Nuclear Renewables

Solar power realities – supply-demand, storage and costs

The two recent posts focusing on Peter Lang’s wind study have generated considerable debate, and some very stimulating discussion, among BNC readers. This post is a follow-up, which this time highlights Lang’s analysis of solar power and related problems associated with energy storage.

This is about solar photovoltaics (PV), which generate electricity directly via the photoelectric effect. The other rising player in the solar field is concentrating thermal power from deserts, which use a steam turbine to generate electricity via a temperature differential, in the same fundamental manner as a coal-fired or nuclear power station. I asked Peter whether he was planning to do an analysis of CSP. He told me:

I’ve had a bit of a look at doing a similar paper for CST, but I wasn’t able to obtain the detailed output and cost figures I need. It seems the researchers are holding the figures close to their chest.”

I’ve had similar advice on this matter from Ted Trainer. He has attempted an analysis of CSP, and I might post up a highlight of this shortly, and describe some of the gaps in knowledge that Ted and others are seeking.  Lang says the following on this matter:

There are two technologies for generating electricity from solar energy: solar thermal and solar photovoltaic. This paper uses solar photo-voltaic as the example because energy output and cost data are more readily available than for solar thermal. It is not clear at this stage which is the lower cost option for large generation on the scale required (see here): so any cost difference is insignificant in the context of the simple analysis presented here.

Lang’s ‘Solar Realities’ paper (download the 17 page PDF here) is summarised as follows:

This paper provides a simple analysis of the capital cost of solar power and energy storage sufficient to meet the demand of Australia’s National Electricity Market. It also considers some of the environmental effects. It puts the figures in perspective. By looking at the limit position, the paper highlights the very high costs imposed by mandating and subsidising solar power. The minimum power output, not the peak or average, is the main factor governing solar power’s economic viability. The capital cost would be 25 times more than nuclear power. The least-cost solar option would require 400 times more land area and emit 20 times more CO2 than nuclear power.

Conclusions: solar power is uneconomic. Government mandates and subsidies hide the true cost of renewable energy but these additional costs must be carried by others.

The analysis, which focuses on the Australian national energy market (NEM) but is obviously relevant for other countries, considers electricity demand, the characteristics of solar PV and one possible means of storing its energy (pumped hydropower), capital costs of a system that could reliably meet demand for 1-day through to 90 days, and then an attempt to frame these numbers in perspective with an alternative low-carbon energy source — nuclear power.

The ‘Introduction’ of Lang’s paper sets the context quite clearly, with the following statement:

The paper takes the approach of looking at the limit position. That is, it looks at the cost of providing all the NEM’s electricity demand using only solar power for electricity generation. Looking at the limit position helps us to understand just how close to or far from being economic is solar power.

The key characteristics of solar power that are relevant to this discussion can be summarised as follows:

1. Power output is zero from sunset to sunrise.

2. Power output versus time is a curved distribution on a clear day: zero at sunrise and sunset, and maximum at midday.

3. Energy output varies from summer to winter (less in winter than summer).

4. Energy output varies from day to day depending on weather conditions.

5. Maximum daily energy output is on a clear sunny day in summer.

6. Minimum daily energy output is on a heavily overcast day in winter.

Backup for solar power is clearly required — to store energy when being generated at peak times and thus deliver energy during times when nothing is being generated (at night, during cloudy weather, and to ensure sufficient winter supply). For this PV backup, Lang focused on pumped hydro in preference to sodium-sulphur or vanadium-redox batteries, due to pumped hydro’s lower costs (the latter do have some other advantages). He also considered transmission requirements.

One key feature of the analysis was his consideration of the problem of just how much energy to store. To have enough backup to meet the total national energy market demand for a 24 hour period turns out to be a much more costly proposition than creating a larger, long-term storage option.

Seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Well, it all comes down to those nasty ‘extremes’ — those few days of the year when solar power will give you almost nothing (yes, even the deserts have cloudy winter days, although the problem would be much worse if we were reliant on a distributed system of rooftop PV which was largely sited in the major population centres along the southern and eastern coastlines).

If you’ve only got enough solar PV storage to maintain continuous power supply for 1 day, then you need to overbuild your installed capacity by a truly massive amount to cover yourself for those days when the 24-hour capacity factor of your national system is not 20%, but 5%, or 2%, or 0.75%. To borrow a suitable analogy, under a small energy storage system, you’ve got no money in the bank to tide you over until the next paycheck comes in.

Please do read Lang’s comprehensive analysis to get yourself clear on the full story involved in this matter. I cannot emphasise enough how critical this information is if you wish to understand the implications of a carbon-constrained world based on renewable energy without fossil-fuel backup.

Lang concludes his analysis with these strong words (summaries from the last three sections):

Solar power is totally uneconomic and is not as environmentally benign as another lower-cost, lower-emissions option – nuclear power. Advocates argue that solar is not the total solution, it will be part of a mix of technologies. But this is just hiding the facts. Even where solar is a small proportion of the total energy mix, its high costs are buried in the overall costs, and it adds to the total costs of the system…

The capital cost of solar power would be 25 times more than nuclear power to provide the NEM’s demand [$2.8 trillion for the least-cost solar solution with backup versus $120 billion for nuclear]. The minimum power output, not the peak or average, is the main factor governing solar power’s economic viability. The least cost solar option would emit 20 times more CO2 (over the full life cycle) and use at least 400 times more land area compared with nuclear (not including mining; the mining area and volumes would also be greater for the solar option than for the nuclear option)…

Government mandates and subsidies hide the true cost of renewable energy, but these additional costs must be carried by others.

As noted above, the solar story is not complete without also looking hard at the situation for solar thermal power. I will address this in due course.

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By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

506 replies on “Solar power realities – supply-demand, storage and costs”

all of Charles Bartons figures ignore:

-the cost of disposal of nuclear waste

-the cost of decommissioning nuclear plants 20 + years in the future
which we know will be vastly more than scrapping a solar plant

-the fact no nuclear plant in the us has ever been built within budget
in fact billions have been lost on uncompleted projects in the past
as anyone living in washington state knows

so these so called cost advantages to nuclear are a fantasy…

and entirely irrelevant to put in nicely.. utter bs to be blunt


Observer, you dhave failed to observe certain things. For example, Nuclear wast is produced by Light Water Reactors. If you introduce Generation IV nuclear technology into the generation system, you eliminate the so called problem of nuclear waste. Both LFTRs and IFRs can use “nuclear waste” for fuel. Most of the fissionproducts produced by LFTRs can be sold off within a few years for industrial use. Many LFTR fission products are rarte and valuable, and the sale of Fission by products would add to the LFTR revinue stream. The LFTR can be operated in a way that would avoid the production of long lived transuranium isotopes. Long lived radioactive fission products have their own uses in industry, food processing, medicine, etc. So far from ignoring cost of nuclear waste, I point out that with preferred nuclear technology, fission products become economic assets.

