Great Cleantechnica Series

This is going to be mostly a pointer to these two articles by Zachary Shahan at Cleantechnica (part 1) (part 2), that give a wealth of information on renewable energy developments with very nice graphic visualization.

But there are a couple of points I would like to highlight.

For one, when comparing the price of a new nuclear plant or a new coal plant with the price of solar, you need to factor in that solar will be already much cheaper once the coal or nuclear plant is built eight years ago, and will further reduce its cost over the decades of useful life of such a plant.

In other words, for the very least it is not adequate to use current costs for solar (already quite low, thank you), but those expected eight years out. But I would go one step further and compare with at least twenty years out, since that will be twelve years into the expected operation of the coal or nuclear plant, still very early in its expected useful life.

Shahan made that point while explaining that solar is built almost instantly when compared to the long periods it takes for a nuclear or coal project to actually get out of the door.

There is another aspect to that.

My motivation (and that of many others interested in energy) is doing something about global warming. For that, speed is of essence. Under that aspect, it is useful to be able to deploy a couple of TW of capacity in a very short time frame, once it becomes clear to those not paying attention what the cost avoided by that really is. We have already seen subway stations in New York flooded this year. We will see much more of the same.

Once the World War III effort to actually do something gets up to speed, it will be much better to deploy the solutions in a very short time frame.

I also learned from part 1 of the article that Germany actually loses out to the Czech Republic on solar if one calculates solar capacity in relation to GDP. I would not have guessed that.

I learned from part 2 that a large majority of wind and solar capacity world wide is installed under a feed-in tariff system. That shows again that a feed-in tariff gets things done.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

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