Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Big Solar for Oz

10MW Solar Tower - wiki media commonsThe 2009 Australian budget delivers 1.4 billion dollars - over 6 years - for solar power. So how much solar electricity will Australia get?

The government subsidy is for new solar plants that together produce a coal plant's worth of power - up to 1000MW. Abengoa Solar, a leading solar power company currently constructing solar plants worldwide, put the cost of a 300MW plant at 1.2 billion euros in 2007. In 2009, the Arizona state government announced a 200MW plant for 1 billion US dollars.

The actual cost and reliability of the power generated is as important as the government subsidy for construction costs. The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates, for solar plants generating power 24 hours a day by storing the sun's heat, electricity will soon cost about US 13 cents a unit.

On this scale, sun power is starting to become competitive with expected future power prices.


  1. Households pay about 20 cents per unit of electricity while electricity generators sell power for about 4 to 12 cents per unit.

    The price of electricity is going up. For example, the rise is expected to be about 20% in NSW.

    This rising price of conventional power and reducing price of renewable power means that the two costs are likely to be similar soon.

  2. A 200 MW solar thermal plant will run at 15-20% capacity factor based on past experience. So at a cost of $1 billion, that equates to $25-33 billion per GW of generation capacity. So still not anywhere near currently economical, but worth support for R&D nonetheless.

  3. Yes - good point - might be a bit more than this based on the claimed numbers. Arizona plant is expected to produce 665,000 MWhrs per year. For a 200 MW plant this works out as about 38% capacity.

    The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory cost curves (page 22) have the cost of solar thermal decreasing by about 50% every ten years.

    On this basis it starts to be competitive in Australia towards 2015-20.

  4. There is a Project in Victoria to produce 154MW at a cost at $420m (I would guess Aussie Dollars):

  5. And back in the US .... Lockheed-Martin's part of a second Arizona big solar thermal announcement.Total for USA is now over 8,500 MW a number equal to between four and eight coal fired power stations.

  6. Cost of Korean tidal power and stationary hydrogen fuel cell v's wind:

    USD 355 million for the 250MW tidal power plant Sihwa Korea. this produces 554 GWhr/yr.

    Wind comparison, 250MW would currently cost about 6 to 700 USD million and produce 600-700 GWh/yr.

    Note the Sihwa plant's embankment was already at Sihwa and tidal power like this may have greater enviro problems at other places.

    Hydrogen power cell plant supplies heat & electricity for 3000 houses. It is 80% efficient (power extracted from methane feedstock) and power is about AUD 0.23 per kW/hr. 50% of this price is the gas (methane feedstock) cost.

    Photo story here

  7. The panels must be kept in a place where there is direct sunlight.

    solar panel