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Earth Power The Almighty Buck

Solar Is Now Cheaper Than Coal, Says India Energy Minister (climatechangenews.com) 314

An anonymous reader cites a report on Climate Change News: India is on track to soar past a goal to deploy more than 100 gigawatts of solar power by 2022, the country's energy minister Piyush Goyal said on Monday. Speaking at the release of a 15-point action plan for the country's renewable sector, Goyal said he was now considering looking at "something more" for the fast-growing solar sector. "I think a new coal plant would give you costlier power than a solar plant," he said. "Of course there are challenges of 24/7 power. We accept all of that -- but we have been able to come up with a solar-based long term vision that is not subsidy based." In the past financial year, nearly 20GW of solar capacity has been approved by the government, with a further 14GW planned through 2016 according to the Union Budget.More details here. "I met this man in Meghalaya, who has a solar set-up for his homestay. He mentioned that only the initial setting up costs you much," Deepika Gumaste, a travel writer told Slashdot. "But once you have set it up, the operating costs are not much and more importantly, the environmental costs also go down. Good on your pockets too in the long run." It is worth pointing out that India is currently among the handful of nations that is increasing its coal consumption, according to a Guardian report from late last year. Also see: India aims to become 100% electric vehicle nation by 2030.
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Solar Is Now Cheaper Than Coal, Says India Energy Minister

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  • But Still (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2016 @01:04PM (#51941851)

    ...a large majority of their population is shitting in the bushes.

    Seems to me some priorities are a bit off.

    • ...and getting eaten by Tigers.
    • What's the name for this fallacy again?

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Europe was the same, some people had electricity while others had latrines.

      Cheap and clean energy benefits everyone.

      • Cheap and clean energy benefits everyone.

        Cheap, clean, dependable...

        Pick two... I have not seen anything that says you can have all three, and that is the problem... it is the 800lb gorilla in the living room that no one wants to talk about...

    • Re:But Still (Score:5, Interesting)

      by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2016 @02:20PM (#51942365)

      Much of the population is shitting in the bushes due to cultural heritage. You can't simply build toilets and call the problem solved. There's years of teaching people how to act hygienically.

    • And as expected this is the first comment.
    • Going to the bathroom in the bushes won't result in the earth becoming uninhabitable to humans. I think their priorities are in the right place, thinking long term.
      • Not the entire earth but the section around the bushes.

        • by mspohr ( 589790 )

          Actually, it's good fertilizer. Used for centuries... also by The Martian.
          Much better than the usual agricultural chemicals (which do poison the earth).
          So, they can't have electricity until we train them to shit indoors? It's called imperialism.

    • Why do you say that? Finding a lower cost of energy support an energy intensive infrastructure seems like they are the same goal.
      Plumbing takes electricity to keep water pressure, in these small pips so they won't need to build giant aqueducts to keep all the water moving downhill.
      Another nice thing about solar, is that it doesn't need large expensive plants. So they can be better distributed without a huge infrastructure.

    • As everyone knows, a government can't possibly address more than one issue at a time...

  • But not at night (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 )

    But not at night

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      With coal, you can make it night all the time [citylab.com].

    • I'm convinced that human beings don't really make this brain-dead comment. There is obviously some auto-repsponder software built into the ./ message system that does that, since even in jest, this sort of comment is too old and tired to repeat.

      Human history is practically based on things where nature didn't co-operate and we told Nature to take a hike.

    • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 )

      Unless you charged your electric car during the day in which case it could give a few percent of it's storage back at night, with led lights, TVs etc you wouldn't need much.

