars to replace the oil wars? The interventionists need a new excuse to support the MIC.

    2. The cost of the electricity required to run a 3D printer or lathe is already pennies in most of the US. A large lathe will cost about $5/shift in electricity at the average rate. It is far more expensive to buy the equipment and pay people to run it.

  48. The Lazard report on which the cost estimates in this article is based includes some assumptions, that may not be entirely accurate. They use “levelized” cost of energy, which is sensible, as it tries to determine energy cost over the life of the source.
    They assume a utility-scale PV plant will be useful for 30 years, Nuclear at 40 years, and gas at 20.
    Running a PV plant for 30 years without needing to replace every single panel at least once is pretty optimistic. But costs to replace faulty or degraded panels are not included in the figures given.
    The only nuclear plant I am personally familiar with was commissioned in 1967, and has had its license extended to 60 years, with a reasonable chance of further extensions.
    The gas (combined cycle) plant that powers us where we live now has been running for 40 years so far.
    So it seems like there is a margin of error at play, and the source used very optimistic predictions for solar, but conservative ones for conventional sources.

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