I do not ignore the cost of scrapping nuclear planta. At present nuclear plant operators pay into a fund that finances their decommissioning. Their payment schedule can be adjusted periodically, to reflect decommissioning costs. Since Generation III+ reactors are now being designed with a 100 year lifespan, decommissioning payments will be small, and interest should cover decommissioning costs. The decommissioning cost of Generation IV reactors will be small.

Even if it were true that all past United States nuclear plants were over ran construction schedules and cost estimates, this is not relivant to my cost estimates. First numerous reactors have been built in many countries that were completed on time and under budget. There is no reason why the construction methods used to successfully produce reactors on time ands on budget in ffrance, Japan, South Korea, india and other countries, could not be used in the United States. Secondly, I propose the construction of reactors in factories, where cost and scheduling factors can be better controlled.

Observer, at present nuclear power provides 80% of French electricity at low cost and has been doing so without a hitch. Much of the electricity used in Japan and South Korea is generated by reactors. Again at low cost and without serious problems. 20% of American electricity is produced by reactors, at low price, and high reliability. The fantasy then is yours, not mine.


The decomissioning issue is something that the renewable energy industry, particularly industrial scale wind, are quietly sweeping under the rug.

See ->

where the decommissioning costs for Beech Ridge 124 turbine wind power station propsal were underestimated by the proponent to the tune of US$10MILLION :

brief excerpt ->

“The bottom line is that even if the permitting agency allows the salvage credit, the total net cost of decommissioning this project today would be $10.4 million ($83,900/turbine). Our analysis quantified the large scrap price and demo cost escalation risk being assumed by the local community. To protect the community, the permitting agency should require a bond of a minimum $100/K per turbine ($12.4 million) to capture demolition cost escalation risk. If the wind developer can convince the bonding company of the high salvage value, then they should be able to negotiate a lower rate for the bond. If they were right, there would be very little price difference for a larger $12+ million bond. Shift the risk to the bonding company. Let the developer and bonding company assume the price risk — not the community.”

Bear in mind that all wind farm applications in Australia are happily perpetuating this nonsense, and claiming that decom is covered by the scrap value. The reality is as you can see in Hawaii and California, that these things get left to rust and leak out nasty fluids into the landscape.

The other issue of course is that some of these “green” power co’s are part owned by super funds e.g. ->

Where it states that Industry Funds Management Ltd – proposed acquisition of Pacific Hydro Ltd :

“A public company takeover bid was announced on 19 April 2005, advising that IFM proposed to acquire all of the issued shares in Pacific Hydro. On 26 April 2005, IFM filed a submission and request for informal clearance with the ACCC in respect of this proposed acquisition. IFM currently has a 31.6% interest in Pacific Hydro and interests in other renewable energy providers. Pacific Hydro is an Australian publicly listed company which develops and generates renewable energy through wind farms and hydro power plants in Australia and overseas.”

So in terms of who foots the bill for decom it can go a number of ways, the unsuspecting super funds pay it, the unsuspecting landholder/farmer hosting the turbine pays or is bankrupted, or the local community / government pays it. Or of course no one pays and it gets quietly abandoned.

Some pics at of many different renewable plants abandoned including wind, solar and hydro ->


There are 37 turbines at the abandoned wind farm in Hawaii.

Also see ->

+ there is a video there of the Hawaii ones :

California :

The description under the Palm Springs, California turbine : “More than 100 broken windmills dot the landscape in California near Palm Springs as does the growing litter of broken blades. Evidence of leaking fluids, a trash pile of wasted parts, and broken turbines.”

Very recently in the USA some of the rulings state that an A rated credit institution must cover it with a bond, paid into yearly by the developer, and the bond has to be held by someone other than the developer e.g. the local council/gov. But what of the thousands upon thousands of industrial scale wind turbines already erected and under construction both in Australia and overseas with no decom bond ? who is going to pay to decom those… ?



Interesting post.

Does anyone have an estimate of the cost of decommissioning and waste disposal of the thousands of square kilometres of solar panels that would have to be decommissioned and disposed of every 20 years or so? What is the cost of decommissioning and waste disposal per MWh of energy produced over the solar power plant’s economic life?

Should these costs be internalised as they are for nuclear power?


Jereme C said on thread “Remote Solar PV versus Small Nuclear”:

From what you have posted and reading your papers I think your method is of limited use in assessing the usefulness of a PV installation. If you think it is worth it we can pursue it on the other threads but that may limit other people from contributing if they are interested.

Since this question/statement refers to the thread, it is better to discuss it here. That way, the discussion can be linked to all the other discussion about this paper.

Jeremy, can you please elaborate on this comment and I will attempt to answer it.

1. Why do you think calculations from solar insolation measurements from satelites would be better than the capacity factor achieved by real installations? Or have I misunderstood what you are saying?

2. Please rememeber that the analyses are a simple ‘limit analysis’. The intention is to ‘book end’ the options. If one technology is a factor of 2 or more higher cost than another, then there is little point in investigating it further.

3. The costs used are cureent costs. We can argue about the possible future costs indefinitely. Many would argue that the costs of nuclear have far greater potential to come down significantly than renewable costs. So there is little point in arguing about what might be in the future.

4. I’d refer you to the previous discussion on this thread about tracking solar PV and about solar thermal. The points about solar thermal woere answered in two follow-up threads, and about tracking PV on this thread.



I’m going to continue to concentrate on flat plate PV.

The reason I said that the fuel must be taken into acount wrt to a PV installation, aka insolation over time, is because that will tell you what energy is available, and you can make your decisions based on that as whether it is any use putting in a PV installation.

I’ll give you two conceptual reasons as to why I regard your methodological approach as limited.

Imagine you build a 1000 MW coal fired plant but you build a train line that allows you to only deliver coal to run the plant at 20% capacity. That would be a stupid and expensive thing to do wouldn’t it?

The second, from another angle, is how would you use your method to calculate the capacity factor of a gas fired peaking plant? NEMCO (or AEMO) stats give us an idea as to how expensive such a plant is to operate.

What it boils down to on a PV installation is how much insolation do you have and how much do you want out of it balanced with how much that is going to cost.

On the subject of peaking, one combined electicity network operator and retailer that I have had dealings with in Australia over the past year told me that they like the idea of using grid connected PV to shave peak demand on afternoons in certain areas (they are goimng through a very expensive upgrading of their distribution network). It would be interesting to compare the costs of operating a MW of PV against a MW of gas fired peaking, its not something I have done.

Regarding the Quenbeyan Solar Farm it might be useful to ascribe an efficiency rating to the installation e.g. the 6 inverters, if they are orginal devices may have efficiencies of @ 90% while there will be losses in the system overall ( the inverters will be more effcient under different current parameters which is why they might be slightly underrated for their individual wiring). It may sound a small thing but it can have an impact as will resitance losses through wiring. As well the pointing if its optimised for seasons, or afternoon or just latitude can have an impact.

I’m not a cheerleader for PV, I just think the arguments over renewables vs nuclear are a zero sum game. They are for different situations.