  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2016 @01:17PM (#51941935) Homepage

    Solar may be in some contexts cheaper, but that may not continue for the long-term. Solar power experiences value deflation, where the more solar power there is, the less it is worth (because unlike conventional power sources, it all peaks at the same time). This can lead to serious limits on how much solar a given area is likely to have http://www.vox.com/2016/4/18/11415510/solar-power-costs-innovation [vox.com]. Either the cost per a panel needs to go down by a lot, or the storage and transmission costs need to improve by a lot. The last link includes an estimate that in order to really get solar to succeed one needs an approximate cost of around $0.25 per watt. If one improves batteries and transmission that may not be necessary, especially if we have enough other sources of power, such as wind, nuclear, hydroelectric (which unfortunately has probably gotten close to its peak in much of Europe and North America), tidal, and geothermal. Nuclear is going to definitely be a part of any long-term solution, but one has silly things now like Sweden trying to give up all fossil fuels at the same time they phase out nuclear power http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/sweden-first-fossil-fuel-free-country-in-the-world-a6684641.html [independent.co.uk] and they call that "green."

    At least in most places, we're very far from where solar can be even without improved transmission and storage. In much of the US, you can get home solar and have it pay back in a few years. The solar panel cost guide is a good place to start http://www.solarpanelscostguide.com/ [solarpanelscostguide.com]. Or, if you want to help other people out while helping the environment you can donate to Everybody Solar http://www.everybodysolar.org/ [everybodysolar.org] which helps get solar panels for non-profits like schools, homeless shelters and science museums. Every little bit helps.

    • Solar power experiences value deflation, where the more solar power there is, the less it is worth (because unlike conventional power sources, it all peaks at the same time).

      Except it doesn't peak everywhere at the same time. When it's dark in Connecticut, it could be still broad daylight in San Diego. Considering the fluctuation in power usage over the 24 hour day, I'm not sure having localized drops in power-generation is necessarily a bad thing.

      Anyway, technology will increasingly make this a minor i

      • Except it doesn't peak everywhere at the same time. When it's dark in Connecticut, it could be still broad daylight in San Diego.

        Right this is why transmission is so important: if one can transmit power efficiently then areas with excess power can transmit it elsewhere. Unfortunately, that's in practice really tough. Right now, the US has three major grids: East, West and Texas. In practice there's almost no interconnection between these grids. And Texas sometimes has more wind power than they can use in parts, but can't actually give it to the other grids. This leads to weird things like the cost of electricity in Texas briefly goin

        • Unfortunately, when peak power consumption occurs and when peak solar output are are not the same time generally. Similarly, while there's least power consumed very late at night (1-3 AMish), solar stops being useful well before that. See http://www.vox.com/2016/2/12/1... [vox.com].

          That's very interesting, but it ignores the fact that newer natural gas plants can be flexible. They can ramp up production quickly and can be cost effective operating only 30% to 70% of the time. California uses natural gas plants for b

      • When it's dark in Connecticut, it could be still broad daylight in San Diego.

        Yep, now explain how you plan to move the power from Connecticut to San Diego and I'll be a bit more impressed.

        Please note the existing lack of national power grid between the two places and the transmission losses going that far.

        Side note: There are many hours when it is dark in both places, or when it is snowing in Connecticut while cloudy in San Diego.

    • one needs an approximate cost of around $0.25 per watt

      Just wondering where you got this number? I did a detail analysis about ten years ago along with simulations and real-world data and came up with the same number (actually I think it was $0.261 or something). I think that was to be competitive with hydro (the least expensive). Just out of curiosity, I'd like to see their methodology.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <.mojo. .at. .world3.net.> on Tuesday April 19, 2016 @02:13PM (#51942333) Homepage Journal

      They are planning solar thermal, which works 24/7. Also, they plan to only sell electric vehicles eventually, and the purchase price of those is expected to pass petrol cars around 2025. There will be lots of used but perfectly good batteries for something by then too.

      Your entire argument is based on old (even by today's standards) technology never improving.

      • Solar thermal is great for extending things certainly, but it doesn't really end up going into the entire night. You get very little power out of solar thermal after 3 or four after sunset or so. The real advantage of solar thermal is actually stability, since if it gets cloudy all of a sudden you don't have a sudden drop like you do with PV. As for batteries, it is far from clear that that used lithium batteries will have the efficiency or reliability necessary to do that much storage. And the people maki
      • by nojayuk ( 567177 )

        Solar thermal involves storing heat in something like a molten salt tank and releasing that heat later to generate electricity when the sun is down. This wastes energy -- direct use of the heat would produce more electricity in total over a day cycle but peaking over a shorter period of time.

