Various bits of flotsam that washed up on our computers, before we moved to a better blog system in November 2004. Now a repository for YouTube videos and testing new tools. Go to for more recent content.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Alternative energy sources

NYT A Different Era for the Alternative Energy Business
"The cost of wind power varies widely with the quality of the windmill site, but prime locations in the United States generate electricity at well under 5 cents a kilowatt-hour, making them cheaper than natural-gas-fired plants at current gas prices. But to compete with coal, wind power generally needs subsidies like the tax credit of 1.8 cents a kilowatt-hour that lapsed at the end of last year.

Electricity-generating solar panels, which were invented 50 years ago and cost $100 a watt in 1976 now sell for less than $3 a watt, and are expected to continue declining 5 percent annually in cost even if there are no technology breakthroughs.

For now, solar energy technology is approximately 10 times as expensive as traditional fossil fuel systems for generating large amounts of electricity, according to a recent estimate by the Sandia National Laboratories. But solar is already a cheaper alternative for powering sites that are long distances from the power grid.

The public reaction to recent price spikes in oil prices could help alternative energy by putting pressure on politicians to maintain or even increase the vast range of tax credits, grants, loan guarantees and other subsidies that stimulate investment in alternatives."

This is a key point when discussing costs of traditional sources...
Traditional fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas are major contributors to air pollution and the buildup of climate-changing gases in the atmosphere. Their environmental cost is not fully included in current prices but regulations intended to limit the damage have restricted their growth prospects.

....because if you factor in pollution and environmental costs, coal, gas and nuclear are much more expensive than solar, wind and the like.


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