Thank you for your post. I appreciate constructive posts because they may expose an error in the paper. In which case the paper can be corrected.

You make a number of points. I’ll try to give a brief answer here, but hope you may look back at the paper and also the discussion on this thread because a lot of the background has been discussed here previously.

1. Firstly, the Queanbeyan solar farm ran with minimal prpoblems for the two years. The inverters had none of the problems that do occur elsewhere (eg Atlantic City Convention Centre to name just one).

2. Your point that system efficiency may be a bit better with more modern inverters (and your similar points) is totally irrelevant in the context of this study. Nuclear is 20 times cheaper than solar PV for the scenario being analysed! (The reason for the scenario is explained).

3. I accept that insolation changes from site to site. But again, that is a small % change. And there are higher transmission costs involved with locating in the desert. And even in the desert we get periods of overcast conditions.

4. Tracking PV improves the capacity factor slightly, but this is more than offset by mechanical problems and maintenance costs. So, apparently, tracking PV is not a lower cost option that fixed arrary PV.

5. I would totally disagree with you about insolation measurements being superior to actual output readings from the solar PV instalation. It is the output of actual power stations that is relevant.

6. Even if we did use insolation instead of actual output, how much difference would it make to the conclusion? If it is not going to improve the output by a factor of 20 then it is irrelevant. As an engineer, you would have been trained to use the Pareto principle.

7. “On the subject of peaking”, the NEM peak demand is at 6:30 pm in July (winter here) which is after the sun has gone down. There are local summer peaks in some cities, but the amount of difference the solar PV can make in those loacal areas is small and the cost to Australia, of expensive, inflexible generation like solar, is huge.

8. Regarding your comments: “Regarding the Quenbeyan Solar Farm it might be useful to ascribe an efficiency rating to the installation” and “It may sound a small thing but it can have an impact as will resitance losses through wiring. As well the pointing if its optimised for seasons, or afternoon or just latitude can have an impact.” these are totally irrelevant in the context of this analysis. Chasing such tiny improvements in the analysis when we have a factor of 20 difference in the cost between the solar option and the nuclear option is the sort of nonsesne distraction that has kept Australia from progressing with nuclear energy for the past 35 years.


Today Australia’s population is 22.0 million some 20X South Australia’s pop of 1.1 million on 17 March 2008. That day the State used over 2.8 GW in the mid afternoon. If there was a nation wide heat wave and other States had as many air conditioners that suggests a national peak demand of 56 GW. Can’t happen? The Bureau of Meteorology predicts Melbourne summer temperatures will routinely hit 50C in coming years.


John Newlands (#449),

The least cost option to meet the energy demand, with no GHG emissions, is nuclear energy plus centralised storage (eg pumped hydro). And demand side management to manage the air conditioning load. There may be a small role for solar, but I amn not convinced of that at the moment.

What about in the interim until ewe get to the point of no GHG emissions from electrcity generation. The least cost option (I believe but have not completed my analysis yet), is bring nuclear on as fast as possible, make up the difference between demand other generators with CCGT until nuclear has replaced all the coal, then start decommissioning the gas fired generators as well. Peak power, abover average power, can be provided by gas and pumped hydro.

The 2007 peak demand was 33GW across the whole NEM. Average demand was 25 GW and baseload was 20 GW in July. Ignoring redundancy requirements for the now, the 25 GW could be provided by nuclear for about $100 billion capital investment. 8 GW of peak power could be provided by the Tantangara-Blowering Pumped hydro scheme for say $15 billion. The nuclear plants pump to store each night between about 11 pm and 6 am while the baseload (18GW) is less than the average demand (25GW).

Please show me an analysis that explains how we can provide a lower cost system to meet our needs using renewables instead of nuclear.


Peter surely peak shaving via demand management could be a cheaper approach. That’s what ETSA seem to be saying
I understand they want to implement a kind of odds and evens with home air conditioners. No. 10 Smith St gets the AC on 4.30-5.00 on a hot afternoon. It is then switched off by radio signal and no. 11 gets AC 5.00-5.30 pm and so on.

If smart meters become standard and internet connected perhaps the utility could say electricity is $1 per kwh for the next 2 hours and the pre-programmed meters could decide whether and how to defer certain appliances like AC. However I don’t have cost data to enable a comparison between gas/pumped hydro and mass rollout of smart meters.


John Newlands (#451),

I agree peak shaving, demand management, smart grids efficiency improvements will all play a role. But I suspect the effect will be nowhere near as much as the advocates hope. The reason I say this is because we went through all the same arguments back in the early 1990’s. The pragmatists pointed out what could really be achieved in the real world given the real costs of changing existing systems and also that unknown new loads will be added. ABARE attempted to model the numbers provided by the DMS and greater efficiency advocates. ABARE also modelled based on its expertise. The result: the dreams are unrealistic. Some will be implemented, some will not.

We are not going to power down. That is just reality. If we want to hang onto that dream, we’ll be a long time making any progress.

But there is an alternative. In fact there are two alternatives:

1. low cost nuclear

2. high cost nuclear

If we go with the low cost nuclear option, low emission electricity will be implemented much more quickly, not only in Australia, but around the world. As we progress with implementing low-cost, low-emissions electricity, the emissions from gas for heating and oil for land transport will also be reduced. Electricity will displace both. In the case of land transport it may be battery cars and/or synthetic fuels produced using electricity.

High cost nuclear or any other high cost solution means we will take much longer to reduce emissions, not only in Australia, but also world wide.

The choice is: take a long time to cut emissions, or get rational!



You didn’t answer my discussion points on your methodological approach. As well you seem to misunderstand the point I was making on fuel resource ie.. why it is important to know what insolation parameterss might have to a site. Can you quote me figures that show that insolation is the same at different sites across Australia, or anywhere else. Table 1 in the Watt et al paper you pointed me to is a useful starting point for thinking about insolation. Let me repeat what I wrote above, “What it boils down to on a PV installation is how much insolation do you have and how much do you want out of it balanced with how much that is going to cost.”

The other point I will repeat is its what you want to do with the energy in what situation that counts.

As to the Pareto principle, I’m sorry but I didn’t do business studies and my attitude to economics is that at best its just accountancy with grammar……


Re: 450
“The least cost option to meet the energy demand, with no GHG emissions, is nuclear energy plus centralised storage (eg pumped hydro)”.

Peter I really dislike such claims on nuclear or any technology being presented as “no emissions” or “zero emissions”.

On a life cycle basis the scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions are important considerations and with nuclear energy the scope 3 emissions associated with the mining and construction of the power stations should always be acknowledged. Gen 1V reactors would be better than the earlier types of course.

If we go down the path of failing to acknowledge indirect emissions then when I would be carbo neutral turning on the light because the light bulb emits no emissions.



Tim Kelly (#454),

You are absolutely right, of course. I was getting shorter and shorter with my comments. The original papers do use the emissions from full LCA. I should have said low emissions.