        Most of the solar thermal plants that have been constructed to date use thousands of heliostat mirrors to concentrated light on a tower-mounted heat store. The tower has to be very strong to carry the mass of the heat s

    • Yeah, if only we had some sort of distributed load shifting infrastructure in everybody's home... Maybe like 400,000 or so to kick things off.

    • by Socguy ( 933973 )
      Places like India have a ton of areas currently without any power whatsoever. Even having power that works in the day is a vast improvement.
    • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

      Either the cost per a panel needs to go down by a lot, or the storage and transmission costs need to improve by a lot.

      Or we need a smart grid that rewards people for conserving during times of high demand and low supply, and that creates the proper incentive for people to shift their energy-intensive tasks to times of high supply and low demand. The technology already exists, but the politics are taking their time to catch up.

    • by davidwr ( 791652 )

      (because unlike conventional power sources, it all peaks at the same time)

      This isn't true if you have a geographically-large grid.

      The Eastern-US grid stretches from eastern Montana to the Texas panhandle to Louisiana (bypassing most of Texas) to Florida to Maine.

      Yes, sometimes it is sunny or cloudy across the entire area, but most of the time it's not.

      The Western-US grid stretches basically from El Paso, Texas, north to Canada and west to the Pacific coast. Thanks to the mountains, there are large variations in weather across this region on any given day.

      On the other hand, the "

      • Yes, this is exactly where better transmission infrastructure will help (one of the things I mentioned in the comment you are replying to). Right now, a lot of energy is lost in transmission. In the ideal setting, we'd have highly efficient grids that would deal with this sort of thing. There's a project to connect the three big US grids https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tres_Amigas_SuperStation [wikipedia.org] which will help out with this also.
  • by AchilleTalon ( 540925 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2016 @01:27PM (#51942007) Homepage
    That guy is incompetent. The way he compares cost of each solution just doesn't make sense at all. You need to compare over a lifetime the total energy produced in both cases including maintenance costs. If you cannot produce electricity at night, what is the cost of this? You have to buy electricity outside the country? Build another facility just to provide electricity during the night? This guy should be fired.
  • There have been mixed messages coming from China lately. The countryâ(TM)s carbon emissions may be declining more than a decade earlier than anticipated, thanks in part to reductions in coal power. And yet, China is planning 210 new coal-fired power plants despite existing overcapacity. Why?

    http://bit.ly/1qCWXzc [bit.ly]

    Is China doubling down on its coal
    power bubble?
    Over 210 new coal-fired power plant projects being permitted in China -
    Version updated in Feb 2016

    http://bit.ly/1Shj4Gf [bit.ly]

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2016 @01:35PM (#51942063) Homepage

    Not cheapness, but storage.

    Have a cheap, easy way to store energy for days without leakage? You just became the next Rockefeller / Carnegie/ Vanderbilt / Gates.

    Laptops, phones, electric cars, solar panels companies, and nuclear power companies (they can't transmit the power very far so the plants are uncomfortably close to cities) will beat your door down trying to shove money.

    • Storage isn't an immediate problem. During the day, electricity needs are higher, so solar can help even without storage. And as solar becomes more widespread, there will be plenty of money to be made in storage, so the techniques will be developed.
      • And as solar becomes more widespread, there will be plenty of money to be made in storage, so the techniques will be developed.

        Ahh yes, the... "someone will invent the solution" line...

        Where is our Fusion power again?

        Just because there is a need for better storage doesn't mean it will be found, or found cheaply.

        • Just because there is a need for better storage doesn't mean it will be found, or found cheaply.