I presume you are aware that the amount of materials that must be mined for intermittent renewable energy generators such as wind and solar are far more than for nucolear on a LCA basis. Liewise for every step of the process from mining, transport, milling, transport, processing, transport, fabrication, transport, manufacturing, transport, construction, transport, maintenance, transport, decomissioning, transport, waste disposal. And for renewable plants we must go through this at least twice during the life of a nuclear plant.

I presume most also realise that wind and solar power have far higher emissions than nuclear on an LCA basis (don’t forget the back-up that is required for intermittent renewables and the emissions embodied in the energy storage).

I agree with you Tim. I presume this is what you were aluding to. I wonder how many do realise this?



I was wondering if you had had a chanace to look at my two conceptual points/questions above regarding your methodoloy re capacity. I would be interested in your answer/comments.

Reagrding LCA. Thats a good point comparing between nuclear and PV. Where is there some good info on LCA for centralised and non centralised systems.


Jeremy C,

I read your post but thought it was not serious so didn’t answer. Since you ask a second time, I shall, but briefly:

1. The comment about trying to compare capacity factor of OCGT and solar thermal on the basis of fuel availability is silly. OCGT is dispatchable, solar is not.

2. You asked “Can you quote me figures that show that insolation is the same at different sites across Australia, or anywhere else”. Firstly, I said the opposite of that. Re-read what I said. Secondly, I haven’t used insolation anywhere in the analyses, so the answer is ‘no’. But you can look it up if you want it. I explained that, where actual output figures are available they are far preferable to satellite readings of insolation and theoretical calculation of what might be the output.

3. I explained that chasing a few percent change in efficiency in the solar plant is a waste of time and resources when there is a difference of a factor of 20 between the solar and nuclear option. To do so shows poor engineering judgement. Furthermore, this issue was explored extensively in previous comments in this thread.

4. You showed by your answer in #453 you have no idea what the Pareto principle is. You stated “As to the Pareto principle, I’m sorry but I didn’t do business studies and my attitude to economics is that at best its just accountancy with grammar……”

5. I gained the impression (perhaps wrongly) you have not read the papers with an intention to try to understand. Also, there has been much valuable discussion on this thread, much of which bears on your questions/comments.

6. Regarding LCA on solar and nuclear there are many studies. You can explore to find what you want. Here are a few leads:

ISA, Sydney Uni: (the last in the list.)


Environmental Product Declarations have been done a number of technologies and sites. Here is one for a UK nuclear power plant (this is useful for all who are interested in what is and what is not included in the calculation of the emissions – it’s a pity more of the nuclear detractors don’t understand this):



It is very frustrating that you say you didn’t take me seriously…………

You are coming across as someone who dismisses anybody who disagrees with points you make. I’m going to make the following points and criticism’s (but at least your manner is not as bad as Helen Caldicott’s).

However, before I start thankyou for the references on LCA, I will get to them.

You still haven’t answered the conceptual questions I put in # 447 (remember I originally quoted your footnote setting out your approach to capacity – so much for you saying I haven’t read your reports and the papers you linked to). You then appear to change the goal posts by suddenly introducing ‘dispatchability’. Plus saying its ‘silly’ is a non answer. It just comes across as trying to avoid answering something that I have been asking you about for a while.

So I’m asking again.

And so to the ‘Pareto Principle’. You said.

“If it is not going to improve the output by a factor of 20 then it is irrelevant. As an engineer, you would have been trained to use the Pareto principle”

Is it right for me to conclude from your above statement in #448 and other posts that you are saying that factor 20 improvement is part of the Pareto principle? If so then how do you explain these quotes.

“PARETO – the 80/20 rule – the principle of imbalance.”

“The 80/20 rule can be applied to almost anything:

80% of customer complaints arise from 20% of your products or services”

“During any set time period you will find that 80% of races are indeed won by the same 20% of jockeys, or the same 20% of trainers.

It does seem you have either made a mistake in what the Pareto principle is in this and a number of other posts by talking about a factor of 20 in associating with this piece of inductive reasoning or you have expressed yourself very, very clumsily.

If I have mistaken what you said then you should contact the Dean of engineering at UTS and ask why the Pareto principle wasn’t taught in the 1980’s amongst the engineering departments there and I am happy to give you an introduction to the Dean of Engineering at RMIT where I am finishing my masters in engineering (energy) and you can explain how RMIT’s undergraduate and post graduate engineering students are being shortchanged.

On insolation

Your comment.

” I explained that, where actual output figures are available they are far preferable to satellite readings of insolation and theoretical calculation of what might be the output.

Just go back and read my posts as to why use insolation……….. it makes or breaks the decision whether PV will fit what is wanted. If you can harp on about me supposedly not reading then you have no excuse not to read why I said insolation measurements are important.

As to the scenario, weeeelllll, one early post on this thread described it as a straw man approach, I’m sorry but I continue to agree with that.

However, your tribal attitude to nuclear power resulting in a ‘yah-booh-sucks’ attitude to anything else is self-defeating. You could instead seek to get proponents of renewables onside as those who lobby for coal etc will use the sort of attitude you display to divide and conquer between the nuclear and renewables communities to slow the take up of both and we don’t have the luxury for that, because, as Barry repeatedly points out the situation is far too serious.


Jeremy C,

Pareto principle, in short, says put your effort where you will get the most return. It is central to an engineer’s approach. Thus if you have a series of options, eg to provide our electricity supply, and one option costs 20 times more than another, then rule out the one that cost 20 times more. Do no more work on it. Yet you want to keep discussing matters about solar that are down in the weeds. If you can show that the solar analysis is too high by a factor of 20, then it is certainly worth discussing.

The comment about straw-man was addressed in the thread.

Forget about insolation. There are actual output figures at half hour intervals for two years. Look at figures 6 and 7. Focus on the dots at the lowest level. These are what controls the cost of solar power. These are due to overcast conditions. It is explained in the paper.

The comparision of capacity factor of OCGT versus solar and their fuel availability argument is not valid. OCGT is called up and turned off as required to meet demand. It is ‘dispatched’ by the grid control system. So fuel availability is not what controls its capacity factor. Solar power generates as much as it can. It is controlled by weather and seasons. Critically important is how much it can generate on heavily overcast days.

Yes, I do not take you seriously, because you do not seem to have attempted to understand the key points:

1. Why the scenario is based on the limit situation
2. The relevance of the minimum capacity factor (ie. the minimium output) and its relation to the amount of storage available
3. The Pareto principle – if something is 20 times more costly than another, then forget it – unless their is an error in the analysis that could account for the factor of 20 difference in the cost
4. The much greater environmental disadvantages of solar power compared with nuclear (land area required, CO2 emissions, quantities of materials required).


The one cost study I have seen puts nuclear (Gen II) at almost twice the cost of CCGT. So build CCGTs, only takes 4 years. Site each of these units near about 1500 hectares for an algae farm. The algae farm produces methane for the CCGT; the CCGT produces CO2 for the algae farm; closed cycle carbon.

The algae farm ought to be able to prodcue the methane for close to the price of natgas, although some form of tax incentive or other subsidy might be necessary for the first few years whilst learning how to run the algae farm efficiently.


David B, we’ve been over this ground many times before, but once again I’ll point out that if the average LCOE for nuclear built in the last decade worldwide is 4-6c/kWh, and yet some studies in the US reckon they need to do it for thrice that (whereas others, such as MIT come up with figures akin to the global numbers), then either the quoted figures are badly distorted and/or the US regulatory structures need a hard introspection.

Even those ‘horrendous’ bids in Canada had a LCOE of 5c/kWh, which is half the cost of CCGT (and <1/10 the greenhouse emissions):


Barry Brook (463) — The problem in the USA is taht for the last several nuclear plants built there was show-stopping litigation so the construction costs went through the roof due to the delays. I suppose ethree attempted to take that into account.

But its not as bad as in Turkey, where the best bid came in at $0.21/kWh. I don’t know what the Turks decided to do.

In Ontario was it not the case that the decision was made to reject the bid? What about the 75+% overruns on the reactor in Finland?

Matters are, of course, different in France. No litigation, standardized designs, government ownership. Do that and maybe you can build nuclear power plants that inexpensively. My proposal is a way to start now.



Re your reply

Is your Pareto principle of factor 20 different from everyone else’s Pareto principle of 80:20?

On the other points we disagree over your approach. Is that wrong?


Jeremy C (#466, #467),

The solar option is 20 to 40 times more costly than the nuclear option. Read the papers. They explain. Clearly, you have not digested this.

The Pareto Principle (or 80:20 rule) says in effect, put your effort where you will get the maximum return. So don’t go chasing a few percent errors or improvements in a system that is 20 times more costly than an alternative system.

I can’t make it any clearer than this. I must have explaind this atr least 5 times so far.

At this point, I believe if you want to understand, you will carefully read the papers, the cited references, the comments in the BNC threads and run your own calculations to check if there are any significant mistakes in the papers. If there are, I am happy to discuss. But there is no point in me trying to walk you through every detail of the papers and the previous discussion on this and the other three threads.


Jeremy, the Pareto distribution is a particular probability distribution function that usefully describes the distribution of many real world phenomena. Its a power law distribution, it tails off a bit like an exponential decay. Its perhaps most well known from Pareto’s study that showed the wealth of individuals in Italy followed this particular distribution. But it also frequently describes the distribution of, say, failure modes among different categories, or costs of process improvement, and in engineering development is a particularly powerful tool in, say, process development, product development, yield improvement and time, effort and other resource allocation when working on complex or only partially understood problems. Its one of the most useful tools in engineering discipline. The 80:20 rule is a popular shorthand.

You don’t appear to be aware of this. If you’ve been through UTS and RMIT without encountering the ideas, then perhaps those students are being shortchanged, or perhaps your studies are very focussed on some design disciplines, or programming, or something else very deterministic.

The factor of 20 Peter refers to is not the “20” in the “80:20” rule. Its the rough cost difference for supplying solar power, compared to nuclear power, as estimated in his ‘solar power realities’ paper. Solar power is about 20 times more expensive. Peter’s invocation of Pareto is to suggest that, were one to apply traditional budgetting practice based on Pareto resource allocation, that this factor of 20 would push the solar power category so far out into the tail of the distribution that the resource you would allocate to it – time, effort, expense, would be pretty much zero. It would be ‘out in the weeds’, as he likes to say. The ‘engineering decision’ would be to not deploy.

Because I don’t agree with you is your conclusion that I don’t understand?

Well, I concluded that you don’t understand.



Thankyou, but it that seemed Peter’s posts seemed to be saying the Pareto principle was based around a factor of 20 not 80:20 and it proved frustrating trying to get a clear answer to see if he was using it that way.

e.g. no 459

“The Pareto principle – if something is 20 times more costly than another, then forget it – unless their is an error in the analysis that could account for the factor of 20 difference in the cost”.

Then after I twice pointed out that the Pareto principle revolves around the 80:20 ratio came post *467;

“The Pareto Principle (or 80:20 rule) says in effect, put your effort where you will get the maximum return. So don’t go chasing a few percent errors or improvements in a system that is 20 times more costly than an alternative system.”



The article ignores present technology breakthroughts.
PV is not stagnating.
Here in Vienna we have crystalsol who have developed new technology to use high efficency single-crystalline materials from abundand raw materials combined with thin film technology.

Most people will use high efficiency low cost modules (windows, roofing, pannels,…) when it saves them money. Some batteries for local backup won`t be an issue. Even less when you got a car to backup power.

The highes output depends on the geografic location…here in europe the highest output is not a hot summer day but clear sunny days in April.
4kWp can provide the whole electricity for 4 persons here.
Thats around 40m²…for now.

The problem with nukes is that they have to compete with future pv. Nobody will invest in a nuke when the future of power is pv.
When pv prices come down so that you have recovered installation cost in 3-5 years it is a now brainer for anybody who has the space to install modules. Thats a 10%/a investment over 6-10 years… And PV prices will come down even further.

centralized power will be something for the poor people that can`t come up with a small investment for their own power.

OTOH the best solutions for small Afgahn villages are pv installations today.


@Marcus: Sie bieten uns keine Gliederung des Stromverbrauchs in Oe nach Wirtschaftsbranche. Stattdessen implizieren Sie über Ihren Wortschatz (people, villages, etc.), dass Strom in Oe nur von privaten Haushalten benutzt wird bzw. dass PV sogar diese bedienen kann. Aber der Löwenanteil entfällt wohl kaum auf Privathaushalte.

(Marcus, you do not supply us with any breakdown of Austrian power consumption by economic sector. Instead, your vocabulary (people, villages, etc.) and smallish power quantities imply that Austrian power is used only by private households and that PV can supply even these. Can you show this?

But the lion’s share of power is not consumed by households anyway. In 2007, Austrian households consumed 50,976 terajoules but intermediate use, broken down by various sectors of the economy, was 157,201 terajoules:

If you want to reduce Austrian power useage to that of Afghanistan, please quantify this for me using appropriate PV figures.


Every kind of energy gets subsidies. We pay more subsidies to nuclear energy although we don`t operate nuclear plants.

You don`t need a feed in tarif to save money by installing pv.
If it only takes 10-12 years to get a retunr on your investment what is the problem? You don`t need to disconnect from the grid.

I am just saying that it is stupid for a private person to not install pv when it saves you money.
You tell me when there is a better way to save on energy.
It is your decision to buy coal power instead.

Part of solar installatino is local labor. I am happy for those people who have work in that industry.

There is absolutly no problem with pv. It gets cheaper and better and will be all over the place.
You can try to talk it down but what do you believe you can gain by your action?


Every kind of energy gets subsidies. We pay more subsidies to nuclear energy although we don`t operate nuclear plants.

Then perhaps you should start operating them.

You don`t need a feed in tarif to save money by installing pv.