          Here's a recent example. https://www.sciencedaily.com/r... [sciencedaily.com]

          Sadoway and Ouchi stress that these particular chemical combinations are just the tip of the iceberg, which could represent a starting point for new approaches to devising battery formulations

          This is not fusion. Solutions to storage are within reach, but they were never developed because there simply was no need. And in addition to these storage methods, there's still a lot we can with smart grids in combination with electric cars, and flexible manufacturing around cheap energy.

          • This is not fusion. Solutions to storage are within reach, but they were never developed because there simply was no need.

            When I was 10 years old, Fusion was just 20 years away.

            Now that I'm 40, Fusion is 30 years away.

            You claim solutions to storage are within reach, great, call me when you have them. Until then, you can't plan for them.

            And in addition to these storage methods, there's still a lot we can with smart grids in combination with electric cars, and flexible manufacturing around cheap energy.

            Just because something is technically possible, doesn't mean it will happen. Our current power grid is old and there is little interest in changing it. Politics and economics cannot be ignored.

            • When I was 10 years old, Fusion was just 20 years away.

              Now that I'm 40, Fusion is 30 years away.

              That's because already-low funding dropped even more. See this chart formerly featured on /. [imgur.com] . "Fusion in 20 years" was never going to happen at actually funded levels, but might have with several proposed funding plans.

        • Can you think of a better incentive than making a shitload of money?

          It's not like there needs to be a particularly high tech solution.

          'Pumped gravel' looked interesting. There are many hills that would accommodate two gravel piles and a circular electrified train track.

          And we don't have to wait for solar to drive daytime costs down. There is money to be made with the current on/off peak prices. All theoretical solar shingles would do is change the scheduling. There might be a bad few years with equal

          • Exactly. I'm unsure of why people think this complaint is valid. it's almost like someone saying "Until cars can go 100mph, there's no use for cars, so we should stick with horse and buggy!"

            Renewables are coming into grids in a staged fashion, and in the long run, you won't have the monochrome energy system many areas have (the coal-burning power station), you will have a variety of sources; solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, tidal, and along with better energy storage systems (like the "pumped" system

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        I don't know about you, but most of the day the only power used here is what's required to keep the fridge cold and the occasional running of the furnace blower.

        At night when all the residents are home is when peak power is used -- fridge takes more power because it gets opened a bunch, lots of lights on (most are LED now, but I can't stop the others from leaving every. damn. light. on), probably 2 TVs turned on, computers running, etc.

    • No it hasn't. When solar was $30/watt, only 35 years ago, it was so prohibitively expensive that the storage problem was lost in the noise.
    • by kwerle ( 39371 )

      Not cheapness, but storage.

      Actually, for a long time price was a very real issue. It's still a factor, but less and less as manufacturing and automation improve.

      Have a cheap, easy way to store energy for days without leakage? You just became the next Rockefeller / Carnegie/ Vanderbilt / Gates.

      I think the name you're looking for is Musk.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      • I think the name you're looking for is Musk.

        The poster above you said "cheap"... nothing Musk is doing is "cheap"...

        Those wall batteries? Yea, stupid crazy expensive... call me when a zero gets knocked off the price and then you'll have something.

    • Pumped water is already here, with 127GWh already installed, which is the vast majority of large scale grid storage in use: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2016 @01:36PM (#51942069) Journal
    I know India. Was born there. Almost everyday the minister of this or minister of that will make big announcement about something. Usually not much happens after the announcement. India does improve, things do happen in India. But usually at a vastly different time scale than what is announced by the ministers.
  • Really? And where exactly is one to find that much raw material for batteries? REMs are not all that cheap, and as demand goes up, the fact that China controls 95% of the world market is going to bite them in the ass.

  • It's not that Solar has become cheaper, but coal is being regulated out of existence.

    Some plants have even shut down. If you followed along he law of supply and demand in high school you can see where prices would go.

  • Coal will be used for a few existing plants but Natural Gas is the cheap source of power today at least in the US. I am not sure about India

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