Rubbish. Look at the hew and cry in Germany recently from the solar industry there at the move to reduce their feed-in tariff fro 11 to 9 times the market rate of electricity.

If it only takes 10-12 years to get a retunr on your investment what is the problem? You don`t need to disconnect from the grid.

At a lifetime of 20-25 years, that’s not a great EROEI at all. What’s the figure when you throw in the energy used to manufacture the battery storage, inverters and the rest? And if you’re going to remain connected to the grid, where’s that power coming from?

I am just saying that it is stupid for a private person to not install pv when it saves you money.
You tell me when there is a better way to save on energy.

That would be true if it did save them money without defrauding others of that ‘saving’, but that’s just not the case.

It is your decision to buy coal power instead.

I’d prefer nuclear, but I don’t have that option. In the meantime it would be immoral to support a false solution, especially to the detriment of my neighbours.

Part of solar installatino is local labor. I am happy for those people who have work in that industry.

Have you had a look at the stats on deaths from falling off roofs among those who install them? Much better to get a high-paying job at the local nuclear plant.

There is absolutly no problem with pv. It gets cheaper and better and will be all over the place.
You can try to talk it down but what do you believe you can gain by your action?

That statement is just plain bonkers. Go read what Peter Lang has posted about the many problems with solar power in all its forms, then tell us why he’s wrong.


How many people die in construction (nukes also need contruction…I`ve heared Chinese lives are especially cheap in that regard…like on the nest stadium).
You know that you normaly use ropes.
You employ roofers in your nukes?

Panels from the 70ties still work at 80% output…
You get a 25 year guarantee on some. That does not mean that they won`t work another 25years.
EROEI of thinfilm is around 30.
In that case a nuke is worth nothing with average EROEI below 5.
Well..that figure gets better with gen3 but its still below thinfilm.

If I make 200%-300% €+ in its lifetime without feeding to the grid my solar installation is no good investment?

I rather have my own power than paying 3 or 4 times over to some power company.
I am also going to install a 9kw gravityvortex micro hydro this year. Thats almost power for nothing. It is a cooperation between my neigbors and me in the land house. Some are doing the construction, some are doing the electric instlatllation, a friend of mine is welding the turbine for some hundred € (would be 4-5grand if you have to pay for it.)
People ain`t stupid and can power themselfs way above Afgahn standards.
Then again we are rich and that is the reason why our rates are that high. When utilites can raise their return every year you ask yourself if the energy is really worth what you are paying or if they are milking you (with old, badly serviced nukes in the case of Germany).
There goes your nyth about cheap nuclear power…
There has been direct in indirect funding of nuclear power at over 140billion USD the last 60 years….you should thing that nuclear power could support itself without Austria paying 40Mio € each year to Euratom. Yet it is getting less important every year and not at all popular as you wish.
Money flowing from poor to rich…well thats way better than having your own power and saving money.

After all Austria has a ban against nuclear power, transport or storage.


Panels from the 70ties still work at 80% output…

Current efficiency of commercial panels is around 18% max. What was it back in the 1970s? What makes you think the current crop will have the same performance?

You get a 25 year guarantee on some. That does not mean that they won`t work another 25years.

As a matter of basic physics, performance WILL inevitably degrade over time.

EROEI of thinfilm is around 30.

I’ve been hearing the song of thin film being sung for many a year now. As far as I’m aware, they still duffer intractable difficulties witrh UV degradation. wait until they’ve proven themselves commercially before advocating the abandonment of nuclear power in their favour. of course, even if our fondest hopes for thin film are realised, that does nothing to fix intermittancy, storage and conversion issues.

In that case a nuke is worth nothing with average EROEI below 5.

What nonsense. Nuclear EROEI is far above that. Try getting your information from credible sources for a change.

,i>There goes your nyth about cheap nuclear power…

why is it then that countries which primarily depend on nuclear power have the lowest electricity costs, and countries with the highest penetration of renewables have the highest electricity costs? All of your propaganda cannot alter this ground fact.


If it was that simple and cheap one can only wonder why your miracoulous nuclear energy needs someone who does not even understand how price politics work to try to defend it.

I am sure you have the only valid set of data for historical nuclear EROEI right on your hands.

I’ll leave you with your little nuki dreams.
Remember our lillte talk when your houses are fittet with integrated pv modules for 200€/kWp and you drive around in your solar charged EV.
But I may be wrong on that and you can finally built your 100000 mininukis or 10.000 nukes the next 50-60 years…who realistic is that?

Don`t you ever wish to save money on electricity? Did you never think of produceing your own power (non nuclear).

A nuclear reactor will never get you freedom from grids or the mercy of grid operators. It is always the more expensive solution. That has been proven by lots of communitys who took it in their own hands.

Until their is no waste burning reactor just stop bashing the solutions that are on hand. It does not hurt you how Austrians spent their money (appert from that we are developing pv solutions that are sold all around the world.) Or that the EU insvested 15Mio in the kitegen which apart from that was developed on a completly private basis.
Like there was only one solution…It would be very strange if you werer right and everybody else was wrong.

Last question: tell me how I can make money on nuclear energy? Nothing I can buy? how do I save money? How can I stop paying for my electricity? Why should I stop to use the sun/wind/water/biomass? Never thought about PV?


I am sure you have the only valid set of data for historical nuclear EROEI right on your hands.

See the following:

The relevant paragraphs are these:

So the Forsmark Plant produces 93 times more energy than it consumes. Or put another way, the non-nuclear energy investment required to generate electricity for 40 years is repaid in 5 months. Normalized to 1 GigaWatt electrical capacity, the energy required to construct and decommission the plant, which amounts to 4 Peta-Joules (PJ), which is repaid in 1.5 months. The energy required to dispose of the waste is also 4 PJ and repaid in 1.5 months. In total this is less than 0.8% of the all the electrical energy produced by the plant.

The calculations of the operating energy costs include the energy required to mine and mill the Uranium. In the case of the Forsmark power plant some of the Uranium is sourced from the Olympic Dam mine in South Australia. This mine has a rather low Uranium concentration (0.05% by weight). A detailed and audited environmental description of the Olympic Dam mine is available here. A succinct description of the energy inputs of the mine is here. These data show that the Olympic Dam mine supplies enough Uranium for the generation of 26 GigaWatt-years of electricity each year (including the Uranium needed to run the power plants for enrichment). The energy consumed by the the mine is equivalent to 22% of a GigaWatt-Year. The energy gain is over a factor of 100. The Olympic Dam mine energy cost includes the energy required for mining and smelting it’s huge Copper production.


@Marcus: I wrote at

that Austrian private household power consumption seems to be only about 25% of all power useage, using official 2007 figures. But you keep on quoting examples from that 25%: your Landhaus with its 9kW microhydro, private cars, etc. So you appear to be rurally- based and to have a longing for Gemeinschaft as opposed to Gesellschaft. Your whole line of argument does not go beyond your own wallet; it is the same as a neoliberal falsely equating the functioning of a national economy to that of a private family or small company.

So let me look at somebody else’s wallet: how do you envisage that low-income apartment block tenants in central Vienna with no access to south-facing PV surfaces or balconies for wind turbines (!!) or convenient waterfalls nearby can generate their power? Do you care? I suspect not.

This implies that you believe that Austria can exist as a country of small power producers meeting only their own personal power needs in villages. It is true that this bucolic notion is very strong among Greens.

Is it correct to say that you want to deindustrialise the country ? How will Austria trade with other countries on the basis of industry using only renewable power to make Austrian exports in, say, 2040?


And the overal EROEI of the French nuclear program is around 7…

Theres that paragraph about Forsmak, your number and the idea of deception behind it.
If we just had LFTRs we would be around 5000 right…

You did not answer my question. Still paying money for electricity? Never thought about producing your own power?
Until you get that nuclear super solution it will have payed for itself multiple times over…


@Morgan: the real Lalor ducked out, saying he had to hand-crank a few watts of power for his radio and mobile. But he left this message:

as and when Marcus in Austria deigns to stop playing “micro” financial advisor to Finrod on this thread, it may occur to him to get his nose out of his wallet and suggest that Austrian firms be part of the Desertec solar energy consortium,

Which would bring his argument up to the conceptual level of Finrod (intermittency, storage, conversion at the macro level of entire economies).

But conversely, that de-walletisation might induce Finrod to address the only “macro” issue that Marcus seems to consider, namely price gouging by energy utilities as an incentive to municipalities (eg Schönau in Germany) to produce one’s own low-cost or free power.

None of which necessarily yet gainsays Ian Lowe or Mark Diesendorf.



Peter used a model installation that did not track and was located in a non optimal location, drew conclusions then extended those conclusion to the entire industry, based his comparison upon a demand/feed structure that was inapropriate, made totally unrealistic assumptions on energy storage requirements while ignoring global industry experience, applied costing assumptions for which there was no evidence,………and then he took his conclusions and applied them to an industry which was not even mentioned in his treatise.

The upshot was that he decided that CSP with storage would cost 140 billion dollars per gigawatt and ignored the paper (linked by Fran Barlow) from SolarPaces written by a team of government backed industry developmental scientists who provided qualified proof that full baseload CSP including backup and storage can be supplied for 6 billion dollars/euros. I can demonstrate that that is absolutely supportable in several ways.

My reading of his (Peter’s) paper is that it was not at all a competent study, and his high handed approach just pissed me off.

I challenge you to analyse and find fault with Dr Franz Trieb and his colleagues, and their paper to the SolarPaces conference, which if you were following the kerfuffle at JQ you will have a copy of.




You posted a similar comment on the John Quiggan web site. I replied; however, my post has been deleted. Luckily I posted my reply here:

I would be pleased to have a constructive discussion and learn from each other. I am sure others would appreciate the discussion. We’d need to keep it rational for it to be of any benefit. If you do want to continue, can I urge you to continue on the “Emission Cuts Realities” thread. The reason is because that is the thread where all the previous papers are pulled together.

My reading of his (Peter’s) paper is that it was not at all a competent study, and his high handed approach just pissed me off.

If I got a ‘high handed’ with my replies I apologise. However, you may want to consider whether I may have responded to your repeated ‘high handed approach’ as illustrated by your reply to my first post: Your subsequent comments continued in the same tone, e.g.

I was also pissed off that you repeatedly avoided fulfilling the undertaking you made to provide the basis of your estimate:

I would be happy to engage in a rational discussion with you. We’d need to slow the pace down and tackle one issue at a time. I’d suggest we should define, up front, what it is we want to debate. For example, nuclear versus CST on the basis of cost, safety and sustainability. We’d need to cover one at a time. I’d suggest we start with cost.


The answer, Peter is in the SolarPaces document. Did you read it? If you did you would see that their organisation will build 1gig full baseload CSP in an appropriate location for 6 billion euros/dollars. IE 30 gig continuous capacity times 6 billion equals 180 billion + variations. You stated that this would be 4,200 billion dollars, or 140 billion per gigawatt.

Someones figures are out. Is it yours, or theirs? It is up to you to respond by reading their document and indicating where they are wrong if you insist that your figure is correct.


More likely he is lying dormant during a period of low insolation.

Lets focus on the fixed vs tracking array. Tracking has been dealt with above. It turns out, it doesn’t matter. The small additional output from a tracking array does not change the orders of magnitude of difference in cost or in CO2 abatement.

Lets quantify the difference between a fixed and tracking collector.

Data for fixed plate collectors vs tracking collectors is available for the US at Lets consider average insolation for August (over 30 years) for fixed collectors tilted south at the site latitude, and compare it to solar collectors that track the sun in two angles.
The insolation numbers vary according to location. Lets take the numbers for Hawaii.

The August 30-year average insolation for fixed collectors is 5.13 kWh/m^2/day.
The August 30-year average insolation for 2D tracking collectors is 6.61 kWh/m^2/day.

A tracking array in Hawaii in August does about 29% better than a fixed array. . The percentage improvement is about the same elsewhere in the US, and at other times of the year. Its probably about the same in the mid latitudes here. In particular, its probably about the same in Queanbeyan.

So Peter’s cruelly underestimated solar PV output by a factor of 1.3x. Does this change his conclusion?

Peter’s summary conclusion is,

The capital cost would be 25 times more than nuclear power. The least-cost solar option would require 400 times more land area and emit 20 times more CO2 than nuclear power.

Before going on, just note that we are going to make about a 1.3x adjustment to Peter’s numbers in favour of the solar pv option, and check whether it makes up for factors of 20-400x. We know already how this will turn out.

So, the capital cost $/MWhr would probably not be much different, since part or all of the 30% greater plant output has to be paid for with more expensive tracking collectors. And you also need to invest in dams, pumps and turbines, or a lot of batteries. And transmission. So the 30% benefit of tracking first gets eaten up by more expensive collectors, and then diluted by other major capex in the solar plant.

If a tracking system were more economical than non tracking because of the higher output, you would expect any large PV array for bulk generation of power would track the sun. Well, someone built one in Queanbeyan (the case that Peter analysed) which doesn’t, apparently. I can only guess they looked at the ROI for cheaper fixed PVs vs higher output but more expensive tracking collectors, and found power from the fixed array was more economical.

This suggests the capital costs per kWhr do not come down substantially for tracking arrays.

On the land area, suppose it is reduced by a factor of 1.3. So the solar pv only occupies 300x the land area of a nuclear plant. Does this change matters, from the original 400x factor? Frankly, I don’t think so.

Its not clear to me how the lifecycle co2 emissions have been calculated. But, to keep focus on the question of whether a fixed collector or tracking collector changes the conclusion, I’ll take the factor of 20x at face value. If the co2 emissions are reduced, the best that could be hoped for would be a reduction of 1.3x, to only 15x as much co2 as nuclear. But, since the collectors are not the only contributor to plant lifecycle co2 emissions, it won’t be that good. Its probably still closer to 20x than 15x the co2 output.

So, to conclude – is Lang’s conclusion that nuclear is far superior on the key metrics than solar pv changed if we consider a tracking array rather than a fixed array? Lets see:

– the capital cost does not look like it goes down, in fact it probably goes up a bit
– the land area might come down, but not by enough to have any policy implication, and is still hundreds of times larger than a nuclear generator
– the co2 emissions do not change enough to change any policy assessment away from Peter’s conclusion

So I don’t see how deploying tracking arrays changes Peter’s headline conclusion.



The answer, Peter is in the SolarPaces document. Did you read it?

Bilb, I posted a reply to your comments. You obviously haven’t read it. If you read it you’ll find the replies to your comments and the answer to youyr question.

It is pretty pointless trying to hold a discussion with you until you settle down and are prepared to discuss issues, as opposed to simply throwing out unsupported assertions. I hope we can progress to a rational discussion.

Pleas follow the link to my reply to your comments, then lets continue on the “Emission Cuts Realities” thread for the reason I gave.


Where exactly did you post that link? I don’t believe that you have read the SolarPaces document. You insisted that I read your publication and I did, and responded. If you are at all genuine do the same, and place your response here where Finrod directed the discussion. Your entitled to be hot with your response if you choose, but a response is necessary.


here where Finrod directed the discussion

Don’t drag me into this. I didn’t direct you anywhere. I do believe that John Morgan may have provided you with a link to the appropriate thread.


OK, I’ve just found John Morgans response on your behalf.

Yes 30% is exactly what I would have expected. The next item is you have to recognise that a solar based system has its peak at a different time so the whole NEM’s thing is not the correct basis for evaluation. But it is noted that a midday energy peak with offpeak consumption occuring at that time might stress the cabling system in some circumstances. Then you have to demonstrate where abouts in central Australia is a 90 day continuous storage capacity required.

I’m not contesting his conclusion on PV equivalence, even though I think it is probably off with the fairies, but I am contesting his translation of those conclusions to CSP. And provided highly reliable evidence that proves that his assessment of the cost per gigawatt of baseload CSP should be in the area of 6 billion not 140 billion. That is what this is about.

All Peter has to do is demonstrate how he concluded that 1 gigawatt of baseload CSP would cost 140 billion dollars.



Where exactly did you post that link?

You don’t seem to read anything. You just skip over and go onto pour out some more assertions without reading and understanding what others are saying.

Go back up this thread to my comment at 15 May 2010 at 22.25.


BilB, looking pointwise at the issues you have expressed with Peter’s analysis:

Peter used a model installation that did not track

I just demonstrated that tracking does not change the conclusion.

and was located in a non optimal location, drew conclusions then extended those conclusion to the entire industry,

Do you think that basing the analysis on a more optimal location than Queanbeayan will change the conclusion?

Bear in mind that to change the conclusion we are looking to offset a 20x cost and 3-400x land area advantage to the nuclear option. Choosing a more optimal location might improve the solar numbers by a few 10s %, not thousands. Also bear in mind that to approach the scale of generation to meet demand, the industry would necessarily need to exploit sub optimal sites. You can’t just say the entire solar generation industry will reside at optimal sites.

If you disagree with this, please state why, and quantify it.

based his comparison upon a demand/feed structure that was inapropriate,

Can you please explain why the demand/feed structure was inapropriate?

made totally unrealistic assumptions on energy storage requirements while ignoring global industry experience, applied costing assumptions for which there was no evidence,

Why are the energy requirement assumptions unrealistic?

What energy requirement assumptions do you believe he should have used instead?

Can you cite the global industry experience that you believe invalidates Peter’s assumptions?

………and then he took his conclusions and applied them to an industry which was not even mentioned in his treatise.

I think you refer to solar PV vs solar CSP. Peter’s conclusions are largely associated with the nature of the resource and are common for PV and CSP. Peter did update this work with a CSP analysis here:

Solar realities and transmission costs – addendum

As you might expect, nothing changes, because the same fundamental problems of intermittency and storage are in effect.

Are there any other issues you have with the analysis? And if so, please try to state them in the specific, and in quantitative terms. Broad generalities, “industry experience”, etc., will not wash.


Solar thermal stations might have a new way of storing that heat energy for years, if this new quest ever pans out.

They’re looking at other materials as well, in a quest to find a ubiquitous and cheap material.

In effect, explained Grossman, this makes it possible to produce a “rechargeable heat battery” that can repeatedly store and release heat gathered from sunlight or other sources. In principle, Grossman said, a fuel made from fulvalene diruthenium, when its stored heat is released, “can get as hot as 200 degrees C, plenty hot enough to heat your home, or even to run an engine to produce electricity.”

Storing thermal energy in chemical form to make a rechargeable heat battery.


When Technology Review published its article “Praying for an Energy Miracle” which is posted at I began to think, how foolish of them to suggest that solar will have a breakthrough. Why so? Well the cost of rooftop PV solar is about $6/w and centralized single axis tracking PV is about $4/w and this is with solar cells costing about $2/w. So the remaining cost is in non solar cell costs such as steel, glass, installation, wiring, electronics, etc costs that are likely to remain the same and even inflate with time. So if the solar cell costs were to drop to just $1/w the costs would still be $5/w rooftop and $3/w centralized. Even if you could lower the rooftop system cost by doing away with the steel and glass boxes, you would still be looking at about $4/w for rooftop solar. Even if there were an outside chance the rooftop tiles could be down as low as $3/w, this would still be more costly than the West Texas centralized solar at $3/w, because the West Texas tracking solar collects a lot more energy than the rooftop solar. So the rooftop solar can never be competitive with centralized solar and should be abandoned as a practice except in certain instances where it makes sense, such as a place that is not connected to the grid. Furthermore the centralized tracking PV solar at $3/w, which is likely to be its lowest price ever, is considerably lower in cost than centralized concentrating solar, which is all hardware that is likely to escalate in price. The concentrating solar thermal and the rooftop solar are never going to be able to compete with the single axis tracking solar PV at a solar farm. We need to recognize that fact and now concentrate our efforts at making the off site centralized PV solar technology available to communities where the residents can purchase capacity in those centralized plants rather than wasting their money on rooftop solar. Here is my letter to the PUC on this topic.
So far the PUC and Austin Energy aren’t buying into the concept, but they will when their ideas fail to produce results.


“Conclusions: solar power is uneconomic. Government mandates and subsidies hide the true cost of renewable energy but these additional costs must be carried by others”.

I find this hilarious. Considering the several centuries of outpouring of national treasure, political power, and military might that has gone into securing oil, huge R&D budgets for nuclear (and oil) subsidized for decades and decades by powerful economies to levels dwarfing anything in solar (and let’s not even touch the “hidden” costs of oil and nuclear), to even bring up that solar has “hidden costs” is scandalous. If solar had in parallel received the societal support oil and nuclear (including fusion) have received over the last century (and beyond for oil), it would be one of, if not the, primary source of energy for modern living.


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